How to Pack for Your Gap Year Abroad

By: Anna Nickerson | June 12, 2018
Topics: Gap Year Planning
Not sure how to pack for your gap year? Packing for a whole year abroad can be overwhelming. Let me help you through this process with my top ten tips for packing, and our new Winterline packing video!

When I first received the Winterline packing list, I was relieved to see what I needed to bring, but I was also overwhelmed by the idea that all of my belongings would be in a backpack for a year. I’ve learned a lot about how to pack efficiently since then and I’m excited to share my tips! You can also watch our new packing video about how to pack for a your Winterline gap year.

gap year winterline packing
Anna’s bags ready for 1st trimester!

1) Pack light.This is something that sounds easy, but is actually really difficult to execute. It’s going to take some practice. Once you have everything you need for the trip, pack it up into your backpack. If there’s too much stuff, then take it all out and find a few things you can live without. I know this sounds time consuming, but if you’re committed to packing light, it’s worth it!

2) Bring only a week’s worth of clothes. Laundry is available during the Winterline program. I typically did laundry at the end of each week, or every 2 weeks if I could manage it. I would recommend bringing enough clothes and underwear to get you through 5-7 days without laundry. This will also help you to pack light!

3) Be smart about clothing. Pack clothes that can be layered and that are multi-functional. Don’t assume that because you’re going to Central America, you can only bring shorts and t-shirts! It gets cold in some areas, so just be smart about what you’re bringing. Check the weather and think before picking out clothes.

4) Do not bring a roller bag! Don’t do it! There’s a reason why people are known to “backpack across Europe.” They don’t roll their suitcases across Europe! Having everything in a big, travel backpack and your daypack will make life easier and even more organized!

5) Make a personal first aid kit, and keep it in your carry-on/daypack. About a week before I left for Winterline, I went to Walgreens and bought everything for my own first aid kit that I could think of. Band-Aids, anti-itch cream, Emergen-C packets, etc. When you’re away from home, it’s so nice to have a little bag to keep you comfortable. Also, definitely add probiotics to that list!

6) Bring Gallon-sized Ziploc bags. I only brought 2-3 and I regretted it. These bags come in handy for anything you can think of; toiletries, wet swimsuits, dirty laundry, etc. It can also be hard to find similar plastic bags abroad, so I would bring 5-10 (but maybe even more than you think).

7) Pack comfortable shoes. All your shoes should be comfortable, even your flip-flops/sandals. I had one pair of running shoes, one pair of Birkenstocks, and one pair of Chacos in Central America. It was perfect because I could walk long distances in each of those pairs of shoes!

8) Don’t bring too much makeup! I own a lot of makeup at home, but I ended up only bringing one bottle of foundation, one concealer stick, mascara, and a mini bronzer and blush. I found that I rarely even wore makeup because I was outdoors so much! I would recommend bringing some, if you wear it at home, but try to minimize how much of it you pack.

9) Pack a folder for important documents and paperwork. I didn’t bring a folder during the 1st trimester of Winterline and I really wish I did. I had a lot of papers and certificates I had gotten along the trip, and I ended up just stuffing it in my daypack. Try to be more organized than I was!

10) Leave room for souvenirs! Everyone in my group bought at least a few things that they brought home. Make sure you have enough room for a few trinkets, some shirts, and maybe even some gifts for your family! I brought home more than I expected.

Happy Packing! Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions.


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