IMG_9256In a few weeks Florence will go from an shut down not-quite ghost town, to a city teeming with nearly 4000 study abroad students.  If you’re part of that 4000, you probably plan on studying from end of August through the middle of December.  The question is, how do you pack enough for 4 months?  Especially considering that August is miserably hot, and December is usually pretty frigid. (I’m from Florida, anything below 75 F is cold).

These days on most international flights they allow you one checked bag at 20 kilos (~53 lbs), one carry-on at around 8 kilos (16 lbs), and one personal item.  They say this personal item should be a purse, camera bag, or laptop bag- but I usually bring my backpack or a largish tote, and I’ve never had any problems.

So how in the world do you pack these 3 relatively small bags for a place you will be living for 4 months? The answer? Pack just a little bit of everything, very strategically.

To pack in your checked bag:


Since you’re going to be gone for a while, skip bringing your shampoo and conditioner.  Don’t bother bringing razors, or shaving cream or any of that.  You’ll have to buy more when you’re over there anyways, and it will only take up room and weight in your bag. Plus eventually you’ll get into the European swing of things and only wash your hair every 3 days.  (Pretend I didn’t just admit that.)

Pack toiletries you know you can’t get overseas and you cannot live without. For example, I always pack at least one bottle of my Burt’s Bees Soapbark and Chamomile Face-wash, because I know if I want it, I’ll have to order online.  I recommend packing a small travel size toothpaste, your tweezers, nail clippers, perfume, and any particular lotion you might wear.  Don’t forget extras of any medication you take!  You can get prescriptions filled in Florence, but it’s easier to have it all before you go.  If you wear contacts don’t forget refills of those as well, along with a travel bottle of saline solution and eyedrops.  Put all of this in your checked bag (except for your saline and eye drops) so you won’t have to deal with your clear liquids bag in your carry on.  Makes things just one step simpler.

Clothing (but not shoes):

This is what gets most of us in trouble.  How do you pack for summer, fall, and winter all at once?  You’re going to the fashion capital of the world, so you want to look good, but also overweight bags usually cost you around €100 ($113 USD).

Start by laying out everything you want to take with you.  After you’ve done that, get rid of 1/3 of the clothing there.  It seems harsh, but this step is essential for making everything fit.  Now if you’re like me, you probably still have a lot of clothes, and even if it doesn’t seem like alot for 4 months, you know there is no way is is going to fit into your bag.

Put all (or most) of your clothes in space saver travel bags.  The clothes may come out a little wrinkled, but this is a better alternative than not having enough room.

One last piece of advice: leave extra room in your bag.  Trust me, you will shop while you’re in Florence.   Not to mention all of the gifts you’re going to bring back for family and friends.


From this
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To this

To pack in your carry-on:


This is my trick that I will always stand by, until someone can give me a very good reason not to. This might sound crazy, but every time I travel internationally I pack my shoes in my carry-on.  Yes, it is heavy (I have some pretty clunky shoes), but it keeps them out of the weight of your checked bag, and also keeps them in one place.  Benefits of this? You’re clothes don’t smell like smelly shoes when you take them out of your bag.  Also it’s like shoe storage until you need your carry-on for a weekend trip.  Just keep throwing your shoes back in there and put it to the side so it’s not in everyone’s way.  Your roommates will thank you.

Cameras and Scarves:

Okay, so this may seem like a weird combination, but I promise it makes sense.  You’re going to need scarves for winter, right?  And you’re going to need your camera as well.  I absolutely hate packing anything of value in my checked bag, so my solution is to wrap my cameras/other small expensive equipment in my scarves, and pack them onto my carry on as as well.

To pack in your backpack or “personal item”:

Alright so this is pretty broad, but this is just whatever you’re going to need immediately or on the plane.

This is for things like wallets, your passport, your laptop (never put that in a suitcase), reusable water bottle (empty).
I usually have a hoodie and an airplane pillow in mine as well, and usually my iPad or a book to keep me entertained when my eyes hurt from the TV (or if it doesn’t work).  I usually put my contact solution and a tube of lipstick in a clear bag in my personal item as well, just to freshen up before landing.

Other things

  • chargers (laptop, phone, tablet, camera)
  • portable chargers (and their cords)
  • converters (I recommend the universal ones, but standard European works for some Italian plugs)


If you follow this pretty simple guideline you’re sure to have everything you need for your Fall semester!


Did I forget something? Send me a message below so I can add it to the list!
I can’t wait to see all the new faces in fall, and happy packing!  Buon Viaggi!





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