While I was in the middle of my first attempt at packing for my exchange, my friend Lucy walked into the room. She took one look at my newly purchased suitcase and exclaimed: “that is a tiny suitcase!”. She was right. Unfortunately, I’m a hoarder and the average suitcase user isn’t packing for eight months.
Just in case you haven’t read my bio on the Ambassadors page, I’m Elizabeth! I’m 21, about to start my fifth year of a law/arts degree, and am currently on route to spend six months in Nottingham, England. I’m a huge fan of food, history, and British accents, which makes England the perfect choice for my exchange! This post is all about what I packed in my luggage, so while it definitely won’t be the most interesting thing I’ll write, hopefully it’ll be useful to those of you thinking of heading off for the UK at some point!
Luggage restrictions are at a pain in the arse at the best of times, let alone trying to pack for an exchange that begins in the middle of an English winter. Just to make things more difficult, I’m spending two weeks in Vietnam and Singapore before I make it to England. This means my suitcase is stuffed full of togs alongside thermals, sunnies with a thick woollen hat.
It was really hard to narrow everything down, but I’ve hopefully come up with a selection of things that’ll be useful for anyone going on exchange, or if you’re just generally trying to pack for multiple weather conditions (which is a killer, which I now know from experience).
What my luggage is actually packed in:
Before doing my research I assumed all airlines had relatively similar luggage restrictions for flights, I was wrong. I’m taking four different airlines on my long journey to England, all with different baggage allowances. The harshest luggage restriction on an airline I’m using is Cathay Pacific with 20kg (my suitcase ended up being 15.9kg). My flights back to NZ are Singapore Airlines and allow 30kg which is amazing because I’m definitely going to need that extra 10kg on the way back! I ended up choosing a medium sized suitcase because the Contiki I’m going on in Vietnam has size restrictions as well and I thought I’d better not risk it. It was tough fitting everything in but at least it’s easy for a short, extremely weak girl like me to lug around by herself!
I’ve also bought the coolest fricking black backpack from IKEA from when I was last in Australia. It’s expandable so while I’ll have to have it at its smallest when it’s hand luggage, it’ll be an awesome weekend-away bag for my (hopefully very frequent) trips to London during the year (Nottingham is only a two hour train from London, you have no idea how excited I am – the West End! So many musicals that I can see)!
My last bag is a mini handbag to use for nights out and when I’m settled into my place at Nottingham and use it when I go into the city/out to cafes/etc.
The “absolutely cannot forget”:
Clothes are obviously the classic necessities. It was super hard to work out which stuff I needed to take with me but my best piece of advice is taking clothes that are versatile. I’ve packed things like a dress that can used for dinners out but also can be dressed up for going to town, a jumpsuit that can be worn both in clubs and as an every-day outfit (although it’s unlikely to get much use in England), and staples like jeans and plain t-shirts. I’ve got a week’s worth of socks and undies if anyone’s interested… although that’s more to make sure I do washing frequently than to economise on packing space. I originally thought I wouldn’t be able to fit my winter coat into my suitcase but at the last minute I managed to squeeze it in! If I was going straight to a cold country then I’d have just worn it on the plane, but didn’t really fancy lugging it around Vietnam and Singapore in 34 degree heat.
I decided to limit my shoe packing to three pairs, because they’re so bulky and take up a lot of my short supply of luggage space. I ended up packing converse, a pair of nice boots (that I can wear walking around as well as dress up for more formal occasions), and jandals. If I could fit one more pair in I probably would have gone with another pair of shoes I can walk in. Fingers cross my converse last!
Toiletries – as Mum rightfully pointed out “they have shampoo in England, you know!” This means that I’ve got mini bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash. I invested in those 100ml bottles so that you can separate liquids into smaller portions and take them on the plane. I’ve also got a bare minimum of make-up. There’s also stuff like medicine to think of. I ended up needing malaria tablets for my trip to Vietnam and had to get a couple of injections as well.
Technology wise I’ve packed my laptop, a camera, and my phone. I’m planning on getting a UK sim card once I arrive so will probably update you guys in a later blog about how that went and what the best deal is! Unfortunately, the UK doesn’t have the same type of plug sockets are NZ so I had to buy a couple of converter plugs so I can use my NZ electronics.
Things I tragically had to leave behind:
I’ve been known to take 7+ books on family holidays in past (“Mum, I don’t know what I’m going to feel like reading – I have to have options!”), but with a 20kg suitcase for eight months there wasn’t any space. I’ve got one book for reading on planes and trains but will ditch that once I’m done. If you’ve got a kindle I’d definitely take that – books are an awesome way to kill time while travelling.
My friends and family 😦 Kind of an obvious one but despite some of my friends’ suggestions, I could not fit any of them in the suitcase to take with me.
Things like hand sanitizer, a pack of cards, and little packets of tissues aren’t strictly necessary, but I reckon they’ll come in handy! As I’m writing this I’m at the end of a 12 hour flight to Hong Kong and would definitely recommend a travel pillow if you’ve got the space because my neck is killing me and I barely got any sleep. Am definitely thinking of purchasing one for my Singapore to London flight.
Money money money, MONEY! (please read in the style of The Apprentice tune):
I ended up deciding that opening a British bank account would be too much hassle for six months in the UK, so opted for a cash passport instead. I’ve heard lots of other people using them on exchange so hopefully it’ll be sweet! I got out cash for the other currencies I’ll be using before I get to the UK, plus have a few British Pounds to get me started in the UK.
That’s all folks!
While this probably wasn’t the most interesting blog post to start off with, hopefully it’s of some help to anyone heading off on exchange in the future! Feel free to ask questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Even though I’m currently sitting on a plane, will be in Vietnam in the next six hours, and be in the UK within two weeks, it still doesn’t feel real. Hopefully it’ll all sink in soon.