Packing for a year abroad

How exactly do you pack for a year? Very, very carefully. Start this early, and make sure you have a list ready! Here are some of the things I’ve learned about packing so far. Watch the video and read my tips below!


For my trip, I brought the Osprey Fairview 70L, which I believed would be a good travel bag because of the detachable daypack which would be nice to have at the airport. The detachable pack is pretty handy but getting it off and on the main 60l is a huge pain when both bags are full. I ended up using the large pack as a handheld tote and just keeping the daypack on in travel.

Immediately upon arriving in Australia, my back was killing me and I realized keeping my life on my back was a cute idea but not sustainable for a year. Naturally, Target saved the day and I bought a small (carry-on size) hardshell suitcase for 30 bucks that I keep heavier items in. Although it means more bags, this is going to save me lots of pain and back issues in the future.

Like lots of new travellers I think, I realized I brought too much and not accounted for cultural differences.

What I’m glad I brought

Locks! A padlock and a small travel lock for luggage. This is essential for hostels. A good hostel will have lockers, but if you find yourself in a situation with no lockers, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your bag is at least locked. If a hostel doesn’t have lockers, it’s a BAD SIGN!

Sleeping bag liner This is one of those items my mom insisted that I pack but didn’t actually think I’d use. By the third week, I was so thankful I had this, as it doubles as a sheet set. I stayed in a hostel for free accommodation for a few days in exchange for helping out with a garden. The place ended up being so nasty and I was sooo thankful I had my own sheets at least. Mom really does know best. Here’s the one I have.

Canvas totes/reusable bags I wish I’d brought more! I’m talking about those free, cheapo totes you get for free at festivals. In a hostel, you’ll be sharing the fridge with dozens of other people and you’ll need to keep your items together or risk having them thrown away or eaten. Also, in Australia, there is a charge for plastic bags (which is awesome for the environment!) so you’ll need bags for your groceries. They also make great beach bags!

Single adapter I thought I was doing the smart thing by buying a multi-usb port international adapter but it ended up being a foolish decision. The power will be split on anything plugged in, and it takes my brand-new MacBook 10 hours to charge, even if it’s the only thing charging. My dad had given me these simple little single adapters that saved the day. They are way more efficient and will charge your devices at a reasonable rate. I would recommend these over the fancy compact international adapters.

Wallet with keyring + transparent ID sleeve Simple but so good to have. I tend to misplace small items and it’s so good to have my hostel keys and wallet in one place. The transparent sleeve is good for tap-on, tap-off bus and train rides. I also have a little coin pouch attached which is awesome for keeping $1 and $2 coins. Here’s an example on Amazon.

Makeup While clothes are pretty inexpensive, makeup and other cosmetics are very pricey. A basic drugstore mascara starts at about AUD$20, so I’m glad I’d brought basic makeup items from home for interviews, nights out, and days where I’d like to be more polished.

What I ended up buying in Australia

Suitcase As I mentioned above, this little suitcase saved the day.

Mini Target tote I picked up this little shopper at Target for 4 bucks and have ended up using it all the time. It folds up into a tiny little bag that you can throw in your day bag for a grocery run on the way home. Can you tell I’m a big Target fan?

Sweater Contrary to popular belief, Australia does get chilly! But the good news is, op shops (aka thrift stores) are AMAZING in Australia! I picked up a little cardigan from one and it’s great for those chilly nights. I suspect I’ll donate a few of the clothes I’d brought from the states to make room for op shop finds.

What I wish I’d brought

MacBook charger Like all things Apple, don’t try to skimp out with non-Apple products. I left my MacBook charger at home thinking my silly international adapter would work but it’s so slow, I need an outlet any time I need my laptop. A new adapter from Apple is AUD$100 which is a frustrating and avoidable expense.

Nicer clothes Aussies dress up! Even for a quick grocery run, I felt like a slovenly American with my summertime uniform of Birkenstocks, an oversized t-shirt and running shorts. I wish I’d ditched my 6 pairs of athletic leggings and shorts in favor of some dressier options.

A travel credit card Earns airline miles + no surcharge for overseas transactions. Having one sent from my bank in the US is a giant headache.

What I wish I’d left at home

Swimsuit cover-up I brought this cute, oversized denim dress/shirt thing from home that I thought would be perfect for the beach…except it’s heavy, bulky, you don’t really need a dedicated cover-up, and oversized items aren’t really in style here. I really don’t want to ditch it as I really love it but it’s kind of impractical.

Clothes I thought I did a good job with this, but I still brought way too many somehow. I brought too many casual clothes, especially. I thought that the style here would be beachy casual like Venice Beach, Ca. but Australians are a very fashionable bunch.

Links to must-haves:

Dr. Bronner’s
LUSH Shampoo bar
Sleeping bag liner
Packing cubes
Small Target suitcase:
Microfiber travel towel:
Smashbox mini Photo Matte Eyes palette:

Here’s my packing list print out!

Please only take these tips as suggestions! These are my personal opinions. Everyone has their own unique travel style + needs. Give and take what you want from the list! What I need and items that make me feel comfortable are not going to be the same as yours!

❤︎ Christina