Preparing to Study Abroad: Packing, Customs, Budgeting, and Traveling

I leave for my study abroad trip in just a few weeks, and I am PSYCHED. I have also been driving myself crazy trying to prepare, terrified that I’m going to end up forgetting something extremely important, like my passport, or all of my bras. So I figured that writing it all down would help me organize myself, and hopefully can provide some organization on y’alls end as well.



This is potentially the most daunting task that lies ahead of you before you study abroad. Or at least for me, a hoarder, it was.

I wrote this post on What to Pack for Your Spring Study Abroad Trip in London which outlines everything I plan on bringing with me. Like I said in the post, even though you’re technically allowed to take two 50 pound suitcases plus a carry on, I highly recommend only taking one check bag and one carry on. Lugging that through town to get to your dorm will suck if you have two, and if you plan on traveling after your semester, remember that you have to take everything with you to your next stops.

Collect your customs materials


These are all of the things my school asks we bring for our customs check in:

  • Passport
  • Travel documents (e.g. return ticket)
  • School acceptance letter
  • British (or of wherever you’re going) currency
  • Insurance documents
  • List of what’s in your luggage
  • Prescribed medicine
  • An address/phone number/travel instructions to campus
  • Passport photographs (for travel cards)
  • Evidence that you have funds to support yourself (tuition fees, if applicable, and accommodation payments, recent bank statements).

My visa type for London is one that I get at the customs counter once I arrive at the airport. Because of that, I have to have all of these materials with me. However, if you get a standard, physical visa your list might be shorter.

Don’t forget something to put your passport in! Here are some of my favorite covers: J Crew ($14.50) // Amazon ($12.99) // Anthropologie ($24.00)

Create a budget


While packing is stressful on a more superficial level (gotta get all of my shoes in one carry on) budgeting is stressful on a real, adult level. I’m trying my best to go into this semester with an open mind, and an open wallet, but as somebody who is just really on edge when it comes to spending her savings I’m a little nervous about how that will play out.

My rough plan for now is to use a grid similar to this one:


After feeling out how much I’ll spend in the first month, I’ll fill in the “Total Allowance” boxes with my spending cap for each category.

Travel will obviously be the largest expense, and I’m planning to allocate about $500 each month for it. Of course, some months will be more or less than others. I don’t plan on leaving London my first half-month there (January) and March will probably be double my regular budget (Spring break and St Patrick’s Day). I’m also going to travel for two weeks after classes get out, so I’ll need to save aside about $1,000 for that (with wiggle room).

Food will depend on how often I eat out, but I will have a meal plan on campus which will hopefully help keep that cost down. Being in London, I plan on spending a decent amount on going to afternoon Teas, and I love coffee so that budget will likely be a little higher than what I spend in the US.

As I said, how those boxes fill in during my first month will guide how I plan for the next four months. My overall plan is to budget around $750 for each month, hopefully coming in under that in some months to allow for overspending in others. Wish me luck.

Plan where you want to travel!


This is by far the most fun part of the planning/waiting process. Now you get to comb through your Pinterest travel board to find the perfect weekend getaways and make extremely premature itineraries for each trip.

I made a post called My Picture Perfect Study Abroad Bucket List which gives a rough detail of all of the things I want to do when I’m abroad. Below, I’ll list my top 10 places I hope to get to, sort-of in order (?):

  1. Bergen, Norway (While there’s still snow)
  2. Lucerne, Switzerland (While there’s still snow)
  3. Warsaw, Poland (For the rich history)
  4. Paris, France
  5. Prague, Czech Republic
  6. Dublin, Ireland (For St. Patrick’s Day)
  7. Hamburg, Germany
  8. Porto, Portugal (For spring break?)
  9. Cinque Terre, Italy (When it gets warm)
  10. Zagreb, Croatia (When it gets warm)

For your flights, check out Easy Jet and Ryan Air. These are two super cheap European airlines that can get you pretty much anywhere, for next to nothing. Just beware of fees- that’s how they make their money, so they try to get you any way they can.

2017 Gift Guide (30)


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