*Warning: long post ahead*
For those of you who are new and/or just visiting my blog, I have just recently returned from a study abroad trip to Oxford, England. While I was away I was also able to visit Scotland, Ireland, and France, so these are my tips and stories for packing and weather.
Unfortunately, weather wasn’t exactly on my side for this trip. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t say the weather was bad, it just wasn’t very trustworthy. Something I found that was standard throughout all of Europe. Don’t believe the meteorologists! I thought they did a poor job of predicting in Michigan, but over there it’s just guesswork. And don’t ever believe them when they say it’s not going to rain. It is. It’s going to rain. Umbrella, raincoat: bring them!
In fact, bring them wherever you go in Europe, because if I learned anything at all, it’s that Europe loves rain. If anyone is planning to go over that way in the near future, the department store Primark (or Penny’s in Ireland) has 9 pound parkas-in-a-pocket. Best investment I made while I was over there! There is a variety of patterns and styles, and I highly suggest picking one up if you don’t have something like that already. Primark is very popular, you can find one in almost any big city, and aside from that it’s just super awesome. New favorite store? Quite possibly. And it’s not even in America… great. (Parka + Umbrella = Best Solution).
As far as packing goes, less is always more. Unless you are on an extremely tight budget, anything you won’t need immediately DON’T BRING! Soap, shampoo, other common toiletries, I would suggest buying when you get there. If you are planning to stay for a month or longer like I did, three pares of pants, a pair of shorts, a dress or two, and a variety of tops should be enough to last you. Bring layers, outfits that are interchangeable. You would be surprised at the amount of outfits you can make with a small variety of shirts, tank-tops, and pants. I also bought several outfits while I was there because I just left the shampoo and any other disposable item(s) over there when I was done. Why bring home what you’re not going to use/need?
That’s another thing: plan for stuff you won’t need any longer/ souvenirs you’re going to want to bring home. Depending on how long your study abroad/trip is going to be, you may find yourself wanting certain treats from home you won’t be able to find in England or Europe. If you pack food and/or toiletries in your suitcase on the way there that you know you are going to either use up or leave behind, this provides you extra room at the end for bringing stuff back. I know that I had about 7 pounds excess on the way there to put souvenirs in my bag, and–like I said before–I just left stuff there I wasn’t going to need upon my return to create more space.
Shoes: make sure you have a pair that are comfortable to walk in, some that are waterproof/decent in rain (these might be the same as the first), a pair of sandals for warmer days, and maybe a pair of nicer shoes for more dressy events. This list is a bit biased toward girls, but guys can just morph these to fit their own closets; the idea is basically the same either way. I did end up having an issue with shoes because England happened to be quite warm when I went, and my walking shoes were the same as my rain-proof ones: a pair of tennis shoes. Now, you can’t really get more tourist than running shoes, so I didn’t like to wear these very often. In England this wasn’t much of a problem because it didn’t rain too awful much, but outside of England I ran into a lot of problems with this (I continuously forgot to bring my sneakers on my excursions because they’re bulky and ugly and then it would rain and I would be like aaarrrggghhh!)
What ended up happening was that I invested in a pair of flats that were still cute looking but did a better job of blocking out the water. I would also recommend that you keep in mind that whatever shoes you are planning to bring are going to get, well, utterly destroyed. Europe is all about walking places, which is great! But cobblestones and sandals don’t particularly get along so well when you’re using them constantly. A fewer amount of shoes (while most convenient for packing) = more wear-and-tear on them. So if you have a favorite pair of sandals that are one-of-a-kind and you can’t live without, yeah, don’t bring those.
As far as technology goes, the most important things to remember are chargers and converters/adapters. While phones and computers (specifically) are all becoming more universal as far as being compatible in all countries voltage-wise, you still need the charger it came with (from your home country) to charge these properly. If you can find a multi-adapter with transformer built in (for different energy sources and sockets) that is probably your best bet, but these can be expensive. The plug port in the UK vs. England are NOT THE SAME, so you need to make sure you have the different adapters (or one unit that has both).
The UK looks like this:
European adapter looks like this:
Along with these you are going to need a transformer unless it is built into the adapter(s) you buy. You can go to almost any tech store to buy these things (suggestion: do NOT go to Radio Shack! Theirs tend not to work as well/at all. Sorry if you’re a RS fan…)
For the record, here’s one that has both:
(This one has a US adapter too).
Now, these are things that you can buy when you get to England/Europe, but they are vastly cheaper in the States!
Basically, the best advice for packing I can give you is this: you think you need more than you do. It’s something that everyone does and something everyone regrets. England/Europe are both well-endowed with stores (even though it always feels like you need to bring everything you own–just to be safe). For the vast majority of things that you will need, they will have them too! So DO NOT panic if you forgot something! Essentials would be chargers. If you are unsure if something exists over there or not, Google it. That seems like an extremely basic piece of advice, but at least for me, I got really caught up in packing and packer’s panic would set in before I could really think things through. Google is a great resource. Google is a good friend 🙂
I think that’s about it. In summary: never trust the weather, and less is more! Look forward to the stories post for weather and packing coming soon! If you want a list of tip/story posts I’ve already written about my study abroad experiences (or ones that are coming soon), feel free to check out the Stories From Abroad page at the top of this blog!