Visa? Check. Bucket list? Check. Vaccinations, travel guides, and EuroTrip movie-watching party? Check, check, and check. So, it seems that you’re essentially ready to fly off to your study abroad destination, and you probably know more about the dos and don’ts of traveling than any one person should ever know. At this point, you just want to be on that plane, getting closer and closer to that much-anticipated semester abroad. But you’re forgetting one hugely major thing: what are you supposed to wear there? Getting dressed for class in America is hard enough, but now you have to add in another country’s weather and culture to that mix? It sounds almost unbearable. But, of course, we’ve got it all covered. With tips from collegiettes who have studied abroad before and Vy Truong, online content and PR marketing specialist for Contiki—the travel company for 18- to 35-year-olds—you’ll never question what you’re supposed to be wearing. From rainy days to hiking up killer mountains, we’ve got everything you need to know about packing for every destination.
From London, Paris, and Spain to Ireland, Amsterdam, and Italy, you’ve got a lot of land to cover in Europe, but only so much room in your suitcase for clothes. So where to begin? Consider what you’ll be doing while you’re abroad. Will you be hiking mountains or exploring the finest shops the city has to offer? While the ultimate decision is up to you, Truong notes that in Europe, there is plenty of sightseeing and walking to be done, not to mention tons of lines to wait in for the most popular European attractions, so you’ll probably want to bring a pair of good walking shoes.
But to really break it down, we’ve got to look at just where you’re traveling.
Known for its temperamental weather and cobblestone streets, London can be quite the tricky city to pack for, but no need to fret—we’ve got you all set (and we know how to rhyme!).
As a high-style city, London is the perfect place to whip out your inner fashionista. Say goodbye to just rolling out of bed and throwing something on, and hello to anything and everything that’s daring, fun, and trendy. “Everything [is] fair game—high heels to the movie(s) or class, miniskirts with the Union Flag, large sweaters and leggings,” says Carmen Rey, who studied abroad in London in 2012. “Whatever your style is, London will embrace it 100 percent and you may just get hit on a lot more by dressing the way you want over how everyone expects it back home (I certainly did).”
As for dealing with the on-again, off-again rain London is so famous for? Well, let’s just say London weather can be more complicated than Derek Jeter and Minka Kelly’s relationship. But according to Carmen, London typically has a consistent drizzle with a cloudy day, not a heavy downpour that leaves you helplessly stuck inside.
But instead of attempting to pack those un-packable rain boots, try going for a more durable, wearable combat boot, or any water resistant shoe that you find comfortable. Carmen even recommends wearing them on the plane to save on poundage with your luggage.
That being said, the key to successfully conquering London is all about comfort. Comfort, comfort, comfort. We can’t drill it into your mind anymore. Not only will those cobblestone streets have you wobbling in those 5-inch pumps, but with so many sights to see, your feet will be singing praises if they’re nice and snug in something with support.
While it’s really up to you what you consider a comfortable shoe, most collegiettes have said they enjoyed sporting sneakers or boots while in London:
“I brought boots and some sneakers, but ended up buying a nice, comfortable pair of running shoes that I wore almost every day. We did a lot of walking and sightseeing, so it was very helpful to have something comfortable and supportive on my feet.” –Kait Provost, abroad in London spring 2012
“I broke a heel walking on London's cobblestones — needless to say I didn't bring the most practical attire abroad. I had dozens of pairs of shoes with me, and only one pair of sandals and one pair of flats amongst them. If I were to do it over again, I would have balanced it out with more practical walking shoes!” –Alice Chen, Emory University ’12, abroad in London fall 2010
“The best days [in London] were the ones that included a lot of walking and getting to know the lay of the land, so that means pack shoes you can walk MILES in. I did a lot of boots because it was cold and [I] wore them most of the time.” –Lauren Kaplan, Emory University ’13, abroad in London fall 2012
There’s no denying the fact that Paris is considered one of the most fashionable places in the world. Keeping up with the Parisians may seem daunting, but really, almost anything goes when it comes to style there. “[You can] wear anything and get away with it,” says Marisa Marano, who visited Paris during a semester abroad in Barcelona in spring 2012.
However, on the off chance that you run into Karl Lagerfeld, it’s hard not to want to look your best. “There’s a lot of pressure to dress well, so I brought a lot of nice clothes and shoes with me—unfortunately, I pretty much destroyed all my leather boots with the amount of walking I was doing,” Alice says.
In Paris, it’s a juggling act between being trendy and being comfortable. But when it comes down to it, when you’re mixing and mingling with tourists from around the world in a two-hour wait outside the Louvre, no one really notices what you’re wearing.
A major faux pas, according to Paris Escapades is rocking your classic sweats. The website suggests leaving “your hoodies and matching sweatpants, white tennis shoes, shorts, and bright colored nylon windbreakers at home.” While it’s most certainly okay to be comfortable, Parisians aren’t too fond of a typical suburban housewife’s closet. Instead, try a pair of leggings, comfortable boots, and a big sweater. It’s cozy, but it’s not outdated.
What’s the major upside to Paris, though? The idea of going au naturel. Parisian women typically don’t obsess over their hair and makeup, and instead choose a more simple look. That means while you’re visiting this cosmopolitan city, you can set aside the flatiron, embrace your inner beauty, and not worry about your next blowout.
Unlike Europe, Australia and New Zealand are all about outdoorsy activities.
“You can bungee jump, do a canyon swing, or try Zorbing,” Truong says. “There is also the terrain in the Australian Outback, so [it’s] not exactly the place to be sporting your heels.”
On top of all that, Australia and New Zealand also have tons of surfing, sailing, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Adventure is just calling your name!
So what’s a collegiette to pack for all this high-action fun? Well, the number one thing to remember is that fall in the U.S. actually means summer in Australia and New Zealand. That means pack for the opposite temperatures that you’d experience in the U.S. However, the Australian sun is harsh, and Truong recommends you pack clothing that protects you from sunburn… and a lot of sunscreen.
When it comes to places like Sydney and the Eastern coast, “it’s all about summery breezy clothing, not very different from the California lifestyle,” Truong says.
But if you venture up North, expect to do a lot of hiking, rock climbing, and camping. Walking shoes might be a must for Europe, but in Australia comfortable hiking shoes are absolutely mandatory. As Lesley Siu, an American University collegiette who was there last spring, puts it: “No one wants to explore a rainforest in uncomfortable shoes!” And since the sun is hotter than a shirtless Ryan Gosling, Reynolds, and Lochte combined, a hat is a necessity—I’m pretty sure there’s almost nothing worse than a burnt scalp.
But outside of the adrenaline-pumping activities, Australia is a laidback place. “There aren’t any specific [fashion] rules people should know about. Vintage is popular. Footy [Australian football] is a huge sport, so you’ll see locals wearing colors and gear to support their local teams,” Lesley says.