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Packing 101: Suitcase Options and How to Fit it All

by Jordan Cutler
AIFS Abroad student with suitcase at the airport

Well you guys, I did it! 49 pounds! After stressing about exceeding the 50 pound suitcase weight limit, I guess you can say the “suitcase struggle” turned into the “suitcase success!”

Now that I’ve settled into life in Salamanca and have officially unpacked, there are definitely some things I would recommend to future study abroad adventurers.

1. Say “no!” to space-saver bags

I was really hoping the space-saver bags would be a success. Despite the name, the bags ended up being bulky and consuming entirely too much space. Once I ditched them, I went back to the good old-fashioned rolling method. I was able to fit twice as much into one side of my suitcase by doing so! Save the space saver bags for storage and just roll your clothes tightly — it’ll work so much better.

2. Find the right suitcase

One major key to packing efficiently and effectively is to find the right suitcase. My Holy Grail suitcase has always been soft luggage because of their exterior pockets, but after seeing a hard suitcase, I felt it would be a better fit for my needs. That way, I could pack clothes into both sides of it. I also chose a bright color to stand out amongst the hundreds of other suitcases in the airports.

One thing I wish I would’ve done was tested out the wheels! If you are traveling to anywhere with cobblestone streets, make sure your wheels are as durable as possible. The ones on my suitcase were not as durable and did not roll as well on the hard cobblestones as I would have liked. Overall, my suitcase did pretty well on my first international trip!

3. Ponder on your carry-on choices

One mistake I made was not thinking thoroughly about my carry-on luggage. I chose to take a fashionable duffel bag that I packed with extra clothes, my toiletries, and shoes. After going through process, I would recommend bringing a rolling carry-on sized suitcase.

The duffel bag was pretty heavy and lugging it through the various Customs lines and then through the street was not enjoyable. I had planned to put it on top of my checked luggage and just roll them together, but I did not get to baggage claim until after going through Customs. As a result, I was forced to drag my carry on through the hot lines while my heavy backpack was on my back.

After arriving to town, I also observed from the others in my program that it was much easier to roll two pieces of luggage through the cobblestone streets of Salamanca than to roll a checked luggage with a duffel sitting on top of it. The zipper on my bag also ended up breaking which caused a lot stress. So learn from me: bring a carry-on rolling suitcase. If you do choose to bring a duffel bag, make sure it’s durable and keep it as lightweight as possible.

Of course, make sure all of your pieces of luggage are the correct sizes. Remember that packing is a part of the study abroad experience, as well. Pack as lightly as possible, be realistic about what you will and won’t wear, and if you have to leave something, I promise you, you’ll forget about what items you left at home as soon as you step foot into your study abroad destination.

This post was contributed by Jordan Cutler, who is spending her fall semester studying abroad with AIFS in Salamanca, Spain.

Packing 101: Suitcase Options and How to Fit it All | AIFS Study Abroad | Salamanca, Spain
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