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How Much Of Each Clothing Item Should I Really Be Packing?

Posted by Lindsay Hall on 9/8/18 11:28 AM

ILP Adventure

When packing for an international trip, it's important to have a plan, especially when it comes to your clothes and how much you're bringing! It's so easy to bring too many clothes -- avoid that by sticking to these guidelines!

If you're not careful, you're going to end up like me when I packed for my first international trip. No plan when I started packing my clothes, shoving any clothing item I thought I *might* want into my suitcase and bringing half of my closet.

That's a huge mistake for two reasons -- you'll waste so much suitcase space on unwanted clothes and you'll leave a lot of things you'll actually want (like comfort food from home).

Just in case you want a little more help, make sure you check out this packing guide; it's full of our best tips. 

It's best to go into packing with a plan. Know exactly how many shirts, skirts, pants, shorts, shoes, socks, etc. you're gonna pack and FOLLOW THROUGH with the plan.

Luckily for you -- I've done been on ILP a few times and (by trial and error) have created a list of exactly what and how much you need when it comes to clothes/ 

But First, A Little Disclaimer

Here's the thing: Everyone will tell you something different when you ask about packing ... because everyone has different preferences. Some of us are more minimalistic and others want more options. You really need to decide for yourself how many pairs of socks you want to bring, but all the time we hear this question "Okay ... but really though, how many should I bring?"

So that's why we've got these recommendations below! Not because you need exactly 4 pairs of pants - but because so many of you want something more specific than the very vague recommend to "bring pants".  Obviously, you can cater this to your needs. 

How much of each clothing item should I bring on an international trip?

  • 7-10 shirts
  • 4 pairs of pants 
  • 1-6 pairs of shorts (depending on the country)
  • 2-3 dresses/skirts
  • 3 pairs of shoes
  • 4-7 pairs of socks
  • 10 pairs of underwear
  • 2-3 swim suits
  • 1-2 light jackets/sweatshirts
  • 1 coat**

7-10 shirts

Depending on what country you're going to, you'll want to to either bring all tank tops and short sleeve shirts (if you're going somewhere like Thailand) or mix and match long sleeve shirts and short sleeve shirts (if you're going somewhere colder like Russia). 

BRING NEUTRAL COLORED SHIRTS that can go with all different colors and styles of pants/skirts. If you have ten shirts, it's important that they can go with any colored bottoms and are versatile enough to go with both pants and skirts. It'll shock you how many outfits you can create with seven to ten neutral colored shirts!

If you're going somewhere hot:

Don't even bother bringing a long sleeve or heavy material shirt! Bring all light weight, easy dry tank tops/short sleeve shirts.

If you're going somewhere cold:

Make sure you bring a mix of long sleeve and short sleeves! Bringing short sleeve shirts will give you the option to layer (which is so important in countries like Russia where it's freezing outside, but really warm inside). 

packing tips

4 pairs of pants

When I say pants, I mean any kind of pants! That does not mean bring four pairs of jeans, four pairs of yoga pants and four pairs of sweat pants.That means, bring four pairs of pants TOTAL.

Pants are typically one of the  heaviest and bulkiest things in your suitcase, it's so important to limit these and avoid bringing a lot if possible. 

One other thing -- bring black, gray or a neutral colored yoga pant that can go with all the shirts you brought. Don't bring some crazy print that you can only wear with one shirt. 

If you're going somewhere hot:

Don't bother bringing any pants -- bring more shorts and skirts!  You might want a pair of yoga pants for traveling, but please ... don't bring jeans. 

If you're going somewhere cold:

You'll need to decide what kind of pants you'll wear the most. If you will wear jeans the most, bring two pairs of jeans, one pair of yoga pants and one pair of sweats. If you live in yoga pants, bring two of those, one pair of jeans and one pair of sweats. If you never wear sweats, bring two pairs of jeans and two pairs of yoga pants...you get it, right?

packing tips

1-4 pairs of shorts

The amount of shorts you bring may vary from person to person. Some people love shorts while others prefer yoga pants or a skirt/dress. If you're one of the latter, consider ditching the shorts and bringing an extra pair of yoga pants or something. 

If you're going somewhere hot:

If you're going somewhere that is hot all the time like Thailand, I highly recommend you don't skip the shorts. I would honestly say, only bring shorts and skirts because pants of any kind are just too much. 

If it's going to be hot constantly, I would bring up to four pairs of lightweight, easy-dry shorts. If you're going to be working out and living in them, you'll need a good handful of them. I loved wearing exercise shorts pretty much my whole semester when I wasn't teaching. 

In hot and humid places, denim is not a good idea. It's sooo hot and they will take forever to dry. 

If you're going somewhere cold:

For cold places, you obviously won't need many shorts. I would bring one or two pairs if you like to sleep in them or if you're planning on visiting any warmer countries during your semester abroad.

If it's not going to be humid, denim is a great option. Just keep in mind that even though it's not humid, they may still take a while to dry (most countries will not have driers so you'll air-dry your clothes). 

packing tips

2-3 dresses/skirts

Having a few dresses/skirts is a good thing because you'll be using them while teaching (especially in countries like Thailand and Lithuania), if you attend church and just to wear on a daily basis. This number is a bit tricky to narrow down ... some ILP teachers will do all of their teaching in dresses/skirts, so you may want to pack more. Maybe you'll only need 2-3 dresses for Sundays. This number can vary. 

I'd recommend bringing one nice dress and two skirts (again, make these skirts black, gray or something neutral; you can go crazy on the dress color if you want). With two neutral colored skirts that you can pair with your seven to ten shirts, you'll have tons of outfits. 

*If you're going to Thailand or Lithuania you'll be wearing a dress to teach in 4-5 days a week, so if you don't want to wear the same one multiple times a week you might want to bring one or two more. Teachers in the Caribbean and Central America also usually prefer to teach in dresses due to the heat, so you might also want to pack more than 2-3. 

packing tips

3 pairs of shoes

This is the hardest one for me, but it's so important to not load down your suitcase with shoes! Deciding what three pairs of shoes you'll bring will depending on where you go.

If you're going somewhere hot:

  • Neutral colored sandals (preferable ones that can be dressed up and down like Birkenstocks)
  • Nice pair of tennis shoes (for working out and every day use)
  • Water shoes (like flips flops. Tevas or Chacos).

If you're going somewhere cold:

  • Nice pair of warm boots (you can also buy these in country to save room)
  • Pair of black flats (for dressier moments)
  • Tennis shoes

4-7 pairs of socks

Depending on how much you're planning on wearing shoes that require socks should decide how many socks to bring. 

If you're gonna wear sandals 95% of the time -- bring four pairs, maximum. If you're gonna wear tennis shoes six out of seven days, bring seven pairs. 

Also, if you're going somewhere cold, bring warm socks. If you're going somewhere warm/hot, bring light weight socks. 

packing tips

10 pair of underwear

There's not much to say on this one. Just bring enough to last you between each load of laundry. Most ILP volunteers will do their laundry at least once a week. If you're planning on doing laundry once a week, I'd bring enough for a week, plus a few extra. 

2-3 swimsuits

Bringing a swimsuit is a must even if you're going somewhere cold. You may end up visiting a place where a swim suit is needed (like the thermal baths in Budapest) and you don't want to caught without one. 

If you're going somewhere hot:

If you're going somewhere hot like Thailand, the DR, Haiti or Mexico -- bring a few! You'll be using them a ton and you'll want to have a few for your vacations when you're constantly at the beach. 

If you're going somewhere cold:

If you're going somewhere like Russia, Lithuania or Ukraine, you won't be using your swim suits a ton, but it's always good to have just in case. I'd suggest bringing at least one, possibly two. They don't take up much room and are always good to have!

packing tips

1-3 light jackets/sweatshirts

No matter where you're going -- bring at least one light jacket or sweatshirt. You will never know when you'll need it. 

If you're going somewhere cold:

Bring a few light weight jackets or sweatshirts. These will be key in being able to layer. You can put on a shirt, then your lightweight jacket then your heavy jacket to go outside. When you go into a warm building, you'll be able to shed layers as necessary. You'll also want less intense winter gear for when the weather is warmer in the spring/fall, but you still need a bit of coverage. 

If you're going somewhere hot:

Bring one lightweight jacket or sweatshirt. You never know if you'll have an cold day or if it'll get a little chilly in the evenings. Also, buses and trains tend to get cold so you want one anytime you're traveling.

Pro Tip: wear your jacket on the plane. Then it won't take up any room in your suitcase!

One coat

Winter coats are only needed in certain countries during certain times of the year. Do not bring one if you do not need to. 

Also,  I'd recommend buying a heavy coat in country if at all possible. It'll save you lots of suitcase space. If you can't buy your coat in country (our Spring volunteers will want a coat right when they get off the plane) think about vacuum sealing your coat into a bag to help you pack it up. 

If you're going somewhere cold:

Consider what time of the year you will be there. If you're arriving when it's already freezing cold, consider bringing one (wear it on the place and shove it under your seat for more suitcase space). If a jacket/sweatshirt will do for a day or two when you arrive, buy one there. 

If it won't be winter, just bring jackets and sweatshirts. You won't need a huge puffy coat. 

If you're going somewhere hot:


Like I've said earlier, this list may vary depending on where your going or your preferences. If there is something on here that you don't use -- DO NOT BRING IT. You can omit that item and bring an extra thing of something else you will use.

packing tips

When packing clothes, never bring that one thing that sits in your closet all year that you never grab because you think you might actually use it. Make sure every item you pack is something you like and will wear! 

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Topics: Life Abroad, Semester Preparation, ILP Basics, Travel Tips

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