What to Bring
In planning what to take, remember that closet and other storage space at international schools is often limited so only pack essentials.
- Luggage Procedures
Currently, transoceanic flights allow two bags to be checked through to the ultimate international destination. Students checking their bags to an intermediate international city and then rechecking the bags on another flight may be informed of weight limitations of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) or less, or of restrictions of fewer checked or carry-on items. Be prepared to pay an extra fee if necessary. If in doubt, check with the travel agency as to what limits apply to both checked baggage and carry-ons. And whenever possible check bags through to final destinations to avoid hassles.
- Additional Shipping Procedures
Other items, such as additional clothing or books, may be sent parcel post. Allow six to eight weeks for delivery if sent by surface mail (three months to Spain). All packages will be charged customs fees when they arrive at international destinations. For customs information be sure that used clothing is clearly indicated—even then there may be a customs charge. It may be worth airline surcharges to take these items as extra baggage so you have them when you need them. Use suitcases, not boxes, because they are much easier to carry. You may send these items air or air freight, but it will be expensive. Shop around for non-postal airmail services. They may be less expensive than regular postal services. Ski equipment, if packed separately and checked as such, can sometimes be sent at no cost or for a very minimal charge.
- Other Necessities
Have an official copy of any eyeglass prescriptions. Possession of drugs can lead to serious problems. To prevent arrest, carry required medication in clearly labeled containers with copies of any applicable prescriptions. Medications may be much more expensive and difficult to find in other countries. Students taking regular prescription medications are advised to take a supply for the whole time abroad. Such medications should be clearly labeled as to contents and use. Some students make similar comments about toiletry items. A year's supply will mean you have items of a quality you value at a much lower cost. In packing your carry-on bag, be sure to include personal toiletry items (carry-on size) and a change of clothing. Students have been separated from their luggage. Be sure, however, to stay within size and weight limits for carry-on bags to avoid paying an extra fee and be sure they are easy to carry and manage. It is wise to have a packing list with your travel documents not only for packing purposes, but also for insurance purposes in case your bags are lost or stolen.
In addition to the various things that will make up your baggage, be sure to include some common sense. As a stranger in a foreign land, you may exhibit a sense of bewilderment, making yourself a good target for con artists or thieves. DO NOT TRUST YOUR BAGGAGE OR PERSONAL EFFECTS WITH ANY STRANGER other than an agent authorized to do so. Guard your carry-on baggage and other luggage whenever you travel, especially on trains and buses, and in bus and train stations. Do Not Leave Home Without Your Passport!
Current and former ACA students are essentially unanimous in suggesting the following:
- Be prepared to do hand laundering and/or coin-operated machine laundering—this goes for men also. The limits on amounts of clothing that can be sent to the free laundry service as well as the turnaround time make this a must for much of your laundering. Be sure all clothes have sewed-on name labels if you wish to use the free laundry service in Argentina, France, Italy, Germany or Spain. Remember it takes one week to get back laundered clothing. Budget sufficient funds for washing machines if you plan to use them, as they are not cheap.
- Bring warm clothes for school days as well as travel. School buildings are not heated to the level that most North Americans may be accustomed to—usually not above 65°F. Think in terms of clothes that can be layered. It can be chilly in the morning, warm by midday and cold again at night. This is true at all campuses.
- Explore which bus passes or rail passes (Eurail, Interail) work best in the countries you plan to visit. Most of these passes can only be purchased in North America. Contact Council Travel at 1-800-2-COUNCIL, or a local travel agent, for the most up-to-date information on air tickets or rail passes for Europe.
- Take $50 worth of local currency before entering the country, including coins or bills of small denominations for renting luggage carts.
- Take adapter plugs for any electrical appliances being transported. Include a converter if the appliance is not for 220 volts. Be sure voltage and wattage ratings of the converter are adequate for the appliance(s) taken. Adapter plugs and converters are not the same, bring both.
- Take a backpack (internal frame type) as one "suitcase." It will be handy for independent traveling and is not as easily damaged.
- Take a sleeping bag. This is not for bedding at the campus—sheets, pillow cases and blankets are provided and laundered as part of your boarding fee—but a sleeping bag is especially useful for stays in youth hostels during independent travel.
- Take a youth hostel card. Phone (202) 783-6161 for details including beginning and ending dates. American Youth Hostels, Dept. 804, PO Box 37613, Washington, D.C. 20013-7613. The card is also available in Europe. Any hostel can provide directions on obtaining one.
- Take an International Driver's License and state or provincial driver's license, if you are planning any international driving. Contact American or Canadian Automobile Association offices for details.
- Take an International Student Identity Card (ISIC). Visit www.myisic.com for information about card benefits and how to apply for one. Students attending the ACA program in Austria may be able to obtain an International Student ID Card for only 10 Euros, which may be less than the cost in the USA or Canada.
- Take extra passport photos (4-6) for various I.D. purposes. It is important to have extras and carry them with you as they are expensive to have made at passport photo booths.
- Postage is especially costly compared to North American rates. Be prepared to spend as much as $1 per letter. Even postage for post cards will be 75 cents to $1.
Because needs and priorities differ so markedly among individuals, it is impossible to produce a list of "must" items to take for a summer abroad. It is only possible to indicate some of the items that previous students have indicated as being a high priority. Talk with as many former ACA students as possible to help establish the relative importance of the items listed.
This information has be complied primarly from the following website: www.aca-noborders.com