Now that we’ve begun the new year, it’s likely that Spring 2020 UPCES students are excitedly laying out their clothes and other belongings in preparation for their semester in Prague. When packing for two seasons and a completely new culture, it can be tough to know what to pack and what to leave behind, but fear not—the UPCES staff has all the tips and tricks to help you make the best decisions and save you precious space and weight in your suitcase. Here are a few things to consider when deciding whether to pack a large bottle of shampoo or a second coat.

  • You will likely need fewer things than you think you will.

Many study abroad alumni say that they over-packed. Now, this isn't to say that we expect students to show up with only a small backpack, but we often hear students don't need nearly as much as they initially brought. When packing clothes, think about having enough for roughly two weeks. This will give you enough variety to shake it up a bit and not have to do laundry every two days. But it will also leave you with a manageable amount of luggage. The other trick is to make sure all your items mix and match. If a shirt you'd like to bring doesn't match at least three other items in your suitcase, it’s probably best to leave it behind. Pick a muted color palette to make matching easier.

  • Layer up.

Studying abroad in the spring is a unique challenge since you are dealing with very distinct seasons (often experiencing all four in the same day!). If you’re worried about what to bring and how to maximize your wardrobe. Take a note from Praguers: layers are key to staying comfortable in the often-unpredictable Central European weather. It’s completely acceptable to layer a t-shirt under a sweater or a sweater over a dress and lose or add layers as the day heats up or cools down. This is also why scarves are so popular—it’s an instant way to add a bit of warmth when it gets particularly blustery.

  • When packing shoes, comfort is key.

While it might be tempting to bring that fancy pair of stilettos or that flashy-but-impractical pair of sneakers, you’re much better off leaving them behind, since you’ll likely be doing significantly more walking than you’re used to. Also consider only bringing in shoes that are already broken-in. Nothing is quite as terrible as being ten minutes into a two-hour walking tour with painful blisters. Opt for low shoes with good arch support that you could comfortably walk in for a few miles at a time.

  • Don’t sweat the small stuff

Remember: You're not being dropped off on a desert island. There are so many things you can buy once you’re in Prague as well. When it comes to personal care items such as shampoo, toothpaste and deodorant, it’s definitely possible to find similar products to what you’re used to at home. In fact, when you walk into a drugstore, you’ll be surprised to find you recognize many of the brands. Bring enough to get you through the first few days, but plan on buying full-size products once you are moved into your accommodation. If you're not exclusively loyal to certain brands, this is the course of action that most students have taken. 

  • Leave room for souvenirs

Another resounding theme from study abroad alumni is that they wish they would have saved room for souvenirs. Whether it’s traditional Czech handicrafts or a super cool new clothing item, chances are you’ll make some purchases while you’re here. To avoid the stress of deciding what to leave behind at the end of the semester, pack with a few pounds to spare. Alternatively, bring a few heavier things that you plan to donate at the end of your semester anyway, like a pair of shoes on its last leg or an older coat that you’re planning on donating anyway.

Packing for multiple seasons can be stressful, but there are ways to pack smart rather than lots. Hopefully these tips help you avoid lugging multiple suitcases through the airport and worry less about what you’re wearing and focus on enjoying a life-changing semester in Prague.