I'm studying abroad and I want to have room in my suitcase to bring back some souvenirs. How can I avoid overpacking but still make sure that I have everything I need?

3 Answers
It is unfortunately so easy to overpack, but there are ways to avoid it. However, you may need to buy a small suitcase while you're abroad because it is impossible not to purchase items while traveling. When packing, you need to be prepared for seasonal changes and the types of activities you will be doing. In addition, you will have a place to do laundry, so don't stress about not bringing enough because you can always wash your clothes.

You must pack the essentials: undergarments, plain cotton t-shirts that you can wear for site-seeing, two sweaters, 2 pairs of pajamas, a jacket, two pairs of comfortable walking shoes, two nice dinner outfits, 3-5 pairs of jeans, socks, 2 pairs of jean shorts, a handbag, and a sundress and/or romper. These are items that you can wear all of the time and you can mix and match with tops and bottoms.

Once you have these items, you should definitely add some more nice blouses (3-5) and different types of bottoms (3-5). You will want to bring one pair of neutral heels that you can wear with anything. This packing list should definitely leave you with enough room to buy and store souvenirs. However, it isn't a terrible idea to buy an extra duffle bag while you're abroad because you don't want your suitcase(s) to be obscenely heavy.
To build off of Madison's answer--regarding clothes-packing, Space Bags are the most magical packing tools I've ever seen in my life! You do have to have a vacuum with one of those small nozzles, but if you have one, you're in luck. Space Bags are special space-saving ziplock bags (big ones) that allow you to triple the number of clothes you can pack in your suitcase because you essentially use the vacuum hose to suck all the air out of your bags full of clothes (you'd be surprised at how much space air takes up). You can typically buy Space Bag knock-offs by store brands for a cheaper price than the original Space Bags themselves, and they work just as well. Simply fill the big bags with the clothes you want to take, align your vacuum nozzle on the little opening designated on the bag, and suck the air out of the bag while ensuring the opening of the bag is perfectly closed.
Important note: do not rely on Space Bags unless you know for a fact that your host family/residence abroad also has a vacuum with the right nozzle (or make sure you'll have access to a vacuum somewhere in town). You do not want to be stuck abroad without a way to suck air out of your bags--you'll be unable to fit all your clothes back in your bag!
A simple and easy way to save room in your suitcase is to roll your clothes. It prevents wrinkles and it takes up less space! Also, put your underwear and socks inside the shoes you are packing. Besides this, make sure to leave any special occasion shoes/outfits at home. You probably imagine yourself being whisked off to a fancy ball by a dashing stranger, but this almost never happens. Bring clothes that are versatile and can be worn every day. This goes for shoes as well!

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