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PREPARING TO TRAVEL: What To Take: General Suggestions

In planning what to take, remember that closet and other storage space at international schools is often limited so pack only essentials. 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 to fewer checked or carry on items. Be prepared to pay a 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.

Other items, such as clothing, especially those for winter wear, or books, may be sent parcel post. Allow six to eight weeks for delivery if sent surface mail. (Three months in Spain). All packages will be charged customs fees when they arrive at international countries. For customs information be sure that USED CLOTHING is clearly indicated even then there may be a customs charge. It may well be worth airline surcharges to take these items as extra baggage to have them when you want them. If you do, use suitcases, not boxes, because they are much easier to carry. You may send these items air or air freight, but they will be expensive. Shop around for non postal air mail 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 or a very minimal charge.

Have a copy of the prescription of any eyeglasses. Possession of drugs can lead to serious problems. To prevent arrest, carry required medication in clearly labeled containers and 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 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 to 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 baggage, be sure to include a goodly portion of caution. As a stranger in a foreign land, you will more than once 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!!! Some even suggest that you keep your passport with you at all times, even when taking a bath.

Current and former ACA students are essentially unanimous in suggesting the following:

  • Take $100 worth of local currency before entering the country, including coins or bills of small denominations for renting luggae carts.
  • Take a back pack (internal frame type) as one 'suitcase.'  It will be handy for independent traveling and is not as easily damaged.
  • Take extra passport photos (4-6) for various ID.  It is important that you have extras and carry them with you as they will be expensive to have made at passport photo booths.
  • 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).  It is advisable to take an International Student Identify Card.  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 ISIC card for only 10 euros, which may be less than the cost in the USA or Canada. 
  • Explore which bus passes for 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 Countil Travel at 1-800-2-Council for the most up to date information on rail passes for Europe.
  • Be prepared to do hand laundering and/or coin-operated machine laundering---men also.  The limits on amounts of clothing that can be laundered as well as time for return 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.
  • 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 appliances taken.  Adapter plugs and converters are not the same; bring both. In Europe  it is 110 volts. You can buy this in Argentina for a cheaper price, if you are going to Argentina.  
  • Bring warm clothes for school days as well as travel and international use.  School buildings are not heated as much as North Americans may be accustomed to -- usually not above 65 degree 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.

Students going to Villa Aurora, Italy, may want to take some moquito repellent even though the school gives that to all students who ask the dean for it.

Because needs and priorities differ so markedly among individuals, it is impossible to produce a list of "must" items to take for a year abroad. It is only possible to indicate some of the items that previous students have indicated as having a high priority. Three lists follow—the first is a general list of items of potential interest to all. The other two separate those items that men and women have considered differently. Talk with as many former ACA students as possible to help establish the relative importance of the items listed. This, combined with a careful study of these lists, may suggest ways to consolidate and integrate different items to arrive at a manageable list.

Although you may find bargains in local shops, some things are more expensive abroad. 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.


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