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Moving to Spain for 1+ Years?! What to Pack ‘n' Consider…

I was initially instructed to pack based on the “Rule of 3’s” i.e. 3 shirts, 3 pairs of shoes, 3 pants, 3 dresses, etc. and I am VERY glad I didn’t. I was moving abroad for a year and although it is a relatively short chapter in my life history book; it is still a move! Because of this, I had to plan based on what I use in any given day, week, or month back home.

Also, if you are doing the CIEE program or any organized teaching placement program you will have the ease of someone picking you up from the airport. If not, simply pay the $30 cab fare to pack all things necessary. In the end, it will be much cheaper to cab then replace all the things you didn’t bring and then throw them away, donate, or try to ship them back home. Other things I heard before moving here is that it’s fine to pack light because there is cheap shopping. Okayyyy, it might be cheap relative to back home but when you don’t have an income as a teacher for 1-2 months after arriving then the last thing you should be doing is going shopping. Not to mention that the clothes are as advertised… cheap in price AND quality.

I have compiled a list of all the things I brought for perspective along with additional suggestions for items to consider bringing. I hope my full list can provide a little more clarity than the guidance I was provided.

Clothes:

  • 14 pairs of socks if you are someone that works out regularly otherwise 10 could suffice.
  • 10 underwear and 7-10 bras in case you aren’t doing laundry on a strict routine or have longer vacations. You will sweat A LOT the first couple months in Spain so re-wearing bras is not feasible.
  • 5 camisoles to wear under cardigans and undershirts
  • 7 cardigans or nice shirts
  • 4 t-shirts and 5 long sleeved shirts
  • 2-3 sweaters
  • 3 pairs of slacks
  • 4 jeggings/jeans
  • 2-3 pairs of leggings – If you have fleece lined ones then bring them for winter time
  • 6 nicer dresses for work, going out, b-day celebrations, etc.
  • 2 maxi dresses
  • A pack of Nylons – Working professional women wear nylons in Spain. In the US, technically you should be too but we have become more lax over time.
  • 3-5 scarves – I brought 12 and accumulated 3 more in Morocco but I’m obsessed.
  • 7 workout outfits (leggings/shorts, sports bras, and shirts – this will vary depending on your typical workout regimens).
  • 3 zippy jackets for working out and/or keeping warm at night. I brought one fleece Columbia and two Polyester jackets.
  • 3 pairs of flats – You will be walking a lot! Comfy shoes that support your back are advised.
  • 1 pair of flip flops– Gotta love hostel showers.
  • 1-2 pairs of tennis shoes – I brought 1 pair of running shoes and my Reebok Nanos for lifting.
  • 1 winter jacket and 1-2 other jackets – I brought 3 peacoats and 2 fake leather jackets to dress up my outfits. I probably didn’t neeeed all 3 peacoats but they are all different colors, I didn’t want to make a decision on which to leave behind, and I wear them all happily. #smalljoys
  • Jewelry – A couple of your favorite pieces are advised but bare in mind that anything too flashy will likely make you more of a target for pickpocketing.
  • Sunglasses 

Toiletries, where Costco/Sam’s Club becomes your BFF (if not already), and other necessities:

  • Toothpaste – 3 large tubes and 1, 100 ml travel size
  • Tampons – 2 boxes
  • Orbit Gum– 3 boxes emptied throughout my suitcase– I’m an addict, I’ll admit. I’m also particular about having the Green or Dark Blue Orbit. Gum in Spain is the Sugar coated hard shelled ones and more expensive. No Bueno.
  • Toothbrushes – 4
  • Floss
  • Favorite cover-up, foundation, eyeliner and/or mascara – Bring 2-3 depending on your use habits
  • Razor – 3 packs of 4 shaving blades
  • Brush/ratting comb (if applicable)
  • Perfume – Bring 2 if 3 oz bottles
  • Moisturizer – 1
  • Face cleaner – 3
  • Soap bars – 3 to get started
  • Shampoo/Conditioner– one bottle each to get you started
  • Deodorant – 4. You know what works for you and you likely won’t find it in Spain.
  • Q-tips- 2-3 handfuls in a sandwich bag shall suffice
  • 10-15 Cotton balls and nail polish remover
  • 2 nail polish colors
  • Nail kit – tweezers, clippers, cuticle cutters, nail file, etc.
  • Teeth cleaning kit- I’m a freak and I like cleaning my teeth at the dentist regularly so I picked up one of these from Amazon for $10 and it’s a gem.
  • Mini sew kit – Little snags and holes can be easily salvaged.
  • Lent roller
  • Medicine – Advil, multivitamin, Omega 3s, etc. that are a part of your typical regimen.
  • Thermometer – Do you realllly have to go to the doctor?
  • Sunblock
  • External hard drive – You will want it. People often lose/get phones stolen or computers croak so backing up your pictures will be necessary.
  • Ziplocs – 1 box of them with zippers to pack your lunch or you can buy non-zipper ones here. I use Ziplocs to keep toiletries dry on trips. Travel ain’t always glamorous.
  • Converter– so you can charge your electronics.
  • Various sized padlocks – 2-3 for those hostel stays, gym locker, luggage locking, and to help a friend if they forget theirs : D

Additional things I brought to assist with the transition. This will depend on who you are and what brings you joy so this category is at your own discretion.

  • I got two coffee mugs for Christmas in 2014, one is molded like a peacock the neck being the handle and the other is an elephant with a trunk for the handle; two of my favorite animals! These remind me of loved ones back home and hold a lot of coffee for my relaxing Saturday mornings.
  • Adult coloring book and gel pens – If you’re into that kind of thing.
  • Protein Powder and Ziploc bags (as noted above)/shaker (I don’t like the latter because it leaks, it’s too bulky, and I don’t care to invest in the compartmentalized one). Ziplocs carry my dry powder until I add water later, cut the corner, and drink up.
  • Special seasonings. In my case, a big mama jama thing of lemon pepper. Some things are more challenging to find (i.e. hot sauce for you spicy lovers) or don’t exist here so if you like it enough, bring it. You’ll be okay without your excess of American goods though too, I promise!
  • 3 pairs of plastic chopsticks – my trusty travel companions. I take them wherever I go because I can eat everything I want with them and their easy to sneak into luggage.
  • Pack of Thank you cards – whether in the professional world or not, handwritten cards are thoughtful!
  • Big backpack for those flights with Ryanair- I hucked my purple turtle shell through the Sahara for 7 days and use it regularly to bring my workout clothes into town so that I can pit stop at the gym after school and before heading home. I’m allll about that efficient life.
  • A smaller drawstring bag or satchel – Great for carrying around your goods on lighter days. I also pack my drawstring bag in my medium sized backpack on trips so I can use it to carry the necessities throughout the day i.e. camera, map, notebook, pens, wallet, phone, etc. because I don’t have a large purse or a purse in general for that matter.
  • Fancy camera (if applicable) – Make room to fit it in your luggage, you won’t regret it.
  • iPod – Does anyone even use these much anymore? I do for long trips to preserve my phone battery.
  • Backpacking packs (if you have one) – Largest of the ones you can take on the plane and necessary for those 7+ vacation days or winter travels where clothes needed are thicker. Here’s my backpack that’s lasted 3+ years of excessive travel.
  • 3-5 pairs of headphones – Ridiculous I know but one ear bud goes out, get lost or left behind at hostels unintentionally. If you already have them at your house then bring them. Also, pick up the free ones from flights and trains when possible. Speaking of keeping things for free, I always klepto the fleece blanket from int’l flights to use for picnics or a beach adventure since it’s light weight and I can throw it away if it gets filthy.
  • Spotify Premium – Lifesaver abroad for anyone that LOVES music and isn’t willing to pay an arm and a leg for data. The best $11 I spend a month goes to Spotify since I’m pretty much listening to it anytime I’m not teaching or meeting with people face to face.
  • Kindle app. access– I used to be a short article reader but now that I metro everywhere I have lovely books downloaded to my phone (thanks Nikole, my beloved sister, for the Membership and great selection : P) to pass the time.
  • Journal – I have a 5 year Journal that Nikole, genius she is, gave me 4 years ago. This is my trusty travel companion to record life happenings of every single day in the year. It’s fun to recollect on what I’ve done or thought about in the past. For example, October 25th, 2013 I made a 2 year goal to teach or move abroad to Europe, Thailand, or Myanmar. Well I’m here under 3 years so woo for following through on a goal anddd being able to see what I was thinking 4 years ago!
  • 2 Notebooks – I presume you’re moving abroad partially because you want to learn the language of the country? If so, you’ll be taking diligent notes. If not, notebooks are easy travel companions to take on long flights and trains to jot ideas, make plans, write poems, journal entries, letters, etc. The best thinking time I have is when I’m plopped down in a train or flight seat so a notebook always comes in clutch.
  • Phone charging brick – You never know how long you’ll be sucked into the city for and in a new place the last thing you want is no access to resources in your phone. Thank you Dad for always gifting me things I always needed but never knew about!
  • 5-7 Pens – I’m sure you have them laying around your house. Bring them.
  • Cards – I love games so I brought 2 decks of cards, Loaded Questions, and Bananagrams. They have contributed to some of my favorite rainy day memories while back home or traveling.
  • Bible, Spanish Dictionary, and Lonely Planet Book – I brought these because sometimes I like tangible things to read and scheme trips. Definitely not necessary with the advent of the worldwide web and applications but it’s part of my wind down on long days or leisurely Saturday mornings.
  • 6 copies of everything – Passport, NIE, School Placement e-mail, passport photo, etc.
  • Deflated balls and ball pump – I brought a football and volleyball since I already had them at my house and didn’t want to pay to play in the park with friends. Pumps are about $5 from your local wal-mart if you don’t have one already.
  • Yoga mat – It serves two purposes. Allows me to participate in the obvious, yogi time but secondly, serves as a floor mat/rug next to my bed since all apts. I have seen here are hard wood or tile and gets real cold!
  • Reusable water bottle – Double check that you can even drink the city’s tap water. For Madrid you are good to go! Plastic waterbottles are cheap here i.e. 30 cents for 1.5L at the grocery store but that’s a lot of trash for the landfill…
  • Phone plan – Purchase once you get here. Many people did Orange or Vodafone for 20 euros for 2GB/month. I have 2 GB for 10 euro/month with Lycamobile and have only positive things to say about them!

Potential additional items if they fit otherwise purchase when you get abroad if necessary:

  • Heels/wedges- 1-2 pair
  • Boots – 1-2 pairs for cold mornings and travels to cold lands in the winter
  • A book or two – These things take up quite a bit of space so I advise limiting the quantity brought
  • Gloves – 1-2 pair
  • Thick/Long socks – 1-2 pairs
  • Earmuffs/Beanie
  • Umbrella
  • 1 Rain Jacket AKA the ones that roll into themselves, nothing fancy needed. OR I guess you could always do the good ol’ fashioned trash bag but I don’t think they have big ones here in Spain so you might have to BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag).
  • Wine Opener – You’re moving to Spain after all : D

I hope this helps provide more clarity as you scheme for travels abroad! Exciting adventures await! : D

P.S. If you’re wondering how I brought all these things without exceeding the weight limits it’s through weighing my luggage before going to the airport. Aside from that, I used my drawstring bag to carry my precious laptop, iPod, headphones, notebook, pens, journal, necessary travel information and passport in a folder, phone and laptop charging cord, wallet, gum, etc. that needed to be easily accessed for the immediate international flight. My Backpackers pack was filled with my yoga mat, fancy camera and point and shoot camera, all other technology cords, and clothes. My two suitcases were filled with everything else and my purple backpack rested emptied in one of them.

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