Looking Back on It, Packing Edition: What I Needed and What I Probably Didn’t

They say hindsight is 20/20, and I definitely noticed that when packing back up my stuff to leave Copenhagen. While refilling my suitcases, it was clear to see what I really needed, and what was rather unnecessary. In this article I am going to go through my original packing list (which you can find here) and give some insight to hopefully guide the next class of DIS students as they prepare for their trip!

To start let’s make it known that I am a chronic over-packer, although I honestly think I did pretty well considering the length of this trip. Additionally, before I left for Copenhagen I made the decision that I was going to bring things like shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, and other hygiene items with me so that I would be ready set on my way there. This would then turn into empty space on the way back that I would then use for souvenirs and other goodies I collected over my time in Europe. Although I know people that didn’t go this route, it worked best for me and I am glad with my decision, otherwise I probably would’ve had to buy another bag in Denmark because I had so much stuff!

Carry-on

Original Pre-Trip Comments: “I will be bringing 2 carry-on bags with me, one backpack and one duffle that I hope to use for weekend trips while abroad!”

Reflection: I ended up using that small backpack for classes and even though it was kinda small and the zipper was a bit finicky, it definitely did its job, matched the Copenhagen aesthetic, and held its anti-theft promise. I didn’t really use the duffle for too many trips (most airlines only give you one small under-seat bag and the duffle was too big for that, I ended up using a Vera Bradley backpack that I had also brought) but I was glad to have it for the few times I did use it.

  • Face masks (my airline (SAS) required me to wear a n95 or kn95 mask while on the flight)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sanitizing wipes
  • Documents (which I stored in this cute little document holder)
    • Passport
    • Legal Entry Documents from DIS
    • COVID Vaccination card 
    • Personal health insurance card
    • Student ID card from home university
    • Printed flight itinerary
    • Printed copy of your housing address abroad
    • DIS address (in case of luggage delay)
    • DIS recommends having 2 copies of these documents as well (one copy to take with you and one copy to leave home)
  • Prescription Medication with note from doctor
  • Laptop
    • Laptop Charger
  • Phone charger
    • Bring extras, between traveling and café hopping you will definitely lose at least one.
  • Electrical adapters
    • These worked perfectly for me, although make sure you know the difference between an electrical adapter and electrical converter. These cannot be used on a hair straightener or blow dryer, but they were perfect for my needs (charging my phone, laptop, etc). I liked having a bunch of them too to lend to friends or incase I lost any.
  • Advil 
    • You would think this would be a must-pack for people but you would be shocked by how many of my friends did not pack Advil. I was glad that I brought a large amount, and they definitely were too!
  • Band-aids
    • Another item that for some reason no one thought to bring.
  • Sunglasses 
  • Travel airplane pillow
  • Journal 
    • I brought a journal, but definitely didn’t use it as much as I intended to. Although this blog does kinda serve the same purpose, I really wish I wrote more about my experiences while they happened.
  • Apple watch 
    • Apple watch charger 
    • I LOVED seeing how many steps I did a day compared to home. I was having 20,000-30,000 step days!
  • Airpods
  • Headphones 
  • Portable charger 
    • This was a game changer. Whether spending all day out of the room exploring European cities, or spending all day in a cafe studying, I used my portable charger weekly and would definitely recommend bringing one.

Checked Luggage

Original Pre-Trip Comments: “I will also be bringing 2 checked bags, even though DIS recommends only bringing one. I know that I will end up accumulating lots of goodies over my trip and I want to make sure I have enough room to bring all this stuff back at the end of my trip! The goal is to have these two suitcases lightly packed on the way there, but to have enough room for extra stuff on the way back. I also plan on using vacuum seal bags to pack as concisely as possible. Although they won’t help my luggage stay within weight requirements, these bags can be a huge help when packing comfy sweaters or winter jackets. (p.s. if you plan on using these bags make sure to pack the pump that comes with them for your return home!)”

Reflection Comments: As I discussed a bit above, bringing two bags and creating more room for goodies was what worked best for me, although my roommate did (somehow) manage to make it to Copenhagen and back with only one checked bag (she is a minimalist when it comes to packing and shopping. I am DEFINITELY the opposite). I will also mention that I did somehow end up with more stuff on the way home than I anticipated, and I was lucky that my host mom offered to bring some stuff back to the States for me when she went on a trip to visit her friend. If it wasnt for her, I’m not sure how I would’ve gotten everything back! It definitely is better to start out with less. Lastly, the vacuum seal bags were a BLESSING and even my friends who didn’t bring them on the way to Copenhagen ended up buying them for the trip back. Also 100% bring the pump with you, as your vacuum might miraculously disappear within the last 24 hours of being in Denmark like mine did, and then you’ll have no way to shrink the bags!

Random Clothes Packing Tips:

  • DO RESEARCH BEFORE YOU PACK! The Danes definitely have a rather specific and unique fashion sense, and I think it’s safe to say that I fell in love with it! Outfits are simple, filled with neutral colors and long jackets, and they’re always neat and on point (even after biking around the entire city). I followed accounts like @copenhageners_in_copenhagen on instagram to get a better idea of what to pack, but I still ended up buying some essentials (like this trench coat from Zara which I absolutely love) when I arrived.
  • I honestly didn’t realize just how cold, windy, and rainy Copenhagen can be. I originally planned on having my parents bring my summer clothes halfway through the semester, but ended up telling them not to because I really didn’t need any shorts or summer-wear. Do your research beforehand to find out what the weather is going to be like when you’re there!
  • Less is more. The fact is you will end up buying clothes when your traveling! Bring your necessary items and try to pack items that can be worn in numerous different ways to make a variety of outfits, because you’re guaranteed to pick up some fun items along the way!
  • Under-ware
    • Underwear
    • Bras
    • Socks 
      • I ended up needing more long boot socks than I brought, and bought more at H&M at the beginning of the trip.
  • PJs
  • 1 Professional outfit
    • I didn’t end up wearing this outfit (although I was supposed to for our symposium, however it got cancelled) but I was still glad I brought it as it didn’t take up much room in my bag.
  • Shirts 
    • Sweaters 
    • Nicer short sleeve shirts 
    • Nicer long sleeve shirts
    • Turtleneck/shirts for layering 
      • Shirts for layering were KEY. Try to make a capsule wardrobe (more outfits with less items) as this will be necessary not only when packing for Cope but also when traveling around Europe with a tiny backpack. I loved wearing this cropped turtle neck under sweaters, as it kept me warm while also changing up a normal sweater.
    • Casual shirts
  • Sweatshirts 
    • I brought 4 which was definitely too many.
  • Dresses/skirts 
    • I’m not gonna lie I don’t think I ever wore a dress or skirt when in Copenhagen. The weather is usually too cold and since I spent most of my time biking it was illogical. I did wear a dress when in Italy, however, I probably could’ve gone without bringing these.
  • Pants 
    • Jeans
      • I bought these American Eagle jeans before leaving, and wore them a ton while abroad. Jeans are VERY popular in Copenhagen, although I didn’t see jeans with holes in them as much as you would in the States. I also wore a pair of plaid AE pants and white pants from Zara a bunch!
    • Sweatpants 
    • Leggings (for layering)
    • I never ended up wearing leggings. Unless you’re planning on wearing them to workout or on the plane, leggings are practically unheard of in Europe and I definitely didn’t need to bring them.
    • Snow pants
      • I really wanted to go skiing in Switzerland, but never got to it. My friends who did go however, were able to rent stuff for pretty cheap at the mountain, so I would recommend not bringing snow pants.
  • Jackets
    • Winter jacket
      • I bought a new Tommy Hilfiger heavy winter coat on Black Friday and I never expected it to be as crucial as it was. COPENHAGEN IS COLD. I wore this jacket almost every day, it was one of my best and most necessary purchases before going to Denmark.
    • Wool jacket 
    • Leather jacket 
      • I wore this every weekend. 100% a necessary item in my book.
  • Shoes
    • Adidas sneakers
      • I didn’t wear sneakers as often as I thought I would, although people definitely did.
    • Black rain boots 
      • I wore these boots or my black combat boots almost every day. These boots were super easy to clean whether being dirty from the rain or a bar, and they always looked so neat with every outfit. It rains in Copenhagen more than you think it will, so boots are a necessary item.
    • Combat boots
    • Snow/winter boots
      • This was undoubtedly the number 1 thing that I brought that I did not at all need. I thought if it rained all the time in Copenhagen then that would mean it snowed in winter. It did not ever snow. I never wore these boots, and they took up a ton of room in my bag.
    • Shower shoes (flip flops)
      • A must pack for your dorm or for hostels when traveling!
    • Birks
      • I never ended up wearing these outside but I did wear them all the time in my dorm (since I had communal living). Although they didn’t serve their original purpose I was super glad that I had them.
  • Bathing Suit
    • I didn’t end up using mine but since it didn’t take much room I was glad to have brought it. I know plenty of people who did use theirs, whether going to Copenhot or the Baths in Budapest.
  • Accessories 
    • Jewelry
    • Gloves 
      • A necessary item if you plan on biking!
    • Winter hat 
    • Scarf 
      • You need a scarf. Copenhagen is cold!
    • Belts 
  • Toiletries (you can definitely buy these all at Normal in Copenhagen (they have a TON of stuff, and lots of American brands), but I chose to bring a decent amount to start me off)
    • Toothbrush
    • Toothpaste
    • Shampoo
    • Conditioner
    • Face wash 
    • Moisturizer
    • Contacts & solution 
    • Makeup remover 
    • Razor 
    • Perfume 
    • Deodorant
      • THEY DO NOT SELL STICK DEODORANT IN DENMARK! I ended up having my friends bring some when they came to visit from the States. If you don’t want to end up using spray deodorant, make sure to bring enough to last you all 4 months.
    • Femine hygiene 
    • Hair brush 
    • Soap 
  • Umbrella or raincoat
    • It really does rain a lot in Copenhagen. Like all the time. Like almost every day.
  • Crossbody bag for travel
    • I used this all the time when traveling!
  • Small gift for Visiting Host family
    • I ended up bringing them a Long Island Homesick Candle, my family’s favorite game (LCR), and a postcard from my town. I was really glad that I had something to give them, and they put the candle in their bathroom which made me smile anytime I came to visit!
  • Travel blanket “for any not-so-perfect hostels I come across”
    • I actually never ended up using this for hostels but I did use it every night in my room! DIS provides a comforter and sheets, but I liked having this cozy blanket to sleep with.
  • Some little decorations to remind me of home
    • I was definitely glad that I brought these decorations (specifically a Providence College poster and pictures with family and friends) to make my room feel more like home.
  • Small first aid kit
    • Over the counter medications
      • THIS IS CRUCIAL. The over-the-counter medications you can find here so easily in the US are VERY hard to come by in Denmark without making a doctors appointment. I got a pretty bad cold at one point and the Sutafed I brought from the States was my life saver, make sure you have whatever works best for you and honestly the more the better!
  • Luggage Scale
    • I never used this until the last week in Denmark but it was probably one of the most important items I brought with me. When coming home my friends and I all had a bunch of new stuff that we didn’t bring originally, and this luggage scale was the only thing that saved us all from paying probably hundreds of dollars in luggage fees. I was the only one to bring a luggage scale and ALL of my friends and floor mates used it on the way home. Super small and easy to pack, there’s no reason not to bring one!

Shopping for Necessities in Copenhagen!

Here’s a list of stores that may come in handy to buy the few things that you’re guaranteed to forget!

  • Flying Tiger
    • I honestly don’t know how to describe Flying Tiger. They used to have a few in the US, but I’m not sure if any of them remain open. In Copenhagen, however, they’re on almost every street corner and you’ll be glad about it too! Essentially they’re a “stuff store,” selling everything from stationary to decorations to phone cases. If you ever need something random, this is your place to go, because there’s a great chance they’ll have it, and for really cheap too! Some of the things I bought here throughout the semester include: snacks, birthday decorations, ice trays, notebooks for class, a jewelry organizer, q-tips, and a deck of cards. They really have it all but without breaking your bank account!
  • Normal
    • This is another kind of strange store, but more specifically focused on hygiene and cosmetics. This is where I would go to buy shampoo, conditioner, soap, feminine hygiene, and more when needed. Normal is also one of the only stores to sell Gatorade in Denmark, for what it’s worth. They have a huge selection of hair products, soaps, and makeup while also selling things like tissues and snacks, it’s kind of like a Danish CVS!
  • Søstrene Grene
    • This store is another random kind of store, but with a nicer aesthetic. Every time I go in here I have to restrain myself from buying everything, because its just so cute and pretty! Some of the things I bought here throughout the semester include a birthday gift, a pillow and blanket for my room, slippers, and stationary for class. This is another store like Flying Tiger that you can find a whole array of stuff, but under a nicer aesthetic and higher quality.
  • Matas
    • This is a bit of a higher-end cosmetics store. I didn’t go here too often because Normal had everything I needed, but I did buy a European hair dryer here at the beginning of the semester! If you’re really specific on what products you like to use I recommend looking them up on their website to see if they sell them!
  • H&M
    • This isn’t a rare find or anything as they have H&M in the States, but the one in Copenhagen is HUGE! If you forget any type of clothing item or forget to pack enough socks like me, you can definitely get it all here.

Things to do Before Abroad

Original Pre-Trip Comments: “This is the section of this post that I personally feel might be the most helpful when planning for your own semester abroad. There are so many tiny things to remember, so here’s a list of some of the tasks I’ve done over the past month or so to prepare for my trip!”

Cell Phone

  • Decide what phone plan you plan on using
    • Original Pre-Trip Comments: “DIS talks about this in the planning modules but it’s definitely important to look into early on. Basically your options are to either 1) keep your US phone plan and pay whatever international fees may apply (make sure you call your phone carrier so you’re aware of what you will be paying before you leave) or 2) use the DIS recommended Lebara plan (which is what I will be doing). Lebara is a provider from Denmark that will give you a new SIM card (and therefore new phone number) to use during your time abroad. When talking to some of my friends who previously studied abroad, they recommended the Lebara plan as some of their friends who kept their US plans had consistent connection issues when traveling through Europe. Lebara has numerous different plans for what will best fit your needs, and I’ll make sure to update this list when I chose a plan for myself! I’m going to use the Lebara plan for the majority of the time I’m away but I am fully prepared to use my Verizon plan for 2 or 3 days (its $10 a day on top of what I already pay) until I get my new SIM card working. This way I can still contact home at any time during those first few days while I get settled in with the Lebara plan.”
    • Reflection Comments: I am so glad I decided to go with Lebara! It was so easy to use, and switch SIM cards, and it definitely saved me a ton of money. I decided to go for the unlimited plan to avoid any possible scenarios where I end up lost without a phone, and it cost me about $35 a month. I decided to use my email through iMessage for most texting, as that’s what worked best for me, and when I called my friends and family back in the US I used FaceTime. Using Lebara for data was perfect whether trying to use the finicky DIS wifi or when traveling to other countries in Europe.
  • Unlock your phone to work with a new sim card
    • Original Pre-Trip Comments: “This being said, if you choose to use the Lebara plan you have to make sure your phone will allow you to use the new SIM card in it. To do this you must call your phone provider and make sure that your phone is unlocked. If your phone still has payments left on it, the provider may not unlock it for you. In this case some of my peers are planning on bringing 2 phones, their normal phone to use when connected to Wifi and an old phone with the Lebara SIM card to use for Danish calls.”
    • Reflection Comments: I don’t have much to say here, just make sure to check that your phone is unlocked before you leave the US! The only people that I know that had issues with this were the ones who didn’t check before they left the States, and then they were unable to call their phone providers back in a different country.

Credit/Debit Cards

  • Check your credit and debit cards for unnecessary/unwanted fees
    • Original Pre-Trip Comments: “So I did this and discovered that both my credit and debit cards have international fees of about 2 or 3% for every time I use them abroad. To avoid having these fees add up while I’m away, I applied for the Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students. It has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and it was relatively easy to apply and get approved for!”
    • Reflection Comments: This credit card was PERFECT for everything I needed! Cash is hardly ever used in Denmark so its crucial to have credit card that fits your needs, and this one was amazing. No travel international fees, it was super easy to get (even when I almost forgot and ordered it last minute), and there are so many travel points that you can earn back. My roommate forgot to check her international fees before leaving the States and unfortunately ended up with a bunch of added up fees.
  • Tell your credit card companies you are going abroad
    • Original Pre-Trip Comments: “Although I hope not to use my regular cards too often (to avoid the fees!) I want to make sure I will be able to use them if I need to. You can find more information on using credit/debit card in Denmark on the DIS website here.”
    • Reflection Comments: The only time I ended up using my regular debit card was to get Euros at ATMs, but it was still a necessary use. Make sure to give your bank a heads up so that your cards don’t get declined when you need them the most.

Prescription Medication

  • Original Pre-Trip Comments:
    • “Make sure your prescription medication is LEGAL in Denmark
      • This may sound funny at first, but I’m totally serious. European relations with medication are very different than in the US and the medications you take on a daily basis may be illegal abroad.
    • Try to get enough of your medication to keep you supplied for the entire duration of your trip
      • Medication (especially illegal medication) cannot be shipped from the US to Denmark so talk to your health care and insurance providers to get an early fill of any medications to last you through your abroad trip.
    • Carry any and all prescription medication in your carry-on luggage in its original container and accompanied with a doctor’s note listing the medication and why you are taking it.
    • You can find more information on medication in Denmark on the DIS website here.”
  • Reflection Comments: Like I said above, Denmark is weird with medication and it’s difficult to get the exact same medications you have here in the US. I never had any issues with prescription medication, but I followed exactly what I wrote above, and I recommend you do to.

COVID-19

  • Original Pre-Trip Comments:
    • “Hopefully by the time someone is reading this, COVID-19 is no longer a significant issue. However, since a year ago I didn’t think it would be a significant issue for my abroad trip in 2022, and yet it is, here are some tips I’ve accumulated.
    • Make sure you have some n95 or kn95 masks.
      • Certain airlines (including SAS) will only let you travel with these higher level masks, instead of the cloth masks often worn in public in the US.
    • Check the entry requirements for Denmark AS WELL AS any countries you may have a layover in (if you don’t have a direct flight).
    • Make sure you are up to date on any vaccines.
      • You never know when the vaccine requirements might change in Europe (you might need X number of dosages in order to enter public places) so it’s easiest to just make sure you have the most recent availability before you leave. Although some booster might not be required at the time of your departure, you never know when requirements will change, and it will definitely provide you with some comfort knowing you’re as up to date as possible when you leave your home country!”
  • Reflection Comments: Although masks and COVID regulations are dying down in the US, and they’re practically non-existent in Denmark, there are definitely other countries in Europe that still (as of the moment I am writing this) follow strict guidelines. I would make sure you have the most recent vaccination, documentation of your COVID vaccines, and kn95 masks with you just in case.

Two-Step Authentication

  • This was something I didn’t think about at ALL before leaving the US that ended up being a royal pain in the butt once I arrived in Denmark. You know all of those verification texts you receive for your credit cards and other accounts, where they text you a code to verify it is you? Well what happens when you don’t have your American phone number for 4 months? Take my advice and figure this out before you leave the States, otherwise I guarantee it’s gonna cause you problems when you least expect it. There’s a variety of ways to do this (depending on what different types of accounts you use) so it definitely requires some research. I can tell you that for Microsoft Outlook they have an app called “Microsoft Authenticator” that you can hook up for your email, and for my Bank of America credit card I inputted my mom’s American phone number instead of my own (whenever I made a large purchase (like plane tickets) I had to call her and ask her for the code. There might be a better way to do this, but I never figured it out). This tip is very individual and specific to your own needs, but definitely make sure to look into it ahead of time.

This list only touches the surface on preparing for your trip to Copenhagen, but I hope you can learn a little bit from my own experiences on what to bring and what not to. If I can provide a little bit of comfort just remember that you will be going to a city, and there are plenty of stores very similar to those in the US to guarantee you have everything you need! Packing is undoubtedly the most stressful part, but it can also be the most exciting as you prepare for what will be the most incredible four months. Until then, good luck!

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