|Our bags for two people moving to |
Scotland for a year, minus one box.
-We wanted to have a good suitcase here, but we knew we wouldn't have a lot of storage space. Our second checked bag was, therefore, a box. Check your airline's policy for size restrictions, but the box saves a lot of space once you arrive.
Tip: Include a couple of big garbage bags or a laundry bag inside your box. That way when you get arrive at your destination, you can ditch the box, toss everything in a bag, and be good to go.
Carry-on bag. The airlines that fly TransAtlantic allow you a slightly bigger carry-on than the budget airlines in Europe will allow. You can either bring a bigger carry-on and fit more stuff, or you can bring a carry-on that will also fit RyanAir/EasyJet/FlyBe requirements, in case you are planning on taking lots of adventures around Europe. Alternatively, pack an empty backpack and/or messenger bag in your suitcase and take that as your carry-on on any short excursions.
Scotland is actually a really easy place to pack for a year. Ultimately, there are only two seasons: coat weather and jacket weather. We arrived in early September, and it was pretty much 54F until late November, when it dropped to around 38F. December and January had a few days that hovered above freezing, but by February it was back to 54F, where it's been pretty much every since (the past month has breached the mid 60s, but that can be accommodated by removing a cardigan). Even though the winters here are much more mild than most of the US, it can seem colder because you're outside more often (not having a car). Some tips:
Choose a color palette that goes together. Most of the clothes I brought were dark -- a lot of grey, black, and brown. You can add color with accessories (a red scarf or purple hat) if you feel the need. But it saves a lot of overpacking problems if everything goes together.
One good winter-esque coat. You don't have to get Chicago-winter crazy here though. A long down coat is totally unnecessary. To be honest, the "winter coat" I used here is a Target brand autumn coat. The locals complain about bitter cold, but I was fine on the coldest of days with a long-sleeve t-shirt, a sweater, my autumn coat, scarf, knit gloves, and hat.
One pair of boots that matches your clothes -- so black or brown, depending on what you bought -- that you can walk in. This is not the time to bring your lace-up high-heeled boots. Scotland has lots and lots of hills and cobblestones, and you don't want to be the moron who breaks her ankle because her shoes were hott. I had dumb shoes when I moved (except for one pair of red cowboy boots, which are great, but not waterproof), so I bought a used pair of cordovan flat boots about a month after moving. I've worn those boots more than any shoes I've ever owned. Best purchase ever.
Wellies -- not really necessary. I was all excited about wearing my wellies in the rainy climate, and I've worn them all of ... twice. They took up a massive amount of room in my suitcase, and I wish I'd left them at home. Waterproof hiking boots are much more useful and comfortable. If you decide you really need wellies, you can get them here for £10 at John Lewis and less at used shops.
A hat and scarf. Scotland is windy. Sometimes you don't need a coat at all, but a hat and scarf can make all the difference.
Most apartments in Edinburgh come furnished, so you don't need to bring any household items. Maybe if you've got a special cookie cutter or a swanky spatula you can't do without, bring it. But for the most part, household stuff is a big waste of space in a bag that you need for your laptops and accordions (well, maybe you didn't need to bring an accordion, but I did).
Bringing blankets and pillows from home is the biggest waste of packing space you can imagine. Don't bother. Seriously. Plan on a few extra moving expenses and include bedding in your budget when you arrive. You can find duvets and pillows incredibly cheap here at plenty of the bigger stores. Thrift stores ("charity shops" over in the UK) are great for nice used quilts and duvets, if a used blanket doesn't creep you out. If you're worried that you won't want to go to the store on the day you arrive, then have a local friend pick something up for you or order bedding online and have it delivered.
Buy most of your toiletries here. If you're here for an extended time, you're going to have to replace what you brought anyway. So no point in that big Target trip before you move. Bring a toothbrush and tiny toothpaste, but buy your lotion and shampoos at your local pharmacy when you arrive. Airlines have a weight limit, so don't waste your kilograms on hair product. (Unless you're addicted to a particular brand you're quite sure they don't sell here -- do your research though, you'd be surprised.)
Hair Driers, Curling Irons, etc. Do not bring. They will not do well with your US/UK eletrical adaptor, and they will fry themselves within a couple of months, maybe sooner.
Fancy tweezers and other such things. If it's small, and you either spent a lot of money on them or they are amazing, bring them.
Contact lenses. If you have extras already, bring them. If not, you can order them from the Netherlands without a prescription. You can also go to the eye doctor for FREE in Scotland, so either way, unless you have a cheap contact lens hook-up, it's probably cheaper to buy them here.
An eBook reader. I love books more than your average person, but you need to give up your book habit when you're packing for a year abroad. My Kindle is the best thing I brought here. I can borrow real books from the library whenever I want, or I can use my Kindle to borrow them electronically. It weighs less than a single book, but it holds thousands. Buy something like it, if you like to read. Likewise, load up your iPod and leave all your CDs behind (if you even know what a CD is).
Your old iPhone or other smartphone. I've been an Apple lady since 1984, so I'm not sure about non-iProducts (I know how pretentious that sounds, and I don't care.) Even if you cancel your US phone plan, bring your old phone. It should still work as a fancy iPod, and is especially useful when you find wifi. iPhones now have iMessage capabilities, so you can text other people who have iPhones or iPads (even internationally!) for free. This has been great for staying in touch with friends and family back home. Other apps, like Viber, are great for free texting and calls with anyone over wifi.
An old, unlocked cellular phone that can take a SIM card. You can buy a UK SIM card at any newsagent and pop it in your phone, giving you a magical working UK mobile phone. If you're really organized, you can order one ahead of time and have it before you leave the US. There are many companies online that do that sort of thing.
American credit cards will work over here, but make sure you always have ID on you. Europe has much more advanced chip-and-pin technology, so the ancient "swipe cards" are only used by American tourists. They look at you funny when you use them.
Call your bank/credit card company before you leave and let them know you'll be traveling abroad. They'll make a note, so they don't think it's been stolen when you use it in Europe. Make sure to ask about the extra fee they charge you to use the card in a foreign currency. Capital One cards do NOT charge a fee, so we use those when traveling. Other companies charge an extra 3%.
Your ATM card will work abroad as normal (so you don't need to bring large amounts of cash to exchange), but call your bank just to make sure. An ATM is the easiest way to get cash and is often the best exchange rate.
Other little stuff I like to have while traveling:
-A pen, a small journal or notepad, earplugs, a small assortment of accessories (1 nice scarf, 1 nice purse, a couple pairs of earrings, and a few necklaces), sunglasses, lacy underwear (purely because it dries quickly), a messenger bag.
A fanny pack.
Totally kidding. Don't bring one of these, unless you're over 70 or are seriously embracing the 1980s fashion comeback. Also, the word "fanny" means something totally different (and vulgar) in the UK, so don't say it. UK readers, I apologies for my brazen lewdness.
Whatever you pack, stick to the old rule of taking half of what you originally packed. Unless you're going to the Peace Corps, you'll be able to buy stuff here. It's way cheaper than shipping an extra bag.
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