Packing For Your Trip abroad

There are only 2 things to remember when you are packing for your trip abroad: 

1) PACK LIGHT (weight wise) and

2) PACK LIGHT (fabric wise).  Experienced travelers know this and first time travelers will quickly learn! 

You will be leading a simpler life than you are probably used to while at school and homestay, as well as in your extended travels before or after the language immersion program.  Here are a few tips that may help you as you pack for your trip to Costa Rica.

  • PACK LIGHT – (WEIGHT WISE  & FABRIC WISE) A small 20-inch wheeled suitcase and a medium sized backpack for carry on will be most manageable.  Some travelers might skip the wheeled suitcase and just bring a large backpack. Whatever luggage you choose to bring, make sure you can manage it alone without help from anyone. You don’t want to be lugging a large, heavy suitcase or lots of luggage through the airports and into taxis. If you do any traveling around the country before or after your studies, there will be limited space on busses or in travel vans for big heavy bags.

  • Bring only lightweight quick-dry clothes.  All of your clothes should be able to be washed in a bathroom sink and they should be able to dry overnight. Forget the jeans and cotton clothes that need ironing This is the tropics, and they will never dry – then they stink!.  Seriously.  You don’t have to buy expensive quick dry outfits. You probably have some quick dries in your closet right now and don’t realize it.  We’re just so used to throwing things in the dryer.  Most fitness clothes are lightweight and have quick-dry and wicking properties.  Look for polyester, rayon, nylon and synthetic blends.  Almost anything with spandex added (even to cotton) will dry quickly and look great.  Test out your clothes before you go.  Try washing them in a sink, then wring them out, and hang them on a hangar or from a clothesline in your bathroom.  Don’t use a washing machine for the test – it wrings the water out too thoroughly. Regular cotton T shirts are cool and comfortable in the heat, but if you wash one in a sink in your hotel, you’ll end up stuffing it wet, into a plastic bag in the morning, because it won’t dry overnight. In San Jose, during your home-stay, your Tico family will do your laundry for you, and they often have sunny patios where they hang clothes to dry.  They typically don’t have dryers.  If you do any traveling around the country on your own, though, this is where the quick dry clothes will be essential.

  • Spray your luggage and shoes with waterproofing spray before you leave.

  • Get TSA approved locks for your luggage.  If you travel around the country, it’s nice to know your bags are locked in the back of a van or on a luggage rack on a bus.


*This would work for 2 weeks or 6 months. Remember, if you can wash your clothes out at night you don’t need 2 weeks worth of outfits.

  • 2-3 quick dry pants/capris//skirts/ or long shorts.  Shorts are fine for the beach, but not for the city.  You’ll actually be more comfortable hiking in the rainforests in long pants, anyway– they’ll protect you from mosquitoes and the sun.  A pair of zip-off pants is great!
  • 3-4 casual quick-dry tops.
  • 1 long sleeved top.
  • 1 nice outfit with accessories (belt, jewelry, shoes, etc. – This could be your plane outfit.)
  • Lightweight sweater or equivalent.  Evenings in San Jose can get pleasantly cool.  Travel into the mountains can bring temperatures in the 60’s.
  • Swim suit and cover-up  (Women: You can pick up gorgeous tropical-design large rectangular beach wraps for $10 all over the country.  These double as a skirt or beach blanket). 
  • Walking shoes & socks (Gym shoes are fine).  You don’t need hiking boots unless you are planning some serious hiking.)
  • Water sandals (There can be debris or parasites in the sand at the beach.)
  • Breathable lightweight rain jacket (and pants, if you travel during the rainy season)
  • 4-underwear (Quick-dry if you can.  They’re pricey, but will last forever if you save them just for travel.  Ask Santa for them.)
  • Travel alarm clock
  • Mini flashlight
  • Travel umbrella
  • Small bottle of detergent
  • 2 plastic coated wire hangars & 8’ piece of thin rope with 4 clothespins for hanging clothes to dry.
  • Small gift for homestay family
  • Ziplock bags
  • Hat/ sun visor
  • Travel books


  • Your favorite toiletries in small containers
  • Unscented soap/shampoo/conditioner (You might consider going the unscented route. Mosquitoes are attracted to fragrances.)
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellant (Highly recommended: Ultrathon Insect Repellant® by 3M, 12 hour - 34.34% Deet ®. This stuff is great and was recommended by the Travel Medicine nurse.  It’s time released so it lasts 12 hours. The scent is mild and it doesn’t dissolve nylon like some other products.  Also, if you will be along the Caribbean coast or other Malaria prone areas, you may want to spray your clothes before you leave with Permethrin®. Read directions carefully. It is not toxic on your clothes when it dries and protects you for 6 weeks through 6 washings.  It leaves no odor.)
  • Tums, Pepto Bismo tablets, Imodium AD
  • Bandaids, Bactine, antibiotic cream
  • Antibacterial wipes 60% alcohol
  • Any special meds/over the counter stuff you take regularly, labeled


  • Passport (Keep a photocopy in your suitcase.)
  • ATM card and pin, credit card, driver’s license, health insurance card
  • $26 exit fee (You’ll need this to exit Costa Rica, so don’t spend all your money!)
  • US $20 bills, $1 bills (Keep a few of these denominations with you for emergencies. They will be accepted at many tourist sites, or as tips.)
  • Travel immunization card
  • Photos from home (Your homestay family, language teachers, and fellow students will enjoy these and they can be a conversation starter.)
  • Sunglasses
  • Spanish dictionary
  • Airline tickets and any travel reservations
  • Important email addresses and phone numbers
  • Phone numbers of bank, emergency doctor, embassy, airlines
  • Travel insurance policy
  • Meds and essential toiletries in case of plane delays
  • Camera, charger, memory sticks/ film
  • Small notebook, pens, pencils
  • Reading material


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