The best advice for packing for a trip abroad would be the time honored: “less is more.” Please plan to keep your luggage to a MINIMUM: no more than one medium-sized suitcase and one medium-sized carryon OR backpack. YOU will be responsible for carrying your own luggage everywhere we go. Included as part of your room and board in Salamanca will be laundry service, provided by your host family. This should cover all of your laundry needs for the first several weeks of the program. However, the excursion portion of the trip will last for two weeks and you will want to either pack enough clothing for two weeks or plan to do laundry. You should be aware that the custom throughout Europe is NOT to change street clothing every day; people wear the same outfit day after day. You may not want to do this, but don’t count on washing every article of clothing after wearing it only once. Remember also that the program’s itinerary will include stops in several cities throughout Spain and the climates that we will experience will be somewhat varied. Although all of the cities on the itinerary have warm days and cool nights, some may be warmer or cooler than others. Additionally, we will be touring cathedrals and other religious sites in many of these cities and it will be expected that all visitors wear long pants or dresses with shoulders covered as a sign of respect for the holiness of these places; baseball caps, sleeveless/tank tops, short shorts, will prevent you from gaining entrance to cathedrals, and also subject you to unwelcome attention. The more well-dressed you are, the better service you individually and we as a group will receive. Finally, Spaniards on the whole tend to dress more formally in almost any setting than we do here in the United States. Therefore, you may feel more comfortable if you pack clothing that is slightly more dressy than what you would wear typically in order to fit in at the restaurants, cafes, churches and other social settings in which you may find yourself during the trip. The following is meant as a list of ideas for packing, but you may want to pack more or less depending on your needs.
- Enough undergarments and socks for two weeks
- Dressy casual outfits for school in Salamanca, for church and for going out. Try to make these as interchangeable as possible.
- Shoes for the following places: school, walking tours, church/going out, exercise, beach. Also flip-flops or slippers to wear in your home in Salamanca. Bare feet in the house are offensive. Please always wear something on your feet, even if it's just from your bedroom to the bathroom.
- A light sweater
- Travel sized toiletries (anything you can purchase here, you can purchase there However, note that antiperspirant is usually NOT available in Europe; if you use it, you should bring your own. )
- Swimwear, towel (and soap in dish; your host family will not provide soap or towels).
- Medications: Dramamine (for the many bus trips we will take), aspirin, ibuprofen, or tylenol (Tylenol PM is great for getting over jet lag). If you take prescription medication regularly, take enough to last the 6 weeks.
- Small collapsible umbrella or rain jacket with hood.
- Sunglasses, sunscreen, Chapstick with sunscreen
- Contact lens solution
- Sewing kit
- Plastic bags for storing dirty laundry
- Packets of Kleenex (guaranteed, the worse you have to go, the grosser the bathroom and no toilet paper)
- Spanish Bible and small Sp-Engl dictionary
- Debit Card and/or credit card
- Some American currency for layovers and for immediate exchange if the need arises
- Electrical converters : Spain is an odd mix of 220/110, but usually 220, which will blow out US-made appliances. If you bring a hairdryer, curling iron, travel iron, etc., also procure a converter kit with an assortment of prongs (adaptors). Most outlets in Spain are for round prongs, but some outlets are a semicircle shape. Some Targets carry adequate converter kits, as do most hardware stores. Sometimes you can buy hairdryers with converters in the handle, so you just switch to the needed current. Remember that you will need an adaptor (usually round prongs) for plug-ins.
Finally, you should purchase a small gift for your host family. A memento from Indiana or the mid-west will go over well. When I was there as a student, I bought my family a New York Yankees mug and they seemed to like it.
WHILE TRAVELLING: Hotels have laundry service and Laundromats charge by the kilo; both can be quite expensive. A cheaper alternative is “garbage bag laundry”. This involves powder detergent brought from home, although perfectly good brands are available in Spanish stores (don’t bring liquid detergent, because the changing air pressures in the plane’s cargo area will cause the containers to leak in your suitcase; we speak from bitter experience . . .) and a simple plastic grocery store bag or garbage bag. Fill the bag half full of warm water over the hotel bathtub as soon as you check in and sprinkle powder detergent in the water. Wash whites and delicates first, followed by darker and dirtier clothes, laying everything out in the bathtub as you wash it. You may rinse out your clothing under the faucet or you may turn the plastic bag inside out and again fill it half full of warm water and put your clothing, whites and delicates first, through the rinse cycle in your plastic bag. Then wring out your clothing and drape it where it won’t drip and damage any hotel property. Wrinkled blouses and shirts can, in the morning, be somewhat restored to decent appearance by hanging them in the bathroom and letting the steam from a hot shower soften the wrinkles from your laundering of the previous night. No hotel appreciates this method of cleaning your clothing, but when one considers the cost of having the hotel do one’s laundry (sometimes it can cost more than the room!) or the emotional damage to one’s fellow travelers from not doing laundry at all, then certainly this is the lesser of the available unpleasant options. - You may wish to bring a small plastic jar of powder detergent if you think you might try this option. The travel guide Let’s Go also recommends bringing a sink-stopper (washrag or squash ball) and travel clothesline (or just heavy white string).
LAUNDRY IN SALAMANCA : Your señora (host mother) will do your wash once a week. Remember that Spaniards do not use electrical or gas dryers; everything will be line-dried or dried flat and ironed. This means that getting a load of laundry done will take at least overnight.
In general, travelers in any large city can be robbed by pickpockets, especially in crowded areas while weighed down by lots of bags and luggage. In order to protect yourself from losing a wallet or other valuable, it is best to always keep pursues, wallets, bill folds, passport carriers, and other similar holders of valuables out of sight and securely attached to your person. The following is a list of tips for not becoming a victim:
- Always be aware of where you are and where your valuables are
- Button up pockets with wallets.
- Do not carry lots of cash.
- Keep a back up credit card or debit card that draws from another account separate from the rest of your credit and debit cards and keep it in a separate place from the rest of these cards.
- Research phone numbers you can call from Spain in case credit cards are lost or stolen.
- Avoid speaking to strangers in the larger cities, particularly solicitors of any sort.
One of the many delightful things about traveling to a foreign country is discovering that people do not do things the same way. In Spain, you will be surprised by many minor differences between what you are accustomed to and how the Spanish do things. One of the most significant differences between Spanish and U.S. culture is the daily schedule. Spaniards get up about the same time as Americans, but they do not have much in the way of breakfast. Some cookies or a roll and a cup of coffee are all you can expect for breakfast. Despite this small breakfast, the Spanish hold off until 2 or 3 in the afternoon to have another meal—“la comida”—the largest meal of the day. This meal coincides with “siesta,” a break in the middle of the work day that extends until 5 or 6 in the afternoon and which gives Spaniards time for a leisurely lunch at home with family. Although many Spaniards do not actually take a nap during this three hour break, very few venture out and most shops are closed. Do not expect to get anything in the way of errands in the city done during the siesta. With such a late lunch, Spaniards do not have dinner in the summer until much later than we would here in the U.S. It is typical for dinner to begin at 10 or even 11 p.m. and to be a meal slightly smaller than lunch. Afterwards, many Spaniards will go out again to enjoy a stroll in the parks, the plazas, or the paseos in town. Most bars and cafés remain open until quite late at night, and it is not unusual for younger folks to stay out until 3 or 4 a.m., even on weekdays.
Although your room and board, hotel stays, and most meals will be provided by the program, there are a few meals which you will have to buy for yourself, mainly during the excursion portion of the program. Additionally, you will want to have enough money to go out and experience Spanish social life, shop at the many unique stores in the cities we will visit, and go to any of the cultural events not formally organized for students on the program: soccer games, bullfights, plays, music festivals, concerts, etc. It is recommended that you bring at least $200 for “extra meals” and $200-$300 more for shopping and going out. Most places that accept credit cards in the U.S. will accept them in Spain, although you may find that there are several types of places where you may need or want to spend money—local markets, cafes, festivals—that only take cash. ATM machines are omnipresent in Spain and all are networked with either the Cirrus or Plus systems, if not both.