Packing for College

As my niece prepares to move into her freshman dorm at a North Carolina university this week, I thought it would be good to share with you a list of items commonly forgotten when packing for college. After all, this move is stressful, exhausting, and exciting for both the student and their parents. Although most universities provide an essentials list, there are always a few items that are overlooked.

1. Mattress topper – Most students, especially us girls, are too worried about coordinating bedding with our new roommates to think about comfort. I am here to tell you, the mattresses in most dorm rooms are NOT comfortable. It’s very important to take some type of foam or quilted topper to slide between the mattress and your sheet. Thickness and style play a major role in the cost of mattress toppers, with prices ranging from around $20 to $99. It’s really your preference. Do remember that most beds in dorm rooms serve a dual purpose as a couch. Make sure you invest in a topper that will last at least a year.

2. Quarters – Most children grow up with the luxury of a washer and dryer in their home, and a large portion of those children usually aren’t responsible for doing their own laundry in those homes, so the thought of having to pay to use the machines is new to them. Although most parents remember to pack a laundry basket and detergent for their kids, I suggest sending a few dollars worth of quarters as well. Campus laundromats should have change machines located in them so students can exchange their bills for coins, but keep in mind that those machines can break and/or run out of change. It’s good to have a backup stash of quarters readily available.

3. Rain gear – Even as an adult, I often leave the house without considering the weather. I find myself stuck out in the rain without an umbrella. Don’t let your children end up like this. Be sure they have necessary rain gear as the leave for college. I purchased an adorable, compact umbrella for my niece that fits nicely in most bookbags, messenger bags, or even in a purse! If your child feels that an umbrella is cumbersome, invest in a poncho or hooded, lightweight rain jacket. Depending on the region of the college, you may want to consider packing a pair of rain boots as well.

4. Shower shoes – An inexpensive pair of flip flops work best. These can prevent Athlete’s Foot in the shower and keep those tootsie feeling clean on your child’s walk down the dingy hallway back to their dorm room.

5. First Aid kit – Let’s face it, accidents happen! And no one wants their child to be away from home without a first-aid kit. Especially since it’s impossible to pack that “get-well kiss” from Mom. But you can supply them with things that no college kid thinks of: adhesive bandage, cotton balls, cotton swabs, peroxide, antibiotic ointment, and pain medication. First aid kits are available at most pharmacies and department stores in a prepackaged container. You can also customize your child’s first aid kit by purchasing a plastic container (like a pencil box) to store these items in.

These are just a few items that are often forgotten when packing for college. I suggest spending a few hours a day being aware of what you and your child use often, and make notes several weeks before you actually start packing. It is amazing the things we take for granted because we are already accustomed to them being in our home. Tweezers, surge protectors, and flash drives are examples. I hope that you have found this list useful. Best of luck, freshmen!

Obsessed Over Packing

Am I the only person who obsesses over packing for a trip? Out of most of my friends… I seem to be. Perhaps I don’t travel enough? Maybe it’s anxiety? Is it a disorder? Certainly it isn’t vanity, is it?

Usually when I start to prepare for a trip, no matter the length of time I’ll be away, I start with a spreadsheet. I list out the days I will be away and any events that I will be attending while there. Then I write down some of my favorite clothing items or maybe something special that I purchased for the event. I get specific, down to shoes and accessories. Then I spend the next couple of weeks (yes… this begins at least 2 weeks out) fine-tuning my list. My reasoning? One, it ensures I won’t forget anything. It also prevents me from over-packing. Or does it?

I understand the absurdity of this process. It actually makes me sad. Why can’t I pack the day before I leave, like most people do? Will it be THAT bad if I forget to pack an extra outfit (in the event of an emergency?), toothpaste, or the “perfect” earrings for that Saturday night dress? The majority of the places I travel to have shopping centers and grocery stores. If I forget sunscreen or socks, it isn’t like I can’t go buy them.

I remember, once, I went to the beach on a very sporadic weekend getaway. I was literally there only 2 nights. It was the fastest I had ever packed, and when I got to the beach… I had forgotten my swimsuit. Can you believe that? It sent me into a tailspin. I was with a friend, who wore the exact same size as me, and who had packed a plethora of every style and color swimsuit that you can imagine. A couple of them were even new. I still freaked out. Ridiculous, right? Because not only did I have options there in the hotel room… but I was AT THE BEACH. There are stores that sell swimsuits on every corner!! I just don’t understand why I am so traumatized at forgetting (or the thought of forgetting) something that can be easily replaced.

So here I sit, in front of my computer, checking off items on my spreadsheet as I pack for an upcoming conference. My carry-on is already packed to the gills, and everything isn’t in it yet, because I keep grabbing extra shirts out of the closet… you know, just in case. (In case of what, I have absolutely no clue! The conference only lasts two days.) The mentality of using a list to prevent over-packing, really only just causes more work and stress for me in the end. I still take too many things in an effort to not forget something.

Aside from suggesting therapy, does anyone have any helpful hints that they can share? When you travel, when do you pack? Do you have a system? What are ways you prevent over-packing? I would love to hear your tips!