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What to Pack When Moving Abroad

Updated on November 22, 2017

When you're moving abroad, you'll need to pack comprehensively, but you don't want to be dragging ten heavy suitcases halfway across the world. Most things you can buy when you arrive - although some things are irreplaceable or expensive. Here are the essential things you don't want to move without.


Good Luggage

This cute little retro suitcase might look fun for travelling, but ideally you want lightweight, handled luggage or even a luggage set with a large suitcase, smaller suitcase and overnight bag which can be carried together. A 29" suitcase is the bare minimum you will need.

Make sure you pay attention to the airline's baggage restrictions and weight restrictions or you will be in a lot of trouble and have to pay some hefty fees. If you think your bag will be overweight, pack two and make sure you are allowed to store two bags. Similarly, make sure your carry-on is the right size and weight.

Where are you going?

Prague, Czech Republic

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This was my first big move.

Which of the below would you NEVER leave behind?

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Clothes for All Weather

As an Englishwoman, I've always sort of assumed that the only thing you need to bring is a coat for cold weather and apart from that, clothes are just clothes. Sure, I'll pack my one summer dress just in case, but my summer wardrobe is the same as the winter wardrobe, minus the leggings and cardigan.

This was definitely not the case living in the Czech Republic or the Mid-Atlantic region of America - and I always kept my cardigan on even in mid-July in Iceland. Anywhere but England, hot means HOT and cold means COLD. Pack accordingly and save yourself some discomfort.

Clothing to pack
For Summer
For Winter
Sandals and light pumps
Warm, happy boots
Light tops, tanks and camis
Long sleeves and thick jumpers
Shorts, light skirts
Light jacket
Thick jacket
'Sleeping bag' coat
Summer hats
Scarves, gloves, winter hats, socks

How could you leave him behind?


Sentimental Items

It might not be practical, but if you're moving to a new home and you're there to stay, any sentimental items you have can't be replaced.

Pack your favourite photographs of family and friends, or a cuddly toy which you've had since you were a child - whatever it is that means a lot to you. I'm pretty unconcerned with sentimental items, but there are a few things I always packed in order to feel 'at home':

a) My easel and paints. It takes up space and is a pain, but home is a place you can paint

b) Some cook books. It calms me down to browse cakes.

c) Some paintings. My mum is an artist, so I like to take one or two of her paintings to brighten up the room.

Think about what is most important to you and don't forget to include it. You'll regret it otherwise.

Shoes for All Occasions

Anyone who reads a lot of my writing knows that I packed up home to leave for America for three months and ended up staying... well, I'm still here almost a year later. I packed for those three months, so I found myself without a lot of essential footwear.

If you're going to be working/ looking for work, pack some professional shoes. Pack boots and back-up boots for winter and wet days. Pack a few different colors of pumps (or heels) for different outfits or occasions. I found myself facing a funeral without any black shoes.

It is certainly an option to buy this stuff when you need it, but if you have it at home but didn't pack it it is seriously frustrating to waste the money. Be prepared - but don't go overboard and pack a whole suitcase full of shoes.

Don't Forget...

  • Passport (and old passports)
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage/ Divorce certificates (if applicable)
  • Any old pay stubs/ job-related paperwork
  • College degree
  • Any visa-related paperwork
  • Any income-related paperwork you might need to file taxes


Don't forget the boring but essential stuff like paperwork you'll need for visa applications, jobs, buying/ renting a house and for other administrative things.

The best thing to do is take a durable, non-bendable folder and fill it with all the things you might possibly need - that way nothing will get damaged and it won't take up a lot of space. Remember to pack photocopies too in case the original gets lost.

This Won't Help You


Electronics and Adapters

Don't forget your laptop and any other electronics which are essential to your life - and remember to bring a few adapters to make sure you can use the plugs abroad. If you're staying for good, it is even worth investing in local chargers so as to avoid a huge, bulky plug. People who are going to be travelling often should invest in a worldwide adapter.

One note of caution is concerning things like hairdryers - these almost never work abroad without a converter too, and it's dangerous to try - you are likely to blow the electrics for the whole house (I've seen it done several times). Check out which appliances need a converter before packing them, and consider buying them locally instead.

First Few Days Survival Kit

Don't panic, because almost anything you forget can be replaced. Just make sure you have what you need to get through the first few days. That includes:

  • Toiletries -toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, soap etc.
  • Money - a few hundred dollars worth in the correct currency in cash for emergencies like your bank card not working.
  • Clothes and clean underwear - pack an outfit or two in your carry-on for the unlikely event of your luggage getting lost.
  • Kindle or eReader - before anything else like internet is set up, you'll want something to keep you entertained except unpacking.
  • Mobile phone - if you didn't before you left, go out right away and buy a local sim card or local mobile phone. A working mobile is essential in modern society.

Did I Forget Anything?

What else would you recommend packing for a move abroad?


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