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25 Essential Packing Tips for Moving Abroad

25 Essential Packing Tips for Moving Abroad

So, you’ve decided to move abroad! Yay! Now for the exciting, yet slightly daunting process, of what to pack and how to pack. The phrase “keep it light” doesn’t just refer to a carefree attitude, it also holds true when it comes to what to pack moving abroad. 

woman packing

How to Pack for Moving to Another Country

It is important to understand that you simply cannot take everything you own when you move abroad. Moving and shipping items abroad is a hassle and an expensive process. Your goal should be to prioritize and pack as light as possible and, if necessary, downsize and donate items before your move, this will make your moving abroad process much smoother. 

Check out our detailed post on How to Downsize before Moving Abroad to get prepared. To save yourself time, money, and trouble, ideally you want to bring as much as you can carry. 

Let’s break down the 25 essential packing tips you’ll need to prepare your moving abroad packing checklist.

25 Essential Packing Tips for Moving Abroad

Here’s our fundamental guide for the top moving abroad packing tips!

1. Downsize, downsize, downsize

Chances are you accumulated more things than you think over the years. Well, now is the time to get rid of (or put in storage) some! Items like furniture, bedding, and kitchenware, are not necessary items to bring abroad and they can easily be purchased in your country of destination. Take your first step to moving abroad efficiently and sell your items on platforms like Craigslist and Facebook marketplace to lighten your load.

2. Research everything

Remember that vacationing abroad and living abroad are two different scenarios. Do your research on everything, weather, cost of living, best neighborhoods, accessibility, food, etc. The better idea you have of how real, day to day life works there the more you will be ready when the culture shock hits.


If you’re interested in moving to Europe be sure to check out our digital book I’m Outta Here! An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe to learn about the 17 easiest countries to get your long-term visa (over 50+ visa options!). 

3. Make a checklist

Making a checklist (like the one in the next section) prevents you from overpacking. You will actually need less than you think since you can buy a lot of things abroad. Make a checklist of all practical items that you will need and the non-essential ones you absolutely cannot part with for sentimental reasons.

4. Lay out all your clothes

Lay out all the clothes you want to bring and ask yourself these questions:

  • How many times have I worn this in the past year?
  • Is it practical?
  • Do I prefer this to another piece that’s similar?

If your answer is “no” to any of these questions, don’t pack it. It is best to donate it or leave it behind with a friend or in storage!

Also keep in mind the country’s fashion style. For example, Europeans tend to dress up a bit more than Americans—Americans definitely wear more athleisure—so keep in mind to bring some more stylish clothes with you, if you’re moving to a European country. Pull out those scarves you’ve never had the chance (or guts) to wear!

5. Keep it as light as possible

You probably accumulated a lot of things in your home country and now it is time to minimize. Consider selling newer items and donating some older ones. If you’re not keen on selling or donating much, see if a family member or friend can lend you some space for storage while you’re away. The lighter you go, the easier the journey will be. You don’t want to carry more than you can physically handle in one trip.

6. Get a good backpack

Don’t underestimate an essential solid backpack. Hiking backpacks are a great investment that last for years and will be an essential in your move abroad. A 40L or 55L pack is more than enough to fit numerous clothing items. 

7. Roll your clothes

Rolling your clothes is a well-known trick to save space and keep your suitcase/pack organized. The tighter you can roll them the better. This is where our next essential tip comes into play.

8. Space bags are your best friend

Purchase some space bags that do not require the use of a vacuum. These bags will save you even more space and all you’ll have to do is kneel on them to release the air and zip them up. You’ll find that you could fit almost double in one space bag than you could if you packed regularly.

9. Pack by outfit

Along with laying out your clothing, sorting and packing them by outfit will save lots of time and maintain organization within your suitcases. This method will also make it easier when trying to find specific items or outfits. 

10. Use and label packing cubes

Using packing cubes is a sure way to not only save space but keep your belongings organized! They are ideal to use in any type of bag whether it’s a backpack or a suitcase. Check out our favorite packing cubes here!

11. Have a small health/first aid kit

There are few things worse than feeling ill while moving or traveling. Make sure you have a quick get well kit prepared with essentials like Pepto-Bismol, Dramamine,  bandages, ibuprofen, and hygienic wipes. 

12. Leave no empty space

This one may seem obvious but is often overlooked. Leave no empty space by putting rolled t-shirts or other items into your shoes and boots and tetris your way throughout your suitcase.

13. Weight distribution

Distribute the weight of all your bags. Your suitcases, backpacks, or duffle bags (depending on the size) should be roughly a similar weight. An uneven distribution can make moving luggage difficult and can potentially cause damage.

two suitcases and a dog

14. Essentials in carry-on or personal item

In your personal item or carry-on, you should keep all essential items such as travel documents, medicines, and toiletries with you when you board the plane. If your checked luggage gets lost for some reason, you’ll have all your essentials with you.

15. Electronics in carry-on or personal item

Electronics should also be placed in your carry-on since they can be expensive and a hassle to replace. Your phone, iPad, laptop, kindle and their chargers should have a place in your carry-on (or personal item) that will go under your seat on the plane to ensure they are not lost or damaged.  

woman putting laptop in bag

16. Research customs regulations

Depending on your country of destination, you may not be allowed to bring in certain items, specifically electronics. Make sure you research the customs regulations beforehand to ensure you won’t encounter a problem when you enter or have anything confiscated.

17. Use travel-sized bottles for liquids

The liquid allowance is 3.4 oz bottles in your carry-on, make sure you don’t exceed this limit otherwise your liquids will be confiscated and tossed. If you need to have a larger liquid allowance, make sure you put them in a large zip lock bag into your checked baggage. 

18. Place heavy items at the base of your bags

You should have the heavier items at the bottom and lighter ones toward the top for easily maneuverable luggage. This will relieve the stress on your back and also make the journey smoother.

19. Pack your essentials last

All essential items such as medicines, a change of clothes, documents, electronics, you should keep easily accessible in case you need them. You won’t want to spend time digging through your luggage for something you may need urgently.

20. Layer, layer, layer

Along with leaving no empty spaces, it is also very important to layer your outfit on the plane and layer your items in your bags. In your bags you should have shoes at the bottom layered with articles of clothing that can fit in every crevice and continue to be stacked.

21. Wear your heaviest items on the plane

This is a good trick to keep your checked luggage under the limit. By wearing your heaviest items, like boots and coats you can easily shave off several pounds and avoid paying overweight fees.

22. Review your airline’s baggage policy

Before you start packing, review your airlines baggage policy according to the type of ticket you purchased. Sometimes it’s worth the upgrade for the extra baggage allowance and sometimes it’s worth it just to pay it separately. Make sure you weigh your options and pack with the weight allowance in mind. In this case it could be helpful to purchase a portable scale.

23. Check on the different electrical outlet plugs and voltage

The UK, European Union, Asia, etc. have different electrical outlet plugs, sockets, and voltage than the U.S. You can easily purchase a country specific adapter or a universal adapter before you move, they are very affordable. We highly recommend purchasing more than one!

In regards to voltage, there are two ranges around the globe: 110-127V or 220-240V. If you are taking any electronics with you, you’ll need to check the voltage of the country you’re going too AND check the voltage of your device. If your device voltage falls outside of the range at your destination you’ll need to buy a voltage converter. 

international plugs

24. Be prepared for diverse climates

Weather and climate are huge factors on what clothing you will pack. The stereotype of “Spain is always hot and sunny” couldn’t be more false. Spain has three different climates across the country and the weather varies greatly depending on the seasons. But yes, it becomes so cold in some parts that you will need winter gear. 

Asian countries have widely diverse climate patterns. In the northern part of the continent you can experience temperate and subarctic climates, while in the southern part of the continent you’ll express semi arid and tropical climates. This is one reason why it’s so important to research your country first thing, so you can prepare accordingly.

Countries like Spain have a very diverse climate and you’ll need different things depending on if you go to the north or south. A popular excursion many people make every year in Spain is the Camino de Santiago, or the way of Saint James. There are  numerous routes you can take but there are several essential items to take with you on this adventure. Check out our post on the Ultimate Camino de Santiago Packing List for Women. 

25. You can buy most things abroad

Avoid shipping furniture and large items abroad. It is difficult, expensive and often not worth it as your items may not fit properly in your new home. Housing abroad is often smaller than homes in the US so it is a good idea to sell your furniture and larger household items. It is also very common to rent furnished apartments abroad as it makes the initial moving process easier.

The Ultimate Packing Checklist for Moving Abroad

We customized a moving abroad packing checklist with all the essentials you will need!

woman with notebook packing

Documents

  • Passport (recommend having at least a few years of validity left)
  • Visa / any other documentation required to enter your destination 
  • Health insurance information + immunization records
  • Rental/Lease agreement 

Electronics

    • Portable charger + charging cables
    • Country specific outlet adapter and converter
    • Laptop + charger + adapter 
    • Phone/Kindle/iPad
    • Digital watch 
    • Headphones
    • Camera 
    • External hard drive

Toiletries

  • Medications/supplements 
  • Tweezers/clippers 
  • Toothbrush + toothpaste 
  • Eye drops + glasses/contacts
  • Deodorant  
  • Chapstick 
  • Sunscreen 
  • Razor 
  • Makeup kit
  • Period essentials

Shoes

  • 1-2 pairs of athletic shoes
  • 1-2 pairs of sandals
  • 1-2 pairs of stylish boots
  • 1 pair of outdoor boots

Clothes

  • 8-10 pairs of underwear + socks
  • 3-5 bras (sports and regular each)
  • 6-8 short-sleeve tops
  • 6-8 long sleeves / sweaters 
  • 4-5 pairs of shorts or skirts 
  • 3-4 pairs of athletic shorts
  • 3-4 athletics tops
  • 2-3 pairs of jeans
  • 2-3 pairs of comfortable pants 
  • 2 swimsuits 
  • 3-5 dresses
  • 2 jackets 
  • 1 rain jacket/windbreaker
  • 1-2 coats (depending on the country)

Miscellaneous

  • Reusable water bottle 
  • Earplugs 
  • Sunglasses 
  • Travel towel 
  • Photos, postcards, diary/journal
  • Anything you deem as non-replaceable and don’t want to leave behind (e.g. jewelry, accessories)

If you need more ideas/inspiration, check out our 14 Must-Have Travel Items Every Female Traveler Needs.

Moving abroad doesn’t have to be the ultimate hassle. With these essential tips, you can make your move easier and lighter (literally)! 

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