PACKING for your year abroad: what stays and what goes?

I dread packing for any trip and packing for a year abroad brings a stress I desperately did not need. It’s hard to think of what you may or may not need with all of the excitement going on and there’s no doubt you’re going to pack things that will never be of use. Keeping it simple is the best way to go, bear in mind that you have a weight limit so you need to preserve space. Remember that what you take might not make it back, you will likely purchase more clothes and taking your favorites will make it hard to choose what you want to bring back and what can be donated.

Here are some lists of things to pack:


  • Passport + VISA
  • Any other documents sent to you by your agency (I-94, DS-2019, etc)
  • Boarding Passes (Print out your itinerary, just in case)
  • Emergency contact details: Agency, Host family and someone in your country!
  • Emergency Cash (You won’t be paid for the next two weeks, so some extra cash in the currency of your destination is important to get by for the first few days)
  • Insurance Card
  • International Driver’s license
  • Make photocopies of all your documents


  • Practical clothing: You will be spending time with kids, you probably don’t need a ton of fancy clothes
  • Comfortable shoes, high heels are probably not a necessity. A pair of black heels for a night out should suffice.
  • One or two nice outfits for special dinners and nights out with friends
  • Appropriate clothing! – your hot pink bra and fav white shirt can stay back home!
  • Pack according to the season you’re going into, if you’re getting there in summer you should probably leave your winter coats at home. You will have time to buy warmer clothes here.
  • Knowing where you’re going will give you a better idea of what is a MUST-HAVE clothing item.


  • If you have prescription medicine, find out from your agency and airline how much can be taken with you. Your insurance abroad will be the lowest coverage so there isn’t a huge chance that you will be able to get your medicine in your host country.
  • Tampons/Sanitary pads, especially if you might need them in the next two – three weeks!
  • Take enough for the first TWO WEEKS. You might find different brands that you like in your host country or if you really love a brand and know it won’t be available to you, you might want to pack extra.
  • The previous au pair will likely leave appliances like hair straighteners, hair dryers, and curlers. I have an excessive amount of hair and brought my own hair straightener and curler that suits my hair.


  • Electronic devices: laptop, phone, iPod/music player, camera, etc.
  • Chargers for your devices and international adaptors.
  • Photos of your friends and family
  • A gift for your host family: something small, something to do with your own culture/country


  • Towels
  • Bed sheets/blankets, etc.
  • Tons of books, CDs, movies. Get a library card!
  • Do not take a ton of makeup, just the daily items. You will have enough time to get makeup in your host country and discover brands you will love!
  • Seriously, leave the stuffed animal! He won’t be making it back.
  • You do not need the tiny tight sparkly dress.
  • Leave that extra pair of shoes behind.
  • If you are undecided on an item, don’t pack it.


Published by Bianca Emmanuel

The Buzzing Adventures Of Bee - inspire and be inspired.

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