As you get closer to the date of your departure, it’s now time to plan what you actually need to pack for your year abroad. Just remember, you can’t fit your whole closet into a suitcase. But with a little bit of organization and a good packing list, the process of building a versatile wardrobe for your year abroad will be easy!
You should stick to packing just one suitcase as you’ll have to bring all your stuff (and probably more) back home once your year is over.
Downsizing all your possessions to a minimum can be tough, so here are a few ideas on how to pack wisely for your year abroad. You can do it!
Bring mix and match outfits that fit the current season. Remember that you will be working with children, which can be messy sometimes. Make sure to pack clothes that are easy to wash and take care of. Also wear appropriate clothes while you’re working with the kids, keep it conservative. Additionally, I would pack one nice outfit that you can wear for special occasions like birthdays or holidays. If you like to go out on the weekends, don’t forget to bring a party outfit for nights out with your friends. You will probably go shopping soon and often, so you might have a completely new wardrobe by the end of your year abroad.
For your work with the kids, bring a pair of comfortable shoes. You will be on your feet a lot. Besides a pair of sneakers I would bring a pair of flip flops (these can also work as house shoes) and one pair of nice shoes for the “special occasions and party”- outfit.
If you are taking prescription medicine, ask your doctor if you can get a supply for your whole year. Just explain that you will be moving abroad and that you’d rather take the medicine you are familiar with than medicine from another country, especially if you’re not sure if it’s exactly the same. Your doctor should be understanding and help you out.
A gift for your host family
Everyone loves gifts! Bring little gifts for your host children and also the parents, I’m sure they will appreciate it. This does not need to be anything big, just a little souvenir from your home country, maybe some typical candy and little toys or books for the children.
Of course you will want to bring your phone and laptop to stay in contact with your loved ones at home. Also don’t forget your camera, so you can hold on to all the precious moments you are about to experience. Do you like to read? Don’t forget your kindle or tablet!
To make sure you will be able to charge your cell phone, camera and other electronics abroad, bring an adapter plug that’s suitable for your host country. These can be found on Amazon and are very affordable. A small and light one is your best bet. I’ve had many issues with the bulky universal plugs out there, they just never seem to fit correctly.
Bring the international version of your birth certificate, your visa and travel documents, health insurance papers and your international driver’s license.
Keep it to a limit. Bring travel sized toiletries and cosmetic products, as they take up a lot of space and weight in your luggage. Bring only your favorites in bigger sizes, if you are not sure if they will be available in your destination country.
Memories from home
Bring a few photos of your family and friends to decorate your new home. This way you will still get to see your loved ones every day.
If you are a little old school like me and love to write post cards or letters from time to time, bring your address book. The lighter version would be to save all the addresses to your phone contacts.
Things you should not bring for your year abroad:
There are certain electronics that cannot convert the voltage, like your hair dryer, straightener or curler. Please leave these kinds of electronics at home, as they will not work properly abroad and be mostly useless for you.
Bed sheets and towels
These are things that your host family should provide for you, as they are regular household items. You can ask them when you are in the packing process, just to make sure, but this should be a part of your au pair room.
Do not bring books (besides your address book) with you. They take up way too much space and weight in your suitcase. Instead, download books to your kindle or tablet.
Things you should definitely carry in your hand luggage:
This is a very important one, as I have had the experience that my suitcase has gotten lost and it took the airline a whole week (thank you Aer Lingus) to locate it and bring it back. In a situation like this you can buy necessary toiletries and a few pairs of underpants and socks at the airline’s expense. Just send them a photo of the receipt along with your lost luggage case number by email. This worked well for me and they reimbursed me without further questions.
In order to avoid a stressful situation like this, make sure to pack your hand luggage with useful items.
Your hand luggage should contain:
- a complete change of clothes
- extra underwear
- most important toiletries like your toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant
- all electronics incl. chargers and valuable items like jewelry
- all your papers and documents
- your host family’s contact information
Packing for your year abroad can be a difficult task. Always remember that you will not be out of this world and most items will be available in your host country as well.
So, enjoy the packing process, it can be quite a liberating feeling to travel with a minimalist wardrobe!
To make sure you won’t forget anything, you can get my free ULTIMATE PACKING CHECKLIST FOR YOUR YEAR ABROAD by subscribing here:
What is the number one item you cannot travel without? Is there anything else you think should definitely be on your packing list? Please let me know your additional packing ideas and tips in the comments below.