The Essential Travel Packing List for Moving Overseas

So many belongings, so little luggage! A travel packing list is absolutely essential to make sure you have everything you need, and nothing you don’t, when moving overseas to teach English abroad.

In all my adulthood moves, I have not once hired a moving truck. Most of the moves involved nothing more than packing all my belongings into just a few suitcases according to the airline’s luggage restrictions. As you prepare to teach English overseas, you may wonder how you could possibly spend months, or even years, in a foreign country with limited baggage. If you pack the right things and keep the following tips in mind, you’ll feel like you’re living in plenty, no matter how much you take with you!

You can’t take it all with you.

travel packing list

Think about all the things you currently own. Now think about how many of those things you haven’t used in the past year. It’s probably too much to name! You’ll likely have to give away a good portion of what’s in your closet if you want to be realistic about moving. For most people, this requires a change of mentality. Instead of thinking about how much you’ll miss your belongings, think about the friends who could benefit or the charities that would appreciate your donation. Or try selling things at a yard sale or sales website to earn airfare money.

…But don’t throw out everything!

Your yearbooks and Little League trophies won’t serve any purpose when you’re working overseas, but that doesn’t mean that you have to trash these and the memories they represent. Pack them up, but don’t take them with you! Instead, see if your parents or a friend could let you store your sentimental valuables at their house, or perhaps rent a storage unit. Chances are, you will eventually come back home and can retrieve these items. Even if you decide to permanently move internationally, it’s typical to visit friends and relatives once in a while, which is makes the perfect opportunity to relocate these treasures to your new home.

Buy it when you get there.

Food, furniture, toiletries, cooking supplies… these things will be available anywhere in the world. Even if you have a special diet or prefer specific cosmetics, you can get just about anything by ordering online. Don’t waste your time, energy, and valuable suitcase space by trying to pack bulky or disposable items. Make a goal to buy as little food and toiletries as possible between now and the time you leave so you can focus on using up what you already have. And look forward to the opportunity to upgrade your household furnishings!

Expect to become a different person.

travel packing list

Your experiences will change who you are. The things you do define you, not your possessions. Don’t put so much value into what you’ll pack and carry with you, because they are just things after all. Expect the suitcase you bring home to be filled entirely differently than the one you left with.

Keeping that advice in mind, here are a few things to make sure to take with you:

Quality Luggage – You may be living out of your suitcase for awhile, or possibly for your entire experience abroad. The suitcases you have around home may not be the best for your situation, and this is a product that you’ll want to buy according to your needs. Will you be moving around a lot? Get something made with durable material. Will your bag be too heavy for you to carry? Invest in wheeled luggage. Does the thought of using a suitcase for a closet sound like a nightmare? Look for one with packing compartments, or get additional organizational bags.

Camera – This one should be obvious. You will have lots of reasons and opportunities to pull out your camera for a few snapshots. Your friends back home expect to see some visuals of where you’re living too. Furthermore, a camera’s useful as a replacement for a document scanner or can provide evidence in case a crime is committed against you.

Internet-Enabled Device – Having a computer, tablet, or even just a smartphone will be helpful in your job. More importantly, this will be the most effective way to communicate with your loved ones back home. Look for apps like Whatsapp or Skype to keep in touch. Find a way to store and share the thousands of pictures you’re going to take. Don’t forget reading apps for quiet times alone and banking apps to help you manage your money!

Good Walking Shoes – Depending where you go, driving a car may not be an option, or bus routes don’t service your needs. Regardless of where you are, the best way to get a better understanding for your city is to walk through it. In your first few days there, you should walk through your neighborhood to locate things like the grocery store, the pharmacy, and your workplace.

travel packing list

Variety of Clothing – This doesn’t necessarily mean to bring a lot of clothing, but bring one or two outfits for each condition you may encounter. Consider formal, casual, warm, cold, and layering options. Also think about if you’ll stay nearby a place to swim, if you’ll go on any excursions, and whether or not you will have a work uniform. Most importantly, pack clothing that adheres to the area’s modesty standards, as they may be more conservative than what you’re used to. One word of warning: don’t over pack clothes! Remember you can always buy more once you reach your destination.

Any Relevant Reading Material – If you don’t know the local language or your destination is not centered around tourism, it is advantageous to get your maps and guidebooks from a company at home that prints the information in English. An “English to local language” translator is also needed, whether in book or digital format. Bring a few notebooks along: one to keep a journal, and at least one for all the tips and tricks you learn. Naturally, you will also need your school books and teaching materials!

Medical Information – Visit your doctor before you leave to determine common illnesses you may encounter in your new country and get any prescriptions you might have a hard time coming across elsewhere. Also get insurance that will cover you during your time away and have printouts of all that information.

travel packing list

One Special Item – When you’re packing for long-term travel using a reasonable amount of luggage, frivolity often goes out the window for practicality. However, it’s really important to save a least a tiny bit of space for something that serves no purpose other than to make you happy. What this item actually is must be completely up to you to decide, but it could be a framed family photo (if you’re going to teach English in Thailand, your coworkers will want to see where you’re from!), a favorite childhood toy, a fun game, or a meaningful book.

An Adventurous Spirit – Even if the airline loses all your luggage, this is the only thing you’ll truly need to get by!


Words by Jessica Lippe.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.