10 STEPS TO PACKING FOR LIVING ABROAD
To help simplify the packing process, we’ve created this 10 step packing guide for living abroad. Make this your first stop
when planning your trip. And don’t forget to download your free packing checklist!
Going to Live Abroad and Don’t Know How to Pack?
The key to packing your belongings for a permanent, temporary, or long time abroad is to pack as you were for an extended trip.
To help you pack stress free, we’ve put together all the best tips from the entire blog so you can easily access everything in one easy location. Follow these tips:
Start by reading these tips on packing for long term travel offering information that can help you pack light if that’s your goal. I do!
To help you determine what you do and don’t need, use capsule wardrobe that is an essential concept to understand in order to create a minimal yet highly functional (and fashionable) wardrobe. Read this packing ebook to help you create the perfect wardrobe you need.
If you feel extremely overwhelmed at the idea of moving abroad, review this packing course which shows you specific techniques to plan around limited clothing choices, varying climates, and other unexpected life situations.
Do your homework and research the weather as well as local customs. Use your school or employer as a resource and ask them questions on items they might suggest.
The main thing to remember is to bring along the essentials – don’t bring everything you own. It’s okay to pack some comforts from home but don’t ship boxes of old high school memories; things you can buy there like housewares; or valuables that you’d rather keep stored at home.
Use any of our International packing lists to find clothing ideas to dress appropriately for your destination then use the guidelines from TFG’s Signature Packing Lists to help you customize your travel wardrobe. If you don’t see your destination listed, post a question on TFG’s Facebook Group. If you can, allocate some money to purchase clothing upon arrival. This helps you dress accurately for the environment, weather, and the local style.
This guide shows you what to pack when moving to England – it offers resources useful for other parts of Europe, too.
Think you need to pack your entire closet? Take a look at how to create 3 weeks worth of travel outfits with less than 10 pieces of clothing. For more travel outfit ideas including what to wear on flights, visit TFG’s Pinterest Page.
Do bring some of your favorite clothing items! Pack your favorite pair of jeans, jacket, and shoes. Of course, make sure they will be practical in your setting but it’s always nice to wear things that make you feel “at home”. While you probably don’t need to pack 25 pairs of jeans, do bring the essentials such a pair of black and dark blue.
Depending where you’re moving, you might encounter cold weather even in the summer. Always check the weather for your countries to get the most accurate idea about what to pack.
For tips on choosing clothing and shoes for trips with different types of weather, please read this packing guide.
If you’re moving in winter, I’ve created this easy three part guide on how to pack for cold weather to help you stay warm while packing light.
Knowing how to pack for cold weather travel can be quite daunting especially if you want to pack light. If you’re traveling in winter, bundle up!
Don’t be unprepared. Consider layering lightweight clothing such as the ones featured in this winter packing list to minimize the need for bulky sweaters and coats.
You can even wear leggings or tights under jeans or pants for extra warmth. If you’re not used to the climate, add additional layers until you feel warm. Don’t forget essential winter accessories like a scarf, hat, and gloves!
Similar to clothing, don’t pack all your shoes. Picking the best shoes to bring will be one of your biggest challenges so start by reading this 10 step guide to packing the best travel shoes for any trip.
Choosing the right shoes to bring is challenging and moving abroad or long term travel makes it even more difficult but it’s not impossible! Review this post on the best travel shoes for long trips around the world. And if you’ve never worn it at home, chances are you still won’t wear it there so don’t pack it unless you know you love wearing it. This goes for all travel scenarios.
Bring no more than three pairs opting for shoes that match all your clothing. If you plan to make local trips in your destination, pack one pair for walking (sightseeing), one pair of any special activities you have planned, and then a third pair to either dress up your outfits or one that’s appropriate for a change in weather.
These are the best shoes for sightseeing in the cold and these are the best shoes for sightseeing in the heat. Black ankle boots like these are the most recommended shoes when dealing with either cold or mixed weather.
Please note: ballet flats are a popular travel shoe option when you want a dressier look but they are NOT recommended for long hours on your feet walking.
Choose one of these cute and comfortable walking shoes instead – they’re the options most recommended by our readers!
It’s important to note that people in any country generally wear the same things that everyone else does around the world – the only difference is HOW they wear them. People value simplicity, clean styling, and a good tailored fit above anything else.
In general, day-to-day European style is more dressy than American style. This DOES NOT mean business clothing. Think dressy top (or the type of top you’d wear to work) plus nice jeans (dark colors are always a good choice).
Read this ultimate Packing List for Europe, which is a five part guide offering general packing information for Europe along with what to wear in spring, summer, autumn, and winter.
Southeast Asia is an interesting place in the sense that cultural considerations in most countries encourage residents (and visitors) to wear modest attire but some times you will see locals wearing shorts, dresses, and other clothing that doesn’t seem to follow this ideal.
You’ll 100% need to cover your shoulders and knees when visiting temples in all countries, but you don’t necessarily have to do this when you visit other places unless you’re in a Muslim country such as Malaysia or Indonesia.
Read these tips about choosing clothing for conservative countries.
In any destination, remember to pack for the environment. Are you spending your time café crawling in the cities or getting lost in the wilderness? As with most destinations, practical sense applies. Leave the beachwear on the beach because it doesn’t translate well to streetwear in the city.
The same goes for gym wear; unless you’re actually headed to the gym, don’t dress in your gym attire.
One of the most important aspects about packing efficiently is using luggage organizers. This is especially important because you want to make the most of your suitcase space. You’re moving abroad! It’s okay if you don’t travel carry-on only. (However, this does not apply to long term travelers living in various places for an indefinite amount of time. Read this guide if you’re a digital nomad or are traveling for extended periods.)
Watch this packing video to learn how to use packing cubes to maximize space and never check a bag again. These are the top 12 reasons why I prefer packing cubes to other organizers. We recommend these packing cubes – they’re ours!
Start with luggage. If you don’t already own a suitcase, choose one wisely. Read these tips on how to pick a suitcase and consider one of these top brands. Make your life easy with our best suitcase recommendations.
For long term trips, backpacks tend to be a better option than wheeled bags. Why? Because the chances are you’ll be traversing through lands far and wide. In fact, many time, the greatest destinations hardly have a path at all! If you’re going on an adventurous trip, learn how to choose the best travel backpack.
If you plan on making local trips bring a carry-on that will meet the requirements of regional airlines.
Use packing organizers. Do you want to know the ultimate tool to travel in a carryon? PACKING CUBES! They changed everything for me and thousands of other travelers. See my packing tutorial on how to use them! Trust me, they are a must!
Use tried and tested packing strategies. For a summary, read our top 75 packing tips.
I’ve recently taken on a few extreme packing challenges to show you that packing carry-on only is possible for any trip. If I can pack like an ultra-minimalist (with style of course) then you can pack more comfortably in a regular carry-on. Watch these packing videos to learn more:
Watch all my packing videos here!
The biggest mistake travelers make with toiletries is not considering how much product they actually use. There are five key steps when it comes to downsizing your toiletries properly for a trip:
- Find combination items. You can find two-in-one shampoos and conditioners, body cleanser that can double as shave gel, a foldable brush with a mirror attached on the handle, and multi-use makeup products.
- Purchase empty containers of various shapes and sizes and DO NOT default to choosing “travel size 100ml or 3oz” options. These are the best travel containers.
- Stick to the basics. Simplify your skincare and pampering routine and bring a capsule makeup collection. It’s only temporary.
- Replace liquid beauty products with solids. While solid toiletries may not help you downsize they will help you meet the carryon 3-1-1 liquids rule.
- Choose the right toiletry bag. These are the best toiletry bags and these are the best hanging toiletry bags.
For items like blow dryers, curling irons, and straighteners – it might be easiest to buy abroad if there will be a difference in voltage.
For useful tips such as downsizing toiletries and choosing the best travel makeup, read our Ultimate Guide to Packing Toiletries. It includes a free printable checklist!
Don’t forget about safety: Be cautious about where you stash your cash. The safest place for your passport is locked in your accommodation. Carry a photocopy or other ID when you’re sightseeing or are out at night.
Keep your valuables safe with these anti-theft products:
- Money Belts and Anti-theft Accessories
- Best Anti-theft Bags for Women
- Are these Safe Travel Items Worth Taking
- 10 Tried and Tested Tips to Avoid Theft While Traveling
Read these tips on how to keep your passport safe when you travel!
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