Every traveller’s worst nightmare: packing!

So you’re moving abroad…

Disclaimer: This is an article specifically for people who are moving to another country for one year. This is not for backpackers or for people permanently moving abroad.

A few years ago I decided I wanted to live outside of the UK for a while. I became an EFL teacher to make this dream a reality. (TEFL advice at a later date).

When moving abroad became a reality I had to stop envisioning my life as a GoPro film set to upbeat guitar music about travel and start thinking about the practicalities of re-locating to another country for a full year. The most difficult part of preparing for my emigration to China was deciding what the hell to bring with me.

Since then I’ve moved around quite a bit and I think it’s time to share my knowledge with other potential shakers and movers. Here are my top tips:


Bag Choice

Your bag choice really depends on where you are going and what you plan on doing. If you plan to travel once your contract is over the smart choice is a backpack. If you plan on staying in one place for a long time and you can’t decide what to bring with you a big old trusty suitcase if probably the one for you.


  • Perfect for travelling
  • Roomy
  • Easier to carry if you also bring a hand luggage suitcase with you
  • All the weight is on your back and legs
  • In a hot country, you are going to have one sweaty back
  • Difficult to find things in


  • The weight is on the floor
  • You can wear a rucksack for your hand luggage which can be used later for day to day use
  • Easy to find things in it
  • Not idea for travelling to different places
  • Always tricky on public transport


N.B. If you choose to bring a suitcase make sure you buy a soft suitcase with four wheels. These days you can get ultra-lightweight suitcases. If possible buy your suitcases in September – they are always on sale.

If you choose to bring a backpack make sure you can carry it, this depends on your height and strength but I would recommend buying no less than 70L



Do your research before you travel. What will the weather be like when I arrive? What are the average temperatures for each season? What is available to buy there?

When I moved to China so many people told me that it would be impossible to buy deodorant or tampons. They said I’d have to go to a special shop which would be located miles away and that it would be really expensive to buy what I considered to be essentials. Well it turned out I lived next door to Carrefour so I didn’t need to worry at all. Luckily with apps like Google Maps you can type in your future address and see what shops are within walking distance of your new home. This should help you decide what you need to pack.

Usually before I travel I like to bring a set of toiletries with me so that I don’t have to worry about buying them for the first 6 weeks while I’m focusing on other start-up costs (SIM cards etc.)


Deodorant 2-pack

Shower gel, Shampoo, Conditioner, Razors + 5 heads, Sanitary items, Shower puff, Moisturiser and Make-up.

(If you go somewhere like China make sure you bring a lot of foundation as their products have skin whitening agents)


Do your research! This obviously depends on the climate of your new home but here are some global essentials:

At least two hoodies

Long and short pyjamas

Waterproof/Winter jacket


Trainers, appropriate work shoes, sandals, boots

At least 4 pairs of jeans

Work appropriate clothes

5-7 nice tops that work for work or nights out

(If you’re a girl bring one or two nice dresses just in case but leave your sky high heels at home, if you need some added height bring a pair of summer wedges)



Check what adapter you’ll need for the country you’re moving too. Buy 2 or 3.

The most valuable item I bring with my everywhere – something that I can’t live without when I move to another country is a 4-socket extension lead. This is the most useful tip I can give you. It makes life so much easier because you don’t have to keep plugging and switching your adapters.

Your laptop/tablet is a necessity for keeping in touch with home and streaming your favourite TV shows. A kindle may also be worth investing in as you’ll find it hard or expensive to buy English books while abroad.

If you’re moving to China remember to download a VPN before you travel. It’s possible to buy one out there but it’s much easier from home.



This is not like moving to university – you can’t bring the kitchen with you so make sure you set aside enough money to buy essential household items when you arrive. If you’re lucky your apartment might already include all the pots and pans you need so then you’ll have more money to splash on exploring your new city. Email your employer beforehand and they should be able to tell you what will be in your new apartment. When I moved to China the apartment was fully furnished and the company bought me a duvet and a set of bedding but when I moved to Spain I was expected to buy my own.

While you might not be able to bring your favourite wok or pillow, you can bring with you some home comforts- and you should! The easiest way to settle into a new country is to make you apartment feel homely. So, bring some photos of your family and friends, bring that torn poster that’s been above your bed since Freshers or bring that beanie baby that you’ve had since you were eight.



If you forget something it won’t be the end of the world- you will be able to find what you need either locally or on the internet.

If you’re really lucky you might be able to convince someone from home to DHL you your favourite bars of chocolate.


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