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What to Pack When Moving Abroad (The Essential Checklist!)

Moving abroad is an exciting time for anybody. After all, a new country promises a new culture, new people and new adventures!

However, it can also be an overwhelming process, especially when it comes to packing.

Needless to say, trying to fit your whole life into a suitcase or two is nothing short of a challenge. That’s where we come in.

Read on to find out what to pack when moving abroad so you can have a smooth, stress-free experience.




What to Pack When Moving Abroad

Full disclosure: the amount of packing space you have might vary depending on how long you’ll be in a destination and whether you’ve decided to fork out for excess luggage.

That said, it’s worth downsizing as much as possible before you leave home, even if you’re only moving abroad temporarily.

How? Well, you can sell and donate items, put them in long-term storage, or even gift them to your friends and family members to make their day.

Clothing, Shoes and Accessories

First things first, let’s tackle your wardrobe.


Clothing is going to be some of the bulkiest items you’ll pack, especially when it comes to winter alternatives like coats and jumpers. That’s why it’s important to choose key pieces that are versatile and can be mixed and matched with other key pieces.

Think about:

  • Coats and jackets
  • Jumpers and cardigans
  • Trousers and jeans
  • Skirts, dresses and hosiery
  • Swimwear
  • Underwear

To give you a helping hand, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What’s the weather going to be like when I arrive?
  • What’s going to be practical in my new country?
  • What am I going to love wearing in my new country?

And say it with us now: “less is more!”


Just like your winter clothing pieces, shoes can be one of the bulkiest things to pack when moving abroad.

The easiest thing to do is pick a pair (or two) that you can use for hot climates and a pair (or two) that you can use when you feel like you’re starring in your very own version of Frozen.

Tip: Don’t forget that you can wear your bulkiest pair of shoes to the airport to save packing space.


Other fashion items you may want to take to a new country include:

  • Jewellery
  • Scarves, hats and gloves
  • Belts
  • Bags
  • Eyewear

Like with your clothing and shoes, opt for key staples that you can re-wear for multiple seasons and occasions.

Bag-wise, remember that you can take a piece of carry-on luggage, a piece of hold luggage and a personal item (which could be a backpack or handbag) on an international flight. 

Therefore, pick a bag for your personal item that can work for everyday living in your new place.


When it comes to what to pack when moving abroad for toiletries, you should only take one toiletries bag of stuff that will last a couple of weeks.

At the end of the day, you can buy toiletries at any supermarket around the world. You’re always going to run out. As a result, it doesn’t matter if you run out sooner rather than later.

As well as bathing products, grooming tools and nice scents, women might want to take a small selection of their most favourite makeup for the road.

Oh, and don’t forget any essential medication!


At the top of your packing list for moving abroad should be your electronics. After all, in a digital world, it’s difficult to survive without a trusty phone, laptop and/or tablet.

Pack the devices you use daily and need the most. Sell the rest or keep them in storage.

And don’t forget the following necessities so that you can actually use your electronics in your new country:

  • Cables and cords
  • Batteries
  • Headphones
  • External back-up hard drive(s)
  • Travel adaptors

Tip: Pop any valuable items, including electronics, in your personal item and/or hand luggage when you’re travelling to keep them safe. You can’t risk them getting lost in your hold luggage!

<luggage with laptop, camera, clothing and accessories>

Important Documents

Speaking of valuable items, don’t forget to take those important documents with you. We’re talking about:

  • Entry visa information
  • Tax details
  • Accommodation details
  • Passport and/or printed boarding cards
  • Wills
  • Marriage license
  • Birth certificate
  • Transportation details
  • Travel insurance policy

(To name a few!)

And just like with your valuable items, keep all of these documents together in a folder in your handbag or backpack so you know where they are at all times.

Sentimental Items

Lastly, anybody who moves abroad is likely going to want to hold onto a sentimental item or two, whether this is a friend photo or the necklace you inherited from a beloved family member.

Usually, these items are small and can be squeezed into a side pocket somewhere. However, try to prioritise based on what you think you couldn’t survive without.

Again, anything valuable should be kept in your personal item.

What Not to Pack When Moving Abroad

Even though it can be tempting to take everything you own (including the kitchen sink!), we don’t recommend doing this. International shipping costs by air or sea are expensive. Plus, sea shipments can take months to arrive. (Not ideal!)

Avoid packing any delicate items such as candles, pottery or photo frames. Or if you do want to take a delicate item due to its sentimental value, be sure to wrap it in bubble wrap to reduce the risk of it breaking in transit.

The truth is, you’ll be able to buy most things you require in the country you’re moving to.

Struggling with a specific item? Ask yourself:

  • Do I really want it in my new country?
  • Do I really need it?
  • Can I buy it (or something similar) out there?

If you’re planning to move back in the future and you need somewhere to store your belongings, keep in mind that Nesta can provide moving storage solutions.

Figuring Out How to Pack for Moving Abroad

It’s easy to get carried away when you’re working out what to pack for moving abroad. Having said that, simply run through this checklist before moving abroad to ensure that you have everything you need.

And it’s important to remember that you can only pack what the space allows you to!

Just use the process of trial and error to play Tetris with your suitcase(s) until you’ve managed to include all (or most) things you want to.

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