The Ultimate Packing Checklist for Moving Abroad
Updated: Nov 30
Moving to a new country can be stressful for anyone. One of the most stressful parts of any international move? PACKING. As someone who has made an overseas move three times in the last couple of years and is preparing to do so again in the next few months, I thought it was a good idea to make a moving abroad packing list combined with useful packing tips. Now I pack pretty light, so everything covered in this list will be able to fit in two pieces of checked luggage, a carry-on bag, and a personal items bag.
Most airlines will allow you both a carry-on and a personal items bag. The first thing you should be packing is the latter. Here is where you'll be placing the most necessary items.
Pro Tip: Many people take a tiny purse or small bag as their personal items bag. Don't make this mistake! You can take a backpack as long as it can fit under your seat or in the overhead! This allows you extra room for so much stuff. I like to use backpacks with multiple compartments like this one below so I don't have to go rummaging through when I'm looking for something particular.
When you make your big move, there are a few things you won't want to forget or have lost. They will often be the first things you look for when you start to unpack in your new home. I typically place this stuff all in the personal items bag for easy access.
Laptop + charger
Passport (You should probably put this in the front pocket as you will need to take it out a few times in the airport)
Portable charger (without a lithium battery)
Glasses/Contacts & solution if you need them
Wallet with debit cards, credit cards, cash, and an alternate form of ID
Your passport of course!
For peace of mind, you'll want to keep a folder with any original documents and copies that you might need in your personal bag as well. The folder doesn't need to be anything fancy, but at the very least it should be waterproof.
These essential documents include, but are not limited to things like:
Marriage certificate - depending on where you're moving and why, you may need this
Birth certificate - you likely won't need this but always good to have an official copy handy
Medical records - some countries will require you to complete a health check prior to arrival, make sure you don't forget to bring the results!
Background check - you will often be asked to do a criminal background check in your home country (or host country if you are starting your new adventure from elsewhere)
Diploma - if you have one, this is sometimes necessary for employment in different countries
Copy of Passport - just in case!
The extras are just things that are nice to have close by, especially on a long haul flight.
Eye mask & Earplugs
A good book (the best way to keep occupied if you've got a lot of time before arriving to your new destination)
A pen - for filling out those pesky customs forms
Your carry-on should be packed with things that can get you through the first week of your new life. This means that even if the airline misplaced your luggage at some point during the journey, your long distance move can still go smoothly until it makes its way back to you.
You should have one week's worth of clothes packed and ready to go! Make sure it is weather appropriate for your final destination.
A week's worth of tops and bottoms that are relatively plain and can be swapped - this is an easy way to add variety to your look if you happen to be stuck with only your carry-on clothes for more than a week
At least one dressy outfit! You never know when an event or something interesting might pop up
Underwear - duh!
2-3 pairs of shoes
for a warm climate this could look like flip flops, flats/boat shoes, and sneakers
for a cold climate this could look like flip flops, dress shoes, and sneakers
I include flip flops for both warm and cold climates just because you never know what your shower situation is going to be like upon arrival and if you're anything like me, you'll want the extra protections from the potential grime. Havaianas are my go to because they're durable, comfy, and cheap.
Pro tip: If you have a favorite brand of skincare products, always ask if they have samples available. These are perfect for travel and you won't have to worry about messy transfer between bottles!
Soap, shampoo, and conditioner
Any travel sized skincare products you may have
Toothbrush & toothpaste
Small pack of tissues - not everywhere you go will have toilet paper
Hand lotion - gotta stay moisturized!
Medicine - if you have any medical conditions, definitely keep your meds in your carry on, and not in checked luggage
Water bottle - fill it up with water from a fountain at the airport, airplane water is notoriously unclean
First aid kit - you never know what'll happen
Travel adapter - don't be like me and almost set your hotel room on fire by plugging in your iron! Even if the plug fits into the outlet, the voltage might not be correct, so make sure you have one of these ready or at the very least make sure you have the right kind of plug to begin with
Your checked luggage is pretty much where you'll be packing your entire life. All the large items you'll be taking with you to your new location go in here. Oh and all your clothes too, of course.
all the rest of the clothes you want to bring - this one's self-explanatory
shoes - bring a decent number of shoes, especially if you have larger feet as some shoe sizes are surprisingly difficult to find in different countries
socks and underwear - def don't want to forget these
Things That Remind You of Home
Sentimental items - family heirlooms, photos with friends and family members, maybe an old blanket or stuffed animal
Non-perishable foods from back home that you know you won't be able to find - when I moved to China, one suitcase was packed full of Annie's mac & cheese and Target's brand of fruit snacks which I ate sparingly over the first couple of months here
A small souvenir from your hometown/home city
Over the counter medicine can sometimes be trickier to get in a foreign country than you would think. For example, I was shocked that I needed to provide my passport information to obtain ibuprofen in China and that it was only offered in low doses.
Antacids - adjusting to a new place can be tough on the stomach and these are great to have in a pinch
Painkillers - ibuprofen, acetaminophen, paracetamol, etc.
Just a few extra tidbits that may help you in your big move.
Shirts, pants, sweaters, undies, skirts, vests, e v e r y t h i n g. When I first tried out the rolling method for packing, my life was changed forever. It gives me so much extra room to pack that I always wind up over packing these days. If you don't know how to roll your clothes, check out a video on YouTube - it's super quick and easy, I promise!
Know Before You Go
Weigh your luggage before your flight, so you won't be shocked by any excess baggage fees. Believe me, you don't want to wind up at the airport having to play suitcase tetris to try to get your bags at the right weight...not that I've ever had to do that before...
Get a VPN
Depending on which country you move to, internet regulations can look very different than what you're used to. This could mean anything from a large change like certain websites being blocked to a minor inconvenience like your Netflix offering a different TV/movie library.
Using a VPN allows you to access the internet as if you were using it from back home (or whichever country you select as your host server). On top of this, it provides an added layer of security to your web browsing sessions. I've used Astrill VPN for the last 2 years and so far it has been consistently the best out of all the free and paid VPNs that I have tried.
The last thing you want to happen is to arrive at your new city only to realize that you've forgotten something. Come back to this packing list and review to make sure you have it all!
Thanks for reading!
I really do hope this packing list makes international moving even a tad easier. What tips would you add to the list? Let me know!