While most of us, at some point or another, have had to figure out how to pare down our packing list for a holiday, figuring out how to do that when moving overseas long term is a whole new challenge!  Realistically, almost everything you’ll need will be available almost anywhere you go. So what do you actually need to take with you?

As I gear up for another move abroad (Egypt this time!), my mind is racing with the seemingly endless to-dos and more and more items keep getting piled onto my packing list. This list may be helpful for jogging your mind about the types of things to add to your packing list:

Find out how much you can take

Read through your contract again and find out all of the details about your relocation allowance (if there is one). Do you need to drop boxes off at a specified location? Are they covering additional luggage on your flight? Also ensure that you know all of the details on weight and size restrictions from the airline.

Contact other teachers

Many schools will set you up with a ‘buddy’ to ask all of the little questions you have. Your buddy is usually an experienced teacher who is very familiar with what is and isn’t available in your new home. Take advantage of their knowledge! Also, some schools might have systems in place to transfer household goods from departing teachers to new arrivals. This is a great, affordable way to turn your new house into a home.

Legal mumbo-jumbo

If you need to have original documents available for Visa purposes (such as University degrees and police checks) be sure you know exactly which ones to have on hand and when you need to have them – should they be in your carry-on? Have your vaccination records, international drivers license, any financial information you’ll need and proof of your teaching qualification. Make sure you’ve made backup copies and stored them somewhere secure. Oh, and don’t forget your passport!

First night supplies

If you’ve shipped your household goods separately, you may find yourself in an unfortunate pinch when you arrive in your new, empty apartment. While you can survive with paper plates for a few days just fine, it is usually nice to have a set of sheets for your new bed! (Find out ahead of time what your school will be providing in these circumstances.)

First aid kit

Now, I always travel with the same basic first aid kit in my bag. I’ve learned from experience, that there is nothing worse then coughing down a few mouthfuls of stinky mystery medicine when you’re already feeling at your worst!

Teaching resources

Digitize as much as possible! Scan any standby activities that you frequently rely on or books that you use time and time again. Find out what the school has available and remember that websites like Teacherspayteachers are always there when you’re in a pinch. Also think about what you would like to do to make your classroom a welcoming environment. (Often, posters can be printed off quite cheaply; much easier than trying to find a way to pack them!) If you’re a primary teacher, there likely isn’t the same access to décor items that you’re used to back home, so find ways to DIY as much as possible. (Though, to be honest, I still like to pack a roll of bulletin board border with me!) And stickers, never forget the stickers! (No matter what the age group!)

Travel supplies

While you might not have all of your holiday plans plotted out, it helps to have a vague idea of what you might be doing before leaving home. If you’re backpacking through South East Asia, you’ll need shorts, a swimsuit and not much else. Whereas a trip along the Trans Siberan Railway will require an entirely different wardrobe! Also, keep in mind the activities you’ll be doing: Hiking? Cycling? Surfing? Diving? If you have gear that you’ll need, best to pack it! (Yes that does look slightly ridiculous at times: moving to Northern China with surfboards in hand. Not that I’d know anything about that. Ahem….)


Especially if you have children, spend time talking with them about how holidays and special celebrations may be different when you move overseas. In most countries now it is fairly common to find Christmas décor, but smaller Western holidays often aren’t recognized. Think about if there’s anything you can bring to make these events more familiar (particularly if it will be your first time away from home for the holidays).


Most computer chargers now are dual voltage; just make sure you have the right type of plug to go in the wall wherever you’re moving. Find out if you can unlock your mobile for overseas use. Make sure you have an adapter for charging your camera. In terms of other electronics (hair dryers, electric shavers etc.) don’t bother! It’s usually easier to find a replacement in your new country.


Make sure you know how formally you’re expected to dress at school. Also, be sure that the clothing you pack will fall within cultural expectations. For women, it’s always better to err on the side of conservatism. If you’re moving to some countries (China, Vietnam to name a few) you may have a hard time finding clothing to fit, depending on your body type.  This again is something to ask your buddy for more information about.

Personal hygiene

Contact your buddy or do a few online searches to find out what personal hygiene items are available in your new country. Tampons and deodorant are commonly not available, so they will be something to bring from home.

Comfort food

If you’re like me and have a Kraft Dinner addiction, this will certainly be something to pack! On the other end of the spectrum, I am a bit of a health nut and like to bring quinoa as well as favorite seasonings from home.


You’re going to need a hobby. While for many of us simply exploring the streets of our new home will be entertainment enough, there will be evenings that you just want to relax on the couch. If you’re an avid reader, buy an e-reader.  If you draw, bring a sketchbook. If you’re a runner, bring running shoes. Things for some hobbies (such as knitting or cheap guitars) are easy to find in many places. Again, do your research ahead of time!

Ultimately, any form of travel is a lesson in the art of simplicity. A huge part of why so many of us have signed up to teach overseas is so that we can collect experiences. So use this transition time as an opportunity to reflect on how to balance the ‘stuff’ and the experiences in your new life abroad.

Have you got any tips for moving to a new country? Anything you wish you’d known before you left? Let us know in the comments?

photo of author
Written by Catherine Gillis
Teacher Horizons recruitment adviser. Catherine has previously taught for four years as a Music teacher in Dalian, China. She has previously lived in Central America and now lives in Cairo.
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