moving abroad packing list

Essential Packing Tips for Moving Abroad From The US: What to Include in Your Packing List

Whether you’re heading to the sun-smashed streets of Lisbon to pintxo-hop your way around blue-tiled bars, or you’re escaping to Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne for fairytale vistas – packing is the inevitable downside of moving abroad from the US. 

It seems like an insurmountable task, condensing all your possessions into easy-to-move boxes and bags and transferring them hundreds of miles away… without forgetting or breaking anything.

In this guide, we’ll demystify the process of relocating abroad with a moving abroad packing list, hacks and tips for packing efficiently, and a step-by-step guide to packing a suitcase. We’ll also share our top tips for cost-effective and stress-free shipping

Man standing outside building with two suitcases

What to Pack When Moving Abroad For A Year

Consider Downsizing

Think small. Really small. Bubble wrapping dust-covered figurines you were gifted years ago isn’t the way to go. Instead, take this as an opportunity to edit down your items into a more manageable haul. 

Not only will this reduce time and stress, but it’ll also mean you don’t have to deal with numerous overstuffed suitcases.

But how to decide what makes the cut? What to include and what to omit from your packing list?

Start with the things you use daily and weekly. These should definitely come with you. Any items (that includes clothing) that only get pulled out once a year could be stored in the US in a storage container unit or donated to a charity shop. 

That apple de-corer? Probably not worth wrestling through customs. 

Know Your End Destination Inside Out

Before you even lay a finger on a suitcase, get on your laptop instead. You’re going to want to thoroughly research the country you’re relocating to before making a moving abroad packing list.

It’s a no-brainer to look into things like the climate and the weather, but also consider the culture of your chosen destination

Are vests and shorts widely worn? Should you be bringing mosquito repellent? Will you be mainly packing trainers or flip-flops? 

Woman summer on a sandy beach with flip flops to the side

Doing a deep dive into your new home will give you an excellent steer on what to pack. 

Your Ultimate Moving Abroad Packing List

Now it’s time to make a checklist. The format you choose is down to you – a written list works best for some, others might prefer notes on their phone or even colour-coded Trello cards. 

You’ll be referring back to your moving abroad packing checklist frequently so choose a format that you find easy to navigate. 

Start with six main categories. We’d separate these into electronics, clothes, toiletries, documents/paperwork, medical supplies, and miscellaneous. 


Add whichever of these electronic items are applicable to your going abroad packing list: 

Laptop, phone, charger, adapter, headphones, cameras, Kindle. And any other electrical items like games consoles and Smartwatches. 


When you’re considering this category of things to pack when moving abroad, refer back to your research. The weather, the culture, lifestyle, and how you’ll be spending your work and free time will all inform what clothes you need to pack. 

To really optimize your living abroad packing, consider creating a capsule wardrobe. This is a minimal collection of pieces that can be mixed and matched to create multiple outfits. Choosing clothes that layer well is another good tip that will make sure you’re covered for multiple seasons. 


Of all the moving overseas packing tips, going light on your toiletries is one of the best. Most countries you are traveling to will have what you need and it’s often easier to purchase at the other end than try and get various full-size liquids through airport security. 

That said, take some of your absolute essentials and pack them in your checked-in bag, or opt for travel sizes of toothpaste, toothbrush, any makeup, deodorant, and sunscreen. 

toiletries lined up in front of a window


One of the more stressful moving abroad packing list sections – is the dreaded important documents. As boring as this bit is, it’s really important you check off everything on this list in order to have a seamless journey. 

You’ll need this documentation at the airport and potentially when you arrive in your chosen country. You may need to show some of this paperwork to your new employer if you haven’t already.

Tick off your passport, medical prescriptions, travel insurance, driver’s license, birth certificates, and any work documents and medical records. 

Medical Supplies

More of a niche section! But no less important if you have any long-term medical issues. Pumps, inhalers, and daily medications will need to be prioritised. 

For those who struggle with flying, also add motion sickness tablets to your list. For particularly organised packers – it can’t hurt to grab some plasters and general painkillers too. 

Miscellaneous Items

Leave this category until last, it’ll be a welcome relief from stressful documents and clothing conundrums! 

Miscellaneous is anything that doesn’t quite fit into the above categories of your going abroad packing list, but we like to think of this section as your home comforts. 

Consider making space for a few items that will help your new place feel like home and remind you of friends, family, and special memories from the United States. Photos are an easy way to achieve this, as are books (download these to a Kindle to save space), and even artworks. 

Packing Hacks and Tips

Make friends with your label maker! Or go old school and tape paper labels to boxes. Naming your boxes will make unpacking much easier on the other end when you can go room by room. 

Next, vacuum pack your clothes, especially if you’re struggling to edit or want to squeeze a few more items in. This can be useful if you’re going to a colder climate and need to pack bulky items. 

Final benefit? Vacuum packing your clothes will keep them slightly fresher in transit. 

vacuum packing clothes for travel

Finally, look into shipping ahead of time to make sure you can coordinate sending your items with your arrival time. Sherpr offers international shipping services that allow you to track your items in transit and pre-arrange a time and date of delivery that suits you. 

How to Pack A Suitcase for Moving Overseas

When it comes to actually packing a suitcase ahead of your relocation overseas, there are a few tips to help you out. Firstly, focus on even weight distribution. That’ll make your case easier to manoeuvre and lift (if you have to). 

Secondly, pack in layers. The final layer should be things you’ll need straight away – for instance, clothes for the day after you travel, overnight toiletries, pyjamas etc. 

Roll up any smaller vests and t-shirts to keep them compact. Stuff socks and underwear into shoes to maximise space too. 

Shipping Items Overseas For Your Move

Shipping your items internationally is one of the simplest ways to keep the logistics simple and your costs down. 

Sherpr has a foolproof 4-step system that takes you all the way from booking and packing, to tracking your items whilst they are couriered and finally delivered to your end destination – without any airport queues or luggage delays to contend with. 

people queueing at the airport

Relocating abroad is stressful enough without adding mishandled goods and endless paperwork into the mix. Sherpr makes it easy by sending your items door-to-door to over 200 countries, they’ll even guide you through the customs process. Kick off the process by getting a quote here.