How to Pack for Your Year as an Au Pair Abroad


4 minutes

packing to be an au pair abroad

Photo courtesy of flickr user ftzdomino.

Packing for long trips can be difficult. In general you will be able to get everything you need in your host country, so unless you are attached to a specific brand, you shouldn't bring a year-long supply of anything except for prescription medications. You can also ask your host family if specific things are available in your host country before you go.

If you take medication:

  • Check with your airline to find out what quantity of your medication is allowed.
  • If your host country provides you with insurance, please be advised that it will be minimum coverage. Chances are it will not cover your prescription medications for pre-existing conditions.
  • Unless you purchase additional supplemental travel insurance, you will not be covered for lost luggage.

Pack Light

Always pack less than you think you need. It may be hard not to bring every sweater or t-shirt with you, but you will probably be doing some shopping while abroad and will end up with much more than you bargained for after your au pair abroad program is over. Pack mix-and-match separates and layers to get the most out of your luggage space.

Pack for the Seasons

Kermit the Frog playing in the snow

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Check average weather temperatures for each season and make sure to pack some standard pieces of clothing. If where you are going has a winter season, you may want to bring a winter coat so you don’t have to buy one there. Other more expensive items likes boots, running shoes and a bathing suit may be useful and cost-effective to bring with you as well. Not all countries employ central heating or air conditioning, which should also factor into how you will need to dress to stay warm or cool. Feel free to ask your host family about temperature-appropriate items to bring from home.

Packing List

  • Year-long supply of prescription medications (see above).
  • A change of clothes with you on the plane. No matter if you have a direct flight or multiple layovers, airlines will sometimes misplace luggage. It is always better to be safe than sorry!
  • A weekend bag or backpack. Whether you plan on traveling a lot on the weekends or plan to traipse around the city with your host children, having a tote bag or backpack is always a necessity while abroad.
  • Important papers and documents. We recommend getting a water-proof file folder to carry your visa papers, birth certificate, passport, travel itinerary, your U.S. and host family phone numbers and addresses and all other important materials with you in your carry-on while traveling. Carry this with you and do not pack it with your checked luggage. Keep a set of copies of important documents stored in a secure place.
  • Travel adapters and/or converters for electronics. If you are bringing electronics, you will need an adapter to plug in your devices. Please keep in mind there is almost always a voltage difference, and you may also need some kind of voltage converter or transformer.
    • Most laptops and mobile devices are multi-voltage, so they can usually be used in Europe, Australia and New Zealand without a converter. Still, always check the item’s instructional manuals for further instruction! You will still need an adapter. Never pack these items in your checked luggage.
    • If you use hair dryers and hair irons, you may want to purchase these abroad. They are often single-voltage, so you would most likely need a voltage converter or transformer.
  • Cell phones. We recommend two options:
    1. Buy an inexpensive pay-as-you-go cell phone after you arrive to your new home. Ask your host family if they recommend a certain provider or if there are short-term contracts that may be less expensive.
    2. Bring your own cell phone, and replace the SIM card with a local one once abroad. Most U.S. cell phones can be used abroad with a new SIM card, but you will need to check with your current provider to review all options.
  • Limit toiletries. They’re heavy and take up space! While you may have a certain brand that you like, most U.S. brands of shampoo, face wash, and cosmetics can be found abroad. You may want to bring enough to get you through your first week in your new country.
  • A small gift for your host family and host children that will tell them a little bit about the culture and traditions of your hometown and state. A gift is a great way to break the ice, especially with the children, and show the family how excited you are to be living and working for them. You may also want to bring your favorite recipes (if you cook). Remember the measurements will be different and not all ingredients are easily found, so you may need to get creative.
  • Pictures of your family and small personal keepsakes depicting your life in the U.S. This is great to share with your host family. These will also help you stay connected to your family and friends in the U.S. while you are abroad.

U.S. Department of State-Designated J-1 Visa Sponsor
Alliance for International Exchange
Exclusive partner of the Erasmus Student Network for J-1 Visa sponsorship of internships in the U.S.
European-American Chamber of Commerce New York
Generation Study Abroad
Global Ties U.S.
International Au Pair Association
WYSE Travel Confederation