Packing for University in the US - The Ultimate Guide for International Students

Congratulations on your acceptance to your American university!

You’ve bought your plane ticket, received your visa, gotten your vaccinations and found a place to live … but you are probably feeling overwhelmed about how to go about packing.

Presenting … the ultimate packing guide filled with useful tips and tricks!

This is not one of those gigantic packing checklists of everything you need to bring - you can find those all over the Internet. This guide is about the ‘how’ and focuses on two questions: What type of things should I bring from home and what should I buy when I get there?

Ok, Let’s get started…

What You Should Bring From Home

Soft trunk and bags

The first thing you’ll need is a big bag for travel. We recommend a 36” soft trunk or duffel bag or smaller for airline travel. It fits within the airline size restrictions and is a convenient size bag for travel. (We have a whole blog on the topic if you’re interested.)  You will also want a carry-on bag that fits into airline restrictions and make sure you don’t pack any sharp objects or liquids in your hand luggage. And be sure to weigh your bags at home so you don’t have unpleasant charges when you get to the airport.


Clothing is the most obvious item to bring from home. Yes, you will be sure to buy some cool stuff during your years away, but most of your luggage should be filled with the clothing you need.

You should to check the weather in your destination to determine what to pack - does it get very hot or cold? Does it rain? If you already own the appropriate clothing for the weather, you can bring it with you but everything can be purchased at your destination as well.

Medicine and eyewear

Make sure you bring any prescription medicine that you are using. Bring extra contact lenses and glasses.  

Make yourself at home

You will want to bring the tastes and smells from home - pack enough spices or specialty food items to get you started until you find the local market where you can buy these items (and don’t forget to bring your mom’s recipes). Just make sure your snacks or spices fit the strict US immigration requirements.

Bring little items that will make your dorm or apartment feel like home - music, photos of your family, your favorite teddy, etc.


You probably don’t need to be reminded to bring your phone or tablet, but make sure you have your chargers and an appropriate adapter for North American outlets (you can also easily buy the adapters when you get there).


You should bring a small amount of local currency for the beginning of your stay. You may not be able to easily access an ATM upon arrival and some stores may not accept foreign cards or credit card payment at all, while some services such as public transportation may only take cash. We recommend bringing about $400-$500 in US dollars with you.


It may seem obvious, but you should always make sure you have all your relevant travel and immigration documents in a safe and handy place. Keep your passport, immigration forms and university acceptance letter in a plastic pocket or folder within your carry-on luggage, and stored somewhere safe and out of the way once you arrive. You should always make both paper photocopies and digital copies of all your documents just in case they are lost or stolen. You will also need these when you apply for a bank account or a student ID card in your first few weeks.

What You Should You Buy when you Arrive in the US

Some things are too bulky to take with you and some are not worth bringing from home for practical reasons. Here is the list of things you should buy when you get there:


Airline weight restrictions are very strict. Typically, the bulkiest items you need are linens - blankets, pillows, towels etc. A great way to save valuable space in your bag is to use an online service to order your bulky linen directly to your residence in the US. Your linens will be waiting when you get there and you’ll still have space in your bag to pack your favorite teddy.

Storage Solutions

You will need space to store all your stuff, and with the limitations of dorm living, storage solutions are really useful for keeping your living space organized. There are different solutions ranging from ‘underbed storage’ for extra toiletries and clothing to ‘over the door storage’ to hang up all your shoes to ‘closet optimizers’. A lot of these products are collapsible or foldable and easy to buy when you get there.

Toiletries & Personal Care Accessories

You may want to bring a small amount of toiletries to get you started but it will be easy to ask a friendly face for the nearest pharmacy or supermarket. It will be a good way to get to know your new environment and also see the selection of products offered at your destination.

One exception: If you have toiletries for specific needs, for example, face wash for sensitive skin, bring it with you.

You will also need personal care accessories like a shower caddy, toothbrush, toiletry bag etc. and you can purchase them at your destination.

Laundry accessories

If it’s not the case already, you will be responsible to do your own laundry. You will want to make your life a little easier by purchasing all the laundry accessories you need like a hamper, laundry bag, mesh hosiery bag etc.

Small Appliances

When it comes to small appliances (fans, hair dryers, irons, etc.), take note that the voltage system is the US is 110, which may be different than your home country. Check each appliance if they work on dual voltage. If they don’t, you can use a converter but you are probably be better off just buying them when you get there.

School supplies

School supplies come in different formats (US binders have 3 holes, and the paper used is “letter” or “legal” size) and are very inexpensive, so once again, buy ‘em when you get there.

Your Feedback

We hope you’ve enjoyed this blog. At Pack for Camp, we’ve been serving customers like you for many years, so if you have any questions, please contact us and we’ll be glad to help. We’ll also be super happy to hear your feedback and comments about stuff we might have left out. Happy Packing!