The Ultimate Packing List For The United States

You’re getting ready for what is bound to be the adventure of a lifetime. You’re heading off to the good old U S of A! But what on earth do you take with you?! Packing for your time abroad is going to be stressful if you don’t plan and let it consume your life. Each of the 50 US states are so incredibly different that creating a packing list that could cover the entire country is near impossible.

However, to get you started, here’s a list of more general study abroad essentials that will be very important during your time abroad. I’ve also included a list of packing tips, so wherever you’re heading to in the states, you can be prepared, organised, and stress free; giving you more time to focus on looking forward to your amazing American adventure!

  • A good phone. I don’t think I need to stress how important this is. A good phone is essential while you’re studying abroad. You’ll need to have a way of staying in touch with people back home and the people you meet in the states, so you have to have a phone that you can rely on. Top tip: I brought my UK iPhone to LA and just bought a different sim card when I got here. So much cheaper than having to buy a new phone all together!
  • A good camera. For someone like me this is essential, and it should be for you too! You’re going to have one of the best experiences of your life and you should therefore want to capture it as much as you possibly can! Whether you buy a camera or use a camera phone (I’ve been using the camera on my iPhone which has been good enough) make sure you’re able to take plenty of great photos that you can share with your friends and family while you’re gone. Oh, and obviously on Instagram…
  • A journal, diary or planner. Given that there are going to be so many exciting things going on in your life, you’re going to need a way to stay organised and also keep track of everything! Whilst I am stationary obsessed, I am also the WORST when it comes to consistently keeping a journal or planner (my best friend bought me a 365-day planner before I left… after two weeks it totally got away from me). These things happen! But one thing I find very helpful is instead of filling things out on a daily basis, I update my planner at the beginning or end of a month in preparation for the month ahead and update it when things change.packing list for the United States Planner CoverI’m incredibly busy (as you can see from the picture!) so have to stay on top of things and plan things ahead of time, and I’m sure most of you will be the same when you’re studying abroad, whether you realize it yet or not. Having a great planner can also be great motivation to keep it organised and keep yourselves organised. Here are a few that catch my eye…packing list for the United States Planner
  • A sentimental item from home. Being away from home will get difficult at times. But having a token from home can help to ease the homesickness at times. Bring a photo frame from home or a little trinket that has sentimental meaning to you that you can keep in your room. I brought a couple of things including a spirit banner from my home university, King’s College London, and a couple of trinkets I picked up on other travels (a small portion of my collection is pictured! The rest is spread out over my dresser). It can be comforting to know that even when you’re not home, home is always with you.packing list for the United States Trinkets
  • Laptop. Again, this is pretty self explanatory. Most of your life will be on this baby. If you’re heading to a college like UCLA, enrollment is done entirely online so your classes depend on having a great laptop. Also, you’ll need to back up your phone and camera while you’re gone so you have plenty of storage, and of course you’ll need to use it to Skype loved ones back home! So, make sure before you leave you have a great laptop that you can rely on so you don’t run into problems whilst studying abroad. I have an Apple MacBook Pro which, despite being a bit pricey, is a great laptop and has been perfect for me since starting university.
  • A good wallet. A good wallet will be a life saver while you’re gone. Something practical that is big enough to store all your cards, cash, and even documents if necessary. There are so many great ones to choose from many of which aren’t too pricey. I would recommend getting one with a wrist-strap for both safety and practical reasons.
  • A good backpack or bag. Again, SO IMPORTANT! This will become your best friend. If you’re like me, a philosophy major, you’re bound to have a lot of books. Having a good backpack is so important and it will become your best friend on your adventure abroad (hopefully you’ll make human friends, too, but if you don’t you’ll always have a back up.) It doesn’t have to be expensive! There are many great backpacks that are cute and practical that you can get at a great price. It’s just about looking in the right places.
  • Portable phone charger and camera charger. You’ll find yourself forgetting to take this with you more than you want to admit, but trust me; if you keep it in your bag, you’ll thank yourself during those times when you’re exploring amazing places and your camera dies, or you have a full day of classes and your phone dies. It’s always better to have this on hand, and it’s safer too!
  • Emergency tea stash. I mean, you never know how accessible a good English breakfast tea is going to be!

Must-have Plane Essentials:

  • Headphones. To drown out the noise from obnoxious passengers (especially if you have an overnight flight).
  • Chewing gum or chewy candy. For altitude changes! My ears pop constantly when I’m taking off or landing and chewing gum really helps!
  • Plane socks. Because, well, I mean treat those tootsies to a little comfort why not?
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, wet wipes and lip balm. If you’re like me and had a 12-hour flight, you’ll want to freshen up multiple times on the flight (when you’re not sleeping).
  • A good book. In case you’re too excited to sleep! Try reading something about the US to get you more excited for your adventure! Here’s a couple that caught my eye that I want to get my hands on… (top tip: The Lonely Planet has an entire section devoted to USA books perfect for helping you plan your time abroad).
    packing list for the United States The Help packing list for the United States American Stories packing list for the United States The Great Gatsby
  • Bottle of water. Hydration, kids.
  • Snacks. I shouldn’t need to explain the importance of snacks
  • Important travel documents. Aka. your passport, visa or green card. You will also be given more forms to complete on the plane make sure you take these with you!
  • Hoodie (or something comfortable). Getting comfortable during flights is hard enough as it is, so wearing something comfortable is always a good idea! I would also recommend layering so you can adapt to any temperature changes during the flight with ease.
  • University acceptance letter. I printed off the confirmation email I received from UCLA in case I was asked to prove my status as a study abroad student. I wasn’t asked, but it’s definitely better to be prepared rather be put on a return flight!
  • US dollars. Have a card that you can use, but just in case, it is good to have some cash on hand for when you land.

Packing Tips:

  • Clothes: Deciding what clothes to take with you (especially if you’re like me and already have waaaaaay too many clothes) is stressful. Before packing, be sure to find out more about the weather in your state. I’m studying in Los Angeles, California, and, as you can imagine, most of the year I experience nothing but glorious sunshine. However, I still brought hoodies, a coat and some other warmer items because you never know where your study abroad experiences could take you! I spent a weekend in Big Bear which is in the mountains where it’s a bit colder (there was even snow), so I was definitely glad I brought some warmer clothes with me! If you’re in the colder states, make sure you stock up on the essentials like a scarf, gloves, a hat and a winter jacket before heading to the states. The last thing you want is to get there and suffer because you’re so cold! Make sure you have a good idea what to expect from Mother Nature before heading out and pack accordingly.
  • Toiletries: Let’s be honest — toiletries are a nuisance. How much of everything should I take? Should I buy my favorite products now or wait to buy them when I’m out there? Personally, I would suggest packing as lightly as possible when it comes to toiletries. Obviously, make sure you have enough to keep you going for the first week, but I would suggest buying the majority of your items once you arrive at your destination. That gives you more room in your cases to take more important things, like an extra pair of shoes or, if you’re like me, a sneaky stash of English breakfast tea…

I hope this packing list is helpful to all of you embarking on your study abroad adventures! Please feel free to leave comments below if you have any recommendations of your own — I would love to hear them! And, you’d be benefiting other readers to!. I hope this list inspires you to get organised and prepared for your adventure ahead, because trust me, life is so much easier when you’re organised.


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Charlotte Pickles

Charlotte is a second year Philosophy student enrolled at King’s College London currently studying abroad at UCLA in Los Angeles, California. In addition to being a full time student, Charlotte is also a pre-professional dancer and spends most of her evenings training. Originally from London, Charlotte has spent nearly nine years of her life living in the United States, spending a year and a half in Manhattan, New York and six and a half years in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Though she is completing a year of study abroad at the moment, Charlotte permanently moved to Los Angeles when she arrived in California around six weeks ago. She will be returning to London in August 2017 to complete her final year of undergraduate study and after graduating she will be returning to the states where she will begin pursuing her post-graduate education. Charlotte loves to travel and loves to share her experiences on social media, so be sure to follow her Instagram to stay up to date with all her adventures!


  1. When i went to the states for my year abroad I had to take with me a British flag. The aim was to get everyone that I shared a night out with to sign the thing. It got lost and I ended up using an American one but hey, think it would have worked with either or 🙂

  2. A backpack is great to have. I want to replace my laptop bag with a backpack to make traveling easier.

  3. these are such brilliant and helpful tips on travelling. i love love the camera one. pictures are my favorite activity on a trip because i want to remember each and every moment when i look back some day.

  4. We are planning a trip to Iceland… in the winter. Of course, being from Florida, I have no heavy winter clothes. I gave them away when we moved from Minnesota. I have no idea what to pack, but this list will definitely get me started. Thanks!

  5. We have a few trips coming up this summer. It drives my husband crazy that I’m so disorganized when it comes to packing. I’m going to bookmark your list and surprise him! x

  6. What a huge list! I try to take as few things as possible if I will stay in my destination for a long period of time as I tend to buy new things anyway. A camera, phone, laptop or tablet and a good backpack are a must for me.

  7. This is an awesome list! As an American who recently moved to Canada (and a few years ago, lived in China), there’s nothing I would add to this! I 10000% agree with the journal. I never go anywhere without it!

  8. This is really helpful ideas for those who are first time for packing for the US. I’m really glad that you shared it.

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