Packing your suitcase with what you’ll need for an entire year abroad can be overwhelming. What should you bring? What should you leave at home? We asked our Cultural Care Au Pair Ambassadors to give their best packing advice, and they shared some great tips!
When deciding what clothes to bring, think about what your daily duties will be as an au pair. Will you be caring for an infant? Toddlers? School-aged kids? For all of these age groups, you’ll probably be very active, so be sure to pack comfortable, casual clothes that you can move around in. Stefanie, au pair from Switzerland recommends bringing “leggings and comfortable shirts. I never wore anything else to work.” Former Austrian au pair Sarah agrees, “I brought too many jeans, and most of the time I wore leggings.”
The majority of the au pairs we asked admitted bringing way too many clothes and shoes. “Don’t pack too much clothes and shoes—believe me you will buy so many things here!” advises Evelin, who admits to having 4 suitcases full of clothes to bring home when she departs the U.S. next month.
Swedish au pair Linn recommends leaving half of the clothes you think you’ll need at home. And former German au pair Pauline, gives one reason why: “You’ll end up buying some eventually according to your state climate.” Rachel, au pair from South Africa bought warm clothes before traveling to the U.S. in anticipation of the cold weather, but says, “They weren’t warm enough, so I had to get heavier clothes here anyway.”
Clothes may be cheap and fun to shop for in the U.S., but specialty items from your home country will be difficult to find and a lot more expensive in the States. For this reason, nearly all au pairs recommended that future au pairs bring more things to remind them of home.
Former au pair Evelin regrets not bringing her dirndl, a traditional costume worn in her home country of Austria. She also wishes she had used more room in her suitcase for gifts of chocolate and other candy. South African au pair Chanté feels the same about food from home: “I wish I packed more snacks from home to help with the transition period and homesickness.”
German au pair Marie is happy she brought photos from home and her favorite pillow, and Argentinean au pair Ina’s advice sums it up: “Bring things that remind you of home” including pictures of family and friends and letters from loved ones.
Another great tip from our Ambassador au pairs? Skip the heavy stuff. Au pair Kate laments “I packed so many books!” Marie agrees, explaining that she doesn’t have time to read much anyway.
Evelin brought craft supplies she thought she might use but says, “I ended up buying a lot of things here at Michaels and almost didn’t use what I brought from home.” And Sarah recommends bringing only travel-sized toiletries to save room and weight because “You only need them for your first week—you can buy more in the U.S.”
“Don’t forget the medicines that you really need!” says former au pair Izabelle, from Brazil. And she’s right—one item you’ll definitely want to bring with you is prescription medication. If possible, it’s smart to bring as much as year’s supply to the U.S. because even though au pairs are covered by travel insurance, it’s often easier and less expensive to bring prescription medications you need from home. (This includes birth control pills and contact lenses.) You may also want to consider bringing over-the-counter medicine from your home country if it’s something you use frequently and find comforting.
Packing can be stressful—but try not to let it worry you too much. Your host family will help you find anything you forget and you always can give away extra items you don’t need. Most importantly, pack your courage, flexibility, curiosity and open-mindedness—the most important ingredients for an amazing au pair experience!
Start your application today and get one step closer to becoming an au pair in the USA. Begin the next exciting chapter of your life!