Love it or hate it, an important part of leaving on a jet plane is packing. You’ve probably packed many times for day trips, weekend trips, backpacking trips or even long-ish holidays, but packing for long-term travel is another kettle of fish entirely. The long-term travel essentials you need are quite different to those for a quickie holiday – after all, you’ll be living in your destination for a month, six months, a year – who knows?!
If you want to teach English as a foreign language abroad, it’s likely that you’ll be travelling for an extended period of time. Which means you can’t just throw jeans and a shirt in your suitcase and hope for the best! But you also can’t pack your house and home! Oh no, you have to be smart about your long-term packing list and pack only the travel essentials. Just enough so that you have everything you need when you arrive, but not too much that they nab you at the check-in counter for excess baggage.
What’s more, if you’re travelling as a TEFL teacher, you need to consider what materials and resources you should pack for your lessons. The first rule of TEFL is to be prepared! While you’d probably like to take a giant whiteboard with you, along with your library of TEFL books and a cupboard of props, that’s not exactly a feasible idea.
Learn more: Essential Teaching Materials for a TEFL Teacher
We’re going to help you out here, with the ultimate packing list for long-term travel for TEFL teachers.
Let’s start with the basics:
Long-term travel essentials for clothing
When it comes to clothes, think capsule. (If you have no idea what a capsule wardrobe is, a) where have you been? And b) you can find out more here). Pack items which you can mix and match in a number of different ways. Layering is the way forward, so think wardrobe staples and light pieces which can be added to for warmth if needed. To pack your clothes like a professional, think like Marie Kondo – roll your clothes rather than folding them, and pack similar items together.
The thing about clothes is that you can usually buy clothes when you arrive in the country, if necessary. But you don’t want to have to spend the first few days of your new adventure hustling to find a long skirt when you know there’s one in your cupboard back home. So while you don’t want to pack your entire cupboard, the key is to be smart about your wardrobe choices.
As a teacher, make sure of the dress code of where you are going to teach. You might be required to wear a school t-shirt, or a tie, or long sleeves. This goes hand-in-hand with the culture of the country you are going to. Respect the cultural and religious rules of your host country. If you are not sure, you should be able to ask your employer.
And don’t forget about shoes! You’ll need comfy shoes for walking when you do the tourist vibes, smart shoes for work, going-out shoes, and maybe even some flip-flops if you think you might stay in a hostel at some point – no one wants to be barefoot in a hostel shower!
Our top tips for packing clothes:
- Ziplock bags are great for packing dirty or wet clothes and shoes.
- Packing cubes are the latest craze to keep your suitcase organised.
- Jewellery and accessories can be stored in a tupperware or daily pill organiser if you don’t have a jewellery travel case.
Long-term travel essentials for toiletries
We understand it can be hard to leave home without a fully kitted out make-up bag, but restrain yourself. Make-up can take up valuable space in your suitcase and it can easily be bought wherever you are going.
Pack the essentials that you’ll need for your journey to your destination, and your first few weeks while you are finding your feet in your new home town:
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Shower gel, shampoo, conditioner
- Contact lens solution
- Ladies, it is a good idea (as always!) to pack sanitaryware – you never know what might be on offer where you are going and it might not be what you are used to.
- A basic medical kit is recommended, especially with nausea tablets, painkillers, diarrhoea medication and sleeping pills.
- If you take any chronic medication, make sure you have enough of it to last or else ask your doctor for a prescription for when you need it.
Our top tips for packing toiletries:
- Decant big bottles into smaller, travel containers
- Some of your toiletries can be packed in your hand luggage if you will need them on the flight – just be aware of the liquid restrictions
Long-term travel essentials for technology
Technology is pretty much non-negotiable these days. After all, you don’t won’t want to have to spend your first pay cheque on a new laptop or phone! Especially if you are planning to teach English online or use your laptop for lesson planning and accessing your library, you need to be doubly sure you have everything you need to keep your technology charged and available when you need it.
- Phone + charger
- Battery pack
- International adaptor plug (because you never know where you’re going!)
- Earphones or headphones (preferably noise-cancelling)
Our top tips for packing technology:
- A travel cord roll or cable organiser helps keep your cords neat and untangled.
- A cell phone strap is a useful way to have your phone at hand at all times. It is a deterrent for pickpockets, plus you won’t forget it anywhere!
- Make sure your smartphone is unlocked so you are able to use a local SIM card.
Long-term travel essentials for documents
Travelling requires paperwork. Plane tickets, visas, vaccinations – there are long list of documents that you need to travel. Double check you have packed everything you need and that they are easy to access while you are travelling.
- ID or driver’s licence
- vaccination booklet or record
- Certified copies of academic transcripts
- Travel and medical insurance details and important phone numbers
- Passport photos – you never know when you might need and it’s not always easy to find a photo shop close by
- Debit/cheque cards or cash
Our top tips for packing essentials:
- You should make sure you have both soft and hard copies of all your important documents.
- Don’t pack your cash all in the same place!
- Try take some local currency with you in cash for when you arrive at the airport.
Long-term travel essentials for teaching
As a teacher, it can be tempting to take all your resource books, lesson planning materials and photocopiable materials with you, to make sure you are totally prepared for the classroom. But don’t be so hasty! These days, it’s possible to have everything you need on a USB or, even better, in the cloud.
You may want to take a notebook or diary with you, along with your usual stationery, but you can also wait and buy whatever you need when you get there.
As a teacher, give some thought to taking souvenirs or mementoes from your home country – even something as simple as a few photos of your friends and family. Your students are likely to be very interested in your private life and any items you bring can be used as conversation starters – especially useful for lessons on the first day. If you are staying with a host family, a nice idea is to take a small gift for them for when you arrive.
If you are digital nomad and plan on teaching English online, there are a few extras you might want to fit into your bag:
- A headset with microphone
- A back-up internet source
- A selfie ring light
- A world map or poster which can be used as a background
- Small flashcards which can be packed easily
- A mascot or finger puppets
Long-term travel nice-to-haves
We’ve already got quite a long list of essentials, but if you have any spare space in your suitcase, there are a few nice-to-haves that you won’t regret taking with you.
- Travel pillow
- Travel door alarm – especially helpful if you are travelling alone.
- Kindle – so you don’t need to lug around your library
- Travel sewing kit
- Microfibre towel
- Home comforts – niknaks, branston pickle, tim tams, whatever will help when the homesickness kicks in.
And there you have it: everything you need to pack for your adventure abroad teaching English as a foreign language. Bon voyage!