How to Pack for Moving to the UK

Looking forward to moving to the UK, but have no idea what to pack? Let me help you! As a fellow expat who’s made a home in the UK, I was terrified when I first moved – how can I fit my whole life into a suitcase?

Here’s my top tips for packing to the UK!

1. Bring what you can fit in your suitcases and forget the rest

It’s pretty easy to buy most things in the UK so I wouldn’t consider shipping housewares or furniture. I would focus on what you can fit in your suitcase and forget the rest. I typically pack my most important and expensive items first, then fill in the space with my remaining stuff. While I could replace my laptop in the UK, that would be a lot more costly than having to buy a few more sweaters instead.

The only difference would be if you’re moving your entire family, kids, dogs, etc, then you might want to look into shipping your furniture or houseware items. Maybe you’re re-locating your entire family and you’re going to be buying a house – that might be a bit different.

Otherwise for most expats, just bring whatever you can fit into your suitcase.

2. Check luggage fees of your airline beforehand

For me, it worked out best to upgrade my AirTransat ticket which includes a checked bag, then bought a second checked bag. I also made sure my checked bags were as big as the airline would allow, both in dimensions and in weight.

I also made sure I made the most of my carry-on and my “personal item” which I used a backpack. Basically bringing as much as the airline would allow!

It’s really important to check your airline’s restrictions before purchasing luggage or packing. Overweight or oversized luggage can be extremely expensive, so be careful!

How to pack for moving to the UK

3. Practice packing

This tip can be a bit annoying, but super helpful.

Practice packing when you want – then weigh your bags – you’ll likely be overweight or can’t fit everything in.

So try again!

After a few times, you’ll better understand how much can fit in your suitcase and what items are really important to include. For me, this took about 4-5 tries before I figured it out!

4. What should I bring and what should I leave behind?

This will vary from person-to-person, but here’s some of my top packing tips on what you include when moving to the UK!

Important and expensive stuff first

  • I look at the most important stuff to survive, but also the most expensive to replace
  • Technology like my laptop, camera, phone, chargers, headphones (and charging cords so I don’t have to worry about them dying once I arrive)
  • Good shoes, good winter coat, but clothes can be replaced if needed

Don’t forget all the seasons!

  • It’s easy to pack for the season you’re in NOW, but don’t forget you’re going to be in the UK for ALL the seasons
  • This means you might need things like a bathing suit, winter boots, a spring jacket..

What about toiletries?

  • I would recommend some toiletries to get started – you don’t want to worry about running out and getting those immediately – but they’re cheap to buy in the UK, too, so not too many
  • If you try to pack 10 bottles of your favourite moisturiser, you’ll soon realise that it’s just too heavy

Refill any prescriptions before you move

  • Make sure to meet with your doctor before you move to the UK
  • You’ll want enough of your needed medications for a few months so you can get settled and then get a doctor in the UK later
  • If you explain to your doctor that you’re moving abroad, they should be able to give you a big refill before you go

Should I ship my household stuff?

  • Household stuff is simply not important
  • If you’re going to be renting a room somewhere in London, it’s going to be furnished. If you’re only going to be in the UK short term, or just for university, you don’t need to collect furniture
  • If you end up staying in the UK long term, you can build up your furniture with time – secondhand stuff is easy to come by and a great starting point when you don’t have anything to begin with (Facebook groups are also helpful for giving away stuff or selling stuff cheaply in your area)
  • For reference, I moved to the UK without any household items or furniture, but I have slowly built this up over time

5. Next time you go home

When I went home to Canada for my first visit, I brought very little in my big suitcase with the idea that I would fill it up with more of my Canadian stuff to bring to the UK. This was really helpful for those last minute things that I couldn’t bring originally. I could also stock up on off-season clothes, stuff that I didn’t currently need in the UK right away but would soon.

It also didn’t cost my anything extra. I was going to be visiting home anyway and bringing a suitcase, so why not?

6. Life lesson I learned when moving abroad

At the end of the day, the “stuff” doesn’t really matter. I learned this when I first moved to the UK.

Obviously you need stuff to survive and be comfortable, but at the end of it day, it really don’t matter. The people and the experiences matter most. So while you’re panicking while packing your suitcase: take a deep breath. You got this!