Working holidays are a great opportunity for young travelers to experience working overseas while being able to acquire a short-term legal work visa. The programs exist in many countries, but they are especially popular in Australia and New Zealand. Both Brooke and I went to Australia on working holiday visas.
When I first started planning for my working holiday in Australia, I had no idea where to start preparing. How does one possibly pack for an entire year? I needed to consider multiple seasons and occasions like travel and work. I also wanted to pack fairly light, since I would be carrying it all around until I got settled in.
Even after thinking it over, I made many mistakes in regards to what to pack for my working holiday. I didn’t have any warm clothing for a cold front in Melbourne or the Southern Hemisphere winter, and I didn’t have any professional looking clothes for job interviews.
Learn from my experience and consider these working holiday packing essentials, wherever that may be!
Suits and blazers aren’t necessary, but it’s a good idea to pack a few items that can be put together to look professional when it comes time to interview for jobs. I worked at a bar and had a uniform, but I also had a few days of training at my job where I had to dress up, so I had to go shopping. I ended up wearing a simple cotton skirt with a solid camisole and cardigan one day and a dress my roommate gave me as a hand-me-down on the next.
The key to packing professional clothing is solid colored items that are versatile, like the Chrysalis Cardi, and that you will wear during your travels. I also recommend bringing statement jewelry that can dress up the outfit. In terms of shoes, dressy sandals or simple black flats like Tieks are best for wearing to interviews and out on the town.
Other things to consider before packing:
- What is your intended job at your destination? Will you be on your feet behind a bar? Will you be working in a shop selling clothes? Bring appropriate clothing for those work environments.
- Do you plan to travel around your destination country for a while first before getting a job? If yes, it might be better to set extra money aside to buy nicer clothes when the time comes instead of lugging them around.
A major part of the working holiday is the work, right? There are all sorts of jobs you could have, but the most common fields when I was in Australia were hospitality and sales. I brought with me printouts of my resume (or CV) with relevant job experience to the roles I was seeking. Make sure you include contact information, whether it be an email address or your local phone number.
Even though you may be able to send digital CV’s for the different jobs, it’s very handy to have paper copies if you plan to do a bit of good old fashioned “door-knocking”; finding a printer can be a chore all its own.
You may also need additional qualifications for a certain job. I had to get a certification called the Responsible Service of Alcohol before I even applied for jobs at cafes and bars. Some places require a similar gambling certificate. If you’re a nanny, you might be required to have CPR or first aid experience. Double check before you apply for jobs.
The biggest piece of advice I can offer future working holidaymakers: bring more than money than you think you need! Visas often have a requirement of minimal funds that can be checked on arrival through statements. The amounts vary and my bank statements were never actually checked, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring only this amount.
I wish I’d saved more shortly after realizing how expensive it was to travel in Australia! You should bring enough to live off for two months or until you find a job and place to live. If it means staying home for longer and saving up, you should do it.
Mementoes from Home
Being gone for a year may make you homesick at some point, so certainly bring a few mementoes. I packed some photos of friends and family as well as instant grits, my favorite food from home. I’ve known many Aussies to travel with a tube of Vegemite! You’ll be living somewhere more than a few nights as well, so you can bring a beloved blanket or other comforts.
Staying connected is essential while you’re on a working holiday visa, so you’ll want to bring electronics with you. Bring an unlocked cell phone that you can use to pop in a local SIM card, which you’ll need in order to inquire about jobs and to arrange work hours. I also recommend bringing a laptop or netbook to document your adventures.
Last but not least are the essentials like your passport, an email confirmation of your visa (if it’s not in your passport), your ticket and printouts of your bank statements in case they check. I also upload items to a Google Drive folder or on my computer that has scans of my passport, driver’s license and credit cards.