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How to Pack When You’re Au Pairing

how to pack for au pairing abroad

As I personally have never worked as an au pair, we’ve recruited Emily Stocking to prepare some packing list tips for the au pair. See all our packing list posts here.

Compared with the endeavor of deciding on a host family and obtaining a visa, packing for your au pair trip is actually fairly simple. In fact, in some ways I think it’s easier than packing for a long backpacking trip because you don’t have to worry about carrying it all on your back. Unlike a study abroad trip, you’re living with a family who is most likely happy to share with you. You should of course talk with your host family, but while I was abroad I ended up borrowing things like towels, an umbrella, a hair dryer, a picnic blanket, a picnic basket, a laundry bag and flu medicine. Here are a few ways things to keep in mind while packing.

Luggage:

There’s really no need to bring a huge backpack unless you find it easier than a suitcase with wheels. A weekend bag which is big enough for a change of clothes and toiletries, but small enough to look like a purse and can be comfortably carried around all day is very handy, since most of your trips will be over the weekend. Another great piece of luggage is a foldable duffle bag, keep it packed on the way there, and then use it on the way home for souvenirs and gifts.

Clothes:

You will probably end up buying clothes while you’re abroad. If you live somewhere for an entire year, it’s inevitable. With that in mind, bring some of your older clothes. That way, when it comes time to pack your bags to go back home, you can drop off some at a donation center without regret. It’s also important to bring older clothes because for at least part of your day you’ll be with kids and whether it’s feeding an infant, painting with a preschooler or playing soccer with preteens, it’s nice to have clothes you don’t care about. Check with your host family to see if there is anything they keep for au pairs. Often times families in cold areas will have a few extra coats they keep for their au pairs, and that can spare you a lot of luggage room.

Toiletries:

Theres no need to bring a lot of toiletries with you, the only exception is if you have a certain product that you absolutely love and are unsure if it’s sold in the country you’re moving to. You should bring enough to get you through the first week, but part of the fun of living someone new is going shopping. Maybe you’ll discover some new favorites. Curling irons, straighteners, and blow dryers should be left at home, too. They’re heavy, take up a lot of room, and have different electrical plugs and voltage. Often times the past au pair will leave hers.

Entertainment:

Unlike a 2 week backpacking trip, you’ll have some down time, and want to enjoy the things you did back home. That’s why I suggest that everyone who au pairs brings at least one hobby from home with them. Whether it’s your paints and paintbrushes or your rock climbing shoes, bring along something you love to do at home, especially if it involves equipment that can’t be bought cheaply.

Electronics:

If you have a laptop, I would recommend bringing it. Even if the family does have a computer you can use, it is nice to be able to have the privacy to skype in your own bedroom or not have to worry about who’s turn it is next to use the computer. Also, e-readers are a great resource, especially if you’re living in a smaller city that may not have as many English language books. It’s a great way to fend off homesickness and maybe even bond with your new family.

Photos:

It’s nice to bring some items to make your new bedroom feel like home. I printed out a photo of my family before I left that I kept on my mirror and I loved looking at it every morning when I woke up. Photos are nice because they’re lightweight and pack easily. It’s also nice if you’re host children are curious about your friends or family. You may also want to bring some photos to share of the city you’re from or points of interest nearby, especially if you’re from an area that is not very well known globally.

Gifts:

It’s always nice to bring a gift to your host family. It might be hard to decide on something for the parents, but children are generally easy to buy for. If they are learning English, you can bring them an English book (if you know their level), or a game that involves reading or writing or speaking English, or you can bring them a souvenir from your hometown. It’s also nice to bring along some recipes that you can share with the family, and perhaps they can teach you how to make some of their favorite dishes as well.

Au pairing is fun, challenging, exciting, and at times frustrating, but the most important things you can bring along with you are an open mind and a giving heart.

About the author: Emily is a California native who has au paired in both Rome and London, and though her au pair days are over, her travel days have just begun. She currently resides two adorable kitties in New York City where she gets to meet people from all over the world and plan her next adventure.

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Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Kaitlyn says

    Hey this is a great post! I have been looking into doing this while in Australia and getting a “host” family set up before I go. I have just a few questions if you don’t mind answering them for me?  I read on most sites that they want you to have done a babysitting course (I have not done that), have updated first aid (I have a old one) and have your full drivers licence G (I’m working on getting my G2). And they want people you have baby sit for info to talk to them. But I have only baby sit my two sister’s kids I mean have baby sit others peoples kids but not since high school so a few years ago. So do I really have to go baby sit again to get new people on my list? And any other info you think I should know please tell me. One last thing what sites did you use and did you have to pay to join them? Online like every site I would have to pay to join.

    • The Irie Explorer says

      Hi Kaitlyn,

      I’m not associated with Her Packing List, but since I’ve au paired in Australia before I feel like I can answer some of your questions…

      When I was hired as an au pair, I had never (and still haven’t) completed a babysitting course or first aid course. I do have my full drivers license, but there are a lot of families that don’t require their au pair to drive, so just because you don’t have a license doesn’t mean you can’t au pair. I worked for two families in Melbourne and the first one required me to drive but the second one didn’t.

      As for babysitting experience, I babysat a lot when I was 12-16 but completely stopped after that. I applied to be an au pair when I was 23, so this meant I hadn’t babysit regularly for anyone in over 7 years. This didn’t seem to matter very much to most of the families I interviewed with however. As long as you have an interest in children and an understanding of the care required for them, that seems to be enough. If you want to babysit for more practice, then by all means do so. But I wouldn’t say it is required.

      As to which au pair sites to use to find host families… I used Au Pair World ( www . aupair-world . net ) which is a free site and is very reliable for finding good families. I’ve had success with it and many other au pairs I know have found great families that way.

      If you want more information, I’ve written a few articles about au pairing on my site The Irie Explorer ( www . theirieexplorer . wordpress . com ) if you’re interested in learning more.

      All the best,
      Liane xx

  2. Kara says

    I’m getting to ready to leave to au pair in Australia in mid-August, and all the ex-pat blogs recommend bringing toiletries, in addition to high priced items. One example, a current American au pair from a host family I’m talking to waited to buy sneakers in Australia. She paid $250 for shoes that would be $80 in the US. I read the mark-up on make-up and other toiletries is about double so I was going to bring extra for my time with the host family. Since I’m traveling for a few months after being an au pair, I’m bringing a cheap duffle full of extra toiletries, old clothes and host gifts. Then I’ll get rid of my old clothes and duffle so I can use my backpack for traveling.

    • Brooke says

      Kara – you are reading right. The cost of clothing and make-up and such in Australia is way higher than in the US, so I think you have a good plan here with the extra duffle/toiletries 🙂

  3. Hallie says

    Hi Emily!

    Thanks for the helpful info. I am wondering, how were you able to au pair in London as an American? I’ve heard that we can’t because it’s meant to be a cultural exchange where you learn the language. I would love to go to London!

    Thanks,
    Hallie

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