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Find out what to bring with you and what to buy once you land in the U.S.

Packing for your trip to the United States can seem overwhelming. You want to bring all of the comforts of home, but you only have so much space in your bags. This college shopping checklist will help you plan the dorm room essentials you should buy when you arrive, so you know how to budget for essential items in the United States.

Leave bulky items and other things that are difficult to pack off your college packing checklist. They can be purchased in the United States. You’ll save room in your luggage, and get the chance to find styles, designs and products you might not have in your home country.

Bulky items

Cold weather gear Coats, boots and other cold weather gear can be bulky and difficult to pack. Plus, if you are moving from a warmer climate, it may be difficult to find the right garments. Wait until you arrive in the United States and shop for cold weather gear appropriate to the region.

Outdoor equipment Bicycles, surf boards and sporting equipment are fun to have, but may be difficult to transport. In most areas of the United States you will be able to buy or rent any outdoor equipment appropriate to the environment.

Bedding Pillows, blankets and sheets can take up a lot of space in your luggage. Plus, beds in the United States may not be the same size as those at home. Some dorms have beds that require sheets that are a few inches longer than the standard twin. Purchase these things when you get to the U.S. to find the perfect fit.

Towels Leave bulky towels and face cloths off of your college packing checklist. You can easily purchase them when you arrive.


Even if you could bring enough toiletries to last through the entire school year, there’s no need to do so. Shampoo, soap and other essentials are easy to find in most stores. Plus, if you buy them after you arrive you won’t have to worry about liquids spilling or bursting in your luggage. Add the following items to your dorm room shopping checklist once you arrive in the U.S.

• Shampoo
• Conditioner
• Soap or body wash
• Lotion
• Sunscreen
• Toothpaste
• Shaving cream
• Razors
• Feminine hygiene products
• Makeup
• Nail polish and remover

Household items

Lighting Some dorm rooms and apartments have overhead lights, but you may want a desk lamp or other accent lighting.

Organizational items Purchase organizational and storage items only after you see how much space you have to work with. Some dorms and apartments are large and have plenty of storage space. Others are smaller, and require some creativity.

Picture frames You may want to display photos of friends and family. Avoid broken glass in your luggage and leave the frames at home. You can buy new ones at a home decor store when you arrive.

Rugs, curtains and other decor You can purchase functional and fun decorating items at retailers like Wal-Mart or Target, or shop online at for a bigger selection. Either way, there’s no need to pack these items.

Cooking equipment Depending on your living situation you may need cooking equipment like pots and pans, knives and utensils. These are only necessary if you live in an apartment with a stove or oven.

Coffee maker If you live in a dorm, check with your resident advisor to find out whether you’re allowed to have a coffee maker in your room. Some dorms prohibit coffee makers and other small appliances that could cause a fire hazard.

Cups and dishes Dishware is often made of ceramic or glass, putting it at high risk of breaking in your luggage. Avoid the risk by picking out inexpensive but stylish dishware at stores in the United States.

Kitchen & cleaning supplies These items are cheap and easy to find in stores in the U.S. Free up some space in your luggage by adding the following to your back to school shopping checklist once you arrive in the U.S.:

• Dishware trash bags
• Trash can
• Paper towels
• Toilet paper
• Cleaning supplies
• Laundry detergent
• Laundry basket

School supplies

Printer Your college will almost certainly have printing facilities available to students. If you want a printer in your room, it’s better to buy one in the US to avoid damages during shipping.

Other school supplies you can shop for when you get to the U.S. are:

• Paper
• Ink
• Notebooks
• Index cards
• Power strips
• Tape
• Scissors
• Ruler
• Stapler

Where to shop

You can do most of your back to school shopping from your campus store, or for a wider selection, check out local department stores and online shopping sites such as:

• Wal-Mart
• Target
• Dollar Tree or Dollar General
• Amazon
• Wayfair
• Overstock


Have more questions about how to prepare for your arrival in the U.S.? Contact a U.S. News Global Education advisor.