Life Abroad

American Items to Pack when Moving Abroad

American items to pack when moving abroad

Over the past several years, I have figured out what to bring and what not to bring when we’re moving abroad for the hockey season. The first year, I was totally unprepared and had to beg my mom to mail me the items I was lacking (which she happily did because she’s the best mom ever), but it gets pretty pricey mailing packages overseas all the time. The second and third year, I completely stocked up on everything I needed. I brought so much stuff that I had tons leftover when we were ready to leave.

This year, I’m going about the packing process in a more organized way, and I’m trying to limit myself to only the absolute essentials.


This year for toiletries, I’m only bringing the things I absolutely can’t live without and couldn’t find/were way too expensive for me to buy in France.

What I’m packing:
  1. Covergirl Makeup – I haven’t found any Covergirl products in France before so I’m bringing a few tubes of my favorite mascara. I’ve used it religiously since I was in high school, so I always bring a few with me.
  2. Cherry Chapstick – Chapstick brand lip balm isn’t available in France either. It’s not that big of a deal, but since I know I usually throw and bunch in my suitcase since they don’t take up too much space. I also try to grab a few plain ones for Marc.
  3. Beauty Counter Goods – Even though they’re available in France, I find that my favorite Clinique foundation, powder and moisturizing gel are super expensive overseas. I try to stock up when my local department store is having a sale, but if not, I still grab enough bottles to last me the entire hockey season. I highly recommend bringing any department store cosmetic brands you use – think MAC, Estee Lauder, any brands from Sephora – enough to last you through your entire stay. It’s a little bit annoying to shell out all the money for it at once, but it will save you so much in the long run. I usually bring 1 large bottle of moisturizer, 2 – 3 bottles of foundation, and 1 pot of translucent powder if I don’t think I have enough to last me the entire season.
  4. Elf Blush – I started using Elf brand blush earlier this year, and I just can’t get over how cheap it is. Yes, I probably don’t need to bring this with me because I could definitely buy blush when I get there, but for $3, it’s not going to kill me to toss and extra one in my bag.
  5. Big Sexy Hair Root Pump – I can’t live without my Big Sexy Hair Root Pump, and I haven’t been able to find it in France yet. There’s a chance I could if I hunted around Paris, but I don’t want to take my chances so I always bring a few bottles with me. Plus, I have a feeling if I ever found it, it would be twice the price. I usually bring 1 bottle for every 3 months, plus 1 extra just to be safe.
  6. Nail Polish – I am obsessed with nail polish, and I have acquired quite the collection over the years, but I am only bringing essentials with me this year – probably about 6 colors and a few top coats. This year, I’m bringing my newest favorite, Vinylux.
  7. Medication – I always pack a supply of medications. Prescriptions are especially important – always bring enough to last you until you find a doctor, if not for your entire stay. But, I also pack a bottle of basics medications – Excedrin, Ibuprofen, Tylenol, etc. – because it’s comforting to know that you don’t have to deal with finding a pharmacy right away. Plus, some medications in France go buy different names and require you actually talking to a pharmacist to get them, which can easily turn complicated if you don’t know the language.
  8. Curling Iron – I bring my curling iron with me every year because I had trouble finding one to buy the first year we were there. I’ve been using it with a basic converter for 3+ years and it hasn’t been a problem. My straightener and blow dryer, on the other hand, blew up the second I plugged them in, so do yourself a favor and buy something there or invest in a really good converter (the kind with multiple wattage levels, and match the measurements to your appliance).

Grocery/Cooking Items:

As a food blogger, I really need to bring some things with me when we leave for Europe each year. Some of the items are things any food-lover might want to pack, but not all of them are necessities. This list is just an example of what you may or may not want to bring with you. Decide what’s important to you before you waste precious suitcase space.

What I’m packing:
  1. Oven Thermometer – You never know what you’re going to get when you’re renting, and some of the ovens overseas tend to be gas/propane – which means no actual temperature settings. I just started using an oven thermometer in the U.S. this summer, and I really like knowing if my oven is actually the temperature I want it to be.
  2. Measuring Cups & SpoonsMeasuring cups with American measurments are notoriously hard to find in Europe. I think in the 3 years we spent in France, I only found 1 set and I can’t remember where. Obviously, as a food blogger, I don’t want to be without these.
  3. Cupcake Liners – If you have any intention of making cupcakes while overseas, bring some with you. I don’t think I ever found ones that were the height that I’m used to here in the States. This is not a necessity, but it’s something you might find you want.
  4. Chili Powder – Chili powder, the kind with all the different chili peppers and cornstarch-y stuff that you can buy at home, isn’t something I found. I did find chili seasoning mixes, but it’s just not the familiar flavor that I wanted so I’m bringing
  5. Ranch Dressing Mix – This is something I use in a lot of recipes. I don’t necessarily use it to make dressing, but I usually bring some with me because Extra Creamy Ranch Dip seems to be quite the hit when I bring it to a get together.
  6. Cocoa Powder – I really struggle with whether or not to bring this with me, but I’ve also really struggled to find cocoa powder that worked in my chocolate recipes. So this is totally an optional bring. I might leave it behind this year, depending on how heavy my suitcase is, since I don’t baking chocolate recipes that often.
  7. Gravy Packets – These are great if you want to have a backup for your Thanksgiving dinner or if you just want to have the option of gravy once in a while. Obviously, not something you have to bring, but something that isn’t available if you need/want it.
  8. Cream of Tartar – This is something I’ve never found, and I’ve been dying to make snickerdoodles so this year, I’m bring some with me.
  9. Baking Powder & Soda – There are definitely versions of these available in France, but I’m never 100% sure they’re working properly in my recipes. To make sure my recipes will work properly for my mostly American readers, I am bringing some with me – and I intend to test out a few recipes using both to compare the results.

If I had to choose just one thing from this list, it would be the measuring cups (my second choice would be baking powder). It’s really hard to follow American recipes without these, but France/Europe has plenty of ingredients to get you by without lugging over actual groceries. And, who knows, maybe not having some of these ingredients will get your out of your comfort zone and you’ll make something totally unexpected.

Do you live abroad? What are some of the things you like to stock up on when you’re home?

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  • Reply
    Kerstin Robinson
    July 29, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Hi, I am an Army wife and also abroad a lot, currently in Germany, we are very lucky and everything you mentioned above (bar some of the make up items) we do get here in Germany in the shops, I have also lived in France and sometimes it is worth looking for the french/german names of things in advance so when you need them you have a little translations list on your phone (or piece of paper) I find that useful with cuts of meat for example. I now do not take anything with me anymore. But I do understand the make up thing, I love Clinique too, and always buy it when it is on sale or special offer too. Oh and if you love nailpolish watch out for the German (I think) brand called P2, its really nice and lasts for ever! 🙂

    • Reply
      Melissa Belanger
      July 30, 2014 at 10:04 am

      I definitely agree with keeping a translated list of ingredients when going to the grocery store in a foreign language! I even kept a little notebook in my purse before I got a smart phone. Where were you able to find some of these grocery items? I would love to know. Maybe I’ve been looking in the wrong place!

  • Reply
    Kerstin Robinson
    July 30, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    Hi! Its been a while since I’ve been in France, but I remember Baking Powder and Soda as well as Cream of Tartar being available in Carrefour.
    In Germany they are def. available and have worked really well for me in UK as well as US (Pinterest!) recipes.
    The packet sauces and dressing mix (as well as reeses pieces and pickled lemons I have bought over amazon.de (or .fr) but of course they dont weigh much so it would not be such a saving for you. And with regards to cocoa, I like to buy the Caotina one, I always buy two one dark and one milk and then mix as just milk is too sweet, it is very nice, rich and velvety.
    In Germany supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl have speciality weeks, and it is worth it to check their websites (Cheddar cheese!!) Usually one can buy pretty much anything at Edeka or Real unless you are particular about it having to be a certain brand, that is more difficult… Thankfully they have Shreddies which is all that matters to my hubby 🙂

    Loving your recipe for the extra creamy ranch dip, will make it for our next bbq!

    • Reply
      Melissa Belanger
      July 30, 2014 at 5:33 pm

      Oh yes! I have been to Lidl’s specialty weeks, but I’ve never really found anything that great. It might be because the store we had was fairly small. Who knows, maybe this year, I’ll find more stuff since we’ll be in a new city (and we’ll be closer to Germany, too, so maybe we’ll see more of the stores you mentioned)!

  • Reply
    Kerstin Robinson
    July 31, 2014 at 2:08 am

    Well if you are in Germany, best thing to do is to go to the biggest Edeka or Real, as chances to find everything you might want are best there (ok, lets face it, it wont be everything).
    But do make sure you go into a DM (Drogeriemarkt) and check out the P2 and Essence Nailpolishes, I found them better than Nails Inc. and they usually have colours similar to the latest Must Have and keep up with other trends as well.
    We are in Bielefeld, so if you are ever in our area, let me know! 🙂

  • Reply
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