The ultimate packing list for boarding school has been one of our most popular blog posts since it was first published in early 2017. It’s now 2024, and things are always changing so we’re updating again. We know this list is useful to families because it’s based on the real-life experiences of families who have gone before.
Boarding schools do their best to make the boarding house feel like a home away from home, but it’s often the little things that mean something only to your child that make the real difference.
Schools provide great, comprehensive packing lists of all the essentials required but we’ve put together a list of other, more personal items that will make your child’s start to school that little bit easier. There’s still time to grab that favourite item!
Boarding School Packing Essentials
- Overnight bag – for weekend trips out of the boarding house.
- Beach towel for the pool or beach excursions
- 2 x underwear bags – so your underwear doesn’t end up lost in the mysterious vortex called Boarding School Laundry (absolutely essential). Some schools will supply these through their clothing shop.
- Padlocks with a number combination lock
- Plastic tub with a name on it for storing food, personal items etc.
- Having a torch is useful for when phones are unavailable.
- Clock radio or travel alarm to help get you up in the morning. Many schools take phones away from children at bedtime so it’s not a great idea to rely on a phone.
- Spare phone/iPad charger cord/power pack for when they go ‘missing’.
- Double adaptor/ power board – often boarding houses are old so there are only one or two power points to share between many.
- Dressing gown – lightweight or a snuggly sloppy joe for colder months and trips to the bathroom.
- Permanent marker to write your name on your clothes for when sewing on labels becomes a lost art.
- Sewing kit for emergencies – replacement buttons, dropped hems etc.
- Spare labels like Stuck on Your Labels for naming clothing items.
Some other great ideas that could be included with ‘essential items’ :
- Bathroom caddy – particularly for the child who likes to see their face wash, body wash, shampoo etc. and one with drainage holes. No soap!
- Plastic box for period essentials – lock up tool box
- Don’t overpack casual clothes – won’t wear them and they get lost ! Particularly the good ones.
- Thongs for the showers / pool deck
- Lock up tool box for personal items / treasures.
- Desk top fan !!!!
- Hanging hooks for over cupboard doors – hang ties, belts, hats, towels
- Hook or loop on the toiletry bag can hang on hook inside locker or cupboard
- Shoe hangar for locker or wardrobe (Howards Storage) or for undies / socks
- Ear plugs….. snorers start young !
- Photo Album for under the bed – private and can interchange photos that are on the wall
- Saved contact list in their phones of essential family and friends who they may contact if they get stuck somewhere.
Tag all power appliances or check to see if the school provides this service – including hairdryers/straighteners, phone/laptop chargers, personal fans etc.
Mementos of home
- Bring your own pillow and doona cover from home, if you’re allowed, or a favourite snuggle blanket.
- A favourite soft toy – useful for hugging when feeling homesick.
- Favourite photos of your family, including pets, friends and of home.
- A favourite coffee mug.
- Blu-tac for putting photos/posters on/in wardrobes or walls
- Pillow case from home with a familiar fragrance on it
- Local rugby club jersey or favourite NRL jersey / cap – strikes up a conversation
- Fairy lights or bunting to personalise their area
For fun or quieter moments
- Notebook or diary for writing in those quieter, reflective moments.
- Portable bluetooth speaker for dorm parties, study music (with headphones or earbuds), and to help with getting going in the morning. You can buy these for as little as $20-$30 at Officeworks.
- Earbuds or headphones – a headphone splitter can be handy when sharing music quietly amongst friends.
- A good book or magazine to be shared or swapped.
- Playing cards or Uno, or a small board game
- Football, soccer ball, tennis balls, basketball for some outdoor time on those quieter weekends in. Some schools may also allow pushbikes and scooters, but check with your school first. And helmets are always a must.
- Ugg boots for hanging out around the boarding house
- Face/hair mask, hand cream or the like for ‘pampering’ weekends in.
Remember to label EVERYTHING!
The Ultimate ‘ToolKit’ for Mum & Dad to keep in the car for weekend visits:
- Laundry Marker
- Liquid Paper Pen for dark items
- Stuck on You Label Stamp
- Small sewing kit
- Dymo label machine for the extra organised parent !
- Permanent Marker for the last minute text books
- Extra sew on labels for those that do that
The Ultimate Bag to Take to Boarding School
The days of lugging around those massive suitcases …. consider them over. They’re heavy, cumbersome and they inevitably get damaged on the bus or the train. The best recommendation that we received for our updated packing list is to purchase a wheelie kit bag – you know the soft bags with flat open zip across the top, a handle to drag it around and wheels on the bottom side. You’ll see them at rugby games, motocross, cricket… they’re like the tardis, you’ll keep unpacking and unpacking they can fit so much in them. If you google ‘wheelie kit bag’ you’ll find plenty of examples.
The Final Touches
You can add to the experience by sending ‘care packages’ in the mail, including food top-ups, special treats, toiletries that have been forgotten, and little notes of love from home. They’re highly anticipated and bring great excitement when received.
Regular written correspondence via email with your son or daughter is also important for a number of reasons. It provides a record of what’s happening at home for them and a record of what’s happening at school for you. It also encourages them to write. Text messages and calls from mobiles will most often be the most regular method of communication but emails and even snail mail letters or cards are also greatly appreciated. A great time to send cards is when you sense your child is feeling down – so something hopeful or aspirational, at exam time – good luck and thinking of you cards, or just anytime.
This ultimate packing list for boarding school are suggestions only, not instructions, so if you have any other ideas for boys or girls, please share them with us. It’s always helpful to find out what works for other families.
Listen to our Destination Boarding Summer Series “Nailing Homesickness“