Packing for university: your essentials checklist

Before you prepare to wave goodbye to your teen and load the car up with everything including the kitchen sink, take a look at our list of necessities and handy extras - and get some top tips from experienced Mumsnetters.


Self-catered essentials

A lot of self-catered halls come with a small kitchen, so students can rustle up food out of canteen hours (never underestimate the midnight munchies). These kitchens are often minimally equipped, however - think hob, microwave, toaster and kettle - so it's worth bringing some essentials.

Once your child has a place confirmed, check the university website to see what's provided, or look at Facebook groups for specific halls to find out what everyone else will be bringing.

Things can always be bought once they're there, so don't worry too much - as one Mumsnetter wisely says: "I don't think lack of kitchen utensils has killed any students yet."

How much stuff do they actually need?

"If your DD/DS only has one plate, one cup and one dish they will have to wash it after they've used it. And I would strongly suggest buying cheap ones in a bright colour or pattern so they know it's theirs." Mimisunshine

"Assume that they will need basic things for personal use and then maybe try to think of a few items that others may not. Everyone will take at least a plate, saucepan, some cutlery etc. Most 18-year-olds won't think about tea towels though!" Bauertime

Top tip: "To anyone buying pans, consider getting ones suitable for induction hobs as some student kitchens have these. They are not necessarily any more expensive than non-induction pans and can then be used on any type of hob." Frogsinapond

Comfort food

Most edibles will be easier to buy there, but it's handy to have some basics to stock the cupboard - plus some naice things (biscuits, cake, wine) to share with new flatmates.

"Take a ready meal for the first night as no one will want to cook." Ffluffy

"Actually teaching them how to make three dishes well will stand them in good stead and make them popular. It's good if they can rustle up a spaghetti bolognaise, stir fry and cheat's risotto. Oh and cottage pie is good too." ColdCottage


It's worth knowing in advance if your teen is lucky enough to have an en-suite or will be facing the perils joys of a communal bathroom. 

If the latter, flip flops come in handy for the hygiene conscious (at least for the first, trepidatious weeks) and a wash bag or shower hanger is essential for transporting toiletries back and forth. It's also always useful to have a spare loo roll in your supplies.



It's worth having a look at the setup of the room on the university website/prospectus to get an idea of the kind of things they'll need, and how much there'll be room for, but you'll definitely require bedding - make sure you know if the room has a single or double bed.

"The mattresses at DD's uni had a plastic cover on so a mattress cover was the most essential thing of all, to make it a bit less sweaty and uncomfortable." Follyfoot

"Pack more than one set of sheets or they will never change them." ColdCottage

Clothes and (hopefully) laundry 

Think about the local climate where they're headed - if your teenager is relocating from Truro to Inverness, for example, they'd be well advised to stock up on the woolly jumpers and thick socks... Showing them how to work a washing machine before they go will also be very useful.

"They will probably have a much smaller wardrobe etc than they have at home, so it's important to be brutal with things like clothes and shoes." SlowlorisIncognito

"There seem to be many opportunities for fancy dress, so take a few adaptable bits if you have them: masks, school ties and shirts for the freshers' disco, swimmers for beach party etc." freshorangeforDD

"One thing I recall from halls is needing a small, fold-away drying rack for clothes. The dryers in the basement were frequently not working and some clothes are best not being shoved in a dryer anyway." Spirael

Home comforts

It's nice to have a few personal items to make their identikit room feel a bit more individual. Freshers fairs will typically sell posters and pot plants, but a few small home furnishings will also make a big difference.

"We made up a silly welcome pack with condoms, energy sweets, an emergency pair of pants saying 'If you need these you need to do your washing', paper plates with 'If you need these you need to wash up' and a framed £20 note with hammer saying 'In case of emergency break glass' for his wall." fussychica


Other handy/miscellaneous items

There are many bits and pieces which it may not occur to you to pack, but which are guaranteed to come in handy at some point - things like a sewing kit and blue tack. Even if your child doesn't use all of them, they may be someone else's saving grace. 

Also on the must-pack list, but not necessarily front of your mind, are a first aid kit, chargers for all their electricals, an extension lead and a few passport-sized photos - often needed for student cards/signing up to societies.

"A folding stool, flat top (used as a bedside table, extra chair, stepladder) cost about £10 but is still in use today (seven years on)." Waitfornothing

Getting stuff from home to halls

"The blue Ikea bags are useful for moving in/out - they can be dragged anywhere." BertieBotts

"Whatever you buy, don't spend a lot of money. Buy everything from value ranges; they might be a bit more careless with it, but stuff will get broken regardless - usually by flatmates who apologise but don't replace - and it's less likely to get nicked/borrowed on a permanent basis and cheaper to replace if it does go missing." Clarabell33

"I think the general view should be that 'less is more'. If you're struggling to fit everything you're taking into a family car, then you've got too much stuff, because it probably won't fit in the room at the other end, either." SlowlorisIncognito  

Download our checklist for all the stuff you need to pack

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Last updated: 10 months ago