Packing for university: your essentials checklist

student moving into uni

Sending your teenager off to university is an undeniably daunting prospect - and that's before you consider the packing. Before you load the car with everything including the kitchen sink, take a look at our list of necessities and handy extras.

Some universities optimistically provide an ironing board, while others don't even offer a kettle. A lot will also depend on whether your teen is going into catered or self-catered accommodation. Once they've a place confirmed, check the university website to see what's included. 


 Kitchen | Bedroom | Clothes and laundry | Bathroom | Miscellaneous | Home comforts



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.

"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! Try not to worry about making sure they have everything. I don't think lack of kitchen utensils has killed any students yet." Bauertime
  • Mugs and glasses (plastic ones are best to avoid breakages)
  • Cutlery - fork, knife, spoon and tea spoon
  • Crockery - plates, bowls
  • Plastic boxes/tupperware (for freezing, microwaving, storage)
  • Cooking implements - wooden spoon, spatula, tongs, saucepan and frying pan, sharp knives, chopping board
  • Tin opener
  • Bottle opener/corkscrew
  • Tea towel
  • Kitchen roll
  • cooking utensils in jugWashing up liquid plus sponges/cloths

Some experienced parents argue it's best to have just one set of cutlery/crockery, but it can be handy to take a couple of spares in case of breakages, or if a friend comes to visit.

"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


Other useful kitchen items

If your teenager is likely to venture beyond the ubiquitous beans on toast, some of these items may come in handy.

  • Wok (cooks everything)
  • "A small George Foreman grill was invaluable when my son was in halls. I don't think he ever actually cooked in anything else." Peanutbutterandoreos
  • Oven tray
  • Sieve/colander
  • Grill/toastie maker
  • Peeler
  • Cheese grater
  • Measuring jug
  • Mixing bowl
  • Oven gloves
  • Tin foil/cling film and sandwich/freezer bags
  • (Cheap) wine and shot glasses (packs of plastic coloured ones are great)

Things to buy when you get there

If the following things aren't already supplied by the halls of residence, check flatmates haven't already got them or club together and buy to share.

"There will probably be a Facebook group for their accommodation block so they can talk to their new flatmates and discuss what to take." Follyfoot

"Wait and see what the setup is. Most people are happy to share everything, but I have been in flats where everything is labelled/separate cupboards and everyone just uses their own stuff." Commsgirl
  • Kettle
  • Toaster
  • Iron
  • Set of pans

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

"I would advise bringing your own kettle, and perhaps a mini fridge depending on how strict they are. When the kitchen has been wrecked from the night before, it's a small mercy to be able to make your own tea in your room without tip toeing over the destruction." TheAwfulDaughter

NOTE: check accomodation rules - for health and safety reasons, some halls do not allow kitchen electricals in bedrooms.



Most things will be easier to buy when you get there, but it's handy to have some basics to stock the cupboard.

  • Tea bags
  • Instant noodles
  • Dried pasta and some jars of sauce
  • Tins of food, eg tuna
  • "Take a ready meal for the first night as no one will want to cook." Ffluffy
  • A few ready meals to put in the freezer
  • Salt and pepper/herbs to make meals more flavoursome
  • Oil
  • Tea/wine/cake (to make friends with new flatmates on arrival)

"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 having a look at the set-up 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:

"Pack more than one set of sheets or they will never change them." ColdCottage
  • Duvet
  • Pillows
  • Bed sheet and pillow cases
  • Blanket/throw (especially for up north!)
  • sheets and pillowsMattress protector 

NOTE: 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 [mattress cover] was the most essential thing of all, to make it a bit less sweaty and uncomfortable" Follyfoot


Clothes and 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 ...

"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 freshers' disco, swimmers for beach party etc" freshorangeforDD

Other essentials

    laundry basket
  • Hangers
  • Washing basket/laundry bin or large bag 

"The blue ikea bags work really well - they can drag them anywhere. Also useful for moving in/out." BertieBotts

  • Washing powder and fabric softener
  • Fold-away airer/drying rack
  • Mini ironing board

"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



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

  • Towels
  • Bath mat
  • towelsToiletries - toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, soap etc
  • Wash bag/shower hanger (these are particularly handy if using a communal bathroom to carry shampoo, soap etc to the shower)
  • Flip flops - for the hygiene-concerned using communal bathrooms
  • Loo roll (sometimes provided, but better - far better - safe than sorry)
  • Toilet brush

Other handy/miscellaneous items

The bits and pieces which it may not occur to you to pack, but which are guaranteed to come in handy at some point. Even if your child doesn't use all of them, they may be someone else's saving grace.

  • Laptop/computer (as well as, hopefully, being used for work, this can double as a TV using On Demand apps - but be aware of TV licensing for watching live programming)
  • Chargers for all their electricals
  • Extension lead (old buildings; often too few sockets)
  • first aid kitUSB memory sticks
  • Stationery – pens, folders for work, paper etc
  • Alarm clock
  • Bedside/desk lamp
  • Small bin for room (sometimes provided)
  • Disposable anti-bac cleaning wipes (the easiest way to clean)
  • Febreeze spray/air freshener (covers a multitude of sins)
  • Decent-sized bag for taking things to lectures/library
  • Sewing kit, scissors and safety pins (handy for quick fixes and fancy dress)
  • Lighter (useful if using gas cooker and the ignition breaks)
  • First aid kit
  • Rape alarm
  • A few passport-sized photos (sometimes needed for student cards/signing up to societies)
  • Emergency pay-as-you-go phone (in case usual phone gets lost/broken)

"A folding stool, flat top (used as a bedside table, extra chair, stepladder) cost about £10 but still in use today (7 years on)" Waitfornothing


Home comforts

  • pinboardPhotos of friends/family and posters to decorate room (a lot of freshers' fairs have a poster stall, so they can also buy these once they're there)
  • Pins (if the room has a pin-board) or blue tack to put up photos, timetables etc
  • Extra cushions for bed
  • Hot water bottle (comforting and good to keep warm if they're saving money on heating)
  • Door stop (good to have an open door policy in first few weeks - great way to make new friends)
  • Printer, paper and ink cartridges (not essential, as work can be saved on USB or sent to print off at library/print services, but handy for meeting deadlines at the last minute)
  • Speakers for music
  • Playing cards
  • Sleeping bag – handy for when friends come to visit

"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


Car full of things

Other useful tips

"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 




Last updated: about 1 month ago