Packing for university

What you do and don't need for uni

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The start of university is an important time, especially for first years. For most freshers, it’s their first experience of true freedom and independence and while it can be exciting, it can also be overwhelming. What makes the whole experience even more daunting is the thought of packing for university packing up all your stuff and hauling it across the country.

Unless you’ve moved regularly during your childhood, this will be a whole new experience for you, and when you add in the prospect of having to actually do your own washing and cook your own meals, the whole experience can be pretty scary.

To help make the move to uni as smooth as possible, we’ve put together this helpful guide with everything you need to take and how to get it there.

moving house guide

Prepare for the big pack

For the majority of you, this will be the biggest pack you would have ever had to do. This is not a week away in Magaluf you’re packing for.

To stop it all becoming too much for you to cope with, remember you’re not moving out forever here, it’s important to only take the essentials.

In a worst case scenario you’ll have to wait a few weeks for that all important book or jacket that you forgot to pack, so don’t worry about taking everything you own. If you remember this, the move will go a lot quicker and easier.

What not to take

Don’t believe us about not taking everything? Well here are 4 things you definitely don’t need when packing for university.

1. Kettle / Toaster

Two items that many students are convinced they need are a kettle and a toaster. Who doesn’t need tea and toast to survive, right? Well actually you should probably just leave them because they’re usually provided by the university and if they’re not, you can pretty much guarantee one of your new flatmates is going to ignore our advice and take one anyway.

Only the stingiest of universities won’t supply them, so it’s unlikely you’ll need one. It is however always worth checking with your university or future roomies beforehand just to confirm this.

2. Shoes

Okay so you’ll need some shoes, obviously. What we’re saying is you won’t need ALL your shoes. There won’t be a lot of storage space in your halls and trying to take 15 pairs of bulky shoes will leave you with room for very little else.

Take the 3 or 4 pairs you think you’ll need (FYI trainers are a must as you’ll be walking everywhere) and leave the rest at home. You can always pick more up or swap when you go back home for the holidays.

3. Stationary

Despite what a lot of second and third years will tell you, you will actually need to have a pen and paper at some point during your course. While this is true, it doesn’t mean you need to go and clear out the local WH Smiths before the first day, this isn’t year 7.

As long as you have the basics, you can pick things up as and when you need them, so don’t worry too much about packing everything

4. Your car

You’d need a pretty big box to pack it in, but that’s not the main reason you won’t need a car when you’re at uni. You simply won’t need it.

The cost of keeping a vehicle taxed and insured when you might only use it a few weeks a year is just not worth it. There are a few other reasons you shouldn’t take your car to uni, but you can read more about that here.

If you don’t want to take your car with you but still want to get around when you’re home for the holidays, you can get temporary insurance specifically designed for university students from Tempcover.

From 1-28 days, temporary insurance is ideal for uni students who don’t want the big expense of annual cover. You can get a quote in minutes online and could save hundreds of pounds on insurance.

Now you know some of the things you shouldn’t take to university, here are some you will actually need when packing for university.

Gadgets and electronics

Arguably the most important items to pack are the gadgets and electronics which will help you study and then inevitably distract you from actually doing any work. You’ll probably want to take a laptop, phone and headphones as a priority but beyond that, there isn’t much you actually need.

You’ll probably think about taking a TV, games console and speakers but none of these are absolute necessities and either won’t be used or will be used too much. Consider how much space you’ll have before you commit to taking half of Currys away to uni with you.

Bonus item to remember: Hair dryer


You might think that year one of university is a fashion show (and years two and three are just a case of wearing what’s clean) but it’s just not worth taking your whole wardrobe away with you, especially as you’ll have to do your own washing.

You’ll want comfy clothes that you can layer on cold mornings when you have 9 o’clock lectures. Beyond t-shirts, jumpers and jeans, you’ll want a few outfits for going out in as you want to impress during freshers week, just don’t go overboard. You’ll look ridiculous going to the library in your LBD because you haven’t brought enough sensible clothes.

Also, remember to save a bit of your student loan for fancy dress costumes, those nights are the best.

Bonus item to remember: Flip-flops


Your university bedroom will be your home for the majority of the next three years so it’s important to create a nice living environment with the often small space that is provided.

First and foremost you’ll want some clean and comfortable bedding; this begins with a fresh mattress protector because you just never know what might have happened before you got there. A couple of clean sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers are also essential to a happy time at university.

Besides bedding, you’ll need laundry bin or basket to keep the rising pile of dirty clothes at bay, hangers for your clothes as most universities won’t provide them and a couple of storage boxes to keep all those bits and bobs you can’t put in draws or in a wardrobe.

Finally, to make things a bit more homely you should definitely take some pictures of friends and family and little ornaments that remind you of home. Don’t go over the top and pack up half your childhood but a few mementoes can turn a pretty soulless box room into something more pleasant and comfortable.

Bonus item to remember: A warm blanket


With a small en-suite bathroom all that’s likely to be available, you won’t need much in terms of wash stuff. While you can take as much or as little shampoo, shower gel, make-up and smellies are you feel comfortable with; there are some essentials every student needs:

  • Hand towel and large towel
  • First Aid kit
  • Medicine box with plenty of paracetamol
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Washbag
  • Deodorant
  • Nail clippers/scissors

Bonus item to remember: Condoms


Most of the larger kitchen items will be taken care of, you should still pack some things just for yourself. Cooking and eating around strangers can be quite intimidating to start off so having your own stuff will make it a lot easier in the beginning.

Here’s a list of the kitchen items you should probably pack when heading off to uni for the first time:

  • A few plates & bowls
  • Cutlery
  • Wok
  • Saucepan
  • A couple of mugs and glasses
  • Baking trays
  • Oven gloves
  • Tea towels
  • Cheese grater
  • Tin / bottle opener
  • Peeler

You will also need some cleaning items, washing up liquid, sponges, J clothes etc. but these can easily be bought once you’re there, preferably with your other flatmates chipping in.

Bonus item to remember: Tupperware or other food storage container.

Documents / paperwork

Most of your university documents and paperwork will be done online but you should always have a small folder of documents that you’ll need in an emergency.

To prove you’re where you’re supposed to be, make sure you take your university admissions letter and any information you were sent around accommodation. Sure you won’t need these on a day to day basis but you’ll be glad you bought them if something comes up.

You should also take any paperwork you received from Student Finance in case there are problems with payments because you don’t want to be stuck without any cash.

On the subject of money, you should keep your bank details with you in a document folder. It may sound like lots of paperwork but one small folder can be a real lifesaver.

Bonus item to remember: Passport or driving licence

The journey

So there you have it, everything you need to know about packing for university. Now that everything is packed and ready to go, you could face a big problem.

Even if you’ve followed our advice and packed relatively light, you might find that your parent’s car isn’t quite big enough to fit everything you need in.

Motorways and motorway service stations packed full of crammed cars and kids buried under boxes and boxes of clothes, gadgets and food parcels are a common sight in the weeks leading up to the start of term.

As many people underestimate how much stuff they’re taking, they’re often left having to either leave things behind or make multiple trips.

One way to guarantee that everything fits in one go is to borrow a larger car or a van from a friend or family member. With more space, the whole process is a lot quicker and easier.

To make things even easier, you can get one day van insurance from Tempcover is just a couple of minutes. Getting a quote is simple and straightforward and you get access to a range of affordable extras including roadside breakdown assistance.

For those one of occasions, short term cover is perfect and with comprehensive cover for the driver and no risk to the No Claims Discount of the van owner, everyone gets complete peace of mind during the stressful move.

However you get your belongings to university, this is the start of a wonderful adventure; let’s just hope you’ve packed properly!

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