The Do's and Don'ts of Packing for College

As a now incoming sophomore in college, I wanted to open up a conversation and offer my advice on navigating the daunting task of what to bring with you as you go off to college for the first time. I definitely was an over-packer the first time around, and will be scaling back a lot this year. To note, I would also consider how far from home you will be going. For me, I went across the country from Phoenix to Boston, so if you are going to be closer (driving distance) you will likely have more flexibility.

Here are some of my tips!

-Don’t bring your whole closet. I am guilty of this, and I ended up having to ship clothes home that I didn’t end up wearing or that were out of season a couple times throughout the year.
-Focus on bringing comfy, casual, and athletic wear because that will be what you likely wear on a daily basis.
-Bring weather appropriate clothes for where you are going (puffer jacket, rain coat, boots, etc).
-Try to bring soft duffle bag style luggage over hard suitcases as it will be much easier to store.
-I recommend getting some sort of mini vacuum or swiffer as well as Clorox wipes to help deal with all the dust that will accumulate.
-Paper products over reusable ones (plates, utensils, cups), although not as environmentally friendly, constantly doing dishes when living in a dorm room becomes unrealistic for many.
-Pack a first aid/medicine kit! You will be around so many germs so it was super nice to have an organized kit where I knew I could find what I needed.
-Get a rug - even if your dorm is carpeted, the floors are usually gross and it makes it more homey.
-Rent/buy a fridge and microwave. You can make a decent amount of meals and snacks which I found to be super convenient.
-Bring shower shoes, no question.
-Also, bring a dish drying mat to sit your shower shoes and shower caddy on to dry as it avoids making the floor gross.
-Get a fan if you don’t have AC, even in cold states/winter months, the dorms get super stuffy
-Avoid bringing a million stuffed animals and pillows, they will end up on the floor.
-Get sturdy wall hooks for hanging towels, robe, jackets, etc.
-Buy a mattress topper and get comfy bedding. Having a comfortable bed honestly makes a big difference.
-Don’t worry about making ice in your dorm room or buying an ice maker, just get ice from your campus dining hall - it’s much less of a hassle.
-Depending on the school, I’d say a Brita water filter isn’t really necessary. Many schools have water bottle refilling stations that are convenient to use.
-If you are moving farther from home, I also recommend looking into moving companies that allow you to ship some of your things before moving and they will then deliver your things directly to your dorm room for your move-in day.
-I also shipped some items from Amazon, Target, etc to the hotel I was staying at before moving in so that I had less stuff to haul with me.
-Remember that whatever you bring into your dorm also has to come out at the end of the year!

I hope that this helps, and please feel free to reach out to me with any questions as well!


Great ideas!

My kids say…Less is More when it comes to dorm rooms and your stuff.

My kid’s free advice…put everything you think you need in one room (probably your living room). Then take only half of what is there. You will probably only use half of what you take.


I got DD something like this. Not only did it allow her to do dishes and have a small cutting board, it was also good for doing small amounts of hand wash only laundry and just generally carry a few thing to and from the kitchen or bathroom

DS really likes having a doormat to keep the mud and grit off the floor.

Check with your school. DS goes to CSU and there is a non-profit that collects items that kids don’t want to take home at the end of the year to keep them out of landfills and then resells them at decent prices. As we are flying out and only taking clothes, he was able to get a rolling cart, under bed storage, hangers, a fan and a mirror. They will hold it for him and deliver when we get there.


Best thing (according to our kids) we bought was a cushion for the wooden desk chair in their room.


Instead of a $70 chair for extra seating my son is going with a $8 lawn chair from walmart. He can fold up and toss under his bed when not in use or it carries easily to the quad for hanging out.

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The tips you provided are indeed useful.
When I was packing for college, I was so worried because I was going to another state, and took too many things with me. It’s good that my parents helped me with all the stuff, but I had to give up on some things because there was literary no place where put it all. It’s about clothes, some decor things ( yes, I took it all too ).
And also, I’d recommend to wait for the roommate (if you will have one, depends on where you’ll live) and see what else is needed. For example, we bought some things for the room together, and it’s good for saving some money too.

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My daughter is not a light packer so while I think that’s great advice, we didn’t follow it.

My first piece of advice, especially if you are going far from home, is to plan to buy a lot of your stuff once you get to your college town, if that’s feasible (if there are stores available) so you don’t have to travel with everything.

We flew Southwest so we had 2 free bags each so we packed clothes, shoes, bedding/towels, and stuff that HAD to come from home (or she absolutely couldn’t live without for a few days if the local store was sold out). We loved the Samsonite Tote a Ton bags. They are HUGE and hold up well to airline travel. They are a little big of a pain to lug around but we usually stack one on top of a suitcase to roll around the airport until it’s checked in. Because they are so lightweight you can fit a lot in. We usually put shoes (which are heavy and awkward and bedding and other soft clothes) in ours. My husband and I left my daughter with a suitcase for visits home and took the empties back with us.

We had done some shopping online and ordered things to pick up in store when we got there (fridge at Home Depot, desk lamp at Target, something at Container Store). But we also did a big shopping trip at Target for laundry stuff, snacks, school supplies, etc.

My second piece of advice - as long as you have something to wear, something to sleep on, and shower supplies - remember you’ll survive for a few days if you forget something or have to order something. Thanks to Amazon, Doordash, and other delivery services it’s super easy to get things quickly. It’s fine if you don’t have everything the second you step on campus.


My son is a sparse packer yet somehow it still fills the back of my Pilot (baseball equipment takes up a lot of room). We never worry about not having something he needs because Amazon will take care of us.

I’m just laughing because I’m thinking of what I took to college. Just about everything. And it was before SUVs and flat-screen TVs. I fit everything I owned and a bulky TV into the trunk of my dad’s Mercury Marquis. It probably held more than a midsized SUV. :rofl:


Whoa - kiddo and I are minimalists when it comes to S23 bringing stuff to college but that is going on my list NOW; kiddo is a string bean and gets uncomfortable super fast in a hard chair - I never would have thought of this - thank you!


All great tips and agree with each one.

There are a million dorm room lists out there, so I won’t add tons of extra info.
If you have room in the car, or want to just send it to your college, I HIGHLY recommend a folding laundry rack.

Both of my kids found them extremely useful for a bunch of reasons.

  • saves money on the dryer!
  • saves time having to run to and from the dryer!
  • less chance of forgetting clothes in the washing machine because dryers are full, and then get mildewy and have to be washed again.
  • if you want to just wash an item or two in the sink because the washing machines are full, you’ve got a handy place to dry them.
  • is a great place to throw your bath towel or sweaty gym clothes.
  • easily folds away to slip under or behind the bed, or in the closet.
  • if the closet is full or you’re out of hangers, good way to keep clothes wrinkle-free for a special event.
  • environmentally friendly.
  • can use them at home.


You may want to pack some of your things in plastic or canvas bins that fit under the bed. You’ll use the bins for out of season/less used items, and it’ll give you a clear idea of how much room you really have.

Remember that you can swap stuff out when you go home. It’s also a good discipline for not accumulating too much. Many kids found acquiring clothing with the school logo easier than doing laundry. (Often, these were give-aways at certain events, but it certainly piled up!)


The one idea I found here that isn’t often listed is the doormat for the dorm. Such a great idea, especially if your kid is headed to a place with not the most ideal climate.

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One of the best tips we got was to pack a door stopper in a very accessible place - like the outside pocket of a carry-on or your purse - to hold the door open as you move in. It can be left behind so that the door can be kept open as an invitation for folks walking by to drop in and say hi.


Some colleges actually don’t allow these…but they aren’t very costly so get one and see.

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The $5 is worth it for move in alone. Bring a few and make some friends.