What Should I Bring to College 2023 Edition

Hi! We’re moving our son from Texas to Oregon for school in the fall. We will be flying SW. Any tips on how to make it easier. It’s a lot to pack! Or any places that can hold packages until we get there.

Bed, Bath and Beyond used to be great for that but sadly no longer an option. My two ideas would be: 1) see if the mailroom will hold shipments from Amazon for your arrival and 2) ask what stores are close to the college and stop there.


Pack a suitcase that includes clothes for a week, his computer, chargers, medication and deodorant. He will need a “shaving kit” bag to take to the showers. Everything else you can buy or ship directly to him later.
He will immediately need bedding: XL sheets, a mattress pad, pillow, comforter and a small bed or desk lamp.
Go to Dormco.com to get ideas of what he would be willing to use. Then, when you arrive there, go to Target, Ikea, Walmart and see what’s missing from your list.

Contact the school and see if the mail office, on campus, will hold his packages until he gets there.
Do not overpack. A lot of times you end up buying a ton of stuff and it will just sit in the original boxes under his bed! For young men, it’s usually clean clothes, shower stuff, and computer/music related “stuff”.


We also moved a kid cross country for college…and flew southwest. We had four suitcases, two carry on bags and two personal items.

  1. Suitcases held clothes, linens (there were some things kid wanted to take from home…towels and a comforter), shoes and school supplies.

  2. Carryons held things needed immediately…medications, toiletries, and some personal items that kid didn’t want to pack.

  3. My carryon held my clothes for the three days I was there.

  4. Personal items for us were a computer bag, and an instrument case.

Once we got to our destination, we did a target run for things like shampoo, and the like, and laundry detergent and some other cleaning things. And a selection of OTC things for a first aid box. We also got a small TV there (most kids just stream using their computers now).

We also went to Office Max and got a small printer. And some additional school supplies.

BBB was still in business, but really, anything we got there could be purchased at Target, or ordered from Amazon and shipped to the college. You need to check how to do this at your kid’s college.

My motto…there are stores everywhere!

My son’s advice is to put everything you think you need in one room and then only take half of it. Even with that you will find that half of what you take seldom gets used!

Important. If you are renting a car make sure what you are bringing will fit in. Our original rental was big enough, but the opening to the trunk was way to small to squeeze everything in…so we needed a larger vehicle…which we got.

Re: suitcases…I bought large ones at a resale shop and Goodwill. They made a one way trip and were thrown away. DD kept her carryon there , and I brought mine home.

In case you are wondering…kid stored things in the college town in the summer…and traveled home with the carryon as a checked item, and the instrument case and computer bags on the plane.

When move out time came four years later, three of us were going. We borrowed big suitcases from our neighbors, so kid had 6 suitcases she could fill. Anything additional was either donated or pitched. She did ship some books home, but that was it.


If you’re staying at a hotel, ask if they will hold packages - we sent a bed in a box type thing to our hotel for our daughter and they held it for a week. We also had UPS hold a rug at their local store for pickup.

She was more interested than my son in “decorating,” so we figured we’d just buy everything for him when we arrived - huge mistake. We went to something like 5 stores trying to find a set of twin xl - they were just decimated by two schools moving in the week before. There’s a whole lot you can send on or buy later, but you want to actually be able to make the bed when they arrive. Be sure to have the bare minimums with you or arranged to be shipped and held.

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In our suitcases, we had bed linens (sheets and a comforter) and towels. They filled one suitcase.

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If you can send things directly to the school’s mailroom, realize it might not be immediately available during move in as often times mail rooms aren’t set up for a deluge at the beginning of the year.

D20’s school makes this explicit with their move-in tips. They recommend not sending anything to the mail room you need for the first few days as they might not process mail quickly during the first week or so.

My husband and I will be flying out with DS23 from Boston to CO. We will each check 2 big blue IKEA bags (which would be 6 although DS swears we will only need 2 and his camping backpack total). Bags will hold DS clothes and sports equipment. We will buy linens, bedding and everything else once we get there. We made sure to rent a large SUV to fit all of the bags and anything large (like shelving) we buy once there.

DS has already spent 4 years in the dorms at boarding school, so is pretty familiar with what to pack and what he will want in his room.

Check on your school’s FB or FB parents’ page. We were able to get insight into hotels that hold packages, where we can preorder linens, how the mailroom handles packages and how move in typically works.


You’re lucky not to be driving. My kid way overpacks. Car to the roof - so picked I couldn’t see anything through the rear view mirror.

My wife just booked SW tix to DC for her DC semester. So assuming we keep the flights and don’t drive, we will be limited to 6 suitcases and we only have carry on size. So clothes, towels, linens and that’s about it.

Best to take less - and you can supplement once you are there. They can do without things a few days.

If it’s a first year student, you will find two things:

  1. The roommate may already have it (you can discuss this up front).

  2. The room is even tinier than you thought.

I know one thing my wife got was - and I don’t know the right word - bed risers to create storage underneath.

I’d say go with less…not more…and then you can buy from there.

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Packing light is a life skill. My kids both learned it in college when they were deciding what to take with them. Worked well. Neither overpacked.


My entire family needs your help !!!

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We are very good packers around here. One of my kids relocated almost across country with what he could fit in his car. The other was in the Peace Corps for 27 months and took everything she needed for two years in two suitcases and a backpack.

Moving into a college dorm room can be the first lesson in packing light.

But I do understand that this is a challenge for some.

Regardless…it’s pretty easy to buy things at the college site, or order and have sent. As I said…there are stores everywhere.


And Amazon and Amazon lockers which are at every place of living - beyond my comprehension.

Yes take less and buy later !!!

You’ll be happy when you see the dorm and after dividing up the space see how little you have to work with. Or half of what you bring will end up going home with you.

Thank you! I’m going nuts trying to figure all this out. My son and husband are saying…”what does he need?” :joy:

My $0.02 is to bring only the necessities and order the rest once you arrive. Amazon Prime is a great deal for students who have a college .edu address and so much can be delivered in 24 hours.

I think students greatly overestimate what can fit in a standard dorm room.

Many schools do have services where you can ship boxes and they will be waiting for you in the dorm room when you arrive. I’d look into that option too.

For people driving - if it doesn’t fit in the car, it probably won’t fit in the dorm room ; )


I recently packed for a 5 week international trip, and was in too much of a hurry (15 minutes). So I packed too much. If I am in the mood to spend time (like 30 minutes), I pack better – say 7 sets of everything for that length trip. No more. Even 5 sets would work. At 5 sets, you can just take them in a mid-sized (still check in) suitcase. Difficult to fit into a carry on.

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My daughter’s advice (a rising junior in college) is to pack like you’re going to summer camp (plus computer and other needed academic supplies) rather than pack like you’re moving to a new home. She brought too much her first year, but has pared down since then, as she realizes she doesn’t need much.


Yes, my daughter brought way too much the first year, and it was a pain since her college was 500 miles from home. We rented a storage unit the first summer. After that, we told her she would have to fit everything she needed into her Ford Fiesta, and she did.

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This is a very helpful thread.

Ours played out just like the subsequent babies – overdid it, then moderated, then couldn’t be bothered…

S16, we over planned and brought a lot of stuff he said he never used. His mom had a whole bin of things like Advil, cough syrup, first aid kit, wipes, etc., I brought my tool box (8 hour drive) for the move in, just in case. LOL.

D19, significantly reduced pre-buy and ship/bring. Got initially moved in, then took the car to the nearest Target and fleshed out whatever was needed at the end. Better experience overall.

S23, his mom ran through a list of things from previous kids with S23 and he nixed about 90% of it – “if I need medicine I’ll walk to the pharmacy” etc. This time he’s 90 minutes away, so we shrugged and figured whatever…