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So you're an au pair... what should you pack?

As a first time au pair, and first time solo-flyer, I seem to find new questions and worries about packing and preparing every day. The day of my flight from England to Madrid is just over a week away- there are plenty of things available to you to make packing easier, less stressful, less of a burden and far more efficient.

Embarking on an adventure as an au pair, it is important to remember exactly what you’ll be doing everyday, and who with. Children! There’s no need to impress anyone with fancy, designer clothes and over-the-top accessories. Comfort is paramount when running after / painting with / cooking for young children! It’s time to embrace the fantastic opportunity you’re about to experience.

It is, above all, incredibly important to respect the host family you’re staying with; revealing clothes in a religious household may put the family in an awkward and uncomfortable position. You want to set an example to the children and be a role model to them. What standards of modesty will the host family appreciate from you? Would you be comfortable wearing them around your own parents?

Bear in mind the weather you’ll be dealing with! Au Pairing early September to late December, I am faced with the possibility of very hot end-of-summer days, a chilly autumn, and cold Spanish winters. Be sure to pack a variety of interchangeable outfits that are suitable for every day, but also evening wear.

There are many ways to pack and prepare for your stay efficiently, but it’s good to try to pack as light as possible as you’ll no doubt buy new things in your new host town/city! The less you take, the more you can bring home.

Rolling your clothes instead of folding them takes up less space, as do ‘’packing cubes’, which are around £10-£15 online. Organising your clothes into separate sections will help you massively in seeing how much you’ve got, and what you might be missing. Particularly when you're dealing with rolling luggage, you have to consider how your items will respond to motion. One important rule of thumb is to keep all the heavy items stored towards the wheels so weight is distributed evenly.

Learn how to capitalise space- rogue cables in empty sunglasses cases; breakables in socks; maybe socks inside shoes; jewellery threaded through a straw! Organising your suitcase doesn’t have to be difficult, intricate or complex- just tidy enough for you to maximise the space you’ve got!

While packing and preparing, it is imperative you abide by airline stipulations to avoid incurring extra sneaky costs at the last minute. The majority of airlines running flights from England to Spain allow the following;

  • “Personal Item” up to 5kg in weight, that is small enough to be stored underneath the plane seat in front of you.This is typically a small handbag, laptop bag or rucksack.

    Dimensions are usually 18 x 14 x 18 inches, (45 x 35 x 20cm), and the weight includes the entire bag and its contents.

    Things you will need during the flight, such as passports, boarding passes, insurance cards, money, mobile phones (and a portable charger!), and any form of entertainment you may want should be popped in this bag to avoid rummaging through huge bags.

  • “Carry-On Luggage” / “Cabin Luggage” / “Hand Luggage” up to 10kg in weight (this includes both bag and contents), that will be stored in the overhead cabins.

    Dimensions are usually 22 x 14 x 9 inches (56 x 35 x 22cm). It is advisable that you put your electrical items such as chargers and devices in here as they will be removed and checked during security.

    Pyjamas and light toiletries are useful in here, as it means you won’t have to dig deep through your main bag for essentials when you arrive at your Host Family’s home.

  • “Checked Baggage” / “ Hold Luggage” is your main suitcase, weighing between 20 and 30kg depending on your airline. This is what you hand over at Check In, and it is checked and put straight onto the plane. Once checked in, you do not need to worry about this until you try to pick it off the carousel at your destination!

    Dimensions for checked baggage varies between airlines, but the average measurements are around 158cm total, and anywhere between 23kg and 32kg in weight.

    Luggage allowances really do vary depending on your chosen airline, ticket package, flight route, aircraft type and length of journey so it’s important to read up on this beforehand to ensure smooth-sailing at the airport. I found it useful to look through forums, airline websites and other blogs.

Lastly, you should remember that this experience shouldn’t be stressful for you or your host family. Practicality, comfort and ease should be at the forefront. You’re here to spend time with children and become a part of somebody else’s family- don’t let material items become more important!

Have fun!

Thea :)