When preparing for the big day when your child leaves for boarding school it’s only human to feel every emotion under the sun, from nervousness to excitement to feeling overwhelmed, happy and sad, all at the same time. Along with the mix of emotions, as a parent or guardian, you may also be concerned about your child not settling in quickly which is where ensuring you prepare well is key. One of the most important parts of the preparation process is packing the correct essentials without overloading your child’s suitcase with things they don’t need. 

Here we provide a checklist of all the essential items to pack (and what you shouldn’t pack) for your child so you can rest assured they have everything they need to feel settled on arrival and ready for their new boarding school adventure.

Essential Items to Pack When Going to Boarding School

Slippers or indoor shoes to wear around the House

While for a large majority of the time, your child will be in lessons or taking part in extra-curricular activities, there are plenty of times where your child will be in the house, in the common room or dorms. You wouldn’t walk through your house at home with muddy or outdoor shoes and the same thing can be said in the boarding house. It’s recommended to bring a pair of slippers or indoor shoes to wear around the house that are comfortable enough to lounge around in or slip on when the dreaded fire alarm goes off. 

Pictures to decorate the room

Creating a home away from home is essential in helping your child settle into their life at boarding school. It’s perfectly acceptable to bring pictures to decorate your dorm with, whether they be photos of the family and pets or just posters of your favourite band for your noticeboard.

Wycliffe pupils on a trip next to a river


They can be so easy to forget however if your child is going to stay in touch with friends and family, making sure you pack spare laptop and phone chargers is essential. While a lot of boarding schools will have shops nearby, having spares for emergencies will never go a miss.

Comfortable clothes, not all smart/impractical outfits

Your child is likely to take part in a range of activities when at boarding school. From days out hiking to trips to the local town, you’re going to need to make sure they have a mix of clothes for every eventuality. Of course, smart clothes still have their place as there may be events that require these, but comfortable clothes are just as important.

A warm coat

You can’t ever rely on the British weather. The UK experiences it all – rain, snow, wind, sun, hail and more. No matter what sort of weather you’re used to, if attending a British boarding school you’re going to want to make sure your child takes a warm coat with them for every season. 


The social aspect of boarding can be one of the main appeals however there are times when you may want to listen to your own music or watch something online without disturbing those in your dorm.

Spare name labels

Before your child heads off to boarding school, you’re going to want to make sure everything has been labelled up – books, uniform, bags – you ‘name’ it. However, name labels can come off due to wear and tear over time so packing some additional ones are a must.

girls in dorm at boarding school

A laundry bag to keep your clothes together in the wash

Clothes can easily go walkabouts in the wash so keeping everything together in a laundry bag can help in making sure this doesn’t happen. 

A cushion for your bed

Most boarding schools will provide the basics such as a mattress and pillows. However, bringing items like your own cushion and bed linen can help to add that extra bit of comfort and make you feel more at home.

Smellies and toiletries 

While there may be shops close by to pick these things up, in the first few days and weeks you don’t want to think about having to go shopping when you are just settling in. Make sure to pack enough nice smellies and essential toiletries that will see you through initially.  

A cuddly toy

Definitely a nice-to-have but it’ll be sure to make you feel more settled: a cuddly toy. Whether it’s one you’ve had all your life or another favourite cuddly, don’t forget to bring it with you on your first day.

Are there any other items that are recommended to take? 

  • School bag and stationery 
  • Torch 
  • Books to read or a notebook to write in 
  • Warm dressing gown for those winter evenings 
  • A small game to play with friends 
  • Pins or blu tac to hang posters and pictures up 
  • Your favourite mug or water bottle

What Not to Bring to Boarding School 

A whole range of electrical goods

Kettle, toaster, blender – you name it. These items are just not needed. Boarding houses will be kitted out with plenty of electrical goods that can be used safely.  

A whole sweet shop

Your favourite sweets and chocolate can provide comfort so taking a few can be nice to have but bringing a suitcase full of sweets is just not essential.

International Girls boarding house kitchen

Too many clothes or expensive clothes

You need the basics – uniform and a good mix of comfortable/dressy clothes but don’t cram your cases full. The likelihood is you’ll grow out of them or buy new clothes as you go along. Taking too much means you won’t have enough room in your suitcase for everything when you leave! 


Although we probably all want to take our pets everywhere we go and you’ll miss them when you’re away, but unfortunately, pets are a no go. Instead, take pictures of your pets with you.

Top Tip for Parents and Guardians 

Remember, your child (or children) is not going to be able to take everything with them when they go to boarding school. However, you can always send items in the post. It’s always nice to receive a special delivery no matter how old you are so sending your child some of their favourite sweets or smellies, or new photos to put on their wall, will bring a smile to their face whatever the weather.

Learn More About Boarding Schools in the UK 

We hope you have found this blog useful in helping your child prepare for boarding school. Why not take a look at our complete guide to UK boarding schools which includes some other great insights on getting ready for boarding school and boarding school life? 

Alternatively, if you have any other questions about your child’s new boarding school ventures, feel free to get in touch with Wycliffe for further help or guidance.

wycliffe pupils walking with their parents in the playground

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