Our American Express Items: Must Haves When Moving Abroad

May 25, 2016

“Don’t leave home without it.” Probably one of the most popular slogans ever coined in 1975 by American Express. It gets me thinking about our expat life and our “American Express” items, the must haves when moving abroad. I, along with polling (expat) friends came up with some things we won’t leave home without.



projector must have when moving abroad

In our third year here, armed with pretty awesome streaming websites, Husband and I decided to cancel our cable all together. But before we made this decision we bought a projector. The projector might be my favorite purchase of all time. Of. All. Time. Most Fridays are Pizza Movie Night. Once in a while, during the week, we’ll eat dinner and watch an episode of whatever show we’re watching at the moment. Cozied up on my couch with nothing to do, it is one of the few times where I really feel at home. Living abroad can expose you to new channels of life but television channels usually do not fall in this spectrum.


It depends on where you’re moving and what you intend on buying once you’re overseas but definitely FIND OUT. If you’re planning on bringing your phone, camera, or laptop from the States, you’ll need an adapter in some places. In DR, we didn’t need one, but I investigated before getting here and being totally stuck.

E – R E A D E R

I am an English teacher. I am a writer. I come from books. I like the smell of them, the turning of gritty pages, the feel and weight of a good book in my hand. But I’m also living abroad with with no plan, of anytime soon, buying a house. I can’t take my collection of Paulo Coelho books with me no matter how much I love looking at those beautiful hardbacks so while I buy an occasional real book, the majority of my reading is done on our Nook or Kindle. E-readers just travel well.

i P H O N E

iPhone Must Have When Moving Abroad

For the first two years, I didn’t have one of these helpful little millennium technology devices and I’m not sure how I ever lived without one. A friend said it best when she said, “It almost goes without saying, but this thing has saved my life over and over again. What did people do before these devices? Maps, translators, apps… I’d be lost without it.” And when traveling in a country not your own, she seriously means lost.

D E C O R   /   H O M E

T A P E S T R Y / R O L L   U P   A R T

One friend has a huge tapestry on a large white wall, hung above the television. Another friend uses it on her bed as a bedspread adding instant decor. Yet another friend uses her tapestry as her space to lounge on the beach.  Often they’re super light and obviously quite versatile. Roll up art or reusable wall stickers offer the same ease and accessibility. Wall. Peel. Stick. When you’re moving: peel off and reuse. Does instant color and design get any easier?


When several expats came back with this I thought Come on people, I want quality answers until I thought back to my first month here. The pillows I bought at a local megastore were terrorible. They were fluffy in a cotton falling apart kinda way. When I laid my head on the pillow, my head would sink to the mattress and the sides would raise up over my ears, essentially drowning in my pillow. In the next shipment coming from home, I told my mom to include my pillows and comforter.

Pillows, sheets, and comforter


Like a favorite t-shirt, there’s just something about bedding that you’ve properly worn in. My comforter didn’t make it in one of the 6 suitcases that first came with me. Big mistake. And never gain. It would be the next thing (under projector) that I would never leave home without.

S P E C I A L T Y   I T E M S


Me? Nope. Don’t have this problem but other ladies with their double alphabet sized boobs do. Similar issues could include being too tall and needing longer pants, too short and needing shorter pants, bigger than average shoe size, etc. Specialty items or sizes that need specific tailoring might be quite difficult to find in other countries – especially a developing one so if there’s something you need that falls into this category, bring it.

M E D I C I N E   C A B I N E T

I use Tylenol Codeine to help with migraines. They don’t have that here so I bring a bottle from the States. Here they have acetaminophen and ibuprofen in packets but I like my “extra-strength in the little, child-proof pill container” meds. My daughter after an awful episode with antibiotics in the States can’t “drink” medications anymore so we need chewable. I’ve had a hard time with that too. The razors I use aren’t sold here, so if I want them I need a 6 month supply. It’s all about deciding what you can actually live without. Additionally, you could find some of the same things here, like gummy vitamins, but I’ve paid an obscene amount for freaking princess gummies.

C R A N K   U P   C H A R G E R   R A D I O   F L A S H L I G H T

crank up charger

For one friend who has lived in all developing third-world countries where blackouts, power shortages, and hurricanes often interrupt power, he insists that this has been a lifesaver. It charges by a solar charger, an optional USB power charger, and a hand crank. Pretty handy to have around.

What would be on your must haves list?

P.S. Pieces I always travel with, what not to call non-“working” expat spouses, and this ultimate expat checklist.

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Re-edited and originally published on Expat Village. Also check out these moving abroad packing tips.

(Photos: Backyard movie by Jason Gessner , Crank up charger by Alan Levine)

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