Packing for Your Year In Israel - The Ultimate Guide
Are you sending your child to Israel for the year and feeling overwhelmed about how to go about packing? We'd like to present the ultimate packing guide filled with useful tips and tricks. This is not one of those packing checklist megillahs of everything you need to bring. This guide is about the ‘how’ of packing and focuses on two questions: What types of things should I buy in Israel and what should I bring from home?
OK, Let’s get started…
Everything (and nothing) has changed
A lot of us parents went to Israel for the year when we were 18, so we might be tempted to use our trip as a frame of reference. Well, a lot has changed since then. For a start, the people of Israel have discovered the wonders of import and the store shelves are filled with American goods. It is no longer necessary to fill your kid's case with tuna, American brand deodorant, soft toilet paper, Twizzlers, ketchup and peanut butter. All of these are widely available in Israeli supermarkets. There are even gluten free food options and tasty vegan snacks.
With all these changes though, a lot has stayed exactly the same. I recently came across a list my great-grandfather prepared for his son when he went off to boarding school 80 years ago and 90% of the list is still the same...
What You Should Buy in Israel
Some things are too bulky to take with you and others are not worth bringing from home for practical reasons. You can either buy the items beforehand using an online service that delivers the items directly to their school in Israel or send your child to buy them when they get there. In 2020/2021, the second option was not readily available due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Here is the list of things you should buy in Israel:
Bulky Linens & Towels
Airline weight restrictions have gotten a lot stricter over the years. If in your day you were able to bring 2 huge overflowing suitcases, your child needs to pack a lot lighter. Typically, the bulkiest items you need are linens - blankets, pillows, towels, egg crate, etc. A great way to save valuable space in your bag is to order bulky linen directly to your school in Israel. A brand new package will be waiting for them when they get to school and you’ll still have space in the bag to pack their favorite teddy.
While your teen may have their favorite shampoo and conditioner, they may not be ideal for the harder water in Israel. Many high quality, international brands of toiletries that are suited to the local conditions are available in Israel at reasonable prices.
One exception: If your child has toiletries for specific needs (e.g. face wash for sensitive skin), bring it from home.
When it comes to small appliances (fans, hair dryers, toasters, etc.), take note that the voltage system is different in Israel (220v vs 110v). Check whether each appliance works on dual voltage. If not, you are better off just buying it in Israel.
You probably won't need to remind your teen to bring their cellphones or ipods from home, but when they get to Israel they may want to pick up adapters and power strips for Israeli outlets. And boys, don’t forget to bring your shaver...
Extra Storage Space
School dorm rooms are not widely known for their abundant storage space. That's why one item that is particularly popular among students is a plastic set of drawers to store all their extra stuff. Obviously this is not something you're going to take in your bag so it's best to buy it in Israel.
You can also purchase other storage solutions that are really useful for keeping organized. There are different solutions ranging from ‘underbed storage’ for extra toiletries and clothing to ‘over the door storage’ for storing shoes and other smaller items to ‘closet space organizers’ for increasing shelf space or adding drawers.
If it’s not the case already, your young adult will now be responsible for doing their own laundry (it's about time!). You may want to make their lives a little easier by either ordering Tide capsules and a laundry basket in advance or sending them to buy some when they get to Israel.
Seforim are heavy. They're also cheap and widely available in Israel. Some schools will actually bring a bookseller to the school but if they don't it can be fun to venture out to Mea Shearim to buy them :-). Some people prefer to bring their own familar siddur/machzor from home.
Israeli school supplies come in different formats than their US counterparts (binders have 2 holes instead of 3, and the paper is larger) so once again, buy ‘em when you get there.
What You Should Bring From Home
In general, if it's lightweight and easy to bring or just more practical (and economical) to buy in your home country, then bring it from home. You can buy these items in your local department store or buy them online and have them shipped to your home. Here is the list of things you should bring from home.
Soft trunk and bags
The first thing you’ll need is luggage. Most airlines allow a maximum bag size for checked baggage of 62 inches of all the dimensions combined (length + width + height). A 30- or 33-inch bag is definitely small enough to fit all requirements. If you can’t fit all your belongings in that size bag, you can go with one of our most popular bags for air travel - the slightly bigger 36 inch duffel. Although it’s actually 68 inches combined, most airlines will let it through. (For more details see this blog about packing for air travel.) You’ll also want a versatile bag or backpack that is light and easy to carry your laundry in, or use on a tiyul or for a Shabbos away.
Your teen will be sure to buy some cool t-shirts in Israel, but most of their bag should be filled with the clothing they need. Your school will probably send you a detailed list of clothing with their specific requirements.
A note about the weather. Israeli weather can be extreme. The summers are very hot although Jerusalem often has a cool breeze in the evenings. Depending on where you are the winter can be quite cold. It rains between Sukkos and Pesach so basic rain gear is a must.
Medicine and eyewear
Make sure to send any relevant prescription medicine and bring extra pairs of glasses and contact lenses.
Make yourself at home
Bring little items that will make your dorm feel like home - old pictures, your favorite teddy, etc.
One rule: If it’s really expensive, leave it behind.
Tallis and Tefillin
Just in case you forgot, don’t :-). It may also be worth stocking up in advance on extra tzitzis.
Have a Great Year!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide. At Pack for Camp - Israel, we have years of experience serving customers whose children go to Israel for the year, so if you have any questions please contact us and we’ll be glad to help. We’d also be super happy to hear your feedback and comments about stuff we might have left out. Happy Packing!