Packing for any kind of travel is never an easy task and when you are planning for long-term international travel especially with a kid, it further complicates. Now that you have started planning to travel to the USA for long-term and your USA VISAs are stamped, you are about to start packing. You must be wondering what things you should carry to the USA from India and what you should not as it would be available in the USA itself. Some choices are hard, especially, when you are traveling with the family for a long-term trip for the first time. I understand that you will be worried about the luggage policies of the airlines and questioning, “will it be enough?“. You must be doing all the calculations on how much KGs you should carry one item and how much the other. Well, I will help you with all your worries in this article 🙂 🙂
I had never traveled outside India before this USA trip. Hence, for me to understand what is available outside India and what is not, was for sure difficult. When you move to the USA with family, it is more like you will be settling a new home in an unknown country that you have no clue about. Thousands of thoughts and suggestions will run through you every day as some will say take the pressure cooker, some will say take the spices, some prefer clothes or some will say everything is available in the USA 😛 … The confusion keeps mounting more and more you speak to people or read about it. In the last article I shared with you 20 things to do before you move to USA from India and in this article today, I will try to share my experience of carrying things to the USA from India. It will help you make a call which things you should carry, which you can avoid carrying and which things you should not carry at all. Hence, this will help you balance on your final list because the luggage you can carry is not infinite.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
General Rule of Thumb
Before I delve into the details on the item by item checklist of things to carry to the USA from India, I will share a general tip which can be applied while making the trade-offs between the things that you will carry from India and things that you will buy in the USA. If you want to save money and avoid purchasing items in the USA at Rs 1×65 rate, then you should carry those items more from India that costs around or less than $1-2 equivalent. Most things in the USA will cost you about $1-2 for single quantity, so in India, you may get the entire packet of them at that price as compared single quantity of those items in the USA. Example, passport size photos, candies, stationary items, needles, binders, safety pins, etc.. So, if you are a student looking to save some money on stationary items, better carry them from India 🙂
Expert Tip: If you plan to save some money, you should carry items from India to the USA which are less than or around $1-2 (INR 60-130).
In addition to it, if you are one of those who prefer custom-made clothing or items like suits, kurtas, kurtis, boutique items etc.., then you should bring them from India to the USA. Labour is quite costly here and hence, a tailor-made suit will cost much much as compared to India. So, take these couple of rules into account when choosing between the list of things to carry when you travel to the USA from India.
Know about the place you are traveling to in the USA
While packing for any trip, although most things are available in the USA for us, eventually it depends upon the place you are planning to travel. When you come to the USA, if you are traveling to the west coast region around bay area or east coast region around New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, there is no dearth of Indian stores or grocery shops. You will get almost anything and everything in Indian stores, so keep that in mind. Otherwise, Amazon also will help you find almost everything not available nearby and when you buy Amazon Prime Membership, you get 2 shipping on those items for free. So, it is worth buying Amazon Prime Membership as it will help you in many different ways including watching good series on Amazon Prime Video where many good Indian series are available now.
Things to Carry when you Travel to the USA from India
Travel & Luggage
The first and foremost thing to get is good, durable and sturdy suitcases unless you have not got them. The luggage suitcases in the USA are comparatively much cheaper than what we get in India but it is about buying from India as of now. So, get the good and durable ones so that they last few trips back and forth.
You should also get TSA approved locks for the bags. Sometimes when authorities check your luggage, you may find the locks or even chains are broken/mishandled. If you have TSA approved locks, at least you give yourself some protection from it. There is no guarantee though that using TSA locks, you may not find them broken or mishandled. However, it is better than having non-standard locks on any given day.
1. Pressure Cooker
Well, this is the first and foremost thing everyone recommends but they are heavy and take space. I will highly recommend that you compare the prices on Amazon first. If the prices vary too much and you have space available with you, then carry it from home else buy it after reaching in the USA only. I carried a small cooker, which helped a lot in initial days.
2. Chakla (Rolling Board) / Belan (Rolling Pin)
You can bring these as they can be easily adjusted in the bag anywhere. If you are a student and do not want to make your own chapatis, tortillas are available along with Indian naans in major US food stores like Giant, Wegmans, Costco. The Indian style frozen naan and rotis are also available in Indian stores easily.
3. Tava & Chimta for Chapatis
Except for Indian stores, you will not find Tava and small Chimta to cook Chapatis anywhere. Better to bring them from India especially if you plan to make your own Chapatis.
4. Spices Box & Indian Spices
We could not find a good Indian style spices box having bigger containers to hold spices for more days here. Hence, I will recommend to bring it from India itself and stuff small items in its containers to organize and save space in luggage.
You must carry some amount of Indian spices as it will help in the initial days for sure and also save some money being cheaper in comparison. Of course, there is no replacement for homemade spices but still, once you find Indian store, you will get many major brands of spices.
5. Cutlery & other utensils
Most of the other cutlery like spoons, forks, knives and other utensils are easily available in different stores in the USA at cheaper prices. You should bring some cutlery for getting started but avoid too much.
6. Kadai, Pots, and Pans
You can bring Kadai, at least a small one if you love cooking Indian style food. Those who know, there is no replacement for Kadai 😉 … You will easily find the different type of pots and pans in stores like Walmart, Ikea or online at Amazon at comparable prices. So, avoid bringing them to save weight and space for other things important things.
7. Other Miscellaneous
I will suggest you bring following too from India though they shall also be available in the Indian stores.
- Kitchen Knife & Peeler, as the knives here, are a bit big. Carry a couple of them each.
- Small Drainer (Tea), if you drink tea then it is must have for you. Carry a couple of them each.
- Wooden Hand Blender (Mathani), good for making lassi, Chaachch, raita, etc..
Important Tip: You should only bring stainless steel utensils, cutlery or cookware and avoid aluminum ones because the latter are not dishwasher safe.
Home & Living
Most of the stuff required for home and living are available easily in stores like Walmart, Ikea, Costco or Home Depots, etc.. Hence, there is nothing much to bring, maybe a couple of cotton bedsheets & pillow covers for getting started.
If you have space, bring in some traditional handicrafts or showpieces for home decoration or using them as gifts in time to come 🙂 … Again, as labor is costly, so as such things here in the USA.
Those who are religiously attached, they must bring pooja material and pooja books as well. Such things are available in Indian store but if you can bring them from India, nothing like it.
You can carry some supply of stationery items such as pens, pencils, erasers, sharpeners, few notebooks, etc as they are quite costly as compared to what you will pay in India.
Apart from Indian spices, I will not recommend bringing anything from India as most food items including Maggie, rice, pulses, flour, beans, etc.. are easily available in all Indian stores here in the USA. Nowadays, I see many of these items also available in the food stores like Giant or Wegmans as well.
You may bring homemade goond, panjiri, special multi grain laddoos if you like them :P. Their shelf life is much longer and you will not find such pure homemade healthy items/sweets here.
Personal Care & Hygiene
You will find the majority of personal care items at reasonable prices here in the USA. However, before you get settled for the first week or two, you may want to carry the personal care kit as mentioned in the article List of things to carry when you go on trip. Rest majority of Indian products will be available at Indian stores.
1. Sewing Items
You should bring with you some packs of sewing needles, thread rolls, hook/press/titch buttons, shirt buttons and safety pins.
2. Shavers, Trimmers or Hair Irons/Press for Girls
It is better to buy shavers, trimmers or girl’s hair iron for hair straightening over here in the USA. Majority of Indian ones will not be supported due to voltage differences and even if they are power adapter driven, they die over a period of time in my experience. The prices are comparable, so no need to bring them from India.
3. Feminine Hygiene
Avoid carrying any feminine hygiene products from India as they are much better here in the USA in terms of quality as well as variety.
4. Passport Photos
Getting passport photos is quite costly here in the USA. Hence, best will be to get about 50-60 passport sized photos from India itself to save few bucks for yourself.
Health Care, Medicines & Well Being
1. Eye Glasses, Lenses, and Eye Frames
After dental, eyeglasses, lenses and eye frames are quite costly here in the USA unless you have a very good vision insurance plan with you. It is wise to get a couple of your prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses from India including the spare ones. Not only they are costly, you may end up without eyeglasses for a week in case you are not having any spare one with you. So, DO NOT forget to carry an extra pair or two of spectacles.
2. Over the counter medicines
You should carry some basic medicines with you after consulting your physician and having a proper prescription. It will take a while to know which over the counter medicine is right for you here in the USA and also they are mostly super expensive when compared to prices in India. Carry some medicines like painkillers, ointments, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, fever reducer etc..
3. Home Remedies and Patanjali
You may bring in some home remedy solutions in the form of churan/mixture, Badal churan, Patanjali heeng peda/anar daana, heeng goli, etc.. Often these are helpful in digestion issues.
4. Prescription Medicines (ongoing)
You must carry your ongoing prescription medicines for a couple of months at least if any. It may take some time to get registered with a family physician as a new patient and start getting an appointment for them. Medical is one of the most frustrating parts of living in the USA. It will be best that you have your prescription medicines for you for at least two months.
The power sockets and voltage is different in the USA (110v) vs India (220v). So, most electronic items will not work for you here. Hence, no point of bringing any electronic items except those which are operated by power adapters and support both 110v and 220v. You can bring in your mobile phones (if they support bands, the most smartphone does now), iPads, Laptops, MacBooks, etc..
You will need to buy a Travel adapter as the sockets design is different and none of your power sockets will work here. I will highly recommend that you get a multi-socket universal power strip that supports both US and India style power sockets. It is more robust and usable for both types of sockets than any travel adapters.
Do not purchase any power adapters or full chargers for your laptops or MacBooks or iPads. Rather just purchase a power cord for your laptops and the Duckhead power plugs for your MacBooks or iPads to convert their sockets. You will save good money and if you travel back to India, you can just replace them with your original ones to support Indian style power sockets 🙂 🙂
Suggestion: Not sure why but for some items with batteries like a trimmer, shaver, etc.. mostly die in my experience even after being charged from their own adapter. Take your own call.
Most of the clothing items are available at much cheaper rates here in the USA. So, do not bring much especially do not purchase any clothes rather purchase them here including shoes.
1. Winter Jackets and Heavy Woollens
If you are coming to Northern region of the USA, best is to buy the winter jackets and heavy woolens here in the USA as the ones available in India may not help you with cold conditions here. Hence, it is better to buy them here at much better prices and quality. If you move to the USA in summers, you will get very good deals in the factory outlets for winter clothing and jackets. You will not need heavy woolens in most of the west coast and the southern region of the USA.
2. Regular Clothing
You will find most of the clothes for regular casual and formal wear here in the USA at a much better price and acceptable quality. Hence, whatever you have with you, bring those along and rest buy clothes from here so as to blend into the current fashion of the place you will reside. Clothes are much cheaper in the USA as compared to prices what we get back in India.
3. Ethnic Indian Wear
You should bring at least a few pairs of ethnic Indian wear from India (especially for girls) including footwear, sarees set, suits, scarves/dupattas, sherwani, Pathani suits, etc... Whatever little variety you find here in the USA will be quite costly. Hence, as you stay long term in the USA, you will have plenty of functions or parties to attend to where you will need the ethnic Indian wear. So, make sure you bring them from India.
Smart Travel Tip: You should use Vaccum Bags in order to save space in your luggage. You will see a lot can easily fit into the suitcase once using the Vaccum Bags. We even got Indian style quilts, not easily available here, using the vacuum bags 🙂 🙂
4. Cosmetics, Makeup & Artificial / Junk Jewelry
Girls should also bring the artificial or junk jewelry or accessories as prices are cheaper in India for them as compared over here. Hence, save space for all your junk jewelry and carry as much as possible or needed for next year or so 🙂
The makeup kits for girls including the branded ones from the likes of Estee Lauder, MAC, Clinique, Bobbie Brown etc.. are much cheaper here in comparison to India. So, do not waste money in India over them. Even perfumes or fragrances are much cheaper here in the USA as compared to India.
Do not buy any new footwear to bring them with you from India. Rather get whatever you have and once you are here in the USA, buy the footwear from here as they are much better and cheaper as compared to crazy footwear prices in India.
You should bring some undergarments with you for the next six months or so. It may take some time to get used to what is available here and find the right fits/sizes for you. Hence, best will be to get them from India and try out options here to find the best fit for you.
You should carry all your education documents, transcripts, official identify and nationality proof documents in original when coming to the USA. Do not forget to carry all the required documents for your spouse as well.
You should keep your credit cards and debit cards in separate bags/wallets so that in case of unforeseen loss of one of them, you have the other one with you.
Expert Tip: Never carry your important documents in the check-in baggage, always carry them in hand/carry-on baggage with you.
Expert Tip: Carry the photocopies in different bags as well for all the documents, just to be safe in case of loss of any original or photocopies.
Are you a student traveling to the USA?
When you are traveling as a student to the USA from India, many of the suggestions for not bringing items from India to the USA may not be applicable for you. As a student, either you or your parents will be paying the money for these items which will get converted from Indian Rupee to US Dollar (1 x 65). Hence, it is important for you to evaluate which items in converted money is cheaper in the USA, what you will not bring and what all you can bring to the USA from India. Of course, it also depends upon the allowed luggage in the airlines you plan to travel to the USA from India. Someone who is going to work in the USA with a salary in USD, it still makes sense to not carry a majority of the items which are available in the USA at a relatively similar or cheaper value in comparison to what we get in India.
Important Tip: If you didn’t know, as a student, you get 50% off on Amazon Prime Student Membership, so sign up for the trial.
In the end, I hope the above article will be useful for everyone who plans to travel to the USA and confused about the things to carry to the USA from India. I do remember my days when I first traveled and had 23 KGs in each bag to carry. I did not have much guidance mainly because I believed in what others guided and did not do any research on my part. Of course, I ended up carrying a lot of unnecessary luggage which I could have easily avoided and carried something useful that would have saved some money for me. So, don’t get fooled by the myth of “Everything is very costly in the USA“. Most of the stuff is easily available in most Indian stores or Amazon but you will need few items to start within early days. Of course, there are things much costly in the USA but when you compare the average salary, in relative terms, majorly you will be better off purchasing items in the USA with much better quality. However, do take a note of being a student and make a balance of where you can save money and where you can let it go because you will not have the luxury of unlimited luggage 🙂 …
Do you have any questions or suggestions that you think will benefit others when moving to the USA from India? If yes, please feel free to post them either in the comments section of this article below. I am sure it will help many more people like us. If you like this article, please feel free to share it further with any of your family or friends whom you think might get benefit from the tips mentioned in this article to carry the right list of items to the USA from India.