Locums for a Small World Blog

How to pack for an international locum tenens assignment

Posted by Kari Redfield


When it comes to an international locums assignment, how and what you pack matters. Most international flights only allow one checked bag and one carry-on bag per person. How do you get what you need for six or 12 months into that? By following these packing tips from veteran international locums.

Know what’s included regarding housing and transportation

Almost all of our international placements include housing and transportation. We choose condos/apartments and other types of accommodations that are fully furnished, so you won’t need cooking utensils and cooking devices, linens, essential appliances, etc.

For any international placement

Family medicine physician Dr. Lily Browning suggests including certain medical supplies, like:

  • Tools you find helpful that might not be readily available, for instance, plastic curettes
  • Medical references/resources you are familiar with
  • Scrubs

Her list for international traveling and/or being away from home for an extended period includes:

  • Medications you like that are not OTC in other countries, like montelukast or melatonin
  • Country-specific outlet converters
  • Multiple purpose gear, like this carry-on bag from Osprey that has a day-pack that zips to the front and can be converted into a backpack
  • External battery pack for phone
  • Phone with a good camera
  • External speaker
  • GoPro or other action video camera
  • Kindle or iPad (but not both)
  • Polarized sunglasses
  • Travel sink stopper
  • Sun protective hat
  • Close-toed water shoes
  • Headlamp
  • Multitool
  • Repair kit for glasses (don't underestimate!)
  • Sewing kit
  • Dry bags in multiple sizes

Don’t pack:

  • Hair dryer and accessories
  • Large toiletries

packed-luggage-ready-travelOne additional note: Some of our physicians suggest bringing a country-specific outlet adaptor, but others say you shouldn’t. For instance, Dr. Lisa Seeber, a locums doctor on assignment in New Zealand says, “The plugins for phones and stuff don’t work well, even with converters. Plan to invest in the right cords when you get here.”

This travel blogger agrees: “All we need is a little $1 adapter that can be found literally everywhere. There was no reason to buy a big, clunky one-size-doesn’t-fit-anything travel adapter in advance.”

Consider flying with Hawaii Air if you need to bring a lot

The Seebers, a family of 10, flew Hawaii Air for the two free 70-pound bags allowed per person.

Traveling before and/or after your assignment? Consider a luggage shipping service

If you’re sandwiching your assignment in between other travel, consider using a luggage forwarding service like Luggage Forward. This is what Dr. Richard Neill, a family medicine physician, recommends.

“They held our belongings and then shipped them to arrive in Auckland the same day we did,” Dr. Neill explains. “The cost was only slightly more than it would have cost to check them, and we didn’t have to lug around our luggage for several weeks.”

Emulate the locals

Figure out how the locals dress and follow suit. For instance, before packing a suit and tie, find out before you go if people wear these to work and formal dining outings or not. For example, according to Dr. Neill you won’t need this type of clothing in New Zealand.

New Zealand specific tips

One of our most popular countries for international locums is New Zealand, so we’ve included some additional tips. International airline baggage limits may vary, but NZ domestic flights limit each checked bag to 50 pounds and carry-ons to 15 pounds — which the airline checks according to family medicine physician Dr. David Yost, and his spouse Laurie. To stay within those limits, keep in mind these additional tips from the Yosts:


Packing Strategy

New Zealand has a highly variable climate and is often advertised as a country where you can “experience all four seasons in one day.”


Pack in layers, including waterproof outer garments and be prepared for sporadic wet, cold, and/or windy weather. 

New Zealand is a developed country with plenty of shopping options, but selection choices may be limited, and there is no Amazon equivalent. Also, instead of drug stores, personal products are sold in supermarkets.


Local stores include:


The Warehouse (equivalent to Walmart): lower priced chain with 90+ stores located in most cities.


Postie and Farmers: equivalent to JCPenney and found in cities


Kathmandu: higher end outdoor store limited to larger cities


K-Mart: 15+ locations in large cities


Countdown, New World: mid-range grocery stores found in most cities and small towns and carrying a good selection of personal products

New Zealand has one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world.


Pack UV protective clothing, hats, and swimsuits. Take your favorite sunscreen (as brand options in New Zealand are limited and expensive).

Medical equipment supply stores are infrequent in New Zealand.

Check with your medical site in advance about items you may need to bring. If you have specific favorite small items, pack them.


FYI: White coats are almost never worn outside of academic centers.


The Yosts also suggest bringing:

  • 1-2 weeks of business casual outfits (Dockers, casual button shirts, casual dresses or skirts)
  • Jeans
  • T-shirts
  • Swimsuit (known as “togs”)
  • Waterproof rain jacket and pants
  • Down jacket or fleece
  • Scarf and gloves
  • Binoculars
  • Waterproof backpack
  • Water-resistant casual dress shoes
  • Waterproof hiking shoes/boots
  • Flip-flops (“jandals”)
  • Tennis shoes with good sole grip for wet surfaces
  • Sunscreen
  • Umbrella
  • Primary and backup stethoscope

One other note about New Zealand is that the country has strict biosecurity procedures to prevent the introduction of harmful pests and diseases, and you will be screened. Find out more at the New Zealand government site, including a detailed restriction list. Some things that are not allowed or that must be officially declared with the Passenger Arrival Form and inspected:

  • Any food: cooked, uncooked, fresh, preserved, packaged, or dried
  • Animal or plant products: includes meat, seeds, nuts, honey, fruit, etc.
  • Used outdoor equipment: includes shoes, boots, tents, sports equipment, fishing gear, and gardening equipment

One final recommendation when preparing for your international trip: bring an open mind. According to family medicine physician Dr. Rima Carlson, “Inevitably the experience will be different than you expect. Take every opportunity you can while abroad to experience the country, culture, environment, and people.”

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Topics: travel tips, frequent traveler, New Zealand, international locum tenens opportunity