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Welcome to the fourth week of our series: How to Move Abroad: An Expat Survival Guide!
Last week, we talked about How to Find a Job Abroad and figured out how to make your dream move a reality! This week we’ll help you create your packing list and decide what to do with anything that won’t be coming with you.
One of the hardest parts of moving abroad is packing. It can be emotionally draining to sort through your home and decide what makes the cut. Whether you live a minimalist life or you border on hoarder, we value our belongings. We got through it and are loving our simpler life abroad, and now it’s your turn. Read on for our best tips on packing for a move abroad.
What to Bring
Make sure it’s unlocked by your service provider before you move. It can be next to impossible to unlock it in-country. We love the Samsung Galaxy S7 Active for superior durability plus shatter and water resistance.
Electronic Converter and Adapter
If you’re moving to a country with different plugs, you’ll want to limit your electronics to your phone, laptop, and camera. Bring a converter to get you through until you can buy local plugs. I use this one from Amazon. If the voltage is different, don’t even think about bringing that curling iron or blow dryer.
Clothes for 2 Weeks
This is the time to be brutal when cleaning out your closet. If it doesn’t fit you like a glove and you don’t love it, don’t pack it. You’re not going to wear it abroad if you didn’t wear it at home. If you do end up needing something, buy it abroad. Locally purchased clothes will also blend in more.
If you’re packing for a colder climate, pack layer pieces instead of bulky knits. Focus on packing lightweight clothes that can be used several different ways. Now’s not the time to bring that skirt that only works with one top. If you’re packing for a rainy climate, make sure you’ve got rain boots and a rain jacket. You’ll regret packing only hoodies when that first typhoon blows in. Roll your clothes and use packing cubes. I like these small cubes and these medium cubes on Amazon.
- Plane tickets – You won’t be getting far without these!
- Visa – Make sure you check if you’ll need these before you go.
- Passport – Make sure yours will be good for at least 3 months after arrival for any trip abroad.
- Birth Certificate – Bring any official documents with you. You don’t want to leave these behind and risk losing them.
- Marriage License – If your spouse will need a dependent visa, this will be crucial.
- Social Security Card – See birth certificate
- Diplomas – Depending on your new job, you may need these for your work visa.
Only pack enough to get you through the first week. After that, you can buy new shampoo, body wash, etc.
The big exception to this is deodorant! A lot of foreign countries don’t have the same kind of deodorant we have in the states. If you use other brands that you strongly prefer, you can bring extra if there’s room. For example, Matt can only use cinnamon toothpaste, so we brought 4 tubes from the states.
What to leave behind
Long list short, anything you can’t fit in a suitcase. When my parents moved abroad, they packed up the whole house and moved it to Australia. If you’re moving your whole family and have heirlooms you can’t part with then this is a great option. Keep in mind that moving your things will cost more than packing everything in a suitcase. Don’t forget that your furniture will likely ship on ocean freight and will be checked by customs. Be prepared for your things to take a few weeks to months to reach your new home.
If you’re just moving a few people, it’s usually easier and less expensive to buy new things in your new home. Limit yourself to whatever you can fit in your suitcase for the plane. For most airlines, that’s 2 checked bags, 1 carry-on, and 1 personal item per person. If you can’t stay underweight on your luggage, remember that it’s typically cheaper to check an extra bag than it is to ship a box overseas.
Once you’re settled in your new place, you can head over to Ikea or another local store to replace your housewares. If you’re moving abroad to teach English, you can usually grab things cheap from outgoing teachers. TEFL teachers will often pass around the same kitchen electronics, cooking supplies, and even scooters.
What to do with all your stuff?
For us, this was a relatively simple process. We were renting an apartment, owned one completely paid off car, and have no children. We had three big items on our to-do list.
Get rid of all our stuff
We sold bigger items like furniture on Craigslist. We gave bigger sentimental items, like my wedding dress, to family to hang on to. Everything else, we donated or gave away to friends and coworkers.
Find a home for our cat
Matt’s family happily took in our cat. Our nieces and nephews love her! Other options might include friends, co-workers, or finding a good home for your pet online.
Sell the car
I thought this would be the hardest part, but my coworkers started arguing with each other for it! Never underestimate people’s willingness to help. I highly recommend selling your vehicle independently online using Craigslist or other websites. Selling to a middle-man reseller like CarMax will undercut your price.
Other things you may have to handle
- Selling your house
- Move your pets abroad
- Catch up on any vaccines for your destination
- Find schools abroad for your children
Have you lived abroad? What was on your packing list? What did you leave behind that you wish you hadn’t? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to grab your free Moving Abroad Packing List and get access to all of our freebie library now!
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