Moving Abroad Checklist: 6 Things You Need to Know

Planning to move abroad for the first time can be a scary, daunting task full of questions and uncertainty. What will the country I’m going to be like? What should I take? How do I pack? How much will it cost? Where can I go for help? If you’re lucky, your best friend just got back from living in your destination country for five years and has all the answers and advice in the world. However, if you’re like the majority of us within U.S. borders, knowing where to turn for helpful moving abroad advice takes a little research. Here are some starting points for your moving abroad checklist:

  1. Know where you’re going, not just the name of the country! Educate yourself as much as possible about your new home, even if you don’t (yet) speak the language. Sure, they speak English in England and have various other minor similarities, but there are quite a few differences as well besides the fact that they drive on the other side of the road that you may not want to wait to find out until you get there. Whether you’re going to England or India it helps to be prepared for your time abroad. (For the most accurate country information about your destination, check out the CIA World Factbook.)
  2. Take what you need and only sometimes what you want. What to take with you will depend greatly on how long you plan to stay and where you’re going. If you’re planning on living in China for one year it may be safer and wiser to leave behind your grandmother’s irreplaceable heirlooms and your house full of family photos in the trusting hands of friends or a reputable storage company. However, if you’ll be in Canada for five years just across the border from your sister in New York, you may feel a little more comfortable bringing your favorite pair of Grandma’s earrings that you wear every year at Christmas. (After you’ve checked the CIA World Factbook to find out how safe your destination is, be sure to inquire about your international mover’s insurance policies. Your international mover should also share with you a list of non-allowables, some of which are standard such as perishables, and some of which will vary depending on your destination country’s laws, such as taking last season’s swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated to Saudi Arabia.)
  3. Pack only what you need immediately and leave the rest to your international mover. Pack your clothes, pack your shoes, and pack your kids’ clothes and shoes. Basically, pack as if you’re going to Disneyland for two weeks, except in most cases leave behind your curling iron and electric razor. Your destination country will most likely run on a different voltage and frequency, and even if you find an adapter for the plug, you’ll probably also need a converter, and by then you could have already bought yourself a new curling iron and electric razor in your new country and not even had to worry about whether or not you’re going to blow the circuit and forever destroy your electric item. Leave behind large bottles of shampoo and conditioner also. You can’t fly with it, and it will hold up your shipment in customs if you try to send it with your household items. The people in the country you’re moving to have to wash their hair as well, so you’ll always be able to find shampoo once you get where you’re going. (If you’re curious to see just what the voltage and frequency of the country you’re going to is or if they might {fingers crossed!} use the same as we do so that you can actually take your favorite electric razor, check out a global electric directory.)
  4. Again, pack only what you need immediately and leave the rest to your international mover. Whether your couch, your dishes or your miscellaneous personal items that will be sent along with your ocean shipment, let your international mover do the packing. Even if you do the packing, they will still need to go through each box individually to account for every item packed to submit to customs. If a box is not properly identified with all of its contents, it will be held up at customs and the delivery date of your shipment will at best be delayed for a few days or at worst returned and never delivered to you at all. Furthermore, your international mover will know the tricks of the trade to pack your beloved items properly so that they don’t break while traveling across the high seas or air. Storms and turbulence do happen, so let your international mover be sure your things are secured as well as possible.
  5. Get a free quote for your international move! The only way to find out how much something is going to cost is to go straight to the movers themselves. Be sure to ask what is included in the quote package and remember, the lowest cost is not always the best deal, especially when moving abroad! There are a lot of things that can go wrong in an international move, so your number one priority should be safety and security. (Get started with a free quote!)
  6. Talk to as many resources as possible. Besides your international mover, look for Expat groups on Facebook, register with the U.S. embassy in your destination country or contact a local Consulate in the U.S. that represents the country you are moving to. You can never have too much information! Research, research, research. (Search this list of U.S. embassies abroad.)

This international moving checklist is only meant to get you started, so don’t stop here! Keep asking for moving abroad advice wherever you can, and be sure to use a qualified international mover who can also help guide you through the process. After that, keep an open mind in your destination country and enjoy the journey that awaits you!

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