One of the most important things you have to do when you are moving abroad is decide what to take and what to leave behind. This is where the maxim “travelling light” comes into play. You have to be tough and brutally strict with yourself and your family about what to pack for an international move: what you absolutely cannot do without, what you think you might need and what would just be nice to have along.
Only the first category goes on your moving checklist which you must stick to so you won’t become totally bogged down in superfluous stuff, which will just hamper you, slow you down and probably make moving overseas a lot more expensive than it needs to be.
Here we go, starting with what you absolutely have to have for international relocation:
Passports, visas, ID docs, driving licenses, insurance policies, bank statements, medical/dental records, and so on. Most of these can be digitized (and many countries today accept authenticated digitized copies as legal); so you don’t need to pack massive, heavy lever-arch files and folders. It’s a good idea to scan as much as you can and upload it to your computer or the cloud. Not only will it cut down on clutter, but it will keep you organized, enabling you to easily find whatever you need at the touch of button. Pack away your paper documents in boxes and leave them with a relative, friend or in a storage facility. By the way, you also do not need to bring office supplies – you can buy all that stuff when you arrive.
Books and Magazines:
Leave your book and magazine collection behind. Books are heavy, and magazines create clutter and get thrown out eventually anyway. Most magazines can be obtained online today, and you can also get digitized versions of most books. If you have two or three favorites, for example, your kids’ best-ever bedtime stories, then take those, but keep it down to the absolute minimum.
Take the prevailing weather conditions into account; if you’re going to a generally warm climate, leave most of your winter clothes in storage, sell them or donate them to charity; (see this blog post for some more ideas on how to do it efficiently). The same goes for the opposite conditions.
If the weather is likely to be the same as where you are living now, then take this as an opportunity to buy a whole new wardrobe when you arrive!
Divide these items into two categories – “electronics” – computers/laptops, smartphones, tablets, printers, scanner and “electrical appliances”, TV’s kettles, toasters, hair dryers, irons, toaster ovens, microwaves and so on.
Obviously you will keep your computer equipment. However, if you have a large, older desktop model, consider changing it for a lighter, easier to handle – and probably a lot more efficient and up-to-date – laptop.
Electrical appliances are a different matter. First of all, the voltage in your new home may be completely different from where you live now. In the USA, the standard voltage is 120 V whereas in the United Kingdom and most other Western countries it is between 220 V and 240 V. Plug types differ as well, so it’s best to sell off (or donate) your existing appliances and buy new when you get to your new home. Consult your international moving company or see this very helpful web site for a list of various voltages and plug types.
Don’t be tempted to bring all your large furniture items – sofas, dining room set, standing lamps, large beds and so on. All these can be purchased in your new country, so sell, store or, again, donate your existing furniture. If you have a particularly favorite antique or something that you feel complements your lifestyle, consider bringing that, but be ruthless. Not everything falls into that category. And furnishing your new home can be an exciting project.
You really don’t need to bring any toiletries and household supplies. Everything in that category is available, no matter where you are going. Just bring the basics you need for travel for a few days. Carrying personal toiletries – toothpaste, body wash and shampoo – with you on the plane, is limited to no more than 3 oz. They should be packed in a clear plastic zip lock bag no bigger than one liter in size.
Bicycles, surfboards, kayaks, golf clubs, roller blades, etc. – all of these take up a good deal of space and cost quite a bit to ship, but they are probably things that you honestly feel you need to bring with you. In which case, consult your international movers about the best way to have them protectively packed and transported. If they have been sitting in your garage or basement, collecting dust, then remember the acronym S.S.D. – Store, Sell or Donate!
Cars, Motorbikes and Scooters:
This is a major consideration. If you are moving for work purposes, you will probably be provided with a car in your new posting. If privately, then consider that you may be moving to a country where they drive on the other side of the road: e. g. from the US to UK or vice versa, in which case it is not wise, and possibly even illegal, to import a vehicle with the steering wheel on the “wrong” side. A motorcycle or scooter is slightly different, and it may give you initial transport, but consider the cost, import taxes, and emission regulations (which may require expensive conversions for both cars and motorbikes). Leaving cars and motorcycles behind will greatly reduce your relocation costs. Consider selling them or leaving them with a relative to use while you are away.
However, if you do decide that you absolutely must have your beloved 4×4 with you, then consider the cost of importing the vehicle, the taxes, duties, licensing fees, emission conversions, and of course the cost of maintenance.
Preparing for an overseas move is exciting, but it comes with a variety of logistical considerations, as well. Hopefully this list of items to leave behind when you embark on your journey will help you reduce the amount of packing you will need to do, and you will realize that it can be easier than you imagined. It is always best to start a new phase in life with a light heart (and light luggage).