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What to pack when moving abroad

The best place to get advice on what to pack when you move abroad is from people who have actually moved overseas. A lot of moving company websites like to promote their moving services and give you their version of how to save money or time on an international move. And that’s quite ok if you are taking a job overseas and your company is paying for the entire move. However, most of us unfortunately, have to prepare and arrange the shipment of our personal belongings ourselves.  If you are moving abroad long term or permanent and you a mostly paying the shipping cost yourself then this article is for you.  I’ll help you understand what is important to take and what to leave behind to avoid large moving cost. I have composed a list of what to pack when moving abroad.

The one basic rule you need to keep in mind if you are using a international shipping company to send your personal belonging overseas, is that, weight and volume will always increase your shipping cost.  Have you ever heard the saying “less is more?” It’s true. Over my many moves from Europe, South America and South East Asia, I learned having less is a lot easier when you are starting over and setting up a new home. That’s because basic house wares and appliances are often cheaper outside of the US, UK and Canada. If you are moving to Europe or South East Asia electronics and phones and service providers are a lot cheaper and sometimes even half of what you pay back home. If you are moving to South America clothing, shoes and domestic goods are also a better buy. Thin out or get rid of your house-wares like beds, pots pans and bedding keep it to a bare minimum and buy it overseas. Get rid of small furniture and home decor all of it, you wont need it and it has always been easy to find and cheaper abroad.

If you have heard people say “leave appliances or anything with a plug behind” they are right, most electronics are not worth it even if you have extra room in your moving budget. Definitely get rid of your TV. The reason is that plugs are not standard but different in just about every country. Even if you have a plug adapter or transformer, often the voltage is different.  In most countries for example the voltage is 220v and in the US the voltage is 120v. If you plug in your device you will short it out immediately. I have personally used a power converter or transformer which is a device that will compensate for the power difference you need.  However in my experience, the appliances do not run as smoothly as they should, and it ends up getting broken pretty quick. So why pack up a pallet of old appliances? You can sell your old ones on line or at a flee market and buy new ones generally for less than your shipping cost.

•Do pack mobile phones, laptops, tablets, or your pc tower. Most of these devices have power adjustments built in and you are going to need them to look for a job and communicate with people back home.

•Do take a good selection of quality shoes. As funny as this may sound, some countries have differences in standard feet sizes such as Europe and Asia. Half sizes for example 7 1/2 are not available in Europe. If you wear a larger size like a size 12 or above you may have a difficult time finding shoes that large in most of Asia.

•Do take favorite gadgets, your camera and hobby items. These things are often irreplaceable and you will need them during travel or to keep you occupied when you are new and living in a strange place.

•If you play an instrument, take it. Starting your life over means you might have an adjustment period before building up your social life and playing music is one of the best ways to keep your spirits up during a transitional time.

•Take the things that matter to you most. Family albums and special items that have more sentimental value are really what matter the most. When you look around a new house in a strange country it still needs to remind you of home.
• Take your pets. By all means you don’t have to leave your friends behind. You will feel far less homesick if your pets are there with you. The last time I took my dog with me to Europe it cost me an additional $75- for the plane ticket and all I had to do was make two vet appointments and secure a pet pass port. It turned out to be the most valuable thing I had with me.
• Definitely take a bike. When you are getting started in a new place a bike is the best way to get around at no cost. It’s also a great way to explore the area and get some exercise. The wheels on most bikes come off easy and can be packed easily into pallet boxes for shipping.

Just remember that most international shipments or container shipments can take around three to four months to arrive. After your first three months, most of your essential house wares, pots and pans would have already been replaced. This is a great way to gauge whether or not you need to pack certain items.

Now that you got a rough idea of what to pack when you move abroad, talk with other expats that are living in the country you are planning to move to. Sometimes you discover something as small as a high quality can opener was one of the best things you packed.

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One comment

  1. You make some really good points regarding what items we should, and should not, pack when we travel over seas. I’m glad you point out the difference in electronics, because that is something many people in the USA are not aware of. It makes me laugh to even see different outlets because they look altogether larger than what I have in my own home here. But seriously, with a lot of these items I have a tendency to think that people get too attached to what is “theirs,” yet they can be so easily replaced once you move. Indeed, the actual shipping costs tend to override the value of packing many things. I like the saying “less is more” because it absolutely applies to shipping freight like this. While I have not traveled over seas, I’ve made a few shipments to countries in Asia and Europe, and know the crazy shipping prices you can receive for just sending a CD or two.

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