How to Pack for an Overseas Move (an easy 4 step approach)

How to Pack for an Overseas Move (an easy 4 step approach)

You have your visa in your pocket, you have landed a job abroad, you are making arrangements to leave your home country, and now you need to pack your belongings. But where to start? How to pack for an overseas move? 

I’m all about simplifying the moving abroad process. So, to help you pack for your move abroad, I have created a simple 4-step approach that will guide you in deciding how to move, what to bring (and what to leave at home), and helping you pack your belongings. To top it off, you can find the FREE Moving Abroad Packing List at the end of this article.

Are you ready? Let’s get started.

Step 1: How to Move Abroad

The first thing you need to decide when moving overseas is how you’ll move abroad. 

There are, generally speaking, two main moving scenarios when you are moving overseas.

1). Move with all (or most) of your belongings

2). Moving with a couple of suitcases (or as many as your air carrier allows).

Both scenarios have their pros and cons. The ‘right’ decision will depend on your situation. For example, when I first moved abroad, I moved to Sydney with my boyfriend on a working holiday visa, but without a job lined up. To give ourselves flexibility, we left the Netherlands with only a couple of suitcases. All our other belongings we sold or stored with our parents. We lived in Sydney for five years, but we never had our other belongings shipped. Instead, we initially lived in furnished accommodation, and after that, we moved to an unfurnished apartment and bought new furniture at Ikea or second-hand.

When we moved to Dubai, our situation was slightly different. We were a little family of three now. However, again, we decided to start in a furnished apartment and only move with a couple of suitcases. But, when we decided to stay in Dubai longer and expand our little family (I was pregnant with our second child), we decided to ship our belongings from the Netherlands to Dubai.

In short, how to move abroad depends on many factors. Moreover, you can change your mind and have items shipped at a later point when you are sure you’ll stay in your host country for longer.

If you are still unsure how to move abroad, try answering the questions in the How To Move Abroad Decision Maker below.

How to Pack for an Overseas Move Decision Maker

Step 2: How to decide what to bring with you

When it comes to deciding what to bring, make sure to think about size, seasons, stores, location, and duration. Let me explain that further:

Size matters

If you move abroad and know the size of your new house or apartment, you can make plans for the furniture you will bring (or leave home). But often, this is not the case. Your housing arrangement may only be confirmed after a couple of months. If you move to a smaller place, you’ll soon be overwhelmed with all your things or even forced to sell that lovely cabinet. So do yourself a favor and think size before stuff when planning your move.

Seasons matter

Are you moving from a country with four seasons to a country with only two? Then the chances of you needing all your ski gear and warm, wooly sweaters are pretty slim. So think about the seasons in your new host country and pack wisely.

On the other hand, when you are moving from a place with only two seasons to a country with four seasons, don’t be tempted to buy yourself a whole new wardrobe. You are better off buying the things you need after arriving and taking inspiration from the clothes and accessories the locals buy.

Stores matter

True story: A friend who moved abroad couldn’t live with the idea of not having her favorite shampoo. Afraid she couldn’t buy it abroad, she decided to buy a whole box and take it with her. Two months later, in the first week in her host country, she walked into a supermarket and found her favorite shampoo – on sale!

Guess you figured out the moral of this story. We live in a world where nearly everything is available practically everywhere. And unless you decide to move to a remote area, you can assume that there will be a good variety of stores selling brands you know or even specialized stores that sell foreign products. And if not, it is also not the end of the world (and even fun!) to try out new (local) brands.

Location matters

In some cases, you won’t be able to take specific objects with you. First, of course, there are the obvious items that most countries restrict, like weapons, exotic animals, or plants and flowers. But some countries also have religious artifacts or sex toys on their list of prohibited items. To avoid a hefty fine or other issues, inform yourself about the rules on restricted or prohibited items in your destination country. 

Duration matters

Last but not least, the duration of your move matters too. A short work assignment, a semester abroad, or a short-term volunteer program are planned differently than a more permanent move. So pack smart and think about what you need during your time abroad.

Step 3: Before you pack your belongings, declutter!

Whether you plan to move all your belongings abroad or decide to store most of them, you need to do a serious declutter session. Yes, I know that is not everyone’s idea of a fun day, but it is sooo worth it! The items you’ve collected over the years have a place in your life right now, but are they also needed in your new life abroad?

Do you really need all those old magazines or the Tupperware boxes with missing lids? Are you sure you want to pack the socks with holes in them or that pair of jeans you haven’t worn for over five years? You don’t!

Accumulating stuff is easy and getting rid of them is hard – I know. But I also know from experience that decluttering before a move is refreshing; it clears your head. And as a nice extra benefit, it brings in some extra savings (as you can sell some of your items). 

So, do yourself a favor and declutter before you pack your belongings. Here is an easy way to get started:

How to Pack for an Overseas Move

Step 4: Start packing your belongings

Ok, you have decided how to move abroad, what you will bring, and most importantly, have gotten rid of a lot of extra baggage with a good declutter sesh. Now, this is the time you start to pack your belongings for your move overseas. Make sure you still have some extra boxes dedicated for storage in case there are any last-minute items that you rather put into storage.

If you get help from overseas movers, check out these tips for an overseas move or these tips about shipping your items. And of course, don’t forget to download the FREE Moving Abroad Packing List, so you don’t forget anything when packing your bags.

There you have it, four easy steps to pack for an overseas move. You got this! Packing for your big move abroad is one of the last big milestones. You are almost there!

Let’s move abroad!

p.s. Ready for more? Get the Let’s Move Abroad Book on Amazon.

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