If you are planning an international move soon, I hope that this ultimate packing list for moving abroad will be helpful to you. Our family has had the amazing opportunity to move from our home country in the States to the UK for a few months. I want to share some questions we had to consider before we moved to a new country and some important things we learned along the way!
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Questions to Consider
The first step before you move to a new home in a new country or an international relocation is to consider a few questions:
- How long will you be gone?
- What season will be it be where you are going? What type of weather might you encounter?
- Can I afford the move? Consider all the costs of a move abroad: flights, transport within the country, rent/mortgage, luggage, passports, cell phones, insurance, etc. Make a detailed list and make a budget for your destination country.
- Are my important documents up to date? Do you need to renew a passport? Do you need a visa to work?
- Will my health insurance cover me (and family) during my travels?
- Will I need a new driver’s license?
- Do I need a new bank account?
What can you leave behind?
As you begin to compile your packing checklist, it is a good idea to consider what you can leave behind. You really want to only take the most essential items, as you will encounter a weight limit on your luggage. If you pack above the weight limit, you will pay for it at a premium cost.
If your move is long term and you need to use a shipping container, think about what may fit in your new home. A California king sized bed that fits in your large US bedroom may not fit the door of your new London flat! Consider selling items and saving the money to buy new or used furniture if your new home.
Common household items that you use on a daily basis like coffee pots, flat irons, curling irons, hair dryers and such will be simpler to buy once you arrive at your new home. Different countries require varying plugs and you may not want to have a voltage converter for every little thing. It may be a better idea to simply borrow or buy secondhand items after your move. Save your luggage space for the most necessary items for an overseas move. Budget carefully for your weight allowances.
Of course, you will want to pack your important, essential documents for international moving. The first thing is to be sure to check expiration dates for any of your family members’ important papers. When we were preparing for our move, I went through all of our passports and I realized that my husband’s passport was expiring in the next month! Thankfully, we had plenty of time to renew it. Be sure to start checking through these legal documents early in your packing process to leave enough time for any renewals or application processes.
Items to include would be:
- visa and visa application (if needed)
- marriage certificate
- birth certificate for each family member
- immunization records (for children enrolling in school and covid vaccines)
- health insurance cards
- insurance policies
- travel insurance documents
- Social Security number documents
- report cards (for children), school records
I like having a passport organizer to keep our whole family organized. I also pack a reusable plastic envelope to keep our paperwork contained and easily accessible.
If you have specific medical considerations or a medical condition, be sure to include any original documents regarding a doctor’s care. When you are in a new location in a different country, be sure to have prescriptions refilled before you move. You will want to allow yourself enough time to establish a local doctor in a foreign country.
Be sure to pack medications in your carry-on luggage for easy access. After years of experience, I also encourage travelers to take your favorite over the counter medications during your travels. I always include:
- Children’s Tylenol and Motrin
- Diarrhea medications
- refillable water bottle
- prescription medications
One of my best tips is to join a local Facebook or social media group of other expats or moms and dads who can offer advice on locating a new doctor, new schools, the best restaurants, and all of the other important people and places to find after a big move. It can make a big difference in helping you find a community when you arrive. It is also a great way to combat homesickness during your first week or so.
Clothing and Shoes
Be very selective when picking which clothing and shoes to pack for an international move. Be sure to consider the local climate and your lifestyle. If you have children, be sure to have them try on their clothing before you pack it! We found that our older girls packed several items that they outgrew quickly or they didn’t really enjoy wearing once we got overseas. Don’t waste precious packing space on items that will not get worn.
I also advise just bringing clothing for the season in which you will arrive. Consider purchasing new clothes for the next season in your new home to avoid bringing too much stuff.
In regards to shoes, pack weatherproof, comfortable shoes. Choose neutral or dark colors that easily combine with multiple outfits. At minimum, pack a pair of sneakers, boots and flip flops for each family member. (You may want to leave the high heels at home!)
Check the current weather and climate for your host country during the packing process. Again, consult social media groups to ask about the best outerwear for your country of destination. For us, moving to the UK during January, required waterproof, warm coats, gloves, hats, and umbrellas! If you find your winter coat takes up too much luggage space, consider wearing your heavier items like boots or winter coats on board the plane.
In general, toiletries can be purchased in most other countries fairly easily. The one thing that we found our kids preferred was their brand of toothpaste from the United States, so we did pack a few extras of these since they take up little extra space.
You may want to throw a few toiletry personal items in your hand luggage, just in case you experience delays or miss a flight. When we ended up missing our connecting flight after flying over the Atlantic, due to delays, it was nice to have a spare toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush and deodorant in my bag to freshen up.
A few toiletries to be sure to pack:
- hair ties
- make up
- face wash
- cotton balls/cotton swabs
- contacts/glasses/contact solution
- shaving cream
- feminine products
Be sure to bring fully charged electronics (phones, Ipads, Kindles) on your trip! Of course, you will want your cell phone with updated apps to help manage your travel. I like to download specific games or movies for my kids, along with headphones to help pass the time. We also purchased Kindles for our older kids and took some time to add their favorite books. This was perfect, since they had loads of books at their fingertips, both on the plane and at our new flat!
Be sure to pack a portable battery pack or charger for your phones and devices! Using the phones with various apps constantly definitely drains the battery. We always have good luck with the Anker chargers.
Toys and Games
Do not wait to the last minute to think about toys and games, if you are traveling with kids. Set expectations on what your kids will be able to take on a long term move. In general, we let our older kids gather some toys and card games that they could pack in their backpacks. For our toddler, we gather some small Little People, sticker books, crayons and coloring books to keep her occupied.
Again, toys and games are items that you can easily find secondhand in many locations. If you join local playgroups, you may also find Facebook groups or parents willing to share their toys on a short term basis with you. It can also be a great time to give your child a budget for purchases once you are settled overseas.
Card games are easy to pack and fun to play as you settle in. A few of our favorites are: Uno, Skyjo, and Sleeping Queens.
Cell Phones and Converters
As you think through your move, be sure to reach out to your cell phone provider and check on your international coverage. Some companies offer free SMS text messages while you are travel abroad, but you will need to double check. If you do have international coverage, double check how long the coverage will last before you are charged.
A great app to use while you travel abroad is the Whats App. You can add international numbers to your plan and easily text, send photos and even phone friends with numbers from other countries.
If you are planning long term travel, you may want to consider changing out your SIM card to a local number. Giff Gaff offers some great options.
Consider what type of adapters and converters you may need for your move. For our UK move, we found this one has been great to have in bedrooms to charge phones, Apple watches and lamps at the same time. Also, throw some extension cords in your suitcase to help get set up in your new home.
We also like having some larger strips for the living room where we charge computers and Ipads.
If you are moving from the United States, consider packing some hand washcloths and top sheets for bedding. Typically, if you move to a rental in the UK or Europe, washcloths and top flat sheets may not be included. Of course, you can also buy them fairly inexpensively once you arrive.
Credit Cards and Bank Accounts
One of your most important tasks before you move will be to check your finances. Contact your credit card company to see if international fees will apply to overseas purchases. If you can get a credit card with no fees, it will save you some money.
If you are looking for an international debit card, the Wise card has worked very well for us. You can easily convert from dollars to euros, GBP, rupees, francs, etc.
Double check your health insurance to see what may be covered during your travel abroad. If you are staying long enough to have a visa, you may need to buy into the local health insurance program, depending on the country. Ask good questions and take detailed notes to see what may or may not be covered. This will be one of the more important tasks on your to-do list.
How to Prepare for the Move
If you are planning permanent moves or to move abroad for a long time, you will want to bring some sentimental items along. Be sure to invest in quality wrapping materials for fragile items or family heirlooms. Also make a detailed list for insurance purposes, in case any damage happens in transit.
Do some research on school options, if you are moving with kids. If you plan to return to your home country, consider what type of paperwork you may need to re-enter schools, whether you are homeschooling or enrolling into another school.
Consider using packing cubes or vacuum bags to save space in your suitcases. This will also help you stay organized as you travel once you get settled in your new home.
Anticipate that homesickness may settle in. In fact, it may hit different family members at different times. Try to work through it, especially with kids by talking about it and reaching out to your new community. It may also help to plan comfortable routines, like a movie night, a game night or a trip to the park. Sometimes, the simplest things can bring comfort when you need it!
I hope this ultimate packing list for moving abroad as you plan your next great adventure! Sign up below for my free packing list and keep reading for more travel planning ideas.