Do you have your heart set on moving overseas? If you have visions of making a new home abroad, this moving checklist is for you.

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moving overseas checklist

As a national storage company, we’ve helped people all over the country pack up their belongings and head elsewhere. As such, we’ve picked up a thing or two about how to pack, move and store items efficiently. However, a lot more logistics and planning comes into play when you’re moving overseas.

People of all ages contemplate and eventually do move overseas. Expats can consist of college-age students, young families and retired couples all looking for a change of pace and a different lifestyle. Regardless of your life stage, specific moving tips apply to everyone moving to a foreign land.

This moving overseas checklist is designed to be broad enough to help the most amount of people and isn’t here to persuade or dissuade you with any opinions. We aren’t here to explain the bureaucracy and change in the culture you might encounter. We aren’t going to offer anecdotes about why you should or shouldn’t move abroad. We’re here to keep you organized, on task and ahead of the game! Without further ado, here’s a handy moving overseas checklist to guide your next move.

  • Find a place to stay before you do anything else.

finding a place to stay when moving abroad

The first step in planning a move overseas is to pick a place to live. Even if you are only planning to move for six months, finding an apartment might be harder than you thought. Keep in mind, a hotel, Airbnb or hostel stay is more suited for long term travel and not an affordable place for a long term residence.

Figure out a housing budget, then research your numbers to see if that budget is realistic. Talk with people you know who are living in the country you’re heading to and get their input. Planning the rest of your move is going to be nearly impossible if you don’t have an end destination.

Your housing budget should ideally include:

  • First month’s rent
  • Last month’s rent
  • Security deposit
  • 1-2 months in additional rent as a buffer
  • Figure out how much you’ll need to save for starter funds.

budget for moving overseas

Anyone moving overseas will benefit significantly from having starter funds set aside. After you have a housing budget and have picked a place to live, work on a living budget next.

Even if you never budgeted while living in the states, doing so now is vitally important to your peace of mind. Find a basic currency converter and work on some necessary living expenses you’ll face right after your move and in the months to follow.

Some unexpected budget items to consider that might cost more abroad:

  • Costs for travel documents like visas
  • Medical expenses and medicines (fill your prescriptions in the states for a three month supply before leaving)
  • Additional airfare or travel expenses due to last minute changes
  • Have a plan for buying or shipping furniture.

moving overseas shipping

Before you decide what furniture to take and what to leave, do a large scale decluttering of your current residence. Take an honest look at your belongings and determine what you aren’t using at all anymore.

Next, figure out what furniture will make sense in your new home. Figuring out where you’re staying first is super important because you’ll need to know how much space you have and some basic measurements in order to plan.

The next step requires a little bit of math and a little bit of emotional reasoning. You need to determine whether you will ship your furniture, buy new, and/or store your existing stuff in the states.

Some factors to consider include:

  • Does your furniture have any sentimental value? Before you impulsively get rid of everything, think about whether you or another family member would appreciate furniture that is either an heirloom or sentimental for another reason.
  • Is it cheaper to ship furniture or buy it new? A lot of this is going to depend on the cost of shipping and the cost of furniture in your new country. Search online and gather some prices. Create a spreadsheet and weigh the pros and cons of each option.
  • How easy is it to get furniture in your new country? If you are moving to a remote island, the cost of basic furniture might be three times as much as it is back home. If it’s going to be logistically challenging to shop and get these pieces to your new place, consider renting a place that’s already furnished.
  • Keep all your paperwork decluttered, organized and translated.

travel paperwork for moving to another country

Take the time to create a moving binder with everything you need for your relocation abroad. This one binder will include copies of all your necessary paperwork. Once that is put together, go through a service to get them all translated into the new country’s language prior to your travel and moving date.

Important documents to have translated:

  • Medical records
  • Visas and passport documents
  • School records
  • Move with a job, school, or other organization’s support.

moving overseas with a job

If moving overseas permanently, consider doing so with the support of a company or other organization. The easiest way to keep things organized is to do so with the guidance of people who have been there, know what they’re doing, and know the ins and outs of the country.

Some ways to move abroad with external support:

  • See if your company has locations in other countries
  • Apply for a Gap Year Abroad program
  • Look into volunteering opportunities that provide housing
  • Learn how to pack light and pack smart.

packing tips for moving abroad

Some expats don’t have the luxury of being able to pack lightly. They could be moving with their entire family in tow for a job or a military relocation. Others are able to get by with basic luggage and a carry on. Whatever the case may be, do your part to minimize your packing footprint. Avoid packing items that are easily available in your new location.

Tips on how to pack smarter:

  • Invest in a moving scale and keep bags under designated weight allowance.
  • Pack travel-sized toiletries and buy full sized items when you arrive.
  • Look into airlines that have specials on extra baggage.
  • Navigate your new country through research and travel beforehand.

what to know when moving overseas

It might go without saying that most people wouldn’t want to move somewhere sight unseen. However, even if you have traveled to your new country on vacation, don’t assume that you know everything you need to know. Information is vital and the more you have, the more seamless this transition is going to be.

Read opinion columns, join online social groups based in your new country and solicit moving advice from locals. The more you can integrate yourself into the new country before moving there, the less stressed you’ll be when things don’t go exactly as planned. You may not know everything there is to expect, but you’ll know more than if you went into the experience without any prior research.

Logistical items to research in advance:

  • Where people buy groceries and basic household supplies
  • Basic culture differences to make sure you aren’t inadvertently offensive during the move
  • How to apply for school and how to seek medical attention if needed
  • Ways to translate simple and necessary commands if you aren’t fluent in the country’s language
  • Keep belongings in storage if you’re not moving indefinitely.

We’re often told by our customers that storage can be an excellent alternative for your belongings when you’re moving overseas. Until you know that your move abroad is permanent, there is a chance you’ll end up back home, and you’ll need to furnish a place, perhaps on short notice.

Renting storage space is significantly less expensive than keeping an apartment open, and it is much less hassle than putting the burden of storing your items on family members. If you need help navigating what storage options make the most sense for you, contact us directly.

We hope this moving overseas checklist helped you get a bit more organized. If you need more advice, visit travel.state.gov or the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.

Download a printable copy of our moving overseas checklist:

Moving Overseas Checklist

About the Author

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Lauren Thomann

Lauren Thomann is a moving and storage expert. She attended the University at Buffalo and has worked in the storage industry for over five years. Here on the Life Storage blog, you can find Lauren covering everything from finding a home, settling into a new home and all the stages in between.

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