How to Decide What to Pack for Your Overseas Move

Should it Stay or Should it Go?

Couple holding hands walking past yellow wall in Mexico
Gary John Norman / Getty Images.

When you're getting ready to move overseas, some of the biggest decisions will be what to take with you and what to leave behind. While I usually suggest that people scale down as much as possible before a move. However, international moves are a little different.

Know How Long You'll Be Gone

There are questions you can ask yourself before moving and after you've done your research. This should include how long you're planning on being away. If this is a permanent move, then taking essentials and items with emotional value, is important. If you're going to be away for six months to a year, then many of your ​things can be stored or left with family or friends.

I've moved overseas a few times, sometimes not knowing if I'd be back, so I left most of my things with family and friends. Remember, if you choose to leave your stuff with others, it can be hard to pick them up again. I still have most of my book collection with friends in San Francisco. I know they're in good hands, are being well loved and appreciated, and that some day I'll collect them.

What Will You Need to Make Your New Place Feel Like Home

Once you have a rough idea of how long you'll be gone, next decide what you'll need to make a new home in another country feel like home. Often times this will include framed photos, and in my case, a favorite rocking chair and my writing desk. I can't imagine my home without them. So, look around you and try to decide which things in your home make you feel relaxed and at ease. Moving overseas is difficult. It'll take a while for you to feel like you're at home, so it's a good idea to try to create a true, comfortable and familiar sense of belonging in your new space.

Know What You're Allowed to Move

Other restrictions could be imposed by the country you're moving to; import fees and duty costs could apply. Some countries will have restrictions on what is allowed across their border, which often applies to things like plants, flammables, etc.. Find out before you move what you're allowed to import into your new country and what you'll need to leave behind before you figure out how to ship your things. I suggest contacting the country's consulate or official website to find out about import restrictions and duties that might apply. 

What Kind of Climate Are You Moving to

Another factor in deciding what should be moved and what should stay is climate. Living in tropical climates may not be good for antiques and some artwork. On the other hand, dry climates can also damage fine furnishings. Find out before you move by researching your new country. 

What Will Your New Home Look Like?

Research what kind of accommodation you can expect. If rental costs are extremely high, you may be moving into a smaller home or apartment. Or perhaps the company is providing you with paid accommodation that will be fully furnished, such as corporate housing. If this is the case, ask for the size and layout of the home so you can see if and what pieces will fit and what is included in the rental.

Decide How to Ship Your Stuff

After deciding the key pieces that will move with you, check into shipping costs and shipping options. This may alter your decisions somewhat, but again, try to imagine your new home and what you need in it. Sometimes the extra cost of shipping is worth it. If you're being transferred through work or have just signed a contract with a new company, find out their stipulations about moving households. Some have restrictions on the amount you can take and others will pay only a portion of the cost.

After all that, try to enjoy the moment. You're about to head off on a whole new adventure - a journey that many will never take and one that is a chance of a lifetime!