10 Tips to Survive an International Move

A few months ago, we decided that we needed to leave our little slice of island paradise to try and make some money elsewhere. The truth is, you can only last for so long in a place fueled by tourism when tourist visas haven’t been issued for over a year. The job that appeared was in Dubai – a place that could not be more different from our tiny island of Gili Air, Indonesia. Preparing for the move was daunting, especially at the (near) end of a pandemic

I’ve moved about two dozen times in my life, including now FIFTEEN international moves. You might say that by this point, I’m a bit of an expert. So, when I learned that we’d be relocating internationally once again, I rolled up my sleeves, opened the Notes app on my iPhone, and started to prepare.

Here are a few of my top tips for moving internationally:

  1. If you are planning to bring pets with you, look into this almost before you do anything else. Check out the requirements both in the country that you’re leaving and at your destination. You will likely end up spending more money and time transporting your pets than yourself. Depending on the time and complexity of the processes, it might be worth it to hire a pet exporter to help you navigate the various government and airline requirements.
  2. Pack, unpack, and pack again. Invest in a small digital luggage scale and weigh your bags in advance. Many airlines have eliminated the free second bag for economy tickets – and many have even imposed a three-bag limit per customer. If you have a lot of stuff, it might actually be more cost efficient to upgrade to a business class ticket than to purchase excess baggage. If you are moving an entire household, including furniture, absolutely hire an international moving company, get insurance, and prepare for three-six months without your stuff. This means that you’ll still need to bring a bunch of suitcases with you on the plane.
  3. In regards to packing your suitcases, distribute heavy items throughout your bags. If you have smaller roller bags, fill them with your heaviest items while keeping lightweight clothing in your biggest bags. Get packing cubes and roll your clothes to maximize space. You’d be surprised how many rolled clothes you can stuff into your shoes!
  4. Do some Googling about what expats wish they had brought with them when they moved to your new destination. I wish I had known that thong underwear was practically impossible to find in Indonesia. Stock up on your favorite toiletries, although beware: they will add considerable weight to your bags. Make sure you buy some souvenirs of the place you’re leaving. Memories are so important!
  5. Pack a week or two’s worth of clothing and toiletries into one bag—and make sure you remember which one. If you have to stay in a hotel or with a friend before you move into your new house, you’ll be so grateful you only have to open one bag to find what you need instead of pawing through your entire collection of luggage.
  6. Have a yard sale! Divest yourself of things that you don’t really need or are too heavy or bulky to bring with you. You can buy them again in your new place with the cash you make.
  7. This should go without saying, but make sure your passport has at least a year before it expires, that you’ve applied for the correct visa, and that you have the proper vaccinations. Getting an international drivers license is also a good idea. Getting travel insurance is a great idea!
  8. Contact your bank and tell them about your move. Look into a roaming plan for your cell phone until you can get a local SIM card in your new country.
  9. Keep a printed file on hand of all of your travel documents, visas, and any reservations. By the time you arrive and deal with all of your bags, you’ll be exhausted, frazzled, and may not have an internet connection.
  10. Now, with Covid-19, you absolutely need to be aware of the travel requirements in each country. Do you need a special test? Do you need to download a tracker app? Plan your quarantine hotel in advance, if necessary. Make sure your PCR test is done from an accredited hospital and will still be valid upon arrival. On travel day, make sure you have hand sanitizer and spare masks with you. Get back in the mindset of strict social distancing, not touching anything, and washing your hands. Bring snacks with you, as many of the airport shops might be closed. Consider imposing a self-quarantine post-travel, even if it’s not required, and getting a follow-up Covid test. And by all means, get vaccinated in advance of your travel if that option is available to you!

I hope my multiple international moves—the mistakes I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned—will be helpful to you somehow.

Bon voyage!

Published by Emilie Greenhalgh

World traveler, writer, permanent gypsy, intrepid explorer, girly girl, yogini, reader, singer, animal lover - based on a tiny island in Indonesia for now.

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