International Move Packing: How to Tackle the Job
By Laurel Brown
Most people struggle packing for a domestic move; imagine the challenges (and stress) when moving overseas. However, if you plan carefully and double-check all arrangements, you should be able to keep that stress to a minimum.
Depending on your situation, you probably will not be able to take all of your possessions on an international relocation
, so your first decision will be what to bring and what to leave behind. Use your move as an opportunity to get rid of all that old junk in the garage; anything that you must keep but cannot pack can be put into storage. Don't forget: the more stuff you have, the more you will pay to move it or store it.
Deciding what to bring is critical. Bulky and impersonal items like furniture can be replaced in your new home and then re-sold upon departure. Also leave behind most appliances and electronics that will not work with the different voltage levels outside of the U.S.
Patricia Linderman, co-author of The Expert Expat: Your Guide to Successful Relocation Abroad, advises that you consider the "groan factor" in choosing what to bring. If an object will make you groan when you open its box -- as in, 'why in the world did I move that?' -- leave it behind. Objects like knickknacks and heavy books are likely to cause groans and should only be packed if they're of direct use or great sentimental value.
You should pack enough toiletries and medicines to last you for a few months. You don't want to be without the essentials, and it can take awhile to find replacements overseas or to receive orders shipped from home. Personal electronics like laptop computers, cell phones, and music players are often more expensive overseas and should also be packed -- do some research before moving to see how much they will cost, and take into account currency differences.
Bring Along a Bit of Home
Possibly the most important of all, be sure to pack some objects that give you a sense of home – you might need them if you have a bout of culture shock. These can be as simple as a few favorite books or a collection of photographs.
When it comes time to pack and move, be as involved as possible. No matter how reputable the moving company, it is a good idea to be around while they're packing up your life (on international moves
, it's a good bet you won't have an option to pack your own stuff).
You can minimize bad or mistaken packing and will know for sure where everything is going. Keep inventory lists for each box and label the boxes yourself. If anything gets lost or broken in transit, you will need these records.
No matter what you decide to pack, be sure to keep some personal items out of the boxes and with you. Your stuff probably won't get to your destination as quickly as you do, so there will necessarily be some time when you can't access your things. This can be for only a matter of days or it can be as long as several months. This is a good advice for any move, but for an international move, it's critical because of the distance and complexity involved.
YOUR NEXT MOVE:
Avoid These Five Mistakes When Moving Overseas
Laurel Brown is the author of articles on health, diversity education, history, and astronomy. She has a background in international and outreach education, editing, and observational astronomy. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in the history of science.