How To Move Your Family Overseas
We are moving to England in one month. One month! I am excited but our checklist seems to be growing instead of shrinking. To move a family overseas there are a lot of details and things to take into consideration as you decide what to bring. We are moving there for 4 years while my husband gets his PhD. We’re moving into furnished family housing through the university so some of the complication of buying furniture is lessened.
Here are some helpful tips we’ve either learned or done along the way:
- Start working on getting your Visa early. And ask someone who has filled one out to help you if you need it. Visas are complicated and take a lot of time to fill out. Depending on your reason for moving overseas the Visa application will vary. We are going on a student Visa so we had to provide proof that we could pay for the first year of school in cash. That may mean borrowing money from the bank, friends, or family so you can have cash in your bank account. If you are planning on moving for work then I’m sure the process is a little different. Jon had to make an appointment at a consulate to get his fingerprints taken for the Visa process. After he did that he had exactly 2 weeks to get ALL the correct paperwork in. Like I said, start working on the paperwork part early because you don’t want anything to go wrong when you are working on a timeline. If things go wrong, and your Visa is not approved due to paperwork issues, you have to start all over (including paying for it).
- Work on getting your passports early. Enough said about that.
- Don’t buy your plane tickets until your Visa is approved and you have a known date approved for your arrival. It just makes moving abroad easier.
- Consider bringing a combination of duffle bags and crates instead of suitcases for your plane trip. We bought 5 tickets so we have an allowance of 10 checked bags. We opted for duffle bags because they hold a lot and are light, which means we can stuff more in without the weight limitations of a suitcase (ever noticed that they weigh a lot on their own without clothes in them?). We purchased some crates that can be locked after going through customs. We haven’t gone through a “dry packing run” yet (see next point) but we are planning on using the crates to pack some toys and other large items that may do better in a box rather than a duffle bag. Keep a list of things other than clothing that you are bringing with you to go through customs in case you need it.
- As your move date gets closer, try a dry run pack to see what changes you need to make with whatever you are planning on bringing with you. Stock up on space bags to have more room for your clothes.
- Learn about the weather in the country you are moving to. England’s weather is much more mild than Texas–or Pittsburgh for that matter. We acquired a lot of good winter/cool weather clothes while we were in Pittsburgh but I have recently learned that the summer weather in Durham (city we are moving to) is more like Fall weather. Our friends who live there have posted pictures of themselves wearing long pants and long sleeved shirts or sometimes t-shirts. There have been a few warmer days where they have worn shorts and short sleeves. Knowing the weather helps you decide what clothes to pack. It would be foolish to take up a lot of packing room with Texas summer clothes when we will need clothes for cooler weather while living in England.
- Go online and check prices for things like clothes and shoes for kids and adults. At least in the UK, clothes and shoes are very expensive. We will take advantage of using the charity shops for clothing, or waiting until we come back to visit to buy clothes for the kids. We talked to a friend who lives in Whales as a missionary and she said to make sure that we get our shoes for the kids in the States before we move. The quality of shoes and what you pay for them doesn’t compare to what you can get here in the States.
- Investigate weight limitations for luggage on the plane so you can decide if it is “cheaper” to pay for overweight bags or shipping them ahead of time. Shipping things to the UK is not cheap so we are planning on going over the weight limit if we have to.
- Plan on taking advantage of the 2 carry on items per person. Even though it will be difficult to get down the aisle carrying the 2 carry ons the kids are each allowed we will be taking advantage of that and carrying on valuables, important documents, and items necessary for traveling on a long plane flight with 3 kids.
- Having a friend who lives in the country you are moving to helps a LOT. If it is also someone who moved to the country then that is even better. We have friends who moved there the year before we did and they have been life savers! They have connected us with other families who have finished their degrees and selling their stuff for cheap. We have bought several kitchen items and a few pieces of extra furniture.
- Check online for the different stores and their prices so you can plan a budget for repurchasing the things you need once you are there. We are planning on bringing a set of sheets and a towel for each person in our family but my friend who is there has also found a place that sells sheets for cheap. We may decide to buy an extra set of sheets for the kids when we are there. Find out about the country’s version of “good will” so you can hit those when you arrive to purchase goods and save money. In England they have many “charity shops” where you can buy appliances, furniture, clothing etc.
- We sold most of our furniture when we left Pittsburgh. (For those of you who don’t know, we left Pittsburgh in June and came to Texas to spend the summer with friends and family before leaving for England.) We decided that paying for storage while we were gone was too expensive. We got rid of a LOT of stuff other than furniture and there was something quite freeing about getting rid of so much stuff (I digress). I kept all of our kitchen stuff, dining room table and chairs, china cabinet, and beds. When we come back we will have a lot of things to rebuy–but we are essentially trusting God to provide for us when we return. We know a family who had a friend from church that owns a storage facility and gave them a super discount on storing their belongings while overseas. We asked around our church hoping to get lucky in that regard so we wouldn’t have to sell so much stuff and rebuy it later but that didn’t work out. Some people ship all their things overseas with them. The Dean President of my husband’s seminary moved here several years ago only planning on staying for 4 years but now they are here indefinitely. They brought everything with them even though they were only planning on being in the states for a few years. It is an option if you want bring all your stuff with you.
- Before you leave the States, take everyone to get eye, dental, and well-visits at the doctor. Depending on the country you plan on moving to, the health care system is probably very different and it is good to get in those visits before moving. Get online and learn about the health care system in the country you are moving to. You’ll need to find out if you will qualify for their national plan or if you will have to budget for health insurance costs.
- If you are planning on bringing electronics like computers or your Wii (haha! We are totally bringing ours) then you’ll need to investigate getting the appropriate plugs for them. In the UK the voltage is different not to mention the shape of the plugs so you need voltage converters and plug adapters. Some electronics are set to work at a higher voltage and have the converters in them so you just need a plug adapter. It’s confusing, I know. That is why you need to investigate!
- Bring movies/music for your family in those cd storage books. Saves on space!
- Buy a Rick Steves travel book about the country you are moving to if it is available. It will help you discover all kinds of fun things to do in your new city and it often has some money saving tips on travel.
I may have to make this a two part series because there is so much to plan when you move overseas!
I know at least one of our readers has moved overseas a few times (Sharon!). Have any other helpful tips to add to this list? Know anyone who has moved overseas?