7 tips for moving abroad

Moving from one side of town to the other is complicated enough - but what if you need to move to the other side of the world? Find out how my family managed it - and why we'll always travel with a measuring tape.

The first time my husband and I moved house was a hectic but manageable affair - we simply packed our cars and excitedly lugged our meagre belongings to our new place.

Eight years on and three children later, we found ourselves moving house again – but this time we were going halfway around the world, to Singapore. Eek!

It was a very different situation - we had filled a whole house but were moving to a small flat with practically no storage. Plus, we found out we were moving whilst in the midst of house renovations, which were due to finish at the same time my husband started his new job. Aarrggh!

But we got there in the end – and learnt a fair bit in the process. Check out my quick tips to make moving abroad a little easier.

1.Choosing a removal company

When moving overseas it’s worth using professionals – but it can be cripplingly expensive. Fortunately, if you’re moving job your company may cover the costs. But of course, you still want the best service for the best price.

The cheapest option is usually to ship your belongings by sea, although it can take 8-12 weeks to arrive.

International firms like Pickfords reckon to be able to move you to any country – and the benefit here is you are likely to be unpacked by Pickfords too.

Most other firms will be working in partnership with companies in your destination country. But on the plus side, lower overheads mean competitive prices.

Ask around for recommendations (check for companies registered on their countries’ registry or with the British Association of Removers) and arrange to get three quotes.

2. One container, two container…

Shipping overseas is charged by bulk, not weight, and items will typically need to fit into standard shipping containers (20’ or 40’). You’ll pay for the space you need, be that a whole container, or part of one.

Booking your own container is usually the quickest option. It will typically arrive on a lorry at your door to be packed, sealed and then shipped, and when it arrives it will be delivered straight to your new home.

If you can’t fill a whole container you can share one as a partial load - however your boxes may have to wait in storage until a suitable partner load is ready. But of course, the less you bring, the cheaper it is.

3. What to bring?

Now’s your chance to de-clutter!

Go through each room and decide what you definitely won’t need  (e.g. garden equipment if you won’t have one). Can you store anything with friends/family?

List whatever’s left into ‘Essential’ and ‘Non-essential’ lists. Then get quotes to move just the Essential list, or both.

If the cost to ship the non-essentials outweighs their worth, consider leaving them and allocating the money to buying replacements when you arrive. Our battered old sofa, for example, would have cost £400 to ship – which to us simply wasn’t worth it.

4. Make some cash

Post items that will sell easily on these websites and you could make some money. Baby and child related equipment (cots/bulky toys) might sell faster locally on Netmums. Other good quality items could be given to family and friends, charity, or advertised on Freecycle.

5. Packing Day

Be around on packing day (rope relatives in to look after the kids) and ensure you give specific instructions regarding delicate objects, taking out extra insurance if necessary.

But try to take portable electronic devices (iPad, laptop etc) with you. And of course, the same goes for important documents – in addition to passports, driving licenses and visas, carry all birth, marriage and college certificates, immunization records, house rental agreements etc. 

6. Maximise what you bring

When we relocated we knew we would be moving into a completely empty apartment. And with a 10-week wait for our container we had to think carefully regarding what was packed – it was simply not worth shipping items we’d need straight away.

So we shipped bed frames, but not mattresses – planning to use new mattresses as our beds. Unfortunately we didn’t measure them and realised too late that a king-size mattress in the UK is not the same as a king-size in Singapore!

But we also planned to bring as much as possible with us.

Many airlines will increase your baggage allowance if you explain you are emigrating. We got an extra 5kg per person, which gave us 125kg to fill – plus hand baggage.

And fill it we did! In addition to our 3 large suitcases we’d got sturdy boxes from our removal firm and filled them with pillows, bedding, towels, cutlery, saucepans, toys - everything we could fit to save us buying more, and brought it all on the plane with us. It’s amazing how much 125kg works out to be!

And don’t forget, babies have their own extra airline allowances, even if they don’t have a seat. Typically this means a pushchair, car seat, travel cot plus decent sized changing bag. Make the most of it!

7. Tax

On a final note, don’t forget to fill out all of the relevant tax forms when leaving the UK as you may be due a lovely tax refund, and set up a Post Office re-direction if required.

So there you have it – some of my top tips to hopefully make your move abroad a little easier. Good luck! 

More: Five ways to cut the cost of moving home | Average mortgage fee is more than £1000


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