Moving Must-haves January 20, 2020

What to Pack When Moving Abroad – the Ultimate List

Anastasia Hill

Apart from being the next fashion icon, Anastasia is also a freelance writer and expert on moving (and packing clothes).

Many Americans relocate abroad for love, work, or some other reason. Over 40% of the US citizens abroad reported they would stay overseas forever, and 74% said they felt at home there. But every expat story usually begins with the question of what to pack when moving abroad.

If you’re planning on moving across the world, you probably expect to meet new friends, cultures, explore the things that you’ve only dreamed of. But before you can get to that, you have to deal with arguably the most tedious stage of every relocation – packing. But that is also the most important part of an international move since you should thoroughly organize what items you must pack and what you can afford to “forget” if you want to avoid unpleasant surprises once you reach your new home.

Relocating abroad means a fresh start and a new chapter in life. However, every beginning is difficult, and to make it easier and hassle-free, we have prepared some advice on what to pack when starting your international adventure.

General Tips on What to Pack When Moving Abroad

If you’re planning to relocate overseas soon, get ready to roll up your sleeves, dig into your belongings, and separate the wheat from the chaff. Since you’re probably up for a very long trip, taking all your things is too expensive and unnecessary. It’s all right to have a broader perception of the essentials you might need, but at the same time, you must cull through them and bring only the most important ones.

If you’re moving for studies, short-term jobs, volunteering, or for any other reason that requires a temporary overseas relocation, then you should take only personal items and things necessary for your daily activities.

If it’s a permanent move, the content of your luggage and boxes can easily turn into piles of various stuff. Also, keep in mind that shipping furniture and heavy stuff overseas is both pricey and impractical, especially if your future home will be equipped with all the essential household items.

Take into consideration all aspects of your relocation – the country you’re going to, its climate, what kind of lifestyle you may expect there, etc. Do due research about the foreign country, its amenities, culture, people, and find the best places for living overseas. It’s easier to adjust to a new country and environment if you are familiar with all its benefits and drawbacks.

If you’re not sure where to start, it’s easy – start with finding the right international moving company that can provide you with packing services if you don’t think you can handle the task on your own. Go step-by-step and plan your international to the smallest detail.

camera and maps
Research as much as possible about the country you’re going to reside in

Start with a Reliable Mover and Ask for Free Quotes

First things first, find a reliable company to provide you with international moving services and book your relocation date. In the sea of different movers with different deals and services, it’s not easy. But be persistent, compare several bids, ask for free quotes, and choose the one that meets your needs the best.

Your mover will create a checklist with all the items you’re planning to ship overseas. If you’re on a tight budget and need to assess your financial possibilities, this checklist provides you with the option of choice – you can subtract or add items. Bringing too many possessions with you, especially books or bulky furniture, can make your final price too high. Keep in mind that you can purchase most things again after settling in your new city.

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What Items Should Be Primary When It Comes to Packing?

Depending on the type of your relocation, the climate of your future country, and your readiness to sell, toss, or donate everything that is a surplus, you can create your own checklist. It should include everything you may need in the first several weeks. After that period, local stores can satisfy all your requirements. Almost everything can be found abroad, except when it comes to personal documents, hard-to-find medication, or items with sentimental value.

tax documents
When it comes to traveling overseas, documents are mandatory

Important Documents

To prevent any unpredictable situations after reaching the airport, you should find out what documents are of crucial importance when going overseas. If you’re not sure about what paperwork you’ll require for a specific country, pay a visit to the website of State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. The best option is to have the original and a copy of each one of these documents separately:

  • Passports
  • Visa information
  • Tax information
  • Marriage license
  • Birth certificate
  • Medical and immunization records
  • Travel insurance papers
  • Credit cards
  • Board pass copies
  • Local travel guides
  • Pet health records

This is Crucial – Medicine

If you’ve been using particular medication for years, make sure to stock up on your prescriptions ahead of time. Finding the right medicine somewhere abroad could be more complicated than you’d expect. Facing that difficulty in a foreign country could be frustrating. Visit your doctor and ask them to prescribe you all the medication you might need for your international trip.

sorting pills for the week
You first aid kit should contain medical necessities

Electronics – Things You Can’t Live Without

Today’s lifestyle requires daily contact with electronics, such as laptops, mobile phones, tablets, cameras, etc. It’s hard to imagine even a day without these items, not to mention travel across borders without them. If you’re a digital nomad, don’t forget to pack all the electrical devices you consider irreplaceable. Packing chargers and batteries is mandatory, as well as all additional accessories, such as spare cables and adapters.

Appropriate Clothes

If you’re going to travel to a mild-climate or tropical zone, it’s needless to say you shouldn’t bring boots, sweaters, or a thick coat. Before sitting on the plane, your knowledge of the climate in your future country doesn’t need to be perfect, but it would be nice if you had a clear picture of seasons and average temperatures. However, having a pair of quality shoes or a practical jacket near you is always useful.


When flying by plane, your liquid items must be reduced to a minimum. It’s good to know there are plenty of solid replacements for everything you need. If you want to be equipped with shampoos, toothbrushes, and deodorant after settling in, consider their solid alternatives and cut back your liquids. They will occupy less space in your bag and will last much longer than bottled toiletries. If you have contacts, packing several more pairs, along with your contact lens solution, will be a good idea.

stack of small boxes
For international flights, choose solid toiletries rather than liquids

Miscellaneous Items

There’s always something more that you can add to your checklist. These can include hobby materials, books, or sentimental items, such as:

  • Family heirlooms
  • Art
  • Keepsakes
  • Musical instruments
old photos
Keepsakes can make you happy whenever you start feeling nostalgic for your old home

Make Your International Move as Easy as Pie

“What to pack when moving abroad” shouldn’t be a dreadful question. It’s all about good organization and your ability to stay calm when necessary. That means you should leave nothing to chance and decide on time what to do with your furniture and other large items.

You can’t bring everything, but if you still need some of your dearest pieces of furniture, then think about using storage services. This option is suitable for temporary relocation. In case you’re leaving for good, ask your family and friends whether they need some of your belongings. If not, sell them.

Since you’ve already decided to venture into a new chapter of your life, bringing with you something old and huge could be just an obstacle and additional cost. Put aside your sentiments – be practical and let your overseas relocation go smoothly.

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