Packing to move overseas


  • Undoubtedly, moving abroad is the most difficult and expensive type of relocation.
  • Without a doubt, packing for a move is the most time-consuming and energy-draining task in a moving checklist.
  • Combine these two – packing to move overseas – and you’ll have a true challenge on your hands.
  • Here is everything you need to know when packing to move overseas.

Moving is always difficult and exciting and challenging all at the same time – it’s a rollercoaster of uncertainties and opportunities, fears and hopes, loneliness and new friendships, hard work, and satisfying experiences, tough decisions and amazing results…

But when moving not just to a different city or state, but to another country, all that relocation-typical excitement and anxiety reach a whole new level of overwhelming.

There are so many laborious tasks to complete and emotional challenges to overcome that you may feel at a loss as to what to do and how to make it work at all.

One of the most tedious, yet most important things to do when preparing for moving abroad is to pack for your international relocation.

The international packing process is much more complicated than the typical moving packing process – you need to not only ensure the safety of your belongings on the long trip to your final destination but also prioritize your possessions and decide what to take to your overseas home and how to ship it to your new country.

Making the right decisions, however, isn’t all that easy – you need to find the answers to several crucial questions such as

What to take when moving overseas?

How to pack for moving to another country?

How to ship personal items internationally?

How to find reliable international movers to take care of your cherished possessions?

to ensure a successful relocation and a comfortable and enjoyable life abroad.

Here is everything you need to know when packing to move overseas:

10 Things to Consider When Deciding What to Pack for a Move Overseas

Research your new country well to find out what you're going to need there.
Destination – located. Packing list generation – in progress.

Taking all your earthly possessions to your new home abroad is irrational, impractical, and completely unnecessary (not to mention – exorbitantly expensive).

Shipping stuff internationally is both very costly and very risky and besides, you won’t need and/or won’t be able to use many of your old items in your new surroundings anyway.

So, when packing to move abroad, you need to carefully assess your actual needs and future lifestyle, the peculiarities of your new country (climate, available commodities, importation regulations, etc.), and the type of residence you’re going to live in, the value of your possessions and the risk of relocating them at such a great distance, to decide what to take and what to get rid of before your international move.

1. Duration of stay

How long are you going to be in the foreign country?

If you’re moving to a different country to study (or for a temporary job, or for any other reason that requires you to be there for a limited time period) and expect to be back in a few years, then you should take only some personal items and the things you need for your studies, work, etc. and leave most of your belongings with family or friends or place them in storage.

If it is a permanent move, however, you need to take all your essential items, sentimental possessions, and everything else you don’t want to ever part with.

2. Lifestyle

  • What is your new lifestyle going to be like in the destination country?
  • Are you going to study at a prestigious university (and need books and study materials)?
  • Will you have the time to pursue your hobbies and relax (and want your hobby materials and specialized equipment with you)?
  • Will you be working in an official environment (and need stylish clothes and accessories)?
  • Are you retiring to the countryside (and require only comfort items and entertainment items)?

3. Place to live

What kind of home will you be living in?

  • A smaller home won’t be able to accommodate all your belongings so you’ll have to take only items of high practical or sentimental value);
  • An apartment will have no outdoor space so you won’t need any gardening items and equipment;
  • A furnished home will be equipped with all the basic household items (so you won’t have to relocate your furniture and appliances).

4. Adjustment period

What will help you feel at home in the new country?

It may not be easy to adjust to your new environment after moving to a different country, so you need to make your new home a sanctuary where you’ll feel safe, comfortable, and relaxed amidst the culture shock and everyday challenges of your new life.

So, make sure you bring along everything that makes you feel happy and at ease – family heirlooms, personal favorites, keepsakes, etc. – to be able to turn your overseas home into your safe haven.

How to Make Your New Place Feel Like Home

5. Climate

What is the climate like in your new country?

There is no point in taking fur-lined boots and hats when moving to a country with a year-round mild climate, or bringing sandals and straw hats when moving to a northern country.

Besides, it’s not a good idea to bring delicate artwork or antiques to a place with high humidity or fine musical instruments to a place with a very dry climate, for example.

6. Forbidden items

What is allowed to be imported into the country?

Many countries have specific regulations on what is allowed across their borders, so you may not be able to take some kinds of pets, plants, drugs, hazardous substances, etc. to your overseas home.

7. Value of your belongings

How valuable are your belongings?

You need to assess the practical, sentimental, and monetary value of every single item you own to decide if it is worth relocating to your new country.

8. Risk

How risky it is to move an item overseas?

If an item is unlikely to survive an international relocation safe and intact (because it is very delicate, highly sensitive, too awkwardly shaped, etc.), you’d better not take it.

9. Shipping price

How much will it cost to ship an item internationally?

Make sure you compare the cost of shipping household items overseas to the cost of similar items in your new country before making your final decision to see if it will be cheaper to move your old items or buy new ones after the relocation.

10. Hard-to-find items

Which items will be difficult to find in your destination country?

You will certainly want to bring along any items that you need or like that may not be available (or may be very rare, or very expensive) in your new country.

Having considered all these factors, you can start sorting out your items and creating your overseas packing list.

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10 Things to Pack When Moving Abroad

So, what to bring when moving abroad?

1. Documents

There are many important things to pack when moving abroad.
Packing for an international move is somewhat similar to packing for a long trip abroad.

Make sure you have all your important documents (passports, visas, birth certificates, marriage certificates, diplomas, driving licenses, medical records, school records, financial records, health insurance documents, etc.) with you.

You are strongly advised to make both photocopies and digital copies of all the important papers before the move and leave one set of copies with a close friend or relative;

2. Medicines

Take a two or three months’ supply of any regular medicines you require as it may be difficult to find them in your new country.

Your medications may be known under a different name (or may not be available there at all), and it may take a long time to find a doctor in your new country who can handle your medical condition and prescribe you the medications you need, etc.

3. Toiletries

Even though some of your preferred cosmetic products and personal care items may not be easily available in your new country (or much more expensive than in the U.S.), you’re advised to take only a small supply when moving abroad – toiletries take up a lot of space and can get messy, not to mention that many of them are temperature-sensitive and may be ruined during the move.

You may find new favorites in your new country or you can order your favorite brands and products online after the move.

4. Clothes and shoes

Keep in mind the climatic peculiarities of the area you’re moving to and pack only clothing and footwear that will be appropriate for the weather conditions in your new country.

It is, in fact, a good idea to take only the clothes you are going to need for the first few months after the move – until you get settled and find good local stores.

Then, you can buy any clothes and shoes you need there – a much cheaper and more convenient option than relocating your old clothes and shoes that may not be appropriate for your new lifestyle or may not be considered fashionable in that part of the world.

Also, make sure you don’t bring along anything you haven’t worn in over a year – there is no point in paying plenty of money for an item you’re not likely to ever put on again.

5. Electronics

You will definitely want to bring your laptop, phone, tablet, MP3 player, and camera with you when moving abroad, but be sure to take their chargers (together with the necessary transformers and plug adaptors) as well.

Remember to back up important files before the move so that you don’t lose any important or sentimental content if your computer gets damaged during the relocation.

Other electronics and electrical devices are usually not worth relocating as they’re extremely fragile and delicate and, therefore, quite unlikely to survive the trip intact.

Besides, they won’t be compatible with the voltage output in most countries in the world.

6. Furniture

Moving furniture abroad is difficult, risky, expensive, and impractical:

  • it will cost you dearly to ship large and heavy pieces to your new country;
  • the furniture may easily get damaged during the long trip;
  • your old pieces may not fit into your new home or may not suit your new interior décor; etc.

So, if you’re moving to a furnished home, you’re strongly advised not to take any furniture with you – sell it before the move or leave it with family or friends.

If you want to bring along a favorite item – a family heirloom, a beautiful antique, a beloved chair, desk, sofa, etc. – ask your chosen international movers to take care of it.

If you’re moving to unfurnished accommodations, compare the costs of shipping your furniture to the cost of purchasing replacement pieces when you arrive – it will almost certainly be more cost-effective to sell your furniture and buy new pieces in your destination country than to ship your existing ones overseas.

7. Kitchen items

You will probably want to keep some of your favorite plates, glasses, and silverware, but moving kitchenware is risky and expensive – pots and pans are awkwardly shaped and weigh a lot, china and glassware are extremely fragile, etc.

So, make sure you only take along your most beloved kitchen items and get rid of everything else before the move – needless to say, kitchen appliances should never be moved overseas.

8. Sentimental items

Art, family heirlooms, keepsakes, and other items invested with high sentimental value are irreplaceable and you will most definitely want to take them to your new home abroad.

Just make sure you leave them in the hands of experienced and trustworthy international movers.

9. Hobby materials and items of interest

Your overseas packing list should include everything you need and love.
Bring along all the small things that will help you feel relaxed and happy in your foreign reality.

It is essential that you have what you need to practice your hobby and keep yourself happy and entertained in your new country.

However, it only makes sense to bring along things that you can’t buy there (specific equipment) or things that you really love (your old guitar or lucky golf clubs, for example).

10. Books

Books are very heavy and will quickly add up to the total weight of your shipment, so you should only bring a few select volumes with you.

Even if it is difficult to find reads in your native language in your new country, you can always order the books you’re interested in online or just use your e-reader.

Your international packing list should also include all the small things (pictures, lamps, decorations, bedding, etc.) that make you feel happy and relaxed and can help turn your foreign residence into your sweet home.

Now that you know what to pack when moving to another country, you need to figure out how to ship your items overseas.

How to Ship Personal Belongings Internationally

Shipping household items overseas is not only quite expensive but also very time-consuming – the cheapest way to ship internationally is via sea freight which is also the slowest way to move your belongings to your home abroad.

Therefore, you need to carefully decide which of your items will be relocated by your chosen international moving company and which ones will be packed in your luggage.

It is of paramount importance to take all the essentials with you as your shipment may take several months to arrive.

So, here is what to pack where when moving abroad:

Carry-on bags

Shipping moving boxes internationally is expensive and time-consuming.
Your luggage is your survival kit when moving abroad.

Your checked luggage may get lost or may be mistakenly loaded on another plane, so you’re advised to put all the things you’re going to need during the trip to your new home and immediately upon arrival in your carry-on:

  • Important documents, plane tickets, a list of emergency phone numbers, and some cash;
  • Your laptop, phone, camera, and other essential electronics with their chargers and adapters;
  • Medicines and specialized medical items you need on a daily basis, including glasses and contact lenses;
  • Jewelry and valuables;
  • A change of clothes;
  • Basic personal care items.

Make sure you check with your airline before packing your hand luggage, as different airlines have different rules regarding the size, weight, and type of carry-on permitted on board.

Checked luggage

All the essential items you and your family are going to need for the first few weeks after the move should be packed in your luggage – your shipment may take three or four months to arrive, so you need to put everything you can’t live without for that time period in your checked luggage.

However, do not pack anything precious in your suitcases and duffel bags, as they may get lost or damaged during the trip.

Basically, your luggage should contain the same items you would usually pack for a long vacation:

  • Clothes and shoes appropriate for the current weather in your destination country;
  • Toiletries;
  • First-aid kit and essential medications;
  • Towels and bedding;
  • Basic kitchen items;
  • Essential kids’ items;
  • Some books, toys, and games;
  • Pet items (if applicable).

Do not forget to check the luggage weight limit with your airline before you start packing your suitcases and bags.

Air shipment

Air freight shipping costs are very high but you will probably need some of your possessions within a week or so after the move. Such important items should be shipped via air so that they arrive quickly and safely at your overseas home.

Just make sure you limit your air shipment to the absolute essentials – specialized items you need for your work or studies, cookware and dishware, linens and bedding, some more clothes and shoes, and other everyday necessities.

Sea shipment

As already mentioned, the cheapest way to move belongings overseas is by sea freight.

So, all the furniture and most of the books, clothes, décor items, entertainment items, and other household goods and personal items you have decided to take to your overseas home should be transported to your new country by sea shipment.

How to Pack for Moving Overseas

Packing to move overseas is a job best left to the professionals.
You can never be too careful when packing for an international move.

When moving abroad, you need to have your items professionally packed so that they have a better chance to survive the long and risky trip to your new country intact and unscathed.

Your chosen international movers will come and pack your things to make sure everything is packed correctly and with utmost safety (they will not assume liability for anything you have packed yourself).

Just make sure you create a detailed moving inventory of the items you’re going to entrust to the overseas moving company.

If packing anything by yourself (such as for air shipment, for example), make sure you use high-quality packing materials and safe packing techniques to provide the best possible protection to your items:

How to pack clothes for moving overseas

Roll your clothes instead of folding them and vacuum pack large, thick, fluffy, and/or voluminous garments to save space.

Consider shipping your finer and more expensive clothes in specialized wardrobe boxes for optimal protection.

How to Pack Clothes for Moving

How to pack shoes for moving overseas

Shoes are heavy and cumbersome, so pack only your most comfortable and most expensive footwear.

Take one pair for every occasion you might encounter, stuff the shoes with socks to help them keep their shape and prevent crushing during transportation, wrap them in clean, soft paper, and pack them in pairs in small, sturdy boxes.

How to Pack Shoes for Moving

How to pack household items for moving overseas

  • Wrap every individual object in bubble wrap or packing paper and use plenty of cushioning materials (crumpled paper, bubble wrap, foam sheets, packing peanuts, old clothes, and towels, etc.) between the items in a single box to keep them immobile during the transportation and prevent them from coming in contact with one another. Make sure the boxes are strong, well padded, and tightly sealed (How to Pack Fragile Items for Shipping);
  • Wrap books in packing paper and pack them flat in small sturdy boxes (How to Pack Books for Moving);
  • Pack toiletries and liquid items in sealable plastic bags and place them in small plastic containers;
  • Clearly label all boxes with their contents, destination room, and appropriate handling instructions (How to Label Boxes for Moving);
  • Disassemble furniture pieces as much as possible and wrap them in moving blankets. Protect any protruding parts with bubble wrap and use plastic wrap to keep the protective materials in place (How to Pack Furniture for Shipping);
  • Pack electronics and electrical devices in their original boxes (or other strong boxes of appropriate sizes). Secure any attached wires and electrical cords so that they don’t get tangled during transportation or move inside the box and cause damage to the item, protect screens and glass elements with cut-out cardboard pieces and soft clothes, wrap the entire item in bubble wrap, place it inside the box, fill any remaining empty spaces with anti-static packing peanuts, bubble wrap, or foam sheets, and seal the box tightly (How to Pack Electronics for Moving).

Good to remember: Do not make the rookie mistake of packing too many personal possessions and household items for moving abroad – you’ll be able to acquire what you need much more easily and cheaply from your destination country.

Take only what you can’t live without – things you need on a daily basis, things you love too much to ever part with, and things that are very difficult to find in your new country.

Bonus International Packing Tips

Find reliable international movers to help you relocate to your new country.
Make sure you hire experienced and trustworthy international movers for your overseas relocation.
  1. Check customs fees and import charges, restrictions, and regulations at your destination country before you start packing for your international move;
  2. Find reliable international movers to take care of your belongings – read international moving reviews, get international moving quotes, request in-home cost estimates, research the international moving companies, compare their offers, and choose the best overseas movers for you;
  3. Set aside and clearly mark the items that are intended to go in air shipment or into your luggage, so that the movers don’t pack them with your sea shipment;
  4. Keep in mind that the transportation and delivery of your items may take several months and make sure you have everything you need to survive for a few weeks in your overseas home packed in your luggage, or in your air shipment;
  5. Get proper insurance coverage for your belongings – they will travel a great distance and will be loaded and unloaded several times, so anything can happen;
  6. Consider doubling up on jackets, dressing in layers, wearing your largest coat and bulkiest boots on the plane, and any other tricks you can think of that will allow you to take more of your clothes with you (without paying extra for their transportation).

Last but not least – when trying to pack your entire life for moving abroad, keep in mind that you’re about to start a brand new life in a brand new world.

You don’t need to take every single thing you own with you – bring your favorite items along, but leave everything else behind and start afresh. This is the chance of a lifetime, you know.

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  1. My sister will be studying overseas and she will be moving there next month. It was explained here that when planning to move to another country, she needs to consider the weather and lifestyle of the place. Moreover, it’s recommended to hire a professional international moving company when planning to move overseas.

    1. Your sister should learn for herself, she has to be independent in moving overseas. It doesn’t help her in the long term, you doing things for her.

  2. Thanks for explaining that it’s important to choose international movers that are experienced and trustworthy so we can trust them with our sentimental family items. My husband and I will be moving to a different country for few years so he can continue his education. I’m glad I read your article because you helped me realize I should take the decision about the movers pretty seriously.

  3. I liked that you mentioned you need to make your new home a place to feel safe and comfortable when moving to another country. My sister will be traveling to another country, and we are looking for advice to make her new home easier to live in. I will let her read this article to help her understand the process of moving to another country.

  4. It really helped when you said to use air shipment for important things like specialized items for work. My wife and I are moving to Germany in six months since I am getting a promotion at work. We’ll keep this in mind as we get ready and find a moving company to help us.

  5. I like your idea to use strong boxes when packing electronics. My friend will need some help packing since she’s looking into getting a marriage visa and moving to her partner’s country later this year. I’ll save your tips for later so I can help her prepare for the overseas move when the time comes.

  6. It’s a beneficial & helpful blog for doing the packing for a stress-free international move. Love to read more and thank you for sharing with us!

  7. Moving overseas is an exciting adventure, and meticulous packing is key to a smooth transition. Carefully organizing and labeling boxes, decluttering before the move, and researching shipping regulations can make the process more efficient. Bon voyage to those embarking on this exciting journey!

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