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How to Pack for an International Move

Whether it’s prompted by career, family, or something in between, getting ready to move abroad can be an exciting new chapter in life. If you’re preparing to pack for a fresh start in a new country and could use a little help started, remember that simple organisation is the key to successful relocation.

Source: Flickr | Thomas Galvez

So always keep a notebook handy, and begin with as much time as possible to ensure smooth sailing for your international move. In the end, you’ll find a little preparation will go a very long way toward having you up and running in your new home with enthusiasm and energy to spare.

Packing Tip #1 – Consider employing professional packers who are trained to do a much better job than you, and who will efficiently fill all those extra spaces to help keep shipping costs down.

Where to Start

It’s important to recognise that it can take several weeks for your belongings to move overland or overseas, so be sure to work with an appropriate time buffer, and to personally transport anything you might need for the first few days after your arrival.

Delays can happen, and overall you’ll experience far fewer unwelcome surprises if you simply accept the notion of living without most of your things for a while. The more you can do to de-clutter and weed out your belongings before you get ready to move, the far better off you’ll be. You’ll pay significantly less in storage and shipping costs, and you’ll be in far better control of the whole packing process.

Packing Tip #2 – Don’t skimp on the quality of packing boxes and other materials. Spending a little more can save you a lot in the end in terms of damaged belongings.

What to Take

Once you’ve condensed your belongings, the next question is which of them to actually take with you. Is this a short-term or a long-term move? Ask yourself if the item you’re considering is really something you’ll need in your new life, then compare the costs of storing your possessions versus shipping them, and the benefits of selling your belongings versus replacing them.

Source: Flickr | Nicolas Huk

While you consider your various options for selling, storing, donating, and disposing, remember that some things can be expensive and difficult to replace in other countries.

Packing Tip #3 – ALWAYS consider insurance coverage when shipping your belongings.

The Best Way to Pack Crockery and Glassware

  • choose a strong, appropriate sized box

  • use generous amounts of crumpled paper in layers, around outside edges, and inside each item

  • wrap items separately in bubble paper, pack vertically, place heavier items at the bottom

  • double-seal boxes securely, label clearly as ‘fragile’

Packing Tip #4 - Pack up the kitchen last, unpack it first!

Your Furniture

Are you moving to a furnished accommodation? If not, you’ll need to decide whether to bring your furniture with you, or to purchase new or used furnishings when you arrive.

Compare the costs of shipping your furniture, storing it while you’re gone, and of purchasing replacement pieces when you arrive. And remember that one size does not necessarily fit all. If you’re downsizing from a house to an apartment, your king-sized bed and favourite comfy sofa might not fit when you get there.

Packing Tip #5 - Disassemble furniture and bicycles for flat packing whenever possible, and be sure to take the appropriate tools to reassemble them.

The Best Way to Pack Mirrors

  • choose an appropriately sized flat box

  • line outside edges with crushed paper

  • wrap mirror completely in bubble wrap, tape securely

  • fill any gaps inside box around mirror with crushed or padded paper

Your Electronics and Appliances

Check to see if your electrical items are compatible with the voltage output in your new location. There’s no point shipping that enormous flat-screen TV halfway across the globe, only to find it doesn’t work when it gets there.

Source: Flickr | Nathan O'Nions

Transformers and plug adaptors can be expensive or simply unavailable in some areas, so be sure to check ahead of time and bring what you need. It’s also a good idea to back up important files on your computer before transporting it, just in case the worst should happen and it gets damaged en-route.

Packing Tip #6 - Label boxes with the name of the room they’re destined for, and label those containing things you’ll need right away, like bedding, kids’ toys or your computer, with ‘OPEN ME FIRST’.

The Best Way to Pack TVs and Computers

  • use original packaging whenever possible, otherwise a close-fitting, strong-sided box

  • pack flat screens in standing position

  • cover screen with cloth to prevent scratches

  • wrap in heavy duty bubble wrap, tape moving pads securely around item

  • stuff empty spaces with clothing or linen

Your Clothing

Don’t forget to consider the seasons and climate differences you’ll be exposed to in your new location. You simply might not need that fleece-lined parka or collection of flip-flops. Think, too, about things like the activities you’re apt to engage in, and whether you might be considered a hard-to-fit size where you’re going.

And if you find there are seasonal clothes you just won’t use, store them with family members to have on hand when you come home for a visit.

Packing Tip #7 - Consider vacuum packing soft items like bedding and clothing to save space, and always pack toiletries and other liquids in sealable plastic bags inside tight-sealing plastic boxes.

Who to Ask for Help

For as smooth a transition as possible when packing for an international move, it can be helpful to engage the services of a professional removal company. These organisations can arrange for the complete wrapping, packing, shipping and subsequent unpacking of your belongings, and will deal with removals insurance coverage and all the relevant shipping and customs documents for your transported goods.

How to Pack for an International Move - Shipping

They can also help you arrange shipping for your vehicle or pet, and they’re a rich resource for relocation help and advice. Be sure to compare prices and services, check testimonials, and ask questions about timelines, insurance coverage details, and loss or damage policies.

A shipping quotes comparison site can help you with all of this. And give yourself at least two months before the date of your move, to allow prospective companies a chance to visit your home and give you a shipping estimate. Just be sure you’ve already de-cluttered your belongings before they come by.

Packing Tip #8 - Beware packing and shipping banned, restricted or hazardous items, and be sure to check customs fees and other import charges and restrictions at your destination.

If you approach the task of packing for your international move with a calm and methodical hand, you’re sure to find yourself happily reunited with your belongings before you’ve even had a chance to miss them.

Packing Tip #9 - You will ALWAYS need more boxes than you think!