Relocating abroad is a daunting prospect in itself without the added cost and admin involved with moving a large family. But the devil is in the detail when moving a big family abroad, and there’s no such thing as over planning a move of this scale.

Sell, sell, sell!

You’re likely to be shipping your large furniture items ahead of travelling and it’s likely you’ll want to sell or find new homes for a lot of your stuff in the UK to keep costs and clutter down when you move. But with a big family, there are likely to be multiple beds, wardrobes and televisions to ship or store, as well as potentially one or two large tables, several chairs and sofas. You don’t want to have to purchase everything new when you arrive in your new home, so in order to ship all your big things and fit them in that forty foot container, you’re going to need to get a bit ruthless with everything else.

Once you’ve earmarked these items for shipping, think about what you could sell and what you’d be happy to give away. This process should start several months in advance so that when you come to packing up your furniture and heavy goods, you’ve only got the bare essentials left to pack. Set up an eBay account if you haven’t already, and encourage other family members to put aside books, toys, DVDs and clothes for the family sell-off. Choose a free listing weekend to keep costs down, and try to list your items with good pictures and clear descriptions to maximise their chance of selling at a decent price. Selling everything from furniture to job lots of children’s clothes and toys on Gumtree is another quick, cheap and easy way to clear clutter and find new homes for the things you no longer need, as is a good old garage sale. For everything that won’t sell, take it to your local charity shop or arrange for them to collect if you have a large load.

Our top tip: Put any money made towards something tangible that the whole family can enjoy – a piece of garden furniture or a TV subscription in your new home, perhaps.

Select the size of your move to get free quotes

All hands on deck

Depending on the size and age of your brood, you should if possible try to make the most of the extra pairs of hands you have at your disposal. Getting organised with packing boxes is key, then you can entrust each child with a couple of boxes for filling with things they want to bring with them for their new bedrooms. Let them label the boxes themselves if this helps. Do veto boxes – in secret if necessary – to check what’s been packed and what’s been ditched.

Involving your children in the packing will not only give everyone a sense of purpose and ownership at a potentially distressing time, it’ll help them narrow down their clutter and save you precious hours of packing time. Teenagers could be entrusted with the eBaying responsibility (see above) with a small commission as an incentive for their efforts. Again – hours saved.

Further down the line there’ll be cleaning to do and it might be worth drafting in friends and family for a day or two of help with lifting, packing and scouring. Remember when they said ‘is there anything we can do’? –now’s the time to take these offers up. Plan jobs ahead of time, keep a list running for adding to as and when jobs occur to you, and if appropriate allocate jobs to the kids too. So many of us end up drafting inexpensive professional cleaners at the last minute, but many hands (and a bit of forward planning) will make light work.

Our top tip: Pack plates vertically like records to minimise damage, and use knitwear and socks to insulate and protect crockery and glassware. This’ll save on bubble wrap and maximises the use of packing space.


Easier said than done of course, but timing your move to coordinate with school holidays and favourable weather will optimise your big move financially as well as emotionally. If you’re moving for work, your (or your partner’s) new employer should be sympathetic to this and will try where they can to facilitate your start date to coincide with the beginning of a new school term.

Flying during school holidays is notoriously pricey but it will allow you to move and settle within a school holiday and will let your children leave their old school at a natural break in the year. If flights come as part of your work relocation package, however, flying in holiday time won’t add anything to your bill. What it will do, however, is ensure that after a short spell of settling in, the kids are back in school and you’re ready to get to work. If you paid school fees in the UK or if you will be paying them in your new country, this will save wasted fees on partly-completed terms, too. Not only this, but minimal childcare spending will be required and less time for teenagers to mope!