Packing to Move Abroad – Learn From Me & Don’t Make These Mistakes

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packing to move

Packing to Move Abroad – Where Do I Start?!

Packing to move abroad can be daunting. It’s hard to know where to start, and indeed, when to stop.

As someone who has lived in several different countries, different climates, and under various different circumstances, I think I’ve finally got this whole packing to move abroad thing down.

So when packing to move abroad, where do you start? Where do you stop? What should you pack? And what shouldn’t you pack?

Unfortunately, everyone is different, and there is no one answer to these questions. But the best advice I can give when packing to move abroad is, firstly, take out the last thing you put in your suitcase.

You don’t need it.

Next, you should spend some time actively thinking about what to pack. Don’t rush packing, but consider every item that you box or put into a suitcase, and ask yourself the following questions.

packing to move

Questions You Need To Ask Yourself When Packing to Move Abroad

Everyone is different. And every move abroad has different requirements.

A good place to start is asking yourself the following questions whilst you are packing to move abroad.

What is the Climate Like in Your New Location?

This can be the difference between a lot of big boxes and a few small suitcases. Do some research on where you will be moving to. Is it rainy? It is cold? Is it hot? How much does the temperature change annually?

Are You Packing to Move Abroad for Good?

Or are you packing to move abroad for the short term? If you’re making a move for a year and you’ll be going back, you should drastically reduce the amount you take with you and only take things that are essential for your short-term move.

And also bear in mind that if you take 2 suitcases with you, you’ll be coming back from a year abroad with at least 3 suitcases of things.

Do You Have to Move EVERYTHING?

Will you have somewhere to keep some belongings in your current location, or do you have to move EVERYTHING?

Are you selling your house and leaving your old life behind to move? In which case, you should consider what to bring with you, and what to sell before you go.

If not, you can consider leaving the non-essential items with family or friends, or also put them into a storage area.

Did I Use This In The Past 2 Weeks?

I’ve found during my travels that anything you use in 2 weeks, you can use for 2 months – or more. In fact, I’ve got this down to now living for 6 months on a bag I packed for a weekend having left my suitcase in a different country (long story.)

But in general, the two-week rule fits. It may sound unbelievable. But once you think about it, most of the items in your home you will hardly use or touch. Or maybe you’ll use them, but you might not need to use them.

Give yourself a 2-week period and make a packing to move abroad list of all the things you use and want to take with you. Don’t add anything you don’t use during these 2 weeks. Everything from a toothbrush to plasters, your favourite snacks to the items of make-up and jewellery you wear.

Now you have yourself a list of the essentials. You can’t survive without any of these items for 2 weeks. So you should probably pack them.

And you can also probably survive for a lot longer than you think on just these items – so if you’re trying to pack light, there won’t be much more you need. In fact, you probably don’t need to pack everything on your 2-week packing to move abroad list.

Can I Buy This Abroad?

If you can buy it abroad for relatively cheap, don’t add this item to your packing to move abroad list. Towels. For example, when I first moved to Japan, my mum made me pack the biggest towel. It took up about 10% of my suitcase, which was a large amount considering I was already sitting on it to close it.

You can buy towels in pretty much every country in the world.

I’m not suggesting to be wasteful – make sure there is a good home for your other items to go to – but if you’re stuck on space in your suitcase if you can buy it there, do that.

Concentrate on the things you CAN’T buy in your new location.

Will I REALLY Need This?

If you’re stuck on whether you should take an item or not, consider the following points;

  • When did you realistically last use it?
  • What will you use it for?
  • Are you able to get it in the new country you are moving abroad to?

Most importantly, though, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s important to also consider how much of a nuisance it will be if you do bring it. Of course, if you’re stuck on whether to bring your desktop PC when packing to move abroad, it’s probably something you should consider long and hard about. But if it’s that fridge magnet that your friend bought as a souvenir for you from their trip to Spain and it makes you smile every time you see it, then why not bring it?

It’s small, it’s light, and in reality, the only hassle it will cause is the potential breakage and having to unpack one less item. If these things don’t bother you, then go for it. If they do, leave it behind.

packing to move abroad

How Am I Getting There?

This is also relevant to how much you pack and how diligent you have to be with yourself. If you can drive to your new location then you could even consider bringing your favourite tabletop with you. But if you have to fly to your new location, you’ll probably have to re-think bringing all of your favourite crockery and silverware.

Home-Comforts are Important When Packing to Move Abroad 

But Not THAT Important.

You’ll have a new home. You’re packing to move abroad – to live abroad. The things you “really can’t live without” you’ll find yourself living without within months, or even weeks.

Which may be hard to believe when you look at your favourite shampoo and conditioner and can’t imagine your hair ever being the same without it – but we change and adapt to new environments, and soon you’ll find you have a whole set of new “things you can’t live without”.

Bring some home comforts, especially for the first few weeks of your move. You’ll miss these things. Your favourite coffee? Biscuits? Body lotion? But, don’t go overboard.

Packing to move abroad is something very individual. Everyone has their own way of packing and their own rituals. But a mistake made by almost everyone packing to move abroad is overpacking the non-essentials and under-packing on other things.

Follow the tips above and you should be on the right path to your new life abroad!

Oh, and don’t forget your passport. 

Zoe Stephens
Zoe Stephens
Zoe is a freelance writer from Liverpool, UK. She spends her time traveling between China, where she is based, and North Korea, where she works as a tour guide for Koryo Tours. You can follow her journey and see her content from North Korea on Instagram (@zoediscovers) and YouTube. You can see more about her life stuck on Tonga on Instagram @tongadiaries.

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