How to pack for an international move?

How to pack for moving abroad.
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So, it’s for real – you’re moving to another country and a whole new life awaits you halfway across the globe (or just across the border, for that matter). You are, no doubt, excited and scared and overwhelmed all at the same time, and probably at a loss of what to do and how to best organize your international relocation. And while there are plenty of important decisions to make and laborious tasks to complete before moving abroad, packing for your international move should be among your top priorities. Why the rush? Shipping your household items to another country is not as simple as moving them across the states. You need to:

  • make the right choices as to what to take to your new foreign home (shipping items overseas is both very costly and very risky);
  • pack your belongings with utmost care as they’re going to travel a great distance and will be loaded and unloaded several times;
  • send your shipment as early as possible, as the transportation and delivery of your items will take plenty of time.

To do it all right, you have to be well informed and well prepared. The following international packing tips are exactly what you need in order to avoid rookie mistakes and costly blunders when packing for moving abroad.

Decide what to pack for your international move

Paring down your possessions is generally recommendable when moving house – it helps reduce the moving costs and makes the relocation process simpler and easier. When moving overseas, condensing your belongings to the bare minimum is not simply recommendable – it is an absolute must. The fewer items you choose to relocate, the less you will pay (significantly so) in storage and shipping costs and the less troubles you will encounter. So, when packing for an international move, make sure you take all the relevant factors into account:

1) Your new lifestyle. Depending on the purpose of your relocation, there will be certain items you won’t be able to do without in your new country. If you are moving there to study, for example, you will definitely need your books and study materials; if you are going to retire to a rural country, you will probably bring along all your high-tech gadgets and favorite entertainment items, and so on.

2) Your new home. The type of residence you’re going to live in after the move will determine what kind of household items (and how many of them) to take with you:

  • a smaller home won’t be able to accommodate all your stuff, so you will have to bring along only items of high practical or sentimental value;
  • an apartment will have no outdoor space, so you won’t need any gardening equipment and other related items;
  • a rented home may be partly furnished, so you won’t have to relocate all your furniture, appliances and other larger household items;
  • corporate housing or other paid accommodations your new company is providing you with may be fully furnished, so you will only need your personal items and clothing; etc.

Therefore, you are strongly advised to research your housing options well in advance, choose the most appropriate type of accommodation under the circumstances, find out if anything is already available, and ask for the size and the layout of the residence – this way you will know what exactly you are going to need and what items will fit in.

3) What will help you feel at home. To be able to accept all the cultural and social differences in your new country and adjust to the new environment, first you need to feel safe, comfortable, relaxed and happy in your own home. So, think of all the little things that will make your new place feel like home – family heirlooms, framed photos, pieces of art, keepsakes, decorations, favorite furniture pieces, etc. – and make sure you bring them along.

4) The climate in your new country. Depending on the atmospheric conditions in your new area, you may or may not need certain items of yours (no point in taking long coats and fur-lined boots when moving to a country with a year-round mild climate, right?). Also, have in mind that very dry climates are bad for fine furniture, while high humidity can ruin artwork or antiques.

SEE ALSO: Should I move to a warmer climate

5) Non-allowables. Many countries have restrictions on what is allowed across their borders (live animals, plants, weapons, drugs, hazardous substances, etc.). So, you need to find out what you’re allowed to import into your new country and what you’ll have to leave behind before you start packing for your international move. It’s a good idea to contact the embassy of the country you are moving to (or visit its official website) and ask about import restrictions, customs fees and other duties that may be applicable in your case.

Having considered all these factors, you can finally sort out your belongings and start preparing them for shipment. Get hold of appropriate packing supplies and make sure you create a detailed inventory of everything you’re going to pack for moving abroad. Decide on the fate of the rest of your possessions – throw away damaged, worn out, or useless items, sell or donate everything that is still in good condition, and put into storage (or leave with friends or family) those of your belongings you want to keep but can’t take with you.

SEE ALSO: How to get rid of things when moving house

Decide how to ship your items to your new country

Your next step is to determine which of your items will be sent with your moving company and which ones will be packed in your luggage for immediate use. It’s recommendable to keep all the essentials close at hand as your shipment may take long to arrive in your new country.


Your carry-on should contain all the things you’re going to need on the plane and immediately upon arrival (in case your checked luggage gets lost):

  • Important documents (passports, birth certificates, marriage certificate, moving-related documents, financial documents, credit cards, school and health records, insurance policies, etc.);
  • Your laptop, phone, camera, MP3 player, and other essential electronics;
  • Medicines and prescriptions (as well as any specialized medical items you need on a daily basis, including glasses and contact lenses);
  • Your jewelry and other very expensive or irreplaceable items;
  • Some cash;
  • A change of clothes;
  • Basic personal hygiene items.

Have in mind that each airline has different rules regarding the size, weight and type of carry-on permitted on board, so you need to get familiar with the regulations beforehand.


Pack all the items you and your family are going to need to survive for a few weeks after the move in your luggage:

  • Weather-appropriate clothes and shoes for all family members;
  • Toiletries;
  • Towels and bedding;
  • Chargers, power cords and converters;
  • Specialized kids’ items;
  • Some books, toys and games;
  • Basic kitchen items;
  • Pet items (if applicable).

Air shipment

Shipping via air is very costly, but you may need some of your important possessions to arrive at your new home within days after the move. Just make sure you limit your air shipment to the absolute essentials – specialized items you need for your work or studies, cookware, kids’ stuff, some more clothing and bedding, basic furnishing (rugs, curtains, etc.) and other everyday necessities.

Sea shipment

Most of your household goods will be shipped as sea freight (or transported in moving trucks, if you are not moving across the ocean). Furniture, books, clothes, electronics, dishes, décor items and everything else you have decided to relocate should be safely and efficiently packed for the long trip to your new country and entrusted to reliable international movers.

How to pack household items for moving overseas

Before making your final decisions and getting down to work, take a closer look at our detailed packing checklist for moving abroad:

1) Clothes and shoes. Make sure the clothes and footwear you pack for moving abroad will be appropriate for the weather conditions in the foreign country (And more specifically – for the specific season when your move takes place. Your new country may have four distinct seasons, but it will make much more sense to buy the clothes and shoes you’re going to need for the next season there, instead of paying plenty of money to relocate your old garments that may not even be fashionable in that part of the world).

Consider shipping your fine clothes in specialized wardrobe boxes for optimal protection and vacuum packing casual clothing and underwear to save space.

RELATED: How to pack clothes for moving; How to pack shoes for moving

2) Fragile items. Wrap every individual piece in bubble wrap or packing paper, use plenty of cushioning between the items in a single box, and make sure the box itself is very strong, well padded, tightly sealed and reinforced with quality packing tape. Mark all the boxes containing breakables as “FRAGILE”.

Consider packing your most valuable fragile items, family heirlooms, collectibles, and pieces of art in specialized wooden crates for maximum safety.

SEE ALSO: How to pack fragile items for shipping

3) Appliances and electronics. Have in mind that moving large electronic devices and household appliances overseas is usually not worth the money and the hassle involved in the process (especially if they are not compatible with the voltage output in your new country). If you decide to take some of your appliances and electronics with you, make sure you pack them in appropriate sized strong boxes, fill in the empty spaces in the box with anti-static packing peanuts, bubble wrap or foam sheets, provide extra protection for the screens and glass elements, and secure any attached cables, wires, or houses so that they don’t move during the transportation and cause damage to the item. Clearly label the boxes as “FRAGILE” and “HANDLE WITH CARE”.

SEE ALSO: How to pack electronics when moving

4) Furniture. Moving furniture abroad is not a good idea – it will cost you a fortune to ship large and heavy furniture pieces to your new country and the items themselves may easily get damaged in the process. If you want to bring along some of your favorite furniture, nevertheless, disassemble it as much as possible and protect all surfaces and protruding parts with bubble wrap, furniture blankets and other suitable materials.

SEE ALSO: How to pack furniture for shipping

5) Books. Pack your books flat in small sturdy boxes (wrap your most valuable reads in packing paper first).

SEE ALSO: How to pack books for moving

6) Toiletries. Pack toiletries and other liquids in sealable plastic bags and place them inside tight-sealing plastic boxes.

Remember that you will be able to get what you need from your new country. So, when packing for an international move, take only items of high practical, monetary or sentimental value (and items that will be difficult to find in your new area).

Our last piece of advice when it comes to packing for moving abroad:

  • Gather all the relevant information well in advance (regulations, fees, etc.);
  • Allow yourself enough time to prepare properly and pay meticulous attention to the details when packing your belongings for overseas shipment;
  • Get proper insurance;
  • Find a reliable international moving company to take care of your possessions.


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