Moving countries? Here's a checklist.
Updated: Nov 19, 2018
I'm not a rose-coloured glasses type of person but I'll admit I still totally underestimated what was involved in moving countries. None of it's difficult. But when you're working to a tight deadline, it sometimes feels impossible. The best thing I did was to write a checklist.
If you're considering moving to another country, this might help.
Two months before departure:
Check your passports. If you need to renew them, get it done as soon as possible then apply for the necessary visas. You may need to pay a fee to extradite the process and/or follow-up with an appointment at the embassy. Once you have all that sorted, you can book your flights.
Get all your important documents together in one folder - and make copies. These may include birth certificates, wedding and baptism certificates, immunisation records, school statements and medical records. I also scanned everything so I had an electronic version available.
Work out what you will do with your home - will you rent it out? Or sell it? Do you need to terminate your lease? Start your research. Someone you know might be able to recommend a good agent.
Think about where you’re going to move to. What area appeals to you? Will you have a car? Do you need to be close to work or public transport? What are your priorities - space for the kids? A good school? Or proximity to night life? Technology helps here. Websites like zoopla and rightmove allow you to search potential homes based on certain criteria. Once you've settled on an area, it can be easier to make a list of local agents and contact them directly. Often they'll know about properties that aren't listed online. This direct contact can also help with any questions you might have about the rental process and what costs are involved.
The above step will also help you work out how much stuff you'll need to take with you. If you're likely to rent a flat that's furnished, you can start sorting out what you're going to bring, store, or sell. Start making a list of all your furniture - you might be able to loan some of it to friends or family.
Get quotes from at least three international moving companies. You'll need to make a choice and start the paperwork - theres's a fair bit!
Do you have any pets? Do you want to bring them with you or can you re-home them temporarily?
Book an appointment with a lawyer. You'll need to finalise your Will and Power of Attorney. While your at it, book an appointment with your accountant. It's likely you'll have some questions about tax and the management of your finances.
Are you in the middle of renovations? I had to prioritise this one as I was mid-way through painting our front fence. I was determined to finish the job before I put it on the rental market. This is also a good time to finish any odd-jobs or fix up anything that needs doing before tenants move in.
What about your garden? Do you need to hire someone to maintain it or will you rely on your tenants?
Working out what to do with your car is a hard one. Chances are - you need to use it right up until the day you go. But if you want to sell it, it can take time. You'll need a road-worthy certificate asap.
Talk to your mobile phone company. What options do you have? This too, can be a long process, so it's worth starting the conversation early.
Sort out your insurance requirements - life, travel, home/contents and medical. It's worth investigating your options - some companies offer a freeze that can be renewed the moment you re-enter the country.
Have a look at all your utilities, bills and services - do any of them require more than a month's notice to terminate your contract?
What about other subscriptions? Do you need to cancel any newspapers, magazines or gym memberships?
Apply for an international driver's licence if you think you'll need one
One month before departure:
Set aside a date for a farewell party. It might not seem a priority at the time but it's so fabulous to be able to say goodbye to your nearest and dearest before you go - particularly handy if they are all in the one space at the one time! If you're really struggling to make the time for this, delegate it to a close bunch of friends. Send out a save-the-date to make sure you get to see as many people as possible before you leave.
Make appointments for each family member to see a GP to ensure all immunisations are up to date. It's also worth getting extra repeat-scripts of any regular medications and a print-out of your medical history (particularly if it's a little complicated!) Do all the other things that you might not get around to for a while like skin checks, pap smears, blood tests.
Book a dentist appointment for each member of the family
Take your pet to the vet and make sure he/she has everything they need for either the overseas journey or for his/her temporary home
Re-direct any mail to the in-laws... or someone equally responsible. Change your address on anything that requires it.
Research which bank you're likely to open an account with in your new country. Find out what its requirements are for opening an account - this is a big one - and can really make a difference in your first month overseas. You'll find it's difficult to open a bank account without a permanent address - and without a bank account, it's nearly impossible to buy a new phone etc.
Set up direct debits for any payments you'll need to make while you're overseas.
Prepare the kids - buy/borrow books about your new country; show them videos and touristy bits that will get them really excited about the move. Involve them in the process - which toys could they give to charity? What toys do they want to take with them? What about books? Plan your first holiday in your new country together to give them something to look forward to. Our son turned 5 just before we left for England. He was very excited about the Queen's soldiers so we read books about London and showed him videos of the Changing of the Guard. Then, once we were on the plane, we told him we'd take him to Buckingham Palace - which kept the flight boredom at bay too.
Lock in a date for the removal company to pick up the things you want to send overseas. Remember, you may not see them again for another three months.
Work out what you will do for the rest of your stuff - store it with friends? Store it professionally? Sell it or give it away? Once you've made your lists, recruit a couple of friends and start packing things into removal boxes; listing other things on eBay; doing charity runs in the car. Reward them with wine and make a day of it.
Make an inventory of what furniture will be left in your home that needs to be included on the lease; an inventory of everything that's going to be shipped to your new country; and an inventory of what will be stored either professionally and/or which friends are storing/borrowing what.
Inform your employer and the kids' schools of what date you intend to leave.
Inform your bank of your plans. You don't want them to block your credit card unneccessarily. And they'll need to know your new address - eventually. Now is a good time to set up internet banking, if you haven't already.
Organise the cancellation of your power/phone bills before new tenants move in
Organise a professional house cleaner to be available after you've moved out
One week out:
Organise play dates and family time so that you all get to say your farewells, including the family pet.
Fill any medical scripts that you'll need - and take the medicine with you (the scripts are useless in another country)
Think about what you'll need for the plane - start packing. We had 23 pieces of luggage, including car seats and a pram. It's worth listing what is in which bag because you won't be able to fit it all in your hotel room when you arrive in your new country - some of it will have to be stored in the hotel luggage room. It's worth packing 2-3 suitcases with everything you'll need for the first two weeks - then put everything else in other suitcases that don't need to be opened.
Ask your kids what their favourite thing is to do in your home country - and make sure you do it before you go - this is especially great if you do this with friends and family.
Tie up any loose ends - i.e. if the car hasn't sold, who can help sell it after you leave?
Book your transport to the airport and also from the airport to your hotel in your new country. Chances are, 23 pieces of luggage won't fit into one vehicle so you don't want to rely on the taxi queue!
Enjoy the moment you get on the plane. This is the start of an exciting new adventure!