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Family in boxes

If you’re planning to up sticks and relocate to a new country you may have a lot of questions about the logistics of your move and be in need of packing tips.

How much you take with you and the means of transport will depend on the size of your new accommodation and length of stay.

How long can you live without most of your belongings?

Transporting your household effects can take 3 to 4 months. They have to go overland or by sea (or both), and must clear customs. So when packing, you have to be realistic about how long you can be without most of your belongings. Air shipments tend to be expensive but your belongings will arrive in about a month.

Here’s what to pack, and where:

Carry-on bags

Check your airline and see what your limit is. Some airlines allow a rolling carry on and a second smaller item like a laptop case or a handbag. Some allow only one small bag. Make sure you know the limit for each airline for your entire journey, so you don’t risk having your larger carry-on bag taken away from you and checked as luggage.

Things to pack in your carry-on bag:

Important documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, vaccine records, medical records (or at least medical summaries), school records, etc. Scan these documents before you leave and email them to yourself in case they get lost.

  • Any important files or papers like insurance policies etc.
  • Important jewellery and other valuables.
  • Your laptop, camera, phone and other devices, with chargers and adapters.
  • Your passports and ticket information. Make sure the packers don’t box this up!
  • Medicines and prescriptions, glasses/ contacts.
  • Wallet and anything else you need to keep with you during your journey.


This is stuff you’ll need right away, but can live without if your luggage gets lost. Keep in mind that although most airlines are very reliable these days, sometimes luggage is lost forever. So don’t put anything precious in your luggage.

Check your weight limit with your airline. Most airlines allow only one checked bag, so make sure you are within your limits or be prepared to pay overage.

If you are moving to a place that’s having different weather from your departure location, you’ll need to think about different clothes and shoes than you’re currently using.

Things to pack in your luggage:

Clothes and shoes appropriate for the weather when you arrive, especially if you are moving to a different climate from where you’re currently living.

Toys and books for the children, because they will be missing their stuff.

children’s’ school items like backpacks, lunch boxes, musical instruments etc.

Anything else you’ll need immediately.

Air shipment AKA Unaccompanied air freight

These are things you’ll need in the first month in your new place. Think of what the season will be, and what your new home will be supplied with or not.

Things to pack in your air shipment:

If your new place will not be supplied with kitchen items like pots and dishes you’ll want to pack these in your air freight. Non-breakable items only though, because air shipment boxes tend to get thrown around.

Children’s bikes, toys and sports equipment

Bedding, pillows and towels.

Laundry baskets are very handy to have.

Additional clothes and shoes, especially if the season will be changing.

Anything else you’ll need soon.

The rest of your belongings will go in your household effects shipment, i.e. on the ship.

Before the packers arrive it’s worth separating out framed photos and wall hangings so they can be packed separately from other things. Return items to the rooms they should be in. Make sure all the kitchen items are in the kitchen, office items in the office, etc. Boxes will be labelled with the room they are from so it will be easier to sort items that way.

Some other tips for packing day:

Pack your carry-on bags and luggage before the packers arrive, to make sure everything fits in the luggage as there’s nothing worse than getting to the airport and having to pay additional costs.

Packers can’t read your mind, so if you don’t want something packed make sure to mark it very clearly.

It’s advisable to put luggage in the car or in a very clearly marked No Pack area. Also, make sure to separate out and clearly mark the items that should go in your air shipment so they don’t get packed with your sea shipment.

Ensure you start clearing out non-essential items at least 2 months in advance

Make sure to pull out hidden items so they don’t get left behind.

Visit here for more information on planning your move.

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