Monday, January 27, 2014

10 Tips For Moving Overseas

In my 25 years, I have had my fair share of big overseas moves, two of them with a toddler. The first one was when I was 17 and moved to Germany on an exchange. Then in 2009, at age 21, I moved to New Zealand, again on exchange. I came back to Colombia with my partner one year later. Then in 2012 we moved back to New Zealand, now with a 2 year old toddler. 2013 saw us move back to Colombia temporarily, and now this year we are planning on moving back to New Zealand (again!).

In all of these adventures I have picked up a few tips to make the transition as smooth as possible. And believe me, you will want to make it as smooth as possible, specially if you are traveling with children.

1. The very first thing I like to do when moving overseas is to make two lists: a "before leaving" to-do list and an "upon arrival" one. Some of the most important items on my "before" list (aside from the obvious packing and goodbyes) include:
 -  Go for an overall health check.
 -  Let my bank know that I'm moving overseas.
 -  Have several copies of important documents (passports, tickets, cards, etc) and pack them in different places.
 -  Stock up on over-the-counter standard medicines: paracetamol, allergy medications, band-aids, ibuprofen, etc. This can really get you out of trouble until you become familiar with the different names of the medicines available overseas.

Upon arrival:
 - Get a SIM card for my phone.
 - Open a checking account in a reliable bank.
 - Exchange money at the airport: nothing worse than leaving the airport and not being able to buy a single lolly until you find an ATM or a money exchange.

2. Do as much research as possible: not only about the country and the city (that's a given!), but also about financial institutions, public transport system, average cost for rent and utilities, tax system, and requirements to be able to drive.

3. Trying to keep the weight of your luggage within the airline limits is one of the biggest headaches when packing to move. To give yourself more room for your stuff, make sure you have really light suitcases, as some can be very heavy and take up a good 10-12 lb. of the 50 you are usually allowed per bag. Look for materials like nylon and polyester, which are lighter. Polycarbonate is a harder, more resistant material, and therefore heavier, so spare it for fragile stuff. This (1 lb!) and this (8.5 lbs) are good, light luggage options.

4.  Start packing at least a week in advance. Not only will it be a lot less stressful, but it will greatly reduce the risk of leaving something important behind. (This is specially crucial for people who tend to forget stuff  *eagerly raises hand*)
Extra tip: if you pack smaller stuff on the bottom, (such as socks and rolled shirts) you can create a more uniform bed for the larger stuff to go on top. I always started with the larger stuff first, but doing it the other way really makes a huge difference in terms of optimizing space.

5. Buy combination padlocks or ones that come with more than one key for your luggage. Trust me: after a long trip, the last thing you'll want to do is fluff around trying to get your bag open (and ruining it in the process!) because you've lost your key.

6. Always carry a notebook with you. You never know when you will need to take notes or write something down. Moreover, it will be useful for keeping your most important information handy.

7. Ideally, you will have around two or three months of savings. Settling in your new home, starting from scratch and exploring your new city are all tough on your bank account. Not to mention you probably won't be too familiar with the best places to shop.

8. If traveling with kids, make triple sure to pack:
 - Wipes. Lots and lots of them!
 - Lollies that they can suck: these are great for when the plane is about to land, as it can often hurt their ears, but a sucking motion will help.
 - Their "security blanket". (this is an obvious one! but just ask how many parents have forgotten it and paid for hours for that little mistake!)
 - Lots of coloring options.
 - Lots of books to read. If you have an iPad or another tablet that's great to keep them entertained too!
 - Toys that are small enough to fit in the carry on, but not too small that they can easily get lost if dropped.
 - Talk to your doctor about a natural remedy to give your kid in case they start getting really worked up (or if you are in desperate need of a rest). Make sure to try it before leaving, too, as not all kids react the same. We give Tommy fennel, for example, and it sure helps. Keep in mind that it would be all natural, so don't be afraid to use it.

9. If you won't have a secure job when you arrive, don't wait until you are there to start looking for one. Contact employment agencies and websites, and research as much as possible about companies in your industry so you can start contacting them ahead of time and tasting the "job market waters".

10. And perhaps most importantly, be flexible! If you have very high expectations of your new place, you have a higher likelihood of being disappointed. The same goes if you go there expecting it to be just like home. Embrace the new, exciting things your new city offers. Go out for walks; visit the caf├ęs, restaurants and markets; and start getting acquainted with the environment and energy of the place. Otherwise, it will be much harder to adjust.

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  1. I think that being flexible is the most important thing, for sure! Very wise advice. :)


  2. Where are you moving in New Zealand? My partner and I are about to move with our son to Dunedin


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