March 8, 2023

Moving Overseas | What to pack, store and give away

Wondering what to pack when you are moving abroad? 

man overwhelmed by moving
❌ Pack too much and you will waste money on shipping fees
❌ Pack too little and you will waste money buying the same items you just left at home!

Before you pack up and move to another country, read on. Our move specialists have shared their top tips for what to pack when you are moving overseas.

Let’s break your items down into 3 categories:

  1. Always move: Items to take in your carry-on or pack in your household goods shipment
  2. Move or store? Items you may move or store, depending on your circumstances
  3. Give away: Items to donate or discard 

Always move: What to bring when you move overseas

✈️ Items to take with you on the plane 

  • A folder with passport, visas, marriage licence, birth certificates and any other identification you need
  • Immunisation records
  • International health insurance card or paperwork
  • Bank information and some foreign currency
  • An extended supply of essential medications. Ask for a 3 month supply so you have time to find a new doctor and get refills. Medicine must be in its original package with the prescription visible. Make sure that your medication is legal in your new country.
  • dog at airport

    Make sure to pack a small amount of pet food!

    Phone and laptop with chargers and consider getting a portable battery
  • Electrical adaptors or converters (No they aren’t the same. Scroll down for details…)
  • Items for your child: favourite toys, blanket, activities, and the all-important snacks 
  • Reusable/collapsible water bottle
  • Jewellery in your carry-on
  • Enough clothing to hold you over until your household goods shipment arrives
  • A supply of pet food* 

*Check import restrictions for pet foods and follow them carefully. For example, the US prohibits the importation of pet products containing lamb, so any pet food in an open or unmarked container will most likely be confiscated by the US border authorities. 

📦 Items to ship overseas in your household goods shipment

  • Important papers you won’t need right away, which may include: 
    • Insurance policies
    • Wills
    • Final utility bills (showing return of equipment)
    • Documents for upcoming tax return 
  • Health/first aid kit 
  • Pens and paper 
  • Electronics (see our FAQ below)
  • Step down/up converter and adaptors
  • High-value furniture, decorative objects, antiques and art: Consider the length of your assignment compared to the cost of purchasing items of a similar quality. Very high quality furniture and art may be less expensive to ship than to store at home plus replace in your new home. 
  • Sentimental items 
  • Frequent-use items: Kitchen gadgets, knives, high quality table settings, etc.
  • Lamps (yes, it’s possible - we’ll explain)
  • Familiar items for your child - bedding, pillows, and some favourite toys and books
  • Take clothing with you! It is costly to replace 
    • Take clothing only if you will wear it in your new climate and lifestyle
    • Plan ahead for vacations in a different climate


Move or Store? What you may want to take with you when you move

✔️Things you may want to take…

 bicycle in european city

Cycling can be a great way to explore a new city

  • Expensive hobby and sports equipment:
    • Sewing machine - Many expat groups include sewing and craft groups. 
    • Bicycles - Yes, they are expensive to transport, but they can also be expensive to purchase again.
    • Skis and boots if you will be near ski facilities. If you plan to only ski a few times, renting equipment might be a better option.
  • Luggage 
    How many large suitcases will you want to store in your new home or expat-sized apartment? Consider taking a few large and small suitcases for future travel and packing the rest of your items in duffel bags or recyclable moving boxes.
  • Holiday decorations
    Bring an abridged version of your holiday decorations. Fill one or two large plastic bins with your favourite holiday decor. This may include Christmas stockings, sentimental ornaments, and table decor. Donate or discard old decorations that you don’t use. 

✔️Things you may want to store

If you decide to leave items behind in storage, take time to sort through your items first.

Nothing is as disheartening as returning from a thrilling overseas assignment just to find boxes of old sweaters and dried up pens. 


Good candidates for storage include:

organised garage

Many families opt to leave expensive sporting equipment in storage

  • Hobby and sports equipment
  • Expensive furniture, art and sentimental items that you can’t take overseas
  • Long-term storage papers, like old financial documents (or scan and discard if possible)
  • Winter gear if you are moving to a tropical climate
Top tip! If you plan to spend summers in a particular area, find short term storage nearby. Store bicycles, sporting equipment and summer toys for your children.


Donate or discard

❌ What you should not pack when moving abroad:

  • Hazardous/flammable items (including liquids, aerosols and matches). Your mover should give you a list of items that cannot be shipped.
  • Items subject to customs restrictions. Ask your mover for a list of restricted items in your new country. Or check our FIDI guides.
  • Electronics with the wrong voltage that will not work with a step down converter.
  • Used flat-pack furniture. It can be convenient and stylish, but flat-pack furniture is not meant to be taken apart and put back together again multiple times. 


Packing for an international move FAQ

Can I pack my electronics when I move overseas? 

Yes, you can typically bring electronics overseas, but you need to check the voltage and plug style of your new country and your electronic devices. 

Voltage: Most countries have electrical outlets that deliver 220-240v of electricity. In North America and parts of South America, 110-127 volts is common. 

Some electronics, like most phone and laptop chargers, work with any voltage. (Check your particular device before plugging it in!)

Plug shape: Different countries may use the same electrical voltage but have different plug shapes. For example, plugs in the UK have 3 prongs, while Europlugs have two round pins. 

Depending on where you will be moving from and to, you may need to bring a converter, transformer, or adaptors. 


What is the difference between adaptors, electrical convertors, and transformers?

adaptor types

Bulky universal adaptors (left) are handy for travel, but for long-term use, use specially-designed adaptor plugs (right)

Adaptors do not change the power level – they just change the plug shape. Use an adaptor for electronics that are the correct voltage but have the wrong plug. 

When purchasing adaptors, look for small devices specifically designed for your plug and outlet shapes. “Universal” adaptors can convert to any plug shape, but they can easily fall out of an outlet due to their weight and shape. 

Converters convert the power from the wall outlet to the power level required for an appliance. They can either step up (from 110 v to 220 v) or step down (from 220v to 110v). Converters are typically small devices used for lightweight items like curling irons or hair dryers.

Step-up or step-down transformers are large devices that perform the same function as a converter, but for heavier equipment. Any items with a large motor - eg. blenders, sewing machines, etc. need a step-down (or up) transformer to work properly. 

Two important caveats about transformers:

  1. Even with a transformer, small appliance motors may wear down faster than if you were using them at home.
  2. Transformers are heavy. Don’t expect to happily move your transformer around the house from one appliance to the next.

My lamps are all wired for 220v - Can I use lamps at a different electrical current?

It’s a best-kept expat secret… you can bring your lamps with you, even if you are moving to a country with a different outlet voltage. The lamps do not need to be rewired. Just use an adaptor on the plug and change the light bulbs to ones purchased in your new country. Easy!

Is there a printable relocation packing list?

Yes! Download our free checklists:

Printable Moving Checklist

Moving with Kids Checklist

Change of Address Checklist

For a free, no obligation moving quote, contact Sterling Lexicon today! 

Learn more about our Moving Services


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