I’ve moved to London twice now. The first time as a solo traveller and the second time as a couple. This alone can change how to pack when moving overseas. For instance if you’re going to be partying as much as possible you’re probably going to want to pack your favourite party dresses and heels. A few years older the second time around meant I wanted all the creature comforts I knew I would need in this ‘much colder than home’ city, our adventures already planned and the other travel destinations dancing around my head.
So, relationship status, how old you are, what stage of life you’re in, how long you’re going for and what you want out of your overseas experience will affect how and what you need to pack. The tips I’ve suggested below are based on my personal experience so adapt accordingly!
1. Sort through ‘the shit’
You know all that stuff you’ve been hoarding? The pointless, dust collecting ‘things’ that entertained you for a minute, day or year? Time to decide what it all means to you! Otherwise guess what? If you’re lucky enough to have somewhere to store it, it will be there waiting for you when you return. You’re moving overseas for a life-changing adventure! Why not shed the load and feel COMPLETELY liberated?!
When I moved to London the first time, I had a total of 6 plastic storage containers full of home wares, clothes, photo albums and ‘things’. In between London adventures I reduced the storage containers down to 5 and could have reduced further but preferred to spend the time with my friends who have been kind enough to give my storage containers a home since 2013.
Right, once you’ve sorted through what you ACTUALLY want to keep generally, you’ve got a starting point. If you’re working until you leave and therefore time poor, I’d suggest sorting through the shit early, a bit at a time, so you have the chance to do a few trial runs.
The trial runs I’m referring to are attempts at packing your life into 1 x 30kg luggage bag and 1 x 10kg bag (carry on). You’ll need to adjust this based on which airline you’ve booked and luggage restrictions. For example some airlines allow you 2 x 23kg bags and a carry on. Packing your life into 2 to 3 bags is HARD. It will get you thinking about what you REALLY want to take with you and what you’re happy to leave behind.
3. When it just doesn’t fit
Okay so you’ve done a few trial runs and you just can’t fit everything in. How long are you going for? Do you need to pack for all seasons? Are you travelling with someone and can remove any items that are duplicated?
When it comes down to it, all you really need is your passport and visa paperwork. I put together a list of items you should consider packing for first time overseas travel that might be useful like a world travel adaptor. But don’t stress! There are shops where you’re moving to unless you’re moving somewhere completely remote. Like I said earlier, adapt accordingly.
Perhaps a way of whittling down your items is to pack the most expensive items to replace first e.g. snow boots and work your way through the rest from there. Therefore what you have to replace when you arrive overseas will cost you the least. If after trying a few different ways of fitting everything into your luggage it STILL doesn’t fit, pack what can wait into a box and get your nearest and dearest to post it to you in the UK when you have a long-term address sorted. You’ll probably find after moving that you’ve just boxed it up to stay at home because actually you’ll survive without it.
4. What not to pack
You’ve read all of the above and still haven’t found what you’re looking for. Where’s THE LIST? As much as I’d like to write your extensive packing list, undies and all, I’m going to give you advice on what not to pack instead.
Jewellery: If you’re going to be living in share house accommodation and/or travelling to poor countries, leave your jewellery at home. We had a break in and our laptops stolen! So anything of value that is not a must-have, leave safely at home if possible.
The wrong clothing: depending on the weather in your new home country, you might need to adjust how much of each type of clothing you pack. For example I live in London and 90% of the time it’s cool or freezing cold, even in summer. So it would make no sense to pack more summer than winter clothing. Yes you’ll travel to Europe for holidays and yes it will be warm, but most of the time you will want winter clothing. Same goes for skimpy party dresses and open toe shoes in London! Keep them to a minimum.
Bags and shoes you won’t use: if you’re a bag and/or shoe hoarder and I certainly am not, just bring one. Okay maybe two. For example bring 1 handbag and 1 clutch. One pair of work heels and 1 pair of party heels. The material things won’t matter to you over here! You’ll be so close to so many different countries and cultures to explore that you’ll realise you can party at home. Also think about the kind of bags you’re taking over with you and if they’re suitable for weekend getaways and long distance travel.
Things that fill your shelves: life in an overseas country can be unstable. You may have to move more than once during your expat experience. For example we’ve lived at 3 different addresses in London over 2 years. The less you have to bring over with you and carry from place to place and back home, the better. If it’s a nice-to-have that will just be going on a shelf, leave it at home. Or, bring your ONE must-have like a photo or favourite lamp. You’ve got to be comfortable and feel at home too!
So, while it sounds like I know what I’m talking about, I was once in your shoes. In fact, a few hours before the SECOND time moving overseas, I was sitting on my luggage cursing and trying to get the zipper done up. Don’t expect to get it 100% right. You’ll probably end up packing something you don’t need and leaving something behind that you wish you hadn’t. And, it will still be okay.
Have a great overseas adventure!