So, You’re Moving Abroad…

Moving abroad is a big deal. Not only that, but it can get very chaotic very fast.

When I was moving abroad for the first time, I had very little idea of how to go about it. Luckily, I had a job lined up, and my boss was amazingly helpful throughout the whole process. Even so, I would have liked to have a list of things that needed to get done. I like to have a systematic approach to things, and my first attempt at moving abroad was stressful and chaotic.

All of that could have been avoided if I’d only had a list like that. So, to help you out, I’ve compiled one. You can treat this as a guide or a checklist – that part’s up to you. Just know that these are all things that I contended with during each and every one of my relocations abroad.

A Note on Timelines:

As for when you should do each of these things, the answer is: As soon as possible. The earlier you take care of these things, the less stressful the actual move will be. There are certain tasks on this list that are time-sensitive, such as getting visas and making veterinarian appointments, and those are noted.


Things to Downsize:

  • Kitchenware
  • Linens
  • Clothes – get it down to a capsule wardrobe
  • Shoes
  • Accessories
  • Books
  • DVDs
  • Crafting / hobby supplies
  • Electronics
  • Sports equipment
  • Furniture
  • Subscription or mail order services, especially those which cannot be used abroad
  • Phone plans
oversize baggage
Too many bags can be a problem when moving abroad

Travel Arrangements:

  • Book flights.
  • Arrange transport to and from airports.
  • Obtain any necessary visas. Note: This can take up to twelve weeks. Check with your destination country for application time frames.
  • Make sure your passport will be valid for the duration of your time abroad.
  • Update your passport if necessary. Note: This can take up to six weeks.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). You can do that on the State Department website here. You can read more about why I think STEP is important here.
  • Arrange accommodation for the days immediately after your arrival.
  • Print booking confirmations and maps.
  • Give a copy of your itinerary to someone you trust who isn’t traveling with you.
  • Pack.

Banking:

  • Check what fees your bank charges for international transactions and withdrawals.
  • Look for your bank’s locations or partner bank locations in your new country.
  • Notify debit and credit card companies that you’ll be abroad and for how long.
  • Close any unnecessary accounts, especially ones that will charge high fees for international transactions.
  • Set up online bill pay for credit cards.
  • Update your address to a stable location, such as your parents’ permanent address.
  • Look up what documentation you’ll need to open a bank account in your new country.
  • Check to see if your favorite credit card is generally accepted in your new country. If it isn’t, apply for one that is.
  • Update the list of people authorized to receive information from your bank, in case your bank can’t contact you abroad.
travel money
Every penny counts!

Medical:

  • Check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and health offices to see if you need any vaccines before traveling. Find more information on travel vaccines on the CDC website.
  • Make sure you have enough of any necessary medications for at least one month abroad.
  • Buy international health insurance. Read more about why I think international health insurance is important here.
  • Locate a doctor’s office, clinic, or hospital in your new country and save their contact information.
  • See what languages your new medical office operates in. For instance, if you’re an English speaker, make sure they have someone on staff who speaks English.
  • Ask if you’ll have access to any national health care systems.
  • Cancel or reschedule any appointments with your current doctors (including dentists and eye doctors) for the time that you’ll be out of the country.

Housing:

  • Terminate your lease agreement or sublet for the remaining term.
  • Cancel accounts for utilities and internet services.
  • If you have a job lined up, ask if your company will provide assistance finding accommodation.
  • If you’re on your own, arrange to stay in a hotel or hostel for a few weeks.
  • Ask about common leasing practices in the area.
  • Before you leave home, schedule apartment viewings for the days immediately following your arrival.

Update Addresses With:

  • Bank
  • Credit card company
  • Anyone who sends you mail regularly (alma mater, favorite stores, coupon distributors, etc.)

Pets:

  • Have your pet microchipped and have their vaccines updated.
  • Look up the regulations for bringing animals into your new country. You can find those, as well as information about the International Health Certificate, on the USDA APHIS site here.
  • Schedule an appointment with a USDA-certified veterinarian and have them complete the International Health Certificate. Use the USDA guide for help finding a certified vet near you.
  • Schedule an appointment with the local USDA office to notarize and approve the International Health Certificate. This appointment must be a maximum of ten days before your departure – so, if you leave on April 30th, the earliest you can have this appointment is April 20th.
    Pro tip: Call to make this appointment as early as possible to ensure that you can get in during that ten-day window.
  • Get a pet carrier that is large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around in. For smaller pets, make sure it can fit under the seat in front of you on the airplane.
  • Prepare food, water, snacks, and bowls for your pet to use during travel.
  • Arrange for appropriate items such as litter boxes to be ready when you arrive.
  • Ensure that you have any necessary medications for your pet.
  • Locate a veterinarian in your new country and save their contact information.
  • Contact the airline to book a spot for your pet on the plane.
  • Make sure your accommodation is pet-friendly.
  • If you’re in Europe, obtain a pet passport. Visit the USDA website for more information about EU pet passports.
Flannery the Expat Cat
Flannery the Expat Cat, ready for adventure!

Friends and Family:

  • Make sure you have up-to-date phone numbers, email addresses, and home addresses for everyone you want to keep in contact with.
  • If you know it, leave your new address and phone number with people who will want to contact you.
  • Set up a data- or internet-based messaging service, such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, that allows you to text people in other countries.
  • Arrange a leave-taking, such as a goodbye party or friends’ dinner.

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