How to plan for an international move

Moving overseas can feel like a Herculean task. Here's some advice on how to make it more manageable, straight from the experts.

Xe Consumer North America

٢٨ يونيو ٢٠٢١7 min read

Woman working on her to-do list for her move to the US

For many people, there’s something exciting about moving. You’re starting something new—or likely, starting many new things—and no one can tell what the future holds. And if you’re making a large move to another country, making the move can feel like the first step to a new adventure.

But as exciting and refreshing as making a move and starting anew can be, it also comes with its fair share of stressors. Between the day you decide to move up until the actual moving day, there’s a seemingly endless array of things to take care of. Where do you start? And how can you make sure that you don’t forget anything?

This article was written in conjunction with Louise Rook’s Moving Overseas podcast. If you’re interested in hearing more about planning for an international move, we encourage you to listen to the new Preparing for an international move episode for an interview with Anna Viaud, Professional Moving Concierge.

When should you start planning your move?

This is probably the most common question for people with an upcoming move. The answer? Right now.

The earlier you get started, the more time you have to plan. The more time you have to plan, the easier it is to ensure you get everything taken care of with the least amount of stress possible.

Once you know when you’ll be moving, your first priority should be locking in your moving day with movers and anyone else that you’ll need to help you on that day. Don’t wait on it—unlike flight prices, booking a move will only get more expensive the longer you wait.

The peak moving season in the US typically takes place in the summer, from April through September, but you can’t always guarantee that the “slow months” will be slow. In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, moving companies were booked year-round. And with the US property market currently at the most competitive it’s been in decades, an overseas to the United States will require even more advance planning.

If you don’t already have a bank account in your new home country, look into the requirements for a bank account ahead of time. Many countries will allow you to open an account online, before you’ve even moved into your new home. Why start now? Having your bank account set up will allow you to send money to your new currency ahead of time, so when you make the move and the expenses start adding up, you can quickly pay for everything without those foreign transaction fees.

Got your bank account already? Give our competitive rates a try so you'll have money to take care of you upon arrival.

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Moving to the US? Check out our list of the best banks for expats in the US. Many of them allow you to open an account before you have a Social Security number, and some even allow you to open an account before you’re in the US.

Tips to make your overseas move easier

We know, “get organized” is a pretty general piece of advice. Here’s what the experts say about getting organized for a big move.

Have a plan and give yourself deadlines

Having a timeline will make the process that much clearer, because it will give you a much clearer idea of how much time you have to take care of certain things and what you can expect.

As we mentioned above, your moving day will be the most important day in the process. Everything will need to be planned around this day, from the paperwork you file to finishing up your packing.

But your moving day shouldn’t be the only key dates. Set smaller deadlines between day one and moving day to keep yourself on track. When do you want to have your visas secured? When do you need to enroll your children in school? When will you start looking at housing? It’s easier to keep yourself on track when you have a clearly defined track. And make sure to build some buffer time into these deadlines—if there’s a problem with your paperwork, it’ll help to have some extra time to take care of it before you leave.

Work with lists

It may not be the most glamorous tip…but it will certainly help you keep things organized as you work towards moving day.

  • Pre-departure checklist – what do you need to get done before moving day? What do you need to take care of before leaving the country? This can include anything from booking flights to arranging housing upon arrival to cancelling current memberships to saying goodbye to friends and family.

  • Packing list – what do you absolutely need to pack? What would you like to bring with you? What can stay behind? What do you plan to do with the things you don’t need (such as selling or donating them)?

  • List of documents – this is a big one. What kind of visa or work permit do you need? What will your kids need for their new school? Are all passports up-to-date?

  • Post-arrival checklist – now that you’re in the US, what should you take care of? Do you need to get identification? Do you have a phone, or phone service? What about transportation? When will internet and other utilities be set up?

Like we said…there’s a lot to keep track of. What if you feel overwhelmed?

Get yourself help

You don’t have to go about this alone. There are plenty of services available to help you plan and execute your move. You may have already looked into hiring movers, but if this is your first time making a move of this magnitude, you may want to look into a relocation organizer or moving expert to help you manage the process.

What can a relocation organizer do for you?

There are two big advantages of outsourcing your planning to a relocation organizer:

  1. You’ll get professional help and advice. They’ve done this before. They know what the process entails, and can help you through all of the fine details. If you have any questions or concerns, they’ll be able to help you avoid any unpleasant surprises.

  2. You’ll get more time. With moving day coming up, you’ve got limited time left in your old home. A relocation organizer can take care of the paperwork and make arrangements for movers and other services, leaving you more time to spend with your family, enjoy your final months in your old home, and manage the transition.

What are some of the biggest challenges?

Many expats will agree—one of their biggest fears is forgetting something, or of doing something that can’t be corrected after the move. Whether this is leaving an important item behind or forgetting to take care of an important piece of paperwork, it can be hard to know what you need until you’re in the moment.

This is probably the biggest challenge for people making an international move. While we said at the beginning of this piece that a move can be an exciting new adventure, it can also be intimidating as you venture into the unknown. There’s a lot to do and think about, and you may not know what it feels like until you do it. Some of the things you’ll need to think about include:

  • Visas and work permits

  • Paperwork and documents

  • Finding a new home (and selling your old one)

  • Schooling

  • Insurance

You might say that the move itself is the smallest issue!

Now, plenty of people will have their own horror stories about moving day, ranging from movers not showing up on moving day to forgotten parking permits for the moving truck, not getting it all done on the first day, or a faulty estimate leading to unexpected extra costs. For this reason, experts recommend working with movers that you know, or movers that come with a strong recommendation from a relocation expert or people you trust.

Anything else?

There’s a lot that goes into an overseas move, and careful planning and good time management can help you to ensure that you save money and get as few gray hairs as possible during the process.

We hope this article has been of help to you. If you’re interested in hearing more about moving to the US from those who’ve done it and lived to tell the tale, check out the Moving Overseas podcast. And watch this space—up next, we’ll be talking about what to know about moving to the US with children, from schooling to easing the transition.