International moves have it all: excitement, adventure, cultural touchpoints—and plenty of to-dos.
If you’re preparing for an overseas relocation, we’ve put together a list of must-knows to help you check off every one of those to-dos. (And prepare for a smooth relocation!)
We put our decades of international moving experience to work to show you what makes international relocations different than domestic moves, how to prepare your household items for the long journey, what you need to know to clear customs, how to choose an international moving company to assist, how to deal with culture shock and homesickness, and how to organize the days and weeks before your move.
With all these must-knows in hand, you’ll be perfectly positioned to make an easy transition to your new home.
Let’s start with what makes international moves a little bit different.
International Moves vs. Domestic Moves: What to Know
The obvious difference between an overseas move and a local move is the distance. Most international moves aren’t as easy as throwing your items in the back of a truck and driving them to the next town over.
During an international move, you’ll need to account for:
- Being without your belongings for weeks as they transition to your new home
- Ensuring your items are securely packed for the long journey via truck and (most likely) boat
- Securing duty-free entry for your belongings (if eligible) and clearing customs
- Making room for your household items at your new home (which might be more challenging than you think; we’ll explain below!)
- Adjusting to a new culture and way of life
That’s why an international move can feel like a lot to manage.
However, if you prepare for all of these eventualities, you’ll ensure a much smoother transition to your new home. Let’s tackle these topics in greater detail.
Moving Your Household Items During an International Relocation
There are few things more personal than our belongings. And nothing says “I’m home” like being surrounded by all of your favorite things in your new space.
So when you’re doing a long-distance move, it’s important to pay extra attention to your belongings. We’ll show you how to ensure that everything you want to take with you makes easy (and safe!) transition to your destination. We’ll also discuss why you might not want to pack absolutely everything you own.
Tip #1: Your Items Will Most Likely Move by Boat
Sending household belongings by ocean freight is the most economically viable option for most international moves.
In this scenario, your items will be packed into a container, which will be loaded on a ship bound for the sea port nearest to your final destination. If you don’t have enough items to fill a container, you can arrange for a less-than-container load (LCL) solution, in which your belongings are packed into wooden crates called lift vans, which are then loaded into a container with other shipments headed to the same destination.
Depending on your timeline—and your budget—air freight may also be an option. Your items will arrive faster than ocean freight, but that speed comes at a cost. Additionally, some items simply aren’t suited for air freight, including very heavy items.
For some moves, our customers use a combination of these two modes. They send a small shipment of items they need right away via air freight, followed by an ocean freight shipment with the rest of their items.
Ultimately, if your items do travel via ocean freight, they’ll go through quite a journey, so they need to be packed carefully and securely. There’s also another consideration for anything you send via ocean freight.
#2: Think Ahead to What You’ll Need
Ocean freight can take several weeks—or longer. As a result, you won’t be able to access anything you send via ocean freight for an extended period of time.
(Ask your moving company for an estimated timeline, which will depend on your exact origin and destination points.)
To ensure you have what you need during the transition period, take some time to think ahead and pack thoughtfully. Make sure you have everything you need to get you through until the rest of your items are delivered.