Relocation Guide: Moving Internationally like a Pro

June 3, 2024

If you move often enough, you’ll believe you’ve mastered the process—until you decide to take it a step further when moving internationally. When packing, balancing act between what you need, what you want, and what you can realistically carry with you based on your moving logistics and budget. And it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you first start.

Downsizing your stuff is a smart idea whenever you move, but it’s especially important when you’re moving internationally. The more boxes you need to send, the more expensive your move will be, and dealing with a lot of stuff when you’re trying to settle into a new country may be a nuisance.

When packing for a move abroad, your best strategy is to do a thorough inventory and be cautious about what you bring with you. Below are some of our best packing suggestions for moving overseas, along with plenty of takeaways to help you decide what should stay and what should go.

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Things to know about when packing for international moving?

You’ll want to get in the appropriate attitude before you start packing for your foreign move. If you approach the packing process only from the perspective of what you’d like to take with you in your new home nation, you’ll almost certainly bring too much—and regret it later.

Instead, ask yourself a few important questions to put your relocation into context and establish some packing guidelines (and how much).

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How long do you intend to stay?

If you’re only going overseas for a semester or other short length of time, you’ll be astonished at what you can live without. If you’re only moving for a short time, leave sentimental objects at home and stick to the essentials. If you’re going on a long trip, however, you’ll have a lengthier packing list to cope with.

What about your moving budget?

Moving Internationally is usually quite costly, and that’s before you include in shipping charges. Sea freight and air freight are the two most frequent ways to move products overseas, and the cost of each increases as the number of items you have increased. Determine whatever shipping method is ideal in terms of timing/logistics and cost-efficiency before you begin packing, and then determine how much you can afford to carry. You’ll probably have a pre-set limit if you choose air freight, although you can technically pack more if you choose sea freight, you’ll pay a lot more for a full, personal container than you would for a joint moving container.

What would your new country’s lifestyle be like for you?

Will you be working or attending school? What’s the weather like? Is there a set of norms or customs that govern what you’ll need and what you want? Your responses to all of these questions will help you distinguish between must-haves and non-essentials—and believe us when we say that the more items you can cross off your “must pack” list, the better off you’ll feel in the long run. Consider whether there are any products you won’t be able to carry with you because importing them into the country you’re going to is illegal. That list should be small, but it’s really important.

How much room will you have?

In the United States, living spaces are typically larger than in other countries. If you already know where you’ll be staying, you should have a good notion of how much storage and square footage you’ll have, as both of these factors influence how much you can reasonably carry. Also, keep in mind that you’ll be accumulating items in your new home, all of which will require space. Instead of carrying so much stuff that you’re overburdened before you’ve even had a chance to settle in, plan on giving yourself room to grow.

What to pack when moving internationally?

Since we’ve been emphasizing the need of limiting your stuff while packing for a move overseas, it’s also critical to discuss the items you’ll want to bring with you. Here are a few of the major ones.


Pack your computer or phone, as these are products that you will not be able to replace. Of course, bring chargers, and be sure to pick up an appropriate outlet converter or two ahead of time so you’re prepared.

Items with sentimental value

When packing for an international move, you don’t have to leave everything behind but the essentials. If you’re moving overseas for an extended period of time, it’s totally acceptable (and even encouraged!) to bring certain objects with you that help you feel grounded and connected to your family and home; just use your best judgment and only bring items that are truly valuable to you in this sense.


Please ensure you have all of your necessary documents on hand when moving internationally, including your passport, birth certificate, and visa information, as well as any relevant medical and insurance documents. Because you don’t want to risk losing these items in transit, you should bring them in your carry-on.

Medications and other health-related goods

You certainly don’t want to find yourself in a foreign place without the medical supplies you require. Any necessary drugs should be packed (in your carry-on if possible) and more than a month’s supply should be secured ahead of time.

Clothing and footwear

This one is probably self-evident, but it’s still worth addressing. Plan on taking enough clothes to last about a month, but beyond that, trust that laundry and shopping will suffice—both of which are likely to be less expensive than sending boxes of unwanted apparel. If it’s not your style or size, if it’s not appropriate for the temperature or culture of your new country, or if you haven’t used it in at least a year, just leave it.

Moving internationally isn’t all that different from packing for any other type of move. Aim to pack fewer items rather than more, and keep in mind that the majority of items can be easily replaced—or can be done without.