5 Useful Expat Packing Tips

Moving house is apparently one of life’s most stressful events. It stands to reason then that moving country when you move house tops that. So, moving house and moving countries twice within a year has to be right up there with standing in a bath of creepy crawlies whilst having cold baked beans thrown at you. Yet, I have found myself doing exactly that (the moving part, not the baked bean flagellation that is). I have decided to share some of my tips on how to have a successful move.1. Use sturdy boxes. Might sound obvious but there really is nothing worse than getting to your destination to find that the box you packed the best china in now contains the perfect material for creating garden mosaics. The removal companies recommend triple layered boxes for the best packaging and can always supply if needed (just check if you need to pay extra for them).

Alternatively check out the many ‘Buy/Sell/Exchange’ Facebook pages as in the transient world of expat living there are always others arriving and needing to get rid of their cardboard city. Using boxes that don’t concertina as soon as you stack more than one on top of each other has the added bonus of getting all your belongings into a tighter volume of space which means that if your belongings are heading into storage they will find into smaller containers and therefore cost less.

2. Do not, I repeat do not, pack with children around. As soon as you think you have got all the Lego into one box you will realise that this has only been achieved because little Jimmy is happily playing with half a dozen sets in the middle of the lounge floor. Packing without children also avoids the inevitable tears (from the child) and guilt (yours) when you say ‘no’ to the umpteenth query as to whether ‘just this one’ can come in the hand luggage with you. NB: whilst I wholly recommend packing without the children around do make sure they know that when they return from school their belongings will have been unceremoniously crammed into as few boxes as possible. (on no account tell them the black sacks in the garage contain anything from their rooms – unless you wish to re-pack every box to check that the Moshi monster that changes colour is definitely there).

3. If you don’t have a cleaner, invest in one well in advance of the Big Pack commencing. If you don’t you will be spending time that should be spent packing on cleaning. The alternative being that your shipment will include half a ton of dust, which will, of course, be unpacked into your shiny new pad.

4. Get your friends to help you pack. Seriously, there is nothing more soul destroying than packing up your belongings. The kitchen if THE most boring room to pack so get a bottle of wine, or the coffee machine well stocked, crank up the stereo and have a packing party. The has the added bonus of off-loading anything you don’t want as parting gifts to your buddies. (“Of course you can have that jelly mould, think of me whenever you use it”). Just make sure that you invite friends who won’t mind you shrieking “more paper, more paper” at them as they wrap the best china.

5. Finally, and this is the best advice I can give… get someone else to pack for you. Seriously, if you think you could save a few pounds by packing yourself. Or if you think “well, I’m not working I might as well do it” just take yourself to a corner and have a word with yourself. It is not worth it. Do not do it. I spent two days trying to locate bubblewrap in Switzerland. I spent three days just packing the children’s bedrooms. I was packing till midnight for the whole week before the removal team arrived to take it away. Most maddening of all, I had packed about thirty cartons before I realised that I needed to write an inventory listing the contents of all the cartons. The removal team will take two days to pack a family of four. It is worth every penny!

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Sarah is a mother, wife and freelance writer who also happens to blog about family life and their expat adventures in Switzerland. Check out her blog, Life of Ryrie.


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