Moving Abroad: How to prepare your air shipment

Your moving date has been confirmed, your visa is being processed, time has come for you to prepare your air shipment. It is time for you and your family to pack boxes, prepare the air shipment that will be flown to your country of destination. If you have ever moved before, you know a company will come and pack the things you are planning to take with you. But is it JUST that simple?

Most expatriation contracts will include a plane ticket, and a shipment. Depending on your contract, expected length of the stay, and wether you are moving alone or accompanied by your family, you will be allowed sea freight or air freight. The air shipment is the most commonly used option, as many expats find themselves living in foreign countries in furnished housing or serviced residences.

A shipment cannot be sent abroad without an address of destination, not just for delivery, mostly for customs reasons. Therefore, most relocating families or employees have already decided on a new home before they start packing their boxes.

Fully furnished apartment, when you are lucky

Unless you move to an other part of the country (which then does not apply to this article) or to a border country within the Schengen area, your shipment will have to follow certain criteria of security, and be within the import regulations of your country of destination. This explains why a moving company will pack for you, not simply to make the workload lighter. Besides moving boxes, their job is to know the rules listed by the customs service and prepare the import declaration.

Here are a few simple things you may want to do in order to:

  • maximise your space allowance,
  • pick the best and most useful items
  • not find your items rejected last minute by the movers who have to apply a set of rules.

Ready, go!

The Shipping Company

The shipping company will provide you with a list of forbidden or limited items. Your country of destination regulates what they allow for import. Not following those rules can result in inspection of the freight, delays, and sometimes items that break the rules will be seized. If some items are prohibited for freight import, but legal to transport, then place them in your suitcase. One easy example is cosmetics. Rules also usually apply to medicine, alcohol, food. Beyond that, some countries have restriction that can appear unusual, or difficult to understand. If you move to China for example, you cannot take more than 10 books with you. If you relocate to Mexico, you cannot import new (less than 6 months) objects.

List your needs

A little research goes a long way in helping you decide what you should be taking with you. If you cannot take certain useful or practical objects with you, how easily can you replace them in your country of destination? Is there an Ikea there? How about DIY shops and home stores? Try to get an inventory, photos or details of the place you are moving to: beddings, cutlery, cooking appliances. If you pack electrical or electronically items, better get adaptor plugs in your home country before leaving. Do not wait to be on the other side of the world, in a country you do not speak the language of.

Research your destination

Research your destination for its general environment, to help you assess your daily needs. Is it hot, cold, dry, humid. Will you have air conditioning? Heating? A garden? Make sure you check the electric current in case you are moving from 220V to 110V, or vice versa. Taking your hairdryer will then be pointless and you will have to replace it once you get there.

Your clothes matter more than you may think

Pack most of your clothes and shoes. It is surprising how sizes vary from one country to another. If you have lived all your life in the same place, you may not realise that your shoe size or your bra size do not exist in the country you are moving to. This also applies to seasonal items. Will a winter coat bought in Greece or Spain keep you warm in Sweden? Stay on the safer side and have enough for all seasons.

Make space, gain space

Maximise the space in your container by putting all clothes and linens in zipped vacuum-sealed bags. For not only you will gain a lot of space, but you will also keep them clean and fresh, as your shipment can remain stored for days or weeks in a warehouse. Last but not least, the condensed bags work as shock absorbers in your boxes, helping you secure many more fragile items.

Those things that matter

Do not forget the little things that matter. Starting a new life very far from your home country can be very unsettling, especially in the first few weeks. A few familiar objects will help you settle and feel at home more rapidly. Take your favourite throw for the sofa, your biscuit box, a photo album, a couple cushions, your kids favourite toys, a calendar of your hometown to keep track of the local holidays and remember the birthdays.

Fully furnished does not always mean ready to move in

Last but not least, your shipment is a lot smaller than you imagine. No matter the cubic meter you are given, it is often hard to leave familiar objects behind. Between necessity and apprehension, we tend to want to take it all. One small piece of advice: categorise. Prepare the things you think you want or need, and prioritise, the absolutely necessary, the essentials, the “useful if we can take them”, and finally the wish list of non-essentials that will go in the shipment IF there is still some space.

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