Checklist before your move

Once you’ve decided to embark in an international journey, there are many things that need to be done. It can be quite overwhelming and everyone has many tips about what not to forget or what to do before you leave.


Some companies give notice for a re-assignement at least 6 months beforehand but sometimes you don’t get that much time. Theoretically, most of these things can get done in less than 6 months, especially if you’re going to stay on the same continent (i.e. you don’t need shipping, visas, change insurances etc. ). For this list I used some already existing ones – like Defining moves from Rachel Yates – and added several points I consider important, especially when moving with children.

We usually make lists with what to do and when for practical things. But when we move with family we need to include the needs of all family members and their goodbyes into our list too. Some make two, three lists and then get overwhelmed. Therefore I decided to suggest a list that includes practical and very personal things we shouldn’t forget once we decide that we’re going to move.

As soon as you decide to go:

  • Apply for passports.

  • Research visas and work permits (for all family members!), residency restrictions (for children who will reach adult age while you are there) and schedule applications.

  • Research entry and residency requirements for the whole family (also pets!) including vaccinations.

  • Make vaccination appointment schedule and set reminders in your calendar or phone.

  • Negotiate relocation package with your employer: including a copy of the policy for your spouse or partner (if possible) and the ability to request changes as issues arise.

  • Review relocation package in detail, including health insurance provision, monetary allowances, shipping allocation (when necessary), early repatriation (just in case), dependent care provision, transport to and from host location, emergency evacuation (if you’re going to live in a country where this could be an issue) etc..

  • Make host country contacts and meet informally (also online cfr. facebook, twitter etc.).

  • Get and read all the resources available on your new location, including age appropriate ones for your children. – See if you can find any kind of stories that could introduce your children to the culture in the new place (i.e. what kind of sports are more popular in the new place, what children do in their spare time, what kind of food they will be eating, what language(s) they will hear etc.).

  • Begin studying the language and culture of your host country: for the whole family!

  • Research living conditions, housing, schooling (including school system and home schooling if necessary), driving requirements and lifestyles.

  • Make decision on current housing: sell, rent out, give notice of end of tenancy. Choose professionals to handle the sale or the property management early, if you can.

  • Plan an exploratory trip, if possible, with the whole family. Make a list of questions you need answering during the trip. – Here’s a list with the F.A.Q. while choosing a new school.

  • Schedule time off for important relocation dates.


6 months before departure:

  • Choose moving company and get quotes for removals, shipping and storage. Verify each stage is fully insured.

  • Start decluttering the house.

  • Inventory possessions – airfreight/ sea fright / luggage/ storage / donate.

  • Continue vaccination schedule (family members and pets).

  • Make arrangements for pets you will (have to) leave behind – allow time to find a home you like for them.

  • Schedule medical, dental and eye examinations, and review results. Make any lifestyle changes, treatment plans etc. necessary to maximize health prior to obtaining health insurance. Get direct contact details for current providers.

  • Organize important documents, make copies (both photocopies and scanned copies saved to a flash drive, Evernote ( or Dropbox (

  • If you haven’t done this yet make a will and prepare a trust, power or attorney and health care directive/living will – if you already have done this, just check if they’re still up to date.

  • Make arrangements for managing your finances abroad, and understand the cost of your choice.

  • Decide what to do with high value or irreplaceable objects (consider a safety deposit box for both these and your important documents – leave the key with a lawyer who you can instruct if necessary).

  • Get advice from people in your host country about what personal and household supplies or electronics you might need, and start purchasing. Common items include preferred toiletries, electric toothbruch heads, sun cream, feminine hygiene, baby food (do they sell your brand abroad?). Note that you will need to purchase a multiregion DVD player if you are going to take your DVD collection with you.

3 months before departure:

  • Schedule routine medical and dental check-ups that would normally fall within the first 3-6 months of arrival, to be completed before you go.

  • Request copies of all medical and dental records, check for errors and make digital copies.

  • Update the contact details of people you wish to keep in contact with – join a social networking group (e.g. Facebook or Google+) for ease of access. Include host country contacts too.

  • Transfer as much of your day-to-day bills, banking etc. to online capability.

  • Make arrangements for new schools for children and notify your current school of when and where the children will be going. Request copies of school transcripts both for yourself and to be sent to the new school. – Some schools need this notification earlier!

2 months before departure:

  • Buy supplies to be included in household shipment (if applicable).

  • Unlock mobile phone.

  • Set up independent email account and transfer contacts. Notify your email contact list of new address.

  • Go through each room of the house and finalise what to take and what to leave. Inventory both categories separately for insurance for shipping (if necessary) or storage.

  • Make interim living arrangements (hotel, short term appartment) for host country.

  • Give notice on rental property.

  • Check with any host country contacts if they have anything they would like you to bring out for them. Have them send any purchases to your home address.

  • Schedule the date for packing up the household contents. Allow at least 3 days before departure.


In the final month:

  • Notify all contractual services (mobile phone, cable/satellite TV, insurance etc.) of date of end of service in writing. Keep copies of all paperwork.

  • If you are renting out your home, make list of preferred maintenance / service engineers and forward to the property management company, along with your contact details. Arrange for the house to be cleaned after your departure.

  • Buy a laptop if you don’t already have one and make sure it has Wi-Fi, camera and microphone capability. Learn how to use it and download Google Hangouts, Skype or other VOIP provider.

  • Arrange mail forwarding.

  • Finalise new homes for any pets you are not taking with you.

  • Notify banks etc. that you will be accessing your accounts from a new location.

  • Remind your email contact list of your new address.

  • List and collect all important documents and store safely for transport in your hand luggage.

  • Pack your luggage before the movers arrive, and store elsewhere to prevent accidental shipping or storing.

  • Build a R.A.F.T.

Take the time and allow your children the time to say good-bye to friends, neighbours, teachers, collegues etc. because “healthy good-byes allow happy hellos!”.