How To Pack For An International Move: Mistakes To Avoid

Whilst we highly recommend having your specialist international moving company pack your effects professionally the following guidance will be of assistance if you do decide you wish to pack yourself for your international relocation. Here we present our definitive guide full of practical tips on how to pack for an international move abroad.

10 Steps To Pack Household Items When Moving Overseas

  1. Begin early: When it comes to packing for an international move, starting early is critical. It will give you plenty of time to go through your belongings, decide what you want to keep, and donate or sell what you don’t need. This will help you reduce the number of items you need to pack, saving you time and money in the long run. Beginning early also allows you to avoid last-minute stress and to take breaks between packing sessions.
  2. Make a strategy: Making a packing plan for each room is an excellent way to ensure that everything is properly packed and labeled. Make a list of all the rooms in your house, and then work your way through them one at a time. Consider how you will transport large items, such as furniture or appliances, and plan accordingly. To make unpacking easier, clearly label each box with its contents and the room it belongs in.
  3. Select high-quality packing materials: It is critical to invest in high-quality packing materials when packing for an international move. Purchase various sizes of sturdy boxes, packing tape, bubble wrap, packing paper, and packing peanuts. Avoid using used or damaged boxes because they may not adequately protect your belongings.
  4. Pack Strategically: Packing strategically entails placing heavier items at the bottom of boxes and lighter items on top. This helps to keep your items safe during transport. To prevent items from shifting during transport, fill empty spaces with bubble wrap or packing paper. Consider the weight of each box and make sure you can carry it comfortably.
  5. Pack fragile items with care: Wrap each item individually in bubble wrap or packing paper when packing fragile items. Label each box “fragile,” and use dishpack boxes for dishes and glassware. This method of packing fragile items will help to prevent damage during transportation.
  6. Consider climate: If you’re moving to a climate that’s significantly different from your current one, you’ll need to think about how the change in temperature and humidity will affect your belongings. In a humid climate, for example, leather items may require special care. Investigate the climate of your destination and pack your belongings accordingly.
  7. Examine customs regulations: Check the customs regulations for your destination country to ensure that no prohibited items are packed. Customs regulations vary by country, and certain items may be prohibited from entering the country. Some countries, for example, may prohibit the importation of certain foods, plants, or electronics. To avoid problems during customs clearance, make sure you follow all customs regulations.
  8. Consider using vacuum-sealed bags: These are great for clothing and linens to save space and protect them from moisture and dust. Vacuum-sealed bags are an excellent way to save space in your boxes while also protecting your items during transport.
  9. Separately pack important documents: Passports, visas, and medical records should be kept in a separate box or bag that you can carry with you during the move. These documents are critical, and you don’t want to risk losing them in transit. Keep them in a secure location and keep them with you at all times.
  10. Take photos: Before packing valuable or sentimental items, take photos of them to document their condition. You will have photographic evidence to support any insurance claims if anything is damaged or lost during transport. Photograph all sides of the item, including any distinguishing features or markings. This will assist you in recalling the item’s original condition as well as any distinguishing features.

Packing Materials Required for an International Move

Packing MaterialsDescription
Moving boxesSturdy, corrugated cardboard boxes in various sizes for packing different items
Bubble wrapClear plastic material with small air pockets used for wrapping fragile items
Packing paperBlank newsprint paper used for wrapping and cushioning items
Foam paddingSoft, spongy material used for padding and cushioning items
Packing peanutsSmall foam pieces used to fill empty spaces and provide cushioning
Plastic wrapClear plastic wrap used for bundling items together or covering furniture
TapeStrong packing tape used for sealing boxes and securing items
LabelsStickers or markers for labeling boxes with contents and destination
Scissors or box cuttersTools for cutting and opening boxes
Furniture blanketsThick, heavy blankets used for wrapping and protecting furniture

Additional materials, such as wardrobe boxes for clothing, mattress covers for bedding, or specialized boxes for electronics, may be required depending on the specific items you need to pack. To ensure that everything arrives safely at your destination, properly label all boxes and make an inventory of all items packed.

International Moving Packing Checklist

Visa (if applicable)
Driver’s license (if applicable)
Birth certificate
Marriage certificate
Divorce certificate
Medical records
Dental records
Academic records
Employment records
Insurance policies (health, life, home, car)
Power of attorney (if applicable)
Will (if applicable)
Charger cables and adapters
Power banks
Portable speakers
Hard drives
ClothingCasual clothes
Formal clothes
Winter clothes (if moving to a cold climate)
Summer clothes (if moving to a warm climate)
Accessories (hats, scarves, gloves, belts, jewelry)
Household itemsBed sheets
Decorative items
Kitchen utensils (pots, pans, dishes, cutlery)
Small appliances (coffee maker, toaster, blender, etc.)
Cleaning supplies
Vacuum cleaner
Iron and ironing board
Board games
Sports equipment
Musical instruments
Personal care items (toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, etc.)
First aid kit

*Due to differences in voltage and power connections between countries, it may not be worth shipping household appliances internationally. Different countries’ electrical systems differ, and using appliances designed for one country in another can cause electrical damage to the appliance or even a fire hazard.

The standard voltage in the United States, for example, is 110-120V, whereas it is 220-240V in many other countries, including most of Europe. Similarly, the frequency of electrical current varies by country, with the US using 60Hz and the majority of other countries using 50Hz.

Appliances designed for one voltage and frequency may not function properly or at all in a different voltage and frequency country. Appliances can be converted or adapted to work with a different voltage or frequency in some cases, but this can be costly and not always possible.

As a result, rather than shipping new appliances internationally, it may be more practical and cost-effective to buy them in the destination country. This also reduces the possibility of damage or malfunction during transport, which can be costly and inconvenient to repair or replace.

Why It’s Best NOT to Pack Yourself When Moving Overseas

While packing yourself for an international move is possible, it is generally not recommended for the following reasons:

  • Customs regulations: Each country has its own set of rules and restrictions on what can and cannot be brought into the country, and failure to follow these rules can result in fines or even seizure of your belongings. Professional movers are familiar with these regulations and can ensure that your belongings are properly packed and labeled.
  • Insurance: If you pack your own belongings, you may be ineligible for certain types of insurance. Professional movers typically provide insurance options that cover loss or damage while in transit, providing you with peace of mind in the event that something goes wrong. By electing to pack yourself you may find you’re not covered.
  • Packing knowledge: Professional movers have packed a wide range of items, from fragile antiques to large furniture pieces. They have the knowledge and expertise to wrap and secure your items properly, lowering the risk of damage during transit.
  • Time and stress: Packing for an international move can be time-consuming and stressful, especially if you have a large number of items or special packing requirements. Hiring international movers to pack your belongings for you can save you time and stress, allowing you to concentrate on other aspects of your move.

Overall, while packing yourself for an international move may appear to be a cost-cutting measure, the risks and potential pitfalls involved make it a less-than-ideal option for most people. By far the easiest way to pack and move is by hiring professional movers to professionally pack and transport your belongings can help ensure a stress-free relocation

by Maiane Cassanego
Maiane is the Founder of Expat Frontier. She is fluent in English, Portuguese and Spanish. Maiane has an extensive background in international moving, freight forwarding and logistics.