15 Tips to Prepare for an Overseas Move

OCONUS moving

Once you’ve accepted a job overseas, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of living abroad. The food! The culture! The travel opportunities! But before you can start eating authentic bratwursts or taking selfies in front of Big Ben, you have to plan out and execute an overseas move. Here are a few tips to make your move a little less cringeworthy and a little more organized.

1. One Vehicle or Two?

Most employers will pay to ship one vehicle to your final destination. This often leaves families who have two vehicles in a bind. You have two options: pay to ship the second vehicle, which could cost a couple thousand dollars, or leave the second vehicle in storage. It’s common for people to ship one vehicle, leave one in storage and then pick up a second, used vehicle when they arrive. With people coming and going all the time, it’s fairly easy to pick up a second set of wheels at a reasonable price.

2. Decide What to Pack.

This is where a little bit of research goes a long way. For example, if you’re working for the U.S. Army as a civilian you’ll have access to loaner furniture for the duration of your tour. Using government furniture may sound unappealing, but you need to consider where you’re moving. For example, in Germany many of the apartments are located off of tight spiral staircases and some door frames are on the small side. It’s possible your queen-sized boxspring won’t fit up the stairs or through a doorway. In that case, you’d want to leave the larger pieces behind and plan on using loaner furniture. Store everything you’re leaving behind in a climate-controlled storage area and appoint a friend or family member to keep an eye on things while you’re gone. You should also consider automatic payments. Life gets busy and you wouldn’t want to lose all of your belongings because you forgot about your storage unit bill.

3. Unaccompanied Baggage.

In some cases, employers will pay for a small shipment of your household goods to arrive before the larger shipment. This is especially helpful since it can take weeks for your belongings to arrive. When packing the smaller shipment, think of things you’ll need right away. It’s possible you’ll stay in a hotel until your larger shipment arrives, but unlikely since it’s so expensive. Things you’ll probably need include towels, dishes, sheets and work clothes. If this is an option for you, take full advantage of it.

4. Take Care of Your Property.

If you own property, you’ll need to take the appropriate steps to maintain it while you’re gone. If it’s going to remain empty, at the very least someone should have keys so they can check on it and perform routine maintenance. If you’d like to rent it out while you’re gone, you’ll need to look into a property management company, preferably several months before you leave.

5. Look After Your Kids.

If you still have children living at home with you, you’ll need to take some extra steps to prepare them for the move. If they don’t have a passport, you’ll want to get one as soon as possible. You also need to collect their school, medical and dental records and carry them with you. If your child has special needs, ensure there’s a facility in your new location that will meet those needs. You’ll also want to look into schools in your new location and make note of registration deadlines. When it’s time for the big flight, make sure you pack enough items to keep your kids entertained. It’s no secret that an unhappy child makes a 12-hour flight feel twice as long.

6. Pets.

First, look into the country’s policy on bringing pets into their country. Is there a quarantine period? Is your pet prohibited? What types of shots and medical records do you need to get into the country? You’ll also want to prepare for the expense of flying your pet overseas. Only certain airlines offer air-conditioned baggage areas where pets can fly and some regional flights don’t offer the option at all. You may have to drive to a farther airport to get a direct flight. You’ll also want to consider the time of day you’ll be flying because if the temperature is too hot, they won’t load pets. Pet tickets are often several hundred dollars so be prepared to pay for it on the way there and on the way home in several years. If you can’t afford the ticket, consider leaving your pet with a friend, family member or foster home. Please do not abandon your pet.

7. Get Your Medical Act Together.

Before leaving, make sure you have copies of your medical records to take with you. If you’re battling an ongoing medical issue that requires a specialist, you should also make sure you can be treated at your new location. Fill all of your prescriptions and consider getting a larger supply than normal. If you’re changing health insurance policies because of your new job, there could be some lag time and you don’t want to run out of your medication. If you’re keeping the same health insurance, call to see if you need to switch over to their international branch.

8. Get a Roof Over Your Head.

As soon as you have travel dates, call to get your temporary lodging squared away. This is especially important if you plan on staying in a government lodging facility because they fill up quickly. You can always stay in a hotel on the economy, but it might make for a smoother transition to stay on post as you adjust to living overseas. You’ll also need to start looking for permanent lodging. Housing services are available to help DA civilians find off-post accommodations. If you’ve taken a contractor job, you should see what services they offer when it comes to housing. This isn’t something you should handle by yourself. You’ll be entering into a housing contract written in another language – it pays to have help.

9. Prep and Carry Important Paperwork.

This is a great time to update important paperwork like powers of attorney, your will and passports. You’ll also want official documents like your marriage license, birth certificates and school records with you. Do not pack these in your checked baggage or household goods shipment. Instead, put them in your carry-on luggage, briefcase or purse. Make sure all of the official documents and copies of your employment orders are with you at all times.

10. Look into Your Insurance Options.

Before you leave, check with your insurance provider to see how your policy will change when you move abroad. You should have auto insurance, renter’s insurance and if you think you need it, travel insurance. If you have pet health insurance, you should check your policy to see if it will still work internationally. It’s also worth looking into local insurance at your destination. For example, in Germany there’s ADAC, which is similar to the way AAA works. Trust me, it’s worth the money. The fee is small and benefits are huge.

11. Take Care of Your Money.

When you move overseas, you’ll likely need to find a local bank. This makes it more convenient when you’re doing a currency exchange or using a local ATM. It also gives you a routing number in that country so you can transfer money between your landlord’s bank and your bank without any issues. Before you move, you’ll also want to have a clear understanding of what you’re entitled to with your new employer. Do you have travel pay? Will you be reimbursed for moving and lodging expenses? Do you need an advance to cover your deposits? Make sure you take the time to read the fine print when it comes to moving and your money.

12. Look for Sponsorship.

Many overseas employers provide their incoming employees with sponsors. These are typically people who have worked for the organization for awhile and can help you adjust to living overseas. If possible, request a sponsor before you get there. They’ll be able to answer your questions via phone or email and might even pick you up at the airport when you arrive.

13. Hit the Books.

It’s likely you’ll have to pass a driving test before you’re given a driver’s license in your new country. If you have time, study for the exam before you arrive. Depending on where you’re going, you may also want to look into language classes, a tutor or a program like Rosetta Stone.

14. Double Check the Basics.

What does the exchange rate look like where you’re going and how will that affect your lifestyle? Do you have a cell phone that will work overseas or will you need to look into getting a new phone and plan? What type of voltage do they use and do you need to buy adapters for your appliances? Will your washer and dryer work or should you leave it behind? Will you have an American APO box or will all of your mail go directly to your new residence? This is where having a sponsor really comes in handy.

15. Get Social.

Another helpful tool when moving overseas are social media sites like Facebook. You can almost always find a local group where you’re moving and bounce questions off them or even make plans for when you arrive. You’ll find that knowing someone who is already there makes the transition much easier. So if you can’t get a sponsor, definitely find help through a social media site.

 

Overall, the key to moving overseas is to get organized before you board the plane. Read the fine print in your employment documents, double check travel pay, keep your official documents close by, find a sponsor and when in doubt, ask questions. You’ll be on your way to an international adventure in no time.

Jennifer Cary is a freelance writer, blogger and former government employee. You can visit her website here.

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