Packing for Overseas - Guest Author!

Posted by  | Thursday, November 20, 2008  at 10:56 AM  
I am terrible at packing. Let me rephrase, I am terrible at packing lightly. I think of everything, and then it all comes with us. Why do you think I drive a mini-van?

And clearly, my overseas packing experience goes only as far as a few weeks. I've never packed for longer than maybe 8 weeks? And that time, I tried to take fireworks on the plane. A wise woman (my mother in law) told me that wasn't going to work. Needless to say, I have a LOT to learn.

So, I recruited the help of my wonderful sister-in-law for this weeks' topic. Brandy is married to Jacob's middle brother, Gray. They have three kids - Sarala (3), Jackson (2) and Sam (9 months). Here are her thoughts on the whole experience of packing for overseas:

I’m Brandy, Christina’s sister-in-law, and I’m honored to be guest author on POH blog. I first lived overseas as a single girl where I met my husband seven years ago. In 2005, my husband and I along with our five month old, moved overseas to live in Europe. When we came home from our term, we had a 2 and a half year old, a one year old and I was pregnant. Lord-willing, we are going to be moving overseas again to South Asia sometime within the next year or two. I’ve never crated, so all of this is with suitcases, backpacks and action packers. So, here are some of the things I’ve learned in my packing and will and won’t do next time we go.

Like Stacey, I agree that it’s most important to do your research. This has to be a first step because it can save you lots of space and time in planning. You don’t want to waste 5 pounds on things only to find out they are readily available where you are moving, and you certainly don’t want to leave something behind that you badly need or want! A starting point is to try to find someone that has recently moved there and ask what were things they brought they wish they wouldn’t have and what were some things they really wished they would have brought. It’s fresh on their minds since they just moved and are still setting up house. People that have lived there longer sometimes can’t help as much cause they might not can remember and it’s home to them already (but still ask them too!). One thing it’s important to do is not just ask what they think is good to bring and not good to bring, but ask specific questions of things that are important to you!

Pack with priority. Don’t just throw together things you’ll want. Make sure you are packing the things you really must have first and leave things you could do without in a pile that you can come back to after you’ve packed all of the must haves first. Honestly, I’ve never gotten to packing those piles--they were always left behind--and usually more! It’s good to make sure when you have to start leaving it behind you have already prioritized and know the first things to go.

I'd say that this picture shows pretty good priorities! Baby on top!

Pack personal belongings that you could do without, but will make your new place feel like home. Even though you literally could do without them, honestly, these things are a must!!! This will help you leaps and bounds with culture shock and help you “feel at home” somewhere. You’d be surprised how invaluable and how homey that one little picture frame or scented candle can make your home feel and how hard or expensive it might be to get something like that in your new country. This was something I didn’t do the first time I moved overseas and I regretted it so much. I was so surprised at how much I wanted some little things to help me create a home even though I was young and single, I still wanted to make a home!

Also keep the personal touch in mind when packing for your children. Keeping things that are consistent for our kids is SO important when EVERYTHING around them has changed. So, pack a few decorations from their rooms or bedding that you can take so they know it’s their room and it’s familiar and consistent. Let them pack some things of their own (within realistic boundaries--I know my little girl wants to take her doll house with us--yikes!) so that they are having choices and know they are involved in moving--even when they pack the silliest things you really might object to. I think this is so important, even when they are little. They understand, remember and comprehend way more than we give them credit for and more than they can verbally communicate sometimes.

We also have a little photo album of pictures of so many of our family and friends to make sure we are talking about them and remembering them and telling our children stories about them which is extra important when they are preschool age to help them remember them and be familiar with them when they talk on the phone, visit them and go back home. Having these pictures is something to think about ahead of time. Even though we have so many digital pictures, I remember it being especially harder making sure we had some good shots of faces and some shots of great grandparents and extended family. You might even need to make sure you actually capture more photos during those last months or when you’re saying good-byes so you’ll have them.

Finally, use all the carry ons you can and use as many of your carry-ons as regular luggage--max them out to be as heavy as you can. Don't just think of things you want for travel. Of course, have what you need for travel, but you can also put things you want to have right away or that first morning/day in country in case your checked bags are late or missing. Another way to max them out is books. Books are small but heavy and the weight adds up. So, you have a few extra pounds to think about when you do this. Every pound counts, right???!!!

And, here’s a little advice that isn’t about packing, but helps in packing because you know there is a plan for things to come and don’t feel so much pressure to cram it all in and it’s easier to leave somethings behind. If you are going with children--especially young children that grow so fast--to an area where you can readily receive packages or you know someone is coming to visit, leave labeled boxes behind. For example, I left a booster seat for eating, 12 month clothes in a box and newborn clothes (in case we had another baby) for my in-laws to mail over and bring to us when we needed them. We knew we would have family visiting that could bring things over to us later. Jacob and Christina brought us some of these things! Label it well and remember where it is so it’s easy for them to get to and pack or ship.

Another thing we did was leave a check book with signed checks behind with a couple we were very close to. This was for those times when I wanted peanut butter or flavored coffee creamer or goldfish or clothes to be purchased and sent to us. I would send my best friend on a shopping spree and ask her to mail it to us. Then, she was able to write herself a check for the expenses plus shipping and it didn’t cost her anything but time. This was a great way for them to serve us and help us without costing them financially. It was also a way for us to feel we could get something without burdening folks financially. Shipping is very expensive! But, we only did this about 3 times because folks were so generous to us in shipping our favorite comfort foods and things we needed for our babies!

I hope this helps! I’ll be reading through all the posts and comments for sure for ideas as we prepare to move again. Packing is a huge feat! Please share ideas so we all can pack well!


Jared and Michelle Houk said...

I just wanted to let you know that I live in South Asia, so if you have questions about packing, you can feel free to e-mail me! My e-mail address is I have lived here for 3 years with my husband and now 7 week old son. I agree about packing comfort things as well! That was a mistake I made the first time around.

The Arab Musicians said...

Good point to ask people who have been there a relatively short time. Where we are, new things are becoming available all the time, so people who haven't recently gone through the getting settled process may tell you that you need things that you really don't. Not to mention that, like you said, everything is fresher when you've just been through it yourself.

roger and courtney said...

We have a little digital scale that we take everywhere with us to make sure our bags are as heavy as they can be. It's actually just a scale for weighing fish, but it's very accurate and small so it's easy to stuff in a bag at the last minute.

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