What to pack – moving overseas with kids

Working out what to bring for your family, and how much you’ll actually need when you’re relocating to a new country is hard work! Particularly if you’ve been settled in the one spot for a few years. We’d been living in Brisbane for 10 years when we first moved abroad with kids. Looking back, I can’t believe we managed to pack up our 4 bedroom house in the timeframe we did, with a 7 and 5 year old, and our active 18 month old.

We made plenty of mistakes with packing the first time around. We took too much of what we really didn’t need (e.g. doonas, clothes hangers, plastic containers) and not enough of what we did need (e.g. sunscreen, larger size kids clothes and more Vegemite!).

My first tip is try not to overpack! We took everything with us to Peru (baggage allowance meant 10 suitcases in total). For Korea our baggage allowance was less so we used SendMyBag for our extra bags which arrived a week after we did. This was a god send during quarantine when extra toys turned up.

Depending on your destination, you can get a lot when you arrive to save bringing everything with you. Do some research about what you can’t easily get in your new country and stock up on those items. Hopefully, the school will help you with this or reach out to current teachers for help.

My top tip for packing is to use vacuum suction bags to maximise space. We got lots of cheap ones and while the quality wouldn’t be enough to keep them sealed tight for a long time, it was perfect for us to squeeze more into our bags.

If you have little ones, check the legalities for car seats in the country you’re moving to. You can get small, compact seats online after you arrive that can easily fit into taxis. These could be suitable if you’re not buying a car and won’t need to use a seat regularly. Otherwise, consider bringing a booster or car seat from your home country as part of your luggage allowance. It may be easier than organising when you arrive (although Facebook groups are an excellent place to look for second-hand options).

Here are my top 8 recommendations:

  1. Personal touches – small personal touches to make you feel at home. We have cushion covers, a few lightweight picture frames, some prints, fridge magnets and photos for the walls. I also packed the kids’ doona covers from home for our first move to help them feel more settled.
  2. Spices – if you’ve got some favourite herbs, spices or sauces, bring these with you. Chances are you’ll be able to get similar fruit, veggies and meats but not necessarily the same spices to make your favourite meals. Still, you never know what you might find that’ll turn into a new favourite. We found loads of spices in Peru that we took with us to Korea!
  3. Next size up clothing and shoes – if you’ve got kids, I’d recommend buying the next size up in shoes and clothing (at least for your eldest), so you have some extras for when they grow. I’m amazed at how much my kids grew in a year, though perhaps being in lockdown eating non-stop contributed! Sometimes navigating where best to purchase clothing and shoes for kids can be tricky, particularly if you’re considering buying online and are unsure of sizes. Other expats can also be a great way to access hand-me-downs (who doesn’t love second-hand kids clothes!).
  4. Prescription medication – if you need regular prescription medication, visit your doctor before you leave and ask if they can write you a few prescriptions. I did this with my thyroxin pills, so I had enough to last me about 12 months. Obviously, it will depend on the medication, but I’d recommend giving it a go. Make sure there’s no issues bringing in your medication to your new country too.
  5. General medication/skincare/beauty etc – if you’re used to specific brands make sure to bring a few with you. In terms of general medication I packed kids medicine (panadol and nurofen), some antiseptic cream, sunscreen, bandaids and electrolytes. I also stocked up on worm tablets for the kids! Sanitary items are also very different everywhere you go. For example, tampons are difficult to source in South Korea.
  6. English books/kindle – I love books and can’t get my head around using a kindle. My husband loves it, and I’ll use one if I’m desperate but I really do love a good book! English books can obviously be hard to come by in a lot of countries, particularly kids books. We took paperback kids books with us to make sure the kids had plenty of options. While they can borrow from school, I wanted to make sure we had a good supply at home too.
  7. Kids birthday presents – when we flew to Korea we had both girls birthdays in quarantine so we got their presents before we left Australia. Now that I’m looking for Xmas presents, I wish I’d purchased a few extra presents and stored them.
  8. Sheets/towels – depending on how much you love your thread count, consider bringing a sheet set and a couple of towels from home with you.