So you want to move abroad, huh? Packing may sound easy, and for most, perhaps it is. But for others, not so much. Especially when, like me, you want to relocate the majority of your life overseas but are limited as a result of airline baggage restrictions. The most irritating restriction of all being the weight limit. How am I supposed to get 39-plus years of belongings into three or four 20k (132lbs) pieces of luggage? Believe it or not, it is possible. A headache and a tad tedious, but possible. Follow along with me on this journey as I recap three precious packing tips from a professional serial ex-pat.
On this, my 6th relocation in the last seven years, I’d say I’ve learned a helpful trick or two. My first relocation was from my hometown (San Diego) to Eastern Europe when I joined the US Peace Corps in 2014. That was more than a bit sloppy if I do say so myself, but we live and learn life, am I right? Now I am packing up my global decor, seasonal clothes, and home office equipment, and heading for the Canary Islands.
Now, take dubious notes as I dive into the first of three precious packing tips I’ve mastered over the years as a serial ex-pat.
Precious packing tip #1: Prepping
What’s that famous saying? By failing to prepare, you prepare to fail. So naturally, my first tip is just that. Get prepared. Thinking ahead during the packing process is an essential element to overall readiness. How so? Packing too early can have you scrambling to locate must-have items now at the bottom of your duffel. Packing too late can have you forgetting those items in use daily. Those favorite magnets on the fridge or those pictures hanging behind them, as an example. Here’s a more helpful breakdown:
- Cleaning luggage: Dig that luggage out of storage, the back of the closet, or out from under the bed. Wash it off, check it for old travel tags and remove them. Make sure your mailing address is visible on the bag and that there’s nothing forgotten (or living) hiding out inside.
- Taking inventory: Once your bag is ready to go, you can take an eye inventory of your belongings and whether or not they are likely to fit. This helps in figuring out if any additional luggage pieces (to check-in) will be needed. This step is additionally helpful in future tips.
- Strategic planning: Pack strategically by buffering the bottom and sides with larger bulky items; winter coats, blankets, pillows, etc. This can help to protect precious/fragile items during transit. Fine comb the logistics of the journey during this step to ensure items that should be in the carry-on do not get packed in the checked bags and vice versa.
Now that things are in the preparation status, what next?
Shedding the unnecessary items you think you need to take, but truly don’t.
Precious packing tip #2: Shedding
As a self-proclaimed minimalist, most of the items I’ve acquired in my lifetime equivocate to far too much stuff. Admittedly, as an American, that deep-conditioned shopaholic in me is still unlearning these kinds of poor practices. But whittling down belongings is delightfully therapeutic, so in a way, I suppose I can thank the airlines for this challenge. I choose to see it as closing a door to open a window.
To shed efficiently, put items into separate piles as your sort and sift your belongings. One pile for donating, another for selling, and a final pile for regifting.
Donating: Donate your gently used clothing items, decor, books, old tech, anything. Fill up as many reusable shopping bags as there are laying around and take them to the nearest thrift store or donation drop zone. Someone in need will be truly thankful for your thoughtfulness.
Selling: Selling brand-new-looking items can help to offset the expenses of the relocation itself. It can also help ease the pain of attachment knowing items are going to homes that will cherish them as you did. There are several outlets for this, but a couple of suggestions of where to start include eBay or Facebook Marketplace.
Regifting: My personal favorite of these precious packing tips from a professional serial ex-pat is regifting. Watching a person’s face light up from a thoughtfully regifted item warms the soul. It also is one less item to worry about having to find the space for while packing.
We are prepared to pack and already shedding items left and right. Now we can round the bend to precious packing tip numero tres, shrinking.
Precious packing tip #3: Shrinking
As the Bag Lady, this element suits me just fine. Because it’s all about the bags, bagging, to be specific. Allow me to explain what I mean by “bagging”: categorize items in each room and put them collectively into a bag. A few examples, all hair accessories go into one bag, all tech accessories and chargers go into another bag. Medications & emergency travel first aid kit items go into another bag. You get the idea, right?
Bagging items to pack them helps ensure that little to nothing is forgotten. It also serves as a means of alert to what may need to be replaced (busted battery pack) or has been misplaced (where’s that charger?) during your stay. Recently, I discovered that the majority of my USB portable items can use the same charging cable. This eliminated the need for four or five different cables when one can do the work for all of them; shrinking at its best.
The idea of shrinking partners well with shedding. In many ways, it’s like shedding squared. Beginning to put items into packing cubes (highly recommended travel hack) provides a strong grasp on what will and won’t fit in the luggage readily available. In turn, offering tangible proof that additional shedding or an additional piece of luggage may be necessary.
Packing like a professional
To each, their own in life, so too with packing. While some prefer the last-minute approach, this professional serial ex-pat prefers to begin a cool month out from the date of departure. Sound excessive? I’ve learned that life’s lessons scream loudly if we’re listening. Consider that life happens and there is almost always not enough time to fit in everything. When relocating there are also bureaucratic loose ends to tie up, farewell functions to plan/attend, not to mention work to do. Beginning the packing process early can serve to reduce stress levels significantly.
Preparing for a relocation by first doing inventory, shedding unnecessary items, and lastly, bagging items to shrink clutter, packing like a professional is an achievable goal. So which of these precious packing tips from a professional serial ex-pat is the most helpful?