Avoid These Common Screw-ups When Planning an Overseas Move

By Liz Shaw
Special to MovingQuotes.com

Moving underseas is a huge undertaking -- it takes more planning, resources, and definitely more money. So it requires more of everything -- including more work from you. Here are some major things to keep in mind.

Get Organized

If you have a house to pack up, get organized. If you are having some of your goods put into storage while the rest goes overseas, be sure to clearly separate what items are intended for which shipment. Use sticky notes; for example, you can use different-colored paper to indicate which shipment belongs where.

Separate everything that must not be packed, like passports, medicine and other important documentation. Irreplaceable items such as family photos and videos should be carried with you also. On moving day, the packers will move quickly and you might not notice if those kinds of things disappear from the kitchen counter until your shipment is departing on the truck. Ideally, keep stuff that will be with you during the move separate from the things you'll be shipping.

Hire a Professional International Moving Company

Unless your shipment is very small (in which case it could go by air), your stuff will more than likely be shipped by ocean when moving internationally. This means that your shipment will be placed in a large metal container that's loaded onto a ship by a crane. There can be shifting inside the container while it's being lifted, and also while the ship is at sea.

Items packed improperly won't be able to withstand the normal amount of shifting that occurs during ocean transit. And that's where a quality moving company will come in.

Hiring the right mover is the number one way to kick-start a successful move. If it’s packed correctly, you’re more likely to have a damage-free shipment on the other end. Ask your moving company how familiar they are with packing for international transit. How many overseas moves do they handle per year? If they don’t seem knowledgeable, choose a different mover.


Keep a phone line that you will have access to -- whether it’s your cell phone or landline -- connected through the time of your departure. Because you're likely to be changing time zones, email is a great way to maintain communication with your moving company.

Budget Plenty of Time

Leave enough time in between the last day of your move (when everything is loaded on a truck) and when you are scheduled to leave the country. It is unwise to schedule your flight for 4 p.m. just because you expect your move to be complete by noon on the same day. Problems happen, so it’s best to leave at least one buffer day if you can.

Also, ask the moving company about the approximate transit time for your shipment. Realize that this is an estimate, and loosely make your plans based on that.

Decide which non-furniture items are essential and bring them with you instead of packing them in your shipment. Going to most overseas points, it’s going to be several weeks before you see your shipment again. From the U.S. to most western European points, it will be at least a month. To inland countries such as Russia, it could be over two months.

But even with a transit time estimate, you have to bear in mind that customs procedures and the business of the season could add days or weeks to your shipment’s transit time. So if you’re debating whether to bring the family’s winter coats in your suitcases, and you’ve been given an estimated delivery date on the cusp of the season, bring them with you just in case.

Know the Home Country's Rules

Different countries have different rules. Review the regulations for importing goods into your country of destination. Some countries prohibit the import of alcohol or firearms. Generally, you cannot ship perishables. To learn more about the regulations in your destination country, check with the moving company overseeing your move. You can also check with the U.S. Embassy in your country.

Does the country you’re moving to require you to be there before importing your goods? If there will be a delay in your travel plans, which might cause your shipment to arrive before you do, find out the policy in that country. Having the shipment sit at the port pending customs clearance produces hefty port storage costs.

What documents do you need to proceed with the customs clearance of your goods? Discuss this with your moving company and make sure there’s a way your moving company can get in touch with you in case they need additional information to clear your shipment.