Helpful Tips on Moving Overseas

One of the inevitable things about being a missionary is that someday at the end of the deputation trail, you will pack your bags and move. Packing especially for an international move can be very complicated and stressful. But professionals such as Removalists Brisbane To Melbourne will optimize this process for you. There are so many decisions to make and deadlines to meet. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming! Several missionary wives have contributed to this article to give you just a few of our own ideas to help you be organised and on schedule as you pack. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but we hope there is something here that will be a blessing to you.

Before you start packing or decide which shipping method to use, it might be wise to try to talk to several people in the area you are moving to for advice regarding how to pack and what to pack beforehand. One missionary wife said that they emailed every person they could find in their new country beforehand and had them offer their tips and suggestions. She said, “It was really a huge help talking to several people before moving because each one had different suggestions and different ways that they went about it, so it enabled us to think about all of our options and the pros and cons of what others have done specifically in our area.”

When you are making the decision on how to ship your stuff to your country, you have several options. Here are three common methods.

Option 1: Ship a container. You would most likely do this if you already own a lot of furniture and if the cost of shipping the container is cheaper than buying new furniture in your new country. When figuring costs, don’t forget to consider the customs requirements and costs for entry into your country.

Option 2: Ship a crate. You would most likely do this if your airline will not allow you to bring extra baggage or if the cost of extra baggage on the plane is too much. You would probably not use this option if you have to ship large furniture. The benefit of a crate is that you can choose a crate that is the perfect size for how much stuff you have to ship.

Option 3: Duffel bags on the plane. When your plane tickets are purchased, find out how many bags the airline will allow you to bring on the plane and how much it costs to bring extra bags. Some airlines allow up to 3 bags per person for no extra cost. Some airlines charge for every extra bag. But other airlines limit how many extra bags you are allowed. Make sure to research this very carefully. Regarding duffel bags, they are not your only option, but many missionaries advise that they are the best. Other options are luggage (more expensive) or Rubbermaid Roughneck Totes (suggested more for packing a container but still a good option). You can find all shapes and sizes of duffel bags. Secondhand army duffel bags are sometimes the cheapest option. They are normally green and stand upright. But some missionary wives have found the parachute bags (they do not stand upright) to be quite useful as well. You can generally find them on Amazon for less than $20.

After the shipping method is chosen, your next job is to pack. Here are a few tips from local movers in Tallahassee.

Packing a container. Pack small stuff in boxes. Cardboard boxes are definitely the cheapest option. But I really like the Rubbermaid Roughneck Totes because they are sturdy and waterproof. The 18 gallon size is my favourite and costs about $13 at Walmart. Books should be packed in smaller boxes because of their weight. As you pack, number each box. Make a list of the contents of each box. When you are done, you should have a notebook full of the lists that correspond with the number of boxes in the container. You will also need to add furniture and loose items to this list as well. Wrap furniture in heavy duty plastic and secure it with duct tape. Wrap fragile items in bubble wrap. When you are done packing the container, tie everything down with rope in case the container gets tipped while en route. In order to get your full money’s worth out of a container, it is suggested to pack it completely full. If your stuff doesn’t fill it, contact other missionary families in your new country and offer to bring some of their stuff in the container as well. It might be a good idea to schedule the shipment for 1-2 weeks before your departure date to get that job done ahead of time.

Packing a crate. This should be fairly simple. Pack everything very securely. Use plenty of plastic wrap, bubble wrap, and duct tape. It might also be wise to keep a list of everything in the crate.

Packing duffel bags. I have been given so many helpful tips, I just couldn’t leave any of them out. So here’s the full list:

1. Books and heavy items generally should go on the bottom of the bag. If you are allowed 50 pounds per bag, I found that I could put about 25 pounds of books or heavy items at the bottom of the bag, and still fit 25 pounds worth of clothes or “light” stuff on top. In order to keep paperback book covers safe, you can wrap them in plastic wrap.

2. Any food or liquid should be wrapped in several layers of plastic or ziplock bags. Pillows, bedding, and large winter coats can be vacuum packed.

3. It’s not required, but it is very wise to make a list of the contents of each bag. When you arrive in your new country, you may not be able to unpack everything right away. So when you need a particular item, you will know exactly what bag to open if you have a list.

4. In order to make your bags “stick out” at the airport, you can buy several shades of duct tape to wrap around the handles. If possible, get the address labels from the airport ahead of time and fill them out and attach them to your bags, so you don’t have to fill them out while checking in.

5. Weigh your bags before you get to the airport. One missionary wife said, “We placed a piece of duct tape on the top of the bags with the exact weight. When we got to the airport they did not even weigh our bags, and we passed through like a breeze.” You may not have this exact experience, but at least you won’t be surprised to find several bags overweight.

6. Another missionary wife said, “I had my friends and family that helped me pack the bags write a special note on them with a sharpie (words of encouragement, Bible verse, etc). Some even wrote on the inside of the bag before I packed them. When I was unpacking in my new country those words brought a smile to my face.” This may be just the thing you need when you land in your new country, especially if you are experiencing homesickness.

Other General Tips:

1. About a month before departure, make a detailed list of everything that needs done. I.e. Clean out hall closet. Clean out kitchen cupboards. Clean out boys room. Clean out girls room. Pack books. Pack kitchen items. Take clothes to Goodwill. I like to write my list on paper and leave it on my kitchen counter. But you could use a fun app like Evernote, or Google Calendar (which is great because it sends you alerts), or Pages.

2. Then make another list for “Last Minute” things. This will be for stuff like clean the bathroom or clean out the fridge. You can’t exactly do those things a month in advance. Sometimes the thought of last minute things is frustrating, but if you add it to the list and know you will get it done, it will help lower your stress levels.

3. Your first list should also have “Pack 2 bags” on it several times, depending on how many bags you are packing. If you are packing 10 bags, you would obviously need to have this on your list five times. This helps to break up the packing so you don’t have to do it all in one day.

4. When your list is written, put a date beside each thing. If you do this a month in advance, it gives you 31 days. This list with the dates will now be your “Moving and Packing Schedule.” Try to stick to it.

5. To make packing easier, I make piles around my house: “Take to Goodwill.” “Give to a friend.” “Throw away.” “Pack.” This gives you a reason to deal with everything only once. Don’t procrastinate when you have to make a decision about what to do with your stuff. Just put it in a pile.

6. As you get things done, mark them off your list. You will be surprised how much it eases your tension when you see several things marked off the list.

7. If you pack a couple bags a month in advance, it will also help you feel less stressed. People tend to ask quite often “How is the packing coming?” when they know you have a big move coming. If you can answer with, “It’s going great. I already have 4 bags packed.” then you will feel more on top of things and less overwhelmed.

8. It’s also very relieving to have everything scheduled to be completely done about a week before departure. There’s nothing more stressful than last minute packing. So only leave last minute things for the last week. Most of your bags should be packed long before then.

What to do if you are moving to a country that does not have the American stuff that you need:

1. Make a list of things you really like in America that you know you will miss if they are not available. If you go on a survey trip, take this list and check off the things you find. Contact other missionaries and let them help you with your list as well.

2. When you have your list of things you want to take with you, try to purchase the items as early as you can. Get them wrapped and ready to go in a “To Pack” pile. This could actually turn out to be a big job and would be best to be done before you start your packing. You will get annoyed if you have to stop packing to run to the store to buy syrup.

3. Try to sneak surprises in for your husband and children to use as gifts later. (Unless you are going to a country that has all the same goodies.) Consider that other countries may offer not big and tall clothing selections, etc.

4. If you are going to a country that doesn’t celebrate Christmas or other holidays, make sure to pack some stocking stuffers and holiday decorations. One missionary wife said, “I tried to take enough to at least decorate my table for every major holiday.”

Being a missionary and moving to a foreign field is an amazing service! We would hate for moving and packing to steal your zeal. You are doing a great work for the Lord, and we want to assist you in EVERY area of your work. We hope this article will help you get to the field faster and better prepared. Please feel free to give us your suggestions or helpful tips on packing in the comments below. We are all still learning and would love to hear some new ideas.

Also, I would like to apologize for the length of this article. It’s purpose is to be a resource, so it was important to keep all the information in one place.

With Love,


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  • 9 thoughts on “Helpful Tips on Moving Overseas

    1. A hand-held luggage scale has been invaluable in all of our packing of 50 pound bags! It certainly beats trying to balance on a scale with huge suitcase in hand. . . and it weighs to the ounce! The type we have (Balanzza) can be purchased at Bed Bath & Beyond for around $20.

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