Tips for Moving Overseas

3 suitcases, 2 backpacks, 1 stroller + carry bag, 1 car seat, 1 toddler and 1 husband

When my mother and father moved to Canada in the 60’s, they brought five suitcases and 22 boxes of stuff. They went by boat and train. It took a while.

Here we are at the Skytrain station less than 24 hours before arriving in the Isle of Man.

I’d like to say we kicked my parent’s butts on the packing of stuff, that I rolled up 27 pieces of clothing in a carry-on plus a few cloth diapers for Henry, and we were moved. But that wasn’t the case. Those three suitcases were heavy. The official count was 75 kgs of baggage plus our carry-ons that held three laptops (Chris has a work and personal one), one Kindle, and one iPad (Chris bought one as he weans off the iPhone and considers selling his personal laptop). If you could see into that suitcase a wireless router, a lot of cables and adaptors, and even a few sets of silverware would be carefully tucked away in the t-shirts and suit jackets.

We had a small delay leaving Vancouver from the volcanic ash cloud but other than that it was really smooth sailing getting over here. Henry was asleep before take off and only woke up about an hour before we landed because the person he was sleeping on, me, needed to use the bathroom. For a nine hour flight with an in-arms-toddler it doesn’t get any better than that.

The UK border guards were nonchalant about our arrival and with a few stamps in our passports they sent us on our way. More moving of heavy luggage and the dreaded car seat into a big cab, a dreamy hour or so ride to Gatwick that left us all sleepy, and we were on to our second and final flight.

If you ever move to an idyllic island in the Irish Sea, I highly recommend arriving at sunset on a clear day. Chris generously gave me the window seat (or maybe he wanted the aisle because he needed the leg room) and I was treated to a breathtaking view of the Isle of Man as we approached. Nonstop postcard worthy views of lush green country and Oceanside cliffs. Made me feel like I can get past the whole no Starbucks thing.

So… we’re here. Getting over jet lag, finding a new home and familiarizing ourselves with a new city. I think my puffy crying eyes are almost healed from the departure farewells. By far this is the hardest move I have ever had to make emotionally. And I’ve moved plenty: to university, leaving university, leaving an old boyfriend and family to pursue an Olympic dream. All those moves were challenging, some a bit sad, but I got over it pretty quick. It’s so much easier to be the one leaving than to be the one left behind.

The day before we left Henry played for hours with his cousins, big and small ones. With this move, he’s missing out on nine cousins, seven aunts, six uncles (five of the six of these uncles are legally named David – crazy!) and two Grandmas. It really hurt to say goodbye to them. Even with the excitement of the move and the certainty that we want to take this opportunity to live in the UK, it was really hard to leave. I know there are bouts of homesickness just around the corner.

I’ll hopefully have a bit of time this week to upload some pictures and lists of what we shipped and what we stored. Feels like we got rid of a lot, all of our furniture plus a load of stuff to donations before we left. But when it came time to pack Chris and I were just plain tired of all of it. Moving is an energy suck. Having a lot of stuff to move is an even bigger energy suck.

Even if you’re not moving overseas, you can still live like you are. Check out this piece by the amazing Tsh Oxenrider of that was published a while back on CNN. Some great tips here for decluttering and paring down the in the framework of moving overseas. Very helpful even if you just signed a 1 year lease or took out a mortgage.

Oh, and Tsh got down to 15 boxes to ship before they moved to the Middle East 4+ years ago. We got down to 14. Proud to be in the same ballpark as The Simple Mom.

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  • Hi Rachel,
    I’m glad to hear your flight overseas went well. Must be quite an adventure traveling such a distance with all your stuff (even when you’re a minimalist!) and a family. I’m looking forward to reading about you settling in on the IOM!

    • Thanks, Eva. Overseas flights always seem to be a lot of work. Maybe I’ll truly get to pack minimalist on a visit back to Canada.
      The IOM is gorgeous! Really liking it so far. Just settling in and getting to know our town.

  • Welcome to your new home! I’ve never been to the IoM but I have lived in England all my life. If you have any questions just ask!

    • Where do I start… any chance you have a washer/dryer? Stumped on how to get it to just dry our clothes and I’ve read through the manual twice. We’re actually getting someone to come over and give us a tutorial on the water heater. Clueless on that – energy hogs in North America and they just run constantly.
      Impressed with all the energy conservation techniques and systems over here. Outlet switch turn offs, even for big appliances. Everyone is so conscious of not wasting energy.

      • Hi and welcome to Europe :)

        I’m from Nanaimo living in Dublin. Our last big move was with 2 babies under 2, and everything fit in 7 suitcases, 4 carryons, 1 carseat and 1 double buggy. Hopefully we can pare down even more for next time!

        For the washer/dryer: set it to the “finished washing” end of cycle and turn the temperature and timer up, then press go. Good luck!

        • Thanks for the tip Tabatha. Nice to meet another recently moved overseas minimalist family. Just checked out your blog and will be reading more.

          • Just found out – the washer dryer is broken and only washes. I’m not a complete idiot =)
            Using indoor drying racks for now. Dare I say, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.

      • Glad Tabatha was able to help – we just have a washer as the dryer part uses too much energy!

        Heating/water systems can be quirky. You just need to get your timers set up and then you’ll be fine. Hopefully your new place has water separate to heat so at this time of year you don’t need the heating on to run a bath or do the washing up (sounds crazy, but some places still have systems like that!).

  • Welcome to the UK! We live very near Gatwick (about 2 miles) and love getting cheap flights to Europe every year with our three small children. We’ve got minimal packing mastered now and last year only took about 12kg between all five of us. Have to say that I’d be tempted to do the reverse to you, we’d love to move to Canada and have relatives in both Toronto and Vancouver! Though would miss the easy travel opportunities of living in the UK, where there are so many different countries with different languages a short flight away! Willing to give any advice on the UK you may need!

    • 12kg!! With five of you! Tell us your secrets.
      I need more skills in that area. We’d also like to take advantage of inexpensive flights and, as you know, that means limiting luggage.
      I could see for short trips it would be easy to just bring carry-ons and I’ve done that before. I’m also open to planning a trip based on public transport. That way we wouldn’t need to drag a car seat with us. I’d also consider not bringing the stroller if it was just 3-4 days. Henry is still light enough to wear in a carrier on my back for long stretches.
      We’re chomping at the bit to do some traveling but are saving up. Mostly in the IOM this summer and might visit Dublin end of August.

      • We take the minimum on holiday with us – just some underwear, swimming costume, nightwear and a few lightweight clothes like t-shirts and leggings (this assumes you’re going somewhere warm!). Just one pair of shoes that I’ll be wearing anyway. Also a few minimal toiletries (hotels always provide shower gel and shampoo so don’t bother with those). Extras for the children are a small toy each (this year it will be Teeny Little Families for our youngest, a car and small magnetic travel Scrabble for the others), plus some paper and pencils for anything creative. For a baby the only extras we’ve needed are some nappies and wipes, but then we’re quite no-fuss parents and didn’t bother with most of the baby gadgets and pampering things lots of people think they “need”. Also just use public transport abroad so no car seat needed. A few snacks for the plane and that’s about it! We always go to cities so easy enough to buy anything else we find we need when we get there, although that has never happened!

  • Apparently this summer is going to be dry and warm (they’re even talking about up to 30 C), so fingers crossed,you’ll have a lovely first summer here.

    Homesickness…mine, on and off, lasted two years.

    • That would be a great welcome for us. Everyone is telling us we chose the right time to move over. We’ll get all the nice summer weather as we adjust to our new home.
      I’m trying to keep my eyes open on the homesickness. I know it’s coming but still on the just moved high.
      Love the name Apple =) Very hip.

  • By the way I’ll be using the name Apple instead of Laura. There are a few Lauras reading your site. :)

  • Congrats on getting here! We are in a temporary living hotel on our way out of the UK. I must say, living without all of our stuff (currently being shipped to AK) is blissful. Good luck on your journey and enjoy you new home! :)

    • Like ships passing in the night….
      AK as in Alaska? That is quite the move.
      Good luck on your journey too and best wishes for easy travel.

  • The cost of gas for heating/hot water is very expensive and you’ll find you try and have the water heater on as little as possible to cut the cost! Having a warm spring was great as it saved loads on central heating.

    • So you time your water heater around usage? That way you’re not paying to keep water hot when you’re not using it? Makes sense. All these new things to learn.

      • We just put our hot water on for a couple of hours early morning, so there’s hot water for our showers, that also seems to be enough for washing-up and the children’s bath in the evening, it stays hot all day.

  • I am still marvelling at the fact that you took the SkyTrain down to the airport for an overseas move! :)

    Your experiences have been a great inspiration in helping me get our place organized for the impending arrival of the little guy. I feel like we still have SO much stuff that we don’t need (including all the things that have still not been unpacked and put away since we moved six months ago!!). Sometimes it’s tough to let go of the emotional attachments to certain possessions, and other times it’s frustrating to let things go when they were so expensive… but we are working on it. Hoping to leverage some of that so-called nesting instinct to make best use of the next two months, before all hell breaks loose :)

    • I actually voted to get someone to drive us. Chris was adamant about Skytrain so we had my sister come out with us. Felt pretty smart strapping the car seat to the stroller and throwing Henry in the carrier. With the extra help it was actually pretty easy.
      Just checked out your 30 week post. You look great.
      Emotion and $ have been the biggest hurdles for us too. We held a little garage/condo sale before we left and it was a bust. Sent a car load of stuff to donations that I am sure, with some patience, could have netted $500 or so. C’est la vie.
      Good luck on the home stretch. And watch out for the nesting instinct – can mean impending labor. I was cooking batches of food at 9pm the night before my water broke.

  • You inspire me Rachel! Your approach to life is so refreshing in this crazy stuff-centred world. I hope you settle into your new home quickly. I’ve only seen the IoM in magazines (we live in New Zealand…It’s a long way to the UK even though I have soooooo many family members there. That’s what FB is for, right? :) )but it looks AMAZING! :)

    • Thanks, Clare. And NZ is breathtaking. Also only seen it in photos but excited to go some day.

  • Welcome to UK! Enjoy the experience & try not to miss home too much. I’m sure you’ll have fun & make some new friends along the way.

  • Thanks, Jilly. Really enjoyed our first week. Starting to get myself organized for some mum and tot events and playgroups.

  • Welcome to the uk!! Glad you arrived safe and well!!, Apparently from Thursday we are having a heatwave (you’ll soon find out, we brits love to talk about the weather) so no better time to arrive! can’t help you on the washer/dryer situation but can you not get your washing outside to dry? Looking forward to your posts about settling down, and really feel for you regarding home sickness, whenever we go on holiday by day 4 i am missing home. Rachel you are really brave and i so admire you for taking on this adventure!! Grab it with both hands and enjoy!! (and pop on here for some support when your feeling low)

    Love Sharron x

    • We’re in a flat so no outside drying =(
      But I am getting familiar with indoor drying racks.
      Hello from across the water! I’ll drop you an email before our first Liverpool trip. Hopefully you can send us some ideas on what to see and maybe we can meet up for a coffee if we’re both feeling brave =)

  • Nice job getting all of your possessions down to just a few suitcases, backpacks and bags Rachel! Wow. That’s seriously impressive.

    How amazing is it that your little toddler slept almost the entire way? That in itself is a miracle. Nine hours may as well be nine years with a angry/squirmy/tantrum-throwing toddler on your lap.

    Hurray! You’re moved!

    • I wish it was just this stuff – we sent some boxes by freight and stored a few boxes with family. We got rid of a lot – all furniture and a cars worth of stuff for donation – but we still have stuff.
      Kids are amazing. I was dreading the flight but all that white noise just conked him out. Lucky me. And lucky everyone sitting near us.

  • How awesome that your trip over was such a smooth and seamless one And great job Henry for sleeping most of the way!

    I don’t see an overseas move in our future, but nice to see that even with small children, once doesn’t need as much stuff as we’ve all been told we need by advertising and the like. Can’t wait to hear more about your journey in minimalism on the IOM!

    ps. how are you making out so far with the no Starbucks situation? :)

    • There is a coffee machine at our new flat/condo that I am getting to know quite well. Only overflowed it twice so far =)
      And I think well be saving a bit of cash with no Sbucks!
      PS. Go Canucks!

      • The excitement in downtown Vancouver today is palpable. Trust you’ll be watching our boys in blue in action tonight? :)

  • We have one of these units in our condo, a wash and dry cycle takes close to 5 hours! We dry everything on racks in front of the window in the summer and in front of the forced air heater in the winter. Sometimes I’ll stick a fan pointed at the clothes, this helps it dry faster. As for the towel issue, do an extra spin, if you have that feature, and then a timed dry for ten minutes. I do it this way and the towels come out fluffy but damp. It takes less time to dry and they aren’t scratchy. Hope this helps.

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