If you’ve ever considered moving across the country, or better yet, to another country entirely, you might be worried about how to navigate packing, shipping, traveling, and housing. Luckily, I’ve done it all so you don’t have to, and I’m here to share how to prepare for a long distance move!
Set a Budget & Start Saving
As soon as you’ve decided where to move, set two budgets: one for your new monthly expenses and one for your move itself. You may be moving to a more expensive city or town, or perhaps moving from a 1 bedroom apartment into a 3 bedroom house, so you should figure out approximately how much your living expenses will change, if at all, so you can redo your monthly budget. Will you need a car? Or are you going to be taking public transportation? Of course you’ll have to revisit your budget once you’re settled, but having a rough idea before you move can help you make better financial decisions in the weeks/months leading up to the move.
Although you may not be ready to book a moving company now, get a rough estimate of how much the move will cost, and be sure to include the cost of any items you might buy specifically for the move – boxes (they’re not that cheap!), additional furniture, a car, etc.
We knew we’d be moving from a 2 br to a 3 br apartment to accommodate our growing family, so we looked up the cost of 3 bedroom apartments in Nairobi and compared it to our rent in Jersey City. Taking our new estimated incomes and expenses into account, we redid our monthly budget, and saved aggressively for a car purchase, new furniture, and the cost of the move.
Declutter Your Personal Items & Buy Any Necessities
As soon as you’ve decided where to move to and have a budget, it’s time to figure out what you’re going to bring with you, and what you’ll be buying brand new? Do you want to bring the futon you’ve had since sophomore year of college? I enjoy using the KonMari method of decluttering and organization as a metric to determine if items “bring me joy,” and used that system to figure out what we would be bringing with us to Kenya and what we’d be leaving behind.
If you are upgrading, rather than downsizing, your living space, it might be worthwhile to shop for additional furniture before the move, or at least have an idea which items you’ll be purchasing as soon as you hit your new location. Although furnishing an apartment is a marathon and not a sprint, you’ll definitely want to account for at least the large pieces of furniture – beds, couches, etc.
I love interior decor, so I spent a lot of time reimagining what I wanted our new home to look like using inspiration from Pinterest. I knew we’d need more seating than our existing sectional, as well as dining room furniture. Based on my research, I knew that furniture in Kenya could get really expensive, so we bought most of our new additional furniture before moving. We also moved from an area with four seasons (though Jonathan would say NJ had just summer and winter ?) to one with less weather variability, so we gave away most of our coats and heavy sweaters, as well as any clothes that no longer fit or we no longer liked.
Decide on a Shipping Method
There are a variety of moving and shipping options for long-distance moves. You can sell all your furniture, pack up just your clothes and bare essentials, and make a cross-country drive to your new location. Or you might consider shipping a container of your personal items by sea, inlcluding a car if you have one. Just make sure you double check customs if you’re using a shipping company because different countries have different importation guidelines and regulations. If traveling by air, decide how many suitcases you’ll need, and figure out the costs of any overweight and excess baggage.
Since we were traveling with so much furniture, we decided to ship a container by sea with this company. One of Jonathan’s family members was also moving her things from the US to Kenya, so we shared a 40 foot container (though it was much too large, we could have fit everything into a 20 foot container).
Hire Professional Movers
When moving within a city, it’s very easy to DIY the move by booking day laborers, renting a U-Haul van, or loading up your SUV and driving to and from your old place to your new spot. As you prepare for a long distance move, you’ll want to invest in a moving company that specializes in long distance moves specifically. These companies often offer an insurance policy that covers damage or loss of your items, which the DIY moving options rarely do.
We also considered hiring packers, especially for our delicate items like glassware, but since I wasn’t working in the month leading up to the move, I had enough time to pack up everything myself, especially with the help of my family! With Jonathan’s help each evening after work, we were able to pack up our apartment in three weeks.
Find Furnished Temporary Accommodation
One mistake I think some people make when they prepare for a long distance move is rushing into finding a home or apartment. Unless you’re very familiar with a city and its various neighborhoods, or have visited extensively in advance, you’re better off finding accommodation once you’re on the ground. In the meantime, book an AirBnB or a sublet/furnished apartment for a few weeks so you have somewhere to lay your head while you embark on the house hunt.
Jonathan grew up in Nairobi so he had a general understanding of the different neighborhoods, but the more and more I visited, the more I also understood which neighborhoods had the malls, schools, and expat community I wanted to be close to. We casually looked at apartments on our last two visits to Kenya just to have an idea of what was available, but have now intensified our search now that we’re on the ground.
Setup Mail Forwarding
When moving anywhere within the US, you’ll definitely want to change your address with USPS so you don’t miss out on any important letters or packages, but what do you do with mail when moving internationally? I investigated a few mail receiving/mail forwarding companies that provide you with a US based mailing address and provide you with the ability to scan incoming mails, recycle any unwanted mail (like all those random catalogs), and forward sensitive mails. You can also get a family member or friend to hold your
Since I get a LOT of blogger mail, I liked PostScanMail because you could choose a specific address in various cities across the country, and I wanted brands to ship to a New York or NJ address rather than to somewhere random. For time-sensitive campaigns, I’m currently having my parents forward me packages and using a business credit card so I can earn points on shipping costs (which are also tax deductible).