Preparing to Move to Another Country: a Checklist

Moving to another country can be daunting, there are lots of things to take care of before you go. This isn’t a comprehensive list and I may add more as I remember things but here are some of the things we did before leaving and upon arrival for living in Ronda, Spain for a year. To see more about life in Ronda, check out our YouTube video at the end of the post.

  1. Make sure your passport is up to date and you’ve got plenty of cushion before it renews.
  2. Decide on a move date and buy flights to your destination. We purchased one way tickets so that we have flexibility on when to come visit.
  3. Research and book a place to stay when you arrive – if you haven’t spent much time in the city I would recommend doing a 1 month lease on Airbnb while you work with a realtor to find a great place in a location you are sure you want to live in so that you can see in person.
  4. Decide whether to rent your house out or sell it – there are a lot of reasons to do both, it really depends on how long you’ll be gone, if it’s a permanant move, if you need rental income or would prefer to bulk up your savings with a sale, etc.
  5. Finish projects at your house to get it ready and list it – for rent or sale.
  6. Go through all of your clothes and decide what you want to pack, keep, or donate. Take less than you think you need, a lot less. I only took 10 days worth of clothing to Spain for a year, once you are there you’ll want to buy some local things and it’s hard to predict exactly what you need.
  7. Make all of your wellness appointments before you leave (dentist, annual check-up, etc.).
  8. Research and open credit cards and bank accounts that work well with international travel (avoiding fees).
  9. Decide what you are going to do with any vehicles you own. We sold one and stored one that was completely paid off with our parents since it was a 1 year trip. Change your car insurance to a policy for a car in storage, you’ll save a ton of money on premiums.
  10. Decide what to do with your pets if you have any, and make sure they are current on all shots (ours are living with our parents). If you are taking them with you, make sure you research pet travel policies for both the airline and the country well in advance – you don’t want to be surprised with Quarantine rules if they have them.
  11. Apply for a Visa, this requires an entirely separate checklist and I would recommend googling blogs from people who got visas for the specific country you are moving to. There are so many specific tips for each country and getting a visa is really tricky – learn from the lessons of others and get it right the first time.
  12. Pack everything you aren’t taking, selling, or donating, and store it.
  13. We rented our house out furnished – so another item on ours is actually to get some additional furniture and store meaningful pieces to get it ready for renters.
  14. Decide on, and purchase if needed, the gear you want to take (luggage, electronics, clothes, shoes, etc.)
  15. Close or transfer accounts for Cable, Internet, Water, Electric, Security, etc.
  16. Cancel or unsubscribe from as many paper mailings as possible. This includes catalogs and things like that, but is most important for banks and anything with personal information.
  17. Decide where you would like to have any remaining mail sent.
  18. If you are crazy and, like me, got married right before your trip –  change your name on absolutely everything in time for your visa application.
  19. Come up with a strategy for how you will pay for things while gone, this will probably lead to a post on how we maximize credit card rewards.
  20. All of your expenses are about to change, set up automatic payments for as much as possible and create a new budget for your new cost of living. Be prepared to be wrong about what you think it will cost to live in your new city.
  21. Learn the language and start now.  Using apps even 15-30 minutes a day will give you a head start. Find a language school with native speakers and sign up for classes as soon as you arrive.
  22. Watch shows and youtube videos, read books, anything you can get your hands on to find tips for living in the place you are moving to. Take the advice of people who are already there!
  23. Get travel insurance (evacuation coverage is usually mandatory for a Visa) and make sure all of your home and auto insurance policies are correct in the States for while you are gone.
  24. Research your health insurance’s international coverage and find out your new country’s requirements on what you must have.
  25. Start planning places you want to explore while you are there and start a calendar to keep track of times that you are available for people to come visit you. You’ll be surprised who does and doesn’t make the trip!
  26. Sign up for VPN service, there are a lot of sites that you can’t access or that aren’t the same when you are logging on from a different country. These services give you a U.S. IP address and it makes a huge difference.
  27. Think about phones – are you going to add international coverage to your current plan or get a phone overseas? You also will probably want a Skype account, this makes calling home from your computer so much easier…and cheaper!
  28. Download Whatsapp, it’s how most international people text – trust me you’ll need it almost immediately when you land!
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