Packing Day! It’s the final countdown.
Don’t worry, I’m not singing anywhere in this episode!
Starting from about 3 weeks before Packing Day with advice, hints and tips on what needs doing now. Including a few items to make sure you get now.
Then some experienced tips on how to make Packing Day run smoothly for both you and your packing crew. Plus how to cope with the big day itself.
Once that’s done, the hardest part is over, and you’re on you first leg of the journey to your new, expat life.
Support the show
Welcome aboard the Expatability Chat podcast, helping expat parents navigate the challenges of moving and living overseas with Carole Hallett Mobbs expat life mentor and consultant and founder of ExpatChild.com.
Welcome back to more Expatability Chat packing advice. So you've decluttered most of your life away? Well, hopefully not, but you've had a good old clear out. You've had the in-home survey for the shipping company and now you'll know whether or not you need to get rid of anything else.
So get onto that. Now, you've worked out what's going by air in your luggage and you'll know about two or three weeks away from packing day. Oh, crikey, it's getting close. It's time to speed up the organisation and preparation. Now your deadline is looming fast.
So in this episode, I'm going to take you through ways to minimize the panic and pallava of your last couple of weeks before everything goes nuts on one day. Tried and tested as ever by yours truly. Firstly, here are some things that's useful to get now. Photographs.
You what now? you need a surprising number of passport sized photographs for all the different authorities. You need to register with your destination. So organise a mass photo session for all members of your family, even the kids. It's worth it. They might as well join in. You may not need them, but it stops them feeling left out, doesn't it? Sorting this out now will save you a load of hassle in your new country. Get about a dozen of each person and that should tide you over well enough.
Adaptors, now, you know this, different countries have different plug sockets, meaning that the electrical products from your home will be useless unless you have the right adapter if you want to avoid a media blackout on arrival. Make sure you research what kind of sockets are used in your destination country and buy the relevant adapters and then buy some more. You can never have enough and make sure you've got a handful of them in your hand luggage. Make sure everyone has all the insurances required, that's comprehensive medical insurance for the whole family and contents and shipping insurance, and don't forget to insure that you have insurance through your belongings to cover them during the entire transit.
And that means from pack up to unpacking. Find out if your home contents insurance covers you for packing day. While the removal company may insure your goods once they're on the lorry, they don't necessarily insure from your home to the lorry. So if they drop the piano, who pays for that?
So as I say, while the removal company may insure your goods, there may be a different company use for the shipping insurance and yet another for the relocation and unpacking at the destination, do check it all out in depth. It's worth your while. Don't forget to read the insurance documents carefully to avoid any later hassle and confusion and of course carry all insurance papers with you on the plane.
Now, currency contactless payments and internet banking may rule your world depending on where you live, but not all countries are set up like that. Cash is quite often used everywhere. Having some of your new country's currency in physical form, in actual hard cash can be really useful. For example, my Mum got herself one of those preloaded plastic cards for one of her trips to us in Japan. It did not work once. It was a huge waste of time and money and it took a long time for her to be able to get her money back out of it, if that makes sense.
So get the cash. If you're going somewhere weird or unusual, I should say it may need to be ordered. So make sure you order it in good time. In your first few days of being an expat, you need to have funds which can be accessed instantly. You need the currency right from the moment you step off the plane without faffing around and spending a fortune in exchange rates at the airport, try and get hold of some currency coins to some airports, have helpers for your luggage and they require tipping.
And some airports have luggage trolleys that need a coin in order to use them. Berlin Airport, I'm looking at you one Euro per trolley. We arrived in Germany a month after that big earthquake in Japan. It was a very traumatic journey on top of a very traumatic month. The flight was heavily delayed and we landed exhausted. I think it was something like twenty four hours of traveling. And we arrived in the early hours of the morning with about a dozen suitcases between two adults and a child.
There was nobody around. We had no euro coins to release the trolleys. The people that were around were not helpful at all, and we had to make several trips back and forth through customs just to get our cases out of the airport. Needless to say, our arrival in Berlin was not the happiest.
So try and get some coins is also helpful to buy some non-perishable foods and treats to take with you. Tea, coffee, instant noodles, biscuits, breakfast cereals, just easy snacks that you can pack in your luggage or your airfreight or both so that you don't have to think too hard about finding a supermarket. If you arrive late in the day, you cannot underestimate the relief of having something familiar and quick to eat or drink when you've just arrived. And don't underestimate how cranky a tired, hungry child can be when everything's all upside down and their beloved favourite breakfast cereal isn't instantly to hand.
There are lots more tips and advice on what you need to sort out now before you leave to ensure your arrival runs smoothly. And they're all in my eBook. You've arrived now what? It's full of advice on what to pack ready for your first few days in your new home country. And important points to note for immediate arrival. The tips and tricks in my eBook will ensure that you're ready to hit the ground running with your family in your new home country and help you all have a smooth transition to expat life.
And it's important to use that book before you leave. So you know which items to pack in your luggage naturally will be in the show notes. Or please find it in resources on ExpatChild.com. So you're probably completely done with the classroom by now, both mentally and physically, but here are a couple of things that may get missed in the panic food. Take a good look around at all the food you've got left and make creative meal plans to use up what you have in your remaining weeks.
Gosh, we've had some weird food I can tell you eat takeaways. I'd normally suggest eating out as much as possible, but at the time of recording this, most countries are going back into lockdown again.
So it's probably not possible right now to start thoroughly cleaning everything that's to be packed as you don't want to unwrap unpleasant surprises, most particularly make sure any white goods are spotlessly clean. Several weeks in the hold of a ship can cause entire new life forms to take over an average year. If you're moving from Africa, here's a tip. You can never get rid of the red dust, however hard clean being back here. Three years now, I've still got shoes with red dust embedded in them.
Throw away any expired medications and put aside any that you still use and take them with you in your luggage or in your hand luggage, particularly if you have important daily meds. Make sure you take them on the plane in your carry on bag in case you get delayed. Make sure you have enough medication to last you through your move. And for the next few weeks, until you find a doctor in your new country, make sure you take any prescriptions with you in your hand luggage and check carefully which medicines may be banned in your destination country.
You could be very surprised. OK, now, two or three days before packing day, don't panic. Please don't panic. Just be methodical and just keep this in mind at all times. Anything that can be packed will be packed. Let me just say that again. Anything that can be packed will be packed. If an object is not either nailed down, hidden from view or very clearly labelled with a do not pack sign, you will be in for some surprises when you finally arrive at the other end.
So two to three days before packing day, your main objective right now is to prevent anything that you need to take with you or use being packed up and sent on the ship. Now professional packers are incredible. They clear the house quicker than you can believe possible. And this is due to them being professionals, of course, and also because they have no emotional attachment to your belongings. Therefore, it takes very little time because they aren't reminiscing over a photo album or an ornament.
They're just efficiently wrapping and packing. But these wonderful people just pack. They do not evaluate what they are packing. That's not their job. It is your job to ensure that what they say and pack is what you expect to ship across the world. As far as the packers are concerned, it is better to pack something than face possible legal recriminations if something's left behind. And that includes full dustbins, empty bleach bottles, teapots containing tea bags and any random thing that's in their way.
So I have a major tidying up session before the Packers arrive an empty and hide the dustbins.
Here are some examples of unexpected unpacking finds shared by members of my Facebook group. We had movers that carefully packed and wrapped the kitchen trash can with all the trash still inside. That was unpleasant. Some old friends pop trying to say goodbye and the Packers accidentally packed their umbrellas. In Japan, you keep an earthquake emergency kit in the cupboard. And this kit includes a couple of enormous containers of water and I mean enormous. They like the size of a bedside table.
And yes, the Packers pack them and somebody else's movers packed the landlord's washing machine from their rental apartment despite it being covered in stickers which said do not pack in every language. And that's the problem. Language. I devised a method that has worked for each of my moves after the first one. See, I learned. And it seems to be language proof. I print out a load of no entry signs and stick them very securely onto everything that is not to be packed.
This message has received a big thumbs up from the foreman on every subsequent move. If it cannot be hidden away, then make sure there are plenty of do not pack, no entry signs on it. Signs with words have been ignored, but the no entry symbol seems to be recognized by everyone, whichever country and whatever language. Something else I recommend is to pack your carry on bags and luggage as much as possible before the Packers arrive. This is partly to make sure everything important is out of the way and partly to make sure they don't accidentally pack the suitcases that you need and also to make sure that everything fits in your suitcases.
You may find you will find that you have overestimated the capacity of your suitcases, meaning you may need to add extra to your shipping container or add extra weight to your airfreight consignment. So view this as the packing trial run in case you need to include a few more items in your cargo or if you need to buy more suitcases, if possible, place your luggage in your hand luggage in one room with everything else that isn't to be packed and lock or bar the door.
Alternatively, leave it with a friend until after packing day or put it in the car and lock the door. You really do not want your passports being packed at this point. There are a few other things that you can do to prepare for the packing day. If you still have the original packaging for any items such as your TV, pack them yourself and fill up any excess space with other things. So random sheets, towels and so on. The idea is to fill up any gaps you can by stuffing, say, socks into shoes, tea towels into the corners of the TV packaging and so on.
Get some of those vacuum packed bags and vacuum packed, soft, bulky items such as duvet soft toys and thick clothing in advance. It saves a huge amount of space. And then you just sort of got this pre-prepared package to go into a big box when the Packers arrive. And as I mentioned in previous episodes, make sure everything is in its rightful place. All kitchen stuff should be in the kitchen office items in the office. This will make the room specific boxes easier to unpack.
At the other end, boxes get labelled with the room that the items are from, so it'll be easier to sort them when unpacking if everything is in its correct space. Some of this I've mentioned before, but in case you didn't catch it, dismantle flat pack furniture and make sure you keep all the fixings safe. And with that furniture, take photos and wall décor down from the walls and stack it all separately with any other framed pictures and photos so that they can all be packed safely together in a way from other things.
Basically, the last time I did this, I had a huge pile of pictures and one guy just sat and wrapped pictures for most of the day. They agreed that it made it much easier for them. So take the pictures down and stack them ready to go. If they're all in one place, it's much quicker and easier for the packing team to work safely. Don't forget, batteries must be removed from everything before being shipped due to any explosion risk.
Remove anything from your book shelves. It's not a book, although doing this doesn't actually guarantee that books from the office will not be dropped randomly on top of glass bowl from the dining room. Yeah, bitter experience. Again, make sure you pull out hidden items so they don't get left behind. One time the Packers didn't realize that there was a drawer under the oven, so all the baking trays and muffin tins didn't get packed. And again, don't forget the garden shed, attic and garage.
It's so easy to overlook these in the confusion. We've had to call packers back more than once as we had forgotten to remind them about the garden ornaments. Also, before packing day, put labels on the doors of the rooms. So bedroom, one bedroom, two dining room, etc.. This will be useful for the inventory. More about that in a moment. So you've got a lot done now for packing day. Admittedly, it's quite hard to step back and watch strangers take over your house, wrapping and packing all your worldly possessions.
But if you follow these pointers, the event will be very slightly less nerve wracking. And no, you cannot go out while it's happening. You need to be in the house. It helps if all pets and kids are out of the house, but that may not be possible. I keep my dog on a lead with me all day. She finds it incredibly stressful, as do I, but that's the only way to keep her safe and not running away.
My current cats are really cool and none of it bothers them at all. I did have to keep removing so many from the lorry, but that's OK. If you can put them into pet care overnight before packing, I stock up on paracetamol. And if you drink wine as well, I still cringe at the noise of tape ripping off a roll anyway. So here's what happens on packing day. The lorry turns up. If you're in Germany, this is likely to be extremely early.
Ours was arranged for about 8am and they turned up at six a.m. That is not the way I would like to start my day. I do not do mornings. There may be four people, there may be eight or 12. Who knows? There will be a leader, a foreman or forewoman. Show them around your house first. Make sure he knows what's where and what's what. Point out the room numbers. Make sure you point out your do not pack system before they start and make sure that all the Packers see that so the whole team is aware of it.
Confirm the weight limit agreed by your company or your estimate with the packing crew when they arrive? Normally, but not always. It goes like this. Each guy is assigned a room and as everything is wrapped in box, a label is created or something is written on the box, such as bedroom one, clothes, dining room, glasses, bedroom, three books and so on. Each box is given a unique number and this is entered into the inventory.
So box number one, two, three would be dining room glasses, for example. It's quite easy for you to reassign everything at the other end because of this inventory. No, I remember what I said earlier. Whatever can be packed will be packed. If there are items around that must not be packed, you must keep an eye labels fall off or get ignored in the rush to pack it all. Sometimes the packing teams seem to be on a race with each other for a first move in 2006 from the UK to Japan.
Our daughter's birthday was a couple of weeks after packing day, so being terribly organised for once I had all her birthday presents and I put them into a cupboard in a room together with everything else that was not to be packed. I shut the door. I stuck a note on the door to tell the Packers do not enter and on packing day it didn't take me long to clear the house. I remember being surprised at how quickly our life disappeared into boxes and then onto the lorry.
I also recall the weather was absolutely horrendous, with pouring rain hammering down once everything was on the lorry. I made a quick check around the house. To my horror, the do not pack anything room was empty. All my daughter's birthday presents were packed on the lorry. The removal guys were not impressed at having to unload the boxes in the rain to find everything. Thankfully, they weren't too far back in the depths of the lorry, so we were able to retrieve them without too much fuss.
And the reason we could do that was because of the inventory. We knew the things that had been packed from that room were in boxes, say one five nine to one seven two. I'm just making up numbers. So inventories are incredibly useful pieces of paper. The moral of this tale, make sure any do not pack notices are stuck on with a lot of tape and stay on the ball, keep. And I don't traipse around after them all the time, but do occasionally have a wander around and see what's wrong.
Keep an eye on how much is packed inside because we've got a weight limit. We have to be very careful with this. It may be a little more flexible here. So if you have a weight limit or allowance, it's absolutely vital to work with this. Otherwise you will be hit with a very large bill. Get the Packers to tell you how the figures are shaping up as they go, as they load boxes onto the lorry, they are aware precisely how much the volume is adding up.
If you go over your limit and the extra items have to be taken, you may want to dispute how inaccurate the estimate was. So get the crew on side and document everything with witnesses and then challenge the company. Estimates should not be that far out, but it does occasionally happen. So at the end of packing, you will need to sign a form, ask the Packers to write on the form, what they estimate the weight or cubic measurements more likely if your note box defects are and then sign it after they've done that, that is really important.
Then if you discover later that you've been charged in excess, you will have grounds to query it. Along with the packing form just mentioned, you should have the inventory of goods from the estimate and the basic details of the boxes just packed. This is also important and you need to keep those with your documents, carry them with you on the plane and make sure you know where it is. For when everything gets unloaded at your new home, it's vital for a logical and efficient unpacking day.
Also, keep your folder of receipts with you in case you need to make a claim for damages. When you unpack, pack it all with your hand luggage and refer to it at the other end. Just an idea. Let's move from. South Africa to the UK took nine hours to pack up and one hundred and sixty eight boxes. I can only remember that because Facebook memories told me that it is exactly today, day of, recording that it happened and finally it's done.
Your house is now packed up. Don't let the lorry leave until you've walked around the whole house checking everything very carefully. Open cupboards, open drawers, everything. Did you remember to point out the stuff in the garden, the attic and garage? It now is the time to discover that your hand luggage has been packed away or that they've forgotten to pack an entire kitchen cabinet of crockery or in my case, the garden ornaments. Again, great. And I remove the cat and any small child from the lorry once again and wave them off.
You can relax a bit now. You may find a good stiff drink works right now and a couple of paracetamol for the pounding headache. You'll undoubtedly have all your worldly effects and that when a lorry heading off on their long journey to the port and eventually your new home abroad is likely your items will stay in the removal company's storage before venturing onto the high seas. For some reason, for our first move, I just thought that the container would be loaded almost immediately onto a ship.
But of course it doesn't work like that. It makes sense when you consider it. But I hadn't really given it much thought when we left Japan. Our house was packed up at the end of February 2011. So when the magnitude nine earthquake struck a couple of weeks later on the 11th of March, I was somewhat relieved that our belongings were safely en route, well away from the tsunami and out of harm's way. But it wasn't. Our container was still waiting at port in Japan.
It is testament to the amazing Japanese packing team that absolutely nothing broke, including some incredibly fragile ceramics. Of course, I didn't find this out until I finally and very nervously unpacked in Germany. You should have contact details and reference number so that you can follow your ship's progress. You can even download an app such as Vessel Finder or Marine Traffic to track the progress of the ship with your container on it. Don't panic, though, if the app doesn't show your ship.
There are certain parts of the world where the pings are switched off, usually due to piracy issues. And also these apps aren't infallible, but it can be a fun distraction anyway. Now, this particular part of your journey is over. Do try to relax. The hardest part is done and you will soon be on the next step of your new life adventure. Your key takeaways from this episode should be anything that can be packed, will be packed.
So be aware of this and take steps to make life as easy as possible for you and for the pack is of course, making life easier for the Packers includes ensuring all flat pack furniture is already dismantled, taking all the pictures down from the walls and putting them together with all of the framed items and stack them all together in one place. Making life easier for you means understanding that this can be a hectic stress day. So plan something very relaxing for when it's all done.
You've got this. And don't forget to download my arrival's packing checklists, packing lists and all the other helpful items I have available for you on ExpatChild.com. Links will be in the show notes, of course. And if it's all getting too much, which is totally understandable, there's my super to do list buster available as well. Again, all the links will be in the show notes or if you're using a podcast host where these aren't visible, please visit Expatability dot net and look at the show episode there too.
Or you can find them on ExpatChild.com under resources. Do get in touch with me if there is anything I can help out with or if you just want to talk. I look forward to chatting with you again soon. Take care. Thank you for listening to the Expatability Chat podcast. Please check out ExpatChild.com for more free information and resources and follow me on your favourite social media. Don't forget to join me next week for another episode. Until then, bye bye.