Moving checklist – keeping your move abroad stress free

It’s difficult enough moving house when you’re staying in the same country. I know as I’ve moved almost once a year for the last 5 years. Now factor in all the additional things that need to be covered as part of a move abroad and you have the potential for a lot of stress. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that the key here is keeping organised and getting things done early and properly. You’ll want to have as much time as possible when moving abroad so having a moving checklist that you can follow to keep you on the right path is essential.

Everyone’s moving checklist will be specific to them and in this post I’ve tried to cover some of the key areas that will form part of that checklist due to the fact that you’re moving abroad.

Our experience was pretty stressful, which is largely down to my inability to be organised and focused. My wife had to do a lot of the organising and luckily she’s really good at it. If I could go back though I would get much more involved and take some of the strain away from her by being more proactive in keeping a plan and being more organised.

This post certainly isn’t a definitive list of all the things you’ll need to focus on but I hope it will help you focus on some of the key areas we had to sort out. And if you have anything additional you think people need to think about then please feel free to add your comments at the bottom of the post. Whatever we can do to help each other is great.

The areas below are loosely (very loosely) in order of when you need to think about them although again, it’ll be different for different people and situations. Some sites I’ve seen with similar information have this broken down into periods of time before the move but I think this will vary widely depending on the specific set of circumstances for each move so I’ve just kept it open for you to organise as you need.

Checklist for moving abroad

Let the relevant authorities know your plans

This will be specific to the country you live in but it’s really important that the right official authorities know that you’re leaving the country. The key areas here are mostly around tax and benefits although there are some others. To start with I would advise the following:

  • The agency that manages taxation in your country. Being in the UK for me it was the HMRC ( Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs)
  • Your local government or council to make sure records are updated regarding more localised taxes and services
  • Any benefits agencies that you might be tied to. My wife and I received family allowance in the UK so we had to close that off

In some countries you may be lucky enough that all these departments actually speak to each other so you might not have to contact them individually. For me this unfortunately wasn’t the case.

For anyone moving out of England you can see more on the HMRC website.

Make sure you and your family have valid passports

This is an obvious one but also one that is so often overlooked (me included). My passport was due to expire a few weeks after I started my new job in Barcelona so I had to get it updated. As I’m sure other English people will know the process here can often take a while and leave you panicking and on edge. Make sure you check all your passports and that there’s enough buffer time from when you relocate to when they expire. The last thing you want to do is get settled in your new country and then have to renew your passport so you can fly back to see friends and family.

Deciding what to do with bank accounts

This could depend on the following:

  • Do you still have bills or monthly payments to pay after you move abroad?
  • Are you keeping a property in your country of origin and renting it out?
  • Can you get away with keeping your bank account when you move abroad?

My advice here is do whatever you can to maintain an account in your country of origin. I kept both of mine and just registered them at my wife’s parents address. That way I could maintain our payments as if nothing had changed.

I’ve also heard that some people have struggled to get accounts and credit set up when they return to their original country after cancelling all their accounts. Apparently it can have an impact on your credit score. If you can hold onto your account then this is less likely to happen.

Be warned though, some banks can be funny if you tell them you’re moving abroad.

Arrange your shipping

If you’ve decided to take household items with you then you’ll need to get this sorted fairly early on. You might need someone to come and survey your house to work out the cubic space needed for your stuff. You’ll also need to understand the delivery times so you can plan for pick up, delivery and the no man’s land in between. You don’t want to be without your furniture and stuff for too long after all. I had a couple of colleagues who ended up waiting more than three weeks to get their shipping delivered to their new Spanish property, whereas mine was collected on a Saturday and delivered to my property on the following Thursday.

I’ve written a whole post on shipping – Shipping your household items when relocating – what are your options? – which you can take a look at if you want some more detail on this.

Just remember when you’re packing to set aside a box with tea/coffee making equipment that’s easily accessible and labeled as I’m sure you’ll be gasping when you start moving in.

Decide how you want to manage existing debt

This ties in somewhat with the back account question although there’s a bit more to it. Ideally you find a way to pay it all off before you go and start a fresh. This isn’t always possible though and certainly isn’t what we did.

We had credit cards, a loan and credit on sofas we had bought for the move. We kept it all and I transferred the money into our UK accounts each month to cover the costs. The only challenge here is that the cost can fluctuate depending on the exchange rate so it can be difficult to budget from month to month. You’ll need to try and work out worst case cost as best as possible and build in a buffer so you don’t get caught short.

Notifying your children’s schools that you’re moving

If you’ve got school age children then you’ll need to make the schools aware that they’re going to be moving abroad.

I believe some countries/schools will pass your children’s records onto their new school (if known) and I guess you could take hold of them if not. It’s important to make sure this is done in good time so that the school has an opportunity to make sure your children have everything they need prior to leaving.

Take copies of your important documentation

This is actually just good practice anyway. I use Google drive to store a whole load of my personal stuff ranging from photos to payslips and bank statements. When we relocated I scanned all our passports, driving licences, birth certificates, medical cards, tax information and anything else I though was important. I also used it when we arrived in Barcelona to store all the new important documentation (rental agreement, NIE/Spanish ID etc).

You can obviously just take printed copies of these things but they can still be lost. If you’ve got everything backed up in the cloud (for free) then you can always print them again and they’re always accessible. And the beauty of Google drive is that you can download the apps for your smartphone and tablet and you’ll be able to get to them wherever you are (well, wherever there’s mobile Internet or WiFi).

Another thing I found this set up really useful for was traveling. I had all my boarding passes stored in Google dive and normally you can use a device to scan at the airport. Another thing you don’t have to worry about losing when traveling.

Redirect your post abroad

For the less organised people out there who know they won’t get all their addresses updated (like me), there is post redirection. The only question is, where do you send it?

We had all of ours sent to my wife’s parents house and they would let us know if anything official looking came through. Otherwise we’re would collect things on our trips back to England.

You can also get your post redirected to an overseas address or to a PO box if you want. We paid about £21 for our redirection but I would imagine it differs depending on the service you chose. You can find out more at

Sell the rest of your household items

Whether you’re shipping some of your furniture and other items abroad or not there will likely be things you’ll need to get rid of/sell. We had quite a lot to sell and when we (my wife) put our minds to it things started to fly out of the door.

Most of the stuff we got rid of ended up going through Facebook (or Facebay). There are local pages set up so generally the users are within a couple of miles of you and can come and collect items quite easily. We sold sofas, our bed frame, stereos, drawers and loads of other things. We then put the money we made towards new things in Barcelona. Win win.

Try not to leave this to the last minute on things you don’t need to hold onto. It’s better to get as much out the way as possible so that you can focus on other areas.

Sell or keep your car/s

If you have a car then you’ll need to decide what you’re going to do with it. First question is whether or not you need a car when you move abroad. If you don’t then you’ll likely be selling the car before you go. It’s difficult to get the timing right with selling a car and moving abroad as you obviously want to be rid of it before you go but you don’t want to sell yourself short. If might be worth offloading it as early as possible and then hiring a car or borrowing one from a friend or family member.

If you do need a car in the country you’re moving to then you need to decide whether or not you can take yours with you and whether or not you want to.

I wanted to take our car with us but was advised against it due to it being a right hand drive and that possibly making driving difficult. I actually think it would have been Ok but you live and learn.

There’s also the challenge of changing your car’s registration to the new country you’re moving to. In Spain you can drive the car for 6 months out of any 12 month period without getting it registered and amended. It was fairly costly to go through the change process, potentially in the €1000 region. Plus you need to have someone that understands the language (if in a foreign speaking country).

In the end we sold both our UK cars and managed to buy our landlord’s car in Spain. We also bought their moped. We never did get round to changing the ownership across due to the process being so complicated.

You need to find out what the different procedures and costs are for whatever options are available and make a decision based on what best suits your situation.


Just to re-iterate what I said in the opening few paragraphs, you’ll reduce a lot of stress if you have a good plan to keep on top of all of this. Get an idea of when these things need to be done for you to enable your move abroad to run smoothly. Having a moving checklist is essential for any move, and even more so when you’re moving abroad.

Get in touch if you have any questions. And please feel free to add anything I’ve missed or that is specific to you in the comments below. The more resources we can give to people the better.

Thanks for reading.


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One Response

  1. James Harrison
    September 4, 2013

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