The Packing Process

Once you choose a moving company, here's basically what should happen, between your home in the U.S. and your new place abroad. Some companies may combine these steps, but the rough outline is:

  1. You find out from your company or organization how much weight they will pay to have shipped abroad with you.
  2. You learn if they will send everything by sea (slower but cheaper) or if they will authorize a limited air shipment (very fast, very expensive"€see below).
  3. You will also learn if you or your company will pay for some things to be put into storage in the U.S. (for example, if you'll be moving into a furnished apartment in Stockholm, you won't want to bring along your own dinette set from home.

Moving Boxes & Supplies

Check our comments on electrical things ; if something won't work in the host country due to incompatible electrical systems, there is little use in bringing it along). If you're paying the bills yourself, you'll need to make these decisions ahead of the pre-pack survey.

Talking with your sponsor ahead of the pre-pack survey can help you decide what to bring and what to leave behind or sell at a yard sale.

Before showing up with empty boxes and miles of packing tape, a good mover will send someone to your home to estimate the size and weight of your shipment. When s/he arrives, you should point out items that are very valuable, hard to pack or especially fragile and thus will require special packing. Things such as furs, large framed pictures, coin, stamp or porcelain collections and extra bulky/heavy things need special treatment.

Clearly point out things that will not be moved, such as items destined for storage or things you plan to sell or give away. Because this pre-pack survey can be a rushed time, we put yellow sticky Post-It notes on items, marking them “STORAGE” or “FRAGILE” so we won't forget to mention something.

At some point after the survey, the movers should be able to give you an estimate on the weight, size and cost of the move. If it is your money, cost is obviously the key issue. If someone else is paying but has imposed a weight limit, then that is the focus. Size also can matter, in that air shipments are charged based on weight and size (makes sense given the limited space on planes). Sea shipments usually are based on weight alone.

Shipping something abroad by ship or air means it has to be crated and padded to withstand rough handling and possible exposure to the elements. The weight and bulk of the packing materials can substantially increase the costs of shipment.

Be sure to ask if your company's allowance and/or the mover's estimate includes the weight and bulk of shipping materials, or if those will be added on later. If they are not part of the allowance or estimate, get some numbers from the movers as to what to expect in additional costs for the packing materials.

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