When it comes to emigrating overseas, one thing to consider is how do you plan on getting your belongings from A to B. There are 2 choices. Do you ship your items or just move with what you can carry in suitcases? I was in a position where I was able to keep a lot of my things in storage at my parents house in the UK, so when I moved I maxed out my luggage allowance with the airline I flew with (3 suitcases and 2 cabin bags!). Here are my 8 tips on how to pack a suitcase for moving overseas that you’ll be thanking me for, as well as the best suitcase for moving abroad! Organisation will definitely make life easier when you arrive in your new country!
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Updated: March 2022
How To Pack A Suitcase For Moving Overseas
As mentioned above, I had 5 bags. My most prized possessions, electronics and ALL of my important documents stayed with me in my cabin baggage. I then had 1 suitcase full of belongings, things like: photo albums, my travel souvenirs and household objects. 2 suitcases contained clothes.
Because I moved at the end of August, I needed to pack for 2 climates…the end of the summer and then the winter which was only a couple of months away. Along with regular clothes, I also had to pack ‘work’ clothes, swimwear, different footwear and various accessories like backpacks and other bags! I could have bought new clothes on arrival but it just seemed more money that I didn’t really want to spend.
The Best Suitcase For Moving Abroad
I have now made the big international move TWICE and used suitcases both times.
Every airline has different allowances. For example, if you fly in the summer season, some airlines limit the amount of bags you can check in. Transatlantic flights may be limited to just 2. There are also different weight limits. When I moved overseas to the USA, I had an allowance of 23kg per bag. When I flew back to the UK, I was in business class so had an allowance of 32kg per case.
I actually had one of every time of suitcase, so I can definitely help you with the best luggage for moving overseas! I had a hard side 360 spinner, a soft sided suitcase, a roller holdall and a cabin suitcase (and a hand luggage backpack)!
First it’s best to keep in mind the weight limit. If you have the large sized suitcases it’s really easy to go overweight VERY QUICKLY. I found it much easier when I had the 32kg limit. With a smaller limit, it’s best to use medium sized luggage. You may have to distribute your belongings evenly. If you have a case filled with heavier items, it’s best to then top it up with things that weigh less, like clothes.
HARD SIDED SPINNER SUITCASES
|– Being hard sided, they are more likely to protect the contents.|
– Hard sided suitcases are easier to stack, especially on luggage carts!
– I found my hard sided case was the easiest to pull. Even when expanded, the location of the wheels keeps the case well balanced.
|– They are usually split in the centre and may have zipped compartments. If you have larger items you may not be able to close the compartments.|
SOFT SIDED SUITCASES
|– Many soft sided cases open up via a flap like lid, which is GREAT if you have larger objects that are deeper than ‘half’ of a hard sided case. Definitely the biggest PRO!||– Not going to lie, my soft sided case was my least favourite. It’s what some of my things got damaged in on my first flight.|
– When expanded, the location of the wheels/pockets can make the case unbalanced and topple over.
ROLLER HOLDALL/DUFFEL BAG
|– Great for filling up with clothes!|
– At full capacity, as someone quite small, I found it easiest to lift and move around due to the top and side handles.
– Often has several pockets which is great for organising clothes.
|– Only has 2 wheels, so you are unable to drag a second case in the same hand!|
– Not much protection for the contents.
– Awkward to stack with other luggage as it’s not a solid ‘brick’ shape!
*I have the Chester suitcase featured above, which was complimentary in return for my review, which you can find here: Chester Minima Luggage Review.
|– Great for filling up with important paperwork and documents. Put them in a folder and they are well protected in a hard side case (See tip below).|
– Well balanced for pushing through the airport and standing in lines.
– Try to find a cabin case with TSA padlocks and luggage tags, just incase you do end up having to check it in at the gate.
|– Awkward at security. Try to avoid filling it with things that may need to be removed at security (laptops etc).|
– Awkward on planes. When travelling with a case as hand luggage I always fill it with things I won’t want to touch again until I land.
HAND LUGGAGE BACKPACK
|– I’m a huge backpack fan when it comes to hand luggage. Something with lots of pockets is great for organisation.|
– 95% of the time it will always travel with you on the plane, especially if it fits under the seat. I’ve had over 120+ flights and my backpack has ALWAYS been allowed on board.
– HANDS FREE and easily accessible.
|– Can get heavy if walking around a terminal for a long time!|
– You have to keep taking it off your back if you need to get into it.
My Packing Tips
1. Keep a list of what is in each bag and make duplicates of them!
As I packed, I made a note of what was going into each case. When I finished, I typed up each list, put a copy just inside the lid of each suitcase and then carried an extra copy of each in my cabin bag. Not only did this help when I arrived in America and was able to find things quickly, but if any bag went missing in transit, I’d know exactly what had gone missing. Thankfully all my bags arrived safe and sound. Some of the cases had over SIXTY items in them.
2.Packing cubes will be your best friend!
How To Pack Clothes For Moving Overseas
I’ve been using packing cubes for my regular travels for as long as I can remember and I always swear by them. But when it came to emigrating and organising different types of clothes, they have never been more useful and important! Each packing cube contained a different type of clothing: smart clothes, swimwear, underwear, t-shirts, summer tops, winter wear, hoodies, shorts, jeans. I used tons of them and then stacked them all in the suitcases like a game of Tetris! The lists were also organised by what was in each packing cube too!
There are several different opinions out there on whether you should roll or fold clothes when packing in a suitcase. I honestly use a mixture of the two. Things like jeans and hoodies work better by folding. T-shirts, leggings, pyjamas, lightweight shorts etc roll better.
Prime example of why this works!!!!! The day I landed in the USA, I received a call saying could I go for a job interview the following morning. Now, if I wasn’t organised, I’d have had to have tipped those suitcases upside down hunting for something smart to wear. However, I knew EXACTLY what packing cube my smart clothes were in and I knew exactly what case that cube was in! Therefore having to unpack straight away wasn’t really a priority, I simply just took out the cubes I’d be needing for the next few weeks.
Buying a set with several different sizes and mesh windows the most helpful type! (Feature image: just a few of my many packing cubes!)
3. Use vacuum bags but make sure you stop them from leaking with his handy tip!
Winter clothes can be bulky and take up a lot of room in a suitcase. Day to day I also don’t use normal boring towels, I like the brightly coloured beach towels (I bought one in Hawaii that was covered in palm trees and monkeys playing ukuleles!) and I didn’t want to leave them behind, so I vacuum bagged them!
I found that regardless of the type of vacuum bag I used, after a couple of days they’d start filling with air again. To get around this problem I used tape to seal up the ‘zips’ and it worked! I used 2 types of vacuum bags, ones that you roll by hand (tape up the air hole at the bottom too) and ones that required a vacuum.
Samsonite sell a 12 Piece Compression Bag Kit that includes both types of vacuum bag on Amazon.com
4. Pack mini toiletries to save space
The night before I flew to America we stayed in a hotel and a shopping trip as soon as you arrive isn’t exactly a number one priority. You need toiletries to carry you through these few days. But you don’t want to be taking full tubes of toothpaste, bottles of shampoo etc, not only are they unnecessary weight but you can eventually buy items like this when you arrive. You then have more room for sentimental items or clothes that will be more useful than a SOMETHING product.
Loads of places will sell travel sized toiletries, just chuck in a few of these minis in your wash bag instead!
Once I arrived in America, I was able to buy regular sized products that I used in the UK! For example Colgate toothpaste and the same Herbal Essences coconut shampoo (why change what you know works!?!).
I ALWAYS travel with Solid Shampoo, saves worries about leaking liquids! *TIP* make sure the shampoo bar is dry before you put it back in the tin!
5. Stay organised with a document folder!
Just like the clothes for the job interview, keeping my documents organised was important too. I had copies of various visa paperwork, including police certificates and medical reports, just in case I was asked to show them at the border on arrival. But then because I was moving my whole life, I also had to carry copies of my birth certificate, marriage certificate, education and training certificates, copies of my CV aka resume (which again I needed access to for my interview!)
I prefer to use a plastic document wallet that has the folders already attached. I find they take up less space than a ring binder and they are more hard wearing and protective than a cardboard folder.
A4 40 Pocket (80 Views) Display Books Black Project Presentation Folder – available on Amazon.com. I travel with an A5 Size folder, it’s great for organising airline paperwork, hotel and tour confirmations etc.
6. Make sure to take things that will make you feel comfortable in your new home.
Try to pack a few things that’ll make your new home feel like your old home. It can be overwhelming trying to adapt to a new country and culture, so take some things that are familiar to you. Just to name a few, I packed: photo frames with family photos, a tea towel with my hometown on (present from my Granny), my world map poster, a Route 66 pillow and a couple of my travel mugs.
Related Reading: Gift Guide for a Brit Living Overseas
7. Bubble wrap objects…and then bubble wrap them some more!
If you plan on taking ornaments or breakables (relating to the tip above!) make sure you protect them well! Especially if you are flying, suitcases get thrown and bumped around all over the place. I thought I done a pretty good job of protecting everything.
I only had 2 casualties…one of the Jamaican bobsleigh team got decapitated and a marble game that I bought on a beach in Kenya broke in half. I was HEARTBROKEN when I saw it had smashed, the chances of me going back to Kenya are little or none so it’s not like it can be replaced. Thankfully so far it’s holding up OK with superglue. This was an error on my part, I didn’t realise it was THAT breakable. It shouldn’t have been on the bottom of my case and I should have doubled the amount of bubble wrap I had used!
8. Pack a couple of universal travel adaptors!
If you are relocating to a different country, there’s a chance that the power sockets will be different. I left all my UK adapters at home and just travelled with my 2 universal travel adaptors. That way I could still charge my electronics at the hotel and airport in the UK and I was also able to start charging things as soon as I arrived in the USA.
The majority of electronics come with USB leads now so having a universal USB plug is the most helpful. I have an interchangeable one that takes both plugs and USB leads. I use them on my travels all around the world. It’s nice just to be able to throw them in and not worry as to whether or not I have the correct adaptor.
I’ve had my plugs for years now! Shop Worldwide Adapter Plugs on Amazon
Other Posts You May Find Useful For Moving Overseas
Hopefully these tips will guide you on how to pack a suitcase for moving overseas successfully!!