Expatriate relocation: what to pack in your hand and hold luggage

Last week I listed items that I wished I’d packed in my container before I moved. This got me thinking about things which I should have kept in my suitcase with me for the journey.

After a flight from hell and a super chaotic move into our apartment, I’ve learnt the hard way about what to keep in my hand luggage.

Here are my hand and hold luggage packing rules:

Rule No 1. Pack all the following with you in your hand luggage:  

  • Important documents including:
    • Tax information
    • Visa information
    • Marriage ceritificates
    • Birth certificates
    • Religious certificates, e.g. baptism, marriage.
    • Immunization records
    • Medical records
    • Education records, e.g. university degree certificates
    • Pet health records and pet passports
    • Travel insurance paperwork
    • Other travel documents e.g. diving qualifications, sailing license etc.
    • and of course PASSPORTS!
  • Medicines (see rule 4)
  • Valuables (including sentimental items)
  • Change of clothes (in case bags go missing and because my kids always decide to eat chocolate when I’m holding them)

Rule No 2. Put a few changes of clothes for every member of the family into each hold suitcase. 

When two of our bags went missing on our last move we all had clothes, but no shoes…

Rule no.3 Take a photo of important documents and upload them to your Google photos or other cloud storage account.

Trust me, from personal experience, it’s worth the hassle.

We’d mistakenly packed a visa document but thankfully showing an official a copy of it on my smartphone got us through security. It also meant that when we landed and hadn’t unpacked properly we could at least get print outs of the most essential papers.

Rule No 4. Pack some ‘just in case’ emergency first aid medicines for when you arrive into your hand luggage.

Even if you’re moving to a developed country, in my experience you rarely have time to get to a pharmacy in the first few days of any move. It’s worth checking your country’s import regulations as some medicines may be prohibited.

I find the following useful just in case:

  • Ibuprofen and/ or paracetamol. Calpol if you have kids and are coming from the UK.
  • Mosquito repellent (if relevant)
  • Allergy medicine
  • Prescription medications
  • Plasters (Band Aids to all you Americans)

Rule No 5. Think of your kids

I won’t get into the nitty gritty of everything our children need, but we always pack the following in our hand luggage:

  • sweets, snacks and other treats (for us, a sugar reduced diet does not apply when travelling)
  • teddies – our kids have a few favourites which we pack in the hand luggage but we add in extras into each suitcase too
  • toys and games – nothing noisy, with lots of small pieces or too messy. Play dough and jigsaw puzzles are out, colouring and toy vehicles are in.
  • wipes, ziplock bags and more wipes.
  • change of clothes.

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