International Move: The Expectations 12 Months in Advance

I know, I know.  I’m thinking too far ahead.

But, for the longest time, I’ve been excited to start packing up my belongings, ready to make the move to Sweden.  I was ready to start packing in mid-2015!  But Johan said no, it’s too early 😛 I guess he had a point.  So in the end, I started photographing the things that I didn’t want to take with me, the things that I would try and sell second hand on places like Gumtree.  It would be a very slow process, and I refused to back down on my prices because I was in no rush to sell things – I had about 2 years to wait, after all, and I was willing to wait for the right buyers.

In the meantime, I also began writing down a list of things in Excel that I would want to bring with me – things that would be Urgent to take with me on the plane; Shipped that I wouldn’t mind waiting for, but wouldn’t want to be without for overly long; & Non-Urgent for things that could wait until family & friends could bring them over for me, or things that could wait for visits back to Australia.  It was a nice thought, but basically everything on that list ended up as Shipped.  Not exactly the prioritization I had in mind.  Instead, I began measuring and weighing the items I thought to be the largest/heaviest/bulkiest and added these to my list.

My next visit to Sweden for Christmas 2015 would result in me leaving the vast majority of my winter gear with Johan, to save trekking it all back to Queensland where none of it was needed.  I left him 2 winter jackets, my snow pants, 2 pairs of long pants, a thick fleece jumper, thermals, heavy gloves, socks, scarves and beanies.  You can imagine how much space I had in my suitcase coming home without all that stuff, and I probably cleared at least 10kg off my moving list, a year and a half before the move.  I was quite happy with that, because even if things didn’t work out, they weren’t items I’d need at home.  I also left him a few select items – a few books I wanted to share with him, and some small soft toys (what can I say?  I always will be a kid at heart) which I’d also used as space-fillers and soft packaging.  My suitcase would barely close on arrival, because I made use of every little inch – and even though I’d bought a luggage scale off eBay for a few bucks, I did worry that I’d be over the limit.  In the end I think I was about 26/30kg for my suitcase, and had another 7kg to fill in my hand luggage.  It’s something I’d recommend if you’re seriously thinking of moving to your loved one, leave stuff with them on an earlier visit that you can live without if things go south, but will save you valuable space later on!  I’m usually quite a light traveler, but this is the kind of time to pack as much as you can, down to the last kilo.

Moving on, I applied for a residence permit, and still we’re about a year out from a possible move.  I say possible, assuming that our application is accepted, because if not, we might run into some trouble!  Might I also add that it’s the biggest pain in the butt to not know when we’ll receive an answer about that application – because at the moment we’re looking anywhere between May-Sept next year and can’t make any proper plans until then!  But still, I want to know HOW I’m going to move my stuff.  You’ll find a lot of international moving companies offering free quotes online if you fill out how much you have to move – 1 bedroom, no. of boxes, etc.  And this was what really frustrated me – how am I supposed to know how many boxes all my stuff will take up?  I also wasn’t planning on moving any furniture, which I was sure the “1-bedroom” option would entail.  I wasn’t even taking my PC.  There were also companies that would come to your house and give you a free quote, but that seemed a bit extreme for something so far in the future.

So I went back to my list in Excel.  I had always thought that because I wasn’t bringing any furniture, airfreight might be a suitable option.  Yes, it tends to be more expensive because it’s priced on weight and not volume, but we’re talking about items in a bedroom (and a half) that’s just 3x3m,  I’m not big on clothes, or shoes, so I don’t have a lot there to move, either.  It’s mostly books, dvds, things of sentimental value (and I’ve got to admit, I’m a hoarder), and of course my Harry Potter collection.  It honestly didn’t feel like a lot, but I knew to expect to be surprised, that it would more than likely add up.  Still, I lived under the impression that, for me, airfreight would work out cheaper, not to mention it tends to be more reliable, and would get to me much sooner!

The items that I had weighed in my moving list came out at 51.55kg. This was no where near a complete weighing – I hadn’t weighed everything on the list, and it didn’t include clothes… but it did include my treasured HP books, and honestly, how much more was really needed?  I could always rebuy all my art materials.  Throw in an estimate on clothes and things… But still, I was right.  I did NOT have a lot of stuff to move.  The plan was always that Johan would come out to visit me in Australia before I made the move, and he would come in our winter, the equivalent of a Swedish summer, so he would not have a lot to bring over here.  Not the winter gear I had to bring!  Which would also mean we had 2 suitcases to fly back with us, and 2 lots of hand luggage.  If we were to go with the bigger airlines again, that would mean 74kg between us.  Not bad considering my current estimate was sitting at just 50kg.

Of course, the next thing would be the bulk.  Not everything I had would fit its way into our two suitcases.  I had 2 large frames I had to decide whether to bring or roll up the posters and rebuy frames.  I had a 3rd, very heavy custom made shadow-box frame .  And I had my large but lightweight Hogwarts trunk.  Take those out of the equation, gives more room for the clothes to be rolled up in the suitcases!  And surely, surely I might only need 1 or 2 airfreight boxes which would no doubt have to be cheaper than a shared shipping container.  Just had to be.  But still I could find no where to price up unless I had the size of the box and the weight, and that was something I couldn’t do because I wanted it packed properly and wasn’t sure if they’d require separate boxes or not.  The other thing was my books – they’d easily take up a suitcase in themselves and I’m not sure that would be wise, but posting with Australia Post was never going to be an option, considering it’s about $40 to send a 1kg parcel uninsured to Sweden – though certainly postage would be a great option for other countries where postage is cheaper!  So I tried to put in rough box estimates, but still there was no where that could just give me a straight price estimate without having to get into contact with someone for a personalised quote.  I just wanted to know how much airfreight was!  $100?  $200?  $300?

So I went to the airline itself, and I went back to the Emirates website, simply because we’ve flown with them twice and I don’t know who we’ll be flying with this time, but I imagine they’re likely on the higher price scale so good for estimating. $108 per extra kg over.  Oookay.  Not so good.  Let’s pretend I’m looking at 10-20kgs extra.  For that price, I’d be better off buying another return ticket home and just filling that suitcase with the remainder!  Or shouting someone a trip and saying “on the condition you bring all my stuff!” All in all, not a bad idea, especially considering most of the items I wouldn’t mind waiting on, and I was hoping to return for a short visit to Australia just 8 months later.  Still, when I say I wouldn’t mind waiting, I’m very sentimental and as with anyone I’m sure sooner-rather-than-later would be the preferred option.  And surely the moving companies would know the ins and outs and give better deals.  It kills to think of the weighty stuff you can buy overseas with free postage… But did I need a moving company if I only had 20kg extra?  Fragile items, yes, but…

And STILL I wanted to pack – I wanted to see exactly how much I could squeeze into two suitcases.  Weight-wise I sounded very well off, but volume wise?  What if it was all too bulky and I couldn’t fit the amount of things I wanted to?  But it was too early, I kept telling myself.  Too early.  Then there was this note on the Emirates website: “You can check in as many pieces of baggage as you need, as long as the total weight is less than the maximum baggage allowance of your class.” Meaning, if we could fill a suitcase to the brim and still have it be a few kilos under the limit, we could take additional boxes for the bulkier items.  Could be perfect.

Then I looked up couriers.  Multiple websites, ranging $200-$450 for 20kg.  That’s sounding better.  A small fraction to pay for  my bulky, fragile items, that are no where near worth that in value, but sentiments.  It eased my worries a little.  I was sure, that whatever happened, I wouldn’t need to pay any moving company anything.  I might pack for a month trying to work out the best way to make the most use of two suitcases and hand luggage, but I had no furniture or appliances, and surely, it would be quite the affordable international move, minus, you know, the airline tickets.

Guess we’ll wait and see when the time comes… but hopefully this might help a few of you planning a move – when you’re on your own with nothing but your dreams and guesswork to occupy you for a move that’s too far in the future.  Do start deciding what you’ll bring and what you can start selling now.  Do buy a luggage scale to start weighing individual items and suitcases.  Do nurture those dreams.  And if you have any tips, comment below!

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