The best advice I can give you when it comes to packing and moving to Australia is, less is more.
If you know for sure that you are only going to live in Sydney for few years then I strongly encourage you to not ship your whole household.
You can furnish your new apartment in Sydney for cheap using Gumtree (similar to Craigslist) or check out Fantastic Furniture for inexpensive furniture.
There are also two Ikeas in Sydney now plus Target and Kmart for cheaply stocking your other needs such as glasses or dishes.
When we finally got our shipment from Seattle and started unpacking we wondered why we even bothered shipping half of it.
We shipped things like bookcases and desks from Ikea halfway around the world and we could have easily replaced them months earlier.
Be familiar with the Australian quarantine restrictions or pay for it later.
Before you start packing take a look at the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) website is so that you are familiar with what you can take into Australia and what you cannot.
One of the things you need to be aware of is cleaning your items before they are packed, especially shoes, bikes, camping equipment and barbecues, anything that may have “foreign dirt” on it.
We thought we were careful when we packed but after Australian Quarantine Department went through our boxes we received this email:
“Dear Lauren, Quarantine held two pairs of shoes for treatment or can be destroyed. Treatment required steam cleaning cost $363.00 or Destruction $71.50. Please let us know regarding above orders.”
Yep, that’s right $363 to steam clean and $71.50 to destroy two pairs of shoes. I don’t even want to imagine what it would cost for a barbecue or lawn mower.
So please learn for our experience and go through the website above before you start packing up.
Also be sure to ask for more specifics from the international shipping company when you are asking for a quote.
It’s a great question to weed out who is familiar with shipping items to Australia and who is not. If one moving company knows nothing about Australia’s Quarantine restrictions and the other does then you might want to consider going with the latter. I have a whole post all about how to find a shipping company you can trust.
Oh, by the way, the two pairs of shoes above were not hiking shoes or even outdoor shoes like running shoes. One was a pair of high-heeled black boots that I rarely wore and the other we never figured out. I didn’t actually figure out it was my tall black boots until I went to wear them months later and couldn’t find them. I then put it together.
Tip for labelling boxes you are shipping to Australia, be specific.
If you are shipping any Christmas decorations don’t label the box “Christmas Decorations”.
Instead label it in more detail like “artificial wreath, Christmas tree and tinsel”.
Remember you cannot ship any wreaths or other Christmas decorations made from natural materials. There is a strong chance that your Christmas decorations box will still get opened by Australian Quarantine but at least they will take a look instead of just assuming and having it destroyed.
Please learn from our mistakes!
Don’t ship your car, motorcycle, or motor scooter like a Vespa to Australia especially if you are moving from the States.
We shipped over our Stella scooter, a Vespa knock off, thinking it would be great to have in Sydney and we wouldn’t have to worry about having the steering wheel on the opposite side.
We were wrong.
First off it was expensive not just the cost of shipping but the additional cost once it arrived in Australia.
Please do your due diligence and research the costs of importing your vehicle into Australia. Not only is it expensive, but it is also time consuming.
For the extra cost and time involved with shipping our scooter from Seattle to Sydney we could have easily purchase a brand new scooter and had it way sooner. No, I’m not kidding, it really did cost that much to finally get our used older scooter from customs.
Other things to leave behind: lawn mowers, barbecues, and bookshelves or any large pieces of furniture that you don’t love and can be replaced.
Wait what? Bookcases too? Yes, leave them behind. Your shipping quote is based on overall size of all items, volume, and weight. Lower quality bookshelves, such as those purchased from Ikea, take up a lot of empty space in your shipping container and can be easily replaced in Sydney.
Another option is to take the shelves apart and put them back together in Australia.
If you have good quality books cases that will handle being disassembled for the move then sure, go ahead and ship them. But be honest with yourself, are you going to miss those bookcases? Is it worth it?
I say this because we shipped two bookcases we purchased from Ikea, probably less than two years before we moved.
My husband disassembled them so that they would take up less room in the shipping container which was great.
The bad part was re-assembling them in Sydney. They just never were that sturdy again and, if leaned on, would shift. Not enough that they would fall over but enough that it was obvious.
For large pieces of furniture the same thing goes, they take up space in your shipping container.
If you don’t love it, it’s best to leave it behind.
Also realize that you will most likely be downsizing in Sydney. We moved from a three bedroom house to a one plus office apartment. When we finally got our shipment in Sydney we ended up have to still get rid of things because we just didn’t have the space for it all.
Less is more and smaller is better.
Next step, getting your Australia shipping quote.
I have a three part series where I go over our shipping quote from our move. I cover what was included in our quote, what was not included and we had to pay when our shipment arrived. You can find those posts and more here.