What to Pack When You Move to Sydney

It’s time to make some hard decisions about what is going with you when you move to Australia.

Here are three things you need to think about before you start packing.

  1. What are you going to pack in your suitcase and will it tide you over until your shipment arrives? (Our shipment took over three months to arrive.)
  2. What (if anything) can you box up and send to have with you before your shipment arrives?
  3. Packing up your house, do your really need to take everything?

Ok, let’s start with what you are going to be taking with you on the plane.

What is going in your suitcase?

After you get your flight to Sydney sorted, call the airline and ask about increasing your baggage allowance. Don’t forget to ask what they charge for extra bags.

There is no need to go too crazy with packing up your whole wardrobe and taking it on the plane with you.

Remember #2 above? About the box you’re going to ship to yourself? That’s for what won’t fit in your suitcase.

Don’t pack your large bottle of shampoo or any toiletries at all for that matter. You can buy those there plus they add weight to your baggage not to mention take up a lot of precious space.

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I know this seems obvious but once you start packing up you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll run out of room. The space saved by not packing a large bottle of shampoo or even small travel size, in general, could mean a couple pairs of shoes.

If you have any control over when you move consider going during the summer months, December to February. (Or even spring for that matter, September to November.) You don’t have to pack as many clothes and, if you’re moving with kids, it’s summer holidays for Australian schools making the change into a new school easier instead of starting mid-year. School year ends in December for summer and starts up again in mid-January at the beginning of the school year. Yeah, I know it seems weird but you’ll get use to it.

Important documents to bring with you.

To rent an apartment in Sydney you will need to pass the 100 points documentation check.

What the heck is the 100 points documentation check?

You will need certain documents that add up to 100 points (see examples below) to verify your identity and prove you are eligible to rent in Australia.

Take a look at the list below and make photocopies to give to the rental agents in Sydney. Of course, you can make photocopies in Sydney but make a few right now to give yourself a head start that way you’re not running around Sydney looking for a copy machine.

Be sure to pack the originals in your suitcase or, even better, in your carry-on since these documents are usually hard to replace and you don’t want to lose them. You will most likely be applying for more than one apartment in Sydney so have a few photocopies of each to use for your rental applications until you are able to make more copies in Sydney.

Pro Tip: Sign up for a 1Form.com account and fill out your rental application now.

You can also upload all your documents listed below for you 100 Point ID check.

Well, since you can upload them to 1Form.com do you still need to carry them on your person for the flight?

If you take a look at the list of documents you will see that many are hard to replace and, since you will be living in Australia now, they are even harder to replace. So yes, for peace of mind, pack your important documents with you on the plane.

And yes, have photocopies. Not all real estate agencies accept 1Form.com rental applications. Most do so this is a precaution but, hey, better to play it safe.

Also, some real estate agents, or if you are renting directly from the property owner from a listing on Gumtree for example, will still ask for a photocopy to have. That is not often the case any more but it does still happen. Again, it’s better to be prepared than surprise and miss out on the perfect rental in Sydney.

The 100 point list is also used by Australian banks when opening a new account.

100 Points ID List

(This is an example of points and probably NOT the exact list, or points given, by rental agents or banks.)

  • Passport 70 pts*
  • Birth Certificate 70 pts *
  • Social Security Card (for those moving from the US) 40 pts
  • Tertiary Education Student ID card 40 pts
  • Mortgage documents 35 pts
  • Letter from employer (current or, sometimes accepted, within last 2 years) 35 pts
  • ATM card, credit card, bank book, bank statement from Australian bank 25 pts
  • Medicare Card (for those moving from the UK) 25 pts
  • International driver’s licence 25 pts
  • Marriage certificate 25 pts

*Usually only one of these is accepted towards your 100 points

Other important documents to pack in your suitcase are your medical records, children’s immunization records or school records.

If it cannot be replace, take it with you.

Give some thought to things you just couldn’t bare to loose like family heirlooms or family photos that you treasure. Make room for those in your suitcase. If it’s frame photos, ship the frames but pop out the photos and pack them.

Even if you decide to get insurance for your shipment, things that cannot be replaced will be gone for good if something happens.

I’m sure everything will be fine, but I’m a worst-case scenario type of person, as you may have guessed, and would just rather have the peace of mind knowing that they’re safe.

Pack a box of things to get you through until your shipment arrives and send it to yourself in Australia.

Shipments to Australia take time. Like I said above, our shipment took 3 months.

Even after your shipment arrives in Sydney, Australian Quarantine needs to go through the boxes. The time needed for that varies from container to container and is not included in your original shipment estimated time of arrival.

To help tide you over consider sending a few thing to the hotel or your vacation rental. But sure to clear it with the vacation rental owner first.

I filled up our box with a few kitchen items, like my favourite chef’s knife and a paring knife. I could have just gone out and got a cheaper version, but I love my knives and know that using some crappy ones would have just been too frustrating on a daily basis.

As far as dishes, glasses and cutlery, we made a quick trip to Target and Kmart at Bondi Junction to pick up a cheap set to use until our shipment arrived.

Other things that you might want to consider sending in a box are kid’s supplies, like stuffed animals and other toys, bed sheets, towels, pillows (consider vacuum sealing them) and blankets.

If you’re moving from the UK (or another country that uses the same voltage) then maybe consider taking an air bed too. Not a big air bed but one of those smaller camping/backpacking ones. Yes, they do have camp supply shops in Sydney and you can purchase an air bed there if this seems like too much to send. Just like they have towels, pillows and blankets if you would rather buy these things in Sydney.

If you are arriving in the fall (Australia’s autumn is around the end of April and May) then add some winter clothes to the box. There is no need to pack a bunch of sweaters in your suitcase since you probably won’t need them until June or July.

No need for big woolly winter coats for autumn in Sydney. It’s usually quite nice but can get chilly in the evening.

Moving to Sydney in the winter?

Great, cut down on your travel load and send some of your winter clothes through the post.

If you’re able to get everything you need in one suitcase that is under the weight limit, then stand up and take a bow because I have no idea how you did it.

My suitcase was full to the max even after we had packed up a large box to send to our hotel.

Now the hard part, packing up the house.

When you start interviewing international movers, they will meet with you at your house and do a walk through to get an idea of what is going and what is not.

It’s a good idea to do a walk through first so you know for sure what is not going to be shipped. No need for it to be part of your estimate.

As far as what to pack and ship, well the only advice I have is, if you don’t love it then leave it.

When we finally got our shipment and started to unpack we couldn’t believe what we chose to ship. So much of it just wasn’t worth the money to ship and could have easily been replaced.

Making hard decisions.

If you just can’t decide whether to bring something or not then you might want to consider doing what I did and let Craigslist or EBay decide for you.

I placed ads for a few things with a price that I would be happy to sell it for. If someone bought it then it was meant to be; if not then we shipped it.

Most of everything I sold on Craigslist was gone it a couple days and I can honestly say that I don’t miss a thing. Except for our sofa from Pottery Barn that I absolutely loved.

So why did I sell it if I loved it?

Well, it was about seven feet long and would have been impossible to move into our very small, first apartment in Sydney.

That is one of the things to think about if you’re moving from a house, especially a large American style house. With rents being so expensive in Sydney, chances are you will end up in a much smaller house or apartment then what you lived in back in the States. Downsizing your household before you go is the best option in the long run.

After our shipment arrived, we didn’t have space for our extra bedroom set as we had moved from a three-bedroom house in Seattle to a one-bedroom plus office (more like a walk-in closet) in Sydney. It was a hassle to get rid of it on the other end.

It really is best just to get rid of as much as you can before you move and be done. Plus this will save on the overall cost of your shipment.

Odds and ends you might want to get before you ship anything

If you’re moving from the States (or any country that uses 110V-120V), before you leave, go out and buy a Step Down Transformer 220v to 110v AC Converter.

Those are hard to find while in Australia. We got one on Amazon after our move and ended up paying alot for international shipping.

Just order it now and toss it in a box to ship with the rest of your household.

Don’t worry about adapters, those are everywhere in Sydney since Australia is a popular tourist destination. JB Hifi is a good place to pick them up in Sydney.

If you have a Sonicare toothbrush, buy extra replacement heads. Sonicare is not readily available in Australia and replacement heads are very expensive. We use one of our transformers with an adapter just for charging our Sonicare toothbrush.

Pack up any over the counter items you rely on like Nyquil, Tylenol, Pepto-Bismol, or any Brand Name products that you might not be able to find in Australia.

For example Colgate is the dominant toothpaste in Australia. There is no Arm & Hammer or Tom’s Natural.

Don’t go too crazy with the over the counter medications. It might look suspicious.

Of course, if you’re going to live in Sydney for a couple of years, you’ll just need to get use to the products there, but I have to say that when I get a cold I really missed the power of Nyquil and have never found it’s equal here in Australia. I have a expat friend who feels the same about Tylenol PM.

I also stocked up on contacts, about a two-year supply. I pack those in my suitcase though. No real rhyme or reason behind why I did that.

What about taking prescription drugs to Australia?

You can bring a three month’s supply with you to Australia as long as you have a copy of the prescription, written in English, with you “certify that the medicine has been prescribed to you to treat a medical condition“.

For a quick guide of what you can and cannot bring with you into Australia click here.

What about taking cash to Australia? How much can you bring with you on the plane?

There is no limit for the amount of cash you can bring on your person into Australia. However, you do need to declare sums over a value of $10,000AUD.

Are you bring your mattress with you to Australia when you move?


Australian Mattress sizes are different from of the UK and the USA.

For this reason, if you decide to ship your mattress, which I recommend doing because mattresses are expensive in Australia, be sure to bring extra sets of sheets.

Of course there are bed sheets and linens in Australia, they just won’t fit your mattress as well as ones from home.

 

 
Ok, I think that’s it. Well, for now anyway. I’m sure I will be continuously adding to this post as I think of things I left out.

Do you have anything to add? Please let me know in the comments below. I will definitely add it to the list.

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Lauren
Hi, I’m Lauren, and I LOVE being an expat in Sydney but am fed up with all the misinformed and useless expat guides out there, not only giving bad advice but also charging for it! So I created Sydney Moving Guide written by expats, for expats. Click here to read my story.

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