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Making Hard Decisions About What to Pack When Moving to Australia.
Three things to think about before you start packing.
- What are you going to pack in your suitcase that will tide you over until your shipment arrives? (Our shipment took over three months to arrive.)
- What (if anything) can you box up and send to have with you before your shipment arrives in Australia?
- Packing up your house, do you really need to take everything?
Ok, let’s start with what's going with you on the plane.
What's Going in Your Suitcase on the Flight to Australia?
After you get your flight to Australia 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? 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.
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 a small travel size, in general, could mean a couple of pairs of shoes.
Time of year when moving to Australia.
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.
The school year ends in December for summer and starts up again in mid to end of January. Yeah, I know it seems weird, but you’ll get used to it.
If you are moving with kids, I have a post all about schools in Sydney that covers term dates and age cut-off for what grade/year for enrollment.
Important Documents to Bring With You to Australia.
To rent an apartment in Sydney you will need to pass the 100 Points of ID Check.
What's the 100 Points of ID Check?
You will need certain documents that add up to 100 points of identification (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 Australia. Of course, you can make photocopies in Australia, but make a few right now to give yourself a head start that way you’re not running around 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 so have a few photocopies of each to use for your rental applications until you are able to make more copies.
Pro Tip: Sign up for a 1Form.com account and fill out your rental application now.
You can upload all your documents listed below to 1Form for your 100 Point of ID Check.
Well, since you can upload them 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, take 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 will still ask for a photocopy to have on file. That is not often the case anymore, but it does still happen.
Again, it’s better to be prepared than surprised and miss out on the perfect rental.
The 100 Points of ID verification list is also used by Australian banks when opening a new account.
100 Points of ID Example List of Documents Needed
(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 of ID. The 100 Points of ID Check will come up again and again when you arrive in Australia.
If It Cannot Be Replace, Take It With You to Australia.
Give some thought to things you just couldn’t bear to lose 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.
Other important documents to pack in your suitcase are your medical records, children’s immunization records, or school records.
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 in Australia.
I know I already mentioned this when packing up your suitcase, but shipments to Australia take time. Like I said above, our shipment took three months.
Even after your shipment arrives, Australian Quarantine needs to go through the boxes. The time needed for that varies from container to container and isn't included in your original shipment estimated time of arrival. It's also not included in the rate quoted to you for your shipment. I have a post where I break down everything covered in our Australia shipping quote that you might want to check out before getting your quote.
To help tide you over, consider sending a few thing to the hotel or your vacation rental. But be sure to clear it with the vacation rental owner first or use Send My Bag which delivers it straight to you soon after you arrive.
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 using some vacuum travel space saving bags to make them less bulky), and blankets.
If you’re moving from the UK (or another country that uses the same voltage) then maybe consider shipping an air mattress too. Not a big air mattress, but one of those smaller camping/backpacking ones. Something that will last you a few weeks until your shipment arrives with your mattress.
Yes, they do have camping supply shops in Australia and you can purchase an air mattress there if this seems like too much to send. Just like they have towels, pillows, and blankets, but everything in Australia is more expensive. I’m not saying send all your towels, just enough to last you a few weeks.
Moving to Australia in the winter?
Great, cut down on your travel load and send your winter clothes.
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 a large box to send to our hotel.
Now the Hard Part, Packing Up the House.
When you start interviewing shipping companies, 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's not going to be shipped. No need for it to be part of your shipping quote.
Don’t love it? Then leave it.
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.
Can’t decide on what to ship to Australia? Try this.
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 them 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 in a couple of 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.
Rents can be expensive in Australia, especially in Sydney. Chances are you will end up in a much smaller house or apartment than what you lived in back in the States.
Downsizing your household before you move to Australia 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's 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.
Are you bring your mattress with you to Australia when you move?
Australian Mattress sizes are different from 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.
Super King Mattress
Odds and Ends You Might Want to Purchase Before Moving to Australia.
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 a lot for international shipping.
Order it now and toss it in a box to ship with the rest of your household.
While you're on Amazon shopping, you might as well pick up some extra adapters. They get used up fast and misplaced. You can always use a few extra.
If you have a Sonicare toothbrush, buy extra replacement heads. Sonicare isn't readily available in Australia and replacement heads are very expensive.
Don’t go too crazy with the over-the counter-medications. It might look suspicious.
Of course, if you’re going to live in Australia 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 friend that 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.
Taking Medications to Australia
You can bring a three-month 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“.
How Much Cash Can You Take to Australia?
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 $10,000 AUD.
Ready to Get Started with Your Move to Australia?
Australia Moving Checklist
39 pages, packed full of resources you need to kick start your move to Australia. Plus invite-only access to my Private Facebook Group with over 2,200 members. The group is a great place to get answers to all your questions, from visa applications to moving with pets and schools. Join us!
Lock-In Your Exchange Rate
Did you know the Australian dollar is a commodity currency? This means the value of the Australian dollar is linked to the price of iron ore and other Australian exports. It also means that it's HIGHLY VOLATILE! When a good rate comes along, you need to be ready to jump on it and lock-in that exchange rate.
Have You Started Packing Yet?
No, not yet? Still got several months to go? Ok, but have you at least started thinking about what you're taking? Maybe even started a list? The truth is you don’t need to know what's going with you before getting your shipping quote. Why? Scheduling a shipment to Australia can take as long as 6 months.
Open Your Bank Account
In 5 minutes or less, you can open both a checking and savings account BEFORE you move to Australia. There are only 3 things you need to get started.
1. Your passport and visa details.
2. Know where you're going to live.
3. Be arriving within the next 3 months.
*This link will take you to Commonwealth Bank of Australia's special accounts for newly arriving expats and migrants. Commonwealth Bank is a sponsoring partner of Sydney Moving Guide.