9 steps to prepare to move abroad with your family.
Settling down in one place isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t because you become a parent that you have to give up on your dreams of being a globetrotter. That’s right: being a traveling mom is, in fact, possible; and it can be a whole lot of fun!
What got us moving was the “urban burnout” that we started to experience in Brooklyn, as a family of three. With rising housing costs and a lack of nearby family for our toddler, city living didn’t feel sustainable. And so, as we were going over our resolutions for 2018, we decided to take a big leap: my husband would complete a much needed certification in his line of work in Costa Rica, and we would all move there for a few months! Now, my husband’s course was to start only two weeks after we made the decision, so we had very little time to prepare. Thankfully we are experienced travelers and already had valid passports, but never have we left home as a family for this long of a period.
This new experience stressed me out at first -- there was just so much to think about, and so little time to do everything. So just like with any daunting situation, I made a list and checked it off -- one item at a time. How do you get your family ready to move yabroad in a short amount of time? Here are 9 steps you need to take to make the transition as smooth as possible.
1. Selecting Flights. There are many great sites to find cheap airfare now -- my favorites are Kayak and Google Flights. And on many of the sites, you can save flights and itineraries you want to keep an eye on before actually buying. I used to just purchase the cheapest flight, which could have meant red eye flights or layovers, but now I have to take into consideration my not-so-understanding toddler who will make me pay in other ways for messing with his sleep.
2. Travel Insurance. Travel insurance not only covers the cost of flights but can also cover medical expenses while traveling. Keep in mind that healthcare services outside of your insured region are 'out of network,’ which means they are not covered by your insurance provider. Of course all plans are different, so you should check with your provider. Usually, you can purchase Travel Insurance at the time of purchasing your flight for not very much money. You also have time to cancel it before you trip if you change your mind. Just read all the fine print, as with everything.
3. Housing. Finding accomodations in a place that you are unfamiliar with is part of the challenge. My best advice is to find a short-term place for a week that is in the town center so that you know it’s convenient and safe. Do some prep work from home on Airbnb and get in touch with a Real Estate agent who deals with rentals to get some ideas. Once there, you can visit the places before you settle on a place for your long term stay..
4. Facebook Groups. When you have a child in tow in a new country, you have to hit the ground running. That's why I reached out on Facebook to find my tribe here. One post on my feed asking for connections in our new home led to lots of information, but most importantly to Facebook groups of expats in the area. I was able to inquire about some of the things we would need when we arrived and about preschools, and most importantly, I started to build my mom tribe. Within less than 24 hours of arriving my son said, “Mom, where are all the other little boys to play with?” My heart sank for him, so I jumped on my facebook group and sent out an SOS to my new virtual mom friends to meet up and play that day. It worked. Through our children, we are able to make amazing friends who can really start to make a place feel like home.
5. Passports & Visas. Check the expiration date on your passports, as they need to be valid for no less than 6 months of your intended stay. Also check on visa status of the country you intend to visit. Some, like China, require obtaining a visa before entering the country. Also know the length of stay your visa allows. Most are 90 days. If you plan on staying longer, a quick trip and back to a neighboring country is usually all you need for renewal of another 90 days. Make sure to research this well, as documents like your return flight are needed in some cases.
6. Medicines/ Vaccines. Going to a new country means not only exposing our minds to a new culture, but also exposing our immune system to foreign objects. Check with your healthcare providers about vaccines or any precautionary medicines you might want to consider. For instance, my acupuncturist sent me with herbs to treat Dengue Fever, just in case. I always travel with a mixed bag of medicines that I can use for quick fixes, like Chinese herbs for colds, Ginger tea for upset stomach and Children’s Tylenol for really high fevers. In your new home, you will start to find what locals use to treat illnesses which is usually the best, but until then use what you know works best for you and your family.
7. Turning off subscriptions at home. Unless you are fine with blowing money, you should make a list of all your monthly subscriptions like gym, food deliveries, kid pass, etc to either cancel or put on hold until you are back so that you are not paying for services you are not using.
8. Subletting or Storage. Deciding on what to do with your home and belongings usually comes down to a financial decision. If you can sublet your home while gone, the money could be useful to pay for your accommodations abroad. If subletting is not an option, give away and sell half of your stuff then put the rest in storage like all the other roaming travelers. If you are really pressed for time, some storage companies can take out all the hassle of moving and storage by coming to your house, packing everything and taking it to their storage facility, where you can access your belongings from your personal dashboard on their website.
9. Money and Documents. Like with vacations, don’t forget to alert your bank and credit card as to where you will be traveling so that you are not dealing with blocked cards at your new home. There is no need to travel with tons of cash because you can get money from an ATM almost anywhere and the exchange rates are great. Make sure your will is in order. If there is no will, write a letter expressing your wishes, custody of your child is probably most important, and have it notarized. It’s better than nothing. Travel with copies of important documents like passports, birth certificates, Social Security cards etc or have digital access to them.