Monday, April 18, 2011

There's no place like home

Ok, my blogging hiatus from moving is finally over! I'm back on US soil and it feels very good to be home. I can understand the language here, you know what to expect at stores, and prompt service is back.

Before the memories fade into oblivion of this move, I thought I would share with you my thoughts on international moving. Some of these may be tips, others rants, but hopefully there is some good information in there for anyone looking to relocate internationally.

Before the Move
  • Get a big plastic folder with dividers. That will help you keep track of everything. If you're moving with a family, household items, and pets, you're going to need to keep track of passports, flights, hotels, rental cars, shipping container, other mailed packages, copy of your (and significant others') work contract, pet vaccines, residency information, etc etc etc. There's sooo many papers and you will need to keep them handy. Make sure to travel with that in your carry on baggage.
  • Decide what absolutely need and what can come later with the rest of your household goods. Remember, even if you check extra bags, you'll still have to lug that stuff around. Between two adults, one NanoGEARS with stroller, and three animal crates, taking 3 checked bags and four carry on bags is a lot. If you can do with less, try to do so.
  • If you're traveling with pets, book their ticket(s) early and repeatedly call the airline to make sure they have a spot. You don't want to be stuck at the airport waiting for a flight and there's no seat for Fido. Also, take spare treats, food, and litter with container if you have cats. That can add a bunch of weight to your checked bags.
  • Check the weather at your new location to make sure you bring appropriate jackets. Going from 70 F to 30 F climate is completely reasonable in April, so it happens. SnowU was aptly named as we had two days of flurries when we arrived.
During the Move
  • Have as much patience as possible. You're going to be traveling, dealing with changing time zones, cranky partners, kids, animals. The more stress you make for yourself, the more it's going to aggravate you. These things compound on each other.
  • Get to the airport way early. Like 3-4 hours early if you're traveling with pets. Also, if you can have a friend with you to help with luggage, that's a plus. We would have been so screwed if we didn't ask a fiend. We had no way to handle it all plus watch a baby and animals. We arrived 3 hours early and made it to the gate 15 minutes prior to boarding (20 mins before takeoff). Animal check-in (at 3 locations!) plus excess baggage check and passport control can add a few hours.
  • When you land, make sure to have money in the local currency (dollars in this case). I didn't have any and didn't have time for an ATM (don't ask why...). A very friendly homeless guy actually ended up helping me (common for this airport) and I would have tipped him $20, but all I had was about $6 in quarters for tolls. Let's face it, international moves are expensive. The added $10 for expensive currency exchange is water under the bridge at this point.
  • Taking an international flight, then hopping in a car and driving 7 hours (across a major city during rush hour traffic) with 1 dog and 2 cats in the car can be done. Very dangerous, and I don't recommend it but it can be done. A better option would be to crash at a Motel 6 for 2 hours, then drive. Even if you're not staying for the night, $60 on a hotel room is still water under the bridge.
The Day After
  • This is where traveling with a pad of paper and pens is handy. Start making lists for everything you'll need. If you're solo, it's not so bad. If you have a family and a little one, you'll need to be very efficient in getting groceries and other items and still let NanoGEARS nap and snack when she wants.
  • Immediate things you're probably need: Phone (preferably mobile), Food and basic household snacks, dishes & utensils (paper or GoodWill), a few pots and pans. If you're living in a short term rental (as we are), it's probably not too clean so you will need cleaning supplies, possibly a vacuum, laundry detergent, dish soap, etc.
  • Try to get into a routine as soon as possible. Yes, I know you're tired but that doesn't mean you should sleep all day. You're only delaying the inevitable.
Other Thoughts/Comments
  • Food: Waaay more choices and waaay more expensive here than in Europe. Both good and bad. When you don't have those choices, you don't spend as much. At the same time, you miss having choices. Resisting the urge to splurge on every vice you've missed for the past 4.5 years is hard!
  • Customer Service: I'm sorry Europe but it's waaay better over here.
  • Rental Cars: If you have a dog that sheds, bring a lint roller with you. If not, it may cost you 220 euros for them to vacuum the car. It's a ridiculous charge and bullshit but you've got a plane to catch and no time to run to a garage to vacuum it.
  • Paperwork: There's a lot of unnecessary fat in it in the US. Maybe it's me, but signing 9 different forms for a place that you're only staying at for 6 weeks is ridiculous. Our sue-happy culture sucks. I'm going to miss Europe in those respects.
  • Apartment Complexes: Have no idea how to layout a kitchen properly! I love cooking but it's not going to be pretty in this thing.
  • And lastly, there's no place like home.


  1. Welcome to SnowU, where April snow happens pretty much annually. Good luck settling in!

  2. Thanks. Rumor has it that I might have to deal with May snows...

  3. Never more than an inch or three: hardly worth cleaning off the car, let alone breaking out the shovel. I recommend leaving a snow shovel in your car: it's better to have to it in the way in June than to need it later.

  4. Did you just move to my Uni? 'Cause we've had snow and hail on and off the last few days. Fuckin' SnowU.

  5. On Academic Jungle, the description of your Uni is the direct opposite of mine. Unless you're fibbing, probably not. If you want to follow up on this, you can email me if you want.

  6. No fibbing -- I guess there are a number of places that have been hit by snow or hail in the past week... Welcome back to the States!