Moving abroad with your kids can be a very stressful time, full of concern and lots of preparation. But with the right to-do list, adjusting will definitely easier. So don’t give up hope just yet Mama! There are couple of things that we need to get ready together before your departure which won’t get done by themselves!
In complete honesty, I have to say that when I moved to the US from Italy, I wasn’t a mom yet. But I became one only a year later. At the time I was still getting settled because, in my carefreeness, I left Italy more unprepared than what I thought. As a consequence I spent more time slapping my self in the forehead wondering “why didn’t I think about this before?” than what I’d like to admit. But you are already a mom so you don’t have time, nor patience for any kind of slap (besides the always appreciated ones by your partner… If you know what I mean 😉 )
Alert: this post is rather long and detailed, so I suggest to grab a pen and take notes or you can print the checklist at the end of the post as a reminder.
Preparation before moving abroad with your kids
If moving is for now only a big dream (of which I’m a great fan as you might have noticed in my previous post “From a big fat failure to a lifelong dream”), it’s my duty to warn you that, besides the list I’m about to show you, there are other factors you might want to consider. I strongly suggest to do a research on Google and find out what choices you have concerning Countries, language, studies and work background, etc. It’ll help you stay realistic before choosing where, how and when moving abroad with your kids is appropriate.
This being said, let’s get to the point and dive in together the 13 things you’ll absolutely need before moving abroad with your kids:
1. Driver’s license
Depending on which Country you chose, your driver’s license might not be accepted. In my case here in the US for instance, my Italian driver’s license is accepted only in some States, while not in others. In same cases they’ll close an eye if you’re a tourist with a rented car, because they keep in consideration that a car-trip might have started from a State where the license is accepted. But it always depends on the police officer and the level of sweet eyes you’ll be able to show off. 😉
I was completely unaware of all this.. Result: I had to get a brand new one locally. Money (fortunately not much, but I’m a little scrooge), time and a lot of annoying stuff that I could have saved myself. And you mama, you can’t absolutely risk to be car-less. If you need to convert it into an international driver’s license, you better go to your local DDS as soon as possible. If the bureaucracy speed of your Country is as slow as the Italian one, I suggest to call like.. TODAY! In case the international version wasn’t enough, do some research before you leave about where you can get a local (as in the destination) driver’s license quickly and how much it’ll cost. If you reeeeally want to be ahead, set up an appointment online and collect all the documents you’ll need to make things easier and faster.
2. Medical records and certificates
Since we very well know that there’s never an end to bad luck, it’s always a good idea to have all the possible certificates, medical records and vaccinations record before moving abroad with your kids. Collecting these documents after you already landed in the new Country is not impossible, but it requires time. Some endemic illnesses are more frequent in some Countries rather than others and you might have to vaccinate yourself and your kids or have some medical exams done.
It’s also a great idea to have them translated in the destination’s language or at least in English. There are translating online websites that provide this kind of service and are not too expensive. I used Rush Translate and, within 24 hours, I had my certified translations for 25$ each.
Here in the US they are very meticulous and since I didn’t have my vaccination records and endemic illness history with me (for example chicken pox, measles, etc) I had to get some immunity tests done and 5 very expensive and slightly destabilizing vaccinations, since I was also pregnant. I must say that I wasn’t very happy about it.
Also, if you’re married I also suggest to have your marriage certificate translated as well.
Another immense “balls shakers” are the ID documents: passport, birth certificate and driver’s license (as mentioned above). Make sure all expiration dates are as far as possible in order to have time to get completely settled first (I’d say at least 2 years). Because the last thing you want to do is to have to deal with Consulates within few months of your arrival.
Moving abroad with your kids without their birth certificates is NOT recomended. They are required for EVERYTHING!!! Anything you need to do will require a copy of it. Gotta enroll your kids in school? Birth certificate. You need to get a driver’s license? Birth Certificate. You have a cold? Ha, you thought you wouldn’t, instead.. Birth Certificate as well! Don’t just print some copies. Take a picture and keep it on your phone, send an email to yourself with the files attached so that you will be able to download and print them from anywhere. Save them on 10 different USB Pen drives and spread them in your luggage. Well, you know what I mean! 🙂
3. Where to buy a car.
For how much we like to compare ourselves to Mary Poppins, a car won’t fit in the luggage. Unless your moving to a Country by car, as a mama, it’s your duty to know where you can buy one and quickly. If you don’t have financial restrictions, you shouldn’t have too many issues. It’ll suffice to Google the closest dealership to your place. In an afternoon you’ll have your brand new car.
If instead you’re using your last savings like I did, it might be useful to know where you can find used and reliable cars from trustworthy sellers and do some research about quality and price. Or, even better, if you already have contacts in your destination, ask them if they know anyone who’s selling their car.
Another solution could be a leasing, but consider that it’s very convenient only when you can deduct the cost on a company. At least for the majority of Countries that I know of.
4. Baby/Kids products.
Since I mentioned things that won’t fit in your luggage, you can easily figure out that I’m not talking about diapers, shampoo and ear drops. You can fit these items in your bags, but I still suggest to limit the amount since you can easily find them everywhere.
Ultimately , I’m referring to huge and very expensive items such as stroller, car seat, crib, etc.
The car seat in particular is the one you might want to find first since in most of the Countries is mandatory (for good reasons). The very same moment you get a car you’ll need to have also all the accessories to transport your children safely. Moving abroad with your kids and then having to use taxi or rented cars will be very expensive if you’ll also have to pay extra for the car seats.
For bed time it clearly depends on your kids’ age, but if they’re still using a crib, let’s say you can keep them in your bed for a night or two. After that, you’ll be ready to sell a kidney in order to have your own space for a healthy night of sleep. So find out where you can buy one or, even better, buy it online and have it shipped directly to your destination address. I assure you that you’ll be tempted to assemble it even before unpacking 🙂
But if you decide to keep your kids in bed to smooth their initial confusion, I’m with you mama.
Find as much info as you can online on which options you have. Keep in consideration the area, distance from home, study program and also if they have a integration program for international kids. Honestly (but it’s just my humble opinion) if you’re planning on staying for a long time, I’d avoid schools of your birth country. Bilingual is ok (actually strongly suggested), but not entirely of your Country of origin. If on one side it might make your kids feel more comfortable, on the other it might create adjusting issues on the long term. If they need to adjust to a new Country, it’s better to rip off the band aid all at once in my opinion. Clearly, once you choose a school, make sure you have all your documents in order (shall I remind you the birth certificates per chance??)
6. Phone plans available.
Who survives without a smartphone nowadays? Before looking for a phone plan, make sure your own phone is compatible with the destination Country. Usually we don’t have this kind of issues in Italy, meaning that our phones are “unlocked”, so when you travel abroad you only have to get a Sim Card of the plan that resonates the most with your needs.
Unfortunately it’s not like this everywhere. If you buy a phone abroad, make sure it’s not locked or you won’t be able to use it when you travel back to your Country. Or otherwise, keep your old phone and bring it with you when you go back.
But let’s go back to phone plans.
Do not fear my dear, you can find out all that you need and, in some cases, also activate your plan online. In this case, all you’ll have to do will be to show up at the shop, slap an ID on their face and say: “gimme my SIM Card”. Here in the US, family plans are more convenient than single plans, so ask what kind of service matches your family needs. If you have one or more teenagers, it might be more convenient to be all in the same family plan and save money (besides having more control on what the phones are used for).
7. Health insurance.
With our luck, all we have to do is wishing upon our good star that nothing will ever happen, right? WRRRRONG!!
At the very least, our son will stumble on the first flowerbed right outside the airport, breaking a couple of toes, his ankle and, since he’s there, the kneecap as well. But we, who are slightly sadistic inside, will smile. Because we previously set up a health insurance (and got our birth certificates clearly). In this situation here’s what you need to do: grab your son by his collarbone, which is his only remaining intact part at this point, and go to the nearest hospital with all the necessary documents. Depending on which Country you choose, there are thousands of insurance options, so do some deep research on this, ok?
You can stipulate an international plan that will cover your initial period of time until you find a better plan for your family. In this case, keep an eye on the allowance, which is the highest limit after which you’ll have to pay out of pocket. Or, if you moved for job reasons, threaten everyone with a wood spoon (real Italian style here) until you get a written confirmation that the company insurance will cover you starting from the moment you touch foreign ground. Moving abroad with your kids without a health coverage is never a good idea.
8. Bank account and debit/credit cards.
Before moving abroad with your kids (especially considering how expensive their needs are), it’s always best to check if your debit and credit cards are accepted in your destination Country. Now a days, Mastercard and Visa are accepted pretty much anywhere, but in some places there might be some restrictions or very high fees. But let’s take one step at the time.
First of all, you’ll need some cash in the local exchange, but not too much. Don’t get too scared by what I’m about to say, but airports are often the bag-snatchers’ favorite place. So I strongly suggest to have on you the least necessary and very well hidden (leave alone your panties, a pouch underneath your jacket is more than enough).
A prepaid debit card is also a valid option to have more money availability without paying exchange costs and without fees. If you decide to keep your original bank account open, it could be the ideal option for you. You can refill it online straight from your account whenever you want and, if it gets stolen or cloned, they won’t be able to steal more than what you put in. If instead you decide to close your bank account, I’d suggest to open another in the foreign Country, and to do this online before you leave. In some Countries it’s possible to do it all online, in others it’s not. Whichever your choice is, make sure you have money availability.
9. Language and culture
As we say in Italy: Country you go, culture you find. Which means that wherever you go, you’ll always have to adjust to their own culture and costumes. So before moving abroad with your kids, you might need to refresh your language knowledge or, at least, English. Maybe you’ll want to create some sort of games to play with your kids to involve them in the learning process, so that they won’t feel too much like strangers.
Do some research on local costumes. Do not take for granted that everyone will be tolerant just because you’re foreigners. For instance, if you throw a grade-10 burp in Italy, it doesn’t matter if you moved in just yesterday, you’re still considered as rude person. But in some Middle Eastern Countries it is seen as an appreciation sign towards who cooked the delicious meal that you just shoved down your belly. So save yourself and your kids as many awkward situations as you can through some play-pretend time. After some research, pretend your already in the destination place and play the “appropriate behaviors” game all together. It’ll be fun and educational at the same time.
10. Find support groups and entities.
I’m a member of some Facebook groups, one of which is called “Italian moms abroad”. It’s incredible the amount of info you can get from those who have already been there, done that. Not to mention the emotional support. I wish I found it earlier.
Some tips you just read come straight from this group of extraordinary moms.
Besides Facebook groups and other social media, try to find support entities of your own citizenship (such as a Consulate) or even smaller that might help you get settled.
11. Education/diploma/degrees & Co.
You’ll never know what opportunities you’ll find. Don’t forget your degrees or school background, especially if you have certifications in the local language or in English. they might be very helpful to find part-time remote jobs (very appreciated by full time worker moms), but also any other kind of job. Even if at the moment you’re not thinking about working or going back to school, you can’t foresee what you’ll want or need to do in 2 or 5 years. So bring them with you, you can always have them translated later on.
12. Small stash of “treasures”
So far all we know is that moving abroad with your kids can be a magnificent adventure, but it’s also a lot of things to handle. To help both your kids and yourself not to feel too much bewildered, stash some of your favorite things that you’re not quiet sure if and where you’ll be able to find in the new Country.
For instance, I would have brought a family size stash of Ciobar (Italian hot chocolate brand), saffron, and other delicious things that I miss more than anything. Unfortunately you can’t bring fresh food, so limit yourself to things that don’t rot.
When my mother came to see me right before my son was born, I literally told her to leave home as many clothes as possible since the weather was super hot anyway, and to stash in her luggage as many cookies, saffron and so on. I swear I’m quoting. The poor woman didn’t dare to argue with her 8 months pregnant daughter and did as told. She had to wash and wear the same shirt over and over, but I was happier than ever. Hey, this is why we love moms, right? 🙂
Plus, I always mention food because I’m an Olympic gold fork champion, but it could be whatever, such as your favorite lotions or some over the counter medicines, trust me.
13. Research online everything you can.
Nowadays there are hundreds of websites, forums and blogs that’ll provide useful tips, especially if you have special needs. There a couple of Italian ones that doesn’t make sense for me to mention here in the English blog, but you can easily find your own country specialized websites.
This is the list of the 13 (lucky number) things that I suggest you to keep in consideration before moving abroad with your kids. Since I extensively filled this post of non requested examples and playfulness (I saw you smiling there, though), let me recap really quick so that you can print only the checklist below and check them off as you go on. Aren’t we super organized, huh?
Here’s the to-do checklist before moving abroad with your kids:
- Driver’s license
- Medical history and certificates (birth certificates!!!!!)
- Where to buy a car (if necessary)
- Non transportable baby/kids products
- Phone plans
- Medical/Health insurance
- Bank account and debit/credit cards
- Language and costumes
- Find support groups and entities
- School background/degrees
- Small stash of “treasures”
- Research online everything you can
And with this you should be all settled, I promise. Now pull up your sleeves and get to work. And don’t forget to let me know how the whole moving abroad with your kids went!
Good luck and leave me a comment below. I’ll be happy to help in any way I can. Or sign up for my newsletter where I share all my best insights.
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