So you wanna move abroad?

 When I was preparing to move to New Zealand, there were so many things I needed to do and so many things I didn’t even realize I needed to do! I wish I would have had someone to guide me through the process or tell me what to do. So for those of you considering a move or who are already in the process, I thought I’d share my check list, in the hopes that it might make someone's life a little easier! 

Start saving now

I’m quite a frugal person to begin with, but being in a long distance relationship, I was always saving for my next trip to England, with the possibility of a move abroad some day always in the back of my mind. I managed to save a good bit of money over 2 years.

If you’ve already got a job secured abroad then money may not be as much of a concern. If you don’t have a job, then you want to plan and save for potentially being unemployed for a month or two depending on how picky you are when it comes to work. Restaurant and retail jobs are pretty easy to come by in New Zealand though. Track how much you're currently spending each month, do a little research on cost of living abroad – you may want to buy a car, what’s the price of gas? What’s the cost of rent? How much is travel/medical insurance? What's the cost of goods and groceries? Trust me, you're not going to find Trader Joe's prices here! Once you’ve answered these questions, set a goal. I used (an awesome free app that helps me track my spending), and it actually has a goal setting feature that helped me stay on track.

Nope, I'm not getting paid to plug I seriously just love this app!

Nope, I'm not getting paid to plug I seriously just love this app!

Apply for a visa

Australia and New Zealand both have great working holiday visas that don’t exclude Americans. They allow you to work for 6 months at a time and stay in the country for a year. I was quite shocked at how easy it was for me to come to New Zealand. I basically filled out a form, checked a few boxes to confirm I was not a mass murdered or carrying some terrible disease, and within a few days my visa was sent to me via email.

Quit your job

This is the painful part; or at least it was for me because I loved my job in San Diego. But we must make sacrifices for our adventures!

Photo courtesy of  Edison Miclat

Photo courtesy of Edison Miclat

What to do with your stuff?

This was probably the biggest dilemma for me. Do I put my stuff in storage, so I don’t have to buy new things when I return? Do I sell everything and buy new things when I return to the states? Do I pay a shipping company to send everything overseas, so I don’t have to buy anything when I arrive?
There are a lot of factors to consider – cost of storage, cost of shipping, hassle of selling your stuff, cost of buying new things in a new country, cost of buying things when you return home. After much number crunching, I determined it was best for me to sell my larger non-sentimental items like furniture, store files and sentimental things with my parents (thanks mom and dad), and search for a fully furnished apartment to save the hassle of buying stuff overseas and having to sell it again when I leave.

To do:

  • Sell bed, sell computer, sell desk
  • Buy new laptop computer
  • Clean out closet and donate clothes to goodwill
So sad seeing my empty bedroom in San Diego.

So sad seeing my empty bedroom in San Diego.

Determine where you want to live

I did lots of research on the neighborhoods, took little walks around town via Google street view, and looked for amenities near by since I planned on doing a lot of walking.

What an adorable little town. Sold!

What an adorable little town. Sold!

I was looking for a fully furnished apartment. Rent for this costs a little more, but was worth it, as I didn’t have to spend it on new furniture. I  found my apartment online. I contacted the property management company, signed the lease via email and arrived to a fully-furnished apartment when I landed in New Zealand.

I must admit, the view of the Pacific Ocean and Cape Kidnappers in the distance pretty much sold me on the apartment.

I must admit, the view of the Pacific Ocean and Cape Kidnappers in the distance pretty much sold me on the apartment.

What to do with your car?

Sell it (and get the money to spend now, but have the expense of purchasing a new car later) or share it?
I ended up letting my family hold onto car while I'm away, so I had to transfer the title and registration and cancel my car insurance.

Now for the knitty gritty stuff…

Get rid of unwanted expenses and subscriptions. If you ask, sometimes they’ll refund you the difference. Things to think about:

  • Cancel AAA membership
  • Cancel Car insurance
  • Change over car registration and title to new owner
  • Cancel health insurance, but before you do this might as well get a flu shot or a check up ;)
  • Don't forget to purchase new insurance that will cover you abroad and ensure your travels. I went with OrbitProtect.
  • Contact the post office to redirect your mail
  • Cancel magazine subscriptions

I had a big 27-inch iMac that I knew couldn’t come with me, so I wiped the hard drive and sold it on ebay for about $900. I was a little nervous about the shipping, but the Apple store was actually able to provide me with one of their shipping boxes, and I’d held on to the original packaging as well. I put that money toward buying a new laptop that I could use on the go.

The last time I traveled abroad, I practically fried my laptop battery using the different voltage, so this time I thought to use something Apple-approved that was not only an adapter, but also a converter that could be used on all of my apple devices. You can buy the travel set here.

To do:

  • Purchase laptop
  • Purchase travel converter
  • Unlock your iphone
  • Save your old phone number - call your provider to see how you can keep your US number. AT&T charges $10/mo to hold your number until you return.

I decided I wanted to keep my iphone instead of buying a cheap 'go phone', because I wanted internet access for using Google maps on roadtrips, and of course I wanted to be able to instagram my adventures on the go! Unlocking my iphone was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be. If you’re an AT&T customer, visit this page to request your unlock. When you arrive in your new country, purchase a SIM card through another carrier and you’re good to go!

I knew it may take me a while to set up a bank account in New Zealand and start earning income, so I applied for a US credit card that had no foreign transaction fees and had travel rewards. This allowed me to tap into my US accounts and savings until I got a New Zealand bank account and card. There are a number cards out there with no foreign transaction fees. I went with Chase Sapphire Preferred. You receive 1 point for all purchases, double points for travel and dining, and you get 20% off when you purchase flights and accommodations through Chase with points. Not a bad deal, and I figured I might as well start earning points when I purchased my very expensive one-way ticket to New Zealand.

  • Apply for No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Card
  • Call your bank to let them know you’re leaving the country

Time to pack your bags

So maybe I over packed…a little. But in a way, I’m glad I did this because shopping here in New Zealand is quite expensive, so it’s been nice that I haven’t had to spend too much on new items. (Oh how I miss shopping though).

Planning what you need for living away for a year can be quite a daunting task. I did it over the course of several weeks – putting clothes and shoes I wouldn’t need into storage bins and lining the rest neatly inside those massive air tight storage bags, so I could cram as much as possible into my luggage.

Looking for cheap luggage? Try TJMaxx, Marshalls and Tuesday morning. I bought some huge suitcases, each for under $70.

Once you arrive

Once you arrive in your new country, you want to find out general rules for driver's licenses, banking etc. The first few things I did when I arrived…

  • Bought a SIM card - Vodafone and Telecom are the big companies here
  • Purchased wireless internet - in New Zealand, it's hard to come by unlimited wireless even in your own home! I'm used to monitoring data for my phone, but not usage on my computer. I finally found unlimited internet through NOW, but be prepared to pay a pretty penny!
  • Apply for an IRD number online or at a New Zealand PostShop (you must do this before finding work or opening a bank account)
  • Buy a used car (If you’re only going to be in the country for a year and have a valid drivers license from your country, you do not need a New Zealand license to drive.)
  • Buy car insurance (better safe than sorry if you’re not used to driving on the left side of the road!)
That's 'Murray' our Subaru Legacy.

That's 'Murray' our Subaru Legacy.

Moving abroad takes a great deal of saving, planning and preparation, but if you start early, make a list (or use mine) and do a little every weekend for the months leading up to your departure, then the flight to your new country will be stress free.

There was nothing more relaxing than being able to step off the plane, take a cab to my apartment and arrive at a fully furnished apartment. I was able to enjoy the excitement and adventure of being in my new country, instead of having to worry about logistics.

Day 1 in New Zealand: Stepping onto my 'front yard' for the first time.

Day 1 in New Zealand: Stepping onto my 'front yard' for the first time.

I hope this list makes your moving abroad experience just a little less worry free! Good luck!

Still got questions? Shoot me an email. I'm always happy to help a fellow expat. ;)