Container is coming: Any Tips?

We have been living with hardly anything for 10 weeks. We have just received a phone call: the container is coming on Thursday. Mixed feelings and a very quick turn around!

We received our container a little while back now but I was reflecting on the day the container turned up and felt that it was a particularly important landmark in the ‘moving abroad’ experience. At the time, I did not think about writing about this, perhaps a bit too busy, trying to manage the storm of the container.

The container topic is full of mixed feelings. We enjoyed living with ‘nothing’. We got settled into some routines with our limited furniture. It felt like a ‘proper’ adventure, borrowing, purchasing needed items. Children loved going shopping and getting a few bits.

All the personal effects and furniture that got packed now had a different purpose in a different country, some were needed and some others not. We were very conscious that the house we are renting was much smaller than our previous house. We had sold, given away a huge amount in the UK, but we were aware that we may need to do the same after the arrival of the container.

We were looking forward to live more comfortably, feeling like at home again. The container coming felt like a landmark as it made the move permanent. It really hammered  down roots…the container is no longer in a different country or at sea…it is here waiting to be dispatched…it makes the experience of moving abroad ‘real’ as the camping and somehow the adventure of arriving in a country with nothing is over.

As well as dealing with all these emotions and mixed feelings, there is a lot to do and sort out…a bit overwhelming…

Thinking back about that day and the weeks that followed. I write here some top tips, giving a taster of what it feels like to receive a container and some ideas I found useful.

  1. What to bear in mind

The movers will be different people to those who packed the container. They will move boxes and put them in the house where they see fit with the help of the labelling on the boxes. This is where it is important that boxes have been well labelled in the previous country, indicating the rooms where they came from. An international move is slightly different to ‘a within country’ move, all boxes need to be numbered and labelled as well as given a brief description on a checklist for custom clearance purposes. That list can then give a sense of what is the boxes and help the movers (and you) in thinking about where these boxes should go. However, movers want to get the job done quickly so they may be particularly attentive to all these descriptions. They are attentive to what is broken though as this may have repercussions on the company for insurance claims, etc.

Initially, the day appeared to go slowly and the movers had asked me to cross reference numbers of all the boxes coming in the house. As time went on, it became clear that I could not do that all day. I was needed in other places. I had my youngest with me as well so he needed my attention too. My husband had gone to work for the morning. I was on my own sorting everything out. As the morning unfolded, I became a little overwhelmed, movers started to work much quickly and the boxes started to pile up everywhere.

As we only knew work colleagues and the container came on a Thursday, we did not feel we could ask for help. We had to be self-reliant. That’s the nature of moving abroad, you may not have family members and friends nearby to help you on such a big day. My husband took a couple of days off and it was a bank holiday weekend so we ha 5 days overall to put the house in a better state.

2. Guided tour of the house and labelling rooms

Remember that all boxes were labelled in the previous house with either names of rooms, names of children, and/or a brief description. I think that is an important feature of moving as when you arrive in the new house, boxes may not go in the same place. You may have made changes to what you want in each room, etc. For the movers picking up briefly labelled boxes this can be confusing so they need a little bit of help.

I gave a guided tour of the house. I described what type of house we had before so they knew what to expect on the labelling. Features of previous house were not existing in our rented house so I had to provide some explanations. For example, I explained that boxes from the basement were going in the garage.

I had labelled all the rooms so that they knew where to put boxes, trying to match it closely to our house in the UK. It got a bit confusing because our old dining room contained a playroom and there was not any room for a playroom in our new house. I suppose it is important that boxes are labelled properly right from the start. I should have checked what movers in the UK labelled the playroom as ‘playroom’ and not ‘dining room’. At the end of the day, it is not hugely crucial, but boxes ended up not being in the right place and a huge amount of boxes had to be shifted after the movers had gone…some work that could have been avoided.

3. Post-it on walls to indicate where furniture is going

Container is coming…’what should I do?’ This was my first reaction. I was not sure what to do. I started thinking about what was coming on the container trying to anticipate the day. It helped to put post-it on walls to indicate where furniture was going to go. It helped me think about how to set the house up and also the movers in being more independent in placing furniture in the right place. The children also helped in thinking where furniture would go and asked for different pieces of furniture in their bedrooms, items they did not have in their rooms before. It helped shape our thinking about setting up our new house.

4. Clear all current furniture and unpack the kitchen first

We had purchased a master bed and borrowed single beds. We needed these to sleep in the night before. Movers arrived at 8am, wanting to start moving things in. We were trying our best to dismantle the beds to give them room. It is difficult to know what movers will unpack first as the container is loaded in a such a way. For example, it has different doors and boxes are put in wooden crates. For us, what was packed last, came in first. Customs will also look at boxes they want to look at. We had a different car coming with the boxes cleared by customs because they could not fit all the boxes back in the container. These boxes got unpacked in a very random way so we did not have any control about what was coming first. We also had asked for a partly unpack service so movers helped building wardrobes back up, build beds, etc. and removing packaging from furniture. I suppose clearing all current furniture and making sure movers have the space to work is important as the day evolves boxes get piled everywhere and space can become a bit of a problem.

Throughout the day, the kitchen remained a hub for drinks, food, etc. for the movers as well as for us. Children came back home from school and wanted to have snacks. I suppose as long as there is food and drinks, people feel their needs are met. It is a long day and when the movers have gone, you want to be able to make sure you can dinner and feed the children. Unpacking the kitchen first and making sure there is a place to have dinner in the house is definitely a must!

5. Keep calm and watch the weather forecast: You cannot unpack everything in one day

As the day evolved, I became a little overwhelmed, not knowing where to start. There is no way that you can unpack at the pace of the movers. I saw my role more about ensuring they had the space to work, unpacking boxes to give them space, managing direction of boxes and making sure people were fed. We unpacked most of the kitchen on the first day, but we intensely unpacked for a few weeks after that.

It takes time to unpack all boxes, in fact, we still have a number of boxes in the garage. The weather has turned colder and it is not as tempting to unpack boxes outside. We also wanted to do a garage sale but we did not have the time to fully organise that before the Winter. In fact, that is an incredibly important point to bear in mind. When moving abroad, get information about the weather and season patterns, you definitely don’t want to be moving at -30 to Canada in the Winter!

I suppose it is important to remember that moving abroad is a process, not everything can be perfect in one day. Being calm and positive will help accepting this process and deal with the different hurdles to jump.


Familiarisation Visit: What to do and think about?

We were invited by the company for a familiarisation week in Australia. It was a particularly challenging adventure as we had to find childcare for our three children in the UK for that week. Luckily, we had amazing support from friends. It was a busy week as my husband was attending a corporate management week and I spent the full week in full reconnaissance mode.

Planning Stage

  • full organisation of childcare for the week, including schedules of who does what and when…explanations of routines, etc. I had a full plan!
  • discussions with the company about possible dates, plane tickets, accomodation, car rental, itinerary for the week, booking flights and applying for a visa
  • looking on different websites and reading books about weather, culture, etc.
  • asking the children what they would like of their new school, visit websites of different schools, looking at pros and cons for different settings
  • Bookings of some appointments during the week: schools, nursery and potential employers by email or from a person who can help in the country

What I did during the week?

We had a very busy week, full of social events, professional activities and visits. It was quite a challenge as I have three children, in three different educational stage so I had to arrange a number of school visits. All very beneficial so I would not know what to cut out in the week. It’s long journey back so we slept then!

  • My husband and I spent one day together recovering from jet lag and discovering the area together.
  • I had a day booked with a relocation agent who showed me some rental and house to buy so that I could get a feel of the housing market in the area.
  • I visited 9 educational settings in the area of my husband’s work: 5 secondaries, 3 primaries and a nursery and picked up all the prospectus to show the children. I also took some pictures of the environment around the school to show them. I took notes as I visited the schools so that I could explain differences in the system to them. Some visits were booked prior and others not. I booked many visits during the week as I got to know the area better. Everyone was very opened and amicable to me visiting the settings.
  • I made contacts with estate agents and arranged to visit some houses.
  • Social events: We had dinner either on social events or some future colleagues most evenings. We found that beneficial to get to know everyone and create some great anchor points for the future.

What did I find helpful, glad I did?

  • We were very short with time as my husband had to go to another trip after our familiarisation visit. We debated plane journeys, shorter, longer, thinking of the children too. We found it very helpful to spend a day together before the start of the week so we could explore together initially.  I was then able to discuss my visits with him and he understood where I had been.
  • Visiting a number of educational settings and houses to really be able to make the most informed decision possible. There are lots of other schools in the area that I have visited, but could not visit them all.
  • Lots of driving about, getting to know the area. A Sat Nav was essential!
  • Speaking to future colleagues about schools and the area.
  • Going to the Tourist Information to pick up maps and lots of leaflets about future activities. More defined maps were very helpful when it came to choose a house to rent. I bought some souvenirs from a Post Office, some nice story books about Australia. We also bought some presents at the airport but these were much more expensive. These were great tool for talking about the area to the children. (Top Tips: Preparing Children for a Move Abroad).
  • Not to overload my week initially and add appointments during the week as I found  out more about the area. Allowing myself time to drive about and explore the area between appointments.
  • We managed to contact the children via video call most days or every other day, depending on time difference and activities (theirs and ours).
  • I enjoyed watching the news in a different country, interesting and different news coverage.
  • Although it was a busy week, social dinners were definitely a must!

What did I forget, should have done better?

  • I should have been a bit wiser and ask more questions about transport to secondary schools. We later found out that the schools we were keen for our oldest to go to did not have a bus route back to the house we had chosen to rent. Although we are kind of sorted now, it created some initial headaches in the planning the move stage and when we arrived here.
  • We struggled with me having a phone for the week so it made it tricky to make appointments. I eventually managed with WI-FI, emails on my iPad and the hotel phone, but it would have helpful to get a Sim card in Australia as soon as we arrived. Well, we tried but we were not successful, the system of the shop at airport was down so they could hand out Sim cards.
  • Purchasing presents prior going back to the airport. I had not been close to shops at all…

Overall, the familiarisation week was extremely beneficial and I am really glad we had that opportunity prior the move. It made it real, created some anchor points and a much easier adaptation when we arrived in the country as we know where we were going. I would certainly recommend a familiarisation week to anyone thinking of relocating a family abroad…

Packing for Moving Abroad: What will I need immediately when I get there?

During the planning stage of the move, I felt I wanted a checklist to tick off as I packed, just to keep everything in check, perhaps similar to lists I had been used in my years in scouting. In this post, I include thoughts and my experience during and after the move as well as planning checklists for parents moving abroad. Of course, everyone has a different story (see Our Story and Moving Abroad: What to do then? for more information), we decided to move in a house immediately so my checklists here reflect this choice.

It takes a number of weeks for a container to turn up. For us, it took 10 weeks. Without a good amount of determination, good will from everyone and some essentials, life can soon be harder, bringing down times and difficulties… Ten weeks with three kids can be long so better be best prepared in the packing phase! The packing phase was long, thinking about it every day for 6 months, but also very quick as when movers arrived they took over the house and it all went very quickly from that point so better be prepared…

During the planning phase, a number of questions came up: essential items, what to bring or not, what to sell or not, fear of forgetting something. I include different checklists related to these concerns and a checklist of items I did not think about, where I could have saved costs, if I had packed it.


We knew we had a lot coming in the container. We did not want to accumulate too much and spend too much money so it was important to buy the minimal initially. I include a checklist of items that I bought within a couple of days of being here, real essentials.

When we started planning our move back in the UK, I initially wanted to sell all kitchen electric stuff. It then became all a big mountain to sell everything and went on to sell more essential items we had to sell. We had a number of discussions and debates about what to bring or not. Some items may be precious to you and others not, and you then make a decision about what to keep or not. On hindsight, the decision would be perhaps better based on what needs to be bought straightaway. For example, toaster, kettle, cooking stuff were a must. I ended up buying these at low cost, because I knew we had our ‘nicer’ items coming in the container, but should I have sold these I would have replaced them with ‘nicer’ items here. We decided to bring all our televisions with us. We borrowed a television in the meantime. Good decision because our television was really good and it would have cost a lot of money to replace it. My point is here that there are a number of decisions that need to be taken during the planning phase and these will inevitably influence your packing.

We decided to bring our sleeping bags and very comfortable camping mats to sleep on initially. We did not decide what to do in the long run about sleeping arrangements. We were just going to see on the way. I had sold my youngest’s bed as he was ready to move into a bigger bed so I was able to replace it here straight away. For the rest of us, we eventually borrowed beds or bought at a cheap price beds. We also bought linen. I include a list of items we bought at a later stage and reasons for these decisions.

Avoidable expenses?

After a month of being there, my oldest went to a camp so I had to buy warmer clothing, boots, etc. as I had not planned for this in our luggage. Although these are unavoidable expenses, if you know the schools where your children will go to, you may want to contact prospective schools prior moving to ask whether they have planned activities within your first 10 weeks. These types of ‘out of the norm’ activities may need different items, and knowing about them, you could be prepared for them and pack consequently. Similarly, I had to buy all new uniforms for the children. On the first day of school, they did not want to look different so schools could be contacted about colours of uniform (or on their website) and you could pack similar coloured clothes for the first few days, until you can get to the school uniform shop.


Research the weather and seasons in the country you are going to to avoid surprises. Minus thirty in the winter in Canada is quite different to summer in Australia, although happening in the same months!

We brought summer clothes with us, but by the time our container arrived we had needed some warmer clothes for different reasons: cooler days, evenings or nights, activities in the woods, camp, warming up after swimming, basic heating system, changing weather. Some friends in Australia helped us in guiding what we should pack in terms of weather and clothing. Although we had some help, we have needed to buy some warmer clothes.

Technology difficulties

10 weeks on, we are still having IT problems. We packed phones but these were not fully ‘unlocked’. It has been particularly frustrating as we were initially unable to get in touch with each other with important issues to discuss. My husband was given a phone for work within a couple of days of us being there which was great. We thought we had unlocked my phone in the UK but it did not work. Children broke the screen of my Ipad so I was without any communication for a while. We eventually found an IT shop who have been great in helping sorting a few things, but overall we have had problems and communication initially was tricky. Don’t assume you will be able to get contracts with a phone company straight away. We were surprised to find out that you need to have a been a customer with a phone company for 6 months before you can get a phone with a contract. Also, don’t assume you will be able to have a connection for WI-FI/television straight away. It took a while to sort it all out. In fact, 5 weeks for television connection!

Checklist/Essentials items to pack  
Clothes for 10 weeks providing you have washing facilities. Clothes for job interviews/work. Clothes for preferred activities such as sports, etc.  
Shoes and trainers  
Comforters and favourite books  
Swimming stuff  
Car seat/stroller  
Small packsack (for school/nursery, plane journey, days out)  
Camping mats and sleeping bags  
Pillows or pillow case (stuffed with clothes) if no room for pillow  
Slippers, pyjamas  
Cosmetics and basic toiletries  
Bag of medication: paracetamol, any long-term medication such as contraceptives (for more than 2 months); don’t expect you will access to health care straight away, registration may take some time.  
Electronic devices/laptops with downloaded films/programs for the journey and initial days on arrival  
International electric plugs (as many as you have, you will need them)  
Cards and presents from friends  
Make sure movers do not pack essential paperwork such as passports, birth certificates, driving license, ‘baptism’ certificates, qualification papers, papers for your house and cars (if you are selling). Identification cards/papers you will need all the time, for lots of reasons. Although different important were sorted out on-line, we printed off the lease agreement, health insurance and visas; these were basically needed everywhere: registering with schools, childcare centres, medical centre, medical insurance, buying cars. For about 10 weeks, I carried a folder with all these papers with me. You will need identification papers for utilities and lots of reasons so best keep all these important papers at all time with you. I had them in my packsack on the plane, just in case our luggage got lost (It does happen a lot, trust me!)  
Bring with you, vaccination certificate for each child. I asked a full update at our clinic. Childcare centres and schools ask to see this and for children to be fully up to date to attend a setting (in Australia). I have heard some children can be denied entry to settings until full updated vaccination is done.  
Make sure your CV is up-to-date if you are looking for a job. Have copies with you; you may not have access to a printer straight away.  
Items I forgot/didn’t think about/could have saved costs  
Even if you are going to a hot country, pack some basics warm clothes. Speak to people about weather/read about weather and clothing  
Contact schools about special activities/uniform colours  
A bigger bag of toys/ Photographs/photo album to settle the children (see previous posts about my youngest who has found it difficult to settle)  
Sporting equipment that does not take too much space such as rackets  
Pack lunch boxes and water bottles  
Linen, duvet covers and sheets  
Towels/face cloths  
UNLOCKED phones…10 weeks on we are still having problems. Sell any unlocked phones before moving to save you time and money.  
Non-essential we enjoyed having with us  
Sonos: as soon as we had Wi-Fi in the house we were able to plug in the Sonos and play our playlists, a great comforter.  
Items we bought initially and a few weeks later  
Initially – within the first 2 weeks

  • As we were not intending to do camping, I did not think of bringing any cooking stuff. We got all the minimum pots, pans, wooden spoons, plates, glasses either from generous colleagues, charity shops or big surface store at a low cost. Costs can mount quickly. You could save by bringing with you plastic cups and plates, etc.
  • Towels/bathroom mats
  •  Toiletries
  • cleaning products, broom, dustpan and brush
  • Cooking/eating stuff: pots, pans, cutlery, plates, glasses
  • Food, spices, cupboard essentials
  • We also replaced some items we knew we had sold prior, not in the container, such as white goods (some brand new and some second hand, a hoover, a BBQ, bins (left all my rattan bins in the UK!)
  • Coffee machine, kettle, toaster
  • a few toys
  • swimming toys for the pool
A few weeks later

  • After 4 weeks on camping mattresses, we felt particularly uncomfortable (I was also worried about my husband who had been in hospital with a disc inflammation and still recovering) so we decided to borrow beds or buy cheaply on a local on-line selling page. We also bought low cost linen duvet covers, duvet and sheets.
  • We arrived at the end of summer so a few weeks later, evenings were darker, we bought some lamps for when the little one wakes up in the night.

Hope this helps anyone who may think of moving abroad!!!

Moving Abroad: What to do then?

So the basics are sorted. You feel happy about the move. What happens next?

Keep open communication with the employer (if you have one or anyone involved in helping you getting there).

This is really important as it allows you to continue iron any issues or difficulties, or just to keep in touch. They have employed you, they are looking forward to have you working with them so keep the momentum going. It may help understanding any issues that will come up in your job. It may also help in keeping you excited about the move.


You will have to make decisions about the move in more practical terms and explore different options. We made a number of decisions along the way, prior to the move. We decided we wanted to arrive in Australia in a house (not a hotel) because we felt it would be easier to manage with the kids. We also decided to all come together. I could have stayed in the UK with the kids for a couple of months before everything was completed and sorted (sell of the house, secure a rental in Australia that we chose ourselves) but we felt that we wanted to be all together, at the same time, living the same adventure, settling in all at the same time. As the academic year starts in February in Australia, we also wanted the children to be in schools as early as possible in their new school year so they would miss too much and would settle in their year groups at the same time as everyone else. These decisions may be different for every family. I suppose it is just important to explore all the different options, analyse them and then the best and most informed decision at the time.

Here are some of the key decisions:

  • How do we get there? Not just for the plane journey, but also other means of transport from and to the airports. Think that you will have a number of suitcases with you and that you may not be able to take the train, or may need a bigger car to transport you to the airport. Same issues apply if you are moving to a different European country.
  • When do we need to go? Although you may have an idea of a date in mind, it would be foolish to book plane tickets before your visa arrives. Your employer may want you there as soon as possible, but there is the visa process to go through. You also may need to give your resignation and work a period notice. Also think about settlement periods with selling a house and whether you will be needed in the country for any particular reasons. It may be that you wait for the visas, with a date in mind, and then as soon as these arrive, you need to move quickly. Be prepared to move quickly. Everthing then tends to be on standby for a bit, with ifs and buts.
  • How and where will we live initially? A rented house, flat, friend’s house, relatives, hotel, youth hostel, B&B? Where? Within a specific catchment for schools? Who can help in visiting a house for you?
  • Do you feel you need to go on a familiarisation visit prior to moving? I found our familiarisation visit particularly essential to our move and the subsequent decisions we made. There was an area we really liked and we decided to focus our search for a house there. I was able to get a feel for the area, meet people and pick up lots of information for the children. I discussed our familiarisation visit in another post Familiarisation Visit: What to do and think about
  • What type of furniture do I need initially? If any? How will you sleep? On camping mattresses? In beds, borrowed or purchased? Initially we were on camping mattresses and this was absolutely fine, an adventure. Overtime, it became a problem due to comfort…10 weeks on camping mattresses is a long time. We chose to purchase a cheap double bed on a local internet site that we will resell. We borrowed single beds from friends. My little one had outgrown and was ready with a junior bed, I had sold his cot before leaving so I purchased a new bed for him not long after we arrived.  We were given sofas and bought a table and chairs from a charity shop. We lived with very little furniture for 10 weeks, an adventure. Think about furniture you want to keep or sell and then you can purchase new pieces as soon as you arrive in the country if you know it will not come on the container. We colour coded furniture in the house with stickers, green/coming with us, yellow not sure/could go and red/selling/charity shop/donations. This really helped shape our initial decisions.

Moving Abroad: What to do first?

Yes, there is a lot to sort out. It can be overwhelming. Don’t overestimate the task ahead! Here are some key points about the most important things that need to be understood and sorted out very quickly and initially:


You cannot move to another country without a visa unless you have the nationality of that country so you need to get busy researching about different visas and possibilities. Different countries and visas will have restrictions so make sure you research well to avoid surprises. A Business Sponsored visa (the one we are on) is a great way to get into a country without long delays but you have to get a job in the country prior to moving and the employer has to prove that you are the best person for the job.

Health system

The health of your family is very important and should there be illness in the family, you want to be fully covered to avoid expensive charges. As part of our visa, we had to prove we had purchase private health insurance. Different countries will have different rules on using health services so it is important to research this further.


For my husband, his qualifications were easily transferable as he was the main person being offered employment, but for me the process is a little more tricky than this. I initially was particularly worried about my qualifications being transferred to the Australian system. I had already converted my qualifications from Quebec to an UK system so that I could complete a chartered psychologist course. I feel it has already been a very long process to get there. This process is not complete, I am waiting for some news. In the meantime, I have other projects…

It’s very important that you research carefully any transfers of qualifications to avoid surprises. Some countries do not easily allow conversion of qualifications, some other countries are more lenient and have cross country agreements.

The language in which you study can also have a big impact on the conversion of your qualifications as you may be required to do a native language test prior to practice in your field of your work.

Right to education and work

We were aware that not all countries allow a spouse to work on a Business Sponsored visa so we felt it was very important to clarify this early on. We had decided that it was crucial for me to be able to work as I had worked so hard to gain my qualifications. At this point, we needed to know restrictions about the visa, otherwise it would have aborted the move completely. We were also worried about access to education now and a few years later for the children. We were reassured that children would be entitled to education even though they are not Australian citizen.

Check any visa restrictions as early as possible as it can a huge impact on your decision to move. It is also important to envisage what may happen in a few years time, for example, where will the kids be at in terms of their education in 4 years time, as it can also have an impact on your decision. Similarly, a spouse may feel that working is not an issue at present because it is better to be at home with the children, for whatever reasons, but overtime, being in a different country and wanting to realise some specific professional goals may become an issue if the spouse cannot work. A decision to make such a big move could be initially a brilliant decision, but then becomes a nightmare because of different factors due to visa restrictions and educational opportunities.

Reevaluate life and professional goals

If you are thinking about such a big move, it may be a good time to think about what’s working well and what else you may want from your life. By reevaluating life and professional goals, it may help focus your thoughts and ideas about the move on what matters most to you. The Big Five Dreams for Life workshop really helped me think about it (; I was not necessarily in a place where I was reconsidering life options as I felt happy in my life, but I realised that it could be even better. It allowed me to spontaneously think about some next steps in my life and the purpose behind such a big move. It gave me sense of some future projects and put some realistic objectives for some ideas which I felt were unattainable.

Financial matters

Will you be better off living in a different country after taxes, extra costs, house prices, etc.? This could have huge implications on making the move a positive or very negative experience. Think about initial costs as well, costs of living, and hidden costs. In Australia, there are many hidden costs in schools. For example, parents pay for hiring a netbook, stationary, books and different expeditions.

Your Who’s

Do you know someone who lives in the country you are going to? Do you know a friend of a friend who may be able to put you in touch? You cannot anticipate how a little bit of advice or encouragement can go a long way. What about social media sites and blogs, you can make connections that way too…

Top Tips: Preparing Children for a Move Abroad

My children are 13, 9 and 3 so resources for different ages are explained here.

Researching together

Ask them to research on internet a specific topic, such as the weather, landmarks, activities, places to visit, etc.; this may help them feel they own the process of moving as well as feeling involved in discovery new things.


Put a map up in the house of where you will go. When we have travelled abroad we have always had a map up before our trip to show the kids our itinerary. We also have a world map in the house so that the children are familiar with places we have been, come from and can talk easily, with this visual aid, to guests.

2016-06-02 15.08.41

Toys and special objects

I am not a huge fan of saying you must be purchasing expensive toys as I feel the message here for the children is about the future experience and the adventure. A few books about the new country can help talking about the future adventures and understand the country’s culture, history and sceneries.


Puzzles with a map, animals and places to visit, can be very helpful to initiate conversations about the new country. It can help children in getting to know the country and area they will move to, understand the geography, states and capitals, culture, etc.


Small teddies can be great anchor points to initiate conversations and also be a comforter. Yes it can help for younger children but I have found that some simple toys also help the older ones. In a conversation, it is just that language is more complex and extended compared to language used with a younger child.

  • “look this is a kangaroo”: with a three year old, you may say look at the tail, the baby in the tummy, demonstrate how it hops; with a thirteen year old, you may say let’s have a look at their habitat on internet, where can you find them, will we see some where we will live, reproduction systems, and extend the conversation that way.
  • IMG_0233

Having anchor points like this in the house may help children play with each other, allowing the older ones to play with the younger children with those toys, use terms and language present in their future country. The older children can also read the story books to the younger children or look at maps together. Great time spent together!

Travelling books 

Initially, we did not know much about Australia, I had never been myself, and my husband only once. We had heard lots about it but in terms of geography, weather, culture. We had some Australians along the way. I have to admit I felt deskilled and ignorant about the country. The  children kept asking lots questions and I kept saying “I don’t know”. I eventually purchased a couple of travelling books so that we could read about the country and refer to the books quickly. Yes internet has most of the information nowadays but I felt that reading a book together on the sofa brings a different dimension to the experience. When we travelled to different countries, I have always bought a travelling book so that we have that book with us in the car and the plane. It helps with bookings, places to visit and places to eat. It’s also great and exciting to prepare a trip and a move using a travelling book, it makes it real and visual for the children. When they ask questions, you refer to the book. It gives them the opportunity to learn how to research and search for information, giving them a sense of curiosity and thirst for learning.