Some advice and guidance based on my relocation move to the USA in September 2003. Part 2 - Moving Everything
Microsoft Relocation Services arranged the packaging, insurance, shipment and unpacking of all our worldly possessions, and took a lot of that weight off our hands. If you have to arrange this yourself, then you will have to put some additional effort into organizing all these things yourself.
Regardless of who is organizing these arrangements, there are several separate stages to preparing and moving your possessions abroad which everyone needs to follow. The more stuff you have accumulated, the more time you will need to spend on these tasks.
The steps in order to move your possessions are:
Let's explore each of these in a little more detail:
Relocation is a great opportunity to have a huge life-cleanup and get rid of all the junk and clutter that you never use. Throw out things like those old pots of paint that were there when you bought your current house; and all the other stuff still in boxes from your last move!
A good rule of thumb is that if you have not used something in the last year, then you do not really need it!
Also do not forget to go through the stuff you have stored "out of the way" in attics, garages, sheds, basements and lockup storage units because you would be surprised how much junk can be hiding in those places and will ultimately have to be moved or discarded.
A good motivator to throw out the junk when relocating is to remember that the more stuff you take with you (both weight and volume), then the more you will pay in shipping costs. Even if you have corporate relocation assistance to foot the bill, the cost of the relocation expenses is a taxable employment benefit so you will ultimately pay for it in the end.
The US electrical system works on 110V and the U.K. one works on 240V, so a lot of your existing electronic items will not work and should not be transported. You need to go through all your electrical and electronics items to separate them into a group of things that will work in the U.S. and those that won't. You can sell, give away, or junk everything in that second group.
You are really looking for things that already support dual-voltage -- with computers and laptops being the prime example. Anything that works off DC power supplies or adaptors (such as Nintendo DS, MP3 players, etc) will work in the US too, although you may need to buy new 110V power supplies once there if the existing power supply units do not support dual-voltage.
Although there are various voltage converters available (stepping up from 110V to 240V supply), in reality they only really work effectively for a small subset of items.
In particular, forget it for anything involving heating elements (kettles, toasters, electric fires, hair driers, etc) and lights because they just basically do not work well on 110V - doubling the voltage results in half the current.
Thankfully the cost of consumer electronics in the States is fairly low, so you should be able to replace most items that you cannot take fairly cheaply and easily once you arrive in the USA.
Also in this category are your UK cars and motor vehicles, but again you can pick up very good (and / or different) new cars at good prices in the USA.
You may have a packing service automatically provided by the shipping company (it is often a requirement for insurance). If you don't it is well worth the extra cost of getting professional packers in to do the bulk of the work. International packers will advise what items can and cannot be shipped (usually liquids, plants and food at least) but you should try to get that list well in advance as there are all sorts of Customs and transportation regulations that could mean some or all of your possessions get confiscated or delayed en-route.
You want to keep some items available to take directly with you on the airplane when you move, as you will need some things to survive the time until your shipment arrives.
Shipping a container from England to the US west coast will usually take at least 6-10 weeks (or more if delayed by bad weather at sea), so you need to plan ahead for whatever essentials you will need until then - clothes, computers, books, some toys, etc.
Bear in mind that airlines have increasingly strict baggage regulations so you cannot take everything with you on the plane flight - think of it as packing for a very long vacation.
If you have a relocation package, then the shipping company will be sorted out for you automatically. Otherwise you will have to choose a suitable shipping agent and arrange things yourselves.
The main thing to remember is that it will take time for your possessions to be shipped half-way around the world (typically 2-3 months) so you need to carry enough personal property with you on your final one-way relocation travel to cover that period.
The second most important thing is to ensure your possessions-in-transit are properly insured. There will always be some things that get damaged or broken in the container transportation no matter how well everything is packed so be prepared to claim for breakages. Worse-case, your whole container could be lost at sea in bad weather - which would be a huge setback for your relocation experience!
Once your shipping container arrives, you have some more decisions to make. Do you want your possessions right now, or should you put them into storage until you need them all.
If you have not bought a house / condo yet, then it will probably be better to put most of your furniture and household items into storage until you do. Depending on your relocation package, some amount of storage time may be included in the package; otherwise you will need to pay for this yourself. Often the shipping agents will keep your container for a time before delivery too.
The ideal solution is to buy a house or condo then have a move in date around the time your shipment will arrive - which is quite feasible but will take a little planning and organization.
Experiences Relocating to the USA from the UK
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