When you start planning to move abroad with a family of seven, everything sounds fun and exciting! Preparing for family world travel is almost overstimulating- there's so much to do, so many pretty travel photos on Instagram to look at!
It's like being a kid on Christmas morning, waking up at the crack of dawn and jumping on your parents' bed so you can rip into the presents under the tree the second they open their not-yet-caffeinated eyeballs. 😄😄😄
Then the excitement starts to transfer into the planning stages of things, and if you are an A-type personality with an uncharacteristically strong penchant for people pleasing, like me, this can quickly become a rabbit hole.
Just avoid anything that says 'Drink Me' during this phase, and don't cry.... Everything's gonna work out just fine. (Book nerd joke, sorry! 😜)
Making A Plan For Moving Overseas With Kids:
We knew that we wanted to start traveling the world, and that to do that effectively, we would need a home base- which meant moving abroad. Moving abroad with children- in itself- is a BIG undertaking.
So before embarking on this very long and complicated process, we needed a plan.
The first step of any great plan (especially a plan this large) is to break your escapade (is that too Janet Jackson?) down into steps, or phases.
We structured our 'Moving Abroad With Family' plan down into these phases:
1. Passports (a fairly easy one to break ourselves in)
3. Visas (this alone was massive & took several months to gather everything necessary, You can see our Non Lucrative Visa post for details on that part.)
4. Moving Stuff / Selling House (this one is more subjective to each family's circumstances)
5. Getting there - the initial overseas trip
6. Destination City - apartment hunting, NIE Card, etc.
7. Enjoy your new life overseas and upcoming family travels!
In case you're not bored reading yet, here's is a generic run through of what these phases have entailed for us.
(Also, I jump right into the actual steps involved in moving overeas, but if you want to see the WHY behind the madness, check out our Deciding to move abroad with children.... What Started It All post.)
Keep in mind your process may be a bit different, because life happens and no two journeys are the same, but these are the basic steps most families moving abroad will take.
Moving Abroad Step 1: Passports
Getting passports was fairly straight forward. We did this FIRST because it takes up to 6 weeks to get your passport once you apply, and you need it before applying for a visa.
Most cities have an office where you can take your passport application (available online) and pay the fee. In today's digital era, you might be able to apply online, but in most cases children need to apply in person anyways.
You can get more information on the US passport process here at the US Gov website.
You will need to get passport photos done before you submit your applications, and there are precise rules for how they need to be taken.
Be sure to follow the instructions for the passport and the photos. You can also get passport photos taken and printed on the spot at any Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, etc.
The passport office will NOT let you submit your applications if the photos are not done correctly.
Our kids have BIG heads, so we learned to make sure their heads fit into the outline on the example photo template they have at the photo counter. 😉
A few of our pics didn't make it through the first time. The second time around, we put the babies in the seat portion of the shopping cart so the background behind their heads was still white while supporting their little bodies.
Moving Abroad with Family Step 2: Researching Destinations
This is one of the funnest parts of the whole process, because during this phase, nothing is off-limits and anything is possible.
I've already talked a bit about how we researched and narrowed down where we wanted to go and our destination criteria in our last post about Narrowing Down The Plan For Our Family World Travel, but this is going to be a different process for everyone.
Basically, this is the FUN part where you guys get to decide what you want your life overseas to look like, and where you want to make that happen.
Moving Abroad Step 3: Visa Applications
The visa process is long, drawn out and complicated, but we applied for the Non Lucrative Spanish Visa.
You can get a list of the general necessary documents and find out more information about that from the consulate or embassy website of your destination country.
There will be many, many posts ahead about the various phases of the VISA process, so check those out to save yourselves some time and trouble by seeing what we learned and avoiding our mistakes. 😅
Moving Abroad Step 4: Moving Stuff / Selling The House
Not everyone will want or need to sell their house, and of course you know what I'm going to say (like a broken record now) subjective, subjective, subjective! LOL.... But really, it is.
So for this phase of the plan we needed to get a realtor, prepare our house to sell (which included some updating to the house) and list our house. Plus of course the selling and closing.
But the equity of our house was an integral part of making this trip happen, because we are regular people with a limited budget and not a lot of money in the bank.
The second step in our plan (or simultaneously in our case since I'm cray and like to stress myself out with strict timelines of circumstances), was calling and emailing moving companies to get moving quotes.
This included researching company reviews and narrowing down who I felt most comfortable moving my stuff half-way across the world at a semi-reasonable (pssshtt, reasonable... sure...) price.
I will be posting more about the moving quote process soon, because getting quotes and learning what to watch out for was a doozy!
Moving Overseas With Kids Step 5: Getting There & The Initial Overseas Trip
This is also a pretty fun part of planning, because you get to shop for plane tickets (apps like Skyscanner and Hopper are HUGE money savers here!), choose between an AirBnB or hotel for your initial stay, and hopefully do a little sightseeing.
We will have a few separate posts going into detail about tips and tricks, because this post is already crazy long!!
It is important to mention, however, that if you can afford it in your budget, it is helpful to go visit your intended destination BEFORE making the big move.
We didn't have family that was able to watch our kids while we went overseas ahead of time, and a scouting trip for all 7 of us was unrealistic to our budget.
So we planned getting to Spain as part of a larger European vacation, with Valencia being our final destination.
Moving Abroad Step 6: Settling Into The New City
This is the MOST stressful part. Seriously.
You will spend the first month or so running around your new city like a madman.
You will need to tackle apartment hunting, signing a lease, setting up bank accounts and utilities, getting your NIE card (essentially your foreign ID card) and possibly also other things like enrolling your children in schools, depending on your situation and choices.
If you're moving to a country where you aren't quite fluent in their language, this can be intense.
We hired an AMAZING reloaction company to help us do ALL of our initial setup- even getting the kids enrolled in schools! They seriously prevented me some gray hair. 😉
There's usually a few companies like this in most major European cities. You can find them online by searching for 'expat relocation company.'
We found a company for our destination city (SettleEasy Valencia) that was more familiar with struggles for the everyday Jones- like a firm budget and realistic bathroom requirements. LOL!
Moving Abroad With Children Step 7: Enjoy Life & Travel!
Now that you've done all the hard work, you get to sit back and relax in your new life abroad!
There are definitely some unexpected challenges when adjusting to living overseas, but keeping an open mind and a grateful attitude will get you through just about anything!
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