The Ultimate Checklist for Moving Abroad


It feels like only yesterday we were running around like crazy trying to get everything done before we moved to Korea. We thought of nothing but our pre-moving checklist and it kept us awake at night for hours on end. What if we forgot XYZ? Would we be able to pay our bills on time while abroad? Would our visa come through in time? Ahhh! So. Many. Things. To. Think. About.

If you’re planning a huge move abroad and are feeling overwhelmed with all the things you’ll need to do, fear not – we’ve got you covered with our Ultimate Checklist for Moving Abroad, complete with a handy suggested timeline.

Please note that this list is tailored to Canadians moving abroad although can be used as a guide for those of other nationalities.

Ultimate checklist for moving abroad
Photo by Unsplash
Step 1: Celebrate! (Immediately)

You’ve just made a huge decision to move abroad! This is probably the hardest part of the whole process so grab some champagne/wine/beer/hot chocolate and pat yourself on the back. Don’t worry about your list today, you’ve got plenty of time for the rest later. Also, don’t forget to tell your friends and family the big news!

Step 2: Get your passport renewed / Get a passport (ASAP)

Now that you’ve gotten over your celebratory hangover (is it just us or does that take longer now than it used to?), head to the nearest passport office to get your passport renewed if it’s anywhere near the expiration date. Most countries require that your passport be valid for at least 6 months upon your entry to the country. It currently takes 10 business days to get your passport renewed if you apply in person at a Passport Canada office, and 20 business days if you renew by mail. For more information about obtaining/renewing a passport, click here. Our advice is to take care of this as soon as possible since you will be needing your passport for the visa process (which can take FOREVER!).

Step 3: Get all necessary visas/immigration documents (ASAP)

As we mentioned, obtaining a visa to reside/work/study abroad can take a long time. Our advice is to check the visa processing times and required documents at your local embassy and start collecting the necessary documents as soon as possible.

Step 4: Start saving + pay off your credit card + make a budget (ASAP)

You’ll be needing all the money you can get before you’re established in your new home country so start saving your pennies immediately! On that note, free up all of your credit – you’ll be thankful you did once you start buying plane, bus and train tickets. Don’t forget to be a responsible adult and make a budget for how much you’ll be able to spend in your new home – low cost of living or not, it’s important to know what you can and can’t afford and to set financial goals. Don’t forget to factor in various moving costs and to leave room for unexpected expenses in your budget.

Step 5: Buy your flight (ASAP)

9 times out of 10, the closer you get to your departure date, the more expensive your flight will be. Start stalking flight prices as soon as possible to get the best airline, route and price. Consider flying out of a different, yet nearby airport for a better price.

Step 6: Sublet your apartment (2-3 month(s) before) 

Plan on coming back and don’t want to give up your stellar apartment? Don’t worry, we didn’t either. Put up an ad on Facebook groups, put up posters, etc. and sublet your flat for the next year (or however long you’ll be gone). Give yourself plenty of time for this step since you’ll want to make sure you are renting to reliable people.

Step 7: Pack your apartment + sell all things you don’t need (1-2 month(s) before)  

Think of it like this: will you be bringing this item with you? Will you miss it dearly? If the answer is no, it’s more than likely that you don’t really need this item. Sell it for some extra cash – you’ll be infinitely happy that you did when you can afford that sweet weekend getaway in your new home. Once you’ve sorted out all of the junk from your dear possessions, pack it all up and bring it to mom’s house/storage unit. Be sure to label all of your stuff properly or it’ll be a nightmare unpacking when you come back to claim it.

Step 8: Get your vaccinations (1 month before)

Make sure that all of your vaccinations are in order before leaving. There would be nothing worse than having to cut your time abroad short because you got sick from a preventable illness.

Step 9: Cancel your internet and phone plans (1-2 week(s) before)

One less bill to pay! Woooo!

Step 10: Talk to your bank (1-2 week(s) before)

Make sure your finances are in order before you go! Don’t forget to:

  • Advise credit cards of future travel plans
  • Obtain banking information required for international wire transfers
  • Stop contributing to your Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) – you’ll be taxed on your contributions if you are not residing in Canada
Step 11: Automate your bills (1-2 week(s) before)

If you have any bills that will still need to be paid while you are away (e.g. student loans, hydro, etc.) be sure to automate them. That way you’ll never forget while you’re on a fabulous beach getaway since it will automatically be done.

Step 12: Get an international driving permit (1-2 week(s) before) 

This may come in handy when you want to spontaneously rent motorbikes or if you plan on doing any driving whilst you are away. Just be sure that your destination country is on the list of participating countries.

Step 13: Advise your provincial health system of your absence (1-2 week(s) before)

We’re not sure about the specifics of other provinces, but the province of Ontario requires you to advise them of any long-term absences from the province. Not doing so will result in you having to wait 3 months upon your return before you can be covered by OHIP again. For more details, click here.

Step 14: Obtain a letter of authorization from Canada Post for mail and packages (1-2 week(s) before)

In order to have your mail picked up by a family member not residing at the same address, be sure to fill out this form. This way your family/friend will be able to pick up any packages you may receive at the post office during your absence.

Step 15: Buy travel health insurance (1 week before)

Never ever travel without insurance. You never know what can happen to you while you are abroad! If you’ll be receiving health insurance with your new job once you arrive in your new country, be sure to get insurance for at least the first month – it can take a little while before things fully settle. We normally get our insurance through our banks or with World Nomads, whichever has the best price at the time.

Step 16: Write down addresses of friends and family (1 week before) 

You’ll be wanting to send them small tokens and postcards from your new home. By asking them in advance you’ll be sure that your gift will be a surprise!

Step 17: Find out where the nearest embassy is… (1 week before) 

…and write it down to bring with you at all times! You never know when something can go wrong. Find out where the nearest Canadian embassy is by clicking here.

Step 18: Register on (1 week before) 

This is super important and not enough travellers do it! Imagine a sudden earthquake occurs where you are. By registering your travels with the nearest Canadian embassy you’ll be on their list of people to look out for. Here it is, straight from the Government of Canada’s website: “The Registration of Canadians Abroad service enables government officials to contact you to provide important information in preparation for an emergency (such as a natural disaster or civil unrest), instructions during emergencies, important changes or updates to the Travel Advice and Advisories for the country for which you registered, and more.” So please ALWAYS do this before you travel abroad. Register by clicking here.

Step 19: Buy a suitcase (1 week before) 

A traveller’s most important tool, be sure to do your research before purchasing. Check out our handy guide on what to look for in a suitcase.

Step 20: Take out all required foreign currencies (1 week before) 

Bring enough to survive for a month. Things happen and it’s best to have it on hand just in case something goes wrong with your banking/credit card. Tip: Store your cash in various areas (i.e. carry-on, wallet, purse, etc.) – just don’t forget where you put it! We also recommend having a few hundred US dollars on hand – it’s accepted pretty much world-wide and usually gets a better exchange rate than the Canadian dollar if you’re in a pinch.

Step 21: Pack your bags (2-3 days before) 

Rule of thumb: take half the clothes and twice the money. We used to roll our eyes at this but we’ve definitely learned that having too much stuff is never a good idea. Not only will you get hit with baggage fees but it will be really hard to transport by yourself.

Step 22: Have an epic farewell party (1 day before) 

Say goodbye to your friends and family. Hug them dearly for the next few hours because it may be a while before you see them again. Don’t forget to keep in touch with them while you are abroad.

Step 23: Board your plane (IT’S HAPPENING!)

WWWWWOOOOOOOOHOOOOOO!! (insert dancing cat GIF here).

P.S. Don’t forget to do your taxes!

Don’t get hit with a nasty surprise when you come home: file your taxes! You still need to file your taxes if you want to be considered a Canadian resident while abroad.


Are you planning a big move?

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Ultimate checklist for moving abroad

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Hi, we're Jordon and Katherine, founders of travel and lifestyle blog World Abound. We're a working couple who hope to be able to say one day that we've travelled the world together, even while still working our 9-5 jobs.

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