If you are thinking of moving from the United States to Europe, don’t make the same mistakes we did! Here are the top things we wish we had done differently moving our family of 6 to the Netherlands.
Some might call us naive as you read through this list but that’s okay. We were most definitely naive! Although we had moved quite a bit around the US this was our first international move as a family.
We didn’t even have the benefit of having done any international traveling with kids. Plus, we had a quick turnaround from! There was only 14 weeks between the time we found out we were moving (right after having a baby by the way) till we actually moved.
You can read the whole crazy story of how we became expats here!
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Top mistakes NOT to make when moving to Europe
1. Too many suitcases!
We were trying to save on shipping costs by taking advantage of the number of suitcases we were allowed. But that turned into an epic mess! We had checked the weight limits multiple times for both of the airlines we were flying but misunderstood the carry on limits for our first. So we spent a significant amount of time shifting stuff around to fit the limits.
Also, trying to navigate multiple luggage trolleys plus a stroller through multiple airports was a pain. We ended up checking luggage overnight at Gatwick to help our sanity for the one night.
It would have been cheaper between two flights luggage fees and the overnight fee to have just shipped them right away. If we had chosen to ship some of those bags (see mistake #7) we would have gotten them fairly quickly and spent a lot less money overall.
2. Too many carry-on bags and not enough people to carry them.
I dutifully packed carry on bags plus personal bags for each member of our family with what they would need for two days of traveling. Except I failed to take into account that the toddler and baby couldn’t carry anything!
So then we were trying to figure out how to lug multiple bags through the airport plus a stroller with two kids who weren’t much help.
3. We forgot to keep the baby carriers with us when we boarded the flight
In all the hustle and bustle of trying to load our family and all those carry on bags I forgot to keep both of our baby carriers with us when we gate checked the stroller.
After a long 10 hour red eye to London we ended up having to lug Finnegan and Morris through the Gatwick airport before we could get to baggage claim and our stroller.
4. We packed too much clothes, not enough toys.
We knew it was going to be a problem since we were moving in fall but California was still warm. Trying to plan clothing for two very different climates was a challenge (that I failed) so we ended up with lots of clothes that were out of season.
What I realized now is that we should have just kept a few warm weather outfits and packed all of our cold weather stuff. Then I could have shipped our cooler weather stuff with all of our other belongings.
We also didn’t keep enough toys with us and so when we got to our Airbnb in the Netherlands we were trying to make do with a very limited amount of things to entertain a preschooler. It was a long month.
5. We forgot to exchange currency before getting into country so we had no cash on hand when we arrived.
Although we had our credit cards, we quickly found out that they are not widely accepted in the Netherlands. Here they pretty exclusively use debit cards and even then many stores don’t accept VISA or Mastercard even if they are debit cards.
We had a ton of American dollars and my husband had to make a special stop to swap it out after a week or so of being here.
6. We didn’t realize how long it would take to transfer money from our US bank accounts to our Dutch bank account.
Once you do an initial international transfer subsequent transfers seem to go through much faster. I wish we had set up a TransferWise account before we left and put money into it so it was all ready to go.
If you’ve never heard of Transferwise before it is really handy for expats or freelancers. I also use it to pay some of the freelancers who work for me.
It is an easy way to transfer money internationally and much more affordable as well because they have low fees and use the real current exchange rate.
If you use this link to sign up for Transferwise you can get a free international transfer up to 500 Euros (and I may get a little bonus as well).
7. Ironically, we got rid of too much.
I was trying so hard to be responsible and not ship an unnecessary amount of stuff. We went through all of our stuff and whittled it down to about 20 boxes worth (other than our luggage).
Once we got into our house, I started to regret how much we had gotten rid of. I wish we had kept a few more toys and more of my kitchen stuff. Belatedly, I realized it would have been cheaper to ship rather than replace many of the things we used everyday.
Shipping with MyBaggage was easy, fast, and much cheaper than I had anticipated. We would have spent a lot less to ship boxes than to buy new. It cost us about $2600 to ship those 20 boxes and I spent hundreds more replacing things I had gotten rid of back in the US.
Moving abroad is not for the faint of heart but it is certainly a worthwhile experience. We have learned so much as a family and have grown in so many ways.
Hopefully if you are thinking about moving abroad, some of these mistakes we’ve learned will help you along the way.
Do you have any other questions about moving abroad? Or questions specifically about living in the Netherlands? Let me know in the comments below!