Packing, Selling and Storing

Looking for advice on which luggage to purchase for your overseas trip and what to pack or take with you? Read on and hopefully this article will give you lots of information that will make your adventure a lot easier and smoother…

We moved to Spain from South Africa in 2018 (you can read all about the reason for this here: Introduction to our big plan to move to Spain). The first things we had to do once we had made the decision to move was to pack, sell and store our belongings. Oh my word, this part of the process was a nightmare 😣

From the moment we decided to move to Spain with four kids (9, 7, 5 and 9 months), mid summer in Spain, a very small retrenchment package, no technology except for an old iPhone, no luggage and no experience… well, people thought we were lunatics 🙃.

We had to pack up an entire house (with twelve years worth of living items in it), decide what to store (at a very kind friend’s farm warehouse), what to take with to Spain, what to sell, and what to give away, in a month! It was very very difficult to put it mildly 😓… and we had a stealth 8 month old speed crawler in amongst it all too, unpacking as we were packing and destroying all he could get his hands on. It’s amazing how many dangerous items lie around when you pack up a house 😳.

We had been trying to declutter, simplify and minimise our belongings for a long long time, but there had always been something happening to prevent the process from really taking off the ground (such as illness, pregnancies, moving, babies, toddlers etc). This then was a forced way of minimalising!

We could only take the following with us:

  • 1 check-in bag per person;
  • 1 cabin bag per person;
  • 1 backpack day bag each.

We could not afford to have a container of our assets sent to us at a later stage, so we had to pack everything that we could need into the above luggage. Not easy!?!

We sold what we could to buy luggage. We stored our furniture worth keeping and some of the kids special toys and books. Then whatever we could not fit in our bags we gave away!

Advice about luggage:
  • Make sure the check-in bag has four wheels which makes it easier to drag along behind you, as opposed to two wheels. It is also better to stand it up on four wheels rather than two.
  • Check that the check-in bag comes with a lock for the zips, and that you have cable ties handy at the airport for the other zips. Keep your lock code ready in case you need to open your bag at check-in.
  • The check-in bags must be very hardy, tough, durable…. These bags get thrown around all over (by you, your partner, the airport staff and other transport staff that are not happy about the size and weight of them 😳).
  • Be careful not to pack too much in the outside zip areas of the check-in bags as the bag then tends to topple over very very easily!
  • We were told to roll our clothes rather than fold them. This worked for the cabin bags but I could not get it right for the check-in bags. So I stacked all shirts together, all shorts together, all long pants together etc, which made it easier to find things when we were living out of our bags for a while in Spain.
  • In my check-in bag I put some books in the bottom under the clothes for the kids to have a little library in Spain and for homeschooling.
  • At the bottom of each kids bag I put toys in ziplock bags, and then their clothes on top of that.
  • The cabin bags should be hard material rather than soft as they need to be lugged all over between airports and in airport buses, bumped against steps and shoved into plane overhead compartments. The hard material protects the bags and the goods inside. Unfortunately the check-in bags can’t be hard material as it then makes them too heavy.
  • Put stickers or labels on your luggage so that you can identify them easily and quickly from a distance. It is amazing how many people have the same luggage as you! This was a fun part for the kids to decorate their bags.

Some advice on what to pack:
  1. Make sure that you have a travel adapter for the Spain wall plugs. Absolutely essential! We wish that we had brought at least two with.
  2. Water bottles for each person (including baby) to fill up from large 8 litre bottles of bought water. You cannot safely drink tap water in Spain, so you need to buy large quantities of it, or at a later stage buy a filter to fit on the tap or a jug with a built in filter.
  3. Sun hats! It gets very very hot in Spain.
  4. Spanish dictionary or app on your cellphone to translate for you (Google Translate is excellent) to use from the moment you step off the airplane in Spain.
  5. Lots of hardy ziplock bags to pack loose items as well as toiletries and toys into.
  6. Plastic cup, bowl and plate for each kid so that you don’t have to stress about them breaking the ones at the Airbnb or at your furnished rental apartment (almost all rentals are furnished).
  7. Pegs to hang up your wet washing wherever you are.
  8. Linen: one light blanket, one fitted sheet, one throw over sheet and two pillowcases per person, as well as one bath towel and one swimming towel each.
  9. Items to keep everyone busy while indoors during extreme heat, rainy days or times of lack of finances to get out and about: two packs of playing cards, pack of Uno cards, coloring-in books and pens/pencils/crayons/pencil crayons (remember a ruler, sharpener and eraser/rubber), stickers and sticker books, book with blank paper for all to make lists or draw on (I brought a clipboard per child so that they can press on them and it prevents them from drawing on the table), reading books, fuzzy felt with boards to create pictures on, magnetic boards with little alphabet and character magnets, Lego etc.
  10. Chargers for charging all your equipment (these can easily be forgotten).
  11. Torch: a touch light and a head torch if you have one, otherwise just an ordinary lightweight torch often comes in handy.
  12. Suntan lotion is expensive in Spain so bring a bottle with, but make sure you put it in the fridge on arrival as it goes off very quickly in the heat.
  13. Keep snacks on you all the time, as you will need them for energy, distractions and sometimes as meals when you have delays. Food items are very expensive at the airports, train stations and in small villages at little supermarkets, so buy as many snacks before hand as you can. 
  14. Keep wipes with the snacks for messy hands and faces.
  15. Packs of tissues close by for runny noses. I gave each child a pack to keep in their daybag/backpack.
  16. Blow up pillows for the airplane to go in your cabin bag, to help with making the trip more comfortable and for sleeping.
  17. Noise-cancelling or reduction headphones help a lot on the airplane, and at other venues where noise might upset sensitive children.
  18. Passport / money belt that goes around your waist that makes reaching for passports, cash, air-tickets etc a lot quicker and easier (and safer).
First Aid:
  • Plasters/Bandaids
  • Antiseptic ointment
  • Cotton wool balls
  • Burnshield for emergency burns
  • Thermometer
  • Tweezers
  • Cough medicine (one’s immune system drops with the new environment)
  • Saline solution nose spray
  • Honey and lemon sucking sweets for sore or itchy throats
  • Calpol/panado syrup and panado tablets (pain medication is extremely strong in Spain, so be careful not to overdose; rather use small dosing amounts first to see the reaction of the person taking it)
  • Teejel or teething powders if your baby is teething
  • Vitamins are very expensive in Spain, so stock up and bring as much as you can with. Then plan to buy online through Amazon. Amazon is a life-saver in a lot of the smaller villages that do not have big supermarkets.

We would suggest that you do some very serious research before buying luggage, and think really carefully about what to pack. It is terrible to get to your destination (exhausted because your luggage was too cumbersome) and later regret the things you brought with, wishing you had packed other items. Remember that there are a lot of things that you cannot get (or that are expensive) at your destination that you need to bring with from your country of origin i.e. Rooibos tea, vitamins, suntan lotion etc. 

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