Preparing For Your Move Abroad

When we prepared to move abroad there were many decisions that needed to be made.   We shared our pre departure “to do” checklist with you, but I realized at that point we had already made many of our big decisions.

Frigiliana, Spain the streets have such intricate designs

When we meet new people and they discover what we have done, they are full of questions.  They wonder how we came to be where we are today and what sort of thought process and decision-making we went through to get here.  So, I thought I would cover some of the most frequently asked big decision items to consider when moving abroad. Some of them we have answered in previous posts, so I will just link to them.

  1. How can you afford the move on your own?
    1. Be debt free!
    2. Make your dream the priority and SAVE.
    3. Live a simple life and on a budget.
  2. What are you going to do with your house?
    1. Rent
    2. Sell – this was our choice.
  3. How are you going to keep in touch with family?
    1. Telephone – an expensive option.  We do have mobile phones in Spain, but international calling is expensive.
    2. Digitally – Video calls, emails, social media. This was the plan and it has worked out well for us. We use Skype on our laptops to call directly to mobile phones in the US for about $.02 a min. Of course it is free if the person we are calling is also on their computer.
    3. Letters – This just doesn’t happen.   Actually writing a letter and then spending $2 to send it, has not worked well for us.  A quick
  4. What are you going to do with all of your personal belongings?
    We needed to decide what we were going to do with a 4500+ square foot house full of “stuff”.  We each brought 1 carry on and 1 checked piece of luggage.  Whatever fit in that space went with us and the remainder is below.  There were several options and we did them all.
    1. Sell you stuff!  We sold about 70% of what we owned. Most of it on Craigslist and a bit of it at a garage sell.  I wouldn’t recommend going through the hassle of the garage sale.  It was so much work and you really only get pennies to the dollar on what you are selling.  That said, if you know you are going to be practically giving things away and still have people haggle with you, then by all means give this a go.
    2. Donate – About 10% of what we owned went to neighbors, friends and Goodwill.  It was great to see that things we didn’t know what to do with went to good use with others.
    3. And for the ~20% of the “stuff” we deemed necessary to keep, long term storage was our choice.
  5. What will you do about education for your kids in Spain?
  6. What are you doing about health insurance?
    We researched many options for insurance coverage and ultimately opted for Travel Insurance.  We tended to be a very healthy family with little to no visits to the doctor and felt this would meet our needs for the year.  We will eventually do a detailed post on all of the insurance options, but here are the choices we reviewed.  Of course with all of these options, there are various levels of coverage to choose from and that can make the prices vary.
    1. Travel Insurance – This is great for emergency coverage.  This also covers any problems with the trip like lost luggage, flight cancelled etc.  This is what we opted for and it was very affordable about $2000/yr for family of 4.
    2. Medical Insurance from USA – There were several companies that offered coverage from the USA and the prices were about $5000-$8000 / yr for a family of 4.  It was very costly and we weren’t sure what it was going to get us in another country.  There were many requirements and restrictions to sign up and time was of the essence for us.
    3. Medical Insurance in Spain – We didn’t look into this option until we arrived in Spain. In hindsight, we could have done this prior to arriving.  That said, in order to be covered and purchase, you need to have your address and resident card.  So this is an option that would need to be done after you are settled.  This is probably the best option and we should have looked into this upon arrival.  This is full medical and dental coverage within the network providers in Spain and emergency services worldwide.  For a family of 4 it is about €125 a month so €1500/ yr , and to convert to $  it is about $2000 / yr for a family of 4.

I know this doesn’t cover it all and in time we will.  I think this is going to be one of those areas where a detailed e-book is the answer.  Please don’t hesitate to ask us questions and we will do our best to answer.

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  1. This is great! Thx for sharing. We’re not quite into the details yet of planning our move abroad but this helps me prepare.

    • Thanks Valerie. Let us know if you have any questions. I am sure my “list” is missing a few things. The more we look back the more we wonder how we managed to do it all.

  2. Hi, I am so happy to have found your blog, thanks for the great info! We are planning to move to Spain with our 2 kids in 2014 and want to stay for about 6 months. I’m wondering what type of visa to apply for. What did you guys do? Where the visas easy to get or is the consulate pretty selective about who they give them to? Thanks!

    • Hey Brinn, Thanks for contacting us. How exciting for you. We applied for the non-lucrative resident visa, which is pretty much a retirement visa. We wrote all about it in a few posts and also have an ebook to guide you through the process. Check some of these out and let us know if you have any questions or need help finding the information. It does take a while to gather the documents for this visa and gain approval. Depending on where you live and which Spanish Embassy is assigned to you, will also vary in the time it takes. I have been hearing of people that have applied in the Chicago office being approved in 5-8 weeks, so that is great.

      Doesn’t a US citizen need a visa to live in Spain? (Spanish Resident Visa)
      Category Spanish Resident Visa

  3. With regards to selling or renting…..Another option I never hear RTW families mention, is to rent your (or a cheaper one you can buy outright) paid off house, thereby generating steady monthly income as you travel. Especially for Americans, the rental income potential to home value is great! Before we moved internationally four years ago we paid off the rest of our house, and our return on that money is nearly 18% annually….way better than any CD or interest rate….and it’s a steady income for us- plus hey, we still own that home and can sell later, hopefully but not necessarily at a greater price than we bought it for. Why let that RTW travel money/budget/nest egg sit in a savings account, spending it slowly as you travel……it can be working for you. It works out great for us and I’d urge people in that position to look at their finances and crunch the numbers.

    • That is also an excellent option Lisa, if you can swing it. For us that wasn’t an option as we didn’t have cash to buy our home, but we did have equity. At the time we were not wanting to deal with something like property in the US. If you have a support system their to help, it is a great option. We lived across the US from any and all of our family, so if something urgent were to happen it would be paying someone to look after it. Thanks so much for your input and helping readers see other options!

  4. Hi Alan and Heidi,

    I purchased your book and when I clicked on one of the links to download the google drive doc for the visa timeline an “error” page came up. I emailed you as well and haven’t heard back.
    Can you please let me know if I’m doing something incorrectly or if the page needs to be refreshed?
    Thank you and we are excited to start this process to move to Spain as well:)