Preparing to Move Abroad- Part One

Moving your family abroad? There are so many things to consider!

We are roughly 90 days out from our big move to Italy, so I figured it was time for an update.

As with most big trips, there is a lot of small progress over time, then a huge rush of activity before departure. We’ve been trying to get as much as possible done as early as possible so we’re not any more stressed than necessary when we have to fly across the world with a toddler and a dog.

When people ask me how you orchestrate a major life change like this, my answer is usually, little by little. Once the big decision has been made, the rest is just details. So we’re ironing out those details one by one.

Here is what we’ve done so far to prepare for the move.

Getting Our Documentation

If you’re going to live outside of your home country, you have to figure out the legal means to do it. This is less complicated for us than other people who want to move to Europe, because Mike has Italian citizenship. This means Marcella automatically has the citizenship as well, and that I am eligible to apply for citizenship.

Earlier this year we informed the Italian consulate of Marcella’s birth and applied for her Italian passport. This was an easy process and she is now a dual citizen and multiple passport owner- before her first birthday.

My situation is a little more complicated. I have to apply for citizenship as the wife of an Italian. This means submitting a variety of paperwork including birth and marriage certificates and background checks from every state I’ve lived in. Ever document has to be certified and apostilled, then translated into Italian. It’s a lot to keep track of.

Although I will hopefully submit all my documentation in the next month or so, my application won’t be processed before we go, so I will enter Italy on a spousal visa until I become official. I expect this could take a couple of years, but hopefully actually being in Italy will speed up the process.

Plane Tickets Purchased

Nothing is real without a departure date- Ours is October 28th. We bought our tickets when I spotted a good deal on Google Flights. It’s a 9 hour flight from Seattle to Germany, then 1 more hour to Bologna, so that should be super fun with a wiggly 15 month old.

Unfortunately, Leo is too big to fly in the cabin with us to Italy so he will have to go below deck. We have spent a fair bit of time buying and getting him acclimated to a nice hard crate. We want him to be as comfortable as possible.

Learning Italian

This is the biggest hurdle for me and the thing I’m most worried about. History as shown that I am terrible at languages. Even after years of studying and living in several Spanish speaking countries I can’t hold a conversation and can only moderately understand what’s going on.

Yet, knowing Italian will be an important tool for settling into our new lives so I am trying really really hard by practicing every single day until we leave. Once we get to Bologna and get settled I will try to sign up for a language class as well.

Mike is not doing nearly as much prep as I am but he will almost certainly pick it up faster because he is much smarter than me at this stuff.

Minimizing Our Stuff

This is the biggest ongoing process right now. We moved to Seattle 3 years ago with nothing, then acquired basically everything from bath towels to television to baby toys.

Unfortunately, there is no way to move all this stuff to Italy that isn’t entirely cost-prohibitive. Crate shipping is super expensive, the Italian mail service is impossible and no other reasonable alternative has emerged. Essentially, we will have to take whatever we can carry in our luggage, and replace the rest.

So we are selling and giving away 90% of our belongings. It’s a fine balancing act- we can’t get rid of the stuff we still need for the next 3 months, but we don’t want to leave everything until the last minute either. Mike is selling his gaming computer, I’m digitizing my cookbook collection, and we just gave a heap of old clothing to goodwill. Some stuff: like selling most of our furniture and kitchen appliances, will have to wait.

Arrival Plans

Finally, we have to consider what will actually happen once we arrive? We’re not at a point in our lives where we can just show up and see what happens like we used to (link). We need a soft landing with hopefully not too many surprises.

At the same time, it’s simply not possible or practical to rent an apartment, sight unseen, before we arrive. Most listings aren’t even online anyways- we will need to work with an agency once we arrive.

So we’ve rented an AirBNB for the month of November. This will be our temporary home while we search for a suitable place to lease.

I’m not really sure exactly what we an expect as we apartment hunt (although I do know rent is much more affordable than what we are currently paying in Seattle), but we’re doing all the research we can. We have a budget, a list of criteria and an idea of some of the neighborhoods we are interested in. We will have to jump off from there.

More to Be Done

So that’s where we are right now, with 3 months before departure. There is a lot to be done still and I’ll be updating on our progre

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Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can’t sit still! She is the co-founder and editor of Why Wait To See the World. Learn more about her here.


  1. Hey Steph! It sounds like you are making great progress on your move! Actually, we’ve had great luck with the Italian post, so if you mail some stuff, you might be alright too. We mailed about 10 boxes from Lithuania (the Lithuanian post is bad), but all of our stuff made it and we actually just picked it up from my husband’s job today.

    Oi! The appostiles! We had to do a ton, so I know how you feel.

    I’m not sure if you’ve done it yet, but don’t forget to get your dog a passport, up-to-date vaccines, and a chip. We moved here with our cat and it was actually surprisingly simply (I’ll post about it soon). I have a feeling it’d be similar for a dog.

    Best of luck with the rest of the move!

    • That’s good to know about the post! I’ve heard such bad things.
      Definitely following your blog for lots of useful advice! We will have to have a drink (or a baby playdate?), once we get settled!

  2. So excited to read about your adventures in Italy!

    xx

    bombshell-to-be.blogspot.com

  3. I am thinking of moving to another country with my boyfriend and 2 dogs + 1 cat but actually get too anxious even thinking about putting them into the back of a plane – like I feel like my one dog will cry the whole time. He’s so afraid of storms and loud noises… Do you have any tips? Are you going to give them any drowsy meds? Hoping my cat can fly with me in the front of the plane but he’s a crazy Indian cat always meowing and going mad!

    • This will be Leo’s first time flying under the plane so we are pretty nervous too! I don’t think we are going to drug him b/c we worry about side effects but we bought his crate a couple months ago and we’re doing everything we can to get him used to it. We want him to see it as a safe place so he will feel safer during the flight.

  4. Sounds like you’re pretty on top of things!

    Definitely avoid the Italian mail if you can. All packages, even things you already own, coming from outside of Europe are subject o hefty fees and import taxes. Anything over €45 is subject to the import fees, so it’s typically not worth it. Not to mention that the mail is quite unreliable.

    Don’t forget that Leo needs to be microchipped with the EU chip as the US ones are a different number scheme and don’t read everywhere here in Europe.

    He’ll be fine under the plane. It will honestly be more stressful for you than Leo. The flight attendant will deliver a card to you once you’re seated that assures you Leo also made it to his “seat”. Put something like a toy or blanket in his crate with him, but leave the food and water out. Do put a bowl so that the airport workers can give him water. And make sure that his name is clearly on all sides of his crate.

    You’ll have to register him with a vet and obtain his EU passport once you arrive in Italy.

  5. This is so exciting and so cool. I’ve been reading your blog for years and it’s so cool to see you do this w/ your baby!

  6. “Nothing is real without a departure date”

    Very true. I’ve been dreaming of South America for YEARS and once I made the booking for October this year it finally became real! 🙂
    Exciting times, hope everything goes smooth for you in the run-up in the next three months!

  7. This is such an amazing adventure for your family! I’m so excited for you. Did you have to get the pup a passport? are there quarantine requirements for him? When I had to plan for a move to Singapore, it was crazy stressful trying to make sure my dogs could get there with me (and then the move was cancelled – ARGH!)

    Italy is such an amazing place. I can’t wait to read more about your adventures and settling in there!

    • The requirements aren’t too bad- just a microchip and proof he’s up to date on his shots. And a passport. but no quarantine or anything!

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