Getting there is half the fun

N.B. this message is dramatically more helpful to people from the US moving to Portugal. I hope the thread will serve as a place to collect other thoughts and advice from other people.

Have you decided to make the leap over the pond, and now have all of the logistics ahead? Here’s what I’ve landed on after far too much research. There are other good options, and I’d love to hear about them from other people!

Moving Overview
Today I really wish I’d dropped a lit match in the library and had to move with a shoulder bag and nothing else. But no, we’re doing pretty close to a maximalist move. We found a semi-furnished rental, so we don’t have the “there’s no point bringing the X when we just have to buy it again because we’re not going to live without it for four months waiting for it to arrive” calculus. Instead we’ll use the owners’ things, then store them in the garage when our own arrive. Next move will be to somewhere unfurnished.

It costs a little more to ship items to Portugal and back to the US rather than store them in the US if you are in Portugal for a year. By two years, it flipped for us: less money to ship there and back than storage.

Timing is interesting. You need to have your residency certificate before shipping your goods over, in order to get the baggage certificate from the consulate/embassy so you do not pay VAT as if you were an importer. And you have to get it done within a year of moving. You get one shot, or two with much more paperwork.


We’re getting two PODS dropped off, and hiring local movers to load them. We’re doing our own packing. I have color-coded tape and a key of which color goes to which room. This will help for unloading – I know enough Portuguese to give colors and rooms, but not much more.

I also ordered stickers in sequential order to ensure we have unique numbers for each box. Four identical sticker sets, and each face of the box gets the same number in the upper right corner. This way there’s no 2 am “spin the box” to find the number, it’s just always visible, even at the bottom of a stack.

Most people will be happy with Google’s spreadsheet for a household-wide accessible list of what’s in each box. I went with Todoist instead. Each box is listed by number, contents (including packing materials since they’re things like sheets, towels…) and also the size of the box. That lets me know what we’re up to for cumulative volume for the move.

When it was time to do the Baggage Certificate, I could just look at the list of box contents plus then make sure I wasn’t missing categories of things not yet packed. Very helpful.

The other part of packing is carry on bags. Unlike other carriers, TAP will let you take a whole lot of them. Exactly how many depends upon the type of plane. You will pay for it, but it’s the least expensive path to have things that arrive when you do. Be sure to follow their guidelines for weight and size. I wound up buying a whole mess of blue plastic basically duffle bags online. I’m not sure they’re going to hold up as well as I’d like, but there was no way I was going to buy luggage – or pay for a lot of weight from luggage.


There are a few good choices. I went with Portugalia and I am very glad that I did. They have handled paperwork beyond what I would have expected, including multiple calls to their Portuguese counterparts.

PODS will go from our home to a warehouse while we await our residence permit, then we will schedule drop-off from PODS to Portugalia. They load from the PODS into a 20’ or 40’ shipping container, which gets dropped on a boat and shipped directly to Portugal. Customs in Portugal is a little slower than in The Netherlands but it means not needing to truck across Europe, so it is better for us. Once through customs, Portugalia also handles getting our things onto a truck and unloaded into our place in Portugal. Also, as mentioned, they are managing all of the paperwork. “Sign here, add this” – great, I can do that.

Anyone else have tips, tricks, traps, or other stories to share?