spanish flag; moved abroad to spain

The first half of 2017 has been a doozy!  We’ve moved abroad! My husband is in the military and we have been stationed in Rota, Spain.  I’ve always wanted to spend time abroad so this is a really exciting time for us.

With such a huge change on the horizon, there were tons of things to do in preparation.  I’m going to share the key steps you should take if you happen to be moving abroad.

Find a Tenant/Sell your home

I’ve lived in the same condo in Washington, DC for my whole adult life.  The idea of moving abroad was super exciting, but all the work that came with relocating was a little overwhelming! The most important thing I needed to do was to find a tenant for my condo, since I have no intentions to sell anytime soon.  I started this process about 3 months out.  This gave me time to find a property manager and a tenant that I liked.  Being a landlord can be a pain, so you don’t want to start out on the wrong foot by rushing into a contract with a tenant or a property manager.

If you decide you don’t want to be bothered as a landlord while abroad, use this time to put your home on the market.  The sale of your home is definitely not something you want to do under pressure.

Prepare your home/vehicle for the move

The next most pressing thing to do was prepare my home and vehicle for shipment.  Its super important to take inventory of what you have, and what you want to take with you.  This will make it easy to identify the things you need to sell or donate.  You should start this process in advance, to increase your chances of selling items you don’t want to give away.

For your vehicle, make sure everything is up to date.  Vehicle shipping companies will have standards that you have to meet in order to ship the car.  In order to ship my car, I had to provide an accurate Certificate of Title.  I had my name changed after I got married, but never bothered to have the name changed on the title.  In order to have it shipped, a marriage certificate was not adequate, so I had to make a trip to the DMV to have a new Title issued in my new name.

Make sure there are no unresolved recalls on your car, or there is a high probability that the shipping company will not ship the car.  Click here to search for your VIN number to see if you have any unresolved recalls on your vehicle.

Check with your local DMV to see what you need to do with your tags once you leave.  DC allows you to cancel your tags online, which is great because I needed to keep my tags on my car in order to drive in Spain until I received hard tags here.

Start looking for employment

Depending on your situation, finding employment in your new country may be difficult.  In my case, military spouses are not allowed to work outside of the military base here, and employment opportunities for us on base are extremely limited.  I spent a lot of time before I left reaching out to my my network for remote opportunities, and eventually found one.

If you find yourself having trouble finding employment in your new country, keep in mind that lots of states have recently started to allow spouses to file for unemployment if you have left your job to follow a spouse.  Check with your state’s employment commission to see if you would be eligible.

Get your affairs in order

In addition to the major things, there were also a ton of small things I needed to take care of.


Make sure you’ve coordinated with your car and renters/homeowner insurance company to ensure you don’t continue to pay for the time after you move, and pick up insurance at your new home if they offer insurance there.


Make sure all your identification is up to date.  You wouldn’t want to be abroad, trying to figure out how to renew a drivers license or passport, especially if this is not a permanent move.

Cell Phone Providers

Confirm with your cell phone providers that you would like to cancel (or pause, if you’re eligible) your cell phone service.  Figure out what service provider you want to use once you relocate.

Change of Address

File change of address forms with the local post office.  If you don’t have a permanent address yet (I didn’t until well after I’d moved out of my condo), file a temporary change of address and have it forwarded to a trusted friend or family member.

Once you get a permanent address, update it on any accounts you have that store your address.


Contact your bank and let them know you will be moving.  If you have a permanent address, give it to them.  If not, just make sure they know where you’ll be.  Definitely set up online banking if you don’t have it already.

Keep in Touch!

Sign up for a service that allows you to have a US number.  Yes, in 2017 there are tons of ways to contact people.  You have email, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, the list goes on.  However, unless you plan on moving and cutting ALL ties with the US, there will be times where having a US number saves you a lot of headache.  While getting settled, you will likely need to be on the line with customer service; which could mean lots of international fees on your phone bill.  You may need to verify your identity to access certain accounts online by entering your phone number, and a lot of US based companies do not even allow you to enter an international number.  I personally like to use Google Voice, but you should establish your phone number before you leave.  It will not allow you to set this service up abroad.

Important Documents

Create a folder with hard copies of your important documents so you can hand carry them.  This includes marriage certificates, birth certificates, social security cards, etc.  Also create a folder on your computer or trusted cloud service in case any important documents get misplaced.

Contact your children’s school

Notify your children’s school of the upcoming move and request transfer certificates and any other relevant information.

Take care of your pets!

Check to make sure that your pet’s breed is even allowed in the country you’re moving to.  If they are, make sure they have all the vaccinations necessary to be in the country, and keep a record of it.  Arrange for their transportation and care on the way to your new home.

Cancel Services

Cancel any services you may have, and make sure you’re up to date on payments.  This would include cable, internet, utilities, housekeeping services, etc.

Have fun!

We’ve been here for a little more than a month now, finding a place, getting settled, and traveling to nearby towns/countries.  It’s been an awesome time so far, and I definitely plan to share details as I settle into this new life!