Ten things to check off your list during transition

May 24, 2023 | 3 comments

You know the feeling. Your brain is full of things to do and tasks to complete.

You’re in the middle of a transition. It might be big or small, planned or forced, far or near but it’s transition, and there is a mountain of things to get done to make it happen.

We’ve all been there. For overseas workers, transition is something that happens regularly and sometimes not at the best of times or in the most happy circumstances.

Transitions like these are incredibly stressful, exhausting, and detailed.

During these moments, we need to stop, breathe, and make a plan. Slow down enough to get your thoughts in order, write a list, figure out the most important things, drink some coffee and then, get to it.

But, who has time for that in the midst of a crazy, intense, emotional season?

That’s where resources like this can jump in, ease the crazy and support you and your family through whatever transition you are facing, for whatever reason you are facing it.

Do you need to know what to do, how to do it and when to do it?

Or, if you aren’t in this season of transition right now, you know you will be in the future. Start now by thinking things through to save you some crazy later!

Let’s go through it together. 

You can click, download and save this list to print or open on your computer to fill in for your specific situation. Whatever works for you. But hopefully this list will help you feel prepared, ready and maybe a bit less stressed out with the overwhelming size of the task.

1} Give yourself 10 minutes. Don’t skip this step! Sit down with a favorite drink even if it’s in a paper cup because everything else is in some state of packing or unpacking. 10 minutes to let everything else go. Clear your head. You can do this.

2} Now, take another 10 minutes to pray, plan and prioritize. What needs done right now? What can wait? What can you ask someone else to help with? What can you take off the list because it really doesn’t need done? Can someone help with the kids while you get a few hours of work in? Write down the list of things on your mind in this moment and figure out the most important things. If it’s all important, plan to do the next thing in front of you or something easy just to check it off your list as a success for today. 

When you’re back from texting a friend for help with the kids or maybe just throwing your paper cup away, keep reading. 

3} Finances during transition can be a tricky thing. Figuring out which credit card to use for those airline tickets or which bank has a good rate for a car loan or how to get cash from your overseas bank back to your stateside bank. All of these little details can get lost in the shuffle of a transition, especially if it happens fast. If you can make a plan ahead of time, it will really help when this situation comes your way. If you don’t have a plan in place already, let’s do it now. Make a list of banks, credit cards, phone numbers, log in info… anything that will easily help you make financial decisions during transition. If you’re married, sit down with your spouse and make sure you’re both on the same page and have an idea of your financial situation or plan for before, during and after your transition.

A few tips that help us keep this organized and ready: 

  • mSecure app for passwords, logins, document photos and all the important things to remember all in one secure place {this is a great project if you’re in #stayathome mode}
  • an expandable folder that holds notarized copies, originals, passports, immunization cards, cash in different currencies, residency papers, extra passport photos for everyone in the family and whatever else I might need in a quick grab situation

4} Housing decisions on two sides of the ocean. Write down what is happening with your current house. What appliances and gas cans need turned off? Who is paying bills? Where are you storing your packed bins? Who will have keys to check on appliances, bugs, dust and whatever else moves in while you’re gone? Does your guard, house helper, or delivery guys know what they need to do while you’re not home? What’s the plan for the leftover groceries, toiletries, canned goods and freezer items in your house? 

Next, think about housing when you land. Is there a house available with someone in your organization? Family with a full basement? Airbnb furnished apartment for rent? Can someone put together basic groceries for your first breakfast and lunch? These are not easy decisions and sometimes they have to be extremely flexible. But having a plan in place can really help lessen the stress of leaving and landing.

5} Travel arrangements are crucial. How are you going to get to the airport? Who is picking you up? Do you need a hotel for a long layover? Does someone have a car you can borrow? Can a travel agent help arrange some of these things for you? Travel overseas can be days and days of moving around from place to place, flight to flight. Thinking it through every step of the way before you start is a valuable way to prevent mishaps, lower stress and keep your family feeling settled in the midst of transition.

6} Make some phone calls. It’s time to make a list of people you need to call about your transition. The credit card might need to know you’ll be traveling through different countries or making large charges for rental car or airfare. The bank might need to raise your withdrawal limit for 24 hours so you can have cash on hand. The insurance might need to know that you’re going to be arriving in your passport country. Who needs to know that you are traveling so that you don’t end up with unexpected credit card blocks or debit card issues or insurance nightmares? A simple phone call can truly eliminate in-the-moment travel issues. 

7} Address changes. This is such a complicated thing for overseas workers, especially those who move around often. In our case, we have a permanent stateside address with my parents. We have a residence address for another state where we own a house that is currently rented out. We have a PO Box in the country we live in. We have an organization PO Box in the capital city. We have mailing addresses to this sister or that sister or that friend who is receiving a package for us. It’s an ongoing juggling act to keep it all straight and make sure that mail arrives where we need it to go. Throw in an unexpected transition and it really can cause headaches. Make a list of what needs to be changed right now, and what needs to be changed after your transition is over, so that these little details don’t get missed.

Places that often require address {or other information} changes:

  • credit cards
  • banks
  • medical/insurance
  • government
  • investments
  • online shopping sites
  • automatic payments

8} School for the kids. A quick transition doesn’t always mean a school change for the kids. It might be online schooling from another country or dual enrollment with a college in the states or traveling while the kids are still in boarding school or trying to get homeschool curriculum to fit within your suitcase weight requirements. Whatever school looks like for you during transition, think about what’s best for your family. Take a break. Call the school, and let teachers know your kids are on the move for a week or so. Ask for extensions or make up work. Keep the school informed, and don’t be afraid to do what you need to do for the ages of your kids, their needs, your needs and what can help the health of your family during transition.

9} Packing. Lay out the suitcases and bins. Get your luggage scale. Gather what must go. Think through what is in your current place of living that you must have with you. Many times, going back to your home country means not a lot of luggage because you know you’ll get what you need when you land. So, with that extra luggage space, are there things you don’t need overseas anymore? Memorabilia, kids’ artwork, old toys that you want to save, souvenirs from some travels or a kid about to graduate who needs to start moving their things back for college? Another good question to ask when packing during a quick transition is “If I don’t get to come back here, what will matter the most? What will make me sad or mad if I don’t have it?” Pack those things.

10} Process and say goodbye even if it doesn’t look like what you thought it wouldSaying goodbye is very important for transitions. But sometimes, it’s not possible. So, take a few minutes to write down what this could look like for your family. When you’re on that long car ride to the airport, can you talk about the pictures on your phone to help your kids remember the good times? Is there a way to have a good friend take you to the airport as a chance to say goodbye to them? Do you have notebooks laying around in your school supplies that could be used as family travel journals during your trip? What are some creative ways you can make the experience positive, even if it’s more hurried than you’d like? Don’t miss this important step, even if your transition is unexpected.

Regardless of how much planning you do or don’t do, travel days can be incredibly stressful. Transitions can be exhausting. Unplanned trips can be hurried, chaotic and very emotional.

Give yourself grace.

Keep a good list on your phone, so it’s close at hand helping you know what to do next.

Remember that this too shall pass and, on the other side, you’ll have another adventure, another story, another memory to share one day.

What is something that you do to be prepared for these unexpected transitions? What else is on your to-do list? What is something you wish you’d done before so that it made your travel less stressful?

Good news! You can get this checklist on one simple page. Use it today or be ready for your next transition.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Jenilee Goodwin

Wife, boarding school mom, runner, writer, lover of books and a huge coffee fan




  1. J

    In the third step, you mentioned an app that helps you manage passwords, documents, etc. Can you include a link to that app? Thanks so much!

  2. T

    I want to add phone lines for those travelling to the USA, because after years of difficulties with contract companies, we’ve had good experiences with getting sim cards for our cell phones–Mint Mobile is more like the rest of the world, in that you can prepay for a month at a time (or a year to get a discount), and if you think ahead and order from their website, the free sim cards can be waiting at your first USA address when you arrive. No contracts, and very good customer service. Just check on their website to see if your phone will work with their sim cards or even better, with their e-sim cards that don’t require mailing. It’s also the cheapest option we’ve found! We bought our daughter a different phone that would be compatible with Mint because their service was half the monthly price of other providers (like the things we found at walmart, etc).


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