This post is part iv of my (very lengthy) series on Moving to Australia. Use that link to read the overview post or use this link to see all of the posts in this series.

This will hopefully be a short section on buying cheap flights for your move and tossing some crap in a suitcase. I will just quickly give some hot tips on finding a good flight deal and I have a brief list of items not to leave home (your old home) without!

You’ll need to fly here, it’s too far to drive

Let’s figure you’re coming from the US. Your best layover points are in LA, Vancouver, or Honolulu, anything else will add considerable time to your journey. If you’re coming from central or east, you may have some extra stops peppered into the middle as well. Bummer. The least expensive points of entry are typically, in this order, Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, so if you’re not in one of those cities, it may behove you to buy tickets there anyway and just take a cheap connector flight onwards.

Sometimes it’s cheaper to search for a single ticket (i.e. Seattle to Sydney) and sometimes it’s cheaper to search for separates based on a good layover (i.e. Seattle to Honolulu & Honolulu to Sydney). This will involve annoying playing with the search engine. Do bear in mind, though, that separate tickets will require you to collect and recheck any bags, which can be irritating. If it’s the difference of $300, I welcome the irritation. Search skyscanner.com and momondo.com.au for the best deals, although Momondo is usually the best for Australian flights (I like Skyscanner better for Europe).

If you’re one of those people who cares about airlines and is willing to pay more, Qantas is a standout. I also recently took a Delta flight Seattle to Melbourne (via Shanghai for 7 hrs) and I now love Delta, it’s easily as good as Qantas. I do not, however, love United. Alaska & Hawaiian: good. You may find crazy deals Honolulu to Sydney or Melbourne on Jetstar, which is one of Australia’s budget airlines. It’s not very luxurious, especially for 10 hours, but for a $250 ticket, who cares!

My parting airline advice is to stock up on alcohol in the Duty Free when you land in Aus. You will not believe the price of spirits in this country, you truly won’t, so even infrequent drinkers will find it useful to BYO.

Packing for your intercontinental move

I just reread the title of this section as “Packing for your inconvenient move”. That is probably a better title. In case you haven’t guessed, it’s really hard to fit your entire life into a couple of suitcases. So my best advice is not to try. If you’re anything like me, and perhaps even if you aren’t, you’re going to buy a lot of stuff here. The style is different and, unless you’re from So Cal, you probably own a lot of unnecessary cold weather clothing. I would recommend packing one nice winter jacket. I have a wool coat that I bought here and I wear it on nights out in the winter and if I’m visiting Melbourne, but not much more frequently than that. Don’t pack for the arctic, this is not the arctic.

Clothing wise, pack everything you own for summer and it still won’t be enough. Leave most of your university or high school sports t-shirts at home, school spirit is incredibly muted here and you’ll stick out like a sore American thumb (do you want that?). Pack all your swimsuits (“swimmers”) and beach towels. Even if you’re in the city, you’ll be going to the beach, trust me. Pack jeans, they are crazy expensive here. But also lovely, so you’ll probably end up with some
anyway…

Some ridiculously expensive things here that you should pack with you:

  • Mascara $20 (wtf, how)
  • Alcohol, easily $30 for a bottle of vodka
  • Chapstick, like $5 for one tube of Carmex here
  • Backpack if you’re wanting to travel, a painful $400 from Kathmandu (our popular outdoor store, a NZ brand)
  • Rain jacket (it rains a lot on the east coast, it’s very tropical), $400 from Kathmandu
  • Shoes. This is very vague, but here are some examples of prices here: Converse $90, Nikes $180, Timberlands $300
  • Jeans $100-200 for pretty much anything (Lee is an expensive brand here, who knew)

If you are studying, it’s not a bad idea to look at the textbooks you’ll need online and try to buy them before coming. Australia lacks all the Amazon second-hand books and used bookstores that America has, so I have previously picked up a $150 book for $15 while visiting home for a week. And then resold it in Australia after the session to another student for $100—we both felt like winners in that situation.

Your electronics & chargers

Now, this is super important, Australia is on a different voltage system than America, so you’ll want to check any electronics you bring to make sure that they are compatible. Plugging something from the US into an Australian plug pumps way too much power into it and can theoretically start a fire, but will definitely cause damage of some kind. All Apple chargers will be dual voltage, and you can tell by reading that very faint grey print that says 100V-240V or something similar. Most bathroom appliances, like electric toothbrush chargers, hairdryers, straighteners, etc. are single voltage (i.e. 100 or 110V) so they will not work here unless you have a transformer like this (not the same as a plug adapter!) However, I’ve noticed that my new straightener is now dual voltage, so they are obviously starting to make things more universal. In this situation, all you will need is a plug adapter, like the one I linked you to above.

Lastly, I would like to advise that you bring a credit card with no international fees. You will get stung so hard in bank fees if you’re using an American debit card until your new Aussie card arrives about 3-5 days after you apply for it. And the exchange rate on cash is not great, nor are ATM fees, so research cards that offer no international fees and you’ll be able to use it here with no annoying extra charges. This is the card I have, which I use all the time when buying flights and travelling overseas, since it gets such good points. I took 2 free flights to Perth in the first year alone, and those aren’t too cheap!