By Jessica Hancock
Moving house is never easy, moving to a new country is even more difficult but with a lot of planning it can be a lot less stressful than you think.
Our move was slightly unorthodox, if you have read ‘our story’ then you will know that there was a lack of long term lets when we were looking last year and we wanted to enroll the children in school ready for a September start ( school enrollment in Spain is on set dates in May before they break up for the long summer holidays start in June) so when we finally found a house we liked that hadn’t been snapped up, we took the rental on early…. 3 months early!!! This meant that we had to move house in 2 stages. Part 1 would be getting our belongings over to our new house and having a holiday whilst we got all the Spanish paperwork underway and starting the process of getting the children into the local school (to get the children enrolled at school we needed to have our NIE’s and be on the padron.) We would then return to the UK to get our house tenant ready, letting the children finish school, me completing my work contract and generally tying up lose ends before the final move. Part 2 would be driving over to Spain in July on the overnight ferry with the children and all the the rest of our belongings, ready to start our new life in the sun.
To take or not to take
The first thing to decide when moving to a new country is whether you will be taking all your belongings with you or selling up and starting afresh. In Spain its very common that furniture is included with the house, whether buying or renting. Our new house was empty apart from a few items we bought off the previous tenant’s. We wanted our new house to feel like home straight away as we felt this would help the children settle in more easily, we wanted to take as many of our personal possessions as we could but it also gave us the chance to have a massive sort out ( 2 skip loads) its a good job we did as storage space is nearly non existent in Spanish houses.
We then had to work out how to get all our belongings to Spain. We were given details for a removal guy David, who my aunt had used on a few of their moves within Spain, He does regular UK to Spain runs and was fairly reasonably priced. There are a lot of company’s who do UK to Spain removals and I have heard some real horror stories of scratched, broken furniture and missing items so please chose wisely and listen to recommendations from family, friends or local expat groups. We thought the price for moving our stuff from UK to Spain was pretty good, it cost us £1250 for a Luton van load, I know friends who have paid this much just to move down the road in the UK. David was going to pop to our house when he arrived in the UK to check our load and ensure there was enough space on his van for our load. note to self – we probably should have stopped packing at this stage! If I can give any advice about estimating your load size, add a few extra cubic meters to what you think you have, you WILL need the extra space!
We were renting our UK house out so we had the opportunity to leave some larger furniture items that wouldn’t fit in our new house in Spain. This also meant that our house in the UK wouldn’t be totally empty in the planned 6 weeks between our 2 moves.
The Actual move – part 1
On the 11th May 2018 Dave arrived with an empty wagon ready to load up. We had roped in family and friends to help, everything we wanted to take with us was boxed up and ready to go. It took a fair few hours of careful loading, and quite a few expletives trying to get everything in. We soon realised that not everything would fit so we had to make a few executive decisions on the day. We agreed to get in all the essentials and we could get the rest of the stuff shipped over at a later date, if we couldn’t fit it all in the car.
3 days later on the 14th May our stuff had already arrived in Spain…..but we were still in the UK! Aunty Angie and Uncle Tim to the rescue, we were very lucky to have family already living in Spain so rather than putting our belongings in storage they offered to collect the keys to our new house, sign the inventory and help unload the lorry. Unfortunately we couldn’t talk them into unpacking for us too haha.
It was a very strange feeling, we were so excited that our new life in the sun had already begun, there was no backing out now, but I found it really difficult knowing all of our belongings were already in our new home whilst we were still in the UK, it wouldn’t be for long though, we would be joining them soon for a holiday (note to self- unpacking is not a holiday).
Arriving in sunny Spain
On May 19th we arrived at Birmingham airport, cases packed full of summer clothes and boarded a plane to Spain.
We were on a late evening flight so we decided to stay at my Aunt & Uncles who live near the airport for the night as we couldn’t really start unpacking at 11pm plus we had no beds to sleep in as they would all need building first – flat pack hell! We were all too excited to sleep, me and the kids hadn’t even seen the house yet, it was a long restless night and what I’d imagine would be an early morning full of excitement.
And yes I was right, it was a very early start…. we were all raring to go and jumped in the car for our first journey to our new house, it was amazing taking in all the sights on the way, the pink and green salt plains, the salt mountains that looked like snow & the pink flamencos. The journey took about 20 minutes, it was all so new to us, we hadn’t even visited our new area and sim had only been once to view the house. We drove through Guardamar del segura and saw the sea, this would become out local beach and it looked stunning. Finally we arrived and in we went to view our new house!
We all loved it, sim sighed a massive sigh of relief, can you imagine if we had hated it!?! There were boxes and furniture everywhere and we didn’t really know where to start, the kids did though……..the pool! For children who had grown up in Birmingham, UK, having a pool (even a communal one) was(in their words) EPIC!!!
In the pool with daddy
We knew we would have to plan our time well, we had a whole house to unpack, a king size bed and 2 sets of bunks to build plus 2 dining tables but we also had 2 very excited children who get bored very easily and we also had all the dreaded Spanish paperwork to do. We were booked in to do our NIE at Elche police station and after that we had to do the padron too. We thought if we could spend half a day doing unpacking or doing jobs and half a day having fun that the kids wouldn’t get too bored and they wouldn’t think moving to Spain was all about meetings and unpacking. We also bought a paddling pool for the garden, it seemed a little silly bearing in mind we now had an actual swimming pool but it meant that we could unpack nearby whilst the kids played in the paddling pool in the garden without worrying about them too much.
We managed to do quite a lot during our 10 days in Spain, by day 6 we had finished all our unpacking and completed our paperwork requirements. We had tried out a fair few local restaurants. popped to the garden center and bought some plants, visited the local Rojales cave houses whilst visiting the children’s new school and we had a couple of beach days as well as using the pool most days. We were really enjoying our new life in Spain but it was now time to head back to the UK and wrap up there before we could really start our happy new life in the sun.
Heading home & a change of plan
It was quite depressing having to go back to the UK, I think I found it the hardest, I just wanted to get on with our new life but I had to go back to finish my work contract and get the house ready for our tenants to move in. It was pretty damn stressful when we arrived home, we were still chasing solicitors for a date for our apartment sale to complete, we needed the money from the sale to do the renovation works on our family home, what should have been 8 week completion took 6 months!
This had a massive knock on effect, we had to make changes to our planned departure date. We had always planned on taking the overnight ferry from Plymouth to Santander so we could drive over as a family in our car together, we thought it would be a great adventure but whilst we were waiting for completion the boat had been fully booked, I went into panic mode….. how were we going to get there, we thought about driving through France instead but the thought of driving for 28 hours with our two kids ( one with autism who cant hack too long in a car with his sister) was my worst nightmare. We had to have a major rethink, another problem was that our new tenants had given notice on there other house so we had a set date to work to, we would be homeless after that date.
Another issue was our family home, we still had so much to do. We wanted our tenants to have a lovely fresh house to move into and after living there for 5 years with 2 small children it was far from fresh, we wanted to re-carpet, put in a new kitchen and bathroom and repaint the whole house. We were still waiting for the money from the apartment sale to do the house up, this meant that everything was being left to the last minute, we couldn’t just sit around and do nothing so we did everything we could whilst we waited. We stripped walls, took out the old bathroom, filled skips, painted bedrooms, ripped out carpets and packed up the rest of our belongings, Phew….There were a lot of late nights and early starts, we were going to need a holiday to get over this move.
We finally had a completion date….YAY…. but it was after the date we originally planned to move, we wouldn’t have anywhere to live for a few weeks, luckily one of our closest friends offered for us to go and stay with him, this was a godsend, we couldn’t thank him enough. We made the decision that me and the kids would go to Spain first by plane and that Sim would follow a couple of weeks later in the car with a friend to help with long drive via the channel tunnel and France. My brother offered to come with me to help us settle in. I was gutted that we wouldn’t be starting our new life in the sun together as planned but happy that we finally had a new plan of action and it wouldn’t be long till we were all there together.
Saying our goodbyes
Although the kids were really excited about the move, moving schools for them and us, was a big thing, they both had amazing best friends in the UK who they were very close to and this was one of the hardest things about moving, you feel bad as a parent making such drastic changes but we knew that the life we hoped to give them in Spain would hopefully be worth it, it would give them an amazing lifestyle and they would soon make new friends, plus we would stay in touch with their UK friends too, they have all been invited to come and stay in Spain with us. It still wasn’t easy though when it came to there last day of school, I was a mess and i’m still emotional now, nearly a year later, whilst sitting here and writing this & looking through the photos!!!
leaving my best friend behind
We had decided to throw a leaving party, we are well known for our love of party’s and this would be our final one one in the UK. We hired out the garden area of our local pub and invited all of our closest friends and family, I even had old work colleagues that I hadn’t seen for ten years come, it was an amazing day and i’m so glad that we made the time to have this final farewell, yes we would see everyone again, most of friends were already booked in for holidays but this was an amazing day that we will never forget.
The Move – part 2
The day came when we had to move out of our family home, it was a lot more emotional than I had anticipated, we had all been so excited about our new life that we hadn’t really had chance to think about what we were leaving behind. We had enjoyed 6 years of fun in our family home, we had made so many memories and I was sad knowing it wouldn’t be our home anymore. It was tough emotionally but it was physically hard work too, I think we slept about 6 hours in the last 3 days!!! We again roped in our family and friends to help, our best mate Marc managed (maybe on purpose) to sprain his ankle whilst moving the first box so he was sidelined pretty quickly. I couldn’t believe how much stuff was still in the house, I had a car full of bin bags bursting to the brim to take to the charity shop, we did 2 van loads to the parents in law and everything else went in the skip!
Finally the day was here for the children and me to get on that plane heading to sunny Spain with my brother in tow. We had said goodbye to Daddy the night before and wouldn’t see him for 2 weeks, the longest we had been apart. it was tough! We had an early morning flight and spent the evening before at my mom and stepdads, I was an emotional wreck when the taxi came and I had to say goodbye to my mom, she was going to be visiting in a few weeks anyways but I think the last few weeks had just caught up with me, we were finally on our way to our happy new life in the sun……..
Arriving in Spain ……again!
When we arrived at Alicante airport it was HOT, much hotter than May! A lovely friend of mine collected us from the airport and took us to our new house, the kids were so excited to show their uncle around. The first thing I noticed was our plants, now very dead plants, we hadn’t thought this through when we excitedly bought them at the end of May!!! The kids weren’t bothered about the plants though, they were waiting to show Uncle Ad around, they rushed upstairs to their bedrooms, cue a large screech, 2 birds had got into the house whilst we had been away( via the chimney we presume) there were now 2 dead birds outside Harvey’s bedrooms door, so glad I bought my brother with me, i’m not good with dead creatures, I was very hopeful that this wasn’t some kind of bad omen.
We had another shipment of our belongings on its way, this time we used another guy as David didn’t have a trip booked for the timescale we needed, Paul had collected our stuff a couple of weeks ago and had kept it in storage for us, he turned up with our stuff the day we landed and I was thankful for my brother being here again! It was mainly items we had still needed in the UK, kitchen equipment/utensils, things we had used daily, plus our garden furniture ( we had decided to bring ours over after checking out the price of garden furniture in Spain).
We spent the next 2 weeks, taking local adventures, getting to know the area, enjoying the beach & pool and the biggest thing for me, I had to get used to driving on the wrong side of the road – if i’m honest within 4/5 days I was loving driving in Spain and I now much prefer it to driving in the UK.
Finally, 2 weeks later Sim arrived in Spain after a 28 hour drive, our family was complete and it was now time to start our happy new life in the sun.
You can see all our moving photos here The Big Move
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