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Packing for an ACT 20/22 Family Move

REX Relocation Services helps you make the move from mainland to Puerto Rico, advising and easing you through confusing local procedures and customs and helping with everyday adjustments. The following article details a REX packing experience for a family of 6.

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When we decided that our stay in Puerto Rico would be an extended stay - a move really - packing changed.  Instead of planning for a few weekends on the beach, I was now planning for a season of beach living.  This trip, and the packing for it, became more about defining what makes home "home" versus what we needed to enjoy a little getaway.  If you were to peek into our packed luggage, you might be a little confused though.  While the boxes and boxes of prescription contacts make sense, you might be confused about that bundle of muslin bags and that tote full of LEGOS.

1. First off, here is how we shipped the things we DID choose to bring. 4 Totes -- Solid plastic totes, filled to bursting with NON LIQUIDS and taped within an inch of their lives.  Shipped directly to our new address via USPS for $60 each.  Weight was between 40-70 pounds each. NOTE: UPS and FEDEX charge outrageous amounts to ship to Puerto Rico. USPS charges standard state-state rates.

2. Secondly, we packed 2 checked bags, checked tennis racket bag and checked golf club bag.  Southwest flies direct from Baltimore to San Juan, so that was our obvious choice and our checked items were included with the price of our tickets.  We could have checked more free, but were worried about the amount of room in the rented mini-van once we got to Puerto Rico.

3.  Carry-ons - The boys each had a small backpack, I had a carryon and diaper bag.  We splurged on kid tablets as well.  The kids have been begging for months and have been doing chores to earn tablets for a while now, so we bought super sturdy ones with great parental controls.  My husband carried a backpack personal item, small rolling carryon & the carseat.

That was IT.  

When it came to deciding if an item should stay or go, there were a few questions I asked for each item.

1. Can we get in Puerto Rico?
2. Is it particularly expensive in Puerto Rico?
3. Will we buy it once or many times?  (i.e. toothpaste vs electronic toothbrushes)
4. How much valuable space does it take up in the luggage?
5. How heavy is it?
6. How fragile is it?
7. How often do we use it?
8. Is it an "essential" piece of home?

Here is some more insight into some of the more interesting choices:

1. Roller Blades - They are heavy, bulky and hard to pack around.  WHY would be bring them??  In our new place, there are tons of sidewalks and places that the kids can safely skate.  They also ask to skate nearly everyday, so this is not a new activity, nor is it undervalued.  In lieu of bikes, at least for a time, skates are the best wheeling option.  Were we to replace them and purchase new, they would be far more expensive than the portion of a tote they took up.

2. LEGOS -  I allowed enough room for two plastic boxes (took up about half of one tote) filled completely with LEGOS.  We will need quiet time activities when the sun scorches in the afternoons, and aside from electronics, LEGOS are by far the favorite quiet time activity for the boys,  I snuck these boxes away about a month before the move so they would be fresh and exciting once we arrived.  I daresay LEGOS might be the best toy in terms of size and entertainment value.

3. Books -  We packed the kids' Bibles and they chose 2-3 small, light books that they wanted.  That is IT.  They are heavy and the kids do not read the same books over and over again anymore, so we will have to learn Spanish quickly and go to the local library.  I brought one book and have bought about 5 via Amazon since then. In hindsight, I wished we had packed more books because the kids really miss them and there is no real used English book market that we have found here. (FUN UPDATE: The postal store at Palmanova Plaza has a free book exchange and most are in English!  UPDATE #2 It is gone :/)

4. Other Toys
- Each boy picked out 5-6 small-medium toys and they were shipped out in totes.  The place we are living in Puerto Rico (Palmas del Mar) has tennis courts, many swimming areas, playgrounds, golf and even horseback riding.  We tire them out daily with activities, so toys are not as essential.

5. Essentials - There were some items that would take a TON of effort or expensive to duplicate in Puerto Rico, so these are the essentials that were non-negotiable: 1. Prescription Contacts and Glasses 2. Electric Toothbrushes and Regular Toothbrushes (small and can be expensive) 3. Fluoride Prescriptions for the kids (just in case).

6. Clothing - There are a lot of people in our family and thus A LOT of clothing, so clothing decisions were thought over quite a bit.  Let's start with youngest to oldest. The baby - We had tons of cute dresses and pretty 2T clothes that would never get worn if she doesn't wear them now.  Her clothes are also still fairly light and small, so I packed half a suitcase with baby clothing, shoes and accessories.  I did not buy anything new.

The Boys - The boys RUIN clothing and it is rare now to have many good hands me downs from our 9 year old to the 6 or 6 to the 5.  There were a few nice, new shorts I had purchased last year that were packed and about 10-12 swimsuits we already had.  Otherwise, we did not really have too much for the upcoming summer.  Instead of packing ratty old T-shirts, we saved the luggage space and weight and made a stop at Old Navy on the way home from the San Juan airport. Then we left because it was a MADHOUSE.  Plaza Las Americas is a massive mall and does an insane amount of business. You will be shocked at how busy all the stores are in Puerto Rico. There might be a huge debt the country owes, but it does not look like it from the outside.

I ended up going online, letting everyone pick their colors and used coupon codes to keep the price down.  We budgeted $500-$1,000 for the entire family and I ended up spending just under $300 for 50 cheap items from Old Navy and then around $100 on new socks and underwear at WalMart and Amazon.  The boys needed a bunch of T-shirts, some shorts and many, many sandals.  I did utilize tote space to pack all the new sneakers I had already purchased for the boys at Payless when they were 6 bucks or something. Me - I am probably the most difficult to pack and shop for clothing-wise, so one checked suitcase was almost entirely my things.  There is no Target in Puerto Rico, so my very favorite Target clothing and my very favorite summer dresses were packed.  I also spent a week shopping for proper summer undergarments.  I also invested in 6 pairs of sunglasses, because again, bright light makes me a grump and a half.  We shipped a nice suit and dress shoes in a tote. There are many Marshalls throughout Puerto Rico and is the only place I really shop now that we are settled in.

7. Toiletries - I packed some that I thought might be hard to find, but you need not.  There is literally everything you might need here.

8. Computers and Camera
- We both use our computers a lot for work, so we needed to pack several laptops, my camera, one extra lens and plenty of cords.  I also packed an old laptop for the kids.  The old laptop when in a tote mainly full of clothing and packed very tightly in the middle.  The more expensive items went in the one rolling carryon piece of luggage with NO toiletries or liquids.

9. Home - Determining which "things" really make home feel like home and which things are utterly disposable is quite an interesting exercise.  The house we are renting was stocked with towels, sheets, plates, etc, so those types of items were not a consideration.  The ridiculousness of my packing is mainly in the craft supply and gardening arena. Rainbow makers - It is such a silly thing, but these are small and make me smile whenever the sun passes by the windows where they hang each day and they were a non-negotiable for me.  I have THIS ONE and THIS DOUBLE ONE. Small Crafting Tools - If they were small and I didn't know if I could replace them in PR, I packed them.  Carving tools, clay tools, hot glue gun, etc. were all on the list.  While they might seem frivolous, both my job and my joy come from crafting, so I packed THIS:
Packing for an ACT 20/22 Family Move
Fabrics, Box of Jewelry Beads and Findings, Some Paper Craft Supplies
Packing for an ACT 20/22 Family Move
Four Baskets with Ribbons, String, Garlands, Stamping Tools, etc.
I also packed seeds -- tons of them -- none of them prohibited in Puerto Rico.  I knew I wanted to have a potted garden, and I was sad not getting to plant back in PA, so my seeds came with me. The tennis rackets and golf clubs - These were a last minute decision to bring along, but a good one.  As I mentioned, the complex has tennis courts and golf, so we knew we would be playing a lot.  The boys have all been playing tennis and have nice rackets, so it would be quite expensive to replace and they checked free on the flight.  They are also small enough to sit on if need be in the rented minivan.  Same goes with the golf clubs.  They are kid-sized which are hard to find and can be expensive, so checking them made sense.  We will rent or buy grown-up clubs since we do not currently own a nice set at home in PA.

What I did NOT pack:

Yoga mat - I knew there was a WalMart in Humacao and my mat would take up too much bulky space in the tote. Dirty Crafting Supplies - Paint, construction paper, glue, etc can all be found cheaply and could be a disaster if I tried to ship it. Large Liquids - Toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo, conditioner -- all that stuff can be purchased at the local WalMart. Tons of Adult Shoes - We go through shoes fairly quickly and I only packed one nice, black pair along with a couple pairs of new sandals.  They take up way too much room to be shipping them.

If you are interested in learning more and making the leap, please read and contact REX:Relocation Experts.

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