Moving to Spain with Children

Moving Abroad with Young Children: A Journey of Discovery and Adaptation

Living abroad brings a new perspective to your life; the dynamic of cultural experience is much deeper than just spending a short period. It’s a journey that opens doors to new experiences, challenges, and opportunities. When you decide to embark on this adventure with young children, it adds a layer of complexity and joy that is unique to parenting.

As someone who has embarked on the journey of moving abroad multiple times, with a multicultural family that includes two young children and a Shiba Inu dog, I can attest that increased family size does indeed come with an increase in stress, cost, and effort. In this article, I’ll share my personal experiences and insights into what it’s like to move abroad with young children, focusing on our move to Barcelona, Spain.

The Decision to Move Abroad: A Multicultural Adventure

The decision to move abroad, especially with young children, is a monumental one. It involves not only uprooting your family from your familiar surroundings but also immersing them in a new culture, language, and way of life. For our family, the decision to move to Spain was driven by a desire to provide our biracial children with an environment that embraces multiculturalism and diversity. We saw Barcelona as an excellent place for them to develop a strong sense of self-identity by understanding and respecting differences.

How to Move Abroad with Young Children

Preparation is Key

Moving abroad with young children and a pet can be a lengthy and complex process. There are numerous details to manage, and staying organized is essential. Create a checklist of tasks to help you think more clearly and prioritize effectively.

Maintaining a Positive Attitude

One of the most important aspects of moving abroad is maintaining a positive attitude. Unlike relocating alone, moving with young children requires time and effort. Expat families often spend six months to a year adjusting to their new environment, and some may never fully settle in. The challenges of navigating a new city, overcoming language barriers, and dealing with bureaucratic processes can be overwhelming.

Having a positive attitude not only helps you cope with the daily challenges but also sets a positive example for your children. It fosters optimism and a “can-do” mentality, which can be incredibly helpful when facing difficulties in a new country.

Effective Communication with Children

Before our move to Spain from Taiwan, I prepared my children by explaining that we were going to a new place, a city with beautiful beaches and mountains. I showed them pictures of Barcelona and discussed the exciting activities we could do there. Effective communication with your children is crucial throughout the moving process. This involves listening, understanding their concerns, and providing practical solutions.

Choosing the Right Moving Date

Selecting a moving date can be challenging and depends on various factors such as your flexibility, job situations, and housing arrangements. We chose to move to Spain in late summer for several reasons:

  1. It allowed our children to adapt to the new city before winter.
  2. Packing and moving in the summer meant lighter suitcases.
  3. The school semester begins in September, providing a natural start for our children.

Planning to move during the low season and booking tickets well in advance can help reduce costs. It’s also advisable to check for any credit card rewards or airline mileage programs that can save you money. When traveling with young children, consider contacting the airline company directly to discuss your specific needs.

Selecting a Moving Method

There are different options for moving your belongings when relocating abroad. We chose to work with an international moving company, which assessed the size of our shipment and the distance it needed to travel. Generally, sea freight is more cost-effective than airfreight. Some families prefer a one-stop-shop international mover that takes care of everything from packing to unpacking, while others opt for moving with the maximum airline baggage allowance.

Housing Considerations: Rental vs. Sales

If you are renting your current property, it’s crucial to review the lease contract. If you’re selling, the availability of a buyer can significantly impact your moving date. The costs associated with selling your existing property also need to be factored into your financial planning.

In our case, we began our life in Spain by renting a short-term apartment. This allowed us time to explore different neighborhoods without the immediate pressure of securing a long-term residence. Some cities may require local identification, job proof, and local bank information to rent a long-term apartment. Therefore, having a temporary place to stay can provide a sense of stability for your family while you continue your search for a permanent residence.

Dealing with Documents

Dealing with various documents is often one of the most complex and time-consuming aspects of moving abroad. The process of applying for legal status in a new country can be costly and bureaucratic. You’ll be inundated with official paperwork and government requirements.

In our case, I had to report to the town hall within a specific timeframe after our move to Spain. My daughters were applying for nationality tied to their father, and I was applying for a permanent residence visa. Each application had its own set of required documents, application channels, and deadlines. It’s crucial to consult with the consulate or an immigration attorney well in advance of your move to ensure that you have all the necessary documentation in order.

In addition to legal documents, don’t forget to consider other essential paperwork, such as international driver’s licenses, vaccination records, bank statements, passports, and birth certificates. Ensure that you have the correct versions of these documents, as some may need to be notarized. If your destination country has a different language, find a certified official translator to localize your documents.

Managing Your Finances: Bank and Insurance

Managing your finances is another crucial aspect of moving abroad. Before your move, contact your current bank to inform them of your plans and consider transferring your balance to your new bank if possible. If you plan to bring cash with you, be aware of the maximum cash allowance permitted in your destination country.

If you decide to keep your current bank account open, consider signing a power of attorney with a trusted individual who can assist with any future financial matters in your home country. Don’t forget to address other financial commitments like outstanding bills, debt, and the cancellation of services such as electricity, utilities, water, insurance, gym memberships, internet, and cable.

Prioritizing Your Family’s Health

The health and well-being of your family, especially your children, is paramount when moving abroad. It’s essential to schedule a few physical exams before your move, including vaccinations, dental check-ups, and a comprehensive health check. Familiarize yourself with the healthcare system in your new country, and consider obtaining health insurance coverage to ensure prompt access to medical care when needed.

Spain boasts a well-structured healthcare system, but having insurance coverage provides an added layer of security and quicker access to medical services, especially for your children. Before your move, apply for an official vaccination and health record, which your new family doctor will likely need.

Staying Connected: Cellular Network

In today’s interconnected world, staying connected is essential. Ensure that your mobile phone and network will work in your new country. I found it helpful to cancel my mobile service contract on the day of my move and purchase a temporary European prepaid SIM card in advance. This allowed me to remain in touch with important contacts without any disruption.

Miscellaneous Tasks

Lastly, don’t overlook miscellaneous tasks such as notifying relevant parties of your move, closing or transferring memberships and subscriptions, and tying up loose ends. It’s these “small” details that can sometimes be overlooked but may lead to inconveniences if not properly addressed.

Prepare kids for moving abroad

Settling in and Embracing the New Adventure

Moving abroad, or to any foreign country, is no small feat, and doing so with young children is an even greater challenge. The transition can be daunting, but it’s also a fantastic opportunity for personal growth, learning, and making lasting memories as a family. Here are some tips to help your family settle in and make the most of your new adventure:

Explore Together:

Take the time to explore your new surroundings as a family. Discover the local parks, museums, and cultural attractions. This not only helps you familiarize yourselves with your new home but also provides wonderful bonding experiences for your children.

Language Learning:

Encourage your children to learn the local language. Being able to communicate with local kids and immerse themselves in the culture will enhance their experience. Consider enrolling them in language classes or finding language exchange partners.

Cultural Immersion:

Participate in local cultural events and festivals. These experiences will help your children appreciate the beauty of diversity and broaden their perspectives.


If you have school-age children, carefully research the local educational system and select the best school for them. Ensure that they receive the education and support they need to thrive.

Support Networks:

Building a support network in your new home is crucial. Connect with local expat communities, join social groups, and attend events to meet people with similar interests. Having a support system can make the transition smoother for both you and your children.

Keep a Journal:

Encourage your children to keep a journal or scrapbook of their experiences. This can be a fun and creative way for them to document their journey and express their feelings.

Maintain Contact:

Keep in touch with friends and family back home. Video calls and emails can help your children feel connected to loved ones despite the distance.

Cuisine Exploration:

Try local dishes and involve your children in cooking traditional recipes. Food is a wonderful way to experience a new culture and can be an enjoyable family activity.

Embrace Flexibility:

Be open to change and adaptability. Moving abroad can be unpredictable, so maintaining a flexible attitude will help you navigate unexpected challenges.

Celebrate Milestones:

Celebrate significant milestones and achievements. This can help your children feel a sense of accomplishment and appreciation for their journey.

In conclusion, moving abroad with young children is a remarkable adventure that presents both challenges and opportunities. While the journey may be complex, the rewards are boundless. It’s a chance for your family to learn, grow, and create cherished memories together. With careful planning, a positive attitude, and a willingness to embrace the new, you can make the transition smoother and more enjoyable for your family. As you embark on this journey, remember that the experience of living in a foreign land and immersing yourself in a different culture is a priceless gift that will enrich the lives of both you and your children.

So, if you’re considering moving abroad with your young children, take the leap, embark on this adventure, and watch as your family’s world expands in ways you could have never imagined.

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