Family with luggage outside SFO airport

Moving internationally with a toddler during a pandemic

We had been planning to move from San Francisco to Melbourne, Australia for years…four years to be precise. And for lots of reasons, we hadn’t yet taken the plunge. When COVID-19 hit and we realized how hard it was to be away from family and that both Justin and I would likely be working remotely for upwards of a year, we decided it was time for us to make the move.

But moving internationally, during a pandemic, with a toddler, while 20 weeks pregnant isn’t as easy as it sounds (in case it sounded easy). There were to many hurdles to overcome which we feel so grateful to have skated over:

      • Smooth move out of SF. We had to pack up our home and lives in SF. We had great movers but the logistics were intense. Here is one tip for moving day if you have a baby/toddler: folks will say to pack the nursery last but we had them pack it first so that we could clean and set up the room to be ready for her afternoon nap. It was a rough nap since it looked super strange to her, but better to have that space when she needed it. Overall, the move went super smoothly. Also — get movers who will pack you up! That is a lifesaver! The worst part wasn’t moving day but given the pandemic and social distancing in SF, we didn’t get any real goodbyes with our dear friends. We’ll have to go back at some point and throw a farewell (again) party.

Packed luggage

      • Living in an empty house for two days. This was one of the hardest parts. We borrowed a pack ‘n’ play and air mattress from a friend but otherwise only had the luggage we were taking with us on the plane. That meant for two days, we didn’t have any curtains to darken Juliette’s room, no high chair for her to sit in while eating and also not a single chair to sit on. We were thankful to have kept an old blanket to sit on, picnic-style, while we ate dinner. Overall, we made it work, but we were very glad it was just two days.

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        • Getting on the flight to Australia. Two weeks before we were scheduled to fly, Melbourne stopped accepting all international flights. So we made sure we had flights into Sydney (nonstop from SF!). Then Australia capped each flight to 50 passengers. When we got to the airport, we were told our flight was oversold and they had to bump 5 people. We crossed all fingers and toes and were so grateful to get onto our flight. The next day, the rules changed to a limit of just 30 passengers per flight! The timing was perfect and we felt so lucky to have made it onto this flight.

Toddler sitting on dad's lap during

        • Flying during COVID-19. The flight itself felt very safe. Not only did we wipe everything (and United also offered wipes to us) but since there were only 50 people on a huge plane, there weren’t any other passengers within many rows of us so we had space to spread out and didn’t have to worry about people being too close. We had to wear our masks the whole flight (except while eating/drinking) but we got used to it. Also, the airport terminals were very empty so that also helped us feel more safe. Tip: always have hand sanitizer accessible, bring your own pens for any forms, don’t touch things unnecessarily and remember not to rub your face.


        • Safe process when landing. When we landed in Sydney, they had us queue up for a medical screening before immigration checks. They took our temp and then spoke with us about our health, exposure and next steps. It all felt very thorough. We then got to immigration (no lines!) and baggage claim (no other flights arriving) so the entire place was practically empty.

What I most appreciated about the entire experience was how friendly everyone was, especially once we landed in Australia. They had a very thorough process but each person we encountered met us with a smile, warm welcome and even some light banter.

The entire experience worked out at each stage and we were so grateful to have finally made it to Sydney. We definitely breathed a huge sigh of relief upon landing.

We did it. International move. During a pandemic. With a toddler. Check. Onto the next adventure…two weeks of government mandated hotel quarantine!


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