It seems like all I do these days is look at the calendar, make plans and make lists. We have less than 3 months left in Kosovo!
When we leave, we will go back to the US for several weeks for Home Leave. Home Leave is required by law – we have to return to the US to reacquaint ourselves, eat hot dogs, and be all American. For me, that means visiting with family and friends, eating at all of my favorite places, and an absurd number of trips to Target and Kohls. For JR, he just sees money flying out of
his our bank account.
Home leave is a really nice benefit, but it can be incredibly expensive. We don’t own a home or a car in the US, and we’ve heard stories from colleagues about how quickly lodging, rental car and food costs can add up during your required stay in the States. In addition, we will be stocking up on consumables for our time in Georgia and buying other neccessities (okay, and some wants!) while we’re home. We are incredibly fortunate that we have an apartment we can use at my grandparents’ house, and several family members who are willing to loan us a car.
But before we can start home leave, we have to pack out here. One really nice thing is that we don’t have to do the packing ourselves. However, we have to decide how to sort our belongings into different shipments, try to anticipate how much of our stuff will fit in our next house, and we try to time it up correctly so we can get our shipments in Tbilisi as soon as possible.
When we leave Kosovo we’ll have our six checked bags with us, plus the baby and the cat. We each get two bags with a 50lb weight limit (and we are usually at 49.5lbs per bag). We’ll have all the clothes and other items we need during home leave (the baby monitor and sound machine are top priority in a carry-on because I would be in a panic if we lost either of those), as well as anything we’ll need immediately upon arriving in Georgia. I think we should be fine with six large checked bags, but I really want to minimize our carry-on situation, because that is what gives me the most grief while we travel and I’d rather not look like this again at the airport:
Speaking of which, how soon until Abby can carry her own bag? Next year maybe?
The rest of our stuff is divided into two major categories – Unaccompanied Air Baggage (UAB) and Household Effects (HHE).
Our UAB is our air freight shipment. We can have up to 600lbs sent by air, which should arrive in Georgia anywhere from a few weeks to 2 months after we do. Most Embassy housing is furnished, but we prefer to have our own couch and bed with us. So those items, and everything else – clothes, books, kitchen items, all of our other wordly belongings- make up our HHE. That will typically arrive 2-3 months after we do. You can have up to 7200lbs of HHE shipped. We will also have our car shipped from Pristina to Tbilisi. It may take several weeks or a few months to arrive.
The government will store any excess items that we do not want to take to post. Initially we weren’t planning to send items back to storage during this pack out, but we have SO MUCH STUFF, so we have to send some back. We already have two small storage units in DC from our previous packouts. What’s crazy is that I barely remember what we have in each unit, and they are stored in two separate lots – one from our Columbus move and one from our DC move. I have no idea when we’ll ever retreive these things or if we’ll even want them when that day comes.
I’m going to be much smarter about our UAB allowance this time around. When we arrive in Tbilisi, we will have a furnished house and a welcome kit provided by the Embassy. The welcome kit contains sheets, towels, dishes, a few small appliances, and some miscellaneous things, like a TV. It’s helpful, but it’s really not enough to make do while you wait for your HHE. For example, our welcome kit here contained dishes for 4, and two bath towels. Two bath towels = too much laundry. So we’ll be including towels, pillows, and some other comfort things in our UAB. We will also have the baby’s high chair and pack ‘n’ play, several of her favorite toys.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around the best way to handle things the day of the pack-out. Our apartment is on the small side and each room is pretty full. Ideally, we can have a spot that we designate as UAB items, and a spot with our designated checked baggage. We don’t want to risk either of those piles getting mixed in with our HHE shipment. And in our previous packouts, we’ve been shocked by how quickly the movers box things up, so you really have to be on alert and watching for issues.
It’s a lot to think about and plan for, and I’m always getting new tips and ideas from other FS families. Here’s hoping this is our best pack out yet!