How To Pack for a Cross-Country Move

How To Pack for a Cross-Country Move

A long-distance move can be very intimidating. You’ll never really know how many things you have until you need to pack them all–and realize that you need at least a month to finish packing everything! Daunting though it may be, it can be done smoothly with enough preparation, time, and know-how.

Here are 10 helpful tips on how to pack for a cross-country move:

  1. Make a packing plan.
  2. Hire professional movers.
  3. Toss out things you don’t need.
  4. Buy packing supplies.
  5. Keep clothes in dressers.
  6. Protect fragile items.
  7. Pack boxes properly.
  8. Keep valuables with you.
  9. Pack heavy items in suitcases.
  10. Label all boxes.

Eager to get started? Let’s discuss each of these packing tips in more detail to help you better prepare for the big move.

1. Make a Packing Plan

A cross-country move is a major transition involving uprooting you from your current home to an entirely new place miles and miles away. More often than not, this task can seem intimidating. So intimidating, in fact, that you may not know where or how to begin. 

Before packing anything, it’s important to start with a concrete plan that will help guide you. This guide should let you know when, where, and how to complete the packing strategically to minimize stress. Ideally, you should create your packing plan at least a couple of months ahead to have plenty of time.

Your packing plan should involve the following:

  • Packing timeline. This should tell you when you should start packing and where you are supposed to work (which part of the house) every week. Dividing the packing into smaller activities per week makes it less intimidating.
  • Home inventory. When you’re packing an entire home filled with all sorts of stuff, the chances of forgetting something small but important are really high. So, make sure that you make a list of everything that needs to be packed and what you will keep with you (such as essentials and valuables).
  • Packing supplies list. You will save so much time by planning what you need ahead instead of having to run to the store every time you realize something’s missing.
  • Photos of your home. Take photos of every room of your home as is. This will help you remember where everything was and can also be helpful as proof in case something goes missing or is broken during the move.
  • List of potential movers. It’s important to have a small list of professional movers to choose from if you decide to hire their services later.
  • Moving file. This should include all documents related to the move–from the contract with the movers, payment receipts, and agreements. This will help you store everything in one place and ensure you don’t lose anything important.

As soon as your packing or moving timeline is set, stick to your plan as closely as you can so you have enough time to pack everything and are able to approach it in an organized way. Try not to jump from one room to another, as this will mess up your boxes and make unpacking much more difficult later on.

2. Hire Professional Movers

If you don’t think you have the time (or the energy) to do the packing yourself, you may hire professional movers early. Professional moving services are ideal if you have lots of fragile valuables, like expensive art pieces or paintings that you’re not confident you can handle on your own. Some movers will even offer packing plan services, so you may be able to skip step one if you book early.

Plus, booking movers early can also help you get more affordable rates. The closer to the date of the move you book a professional moving service, the higher the rates usually are. 

When choosing a professional mover, check whether they have a license to operate as well as insurance coverage in case things go south. If you don’t know where to start looking for movers (or, if you don’t trust what you see on the web), try to get recommendations from friends.

If you want to choose a cheaper option, you can take care of the moving by hiring a moving van or a moving container. The latter is the option to go with if you don’t have a set moving date yet but want to start packing soon. Moving containers are typically left in your residence, so you can take your time with packing.

3. Toss Out Things You Don’t Need

To make packing so much easier and faster, toss out everything in your home that you no longer use or that you don’t need. Try donating clothes or toys or give them away to people that you know will need them. You can also try doing a garage sale instead to lighten your load and earn a few extra bucks simultaneously.

If you’re a hoarder, this is easier said than done. Looking at your stuff, you may think you need everything. To help you out, ask yourself this question: “When was the last time I used this?” If you can’t remember the last time you reached for it or see no need for it in the near future, it should go to your donation bin.

A lighter load will not only make packing faster and easier. It will also make unpacking and settling into your new home a breeze. We can’t emphasize enough how stressful unpacking tons of stuff can be–sometimes it’s even more exhausting than the packing.

So, do yourself a favor, and pack only what you actually need. 

4. Buy Packing Supplies

Now that you have a plan and a clear idea of your packing timeline, it’s time to ready your packing supplies. Prepping these ahead of time will save you countless trips to the store for packaging tape or permanent markers. It’s usually the small things that get forgotten but turn out to be really important!

Here are the packing supplies that you need to have ready:

  • Boxes.
  • Heavy-duty scissors or box cutter.
  • Packaging tape and scotch tape.
  • Rope.
  • Old newspapers or cheap newsprint.
  • Space bags.
  • Broad permanent markers.
  • Furniture pads and covers.
  • Bubble wrap.
  • Ziplock bags.
  • Special crates for fragile items like TVs and paintings.

Prepare a number of boxes of different sizes based on your packing inventory. To save money, try to reuse as many old boxes and supplies as possible. If you know you’re moving a few months from now, for example, make sure to keep the boxes that come with any purchases.

It may sound like such a small thing, but the cost of boxes, newsprint, and other items do add up. Moving can get quite expensive, so try to cut costs wherever you can (of course, without sacrificing your needs and comfort).

5. Keep Clothes in Dressers

You might be surprised at just how many clothes you need to pack. So, if you discover that you’re running low on boxes between clothes and other household items, keep your clothes in dressers or wardrobes instead. This way, you can pack them as they are (which also means less hassle when unpacking).

To make this work, simply wrap the tape around your dresser so the drawers don’t fall out. Some movers can do this for you, but since not all do, it’s best to prep your dressers yourself.

If you have a wardrobe, you don’t have to remove any clothes that need hanging. Simply keep them inside and wrap the tape around the wardrobe to secure the doors and keep them from opening during transport.

Another option to consider is using wardrobe boxes. This way, you can pack clothes without having to remove them from their hangers. It’s also great if you don’t have a wardrobe to take with you, such as if you have been using a built-in wardrobe in your current home.

6. Protect Fragile Items

One of the trickiest parts of moving is packing and transporting fragile items, such as glassware, household appliances, and sensitive valuables like expensive paintings. The last thing you want to happen is to unpack your boxes and find that your china is cracked or smashed to pieces.

Thankfully, that can easily be prevented.

Here’s how to secure your glassware like plates and glasses:

  1. Wrap individual plates, glasses, and other glassware in old newspapers or newsprint. Double the layers if necessary, such as if the newsprint is too flimsy.
  2. Bundle up five to six plates together and wrap with another layer or two of old newspapers. You can use dish towels to wrap the bundles together too.
  3. Stack the bundles of plates on their sides, making sure that they are snug inside the box and that there is not much extra space left.
  4. Wrap the glasses, bowls, and other breakable items the same way you did the plates. Stack the glasses, cups, and bowls and arrange them in a box so that they fit snugly inside.
  5. Ball up old newspapers and use these to fill the floor of the boxes as well as to fill in the gaps.
  6. Check to make sure that the plates and other glassware are fixed in their place.
  7. Ball up more newspapers and fill them on top of your glassware to act as extra padding before closing the box. You can use dish towels as padding instead if you run out of newspapers.

Paintings also require delicate handling. If you are hiring professional movers, inform them that you need special crates to transport those. Do not attempt to wrap oil paintings in paper or any type of plastic, as this will damage them.

7. Pack Boxes Properly

How To Pack for a Cross-Country Move

Boxes look pretty straightforward, and you might be tempted to simply toss in whatever is within reach. But when not done correctly, boxes can easily get damaged, potentially also damaging your things.

To make sure that doesn’t happen, here are tips on how to properly pack your boxes:

  • Use small boxes for heavy items and large boxes for light ones. One of the most common mistakes professional movers encounter is people putting loads that are too heavy inside large boxes. This makes boxes prone to tearing and harder to transport.
  • Place heavier items at the bottom and lighter ones at the top. Doing this will help keep your boxes stable and easier to carry. Top-heavy boxes will topple–and you don’t want your stuff (especially fragile ones) rolling around in the moving van.
  • Do not cross the flaps. Many people think crossing their boxes’ flaps will make them more secure. In fact, though, especially when packing boxes full, this can make the boxes prone to tearing. Instead, close the flaps normally and tape over.
  • Tape your moving boxes. Unless they’re extremely light (which can be a waste of space), you should tape all of your moving boxes to make them more secure.
  • Don’t pack your boxes too light or too heavy. Use just the right size boxes when packing to avoid wasting space (putting too few items in a large box) or making boxes prone to breakage (packing too heavy).
  • Take apart large furniture and pack it in boxes when possible. To save space and make transport easier, take large furniture apart and place parts in boxes whenever possible (such as table legs and other parts).

8. Keep Valuables With You

Whether you’re packing your things yourself or hiring professional movers to do it for you, you should never pack your valuables and essentials together with the ones you put in the moving van or truck.

Important documents, for example, as well as jewelry, should be with you instead. This includes other essential items that you will need right away once you reach your new home, like a change of clothes, sheets to sleep on, basic kitchenware, and medicine. 

9. Pack Heavy Items in Suitcases

If there are items that you deem too heavy for a box, you can pack those in suitcases instead. Suitcases are more capable of securely holding a lot of weight, making transporting heavy items easier. 

You can also use suitcases to hold your essentials and valuables, as they’re spacious enough to fit everything and convenient to carry around or throw in the trunk of your car.

10. Label All Boxes

Lastly, make sure to properly label every single box that you pack. This means going beyond the typical labels like “Bedroom” or “Kitchen”. To make settling in your new home easier, label each box with its contents. For example, one box could be labeled as “Bedroom: pillowcases, sheets, blankets”. 

This way, you don’t have to guess which “Bedroom” box holds your sheets, saving you precious time and energy. 

Final Thoughts

Packing for a cross-country move can be a daunting task, but as long as you prepare ahead of time, divide your tasks into small, doable chores every week, and keep in mind all the tips that we’ve listed above, you’ll have a better chance of having a smooth move. 


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