How to Pack for a Long-Distance Move

For many, packing is the worst part of preparing for a long-distance move. It’s tedious, time-consuming, and it has to be done. Unless you’re paying for professional packing services, you’ll need to make sure your belongings are prepared for safe transport, so you’ll be ready for the truck on moving day. Most long-distance movers recommend that you start preparing for a move seven or eight weeks in advance. Here’s how to pack for a long-distance move, step by step. For more information on how to plan a successful long-distance move, read our guide.

Gather the Necessary Packing Supplies

Once you know you’re moving, you’re probably anxious to start packing, but first, you’ll need to get together some packing supplies. About five to seven weeks before the move, gather the following supplies:

  • Moving boxes
  • Packing tape and tape dispensers
  • Permanent markers and possibly labels
  • Bubble wrap or other packing materials
  • A dolly for moving boxes around as you pack

Downsize Your Belongings

Another way to prepare for packing is to downsize your belongings. Most people tend to accumulate excess clutter over time, and four to six weeks before moving day is a good time to reduce the sheer amount of stuff you own. Sort through your possessions and sell or donate any items you aren’t planning to take with you.

When going through your garage or shed, consider giving away items that won’t be allowed on the moving truck, such as cans of paint or gasoline containers. If nobody wants them, contact the appropriate county or city office in your community and ask where you can drop off leftover hazardous materials.

Consider having a garage sale or inviting friends to come over to look through your excess belongings. Lastly, discard any remaining unwanted items that were not sold or given away.

Pack Rarely Used Items First

Now that you’re finished decluttering, it’s time to start packing. The important thing to remember with a long-distance move is that it may be a while before you unpack. Three weeks before the move, begin packing items that you know you won’t need during the next month or so. Here are some examples of things to pack during this stage.

  • Photos, memorabilia, and excess decór
  • Books you don’t plan to read anytime soon
  • Infrequently used kitchen items
  • Off-season clothing
  • Camping equipment
  • Seasonal items
  • Children’s toys
  • Board games

You can probably think of other things you can pack in advance that aren’t on the above list. Basically, you want to take your household belongings down to a bare minimum in those final weeks leading up to the move. As you pack, label each box according to where it will belong at your new home. Be sure to stack the marked boxes in an organized way so you can continue to easily maneuver around the house.

Pack Room by Room

About two weeks before moving day, it’s time to get more ruthless about packing. Systematically pack up each room, keeping out only the bare necessities. For example, when you pack up your kitchen, you may want to hold out one place setting for each person and a few basic cooking tools such as a saucepan, skillet, knife, cooking spoon, and spatula.

As you work through each room, identify essential items that will be going on the truck but that you may still need access to before the move. Consider putting those items in boxes but keeping them open for now in case you need something out of them.

Label those open boxes with the words, “Open me first.” This is because usually, the last boxes you’ll seal up are your most essential, everyday items. Finding those items right away when you get to the new house will help you settle in more quickly. Examples of items you can pack in your open-me-first boxes include:

  • Toilet paper and paper towels
  • A set of linens for each bed
  • Disposable dinnerware
  • Cleaning products
  • A few towels

Pack Your Carry-On Bags

In addition to your last-minute essentials boxes, you’ll need to pack some “carry-on bags” with items that will be traveling with you instead of on the moving truck. These items may include important papers, medications, comfort objects for children, pet supplies, and toiletries. Filling a few suitcases or duffle bags with these kinds of items will allow you to more quickly pack up the rest of your home.

Finish Packing

Ideally, the last week before the move, you’ll have almost everything in boxes. That said, people often underestimate the time it will take to pack up their entire household. Once you finish boxing everything up, go ahead and seal up those open-me-first boxes and do a final check to make sure all of them are securely taped and properly labeled.

Packing Tips for a Long-Distance Move

Now that you have a general timeline for packing, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of how to pack for your big move:

  • Continue to get rid of clutter as you fill each box. Inevitably, you’ll come across clutter while packing, even if you recently downsized your belongings. Avoid bringing junk to your new home by continuing to discard items during the packing stage.
  • Keep dresser drawers full. You may not realize this, but the movers expect you to leave clothing in your dresser drawers. Save time on packing by leaving your drawers full.
  • Use towels and linens as padding. Feel free to get creative about padding boxes with cloth items; however, be sure to only combine items from the same room. For example, pad dishes with kitchen towels.
  • Avoid making boxes too heavy. Whenever possible, keep boxes light. It’s better to use lots of small boxes than a smaller number of large boxes.
  • Use actual packing tape. Packing tape works much better than other kinds of tape, and you don’t want any boxes opening up during transport.

Ask for Help

Despite your best efforts to pack up your home while keeping up with everything else, you may be running out of time as moving day approaches. Moving is a big job — especially if you have a large family or just a lot of stuff. If you still have last-minute packing to do, consider calling in a favor and inviting a friend or two over to help you pack.

Enlist the Help of Long-Distance Movers

We’ve been talking about the budget-friendly option of do-it-yourself packing, but if you’re running out of time and you’re short on helpers, you may want to consider professional packing companies. Although dedicated packing companies are relatively uncommon, some long-distance moving companies offer optional packing services.

Hiring a team of packers and movers such as those at Suddath will free you to tie up loose ends in preparation for the big move. Our well-trained professionals will pack your belongings quickly and carefully, using only the best materials and techniques to prepare your belongings for your new destination. Going for the full-service packing option takes the stress off you while expert movers handle it all.

In addition to the full-service option, partial packing services are also available. Just let us know which items you want us to pack. Suddath offers a choice of full-service, partial, and DIY packing to meet your needs and budget. Regardless of what you choose to pack yourself, we will always carefully blanket wrap all your furniture and expertly load your items, so they’re safe for your new destination.

A long-distance relocation is a major undertaking, but with a bit of organization and the assistance of experienced cross-country movers, you’ll be packed and ready for the truck on moving day.

Suddath has been relocating people since 1919. We offer a variety of flexible long-distance moving services to meet your needs. Contact us today for a free long-distance moving quote.