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Moving Cross Country: Packing Tips for Moving Long Distance

When you’re only moving across town, packing is pretty simple! But when your belongings have to make it hundreds of miles and survive bumpy roads, preparing takes a little more careful consideration. These cross-country packing tricks will help you stay organized and ensure all of your belongings arrive at your new home in one piece!

Follow a Packing Timeline

Not sure how to pack for a cross-country move? Begin with a solid moving plan! Make this arduous task seem less overwhelming by creating a packing schedule.

  • 4 Weeks Before Moving: Begin boxing up the rooms you don’t use every day. The garage, furnace room, basement, and attic will likely be timely endeavors with a lot to purge. Get started on these spaces so you can get ahead on selling and donating items!
  • 3 Weeks Before Moving: Small decor items should get packed next. Organize paintings, fine china, and any other decorative items early, as they’ll require extra time and bubble wrap!
  • 2 Weeks Before Moving: Once storage areas and decorations are all packed, move to bonus rooms. Pack up your library, office, extra bedrooms, and dining rooms.
  • 1 Week Before Moving: It’s finally time to pack up the kitchen. Put away dishes, glasses, silverware, and other kitchenware before you begin packing food that will survive the ride. This is also the time to box up electronics, games, and extra toys and clothing that aren’t essential.
  • 1 Day Before Moving: Take apart furniture and pack up the bathroom a couple days before you get on the road! Organize and make copies of important documents during this time. Don’t forget to clean out the fridge and let it defrost for a minimum of 24 hours before your move!
  • Moving Day: Pack up your bedding and the last of your toiletries and hit the road!
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Get Rid of Things You Don’t Need

Donation Box Filled with Old Clothes. Photo by Instagram user @plant64apts

Photo via @plant64apts

Not sure what’s worth taking with you? It can save you money, time, and a sore back to get rid of unnecessary items and replace them when you arrive in your new city. Before you start packing, go through each room in your home and determine what to keep, sell, donate, or store for later! This guide can help you figure out what to keep and what to get rid of.

Make a Home Inventory

Pens, Scissors, Tape, and Other Packing Supplies. Photo by Instagram user @thesaraross

Photo via @thesaraross

Whether you’re using movers or doing it all on your own, take photos and create a master packing checklist before you start boxing items up! This moving tip will help you remember how you had rooms arranged in your old home and help you decide what to pack first and save for last.

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Prep Your Supplies

Once you have an idea of what you’re taking with you, it’s time to get supplies! Be sure to assemble the essentials before diving in so you don’t have to abandon your piles and run to the store:

  • Boxes
  • Moving blankets, padding, or furniture covers
  • Tape
  • Packing paper, bubble wrap, or newspapers
  • Stretch wrap
  • Plastic bags

Ditch Old Boxes

While it’s great to hold onto used boxes for moves across town, it’s probably time to say goodbye to them before a long-distance move! Sturdiness is key when packing for a cross-country move, so be sure to toss any warped or worn-out boxes and bins.

Find Free Boxes

Moving cross country on a budget? Boxes might seem like a cheap supply, but they add up quickly! Especially if you have an entire home to move, you may need more than 50 boxes in an assortment of sizes. Start by checking with your local grocery store for free boxes that are in good condition. These places often have a variety of box sizes, as well as specialty boxes that are perfect for packing!

Cut DIY Box Handles

Moving Boxes with People Holding Cut Out Handles. Photo by Instagram user @vanexpressnj

Photo via @vanexpressnj

This packing hack only takes a few minutes and a box cutter! Simply make triangular slits in boxes to create handles so that awkwardly carrying boxes is a thing of the past.

Purchase or Make Specialty Boxes

Moving Boxes Specifically Designed for Moving Cords. Photo by Instagram user @storage_world

Photo via @storage_world

Getting your belongings across the country requires some extra care! Boxes that have compartments for dishes, glassware, and breakable items are a lifesaver for long drives. Most moving companies sell these specialty boxes, or you can make your own. Just use old toilet paper rolls or cut up cardboard recycling to create inserts perfect for wine glasses, cords, jewelry, and more!

Use What You Have

Save money on packing supplies when you use what you have on hand! Anything that has storage space—such as jewelry boxes, glasses cases, and film canisters—can be used to transport small, fragile items.

Assemble an Essentials Box

Even if you have plans to unpack your new home immediately, there are some things you’re going to need right away! The best way to pack for a long-distance move is to create a must-haves box with important paperwork, chargers, toilet paper, hand soap, towels, a set of sheets, and toys for dogs or kids. Use a suitcase to store clothes for the first week and any medications you might need while driving across the country!

Color Code Boxes by Room

Rolls of Different Colored Tape for Different Rooms. Photo by Instagram user @fioribelle

Photo via @fioribelle

This is a super simple packing tip for moving that will help you keep boxes organized by room! Buy special tape, or make your own system with stickers to see which boxes should be grouped together and placed in certain rooms.

Include Descriptions on Boxes

This tip for packing to move across the country is incredibly helpful when you’re traveling a long way! Even though you think you’ll remember what’s inside every box, it’s easy to forget when you have so much on your mind. Simplify your life later by writing exactly what’s in each box on the side or in your moving inventory!

Label Electronics

Cords Labeled for Specific Electronics. Photo by Instagram user @scotch

Photo via @scotch

The best way to move cross country is with a system that will make your transition as smooth as possible. Label each cord and take a photo of how wires plug into their receivers so setup at your new place goes quickly!

Keep Clothes on Hangers

Not sure how to pack clothes for moving? Save time by splurging on some wardrobe boxes! Keeping clothes on their hangers is the best way to pack clothes for a long-distance move because they won’t get squished, wrinkled, or smelly along the way. If you don’t want to purchase wardrobe boxes, you can DIY your own version using trash bags!

Put Heavy Items in Small Boxes

Moving professionals recommend smaller boxes for heavier items. Make moving easier by saving heavy items for small boxes and only filling large boxes with bedding, pillows, clothing, and other light items!

Don’t Interlock Box Tops

You’ve probably been taught to interlock the top of boxes so that they don’t come open. But the best way to pack boxes that need to survive a long journey is to match up parallel edges and use tape! This adds more stability so they don’t bend or cave in when you stack them.

Take Extra Precaution with Dishes

Dishes Heavily Wrapped in Paper Being Placed in Moving Box. Photo by Instagram user @lonestarrelo

Photo via @lonestarrelo

Before you throw out extra newspaper, paper plates, or packing wrap, use them to protect your dishes in boxes. This is a simple packing hack for moving breakable items! Once you’ve created this buffer, remember to stack plates on their sides in your boxes.

Move Heavy Items in Suitcases

Rolling Suitcase Filled with Books. Photo by Instagram user @darshbob

Photo via @darshbob

Don’t let rolling bags go to waste during your move! This packing trick is an awesome way to save your back when loading heavy items. Simply pack dense things like books and files in your suitcase, and roll it to your car or moving truck!

Keep the Drawers in Your Dresser…

Men Carrying Large Dresser into Moving Truck with Drawers Still Inside. Photo by Instagram user @alysiasellsokc

Photo via @alysiasellsokc

The best way to move clothes is to never have to pack or unpack them! Some professional moving companies actually want you to leave the drawers in your dressers. If this is the case, they will take care of taping them shut so they don’t slide open in transit. Not only will this save you time, but it also can help you significantly reduce the number of boxes you’ll need!

…Or Plastic Wrap Drawers

Man Wrapping a Large Dresser in Plastic Wrap for Moving. Photo by Instagram user @wolfpackmovers

Photo via @wolfpackmovers

If you’re planning to rent a truck and move on your own, keeping drawers in dressers will likely be too heavy to move! Maximize the furniture you already have by removing drawers from dressers and wrap them in cling wrap to contain contents! This is one of the best ways to pack shoes and other items you don’t want to get buried in boxes.

Take Furniture Apart

Large Wooden Furniture Taken Apart for Moving. Photo by Instagram user @aandrremovals

Photo via @aandrremovals

Make furniture easier to load and store when you dissemble it a few days before your move. Another awesome moving tip is to keep pieces like screws, nuts, and bolts in small plastic bags and tape them to the baseboard of your furniture so they don’t get lost!

Load Your Truck Strategically

Boxes Neatly Stacked in Back of Moving Truck. Photo by Instagram user @lytleproperty

Photo via @lytleproperty

What’s the best way to pack a moving truck? Always make a base by putting your heaviest items in the back. Save the space higher up for lighter belongings, and make sure to pack what you’ll need quick access to last. If you have movers coming, be prepared to tell them what order to load for rooms.

Call in the Professionals

If packing up your home seems like a nightmare or requires time you don’t have, consider hiring professionals to pack your items for you! Hiring a moving company like TWO MEN AND A TRUCK to do your packing can minimize harm to your items as you move across the country, and it will save you a lot of stress!

Now that you have a schedule, a list of supplies, and creative packing tips and tricks, you should be ready to move across the country! Still trying decide if you should move these items on your own or hire professionals? Explore the benefits of hiring movers and other budget-friendly cross-country moving options!


Need temporary self storage while between homes? Extra Space Storage has convenient storage facility locations throughout the U.S. Find a storage unit near you!


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