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Moving Cross Country: Packing Tips for Long-Distance Moving

Moving cross country? Long-distance relocations require careful planning to avoid unnecessary stress. These 19 packing tips for moving long distances 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? Start with a solid moving plan! Make this task seem less overwhelming by creating a packing schedule.

  • 4 Weeks Before Moving: Box up the rooms you don’t use every day. The garage, basement, attic, and any other storage areas in your home can take more time and effort to sort, pack, and clean. Get started on these spaces so you have time to sell and donate 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 room.
  • 1 Week Before Moving: It’s finally time to pack the kitchen! Gather dishes, glasses, silverware, and other kitchenware before making room for nonperishable food that will survive the ride. This is also the time to box up electronics, games, extra toys, and clothes that you won’t wear until after moving day.
  • 1 Day Before Moving: Take apart furniture and get bathroom items ready for transport. Make copies of important documents. And don’t forget to clean and defrost the fridge for a minimum of 24 hours if you’re bringing it on your long-distance move.
  • Moving Day: Pack up your bedding and the last of your toiletries. Load your car, truck, or shipping container and hit the road!

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 on your long-distance move? Before you start packing up your house, go through each room and determine what to do with your items. Are you going to keep, sell, donate, or store them? This cross-country moving tip can save you time, money, and a sore back if you get rid of unnecessary belongings before relocating across the country.

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Make a Home Inventory

Whether you’re using a long-distance moving company or you’ve opted for DIY cross-country moving, take photos of your items and create a master packing checklist before you start boxing up rooms. This moving tip will not only help you remember how you arranged your old home but will also make it easier to file a claim with a professional moving company if any belongings get lost or damaged.

Prep Your Supplies

Once you have an idea of what you’re taking with you on your long-distance move, it’s time to get your moving supplies! Keep the momentum going and assemble these essentials before diving into packing your home:

  • Labels
  • Markers
  • Moving blankets, padding, or furniture covers
  • Moving boxes
  • Packing paper, bubble wrap, or newspapers
  • Plastic bags
  • Rope, bungee cords, or tie-down straps
  • Scissors or box cutter
  • Stretch wrap
  • Tape

Find Free Boxes

Moving cross country on a budget? Moving boxes might seem like an inexpensive packing supply, but they add up quickly. You may need more than 50 moving boxes in an assortment of sizes, especially if you’re moving a full house. Check with family, friends, neighbors, local grocery stores, schools, and large retail stores for free moving boxes that are in good condition. Sturdy boxes are key when packing for a cross-country move, so a good tip for moving long distance is to toss any worn-out moving supplies before purchasing new ones.

…Or Use What You Have

Another packing hack is to use moving supplies that you already have on hand! Anything that has storage space—like jewelry boxes, glasses cases, and film canisters—can be used to transport small, fragile items on your cross-country move. You can also use plastic bins to pack your belongings instead of boxes. Not only are these sturdier and easier to stack, but they can also be reused as storage once you move into your new home. Plus, clear plastic bins make moving long distances even easier because they allow you to see what’s inside without having to cut them open.

Utilize Specialty Boxes

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

Photo via @storage_world

Moving boxes that have compartments for dishes, glassware, and breakable items are a lifesaver for long drives. Most moving companies sell specialty boxes, or you can make your own modifications to boxes you already have—like cutting out handles to make them easier to carry. You can also use old toilet paper rolls or cardboard to create inserts perfect for packing wine glasses, cords, jewelry, and more.

Put Heavy Items in Small Boxes

Moving professionals place heavier items in smaller boxes to make them easier to carry. Save books for small boxes and bedding, clothing, or other light items for larger moving bins. Regardless of box size, one of the best tips for a long-distance move is to tightly pack your belongings in their boxes to prevent shifting and damage while on the road.

Don’t Interlock Box Tops

You’ve probably been taught to interlock the flaps on top of cardboard boxes so that they don’t come open. But the best way to pack moving boxes that need to survive a long-distance move is to tape up the parallel edges of the flaps. This adds more stability so they don’t bend or cave in when you stack them.

Color Code & Label Boxes

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

Photo via @fioribelle

Even if you think you’ll remember what’s in each moving box, it’s easy to forget when you have so much on your mind. Color coding by room is a simple packing tip for moving cross country that will help you keep moving boxes organized. Buy special tape or make your own system with stickers to indicate which moving boxes should be placed together. You can also simplify your moving process by labeling each box with exactly what’s in it, or by managing your moving inventory list.

Move Heavy Items in Suitcases

An open suitcase full of books. Photo by Instagram user @mustreadmorris

Photo via @mustreadmorris

Don’t let rolling bags go to waste during your cross-country move! This long-distance packing trick is an awesome way to save your back and arms when moving heavy items. Throw books, files, and more into your suitcase and then roll your luggage to your car or moving truck.

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 gift wrap, use those packing supplies to protect your dishes. Another simple packing hack for moving breakable items is to use your dish towels to pad plates and cups. This also helps you consolidate your belongings and saves paper and plastic. Once you’ve created this buffer, remember to stack plates on their sides in your boxes to avoid breakage.

Label Electronics

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

Photo via @scotch

The best way to move cross country is to have a system that will make your transition as smooth as possible. Label each cord and take a photo of how wires were plugged into their receivers so setup at your new place goes quickly. Electronics will also need more care when packing and moving. Use plenty of padding in cardboard boxes or use sturdier plastic bins to protect your devices from damage.

Keep Clothes on Hangers

Not sure how to pack clothes for moving? Save time by using wardrobe boxes and keeping your clothes on the hangers! Leaving them on hangers is the best way to pack clothes for a long-distance move because they won’t get wrinkled or dirty during the trip. Want to save a few extra bucks? DIY a wardrobe box with trash bags to save money and space in your cross-country moving vehicle.

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 easiest way to move folded clothes long distances is actually by keeping them in your dresser. Just remember to tape the drawers shut so they don’t slide open in transit. If you’re planning to move on your own, you can take the drawers out and individually plastic wrap them to lighten your load while still maximizing storage space. Not only will this save you time, but it also can help you significantly reduce the number of moving boxes you’ll need!

Take Furniture Apart

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

Photo via @aandrremovals

Make moving long distance with furniture easier by disassembling it a few days before you travel. These smaller pieces can fit into your moving truck more easily and are lighter to carry if you’re moving by yourself. Another helpful moving tip is to keep pieces like screws, nuts, and bolts in small plastic bags and tape them to your furniture so they don’t get lost or mixed up.

Assemble an Essentials Box

Even if you have plans to unpack your new home shortly after you arrive, there are some things you’re going to need right away! The best way to pack for a long-distance move is to gather an essentials box to hold important paperwork, valuables, chargers, toiletries, prescriptions, towels, a set of sheets, some extra undergarments and outfits while you get settled, and toys for pets or kids.

Load Your Truck Strategically

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

Photo via @lytleproperty

The best way to pack a moving truck or portable moving container is to always make a sturdy base of the heaviest items on the bottom to provide enough support for lighter belongings on top. It’s also a good idea to tie your moving boxes and bins down as you load them to prevent any sliding and shifting during the drive. Then, place the items you’ll urgently need closest to the unloading door. You can even pack boxes against the door so items don’t fall and jam it during transit. If you choose to hire professional cross-country movers, they should tie them down for you, but be prepared to let them know what order to load your belongings.

Whether you're moving from a studio apartment or multi-bedroom house, our moving truck size chart and calculator will help you make the right rental truck decision.


Call in the Professionals

If packing up your house requires time that you don’t have, consider hiring professional movers to do the time-consuming work for you! Professional moving companies like TWO MEN AND A TRUCK can save you a lot of stress as you move across the country. Check reviews to find reputable moving professionals, and request quotes from multiple long-distance moving companies to make sure you’re getting the best rate. Also, look into purchasing moving insurance if you’re hiring a moving company or renting a truck, or refer to your homeowners insurance plan to see if it covers relocation costs. If hiring cross-country movers isn’t in your budget, ask for help! Assistance from your friends and family can streamline your out-of-state moving process.


Need temporary self storage while between homes? Extra Space Storage has convenient storage facilities located throughout the U.S. that can help with your cross-country transition. Find self storage near you!

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