How to Prepare for a Long-Distance Move
What’s the difference between preparing for a local move and a long-distance move? If you guessed “time”, that’s only part of the equation.
You have lots of options to prepare for, and unlike a local move, there are more steps you need to take for better results. After moving people for, give or take, a couple decades, here’s what I’ve learned when it comes to preparing for a long-distance move.
What transportation should you get for a long-distance move?
Unless you’re selling everything you own and driving into the sunset, you’re gonna need something safe and reliable to get all your stuff to your new place.
What you need depends on your unique move. Don’t worry, you’ve got choices. Here are your best transportation options for a long-distance move.
Legend: $ out of “$$$$”
Get a Rental Truck
The three major rental truck companies you’re likely to have access to are U-Haul, Budget and Penske. (There might be alternatives near you for you to check for better prices.)
It’s true that you will get a better mileage rate for doing a “one way” drive (taking a rental vehicle from one store to another store), but your invoice will still likely be considerably higher by the end. If you’re willing to drive, though, this could save you plenty of money over other options.
Pros: Most affordable long-distance move option.
Cons: Much fewer customer service options, way more time investment, no labor estimate, very difficult without movers.
What if you don’t want to figure out where to get the truck? (Or you don’t want to drive it?) Well, Hybrid-Interstate is an attractive option.
For long-distance moves only, HireAHelper connects the dots and pieces together the best value of labor and transportation companies for you, so you don’t have to spend eternity calling a million businesses. All the customer service and insurance options stay under one roof too, so it’s not only cheaper than Full-Service, it’s a heck of a lot easier.
Check out the rates here. If you’ve already budgeted for a Full-Service move, you may be pleasantly surprised how much it can save you.
Pros: Your move is figured out for you, the best-reviewed moving service online.
Cons: More expensive the more stuff you have, less affordable than a DIY move.
Renting Space on a Truck
This is the service a lot of the big-rig companies offer; you’ve probably seen their trucks on the road: ABF/UPack, Old Dominion, and more.
This is how it works: a trailer is dropped off at your home, you load your stuff (or have someone load it for you), and you partition it off to keep it separate from other customers’ belongings.
A driver will come to take the trailer away and drive it to your new home. Sharing space on a trailer with other people who are moving is a cost-effective way to get your belongings across the country because you only pay for the space on the trailer you take up. Beware, these trailers don’t offer the smoothest ride, so you really need to protect your stuff with smart loading.
Pros: You pay only for the space you use, transportation all taken care of.
Cons: Often less flexibility with loading and unloading dates, high claims rate.
Get a Portable Moving Container
Moving containers are ultra-convenient for long-distance moves for a few important reasons.
The biggest plus for moving containers is being able to load your belongings at your own pace. Companies like PODS bill you monthly (while others are at least give you a few days). Like a freight trailer but a lot smaller (another bonus for people who don’t have their own private driveway), your portable container is dropped off empty and picked up when full, then kept in storage untouched until you request delivery at your new home.
But be aware: unlike more traditional self-storage, access to your portable container is only easy if you keep it in your front yard; an appointment is generally necessary and will cost you extra, so plan ahead.
Pros: The most flexibility of any long-distance moving option, transportation is taken care of.
Cons: Costlier the more items you own, can add complexity if you send your stuff into their storage units.
Get a Quote from a Full-Service Moving Company
If money and time is no object, call a Full-Service moving company. They can assess your home and schedule a crew of movers to come with the packing supplies to pack, load, drive, and unload your stuff within the month of your choosing.
Pros: Your move done for you, minus the coordination.
Cons: Almost always the costliest option, lengthy to coordinate and requires more time.
Wondering which option is best for your move? Go ahead and ask the pros.
How long does it take to pack for a long-distance move?
Here is, generally speaking, the time-required estimates for packing a home:
- Studio/1BR Apt – 1 Day*
- 2BR Apt – 1-2 Days
- 3BR Apt – 2-3 Days
- 2BR House – 2-3 Days
- 3BR House – 3-4 Days
- 4BR House – 4-5 Days
* “One day” is about eight hours of one-person packing.
Knowing this, the single best strategy for packing is to start well in advance of when you think you should start, no matter which transportation option you choose. (In all my experience, I never heard someone say that packing took less time than they expected.)
Tips for fast packing
Try this: pick a closet or a room, or even just part of one room, and time how long it takes to pack.
This may give you an idea of how long it will really take you to pack up your entire home – and it will probably start looking like it will take much longer than you originally thought. Fair warning.
Make a checklist of the kinds of things you don’t need for a while. This can help minimize time spent deciding what to pack once you get started and are faced with that mountain of accumulation in the closet or the spare room.
The Most Trusted Moving Checklist on the Web
Things you don’t need for a while often include:
- Out-of-season clothes
- Holiday items
- Sentimental items
- Seasonal bedding
Even if you are undecided about what to do with some of your belongings, other groups of items are a no-brainer. Get them packed and out of your way.
Shelve the sentimental. You will undoubtedly come across stuff you think you might want to get rid of but aren’t quite sure. Expect it, and set all that stuff aside for later. The monstrous task of packing tends to make people see with much more clarity what they really need and what they can let go of.
Label boxes as you go! You will forget what is in all those boxes. Trust me.
DO NOT pack important paperwork, forms, documents. Shred those you don’t need. Things to to not pack away include:
- Cash, credit cards, checkbooks
- Bank and other financial statements
- Insurance documents
- Jewelry, high-dollar jackets/coats
- Laptops/tablets w/cords, data backups
- Medical/dental records, prescriptions/medicine
- Personal documents, professional files/papers
- Cell phones, chargers
- Car/House keys
- Family photos/irreplaceables
- Identifying documents – birth certificates, social security cards, drivers licenses, passports
And get used to the idea of having boxes around.
Where can I get packing materials for a long-distance move?
The easiest way to get clean, sturdy boxes and packing paper are from your moving service provider, who often sell these things. Many self-storage facilities also carry these things, along with tape. Though from a price perspective, you might be better off getting it from a home improvement store.
If you are looking to shave some dollars off your move, check out where you can find some free moving boxes here.
Protip: Bubble wrap is an attractive option for particularly expensive/hard-to-replace breakables, but it is bulky and becomes expensive quickly. Packing paper is more than adequate for packing most things. It is also easier to handle. Make sure you use the right kind of tape, too.
For some extra padding and protection for your most important and fragile items, consider using clothing/towels to wrap those items and/or line your boxes.
How do I load my vehicle for a long-distance move on my own?
Deciding to go it alone? Make sure to do this:
Load your belongings in what movers often call tiers. This means building walls, i.e., vertical layers of furniture, boxes, and assorted loose items. Furniture pads are crucial for this.
For example: set down your dresser and a desk (padded of course), some not too heavy boxes set on top of them, and top them off with outdoor equipment, pillows in plastic bags, etc. This all makes up one-tier.
Build one tier at a time, mixing furniture, boxes, and miscellaneous stuff. Cluster your items together like this to keep your stuff safer in the long run. Naturally, not all your tiers will be uniform. It is critical to pack tightly to avoid having everything shift and bounce around in transit.
To learn how pro movers move heavy furniture, check out this detailed post.
How do I move long-distance with a pet?
This, obviously, depends on the pet. For a typical dog (or cat), some rules of thumb include:
- Minimize anxiety with a toy
- Ask for help watching your pet
- Build a safe space during load/unload
- Keep them tagged
- Keep medication unpacked, if necessary
- Feed them lightly
If you want to learn all the little details of how to move with a pet, check out this post.
Got more questions?
We’ve got plenty of info in the form of reviews from customers of Penske, Budget and U-Haul on Moving101, as well as some alternative companies to look into for comparison shopping.