8 Essential Packing Tips for a Long-Distance Move

About 40 million Americans relocate in a given year, and it’s often a long-distance move. Whether it’s a relocation for a job or another life event, the packing procedure before moving to a new city can feel daunting, so consider these tips.

1. Create an Inventory List

An inventory list is essential when organizing and packing items for a long-distance move. Make a list using a computer spreadsheet, a to-do app, or standard paper and pen. Organize the list by room and add subcategories for areas like “closet” or “bookcase.” This list can help you decide what items you may not wish to move. Sell, donate, or discard anything not being packed.

Create a column for box numbers; this lets you know that the toaster is in Kitchen Box 3. Another column to add is: “notes.” In the notes column, enter additional information about the individual item or its box; fragile, unpack first, and storage. Be sure to have more than one copy of your inventory list.

2. Box Labeling and Color Coding

When packing for a long-distance move, box labeling is crucial.

●   Name of the room the box goes to —  kitchen, bedroom, etc.

●   Sub-category for the contents: books, collectibles, baby toys

●   A number that corresponds with the inventory list

●   A color dot if using a color-code system

Assign each person in the household and each room a color label for the move. Each box for that individual and room gets their specific color dot. It’s an easy, visual way to organize the boxes pre-move and after arriving at the new home. Color-coding often works great with kids; they can quickly identify their boxes and relieve some stress when relocating.

3. Handling Important Documents

Make copies of everything when possible. Electronic copies are often best, but if not available, copy what you can, including, but not limited to, birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, wills, insurance documents, and vehicle titles. Keep the originals separate from the copies.

File boxes work well for moving documents and important papers, which may also include family photos and diplomas. Consider placing items like passports, social security cards, and other sensitive information in opaque envelopes and then in a sealed file. Label the box and, if possible, move this box yourself.

4. Open-First Box(es)

The open-first box typically gets packed last. It’s the box or boxes with things needed for the first day/night. Everyone’s open-first boxes vary, but they usually contain things like toiletry items, towels, bedding, blankets, pet dishes, and a few essential kitchen items. Be sure to label these boxes as open first.

5. Wardrobe Boxes

Wardrobe boxes make packing and unpacking closets fast and easy. It eliminates having to remove items from hangers and packing in regular boxes. They may be available in different sizes and found at home improvement stores or through your moving company.

6. Extra Care for Fragile Items

Fragile items need extra care — bubble wrap and packing paperwork for glass, porcelain, and other breakables. However, you can also use tee-shirts, pillowcases, and towels as extra padding to keep fragile items safe.

7. Designated Area for Packed Boxes

To keep your living space organized while preparing for a long-distance move, designate an area for packed boxes. These are the boxes that are labeled, sealed, and ready to go on the moving truck. It can be helpful to get packed boxes out of a room, allowing you to see exactly how much is left to pack, donate, sell, or trash.

8. Straight to Storage

You likely have items that live in storage, maybe in an attic, closet, or basement. If not already boxed, pack the items in boxes or totes, and then label “storage.” These are some of the first items to pack, and when they arrive at the other end, these “storage” boxes don’t need to be unpacked immediately.

Additional Moving Help

Be sure to check with your long-distance moving company for any specific packing instructions and for their list of items that they don’t move. You’ll need to make other arrangements for do-not-ship items.