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15 essential long-distance moving tips

Tips and products to make your move stress-free

Profile picture of Sandi Pope
by Sandi Pope ConsumerAffairs Research Team
family packing moving boxes into car

Moving across the country is wildly stressful. Your job, your friends, your address — having all these things change at the same time is overwhelming.

We’re here to help. Here are 15 things you need to do before your long-distance move (and a few products we recommend to make your life easier).

1. Make a list of the accounts you need to update or cancel

Buy a super cute magnetic notepad so you can pretend this part is fun. Add all subscriptions, bank accounts and government organizations that need your new address. If you can’t remember everything, check your credit card statement and snail mail. Keep the list on your fridge so you can add accounts as you think of them.

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  • Costs $12.95
  • 6 different designs
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2. Inventory your belongings

Pull everything from your closets and cabinets and really see how much you have. Trust us, you own more things than you think you do. Make a list of your belongings and take photos. Creating an inventory helps you determine how much you need to pack and ship.

3. Marie Kondo your stuff

After your initial inventory, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed. Good. That means you understand the need to get rid of some stuff. Use Marie Kondo’s principles in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to determine which belongings “spark joy” and what you should donate. You’ll thank Marie Kondo when you see how much you save on moving costs. More stuff = a more expensive truck and more boxes to unpack.

the life-changing magic of tidying up
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PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Costs $9.69
  • The #1 New York Times bestselling guide to decluttering your home
  • Hardcover

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4. Get estimates on moving companies, trucks and packing services.

If you’re moving long-distance, it takes more than a box of pizza to convince your friends to help you. You need professional help. Now that you know how much stuff you have, get a reliable estimate on how much it costs to rent a truck, hire movers and get help with your packing.

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5. Come up with a plan of attack for packing

Since it can take weeks to pack, you need a strategy. Start with the things you definitely won’t need before your move: holiday knickknacks, family heirlooms, off-season clothes, that shawl that you only wear at the beach. Pack these into boxes and bags that are organized and labeled. If you put a spatula, a cardigan and a wall hanging in the same box, you’ll hate yourself when unpacking. Be kind to yourself and organize on the front end.

6. Wrap your furniture

Imagine arriving at your new home. You’re so excited to unpack and organize your furniture. You can already picture where that adorable vintage dresser is going to go. But when everything is unpacked, you’re heartbroken — your favorite dresser is all scraped up. Someone thought it was a good idea to put the dog crate on top of it in the truck.

Use these moving blankets to protect your furniture from scratches, chips and dents. Swaddle your favorite pieces in a blanket, just like you’ve always wanted to be swaddled.

moving and packing blankets
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PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Costs $59.99
  • Cotton cushioning
  • 80" x 72"

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7. Protect your dishware

Now it’s time to wrap your oh-so-fragile dishware. You’ve kept that set of eight plates and matching bowls perfect since your wedding day, and you don’t want to break the streak (or the plates) now. This process can take a long time, but with the help of these foam pouches, you can keep that “World’s Best Dad” mug you bought yourself safe.

foam pouches for dishes
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PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Costs $10.71
  • 3 sizes (20 pouches of each size)
  • 1/24” thick polyethylene foam

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8. Wrap paired items together

There’s nothing worse than missing a piece of something. Pieces that belong together should be wrapped together so you don’t ship a box of lidless Tupperware containers across the country. Secure your paired items together with this industrial-strength stretch wrap. Yes, it’s just heavy-duty plastic wrap, but it works like a dream.

industrial stretch wrap
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PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Costs $16.98
  • Self-adhering, shrinkable plastic wrap
  • 2 pack

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9. Pack your clothes

You’ve prepared all your furniture, everything in your basement and your kitchen items — now it’s finally time to pack your clothes. Start with the out-of-season clothes and extra workout T-shirts, packing them away into labeled bags and boxes. Save your staple clothing items for last, as you’ll want to wear these in your last days at home. Avoid wrinkling your classiest outfits with this wardrobe moving box. With a built-in bar to hang your clothes, you can move your clothes in a compact but safe way.

wardrobe moving boxes
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PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Costs $36.99
  • 24” bar to hang items
  • 3 pack

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10. Protect your bed

Your bed is your happy place, and it deserves to be protected from the elements. A mattress bag is the perfect sanctuary. When you arrive at your new home, exhausted from moving day, you want your mattress to be exactly as you left it. No dirt stains and suspicious liquids. Just pure relaxation.

mattress bag
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PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Costs $12.48
  • King-size, other sizes available
  • Thick, puncture-resistant plastic

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11. Take your car to the shop - then ship it

Most people bring their cars with them when they move. You might decide to avoid the hassle and hire a car shipping company, but if you do decide to drive, your car needs to be ready. A few weeks before your trip, take your car to a local mechanic. Tell them that you are going on a road trip and want to make sure your car is up for the drive. They should go the extra mile to ensure your car is ready for your long-distance move.

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12. Make sure you have working jumper cables

With a check from your mechanic, your car’s battery should be strong, but it’s better to be prepared than to be stuck on the side of a road in Ohio. Get a fresh pair of jumper cables and make sure they’re not buried under boxes of Christmas ornaments.

booster jumper cables
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PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Costs $16.90
  • 25 feet, 4 gauge
  • Includes carrying case and one-year limited warranty

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13. Get some backup juice for your phone

Speaking of batteries, you don’t want to be stranded with a dead phone. This power bank holds enough power to fully charge your phone at least two to four times, which can mean the difference between sleeping in your broken-down car and calling a tow truck and a hotel.

battery pack
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PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Costs $17.99
  • Capacity to fully charge an iPhone 8 3.57 times or a Google Pixel 3 2.2 times
  • 2 USB ports

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14. Don’t get injured, but be prepared if you do

You never know what kind of wild ride you’ll have out on the road, so be prepared for the worst. A first-aid kit covers any minor injuries you or your passengers experience without requiring a stop at any country pharmacies.

first aid kit
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PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Costs $15.97
  • 130-piece kit
  • Water-resistant and compact case

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15. Pack your vehicle

Use your Tetris and Jenga skills to pack both your car and moving truck, but be sure to start by packing the items you’re least likely to need. Have emergency items and a small overnight bag nearby so you don’t need to unpack everything when you arrive at your new home or hotel.

Bottom line 

All the things that come with moving across the country, like finding a job, making new friends and finding new doctors, are stressful, but the move itself doesn’t have to be. Keep to-do lists, downsize your possessions, protect your items from breaking and prepare for road trip emergencies to ensure a smooth and safe move.

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Profile picture of Sandi Pope
by Sandi Pope ConsumerAffairs Research Team

Sandi Pope previously worked in the nonprofit sector as an advocate for environmental and social change and believes information access is a human right. As a member of the ConsumerAffairs Research Team, she seeks to provide consumers with the necessary information needed in making life-altering decisions.