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The Most Common Long Distance Moving Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

Moving long distance can be an exciting yet stressful experience. With so much to organize and coordinate, it’s easy to make mistakes that end up costing you time, money and unnecessary headaches. Avoid the most common long distance moving pitfalls with these handy tips.

Picking the Wrong Moving Company

Choosing the wrong moving company is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when relocating long distance. Unfortunately, not all movers are created equal. Here’s how to find a reputable company you can trust:

  • Get recommendations – Ask friends, family, coworkers and neighbors which companies they’ve used and what their experiences were like. Look for movers with a long history of satisfied customers.
  • Research credentials – Check that the company is licensed and insured. Look for membership in organizations like the American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA).
  • Read reviews – Search for reviews on independent websites like Yelp and the Better Business Bureau. Be wary of too-good-to-be-true ratings.
  • Get estimates – Reputable movers will provide in-home estimates based on the size of your move. Avoid movers who give quotes sight unseen.
  • Trust your gut feeling – If a company seems sketchy or makes unrealistic promises, it’s best to keep looking.

 Taking the time to vet movers thoroughly gives you the best chance of avoiding moving horror stories.

Not Planning Ahead

Failing to properly plan and organize is another common long distance moving mistake. Rushing to pack and move at the last minute leads to disorganization and forgotten items. Here are some tips for planning like a pro:

  • Start early – Begin organizing, decluttering and preparing at least 2 months in advance. This gives you ample time to get everything done.
  • Make detailed lists – Inventory possessions room-by-room and create lists noting what needs to be packed, sold, donated or trashed.
  • Sort items strategically – Group items by designated room to make unpacking easier. Label boxes clearly so movers know what goes where.
  • Book movers early – Reserve your moving company and transportation at least 2 months ahead of time.
  • Change accounts – Notify institutions of your move and transfer or open new bank/utility accounts if needed.
  • Transfer records – Request copies of medical and veterinary records, school transcripts, etc.
  • Plan a moving sale – Hold a garage sale or auction unwanted items that won’t make the move.

Thorough planning and organization takes the chaos and anxiety out of long distance relocation.

Not Declaring Valuables

When transporting valuables like jewelry, artwork, cash and antiques it’s essential to declare them with your mover. Otherwise you aren’t entitled to reimbursement if they are lost or damaged. Here’s how to properly declare high-value possessions:

  • Inventory – Create a detailed inventory of valuable items, including descriptions, serial numbers and estimated values.
  • Insure – Discuss extra insurance with your moving company to cover the full replacement value of valuables.
  • Obtain receipts – Make sure the mover notes declared items and provides a signed receipt acknowledging responsibility.
  • Transport yourself – For extremely valuable items, it may be smarter to transport them yourself rather than risk the movers losing or damaging them.
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Declaring the true value of your priceless possessions gives you necessary protection in case the unthinkable occurs during the move.

Buying Moving Supplies at the Last Minute

Shopping for moving supplies at the last minute often means paying top dollar or settling for cheap, poor quality products. Avoid this mistake by purchasing quality packing and moving supplies well in advance:


  1. Boxes – Opt for new, sturdy boxes designed specifically for moving. Liquor store boxes are flimsy. Order boxes 1-2 months early.
  2. Bubble wrap – Purchase quality brand name bubble wrap that provides ample cushioning and protection. Avoid no-name bubble wrap.
  • Packing tape – Choose thick, heavy-duty packing tape designed for shipping. Don’t rely on masking or duct tape which can tear and break open.
  • Paper and padding – Stock up on newsprint, tissue paper and packing paper to wrap fragile items. Furniture pads also help protect furnishings.
  • Markers – Have permanent markers to label boxes with contents and destinations. Colored tape helps color code boxes by room.
  • Utility knife – A good knife makes opening boxes and removing tape easier. Dull blades can damage contents.

Buying supplies last minute often leaves critical items missing. Give yourself ample time to prepare.

Not Hiring Help for Packing and Loading

Don’t underestimate the amount of time and physical effort it takes to properly pack all your home’s belongings safely and securely. Attempting to DIY the whole moving process often ends badly. Here’s when you should consider hiring help:

  • Large or heavy items – If you have exercise equipment, heavy furniture, pianos, safes, etc. professional movers have the equipment and manpower to move them without injury or damage.
  • Time crunch – If your schedule doesn’t allow sufficient time for packing everything yourself, hire help so things don’t get rushed or overlooked.
  • Physical limitations – People with back problems or other medical issues may be unable to lift, carry and pack safely. Movers prevent injury.
  • Long haul move – The more ground you’re covering, the more tempting it is to leave things behind. Movers can pack the whole household.
  • Valuable items – Hiring movers means someone else is responsible if valuables get damaged during packing and transit.

Don’t let the temptation to save money by DIYing your move backfire with preventable mistakes.

Not Organizing Your Moving Day

Failing to organize and oversee every aspect of moving day can quickly send your relocation into total disarray. Avoid chaos by taking these steps:

  • Oversee movers – Don’t abandon movers to pack and load unsupervised. Mistakes happen when you’re not watching.
  • Direct placement – Tell movers exactly where to place heavy items like furniture and appliances. Don’t let them randomly load the truck.
  • Load last items – Keep necessities like food, medications and toiletries accessible. Pack them yourself at the very end.
  • Travel with irreplaceables – Important documents, valuables and pets should travel with you, not the movers.
  • Get copies – Have movers provide copies of the bill of lading inventory list and receipt before they depart.
  • Lock up – Before movers go, take a final walk through. Lock windows and doors and leave keys/garage openers for the real estate agent.
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Careful oversight ensures movers get items loaded properly to avoid loss and costly damage claims.

Not Choosing the Right Location

Selecting the right community and home in your new city is key for long distance moving success. Here are tips for location scouting:

  • Consult online city guides and forums to research the best neighborhoods for your needs.
  • Schedule time off for house hunting trips to get a firsthand feel for locations and market prices.
  • Drive around target neighborhoods during rush hour to assess traffic and commute times.
  • Introduce yourself to neighbors to get insider knowledge about the community.
  • Research items like average home prices, taxes, crime rates and school ratings.
  • Consider conveniences like proximity to grocery stores, hospitals, parks and entertainment.
  • Look for moving incentives some communities offer new residents like home buyer programs.

Taking time to vet locations prevents getting stuck with a home or neighborhood that disappoints.

Not Hiring Unpacking Help

After a stressful, tiring move you may be tempted to DIY unpacking to save a few bucks. But attempting to do it all yourself can take weeks and be detrimental to your physical and mental health. Consider hiring help:

  • Speed – Professional organizers unpack in a fraction of the time by yourself. They know how to work efficiently.
  • Avoid burnout – Unpacking an entire household is grueling. Let someone else handle this so you can focus on self-care.
  • Gain objectivity – Movers bring fresh perspective on storage and organization solutions tailored to your new home.
  • Correct damages – If movers break or damage items, it’s best to have unpacking help on hand to immediately catch and document all issues.
  • Stay healthy – Trying to DIY too much after an exhausting move can strain your body and emotional state. Bring in help.

Investing in unpacking assistance can help make your move less stressful.

Key Takeaways on Avoiding Common Long Distance Moving Mistakes

  • Research moving companies thoroughly to avoid scams and trouble.
  • Start planning and organizing early – at least 2 months before moving day.
  • Formally declare valuables and purchase additional insurance to protect your belongings.
  • Buy quality moving supplies well in advance so you don’t risk running out.
  • Hire professional movers to assist with time-consuming packing and loading whenever possible.
  • Closely oversee every aspect of your move on moving day.
  • Take time to make sure you select the optimal new neighborhood and home.
  • Consider hiring unpackers so you can focus on self-care and avoid burnout.
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By sidestepping common long distance moving mistakes, your relocation process will go much more smoothly. With the right preparation and support, you’ll feel energized about starting your new adventure rather than stressed and depleted.

Frequently Asked Questions


What are some red flags to watch out for when choosing a long distance moving company?


Some red flags include:

  • No physical office address or established history
  • Vague estimates or quotes far below competitors
  • Requests for large cash deposits or full payment before delivery
  • No USDOT license or basic liability insurance
  • No membership in a moving association like AMSA
  • Many complaints registered with the Better Business Bureau

How far in advance should I start preparing for a long distance move?

Ideally you should start organizing, planning and decluttering for a long distance move about 2-3 months in advance. This gives you plenty of time to sort possessions, fill out change of address forms, transfer records, etc. without last minute scrambling and stress.

What are some key items I should transport myself rather than have movers handle?

Items you should keep with you include important documents like passports, birth certificates and medical records, valuables like jewelry, irreplaceable keepsakes, medications/supplements needed for the trip, pets and houseplants, and anything you may need immediately upon arrival like toiletries, phone chargers and a change of clothes. Transporting these personally ensures they don’t get lost or damaged.

Is packing tape really better than duct or masking tape for moving boxes?

Yes, packing tape designed specifically for shipping is far stronger than household tapes like duct tape or masking tape. The adhesive is extra secure so boxes don’t accidentally burst open, and the tape won’t tear easily like thinner, weaker tapes which can cause contents to spill out. Invest in quality packing tape.

Should I tip long distance movers and if so, how much is appropriate?

Tipping movers is customary and a way to show your appreciation for good service. For long distance moves, consider tipping the main foreman 10-20% of the total bill. Tipping each individual mover $20-$50 is also thoughtful gesture. For smaller local moves, $20-$30 per mover is appropriate.


Moving long distance doesn’t have to be a nightmare scenario. By avoiding the most common mistakes like hiring the wrong mover, failing to plan properly, not purchasing supplies in advance, and attempting to DIY too much, you can make your relocation smooth sailing. Thorough preparation, professional support, organization and self-care go a long way in reducing major moving stresses. With the right tools and perspective, you’ll be equipped to start your exciting new chapter off right.

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