Moving to a totally different environment from what you are used to opens up a wealth of opportunities for new experiences and growth. But if the actual moving cross-country part has got you a little anxious, there is some smart preparation that will help the transition go smoothly.

Here are 5 things you can do to prepare for a big move so that the experience is uplifting, with perhaps a bit less heavy lifting.

  1. Consider Your Move Date

If you have flexibility in when you move, suggests fall through spring. This avoids the peak season when movers are the busiest and most expensive. Mid-month and midweek also tend to be cheaper.

If you are moving to or from Hawaii and plan to ship large items or vehicles, consider the sailing dates of cargo barges and plan accordingly. For example, if you want to drop your car off to the Matson port on October 15th, but the barge doesn’t sail until November 2nd, you will need to add the time your vehicle sits in the parking lot to the sailing time, meaning it could be a month before you see your car again.

If moving in summer is your only option, just plan early and make reservations well in advance for anything you will need to rent.

  1. Have a Packing Plan

packingWith any move, it’s always good to hone down what you want to bring to your new home before you start packing. However, for a move to or from Hawaii, culling down your collection is even more critical. Review what you really want to bring, but also consider whether it will fit in where you are going. For example, dark upholstered furniture may not fit the light and breezy style of many Maui homes. Conversely a decoratively painted surfboard may not fit in Midwest America.

Channel your inner Marie Kondo and take a look at everything you have in each category and ask yourself a few key questions about your affection for each item: Is it broken or worn out? Will I use this again? Is it a duplicate item? Did I even remember I had this? For each item you have, decide what pile it should go into:

  • Keep
  • Sell
  • Donate
  • Recycle
  • Trash

By selling or donating unnecessary items, you may be able to:

  • Lower potential moving costs
  • Save time packing
  • Pocket cash by selling items
  • Cut down necessary storage space
  • Reduce moving stress

Advise classy second hand shops of your items before the first garage sale and do a private pre-sale. Keep in mind that places like Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity do not accept all items- check in advance. Give away for free hard to donate items like exercise equipment or a working hot-tub.

  1. How to Move Your Stuff

Check different moving companies and the services they offer. Some are full service, including packing, transport and unpacking at your new location. Naturally, these will be the most expensive. However, some are a hybrid, allowing you to do most of your own packing. Or you can have a container dropped at your door, do all your own packing and have the moving company just handle the logistics of transportation.

Big Tip: Mark all boxes on the outside in bold black Sharpie with your name, the room items are going to and indication of content. Example: “Kitchen- Flatware and dishes.” If you have a moving company account number, put that on there too.

You may need to contact a specialized moving company if you are moving sensitive and valuable items like antiques, art, appliances, or pianos.

Get at least 3 quotes and make sure the movers are licensed and insured.

Tipping your movers is commonplace. Budget $10 per person for a half-day move and $20 for a full day on each end of the move.

  1. The Minimalist Approach

suitcasesHaving done the mainland to Maui and back move twice, we learned a few things. The second time around we shipped very little. If you’re stuck on keeping something “just in case,” you may want to try out The Minimalists’ 20/20 rule: if you can replace it for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes from your location, you should let it go. Keep only the things you need or that make you happy; it’s much better than filling up a closet with things that will never get unpacked.

This was the bulk of what we brought and how it was shipped:

  • Clothes, shoes and handbags- Most were brought over in suitcases on the airplane. A $25 extra bag fee is a cheap way to send 50lbs of clothes. With two free bags each plus carry-ons, we moved well over 300lbs of stuff for $50 plus tips for the airline curbside valet. We bought 3 serviceable suitcases at Goodwill for $30, then donated them back after the move. Everything had to be clean with good operating wheels.
  • Hand tools (drills, sander, favorite hand tools, etc)- Self-packed and shipped USPS priority with extra insurance. You can fit a lot into a square medium flat rate box! “If it fits it ships.”
  • Electronics- Small items were hand carried, large items were professionally packed and shipped USPS priority with insurance by our local Mailboxes Etc store.
  • Bathroom items/medicines- Self-packed and shipped USPS priority flat rate.
  • Small kitchen tools- Self-packed and shipped USPS priority flat rate.
  • Small meaningful décor items- Self-packed and shipped USPS priority with extra insurance. Get tips on packing breakables in this article by The Spruce.
  • Artwork- Professionally packed and shipped USPS priority with insurance by Mailboxes Etc store
  • Books- Double boxed and sent via USPS media mail. Note most people don’t pack books, but there are some I can’t live without.
  • Bed- We purchased a memory foam mattress and new sheets online and had it shipped to our new address so we had an initial bed to sleep on. This bed later became our guest room bed.
  • Cameras, jewelry, important papers and other small valuables- Packed in carry-ons.
  • Vehicles- We sold our vehicles on the mainland and bought ones more suitable for Maui, including an EV. There is better selection and prices for vehicles on the mainland, which made the shipping cost a wash. Then we drove both vehicles across country with our suitcases and carry-ons, put one vehicle on a west coast  barge, and vacationed with family, using the other car. Note it is not safe or allowed to ship personal items in vehicles on the barge. Reverse this strategy if moving from Maui to the mainland.

All together, we spent less than $1000 to ship all the items we wanted including a new mattress and sheets (excluding vehicles). Full disclosure- we left some antiques, family heirlooms and photo albums and winter clothes in “our room” at Mom and Dads. Also, we were willing to “camp out” in our Maui house for a couple of weeks while we picked up gently used furniture and a few pieces from Costco. Since we were downsizing, it was easy to stay within our budget of what we sold our old furniture and accessories for.

Big Tip- If you plan on mailing boxes through USPS, put in a change of address to your new home when leaving your old home. Then put a hold on your mail until you actually arrive at your new home. The post office will hold your mail and boxes then deliver them once you have arrived. You can do this all online at

  1. A Bit About Moving Insurance

Since you have packed only your most meaningful belongings, the last thing you want is to worry about them being damaged on their way to your destination. Moving insurance can give you peace of mind. By law, all moving companies must provide 2 coverage options for out-of-state moves: Full Value Protection and Released Value Protection. Full Value Protection requires movers to replace items damaged during moving or reimburse the current value. Released Value Protection only requires reimbursement at $0.60 per pound. You can ask the moving companies giving you quotes what expanded coverage they may offer, or, if your items are particularly valuable, you may want to consider carrying your own third-party moving insurance policy as well.

Ready to get moving?

Start by making a to-do list of all the big tasks between now and moving day (you can fill in the details later). Having everything listed out on a timeline will allow you to manage the work in smaller chunks and not get overwhelmed.

Opening boxes at the end of a move is a bit like opening a present. Plus, you likely will get to go shopping for some fun new items to match your new place.