essential items to pack in your car for a long-distance move - phoenix movers

Preparing for a long-distance move can feel overwhelming. Where should you begin? What should be packed on the moving truck? Are there essential items to pack in your car for a long-distance move? Being organized is essential to make your move go as smoothly as possible.

When you book a long-distance move with a van line, you will be given a delivery spread based on the distance you are moving, the weight of your shipment, and the time of the year. It can range from a few days to a few weeks: and you typically won’t have a better idea on timing until your belongings are loaded onto the moving truck. Planning around a wide delivery spread can be challenging, especially when space is limited in your car. We put together a list of eight essential items to pack in your car for a long-distance move.


If you are shipping your beds, make sure you have a sleeping plan when you arrive at your new home. Often you will beat the moving truck and will need a place to sleep before your delivery date.

  • Pillows
  • Blankets
  • Air mattress


Pack a couple of days of clothing. Whether you arrive before the moving truck or are taking a couple of days to drive to your new home, you will need plenty of outfits for travel, cleaning, and unpacking.

Pro tip! 
Pack your clothing in duffel bags to maximize the space in your car.

Kitchen Items

Put together a small box of kitchen essentials to keep you going at your new home while you wait for your items to arrive.

  • Coffee pot or French press
  • Cookware – skillet and pot
  • Cutting knives
  • Cutting board
  • Baking pan
  • Hot pads
  • Can opener
  • Wine/bottle opener

Handy Tools

You know that junk drawer that has your random handy items and tools? Plan on packing some of those items with you in your car. Most of them will come in handy while you wait for the moving truck to arrive.

  • Screwdriver
  • Scissors
  • Box cutter
  • Tape
  • Lighter
  • Pens/markers
Pro tip!
Put together an unpacking essentials kit to help you quickly find those handy tools. 

Bathroom Items

After a long day of travel, nothing sounds better than a shower and clean comfy clothes. If you are arriving before the moving truck, consider packing these essential items in your car.

  • Towels – washcloths, hand towels, and bath towels
  • Toilet paper
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Soap
  • Shower gel
  • Razor
  • Face wash
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Hairdryer
  • Hairbrush/comb

Important Non-Allowable Items

Many moving companies have a list of non-allowable items that cannot go on the truck. Items such as live plants, ammunition, and household cleaners cannot be packed onto a moving truck. If you have any items on that list, consider packing them in your car.

Important Documents

Any documents with sensitive information, such as social security cards, birth certificates, car titles, passports and financial statements are essential items to pack in your car for a long-distance move. Moving companies do everything in their power to make sure your items safely get to your new home, but things can happen. It’s best to take those items with you.

Get an expanding file holder to keep your documents organized while minimizing the space it takes up in your car.

Snacks & Drinks

You will want to stay hydrated and fed during your trek across the country. Pack a cooler with some snacks from your pantry and perishable food you cannot pack on the moving truck. It will help lighten your total moving weight, keep you eating healthier, and will help reduce food waste.

Ask your mover if they are part of Move for Hunger. It is a great organization that partners with movers & food banks to reduce food waste when moving.

Packing for a long-distance move can seem like a daunting task, but it can feel more manageable with a little organization. We recommend starting with setting aside essential items to pack in your car for a long-distance move as you go through your daily routine. It will give you a good sense of what you need to settle into your new home.