How to pack clothes for a long-distance move

The entire moving process can be stressful and overwhelming, especially when moving across the country. Many moving professionals recommend starting the packing process with the things you don't use that often weeks in advance and finishing with the items you use the most. That's a great strategy and makes the most sense, but many people face packing fatigue when they need to box up the things they use the most. Clothes typically are one of the last things packed and thrown into suitcases, duffle bags, and boxes, making it tough to find specific items when you arrive at your new home. We have several tips on how to pack clothes for a long-distance move that should alleviate some of the pain of sifting through boxes to find the pair of jeans you want to wear.

Things to Do Before Packing

Taking the time to prepare your clothes before moving will pay dividends when unpacking. You will have less to pack, less to sift through, and less to find a place for in your new space.


One of the most costly mistakes people make when moving is not taking the time to purge through clothes and other items before they move.  A couple of weeks before the move, go through clothes and decide what to keep, sell, or donate. Spending time to declutter will save you money and remove some stress. 

Gather Essentials for Your Car

When moving long distance, you will want to gather essential items to pack in your car. We recommend packing about a week worth of clothes and other items you will need throughout the drive. If you are moving with a van line, keep in mind the delivery spread. Van lines will give you a window of delivery dates based on the distance traveled from the origin to destination and the weight of the goods they are transporting. It can range from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, and you won't have a better idea of the actual delivery date until loading day. 

How to Pack Clothes for a Long Distance Move

After purging and gathering essentials for your car, it's time to start packing your clothes. Take an inventory of what you are planning on moving and figure out what packing materials are needed. Take advantage of the suitcases and duffel bags you already have, then figure out how many boxes you need.

Have the Right Boxes

Having the right moving boxes for your clothes will save packing time and help protect your clothes during the move. 

  • Hanging wardrobe boxes: Save time by putting your hanging clothes in tall wardrobe boxes. You can easily and quickly pack and transport your hanging clothes in these boxes. A good rule of thumb - a wardrobe box holds about two feet of hanging closet space. You can use that measurement when deciding how many boxes you will need. Places like Home Depot and Lowe's carry wardrobe boxes. 
  • Laydown wardrobe boxes: These are great for short dresses, suits, and folded clothes. 

Depending on the length of your hanging items, there may be extra room at the bottom of the wardrobe boxes. Take advantage of the space by packing light blankets and pillows at the bottom, but be mindful of the total weight. Don't make the boxes too heavy!

Keep Similar Items Together

For the most efficient unpacking, take the time to gather and group similar items. When boxes have similar items, you can easily find what you are looking for and start organizing before you begin to unpack. Make sure you label boxes with the contents, your name, and the room they should go in on at least two sides. 

Packing Shoes

Packing shoes seems easy, just throw them in a duffel bag and call it a day. It's tempting to do that, but the reality is that shoes can quickly lose their shape and get squished in transit. For expensive shoes, make sure you put washcloths, socks, or wooden shoe inserts to keep the shape intact. Another tip is to pack shoes in hard-shell suitcases to keep them protected. 

More Tips on How to Pack Clothes for a Long Distance Move

Here are a few other tips we often share with our clients:

  • Don't overstuff wardrobe boxes. Clothes can easily be wrinkled and damaged during transportation. Keep the 2 feet of closest space per wardrobe box rule in mind!
  • Anything valuable or sentimental should be moved in your car.
  • Fill boxes full to make sure items can't move around during transportation
  • Line suitcases and cardboard boxes with packing paper to protect your clothes