This summer, I moved from New York to Los Angeles. To make things easier on myself, I tried using PODS, a moving and storage company that markets itself as being cheaper than traditional movers and having great customer service. Boy was that wrong. The company misquoted the size of trailer I needed, which left me stranded on the sidewalk with all my belongings on a weekend and s*** out of luck until Monday when the business reopened. I ended up on the phone for hours with their reps and almost in tears.
I learned some valuable lessons along the way, though, and want to share them with you. Here’s what I took away from my horrific experience:
Tried and True
Sometimes the best options are the tried and true ones. There’s a reason that the best and most popular cookie is and always will be chocolate chip. If I had to do this over, I’d go with a company like Paramount Transportation Services or Northstar, which do the moving and unpacking for you. This way, you don’t have to hire a different service for each portion of the move. If you’ve never moved before, ask around and do your research to find what companies have already proven to be effective. There’s usually no better way to find the tried and true than by word of mouth.
Handle with Care
If you decide to go the mobile mover route, be prepared to actually move the boxes yourself. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I’m sure many of us have hired movers only to cringe as they handle a box incorrectly or flip something valuable upside down. Many movers, and even services like FedEx or UPS, will throw packages in the back of the truck without caring. Think of your items as precious cargo—because they are—and move them yourself. This way, you can take control and make sure that things arrive in one piece.
Living with Restrictions
When I moved, both the places I was leaving and going—Brooklyn and Santa Monica—had 4-hour window moving restrictions. This meant that I had to pack and unpack in a 4-hour period or endure surcharges. We’ve gotten used to being restricted from various activities during Covid. Plus, Covid pricing is becoming more common. Price compare to make sure you’re being offered a fair price. Ask about restrictions and surcharges ahead of time, as we’ve gotten used to doing when making haircut appointments or eating out. We can’t just walk-in places anymore, and the same mindset should be put to moving, too. You don’t want to just hire a service and assume it’ll be the same as it was in the Before Times.
More is Less
As I mentioned, PODS misquoted the size of the trailer I needed. To save yourself from having to hire extra movers or equipment, it’s better in these Covid times to just splurge a little and spring for the larger trailer, bigger boxes, and extra help. Even though you might be spending more up front, it will save you hours of energy spent on the phone trying to fix the problems. You might be grateful for the extra room, too. It’s better to have too many boxes than not enough, especially now when a trip to the post office is risky. In the long run, you might save money, too. With PODS, you can store the boxes they provide. You might want something bigger down the road and this will save you from having to purchase items twice.
The Long Haul
As I did myself, many Americans are forgoing air travel to drive long distances to relocate. Remember that if you go this route, you’ll be crossing several state lines and encountering different Covid restrictions. You’ll also likely encounter higher quotes for cross-country (or similarly long) moves. Think about other ways to cut costs, then. Maybe you want to rent a U-Haul yourself and do the drive. Or perhaps you want to take advantage of public lands and camp for free. Or choose to stop in small towns with less expensive lodging options. It’s important to take into consideration the distance of your move. If you can do a 12-hour drive in a day instead of breaking it up into two, you’ll save on hotel costs altogether.
Almost 16 million Americans have moved so far during the pandemic, and that number is likely to grow. You’d think that with so many Americans relocating, the moving process during Covid would be more seamless by now. Unfortunately that isn’t the case. It’s better to prepare yourself for every little thing that could go wrong than to be surprised. This will likely mean over preparing, but it will give you peace of mind. Especially if it means saving yourself from spending hours on hold with customer service.
A version of this article was originally published on Forbes.