4 Tips for a Long Distance College Move-In Day

Avoiding Mailroom Snafus, Long Lines & Other Surprises

Mother helping daughter move into dormitory
Getty Images/Ariel Skelley/Blend Images

Moving your child into their new home is tough enough when you're schlepping all of their worldly possessions in the family car. Add air travel or a cross country road trip to the mix and it becomes even more challenging. Thankfully colleges and retailers get it: Nowadays it's becoming increasingly more common for kids to attend schools that are hundreds of miles from home, so you can ship belongings directly to campus, order stuff online for local pickup or just wait until you get there to shop.

But a little planning never hurt anyone. Follow these tips to avoid a few key mistakes.

Should You Fly or Drive?

An hours-long drive across several states may be daunting, but if one-way road trip is not too ghastly a concept, consider renting a car. Drive to the college with all the gear, move in, drop off the car at the airport and fly back. You'll pay a premium for a one-way rental, but it may be worth it to avoid the hassle and expense of shipping large items.

If You're Shipping Items Ahead of Time 

Double check the college mailroom schedule. Some schools accept packages over the summer, and a few even deliver to the dorms. Other mailrooms, like the one at UC San Diego, for example, don't open until several days after move-in day, a situation that left one student sleeping on borrowed towels until he could retrieve his bedding from the mailroom. If you run into mailroom issues, make sure your child's luggage includes the absolute essentials they'll need during first few days: sheets, towels, etc. If you have a friend, colleague or relative who lives in the same area where your child will be attending school, you could also have their belongings shipped there.

If You're Ordering Online

Some retailers, including Bed, Bath and Beyond, allow you to order gear online and pick it up in stores in another state. Just verify the location, print out a copy of your order paperwork and allow extra time for pickup. Big box stores near college campuses are always clogged during move-in day, but since you've picked everything out ahead of time you'll be able to get in and out without a hitch.

If You're Waiting to Shop 

Do it wisely. Depending on how your child's move-in and orientation schedules are structured, you might be there for one day or a weekend. If you have an extra day for dorm room shopping, take advantage of it. It takes an incredible amount of time, but trying to find the right stores and the right stuff in a college town on move-in day can be quite an arduous task. If move-in day is just that - a day - don't panic when you realize you've forgotten something... because you will forget something. Locate the nearest big box stores before move-in day to save yourself some stress.