8 Things I Learned Relocating From Grand Rapids to Philadelphia

1. Packing 3 weeks ahead of my move helped me save time and money.

A side-by-side of moving bags and boxes.

 

My belongings took up a lot of space at my residence in Grand Rapids.

Gabi Stevenson/Insider

I moved from the Philadelphia area to Grand Rapids in October 2021, and luckily, I still had boxes and space-saving bags, so I saved money on packing materials.

By the time I was done, boxes and bags filled up my house. If this happens to you, don’t panic — most items look a lot bulkier when they’re packed up with tape and bubble wrap.

2. Packing the UHaul was like a giant game of Tetris, but there was order to the madness.

An open UHaul with boxes and bags inside.

 

My UHaul may have looked messy, but I packed it as efficiently as I could.

Gabi Stevenson

I rented a five-by-eight UHaul trailer for the trip, which cost a total of $195 for four days.

As I packed my belongings into the trailer, I tried to sort them by where they would go in my apartment. It wasn’t a perfect system, but it gave me a general idea of how to map out my new digs.

3. If you’re doing a long-haul move, check the weather ahead of time so you know what you’ll be encountering along the way.

A rainy highway with traffic barrels.

 

It was a little trickier driving the UHaul in the rain, but we made it to our first destination.

Gabi Stevenson/Insider

With the trailer in tow, my mom and I left for Cleveland at about 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning. We encountered some clouds and rain, which wasn’t unusual during our drives to Ohio.

UHaul recommends driving slower than average when a trailer is attached to your car. Although it wasn’t fun to drive at a slower speed, I felt better knowing that my mom and I were safe.

The drive to Cleveland usually takes about five hours, but it took six-and-a-half hours that day.

4. I definitely recommend purchasing a neck pillow and wearing layers of clothes for the long car ride.

Gabi Stevenson pointing at her gray neck pillow.

 

I love a sturdy neck pillow to keep my neck propped up at any angle.

Gabi Stevenson/Insider

My most trusted item during the trip was my foam neck pillow which provided comfort and kept my head from slumping when I fell asleep. Similar styles range between $13 and $40 on Amazon.

During the ride, I also wore loose clothes for comfort and wore a sweatshirt to combat the cold from the air conditioner.

We put our snack bag and a cooler directly behind us so I could easily reach the snacks. To save on costs, consider packing snacks you already have around the house in baggies.

5. Take the time to research spots to eat on your trip. Feel free to reward yourself with your favorite foods like I did.

Gabi Stevenson standing in front of Shake Shack.

 

I missed this place so much when I lived in Grand Rapids.

Gabi Stevenson/Insider

I was able to stop at a Shake Shack outside of Philadelphia to stretch my legs and found the experience way more enjoyable than eating gas station snacks. I’m a big fan of the chain’s burgers, fries, and milkshakes because it was one of my favorite meals growing up.

We left Cleveland between 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. and pulled into the restaurant around 6:30 p.m., meaning the second leg took about seven-and-a-half hours. It normally takes about six hours and 30 minutes, so we didn’t add too much time, even with stopping for bathroom breaks, food, and gas.

I couldn’t move in until noon the following day, so I stayed at my partner’s apartment in the city, while my mom stayed with my family in the suburbs.

6. See if you can lock down a parking spot near your building ahead of time to make unloading quick and efficient.

Moving boxes stacked in a kitchen.

 

My moving boxes quickly filled up my new kitchen.

Gabi Stevenson/Insider

A few weeks prior to my move, I was able to snag a temporary parking permit from the city of Philadelphia. The permit allows you to block off space for moving trucks and vehicles.

The day before I moved in, I hung up signs from the police station in a neighborhood near my apartment. I was so happy I had one less thing to worry about once I arrived.

Move-in day was hot and sunny. I started perspiring before I even started any heavy lifting, so by the time all the boxes and bags were inside, I was sweating through my clothes.

Once all of my stuff was unloaded, we went to look at furniture that same night. I only had the UHaul for one more day, so I wanted to take full advantage.

7. If you’re buying furniture after you move, it’s best to think ahead about everything from measurements to store inventory.

A car filled with Ikea purchases.

 

We fit as much as we could into the car after our shopping trips.

Gabi Stevenson/Insider

We searched for furniture at the lone Ikea location in Philadelphia. Due to the narrow hallway in my apartment building, I needed furniture that was easy to assemble.

Prior to my move, I browsed the Ikea app, but when we arrived, it seemed like everything I wanted was out of stock. Because of this, we made several trips to a different Ikea 30 minutes away for the rest of my selections.

Overall, I spent about $1,420 on furniture and necessities and purchased some items from thrift stores and Facebook Marketplace. I’m still saving up for a futon, so I anticipate spending another $150 to $200.

If I had to do it over again, I’d try to get measurements of the entryways and hallways ahead of time. I’d also make sure to call Ikea prior to my move to confirm that my selections were in stock.

8. Don’t let your boxes and garbage pile up in your new place, mainly because trash is collected at certain times.

Flattened moving boxes on a side walk.

 

There were almost too many boxes to count.

Gabi Stevenson/Insider

I attempted to dispose of my recyclable items at a nearby plant, but an employee told us when we arrived that they only accepted materials by the ton. He suggested cutting them up, placing them in trash bags, and leaving them on the curb for trash day.

Since we were fairly close to the outskirts of Philadelphia, we drove to a suburban neighborhood where a resident let us put the boxes in a large recycling container. With the boxes gone, it was time to unpack and get settled.

I highly recommend looking into your city’s trash and recycling requirements before you move, and bringing an outdoor trash can if you have the space. It’ll make it easier to get the junk out of your apartment each night instead of letting it pile up.

The trip was long, the weather was humid, and the physical work was tough on my body — but I’d do it all over again.

A car with a UHaul trailer sitting in a parking lot.

 

I think I’ll be happy if I don’t have to use a UHaul again for at least the next few years.

Gabi Stevenson/Insider

I ultimately realized how worthwhile my move was once I started settling into my new digs. I had bruises on my body from bumping into heavy items and navigating the new space, but they were a reminder of how hard my family and I worked to get things done.

I learned a lot of lessons that I’ll take into my next move, whenever that may be. I know now that I should get firm measurements of my new space beforehand and that no matter what, I’ll always need more storage bins.

However, the most important thing I learned is that it’s always a good idea to stop for burgers and fries.

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