Moving Guide

Moving Checklist

Moving Checklist

With some planning, you will have a smoother move.  Below is a timeline and checklist that might help you through the process. Though the timeline starts at 12 months, if you are not able to start that early then all of the suggested steps can be compressed into a much shorter time period.

12 Months Before
  • If you are moving with children, start investigating child care and schooling options. If you are coming to Columbia University, contact the Office of Work/Life, School and Child Care Search Service, information about early education, child care, and schooling options in the metropolitan New York area.
  • If you own your home, speak with real estate agents in your current and future areas to coordinate the proper timing for the sale and purchase of property, if applicable.
3 - 6 Months Before
  • Have your children’s immunization records and transcripts translated into English, if moving internationally.
  • If you are responsible for the care of an elderly relative, look into options for their continued care in your absence.
  • Start the process of selling your current home and the purchasing of your new home, if applicable.
  • Start cleaning out closets, garages and attics. You will get a more accurate quote from your mover if most of the items you intend to discard or give away are not in your home when the mover surveys it.
  • Decide what type of moving service you need, research average moving costs for that type of service, and plan your budget to make sure you can afford it.  Do you want the moving company to pack everything for you and transport it for you or do you want to pack the items yourself and then have the moving company transport them?  How many miles are you moving?  How many rooms are in your house?  
  • Take an inventory of your belongings.
  • Create a folder to store everything related to your move—including invoices, lists, contact information, etc.  Keeping the invoices in this folder will make it easy for you to file for a moving tax deduction later on if you decide to do so.
  • Ask for three estimates in writing from moving companies that specialize in the type of move you will have – local, domestic or international.
2 – 3 Months Before
  • Go to the dentist and doctor. Standards of dental and medical care can vary widely. A dental and medical checkup before you leave might prevent an emergency, and will also allow you more time to research dentists and physicians at your new home. Additionally, request copies of your dental and medical records to take with you.
  • Order an advance supply of six months or more of any prescriptions you or a family member takes regularly. Keep copies of the prescription and any records for the pharmacist.
  • Get a copy of your corrective lens prescription. Consider ordering a spare pair of eyeglasses, and any special solutions or eye medications that you might need.
  • Get copies of your pet’s medical records from the veterinarian.
  • For international moves, ask your physician or pharmacist to write down the generic names for your medications. Brand names of medications can vary dramatically from country to country, and doing this will allow a pharmacy in your new country to make the appropriate match. This may also be a good time to obtain any necessary paperwork your new country requires regarding your medications, and to order a medical bracelet with information in the destination country’s language, if needed.
  • If moving internationally, check expiration dates of passports for all family members and obtain new passports or renewals as appropriate.
  • If moving internationally, review visa or work permit requirements.
  • If moving internationally, get extra passport photos. Passport photos are useful for much more than passports. Many countries use them for permits, licenses, bank account applications, and academic files. By having passport photos already available in advance, you can cut a sometimes frustrating and tedious step out of various registration processes.
  • If moving internationally, complete any recommended shot or immunizations for you and the family.
  • If you have not already chosen a moving company, be sure to do this now.  Set a moving date with the company and review the terms of your agreement with them.
  • Make sure your belongings are adequately insured, either by the mover or your homeowner’s/renter’s insurance.
  • Make travel arrangements.
  • Make arrangements for temporary accommodations, if necessary.
  • If renting your current home, let your landlord know you will be moving out. If you are breaking your lease, have a written agreement with your landlord about the arrangements.
  • If you are planning to rent in your new location, plan a trip to find a new property at least 30 days prior to your arrival.
  • Make arrangements to sell any automobiles, if necessary.
1 Month Before
  • Double-check that the terms of payment set out in your moving agreement have been met or that you have the money to meet them on the specified due date.  You may need to make an initial deposit and then pay the rest of the cost on the day of your move.
  • If necessary, you may need to arrange for extra storage at your new location.  Contact storage companies in your new area to find out how their storage process works and what it will cost to store your items.  If you decide you need storage and want your movers to deliver things there on moving day, be sure to contact your moving company and let them know; there will most likely be an extra charge for this.
  • Reserve the rental truck if you are moving yourself.
  • If you are packing yourself, order packing supplies and start packing your belongings into boxes.  Be sure to check which items moving companies are not allowed to move (most moving companies should be able to provide you with this information).  These items include hazardous materials.  If you have items that the company is not able to move, you will either have to properly dispose of them, or find your own means of transporting them safely.
  • Pack the least frequently used items first. Set aside important papers to keep with you on moving day. If possible, pack one room at a time to minimize stress. Label each box with the room it will go into in your new home and a detailed summary of its contents.
  • Contact your telephone, cable and utility companies to request disconnection on the night of your moving day, and to have final bills sent to your new address. Arrange to have services connected in your new place one day before you move-in.
  • Discontinue newspaper or magazine subscriptions, or have them forwarded to your new address.
  • Discontinue other home deliveries or services (i.e. garbage pick-up, etc.).
  • If necessary, arrange for off-site child care the day of the move and the delivery day.
  • Get all school records and, if possible, have one last meeting with your child’s teachers. Have relevant records translated into English, if necessary.
  • Back-up all files on your computer and self-transport the backed-up files.
  • If you know where you are moving, try to get a floor plan of the property. Think about the location of each piece of furniture. If there are items that will not fit or you cannot use, consider disposing of them by either donating or selling them.
  • If anything you are moving requires a special service, make arrangements with the required specialist (i.e. disconnection of ice makers, hard-wired light fixtures, etc.).
  • If you are moving in or out of an apartment building, you may need to reserve the elevator, loading dock, or a parking space for the moving van. Additionally, many buildings require a Certificate of Insurance from the mover.
  • Hold a garage sale or donate items you will not bring with you.
1 – 2 Weeks Before
  • Take photos of everything you are moving.
  • Pack a suitcase for each member of the family with one to two weeks of clothing and essential supplies that each person uses every day.  Then pack some boxes of larger essentials that you use every day (such as plates and cooking utensils) and label these boxes clearly; you will unpack these first at your new location.
  • Make sure that your moving company has your new address and the floor plan you designed so that they know where to place large pieces of furniture at your new home.  You may want to confirm the details of your move with the moving company again, making them aware of any changes to your inventory or move plan (for instance, if you need to add an additional stop to pick up/deliver furniture from/to a storage facility).
  • Send out change-of-address notifications. Give the post office your info at a local post office or online at
  • Give away any live plants if you are not able to move them yourself. Usually movers will not be responsible for them.
  • Lawn care, snow removal, and other gasoline-powered machines must be emptied of gasoline and oil prior to the move. Wash out all gasoline cans to eliminate fumes.
  • Dispose of any items the mover cannot take (i.e. aerosol containers, explosives, cleaning fluids, flammable liquids, etc.).
  • Take out all items from your safe deposit box.
  • Collect any dry cleaning, laundry, items at the repair shop, items borrowed by friends or family, etc.
  • Notify medical insurance, homeowner’s/renter’s insurance and automobile insurance companies of new address.
  • Make any local transportation arrangements from old home to airport and airport to new home.
1 Day Before
  • Make sure that you set aside your suitcases and your “Last Box Packed / First Box Unpacked” boxes in an easy-to-access place in case you need to use items from them (such as medications and tools) up until the morning of the move.
  • Separate all items you plan to take with you prior to the moving crew’s arrival. This could include cell phones, chargers, prescription medicine, car keys, clothing, etc. – anything you’ll need while the majority of your belongings are on a truck. Label these items so the crew knows not to pack them.
  • Do not ship sentimental or important documents such as birth certificates, insurance papers, deeds, medical records, passports or anything that may be required when purchasing or renting a new home, such as bank statements. Add these to that “do not pack” pile.
  • Check to make sure all walkways and driveways are clear of any obstruction, including snow or ice if moving in winter.
  • Have enough cash to tip your movers (generally you can give the tip money to the foreman and it will be distributed evenly to the movers) and/or to pay the balance of moving fees when the movers get to the new location (if this is set out in your moving agreement).
  • Empty and defrost refrigerators and freezers.
  • Remove toner and ink cartridges from all printers.
  • Disconnect and label all cables and wires to TVs, stereos, DVD players, video game consoles, etc. for easy set up at destination. This will prevent you from trying to solve a complicated puzzle on a hectic day.
  • Take photos of any item that will be disassembled. The photos might help in reassembly.

Moving Day

  • Accompany your movers as they walk around and inspect your belongings and double-check your inventory.
  • Be present to answer questions and give directions to the movers. Stay until they finish.
  • Give the driver directions to your new home, and be sure the movers have a cell phone number to reach you at any point up to delivery. Make sure you keep your charger with you.
  • Before you sign, carefully read the information on the Estimate, Order for Service, Bill of Lading, Inventory, and any other completed documents given to you by the mover.
  • Carefully read all of the documents presented to you by the movers prior to signing anything. Keep all documents until your goods have been delivered, the charges are paid, and any claims have been settled.
  • Make sure all boxes are labeled with your last name and the room from which the items came. This will help with delivery.
  • If the movers disassemble any furniture, place all screws and hardware in a plastic bag and clearly label it.Keep any moving invoices in a safe place and later add them to your moving folder.
  • Walk through all of the rooms and outdoor areas (including the garage, if applicable) and double-check that nothing is left behind.
  • Hydrate and feed the movers – you will get better service from them!
  • Plan to be available for all of the days you have set aside for your move – do not schedule travel the same day, as unexpected events can occur.
  • Perform a complete walk through prior to the van operator leaving your home to ensure all items have been packed. Open and check all cabinets, closets and drawers; look outside, on patios and in the garage. Has everything been packed and placed on the truck? That overlooked cabinet of dishes probably won’t fit in your car or your carry-on luggage.
  •  Do any last minute cleaning. Lock all windows and doors as you leave.

Delivery Day (May be the same as Moving Day, if moving locally)

  • Make sure all pathways and corridors are free of obstructions so movers have easy access into the property.
  • Be present to answer any questions and give directions. Supervise unloading and unpacking of your goods.
  • Note on the inventory list all boxes or other items that are damaged before you sign any documents.
  • Pay the driver, according to the term of your agreement.
  • The State of New York allows movers to charge a 1% fuel surcharge fee under certain circumstances.
  • Hydrate and feed the movers.
  • Tip the movers the amount you are comfortable with, but it at least 5% of the cost is recommended.
  • Have a printed layout of the new residence so you can quickly advise the movers where to place items. This will help you avoid rearranging furniture and minimize your heavy lifting.
  • Do not plan delivery of your household goods on the same day of closing on the purchase of a new home. No matter how early your appointment is or how late the van operator plans to arrive, plans change. You don’t want your shipment to have to go into storage unplanned.
  • If anything is missing or damaged, make a note of it on the inventory list and any other pertinent documents prior to signing.
  • Check to see that all appliances are working properly in your new residence.
  • Check to see that gas and electricity are working properly in all parts of the home.


  • Apply for a new state or country’s driver’s license.
  • Apply for a new pet license for your dog or cat.
  • Register your automobile.
  • Register your children for school, if you were not able to do so prior to your move.
  • Find new doctors and other specialists, as required.