Leaving on a jet plane and not sure when you’ll be back again? Moving somewhere new via plane is an exciting adventure, but the reality of packing for said voyage is sure to bring you down to earth.
If you’re moving to another state or another country by plane, whether it’s for studying abroad or for good, the thought of packing up your entire life into your carry-on and checked luggage is daunting.
Fortunately, it’s totally doable with these six strategies—and you don’t even have to be one of those weird “I travel light” people to make it work.
1. Get Compression Bags
You’ve seen the infomercials and no, these things aren’t too good to be true. Compression bags can double the amount of storage space in each suitcase. They’re especially helpful if you’re traveling somewhere cold and are packing bulky down jackets and sweaters. You can even find compression bags that come with a vacuum pump that helps suction air out.
2. Know Your Airline’s Baggage Policies
Oh boy, this is a big one. If you haven’t booked your flight yet, stop and look at this list from Skyscanner for a comprehensive breakdown of baggage fees. And if you have booked your flight, well, you should still look at the list (and pray for the best).
Some airlines charge less for baggage if you pay in advance. Doing so may allow you to afford to check more bags than you thought possible. Airlines like Southwest, on the other hand, allow you to check two bags of up to 50 pounds a piece for free.
Keep in mind carry-on policies too. Airlines like Spirit charge $26 for carry-on in advance and $100 at the gate—yes, you read that right. Look for airlines that don’t limit the weight of carry-on bags, and be aware of the ones that do, like Virgin America, which limits carry-on bags to 30 pounds or less.
And don’t forget about overweight baggage fees, which are often staggering. It’s actually cheaper to check several underweight bags rather than one overweight one.
3. Ship Items With Mobile Self Storage
Who says you have to fit it all on the plane? Just because you’re not traveling by ground doesn’t mean your stuff can’t. Rent a mobile self storage unit and let your belongings travel to your new home.
Portable storage units, like PODS, allow you to have a storage container delivered to you. After you get it, you pack it up and then the storage facility picks it up and delivers it to wherever you’d like.
4. Ship the Big Stuff by Freight
Looking to ship some stuff? Don’t worry, you don’t have to stand in line at the post office with all of your belongings and a bunch of those flat-rate boxes.
One option is UPS freight. This method will ship your stuff by ground, air or ocean both domestically and internationally. Prices vary by location, but you can always save money by opting for ground instead of air. Seriously, you can save an insane amount of money—just look at this girl who saved almost $1,300 by opting for ground instead of air.
For a cheaper freight option, ship with Amtrak. You can ship items that weigh up to 50 pounds with a total weight limit of 500 pounds. It’s cheaper than checking a bunch of bags at the airport and it’s a great option for tricky items like your bicycle.
5. Rent a Storage Unit
If you know that you’ll be coming back to your old hometown at some point after your move, rent a storage unit there. Maybe you’re moving from the city you grew up in to a new one across the country. You’ll probably return to visit your family at some point.
Storage units are typically rented on a month-to-month basis, and many offer online bill pay which will allow you to take care of rent from out of state. Rent one, fill it with all of the stuff that won’t fit on the plane and grab items from it when you’re back in town for a visit.
6. Sell or Donate What You Don’t Need
You probably already know this classic advice, but it bears repeating. If you’re moving via plane—or moving via any method for that matter—downsizing always helps. Get in touch with charities that will pick up your unwanted furniture, give away some clothing to that friend who has always admired your style and recycle or discard anything that’s damaged. As a last resort, a couch on the curb with a “Free” sign on it never fails.