Transporting Belongings To/From College

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Boston for college, what to get ahead of time?

May 2012

My son is moving to Boston for college; other than the college visits, we are not familiar with the East coast. I am very concern about the weather. I would appreciate any advice. Few issues: Should I get all his dorm needs over there or here, concern that everything will be sold out. Winter, what type of Jacket, pants, shoes... you know what I mean Transportation? any monthly passes that are worthwhile getting? I am sure I am forgetting a lot. Thank you Anxious mom

I know it was a different era when I went to college but my parents put me on a plane to Boston with 2 suitcases. I had a great time finding my way around and buying the stuff I needed for my dorm room. One does not need a fully furnished room from day one. I remember finding a lamp at a yard sale and using it for 4 years. For me, being independent was the most exciting thing. I think it makes sense to have the biggies covered like laptops and cellphones. What does your son want, help or independence? Mary in Oakland

I'm a native Northeasterner who lived in Boston for a decade. Your son should take with him the clothes and personal effects he has here, but you should expect he will buy most everything to furnish his dorm and any weather-specific clothes he requires once he is in Boston. (Perhaps order sheets for him to take with him so he can make his bed the first night.)

When he arrives in Boston it will be humid and possibly quite hot, so early on he'll need summer clothes. Winters in Boston are windy, damp and chilly; snow is not a weekly occurrence but precipitation in the form of sleet and icy rain often are. He will need good, insulated, waterproof boots and a warm, waterproof coat (hat, gloves, etc. as well.) Look at LL Bean to get a sense of good winter wear for New England; he can purchase it mail order from them or buy things locally. As it gets colder through the autumn he'll gain a sense of what he needs and what his peers are wearing. I wouldn't worry about stuff being sold out; The Boston metro area is home to over 100 colleges and universities and new students are a major source of revenue for businesses. Boston is a major city; it isn't as though he's headed to a backwater with one retail outlet.

There is a monthly ''T'' pass, like a MUNI metro pass, which offers convenience and is a good value IF he will be riding on a daily basis. However, many students stay in the general vicinity of campus most of the time - they can get most everything they need, and their social lives are constructed there. It is a safe bet that he'll only ride the T occasionally, at least during his first few months, in which case the monthly pass will be a waste of money. Miss the seasons

Hi, I lived in Boston for a decade and still interview for a Cambridge college so I get the weather question lots. Don't bother shipping stuff back there. Have him take back a suitcase and his laptop. Go to Harvard Square and pick up everything at The Coop and Urban Outfitters. For a warm jacket and boots, mail order from L.L. Bean or Lands End. When I moved to Cambridge I threw all my California clothes on the floor after a week or so there and tossed out 80% as inappropriate. There are plenty of style choices there and it is probably easier for guys, but people wear cords, button down shirts, and pull over sweaters quite a bit. Of course, everyone wears jeans. My best purchase was a pair of L.L. Bean boots with the rubber lowers and leather uppers that came about 4-6 inches above the ankle. They look kind of dorky if you aren't used to them, but they save your feet and your shoes in the winter. The roads are salted after snow and the salty slush soaks into your leather shoes and totally ruins them in one cold, slushy episode. The boots keep your feet warm and dry so you aren't sitting in class in soaking wet running shoes. Layers are also good because it is cold outside in winter, but once you are in the buildings they can be quite warm. So on a cold winter day you might have cords, jeans or wool pants, a button down shirt, a pullover sweater, a down jacket with a waterproof shell (or a pile jacket and a goretex jacket over it), hat, mittens or gloves, and a scarf to wrap around your face (the college wool scarf is nice to have and people actually wear them like they do in the U.K.)and then be prepared to take off all the outer stuff in class. kathryn

Packing for college when it's a plane flight away

August 2011

My daughter and I are a little confused about the process of packing for college when it is a plane flight away. How much & what do you pack from home and how much & what do you buy at the store/pickup at college? Everybody has been telling me that you go to Bed, bath & beyond to buy the essentials. What is the advantage to buying items before you arrive in the college city? I think we would have a better handle on this if her college was just a car ride away. Any advise greatly appreciated. Jeanne

We took whatever we could with us on the flight (if you are flying with Southwest they allow 2 free suitcases per person), and the rest we ordered at our local Bed, Bath & Beyond. They let you make a list and order everything you need at one location, then pick it up at a different location. Once off the plane we rented a car and went to the store near her school, where our order was ready to be picked up. It worked really well. oopp2

It looks like moderator's link answers you quite well. a few things have changed since then.

Bed Bath and Beyond is in major competition with Target on this ''One Stop Shop - get it all here!'' thing, and honestly you dont really need a lot of that crap. They will though, have whatever you order on line ready for pick-up, or can actually deliver, making it incredibly easy.

I noticed this year (kid #4 in college :-0 ) that some schools send out this silly form to pre-order thru another company. I tossed it, along with the ''Poor baby needs care packages - we'll make them one for each season for you!'' Then learned that, like Sally Foster Gift Wrap, ordering your bedding, towels etc thru them actually raises money for the school.

Either way, in short. Bring a bikini, sweatshirt and Teddy Bear, and buy everything there or pre online. Empty Nester Reenie

A wealth of information for college-bound students and parents (college search, admissions, college life, paying for college, etc.) can be found at If you click on the ''college discussions'' tab and then the ''Parents'' link, you can find message boards on topics ranging from ''packing for college'' to ''colleges you crossed off the list after visiting.'' The search tool is helpful in locating specific topics. Been there!

We are about to take our second child to college via plane, and it isn't as difficult as I thought it would be before hand. The reason people recommend Bed Bath and Beyond is that they have made it their business to help in this process. You go into a store here and pick what you want with a scanner, then they arrange to have it ready for you on the date you want at the store nearest your child's school. You don't pay till you pick up. They also have a good selection of twin extra long sheets, which most dorms use, and other good dorm-y stuff. We haven't gone yet this time around, but my friend reported that they looked up the store for her based on the university name; she don't have to figure out which one in advance.

It's a great trip to fly Southwest on if you can, because each passenger gets two pieces of luggage for free. That's six if it is two parents and the child. Parents share one, the rest is plenty. Remember those dorm rooms are tiny!

For banking set them up with a college student or teen checking free checking account that has a large network of ATMs or refunds out of network ATM fees up to a certain limit. Both my kids have the teen account with USAA which is great if you are eligible. Never has one had to pay an ATM fee and the bank sends them postage paid envelopes to use for deposits.

My other piece of advice would be that if the weather there is significantly different than here (usually the case) don't try to totally outfit them for it in advance. The stores where their school is will have much more appropriate gear and the salespeople will understand the climate. Also, your child may not really ''get it'' until they've been there for awhile. Our daughter refused to purchase anything but the most flimsy and fashionable rain jacket before moving to Seattle. When we went back for parent's weekend in October, she was ready to go to REI and get something serious. We'll be taking the same approach in moving our son to Chicago next month.

Overall, aim for under-packing. Flying actually gives you an advantage, since you have to really plan what you pack, rather than shoving bags of stuff in the car only to find out it will never fit in that tiny dorm room. Lots of little things can be purchased at college as the child figures out how to best use their space, and things can be mailed from home later, too. Good luck and have fun! Anne

Back at the dawn of time, I went from my small town in the Midwest to New York City to college, and I packed a big suitcase with clothes and a few trinkets. I don't think it makes sense to buy stuff in CA and try to ship it with her; to me it seems more reasonable to establish how much she is allowed to spend and let her buy her own things on site (of course, it depends on how easy it will be for her to schlep things to the room... but schlepping is character-building, in my experience). And this will give her a chance to work with her roommate(s) (assuming she has one) to choose items for the room. Roommate may bring things that your daughter won't need to supply. Roommate may have strong feelings about colors (not that your daughter needs to cave to all roommate desires, but letting the girls work together seems like a good start). In general, I see this as a part of the growing up process, so my advice is to let her do this when she gets there. i loved my freshman year

Check her ''orientation'' materials. These might be in a letter or on the school website for the incoming freshmen. Some schools can be very specific what to bring and what is provided. Usually the student needs at least two sets of sheets/pillow cases, an additional quilt or warm blanket. If the beds are hard, they may recommend a foam mattress cover. The beds may be extra long - so check. If there is a Bed, Bath and Beyond near the school many schools ''list'' with them and BBB will take your order online from a school provided checklist. Either your student can pick up at the Store close to the school or the store may deliver. Their prices and quality are good. Make sure your student has a warm blanket, unless they are going where the fall/winter is mild. it can get cold at night. Usually students need their own personal toiletries, a shower caddy, two towel sets, shower flip-flops, a robe, hoodies, coat, general clothing etc.

Space is usually at a premium so sending stuff bags for extra clothing to fit on a shelf or in a closet, or even to be hung from a wall peg may work. Send enough clothing for the first few weeks, and be ready to mail things the student really needs. Take less not more, dorm rooms are usually shared. You never know when that double becomes a triple and the twin bed you expected becomes a bunk bed.

If your student needs any regular medication, prescriptions can be transferred to a local pharmacy. Walgreens is really great for that almost anywhere in the country. Other chains may provide similar service.

Check weather in the area of the school when school starts. Rain gear may be essential.

Often a campus may have a certain 'style' so unless your student has worn out all their current clothes, don't buy a lot till after your student gets a sense of their college dress preferences. Often there are great ''recycle'' clothing shops near campuses with good deals and things that are great to wear. My student prowls ''Buffalo Exchange'' in Berkeley for example. Less is more

My son goes to college in NY, so we've got experience. Here's what we did: he shipped only personal items from home that he absolutely had to have. It was 2 small boxes and his bike. When we flew to NY, we each had the max weight for checked baggage and some of his stuff was in our bags. It was mostly his clothes. We purchased everything else in NY: all bedding, toiletries, school supplies, desk lamp, etc. We purchased the minimum when he moved in as a freshman and he goes to Target or BB as needed. So far he hasn't needed much more than he started with. Because he doesn't have a lot of clothes at school, he does laundry often (this is not a bad thing). He's brought some items back home that he has found he doesn't need. If he comes home for the summer, he has to put everything into storage. The cost of storage and small size of dorm rooms are reasons not to load up on too much stuff at college. I would not buy stuff here and then ship it to college. save those bb coupons!

Thanks so much for all your thoughtful replies but what I really would like to know is whether to even bother going shopping here for college when we can just go to BB or target when we arrive. What is the advantage/disadvantage to doing it beforehand? Are they likely to be out of what will be needed? We will be arriving one day before move-in. Jeanne

If you're going to college by car and have room in the car, you may want to buy stuff before you go so not everything is new at school (and you can wash the stuff in your home washer!) But if you're flying to school, no need to do all the shopping ahead of time. You should be able to go into Target and/or BBB and order stuff to be ready for pickup once you get to school. That way, you know they won't sell out, and the cost of driving or taking a cab is probably less than the extra baggage fees you'd have to pay if you flew with eerything. Wendy

My daughter left for college in Boston last year. We decided to buy the things that would need laundering here, and deal with having an extra suitcase. I couldn't figure out how we would be able to wash the sheets, etc., if we bought them there, since she would want to use them the day she moved in, along with everyone else in her dorm. For everything that didn't need to be laundered we went to Target in Boston; there was plenty of selection. She picked up a couple of other things at BB, like a really good mattress pad, after trying the bed without it.

You'll likely want to rent a car for a day or two to deal with all of this. Have fun!! Sophomore parent

Hi Mom of college bound teen, The advantage of waiting is that you don't have to schlepp all the stuff you can get there....blankets, sheets, whatever else. If BBB or Target doesn't have what you need, they will order it, or you can order it right there to be delivered. When my son went to college in NYC I went on line and ordered a blender, microwave, toaster oven (he lived in a suite/dorm) from BBB and he walked down a few blocks to pick them up. They would have delivered but it would have cost more. Your daughter (I think you said daughter...sorry if I'm wrong) will have enough stuff to pack of her personal belongings. With the cost of extra luggage, why buy here!!! My two cents, mom of college kids

Buy here or there? There are pros and cons to both. If you get stuff here (or order it and have it delivered there - my favorite option for most new purchases), you won't have to compete with hundreds - or thousands - of other families doing that at the exact same time in the exact same few stores near the dorms, so you will have more options, more likely to find what you need, etc. You may also already have some things, and not want to buy duplicates just to avoid bringing/shipping. On the other hand, you can't really know what the room is like, how outlets are placed, how the lighting is (both natural and electric), everything the roommate shows up with, etc. until you actually see the room. Will you have a car with you? Will you be willing to take time to drive farther away from the dorm rather than hitting the nearest Target? That might make it easier to shop there. But when we dropped our kid in NY city, there was no way we were going to drive all over; we ended up at the same store with everyone else, and it called for lots of patience! Remember that for many things, your kid has time. You don't need to have everything imaginable the first day (depending how hard it is to get to stores from campus, you could also order stuff online and have it delivered to him later). R.K.

You asked whether to do any shopping here when you can just go to BBB and Target in the college location. I think that it has to do with the needs and anxiety level of your child. Our family did a combination of packing and shipping from home and buying at school. We made very organized lists and were able to buy just the right kind of this or that to get the best prices and meet my child's needs. At the college the student dealt with the anxiety of dealing with a late-arriving, moody roommate, and all of the unknown logistics, like getting classes and books and renting a refrigerator, etc. He could rest easy in the knowledge that the crucial supplies were all there in the shipped boxes in an organized way. Unpacking went quickly and smoothly. We were able to calmly explore the campus and town. For our child, having to depend on a retail location with other anxious students in a crowd would have not been a good idea. When we went into such places, for his limited list of items, we saw many anxious parents and students in search of things. Parents, in particular, were a little short on patience and manners. In addition, he was very happy with how well-supplied he was during his freshman year while he was learning to live on his own. Other people are more go-with-the-flow and would welcome the social opportunity to run into classmates at BBB or Walmart or Target and would enjoy the fair-like atmosphere. I think the best approach is to think about your child and what would work best for your family. P.S. The best thing we bought was a 4 inch thick memory foam mattress topper from Smokey Mountain Pillow on eBay with free shipping. College Mom

Logistics of College on the Other Coast

June 2009

Hi, I have a daughter leaving for college in a few months. I would like some ideas from families who have been through this. How did your family deal with banking? Debit cards? How much do you give a college student for misc. expenses? How did you transport a students clothing, electronics, all dorm needs across the country? Thanks to you

Assuming you will have some form of transportation once there and will be able to get to stores easily, bring as little as possible. It helps to arrive near campus a couple of days before move-in day, or to stay a couple of days past it (seeing the actual dorm room will help you in figuring out necessities and space limitations). My daughter's bags mostly contained clothing. We only brought bed sheets, one large towel, maybe a pillow, but not much else. Chains like Bed, Bath and Beyond offer a registry so that the student shops in a local store at home and picks up the boxes later at the closest store to campus -- that was convenient but not necessary either. We could just as well have picked what was needed from the store near campus. During orientation week, the Bed, Bath and Beyond store in Manhattan actually had a doorman hailing cabs for harried parents and students! A fairly cheap comforter was bought online; I timed the delivery for one or two days after dorm move-in date. Some campuses do allow you to ship boxes a couple of days before move-in day -- check with residential services. We also bought a cheap printer on location.

Cold-weather clothing can be shipped from home later in the semester,via the post office.

Banking is more of an issue, especially if your daughter isn't 18 yet, in which case she'll need you to open an account with her. Banks are still different on the East Coast but this is about to change. In the next year or two, Wachovia Bank branches will be absorbed by Wells Fargo. Similarly, Chase now has branches nationwide,including downtown Berkeley, so your child might want an account there. Otherwise there will be a small service fee for using other banks ATMs with her debit card from home. Having an account in a bank that you can also visit here in the East Bay will make your life easier, in case an instant deposit is needed.

By the way, make sure your student stays away from those ubiquitous ATMs at delis and convenience stores and sticks strictly to bank-owned ATMs. My daughter encountered some nasty security issues related to those ATMs not affiliated to banks.

Another tricky issue has been prescription drugs. Our daughter couldn't fill her out-of-state prescriptions in NYC, which meant we had to mail medicine to her regularly. Not the most efficient set-up. Depending on the health services offered by your daughter's college, she may have better options. Laura

Someone has already answered most of your questions, but I wanted to add a couple of things. If you're traveling with her to help her move in, you can do what we did. My husband flew to school with my daughter last year and each of them took a couple of suitcases with them, more than one person would be allowed to check, or able to manage. Be careful to weigh them, though! Most airlines have a 50 lb. per suitcase limit. Above that, you pay extra, so make sure you spread the books out.

I agree with the previous poster about Bed, Bath & Beyond. My daughter chose the bedding and other dorm necessities here at home and picked everything up once she arrived at school. Even if you're not going to be there with her, most schools expect to help students with those errands during orientation.

I also agree that it's much easier to handle the banking issues if you have easy access to your child's account. We bank with Wells Fargo, and our daughter already had an account there before college. Before she left, we looked to see whether Wells Fargo was available where she was going to school and where the closest ATMs were. She has an ATM card, only, not a credit card. As for how much money to provide, we found that she needed a lot in the beginning. Textbooks are incredibly expensive. After that, she seemed to need very little--often less than $100 a month--but that will vary depending on your child's extracurricular interests, food tastes and the college's amenities. For instance, at my daughter's university, laundry is free and almost all entertainment takes place on campus and is free.

One other thing I'd suggest is checking College Confidential ( for your daughter's school to ask some specific questions about move-in, or to look to see if your questions have already been asked and answered. I've found CC to be a great resource, with current students and parents very willing to help. Another College Mom

We went Southwest -- 2 suitcases/2 carry-on's each for free (each must be under 50 lb; they'll charge more if one is over even if the average weight is under). We sent a box of books early by US Mail for about $10 -- media mall is very cheap, but it takes longer to get there. Also, you can mail anything, any weight in a 12''x12''x5'' box for $12.95 by US Mail. Finally, we bought sheets/comforter/towels through a service the school provided, delivering right to the school. The price was comparable to non-sale Bed Bath Beyond prices, but the towels were really flimsy and I ended up sending some from home (in the 12'' box, with homemade granola).

Good luck -- just worry about getting everything back after 4 years! Wendy

Here's what we did. We have family on the other coast, so we combined a ''take the kid to college'' trip with a visit to relatives, and went as a family. At that time, we could still each take two full pieces of luggage for free, so each of us (4 total) did. As others have mentioned, watch the weight limit. We also each took the maximum size roll-aboard as carry-on, with our own stuff (minimal) and more of the college kid's. For linens, we went to our local Target before leaving, chose what she liked, then ordered on We had the luxury of a relative nearby whom we shipped stuff to, but if you time your internet orders right, have them arrive a day or two after you plan to arrive (you might want to pack a towel and sheet so they have something to use meanwhile). We shipped books Media Mail (very cheap, but be sure it's just books, and nothing precious), which kept the weight down in the luggage. She didn't have a big stereo, just a laptop & her ipod, so electronics weren't an issue. We did have a lot of kitchen supplies, since she was going to be cooking for herself (we hit the thrift stores over the summer to avoid paying a fortune for such things when we got there; they probably took a full suitcase worth of space). We left just two of the large suitcases there at college, since that would be the limit for her alone. Of course, now that most airlines charge for every piece of luggage, the formula you use to decide whether to ship or carry might be different.

At the airport, the only thing that caused a bit of a hold-up was the CO2 detector I'd bought for her dorm room. The screening personnel had no idea what it was. We finally assured them it was not a bomb, and they let us through. As it turns out, the dorm room already had a built-in one, though it wasn't mentioned anywhere.

Another tip you may not be aware of - the Post Office has ''Flat Rate'' priority mail boxes that are a great deal if you are sending stuff across the country. You can stuff them as full as you like, no weight limit, and ship anywhere in the country for a flat rate. They arrive in just a couple of days. There are several different box configurations, ranging from about $5 to $14. Great for sending care packages. Be sure you get the boxes marked ''Flat Rate'' or they will be priced by weight (of course, if the stuff is light, by-weight might be better). Good luck on your trip! R.K.

How do you get your child's stuff to and from a far-away college?

Nov 2007

I'm interested in hearing how folks ship their child's ''stuff'' (and these days, there's a lot of it!) to and from far-away college. Mostly, I'm trying to figure out the cheapest way to do it. For the start of school, I know I can order new things and have them shipped (or picked up, or buy) there, but once she has the stuff, and no storage available on campus, what do people do for the summer, and/or end of school? UPS? US Mail? Storage sites? Pay extra (a lot extra) at the airport and bring it each way as ''excess baggage''? And without a car, how do the kids manage to get the stuff sent? How about the services that agree to pick up, store/ship and deliver everything? Are these a good deal, or very expensive? Thanks for sharing your experiences. Mom of college kid with LOTS of stuff

Finally, I get to respond to a question as a parent and not as a therapist! Here are a few of the things we did regarding shipping.

1) Try to really ask yourself whether all the stuff needs to be sent; many things can be bought at or near their college and are cheaper to buy/repurchase than to ship, in some cases. This can include things like bedding, lighting, little fans for the room, supplies, etc.

2) Send as much in advance as you can, via UPS ground, book rate, to an address at or near the school. ''Dude, you live near the school--can I send some stuff to your house?'' would be a welcome phrase to hear coming from your son or daughter on the phone. Some schools won't let you ship a bunch in advance and other schools are happy to hold the boxes for the student's arrival. Keep in mind this option can take weeks for the boxes to get to the school so you have to plan ahead, which, for many teens, is a bit on the difficult side, especially with the stress of moving away from home.

3) Consider helping your child move by going there with them ahead of time and renting a minivan or panel truck if you're shipping stuff via the airlines. If you can't do that, your child might want to connect with the above- mentioned ''dude'' who might also get access to a car or truck or van to help unload on the other end. If you go with your child to get them set up in school, please consider helping with the move and then quickly exiting. Your child, no matter how lovely, probably does not want you hanging around the school with them.

4) See number 1. In my opinion, kids do not really need a ton of stuff from home to take with them to college; really try to pare down whatever you can, and ship the minimum.

I'm sure people have other good suggestions, but those are a few! Good luck! Michael

I am not familiar with shipping services, which may be a great, but expensive idea. So check into their cost for location your child is. It may be worth it! Excess baggage costs on the plane are also expensive, and vary from airline to airline, but in the end may be cheaper and easier than the alternatives. However, don't put a computer in checked luggage on an airplane! Check out the costs for each airline that serve the college's location and find out the insurance limitations for checked luggage.

Compare these alternatives to doing it oneself. To do so, you first have to think through the boxes and transportation issues. The transportation choices are taxis, friends with cars, or renting a U-haul van (which can be done at age 18). With any of these, your child would first get boxes and packing supplies, if needed, and then have the boxes transported to a storage locker or a US Post Office or UPS.

My experience was that for UPS and US Post Office, one should pack carefully and it can be quite expensive. For my son, the ideal plan was a storage locker he shared with a few friends. One friend had a large car, and they all used it to transfer their stuff to the storage locker. Check out costs, because those places further from campus are usually cheaper. Also, my son chained his bike to a fence in someone else's apartment building and it survived the summer. When he graduated from college I flew there and rented a car. That allowed me to find out where I could buy a bike box and have the bike shipped out and to help with getting needed supplies. And I was able to take some stuff back on the plane.

Of course the best idea is to have your child NOT take so much stuff to college or to use taxis during the school year to start sending stuff home (for example, the winter clothes after winter ends). One she starts dealing with the hassles of mailing it back and forth, the message may get through. Been there

We solved the shipping question by purchasing inexpensive shipping materials at Office Depot, and shipping via UPS also at Office Depot. They have business rates there. We knew we would be flying him to school and staying in a hotel, so we asked the hotel if they would accept the packages. They were more than happy to accomodate our request. I'll have to say that for the amount of stuff our son packed, it was surprisingly cheap! I have seen advertisements for storage solutions for college students that we may check into for summer storage of belongings. Nancy

Check out -- don't forget about -- AMTRAK. I shipped stuff from here to New Haven fairly reasonably. The issue is pick-up on the other end which could involve renting a car or hoping that other students might offer to help with pick-up. Train Wreck