Transporting Belongings to & from College

Parent Q&A

  • Best way to send belongings?

    (3 replies)

    My daughter will be going to DC for grad school. What would be the safest and least expensive way of going about sending her stuff? Mostly clothes and bedding/sheets etc?

    RE: Best way to send belongings? ()

    I have sent two sons off to college back east.  For each we bought two plastic trunks -- available at Container Store and Amazon.  They are exactly the maximum size for airplane baggage and can be locked with a TSA lock -- or just zipties.  They are pretty indestructible, are good for storage, and you can slap a label on them and ship them by UPS or FedEx if you prefer that option.  After four years of going back and forth and serving as storage during school, we passed the trunks on to other families sending students off.  Totally the way to go.     

    RE: Best way to send belongings? ()

    Buy the bedding/sheets there. Our student managed with a couple of suitcases. For the intermediate years she mostly stored stuff at a storage facility that picked up at the dorms. She would mail home a small box or two of books each year. This year (the last) she mailed 4 small boxes -- 2 books, 2 other things that wouldn't fit in the suitcases.

    RE: Best way to send belongings? ()

    We sent our daughter to school with a huge duffel, a suitcase and a carry-on the plane and sent EVERYTHING else to school via online orders.  

    We carried a few things to make sure the first night was workable if she couldn't get packages. At her school the mailroom opens a small warehouse in August to start receiving packages. It was so easy to order and send everything. We carried another bag back over Parent's Weekend. Worked well. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Where to store college belongings over summer?

May 2015

This sounds simple, but I cannot find an answer: Where do college kids store their belongings over the summer? Our son is on the east coast, and cannot ship everything back home--printer, printer table, bedding.... It seems silly, only to move it back east again in the fall. There is no storage on campus (he is in NYC). What do non-local kids do? Thanks for any advice or tips.
mom of a freshman

I'd look into local storage unit options. He can borrow or rent a truck, car or trailer to haul things to storage. The farther away you get from an urban area, the cheaper it will be. There are also those cube things.

Here in Davis, which is a college town, students end up selling or throwing out a lot of their possessions, and the next wave of students (or the non-student residents) buy them. It completely depresses the local resale economy, because you can get desks for $20, for example. But it also means that when you get back in town, you just buy your needs again. Students also sublet their apartments for the summer and leave their things in place.

Google ''college student summer storage new york city'' You will find more options than you know what to do with. AboutTheSame

We used Manhattan Mini-Storage. Many locations throughout the city. Call closest one to reserve space, obtain rates. If he doesn't have that much stuff, you may only need the smallest unit. Pack up everything in boxes, take everything down to the street, call Uber or arrange for SUV taxi in advance.

Yes, it will cost to store everything for three months, but, as you say, there are so few choices. Anon

When my daughter needed to store her belongings in Boston over the summer we found a service that came to her dorm, provided her boxes, picked up the boxes, stored them for the summer, and delivered them to her new dorm in the fall, all for an incredibly reasonable price. A quick Google search for NYC showed several companies that appear to do the same thing (my younger daughter will be going to school in NYC next year, so I thought I would check.) I don't know the pricing or the reputation of any of the companies I found, but you can check them out. I used the search term ''short term storage new york college student.'' This was the best solution for us, short of having a friend who lived in the area and was able to store things for us one summer. Sandi

We faced this problem when our daughter was a student in Oregon. One year she found a friend who was willing to store her stuff in a corner of her apartment. The other summer she shared the cost of a small storage unit with another student. Naomi

Hello, I have the best reference for college storage, summer or semesters away. There is a company called You sign up on their website. They will send boxes, tape, packing material, etc. directly to your student. All your student needs to do is pack the boxes, seal them, and label them. You will pre-arrange a pick-up date, and the company will go to your students dorm and pick up the boxes. Your student has to be there for the pick-up, and they also have to be there for the drop-off. The company will send a text message to your student to let him/her know when they are about to arrive. They will store the boxes over the summer in climate controlled buildings and then you pre-arrange a fall drop-off to the new dorm. The pricing is very reasonable, I was shocked how inexpensive the materials, shipping, storage, and delivery were. My son is finishing up 4 years in Boston and we have enjoyed this service very much. I have no idea what we would have done without it. This year they will pick up his items and ship them here to CA. I hope it works out for you too! Sandi

I was worried about this too when my daughter was a freshman in NYC! So mysterious! I wish the schools themselves had some sort of storage system! But it turns out that local storage companies in NYC have student plans for exactly this situation. They leave fliers around the dorms. Last summer my daughter stored her belongings with Box Butler; her roommates used other companies, and they all seemed fine. The company brings you boxes, then they pick them up and take them somewhere (probably New Jersey), and then in the fall they bring them back. It was about $100 a month -- not so cheap, but way less hassle than shipping it all back and forth. Lucy

I've had this experience with three different colleges. I would first do a search on the college's website for summer storage. Two of the colleges were able to provide a very small on-campus space (part of a closet/ a storage locker) which is def. the most convenient. The third school did not provide anything and we ended up having to rent a storage locker for the summer that was miles away from campus. Good luck! Gail

Your student's college should have information - suggestions/referrals about places local to his college where he can store his things for the summer. Have him check with his RA, ask other students, or get help from the student service center on campus. There are several places in the NYC area that offer these services, very similar to the rental places we have around here. Not sure about the logistics of actually moving the belongings, but these companies have all the details worked out. norma

I have college students back east as well. Neither is in NY but one is in DC. You should check with the school's website or have your student check with campus housing services. There are surely other students who live far away & need to store belongings. On option that has crossed my radar is & they list a number of NY colleges served. That may give you a start. Good luck! another mom to east coast students

Lots of college kids put their stuff in self-storage. But be forewarned that you end up paying for more months than you need because there is a minimum and every storage place knows that college students only really need the summer and will make them pay for more. It's kind of a racket. --Been there done that

Going to college in NYC - how to get stuff there?

May 2014

Our child is going to college in NYC and we were wondering how to deal with getting things there. If your child went to school a plane ride away, how did you handle transporting the stuff? Did you buy some things on location? Cost is a consideration. anon

Register at BBB and either pick your order up in NY or have it shipped to school. Get the Amazon account that has free shipping for students. When you fly there, take two suitcases each. Ship any additional boxes from home by ground. Underpack, don't overpack. Remember that everything will have to be shipped home or put in storage at the end of the year. Jennifer

Buy all bedding and dorm supplies when you get there. Don't ship anything except essential personal items that cannot be purchased when you arrive. We were able to take everything else in checked luggage when we traveled to college. Bed, bath & beyond will let you pick out what you want here and it will be ready for you at the he bb&b store of your choice when you arrive. Don't get carried away until you see the dorm room and know exactly what the school provides. Dorm rooms are small and become even smaller when filled with stuff. Also, don't go overboard on the clothing either. My kids both used printers available on campus without any difficulty. There was no need to purchase a printer. We did buy dorm room refrigerators because it was much cheaper to buy and give away than to rent. Also colleges have strict rules about electrical appliances in dorms, another reason not to buy ahead. you will probably be paying to store your student's dorm stuff during the summer, and the more stuff in storage the more you pay. No uHaul to move to college

My daughter goes to college in NYC. I flew with her, and we each checked a suitcase and a duffel bag. These contained her clothes and shoes, bedding and towels, and basic toiletries. She bought everything else (toiletries, kitchen items, lamp and desk items, textbooks and school supplies) in New York over the next few days/weeks (there was plenty of time to do this during orientation week and it was actually good to do some of it with roommates -- gave them a thing to do, which helped getting to know each other).

You can buy bedding and towels there of course -- she just already had ones she liked. The college was running a shuttle to various big-box stores on move-in day, and you're never far from a drug store for all the little things like more hangers, another extension cord, or a pair of scissors. In October I mailed her a box with her wintery hats, scarves, gloves, and heavy sweaters, and she bought a winter coat and serious boots in New York.

If your child is heading east alone, you can ship suitcases, boxes, and duffel bags via UPS or FedEx or the Post Office. You have to time it so they don't get there before your child does, so just make sure the things he/she will want right away go on the airplane.

My daughter just flew home for the summer, having put some belongings in storage (there are companies that specialize in storing NYC students' stuff over the summer), mailed some things home, and brought the rest on the plane. One thing I'm really glad I invested in is a very sturdy set of luggage wheels -- I got it at the luggage store on Shattuck and it was pretty expensive (over $100 I think) but it has held up well and made all this lugging things to airports and post offices manageable.

Good luck! I hope you get to go to New York yourself at some point! Lucy

When our son went to school in NYC, I ordered bedding, towels and small items (like a desk lamp) from Bed, Bath & Beyond and The Company Store and had everything shipped to his dorm. When I arrived to help him move in, everything was there. I went to our local BB&B to touch and feel the fabric before ordering. (For NYC, don't forget the bed bug-proof mattress cover!) You could also arrange to pre-order and pick up things from the local BB&B, but you have to take cabs to lug all that stuff back to the dorm.

Depending on the living situation, you may still need to purchase a few items when you arrive, but I found that he really didn't really need very much for half a dorm room. This allows you to devote the luggage space to clothing. We also shipped a box of clothing via the post office. This is an exciting time--best of luck! Anon

You'll probably hear this advice elsewhere, but here it is again: our daughter just finished her freshmen year at NYU. She brought two suitcases worth of clothes and shoes on the plane flight, as well as a school-sized backpack with her laptop and a few other items.

We went to Bed Bath and Beyond locally and ordered bedding, towels etc. and picked the items up in NYC during move-in week. That was perfect. At Thanksgiving she brought back a few more winter items (and we ordered snow/rain boots and a winter coat online and had them shipped to her). All that was enough!

Good luck to your child and I hope you get a chance to visit sometime in the next four years!

- My kid's having the time of her life

We went through this last year, though my son was only going as far as Portland. We did a combo of shipping, packing, and buying when we got there. You should be getting material and info on moving into the dorms. The school will outline suggested items and when you're allowed to ship them. (My son's school was very strict that we could ship things to arrive on a specific date or after.) There were lots of volunteers at orientation to answer questions. We could check out a hand truck for moving things from the mailroom or car to his dorm room. Also, the school had various move-in packages families could purchase ahead of time and pick up at move in. Anything from all linens, desk supplies, etc, to individual items. We did take advantage of that for a few things like a fan, surge protectors, etc.

What we did:

-- We bought my son's bed linens before we left b/c I wanted to wash them before he put them on his bed. We could have purchased them once we got there and then hit a laundromat, but I didn't want to hassle that.

-- In all, we shipping his bed linens, comforter, lots of clothes (esp. shoes and cold weather stuff he wouldn't need right away), and trinkets and other stuff he wanted from home. This amounted to two boxes, one of which was pretty large.

-- He packed two suitcases, one of which I brought home with me on the plane. It was an extra large suitcase, but my smaller suitcase fit right inside of it.

-- Once we got there, we went to Target and Bed, Bath, Beyond to buy all of his toiletries, hangers, pillows, electric tea kettle, a few mugs, bowl, plate, silverware, snacks, etc.

Honestly, the kids really don't need too much stuff. You can get the basics covered then give her a budget to buy what she needs. The college bookstore had stacks of dorm supplies during orientation. If you have Amazon Prime, you can buy and have shipped directly to her any necessities you might have forgotten. I think it is better generally to under pack than over pack. The kids get very little room in their dorms, so it stinks to have too much stuff for you to bring home or return to stores. Plus, she will acquire things while she's there.

Oh, can't forget this: BUY A ZIPPERED MATTRESS COVER!!! My son's mattress was disgusting. So glad I got one of those for him. They actually ended up replacing his mattress, but it took a few months.

How exciting! I went to college in NYC, and I went with two suitcases. Bedding was provided by the college (I assume your freshman is living in a dorm!), and my parents did not really have the money to ''outfit'' me. There were girls in the dorm whose parents had gone out and purchased whole bed sets (with a match for the roommate!), drapes, big pillows, the works -- but we (and the girls in question) thought it was overkill. We liked our spartan room with the few pictures my roommate (from CT) provided and the spare little desks and beds. I think it wise to resist the impulse to take a huge amount of stuff from home (the student is leaving home!) and also resist buying a lot of stuff. A few items to make it feel homey, perhaps, and a microwave or a fridge if the college allows it, but in my view, it's OK to let a dorm room be a dorm room. I hope your student has a wonderful experience. Barnard woman

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