How to Pack Fragile Items For A Long Distance Move

Few tasks are as daunting as packing fragile items for a long-distance move.

Here we’re talking about breakable items like glassware, lamps, vases, and artwork.

And let’s not forget about irreplaceable heirlooms like wall clocks, urns, historic family portraits, and those cute flower pots your kids made in 1st grade.

To make it to their new home safely, you’ll need to pack and handle them carefully.

In most cases, we’d recommend hiring a professional, long-distance moving company so that your valuables are in the capable hands of experienced movers.

That said, for diehard do-it-yourselfers, it’s still possible to pack and move them without breakage.

Interested in doing just that?

Then read on because we’re about to delve into how to pack delicate items.

Is Hiring Professional Packers Worth It?

Before rushing out and filling the minivan with hundreds of dollars worth of packing material, take a few moments to consider the pros and cons of hiring a professional packing company versus doing the packing yourself.

There’s no right or wrong answer.

Think about how each of the following points relates to your particular situation.

Pros of Hiring Packers and Movers

  • They’ll work around your schedule
  • They’ll pack as much or as little as you want them to
  • Top-notch moving companies have experienced crews
  • They’ll offer you several insurance (valuation) options


  • Professional packers can be prohibitively expensive
  • Not vetting companies carefully may mean getting a second rate crew
  • The actual cost may be higher than the estimate
  • Movers may not be available during peak times

Pros of DIY Packing

  • It’s cheaper
  • You can work at your own pace
  • You can start long before your move date


  • Packing materials are expensive
  • Packing is physically demanding
  • Your moving company won’t cover broken items that you packed
  • Packing almost always takes longer than expected

Did You Know?

Most interstate movers have High-Value Inventories that cover items with a value over $100 per pound.

If you don’t want to take the DIY approach but are worried it might be out of your budget to hire professionals, check out our moving cost calculator to find the best deal on professional movers.

Give Yourself Plenty of Time

Just because trained crews can pack entire multi-bedroom homes with basements, attacks, and garages in a day or two doesn’t mean you can.

In fact, it’ll probably take a few weeks or a month, and that’s if you’re diligent.

If not, on moving day, you may discover that the packing is far from being done.

To avoid this situation, set aside an hour or two a day to pack, and stay on schedule by using a move calendar.

Also consider –

  • Asking friends and family for help
  • Getting the kids to help with non-breakables (it’s fun!)
  • Hiring professional packers to handle difficult items like marble tabletops, artwork, and electronics

Get the Right Material

For bedding, books, and toys, new boxes may not be necessary.

On the other hand, it’s usually best to invest in high-quality packing supplies for fragile items.

Dish cartons (dish packs) are among the most expensive boxes because they’re thicker than standard cartons, which means better protection for fragile items.

Use dish packs for delicate items like –

  • Glassware
  • Electronics
  • Vases, table lamps, and clocks
  • Small appliances like blenders and coffee makers
  • Small framed pictures and artwork

When buying packing material, it’s best to stick to the following basics –

  • White newsprint
  • Mover’s packing tape
  • Bubble wrap for particularly fragile items like glass figurines
  • Large brown paper pads for wrapping pictures, glass tabletops, and electronics

If you’re moving antiques, then make sure you take extra special care and follow a special set of processes to make sure they’re insured and moved safely.

Avoid pricey extras like packing peanuts – they’re bad for the environment and provide minimal protection.

Did You Know? 

Moving companies often sell inexpensive used cardboard boxes that are in perfect condition, and during the non-peak fall and winter months, they may give them to customers free of charge.

Pack Like the Pros Do

Before getting started, create a clutter-free work area.

Dining room tables and kitchen countertops work well.

When packing dish cartons, begin by making a ‘nest’ of crumpled paper about 2 or 3 inches thick in the bottom of the box.

This will provide a relatively soft base on which you can start packing.

For dishes –

  • Wrap each with a sheet of white packing paper
  • Bundle and tape them together in groups of 5 or 6
  • Stand each bundle on-edge in the bottom of the carton – never lay them flat

As you work your way up to the second layer, use progressively lighter and more fragile items like saucers, mugs, coffee cups, and wine glasses, keeping in mind that the heaviest things go on the bottom.

Along the way, there will be empty spaces.

Fill them with paper or dish towels for extra cushioning, then make another layer of crumpled paper before starting the next level, and do the same on top before closing and taping the box shut.

Large pictures, glass tabletops, and mirrors that won’t fit inside dish cartons should be wrapped in brown paper pads and placed inside mirror cartons.

If they’re thin and the same size, they don’t necessarily need separate boxes.

Instead, two can be individually wrapped and placed together in one mirror carton.

Remember that the corners of mirror cartons tend to get crushed during moves, so add extra protection in these areas.

Insider’s Tip

YouTube videos featuring experienced packers are great resources, so watch a few before getting started – you’ll learn a lot.

Quick Tips for Packing and Moving Fragile Items

  • Donate, sell or discard items you don’t use before moving
  • Pack things you rarely use first
  • For lampshades, use large boxes (4.5 cubic feet)
  • It’s best to pack electronics and small appliances in their original boxes
  • Use the extra space at the bottom of wardrobe cartons for pillows and comforters
  • Use medium boxes (3.0 cubic feet) for clothes, shoes, towels, and kitchen items like Tupperware and plastic cups
  • Use smaller boxes or containers for heavy items like books, canned goods, tools, and silverware
  • Pack small picture frames in dish cartons with other breakables
  • When moving china cabinets with glass fronts, wrap pliable cardboard around them after padding (like an old mattress carton) for extra protection
  • In addition to packing services, most movers provide unpacking as well

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