Moving Day is almost here! You’ve reserved your shipping container, you’ve set aside some packing time, and now you’re ready to fill that container full of your belongings for your big Hawaii move.

After loading thousands upon thousands of Hawaii-bound containers, our pros know their stuff. We’re going to give you their best tips for packing your container right so all of your belongings arrive safely at your new home.

By the way, if you’re packing a moving truck, the same principles apply! So stick around, and we’ll show you how it’s done.

First, let’s talk about why proper packing matters.

Why You Need to Pack Your Container Carefully

A shipping container headed to Hawaii (or another far-flung destination!) will travel thousands of miles to its destination. Along the way, its contents will be subject to a multitude of forces along the way.

Translation? Bumps are par for the course:

  • While a container or moving truck is on the road, it will contend with potholes, speedbumps, and the normal vibration of a large vehicle rolling down the street.
  • If your shipping container moves by rail at any point, it will need to be lifted and lowered by crane, which can mean a bang or a bump. Plus, you’ll also get some vibration while traveling over train tracks.
  • When your container moves by boat, it will need to be loaded and unloaded via crane, which can mean a few shocks or jolts. Then, in transit, the whole boat and the containers on board will be subject to wind and waves, which means even more motion.

As you can guess, if your items aren’t packed tight and cushioned carefully, there’s a lot of potential for breakage and damage along the way.

So as you pack a shipping container or a moving truck, your main goal will be:

Create a stable, balanced load so items won’t shift in transit.

Of course, as you pack individual items, you’ll also want to give everything some cushioning that will absorb any bounces and bangs in transit.

Now that you understand the overall goals, let’s get into the nitty-gritty.

Start with the Right Equipment & Materials

One of the pros’ biggest secrets is showing up the right equipment and materials to do the job. Here’s what you’ll need:

A Loading Ramp

If you’re having a container delivered to your house, this is a key piece of equipment you don’t want to skip. Your container will sit on a chassis 48″ off the ground. A loading ramp will make it much easier to get your items inside. Just imagine team-lifting your couch four feet off the ground, and you’ll get why a loading ramp is so essential.


While they’re not required, dollies will make fast work of moving your items, especially if you’ve got enough to fill a 40′ container.

Loading Straps

Also called tie-down straps or ratchet straps, these handy nylon bands can be really useful for securing your items inside your container so they don’t shift during transit. We’ll show you how to use them in the next section.

Moving Blankets, Paper Padding, or Bubble Wrap

Moving blankets are quite handy for wrapping your furniture to absorb any bumps and bruises during transit. You might also consider paper padding, which is a thicker type of packing paper. Although it’s not reusable like moving blankets, paper padding is recyclable. Finally, there’s always bubble wrap, but moving blankets and paper padding offer more environmentally friendly solutions.

Stretch Wrap

Think of a big roll of saran wrap, and you’ve got the idea. Stretch wrap is useful for securing moving blankets to your furniture or simply wrapping furniture to ensure that it doesn’t get dirty during your move.

Once you’ve assembled everything you need, dust off your video game skills because it’s time to play 3D Tetris.

Packing Tip #1: Build from the Bottom Up

First and foremost, remember that the name of the game is stability. That starts with a solid base. All of your heaviest items should go on the floor, and all of the light items should go on top. Otherwise, if you put heavy items high up in your container or moving truck, they’re liable to shift and/or crush items beneath them.

Packing Tip #2: Think in Rows

However, before you stack the entire floor with all your heavy stuff, recognize that you’ll want to pack in rows. This is where your Tetris skills will come in.

Mentally divide up your container or moving truck into a series of rows. Starting from the back, build one row at a time. Begin with a layer of heavy items, then stack lighter items on top, filling all the nooks and crannies like an advanced round of Tetris—all the way up to the ceiling of your container.

You can see a good example of an initial row in the photo below:

To give some extra stability to your load, consider securing each row with a set of moving straps. Thread your straps through the tie rails on the side of the container or moving truck. Some also come with rings bolted into the walls near the ceiling and floor.

Packing Tip #3: Start With Your Biggest, Bulkiest Items

As you concept your rows, start with your largest items first. We’re talking things like appliances, bookshelves, dressers, couches, etc. Find a space for them early so you’re not stuck trying to secure a place for them later on.

A Little Disassembly Can Go a Long Way

When it comes to long-distance moves, disassemble large furniture where possible. For example, take the legs off your dining room table and your couch. This will give you more regular shapes to use in building your rows—and a lot more flexibility when packing.

Packing Tip #4: Create a Balanced Load

As you’re deciding how to load your items, make sure you distribute weight evenly from back to front and left to right. Remember, stability is critical. If all the weight in your container or moving van is concentrated in one area, that could result in shifting items in transit. When in doubt, put extra-heavy items in the center of your container.

Packing Tip #5: Mind the Gaps

Gaps may allow the load to shift during its journey, so eliminate any open spaces from your container or moving truck. (In other words, go for the highest Tetris score possible!) Fill gaps with small boxes, rugs, cushions, and pillows.

Keep Your Fabrics Clean

Prevent your pillows, cushions, or any other materials you’re using to fill gaps from picking up dirt along the way. Place them in garbage bags or wrap them in stretch wrap before loading.

By the way, it’s not necessary for you to pack your container to the ceiling. What’s more important is getting your rows packed tightly from left to right and from front to back.

Tip #6: Secure the Load with a Final Set of Straps

Once you finish loading your items, you may discover that you have a bit of space between the end of the truck or container and the door. Secure this final row with several moving straps to lock your load in place. This will also keep your items from falling against the door, which can make it difficult to get the door open at your destination.

Don’t Over-Tighten

When you’re securing your load with ratchet straps, it can be tempting to lock everything down very, very tightly. However, don’t tighten the straps so much that they squeeze your items and cause damage. As long as the strap is firm and secure, you’re good to go.

The Right Packing Job for the Long Journey

As your belongings make their way to Hawaii, they’ll pass through several modes of transportation, many different hands, and a number of locations. By keeping the most important goal in mind—stability, stability, stability!—and using our pros’ techniques, you’ll prep your items for a safe journey. They’ll arrive at your new home in excellent shape, ready to help you get settled into your new life in the Aloha State.

Looking for a container solution for your Hawaii move? On average, we save our customers thousands more than PODS and hundreds more than Matson direct. Request a free quote from one of our experts to price out your Hawaii move today.

Tell us about your move!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.