How to Move Safely During a Pandemic


By: Betsy Vereckey

Moving is nerve-wracking under any condition, but especially in the middle of a global pandemic. Even so, many states, including New York, consider moving companies essential businesses, and movers have increased their safety protocols to minimize the risk to their employees and customers. With just a little bit more planning, moving during the coronavirus can be a successful and safe experience.

If you're planning to move in the near future, here is a checklist that will help keep you safe, as well as an idea of what to expect if you're looking to hire a moving company.

Be Sure to Get a Few Estimates

As always, it makes sense to get estimates from several moving companies before you book, and be sure to start early: Some movers may now be out of business or extra busy due to people leaving major cities. In fact, millions of Americans relocated in 2020 because of COVID-19, a Pew Research Center survey found.

Most of the time, you can get an estimate online or over the phone, but if you need someone to come to your home and look at your items to give you an estimate, be sure to wear a mask and ask them to wear one, too. This can cut down the risk of catching COVID-19 by 65 percent, one study showed.

Live in an Apartment Building? Get Clearance Ahead of Time.

Some apartment buildings have changed their moving procedures during the pandemic in order to comply with safety requirements. Furthermore, scheduling a move might be more challenging because many rental offices are operating remotely. Be sure to check in with your leasing office ahead of time to coordinate any necessary logistics.

How to Pack During a Pandemic

There's an upside to all the online ordering you've been doing lately during the pandemic: You'll have plenty of cardboard boxes and packaging materials on hand. Consider posting a request on your social media accounts asking your neighbors, friends and family members to save their boxes and newspapers (a cheaper alternative to bubble wrap).

Leave all cardboard outside in a safe place for at least a day; one study showed that the coronavirus can sometimes (though not always) survive on cardboard for up to 24 hours, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Like always, you'll need plenty of packing tape and markers for labeling the outside of your boxes. If you're making a trip to the store for materials, be sure to pick up paper towels and soap, and have plenty of hand sanitizer to offer your movers.

Finally, separate items that you don't want your movers to handle and place them somewhere safe. You can put a sign on them asking movers to not touch or put them in a closet.

Employee Safety Check

For safety reasons, make sure to ask your moving company specific questions about their employee protocols, specifically:

  • Do they require employees to wear masks or gloves on the job?
  • Do they take their temperatures every day?
  • Are they practicing 6 feet of social distancing?
  • Is the company sanitizing their trucks?
  • Are employees required to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer between jobs?

What to Do on Moving Day

To minimize stress, have as few family members, roommates and/or friends in your home on moving day as possible. For everyone who is in your home on moving day, make sure that they are wearing masks, including your movers. If possible, open windows and doors to allow for better ventilation. If you have more than one bathroom, designate one specifically for your movers.

Where to Stay: Hotel vs. Rental

If you are traveling on your move, you might be weighing the pros and cons of a hotel versus a rental property. Hotels, of course, create an environment where you will likely run into other people, and, unfortunately, it's hard to know who's been exposed. Check in with your hotel ahead of time and ask what they are doing to keep rooms COVID-19-free.

With a rental property through Airbnb or a similar provider, you can prepare your own food and will probably encounter fewer people—though you may get hit with an additional cleaning fee. Make sure to look at your listing closely before booking. Also, while the Centers for Disease Control says that contaminated surfaces are not the main way COVID-19 spreads, studies do show that the virus can stay in the air for as long as three hours, so it's a good idea to ask your host about the prior tenant's checkout time.

While COVID-19 may have upended the traditional way of moving, with the right preparation, you can ensure that your move goes smoothly for everyone involved.

Betsy Vereckey is a writer and editor who has been published in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, USA Today, The Washington Post, Newsweek and New York Magazine. View Betsy's portfolio.