Making the move from home to dorm
Junior's packed and ready to head to campus. Unfortunately,
college is 1,000 miles away and he's got tons of stuff, so the process
is more complicated than simply throwing it in the back of the Mom-mobile
and hitting the road.
If you have to help your property-laden student make
a long-distance move, you do have options. They range from mailing
the goods to renting a truck to hiring professional movers. The
latter option, however, is only for parents who have cash left after
writing that tuition check.
You may want to look at a combination of transport
methods to ensure that everything gets there the most cost-effective
When it pays not to pack
Before you do a lot of packing, consider giving the kid a credit
card and telling him to start fresh.
Seriously, if you are buying lots of things for your
student to take to college, think about purchasing them online and
having them delivered to the dorm. No point in paying for delivery
twice. Plus, things like study lamps, electronics and even computers
travel better in their original packaging. Check with the college
to find out how things that arrive early will be handled. If you're
lucky, the boxes will be waiting in your student's room when he
Buying new also exempts you from the need to pay for
extra insurance on the goods you ship. Otherwise, it's smart to
ante up the extra dollars shippers charge so you'll be compensated
beyond the minimum reimbursement should the shipment be lost or
damaged in transit.
If, however, your student already has all he needs
for college, but it's just not practical to load it into the car
and drive, here are some shipping suggestions. This is a general
look at the options, listed in least-to-more-costly order.
The rates for U.S. Postal Service parcel post are rock bottom
compared to private competitors. The size and weight restrictions
aren't too draconian either, although delivery time can be unpredictable.
For a small fee, the post office will send a truck to pick up the
load as long as you've figured out the weight and affixed the postage
Take the bus or the train
The great gray dog goes everywhere in the United States --
five times as many places as Amtrak and all the airlines combined.
And it's cheaper and more flexible by far than any other option.
Greyhound offers students who pay $20 for a Student
Advantage card a 50-percent discount off the regular shipping
price. If you don't want the card, you can get 25 percent off by
showing a student ID or college acceptance letter. Greyhound will
store the goods free for three days if your student can't get there
Amtrak has significantly reduced its freight service,
but if a train's going where your student is, the price is attractive.
If you secure the shipment to a pallet or pallets, the carrier will
accept up to 2,000 pounds. You pay by the pound. Things like bicycles
and musical instruments are exempt from the requirement that goods
be in cartons.
The biggest problem with either of these options is
that bus and train stations often are a long way from the campus.
Plus, they sometimes are in less-than-stellar neighborhoods. If
your kid doesn't have any access to a car after arriving at school,
this could be a lousy solution because there'll be no good way to
pick up the load and schlep it to the dorm.
Let it fly
Since Sept. 11, the airlines have cracked down on the amount
of baggage that a traveler can bring along. Overweight, oversize
luggage will cost you nearly $100 a bag on most airlines and, unless
you are an established shipper, you won't be eligible to send anything
via their cheaper air-freight services. Still, if your kid's musical
instrument, athletic gear or other paraphernalia absolutely has
to arrive with him, this could be an answer. Call the airline and
make sure you understand exactly what the procedure will be, then
go to the airport very early to make certain that the goods get
on the same flight.
Rent a truck
Unlike rental cars, an 18-year-old can rent a truck, drive
it across country and leave it there. Even if your nerves can stand
it, it's an expensive solution, considering mileage, gas and enough
junk food to fuel the trip. It can be a bit cheaper if your student
shares the journey -- and expenses -- with a friend. The best-known
truck rental company, U-Haul, offers a free, online
bulletin board matching students who want to split the costs.
If you decide that renting a truck makes the most sense, don't refuse
the insurance without checking with your auto insurance company.
While your policy might cover a rental car, it probably won't cover
your student driving a truck.
UPS Ground and Airborne Ground both offer a pricey, but efficient,
solution. The goods have to be boxed or crated, although Airborne
seems less picky, charging a small surcharge but accepting things
like musical instruments in their cases without requiring you to
add a carton. Both will pick up your goods at home and drop them
off at the dorm, no hassle. (FedEx, though widely recognized, will
not pick up freight at a private home.)
If what you have to send is bulky and hard to box,
a less well-known freight service may accommodate your needs better.
Yellow Transportation is the most consumer-friendly, with online
tools that allow you to get its rates easily. You may, however,
be able to get a better deal with other services. To check out competitors,
try FreightQuote, which will price several options. In most cases,
you'll save money if you're willing to take the shipment to the
freight terminal even though you have it delivered to the dorm on
the other end.
Call the movers
Unless money is no object, calling a conventional moving company
usually is a lousy idea. Interstate moves are charged by the pound
and are affected by seasonal demand. August, when many kids are
heading back to campus, tends to be a popular time to move, making
it also the most expensive month to move. You can buy insurance
from the moving company, but it tends to be expensive. Plus, because
your property won't fill the hauler, delivery timing will be unpredictable
and at the mercy of the load that does primarily fill the truck.
OK, a couple of these shipping methods look like they'll
meet your needs. Just what exactly will each cost you? That depends
on how much you ship, at what rate and your delivery requirements.
Read on for details
about some popular transport options.
Jennie L. Phipps is a contributing
editor based in Michigan.