Packing tips and regrets of moving across the country from LA to NYC

At the age of 22, I moved from Los Angeles to New York by plane. The journey took nine hours and I crammed as many of my belongings as I could into three suitcases.

After college, I moved from my hometown of Los Angeles to New York City.

Pauline Villegas/Insider


The summer after graduating from the University of Southern California, I decided to move from my hometown of Los Angeles to New York City. I filled three suitcases and a carry-on with clothes, shoes, toiletries and personal items.

Overall, I think I did a good job for the move, but there are a few things I would have done differently. Since this was my first out of state move, I had no idea what to expect and was shocked at how necessary some of the items turned out to be.

I learned a lot throughout the process, especially the importance of organized, thoughtful packaging.

Here are four items I regret leaving behind and four I’m glad I brought with me when moving from Los Angeles to New York.

But there were some belongings that I regret not taking with me. I wish I had packed more decorative pieces, like posters and photos, to brighten up the stark white walls in my new apartment.

artwork sits on the floor Pauline Villegas moves across the country from Los Angeles to New York

The small work of art that I did bring cannot be hung yet.

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Since the space I had in my suitcases was limited, decorative items were the last thing on my mind when packing. I knew I’d ship some pieces from my Los Angeles apartment later, but I wish I’d tried to fit some posters and decor items in my carry-on.

When I arrived in New York it was a huge relief to unpack and settle in. But the move didn’t have a satisfying ending because my walls and furniture were bare for so long. The little decor I brought couldn’t be hung right away because I had to buy more artwork and frames.

If I could do it over again, I’d prioritize packing decorative pieces from my previous room in LA.

I was also annoyed that I didn’t bring my umbrella after being forced to buy one during one of New York’s summer rains.

An umbrella packed in a filled suitcase Pauline Villega's cross country move Los Angeles New York

My umbrella hadn’t made it by the time I packed the rest of my supplies.

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When packing for the move, my umbrella was the last thing in my suitcase and the first thing I took out. After weighing my bags I realized I had to shed a few items and my umbrella hadn’t made it.

After landing in New York at the end of August, a summer storm picked up and I had to buy a $20 umbrella from my local Target.

Since umbrellas don’t take up too much space in a suitcase, I recommend taking one with you on an overseas move to avoid wasting money on a buyback.

In Los Angeles, I used foldable closet organizers from Ikea to make the most of my apartment’s limited drawer space, but sadly forgot to take them with me to New York.

A drawer in an Ikea bed Pauline Villegas moves to Los Angeles, New York

As I started unpacking, I realized I had left my drawer and closet organizers in Los Angeles.

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I used containers and dividers from Ikea in my dorm to organize my drawers, and I kept most of those organizers all four years and kept them for safekeeping.

Since New York is known for its limited closet space, I bought an Ikea bed with drawers. I’m grateful for the extra space, but I wish I’d remembered to bring the drawer organizers I’ve used in the past.

When I unpacked all my t-shirts, pants, and sweaters, I realized I had no room for underwear anywhere. I find closet organizers bring order to an otherwise stressful process, and they’re something I’ll be repurchasing soon.

When I got to New York, I had to buy back all the expensive hair products I could have brought from home, which cost me over $200.

hair products Pauline Villegas cross country move packing Los Angeles New York

Buying back all my hair products turned out to be a huge expense on top of the normal moving costs.

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I thought saving space in my checked luggage was essential for my move abroad. But there are certain beauty products I wish I had packed in my suitcase to save money.

Having to buy all new hair products along with other toiletries cost way more than I expected. Between Target and CVS, I spent over $200 buying all the new hair products and accessories I left at home.

If I could do it over again, I would have found room for these items in my checked baggage.

While I left behind some essentials, I also appreciated some of the things I brought with me more than I expected. For example, given New York’s grime, I’m thankful I brought the house shoes I nearly threw away.

Birkenstocks slippers Pauline Villegas cross country move Los Angeles New York

My old Birkenstocks eventually became the perfect house shoes for my NYC apartment.

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Before I left Los Angeles, I donated clothes and shoes to lighten the load. I almost got rid of my old Birkenstock sandals, but at the last minute decided to keep them for indoor wear.

After the move, I was so grateful to have house shoes to change into after long days walking around New York. I quickly learned that the last thing you want to track around your apartment is the dirt and grime of the city.

I’m so glad I put my water bottle in my carry-on, especially since it was the only thing I had to drink from when I moved into my apartment.

water bottle Pauline Villegas cross country move Los Angeles New York

Bringing my reusable water bottle on the plane gave me more time to find glassware I really liked for my new place.

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While I planned to buy all new glassware as soon as I got to New York, packing my water bottle turned out to be a game changer.

When I travel I like to take a reusable water bottle with me, so fitting the bottle in my carry-on was second nature while packing for the move.

When I arrived in NYC in August it was hot and humid so drinking water along the way was essential. Because my roommates and I had limited glassware for the first few weeks, my water bottle became a staple both inside and outside my apartment.

It was the right choice to fit my tote bags in my suitcases as they became a handy style necessity that I underestimated while packing.

bags and other purses packing Pauline Villegas cross country move Los Angeles New York

My tote bags and other purses are much easier to store than I expected.

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In terms of packing my suitcase, bags like tote bags and fanny packs weren’t a big priority. But they didn’t take up much space, so I threw in a few.

In the first few weeks of my move I realized how valuable a tote bag or fanny pack can be in a city like New York. I use these bags almost every day to buy groceries at the supermarket or take things with me on a long walk. Besides being functional, I think they are stylish as well.

While it may go against conventional wisdom and make my carry-on heavy, it was worth it to fit my magazines and books in my suitcase.

books magazines and magazines Pauline Villegas packing cross country move Los Angeles New York

My diaries and books eased the transition from my hometown to the Big Apple.

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I was very selective when packing my hand luggage due to its smaller size. But I couldn’t negotiate certain books and magazines, no matter how much space they took up.

As an avid writer and note-taker, my diary proved to be a saving grace in the hustle and bustle of the big move. Taking the time to journal and read through all the chaos has been the best thing for my mental health, and I’m glad I was able to prioritize these items during the packing process.

I’ve learned that during a big move it’s just as important to make room for the things that will bring you peace of mind as it is to save space – or maybe more.

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