Karla Wold has some experience with moving. Before her husband retired from the U.S. Air Force, Wold and her family of six moved across the country seven times. Military families all over the U.S. have similar experiences. They get orders, pack up, and move…over and over again. And many times, families aren’t just moving across town or even across the state. Wold says her farthest move was from Montana to Florida, a trek with more than 2,000 miles in between.

When moving long distances for military duty, using portable storage can be a major help. Often called “mobile storage,” this option allows renters to have a storage unit delivered to their homes, where they can pack it up. Once finished, the portable storage provider will transport the storage unit to a new location or store it at a warehouse until it’s needed.

“It’s phenomenal,” says Peggy Turner, portable storage renter and supervisor at MyWay Mobile Storage in Grand Rapids, Mich., where 70% of renters use mobile storage to move while the other 30% free up space at home. “Labor-wise, you’re doing half the work.”

According to Margaret Southern, Marketing Communications Manager for 1-800-PACK-RAT, an approved portable storage provider for the military with more than 60 storage facilities across the country, the main reason why military members and their families use portable storage is that they don’t have to deal with a moving truck. (In other words, you don’t have to carry things up and down a ramp, and you don’t have to worry about driving the truck to your destination. Everything is done for you.) Southern adds that active and retired military members get a discount when using 1-800-PACK-RAT’s services, too.

Typically, portable storage providers will help renters determine storage size needs before sending a mobile storage unit. For military families making big moves, a 16-foot storage unit is best, as it has room for furniture, appliances, boxes, and more. For smaller moves, a 7-foot or 12-foot storage unit can work just as well. Size also makes a difference when it comes to the pricing of portable storage, as does how long the storage container is needed and how far it needs to be transported.

Now, some portable storage companies could limit how long you can keep portable storage units at your home, but many won’t, which allows you to pack at your own leisure. This is especially nice for military families, as it spares the panic that normally accompanies having to move quickly. With portable storage, you can take your time packing and not have to worry about how your belongings are going to get to your new home.

The same is true with unpacking. Since the portable storage provider will transport the portable storage unit to wherever you’re moving, you can take your time unloading everything into your new home. Even if you’re staying somewhere temporarily until an apartment, condo, or house is ready, you don’t have to worry about unloading the storage unit right away and finding somewhere to store your belongings.

Below are a few tips from American Portable Storage on effectively packing and loading possessions into your portable unit:

Tips for Packing a Portable Storage Unit

  • Always place heavier items under lighter ones. If you don’t, items could get crushed during transportation.
  • Fill boxes appropriately. Don’t overpack them, but also don’t waste space.
  • Protect fragile items with newspaper, packing peanuts, or other cushioning material.
  • Keep each box under 50lbs.
  • Label your boxes so you can keep track of them and know which have fragile items inside.
  • Move long, slim items into your portable storage unit first.
  • Large, bulky items should go in after long, slim items.
  • Boxes and smaller items should go in last.

To find mobile storage providers in your area, go here.