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If you’re a Hawaii resident and your moving destination is on the mainland or a neighbor island, you will probably have to ship your belongings by boat. Cargo boats offer reliable and cost-effective shipping options, but they also require more conscientious packing than a moving truck would.

In our previous blog, “5 Tips for Your Interisland Move,” we provided guidelines to help you protect your belongings from any jostling or vibration during the boat ride. In addition to packing measures that protect your possessions from impact, you must also prevent water exposure.

While boat staffs prioritize keeping their cargo dry, your belongings could sustain water damage while on a dock, during loading or unloading, or over the course of a storm. In this blog, we list six tips to make your packing more waterproof.

1. Cover Furniture in Plastic

Furnishings can be some of the most difficult items to keep dry since they generally don’t fit into boxes. To protect your furniture, cover each individual piece in plastic. For upholstered furnishings, choose a plastic cover intended for that piece. This choice simplifies wrapping unwieldy pieces like reclining armchairs.

For furniture that isn’t upholstered, such as bed frames and wood dining chairs, disassemble each item and wrap individual pieces separately. You can use tarps, plastic drop covers, or heavy duty garbage bags for these items. You may need to double wrap real wood furnishings because natural wood can expand and warp when exposed to water.

2. Label Particularly Vulnerable Boxes

Pay attention to how your items that are most vulnerable to water damage get packed. Take particular care with important documents, photographs, and artwork. Label these boxes clearly so any moving crew or boat staff know to stack the containers on top and away from any walls that could leak.

To ensure that your labels are easy to see and understand, use a simple phrase like, “don’t get wet” or “keep away from water” and write the label in large letters on the top and sides of the box.

3. Line Your Containers

Should water seep into any of your boxes, you want to give your belongings a layer of added protection. Use a plastic liner to cover the bottom of the box. If possible, after placing the liner, fill the box with items and wrap the edges of the liner around the contents.

This liner is particularly important if you pack using any cardboard boxes, which we’ll discuss in greater detail in section six.

4. Opt for Reusable Moving Containers

If possible, use sturdy plastic bins for moving. Many moving companies offer these boxes for rent or to be used with their moving services. These bins might be advertised as reusable moving containers.

If you cannot rent bins and do not have enough plastic tubs to pack all your possessions in, put the most fragile items in the bins. Any item that includes paper or canvas should be prioritized during this portion of the packing process since you may not be able to restore these items if they become water damaged. For example, take particular care with books and printed documents. You may also want to place your electronics in bins.

5. Plan for Shelter

As you plan your move, look for any time periods when your belongings may end up sitting in one spot for a long period of time. For example, they may sit for a while between the time your possessions are delivered to your new address and when you arrive to begin moving the boxes inside.

If there are significant periods when your items will be sitting still, plan for shelter to protect your containers from the elements. In many cases, your best choice will be to reserve a mobile storage unit or a space in a storage facility near your destination.

Storing your items in an enclosed space reduces the risk that rain will threaten your belongings even when they aren’t at sea.

6. Seal Any Cardboard Boxes Completely

If your chosen containers include any cardboard boxes, prioritize waterproofing these containers. In addition to placing a lining inside each box, seal the box completely using packing tape. Tape over the opening of the box and each corner to minimize the risk of leaks.

If your belongings will be on the water for a long period of time or in storage during your move, consider wrapping each cardboard box in plastic as well once it’s been sealed. If you’re low on plastic, create a protective layer by placing strips of packing tape side-by-side so that they overlap and provide an even stronger seal.


Use these tips to ensure that your possessions arrive at your new home in the continental U.S. or on a new Hawaiian island safe and dry.

As you plan for your move across the water, work with professional movers who have experience in transporting items by boat. These experts can make recommendations to help you protect large, oddly shaped, or particularly fragile belongings.