No move is exactly the same. That’s something we discovered early on into our 35+ years of moving families to, from, in and around the Hawaiian islands.  

That’s also why it’s industry-standard practice (as well as your right under the law!) to receive a complimentary in-person survey before your mover creates a quote. In order to put together the right plan—and an accurate quote—it’s important for your moving company to get eyes on all of your stuff. 

For example, if you’re moving to the Mainland, you might have enough to fill a container on your own—or you might not. An in-person survey will help your moving company make a recommendation you can rely on.  

If you don’t need an entire container, you’re looking at what the moving industry calls a “less-than-container load” (LCL). In this scenario, you’ll likely be offered a quote for a consolidated shipment. 

consolidated shipment (noun): When your freight forwarder or carrier combines several smaller shipments all headed for the same location into a single container. Offers shippers a price advantage over shipping smaller loads in dedicated containers.  

Consolidated shipments may offer your family a more affordable option for moving to the Mainland. These types of shipments also tend to trigger questions like, “Will my items be mixed up with other people’s items?” 

We’ll answer that question—and more—as we walk you through your two major options for a less-than-container load shipment to the Mainland or to Hawaii.  

How Do Consolidated Shipments Work? 

Let’s start with the good news: In a consolidated shipment, your possessions don’t get mixed up with other people’s.  

Instead, they get packed individually in what are called lift vans or van packs. 

Essentially, a lift van is a wooden crate that measures 84 inches x 46 inches x 85 inches (approximately 7ft x 4ft x 7ft) on the exterior. Inside, it offers about 200 cubic feet of loading space. 

When you’re looking at a lift van (or a few lift vans) to move your household goods to the Mainland or to the Hawaiian islands, you’ll have two main options: 

Option #1: A Door-to-Door Move 

Under this option, you’ll hire a moving company to come to your house and pack your items into however many lift vans you need. Then, at your destination, they’ll deliver the lift vans to your new house and unpack anything they packed at your old home. 

Option #2: A DIY Move 

Ultimately, your exact options for a DIY move will vary depending on your origin and destination. However, we’ll give you an example using our EZ Move program, currently available on the Big Island, Maui and Kauai. For a flat rate, you can arrange to bring your items to our warehouse and pack your own lift van. Although most household goods moves are priced on weight, we offer flat-rate pricing for this option, making it a budget-friendly option for many families moving to the Mainland. Once your goods are packed, we close the lift van, band it shut and get it in the queue for our next consolidated move to your destination. 

Pro Tip from Jerry Dela Cruz, General Manager, Royal Hawaiian Movers, Maui: When you’re packing your own lift van, load any big furniture first, and then fill in the spots. For example, you can get boxes in between the legs of a big table or a smaller box in between the legs of a chair. 

When it comes to DIY moves, other moving companies on the Mainland and in Hawaii offer similar services. However, when you make a comparison between quotes, make sure you understand all the charges involved.  

For example, some companies charge $5/day to use their portable moving containers. Here’s the challenge with charges like this: Your mover will offer you a window in which to expect your shipment. However, you won’t know the exact delivery date to calculate the final per-day charge, since you can’t control:  

  1. How long it will take for the carrier to complete the consolidated load. 
  2. The sailing schedule of the vessel your shipment will travel on.  

You’ll still have to pay the per-day charge no matter what. So as you compare quotes, use the outside edge of your delivery window to calculate these charges and give yourself a little cushion. 

Before you make a final decision, you’ll also want to understand what can and can’t go in the lift vans or shipping crates you’ve chosen. 

What Are the Restrictions on a Lift Van? What Can and Can’t Go? 

Note: In this section, we’ll discuss what can and can’t go in industry-standard lift vans. However, if you’ve contracted with a company who uses a different type of shipping crate or container, make sure you ask about any restrictions in weight or contents. 

Although lift vans are sturdy wooden crates that will offer your belongings strong protection during their ocean voyage, there are a few considerations you’ll want to be aware of. This is especially important if you’re packing your lift van yourself.  

First, be careful about loading in extremely heavy items which may exceed the capacity of your lift van’s floor. For example:  

  • Heavy rolling toolboxes fully loaded with various tools will often be too heavy for lift vans.  

We’ve also been approached by mechanics who want to ship car engines in a lift van. Shipments like this create two problems: 

  1. The car engine likely exceeds the weight-bearing capacity of the lift van’s floor, which means the lift van could come apart during shipment, potentially damaging the engine inside. 
  2. Movers have to treat commercial shipments differently than household goods. Make sure you give your movers all the facts so they can get you an accurate quote for your needs. 

That being said, motorcycles can often be shipped in lift vans, as long as they fit within the dimensions of the crate.  

Once your goods are safely packed in their lift vans, they’ll get stored with the other lift vans in the consolidated shipment. Once your mover has accumulated enough shipments to create a container load, all the lift vans will be loaded into a container, then put on a ship headed toward your final destination. 

How Do I Receive My Items from a Consolidated Shipment? 

How you receive your goods on the other end will depend on the option you chose at the origin. 

  • For door-to-door moves, the lift vans will be dropped off at the location you specify, and everything that was packed at your old home will be unloaded at your new home.
  • For DIY moves, it will depend on your particular moving company. However, in a likely scenario, your moving company will contract with an agent at the port who arranges to get the container unloaded and have your lift van(s) set aside for you. From there, you can bring a truck to the warehouse and load your items into the truck, then drive them to your new home. Your moving company may also be able to arrange for delivery of your lift van to your new home. Ask about your options—and their costs—when you get your quote. 

Choosing the Right Options for Your Family—and Your Budget 

At the end of the day, understanding your options for moving your household goods to the Mainland starts with getting three, independent quotes for your move. A complimentary, in-home survey is your right, and it’s the best way to get an accurate quote. 

When the surveyor comes out to your home, discuss your options. Ask as many questions as you need to select the right choice for your family’s needs—and your budget. Once you have a lay of the land, you’ll be ready to make a confident choice to move your family’s belongings to your new home, whether you need a full container load or a few lift vans.

Still looking for more information about how you can move to Hawaii? Click below to check out our blog post detailing a basic three-step process outlining everything you need to know for your upcoming move:


Need some help with your family’s move? We’d be happy to send a Certified Moving Consultant to your house to walk through your options. Just reach out to us to get things rolling. We also do local moves and inter-island moves, so we can help you get your belongings to your new home, no matter your final destination. 

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