How to Move Across the Country

By Kealia Reynolds

Whether it’s work, family, or the need for a change of pace that’s prompting a cross-country move, moving by yourself can be expensive and stressful. Learn how to move across the country and leave behind the stress that comes with it in eight simple steps.

How to move across the country in eight steps

Once you’ve made the decision to move across the country and have your moving date set, start preparing any way you can. If you wait until the last minute to plan for your long-distance move, you’ll feel more stressed and overwhelmed, especially if you can’t hire a professional moving service in time. Follow these steps to make your move less stressful.

1. Get rid of unnecessary belongings

Before making a cross-country move, go through your belongings and get rid of unwanted items. Evaluate your clothing and remove anything that’s old, frayed, or not conducive to the climate where you’ll be moving. Sell your clothes at a secondhand clothing store like Plato’s Closet, donate them to charities like Goodwill or The Salvation Army, or give them to friends and family.

After going through your clothing, assess which furniture you’ll be taking with you. Moving large furniture across the country can be expensive and cumbersome, so calculate the cost-effectiveness of shipping large items and then determine what can be sold or left behind. Sell your furniture on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, or donate them to non-profit organizations like Habitat for Humanity or the National Furniture Bank Association.

When donating furniture, larger non-profits will typically schedule a pick-up date and remove the furniture from your home. In other instances, you may be responsible for dropping off the furniture at the donation site.

After decluttering, determine how many boxes you’ll need for your belongings. You can pick up free boxes at your local grocery store, liquor store, bookstore, or recycling drop-off point.

Additional tips to help you get rid of unnecessary belongings:

  • Create labels for items you’re bringing, donating, selling, or throwing away—this will help organize what stays and what goes.
  • If you’re selling most of your belongings, host a garage sale and invite neighbors, friends, and family.
  • When donating items, get a donation receipt so you can claim charitable deductions on your federal tax return.
  • If you choose to throw away furniture or larger items, look into local trash laws to make sure anything you’re throwing away can be picked up.

2. Set your budget

According to the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA), a cross-country move will typically cost around $4,300 for a distance of 1,225 miles and a shipment weight of 7,440 pounds, though this number will vary depending on how many belongings you’re bringing with you, how big your family is, and where you’re moving to. Moving almost always costs more than what you originally have planned, so double whatever budget you have to leave room for additional expenses, like tip accommodations or moving fees.

3. Scout your new home

If you haven’t locked down a house or apartment, consider finding a long-term rental before committing to a certain neighborhood or location. Alternatively, if you have the time and money, take a trip to your new destination to look at different homes and apartments. Hire a real estate agent to help you secure accommodations for when you arrive.

4. Compare shipping companies

Research local shipping and moving companies in your area and determine how much it would cost for them to pack your belongings and transport them across the country. Though hiring a professional company may be more expensive than moving your belongings yourself, there are a few pros to hiring out.

  • Safety—Professional packing typically involves high-quality packing materials and processes that help safeguard your belongings and ensure that they’re safely delivered to your destination.
  • Speed—Professional moving companies are great at maximizing their time and make the loading, unloading, and traveling process as efficient as possible.
  • Specialized services—Most furniture is usually too heavy to be handled by one person; with a professional shipping company, there will likely be more than two movers involved who have experience moving and packing all types of items.

Start a Google spreadsheet to include the base pricing, services offered, and additional details for each company you research. And remember, the cheapest company isn’t always the best option—read consumer reviews and do a lot of research before hiring a company to make sure you’re not being fooled by a blinding, upfront estimate.

5. Determine your mode of transportation

Once you’ve secured shipping for your items, select your mode of transportation. Flying and driving are the two most common transportation options.

Benefits of flying

If you get your plane ticket well in advance, you’ll probably save on gas money, hotels, and meals. Not to mention, this option is often safer since you won’t have to drive a big, bulky truck across the country. However, if you go this route you’ll have to think about how you’re going to transport your car—if you have one—across the country.

Contact local, top-rated auto transporting companies in your area and get price quotes to determine which provider best fits your budget. The cost for having your vehicle delivered will depend on the distance traveled, the timeline for having the vehicle picked up and delivered, and the value of the vehicle.

Benefits of driving

With this option, you can drive your own vehicle and tow your possessions in a trailer or you can rent a moving truck and tow your vehicle on a hitch. Regardless of which driving option you choose, you won’t have to ship your car—which can be quite expensive—and you’ll save on separate shipping costs for your belongings.

Additionally, if you have children or pets, making a cross-country road trip could be a great opportunity to see parts of the country you wouldn’t otherwise visit.

6. Pack your items

If you’re not hiring a professional moving service and choose to move on your own, pack your items as soon as possible—you don’t want to be pressed for time and forget to securely pack all of your belongings.

When loading your own rental truck, keep the heaviest boxes on the bottom and the lightest boxes on top. Fill as much empty space as possible and properly pad furniture and valuable items with blankets or plastic wrap to avoid scratches, cracks, and damages. When lifting heavy boxes, avoid throwing out your back by remembering to lift with your legs—not your back.

7. Tie up loose ends

Before venturing off to your new location, make sure you address the following items.

  • Address changeFile an official change of address form online or through your local post office at least two weeks before moving. This will forward any mail you receive at your old address to your new address.
  • Mail and subscriptions—In addition to changing your address, update the shipping and billing locations for all magazines, newsletters, prescriptions, and subscription boxes.
  • Insurance and medical care—If you’re moving for a new job, make sure you and your family are covered with insurance and start looking for healthcare providers in your new city. Find a pediatrician for your kids, a family physician for you and your spouse, a veterinarian for pets, and a dentist for the whole family. Once you’ve found your new practices, contact your current ones to ensure that all health files are transferred over.
  • School—If you have children and need to enroll them in a new school, either enroll them in a school before the move or field out schools once you’re in your new location. Consider public, private, and charter schools and compare which one would be best for your children. Once you’ve decided on what type of school you would like to send your children to, contact the school as soon as possible to get them enrolled for a start date that works with the move.

8. Prepare for moving day

After you’ve checked off the previous items on your moving checklist, start preparing for your big day. Leading up to the move, take an hour out of each day to relieve stress by exercising or resting. Meet with any friends and family you’re leaving behind and make sure to give them your new address and contact information so they can stay in touch.

How to acclimate to your new place

Getting to know your new city can be tough, so once you settle down, start getting involved in any way you can. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Meet people—Meet your neighbors or volunteer in your community.
  2. Find a gym—If you love to work out, find a local gym or fitness studio and attend regular classes.
  3. Get involved with your child’s school—If you have children, introduce yourself to parents in the after-school pick-up line or get involved with the Parent Teacher Association (PTA).
  4. Get to know the city—Instead of using maps, walk around your city and familiarize yourself with historic landmarks, museums, parks, shops, and restaurants.

Remember: Acclimating to a new city takes time, so be patient and enjoy the process.


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