How to Prepare for a Cross-Country Move

When preparing for a cross-country move, it’s best to plan ahead… then plan ahead some more.

In fact, from finding a new home and packing, to hiring a mover and worrying about work and family, it often takes months to get everything done.

But don’t worry, by setting aside as little as 30 minutes a day you’ll get tons accomplished without putting much of a crimp in your already busy schedule.

Not sure where to start?

  • Moving Cost Calculators are great tools for getting the ball rolling. Plug in your move info, and we tell you how much it should cost. Instantly! And free!
  • Hire the Best Cross Country Movers: Of all the best practices in the moving process, nothing is more important than hiring quality movers. Check out our top picks.
  • Moving & Storage Containers: Pro movers aren’t for everyone. This moving method is a much better alternative to a truck rental and it’s a great storage option!
  • Hire a Car Shipper: No matter what moving option you go with, you still need to ship your car. These are the best options.

Now let’s take a look at 9 Ways to Prepare for a Cross-Country Move.

They may not guarantee a perfect move, but they’ll increase the likelihood of things going off without a hitch.

1. Start Early

In his classic novel War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy wrote –

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”

Though many of us aren’t long on patience, time is a crucial factor when planning a cross-country move.

It may sound like overkill, but on interstate moves, it’s best to begin preparing 6-8 weeks before your actual move date because unless you’re a seasoned veteran you’ll likely underestimate how long it will take to get everything done.

Here we’re talking about:

Remember, moving is one of life’s most stressful events under the best circumstances.

By planning ahead and giving yourself the extra time you’ll have more peace of mind down the road.

2. Set a Schedule and Stick to it

Making a schedule or move calendar is a great way to ensure that everything that needs to get done actually gets done.

With so much to remember, the chances of forgetting something important are very real.

To avoid this, make a list of everything that needs your attention before you vacate your home or apartment.

Prioritize each item, and enter them into a notebook with “Finish By” dates.

Checking each item off as it’s completed will give you a sense of accomplishment and the motivation to keep at it.

Especially if you’ll be doing the packing yourself, set a little time aside every day to pack a box or two, and start with things that rarely or never get used.

3. Downsize

The less ‘stuff’ you move, the easier your move will be and the less it’ll cost.

But again, don’t wait until the 9th hour to declutter for your move.

Start weeks in advance by assessing your situation and taking a hard look at things you’ve been hanging onto that don’t add any value to your life.

Chances are if you haven’t used something in 6 months, you don’t need it and won’t miss it when it’s gone.

When downsizing you can give things away to friends and family, discard them, have a garage sale, try to sell them on Facebook and Craig’s List, or donate them to a charity.

With the latter option, gently used items may be picked up for free, and donations are tax-deductible so make sure to get a form.

4. Start Cleaning

Though it’s tempting to wait until after the movers are gone to clean, you’ll want to start the move-out cleaning process long before they arrive.

And just like downsizing, cleaning can include discarding things you’ll never use again like broken chairs, dry rotted patio cushions, and boxes of warped records from the ‘70s.

Not only that, but even the cleanest houses have a tendency to look like barnyards during moving, because furniture that’s been in the same place for years often reveals dust bunnies, dead bugs, and old McDonald’s french fries when it’s moved.

Likewise, packing in a clean and clutter free environment is more efficient, and from a morale standpoint, going through a stressful event in a clean house will just make you feel better.

5. Consider Your Options

With everything else going on you may forget that there are a lot of options when it comes to having your household goods moved across the country.

Hiring professional movers and renting a truck and doing it yourself are popular, but there are other services worth checking out too, and they may be less expensive and offer more flexibility.

DIY moves take lots of time and require backbreaking labor, and driving a large truck through the mountains in bad weather isn’t appealing to most customers.

In addition, in areas of high demand like California, renting a U-Haul may be almost expensive as hiring movers, in which case you’d be better off doing the latter.

On the flip side, hiring a full-service moving company is convenient, but the price is prohibitive for many families.

If neither of these options sounds great, consider container moving companies, just make sure you get the right size moving container.

Moving container companies will deliver an empty container to your home, apartment, or business, and after you’ve loaded it they’ll haul it to your new address out of state, which means you don’t have to drive a truck or pay for pricey fuel.

6. Vet Companies Carefully

Imagine this…

You’ve done everything (almost everything) right, only to discover after the fact that you’ve hired a lousy mover with a bad reputation.

You’d feel awful because your family and possessions would be in a terrible bind.

In instances like this, all the planning in the world goes right down the drain.

But the good news is that it’s largely avoidable.

Bar none, the most important thing you can do when moving cross-country is to hire a mover you can trust.

Always ask for referrals from friends and family, check out the companies you’re considering using the Better Business Bureau and the American Moving & Storage Association’s websites, as well as other online forums where you can read reviews from verified customers.

7. Pack Like a Pro

Doing your own packing can save you thousands of dollars.

But remember, packing doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition.

Many customers have their movers pack items they can’t handle themselves, like:

  • Mattresses
  • Mirrors and pictures
  • Electronics
  • Dishes, glassware, small appliances, and other breakables

For the rest like bedding, clothes, books, and non-breakable kitchenware, there’s no reason you can’t do it on your own.

Just invest in quality packing material like boxes, bubble wrap, tape, and packing paper, and check out videos on Youtube to see how proper packing is done.

And don’t forget to label your boxes so you’ll know what’s in them and what room they need to go in when you get to your new home.

Also, set aside a box for important documents like passports, birth certificates, wills, and insurance policies.

If possible, take them in the car with you along with other necessities like medications, phone chargers, toiletries, a first aid kit, and a small toolbox.

8. Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

When moving from one state to another, moving companies should give you a pamphlet called “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” when they provide you with an estimate.

If they don’t, it may be a red flag that they prefer uninformed customers, in which case you’d be better off without them.

If you’d rather get yourself up to speed before estimate-time, you can download your own copy here.

Though it isn’t particularly engaging, it’s chock-full of relevant information about the moving process, and how to protect yourself as a consumer.

In short, if things do go south later on you’ll be in a much better position to handle it.

9. Get Moving

What is the cheapest way to move cross country?

If you’ve decided to save a few bucks and do your move yourself, make sure you have enough labor lined up, and that they have access to equipment like dollies, moving pads, and back braces.

It’s also important to remember that if you’ll be moving during the peak season (which typically lasts from April to September), service providers may be booked to capacity, so you’ll need to make your reservations early whether you’re renting a truck, hiring movers, or using a container moving company.

Waiting until the last minute may mean having fewer options and paying way more than you should have.


How long do cross-country moves take?

The delivery takes 2-5 days but you need to plan your move at least 4 weeks before move day.

What is the best cross country mover?

The best cross country movers are typically carriers. There are many scammy brokers that spend a lot of money to appear in front of you on the internet. Choose a reliable cross country mover instead.

How much does it cost to move things across the country?

Cross country moves cost $2,000 to $6,500 with countless variables that contribute to that range. Get a more personalized estimate using the moving cost calculator.

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