How To Plan for a Cross-Country Move: 9 Moving Cross-Country Tips

Quick answer: Preparing for a cross-country move requires extensive planning and organization to ensure a smooth transition. Key steps include starting preparations at least six weeks in advance, creating a detailed moving checklist, and budgeting both time and finances effectively. Additionally, setting a schedule, understanding your rights as a consumer, and making early reservations for movers or truck rentals can greatly ease the process.

Getting ready for a cross-country move? Taking steps to prepare and lay out a game plan can help make the transition more seamless.

Hiring a real estate agent, finding a new home, packing, hiring an interstate moving company, and managing family members, school-age children, and professional obligations, all require energy and time. Typically, it takes months to prepare to move across the country, even if you have hired help, like movers.

With a decade of experience in the industry, we know that the key to a successful move is tons of research and preparation. Here, we’ll help you create a moving checklist and give you moving cross country tips on how to budget your time — as well as your finances (our moving cost calculator can help!).

9 ways to prepare for a cross country move

These moving cross country tips will make your long-distance move as seamless as possible.

1. Start at least six to eight weeks before your moving date

If you’re moving cross country, long-distance, or just to a new state, it’s wise to start preparing six to eight weeks ahead of the moving date. Unless you’re a moving veteran, you may underestimate how long it’ll take to prepare for your move.

Here are some of the time-consuming components of preparing for moving across the country:

  • Creating a moving costs checklist to help you set and stick to a budget
  • Finding boxes and packing (if you’re doing it yourself)
  • Considering various move options and pricing out the options
  • Vetting a long-distance moving company
  • Renting a moving truck from rental companies or booking a moving container
  • Managing real estate issues or dealing with your real estate agent
  • Canceling services and utilities at your former home and setting them up at your new home
  • Researching local schools in your new location and enrolling your children

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Moving across the country is among one of the most stressful life events for an adult, along with things like divorce, major illness, job loss, and the death of a loved one.

Don’t underestimate the emotional toll moving takes, too (especially moving cross country). That’s why it’s so important to plan ahead to give yourself extra time, which will allow for more peace of mind during the move cross country.

2. Set a schedule and stick to it

Making a schedule or moving calendar is a great way to ensure that everything that needs to get done actually gets done. With so much to remember during a long-distance move, the chances of forgetting something important are very real. You can mitigate the likelihood of forgetting something important by adhering to your planning schedule.

Make a list of everything that needs your attention before you vacate your home or apartment to relocate across the country. Prioritize each item, and enter them into a notebook with “Finish By” dates. Check each item off after you complete it (this will also give you a sense of accomplishment, and the motivation to keep going).

Here are some things to include on your moving calendar:

  • Gather quotes and choose your cross-country movers
  • Request in-house surveys
  • Create a moving budget
  • Inventory your home
  • Get rid of unwanted items
  • Gather important documents including medical and school records
  • Get packing supplies
  • Cancel how to move across country
  • Label and package boxes
  • Check in with the moving company and hire packing help if needed

If you’re packing on your own, budget time each day to pack just one box or two. Start by packing items you rarely or never use.

3. Declutter, downsize, and donate

The less stuff you move, the easier your long-distance move will be, and the less your moving costs will be. Don’t wait till the week of your cross-country move or right before you start packing to declutter. Purging belongings you no longer use and deciding exactly what items you can’t live without makes your move lighter and easier.

Begin weeks in advance by taking a hard look at the stuff you have that doesn’t add value or joy to your life. A good barometer for this is to ask yourself: “Have I used this in the last six months?” If the answer is no — and it’s not a specialty or seasonal item — consider getting rid of it.

When downsizing, you can give things away to friends or a family member, discard them, have a garage sale, try to sell them on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, or donate them to a charity.

If you’re donating to a charity, note that the organization may pick up gently used items for free, and donations are tax-deductible, so make sure to get a form.

4. Start cleaning before the movers arrive

It’s tempting to wait until after the movers are gone to clean. However, you’ll want to start the move-out cleaning process long before they arrive to begin their moving services.

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

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 feel better.

5. Consider your different moving 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. Set your moving budget and figure out what makes the most sense for you financially. Our moving cost calculator can help you compare prices for the different options depending on your needs.

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

DIY moves are time-consuming and labor-intensive, though they are also more affordable. And driving a large truck through unfamiliar terrain and bad weather isn’t appealing to many customers.

In popular areas like California, renting a U-Haul may be almost as expensive as hiring movers, in which case you’d be better off to spend money on movers. Hiring a full-service moving company is convenient, but the price is prohibitive for many families.

If neither of these options sounds great, consider using moving container companies; just make sure you get the right size moving container to match how many belongings you have. Moving container companies will deliver an empty container to your home, 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 and do your

Hiring an unprofessional mover with a negative reputation will cost you more money and time in the long run. You’d also feel awful because your family and possessions would be in a terrible bind. If you follow only one tip on this list: Do your homework.

This situation is avoidable by researching moving companies and vetting them thoroughly. The most important thing when hiring a mover to help you move cross country is to hire a mover you trust.

Ask for referrals from friends and family, and 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.

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7. How to pack like a pro

Doing your own packing and shipping boxes via a shipping service like FedEx or USPS, can save you thousands of dollars. But remember, packing doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Many customers have their movers (who have access to specialized moving supplies) pack items they can’t handle themselves. These include items like:

  • Mattresses
  • Mirrors and pictures
  • Electronics
  • Dishes, glassware, small appliances, and other breakable items
  • Specialty items like grandfather clocks, marble tabletops, and pool tables

For the rest of your household valuables, like bedding, clothes, books, and non-breakable kitchenware, it’s usually easy to do it on your own. Remember to invest in quality packing supplies and packing materials, like boxes, bubble wrap, packing tape, and packing paper, and check out videos on Youtube about the packing process and moving tips to see how it’s best done so you can maximize space.

You don’t have to spend a lot to get good packing materials You can get free moving boxes from friends, family, and businesses like grocery and liquor stores. Check out our guide to cheap and free moving boxes for more packing tips.

Don’t forget to label moving boxes, so you’ll know what’s in them and what room they need to go in when you get to your new home. Unpacking in your new house will be easier and less of a hassle if boxes are labeled.

Also, set aside a box for important documents like passports, birth certificates, wills, and insurance policies. Take this box of critical documents in the car with you, along with other necessities like medications, phone chargers, toiletries, a first aid kit, and a small toolbox. With your valuables and most important items with you, moving cross country and potentially even starting that new job there, will feel less stressful because your most important things are at your fingertips.

8. Know your rights and responsibilities

When moving cross country, moving companies should give you a pamphlet called “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” when they provide you with moving quotes. If they don’t, it may be a red flag that they prefer uninformed customers. In this case, you’re better off without them.

If you’d rather get yourself up to speed before estimate time, you can download your own copy of “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” here.

This document is chock-full of relevant information about the moving process, and how to protect yourself as a consumer.

9. Get moving – book your movers early

What is the cheapest way to move cross country? That depends on how much you’re moving and where you’re moving. Pricing will also depend on if you want a hassle-free full-service move or one that you handle yourself.

If you’ve decided to save money, be more cost-effective, and do your move cross country 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 (typically from April to September), service providers may be booked to capacity. You’ll need to make your reservations early, whether you’re using a truck rental, a professional moving company, hiring long-distance movers, or using a container moving company.

If you leave it to the last minute to make your reservation, you may have fewer options and end up paying more than you otherwise would have.

10. Don’t forget the little things

Moving cross country isn’t just about getting your things from A to B. You’ll also want to make sure you know where you’re moving, what the job prospects are, and how to get your utilities set up.

Here are a few things that many movers forget about, but you may want to add to your checklist:

  • Transfer your utilities (gas, water, electric, internet, etc)
  • Forward your mail (you’ll need to fill out a form with the United States Postal Service)
  • Pick up any paper records you may need in your new home (medical documents for example)
  • Cancel local memberships you won’t need
  • Figure out if you can include your car in your chosen moving method or if you’ll need to arrange for a car shipping company

Moving Cross Country Tips Takeaways

The entire moving process can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks. Delivery takes 2-5 days, but you need to plan your move at least six weeks before move day.

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 of the first thing that pops up.

Cross-country moves cost approximately $2,000 to $12,000 or more. There are countless variables that contribute to that range. Get a more personalized estimate using the moving cost calculator which will give you an average cost for your circumstances. And consider what moving expenses you are most likely to incur during your move to a new location.

Related: Moving Sucks: Here’s How To Make It Suck Less

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