How to Move Across the Country in 8 Steps

Evelyn Long

Dec 4, 2023

move across the country

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Figuring out how to move across the country can be complicated, but it all boils down to eight basic steps. Moving is often exciting and stressful at the same time, even more so when you’re relocating to a different state. This guide will help you streamline your cross-country move so you can focus on enjoying your new home. 

1. Find a New Home and Set a Moving Date

The first step to move across the country is finding a place to live. Before planning anything else, you should try to acquire a new house or apartment. Having a specific address on hand already will be very helpful for planning the rest of your move. 

Depending on how far in advance you want to start planning, it can be difficult to get a rental or home purchase lined up. Most landlords will only hold an apartment for a few weeks after you sign the lease. However, if at all possible, try to get your new home finalized before starting the rest of the moving process. 

At minimum, you should choose a specific moving date. You can save money by moving outside peak seasons and days. Summer months tend to be the most popular for moving, which means you will likely need to pay more to hire a moving company between May and August. So, try to move in the late spring or early fall instead. Additionally, choose a specific day between Monday and Thursday since weekends also tend to be more expensive for moving companies. 

2. Create Your Moving List and Budget

Figuring out how to move across the country requires determining what you’re going to bring with you. If you’re moving from an apartment, you probably won’t have much to move to begin with. However, if you’re moving from a house or you’re downsizing, you may want to consider leaving some unwanted items behind (more on that step below). 

So, create a moving list with everything you plan to bring. You can lump small items like individual pieces of clothing in an umbrella category (i.e. “shirts”, “jackets”, “dishes”, “silverware”, etc.). It is also helpful to create a separate list of fragile and valuable items since you may want to get moving insurance for these. 

Creating a moving list will give you a rough idea of how big your move will be. With this in mind, you can next create a budget range for your move. Determine how much you can afford to spend on the move and use that as a starting point for the third step. Keep in mind, it can cost several thousand dollars to move cross-country depending on the size of your move. 

3. Hire Movers As Early As Possible

Usually when people are figuring out how to move across the country, they end up going with a long distance moving company. This is often the best option if you’re moving several rooms’ worth of stuff, such as the belongings for a family of four in a three bedroom home. There are many long distance moving services available today with some specializing in certain types of moves or geographic areas. 

There are other options, though. You can also rent a van or small truck from a service like U-Haul to do your own move. This can be a good option for smaller moves, such as a one-bedroom apartment. It’s a good way to save money, too. Of course, it does take longer since you need to drive the moving vehicle yourself. 

Regardless of which route you choose, try to get it set up as early as possible. This is especially important if you are hiring a moving company. You will usually get a better rate if you book well in advance. About 7 to 10 weeks is ideal. The closer you get to your moving date, the more expensive it will be to book moving services. 

4. Visit Your New Home (if Possible)

If you haven’t already, make time to visit your new home before the move if at all possible. You may have already done this in step one. However, if you haven’t, it’s a good idea to squeeze in a quick weekend visit at least a few weeks before the move. 

This will give you a chance to see your new space in person, take measurements and plan out where your furniture will go. After getting a look at your new home in person, you may realize you don’t need or have room for certain pieces of furniture. Alternatively, you might realize there are things you don’t have that you will need in your new home. 

This info can help you plan for your move more effectively. For instance, you can make sure to sell or donate those extra pieces of furniture you won’t need. 

5. Sell or Donate Any Unwanted Items

Before moving across the country, consider having a yard sale or taking a trip to a local donation center to unload any items you don’t want to bring with you on your move. Doing this can help you save space and therefore money, especially if you are hiring a moving company and paying per box or truck. 

For example, maybe you have an old couch that’s taking up a lot of space in your moving truck. If it might need to be replaced soon anyway, consider selling or donating it and freeing up that truck space. The same goes for high-volume things like old clothes. If you’re downsizing, this is a great opportunity to declutter. 

6. Transfer Utilities and Update Your Address

In the rush of finding a new place to live and booking your moving services, it’s easy to forget an important step: transferring your utilities and mail. This is a step that can wait until closer to your actual moving date. Set a reminder to get it done a few weeks before you leave.

Utilities are typically local, so you will most likely need to cancel the utility services at your current address and buy new plans for your new address. Update your address for any subscriptions and contact USPS to set up mail forwarding. Remember to update your address on your voter registration, as well. 

7. Plan Travel Accommodations for Kids and Pets

If you have children or pets, you may need to make special arrangements for them during the move. Traveling with pets can be especially complicated. Start thinking about this particular part of the move as early as possible. 

When it comes to pets, the easiest option is usually to drive them yourself. If you’re moving a car across the country with you, you can simply bring your pet along in the car riding in a kennel or pet seat belt. It is possible to fly with cats and some breeds of dogs, but they may need to go in the cargo hold. Usually only certified emotional support or service pets can ride with passengers. 

Whether your pet is flying or riding in the car with you, contact your vet ahead of time. They may be able to give you a harmless sedative to help your pet sleep through the trip or at least stay relaxed. If you’re driving, make sure you find pet-friendly hotels to stay at and plan for stops throughout the day to let your pet go to the bathroom. 

With kids, you’ll need to make sure they can stay entertained and comfortable throughout the trip. Some children get motion sick easily, so make sure you have child-safe motion sickness relief medicine like Dramamine. Have your kids pick out snacks to bring in the car or plane with them. Pack travel-friendly toys such as tablets or handheld game devices to keep them occupied. 

Before leaving, you can also let your kids mark the boxes with their things inside so they’re easy to find at your new home. This can relieve some of the stress kids may experience when moving and it also ensures they will have something to do right away when you arrive. 

8. Prepare for Speed Bumps

Finally, allow yourself some breathing room for any unexpected speed bumps that come up during the move. Even the best laid plans are prone to hiccups, so try not to be hard on yourself if something comes up last minute. For example, bad weather might make it hard to travel or a flight might get canceled. 

Allow yourself at least a few days of downtime before and after the move so you have some wiggle room. If something does come up that causes a delay, you’ll have the extra time for it. If everything goes smoothly, you can use that time to relax and acclimate to your new space. Either way, having a little bit of flexibility will reduce stress. 

You can also use this flex time to take care of small last-minute tasks like handing off keys to a landlord or new homeowner, saying goodbye to friends, or cleaning up your old home. 

How to Move Across the Country in 8 Steps

With these basic eight steps, you can simplify your cross-country move. It’s best to get started planning as far in advance as possible. This will allow you to get the best rates on moving services and reduce stress during the move itself. As hectic as moving can be, remember once you get all of your belongings to your new place, you can relax and have fun decorating, exploring and settling in. 

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