Of the 11 percent of the U.S. population that moved between 2016 and 2017, about 15 percent relocated to a new state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Deciding to move to a different part of the country isn’t a step many people take lightly. Whether it’s to be closer to family, to start a new job or simply to seek better weather, a cross-country move changes your daily life.
A long-distance move also requires a lot more planning than relocating to a house a mile away – you can’t transfer a couple carloads of clothes to and from homes 2,000 miles apart. To help you navigate your long-distance move, we’ve compiled a list of the best practices for a successful relocation. Here are 10 things you can do to make your cross-country move seamless.
Start planning eight weeks ahead. You’ll need to figure out your best option for moving out of one place, transporting everything you own and moving in at your new home. To do so, you’ll want to start looking at moving options at least eight weeks in advance.
“To find out the date to schedule your move, work backwards from when you want your belongings to arrive at your new home,” says Melissa Pollock, lifestyle and organization expert for PODS, a moving and self-storage company.
The two-month head start allows you to decide if you’ll hire a full-service moving company or a self-pack company that moves your belongings, like PODS, or if you plan to drive a rental truck cross-country. Different options offer a variety of price points, from the most expensive, a full-service moving company from start to finish, to the most economical, doing it all yourself.
Vet companies. Research any company you're considering working with by reading reviews from previous customers, verifying the company has done a move like yours and ensuring it's properly licensed, says Scott Michael, president and CEO of the American Moving and Storage Association.
Any company that’s going to move your belongings between states is required to have an interstate license from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which you can confirm on the FMCSA website, along with other details about the company's history.
Start packing at the six-week mark. Settling on your method for moving shouldn’t slow you down. Pollock also recommends starting to pack your stuff well in advance: “Six weeks from your moving date is when you want to start preparing to pack by organizing your belongings.”
Getting started early with boxing and decluttering especially helps if you’re moving an entire house’s worth of things. Begin with decorative items and things you can live without for a few weeks – your prized book collection may be a must-keep, but it can stand being boxed up for a while. Same goes for lawn games and seasonal decor.
Use the right box for each item. Fragile items ship better when they’re properly packed, and in many cases that proper packing involves a special box. You may not still have the original box and padding for your TV, but home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot sell TV boxes for moving, along with foam corners to pad the device and better protect it in transit.
Electronics aren’t the only items you can buy special boxes for – you can get cardboard separators for glasses and padding for artwork as well. “There are boxes for dishes and even wardrobe boxes with built-in hangers,” Pollock says. Get Bubble Wrap and stretch wrap for furniture and anything else that doesn’t go in a box to protect surfaces from nicks and scratches.
[Read: How to Stage Your Home to Sell.]
Insure what you can. If you are hiring movers, ask about liability with anything you pack yourself. Michael says that in many cases, “the mover would not be responsible if anything gets damaged,” because he or she can’t guarantee it was packed properly. To ensure you’re covered if something valuable breaks, allow the movers to pack it and opt for full insurance coverage.
Basic insurance coverage is typically around $0.60 per pound, but you can pay more for full coverage of the value of your belongings. Occasionally there are third-party insurance options available as well, Michael says.
Be ready ahead of time. The best trick to avoid leaving anything behind by accident, damaging fragile items or running out of room is to be ready to go before you have to hand the keys over to your landlord or the new homeowner.
If you’re loading a PODS container or something similar, Pollock recommends having it dropped off a week prior to your moving day to give you time to load it up, or a full day in advance if professionals are helping load it.
If a moving company is placing your items on a truck, it’s possible excess space will be packed with other customers’ goods as well, which means the truck has other stops before reaching your house. Your truck “could be bouncing around the country in a way that isn’t as direct as you would think,” Michael says. He notes a truck could start in Florida, go up to North Carolina and stop in Ohio before heading to Texas or California.
Distribute the weight. Whether you’re loading up a moving container, U-Haul or semitruck, proper packing of the space is important to avoid damaging your belongings.
“Be sure to avoid loading all heavy items at once, and simply distribute those items as you load the container,” Pollock says. “In addition, packing tightly is important – use all available space inside containers, including wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling, with heavier items on the bottom and lighter items on top.”
Mark the first box you’ll open. When you finally arrive, you’ll be eager to access the clothes, entertainment and utensils you’ve gone without since you started packing. Pack those items – which may also include a second set of shoes, speakers to listen to music while you unpack or your hair dryer – in one box, and be sure to label it to find it easily.
Pollock advises packing the truck, trailer or container with the same need-first mentality: “When packing a container, pack in reverse order – the items that you will need first should be loaded into the container last to allow for easy access to the essentials when you reach your new home.”
Change your address information. As with any move, you’ll need to update your mailing address with the U.S. Postal Service, which you can do online, by phone or in person at your local post office. Be sure to make your change of address effective on the last day you’ll be in your old home, since you won’t be able to pick up the mail after moving out.
If you’re driving cross-country or are staying in a hotel for a few days or weeks before moving to your next home, consider having the post office hold your mail until you arrive.
Arrive at the same time as your stuff. Whether your household goods are part of a larger moving truck or in their own container, plan to be at your new address the day your shipment arrives. Michael says you’re typically required to be present at both ends of the move to sign off on the work.
If you’re unable to physically be there for either situation, a spouse, family member or trusted friend can take your place, but they’ll likely need power of attorney. It has to be “somebody that’s authorized to sign for you on either end of the shipment,” Michael says.
Organize your move early.
Few people can escape heightened stress when it comes time to move. Despite it being a common occurrence – about 11 percent of the U.S. population moved to a new home in 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau – moving is undoubtedly an exhausting process. You not only have to pack up everything you own and relocate it, but you also have to clear out your former home and set up house in a new one. It’s easy to find yourself getting into arguments, losing items or running behind a deadline to be out of one place and into another. Here are 10 things you can do to prepare for your move.Research professionals and prices.
Research professionals and prices.
The key to a stress-free move is organization, so you should start thinking about the process as soon as you know you’ll be relocating. Begin by researching moving companies, and take inventory of everything you’ll be moving with you. Then, reach out to a few companies to inquire about cost, availability and materials to move your home. “It’s not unheard of for people to be making inquiries for six months ahead of time,” says Scott Michael, president and CEO of the American Moving & Storage Association. “You don’t need to lock down a contract that early, but it doesn’t hurt to start doing some research.”Book a moving company.
Book a moving company.
Once you know your moving day, whether you’ll need movers to pack up your belongings, how much you’ll be taking with you and what your budget is, book a moving company or reserve a truck if you're moving yourself. You still want to book with as much advance notice as possible, with a minimum of a month’s notice in summer and two- to three-weeks' notice during the rest of the year, says Angela Gonzalez, operations and quality manager for Unpakt, an online marketplace that connects consumers with vetted moving companies.Buy packing materials.
Buy packing materials.
Boxes, tape and trash bags are a given when it comes to moving, so much so that they can easily be overlooked. Purchase or find moving materials early so you can begin packing the things you don’t need right away. You can order materials online, inquire with a local retailer or search Craigslist for used boxes. You can even ask your mover if it will include the cost of providing packing materials in the moving cost.Downsize and start packing early.
Downsize and start packing early.
The last thing you want is to find yourself paying more to move things you don’t want or need. Before you break out the moving boxes, sort through your belongings and determine what goes with you, and what goes away. Those rarely used items you decide to keep should be packed early so you can get a good estimate of how much will be loaded into a moving truck. “The stuff that’s been sitting in your closet for the last five or six months – donate it if you can, or pack it if you really need to keep it,” Gonzalez says.Donate what you don't need.
Donate what you don't need.
Whether it’s a couple bags of clothes the kids don’t wear anymore or a fully stocked pantry of canned goods, minimize the amount of things you take with you – and what you take to the landfill. “A lot of people that are moving have food items in their pantry that maybe they don’t really need anymore,” Michael says, noting moving companies often have contact information for local food banks and may even deliver the donation for you.Transfer your utilities.
Transfer your utilities.
The last thing you want is to arrive at your new home and realize you forgot to turn on the water, heat or electricity – or you didn't turn them off at your old place. Be sure to call in advance and set the start date for your utilities at least a day prior to your move day to ensure everything is on when you arrive. Gonzalez stresses that any utility installation such as cable or internet shouldn't happen on moving day.Change your mailing address.
Change your mailing address.
The U.S. Postal Service makes it easy to change your mailing address online – just go to moversguide.usps.com. You can set up the change of address as far in advance as you'd like so mail will begin forwarding to your new home the day of your move. You should also notify your bank, doctor's office, employer and friends and family of your new address, but you have extra time to do so once you’ve established the change with the post office.Get a permit or reserve space for a moving truck.
Get a permit or reserve space for a moving truck.
If your moving truck will occupy space on a city street with street parking, you’ll likely need to apply for a permit or request “no parking” signs to reserve space on your move day. In Chicago, for example, each ward offers free “no parking” signs for people moving, which must be posted 48 hours in advance. If your moving truck is 16 feet or longer, the Chicago Department of Transportation requires you to apply for a permit. Similar policies exist in other cities for permitting and obtaining signs to clear space. A moving company will often handle the permitting process for its own vehicles, but you should clarify that responsibility when scheduling the move.Take out the trash.
Take out the trash.
Never leave garbage in the home you’re vacating, and if you rented the place, the cost to clean or remove trash will be deducted from your security deposit. To save yourself some cash, pick up garbage in every room as you move items out. Once the home is empty, go back through with cleaning spray and a vacuum or broom. Checking each room will help you catch any small items you may have missed.Schedule with room for delays.
Schedule with room for delays.
There may be a snow storm, a foreign dignitary in town or a car accident that puts the highway at a standstill. Expect the unexpected, and give your itinerary some cushion for such events. Gonzalez says one of the most common mistakes people make is scheduling too much on a moving day. “Give some ample time,” she says. “When you’ve scheduled a move at 8 a.m., don’t schedule a flight for 1 p.m.”Read More
She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at email@example.com.