How to Prepare for a Long-Distance Move

Follow these 10 tips for getting your family and home ready to relocate to a new city or state.

U.S. News & World Report

How to Prepare for a Long-Distance Move

Movers carrying sofa from moving van to house

A long-distance move can get pricey, so be sure to declutter your home and cut down on the items you'll be moving before it's time to load up the moving truck.(Getty Images)

Many people throughout the U.S. are rethinking how and where they live, and what will be necessary for healthy and happy living going forward. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, online searches for larger homes with outdoor space have skyrocketed, and city dwellers are eyeing more suburban and rural environments.

The ease of working from home has made many professionals more mobile than ever, while others may need to relocate to access optimal employment opportunities in a changing economy. All this will likely mean an uptick in long-distance moves over the next several months.

Moving is never easy, but with a lot of preparation, you can get your household from point A to point B with as little disruption as possible. Here are 10 tips for preparing for a long-distance move:

  • Plan, prepare and schedule.
  • Call in the professionals.
  • Make reservations.
  • Plan for pets.
  • Declutter, donate and pack.
  • Deal with mail, utilities and important records.
  • Separate the essentials.
  • Prioritize safety.
  • Make time for goodbyes.
  • Prepare for travel.

Plan, Prepare and Schedule

Once your relocation is confirmed, start sketching out your to-do list and make a timeline, moving backward from your ideal arrival date. You'll need to plan for how to move your household items, family members, pets and vehicles, either together or separately. You'll want to arrange for food, shelter and clothing while you're in transit, while also making your new home as ready for your arrival as possible. Stay organized by keeping to-do lists, calendars, receipts and estimates in one central file.

Call In the Professionals

As soon as your plan takes shape, call several moving companies for estimates. Make sure you understand everything included in each estimate and review the insurance options offered. Most moving companies only provide a limited policy that you'll want to supplement with more comprehensive coverage. Remember to call for separate estimates for vehicle movers and pet relocation services, if needed.

Make Reservations

Once you've reviewed your estimates, select your movers and book your moving dates – this is when the clock really starts. If the humans and pets in your life will be moving separately from your belongings, start making reservations for flights or hotels along your route. If you need temporary accommodations in your new location, make those arrangements as well.

Plan for Pets

Pets add a whole layer of complication to the long-distance moving process. The easiest way to move pets is in your vehicle, but that's not always possible. Keep in mind that not all airlines accommodate all types of pets, and while there are pet transport services available, going that route means being separated from your pet for days. No matter how your pet will travel, obtain a proper carrier, and have medication and food on hand for both transport and arrival at your destination. Also, arrange for a veterinary visit to receive a pet health certificate (required for airlines and transportation services) and make sure your pets are up-to-date on vaccines.

Declutter, Donate and Pack

When it comes to long-haul moves, every square inch matters. You don't want to pay to move anything that you don't need and love. That will mean a serious decluttering of every drawer and closet and culling any furniture you no longer need. This is a time-consuming process, so it's best to start as soon as you know you're moving. Go room by room, tackling a bit at a time to keep from getting overwhelmed. Donate, sell or recycle as much as possible.

If you're packing yourself, you'll need to acquire sturdy boxes and supplies. Be generous with padding and protecting delicate items, and create a detailed inventory of what's in each box. When you're desperate to find the coffee maker at your destination, you'll be glad you did.

Deal with Mail, Utilities and Important Records

Submit your change of address with the post office, which will reroute your first-class mail and packages for a year and your periodicals for 60 days. Arrange to shut down your utilities at your current address and sign up for as many as possible at your new home in advance. Collect any necessary school, medical or veterinary records for your household, and don't forget to tackle driver's licenses, car registrations, insurance and voter registration at your new address as soon as possible.

Separate the Essentials

Begin a checklist of all the items you absolutely must have available while you're in transit or newly arrived at your destination. This will include prescription medications, important documents, valuables, clothing and toiletries for the duration of your trip, plus all necessary pet food and supplies. Pack these items with your luggage or ship them to your new location ahead of time. Be sure to set aside cash for the tips you'll need along the way, including for your movers, cleaning service and any other services you'll be using during the moving process.

Prioritize Safety

Moving during a pandemic will likely come with a whole separate set of guidelines and require personal protective equipment both during the packing process and when traveling. Make sure you're stocked up on masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer for your whole family, and educate yourself on any rules provided by your movers, hotels and airlines. Lastly, review any precautions about what you can and can't pack among your belongings. Flammable, combustible or corrosive items, plants and perishable items are typically verboten.

Make Time for Goodbyes

In the weeks leading up to your move, you'll be incredibly busy, but it's essential to spend time with neighbors and friends. Arrange for your kids to say goodbye to classmates and pals. Plan a socially distant outdoor gathering. Visit your favorite places around town, and take a minute to say goodbye to the home where you've likely made many warm memories. Take lots of pictures and share your new address.

Prepare for Travel

Before you set off for your next home, you'll want a plan for keeping kids and pets occupied, especially if you're traveling by car. Schedule breaks, bring lots of snacks, charge up devices and take time to sightsee or visit friends along the way.

Moving is always stressful and it never goes as planned. This is why having a proper plan in mind and following the above tips will put your mind more at ease and this game plan will help you divide this seemingly insurmountable task of a cross-country move into bite-sized, manageable pieces.

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