Tips for Relocating Cross-Country

Making a big move can be expensive, but these 7 tips will help you keep costs down

By + More
Niccole Schreck head shot RESIZED.jpg
Niccole Schreck

Moving to a new state is an exciting change, but it's also one that comes with a fair amount of stress. After all, picking up all of your belongings and relocating cross-country takes even more preparation and effort than moving across town—and moving across town is stressful enough. I’ve moved cross-country twice in the past ten years—from Michigan to Florida and Florida to California—so I know the challenges of relocating well.

Here are seven of my tips to help the process go as smoothly as possible:

Give yourself plenty of planning time. When making a move cross-country, you should start planning and preparing about eight weeks prior to your scheduled moving date. There’s nothing worse than scrambling to pack up your things and find a rental truck at the last minute. Unlike a regular cross-town move, you can’t make multiple trips.

Determine your moving method. There are a few ways to handle moving your belongings across the country: There is the traditional pack-everything-into-your-car-and-drive method; you can rent a moving truck; or you can leave it to the professionals with a full-service moving company. If you choose to hire a moving company to help you with the process, get estimates early on to find the best company for you. Contact the movers well in advance to make sure that they are available for the date or dates you need them. I have tried moving on my own and hiring help, and though I love a good road trip, hiring movers ended up being the less expensive option.

Invest in good, durable boxes. The boxes that you choose are going to be the ones holding onto your precious belongings as you move all the way across the country. Therefore, they have to be pretty sturdy. Often, manufacturing plants have boxes they don't use that they may be willing to give away. You can also look for free boxes at liquor stores, banks, offices and schools.

Pack tight. Ask yourself if you really need that waffle maker you haven't used in 10 years. There are definitely going to be things that you can give away, sell or throw out instead of packing them up in boxes. When you're moving cross-country, you want to have as little stuff to pack as possible. Go through all of your belongings before you start putting everything into boxes.

Track down important papers. It's hard to forget your couch or your TV, but it's easy to forget about or lose track of important documents. Gather all special papers, like birth certificates, insurance policies, passports, auto registration and more. Place them all into organized folders to make them easy to track down once you arrive. You should also consider keeping them with you, instead of packing them in the moving boxes, just to be sure they don’t get lost.

Take inventory and label your boxes. This step is especially important if you hire movers or have your belongings shipped. While you pack, take photographs of all of your valuables. Make sure to label your boxes so it's easy to identify what's in each box and you can make sure everything made it to your new home. Plus, if you get to your new apartment and have a living room filled with blank, brown boxes, it's probably going to be tough to know where to start the unpacking process.

Stay calm. A cross-country move is bound to be a little frustrating at times, but it's important to stay calm and focus on the positives. Get used to the idea that this is going to be a process and look forward to settling into your new home and life.

Niccole Schreck is the rental experience expert for Rent.com, a free rental site that helps you find an affordable apartment and gives tips on how to move.