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Moving Across The Country – How To Do It Right

Hanna KielarJuly 16, 2019

If you’ve recently closed on a house that feels a million miles away, you might feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster. An impending cross-country move can result in stress, sadness, fear and even panic at times.

But moving across the country can be exciting too. Maybe you got a new job, found your dream house, or are attending college, or maybe you just need a change of scenery. No matter why you’re moving, there’s a new life out there for you.

It’s time to release the stress of the move and focus more on living your best life in your new home.

Thankfully, we can help you with that.

We talked to experienced cross-country movers who gave us tips on how to save time and money while moving across the country. Here’s what they had to say.

Sell Half Of Your Belongings Before The Move

Richard Williamson has moved across the country three times: from New York to North Carolina, North Carolina to New York, and New York to Florida.

Williamson said an important tip for all movers is to sell half of their belongings, specifically furniture, before they move.

“It’s expensive to ship it all, and it may not even match your new home,” Williamson advised. He said that if you’re moving somewhere like from the Northeast to Florida, you might find that your old furniture will be wildly out of place in your new home.

“Thrift stores and Goodwills in Florida are chock full of dark, heavy wooden furniture that made the move from the frozen north and just doesn't fit in in the pastel world of Florida,” Williamson said.

It’s important to be aware of the variety of architectural and interior design styles across the country. Take that into account when evaluating your old furniture before a move.

Selling your furniture and other items before moving can help you significantly reduce your moving expenses.

Consider having multiple garage sales or even selling your items to a local flea market or resale store. The extra money you make can help cover your moving costs.

… Keep Selling

This point cannot be stressed enough. Sell me as much as you can.

Nina Cleere has moved five times as an adult. She said the biggest lesson she’s learned from moving multiple times has been overpacking and bringing too much along with her.

“I never need as much as I think I do,” Cleere said. “I often unload boxes and think, ‘Why did I pay for this to come with me?’”

Don’t waste your money shipping items that you don’t need. Being meticulous with what you bring will save you plenty of time and money.

Keep Some Essentials With You

It’s important to think through possible moving mishaps and plan accordingly.

That’s why Williamson said his most important tip for movers is to bring some essentials with them on the move and not pack everything away in a moving van.

“Your moving truck will inevitably arrive well after you do, and some of your belongings may be sidetracked at a reloading facility along the way,” Williamson said.

He suggests that movers bring an inflatable mattress, blankets, clothing, eating and cooking utensils, laundry detergent and dry foods just in case their moving van doesn’t arrive on time.

Williamson said if movers don’t take these precautions, they’re likely to be looking for a 24-hour Walmart and wasting more time and money.

If you don’t feel the need to bring each of these items with you, at least bring laundry detergent, said Williamson.

“Laundry detergent is necessary because you will get dirty and sweaty moving into your new home, and you will go through a lot of clothing quickly,” Williamson said.

Start Packing Months In Advance

No one likes to clean, purge or pack, but preparation can help save you from last-minute panic.

Vanessa Keating moved from Atlanta to Santa Barbara 5 years ago, and she emphasizes the importance of cleaning up and packing before you move.

When Keating moved, she took a few months and opened every drawer and cabinet, asking herself questions like, “Who is coming with me to my new life?”

“I had over 10 stirring spoons and ladles.  Did I need all of them? No!” Keating said. “I took only what I needed.”

To help prevent bringing along any unnecessary items, Keating said she taped out a 6-foot by 6.5-foot square in an empty bedroom and packed all she was taking into that space.

“If it didn't fit, it could not go with me,” Keating said.

Be Careful About When You Move

If you’re thinking about moving in the summer, think again.

The months between May and September are the busiest season for moving, said Ryan Carrigan, cofounder of moveBuddha.

For those who do decide to move in the summer months, Carrigan said their moving rates will be about 20% – 30% more expensive.

“Avoid Labor Day, July 4th and Memorial Day at all costs,” Carrigan said. “These holidays are extremely busy and the most expensive times to move.”

Choose What Moving Option Works Best For You

Carrigan also suggests that movers evaluate how big their load is before they decide on their moving option.

“The cheapest shipping option is going to depend on how much you're moving,” Carrigan said. “For smaller moves, a moving company or shipping container might be the cheapest option, while for larger moves, a freight trailer or rental truck will likely be the least costly.”

Carrigan said the average cost of a two-bedroom move cross-country with a moving company is around $4,700.

If you need help finding the right mover for your budget and load, visit the Zing Blog.

The More You Spend, The Better The Services

If you plan on moving a car or valuable items to your new home, you might want to invest in better moving services.

“It’s worth spending a little extra money to transport your valuables and vehicles safely,” said Matt Casady of STOR-N-LOCK Self Storage.

Casady said when he moved across several states, he tried to save money by using a cheaper car tow dolly, but when he arrived at his destination, his car had damage that exceeded the value of the money he saved.

“When you're traveling several hundred or several thousand miles, it's worth spending a little more to make sure your belongings and vehicles are transported safely,” Casady said.

Consider Temporary Storage

If you’re looking to reduce the stress of unpacking and finding a place for all your belongings, you might want to utilize a temporary storage unit.

“When you arrive at your destination, it's worth using temporary self-storage for a few months while you get your bearings,” Casady said.

When Casady moved, he said he put his belongings in storage for a few months until he found room for all of his things in his new place.

“It cut down on the stress of trying to find spots for everything I own all being in boxes in my house at one time,” he said.

If You Get A POD, Get A Permit

When moving her belongings into her new home, Keating said she packed her household items into a POD. Little did Keating know, she needed a city permit to place her POD in the street.

“I discovered this 24 hours before the POD’s arrival. Luckily I was able to go down to the city and pull some major strings to get the permit,” Keating said.

Unfortunately, not all cities are that generous. If you’re unsure of whether your city requires a permit for a POD, call your city hall.

Avoid Traffic At All Costs

Whether you’re moving from a small city to a big city or hopping from big city to big city, it’s important to be aware of the busy traffic times in your new location.

Ana Carlson moved from New York to Los Angeles last year, and she said she carefully planned the trip’s itinerary and schedule before departing on the 6-day drive.

“Part of the plan was to spend our last night on the road right outside LA so we could have the whole morning ahead of us as we entered the city,” Carlson said. “We know how bad traffic is, and we didn’t want to get to our apartment building too late.”

Luckily, Carlson said she arrived early and even had some time to spare before she met the movers outside of her building.

Because Carlson planned accordingly and took many factors into account, she said her move went amazingly.

Find New Contacts In Your New Area

One factor many movers don’t consider is what they will do when they can no longer rely on their lifelong go-to people: dentists, doctors, handymen and more.

Glenna Crooks has moved six times, and she said the hardest part about moving is replacing your trusted people.

“Moving the ‘things’ is a logistical challenge that is easy to fix and there are lots of guides to help,” Crooks said. “What is harder is replacing people, and there are no guides I’ve found to do that.”

Crooks said she has experienced these struggles multiple times.

For example, Crooks said her subzero fridge once quit working after a recent move, and another time, she didn’t have anyone to help plow her driveway in the snow.

Perhaps the worst incident was when Crooks said she got sick one week after a move and had no physician and didn’t know where the hospital was. Crooks said the doctor she called wasn’t a good fit, and it took her 6 months to find another one.

“It is easy to forget how much help you build where you are,” Crooks said.

To help solve this issue, new residents can visit a website such as Angie’s List to receive recommendations for new go-to people.

With A New Area Comes New Weather

Though this tip may sound elementary, it is important to be aware of extreme weather all over the country.

When Cleere moved, she said she wished she was more prepared for unexpected inclement weather.

On Cleere’s way to her new home in Florida, she experienced blizzards in Colorado and wasn’t lucky enough to have chains or snow tires on her car.

“It snows in Colorado at the end of May, so be prepared,” Cleere said.

Take A Deep Breath And Let Go

I know we’ve overloaded you with a lot of information, but don’t be afraid to let go and enjoy your experience.

When Keating moved across the country, she said she gave herself extra time to make stops along the way in new places and her favorite cities.

“I am happy I did that,” Keating said. “There was so much to see.”

Keating said the biggest lesson she learned from her move was knowing when to plan and push and when to otherwise surrender and flow into the experience of her journey.

Because moving is so stressful, Keating recommends that movers give themselves time to enjoy the process.

“There is so much I would have missed if I was stuck on my original plan,” Keating said. “Do take time and enjoy the move.”

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    Hanna Kielar

    Hanna Kielar is an Associate Section Editor for Rocket Companies focused on personal finance, recruiting and personal loans. She has a B.A. in Professional Writing from Michigan State University.