Couple unpacking boxes in new home.

Tips For How To Move Across The Country

Sidney Richardson10-minute read
February 16, 2022

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During a long-distance relocation, there are a lot of moving parts that can make things seem stressful – but don’t freak out. Moving doesn’t need to be a nightmare – in fact, with a little planning, you can save yourself a lot of panic, and sometimes money, too.

Let’s break down some of our best moving tips to help you move across the country and start living your best life in your new home.

What Are The Different Ways To Move Across Country?

One of the first steps when starting your move is figuring out how you’re going to get your belongings from point A to point B. There are a few different ways you can go about this, depending on your budget.

Hire A Full-Service Moving Company

The first – and probably easiest – option for moving your belongings is to hire movers. Full-service movers will not only transport all of your furniture and boxed up belongings from one house to the next, they’ll also supply all the packing materials, such as boxes and bubble wrap, as well as actually pack up your things. Some movers will even unpack your stuff, if you want them to. The price of full-service movers varies depending on the distance of your move, but will generally run you $2,300 or more, according to HomeAdvisor.

Use An On-Site Moving Service

If you aren’t interested in paying that much, you can also hire on-site movers that are not considered “full-service,” but keep in mind the services provided by non-full-service companies will vary. Some moving companies may just supply you with “muscle” to help pack your things into your own truck or trailer while others may transport your items but not help pack or unpack them. To find out the services an on-site moving company offers, as well as how much it may cost you, do your research ahead of time and visit the company’s website or give them a call.

Rent A Moving Container

A moving container is an option that many relocating homeowners aren’t even aware that they have. If you’ve ever seen shipping containers stacked on a freighter, your moving container might look a little like that. These large, typically metal boxes can be rented from companies like U-Pack and PODS and will be delivered to your doorstep for you to pack your belongings inside. Once you’ve loaded all your things up, the moving container company will pick up your container and drive it to your new home to be unloaded. If you’re not moving right away, you can also have the company drop your container off at a storage facility for a designated time frame, which can be useful for more complicated moves.

The only problem to keep in mind with a moving container is that some cities may require a permit for you to have one sitting outside your house or in the street, even for a short period of time. Before renting a moving container, you may want to call your city hall and double-check that it will be okay.

According to PODS, the cost of renting a moving container for a long-distance move is generally between $999 and $2,999. Keep in mind with this option you will also need to load all your furniture into the container yourself unless you also pay movers to help.

Use A Truck Rental

Our final option is one of the most commonly used methods for moving furniture over a long distance – which is renting a truck. While you will have to pay for, load, unload and also drive a rental truck yourself, it provides you with space options tailored to your needs depending on how many boxes or pieces of furniture you’re moving – and it’s typically more affordable than hiring full-service movers or renting a moving container.

You can get rental trucks of varying sizes from companies like U-Haul and Penske, with prices varying based on the size of the truck, distance of your move and total rental time. According to Move.org, the average cost of a one-way rental truck trip is $1,780, with longer-distance moves costing more depending on how many miles will be traveled.

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9 Tips For Moving Across The Country

Once you’ve figured out how you’re going to get your furniture from one house to the other, you may not be sure what you should tackle next. Rather than packing everything the day before your move and winging it, here are our suggestions for ways you can prepare for your long-distance move to make it easier on future you.

1. Develop A Moving Plan And Create A Checklist

The best first step you can take is to get organized. An easy way to do this is by making a moving checklist, either handwritten or on your phone so you don’t lose it. You’ll want to include all the tasks you can think of that you’ll need to accomplish before and during your move. It may help to include a moving schedule, including what day and time you may need to pick up a moving truck, meet with movers, etc. Breaking down everything you need to do each day between now and the day of your move will help you make sure nothing is forgotten. 

2. Create A Budget

Depending on how you choose to do it, moving costs can reach thousands of dollars – but it definitely doesn’t have to. Before your move, come up with a moving budget and determine how much, maximum, you are willing to spend on moving expenses. Remember that you’ll likely have to pay for more than just the cost of renting a moving truck or container if you’re not using full-service movers. A few costs you may want to consider budgeting for include:

  • Packing materials
  • Additional trailer or truck rental costs
  • Moving insurance
  • Gas
  • Food and other necessities for the trip 

3. Update Your Documents

When you move, your primary address changes – which means you’ll need to update all of your important documents with your new, correct address. That means making the change on your driver’s license and registration as well as notifying any important parties of your move, including your phone company, your employer, any loan or insurance providers, the post office and even any magazine subscriptions you might have.

4. Set A Plan For Your Pets

Just like moving can be stressful for us, it may be distressing for our pets as well. If you’re making a long move with pets in tow, make sure you have a plan for where the animals will be at every step of the journey, including where they’ll stay in the new home. Before you leave, you may also want to make sure your furry friends are wearing ID tags and/or are microchipped, just in case. If your pets are anxious, you may want to consult your veterinarian as well to see if they can be prescribed medication that will keep them calm during the trip.

5. Clean The Home

Before you even begin packing your belongings, you may want to clean your house. While this may not seem to make sense at first, since you’ll be moving all your things out anyway, cleaning your house can actually make packing easier. With everything sorted and tidy, you’ll save yourself packing time by knowing where everything is. Cleaning will also help you go through your house and take inventory of everything you own, which can help you understand how much you need in terms of packing materials and how much you have to move. 

6. Sort Your Possessions And Belongings

Once your home is clean, you can start sorting your personal belongings. Sorting clothes, collectibles, dishes, etc. will help you box up your things in a more organized fashion, which will, in turn, make unpacking a lot easier for your future self. As you’re going through all of your items, consider which you’d like to move and which you can live without. The less stuff you have to move, the easier your move will be – so if you don’t need that shirt you haven’t put on since 2007, it might be better off in the discard pile.

7. Get Rid Of Some Of Your Belongings 

As you start breaking your belongings up into “save” and “discard” piles, you should think about what you’re going to do with all the items you no longer want. Rather than simply throwing everything away, consider selling them to earn some extra money during the move. You can also donate old clothes and furniture to local donation centers like Goodwill and The Salvation Army.

Try to get rid of up to half of all your things before the move. While this may sound outrageous, it may actually save you time and effort in the long run. If you’re unsure whether your furniture will fit in with your new house, space- or design-wise, getting rid of it will save you the trouble of potentially moving it for no reason. 

8. Keep Some Essentials With You  

When you’re packing up your belongings, don’t forget to leave out some of your essentials to carry with you during the move. Food, water and a few changes of clothes are a good start. You may also want to consider soap, laundry detergent, blankets, pillows and other things you’ll want right away – because you won’t likely unpack everything at once when you arrive.

9. Start Packing Months In Advance

The last and most important step of preparing for your move is to start early. If you pack everything the night before, you’re likely going to have a disaster on your hands – so it’s a good idea to start sorting and packing everything months before you actually move away. Don’t find yourself panicking the week of your move – get your things sorted well in advance to save yourself the headache.

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Packing Tips For Moving Across The Country

Beyond planning ahead for your move, there may be other things to keep in mind when relocating over a long distance, too. Here are a few of our tips for how to pack your things as safely and efficiently as possible when moving across the country.

Use Sturdy Boxes And Include Packing Materials

When moving a short distance, reusing old boxes, bags and moving supplies isn’t likely a big deal – but when you’re transporting your belongings across multiple states, potentially over 1,000 miles, having sturdy packing materials is a must. You don’t want your stuff to be damaged or lost during the journey, so it’s crucial to make sure you are only using sturdy moving boxes with solid bottoms and sides as well as necessary packing materials like bubble wrap and packing peanuts to hold items in place and prevent breakage. Thoroughly taping or otherwise sealing your boxes before placing them in a truck or other container for transportation is also a good idea to assure nothing falls out. 

Label Boxes Clearly 

When you unpack in your new home, you aren’t likely going to want to re-sort all of your items, so it’s important that you sort them by room and by item category, as mentioned earlier. Once you’ve done that, you’ll also want to make sure your boxes are labelled clearly on the outside. After your boxes are closed and sealed, you won’t know what’s inside, so specific labels are a must. Labeled boxes will save you a lot of trouble by telling you exactly where each box needs to go.

Load Furniture With Lightweight Items

If you’re struggling to find room for everything while loading up a moving truck or container, consider filling up your furniture with lightweight items. Things like dressers, desks and other pieces of furniture with drawers can be filled with clothes and other light items to save space and reduce the number of boxes you’ll need to load.

Ship Possessions

If necessary, you can even ship some of your belongings to your new home via the U.S. Postal Service. This is a great idea for those moving that might have a light enough load to move by themselves, minus a few things they could ship to their home to unpack upon arrival. Clothes and other small items might be easy and fairly affordable to move this way.

Use A Storage Unit 

If the idea of your home being full of boxes for months is stressing you out, you may want to consider getting a storage unit near your new home, temporarily. This will give you a place you can keep boxes while you slowly unpack and find room for everything without filling your home with clutter. According to Move.org, the average storage unit costs $100 – $300 per month to use.

Purchase Moving Insurance

Since you’re moving a long distance, it’s probably a good idea to consider moving insurance. Moving insurance covers loss of or damage to your possessions during a move. If there happen to be any problems or surprises during your move, moving insurance will reimburse you to cover it.

There are many different types of moving insurance you can invest in, but generally you can get it from either a moving company or a third-party company. Moving companies generally offer coverage of items under their care up to a certain dollar limit whereas third party insurance providers might cover things that the moving company wouldn’t have control over or damage to items not inside the moving truck or other method of transport.

When Is The Best Time Of Year To Move Across The Country?

When you’re moving across the country, you should keep in mind that when you move may be just as important as how you go about doing it. Moving in summer may seem like a great idea because the weather is generally favorable across the country, but prices for moving related expenses skyrocket during the summer months since everyone moves at that time. You can save money by moving in the winter months when relocation is less common, but keep in mind that winter weather may be severe in the new location you’re moving to – especially in the Northeast. Trying to move a couch during a blizzard probably won’t be much fun.

That said, spring and fall before May and after September respectively are considered the best times to move for generally favorable weather and lower moving costs.

How Much Does It Cost To Move Across The Country?

The cost of moving across the country can vary widely based on where you’re moving to and from, how you’re moving your stuff, what moving company you choose, etc. In general, however, the average cost of a cross-country move is $2,597 – $6,593, according to HomeAdvisor.

How Long Does It Take To Move Across The Country?

Not counting all the time it takes to pack and prepare for a move, according to Allied Van Lines, a moving company, the average cross country move takes 2 – 5 days. That time frame can vary depending on how long the road trip to a new home takes, of course, but in general, a long-distance move will take less than a week.

The Bottom Line: Plan Ahead And Organize Yourself When Moving Across Country

There’s a lot to remember when you’re moving across the country, from creating checklists to renting moving trucks. Despite all that will be going on, however, it’s also really important to relax, keep calm and let yourself enjoy the journey. Remember that your move is temporary and soon you’ll be enjoying life in a completely new place full of opportunities and new possibilities – and soon, you can kick back and relax in your new home.

Getting ready for your big move? Check out our tips for moving safely during COVID-19.

Sidney Richardson

Sidney Richardson is a professional writer for Rocket Companies in Detroit, Michigan who specializes in real estate, homeownership and personal finance content. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in advertising from Oakland University.