December 22, 2009

How to Move Across the Country


Well it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of moving around the country. Since graduating college, I’ve moved around the country a few times as you can see in the map above.

I’ve learned quite a few things about moving over the last few years and wanted to share my advice with anyone planning (or thinking about) a big move. Keep in mind that I did not using a moving company at all so these are all tips based on moving yourself (it’s more fun this way).

Choose Where To Move

This one is completely up to you. If you’re moving for the fun of it, I suggest picking a place that has a lot to do that you enjoy. If you like warm weather, head south. If you like snow, head for the mountains. You can also try Find Your Spot, which is a cool website that makes recommendations for you.

My move to Hawaii and Austin had a little to do with my results from this website.

Choose A Method Of Transportation

Once you know where you are moving, it is important research how to get there. When I moved to Hawaii, flying was the most obvious method of transportation. I suppose I could have taken a boat but I doubt it would have been cost effective.

When I booked the flight, I made sure to take advantage of cheap flying days like Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Try and avoid the weekend flights as they are often more expensive.

If you’re moving somewhere within driving distance, it’s also important to figure out if you will drive your own vehicle versus renting a moving truck/trailer. See the next tip for more details about making this decision.

Choose What To Take With You

This is the most important aspect of moving. Why? Because it can also determine your method of transportation. When I moved to Austin, my girlfriend and I decided on renting a moving truck. We jammed everything we owned inside it and headed on our way. It ended up costing around 800 bucks, but don’t forget the extra cost of gas involved with taking a truck.

With our recent move to Florida, we decided to do the opposite. We liquidated all of our furniture and large items on Craigslist and managed to cram everything left into the car. I must say, it was much better riding in a car across the country and saved us a ton of money on gas and rental fees.

We managed to furnish our entire place for about the same price as a truck. However, we were able to buy new items that we actually wanted and got rid of a lot of the old clutter we had back in Austin.

I honestly think the best way to approach your stuff is by going through EVERYTHING and removing anything that is not important (or necessary). It’s also a good idea to remove cheaper items that can easily be replaced when you get to your new home. There’s no reason to make room for toilet paper if it requires you to leave something more expensive behind.

Choose A Move Date

This is another important aspect of moving. Different dates can result in different prices for things like airfare and truck rental. If you are flexible on your dates, I suggest picking a move date where you can get a truck or plane ticket for the cheapest.

If you are driving your own vehicle, the date does not matter as much. Obviously it would be nice to move at a time when gas prices are down, but this can be tricky to plan for. The best thing you can do is avoid moving during holidays since gas prices tend to increase.

Get Packed

This is probably the most stressful part of moving. It always takes a few attempts to get everything to fit in your car or moving truck. If you’re attempting to fit everything in your vehicle, I highly recommend packing your trunk as tight as possible. The more stuff you can get in it, the less stuff you have to deal with in the car while driving. We managed to get a ton of stuff in the trunk, though it did take some work to get everything seated right so the trunk would latch shut.

If you’re going by plane, you need to be VERY efficient in terms of packing. I rolled all my clothes and even vacuum sealed some of the larger ones when I moved to Hawaii. I literally had to fit everything into two suitcases, which was rather difficult.

If a moving truck is the best method for you, think about getting a truck one size smaller than you require. Why? Not only will it be cheaper and use less gas, but it will also force you to get rid of a few of those items you just can’t see yourself without.

Choose Your Route

If you’re driving, it’s important to plan out your route to ensure that you make it to your new home. Whatever you do, do not reply on Google maps as your only guide. I suggest printing out directions, but also mapping out the drive on a map or in a atlas. If you don’t have one, you can get a huge one for about 6 bucks at Target (or a book store).

If you’re flying, make sure to double-check your flights, times, and any other important information before you go to the airport.

Make A Plan For When You Arrive

This is one of the things a lot of people overlook. It’s VERY helpful to plan ahead and figure out what you are going to do once you arrive at your new location. When I moved to Hawaii, I only had a hotel for a few nights and no idea where I was going to live or what I was going to do for work. Luckily it all worked out in the end but it probably would have been a little easier if I had planned ahead.

If you are renting or buying a house, I highly recommend finding a short-term housing situation. When we made our move from Phoenix to Austin, we rented an apartment without actually looking at in person. This resulted in us living in an apartment that wasn’t the best option.

We learned from that mistake and booked a weekly rental here in Florida before we left Texas. There are plenty of hotels and suites available by the week. We managed to find one on Craigslist that even allowed our dog to stay with us. This gave us the freedom of going around and looking at rental units before signing a lease. I must say, this was much, much better than leasing ahead of time.

In terms of work, I’m lucky enough to be able to bring my job with me. If you can’t work remotely, make sure to scope out Craigslist and other job sites prior to moving. I also suggest apply for jobs before you get there, that way you can land a few interviews right away.

Take Care Of Any Loose Ends

The last step before leaving is to take care of any loose ends. Make sure to cancel any cable/internet services, as well as your electricity. It’s also important to do a walk-through if you are leaving an apartment behind. This will save you from making any unexpected payments for any damages you might have caused.

Mail is also something you have to take care. There are a few options available to you to help make the move easier. You can put a hold your mail until you finish moving or forward it to a family member or friend if you prefer.

Once you get a new place to live, you can hop on the USPS website and submit a change of address. This should override the mail hold or change you put in place prior to moving. You should receive a notice in the mail if everything goes through as planned.

Make The Move!

Finally, it’s time to make the move across the country. Remember, the journey is the best part of all. If you have time, don’t hesitate to stop along the way and check stuff out if you’re driving.

Once you arrive at your new home, you can start your plan that you made prior to moving. Start hunting down a place to live if you need to and look at as many places as possible. Scope out the neighborhoods, especially at night to get a good idea of what you are dealing with.

Then it’s just a matter of unpacking, setting up various services like internet and electricity, and making sure you get mail to your new address.

If you have any other tips to help make moving easier, feel free to leave them in a comment below.

13 thoughts on “How to Move Across the Country

  1. CouchSurfingOri

    What a great and comprehensive post. Most people are just scared to move, you’re all over the place… which is probably why we get along 🙂 Heck… you covered more things than I took care of before getting on the road.

    I’ll have to hit you up in Florida. My folks live in Boca Raton, so I visit every so often.

      1. Meg

        We are planning to move from Maine to Melbourne FL in eighteen months. I wanted to ask if you’ve had any luck with insurance companies for car and home down there and if you have any suggestions. Would you please reply to my email address? Thanks.

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  3. Jeff

    Hey Justin,
    Nice write up. I like the way you explain moving using your own experiences. You’ve inspired me to put more of myself into my sites. Thanks.

  4. Alexis

    Thanks so much for the info. I’m recently out of college myself, and I’m looking to move across the country (and out of my house) for the first time. I’ve been looking for information about apartment rentals for a while now.

    We had no idea how we were going to find a place without being able to look at the rooms, so the idea of the weekly hotel would help us tremendously.

  5. Readyforastart

    Your information is helpful thanks for sharing.

    Does anyone have any advise for me, I’ve never moved or done anything unless I absolutely had to. Now I’m wanting to move to the west coast because I want to and frightened to death. Any pointers as to a job search, apartment search. I am hoping to save as much money as I can before moving but I know if I don’t set a date for myself another 10 years will pass.

    Thx for listening….

  6. boca-raton movers

    I do trust all of the ideas you have presented to your post. They’re very convincing and can definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are very brief for beginners. May you please extend them a bit from next time? Thank you for the post.

  7. Pam

    We will be moving in a couple of months from Florida to California. Any advise on a portable moving company…PODS, UPACK etc.

    1. Adam

      PODS and services like those are really expensive. Even for people that have a good income it can be a really high rate (like thousands of dollars for a small cargo container).

      You’ll generally be better of getting rid of as much as you can before hand. Sell what you can on Craigslist and buy what you need when you get there. I tend to live on the more minimal side, so that appeals to me, but I think it’s a good idea in general.

      I moved from Washington to NY this way and it worked out real well. I mailed most of the books I wanted to keep (actually fairly cheap) and packed the rest in my car. When I got to NY I bought some furniture.

  8. David Johnson

    Thanks Justin! This is a great guide for moving across the country. Hiring cross country movers can be expensive, but they definitely make life a lot easier. If you plan to move yourself, its always a good idea to downsize as much as possible before the move. Get rid of all that junk you’ve been hoarding or that exercise equipment you never use. Sell it off on Ebay or Craigslist or donate it to charity. Visit my page for more money saving tips if you’re planning to move across the country…you’ll thank me later! 😉

  9. Moving Across Country

    Great moving tips! The key to a successful move is planning and organization. I recommend loading up on music and podcasts before the move so you have plenty of audio to get you through the drive. I really like your “clearing up any loose ends” section because a lot of people forget to do that. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve moved that forgot to forward their address and missed bills, paychecks, and more. You have a lot of sound advice on this post, and I plan on sharing this with my Google+ community!


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