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How to Prepare for a Cross Country Move

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There are a lot of reasons you might be moving cross-country. You might have a new job waiting, or perhaps it’s for personal reasons, like a relationship. Since more companies are letting employees work remotely indefinitely, you could be planning a move to a more affordable location.

Regardless of the whys behind your move, how do you prepare for such a big undertaking? You’ll have to sell your current home or deal with ending your lease, find a new place to live, and maybe sell your current car unless you’re going to drive it or have it shipped. These are just a few of the things you have to keep in mind.

The following are general things to remember as you prepare for a big move.

Create a strategy

To avoid getting overwhelmed too close to your actual moving day and also to help make sure you’re covering all your bases, create a strategy well in advance. Your moving strategy should start with a checklist of everything you need to do, along with at least a general timeline of when you’ll have these things done.

Create a calendar that you can easily update and change, preferably in digital format. Then, you can break down the shorter-term tasks that have to be done in a particular window of time.

You should also prioritize your moving tasks as you’re strategizing.

The more time you give yourself to get ready, the better. Don’t underestimate how much time you’re going to need ultimately. It’s much better to overestimate.

Start planning at least eight weeks ahead of your actual move, if not more.

When you have adequate time, you’ll feel calmer, and you’ll be able to think things through more clearly if something doesn’t go according to plan.

Visit your new home if possible

If you’re going to be making a big move, it’s a good idea to visit your new home after securing it, at least once. This will be a time when you might get to know the neighborhood a bit. You can also start to think about how your belongings could fit there, or potentially not fit.

You’ll get a better idea of what you might need to get rid of before moving and what’s worth keeping.

If you have kids, maybe you’ll visit the school they’re going to, and you can scope out things like supermarkets and gas stations.

Decide if you’ll hire movers

Movers for a cross-country relocation will be expensive, but a lot of people find the price to be well worth it. Long-distance moves are tough to try and do on your own, and there’s a high likelihood something can go wrong, or often many somethings. This will get expensive, so the movers might be the better financial decision in the long run.

When you’re hiring cross-country movers, remember:

  • Some companies are full-service. If you’re willing to pay, they’ll do everything essentially for you. You can even opt for packing services. The movers will load the van and drive your belongings to your new home. Once there, they’ll unload the items, unpack and get rid of the packing materials.
  • Another option is to use a container service if you have a lot of belongings. A container service may work fine for you, but you’re going to have to do most of the heavy lifting yourself, literally and figuratively. With a container service, there’s also a higher chance of your items being damaged.
  • When you’re deciding on movers or the services they’ll provide, it’s going to come down to whether you prioritize saving time or saving money.
  • If you hire movers, make sure they’re licensed and insured. Get multiple written estimates and ask about insurance and the associated costs.

What about moving containers?

We briefly mention moving containers above as a potential alternative to a full-service moving company.

A container company will bring the containers to your home. You load them, and then the company transports them. You also have to unload the container once it arrives, and when you’re finished, the company picks the container up again.

If you have a timing issue, many container companies will store it at a warehouse until you’re ready to unpack it.

Things to add to your checklist

While we’ve touched on some above, other things to make sure you include on your moving checklist are:

  • Talk to the companies that provide your utilities like cable, electricity, water, and gas. Let them know you’re moving and set a date where your service will be canceled. Find a utility company in your new area, and try to arrange it so that you can have these services connected and ready as soon as you move in.
  • You should change your address with the Postal Service around a month before you move. You can do this online at the USPS website. You will choose when you want to start forwarding mail.
  • If you decide professional movers are right for you, book them as soon as possible. Winter tends to be the cheapest time to move, while spring and summer are the most in-demand and as such, also the most expensive.
  • If you have pets, consider how you’ll relocate them. Pets tend to get stressed out by moves. You’re going to have them in a carrier during your cross-country move, whether in a car or on a plane, so start getting them used to it ahead of time. You should also get their health records and documents together from their current vet and find a new one before moving.

Finally, once you’re about two weeks out from your move, it’s time to really start focusing on downsizing and cleaning—the fewer things you take with you, the better. If you haven’t used something in around six months, consider getting rid of it. This will not only make the move itself but also cleaning and unpacking in your new home much more manageable.

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