Full length rear view shot of young couple carrying cardboard boxes at new home.

How to Prepare for a Cross-Country Move

Whether you’re relocating for a job or moving to be closer to family, uprooting your home, career, and all your belongings and relocating them thousands of miles away can seem like a daunting task. Rather than getting buried under a mountain of worry and scrambling to meet tight timelines, start breaking down your cross-country move into stages and making progress one item at a time.

The moving checklist below can help you complete monumental tasks by staging them in sensible increments. As you check off boxes, you may also discover a mounting sense of excitement as you get ready to embark on your next adventure.

1. Find a New Home

Of course, any cross-country move starts with securing a new home, whether it’s purchasing a house or a temporary living situation like a rental. This first step also means you’ll either be selling your current home or terminating a rental agreement. Consider any gaps in your relocation plan that might require putting some of your things into storage.

2. Check Out the Neighborhood

Learn as much as you can about your new neighborhood, including crime rates, commuting routes, public transportation, and proximity to essential services like grocery stores and banking. This may help you decide if you want to have a security system installed at your new home or if you’d like to sell one of your vehicles and commit to commuting on public transit. If you have children, you may need to consider registering them now for school or childcare to secure a coveted spot.

3. Make Your Lists and Check Them Twice

Designate a notebook or planner and start making lists. This step is where the ball often gets dropped during cross-country moves. Because you’re so focused on the actual relocation, you might forget to do the menial tasks of transferring your life over to a new address.

Make a detailed list of everything you’ll need to update, transfer, or cancel, and give yourself deadlines. Some things like forwarding mail, scheduling final doctor or dentist appointments, and shutting down utilities can be done before your move, while other items like opening a new bank account and changing your address on credit card bills may have to wait until you’re settled.

4. Secure a Mover

This is one of those times when you want to call in the professionals. Moving cross country is entirely different than transferring your belongings one city over by cramming them into a friend’s trailer or truck. You already have plenty to worry about, and securing a mover who will handle the loading, driving, and unloading will be worth its weight in gold. Not only does it provide the comfort of professionals covered by insurance, but it also frees you up to focus on the thousands of other things that will demand your attention before, during, and after the move.

5. Clean House

The most important cleaning tasks are less about scrubbing down your home and more about going room to room and selling or donating the junk you just don’t use anymore. It’ll make your packing more efficient, and if you have fodder for a big garage sale, you might generate some extra cash to spruce up your new digs.

Garage Sale

6. Get Boxes

You are going to need boxes. Lots of them. You can scavenge for used boxes at a few places, including your local classifieds. If dumpster diving just isn’t your thing, it’s also worth buying boxes in bulk either online or at a local hardware store. Just remember to reduce, reuse, and recycle that cardboard when you reach your destination.

7. Stage Your Packing

Certain rooms like the kitchen and the bathroom need to stay functional until the last stages of your cross-country move, so start by packing items that you won’t need for a while. Keepsakes, photo albums, books, and seasonal clothing can be boxed away first, but also consider décor elements and pictures that you really won’t need. You can also ship some of these items ahead of time to cut down on what can be a hectic last push to clear the house on moving day.

8. Plan Your Journey

Before trekking across the country by car or plane, plan what your route will be and what you’ll need to bring with you. Then purchase plane tickets or map out your driving route, and budget appropriately for expenses like gas, lodging, and food during the journey.

9. Don’t Forget about Your Pets!

If you’ve got fur babies or other animals, you’ll want to make plans now for how to transport them. Whether they’re along for the ride as you drive cross country or traveling cargo on a flight, you can do several things to reduce anxiety for your pets and help transition them to a new home, like updating their chips or tags and getting their records from your vet.

10. Arrive Home

These steps will hopefully cover the most difficult parts of preparing before your journey, but there’s still lots to do at your new home as well. Hire a cleaning company to come in before you arrive so you don’t waste precious time worrying about dust bunnies under the fridge or mildewed bathtubs. Instead of holing up in your new house waist deep in boxes, step out and explore the neighborhood as soon as possible. There will be plenty of time to unpack, but for now, it’s important to enjoy what you’ve accomplished and celebrate the next chapter in your life.

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Sage enjoys teaching, individuals, families, and communities about home maintenance and safety. She loves DIY projects and craftt and in her free time, she enjoys wedding planning, traveling, and learning French.

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