How to Prepare for a Cross-Country Move: 10 Expert Tips

Is a long-distance move in your foreseeable future? A cross-country relocation requires adequate preparation months before the actual move. Everything from choosing a preferred state, town and county to apartment hunting or buying a new home involves in-depth research and thoughtful planning.

You’re likely seeking a place with a reputable school district, employment opportunities, plenty of leisure activities, an efficient transit system, low crime rates, a welcoming community and affordable living. Getting this information requires proactive research, and the actual move is no different. Several logistics must pan out to successfully move your belongings, family and pets from one end of the country to another.

Here are 10 tips to help you prepare for a cross-country move without losing your sanity, finances or possessions.

1. Start Planning Early

Begin to determine the logistics of moving to your new location well in advance of the move. There are many factors to consider, including:

  • Distance: How far is your new location from your current location? Choose the most appropriate and cost-effective transportation, estimate fuel costs, and organize rests and stops once you know the length of the journey.
  • Practicality: Long-distance moves can be too burdensome and expensive to handle alone. You may have to vet several moving companies. Early preparation allows you to figure out whether you can take on the work yourself or if you’ll need to hire a moving company.
  • Finances: Creating a plan enables you to estimate costs ahead of time and have a feasible budget for every task or service. This way, you can avoid overspending or being surprised by unexpected costs.
  • Timelines: Nobody wants to experience running out of time during the already-stressful process of moving. To avoid this, each task before, during and after your cross-country move should be given an appropriate time frame in which it can comfortably be completed.
  • Resources: Have plenty of cardboard boxes, bubble wrap, packing tape and other essential moving equipment on hand to safely store your belongings, furniture and delicate possessions during transit.

2. Choose the Right Moving Season

Moving is expensive during peak season if you opt to hire a moving company. Busy seasons include holidays and the months between April and September. As demand for moving companies increase during these periods, so do their prices. Therefore, plan accordingly.

3. Evaluate All Your Options

A cross-country move is expensive. Before moving, you have to ascertain that your finances are in order. Come up with a plan and budget that ensures you can comfortably afford the move.

  • Set aside funds for packaging and storage.
  • Plan to hire extra hands to package, load and unload your belongings if needed.
  • Make sure all your insurance payment requirements and adjustments are up-to-date.
  • Consider the size dimensions of the container or moving truck.
  • Include other traveling costs—for instance, your belongings may move by road, but you may need air travel to get to your destination on time. If this is the case, factor in spending during layovers.
  • If you are moving for work-related purposes, you might be able to have your employer cover the moving expenses.
  • If you are working with a moving company, ask for a cost estimate for the move. Interstate companies charge based on the weight of your cargo and travel distance. Other additional charges include service complexity and type of insurance coverage.

Consider your options thoroughly in order to make a decision that will save you time and energy. Hiring a truck and container yourself may be cheap, but it is time-consuming and labor-intensive. Take time to prioritize your finances for a cost-effective long-distance move that works for you.

4. Create a Moving Schedule

A schedule enables you to handle every item on your list at the right time. As you plan your move, document all moving tasks and responsibilities in chronological sequence. Be sure to allocate plenty of time for each task on your list, and check that you’ve considered every necessary step along the way.

5. Declutter

Long-distance moving trucks have a weight limit for cargo during transit. You will get charged per ton if you hire a moving company. Therefore, the cost of the cross-country move can go up if you have more possessions. You can reduce this expense by downsizing. Have a yard sale and make a few bucks in the process, or donate some things to charity. You can fill out an IRS form for tax deductions for non-monetary donations. You can also gift your friends and family lightly used items.

Discard things you will not use again to keep your cargo light. If you cannot reduce your valuable belongings, you can consider short-term or long-term storage options within your current location. You can then move your items once you have your finances sorted.

6. Document Your Possessions

An inventory list helps you account for all your possessions, primarily if the move is handled by a third-party company. Maintain a list of each item in your belongings for record-keeping. Have photos and videos of your furniture, valuables and other possessions in order to verify the condition of your belongings after the move. Note if there is any new wear and tear after the move, as insurance covers damages to your possessions that occur during transit.

7. Gather All Legal Documents

You need several legal documents before embarking on a long-distance move. Additionally, be sure to safely store all other important documentation such as birth certificates, passports, adoption papers, school records or wedding certificates.

  • Moving permit: Whether you are relocating on your own or hiring a moving company, this document gives you parking space access and permission to use interstate highways.
  • Bill of landing: This document is a legally binding contract between you and the moving company if you opt to hire one.
  • Order of service: Documents the moving cost estimates, pick-up and delivery dates, and other services paid for the long-distance move.
  • Inventory documentation: When you hire a moving company, you will get an exhaustive inventory of all your belongings before the move.
  • A copy of Your Rights and Responsibilities:The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires moving companies to provide this document illustrating how you may raise any complaints or queries in case you run into any issues.
  • IRS Tax Deduction forms: If you are moving for work purposes, you can fill out IRS Form 3903 for moving expense deductions.
  • Pet health certificate: Many states require a health certificate for pets. Keep your vaccination certificates, rabies tags and pet passports safely secured.

8. Sort Out Your Services, Utilities and Insurance Policies

Don’t forget to transfer your personal property insurance. Your insurance provider may have different plans for your new rental or property. Therefore, ensure the coverage is sufficient.

You will also need to cancel services and utilities in your current location and set them up in your new home. Additionally, change your mailing address with the United States Postal Service. Doing these tasks before the move is essential to ensure you have a functioning home once you arrive. Plus, the stress-free transition will give you peace of mind.

9. Consider Hiring a Moving Company

A cross-country move is not easy, especially for first-time long-distance travelers. There are rules and regulations, new roads to tread and numerous logistics. For a successful move, you likely need to:

  • Hire or buy a heavy-duty truck
  • Hire or purchase a moving container for storing your belongings during transit
  • Service and fuel the vehicles
  • Find additional help from friends and family to package, haul, load and unload your possessions
  • Have all legal paperwork for the transit
  • Get insurance to cover losses and damages during the long-distance move
  • Pay and manage all relocation responsibilities

A moving company can do all these tasks and more at a reasonable cost, as they provide their own heavy-duty trucks for long-distance travel as well as packaging materials for every type of item. They can safely transport fragile or special cargo such as musical instruments, valuable collectibles and glass items. Your payment will also include insurance against transportation risks as well as fuel and servicing costs.

A moving company’s experience traversing most routes in the country makes it easy to factor in logistics while in transit, such as time estimations and accommodation, and they will handle most of your legal documents, as well.

10. Get Moving

Planning a cross-country move can be cumbersome. However, it is also rewarding. A solid plan makes the moving process much more sustainable and cost-effective. Start planning at least four to six months before the move to ensure everything is in place during transit.

Moving companies have the resources, experience and expertise to tackle long-distance moves. They reduce your work and responsibilities during the move, enabling you to settle quickly into your new home. Working with a reputable company also allows for a smooth transition. You can choose between moving companies by comparing their prices and deliverables.

Due diligence is essential for a cost-effective cross-country move. Start creating the right plan for your upcoming long-distance move today.

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