Moving across the country is exciting — so much to look forward to, from the journey to your final destination. It’s also different from any other move you’ll make. The amount of upfront work that’s needed to make it happen without hiccups is extensive. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. In fact, it’s anything but.

Before you pack up your car and head out, learn a few lessons from someone who’s done it before — me — eight years ago, when I moved from Vermont to San Diego.

Pro Tip: PODS makes cross-country moves a cinch. Load up a container, have PODS deliver it to your next home, then unload it all at your own pace. See how PODS can help.

1. Weigh the Cost of Shipping Your Car

One of the biggest pains of moving cross-country is determining whether you should ship, drive, or sell your vehicle. If you lease your vehicle or want to keep it in tip-top shape, shipping your car is likely the best option to avoid exceeding your allotted miles or putting any extra wear and tear on your vehicle. 

PODS is proud to work with two providers for car shipping across the U.S. — Acertus and Mr. Car Shipper. See how moving with PODS and shipping your car works for you

Shipping is possible, but you need to consider the cost, which depends on the vendor you choose. The average cost is $1,150 nationwide in the U.S., according to .

If you want to see the country — definitely a perk of cross-country moving — you can drive yourself to your new home and then trade or sell the vehicle when you get there for extra cash. Or keep it and avoid the expense of buying a new car. There are plenty of sights to see along the way!

A woman who's ready to move cross-country goes job hunting on her laptop.

2. Do Your Career Homework

We’re sure you’ve already done this (it may be your reason for moving in the first place!), but it can be easy to forget important details like whether or not your desired location supports your career industry. For example, if you’re moving to California, you may want to read up on the .

If you already have a set career path, now’s a good time to reach out to recruiters. It can be challenging to secure interviews when you’re still out of the state, but a recruiter will know how to navigate this obstacle and help you secure a position before arriving, if that’s important for you.

3. Get Your Finances in Check

When was the last time you seriously looked at your finances or even checked your credit score? Upon moving to your new home state, your cost of living is guaranteed to change. What you’re used to paying for groceries, rent, gas, and healthcare will likely be drastically different — good or bad.

For example, rent prices are over 115 percent higher in San Diego than in Burlington, Vermont, where I was coming from. You can find the same data (for your own move) by comparing costs of living with . This change was something I wasn’t fully prepared for and it made the first few months challenging.

It’s important to consider your credit score at this point as well, in preparation for renting or buying a home in your new state. Check out for tips on improving your credit score before making any major moving decisions.

A woman holds a box filled with her things that are ready to be donated.

4. Part Ways with Things You Don’t Need

You never realize how much stuff you actually have until the boxes come out and you start packing. Think of packing as an opportunity to get rid of belongings you no longer need and make a fresh start — especially for a move across the country. If you’re not renting a van, you’ll need to fit everything into shipping boxes or your car.

To start, create three separate piles — keep, donate, and sell. This will help you pare down items to what you truly need and want. For things that you plan on selling, use platforms like OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace, which allow you to sell all types of items and conveniently connect with buyers in your area.

5. Pack Your Clothes Strategically

Your clothes can be the hardest items to pack — from winter jackets to shoes, sweaters, and pants — as many of these items are bulky and take up a lot of space. There are only so many boxes you can take on your journey across the country, so packing your wardrobe strategically is key.

Rather than haphazardly throwing a bunch of clothing into boxes, follow some of these expert packing tips:

  • Roll Your Clothes: Rolling clothes not only allows you to travel with clothes wrinkle free, but it’s a huge space saver. Simply roll your items and tuck them into boxes. You’ll be shocked how much more you can fit in each box.
  • Make Use of the Gaps: There will be gaps between the rolled clothes—use these spaces to squeeze in small items like socks and other delicates that don’t need a lot of space. You can also stuff your shoes with socks. This will help them keep their shape in transit.

6. Tap Into Your Network

Chances are you know a family member or friend of a friend who’s lived in your new home state. Leverage your network to help you get ahead before arriving. For example, ask a friend to drive through a neighborhood you’re interested in or to check out an apartment you’ve been eyeing. They can be your eyes and ears before you get there.

7. Save Your Moving Receipts

If you’re moving to a new location due to your current job (or a new job), you may qualify to claim your moving expenses as a deduction on your federal income tax return.

To ensure you have all your ducks in a row come tax season, collect all of your moving receipts and records — e.g. for packing supplies, other shipping costs, and gas or mileage — and keep them organized in a safe place. Learn more about this option at .

8. DON’T FORGET THE LITTLE THINGS

It’s easy to forget the little things when you’re caught up in the excitement and stress of moving to a different state. Before you leave, don’t forget to wrap up these little — albeit important — tasks:

  • Schedule and transfer your utilities
  • Forward your mail
  • Cancel or transfer gym memberships
  • Arrange for key drop-off or transfer
  • Collect all personal records (e.g. medical, veterinarian, school)

9. Be Flexible

You can make endless to-do lists and have 10 different backup plans, but something is almost always guaranteed to go wrong, big or small. Your movers might arrive three hours late or you could get a flat tire in the middle of nowhere.

During these times, it’s important to be flexible and remain calm. Moving cross-country is no easy feat — even for the most organized and prepared individual.

A couple chows down after their cross-country move to their new hometown.

10. Explore Your New Home

Once you’ve unpacked your last box, it’s time for the fun part — exploring your new home. I made a point to say “yes” to everything I was asked to do when I first arrived in San Diego. This helped me make new friends, find fun local spots, and step out of my comfort zone.


Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and has written for a wide variety of publications, including AARP, Reader’s Digest and Lifehack and regularly contributes to The Financial Diet, RE/MAX and Homes.com and more. Follow her on Twitter and connect on .

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