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A woman celebrates her successful cross-country move

11 Tips For Moving Cross-Country From Someone Who Did It

Long-Distance Moves

by Jessica Thiefels Posted on April 26, 2023

Moving cross-country is so exciting and nerve-wracking! There's a lot to look forward to, from the overall journey to your final destination and every detail in between. It’s also different from any other move you’ll make. The amount of upfront work needed to make it happen without hiccups is extensive. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. In fact, it’s anything but. All you need is some prep work, a few tried and true tips for moving cross-country, and a bit of good luck, and you’ll be unpacking your boxes in your new home in no time.

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

You probably have so many questions swirling in your head about moving cross-country — especially if it's your first time. And I’m betting a lot of those questions are about money. Well, the hard truth is that moving requires plenty of money, so you must carefully plan to maximize your savings. 

Wondering “How do I start moving across the country?Start by using one of the best tools for moving — a cost calculator like Movebudda.com. It will help you decide how much money you should save for moving services. You can plug in your departure and destination cities and the size of your home, and it will pop out price ranges for professional movers, moving containers, and rental trucks. Then, you can get to work on your moving plan.

Q: What is the cheapest month to move cross-country?
A: Your most cost-effective months to move are November and December. But if the holidays are too important to mess with, there’s actually a less-expensive moving season that traditionally runs from late September through April. Keep in mind, however, that pandemic and work-from-home trends have changed a lot of “what used to be,” and your locations dictate costs, too. See if you can squeak out a little more savings by asking your moving company if there are less-expensive days to move, like midweek versus Friday and Saturday. 

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

1. 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 Fastest Growing Industries in California.

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.

Keep in mind, some companies include a relocation package as part of their hiring or recruiting process. Moving is expensive, and choosing a company willing to move you on their dime could alleviate the stress and financial burden associated with moving cross-country. 

Upon moving to your new home state, your cost of living is guaranteed to change.

2. 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 were 115 percent higher in San Diego than in Burlington, Vermont, (where I was coming from) when I made the move. You can find the same data (for your own move) by comparing costs of living with Numbeo’s Cost of Living Comparison calculator. 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 myFICO’s guide for tips on improving your credit score before making any major moving decisions.

3. Find and Keep a Moving Checklist

Cross-country moves have a lot of moving parts, Like, a lot. And the process begins earlier than you think. Waiting 'till the eleventh hour is a surefire way to pay way more than you need to, take on additional stress you don't need, and risk your move taking longer than you want.

That's where a moving checklist, like this one from PODS, comes in handy. It will break down everything you need, step by step, from eight weeks before moving day to unpacking the last box.

4. 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.

Having someone on the ground to give you opinions about local schools and community culture before you arrive is always a good idea. Your network is also an excellent resource for finding a real estate agent or a home services professional like an electrician. 

A woman is sitting in her living room at the coffee table, using her laptop to browse real estate and rental websites online. She is searching for housing before moving cross-country.

5. Search for Housing 

It's tough to look for a house to buy long distance without a real estate agent (many help with rentals, too), so spend time connecting with people you might know in your new town, either from work or in online groups associated with neighborhoods and communities you're targeting. They’re eager to share real estate agent recommendations. Or if you’re scrolling at home, big real estate websites like Realtor.com are filled with reviews and contact information, so you can quickly get in touch. If you’re not ready to talk with an agent, you can get a solid city overview using Niche.com

Home Buying
After you’ve reviewed your finances and credit report and the numbers look good, the next step is to tally up the costs of buying a house. Don’t worry if math isn’t your thing; a real estate agent and mortgage lender will lay all the numbers out, so you can understand the process. 

Here’s the reality check: If you want to buy a house, you’ll have to pad your savings for a down payment, home inspection, closing costs, and immediate home improvements. Later, you’ll need cash for repair emergencies, maintenance, and the nice-to-have stuff, like new furniture. You’ll eventually get the Heman Miller office chair of your dreams! 

Home Renting
Sometimes renting is more affordable and flexible — especially if you don’t know exactly where you’d like to land permanently in a big city like San Diego. Like home buyers, you’ll need a stack of money upfront before moving in. You can count on paying the first and last month's rent, security deposit, pet deposit, and sometimes pet rent. Use a resource like RentCafe to help you plan your rental budget and find an apartment that makes you smile. If you prefer a rental house, check out Zillow or Hotpads to search for a property with everything you need.

6. 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. 

Insider Tip: 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 HomeAdvisor. The costs vary, depending on your location, type of vehicle, and if you choose an open-air or closed-transport container.

Also, note that professional shipping companies will not let you store any items in your car while in transport. I know what you're thinking — you can’t try and save money by filling your car to the max with household goods. 

If you want to see the good ‘ole U.S. of A. up close (definitely a perk of moving cross-country), 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 is holding a cardboard box filled with clothing that is ready to be donated.

7. 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 when moving across the country. If you’re struggling to part with items, remember that everything you keep costs money to move. The more stuff you have, the more boxes you need, the more it weighs, the more space it requires, and the more you pay. 

To start the purge process, here’s one of the best tips for moving cross-country: Create three separate piles in each room — keep, donate, and sell. This system 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. Don’t forget about good old-fashioned yard sales, too. They do the trick when you’re short on time. 

Or, if you prefer to donate, choose a service like Pick Up Please (Vietnam Veterans of America) Habitat for Humanity, The Salvation Army, or Goodwill. They will all pick up your items for free. 

8. 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 “moving cross-country tips” from PODS packing experts.

  • 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.

9. Save Your Moving Receipts

If you're moving cross-country 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 TurboTax.

10. 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
  • Adjust insurance needs 
  • Forward your mail
  • Change package and food delivery service address 
  • Cancel or transfer gym memberships
  • Arrange for key drop-off or transfer
  • Collect all personal records (e.g., medical, veterinarian, school)

11. 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 is chowing down on hamburgers and draft beers at a local restaurant in their new city after completing a cross-country move

12. 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.

Want additional tips on moving long-distance? Check out more from the PODS Blog!

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, Homes.com, and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.

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