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How to Move Across the Country

February 27, 2019 · 6 minute read

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How to Move Across the Country

Moving is one of life’s most stressful events —and no wonder. Between making sure you bubble wrap your plates perfectly, deciding between movers and a trailer rental, and trying to keep your security deposit, moving cross country could stress even the most relaxed people.

Whether you’re trading Brooklyn’s bagels for Los Angeles’ sunshine or leaving Austin City Limits for Chicago’s Lollapalooza, you’re probably wondering exactly how to move across the country with as little stress as possible.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The Three Rs aren’t just good environmental stewardship, they are essential for planning a big move. Think of it this way: Do you really want to pack up and ship the six half-empty conditioner bottles in the cabinet under your sink?

Moving is a great time to embrace your inner minimalist (or Marie Kondo) and get rid of absolutely everything you don’t need. Not only does minimizing now help you cut down on moving costs, but you also will avoid filling up your new place with meaningless stuff.

Instead of just throwing away unwanted goods, try to find them a new home where they can have a second life. Big-ticket furniture items can be sold on Craigslist to raise a bit of extra money for your moving fund, or donated to a thrift store.

The professional clothes you’re interested in getting rid of could help someone out if donated to a job readiness program. Animal shelters often take donations of old sheets and blankets to make cuddly beds for their charges.

Local freecycle or buy-nothing groups can also be great places to unload unwanted home goods—you never know who has a use for those five dish strainers you’ve somehow accumulated.

Pack Like a Pro

Once you’ve decluttered, it’s time to get packing. Resist the urge to throw everything into a medium-sized box and call it a day. Taking the time to pack up your home like a professional will make moving, and unpacking, a whole lot easier.

First, gather your packing supplies. You’ll want to make sure you have plenty of boxes of varying sizes, several rolls of packing tape, large black markers, scissors, a utility knife, and several types of packing materials, like old newspaper, bubble wrap, and even old rags or sheets.

To pack like a pro, start with non-essentials. The last thing you want is to realize that you accidentally packed all your clean underwear two weeks before you plan on leaving. Seasonal home goods, out-of-season clothes, and rarely used kitchen goods are a good place to start.

Make sure to wrap all fragile items in paper or bubble wrap before putting them in boxes. Plates should be packed next to each other vertically, which helps to prevent breaking . Likewise, adding a layer of crumbled newsprint or packing paper on the bottom of your box can also help prevent breakage.

Aim to keep each box light enough to lift alone, with heavy items on the bottom and lighter items on top. Don’t forget to pack like items together—no one wants to arrive at their new home and find their dishes somehow got packed next to the cat litter box.

Choose Your Mode of Transportation

One of the most challenging parts of planning a cross-country move can be planning the actual transportation. Will you fly and ship your cargo? Hire a moving company to pack everything up and unpack it at your new place? Rent a cargo trailer and make it into a cross-country road trip?

Each option has its benefits and its drawbacks, but choosing the right mode of transportation can help keep your move as stress-free as possible and depending on the mode you choose, could help you keep your budget intact.

The easiest, and usually the most expensive, option is to hire a moving company and let them take care of the details. Using a moving company for a cross-country move can cost almost $5,000 on average, and that can increase with the addition of fuel costs, fees, and insurance.

The benefit to shelling out so much dough up front is that you are only responsible for getting yourself and your family to your new home. The moving company takes care of the rest, which can be a significant relief if you’re short on time or are looking at the prospect of trying to maneuver your couch up three flights of stairs in your new apartment building.

Some moving companies will send someone out to take a look at how much stuff you plan to move with to give a more accurate cost estimate. They may also estimate the weight of the load and calculate how far you plan on moving when giving you the final estimate.

If you’re hiring movers, one way to cut down on cost is to pack and unpack your stuff yourself. If you are hiring movers, go off of personal recommendations, make sure to read reviews, and get a few different quotes before deciding on a moving company.

If hiring movers isn’t in the budget, there are still plenty of options to ensure your beloved record collection arrives safely across the country. If you don’t have any big furniture to move, you may be able to get away with shipping your goods and hopping on a plane with just your essentials.

Shipping your goods as freight can be a budget-friendly option, whether you send them via mail, train, or even take a few boxes as checked baggage on the flight.

The downside is that unless the boxes are traveling on your flight with you, you may end up waiting a while for them at your destination, and, like all mail, there is always a chance things could be lost or damaged during the journey.

Many movers choose to take the DIY route and rent a cargo truck or trailer to haul their worldly possessions. This can be a budget-friendly option, but remember that for all the cost savings, you’ll be putting in a lot more hard work.

You’ll need to pack and load all your boxes and furniture into the trailer yourself. On top of packing, you’ll also have to be comfortable driving the cargo truck or trailer the thousands of miles that lay between you and your destination.

Budgeting for Your Move

Still wondering how to move across the country without going broke? There’s no doubt about it—moving is expensive. And don’t forget to include the additional costs of moving, like a down payment on your new place or first and last month’s rent, and the cost of setting up your new home with all the essentials.

On top of that, moving often coincides with changing jobs, which may mean that you have a few weeks where you are sorely missing your paycheck. All of this makes moving across the country financially draining for many people.

If you know you’ll be moving in the future, you can start saving up now to cover the costs of your big move. Additionally, you can use any money you make selling off unwanted goods to build up your moving fund.

Some people, however, realize they need a little more help in covering the upfront costs of moving across the country. A personal loan can help cover that cost without tanking the rest of your finances.

Personal loans, which are often overlooked when it comes to planning for a big move, may offer a better interest rate and more favorable payoff terms than many credit cards do.

A personal loan is a type of unsecured loan that allows you to pay back the amount owed in installments. You borrow a set amount of money and pay back the debt over a fixed period of time.

Another potential benefit of using a personal loan to cover a cross-country move is the relatively speedy application process.

Online lenders usually review your credit score among other personal financial factors to determine the loan term and rates you qualify for. Some lenders disburse loan funds within a few days. This means that you can spend more time exploring your new home base and less time stressing about paying for your move.

About to embark on a major move? Look into a relocation loan with SoFi to help finance your new adventure!


The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice about bankruptcy.
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