How to Move Across the Country

By Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow · July 06, 2023 · 7 minute read

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How to Move Across the Country

Moving can be stressful. Making sure your fragiles are packed so they don’t break, deciding on a DIY move or hiring professional movers, managing security deposits or down payments on both ends of the move — moving cross country could overwhelm even the most relaxed person.

But there are steps you can take ahead of time to help make the process go more smoothly.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The three Rs aren’t just good environmental stewardship — they’re also essential for planning a cross-country move.

After all, moving is a great time to embrace your inner minimalist and get rid of absolutely everything that’s no longer needed. Not only does decluttering help cut down on moving costs, it also helps you avoid filling up the new place with meaningless stuff.

Instead of just throwing away unwanted goods, trying to find them a new home might give them a second life. Furniture items can be sold online or in consignment stores to raise a bit of extra money for the moving fund, or they can be donated to a thrift store.

Professional clothes that are no longer worn could help someone 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.

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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 the subsequent 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.

Start by packing up non-essentials, like seasonal home goods, out-of-season clothes, and rarely used kitchen goods.

Make sure to wrap all fragile items in paper or bubble wrap before putting them in boxes. Plates can be packed next to each other vertically, which helps 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 similar items together. No one wants to arrive at their new home and find their dishes somehow got packed next to the cat’s litter box.

Recommended: 21 Items That You Can Recycle for Money

Choose Your Mode of Transportation

One of the most challenging parts of planning a move across the country — or even to another state — can be planning the actual transportation. Will you fly, and then ship your cargo to your new home? Hire a moving company to pack everything up and unpack it at your new place? Rent a cargo trailer and drive across the country?

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

Hire a Moving Company

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 between $2,000 and $8,000. That figure can rise when you add in fuel costs, fees, and insurance.

Some moving companies will send someone out to take a look at how much stuff you plan to move 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 expenses is to pack and unpack your stuff yourself. Asking for personal recommendations, reading online reviews, and getting a few different quotes before deciding on a moving company can help you get the best company for your needs.

Ship Your Belongings

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 more affordable 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.

Rent a Truck or Trailer

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 hundreds or thousands of miles that lie between you and your destination.

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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 could be without a paycheck. All of this makes moving across the country financially draining for many people.

If you know you’ll be moving in the future, saving up now and using any money you make selling unwanted goods can be a good way 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. When you need quick cash for your move, a relocation loan can be an option worth exploring, as some lenders disburse loan funds within a few days. The money can cover a wide range of moving costs, from deposits to storage to professional movers, transportation, and even hotel stays.

A personal loan may offer lower interest rates than many credit cards do and, unlike a credit card, a personal loan is not revolving credit. That means the loan is for a set amount of money and paid back over a fixed period of time.

Recommended: Get Your Personal Loan Approved

The Takeaway

Moving across the country can be overwhelming, but there are ways to help make the process feel less stressful. Getting rid of things you no longer want or need is a good place to start. Just as important is how you plan on transporting your belongings to your new home. Hiring movers is generally considered the easiest option, though it tends to also be the most expensive. If you’re looking to keep expenses down, you may decide to ship your items or rent a truck and drive them across the country yourself.

As you’re creating your moving budget, be sure to factor in the cost of setting up your new home. This may include the down payment or security deposit on your new place and paying for groceries, new furniture, and other essentials.

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