Advice for a cross country move

Dear Home Ec 101,

I wanted to know whether you could offer any advice in preparation for moving. I will be moving across the country in the end of July!


Ivy says:

Moving across the country is a pain. Since you have plenty of time in advance, it won’t be nearly so bad. I’ve made moves both big and small, and while neither are fun, I really, really don’t envy you moving across the country. Unless you live in Lichtenstein or someplace really small.

Now’s the time for a really harsh, critical look at the stuff you own. Don’t move a bunch of crap you don’t want across the country. Get rid of or sell as much stuff as you can. Especially if it’s a big item like furniture. A friend of ours moved from Indiana to California and she said it would have been cheaper just to sell every stick of furniture she owned and buy new when she got to California rather than move it all.

To save space in your moving van, consider mailing your books and DVDs using media mail. Media mail takes awhile for your stuff to get there, but hands down, it’s the cheapest way to move books and DVDs across the country, especially if you’re like me and have tons of books. (Trufax: I only own 8 DVDs.) But make sure you only put books and DVDs in anything you’re shipping via media mail- they do sometimes open the boxes and check.

The US Postal Service has some good moving advice AND you can change your address online! Woot!


  1. Susan on May 3, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    Thanks for all the advice! It was perfect timing since we are moving from Virginia to California on Thursday!!

  2. Amphritrite on May 2, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    I’ve done two cross-country moves and travelled extensively.

    1. PURGE. Not kidding here. If you don’t use it or love it, get rid of it. The more stuff you get rid of, the less you have to move.

    2. Do cost comparisons between having your vehicles shipped vs. driving them. Remember to factor in pre- and post-maintenance and gas.

    3. Choose your moving trucks VERY CAREFULLY if you’re doing a self-move. Some moving companies have wholly unreliable moving vans, complete with bad reports on their equipment and …gasp… crashes.

    4. Pack your boxes full. And I mean stuffed to the brim. Let no open space stay between other objects, because contents shift during moving, and things can get broken.

    5. Always stack the densest and heaviest on the bottom of the stack. This is a bit of a no-brainer, but seriously, so many people forget.

    6. If you’re driving with pets, take them for a test run before doing the actual move. This will give you some insight as to whether the trip will be unhealthy for them. Consult with your vet ASAP to get the best advice for your region.

  3. Jenn on May 2, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    Good luck! We moved from MN to KY about 3 years ago and are now on the verge of another big move.

    Your motto right now should be “lose it or move it.” If you’re hiring movers (and it is so totally worth it!) you pay per pound. Forget about size, think weight. Be sure to make some sort of inventory of anything you donate for tax purposes. We take photos. And sometimes moving expenses are tax deductable.

    take a box that will fit in your car and pack: bedding for all beds you sleep in, a couple towels, soap, shampoo, dish soap, a few dishes, etc. Also pack suitcases for a weekend trip. All this should go in your car. This stuff will see you through the first few days of unpacking. Nothing like not being able to sleep until you find the box with the sheets.

    Wardrobe boxes are worth every penny. See if your movers have some or if you can buy them used. Join freecycle and other local organizations to start collecting moving boxes.

    Once you start serious packing you need to accept that this is no longer your home. Doing this mentally frees you up to put the packed boxes wherever they need to be vs hidden in the corners.

  4. Connie on May 2, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Just to clarify, the cats weren’t in the crate in the car during the day and a half that we were packing the car and the van. :-X

  5. Connie on May 2, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    Wow I almost could’ve written that post a year ago. I moved from Minnesota to Florida mid-July last year. My mom drove her minivan up from TN to help. We packed the sentimental stuff that I had to keep but didn’t necessarily need with me in her van to go back to her house in TN, to meet up with me later. We packed the most essential stuff in my compact car: cats, clothes, laptop, cell phone. Then we stuffed the car full of whatever was the next highest priority. Once that was packed, we stuffed the van full of as much of the other stuff I wanted to take that would fit. The rest went to a friend of mine in MN who was going to use some of it and sell some of it at a garage sale. About a month before I moved, I posted ads on Craigslist in the city where I was moving to, and I got all kinds of offers for free stuff. I had my apartment furnished with really decent second-hand furniture within about 2 weeks of moving in.

    The hardest part of the move was driving for 8 hours a day for 3 days with 2 cats in a crate in the backseat. They were on sleeping pills, but they still woke up and cried. A lot. If I didn’t have them with me, and if my brother’s and parents’ houses weren’t conveniently placed at 8-hour intervals on the route, I could’ve done the drive in 2 12-hour days.

    A couple of months after I got settled, I went to TN for the weekend to see my parents and load up the car with (almost) the rest of my stuff.

  6. Stretch Mark Mama on May 2, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Another thing to consider in the “only move what you love” is the replacement value of such things. We just moved cross-country and with some things we didn’t like, it still was cheaper to move them than to replace them.

    Also consider flying your family versus driving (that is, if you have small kids). It may sound expensive, but when you add up hotel, food, insanity–driving can be just as long and expensive.

  7. Jenn @ Frugal Upstate on May 2, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    I moved a ton of times when I was in the military. One thing we always did was hand carry documents that you can’t afford to lose-birth certificates, marriage certificates, medical records, passports etc.

    Also, I was always anal about having them mark the serial number of electronics on the inventory sheet. Again, I never had anything stolen, but I did have friends who had TVs, Stereos etc come up missing.

  8. Pam on May 2, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Only two suggestions #1 If you move yourself make sure to lable the boxes at least with the name of the room you want the contents to go ie “kitchen” or “bathroom” and those are the two I unpack first. Avoid “misc” on anything….you think you can remember but trust me you can’t (smile). #2 If you hire a mover get a couple of quotes…..tell them you want quotes NOT estimates…..get a firm pick-up and delivery date……make sure there is insurance and penalties for damage and late arrival. Make sure they are insured to go cross country. God Bless, Pam, South Bend

  9. Michelle on May 2, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    We have made multiple moves, both from Canada to California, and then criss-crossing across the U.S several times. I have piled all of my aquired moving knowledge together into one blog post, with the hopes that it will help others. It is a LONG post, but it contains every piece of preparation, packing, and unpacking advice that I have gained through my school-of-hard-knocks experiences. Perhaps something in this post will help On The Move.