Planning a cross-country move can be both an extremely exciting and a highly stressful time in your life.
As you prepare to make your move, it is crucial to have a plan of action for all your essential moving tasks. This can include everything from researching moving companies to setting up utility accounts and cleaning your former home.
In this ultimate checklist, we cover all of your key tasks leading up to your move. Keep reading to gain the organization you need ahead of your move across the country and access our free downloadable checklist.
Eight Weeks Before Move-Out Day
At eight weeks or roughly two months before your official move-out day is when you should begin ensuring you have all of your ducks in a row.
Planning ahead will save you a lot of stress and headaches down the road, especially when it comes to securing rental trucks, travel accommodations, and any other expenses you may encounter.
Here are 7 key tasks to add to your eight-week to-do list:
1. Create a Moving House File or Folder
To keep things as organized as possible, your first task is to create a moving file or folder.
This can be a physical folder you keep on hand or a digital file stored on your computer. In this file or folder, you can not only keep track of your moving tasks but also compare different moving options, such as renting a moving truck versus hiring a moving company. Be sure to download our free moving checklist to include in your file.
Additionally, you should use this file or folder to make a list of and research all the things you will need to accomplish once you have moved, such as:
- Getting set up with a new primary care provider and/or dentist
- Finding a reputable veterinarian
- Researching local mechanics and other auto service providers
- Information on different school districts and schools in the area
Having all of this information stored in a central location will make your life far easier, as things can get rather hectic when planning a major move.
2. Decide on a Moving Budget
Moving can be a costly endeavor, especially when you plan to move several states away. Creating a moving budget will help you decide how much money to set aside and be more prepared when the time comes to spend it.
Key expenses to be mindful of when creating your moving budget include:
- Rentals or Moving Companies: The two main ways to move across the country are to either rent moving equipment and haul your belongings yourself or to hire a professional moving company. With either, the costs can vary significantly depending on which companies you work with.
- Boxes and Storage: Along with moving your belongings, you must also box and store them securely to prevent any unwanted damage. Some people choose to purchase or rent shipping containers which are then shipped to their new location if they have many belongings.
- Travel Expenses: Whether you are driving or flying, you will have travel expenses to account for. Although flights may seem more expensive up front, keep in mind that driving will require greater spending on gas, food, and sleeping accommodations along the way.
- Registration Fees: When you move to a new state, there are many changes to your legal documents (licenses, license plates, vehicle registration, voter registration, etc.). Make sure to research both how to accomplish these changes and how much they cost in your new location.
- New Furnishings: For many people, the task of moving every single belonging is not worth the trouble. If this is your mindset, you may choose to sell or donate your larger belongings — like beds and couches — and purchase new furnishings once you arrive.
According to 2022 data from HomeAdvisor, the total cost of a cross-country move can range from $2,680 to $6,928, with the national average sitting right around $4,700.
Of course, this price can vary depending on what moving resources you opt for and the associated costs. HomeAdvisor further reports that professional long-distance movers range on average between $4,000 to $10,000, though this is only an average. You can find both cheaper and more expensive options the more research you do.
With this in mind, let’s now move into your third task — researching cross-country moving companies.
3. Research Cross Country Movers
If you plan to work with a long-distance moving company, this can greatly ease the burden of hauling your belongings between states.
These days, there are many professional moving companies to choose between. As such, it is important to know what to look for in a reputable moving company.
Three key factors to look for in a professional moving company include:
- Fair and Transparent Pricing: Sometimes, moving companies may appear to charge low rates, only for the total costs to skyrocket due to hidden fees (such as refueling charges or labor costs). When speaking with and researching a moving company, make sure that their pricing is fair and transparent, with no hidden fees or costs that can drive your total cost up in the end.
- Good Reviews: One of the best ways to know whether or not a moving company is reputable is to look at customer reviews. Most moving companies will have public business profiles, such as a Google My Business account, where customers can leave ratings and reviews. Give these reviews a good read-through and look for key red flags, like hidden costs or damaged belongings. Click here to have a look at our Google reviews.
- Insurance: Any reputable moving company should either offer moving insurance or recommend where a customer can obtain moving insurance. With this type of insurance, both you and the movers are protected from unfortunate incidents, like vehicular accidents or lost belongings.
4. Compare Moving Quotes
As you research different moving companies, do not just jump right into a deal with the first one you come across. Taking the time to speak with different companies and compare the pricing quotes they provide you with will help you find the best option for your needs.
For instance, one moving company may include loading and unloading costs in the overall pricing, while others may include this as a separate fee or service. Depending on what method you prefer, this can affect your overall expenses if you do not compare these prices to determine which suits you better.
Moreover, speaking with multiple different companies will give you a better overall idea of what fair pricing looks like for a cross-country move.
In turn, you will not be unknowingly swindled out of your hard-earned funds by movers who charge more than what is fair in the current market.
5. Choose a Moving Company
With your research and comparisons complete, it’s time to choose a moving company!
When making your final decision, some additional key factors to consider include:
- Moving Timeliness: Not every moving company is going to have the same availability as the next — and this can end up being a huge deciding factor on which company you go with. Choosing a company that can move your belongings to you in a timely manner and on schedule with your set move date is crucial.
- Full Service: If you are not sure which moving services you will need or do not need just yet, opting for a full-service moving company is likely your best option. This way, if you find you do need certain services, you will already have a deal with a company that can provide you with those services with minimal to no extra costs.
- Final Pricing and Contracts: Make sure to go over the final pricing and contracts, such as insurance terms and down payments, when choosing your moving company. This will help you be as prepared as possible and know what to expect when the time comes to have the company move your belongings to your new home.
6. Decide Between Driving and Flying
Once you have the fate of your belongings settled and a deal set up with a professional moving company, it is now time to determine how you will move yourselves to your new home.
You have two main options for this task — driving or flying.
As we covered earlier, flights can be more expensive up front, especially depending on what time of year you choose to fly. If you are moving during a busier season for your new location, the flights may be more expensive as well. Moreover, weekend flights tend to be pricier than weekday flights.
On the other hand, driving does not have as many upfront costs but can still be expensive in its own right.
Key driving expenses to be mindful of include:
- Auto Servicing: Before making any kind of long drive, it is always important to head to your local mechanic and have your vehicle serviced and/or inspected. At minimum, you should have an oil change and a tire rotation before heading out on the road.
- Gas: Gasoline is one of your biggest expenses to consider if you plan to drive to your new location. Gas prices can vary from station to station, as well as from state to state. Make sure to plan ahead by researching current gas prices and determining what the maximum amount you may have to spend on gas is.
- Food: For long drives, you will undoubtedly need to stop for food along the way. Depending on the length of the drive, you may be able to pack your own meals and store them in a cooler. For drives longer than 12 hours, however, you will likely need to stop for a meal or two along the way, so set some funds aside for this purpose.
- Lodging: It’s never a good idea to drive while exhausted. The general rule of thumb is that each driver should drive no more than eight hours per day. Additionally, driving at night time or during storms can be more hazardous due to environmental threats and decreased visibility. Researching potential lodging spots along the way (hotels, Airbnbs, etc.) is, thus, always a good idea.
- Emergency Services: Though you want to hope for the best that your drive goes smoothly, you should always have a plan in place for emergencies. One of the best ways to plan for this is by getting an emergency auto service plan, such as an AAA membership, in case you run into any car troubles along the way.
Many people often prefer driving due to certain factors, such as children and pets who may not be well-suited for a long flight, or if they have many house plants they plan on keeping and need to care for on the drive.
7. Begin to Declutter Before Moving
Decluttering your home can take a surprising amount of time, particularly when you have lived in one location for several years.
As such, you should begin the decluttering process as soon as possible.
This process may include:
- Cleaning out bedroom, bathroom, and spare closets
- Organizing clothing and emptying dressers
- Packing up or getting rid of small items, like decorations and knick-knacks
- Cleaning out pantries and organizing non-perishable items
- Packing non-essential items, such as books and games
- Removing and/or packing larger décor items, like side tables, throw pillows, mirrors, etc.
During this task is when you can begin considering what you want to keep versus what you plan to get rid of as well. This will make your life a whole lot easier down the road when it is time to pack up the rest of your belongings and get rid of unwanted items.
Six Weeks Before Move-Out Day
At around the month-and-a-half mark, it’s time to get serious about packing.
Your six-week tasks largely deal with packing and storing belongings, as well as ensuring you have the proper necessities arranged for your new home.
Here are 4 essential tasks for six weeks before your move-out date:
1. Make an Inventory of Your Personal Belongings
Items can easily become lost when moving. To avoid this, creating an inventory of your items is key.
This inventory should be as organized as possible and indicate where you can find specific items, such as kitchen wares or décor. The easiest way to keep things organized is to sort items into different groups, pack them together, and then label your boxes or storage containers.
Creating an inventory of your belongings will also help you keep track of valuable items. If theft were to occur, you could then more easily identify a missing valuable in a timely manner.
2. Transfer Homeowner’s or Renter’s Insurance
Homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies can generally be transferred from one location to the next fairly easily by simply speaking with your insurance provider.
Letting your insurance provider know early is key, as this will ensure your belongings are covered as soon as you reach your new location. In some cases, your insurance provider may also offer special temporary policies to cover moving hazards, which can provide you with an added layer of protection.
Keep in mind that insurance rates may vary depending on your location, so always ask about any changes to your policy that may occur when moving to a new state.
3. Set Up New Utility Accounts
When you move into your new home, you want to be as comfortable as possible as you get settled in.
If you fail to set up your utility accounts ahead of time, however, it could be days to weeks before you have your basic necessities (electric, water, WiFi). To avoid this, make sure to look up the utility providers in your new area and get your utility accounts set up.
Typically, you can set up your utility accounts even if you have not moved in yet. You just need to provide your new address and the starting date for the utilities.
In some cases, a utility company may ask for proof of residence, such as a rental agreement, so make sure to have that handy when signing up for your account.
Additionally, some utility companies require deposits — especially for customers with low credit scores — so be prepared for that expense as well. These deposits are usually refundable after a set period.
4. Gather Moving Packing Supplies
If you have not already, now is the time to go out and gather your packing supplies.
These supplies include:
- Moving boxes
- Durable tape
- Packing labels
- Bubble wrap (or other cushioning materials)
- Plastic storage boxes (good for items that need to stay dry or away from moisture)
- Box cutters or scissors (for unpacking)
- Rope (for securing boxes in a moving truck — if you are using a professional moving service, they will likely have these types of materials for you)
Four Weeks Before Move-Out Day
You’re one month away from moving — you’re almost there!
With one month left before your move date, it’s time to finish up your essential moving tasks. Now is also a good time to check back through your list and make sure you have all previous tasks accomplished.
Here are your final 3 tasks for one month before you move:
1. Change Your Address
Filing a change of address with the United States Postal Service is crucially important.
Even if you have updated your address on all of your accounts, some mail can still slip through the cracks and end up at your old residence. Not only is this a hassle for the new tenants or homeowners but it can also lead to you missing cards, bills, and more essential mail.
Luckily, submitting a change of address is simple — simply visit the USPS website and fill out a change-of-address request.
Keep in mind that these requests can take up to two weeks to fully process.
2. Prepare For Moving with Children or Pets
If you have children or pets, now is the time to begin preparing them for the move.
For kids, make sure to get in touch with their pediatric care providers to have records forwarded to a medical office in your new location. If they have any prescriptions, you should also have these forwarded to a new pharmacy as well.
As for pets, contact your veterinarian and get a copy of their records to give to a new vet when you select one. If you are not sure what vet you will choose just yet, it may be a good idea to stock up on preventative medicines as well (heartworm, flea and tick, etc.).
Additionally, if your pets or children are sensitive to travel, speak with their care providers about the best ways to ease the journey for them.
3. Find a Move Out Cleaning Service
Cleaning your former home can be one of the biggest and most time-consuming tasks — and nearly impossible to achieve without everything being moved out.
Yet, if you are moving across the country, you may not have the luxury of being able to return to your old home once you have moved your belongings.
As such, you should look into professional cleaning services and select one that specializes in move-out cleaning. This will ensure your former home is spotless and ready for its new tenants. If you were renting this home, it can also guarantee you don’t miss out on the return of a security deposit!
You’ve made it to the end of your time in your old home. You have accomplished all of your move-out tasks and are ready to start a new life in your future home.
To ensure your move goes smoothly, download our free moving checklist to refer back to as you reach the eight, six, and four-week milestones.
We wish you the best of luck with your cross-country move!