moving boxCross country move approaching? You can smooth out all those unforeseen rough edges by planning early and staying organized.

I know first-hand, as I’ve made long distance moves. And, I didn’t do this just once or twice—I have four cross country moves under my belt.

Here are ten smart tips, and if your cross country move is coming up soon, you should probably get started right now!


#1 – Embrace minimalism


First, give your closets and storage areas a thorough check-over and minimize anything you don’t use, love, or need.

  • Moving from Alaska to Northern Virginia? You probably don’t need those snowshoes.
  • Lost weight? Congrats, now toss those larger-sized clothes.
  • Are your kids teenagers? You probably don’t need their toddler puzzles.

You get the idea. Paring down eliminates time spent both packing and unpacking; plus, you won’t pay to move things that you don’t need. Donate them to a church or thrift shop who will find someone who will love your items.

Or, hold a tag sale and put the cash you earn towards moving expenses. Moving costs escalate quickly!


#2 – Line up your moving help


Whether you are moving via a rental truck or hiring a team of moving professionals, you will need to line up your help. Decide on how you’re moving and lock down your desired dates earlier than you think. If you’re planning to move from May through September, you’re moving during peak season, so this is particularly critical.


The best moving companies book well in advance, and this will ensure you get help scheduled for the day you need them.  It’s similar for booking rental trucks—each location may have a limited number of vehicles in the size you need.


#3 – Pack off-season items


Among the first things you can pack are your off-season items. You can confidently stow the holiday season decorations in their moving boxes for a springtime move or box up the picnic basket if you’re planning a November move.


Don’t focus only on those bulky items, though. The same principle applies to off-season clothing and shoes—if you don’t need it between pack-time and move-time, box it up.

#4 – Don’t be labeled


On my move to North Carolina, I felt brilliant about how neatly I labeled each box using my fancy label maker.

What I did not anticipate was record-breaking heat and humidity—which caused all my labels to end up on the floor of the moving truck. This mishap left me clueless about what box went in which room. Unpacking was a catastrophe.

Instead of a label, use a fat permanent marker to mark your boxes; mark the side and the top of the box. Indicate not only what room the box belongs in but also a general content description.


#5 – Plan for pets


Before you move, obtain the latest copy of your pet’s shot records. Also, get your pet acclimated to a kennel, as that is the safest way for a long road trip.

Pack pre-portioned food, leashes, a collapsible bowl, clean-up bags, and a jug of water for use on the road. It’s also a great idea to have pets microchipped before moving; if your pet is already chipped, check with the pet registry to make sure they have a current phone number.

Remember that you can’t leave kitty or pup in the car alone, so pack healthy snacks for yourself and the family, too!


#6 – Involve the kids


If you have kids in school, they might be less than thrilled with the prospect of a new school. Help them get excited about moving by letting them have some say-so when you’re paring down their belongings.

Getting their buy-in now and turning them into your “helper” beats reacting to poor attitudes during the move or while you’re unpacking.

Who knows? Maybe your kiddos have hidden organizing talents that you haven’t tapped into yet.


#7 – Pack enough for a week without your truck


If you’ve engaged a moving company, know that they will not reach your new home at the same time that you do! Indeed, your truck might be 7 to 10 days behind you!

Plan to take the essentials you need for that time by prepping a few basic meals and enough clothing for yourself and your family. Use your suitcases so that you don’t need to box them.

#8 – Pack a “right away” box


When I’ve moved, I’ve always packed a box of household items that I needed “right away.” This box is in addition to your suitcase of a week of clothing.

For me, these items have typically included cleaning supplies, paper towels, clean sheets and pillows, toilet paper, and my coffee making supplies. Customize one such box for each member of your family and take it in your personal vehicle.


This box eliminates the need to find a store 10 minutes after you arrive to purchase these essentials. Instead, you can focus on settling in with your family.


#9 – Keep medications handy


If you, your children, or your pets require daily medications, keep those with you. You don’t want them on a moving truck for a week or more. Plus, the temperature fluctuations on the truck can degrade the effectiveness of the medicines.


#10 – Take important records with you


Put aside a day to spend time obtaining important records that you’ll need to take with you. These documents include medical records, school records, etc.

Place them in manila envelopes marked accordingly. You’ll probably need these quickly when you arrive at your new home, and it’s easier to plan for this ahead of time than dialing the phone for them later.


Final Thoughts


A cross country move is an enormous undertaking. When you look at it as a whole, it might even sound overwhelming.

Once you break it down into smaller steps, however, it becomes a less daunting task. Spend the time planning well, and you’ll increase the chances of a smooth move.

Remember, the time comes before you know it, so don’t procrastinate—get moving!

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Deborah Tayloe

Deborah Tayloe is a copywriter, blogger, and owner of the writing service Word Innovations. She specializes in content for the real estate and home improvement industries. Now that she’s returned to North Carolina, she has no plans for any future moves.