Moving involves compromises big and small, but don’t panic! You’ll get through it. Here’s how to keep yourself grounded before, during, and after the move.
When planning a move cross country, the initial questions may seem overwhelming: Can you pack everything in your car, or will you fly? Do you use movers, or go DIY (either packing and shipping or selling and/or purging)? Deciding on what suits your situation is just the first step to putting all the other pieces into place.
No matter what, moving involves compromises big and small, but don’t panic! You’ll get through it. Here’s how to keep yourself grounded before, during, and after the move.
Get from Point A to B
First things first: The move itself. Get quotes from different companies—professional movers, U-Haul-style options, driving your car, airfare baggage allowances—to fully understand what’s feasible. You may be surprised that movers are cheaper than do-it-yourself options. For me, the cost to ship my belongings was more than what they were worth. That price, however, didn’t outweigh the benefit of having all my belongings when I arrived versus starting from scratch.
Whether you go by air, bus, rail, or car, pad your travel time if possible. Planning for extra days on either end of the journey can give you a buffer and reduce anxiety: You never know when weather will delay a flight or you’ll get a flat tire.
Your dream may be to turn the move into a vacation, but be realistic. It took me seven days to move from Boston to Seattle, and that was putting in eight to 10 hours of driving each day. (It wasn’t all a slog: I averaged one stop a day to see something fun, like Wrigley Field or Mount Rushmore. My trip also kept me on the roads during daylight hours, and allowed for leisurely evenings.) But budget- and work-wise, I couldn’t justify taking more time off.
Ship or Drive?
If you don’t own a car, score–one less thing to figure out. But if you do (and aren’t planning on selling it), you’ll want to make sure it’s in tip-top shape for the trip. Beyond the standard oil change, check your car’s radiator, transmission, and brakes at the minimum to lessen your chance of breaking down and needing an expensive emergency tow. If you’re planning on towing anything behind your car, make sure it has enough horsepower for the haul.
Before you commit to driving and the thrill of a road trip, consider the costs of shipping your car (maybe it’ll get damaged) versus driving it (you’ll need to budget for food, fuel, and lodging).
If you do decide to drive, check the weather and road conditions along your route early and often. I moved to Washington State during a particularly snowy October for South Dakota, even though it looked like smooth sailing just days before I left. Fortunately, mountain passes in Washington were open, and I didn’t have to reroute.
I found it helpful to look for hotels around lunchtime each day, based on how far I thought I’d go. This added flexibility for last-minute route changes due to weather, unforeseen traffic, or surprise roadside attractions. (House on the Rock in Wisconsin ended up being a three-hour detour.) It also allowed me to find cheap rates at hotels looking to get rid of excess inventory.
Scout Your New Home
Renting or buying an apartment or home in a new location without seeing it first is scary. Before diving into a long-term commitment, try finding a long-term rental and get to know different neighborhoods and housing options. Ultimately, it’ll save you from getting stuck in a place you don’t like.
Alternatively, if you have extra time and spending money, take a trip to your new destination to scout out communities and homes. You’ll narrow your search area and can also meet with real estate agents or landlords to secure accommodations for when you arrive.
Repeat after me: The more labeling you do now, the easier it is later. As with anything before a move, start organizing as soon as possible and get rid of things you don’t need. Many moving companies won’t move liquids; by planning early, your food, liquor, or cleaning supplies won’t go to waste. (Plus, cleaning gradually makes it a less heinous task.)
If you’re shipping belongings, set aside the essentials to get you through—and make sure those essentials fit into your car or checked baggage. If you’re moving any guns, you’ll want to alert your movers or research laws in any states you’re driving through to ensure you comply.
Prep Your Pet
If you think moving is stressful, imagine how your dog or cat feels. I’ve driven cross-country and flown overseas with pets and can’t tell you which scenario is easier on Fluffy. My best advice is, when possible, pack over time. It’ll allow your pet—and you—to gradually get used to an empty house.
For flying or driving, make the carrier as homey as possible—they’re going to be spending a lot of time in it—and keep a collar on your pet (just in case they get out). I also wished I’d had a leash to carry my cat through the airport metal detector while the carrier went through the X-ray machine.
When flying, make sure you carry your pet’s up-to-date health certificates and that your pet has water and food. Direct flights may be worth the extra cash. (Just think how many times you get up to use the restroom.) If you’re moving to Hawaii—or elsewhere overseas—do your research on necessary pet quarantines. You may need to go a few days or even a few months without your pet.
Moving to Washington State, I needed a permit to reserve a parking space for my shipping container. I coordinated with my new apartment building to block off a space out front so there’d be a dedicated area to drop the pod. I’m glad I scheduled my delivery date for a day after I’d arrived, giving me time to pick up the permit at town hall. See what your new state offers or requires, regardless of whether you used a moving truck or container.
Find a New Doctor (and Dentist, and Gym …)
File these under the “little” things. With big costs and decisions like packing and moving, wrapping up your job, and saying goodbye to friends, you’re probably not thinking about your next doctor’s appointment. But it’s helpful to get records from your doctors and dentists, as well as researching professionals or getting referrals in your new city.
You’ll want to set up a change of address and mail forwarding with the postal service and update your address with your credit card companies, magazine subscriptions, and any other regular mail you receive. If you don’t have a new address, consider forwarding mail to a friend or family member’s home.
Contact your insurance companies—whether for health care, car, home, or renters’—and update your policies, if necessary, to ensure consistent coverage. Schedule shut off of your electric, gas, Internet, and other utilities. Plus, don’t forget to cancel or transfer any memberships; I still have at least five unused yoga classes on a punch card and a free beverage at a coffee shop, now 3,000-plus miles away.
When I moved from Boston to Seattle, it felt like I was spending time saying goodbye to friends, family, and coworkers for weeks leading up to my actual move date. While it was nice, the expense of dining out several times a week started to add up. Plus, it was eating into my pack and prep time.
There’s no good way to say “bye,” but starting the process sooner makes time spent with friends more enjoyable and less a to-do list item. Avoid trying to pack in goodbyes in your last few days. Having the day before my move all to myself gave me time and the ability to focus on making sure everything was ready.
Get a Tax Deduction
While the IRS is rarely clear-cut, its rules for deducting moving expenses from your taxes are fairly straightforward. It’s dependent on your work situation, so if you’re moving to start a new job and work for the bulk of the year following your arrival, you likely qualify.
While it’s easy to rely on GPS to get you to the nearest Target, the best way to truly feel at home is to learn your way around. Instead of using maps, walk around your new neighborhood and really get to know your surroundings. Find the nearest coffee shop, local bar, and grocery store. If you get lost, you can always ask a stranger (aka your new neighbor) for directions.
Kate Sitarz is a freelance writer living in Germany. Her work has been featured on Yahoo Travel!, The Huffington Post, and USAToday, among other outlets.
Not sure how to budget for your move? Take our online class, Spending Plans: A Better Way to Budget, and get going!
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