When my son was just 3 months old, we packed up our entire home and moved from Arizona all the way to New Hampshire. Now, just before my son’s 2nd birthday, we’re doing it all again! Back to Arizona, we go. We learned a lot the first time around and have already begun preparations for our upcoming cross-country move. What better time to share with you my best tips for preparing for a cross-country move with kids?
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Preparing for a Cross-Country Move with Kids
There’s no doubt that moving across the country is a challenge, but when you add kids to the mix, there’s even more to consider. In this post, I’ll walk you through my entire process and provide some tips that I wish I had known the first time around. The important thing to remember is that things may not go according to plan and that’s ok.
If you plan and prepare the best you can, that’s all you can really do. Throughout the process, remember to give yourself more time than you need, give yourself a bit of a financial buffer, and accept that things might be stressful. Before you know it, you’ll be in your new home and life will be back to normal!
Start with the Logistics
So, you’ve made the decision to move. But have you really taken any action? The first thing you will need to do is pick a date. This is what makes it real. Knowing the exact day you plan to be on the road to your new destination will help everything else to fall into place. Next, you’ll need to start planning out some of the logistics.
Once you have your moving date, it’s time to book your moving services. There are a few different options here. The cheapest option is most likely going to be renting a moving truck and driving it yourself, but there are a few costs to consider. Depending on how far you are driving, the gas cost may be pretty high. Additionally, if you will need to stop one or more times along the way, you’ll need to book hotel rooms, and account for the cost of meals along the way.
Another option that we actually used the first time around is to utilize a moving pod. These are essentially portable storage units that are delivered to your home a few days before your move. You then load them up and the company comes and picks them up and drives them to your new location for you. This is usually more expensive than renting a moving truck yourself, but the cost of gas is included so that’s worth taking into account.
Of course, if you have the funds, hiring a full service moving company is the way to go. They can even pack for you! This is definitely not an inexpensive option, but it certainly is the easiest.
If you have vehicles to transport as well, you’ll need to decide how you want to go about doing so. You may be able to attach a vehicle to the back of a moving truck or solicit help from friends or family to drive one or more vehicles for you. Keep in mind, this will likely require you to pay for their one-way travel prior to or after the move as well. There are also services that will transport your vehicle(s) for you for a hefty fee. For our upcoming move, we will be attaching one car to a moving truck and driving the other separately.
So, you’ve figured out how you are going to get all your stuff to your new home, but what about you and your family? This is something that will likely require a bit of discussion. If you’re renting a moving truck, there won’t be much room in the cab. It may make sense for one person to drive the moving truck, and the other to drive your vehicle with the kids. Or perhaps you tow your vehicle on the back of the moving truck and one parent flies with the kids while the other drives the truck. Try to find a balance between financial need and convenience.
My husband and I tend to “tough it out” when something is financially smart but, as we evolve as parents, we’ve learned to pay a small amount more on occasion for the sake of our family’s sanity (when possible). For this upcoming move, my son and I will be flying while my husband and his dad drive the moving truck and our car. Because my son is still under 2, he flies for free, and by not having him on the road trip, it will likely shave a day off of the drive. The difference between the cost of one night in a hotel and the one-way flight is so minimal that it made more sense to us to do things this way.
If this will be your first flight with your little one(s), check out How to Fly with an Infant and How to Fly with a Toddler!
Speaking of hotels, you’ll want to plan for these accommodations as much as you can. If you’re driving with your little ones, you may want to just go ahead and reserve rooms along the way, but make sure you have more than enough time to get there. If you want to wing it and see where you land at the end of each day, it’s a good idea to at least have a list of options in all the major cities that you will be passing through. This will eliminate the dilemma of desperately trying to find a hotel while your kids are screaming in the backseat.
The Transition Days
Finally, you’ll need to consider the accommodations for just before you move, and shortly after you arrive at your destination. For example, if you will be loading up your entire home on Tuesday and leaving Wednesday morning, where will you sleep on Tuesday night? When you arrive at your destination, where will you stay until you are able to unload your belongings into your new home? If you don’t yet have a new home, where will you stay while this is being arranged and where will you store your belongings? Hopefully, you already have some of these details worked out, but walking yourself through the process to make sure you aren’t left with no bed to sleep on is definitely an important step!
Never in my life have I been in a place where I didn’t have too much stuff. Having a baby only added to our never-ending pile. When we moved the first time, we got rid of SO much. Unfortunately, we seemed to get rid of a lot of stuff that would have come in handy later and kept a lot of not so useful stuff. After just a short time living in our new home, we’ve accumulated just as much as we had before!
Before you move, take some time to get rid of unnecessary items. If you can sell them for profit, do it! My advice when getting rid of anything is to think about whether you will need to replace it, and what that cost will be. We got rid of a lot of essential items that were each relatively inexpensive. But let me tell you, when we went shopping to replace these little items, it was quite the bill at checkout. If you can fit it in the truck, and you’ll need it when you get there, keep it. If it costs more to keep it and transport it than it’s worth, or if you truly have no use for it, get rid of it.
One thing we actually did right on our first cross-country move was that we started packing early. The biggest benefit to this that I found, aside from having less to do around moving time, was that it prevented us from throwing last-minute items into random boxes at the end.
Here’s how we packed, and how we plan to pack this time around as well.
- First, we purchased storage bins and packed everything that we don’t use. This mostly included the closets that were used as storage (books, extra linens, out of season clothing, etc.) and kitchen items that were rarely used like our ice cream maker, special occasion dishes and our surplus of coffee mugs. Because these items were packed in storage bins, they were still easily accessible between the time they were packed and moving day, just in case.
- As we packed these items, we kept them in their primary location and also labeled them by room. We just used a sticky note on each one, but you can write a room number on each box with permanent marker, color code them, or whatever other method works best for you. (I’m thinking about trying out some fun labeled and colored tape like this!)
- About a week before it was time to load up our moving pods, we essentially decided to live out of a suitcase, or as close to it as possible. We packed everything we could live without until we were in our new home. Again, as we packed, we kept everything together by room and labeled each box with its location. We also took apart any furniture that we could survive without and wrapped up our couches so they were ready for loading.
- The day before loading, we literally packed up our suitcases and packed up all of our last-minute items (aside from what we needed for that night and the next morning).
I have moved several times in my life and following these steps made this crazy cross-country move much easier than even some of my local moves!
Additionally, are a few helpful packing tips:
- Get more boxes and more tape than you think you need, especially small boxes.
- A tape gun is a lifesaver.
- Don’t forget to take everything off the walls and pack it (or wrap it up).
- Invest in some bubble wrap or packing paper to pack your fragile items. Trust me, newspaper doesn’t always cut it.
- Empty out your refrigerator and freezer ahead of time. Plan to order in for a couple of days. No one wants to clean out their fridge on moving day.
- Label boxes on the sides, not the top. This way you can read them when they are stacked.
- Before you pack up electronics that have a bunch of wires connected, take a picture. This will make it easier to connect everything the way it was when you unpack.
- As you get each room packed, go ahead and deep clean it. This way you’ll have less cleaning to worry about on move-out day.
When it comes time to load up your truck, I highly recommend hiring movers. It’s relatively inexpensive to hire some local movers to load things up and man is it worth it. They know how to load a truck like it’s nobody’s business. Your belongings will be packed in there nice and tight, you’ll be able to fit more than you would ever expect in a tiny space, and you’re less likely to arrive at your new home with broken dishes and dinged up furniture.
Another thing to spend money on are some decent moving supplies. Invest in furniture wrap, mattress covers, and moving blankets. If you’re not going to hire movers to help, rent or buy a furniture dolly and make sure you have plenty of help!
If you’re loading up the truck yourself, check out this super helpful infographic from Penske
Finally, make sure that whatever you load last is what you will need first when you arrive. What are you going to do with your little ones when you get there? Do you need to unpack a playpen or a crib right away? How about bath supplies? Make sure you can get the kids situated right away so you can move forward with the rest of your unloading.
You’ve prepared, packed, and loaded. Now it’s time to get up and go! Things will likely be a bit crazy, so do your best to accept it and stay positive. All the chaos is temporary. Soon you will be in your new home settling in.
Have you made a cross-country move with little ones? Give me your best tips in the comments below!
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