Unless you’re relocating on short notice, you likely have a few months to plan the logistics of your cross-country move. While moving several states away might seem daunting, approaching the move one step at a time keeps it manageable and orderly. Here’s a helpful cross country moving checklist to keep your relocation on track.

2 Months Out

Establish a Moving Budget

The expenses of a cross-country move can add up quickly. According to industry data, the final bill for your relocation could easily cost between $4000-$10,000. From hiring movers to transporting your vehicle, make sure you set a budget for all aspects of your move. Establishing a budget now helps set expectations and keeps expenditures from getting out-of-control. Knowing where you are financially allows you to start taking cost-cutting measures early in the moving process.

Find Movers and Compare Rates

With a long distance move, it’s almost impossible to hire movers at the last minute to transport your belongings. Not only can cross country moving companies book up weeks in advance (especially during summer months), but it also takes time for the moving company to plan the logistics of consolidating your shipment with other loads. It’s advisable to start shopping for movers at least two months before your move date. Great Guys allows you to compare rates from up to four cross country movers that service your moving route. After getting initial quotes, be sure to schedule an in-home estimate with two or three of the top candidates. Following a walkthrough of your home, each moving company will provide a more accurate quote based on a comprehensive inventory of your household goods.

Decide How to Get Your Car(s) to Your New Home

Instead of road tripping across the country with the entire family, you might decide to ship one or more of your family vehicles. Most traditional moving companies do not offer auto transport services, so you’ll need to contact different providers to request car shipping quotes. Great Guys works with a network of auto transport companies, allowing you to request a quote for shipping your vehicle when you ask for your moving quote.

Start Purging

One of the easiest ways to cut down on moving costs is to get rid of anything you no longer use or no longer want. Decluttering every closet, drawer, and cabinet takes lots of time, so it’s best to get started as soon as possible. By selling or donating things like unused wedding gifts, long-forgotten books, and worn-out furniture, you’ll reduce the weight of your shipment. Lower shipping weight means a cheaper move! Experts recommend separating items into “sell,” “donate,” and “trash” piles. To sell your items, plan a garage sale or post individual items, like furniture, on sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and OfferUp. For anything you donate, don’t forget to snag a tax receipt so that you can write off the donation on your tax return.

Make a Household Inventory

Once you’ve gotten rid of your unwanted possessions, you should make a household inventory to help you keep track of everything during the move. This list also comes in handy if you ever need to make insurance claims down the road. There are loads of excellent apps for this purpose, including Sortly, III Inventory App, Belongings, and Encircle. These apps let you snap pictures of your items and automatically back up your list with cloud storage.

Keep a Moving Binder

Consider creating either a paper moving binder or an electronic file on your computer to store all the information about your move. Filing data in one place makes tracking your expenses easier and keeps the relocation organized.

Think Through Travel Plans

Whether you’re driving your car to your new city or catching a flight, now’s the time to think through how you’re getting to your new home. Book your plane tickets or map out the road trip and book hotels along the way.

Look for Housing

Finding a home in an unfamiliar city takes lots of research. Start your search for the perfect place by homing in on a specific neighborhood. If you can’t make an in-person visit, use apps like Walk Score, Wikihood, and Suburb Scout to read up on neighborhood stats, crime rates, walkability, and more. Once you pick two or three top contenders, you can start your house or apartment search. While there are lots of apps available to assist with finding housing, contacting a local realtor or apartment locating company, so you have boots on the ground is optimal.

Start Gathering Moving Supplies

You’ll need lots of packing supplies to get your household boxed up and ready for the move. If you’re trying to save money by using recycled boxes, now’s the time to start scrounging around for them. You can scoop up free moving boxes from family and friends, your neighborhood grocer, big box stores, liquor stores, or Craigslist.

1 Month Out

Book a Moving Company

At this point, you should already have compared estimates from moving companies in your area. One month before your move, make sure you have a signed contract with your moving company of choice.

Transfer School Records

Make sure you contact your children’s school to arrange for a transfer of records so that the little ones can make a smooth transition to their next school.

Start Packing

Most moving companies recommend starting the packing process at least a month out. If you look around your home, you might be surprised at how many items you haven’t used in weeks or months. Start by packing infrequently used or seasonal things, like books, your DVD collection, winter clothing, Christmas decorations, serving ware, etc. As you get closer to the moving date, you can tackle the rest.

Gather Important Documents

As you pack, gather your essential documents, like birth certificates, social security cards, and passports, in one place. You’ll want to keep these documents with you during the move, instead of packing them away in a box for the moving truck.

Make Arrangements for the Pets and Kids

If you have small children or pets, arrange for someone to watch them during the move. It’s best to send them to a friend or family member’s house on moving day, to keep them everyone safe while the movers load the moving truck. Be sure make these arrangements in advance, as getting a sitter at the last minute could prove tricky.

Notify Your Landlord

If you’re renting a place month-to-month, give your landlord a 30-day notice to let him know you’re planning to move out.

Work on Your Floorplan

If you already know where you’re moving, you can start thinking through the floorplan for your new home. Go old school and sketch out the rooms and furniture yourself or use one of the multiple floorplan apps available for this purpose. It’s helpful to have a plan in place, so you know how to label boxes, and so you can communicate where everything goes when the movers arrive.

3 Weeks Out

Have a Garage Sale

Remember that pile of things you set aside to sell at the beginning of this whole process? If you haven’t had lots of luck selling them off online, now’s the time to have a good, old-fashioned yard sale. Read our garage sale tips here.

Squeeze in Final Check-Ups

You may want to take the opportunity to visit your doctor(s) and get refills on any medications you might need before your move. If you have already chosen a doctor in your new city, then fill out the paperwork to forward your medical files to the new practice.

Plan for Your Pet

All states have laws regarding the entry of animals into the state. If you have pets, make sure to research the legal requirements before transporting your animals to your new home. Some states, like Hawaii, have a mandatory quarantine period, while other states, like Alabama, require each pet to have a certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI). Once you know the requirements, you can schedule an appointment with your vet to get the necessary shots and paperwork. You’ll also want to restock on any medicine your animal needs, ask about micro-chipping, and even request anxiety medications to help your pet cope with the move.

2 Weeks Out

File a USPS Change of Address

At least two weeks before your move, file a change of address form online through the US Postal Service. This form takes just minutes to complete and ensures your mail gets routed to your new address after a specified date. Also contact your financial institutions (bank and credit card companies), subscription services, your insurance company, and any other critical parties to notify them of your address change.

Schedule Your Utility Services

When moving across the country, chances are, you won’t be able to transfer existing utility services. Be sure to schedule the cancellation of your current services a day or two after your move out date. When scheduling turn-off, make sure you give yourself adequate time to clean your home after the movers leave. If possible, schedule turn-on of essential services before your arrival at your new house. At a minimum, you’ll need working lights and water to make moving-in efficient.

Take the Car in for a Tune-Up

If you’re driving across the country, make sure to take your car in for an oil change and tune-up before hitting the road. Ask your local shop to give the vehicle a once-over, checking the tires, fluid levels, hoses and belts, brakes, and battery to make sure she’s ready to roll.

1 Week Out

Pack Your Essentials

With a cross-country relocation, it could take the movers a week or two to deliver your things. In the interim, you’ll need a few boxes of things to tide you over. For each family member, be sure to pack plenty changes of clothing, medicine, toiletries, and towels. Also, pack inflatable mattresses and linens, so you have a place to sleep while waiting for the beds to arrive. Keep these essentials boxes with you throughout the move, so you have ready access to everything you need.

Water Your Plants… Really Well!

Most cross country moving companies won’t accept houseplants. And even if they do, there are strict government restrictions that vary by state. The chances are pretty good that you’re going to be driving your plants with you. That means you want to make sure they’re well watered at least a week before you load them into your car. That will help minimize the mess in your trunk. See our complete guide for how to properly move your plants across country.

 

Finish Your Food

Most food won’t survive a long haul trip across the country. Skip the grocery store and eat as much as you can out of your fridge and pantry, so less goes to waste. If you have large stores of nonperishables, consider donating them to a local food bank or see if your moving company participates in the Move for Hunger Program.

Prep Your Appliances

If you’re taking some or all your household appliances with you, make sure you prep them first. Defrost your fridge and contact a technician to disconnect the gas line to your dryer. Make sure all appliances are thoroughly dried out to prevent the growth of mold or mildew and check documentation from the manufacturer for specific moving instructions.

Finish Packing

In the final days leading up to your move, finish packing everything. Load up the rest of your dishes, empty your wardrobe and box up the kids’ toys. Moving day is almost here!

Arrange Donation Pick-Ups

If you haven’t discarded everything you’re not taking on the move, arrange a pick-up of furniture and other donations through a local charity. See our list of organizations that will pick up your things for free.

Talk to the Movers

Confirm the moving date and time with your moving company, if they haven’t already done so.

2 Days Before

Clean Up

Once most of the boxes are packed, you can start the cleaning process to get your home ready for the next tenant or owner. This step is imperative if you are renting, so you can get your security deposit back.

Prepare Payment for the Movers

While you might have made a deposit or partial payment already, you’ll need to submit a final payment once the truck delivers items to your new home. Make sure you have a check or credit card ready for this last installment. Additionally, you might want to have cash on-hand to tip your movers.

Moving Day

Drop Off Kids and Pets

If you’ve decided for your children or pets to spend the day elsewhere, drop them off before the moving truck arrives.

Greet the Moving Crew

When the moving truck arrives, be there to meet the crew. Communicate any concerns you might have at the start of the day, so they can make sure to address these issues. Also, verify that the US DOT number listed on the side of the truck matches the number on the bill of lading.

Sign the Paperwork

Once the movers take possession of your household goods, they’ll ask you to sign a bill of lading confirming the inventory of items they have received. Make sure you agree with the provided list, then sign the documents so that they can be on their way.

Finish Cleaning Up

Once all the boxes and furniture are on the truck, you can make a final sweep of the house or apartment. Vacuum and mop floors to remove the dirt or mud movers might have tromped in. Then, give everything a final dusting before handing over the keys.

After the Move

Update Your Insurance

After you settle into your new home, be sure to review your insurance policies. It’s the perfect time to consider shopping for new rates on your insurance since most insurers charge different rates based on the zip code. At the least, you’ll have to make sure your auto insurance is compatible with your state’s minimum insurance requirements, and you’ll need to update your address on all policies.

Take a Trip to the DMV

Most states require drivers to register their vehicles within 30-60 days of moving to the state. To do so, you must present proof of insurance that complies with the state’s minimum requirements. Additionally, you’ll need to get in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles to secure a new driver’s license.

Unpack

It might feel unsettling to have boxes upon boxes mounded everywhere in your new home but resist the urge to get the unpacking done in a rush. Start with the essential rooms first, like the kitchen, bathroom, and bedrooms, before progressing through the rest of the house. Take the time to unbox things methodically, putting things away in a logical manner, so your new home is nicely organized.

Find out how much your move costs!