Planning Your First Cross-Country Move? Where Should You Begin?

Whether you're relocating for a job, college, or a significant other -- or just want a change of scenery -- planning a move from one part of the country to another can be challenging. You may be overwhelmed at the thought of packing up your belongings and living out of a hotel room or pod until they can be shipped and unpacked to your new location. You could also be concerned about keeping the cost of your move at a level that is comfortable for your budget. Read on for some tips and tricks to help you make the most of your move.

What is your desired cost/convenience ratio?

You choose to pay for convenience in many daily situations -- going through a drive-through restaurant rather than cooking at home, or paying an ATM withdrawal fee rather than going into your bank branch. This balance between money and time is true in the moving context as well. You'll be able to make your move as easy and effortless as possible, but will pay for this privilege.

Before making any firm plans for your move, you'll want to spend some time going over your budget and proposed timeline to evaluate what cost and convenience trade-offs you'll want to make. For example, to save money you may want to pack your own belongings rather than have a moving company do this for you -- and the money you save on this service can be used to upgrade your hotel or provide other creature comforts once you're at your destination.

What are your moving options?

There are three main stages when planning a move -- the packing stage, the shipping stage, and the unpacking stage. 

  • The packing stage

This process will take you from a furnished home or apartment to a moving truck or storage unit filled with boxes of your personal items and furniture.

To reduce costs, you may wish to obtain your own moving boxes and do much of the preliminary packing yourself. Liquor stores and grocery stores often have a good supply of durable boxes they're willing to give away -- and if you don't feel like arriving at your new location toting dozens of liquor boxes, you should be able to purchase boxes in all sizes from a moving supply store.

If time is more of a factor than money, you may be able to hire packers to help make this process easier for you. These packers will carefully and efficiently put together clearly-labeled boxes from each room, making the unpacking process much easier than it often is for those who choose to pack their items themselves. 

Moving your furniture is the next step. If you're strong or don't have much to move, this process can be easy -- however, in most situations, it pays to hire professionals. Professional movers are experts at navigating tight entryways and heavy furniture, and can help get your belongings loaded up without a scratch.

Regardless of how you choose to move, there are a number of helpful calculators available to help your planning. 

  • The transportation stage

This stage is often the most difficult -- as well as the most costly. However, there are several ways you can help make this process simpler.

The most inexpensive way to transport yourself and your belongings across the country is to rent and drive the moving truck yourself. Many moving companies offer one-way rentals to major metropolitan areas, allowing you to pick up the truck in your former city and drop it off in your new city at no extra charge.

The other end of the spectrum involves the use of professional movers to drive your items from your old home to your new one. By having others transport your belongings, you and your family will be free to fly to your destination on your own schedule.

If your moving dates are more flexible, you might instead opt to move your items in a large shipping container, which will allow you to pack it, send it via train or sky, and unpack it at your leisure. These shipping containers can often cut costs by eliminating the requirement that one or more movers accompany the items all the way across the country in a truck. 

  • The unpacking stage

This stage is the simplest, and should essentially mirror the packing stage. You can opt to go to websites and do the work yourself, or hire movers to do this for you.