How to Prepare to Move Cross-Country

Moving cross country takes time, energy, commitment, and (unfortunately) money. After successfully moving from Washington State to Texas, I’ve learned a lot about preparing to move cross country. It took months of preparation and research. There were things we didn’t even realize we needed to prepare for, some of which were state-specific.  In this post, I am sharing how to prepare to move cross-country so you can prevent making a few mistakes, save money (and time), and so you will hopefully be on your way to moving!

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How to Prepare to Move Cross-Country

To preface this post, this is not an all-inclusive list! There will probably be a few things that you will need to do that aren’t included in this list. However, I tried to include as many points as possible that I came across during my move!

Research Your Move Location

After determining where you want to move, I highly recommend researching the area! I found Youtube videos and Reddit forums from locals to be the most helpful in deciding what area to move to, things to do in the area, and the general vibe. While researching, also look into the prices for things and other useful information like utility providers, phone carriers, etc. Look into the things that people enjoy about living in the location of your choosing, and things people dislike. It’s good to get a complete picture of the good and bad! Of course, once you get to your destination you can come to your own conclusions, but with all the changes and stress of moving, it’s good to at least have an idea and determine the lifestyle of the area and if there are any dealbreakers. Things you might want to know are the cost of living, public school quality, tax rates, job opportunities, and weather.

Optional: Visit the Location of Your Move

We didn’t get the opportunity to visit the exact city that we were moving to prior, but if you have the option it’s a great idea! It’s hard to get the complete picture of the location you’re moving to with just remote research. Setting aside time to fly to your new city and tour apartments or house hunt can give you a better impression to help you decide if it’s the best place to move to.

Budget Your Move

Moving is expensive, especially if it’s cross-country! There are the costs associated with buying a house, or the move-in fees and deposit for a new apartment. There is also the cost of a moving truck, movers, or moving container. You’ll also want to budget for food, gas, plane tickets, or hotels during the move itself. If you sold your furniture before moving (like we did) to reduce the moving cost, you’ll need to buy new furniture. You also need to buy or source boxes, tape, bubble wrap, and moving paper to move your belongings. Insurance for your move is also always a good idea.

Since there are so many costs associated with moving, it’s best to budget based on how you will move. Whether or not you hire professionals or DIY you move, the distance, and the amount of belongings can all impact how much it costs to move across the country. My husband and I saved around $5000 as a starting fund to buy new furniture, and another $5000 for moving costs like our U-Haul pod, hotels, gas, food on the road, and an apartment deposit.

Start Job Searching

Job searching can take time! Luckily my husband’s job was transferring him, so I was the only one who needed to find a new job. I recommend taking at least 3 months before your expected move date to job search. It can sometimes be a lengthy process between applications being processed, interviewing, accepting an offer, onboarding, and starting. If you’re in a job field where it is harder to find a job, you might want to start even sooner to not risk moving without a job. Now’s a good time to buff up (or start) an emergency fund if you don’t yet have one.

When you start your job search, you may want to let your current employer know. I let mine know preemptively as a heads-up and then gave my official notice once I was closer to my move date.

Choose an Apartment or Look for a House

I will say that it was easier to find a job once I had a Texas address on my resume when applying in Texas versus my Washington address! Once you’ve researched the neighborhood you want to live in and are applying for jobs in the area, start looking for a place to live. We found an apartment, put down the deposit, paid the fees, and signed the contract around 1.5 months before our actual move date. We also needed the apartment to know where we would be sending our U-Haul pod, which we wanted to be scheduled at least a month before our move date.

Sell or Donate Anything You Don’t Need

It can be expensive to move. If there is anything that you can do to lighten your load, it’s best to do this before you’re actually moving! Start selling and donating things as far ahead of time as you can. If you’re packing, it’s easy to sort your things between keep, sell, and donate. This can help save money when it comes to moving options.

Look into Moving Options

There are several different options when it comes to moving. You can do it yourself, hire movers, or do a mix between the two. Hiring movers is the easiest, but most expensive option. By doing everything yourself, you’re going to save money but it does take a lot of time and effort.

If you do decide to go with movers, rent moving trucks, or rent a pod, call around to check prices and research the reviews. For our move, we decided to hire a U-HAUL pod and pack our own boxes. We didn’t have much to move since we ended up selling and donating most of our things to lighten our load. To give an idea of the cost of things, it cost us $1800 for the U-HAUL pod to be delivered, picked up, and shipped from Washington to Texas.

Cancel Memberships

Before moving, be sure to cancel any local memberships. Sometimes gyms require you to cancel in person which becomes another obstacle if you wait until after your move. Be sure to check ahead of time to see how far in advance you need to cancel so you aren’t charged additional months.

Get New Licensures

If you have any licensures for your work, be sure to research your destination’s requirements and start applying for new licenses. For my RN license, the process was straightforward, and took around two weeks to get my Texas license. It can be costly for new licensures (mine was $300), and you may need to take tests, get fingerprinting done, or jump through other hoops depending on the state you’re moving to.

Prepare Your Pets

Before moving, be sure to prepare your pets. Arrange a final vet appointment, and get any medications for at least a few months so that you have time to transfer them to a new vet. It doesn’t hurt to get their vaccines up to date and get an extra copy of their medical history emailed to you just in case.

You’ll also want to research different options for transporting your pet. This will depend on how you are getting to your destination, but the easiest option is to drive. Other options include flying and pet transportation services.

Forward Your Mail

Forwarding your mail is easy and important. Just go to USPS to put in a permanent mail forwarding request so that mail is rerouted to your new address. Be sure to go through and update your address once you’ve moved.

Spend Time with Family and Friends

Before leaving, budget time to spend with family and friends. We ended up spending much more time with family and friends visiting than we expected. Especially the last week, I think it’s always a good idea to spend with loved ones.

Make Hotel Reservations or Plan Drive/Flight

Once you’ve picked a move date, and have a house or apartment to move into, it’s time to make your hotel reservations and plan your drive or flight. Decide how many days you’re going to drive for, budget stops along the way, and book any hotels that you will be staying in. You’ll want to think about the time of year that you will be traveling when choosing your route if you are driving. In the winter months, some of the routes may be impassable or have snowy conditions.

Register Your Car in the New State

Once you arrive in your new state, you need to register your vehicle. Typically you will have at least 30 days following moving to register your vehicle. The steps to register your vehicle and where you will go to do so depend on the state you are moving to. In certain states, you may need to have emissions and vehicle safety testing before registering your vehicle.

Obtain Residency

Once you have been living in your new state for 30 days, you can register to obtain residency. This means you can get your license. You are going to need to show proof of residency for 30 days by showing certain documents like your receipt from registering your car, or rent payments. Once you obtain residency, you can also register to vote.

How to Prepare to Move Cross-Country

Moving cross-country can be a lot of time, effort, and money. It’s best to prepare for such a giant move. I don’t think I prepared myself as well as I could have. I hope this list of things to do to prepare you for your cross-country move helps with the process. Coming out the other side of moving, we have no regret! We probably also won’t be planning another cross-country move anytime soon either though.

Thank you so much for reading! If you want to get notified when I post new posts, be sure to follow my Instagram @maddie_deer here or like my Facebook page here. If you have any tips for preparing for a cross-country move, be sure to leave me a comment below!

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