How to Move Across the Country in 13 Steps

This guide has you covered if you want to know how to move across the country, from creating a budget to selecting movers and making travel arrangements.

By Melissa Graham | Updated Apr 11, 2023 5:14 PM

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How to Move Across the Country


It’s almost impossible to avoid moving at some point in your life, but a cross-country move is a beast in its own right. It requires a lot of planning, preparation, scheduling, and coordinating. From finding a new place to live to canceling subscriptions and forwarding mail, moving across the country or to a new state is no simple task. This guide is here to take you through each step so no stone is left unturned. You’ll learn how to move across the country cheaply, hire the right moving company, and travel to your new destination efficiently. Understanding the steps before you move can help keep you on the ball and prevent missteps or major mishaps.


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Time required: 3 to 6 months
Difficulty: Intermediate
Estimated cost: $1,500 to $6,000

How to Move Across the Country


Before You Begin…

Consider hiring a full-service moving company that can do everything from pack your belongings to hauling them in the back of a moving truck and transporting them to the final destination. If you can budget for this expense, it will likely allow you to spend more time on the move logistics, so you don’t have to spend so much time on the physical aspect. It will cost more in the long run, but it could save time and stress on your end.

Tips for How to Move Across the Country

  • Use online moving calculators to create a budget beforehand.
  • Find a place to live and select a moving date.
  • Research moving companies and contact them for quotes.
  • Create a packing plan, obtain packing materials, and box up your belongings.
  • Cancel any remaining services or subscriptions.
  • Make arrangements for travel and accommodations.
  • Keep in touch with your moving company.

Safety Considerations

  • Pack a bag with essential documents and necessities to prevent them from getting lost or damaged.
  • Hire professional movers, especially for oversize or cumbersome items, to prevent the risk of injury.
How to Move Across the Country


STEP 1: Visit your new potential home and spend some time there. 

Moving cross-country is a significant life change that requires a lot of preparation and planning. Before you physically move across the country (or even research how to move cross-country), it’s helpful to spend time in your new location to get a feel for what your life there will be like. This way, you can get a better idea of the housing market, what neighborhoods would be a good fit, and whether you will have to acclimate to a different climate. While visiting, you can also speak to locals to hear what they enjoy about the area and what challenges they face. These conversations can happen at local restaurants, libraries, grocery stores, or parks.

Moving across the country?
Hire a helping hand. Get free, no-commitment estimates from experts near you.

STEP 2: Budget for the move—including a new home, movers, and storage. 

The cheapest way to move cross-country is to budget so you know what to expect before the invoices pile up and you have to spend more than you planned for. How much does it cost to move across the country? That will ultimately depend, but moving costs can quickly reach a few thousand dollars (not including your new home). Your moving budget should include everything from your new home to cross-country movers and storage space for your belongings. You can also search for moving cost calculators online, which can help give you an idea of what you’ll have to spend.

Whether you utilize storage pods or another type of cross-country moving service, you can usually obtain quotes from movers based on how much space you’ll need and how far the pods or trucks will be traveling. You may have to pay to reserve trucks or pods, and you’ll owe a final balance once your items have arrived safely. If you need your items stored until your move-in date, you can also get quotes from various facilities so that you will know in advance how much you’ll be paying per month. Many moving services also offer storage, so inquire about that cost when getting a quote.

STEP 3: Find a place to live and choose a moving date. 

You may have found your dream home, or you may choose to rent for a while before putting down roots in your new area. Whichever path you select, finding a place to live is essential to the moving process. Nailing down housing will help you nail down a date to move since you may not receive the keys to your new place right away. Once you’ve determined where you’re going to live, you can start deciding when you’re going to move from point A to point B. Then you can begin to cross off more items on your to-do list, such as scheduling movers and creating a packing plan.

How to Move Across the Country


STEP 4: Research moving companies and obtain quotes. 

As for hiring a professional mover , word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family members can help you determine which company to hire. You can also do research on your own by looking at online reviews of local or nationwide companies or researching the best moving companies (we recommend United Van Lines among others). This is the time to decide if you want to hire full-service movers who will pack, load, move, and unpack your items. This service can be helpful, especially if you struggle with mobility or simply can’t stand packing and unpacking. Once you determine which type of movers you want to hire, reach out to a handful of companies to get quotes. Most moving companies will need to speak with you on the phone to give an accurate quote, but these phone calls shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Getting a few quotes can ensure you’re paying a fair price.

STEP 5: Create a packing plan, get moving supplies, and pack. 

The first step to creating a packing plan is to decide what items you want to sell, donate, throw out, and keep. Completing this task first eliminates extra boxes and moving supplies, which is the cheapest way to move across the country. Once you’ve sorted, sold, and donated your items, it’s time to get packing. You’ll need packing tape, bubble wrap, moving boxes, and a marker (preferably a thick black permanent marker) to label each box by room or category. Another way to save on moving expenses is to ask for recycled boxes from friends or neighbors. After you’ve obtained your moving supplies, it’s time to pack. Packing by room can help keep your similar items together so boxes can be unloaded and unpacked in the correct room.

STEP 6: Plan travel arrangements or accommodations.

Once you know when and where you’re going, it’s time to book travel arrangements and accommodations. If you’re flying, it’s wise to schedule your flight as far in advance as possible since plane tickets tend to increase in price the closer you get to your travel date. You’ll likely need to map out the fastest route and most convenient stopping points if you’re driving. Look into overnight accommodations if your route will take longer than a day to complete. If you choose to ship your car to a new location, you’ll need to find a reputable auto transport company. You can also ask the moving company you hire if it offers auto transportation.

If you’re wondering how to move across the country with a cat or dog, you’ll need to make travel accommodations for your furry friend, too. If you’re flying, check with your airline about transporting pets. When traveling by car, make sure your vehicle has a safe and comfortable setup and prepare to make several stops.

How to Move Across the Country


STEP 7: Set up mail forwarding, and obtain or transfer your important records. 

Once you know your new address, you can have your mail forwarded so that any critical letters or packages won’t be left behind. Request your medical records and those of your family from your primary care physicians. Some offices require you to come in person to sign a release form, so don’t leave this until the last minute. You’ll want to have your medical records once you find a new primary care doctor. Getting these records is also crucial if you’re moving with children and enrolling them in a new daycare or school because those offices will likely need vaccination records or other information about kids’ medical history. You’ll also want records from your dentist, eye doctor, and any other specialists.

Moving across the country?
Hire a helping hand. Get free, no-commitment estimates from experts near you.

STEP 8: Cancel any utilities or local subscription services. 

When preparing for a move across the country, the last thing you want to do is add to your expenses with subscriptions or utilities that you can easily cancel. If you subscribe to cable or internet through a local company, it’s best to call and schedule service termination shortly before you move out. You can also do this for any remaining utilities or local businesses like gyms or fitness studios. If you have any current magazine, newspaper, or meal subscriptions, those should be canceled or updated to reflect your new address.

This is also the time to ensure that you have an account with a bank in your new area. If you’re already a member of a nationwide bank, great. But if you only bank with a local credit union, you’ll want to close out that account and open a new bank account with an institution that has a branch near your new home.

STEP 9: Pack a bag including toiletries, medication, and valuables. 

Before you start your cross-country trek to your new home, it’s advised to pack a bag that includes your valuable jewelry or heirlooms, as well as any necessities like medication or toiletries. Documents like birth certificates, passports, social security cards, and car titles should go in this bag, too. It’s wise to keep this bag with you at all times, whether it sits in the passenger seat while you drive to your new destination or is stored in the carry-on bag for your flight. This way, if any items you’re moving get lost or delayed along the way, you’ll still have the important papers and necessities you need to get by.

STEP 10: Schedule a move-out cleaner.

Your old home’s new owners will thank you for scheduling a move-out cleaner. This way, you won’t have to waste time sweeping, scrubbing, and dusting when you could be packing or planning other steps of your move. It’s best to schedule a move-out cleaner when most of your items have been packed or are already moved out so nothing stands in the way of mops, dusters, or vacuums. Plus, all those hard-to-reach corners and formerly occupied cabinets can be reached with less hassle. This can also help bring to light any last items you’ve left behind.

How to Move Across the Country


STEP 11: Hand over your keys.

Your bags are packed, the movers are scheduled, and now there’s only one thing left for you to do before you embark on your next adventure: turn in your keys. Whether you’re turning your first home over to new owners or moving out of an apartment, this can be a sentimental or therapeutic act that symbolizes a fresh start. However, it’s also a step that can get lost in the whirlwind that often comes with moving, so it’s best to leave yourself a reminder to leave them behind with the appropriate party, whether a real estate agent or landlord.

Moving across the country?
Hire a helping hand. Get free, no-commitment estimates from experts near you.

STEP 12: Stay in touch with your movers.

This is one of the most critical steps in the moving process since your movers are in charge of your belongings. It’s wise to stay in close contact with your movers to ensure everything arrives on time and intact. By making regular phone calls or sending text messages, you can check in to see if they’re on target for arrival or if you can expect delays. It’s also wise to record your communications in case anything happens to your items down the line.

STEP 13: Enjoy your new home. 

It’s time to enjoy your new space! Try out local shops and eat at your favorite restaurant. After all, you moved to a new area for a reason. Since it can be overwhelming, it’s important to pat yourself on the back for completing your journey and embarking on your new chapter with a sense of joy and accomplishment.

The steps outlined above should help you plan and execute a successful move across the country. Whether you are looking for answers on how to move across the country cheap or how to move your stuff across the country, it’s imperative to research good moving companies and budget for your move beforehand so you don’t encounter any unexpected obstacles along the way.

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