Completing a Cross-Country Move

How to Move Across the Country without Losing your Mind

I just completed my second cross-country move, and while I know there are some families that have moved far more than that (y’all are the real MVP’s), I feel like I’ve learned quite a few things from our moving experiences.

Our first big move, from Columbus to Dallas, I was kind of just winging it. I really didn’t have a plan, and I think I probably caused myself a lot of extra work and cost myself a lot of extra time. I also threw away a lot of things that I had to go out and buy again almost immediately, so it really felt like a waste. Last month, when we were packing and preparing for our move to Chicago, I decided to get a little smarter about some of the prep work in an effort to save time and money (and also, my sanity). I mean, have you ever taken every article of clothing you own off the hanger, only to pull it out of a box, wrinkled, and put it back on a hanger. It’s not super fun.

I compiled a list of my favorite tips I tried and tricks I used to make this move easier, and these are definitely things I’ll use again when it’s time for the next move (fingers crossed that it’s awhile from now – I need some time to recover). These things will save your time, money, and mental health during any move – cross-country or local! So, let’s get to this list, yes?

1. U-Haul is the best option for (paid) moving boxes

While we were right in the trenches of packing; wrapping up dishes, cutting fingers on the tape gun – you know, all the fun stuff – we starting chatting about all the moves we’ve done. I’m pretty sure we’re on number 9. Needless to say, we’ve gotten moving boxes from a wide variety of different places. In my experience, I’ve found that U-Haul is the best. Here’s why: you can return the unused boxes! Blame it on my spacial awareness, or lack of depth perception, but I never have any idea what size boxes I actually need. This time around, I came home with 25 of the large size boxes, only to find out that we needed like 5 of those (since we packed our clothes by hanging them – see tip #3!) and we actually needed a bunch of the small/medium size square boxes to pack fragile things like dishes and glasses. I ended up returning 20 of the large boxes for a full refund and got the sizes we could use. Plus, there’s a “take a box/leave a box” center in the Uhaul store, where you can often find free boxes! And when you’re finally settled in, you can bring your boxes there, so you don’t have to find a place to recycle them – and you’re helping a fellow mover out, too.

Moving Tips

2. Cover your open bottles with plastic wrap

So I mentioned that when we left Ohio, we threw away a lot of stuff. Of course, some of it required refrigeration, so there wasn’t a lot we could do with those items. But in local moves, you can use this tip for the items in your refrigerator as well! In addition to all the condiments that we pitched, we also tossed out things that didn’t need to be kept cold, like olive oil, and toiletries – mainly because we didn’t know how to pack them without having a major leak somewhere. If you’ve never dealt with a leaky bottle of olive oil, praise the Lord for your good fortune. It gets everywhere.

By covering the openings of the bottle with plastic wrap, and putting the cap back on, you’re ensuring that the items won’t leak (or at least really upping your chances). It’s such a simple thing to do, and allows you to keep all of your items to use in your new house, without having the added expense of re-buying everything. I mean, moving is pricey AF anyway. The only bottles this doesn’t work for are the ones with pumps, and in that case, a large Ziploc Slider Bag will be your best friend.

5 Moving Tips

3. Create your own wardrobe “box”

I know I was just bragging about U-Haul’s moving boxes, but one of the boxes that isn’t worth the investment, in my opinion, is the wardrobe box. I mean, the concept is good, but the price point, not so much. Each wardrobe box costs $15 and holds around 2 feet of closet space. Between the 2 of us, we’re talking about several hundred dollars worth of cardboard. But, there’s a compromise. You can totally take this concept and create it on your own for the price of a box of trash bags. In my case, that was around $8, because I opted for the fancy ones with the built-in smells (white pine breeze).

Okay, here’s what you do: Open up a trash bag and flip it upside down. Find the middle of the bag, and right along the bottom fold, tear a small hole. Gather a handful of hangers (clothing still on them) and thread the trash bag over them, pulling the hangers out through the hole you created. Essentially, you’re bagging the clothes upside down. Depending on how big the articles of clothing are, each bag can probably hold 10-15 hangers. Once you’ve filled the bag, pull the drawstrings and tie the bags in a double knot at the bottom. If you have longer articles of clothing, like maxi dresses, you can simply fold them up inside, above the knot, and then spray them with a little wrinkle release spray once they arrive in their new home. After you’ve tied up your bags, you can simply fold the bags in half and place them in a large moving box. When you get to your new closet, just tear the bag from the top hole and hang the items. Any wrinkles from that single fold should fall out, or you can always use the wrinkle release spray as necessary.

Easy Tips for Moving Preparing for a Cross-Country Move

4. Create a “Safe Box”

In our last move, I lost my social security card and my husband lost his passport. Eventually, after getting a new one, he found it, buried in a box in the garage. I never found my card. After spending time at the social security office and the post office to replace these things, I vowed to be a little smarter about our important items the next time around. So, before we even started packing, a got a box and labeled it “important”. This box isn’t anything fancy, it’s just a photo storage box with a lid. There’s no rule here, but I would make sure it looks very different than all of your moving boxes, and that it does have a lid so that it can be secured shut. Anytime I was packing, especially areas that tend to have paperwork, like the office, or junk drawers, I made sure this box was nearby. That way, when I came across something I knew needed to have a safe place to travel, I wasn’t trying to figure out which box to stick it in and then trying to remember which box I stuck it in. On moving day, I put the box on the floor of my front seat, so there was no chance of it getting lost. Here’s what I used our “safe box” for:

  • Passports
  • Social security cards
  • Extra sets of car keys
  • Credit cards or gift cards that don’t live in my wallet
  • Diplomas (why am I carrying these around?)
  • Shot records for the pups

How to Pack Moving Boxes

5. Pack a Snack Bag

This one will be less applicable if you’re doing a local move, unless of course you get hungry a lot. If that’s the case, read on! Our move from Columbus to Dallas took 17 hours, and our move from Dallas to Chicago took 15 hours. That’s a lot of time in the car. But, if you stop for snacks and food over and over, that time only goes up. Plus, how many times can you eat drive-thru and gas station food while still maintaining your ability to sit upright, stay awake, and drive a car? For me, the threshold is very low. In an effort to combat all of that, I packed a travel snack bag that was filled with the things I like to eat, things that are at least slightly nutritious, and things that I was able to purchase beforehand at my regular stores for regular pricing instead of paying $1.50 for a single gas station banana. I was able to keep my stops to a minimum and wasn’t forced to make decisions about what to eat based on what was nearby when I needed gas. I also packed the same type of bag for the pups, so they had treats and snacks available! Obviously, you’ll want to put non-perishable items in your bag, unless you’re planning to bring a cooler with ice packs, which is totally an option as well. Here’s a few suggestions to fill your snack bag:

  • Protein bars, granola bars, or energy bars
  • Room temperature fruit – bananas, apples, oranges, grapes
  • Granola
  • Peanut butter squeeze packs
  • Bottled water
  • Coffee creamer packets – ok this one is totally optional, but I try to eliminate a lot of dairy products from my diet, and most gas stations don’t have very good coffee, so I was prepared to spruce it up as much as I could
  • Plastic utensils and napkins
  • Plastic bag/grocery bag to use for trash such as banana peels and apple cores

Moving Snack Bag

6. Pack a “Move-In Day” Bag

I knew there would be a few things we really needed as soon as we walked into our new house. We had movers arriving to unload the truck, and tons of boxes that needed to be opened. But before any of that happened, I knew I would probably have to pee (hello, 15 hour drive) and there would probably be some areas I wanted to clean before we started unloading our belongings. When we moved to Dallas, I didn’t think ahead and pack a bag with those necessities. For some reason, I didn’t have any ideas that we weren’t moving into a hotel, and the things required to do life weren’t going to be ready and waiting for us. Everything was packed in boxes, including the scissors to open those boxes. Not this time around!

This was the easiest bag to pack because I waited until the very end of our move out. Basically, almost everything we needed up until the last minute at our old house were the first things we needed when we arrived. So, in our final walk-through of our Dallas condo, I gathered up everything that was in-use. Here’s what I had in my “move-in day bag”:

  • Toilet paper (took off the rolls right before leaving)
  • Hand soap (gathered the open ones from our sinks and placed them in a ziploc bag)
  • Paper towels (took the one sitting on the counter, and also grabbed an extra individual roll from our Costco pack for back-up)
  • Cleaning wipes
  • Scissors for opening boxes
  • Trash bag

Moving Day Tips

I hope this post has been helpful as you prepare for your big move! Moving day, and the days leading up to it, can be stressful and overwhelming! But I found that the more prepared I was, the smoother the day went (I guess that can be said about all things in life). Below, I’ve linked a lot of the items that really helped me prepare for and execute our move. Some are specifically mentioned in this post, and others are just items that have been beneficial, are good quality, or are really good deals! Happy moving, friends!

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