Where Logic Meets Love

10 Tips for a Smooth Cross-Country Move

Friday, July 13, 2012

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10 Tips for a Smooth Cross-Country Move | Faith Permeating Life

I'm back!

Thanks for your patience during my extended blogging break. We are still knee-deep in unopened boxes here, but we're settled in enough that I can take some time to write a post. I am absolutely in love with this place -- our apartment, the campus, and our city, which will be known on this blog as Whoville -- but there will be more time later to gush and break down how we made our dreams come true.

What I want to talk about today was the move, which (in case you don't follow me on Twitter) was documented with the hashtag #FPAA for "Faith Permeating Across America." (Thanks to my friend Dan for that suggestion.) It went incredibly smoothly for a 5-day cross-country trip. So, as I tend to do on here when I find something that works, I wanted to share some of the details in case it might be helpful to you at some point.

Here are a whole bunch of things we did that I believe made the move go well. Keep in mind that we are one couple with no kids moving from an area near family and friends to another area near family and friends, so not all of these tips will be applicable to everyone.

1. Say "yes" to offers for help.
My best friend offered to help us pack, and I said yes. She and her husband showed up with fresh energy and enthusiasm, and between the four of us we got at least half our apartment packed in about six hours. Another friend, a big strong guy, offered to help us pack the moving truck, and I said yes. My parents were a huge help on both ends, helping us get stuff packed that we were storing at their house, and then meeting us in Whoville with my aunt and uncle to help us unpack the truck when we arrived. We could have done it all ourselves, but we would have been way more tired, sore, and cranky with each other. (I think it also helps to be the kind of person that others know will help them out when needed, so they're willing to offer!)

2. Talk through the pre-moving steps.
Mike and I made a lot of to-do lists in the weeks leading up to the move, and this also forced us to talk through what needed to get done when. Probably the most stressful things were finding a new home for Bert and Ernie, selling one of our cars, and giving away most of our furniture, so we made contingency plans for each. (e.g., "We'll ask these people first, then we'll post it on Facebook, then we'll do X as a last resort.") We also figured out which things could get packed right away and what needed to be kept out until the morning we left (or until I finished work, or whatever). This planning led to very few "Oh shoot, that already got packed" moments.

3. Go with Penske.
You all know I don't recommend specific companies unless I truly love them (and I never do sponsored posts). Mike was all set to get a U-Haul, not really knowing there was another option, until I started looking up reviews and found lots of horror stories about their old, unreliable trucks. Ditto with Budget. I expected to find the same for Penske -- you can find bad reviews for practically any company, right? -- but everything I found was positive. Our truck was clean and new enough to have both a CD player that read MP3 CDs (good because I accidentally ordered an audiobook as MP3 CDs) and an iPod jack. We weren't charged by miles and they let us pick up the truck a day earlier than we reserved it for no extra charge, so Mike was able to pick it up and drive it out to my parents' house to load up all the stuff that was going into storage. They didn't have a tow dolly because he showed up a day early, so we got a full tow trailer for no extra cost. We never had any problems with the truck, even going through the mountains, and the car stayed secure on the tow trailer. We didn't have to unhitch the trailer to get into the truck, so we could keep our suitcases in the truck and just get them out every night. Penske is a little pricier, but with our AAA discount it ended up being the same as U-Haul even after we added insurance.

4. Make it a vacation.
This is one of the pieces of advice I got when I announced we were moving, and it was definitely true for us. We have friends and family all over the country, and so when Mike looked at our route he was able to find people to stay with for three out of four nights of the trip, and this made a huge difference in our frame of mind. Rather than constantly thinking about how freaking far we still were from Whoville, each day we woke up and said, "Tonight we're going to visit so-and-so." It had been anywhere from six months to four years since we'd seen these folks, so it was a great opportunity to visit and catch up with them. Even if you don't have people you know to stay with along the way, picking some vacation spots along the way can help make each day something to look forward to. My brother's moving next month and said he might make a detour to camp at Yellowstone, just because he's always wanted to.

5. Don't push yourself too hard.
We planned out days that were about 8 to 8-1/2 hours on Google Maps, which in the truck ended up being 9-10 hours depending on the terrain we were driving through. This was great because it allowed us to get up, eat breakfast, get on the road about 8am, and get to our next destination in time to have dinner with the people we were visiting. We had several hours to visit with them, but could still get to bed in time to be rested before hitting the road again the next day. Taking care of yourself is important! I've heard too many stories of people who planned to drive through the night, switching drivers and sleeping in between, and ended up having to pull off at some truck stop to sleep because everyone was exhausted and miserable. Yes, I believe you can do a 14-hour day, but are you really going to feel your best when you have to get up and face the next long day of driving?

6. Plan out your food.
We were blessed to get homemade dinners and breakfasts on most days of our trip, and we avoided stopping for lunch all but one day because we had enough good snacks in the truck cab with us. This is where I didn't plan well enough -- I'd packed all our silverware, and I ended up getting a plastic knife from my brother's roommate so I could actually make sandwiches with the bread, peanut butter, and jelly I'd brought. We got a cooler and a bag of ice from my parents (because all our ice cube trays were packed) so that we could have some refrigerated snacks, and we picked things we could both eat on the road -- grapes and cheese. We had Triscuits, Chex Mix, and granola bars, and some less healthy options (Gushers and Cheez-Its). All of this lasted us the whole trip, and we stopped for lunch on the fourth day only because it was our longest day on the road and we wanted to break it up.

7. Bring some gallon jugs of water.
Normally I am not an advocate of any sort of bottled water, but I had a few gallons from our emergency stash and so we brought them in the truck. This ended up being great because I could refill my water bottle every time we stopped for gas, so we didn't have to buy drinks at any gas station, and it also meant less trash/recycling to deal with. We did have a few other drinks we'd brought in the coolers -- Gatorade, juice, and iced tea -- and Mike refilled his iced tea bottles with water when he finished them. We stayed plenty hydrated, which also helped us take care of our bodies on the long trip (see #5).

8. Have a trash bag in the cab.
This is something Mike thought of, thankfully, which helped us keep the cab clean. I don't know about you, but one of the things I hate about road trips is having to clean out all of the wrappers and bottles that accumulate on the floor during the trip. If I had to do it again I'd have brought a separate bag for recycling, but as it was I was able to pick out the bottles and cans when we finally got to an area that had recycling containers at the gas stations.

9. Prepare to entertain yourself.
We got two audiobooks, but ended up not quite finishing up the first one (Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla); it was very interesting, but it was kind of dry and not the kind of thing we could listen to for more than an hour at a time. So we also listened to music, and talked, and tried to spot license plates from all 50 states, and I read to Mike from a book my coworkers had given me on Whoville. One thing we wished we'd done was to get some Mad Libs or even a crossword book for which I could have read Mike the clues. (He drove the entire time -- thankfully!)

10. Take breaks when you need them.
Mike stopped roughly every 2 to 2-1/2 hours to get gas, even though we'd usually still have half a tank at that point. He basically just stopped whenever he was getting bored or sore or had to pee. This gave us a chance to get out, stretch, take a bathroom break, refill our water bottles, and so on. Again, going back to #5, we knew we had to take care of ourselves. A cross-country move is a marathon, not a sprint. Once you arrive, you're going to have lots of unloading and unpacking and cleaning and organizing to do, so you don't want to have all your energy sapped by the time you get there, nor do you want to be irritable with each other.

Those are what I think helped our move go smoothly. If there was one thing I could have changed, it was the time of year that we moved. The day we packed the truck, Chicago had record-breaking heat (104 degrees), so it made the whole day absolutely miserable and also made it go more slowly because we needed frequent breaks to sit in front of our tiny wall A/C unit. We were both super cranky and exhausted by the time we were done, and it was one of the least fun experiences I've had in a long time. Unfortunately we only had a week-long window between the time we were allowed to move in to the residence hall and the time Mike starts work, so we didn't have much of a choice about the weather in which we moved. But all in all, the move went very smoothly.

What tips would you add, for long moves or just long road trips?

Update: I've linked up with Works-for-Me Wednesday! Check out the link-up for more great tips on all kinds of things.


  1. This is awesome! A lot of it is things I NEVER would have thought of. Granted - I'm not moving to another state anytime soon. (At least not that I know of.) But you just never know!

    1. Glad you found it useful! And yeah, you never know -- or you might decide to go on a long road trip, for which many of these would also be helpful :)

  2. Our first four moves were always in the worst possible weather--either the hottest or the coldest day of the year. Since then we've managed to stick to spring or fall, and we moved cross-country in a gorgeous stretch of October weather. We didn't do the truck, though (my dad and stepmother drove it). If you've got an MP3 player, you can download free audios online, which helps if you're paranoid about library returns, and also gives you a wider selection in case something isn't quite the thing. (Of course, the free ones will all be older books.)

    1. That's a great point! We didn't know until we picked up the truck that it had an iPod jack, so we'd ordered audiobooks from Amazon well in advance, but usually I download audiobooks via our library's digital service. That also eliminates one potential issue -- we left one of audiobook CDs in the truck when we returned it! We have to call today and see if we can get it back.

  3. I was just thinking this morning when I opened my feed reader, "I wonder when Jessica will be back." Glad to hear your move went smoothly!

    1. Aw, nice to know I was missed :) I'm working on a few posts, so I should be back to regular blogging next week!

  4. I'm glad the trip went well and you made it safely! I cannot WAIT to hear more about Whoville and your apartment! :)

    1. Once it is not covered in boxes, I will take some pictures! I'm unpacking the kitchen stuff today and wishing you were here with your mad organizational skills :) (Or, you know, just wishing you were here in general!)

  5. I'm hoping to move countries in the next 6 months or so, which means a bit of a different experience, but I think a lot of these tips can still apply. Glad your move went so well! :)

    1. I can't imagine what a headache it would be to plan to move across an ocean. A 2,000ish mile drive was enough stress for me! Best of luck when that time comes around!

  6. Nice post! Consider linking this to Works-for-Me Wednesday tomorrow--it's what worked for you!

    I'm glad your move went so smoothly and you're liking Whoville so far.

    We usually refill our water bottles at the cold-water spout of the soda fountain in gas station stores. I have never had a clerk object to that when we were buying gas. (But it was a good idea to use up your emergency bottled water; it does go bad after a while. We had bought water for Y2K that we wound up opening in the summer of 2001 when there was a water main break--and we decided it was not safe to drink because it smelled like a stagnant parking-lot puddle, both muddy and chemical!)

    1. Great suggestion to fill up water bottles inside! I hadn't thought of that; we were usually just in and out to use the restrooms.

      I will plan to link up to Works-for-Me Wednesday, thanks! I am reading through the e-book now and enjoying the great suggestions.

  7. While this was nicely outlined, it is not very helpful as you had so many extenuating circumstances and also because there is nothing new about these tips than many other more generalizable articles. Also it is hard to take someone seriously whose second step is to get rid of what I can only assume are pets. Pets are family and for us, it is not an option. And I hope that is how most people see it.

    1. I am sorry you did not find it helpful or new, though I'm not sure why you felt the need to share that. I don't expect everything I write will be helpful to everyone; I hope it will be helpful to some people who need this particular information.

      My second step was not "get rid of pets." It was "talk through the pre-moving steps." For us, because we were moving into a dormitory that did not allow pets, this meant the pre-moving steps included the difficult process of finding a new home for our rats. We did thankfully find a home for them that was even better than what we'd been able to provide for them. I definitely don't think everyone needs to get rid of their pets to move!


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