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January 29, 2024

How to Move Cross-Country in 8 Steps

Reviewed By: Benjamin Johnson, Sr. Director of Operations, Atlas Van Lines - 10+ Years in the Moving Industry

Moving van driving in the country side at sunset
Setting out on a cross-country move is an adventure that can redefine your everyday life. It is not just about moving belongings from one place to another, but also about moving your familiarity, routines, and even your sense of community. 

The key to an easy cross-country move is thorough planning and preparation, ensuring that each step you take is well-considered and budgeted for. But when you are creating a new life in a different part of the country, there are so many factors to consider. 

That is why Atlas has created a simplified, easy-to-follow guide on how to move cross-country, including ways you can save money on large or small cross-country moves. 

What is Considered a Cross-Country Move?

As the name insinuates, a cross-country move involves relocating to a different part of the country than you currently live. These relocations usually cover more than 500 miles from the original starting point. 

These moves often cross state lines and can even span from coast to coast. Due to the extended mileage, cross-country moves require more planning, time, and resources compared to local moves. The logistics involved are complex, often involving detailed tracking of your belongings, long-term vehicle rentals, and sometimes storage solutions. 

Costs for moving cross-country are usually calculated based on the weight of the items being moved and the total distance traveled, rather than the time it takes to move them. Additionally, these types of moves need careful consideration of travel arrangements, including the transport of vehicles, personal travel plans, and overnight stops. 

Moving across the country is a large undertaking, but with careful planning and help from a trusted cross-country mover, you can make your relocation a smooth success. 

The Best Way to Plan and Move Cross-Country

moving truck driving through the city
There are numerous ways you can approach your relocation, but Atlas has outlined the best way to begin planning, organizing, and scheduling your cross-country move below.

Step 1: Research and Plan Your Move

Use online resources, such as Zillow or Google Maps, to take virtual tours of neighborhoods, giving you a glimpse into your future community. This will also help you to understand the street layout and the ways a moving truck will need to be navigated. 

Joining social media groups specific to your new city can provide invaluable advice and help you gauge the local culture, cost of living, and even the small things that make a place unique.

Once you are comfortable with the findings of your new community, you can continue to use technology to your advantage. With an array of apps and moving checklists at your disposal, you can organize tasks and inventory your belongings with ease. 

This is a fairly easy task that can be completed ahead of time without disrupting your everyday life. Take an hour or two each day to add essential and important belongings to your list and note tasks that will need to be completed before you can relocate. 

To save time later on, you can also start to prioritize tasks and create a realistic timeline of when your move needs to be completed. This timeline could be shifted slightly based on your moving company's capacity, but overall, it will serve as a task guide.

Step 2: Budgeting for Your Move

A financial plan is crucial for a stress-free move. The best way to create a moving budget and start financially planning your relocation is by first getting a moving quote for long-distance relocation.
Experts recommend getting a moving quote from multiple moving companies as soon as you know you will be moving. This provides an opportunity to get an idea of what your move will cost from different moving companies in your area.

This will give you the most accurate pricing for the overall cost of your move. When estimating your moving budget, consider all potential costs, including packing materials, moving company fees, insurance, travel costs, temporary lodging, and storage fees. 

When consulting with your moving company, be sure to ask about any additional moving services you may need and what costs are associated with them, such as moving vehicles and packing and unpacking services.

Utilize personal finance apps to set a budget for your move and track your spending. Do not forget to set aside funds for unexpected expenses and the initial setup in your new home, such as deposits for utilities and rent.

Step 3: Choosing the Right Moving Service

Once you have an idea of how much your move will cost and a moving budget, you can select a moving service. This stage is about finding the sweet spot between affordability, reliability, and quality. 
Check customer reviews, ask for references to ensure they are trustworthy and experienced, and compare your moving company to other van lines. 

A reputable moving company will be transparent about its fees, services, and timeline. Ideally, they should also demonstrate a successful track record of long-distance moves, like Atlas Van Lines.
Understand your rights and responsibilities when working with movers, and do not shy away from discussing your needs and expectations upfront. 

Step 4: Decluttering and Organizing

Use your move as an opportunity to declutter responsibly. Sort your items into categories: keep, sell, donate, and recycle. The weight of your items can make a large impact on your moving costs, so be sure to only keep items you truly need, ones that have sentimental value, or things you use on a regular basis. Small belongings can add up quickly.

Consider using online marketplaces or organizing a garage sale for items you wish to sell. This will help you gain some funds back from moving costs or give you more purchasing power for new items in your home. 

For items you want to recycle, research local recycling programs to dispose of unwanted items without causing harm to the environment. If you have items that cannot be recycled, dispose of them at your local landfill. 

Donations can also make a significant impact. You can get rid of your unwanted items while helping others. Look for local charities or community centers where your items can support those in need.

Step 5: Packing Strategies and Tips

Full-service moving companies offer packing and unpacking services. Packing is one of the most time-consuming parts of moving, so enlisting a moving company like Atlas to pack for you is a great option. 

When you choose this service, your moving company will organize, pack, label, and load all your belongings efficiently and carefully. Since a professional moving company has first-hand experience, they can usually pack items into fewer boxes and with more care than the average person. 

Their experience and training in packing valuable, heavy, or awkward items also make this process much more efficient and safer to perform than a homeowner or renter. 
If you opt out of packing services and choose to pack on your own, develop a packing strategy that minimizes waste and maximizes efficiency. 

Invest in eco-friendly, quality packing materials. Label each box with its contents and the room they will be placed in at your new home. Keep a detailed inventory list that can be easily accessed through your phone or a notebook.

Whether you DIY pack or hire a moving company, having a plan is essential at this stage.

Step 6: Making Travel Arrangements

Your personal travel plans should be as carefully considered as the rest of your move. Use trip planning apps to find the best routes, book accommodations, and locate rest stops along the way. These trip-planning resources include:
  • Atlas World-Class Travel Services – Atlas handles all aspects of your trip, including airline reservations, train transportation, car rentals and services, hotel accommodations, cruise planning, and more. 
  • USA Rest Stop Locator App - Allows you to locate and map any rest stop in the United States.
  • Trip Advisor - Gives you the power to build your trip by booking hotels, vacation rentals, experiences, and more.
  • Expedia - Expedia offers any travel needs on one website. Book flights, car rentals, travel packages, hotels and house rentals, and experiences at discounted prices.
Prepare an essentials kit for the journey, including snacks, water, chargers, and entertainment. If you are moving with pets, plan for their comfort with regular breaks, and ensure they have a safe and secure place in your vehicle.

Step 7: Moving Day

Moving day is the most important day in this process. When you choose a trusted moving company to assist you during your cross-country move, such as Atlas, you will likely have very little to take care of. Your moving company will do all the work for you.

When you hire a mover, this is the day you get to sit back and relax. Your movers will:
  • Show up with a moving truck at the specified time and location.
  • Load all your heavy furniture items and belongings onto the moving truck.
  • Secure all your belongings safely inside the truck to preserve their condition.
  • Begin the transport to your new home. 
While the movers are loading your belongings, take this time to pack some drinks and snacks for your travels. Once you have this accomplished, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the hassle-free experience. 

If you have chosen to DIY your move, you will be responsible for every aspect of your move. This includes renting the moving truck, loading the truck, securing your items, arranging for kids, pets, or vehicles, locating a safe route to take, and ensuring everything gets completed, so you will need to come prepared.

Step 8: Setting Up in Your New Home

Finally, the last step of establishing your new home begins with the essentials—unpacking the necessities and setting up utilities. Many moving companies, like Atlas Van Lines, offer unpacking services as well. So, if you feel worn out from the trip, let the professionals handle the time-consuming and labor-intensive aspects of your move. 

Once the immediate needs are addressed, start exploring your neighborhood. Introduce yourself to neighbors, find local spots like cafes and parks, and get involved in community activities. Personalize your space early on to make it feel like home, which can greatly ease the emotional transition of a move.

Tips for Saving Money on Your Cross-Country Move

Moving cross-country can be costly, but with strategic planning and savvy decision-making, you can reduce your upfront expenses. Here are some practical tips to help you save money during your cross-country move.

Choose the Right Time to Move

The timing of your move can have a large impact on cost. Peak moving season for top movers like Atlas typically runs from May to September when demand is highest, leading to premium pricing.

Plan your move during the off-peak season, preferably in the late fall or early spring, when moving companies are more likely to offer discounts.

Additionally, consider scheduling your move during weekdays rather than weekends. Moving at the beginning or middle of the month can cut costs as well, as the end of the month is usually busier for movers.

Get Multiple Moving Quotes

Do not settle for the first quote you receive. Gather several estimates from reputable moving companies and compare their service offerings and reputations.

When you are planning a cross-country move, the most important aspect is choosing a company that you trust. After all, this company will be loading, transporting, and delivering all your belongings across a large span of the country.

You should also ensure your chosen moving company offers all the services you will need for your move and can accommodate your timeline.

When establishing an estimate for your move, a binding not-to-exceed estimate is often the best option, as it ensures you will not pay substantially more than the original quote and helps you avoid extra service fees.

Declutter Before You Pack

The weight and volume of your belongings are major factors in the cost of your move. Take time to declutter and downsize your possessions. 
Sell items of value online or through a garage sale. Donate items that are still in good condition to charity and recycle what you cannot sell or donate. This not only reduces moving costs but may also provide extra cash to fund your move.

Drive Your Vehicle

If feasible, drive to your new home instead of shipping your vehicle. This eliminates the cost of vehicle transport services and can provide you with a means to transport some of your belongings, reducing the weight and cost of the moving truck.

Understand Your Tax Deductions

If your move is related to a job relocation, you may be eligible for corporate relocation tax deductions. Keep a detailed record of all moving expenses, as some costs may be tax-deductible. Consult with a tax professional to understand your options.

Prepare for Your Arrival

Plan for your immediate needs upon arrival at your new home. Grab essentials before the move to avoid the temptation of convenient, but often more expensive, shopping trips after you arrive.
By using these tips, you can effectively manage your moving budget and potentially save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in your cross-country relocation. Remember, the key to a cost-effective move is preparation, comparison shopping, and some ingenuity.

Cross-Country Moving with Ease

A successful cross-country move is the sum of many carefully executed steps. Keep in mind that the ultimate goal is not just to move your possessions, but to transition your life to a new beginning. 
There is no better moving company to provide you with a smooth and reliable cross-country moving experience than Atlas Van Lines. With over 75 years of moving expertise and movers in all 50 states, Atlas makes your long-distance relocation a breeze.
Get your free quote and experience the Atlas difference.