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10 Things I Learned On A Long Distance Move Across The Country

Updated on April 16, 2017


I found myself moving all the way across the country. From the great state of Utah to the warm Gulf of Mexico shore in central Florida. It was a necessary move that we had plenty of time to plan for but nonetheless the moving date came upon us faster than we thought.

Any long distance move can be fraught with all kinds of problems, decisions, and uncertainty. So this is a list of some of the things I learned about when considering a long distance move.

Lesson 1: Prepare everything as far in advance as possible.

Don't wait to plan, arrange, and pack everything until the last moment. Start making plans along with a list and schedule of everything you need to do way ahead of time and start doing it. When we finally came down to moving it was very easy to accomplish in a few hours because of our prior planning.

Make a list of all the arrangements you need to make, like when to secure a rental truck, when to shut off utilities. When to turn on new utilities at the new place. And all other arrangements you need to make. A list with due dates can help make this process easy to remember and quick to execute. Finally start your search for boxes and other moving supplies and start packing those items you want to move, label them, and store them in the garage or place closest to the moving truck.

Lesson 2: Decide ahead of time what you want to move, store, and sell.

This helped us a lot. When moving cross country you dont want to move junk, items you can easily replace, or items you wont need. For instance the cost difference of a 16 foot truck and 20 foot truck can be $1000 or more when you count the cost of the fuel, truck costs, and insurance.

First we wanted to pay for our move so we sold a lot of things we knew we were not going to use. Even the smallest of items sold at a garage sale. We sold most of the items through classified ads. That netted almost all of the proceeds we needed for our move.

We chose to store our most valuable stuff in Utah since we might come back or because we knew our stay in Florida was only a few years. That way what we took to Florida was only items we did not care if they were damaged. And lastly we moved only the bare minimum of items and it all fit into the smallest truck.

Lesson 3: What method of moving should you choose.

Basically we needed to decide between three methods of moving which were; a moving company, a pack yourself system, or a move it yourself moving rental truck. In the end we decided on a moving rental truck because the cost was so much less.

We got quotes on a moving company that does it all and between the service and car transportation it would be about $7000.00, then a U-Pack system was even more about $7500 when you add in the car transport system. A rental truck with a car carrier was about $1700 and the whole move cost us about $5000.00 after all fuel costs, driving the car, food, and hotel stays (we would have had to pay all of the later costs with the other systems or air line flights).

In the end we save about $3000 dollars by moving our selves. In the end we choose Penske rental trucks because we have always had good luck with them, they have newer trucks, and drive smoothly.


Lesson 4: Do I pay extra for the truck rental insurance?

This is a question that we ask ourselves at the rental counter and go back and forth in our minds several times before we either accept or deny it. The guy behind the rental counter when we returned our truck said about 50% or more deny the insurance. To me that is just plain crazy. We took the insurance, it was only a couple of hundred dollars and we were traveling almost 3000 miles. And it turned out well worth it.

We were towing a vehicle so we got towing insurance in case something happened taking the car of the trailer or if it got damaged while towing it. We also got the insurance that covered damage to the truck. Both of which we used. Somewhere in our journey we got a rock chip on the windshield which turned into 4 long length cracks. Then someone side swiped the trailed and but a big gouge on the side of it.

When we turned the truck in at our destination it went in with no damage on the return because we had the insurance. Both repairs could easily cost us about $600.00 or more and the cost of the windshield replacement alone well paid for the cost of the initial insurance. So I always recommend the insurance on a long distance move.

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Lesson 5: Arrange all of the stuff you are going to move into the garage or a staging area for easy loading.

Close off rooms and move stuff closer to the staging area making it easy to clean in the very end. By the time the moving truck comes it will be very easy to load it with everything stage. We loaded a 16 foot truck in about 2 hours with only three guys because everything was right there ready to load.

Dis-assemble every bulky item so it can easily load and save you room. We took table, desks, a sleep number bed, and other items that we knew could easily re-assemble at our new destination.

Lesson 6: To load or not to load that is the question that may save your back.

Since our move will be temporary we decided to store a lot of our items. We also were moving in the middle of summer and it was hot where we were going. Plus my back wasn't in the best of shape, couple that with a 7 day journey and I picked to hire movers to move boxes onto the moving truck and to unload it when we got there. I only spent a few hundred dollars and it was well worth the money.

My back had no pain even moving the lighter stuff and re-building all of the items. In the end if I had to do this all over again I would hire movers to do it all.

Lesson 7: Plan your route in advance, where you are going to stay, and your budget.

Before we even drove one mile on the pavement I mapped the entire way on MapQuest. I used this system because it was easier for me to devise a route to avoid tolls. Once I knew the basic route I then put together all the hotels I would stay at. We needed to find pet friendly hotels (see reason below) and ones spaced out between 400 to 500 miles apart. We decided to go on a southern route near the top of Texas to avoid the heat of June and some storms that we pounding the Houston area.

You need to consider the heat or cold in the areas you are traveling and also be aware of the weather. Some research ahead of time can help you avoid trouble on the road.

Then I printed out maps to each destination and put them together in one packet for each vehicle. Combine the written instructions with our phones GPS system and we had no issues getting to where we needed to go. Each hotel we picked had to be close to the freeway we were traveling on, be relatively nice, and have a good rating. We used a hotel service to book our hotels to take advantage of free hotel stays after so many nights booked.

One thing to note on the hotels stay each night. If you pick one with a free breakfast you can save yourself some money. Also if someone in your party snores loudly you may want to get two rooms. We found that we could get adjoining rooms at a great cost per night and it made the stay much better with each person in the party getting a good nights rest.

Before we left we had a budget of how much we would spend on hotels, food, and fuel and we tried to stay within that budget. We did fairly well on most accounts. Although staying in multiple rooms was a on the road decision that did increase our hotel stay budget. But it was well worth the extra cost.

Lesson 8: Pace yourself if you are driving and make sure you allow yourself plenty of time.

When using a moving truck it is governed to about 75mph. So you can not drive as fast as you want. Plus it is not the most comfortable vehicle to drive. So I would recommend that you dont go more than 500 or so miles a day. That is about 8 hours of driving each day. We broke our drive into some 400 mile days and some 500 mile days. When we started early enough we got into the hotel around 4:00 or 5:00 each evening with plenty of time to get some rest.

We also were traveling with two small dogs and a person with a small bladder so we had to stop every two hours. Which worked out well anyway because we scheduled fuel stops during that time and it worked out fine. We also were driving a car with the rental truck and we did a caravan the entire way. In some ways this made it easier by having the car scout ahead for suitable places to stop to eat, for gas, and to rest.

Lesson 9: Treat yourself well on the journey by eating good food and getting plenty of rest.

When traveling it is very easy to get worn out. Especially if you do not get enough rest or eat good food. So when I travel I always make sure to go to bed early and sleep at least eight hours. I also make sure I eat well. Not fast food, or if I do I try to eat salads, good protein, and fruits and vegetables.

One of the best things we did was pack a cooler with cold cuts, condiments, lettuce and tomatoes, and made sandwiches. These were such a welcome treat over fast food. Also for me I like to take an Ibuprofen pain killer once a day when I drive it makes my back relax and I don't have back pain when I get to my final destination.

Lesson 10: Be prepared by studying where you are going and all the things you will be responsible for.

When traveling across states you need to know the regulations of each state. Especially going into California and Florida who have agricultural stop stations. In Florida I got pulled over because it was mandatory for all moving vans and trucks to pull over to have their load inspected. I had no idea and just blew by the stop. Well two very nice officers pulled me over and inspected the contents of the truck and left me go with just a warning. So keep in mind regulations, speed limits, and tolls that might cost you extra if you don't mind them.

Also do as much research on your new city ahead of time as possible. Get the lay of the land. We moved to our destination almost sight unseen. We only visited briefly for an interview. By doing some research online we were able to determine how the roads were laid out, where the grocery stores were, and other places we needed to get to. This proved valuable when we got to our new home and needed some quick supplies.

In the End the Last Lesson

In the end we took seven days to make our trip which included an out of the way trip down to Arizona to visit some relatives. We didn't push ourselves to hard and made sure we had plenty of rest. The move was in itself not a bad experience it just wasn't something you wanted to do on a regular basis. In the end I would have made sure to plan for more contingencies, had a better budget, and allowed for more sightseeing.


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