Your Essential Guide to Long-Distance Moving

Moving is never easy but moving out of state or across the country comes with additional challenges. Before you start researching long-distance moving companies or cross-country movers, it’s a good idea to already be planning some of the various aspects of your move.

The best way to tackle a big move is with good, old-fashioned planning and organization. Even though there will likely be some unexpected twists and turns along the way, this guide to long-distance moving will help equip you to handle every aspect of your upcoming move.

Research and Vet Long-Distance Movers

Before you can set an exact date for your move, you’ll need to select a moving company. As you’re researching long-distance movers, there are a few steps you can take to verify that the moving company you are considering is, in fact, a reputable company.

First, make sure they have an online presence. If you can’t find any mention of a moving company online, that’s a major red flag. A reputable moving company will have a website as part of a well-established online presence.

It’s always recommended that you go with a certified mover. Several organizations certify national and international moving companies, and you can either look up this information online or ask the moving company to show you the documentation. You may also want to consider visiting the Department of Transportation (DOT) website and doing a quick “carrier search,” since all moving companies are required to have a DOT number even if they aren’t out-of-state moving companies. Interstate moving requires additional certifications that local movers aren’t required to have, but all professional movers should all have at least a DOT number.

You’ll also want to look at the online moving reviews of the companies you’re considering. Once you’ve narrowed it down to two or three finalists, it’s time to get some quotes. Keep in mind that an in-person estimate or virtual video quote tends to be much more accurate than a quote obtained during a telephone interview. It’s always best that a representative of the company actually sees your belongings. Be sure to get the quote in writing and read the fine print.

Why vet a mover? Believe it or not, there are rogue movers out there whose sole purpose is to prey on unsuspecting individuals or families. These disreputable companies may do things such as hold your property hostage while demanding additional fees, dump your belongings in the middle of the street, or worse, drive off into the sunset with your belongings.

Even after you’ve hired a reputable company, verify the identity of the movers when they arrive at your home. Look for company logos and uniforms and ask to see identification. Because scammers abound, you want to make sure you’re turning your belongings over to the right people and not imposters.

Schedule Your Move

If you’re not already limited to specific dates, there are a few factors to consider when timing your move. Think about how possible move dates will fit in with your family’s school or work schedule.

Another factor is the availability of the moving company. If your dates are flexible, ask about availability and consider selecting the dates that will give you the best deal. Keep in mind that interstate moving companies get booked faster in the spring and summer months. This is why, when getting quotes from state to state movers, you may want to ask if they offer special rates during slower times of the year.

It’s really never too early to start planning for a long-distance move. Even if you’re relocating months down the road, you can begin to research movers and maybe do some preliminary packing. Typically, moves are scheduled around eight weeks in advance. If you’re moving on shorter notice, you’ll still be able to accomplish everything mentioned in this guide—you’ll just need to work faster.

Get Organized

The key to a stress-free move is proper organization. Once you’ve scheduled your move, you’ll need to get organized, and one of the best ways to do this is by starting a moving binder. Keep a folder or binder with you that will include things like to-do lists, a moving checklist, paperwork from the movers, important bills, and information about utility companies in your new area.

Prepare for Your New Space

When it comes to home organization, moving can provide a welcome fresh start. Envision how you want life to be in your new home as you decide which items to take with you and which to leave behind. Consider how furniture may fit in the new rooms. Looking at a floorplan of the new home or pictures taken during a showing can help with this process. Once you know what you’re leaving behind, divide unwanted items into piles to discard, donate, or sell. Arrange free pick up with a local charity and/or have a yard sale.

Tips for Downsizing

Some people are minimalists and don’t need to downsize, but others tend to accumulate excess stuff over time. Not only that, sometimes a relocation involves moving into a smaller home. If that’s the case, you’ll have no choice but to downsize. Whether you’re reducing your belongings out of necessity or just lightening the load to save money on a long-distance move, there’s no better time to declutter than before and during packing. Think about it — you’re already going to be handling every single item in your home.

Sometimes getting rid of things is easier said than done. Here are a few tips for downsizing before a move:

  • Start decluttering early. When it’s too early to pack, organizing and decluttering your belongings can help you feel more in control, and it will make packing more manageable when the time comes.
  • Take it one room at a time. Tackling one room at a time can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed or making a bigger mess as you declutter.
  • Digitize what you can. Take photos of sentimental items that you want to remember but not keep. Scan some of your photos and paper clutter.
  • Discard broken or expired items. If you haven’t fixed a broken item by now, you probably never will, and you shouldn’t pack old food or toiletries without first checking the expiration dates.
  • Get rid of items you didn’t know you had. Are you just now going through a box from your previous move? If you’ve done without those long-lost items for this long, you probably don’t need them.

Prepare for Your New City

There’s a long list of things to do when your address is changing, especially when moving out of state. You’ll need to start looking into things such as driver’s licenses or public transportation, voter registration, and which utility companies service your new area. Find out which of the following you can set up in advance:

  • Electricity
  • Natural Gas (if applicable)
  • Water
  • Sewer
  • Trash/recycling
  • Internet
  • Cable TV

The information you will gather pertaining to these services should go into your moving binder, where you can access it before, during, and after the move.

Family Matters

If you have school-aged children, you’ll want to start looking into your child’s new school or school district as soon as possible. Doing a little research and advance planning will help the registration process go more quickly. Contact both the old school and the new school to get the ball rolling on the records transfer. Selecting a daycare center close to your home or work could be another essential item on your to-do list if you have young children.

It might also be a good idea to check out family-friendly things to do and see in your new city so the kids will have something exciting to look forward to after the move. Children often have mixed emotions about moving, so focusing on the move’s positive aspects is vital during this major transition.

Change or Cancel Services and Memberships

Once you’ve nailed down the exact dates of your move, you’ll want to cancel or close accounts, services, and memberships with businesses in the town you are leaving. With an out-of-state move, you’ll be changing utility companies for sure, so you’ll be canceling your current accounts as opposed to transferring them to a new service address. Don’t forget to cancel any local memberships, such as your gym membership.

Change of Address Notifications

The key to a successful move is staying organized, and you don’t want to lose track of your bills or other important mail. You will, of course, need to set up mail forwarding with the post office, but you should also contact some places directly, such as credit card companies, banks, health insurance providers, and car insurance companies.

Take Inventory

Once you know which items are going with you to your new home, make a list of what you will move by yourself, possibly in your personal vehicle, and what the interstate moving company will be responsible for. Keep this inventory list with you, along with your other moving paperwork.

Get Packing

One of the most overwhelming tasks when preparing for a move is packing everything up, which is why we’ve dedicated a large portion of this guide to the subject of packing. The key to getting everything into boxes on time is to either start well in advance of the move or to pay your moving company extra for packing services. If you’re doing your own packing, most national movers recommend that you start the process at least a month before moving.

When packing weeks in advance, you’ll need a strategy. During the early packing stage, ask yourself whether you’ll use certain items before you get to the new house. Some examples of things to pack first are:

  • Holiday decorations
  • Off-season clothing
  • Books you aren’t currently reading
  • Kitchen items you don’t use every day

Not everyone has time to pack—especially with everything that goes into moving out of state, which is why many national moving companies, including Suddath, offer optional packing services.

Packing Timeline

If you do decide to pack most of your things yourself, the following timeline should help give you an idea of what to do and when:

5-7 Weeks Before Moving Day

Gather the necessary packing supplies, which may include:

  • Boxes or reusable containers
  • Packing tape dispensers and extra tape
  • Permanent markers for labeling
  • Padding materials
  • Dollies, moving blankets, and possibly dolly straps

4-6 Weeks Before Moving Day

  • Downsize your belongings, especially in the garage.
  • Sell or donate items you don’t need to take with you.
  • Give away items you can’t donate, move, or throw out, such as containers of gasoline.
  • Contact your local community to find out where to drop off leftover hazardous materials.
  • Discard remaining unwanted or unneeded items that were not sold or given away.

3 Weeks Before Moving Day

  • Pack all seasonal or infrequently used items that you won’t need before the move.
  • Stack the marked boxes in an orderly fashion so that you or your moving team can maneuver around the house.
  • Label boxes according to which room they will belong in at your new home.

2 Weeks Before Moving Day

As moving day approaches, the decisions will start to be more about what not to pack than what to pack. Here’s what to do during this stage:

  • Start packing up the kitchen.
  • Keep out one plate, bowl, glass, and utensils for each person, as well as a bare-minimum cooking kit, which might include a skillet, saucepan, knife, cooking spoon, colander, and spatula.
  • Identify any “Open First” items and label those boxes accordingly but consider keeping the boxes open for now.
  • Decide which items will be traveling with you instead of on the moving truck. These items may include clothing and toiletries, medication, pet supplies, and important papers.

1 Week Before Moving Day

During this final stage of packing, you’ll pack more and more of your stuff, possibly at an increasingly rapid rate since people tend to underestimate how long packing will take.

  • Seal up the “Open First” boxes
  • Do a final check to make sure all of your moving boxes are taped and labeled.

Packing Organization

One possible method of staying organized with packing and unpacking is to number the boxes. This numbering would be in addition to labeling each box with the name of the room. The idea behind numbering the boxes is that the boxes with the lowest numbers were packed first and can be opened last because they contain non-essential items that you can do without for a while. The highest numbered boxes should be items you use every day, which is why you would wait until the very end to pack them. If you don’t end up using a numbering system to prioritize your boxes, be sure to label certain boxes as “Open First.”

Packing Tips

  • Avoid packing clutter. Even if you downsized a few weeks before you started packing, continue to discard items as you pack to avoid taking junk to your new home.
  • Keeping clothing in dresser drawers. Did you know that the movers are expecting to move full dressers? Don’t waste time removing all of your clothing from the drawers.
  • Use clothing and towels as padding when possible. Just try to only box items together that are from the same room. For example, pad dishes with kitchen towels, dish rags, and aprons.
  • Don’t pack boxes too heavy. When possible, pack boxes lightly enough so that one person can safely lift them.
  • Be careful with large glass items. Before you wrap a glass picture or mirror, use masking tape to make an “X” across the glass. Pad the item generously and fill up any space in the carton to avoid excess movement.
  • Get help. Moving can be a significant undertaking, depending on how much stuff you have. Either get help from friends and family or contact a professional moving company for assistance with your move.

Essentials Bag

Packing a suitcase or duffle bag with essential items for each person will allow you to finish boxing up the rest of the house.

Eventually, you’ll need to pack almost everything so, near the end, you might be living out of a suitcase and eating takeout. Your essentials bag will probably contain clothing, medication, and toiletries. It should also include your moving folder with important documents like paperwork from your state to state movers, your to-do-list and/or moving checklist, and the information needed to start up utilities at your new home.

The inevitable changes that often come along with moving across the country, such as a new job, new school, and new friends, can be stressful, but the actual move doesn’t have to be. By following the above tips and systematically chipping away at your to-do list, you’ll be well on your way to a successful long-distance move.

Suddath has been moving families since 1919 and is an agent of Atlas Van Lines, one of the leading cross-country moving companies in the United States. Get in touch for a customized moving quote on your long-distance move.