A Quick Guide To Long Distance Moves

Whether you’re moving to a different state or a different country, moving is stressful – really stressful. Being a bit of a gypsy, I’ve moved more times than my age in years. Over 38 moves, I’ve gotten this down to a science and I’d love to pass on my tips to you. After all, practice makes perfect amiright?

Create A Moving Checklist

I don’t know about all of you, but I have a horrible memory. Besides the never-ending distractions of social media, life still goes on while you prepare for you move. Chances are you will forget something if you don’t have a list to reference. I’m not saying you have to be crazy-organized like moi, but at the very least make a simple checklist in Word or by hand.

I took it a step further and made a spreadsheet in Excel (in a shocking turn of events…). It only took a few minutes to throw together and made a practical checklist that put my memory at ease. Besides ensuring you’ve taken care of everything, you’ll feel super accomplished when you check off that last box. Below you’ll see a past moving checklist from one of my NYC moves. I’m still checking things off my current moving list – the further the move, the longer the checklist!

Stay organized during moves with a spreadsheet checklist and you’ll never forget to forward the mail again!

Start packing early – Keep, Sell/Donate, or Throw

This one  is popular in moving books and posts for a reason – you have way more shit than you thought. I promise. Note I said “more shit,” because I’m not talking about stuff (you have a lot of that too). Nobody ever realizes how much they’ve accumulated over time until it’s time to pack it all into boxes.

I know I’ve seen the “keep, sell/donate, or throw” method on hoarding reality shows, and it really works – hoarder or not. I actually add in a “sentimental value” box and then whittle that down further at the end. There’s no reason to hold onto 6 sweaters from my mom and 4 pounds of jewelry from my grandma, ya know what I mean?

This method is exactly as it sounds. As you pack, separate things out that you can sell or donate, and things that are trash. If you keep a lot of items for sentimental value, then go ahead and separate those as well. If you start this early enough (say at least 3 months out – some people suggest even longer), you won’t feel rushed. Movers charge by weight or cubic feet, so the less you move with the better. If you have a lot to sell it can help pay for the move too!

“Open First” Box

I didn’t do this for my first solo move and I regretted it. I had basic supplies in multiple boxes buried under a mountain of moving boxes, and had to go out and buy it all again when I arrived at the new place.

Take one good-sized box (maybe 30″ x 30″ x 30″) and add in everything you might need on the first night of your move. Make sure it’s the last box loaded on the truck and the first box unloaded. Everyone’s needs are different, but here is what I included in mine:  paper towels, Clorox Wipes, multi-purpose cleaner, garbage bags, hand soap, toilet paper, 1 set of disposable cutlery per person, plastic cups, sheets, bath towel, travel-size toiletries, pen, notepad, box cutter, coffee pot & basic coffee supplies, chargers for essential electronics, small alarm clock, matches, basic pet supplies (I shipped a litter box ahead and tossed the old one). These essentials will get you through your first night without a hitch.

Label, Label, Label

LABEL!!!! Did I make my point? Label EVERYTHING. At the very least you’ll need to label the box with the room it belongs in for the movers (i.e. KITCHEN, MASTER BEDROOM, etc. – I suggest all caps, as it’s easier to read).

Naturally I take this to the next level and write the contents of the box (i.e. KITCHEN / food processor, juicer & plastic cups). It takes a little extra time while packing, but if I’m looking for something in particular I know exactly where to look and not waste 30 minutes on a box-hunting expedition.

Price Match moving companies

When I moved from Florida to New York, family and friends helped me pack the truck and then I drove it up with a friend. I hired 2 guys to do the unload at $75/hr (plus $30 flat fee) through Smooth Move NYC. I’ve used 3 different moving companies in NYC and they were my favorite, though they are labor only (no truck). I had rented a truck in Florida and it cost around $1500 to rent a U-Haul for that trip.

It was a whole different story moving from New York to Florida. Everyone knows that Manhattan is expensive, and moving trucks are no different. My original thought was to hire Smooth Move NYC again to load and then I’d drive the truck down myself. For the exact same truck from U-Haul, at the exact same time of the year, with the exact same pickup and drop-off locations, it was $3500 – more than double what I paid to do it in reverse.

There was no way in hell I was paying that kind of money to do the long drive myself. I ended up calling a dozen different moving companies for quotes. What most places don’t advertise is that many of them are willing to price match. If you can show your preferred company a quote from their competitor with a lower price, a lot of them will match it. Make sure to think about insurance for valuables if you have artwork or other expensive pieces.

I ended up using Moving Pro for $1650, which included load/unload and they drove it down to Florida for me. You pay half upon pickup and half upon delivery in cash. It was relatively painless, but one thing to note is that literally everything has to be in boxes except big furniture. I ended up having to shell out a little extra cash on the spot to box my hamper bags that I was using to move clothing.

A few of the boxes had some damage on the outside, but nothing inside was harmed. Overall, I’d rate them 8/10. I docked 2 points for damage to the boxes (a few looked like the top was almost ripped off). The people who did the load/unload were professional and all of my stuff made it to Florida in one piece, so that’s a win in my book!

Hand-Carry Valuables

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but I always pack a carry-on sized bag with all of my valuables – jewelry, expensive electronics, my camera gear, and important documents.

The easiest way I’ve kept track of my important docs (passport, birth certificate, social security card, bank information, etc.) and hard copies of moving information is to keep them in a black file folder. It keeps everything in one place for easy access and keeps your move freak-out free.

Take Inventory

When everything is in brown boxes and furniture is shrink-wrapped and in moving blankets, it all starts to look the same. It legit could be weeks before you realize something is missing. The most pain-free way to deal with this is by making a simple inventory list.

I like to number my boxes and list out each piece of furniture, TV’s, mirrors, etc. by room. As they unload the truck I check each item off the list. This way you can find exactly what is missing if your counts are off. There’s a great organizational app called Sortly that can be used for moving inventory if you’re into that. With my luck, my phone would die and I wouldn’t have access to my inventory. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer a hard copy when dealing with a move.

Research Your New Town/state/country

Arrive starving for dinner in your new town at 10 PM when everything closes at 8 PM? Want to get stuck on an hour-long ride to the vet with your crying cat? Get my drift? Do your research before you move.

I always make sure to find doctors in my health network, a veterinarian for Sophie (my kitty), a laundry mat, new pharmacy, etc. near my new home. This is also helpful when transferring records. I made sure to have my new cable, internet and electric all lined up weeks before my move as well.

If you’re moving to a new country you’ll have even more research to do. Not only do you have all the stress of a long-distance move, but you also need to research the new laws and cultural norms of your new hometown. It’s important to also note that you may need to translate doctor’s records into a different language, and of course have all the necessary visas/paperwork. If this is the case I would suggest looking for an online Expat group from your new country to help you prepare.

Things go wrong, things get lost, and people are late. Do everything and anything you can to take the stress off in the weeks leading up to the move. Just remember, once the move is done and the dust has settled, you have a brand new destination to explore!

Did you find this post helpful? Do you have any moving disasters that could have been avoided?





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