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Moving Across Country Checklist (And Free Download)

Moving across the country checklist

Cross-country moving can be daunting – whether you’re hiring a moving company or taking care of it yourself. There’s so much to do and keep track of that you may feel overwhelmed. We made you a checklist to help you stay organized (and calm!) during your adventure.

👉 Download our free moving across the country checklist! (PDF)

🚚 Get a free quote for your move.

Answer a few simple questions and get matched with a vetted moving company that has the right expertise for your move. You’ll get a free quote and there’s no obligation to book.

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Moving across country checklist

Pick your moving date

You need an exact date to book a moving company or rental truck. You might not have much flexibility in timing your move, but if possible, consider moving mid-week, mid-month, and mid-winter.

Movers and truck rentals are the busiest during weekends and during the summer. So you’ll probably get a better deal with off-peak prices. Plus, people usually move at the end of the month so they can be in their new residence by the first day of the next month.


The less stuff you have, the cheaper your move will be. Now’s a great time to get rid of bulky, unwanted items like old couches.

Here’s how to declutter:

  1. Start early! This process can take a while if you have a lot of stuff.
  2. Divide your home into zones, like rooms or defined areas.
  3. Complete one zone at a time.
  4. Sort items into three piles: keep, donate, and throw out. 
  5. Put the “keep” items in a safe spot. If you’re feeling extra ambitious and don’t need the stuff for a while, pack it now.
  6. Drop off the “donate” items or arrange for them to get picked up. 
  7. Dispose of the “throw out” pile. If you have big items that won’t fit in your trash can, you can take things to the dump or call a junk removal service.
  8. Repeat these steps until you’ve gone through everything in your house.

» LEARN: What stays and what goes when you sell your home

💡Pro tip: Create an inventory of the belongings you’re keeping. This list will come in handy when you start packing for your move.

Compare quotes and book your move

If possible, schedule your move around two months beforehand. That way, you won’t have to worry about the mover’s availability at the last minute.

Picking a mover

Ask family members and friends if they have any recommendations for moving companies. Then do some online research to find the best long-distance moving companies:

  • Review each company’s website carefully. Does the company offer the services you need? Does it specialize in long-distance moving? Does it operate in your starting and ending locations? Does it have transparent and fair policies?
  • Read through customer reviews. What do previous customers have to say? Are most people satisfied? How does the company handle property damage and other customer service issues?
  • Verify that the moving company is insured and licensed. You can look the company up on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration database.

Pick your top two or three companies and contact them for quotes.

Most moving companies calculate your quote based on distance, fuel expenses, the amount of stuff you have, and any other special services you need. You’ll probably have to submit a detailed inventory of your belongings or have a company rep visit your home to gauge how much stuff you have to get you a more accurate quote.

Moving truck rentals usually calculate quotes based on vehicle size, move distance, and rental length. You’ll have to budget for gas and tolls separately.

Comparing quotes

Once you have multiple quotes, compare the prices and services to find the one that best fits your needs and budget. Then contact that company to book your move for the dates you need.

If you need to transport a car (or multiple), you’ll need to book a move with an auto transport company. If you’re driving a rented moving truck, you may be able to tow a car behind you.

Food for thought: Nearly 30% of survey participants wished they had hired professional movers.

🚚 Get a free quote for your move.

Answer a few simple questions and get matched with a vetted moving company that has the right expertise for your move. You’ll get a free quote and there’s no obligation to book.

Get started

Figure out moving insurance

Moving across the country could put your possessions at risk for damage or loss. Evaluate how much your belongings are worth and figure out what level of moving insurance you need.

Your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance may not apply to stuff in transit, so check with your insurer before you book your move. Most likely, you’ll need a different form of insurance.

Released value protection

If you hire a moving company, you’ll automatically get basic moving insurance coverage (also known as released value protection or RVP) at no extra cost. Under RVP, the insurance company typically pays out $0.60 per pound of impacted goods. So if your $2,500, 300-pound dining room table gets destroyed, you’ll receive $180.

This coverage is usually inadequate. If you have room in your budget, we recommend upgrading to the full-value protection (FVP) that moving companies typically offer. If something gets damaged, the moving company will pay to repair or replace the affected item(s).

💡 Pro tip: Take a photo or video inventory of your belongings before you start packing. That way, it’s easy to show what items looked like before they got damaged. And keep track of any receipts or documents that can prove what your belongings are worth.

Confirm your move-in date

Check with your new landlord or real estate agent to see when your new home will be ready for you.

Once your date is set, you can schedule an appointment to turn on the utilities. And you can get anything set up that you need, like registering your kids for school or letting your future boss know what day they can expect you in the office.

Get packing supplies

Full-service movers usually provide their own packing materials.

If you’re going the DIY route, here’s what to get:

  • Boxes You can buy boxes from places like Home Depot, but you can also get them for free from Facebook groups or grocery stores.
  • Packing tape, packing peanuts, and bubble wrap — Your rental truck company will probably sell packing supplies, but you can usually get them cheaper from Amazon or office supply stores.
  • A dolly or hand truck — You don’t really need to buy a dolly. Instead, rent one from a moving company or home improvement store.
  • Furniture protectors and sliders — You can also rent these from moving companies. But if you’re on a tight budget, old blankets, towels, and other linens work fine.
  • Tie-down straps — You can get tie-down or ratchet straps at home improvement stores, automotive supply stores, big box retailers, and online.

💡 Pro tip: Get more supplies than you think you’ll need. That way you won’t have to make as many trips to the store. You can always return what you don’t use.

Plan your route and book accommodations

When moving across the country, most people are going to do some driving to get to their new place — whether you’re driving a moving truck or your own car. Sit down with map or road trip apps of some kind and plan exactly how far you’ll go each day and book a place to stay for each night.

After several tiring hours of traveling, you won’t have much energy to spend finding a place to stay. Better to do it beforehand. Here’s how:

  1. Calculate the total distance you have to travel.
  2. Decide how long you want to be on the road each day.
  3. Figure out roughly how far you can realistically go during that time, including food and bathroom breaks.
  4. Find medium-sized cities near where you plan to stop for the day. You’ll want cities that are big enough to have decent places to eat and stay, but small enough that the accommodations won’t be wildly expensive and will have reasonable parking.
  5. Search for accommodations in those cities. Try to pick places that are close to your route, with gas and food options.
  6. Compare options. Look at rates and included amenities. If you have a pet, make sure each hotel or Airbnb is pet friendly. If you’re driving a rental truck, check to see if there’s nearby parking for large vehicles.
  7. Make your reservations and keep the confirmation email or text handy.

Figure out your ETA

Plan what day and time you want to get to your new place. You might want your ETA (estimated time of arrival) to be on a weekday during the day.

Setting up your utilities much easier is much easier in the middle of a weekday because more professionals will be available. And you can take a look at the property and neighborhood while it’s still light out.

You could also schedule grocery delivery for later that day. This’ll make figuring out dinner on your first night (and breakfast the following morning) a breeze.

Forward your mail

About two weeks before you leave, set up mail forwarding at the United States Postal Service website.

While you’re at it, update your address with:

  • Government agencies (including the DMV)
  • Your bank and credit card companies
  • Your insurance companies
  • Service providers

This is also an excellent time to set reminders for yourself to do things like:

  • Get your new license
  • Register your car
  • Register to vote
  • Find a new doctor, dentist, veterinarian, pharmacy, etc.
  • Open a new bank account (if needed)

💡 Pro tip: Cancel any locally-based services and memberships that won’t transfer (like your gym with only one location) a week or two in advance.

Label and pack everything by room

As you pack each box, label it clearly by room so everything is easy to find when you unpack. If you want to, you can put numbers on each box and create a spreadsheet to keep track of what’s inside each one.

When you or the movers unload the truck, put the boxes in the appropriate rooms to make the unpacking process faster and less tiring.

Pack a first-night bag

Pack a bag or box of essentials that you’ll probably need the first night at your new place, like: 

  • Bedding (sheets, air mattresses, pillows, etc.)
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Clothing
  • Favorite items (kids and pets)
  • Jewelry
  • Important documents (birth certificates, social security cards, receipts from the move, etc.)
  • Medicine
  • Personal electronics and chargers
  • Small family heirlooms
  • Toiletries
  • Tools
  • Towels

Pack food

Pack nonperishable food for your trip, like jerky, trail mix, chips, dry oatmeal, cereal, and dried fruit. Pack any perishable food or drinks in a portable cooler and put fresh ice in it daily to keep things fresh.

Of course, you can always stop and eat at restaurants along the way. But bringing food so you don’t have to eat out every meal is a good way to save money along the route.

Load strategically

A little extra effort upfront to make a loading strategy can make unloading and settling in much easier. A plan will help you keep track of all of your stuff and help you optimize the space in the truck or pod.

Sort your things into things you will use immediately when you get to your new home and things that can wait. For example, you probably won’t need your weightlifting bench immediately, but you may want to sleep on your mattress that first night.

Load the items from the least critical to the most critical. Put things you’ll need right away, like sheets or towels, at the very back of the truck so they’ll get unloaded first.

If you’re using professional movers, instruct them on how to load the truck. It may be helpful to group boxes and items by room and then tell them to follow a sequence. For example, load boxes from the attic or basement first and boxes from the bedrooms last.

💡 Pro tip: Prep your appliances before loading them. For example, defrost freezers, dry out washing machines, and empty gas lawnmowers.

Check the weather forecast

Look at the weather forecast for your old place on the day you leave and for your new place on the day you arrive.

If you’re going to have stormy weather, you might want to shift your plans if possible. But if you can’t, there are still some things you can do to keep yourself and the moving team safe.

For example, if it’s going to rain, get raincoats to keep you dry and tarps to protect your stuff. If you expect snow and ice, salt your stairs and walkways to prevent slips and falls.

💡 Pro tip: Check the weather forecast in the areas you’ll pass through on your journey. You don’t want to get caught in unexpected weather conditions along the way.

Bring change for tolls (or buy an EZ pass)

Pack your spare change in a small, easily accessible bag for tolls. You can also purchase an EZ Pass in advance to pay tolls electronically without stopping.

Keep some emergency cash on hand, too, in case a gas station or restaurant doesn’t take cards. Plus, movers prefer to get cash tips if they deliver exceptional service.

» LEARN: How much to tip movers

Next steps

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