Stay organized and reduce strees with these easy tips for how to plan a big move!
Plus, download my free printable moving checklist.
Image Source: Beth Kanter
How to Plan a Big Move
There is just no getting around it … whether you are moving across town or across country, packing up everything you own is stressful.
If you’ve ever moved, you know how overwhelming it can be. Thankfully, with a little planning, you can avoid a lot of unnecessary stress.
My husband and I have moved from Wisconsin to Florida, from Chicago to San Francisco, and from San Francisco to New York. Plus, we just moved from New York to Dallas. Ah the memories … ha ha!
I’ve learned A LOT during these moves, so I thought I’d share the tips I’ve picked up along the way. Today is all about how to plan a big move, and I’ve got a free printable moving checklist to help you stay organized, too.
Starting Planning Your Move ASAP
Scroll to the end of the post for my free printable moving checklist!
The biggest tip I can give you is to start planning your move right away. Moving takes a lot of time and preparation. Don’t delay, even if your move is months away.
Our latest move had a really tight timetable (about a month and a half from hire date to moving date). However, even before he officially got the job transfer, Joel and I started researching Dallas, we crunched costs, and we began talking about everything involved.
I recommend setting up a moving binder. Use it to hold important papers, moving contracts and quotes, receipts, and anything else you need to keep track of during the moving process (credit cards, keys, stamps, etc.). I use an expandable file (affiliate link) for this; it’ll hold everything from paperwork to keys.
Tip: If you are planning a long distance move for work, hold onto your moving receipts. The IRS allows you to deduct reasonable moving expenses. This can save you a lot of money later if you’re paying for your own work-related move.
Create a Moving Budget
Image Source: Kelly Sikkema
Whether you are moving a mile away or two thousand miles away, you’ll need to create a budget. These are some typical moving expenses:
- Moving truck or moving containers
- Movers (don’t forget to budget for tips)
- Moving supplies (boxes, tape, bubble wrap, markers, etc.)
- Real estate fees (broker/agent fee, deposit on a new apartment, home down payment, etc.)
- Travel expenses during move (plane fares, gas, hotels, meals, etc.)
- Utility deposits
Of course, the amount of money in your budget will determine how much you can allocate to each of these items. Get creative with your funding resources. Here are some ideas:
- Employer financing (could range from 100% financing to a partial reimbursement to a signing bonus)
- Cash out accrued vacation time
- Apartment deposit (often you won’t get this back until after your move takes place)
- Sale of your home
- Selling stuff you won’t need in your new home (furniture, car, etc.)
- Credit cards
When my husband and I moved to New York, we had to pay first and last month’s rent, plus a deposit equal to a full month’s rent. That was a lot of cash upfront, but now that we’ve moved out, we were able to use that last month’s rent (already paid) to help finance part of our move.
Tip: leave plenty of wiggle room in your budget. You’ll probably encounter unexpected moving expenses along the way.
Find Movers or Do It Yourself
Image Source: Chris Waits
One of the most crucial parts of planning a big move is determining just how you’re going to move everything. I’ve done DIY moves with the help of friends, driven a moving truck cross country, and packed pods that were then shipped to my new home. Each method has it’s pro and cons.
Different Types of Movers:
- Full Service Movers: these guys will do everything from pack your belongings to drive them across country. Obviously, this is the most expensive option, but if you have the funds or your employer is paying for your move it’s a great option. Working with full service movers can also be the most stress free choice (provided you work with a reputable company), because they’ll take care of everything for you. Before signing the dotted line, make sure you know what’s included in your quote, how the move is priced, and if the price could change after the movers arrive and load your belongings.
- Renting a Truck: if you feel comfortable driving a big truck, this can be an affordable option. Be realistic with yourself though; driving a large moving truck is nothing like driving a car. U-Haul, Penske, and Budget are popular companies. I’ve never worked with Budget, but I’ve had great experiences with Penske and U-Haul. Make sure to purchase appropriate insurance for the truck you are renting. You can also tow a car behind many moving trucks, although in my experience, this is adds an extra element of difficulty.
- Containers/Pods: are you planning a long distance move? Containers or pods are a great option. The company you work with will deliver the pods to your home, and then you or your movers pack them. After everything is packed, the company picks up the pods and ships them to your new home. I’ve worked with Door to Door multiple times and have always had excellent experiences. There are a few cons to using containers: you need to figure out how many pods are needed (too few and you may be forced to leave things behind); you won’t have access to your belongings for a couple weeks while the containers are being shipped; and if you live in a large city, delivery of the pods may be a little trickier.
- Hiring Hourly Movers: whether you are renting a truck or using containers/pods, you may want to hire hourly movers. I’ve had wonderful experiences with movers, and I’ve had horrible experiences with movers … it is SO important to do your research. Keep in mind that the cheapest/most tempting option is usually not the best option (#LessonLearned). Ask your friends for recommendations and read reviews. It’s getting easier and easier to research potential movers via Yelp and other online resources. Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few options, contact the moving company to request a quote. Movers are expensive, but in my experience, this is one moving cost that is an essential part of my budget. Make sure to include tips for each mover in your budget, and provide plenty of bottled water for your movers come moving day.
- Doing It Yourself: do you know someone who owes you a big favor? Maybe you can get them to help you move (#GoodLuck). Don’t ask your flaky friends; this is a job for the dependable ones. Moving is a lot of work, so whoever helps you out is going to expect your help with their own move one day. If you do convince your friends and family to help you move, make sure to offer plenty of water, beer, and pizza on moving day!
For my move from NYC to Dallas, my husband and I rented a Penske truck and hired hourly movers on both ends of the move. As I mentioned above, we’ve loved using Door to Door in the past, but we just didn’t want to wait that long to get our belongings delivered this time. Plus, parking those pods on the street in NYC and in downtown Dallas would have been tricky to say the least.
I was very nervous about driving a big truck cross country (my husband did all the driving, thankfully), but after debating the pros and cons and crunching the costs, it was the best option this time. We’ve had crazy experiences driving these trucks, including taking out a fence, a car that didn’t want to stay on the trailer, and getting a car trailer jackknifed and stuck in a parking lot (some of those trailers don’t back up in a straight line). Thankfully, we didn’t have a lot of stuff so our truck was smaller this time, and there was no car to tow. Everything went very smoothly for the most part, but it was stressful, and I’m not sure we’ll go this route again.
Tip: be realistic with what you can and cannot do! Sometimes it’s worth it to pay a little more and not have to deal with the anxiety and stress of doing everything yourself.
Gather Moving Supplies
In my experience, one of the most costly and stressful parts of moving is finding the right supplies. Save yourself some stress and start gathering moving supplies right away.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Boxes (You’ll need small, medium, and large sizes, plus specialty boxes for TVs, art, etc.)
- Packing tape (Don’t skimp on tape! The cheap stuff is not worth the hassle.)
- Bubble wrap (Next time I will get two rolls of this stuff!)
- Packing paper for less delicate items
- Stretch wrap for furniture and oddly-shaped items (This was the first move I bought stretch wrap for, and it was indispensable!)
- Moving blankets (You may be able to rent these along with your moving truck.)
- Mattress bags (This brand’s bags are really thick and won’t rip.)
Finding boxes takes time, especially if you don’t want to pay for them. You can find free boxes at your office, as well as on Freecycle or Craigslist. Check local stores, too, and find out when they process shipments.
For my previous cross country moves, I’ve purchased most of my boxes. This gets expensive fast, but it does make packing a truck or container/pod much easier since the boxes are all the same size. If you are using a container/pod where space is at a premium, I definitely recommend purchasing your boxes (or using boxes that are uniform in size). These companies also have specialty boxes for TVs, wardrobe, and more.
You can find box store locally (many NYC companies even deliver), or you can order boxes from Amazon. I ordered a pack of boxes from UBOXES (affiliate link) via Amazon, and it was cheaper than buying locally, and the boxes held up great even when packed with heavy items like books.
Tip: gather more supplies, especially boxes, than you think you’ll need. There’s nothing worse than trying to find extra supplies at the last minute.
Downsize your belongings
Image Source: Emily May
Don’t just throw everything you own into a box (this seems to be my husband’s packing method … ha). Moving is the perfect time to get rid of unused and unwanted stuff.
This process takes a while, so start right away. Go through everything you own (do this as you’re packing if you’re short on time), and decide whether you want to keep, donate, or sell it.
Here are some helpful tips:
- Contact local thrift stores to pick up your donations. I did this when I moved away from San Francisco, and it saved me a lot of time. Plus, I didn’t have to find a way transport large furniture items.
- Sell valuable items on Craigslist or eBay. Craigslist can be a major pain, so if the value isn’t high, consider donating the item. I’ve had great luck selling smaller, more expensive items via eBay, too.
- Consign clothing to make a few bucks. If you have a lot of name brand clothing to get rid of, consider bringing it to a local consignment shop. You can also consign clothing through an online company like ThredUp, which is my preference. They’ll send you a prepaid bag, and you send them your name brand, current style clothing. Once they receive your clothes, they’ll send you an offer. It’s so much easier than running around to consignment shops and having a teenager reject most of your stuff (#TrueStory)
- List free items on FreeCycle or Craigslist. Don’t want to go through the hassle of selling something? List it on one of these services, and if someone’s interested, they’ll pick it up. I’ve also had great luck listing things like “Free dark room supplies on sidewalk at Smith and Davis. First come first served.” That way you don’t have to deal with all the questions from annoying Craigslist people.
- Shred sensitive paperwork. If you have a lot of paperwork that needs shredding, use your own shredder or find a company that will shred it for you. I did that before moving to NYC, and it was so easy. A professional from the company came to my apartment, securely bagged my documents in front of me, and took it away to be shredded. It wasn’t too expensive, and it saved me a ton of time.
- Eat up everything in your refrigerator and cupboards. There is nothing worse than throwing out good food that you didn’t get a chance to eat. Take an inventory of your refrigerator and cabinets, and start cooking meals that will use up anything you can’t take with you.
Tip: if you have a floor plan for your new place, use it layout your furniture and determine what furniture you’ll need to keep, buy, or get rid of. I did this before moving to NYC, and it was super helpful. You can also create a floor plan using an online program such as Homestyler.
Stop Buying New Stuff
This goes hand in hand with downsizing. Put a hold on any unnecessary purchases, and you’ll have fewer boxes come moving day.
Arrange for Travel During Your Move
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If you are planning a big move, chances are you’ll have to make a few travel arrangements.
If you’re driving a truck to your new home, start by planning out your route. Then, make a realistic plan for how far you’ll drive each day. Once you’ve determined a route, book hotels and plan other necessities along the way. Make sure the hotels you reserve have somewhere safe to park your truck.
Are you flying to your new home? You’ll need to book airfare and airport transportation, of course. If you are moving out of your home on the last day of the month, you may also need to book a hotel room for the night before your flight. I did this before moving to NYC, and it was nice to spend the evening relaxing in my hotel rather than stressing over whether I’d be able to clean out my apartment and still make my flight that same day.
You may also need to book a hotel in your new city depending on when you can move into your new home. Don’t forget to arrange airport transportation, as well.
Check out Your New City
Image source: Lars Plougmann
As soon as I found out I was moving to Dallas, I began my research. You can learn so much about a new city by looking online. Check out everything from newspapers to Yelp! reviews to local blogs; each one will have it’s own perspective on the area.
It’s amazing how many connections you can make just by posting a message on Facebook. Chances are you already know someone or someone you know knows someone who lives in your new city. These people will be a great resource for you.
Go old school and pick up guidebooks from the library, too. If you’re moving to a large city like NYC, you’ll find tons books and lots of valuable information to peruse. Make a running list of neighborhoods to visit, sights to see, and restaurants to try.
Find a New Home
Image Source: Thomas Hawk
Finding somewhere to live is one of the most stressful parts of planning a big move, especially if you’re moving to an unfamiliar area.
If you have a little time and money, plan a trip to your new city before the move. You’ll get a sense of place, and you’ll be able to scope out neighborhoods and tour apartments and houses.
For our upcoming move to Dallas, my husband and I researched neighborhoods and potential buildings we were interested in. Then, Joel took a quick trip, visited our target buildings, and signed a lease all in one week. For our moves to San Francisco and New York, Joel relocated to these cities ahead of me and found an apartment while living there (definitely a little easier and slightly less stressful).
Sometimes a trip to scope out your new city is not possible. Thankfully, it’s much easier to research homes online these days, especially if you’re moving to an apartment building. If you know which building you want to live in, work with the building’s leasing office directly. If you need more help, you’ll want to work with a reputable local real estate agent. You can get agent recommendations from friends or research agents and companies online.
Here are a few considerations when searching for your new home:
- Neighborhood: is it a good fit for you and your family?
- Home/building amenities
- Convenience to your job and social life
- Quality of schools
- Access to medical care
- Convenience to shopping and restaurants
- Public transportation
- Availability of parking
- Pet friendliness
If you are planning to buy a home in an unfamiliar city, consider renting first. That way you won’t get locked into a neighborhood that’s a bad fit for your family.
Tip: Craigslist should be used with plenty of caution when it comes to searching for your new home. Here in NYC, bait and switch scams are the norm, and we found a similar situation in Dallas. That said, we did find our NYC apartment on Craigslist. Just be careful!
Cancel Local Utilities and Services …. Plus, Set Up New Ones
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As soon as you are able, contact local providers to cancel services and memberships. You will usually need to provide a forwarding address to do so. At the same time, you will want to contact providers in your new city to set up services for your new home.
Who to contact:
- Bank accounts
- Schools and other childcare
- Home services, such as pest control, cleaners, etc.
If you are moving to a home in the same area, you may be able to transfer these services online.
Image Source: Woenchen
You’ll also need to update your mailing address for other services. Start by filling out a Change of Address Form from the USPS, so they can begin forwarding your mail.
Other companies you may need to contact:
- Credit card companies
- Mobile provider
- Investment firms
- Rewards programs, such as frequent flyer programs and store specific services
- Health care providers
- Schools and alumni associations
- Student loan providers
- Business contacts
Tip: as soon as you find about the move, keep a running list of everyone that needs to be contacted.
Prepare Your Home for the Next Occupant
Image Source: Sara Staci
Whether you are a renter or you own your own home, chances are you will need to prepare your place for whoever will live there next.
Renters have it a little easier. Ask you landlord about their move out policies and follow them … if you want your deposit back that is! You may need to fill nail holes, paint the walls, or do a thorough cleaning.
If you own your own home, you’ll want to make or schedule any repairs that need to be made. Of course, you can do these things yourself, but often times it’s easier to hire someone else to do it. If you’ve sold your home, make sure everything that’s specified in your contract has been taken care of.
Image Source: D Coetzee
Packing takes lots of time, so don’t wait until moving day to begin (unless you want your movers and friends to resent you). Clear an area in your home for boxes and start by packing a few every day. As you get closer to moving day, pick up the pace.
Here are a few packing tips to get you started:
- Use strong sturdy boxes. If you’re collecting boxes from neighborhood stores, get rid of ones that are already damaged.
- Label every box. Do not skip this step! Use a sharpie to label your boxes with a destination room (i.e., Living Room) and contents. Write the room name large so your movers know which room to put the box in, and in smaller print, write the contents so you’ll know what’s in the boxes later.
- Pack heavy items in small boxes. Save small boxes for books and other weighty things. Load lighter items in larger boxes, still being wary of how heavy you’re packing the boxes. Your back will thank you later!
- Wrap fragile items well. Use plenty of bubble wrap for dishes and glassware. Wrap awkward items like furniture with stretch wrap. Be careful not to pack fragile items on the top of a box where they could get crushed. Pack TVs and artwork in specialty boxes.
- Pack strategically. Start with rooms and items you use infrequently or won’t need before the move (Christmas decorations, out of season clothing, artwork, etc.). As you get closer to the move date, pack more frequently used items, like dishes and towels. That way you won’t pack anything you need to access before the move.
As you pack your belongings, keep track of items that you’ll need access to throughout your move, as well as things that will make move in day easier.
I like to either carry these items with me, or I set aside a well-labeled box or two for these items and then request that the movers pack it at the end of the truck. If you are driving to your new home, pack these boxes in your car instead so they won’t get lost on moving day.
Items to carry with you or include in an End of Truck Box:
- Important papers
- Cash for incidentals
- Credit cards
- Toilet paper
- Paper towels
- Shower curtain and liner
- Bath towels
- Bed Sheets
- Basic tool kit
- Dishes, glasses, and utensils
- Medication and prescriptions
- Extra contact lenses
- Coffee Maker
- Books and toys to keep kids occupied
- Camera and battery charger
- Alarm clock
- Garbage bags
- Cleaning products
- Work gloves
- Box cutter
- Pet supplies
Tip: if you are driving or flying a long distance during your move, make sure your suitcases don’t get packed in your truck.
A Couple Days Before Your Move
Image Source: Brian Smithson
Moving day is almost here! A couple days before your move, spend a few minutes confirming your move date and time with your movers (paid or otherwise). You’ll also want to confirm with other service providers, such as cleaners and painters.
This is a good time to get cash to pay your movers (don’t forget to tip). You’ll also want to fill your refrigerator with water bottles and pick up a few simple snacks for moving day.
Send Out Moving Announcements
Of course, you can notify friends and family via a mass email. If you have the time and budget though, it’s nice to send change of address cards.
Here are a few I like (affiliate links):
- Artistic Address Moving Announcement
- Heart of the Home Moving Announcement
- Shipping Tag Moving Announcement + matching address labels
- Crafty Move Announcement
- Sweetly Blooming Moving Announcement
- Lovely Locale Announcement
- Air Mail Moving Announcement + matching address labels
- Envelopes Moving Announcement
- Clear Carload Moving Announcement
- Our New Home Moving Announcement
Free Printable Moving Checklist
Click the image below (anywhere except the “Pin Me!” button) to download my free printable moving checklist.
Final Word: Have a Good Attitude
I’m a firm believer that keeping a postive attitude will make your move smoother.
Keep a smile on your face as much as possible, and try to let things go when tensions rise with your family and friends. Things are bound to go wrong (I have more moving horror stories than I care to repeat), but do your best to roll with the punches and make the best of the situation.
You’ll have some good stories to tell later, and just remember, it will all be over before you know it!
I hope these tips have shown you how to plan a big move. The most important thing to remember is that a little planning and preparation will make your move as smooth as possible!
Have you ever planned a big move? What tips to you have?