7 Stress-Free Tips for Moving Out of State

Dawn M. Smith
Written by Dawn M. Smith
Updated April 27, 2022
Mother playing with child while packing
Photo: Marko Geber / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Take charge of your big move with these stress-busting tips

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There’s a lot to handle before you set off on moving day, from choosing a moving company to getting rid of unwanted household items, but when you start early, stay organized, and make a plan, you can break down this big project into manageable steps. Use the tips below to ensure your long-distance move is as stress-free as possible.

1. Start Early

If you’re using professional movers or renting moving equipment, get on their schedules ASAP. Having the proper equipment, like a truck with a ramp, dollies, moving blankets, and straps can save your back (and your sanity) come moving day. Booking early can also help you avoid last-minute booking fees or sold-out equipment. “If you hire movers, think about booking on a weekday. It’s a great way to keep costs down,” says Mallory Micetich, Angi home care expert.

Once you have your movers buttoned up, turn your attention to packing. “I find one of the most stressful parts of moving to be the time pressure,” says Micetich. “To avoid the panic of having too much to do in not enough time, start packing things you rarely use, like holiday decorations, off-season items, and things in guest rooms. Over time, start packing items you use more often, and by the time you get to your moving date, you’ll be all packed and ready to go.”

Early on, you’ll also need to answer a few questions and think about several key factors for your long-distance move, including: 

  • Does your employer provide any moving benefits?

  • Will you hire movers?  

  • For a DIY move: Will you use a portable storage unit or moving truck?  

  • What will you pack, sell, or trash? Plan to purge. 

  • Which items will you pack yourself and keep on hand during the move?

  • Where will you get boxes, bubble wrap, or paper to protect fragile items like large mirrors?

  • When should you stop/start utility and cable services for your old/new homes?

  • What date should you submit a change of address to the postal service?

  • When should you update any subscription services (food, medication, shaving, vitamins, cosmetics) to ensure you don’t miss any packages?

2. Pick the Best Movers

Hand taping box
Photo: fizkes / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Your moving company should be licensed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and your state if required. These registrations help if you have complaints about damaged items or need arbitration after your long-distance move. Ask friends for personal experiences with local moving companies and use three of their recommendations to compare prices and services. 

Call a moving company as soon as you know your preferred dates for the best availability. Weekends, especially during the summer months, are in high demand and have premium prices. On the other hand, if you can move mid-week, you might score a discount if the moving season is slow. 

Moving services will take a large chunk of your budget. You're paying for supplies, labor, and the truck driver, so don’t forget to factor these costs into your overall moving budget. The average interstate move (1,200 miles) averages about $5,600 for 7,100 pounds of household goods. 

After the company previews your household items (either in person or virtually), they’ll present you with a binding or non-binding estimate. A binding estimate includes an exact list of services provided and the total cost based on the estimate. A non-binding estimate is the company’s best guess of the costs and services, but the final charges are calculated based on the shipment’s actual weight and the services required. 

Money-saving tip: Ask if the moving company has a “guaranteed-not-to-exceed” estimate. This means you’d only pay the binding estimate or the actual cost, whichever is lower.

3. Stay Organized

So many first-timers think moving to a new state is simply loading and unloading a truck, but it’s so much more. A successful long-distance move depends on how you prepare in the weeks ahead. It’s a great idea to buy a binder (or find a digital tool) and fill it with important documents like checklists, timelines, medical and school records, and receipts.

4. Explore Employer Benefits

If you’re still interivewing, it’s smart to negotiate moving expenses like temporary housing, storage, and real estate agent services nowduring the interview process. Otherwise, 

if you just got an out-of-state job, you may be eligible for relocation services or reimbursement. The details vary widely, though; you could be offered a full door-to-door package , a total or partial reimbursement, or a set dollar amount toward moving services. Ask your assigned relocation specialist for more tips for moving out of state.

5. Consider Your DIY Options

Many people go the DIY route to cut costs, but you still have to stay vigilant and protect fragile items. Also, don’t forget you’ll need to up your friends’ bribes (pizza and beer won’t cut it to move a whole house) if you want to convince them to help you pack and load. Ask them for tips for moving out of state, too—they’ll be glad to share their advice. 

You have a couple of options if you want a DIY move across state lines. You can box and drive each and every item yourself in a truck, or fill a portable storage unit for delivery to your new address. You can also hire pros to do some of the hard work like driving the truck or loading and move heavy and awkward furniture . Have you ever tried moving a piano? No easy feat. 

For the most affordable DIY move, compare the costs of moving trucks, trailers, and rental items against the cost to outsource the whole project.

6. Purge Before You Pack

Couple packing moving boxes
Photo: Roberto Westbrook / Getty Images

Let’s be real. Everyone has stuff that sits unused and takes up space. If it’s not being used in your current home, don’t pay to move it across state lines. “Be selective with what you decide to bring into your new home. Every item you move leads to more effort and stress on your end, so get rid of any belongings you don’t love as you’re packing,” says Mallory Micetich, Angi home care expert. “Aside from making the moving process quicker, easier and less expensive, decluttering will also help your new space feel fresh, clean and organized.”

Donate or dispose of your unwanted items.  If you have the time, plan for one or two epic moving sales to help fund your moving truck or buy new furniture instead of shipping the basement sofa from your college apartment days to your new home. If you’re not rushing, you could also earn more money selling online.

7. Keep the Essentials With You

Plan to keep irreplaceable items—jewelry, important documents, etc.—with you. You’ll also want to pack a small bag filled with essentials, such as medication, toiletries, and other everyday items you’ll need during the move.

Here’s a list of items that should make the move with you:  

  • Pet food, water, bowls, and any medications

  • Important records like a will, trust, and social security cards

  • High-value items, such as jewelry, electronics, and family photos 

  • Essential items like toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, and utensils

  • Packing tape, box cutters, and the hardware for rebuilding bed frames

  • Chargers for phones, computers, fitness trackers, and tablets

And finally, don’t forget about taxes. Although technically not part of the actual moving process, you’ll be on the hook for paying in April. Although, you’re probably eligible to deduct moving expenses on your federal return (check with a local tax advisor), it’s also likely you’ll have to file two state tax returns. 

Moving may not exactly be fun, but it doesn’t have to be stressful either. With a little advance planning, you can prepare for moving costs, handle utilities and cable, vet moving companies, and pack essential items to ensure a smooth move into your new home.

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