Of the 36 million Americans who moved between 2012 and 2013, one-fourth traveled at least 500 miles to their new location. If you’re among the millions of Americans heading to a faraway destination, shifting a household across so many miles can be tough.
And if you relocate during a busy time, you may be slapped with higher costs. “The moving industry is always at capacity May through September,” said Ryan McConnell, vice president of corporate marketing at Atlas Van Lines, one of the country’s largest moving companies.
Regardless of when you head to a new location, preparation is key for a successful long-distance move. Follow these five guidelines to help the transition to a new home be a positive one.
1. Get started early.
Because of the time and travel involved, long-distance moves often carry a higher price tag than local moves. To set a budget, research your moving options early on. If possible, relocate somewhere between October and April to save money.
If you have children, tell them about the move right away, said child psychologist Lori Woodring, author of “My Very Exciting, Sorta Scary, Big Move.” Find a quiet time to sit down together, and talk about the upcoming changes. Give kids a chance to process the information and ask questions.
Then, check out activities and schools in the area you’ll be living. If you travel there to pick out a home, take pictures and videos of the new neighborhood.
2. Downsize as needed.
If possible, four weeks before your move, look through items to see which ones should be discarded or donated to charity, according to Atlas Van Lines. You also might consider a moving sale.
In addition to sorting inside your home, look through belongings you have outdoors, in a shed or in a self-storage unit.
During the process, you may come across jewelry or family heirlooms you’ve stored for years. If you don’t know what these pieces are worth, have them appraised before giving them away. Some companies will provide appraisals for free. You might find they’re more valuable than they appear.
3. Create an organized system.
For long-distance moves, a packing list that itemizes each box is a great way to help you keep everything together, said Andrea Bouchaud, author of “Twenty in Paris: A Young American Perspective of Studying Abroad in Paris.”
To create a detailed list, assign each room a number. Then give each box you pack for that room a specific letter. Perhaps you mark the kitchen as room number 1. If you then pack kitchen glassware into a box, label the box as 1A. In a notebook or spreadsheet, track each label and add a description of what’s inside each box.
Use this system for goods you’ll be keeping in a self-storage unit as well, Bouchaud said. After you move, “trying to find an item if you don’t have it organized can be a nightmare,” she said.
4. Set aside essentials.
As you look at the timetable for your move, “think about how long it’s going to take and make predictions on that,” said Jay Clitheroe, vice president of Sterling Van Lines, a moving company in Los Angeles.
If you have medications you’ll need during the transition, pack them in a box or suitcase that will stay with you. Keep important documents, such as birth certificates and passports, with you instead of packing them up.
Also, consider letting your children pack a special box to take with them, Woodring said.
5. Prepare emotionally.
Before leaving your current home, consider organizing a good-bye party for your local friends and relatives. You also might make a scrapbook of the city to take with you. Think about asking friends to sign a T-shirt for each of your children as a keepsake.
Once you’ve arrived at the new place, stay in touch with acquaintances from your previous location. Also, get ready to form new ties. “Join all sorts of groups,” Woodring said.