Moving Across the Country – Best Advice I Got

To this day, I say that the “hardest” part of moving across the country was just deciding where to go (among many great options, just in the US)… or, perhaps, just really making a point to uproot in the first place, especially without jobs or school waiting for us at the other end.

Still, I think plenty of folks would argue that, you know, the logistics of moving across the country aren’t so easy either.  I happen to kind of love sorting through logistics – or, at least that process really doesn’t overwhelm me.  So, for those of you who are thinking of taking the leap but hardly know where to begin, here are a few of the best pointers I came across when figuring out just how to make this big move.

Before you go:

  • Only bring what’s expensive or impossible to replace. You’d think this would go without saying, and I did make sure to bring all my pieces of art and framed photos in addition to the obvious keepsakes.  Even still, nearly stuck the microwave in the car, and actually brought out wine glasses and martini glasses.  No need!  (see below)

If you’re going to fly:

  • Virgin America is a great option. And not just because it’s probably the best domestic airline I’ve ever flown.  For those who are moving, Virgin has an excellent baggage policy – you can check up to 10 bags (first one can weigh 70 lbs.), for $25 apiece.  Up to 10!  And most other airlines start charging in the $50-100 range after the first couple of bags.

If you’re going to drive:

  • Most simply… take your time!  We spent 2.5 weeks on the road, including a backpacking trip through the Three Sisters Wilderness in Oregon, and a few days in Bend.  From Bend, we took 10 days to get to Boston, including one 13-hour beast-of-a-drive day, and a couple of days when we didn’t drive at all.  The mix really helped.
  • Actually, even more simply:  drive, don’t fly (and preferably with someone else).  Think of it as an excuse to see all those towns/national parks/cities that sound cool but you’ll realistically never fly to.  It’s worth it.
  • If you can’t fit everything in your car, ship with Amtrak.  Probably the best random advice I got.  It is such a cheap and handy option.  I like to describe it as dropping your boxes off at the station and setting them on the train like any old passenger, then pick them up at the other end.  You’ll need to call Amtrak in order to get all of the details, but you speak with a human and it takes but a minute (800-377-6914, 8:30-4 Eastern, M-F).
  • Go the northern route. OK, total bias, but it was stunning.  I’ll write about some favorite stops along the way next time.  And I’ll also admit that I’m similarly excited to take the southern route on the drive back, if the situation permits.
  • Visit the Badlands. I know this belongs in the “where to stop” post but I just can’t say it enough – and basically everyone I talked to specifically called out this stop too.  And if you really want a treat, don’t look at pictures before you go.  Just wonder what the Badlands even are (as I did)…  then see them for the first time in person.  (How many natural wonders can you still do that with?)  I’ll purposely not include pictures or links just in case this is what you opt for.

Once you get there:

  • Replace all those microwaves and martini glasses you left at home by heading to the local Goodwill (or equivalent).  Once we saw the housewares department in the Goodwill in Davis, it made me wonder why we even contemplated traveling with glassware or those chipped plates from IKEA or that silverware sorter tray.  Sure it’s nice to not have to go out and buy every single thing when you get to your destination (which was our reasoning), but it is SO cheap and easy get some (often unique) dishes, glassware, kitchen appliances, and so on.  And you might even find yourself a $5 1950s waffle maker like I did.  Oh yes.
  • Sign up for Freecycle, for all the things you still don’t even think you should have to pay for at Goodwill.  Like hangers.  I’ve also seen hand-crafted, all-wood tables posted on there for free, and picked up a director’s chair in my favorite color from a kind donor.

I hope this is a helpful list for wrapping your mind around the many lists and steps and questions and options and [insert thing weighing on your mind] that are associated with any move, big or small.  It’s quite worth it.  And not just for seeing the Badlands.

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