One thing you wish you'd thought of before a cross-country move
February 5, 2012 12:06 PM   Subscribe

Moving across the country - what do you wish you'd know? Tl;dr version inside

My soon-to-be-ex-husband's parents are in the early stages of "failing health" and I've agreed to move from Seattle to New Orleans to allow or 8-year old son to be closer to them.

Obviously a cross-country move is a huge undertaking, and we have additional logistics issues, but in general, what one thing do you wish you'd known before a large move of this sort? Either specific to moving to NO, or in general.
posted by dotgirl to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The one thing I wish I had known before moving from Chicago to Massachusetts, with a big national moving company, is that the delivery date for my stuff was an estimate, not a promise. If you work with one of those companies (Atlas, National, etc.), they'll consolidate shipments until they have a full truck. Plan to bring the essentials with you (bedding, basic cutlery and cooking stuff, anything else you can't live without for a week or so), or to buy it when you arrive. Obviously if you are staying in a hotel or with your soon-to-be-ex-in-laws on arrival, things may be different.

Beyond that: find out how long you can continue to use your Washington driver license and car registration/plates in LA before you have to switch them over, check with your health insurance about coverage during the transition, find out whether your homeowner's or renter's insurance covers your things during the move and, if not, take out additional coverage (usually movers' coverage is inadequate). It's a lot easier to deal with that kind of stuff if you know you have three months to transfer the car registration; conversely, if it has to be done in two weeks, best to know that ahead of time.

Beyond the pragmatics: have you spent time in NO already? If not, get a couple guidebooks and look for things that mesh with your interests. You're not moving because you want to be in NO as a place, and the "soon-to-be-ex-husband" phrasing implies that you're making a pretty big sacrifice to allow your son to be near his paternal grandparents. Nonetheless, finding something that engages you about the city, and getting involved with it ASAP after arriving, will help you settle in.

And last: if you haven't read A Conspiracy of Dunces, get it and read it. Even if it never really represented the reality of NO or Lousiana, it's a brilliant novel.
posted by brianogilvie at 12:46 PM on February 5, 2012

D'oh! A Confederacy of Dunces is the title of John Kennedy Toole's novel, which I realized a millisecond after hitting "Post" instead of "Preview."
posted by brianogilvie at 12:48 PM on February 5, 2012

I did a cross-country move last year with a 2-year-old. I'm doing another one this summer with a 3-year-old.

* Paying someone to move you will help with your sanity.

* Start purging/sorting NOW.
Everything should be marked with:
- keep (+ need immediately in new home)
- keep (+ can live without for a month or so)
- sell (and maybe subdivide into Craigslist/parenting list serv versus garage sale)
- donate
- throw away

And be ruthless. If moving stuff is approximately 13 cents per pound, do the math to see if taking that old Ikea bookcase apart and reassembling it is worth it to you, versus possibly selling it on Craigslist for $15.

But, on the same note, our last move we did things like "oh, we'll just leave our kitchen trash can for Goodwill and buy a new one in New City" which was fine, but we ended up spending a few grand in New City on little things like bath mats that fit the bathroom the right way or new toy storage that worked for the house. If you're strapped for cash, again, do the math about 13 cents a pound and how easy it is to bring versus buy new.

* Give yourself 2 months on either end to be okay with things being out of order and difficult.

* Join your new neighborhood parenting listserv NOW to start getting a feel for the good dentist/doctor/hairdresser/plumber in your new 'hood. You may also get a feel for what sort of stuff you can pick up easily there. (For example, if every week a razor scooter is given away for free, maybe you don't need to bring yours.)
posted by k8t at 12:54 PM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

It's been a long time since I made a very long move, but my one tip is to buy a decent notebook of some kind and write _everything_ in that book. Organize it however you like, tape in some calendars , write every phone number and every bit of info in that book. Not exactly rocket surgery type advice, but it saved my butt more than once.
posted by toddje at 1:56 PM on February 5, 2012

Move as little furniture as possible. Unless you have particularly nice stuff, it's almost always cheaper (and easier) to sell your old stuff in current city and get new furniture in the new city. Leave your potted plants behind, too.
posted by gnutron at 2:47 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

If your current mattresses aren't in great shape, ditch them and buy new when you get there. Mattresses are a pain to move but mattress stores deliver for free.
posted by Eddie Mars at 4:38 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

As k8t pointed out, don't underestimate how much you'll spend on the miscellaneous items: soaps, paper items, kitchen, etc. I was pretty shocked how much we ended up spending to set up our new place. I also wished I would've taken the opportunity to go through paperwork before the move instead of hauling it all across the country and then trying to find what I needed.
posted by sfkiddo at 4:57 PM on February 5, 2012

I have found that moving little stuff like soap and housecleaning stuff and so on is cost effective as they will fit in boxes well. Heavy furniture is not so cost effective unless it is super high quality or sentimental. At the least don't move particle board-it doesn't like it, is usually pretty cheap and readily available. It is amazing what you can buy at goodwill and craigslist cheap. As you pack if you haven't used something in a year or two chances are you don't need it. Be ruthless. Not just to save moving cost but as a way to declutter your life. It is almost always worth moving good quality tools (if you have any). They are tough to sell and really expensive to buy new (like specialist hobby tools, car tools and woodworking tools-that kind of thing). Don't move a clunker car. It will break on the trip and screw up your schedule. If you can sell it and replace in the new location. This doesn't apply to a car in good repair regardless of age.
Be patient about getting new furniture in your new city. LIve with cheap stuff or do without for a while to make sure you actually need that item and can determine what your actual needs are. LIke do you actually need a bathroom rug? maybe things are warm enough in LA that a rug isn't needed-one less thing to buy/clean/replace-stuff like that.
posted by bartonlong at 5:41 PM on February 5, 2012

I've moved cross-country multiple times. Two very concrete pieces of advice. 1) However much time you've allocated for the drive, add two days. You never know when the car will break down, or you'll get sick, or you'll find somewhere you want to really explore. 2) if you're moving yourself, get the smallest truck you can fit everything in. Partly because most people aren't pro truck drivers, and partly because the biggest rental trucks are sloooowww.
posted by postel's law at 5:43 PM on February 5, 2012

My husband and I had to keep driving through a blizzard in Colorado as they closed the interstate down behind us. Most sensible people might have stopped for the night but we could not afford to get snowed in in Vail. I covered my head with a jacket while he clutched the wheel of our moving van hauling our car on a trailer as cars slid off the road all around us. We were from Florida and all the plates in the ditch were from Colorado so I'm guessing we were in over our heads. So, you know, check the weather before you set out.
posted by little miss s at 6:50 PM on February 5, 2012

If you hire a moving company, count every box. Take special notice of items that are put into the truck without a box, and make sure they've been inventoried properly. If it's not on the list, then you won't be compensated for it when it fails to show up at the other end, and no one will lift a finger to help you look for it.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:32 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're using a moving compant, investigate your insurance options..
The standard coverage you get from a mover is essentially worthless. Pennies on the dollar or less.
posted by madajb at 9:26 AM on February 6, 2012

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