How to Move Across the Country During a Pandemic
Costs and considers you may not yet thought about
Moving any distance can be difficult and costly, whether it’s one state away or across the country. Trying to move during COVID-19 can make things even trickier and pricier. Here is how my boyfriend and I managed to do it with tips for making it as smooth as possible.
1. Start planning months in advance.
There’s a lot of thought and decisions that go into the moving process. If the move will take a few days, you may need to book a few hotel rooms. In order to book the hotel rooms in advance, you need to know where you will stop driving each day. If you’re moving your own belongings, you’ll likely need to rent a U-Haul or other moving truck. If you want to ship your items, you’ll need to rent from a company like PODS. If you want to fly instead of drive, you’ll need to book one-way plane tickets.
These are just a few of the considers you’ll need to plan for, several of which require you to reserve in advance. In a pandemic, your plans will likely be ruined a couple times and you’ll have to start from square zero (at least, that’s how it was for us). You want to allow yourself enough time for things to go wrong.
Also, you may need to reserve these things further in advance than you might usually need to with COVID-19 related travel restrictions and social distancing requirements. In order to do all this, you need to set a move-in date and stick with it as best you can.
You’ll also want to make sure your moving dates align with your lease dates to avoid spending unnecessary extra nights in hotels when you arrive to your new city.
2. Budget & Compare Prices
You have many options as to how you want to make your move. You have a date set, a new home lined up, and many options on how to execute the move. Now you have to compare prices based on what the different options will cost you.
PODS and U-Haul are definitely pricey for cross-country moves. When I moved from Florida to Arizona, each of those options were going to cost well over $1,200. Not to mention the additional $700-$900 it would cost to transport a car. Also, another $150-$200 per one-way plane ticket. Let’s not forget the cost of eating out, hotel rooms, rental cars or Uber rides, and stocking up your new home with supplies and groceries.
If some of these options are outside your budget and you’re willing to part with items that can be easily replaced, I suggest downsizing and driving what you can in your car.
3. Downsize as much as you can.
Renting with U-Haul or PODS, transporting a car and two plane tickets were out of our budget. So we took a different route.
We got rid of everything that could be easily replaced and packed the car full of what we decided to keep. Once the car was packed up, we drove across the country! This took more planning and several rounds of de-cluttering, but it was more cost efficient in the end.
When we arrived in Arizona, it cost us a couple hundred dollar to replace what we didn’t bring verses a couple thousand to bring everything we had. It was also a great way to start fresh!
We ordered this roof bag for the car and put all our clothes in space saver bags on the top of the car. This allowed us to put the more valuable things inside the car. We also ordered this car cover for when we stayed overnight at hotels to keep prying eyes away from a packed car.
4. Book in advance!
If you’re flying, book the tickets in advance. Check out my previous article with several tips and tricks for booking the cheapest flight possible.
If you’re using a service to transport your car, you’ll want to do your best to make sure you and your car arrive to your new home around the same date. Otherwise, you may find yourself spending extra money on rental cars and ride services.
If you’re driving, book your hotel rooms in advanced through sites like Expedia or Trivago. Tools like these help compare prices to find what is best for your budget. Keep in mind to regularly check travel restriction for each state you’ll be driving through to avoid surprises on the road.
5. Stay with friends & family where you can.
If you can plan pit stops at family or friends' houses along the way, this is a great way to see loved ones while also saving money on hotels. My mom lives in Houston which was exactly in the middle of our route. We were able to stay there for two nights, minimizing our stays in hotels to a total of two nights (one night in Baton Rogue and one night in El Paso).
Proceed with caution when doing this since you never know if you or your loved ones could be exposed to COVID-19!
6. Take all COVID-19 precautions and regulations seriously!
If you’ll be making contact with many people and places during the course of your move, be mindful of COVID-19 prevention behaviors. Wash your hands, social distance when possible, wear a face covering, and disinfect surfaces you come in contact with. If you feel unsafe, it is your right to leave a place or ask for disinfecting supplies.
Do your research to see if your new destination will require you to self-quarantine upon arrival. States such as Hawaii are requiring new residents and vacationers to self-quarantine for 14 days. Breaking these mandatory self-quarantines can result in heavy fines and legal trouble.
It is also a good idea to have a copy of your new lease handy for verification purposes at state lines.
7. Enjoy the experience.
Whether you’re driving or flying to your new home, don’t get caught up in the stress. Enjoy this next step in your life. If you’re driving, stop to take pictures or eat at small diners, if it is safe. If you’re flying, enjoy seeing new airports and new places.
Despite the stress and anxiety a big move and COVID-19 can bring on, remember to enjoy the moment. You’ll want to look back one day at this life changing experience with fond memories.