cross country moving: tips and what we learned

As I mentioned in my last two posts, doing a cross-country move had so many unexpected challenges and stressors! No matter the distance, moving is already a really stressful thing to do. Add in 1,200+ miles of distance and the variables to manage become overwhelming really quickly. For this post I’m organizing everything we learned along the way which will hopefully help someone doing a long distance move themselves or will give everyone empathy for their friends/family that may be doing a big move!

Here we are a few weeks into getting settled in Tampa enjoying the beautiful sunshine

Shipping Vehicles

Initially when we started conversations about moving we had talked about driving down. Things got complicated when we realized that 19+ hours in a car with a cat and dog sounded like one of the most unpleasant things on the planet. We then decided to look into shipping our cars and flying down instead. What was fascinating about this experience is that shipping cars is an unregulated industry so it essentially feels like the wild west. When trying to find a company to ship our cars I was terrified after reading hundreds of negative reviews for various companies. I ultimately selected Nexus Auto Transport as they were rated positively with the Better Business Bureau which I trusted. It was stressful though because the way it works is Nexus is the company that brokers the car shipment – so they’re the middle man between the car owner and the driver/transporter. They take your requested dates and locations and then post them on message boards to see which drivers are available for a car delivery based on your parameters. Because this information is posted publicly, I started getting emails from competitors saying Nexus was untrustworthy and was price gouging us. I’ll be honest, I didn’t even really care about the price at that point, I just wanted our cars to get to Tampa safety. For anyone looking to ship a car, for us it ended up being $1,000 per vehicle. I was so relieved when both our cars arrived the day promised with not a scratch on them! So as overwhelming as the experience was, I would recommend Nexus.

Flying With Pets

This was a first for us and wow did we learn a lot! With COVID right now, many airlines are not offering pets to fly in the cargo of the plane. What most airlines will allow is for small pets to be brought onboard as a carry-on item. What we learned after booking a flight with American Airlines is that all airlines have different specifications and rules about flying with pets. A week before our flight to Tampa we learned that our cat wasn’t up to date on a specific vaccine. We quickly rushed him to the vet only to then learn that the vaccine needed to be administered 30-days prior to the flight. American Airlines also required lots of paperwork to be filled out by us and our vet which was overwhelming. We ultimately decided to cancel our flights with American and re-booked on Southwest. Southwest required no paperwork or specific shots which was a win!

The next challenge was the carriers. No exaggeration I bought over 6 pet carriers to test and find ones that would fit our animals. What added to my stress of finding a carrier was that relentless Googling showed results with “airline approved” but then when comparing the specs, nothing matched! Since neither our cat or dog were therapy animals, Southwest (and most other airlines) require all pets to stay on the ground for the entire duration of the flight and must fit (within their carrier) under the seat in front of them. I’m not sure how many of you have noticed but that space is tiny! Our Corgi is small but very long and was busting out of any carrier with those dimensions. I ended up finding a carrier that fit the dimensions of Southwest and had expandable sides so after takeoff she had move room to move.

A final thing to note is most airports require that non-therapy/service pets stay in their carriers at all times. We had a 9+ hour travel day so keeping an energetic puppy in a small bag for that long just wasn’t realistic. We ended up leashing her and walking her around and luckily no one questioned us on it!

Moving Companies

Once we decided we were flying, we began coordinating the shipment of all our belongings. Quick research showed us that there were really two key companies to choose: U-Pack and UHAUL. Both options offered trucks and pods. We decided to go with U-Pack which started off great. On the date promised, we had a 16 foot trailer dropped off to our home. We had the trailer for as long as needed in order for us to pack it which was great flexibility (and better than we found for uHaul). After we loaded it up over the course of a few days, we called and informed them when it was ready for pick-up. They picked it up the same day and then all our stuff started its journey down to Tampa. I also loved the flexibility in that our truck arrived in Tampa before we did so if you’re not ready it’s kept in a locked facility so your stuff is kept safe! We scheduled our drop-off date and again, had as much time as needed to unload. The catch came in when we got our bill. It was thousands of dollars above what we were quoted. We quickly realized that in the fine print and in a link at the bottom of our confirmation email (which had our quote price) was details on how to pack the truck. The entire truck was not ours to use at the quote price, but rather we needed to partition off sections and only take up a specific amount within the truck. We disputed the cost but ultimately were required to pay. It was a bummer so I recommend anyone moving to read the fine print of all documents/contracts (even though your head is spinning and you’re overwhelmed it’s worth it)!

Signing A New Lease

Because of COVID we weren’t able to tour apartments/townhomes prior to coming to Tampa. We did FaceTime tours and eventually landed on one but it was really unnerving moving to a place sight unseen! Although we love the neighborhood we’re in, within a day of living here we quickly realized that there was a family of 6 living above us. That family of 6 has 4 children under the age of 5 too! We can hear noise constantly. Needless to say, we’re going to be moving again to a quieter place! Take this as a lesson, if you’re moving anywhere you’re not able to tour first, make sure there is some type of out clause in your contract. We had a 30-day out clause that allows us to break our lease without penalty!

Packing

If you’re like us and will be shipping items at different times it can feel like you’re conducting a symphony. One of the biggest lessons we learned was about what items we needed to keep behind while the rest of our life/furniture was shipped down to Tampa. The biggest blunder I made here was keeping our tool kit behind. Logically, I thought “we need to tool kit around our Rochester townhome to finish work around the place before we move out.” That was true but what was also true was that we would need that same tool kit to assemble furniture when we got to our new place. Since the tool kit went in Phil’s car which didn’t arrive for a week after we did, we were living with unassembled furniture for a bit!

Things To Do For People Making A Big Move

I recently heard that long distance moves have been ranked the #1 most stressful thing for adults. Now that we’ve done it, I couldn’t agree more! Even typing out all of the details for this post it doesn’t seem to fully encompass all of the stress involved in it. Our friends and family were so considerate throughout the process so I wanted to share some of the thoughtful gestures we received that were life savors!

  • Boxes/Packing Supplies – However many boxes you think you’ll need, multiple that by 5. Space fills quickly. I ended up making 10+ trips to Home Depot for more rounds of boxes. My Dad and Phil’s parents supplied us with boxes, tape, bubble wrap and it was a life savor! If you have a friend moving, offering them practical supplies that they will be needing is one of the nicest gifts you can give them!
  • Giftcards In Our New City – One couple we’re close with gave us a digital giftcard for restaurants that were nearby our new home. What a genius idea this is! They didn’t give us anything physical/tangible we had to worry about moving/packing and then when we arrived and were exhausted we had a place in mind to grab take-out from. 
  • Food Delivery – Another brilliant gift was when a friend sent us food to our new place in Tampa. Our friend lives in Chicago and sent us two deep dish pizza’s from one of the best Chicago deep dish restaurants. It was such a wonderful surprise to have a delicious meal appear on our doorstep I almost cried tears of joy (no exaggeration)! The first two weeks of trying to get settled in our new place feeding ourselves fell to the bottom of the list so the gift of food is as practical as it is thoughtful. 

Other Things On Your List

  • Change of address – You’re going to want to set-up mail forwarding with the USPS starting the day of your move! As I learned as well, if you’ve ever changed your name you’ll have to create two separate mail forwarding accounts to ensure all mail for you makes it to your new address.
  • Vehicle Insurance/Registration – This one has been very eye opening and is something we’re still working through. We learned that having NY license plates we have just 30 days from moving out of the state to send back our old plates. I also went ahead and got a new car insurance plan for Tampa, only to learn that I can’t cancel my current NYS insurance plan until my NY plates are off the car and sent back. Every state is different but take the time to figure out exactly what needs to happen for your vehicles because most states require your vehicle to be registered and plated to match the state you’re living in.

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