How To Plan An Out of State Move


A friend of mine recently asked me how I plan an out of state move. It’s not the first time I’ve been asked this question, I’m sure it won’t be the last. But, I decided to write about the process I take to make big moves, especially to places I have never been.

My first big move was with Joanne, when we left California and moved to Las Vegas. A piece of my heart still resides in Las Vegas, but because of schools, we decided to move to Washington State. Washington was a wonderful place to live, and if we hadn’t of hit unforeseen circumstances, I’m sure we’d still be there today.

But, life didn’t work that way and we ended up back in California. And there we stayed for 2 years. Of course now we’re living in Indiana which feels so random.

Each place had similar scenarios.

Prior to move to Las Vegas, I had not spent more than one weekend there.

Prior to moving to Washington, I had not been there since I was 14 years old.

Prior to moving to Indiana, I had NEVER visited or been this far out in the country.

So, I might have a bit of experience at moving to places I’ve never been, how to go about it, and how to research.

How to Decide Where to Move


Maybe you have a place in mind, or you want to move but not sure where. My first stop before moving someplace is always the City Data website. Not only do I take advantage of their statistics and information about each city, but I use the city forums as well. There’s a lot of information to get out of this site and it will help you to start making informed choices about the city you’re considering moving to.

If you want to ask questions in the forums, or do anything more than reading, be sure to register an account. Really, this is the most helpful site when planning a move.

Be sure to look at information like:

  • Median Home Price
  • Median Age of People in the City
  • Average Rent Prices
  • Culture and Diversity
  • Average Annual Income
  • Crime Rates

This information will help to shape your opinion about any city. You’ll begin to form a clear picture. In the forums, you can find what life is really like from people who currently live there.

You can also use to get average monthly temperatures. This is extremely helpful if you want to avoid places that are overly hot or overly cold.

What Is There To Do?

I don’t know anyone who wants to be stuck in a city where there will never be events, never anything to do, and you’ll spend your time either at home or on the road finding events.

Use Google here to search things like “What to do in City, State” or “Events in City, State.” You can get more accurate results by using the current month and year in your searches as well. For example, search “October 2013 events in Indianapolis, IN.” This will bring up sites that list events and activities in and around the city you’re planning a move to.

Not only will this information help give you an idea of what to do, but visual on the type of life people in that city live. Very useful information.

Research the Schools


Even without knowing what school district you might move in to, you can begin researching the different school districts now. This gives you an overall vibe of the schools there, how well their students are doing, the graduation rate, and testing scores.

I love using Great Schools to get this information. From there you can also visit specific school websites, read reviews from the parents, and gather up a great deal of information.

Doing this ahead of time will also allow you to narrow down your home search to the best school districts.

Begin Planning the Move

Here begins the real work, and probably the most important. It’s time to plan your move.

Visit Your New City

If you can visit your new city before making the move, this is your time. Go and get a feel for the place. Check out places to live. Pick up apartment rental books while you’re there, make contact with a real estate agent, whatever it is you need to do before moving — do it now.

Figure Out Jobs

Can you transfer your current job? Do you need to put in a transfer? Or will you be traveling to your new city ahead of time to find work?

Know this ahead of time, and plan this time in the move. We have made big moves while being unemployed, and with a big company. When Joanne was with the big company, she began to talk to her boss about a transfer a month ahead of time. This gave them plenty of time to find her a new position at a new store near where we were moving.

Create A Moving Budget

Most important! How are you going to move if you do not have the money to do so? Create a budget and look at as many sources as you can. To move to Washington, Joanne and I borrowed from her 401k, saved from paychecks, and cut off services we would no longer need, like cable television.


Know how much things will cost you to get going. Get a price estimate from UHaul or movers/packers. You need to know how you’re going to actually move so this is the moment to get those quotes. Joanne and I always use UHaul and pack and move ourselves.

Get estimates on gas prices. AAA has a great gas calculator you can use to figure out how much money you’ll need, just for gas.

All this information will let you know how much money you need exactly, and make your moving budget accurate.

After I’ve calculated all this information I try to pad the budget by at least $200. However, I typically come in under what all the calculators suggest we need. For our move to Indiana, I was $300 under.

Once you figure out your budget, you’ll know when exactly you can move. So, set your moving date next.

Secure Housing

Every scenario is different so I’m not sure how to advise here.

When we moved to Las Vegas, we rented a house from my Dad’s business partner who lived out there. When we moved to Washington, I had a friend out there who had a friend that was an apartment manager. I rented that apartment through pictures, sent money via MoneyGram, and signed the lease after we arrived.

For our move to Indiana, we stayed with friends out here for 3 months before moving to our own place.

If you plan on renting, and Zillow are great resources. Of course there is also Craigslist. Just be very careful about sending money ahead of time. I only did it because I knew the source, had written documentation in email, and trusted my friend.

Before You Make The Move

I always spend the weeks leading up to the move sorting and organizing our house. Joanne and I joke that we know a move is coming when the pictures come down off the walls. They’re typically the first things we pack.

I begin to sort any paperwork that’s sitting around. Bills I’ve saved from where we currently live. Our shredder goes in to overtime before a move.


Visit a 24 hour Walmart before you move between midnight at 2 AM and you’ll leave with all the boxes you could ever need. This is when their stock workers are unpacking boxes and stocking the shelves. Just be sure to ask them before you start grabbing. Also, DO NOT take the boxes that are labeled as Walmart boxes, that’s not cool. You’ll know them because they are marked and tell you how much each box costs Walmart on the side. (They’re also the best boxes.)

Start packing whatever you do not need. You can do most of the kitchen, leaving out 1 plate and set of utensils for each member of the family.

If it’s summer pack your winter clothes or vice versa. Keepsakes, decorations, and all of the non-essentials can go right away, too.

When we begin to pack we typically designate a place to put boxes in the house that will be close to the door. For some reason the dining room always seems to be a good choice.

Seek Out Moving Day Help

We’ve had a wide variety of people help us move. From daily workers that stand at Home Depot to the Mormon missionaries. If people offer, take the help.

Craigslist is a good place to secure help for loading trucks, too. Make sure you offer fair pay for several hours of manual labor, and always buy lunch for everyone.

Make Travel Arrangements

If it will take you more than a day to get to your new city, you need to make travel arrangements. Use Google maps to plan stopping points.

If you have kids, add 2 ½ hours per day to your travel time for stops, meals, gas, diaper changes, etc.

I would highly suggest you plan on no more than 8 hours of driving time per day. If your kids are not fans of being in the car, plan more stops. This means in total you will have at least 10 ½ hour days on the road between hotel rooms. This is A LOT of driving.

For discounts on hotels, use your standard travel sites like Travelocity.

Pack Like Its Vacation


Before the entire house is packed up, you need to pack like you’re going on vacation. Grab your suitcase and get everyone’s clothes ready. I would suggest packing a roll of toilet paper (because you never know where your kids will have to go), extra baby wipes, and comfortable clothes. Don’t make your kids throw on a pair of jeans when they’ll be doing nothing but hanging out in a car all day. Also, plan to keep out things like your ice chest.


I know it sounds crazy, but there are many things you can save on while on the road if you just plan ahead. The best thing we did for our move between California and Indiana was head to Costco. There we picked up a case of water, Gatorade, and bulk snacks. This saved us a lot of money during the gas station stops.

The Day Before You Move

The day before you move you should be packing the last minute items, like the dinnerware you kept out when you packed the kids. Nothing but water bottles should be in your fridge. On moving day, you’ll be eating out so get it all packed up, stacked up, and ready to go.

On Moving Day

Pick up your truck as early as you can, grab your helpers, and get going. Get everything packed, and clean as you go along. When the day is done, shower up, load your suitcase in your car and head to a hotel in your current city. Everyone needs a break before getting on the road. The next morning, you’re gone!

What’s your advice?

Have you made a long distance move before? What advice would offer? What resources do you use to research new cities? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.


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