How to Move Cross Country in a Pandemic

How to Move Cross Country in a Pandemic

Whether you're moving for a new job across the country, escaping a city during a global pandemic, or clearing the estate of a loved one, it's easy to go into panic mode and spend WAY too much because of time-constraints. Just a few months ago, we were part of that "escape the city during a global pandemic" group: Moving from Brooklyn back home to Seattle.  Since then, I have had numerous folks ask me (I'm looking at you: Becky, Jacque, Rachel, and Linnea) as to how we managed all the logistics in so little time. So here is how we moved cross country on a budget (under $10k), using a pod system and independent movers:

 How do I know how big of a moving truck / moving pod to rent?

Call a national brand and use their virtual quote app for a total package price to give you perspective on pricing AND how much space you'll need. Then you can use this info to choose whether to:

  • Use a relo-cube service: Pods or Uhaul
  • Use a DIY freight service: we used Upak (because we needed a more space than just a pod - but it was a similar service, but filling a freight truck)
  • Or drive the moving truck yourself. (once you calculate the cost of gas, hotel and stress, it works out to be the same price to have someone else drive for you)

moving van upak

What is the most economical way to get supplies to prepare for my cross-country move? 
  • Blankets / Moving pads: Rent them from Uhaul 1 week in advance of the move
  • Have plenty of Black sharpie markers, ziplock sandwich bags (to keep hardware with each furniture item)
  • Bubble wrap: we loved this bubble wrap because it was sturdy, with a slight tack for sticking to itself (a good thing) and perforations every foot.  
  • Tape: the love that is holy, do NOT use clear packing tape on furniture or blankets or you'll live sticky residue FOREVER. Buy a 36 pack (seriously you'll use it all) of this Sealast brown packing tape It tears without scissors and is surprisingly super-strong.
  • Labels: A pack of multi-colored labels to create a color-coding system for your movers: we used red labels for items that will go UPSTAIRS vs DOWNSTAIRS in our new home. (more info on this below)
  • Boxes: Collect as many as you can for free first: Look on craigslist, offerup and next door for local boxes. Then supplement with:
    • Reliable strong boxes are from Uhaul (they’ll buy them back), Lowes and Home depot. 
    • Wardrobe boxes – not for clothes (thought you can if you want) we loved them as a catch-all for the odd/tall things (shower caddy, stepstool, ) that seemed impossible to wrap, and would be pure clutter floating loose in the moving truck.


How far in advance should the movers come?

If you can hire your own movers, (I love Busy Movers in Brooklyn)  it tends to be cheaper than using the movers that the moving service provides. Schedule them to come 2 days before the van arrives.

  • Why? Because no matter how well you’ve prepared, you’ll need that extra day to go run and get more boxes, or wrap more furniture. . .it takes far longer than you think. And if you’re lucky, you’ll have a bit of a breather to have a nice last dinner in your city before you leave.
What should I have the movers pack?
  • Any furniture that can be dismantled - do so.  It will save space and prevent breakage. You'd be astonished at how 2500 miles of vibrations and bumps can jostle furniture apart.
  • Be sure to package hardware in Ziploc baggies, and tape directly TO THE FURNITURE (again, use the brown sealast tape if you don't want to cry!) 
  • Soft upholstered furniture should also be wrapped. IT will get dirty and banged up in doorways on the way out, and back in to your new home

    label your boxes with color-coded stickers

    How should I label my boxes?
    • Pack and label according to WHERE you expect the box to live in your new home, not WHAT is inside.  For example, instead of simply writing "books" on the outside of your box, write "living room" and then in small print ("books") so your movers know WHERE the box should go." 
    • This is where that pack of multi-colored moving labels come in handy.  For example: we used red labels for items that will go UPSTAIRS vs DOWNSTAIRS in our new home. (You can totally nerd-out and pre-print these labels on your Dymo label printer like we did) This will save you time and money on your mover's fees.
    If everything is packed and wrapped, why should I hire movers to load the truck?
    • Because moving is a b*tch and you're a grown-ass adult.  And you want to save your back.
    • Movers are (or should be) professionals and if they are anything like ours were, they managed to tetris in our belongings so efficiently that they actually SAVED us money (a few hundreds $$) on freight because we ended up using 3 feet less, than we estimated.  Look at all that room!

    adrian of busy movers saved us money and stress by helping us move

    Should I fly/drive as soon as the moving van/pod leaves?
    • hell to the no.  First put your feet up and appreciate what you've accomplished
    • (Also schedule a cleaning service to clean your empty apartment, so you've got one less back-breaking thing to do. )

    crystalyn putting her feet up after the moving van was loaded

    • Take a shower and enjoy a nice dinner on your last night in the city.crystalyn brennan enjoying her last meal in Brooklyn before moving to seattle
    • If you're staying on an air mattress in your old apartment. . .just don't forget the bedding. . .otherwise a moving blanket will have to do.
    Have any other questions?  Did I leave anything out? Please add them to the comments - I'd love to help out!

    1 comment

    • Curtis J Brennan

      Good one, Kiddo……this took alot of work and is a GREAT idea for lots of people. Especially now! ;-)

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