Pitfalls to Avoid When Moving Across Country

A long-distance move is no easy feat. It's critical to learn how to prepare and what to avoid when planning your move across country. Read our tips!

Picture of open road in desert.

Moving across the country can be a big change for anyone – one that should be exciting. But given the significance of a cross-country move, there are certain pitfalls people need to avoid in the planning process to ensure their move and acclimation is as seamless and enjoyable as possible.

Forgetting to Update Your Mailing Address

Updating your address is a critical step in the move process. Especially given the current strain on the supply chain and postal service, the consequences of not updating your mailing address often are losing items entirely. Whoever lives in your prior address may send the mail back, but that’s not a guarantee.

Set up mail forwarding with USPS

The first step should be to set up mail forwarding with the United States Postal Service (USPS). Once the forwarding request has been submitted, it can take between three and 14 days for it to go into effect. It’s also active for up to one year. Even if you’ve opted into every online payment method available, it’s important to have your mail forwarded to your new home.

Contact some institutions directly

While mail forwarding is a good first step, it’s also important to update your address with different organizations like your bank and insurance company. Here is a rundown on some common organizations that should be notified about your new address.

Employer and Finances

Alert your employers, both past and present (within the most recent tax year) so they mail your W2, paychecks and any other tax-related documents to the proper address. Other finance organizations to contact include:

  • Credit card companies
  • Utilities, cable, phone and internet providers
  • Health insurance company
  • Home and car insurance company
  • Banks and loan providers (personal, student, auto, etc.)

Health Providers

All your healthcare providers should be contacted about your move and new address. With the rise in telehealth, it’s feasible to continue seeing certain practitioners even when you move across the country. Common healthcare providers to contact include:

  • Primary care physician and pediatrician
  • Nutritionist, dietary and exercise consultants
  • Pharmacy

Subscriptions and Accounts

You shouldn’t pay for magazines and other subscriptions if they’re being mailed to your old address! Beyond magazine and newspaper subscriptions, be sure to change the following accounts:

  • Travel accounts
  • Retail clubs
  • Online shopping accounts (Amazon, eBay)

Failing to Research State Tax Policies and Local Laws

There’s a good chance that your new state is going to have different taxes, laws and policies than your current one. Not looking into these in advance potentially can lead to costly expenses or fines, even if you unknowingly violate them.

Familiarize yourself with the income tax rate for your new state, and potentially city. Each state has its own tax rate, which can range from roughly 3% to more than 13%. Some cities also have their own local income tax, such as New York City, which has a progressive tax rate ranging from 3.078% to 3.876%. Income tax can have a large impact on your take-home pay. Spend some time figuring out what you’ll be paying so you can have a proper budget in mind before you start looking for places to live.

Equally important to consider are the regulations around any pets making the move with you. Many localities list the vaccinations they require for common household pets. Make sure to get your pets vaccinated upon arrival as soon as you can.

If you’re bringing a car, also look up registration and inspection details. Failure to update your vehicle registration will result in a fine in most states.

Procrastinating Preparation for the Move

While we love moving, we know that isn’t the case for everyone. Even if there are aspects of the move you’re excited about, it’s understandable other to-dos may be harder to accomplish. But be wary of putting too many things off. It’s quite common for moving-related services to book up weeks or months in advance. Assess if you need assistance, and if so, start identifying who and what that will be as soon as possible.

Tips for decluttering

Decluttering before your move will help reduce how much stuff you need to bring with you across the country. Decluttering will look different for everyone – some may need to purge clothes, while others hope to see large pieces of furniture go. Whatever your goals, there are several areas of the home people often forget about until the packing process begins.

Start by making a checklist for all the rooms in your home, going through junk drawers, closets and other spaces that are easily overlooked.

When going through each room and reviewing your decluttering checklist, put items into three piles: sell, donate and trash. For the first two, here are some helpful ideas to consider:

  • Online sites like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist can be great ways to sell used items to people nearby in your community. Many police stations have “safe exchange zones,” which can bring a lot of peace of mind when meeting a stranger to conduct a transaction.
  • Yard sales remain a popular option if you’d prefer not to share belongings online and facilitate the sale of each item.
  • Second-hand shops often will purchase gently used clothing, jewelry and other household goods.
  • Consider donating unneeded items to non-profits for the homeless, battered women and children. You can even give unusable sheets and towels to the SPCA and other animal shelters.

Moving day prep tips

Particularly with a cross-country move, there are a few things you can do to make life easier and more fun for everyone involved.

  • Transport valuable and essential items yourself: For all moves, you should pack and transport must-have items yourself, for simple everyday items such as phone chargers and tablets or for important personal items like heirlooms and other irreplaceable belongings. Then there are the items that aren’t essential until you don’t have them like toiletries, change(s) of clothes, and games if you have young children.
  • Bring bedding supplies: If you won’t have your bed right away, you can find air mattresses relatively cheaply online – just don’t forget to purchase a pump to help out after a long day of traveling.
  • Download TV episodes and movies to watch: While on the road, and even in your new home if you’ll need to wait for the internet to be installed, having videos already downloaded can be a tremendous way to relax after a long day.  Fortunately, streaming sites like Netflix and Amazon let you to download content to watch offline.

Deciding Not to Hire Professional Movers

All moves are significant, especially ones that take you across the country! It might seem more cost-effective to simply go the DIY route. But consider all the costs that you’ll ultimately pay for. When you think through things like truck rentals, gas, labor and moving materials, the cost of a cross-country DIY move might not be too far off from hiring professionals. And with the second option, you benefit from having experts move your belongings such a long way versus you having to figure everything out.

Tips for choosing a professional residential mover

You want to trust the people moving your belongings across the country. Make sure your moving company’s employees have passed a background check and are properly trained. Also ask if you’ll have a move coordinator to answer questions ahead of and during such an important move. You also should review your moving valuation coverage options and determine which is the best for your needs.


Moving across the country is an exciting moment, but it’s also a significant undertaking that takes careful planning and attention. Avoiding key pitfalls can make the transition an enjoyable one!

Hilldrup has a dedicated team of move coordinators who specialize in streamlining moves. Whether you’re moving a state away or across the country, our team will be ready to assist you every step of the way.