The Cheapest Way To Move – DIY Moving Tips And More

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Whether you are looking for the cheapest way to move across the country, the state, or the next neighborhood down, let's talk savings tips.
Table of Contents
  1. How To Move On The Cheap: Quick Tips for DIY Relocation
    1. Get rid of stuff, first
    2. Save money on packing materials
    3. Start packing early (seriously)
    4. Get the right size truck
    5. Hire professionals to help load and unload
  2. The Cost of a Long-Distance DIY Move
    1. The Cost of Moving Boxes
    2. The Cost of Packing Materials
    3. The Cost of Renting a Budget Rental Truck
    4. The Cost of Hiring Professional Movers to Load and Unload
    5. You can save a lot by doing it yourself – but be prepared to work
  3. Frugal Moving Tips
    1. Save money on padding and packing material
    2. Get free boxes
    3. Not everything must go in a box
    4. Reduce your load
    5. Enlist cheap help
    6. Hire someone to move large/expensive items
    7. Get reimbursed
  4. Tips for Protecting Your Belongings When Moving
    1. Research the moving company before hiring them
    2. Buy insurance!
    3. Inventory your items
    4. Use manufacturer shipping boxes
    5. Keep an eye on the movers
    6. Prevent sticky fingers from ripping you off
    7. Transport your most valuable items yourself
  5. Tips for Traveling With Young Children
    1. Flying vs. Driving
    2. Flying with a Lap Child
    3. Renting a Car – and a Car Seat?
  6. Choosing a Hotel with Young Children
    1. Bring Toys & Activities to Occupy Your Children!
    2. Be Flexible
  7. Tips to Prepare for the Trip Itself
    1. Get Your Vehicle Serviced
    2. MPG Claims Aren’t Always as Advertised
    3. Book Lodging Early
    4. Paying for Everything
    5. Wrapping Up

My wife and I recently relocated from Ohio to Illinois, moving a distance of 350 miles.

This was a major move, in my book, and took a lot of work and planning.

We spent roughly $1,200, which is probably half what it would have cost us to hire a professional moving company – and we didn’t have to wait around for our items to arrive, since many commercial movers load large trucks and ship several household’s worth of good on each trip, making several stops along the way.

In the end, we were able to load our truck on Friday, unload on Saturday morning, and have our house completely set up by Sunday afternoon – cheaper and faster is a big win in my book!

How did we do it?

A lot of factors go into a major move, especially across the country, and considering each one carefully is key to moving successfully without overspending.

Read on for a detailed guide to moving, with tips on everything from decluttering to traveling cross-country with kids and pets.

Happy moving!

How To Move On The Cheap: Quick Tips for DIY Relocation

Get rid of stuff, first

As soon as we agreed to an offer our house, my wife and I listed a bunch of stuff on Craigslist.

We sold several boxes and large items we didn’t want to take with us – basically, things we either didn’t need or which were replaceable at minimal cost.

We also canceled cable and sold our TVs since we had bulky tube TVs we didn’t watch often and didn’t want to move. The items we sold on Craigslist paid for our move and the repairs we needed to make to our house before we sold it.

Save money on packing materials

You can probably find free or discounted packing materials on Craigslist or Freecycle.

Additionally, try contacting companies such as grocery stores and other businesses to see f they have additional boxes. Many of these are just thrown out anyway. Family and friends are another great resource.

Start packing early (seriously)

cheapest way to move

My wife and I packed our own boxes and started packing in earnest about a week ahead of our move.

We went room by room and packed away everything we didn’t think we would need for a couple weeks.

Doing a few items each day in an organized way made it easier to see how much work we had left.

Two days before we loaded the truck, we began stacking everything in an organized manner in the living room so it would be easier to pack the moving truck

Large heavy items were placed nearer to the door since they typically get loaded first. Smaller and lighter items were packed in the rear of the room.

We hired some professional movers to help load our truck and they smiled when they saw how much of the guesswork had been removed from their job – they just had to grab the right box and secure it away.

Get the right size truck

We originally reserved a 16-foot rental truck from Budget Truck Rental but after looking at our household goods once they were in boxes, we decided to get the larger truck.

And I’m glad we did.

We probably would have been able to fit everything in the truck, but we would have needed to pack everything tightly from floor to ceiling.

A tight pack is a good pack, as it minimizes movement to your household goods, but it is also more time consuming, which is important if you are paying someone by the hour.

Getting a larger truck meant we could pack everything more quickly and didn’t have to load and unload to try and fit things in a different way.

Larger trucks are slightly more expensive and a little more cumbersome to drive, but the added cost and inconvenience are much better than leaving things behind or making two trips (not an option when you are moving 350 miles away!).

We ended up using a rental truck from Budget, but be sure to compare Budget, Penske, and U-Haul discounts to find the best offer in your area. Truck rental costs vary by area, availability, whether you are staying local or making a one-way trip, and other factors. Some companies such as U-Haul may offer military discounts.

Remember this rule of thumb: a larger truck is better than a smaller truck.

Hire professionals to help load and unload

I know the purpose of DIY moving is to save money, but hiring professionals is well worth it. Professionals know the ins and outs of packing a truck correctly and know how to secure items so they won’t move around and break.

Call around for estimates and make sure you understand all of their fees – including minimum hour requirements, travel costs, etc.

It also helps to make sure they are bonded or have insurance.

Since we moved in the off-season, we were able to find movers to help load our truck without a minimum hour requirement.

They were able to load our truck in 3 hours, which was pretty darn good since we had to hit the road for a 350-mile road trip to our new location!

The Cost of a Long-Distance DIY Move

Now that you’ve read some of the ways my wife and I streamlined our packing and moving process, you may be wondering how much a move like ours actually costs.

Each situation is different and depends on various factors, including how far you are moving, how much stuff you have (size and weight both matter), and other factors.

I’ll share with you our recent experience, and how you can use some of our tips to help you save both time and money.

Cost breakdown for our move:

  • Boxes: Free
  • Packing materials: Tape, packing paper, foam, bubble wrap, etc. ($100, estimated)
  • Moving truck: 24? Budget Rental Truck + Insurance ($410) + Fuel ($170)
  • Professional movers to load and unload the truck: $300 to load, $160 to unload.
  • Total cost: Approximately $1,150

A couple notes about these numbers: Roughly 40% of the cost was spent on hiring professional movers to help us load and unload the truck – but it was worth it!

You can save more if you don’t hire someone to help load and unload your truck; more on this later in the article.

We also drove our other vehicles, bought food on the road, and dealt with other miscellaneous expenses, which aren’t completely captured in this analysis.

Here are more details of what we spent money on, and how you can save money moving yourself.

The Cost of Moving Boxes

We had several large boxes saved from previous moves, but it wasn’t enough to move our entire household goods.

Thankfully we have a generous friend in the military who gave us their empty boxes since they wouldn’t be needing them again.

The military pays for 100% of the Permanent Change of Station move when it is for military needs (read these tips for a smooth PCS if you are in the military).

Saving money on boxes. If you need boxes, then I recommend first asking friends and family if they have any.

Many people have a few boxes laying around for situations such as these. You can also look on Craigslist – we found a few people giving away boxes.

Unfortunately, we didn’t find anyone giving them away until after we had all the boxes we needed!

Boxes go quickly, so check often.

Moving is also seasonal, so you may have more luck finding them in the summer than in the winter.

You can also find free boxes from department stores, grocery stores, and other locations.

If you are hiring movers, ask them if they have any used boxes you can buy at a discount.

The Cost of Packing Materials

We packed almost everything with paper and only used bubble wrap and peanuts on a few fragile items.

Paper is generally cheaper than the other packing materials, so use it whenever possible.

The other thing we did was keep the original boxes for most of our electronics and kitchen appliances.

These items are almost always better off in the original packing because they are designed to be shipped that way.

This only works if you have a place in your home to store the empty boxes.

We had an unfinished section in our basement which was perfect for storage, but it’s definitely not worth paying for short-term storage just to hold the original boxes.

Saving money on packing materials. Unfortunately, packing materials are expensive, and most people don’t keep a lot of them lying around like they do boxes.

Again, check with family and friends, Craigslist, and other classifieds.

Another tip I received from Nickel (@fcn on Twitter) was to ask local newspaper companies if they have any end rolls of paper which they would give away.

Unfortunately, the newspaper companies in my area sell the end rolls to recycling companies, but this may vary by location.

If you know you will be moving, then be sure to keep any bubble wrap, Styrofoam peanuts, or other materials if you get them in packages you receive.

Otherwise, be prepared to go shopping – and these materials can be expensive!

I shopped around and the best prices for paper were at places like Sam’s Club, Costco, and moving companies.

The worst places were retailers like Home Depot, Lowe’s, UPS Stores, FedEx Stores, etc.

The latter places typically sell to people who only need one or two packages of packing materials. You will do better to buy in bulk.

The Cost of Renting a Budget Rental Truck

We researched the major rental truck lines and decided on Budget Truck Rental, and we were happy with the decision.

Their rates were by far the lowest of the 3 major truck lines for long distance moves: Budget, Penske, and U-Haul.

The other benefit of using Budget was that the distance of the move gave us the truck for 3 days, with unlimited mileage.

We picked up the truck at 8 am Friday morning and had until 8:02 am on Monday morning to return it.

We had everything in our home ready to go so we picked it up Friday morning, loaded it, and drove to our new home.

Then we unloaded it on Saturday morning and returned it right away since we didn’t want to leave it outside our house and didn’t have any other need for it.

What to look for when renting a moving truck:

  • Cost compared to competitors
  • How long you will have the truck
  • How many miles you are allowed
  • Whether or not your insurance will cover it (probably not; most insurance companies limit the size of the vehicles they cover under your policy)
  • How much fuel you will need

Don’t underestimate fuel costs! Our Budget truck was a diesel engine and huge – it got between 6-7 mpg on the trip, which adds up quickly! (note the $170 fuel bill!).

We bought the insurance with the $0 deductible through Budget, which cost us $60.

It was only a few dollars more than the $500 deductible and well worth the added expense since I would be driving on potentially icy roads and hadn’t driven such a large vehicle since I was in the military about 6 years ago.

Budget Truck Rental often has discounts, so shop around.

The Cost of Hiring Professional Movers to Load and Unload

This seems like it defeats the purpose of a DIY move, but it was actually one of the best moves we made.

We had some friends who volunteered to help, but it would have meant loading in the evening after everyone got off work, then leaving the next day, arriving in the afternoon, and unloading in the evening.

Hiring professionals meant we could load in the morning, drive to our house 350 miles away, and unload first thing in the morning the following day.

Time-wise it worked out great!

It also saved us a ton of work, headaches, and backaches.

We also had a more secure load; professional packers know how to load the truck more securely than the Average Joe.

To find movers, call around and ask moving companies. Some of them offer this service, while others only offer a full moving service – movers & truck combined.

There is often a minimum time requirement of 2-4 hours, depending on the company, and you should expect to pay for transportation time as well.

We were quoted anywhere from $80-$110 per hour for two movers.

The movers we hired to load our truck came in at $80 an hour for two movers, plus a flat $60 fee for transportation time.

The load took three hours, which cost us a total of $300.

We lucked out finding the movers who unloaded our truck – we called several companies and weren’t able to find many that only offered the labor without hiring the truck.

However, one person we talked to at a moving company was willing to do the work on the side: 2 people for $20 an hour cash (each), with a minimum of 4 hours.

The two guys and my wife and I unloaded the truck in less than 2 hours.

They each made $80 for less than two hours of work, which was good for them, and great for us!

A note about hiring people working on the side: Since these guys weren’t on the company clock, they wouldn’t have insurance or anything else covering them.

I called our insurance company and they explained how it would work on our end if anything happened.

I was OK with the associated risks, and nothing eventful happened.

Be sure to assess your own risk in this situation and consider the coverage you have under your homeowners insurance or umbrella policy.

Here’s another scenario.

A friend recently worked with full-service movers because her husband’s new employer offers a $3,000 stipend to help with moving.

It still cost them some money, though, but not any more than it would cost if they went the “you pack, we drive” route.

Here’s why she said their experience was worth it:

  • Someone else to load the truck: While they still packed the boxes, it was nice to have someone load the truck. The moving team did it faster than they ever could, and they didn’t have to lift a finger.
  • Expertise: Not only did someone else load the truck, but they had the expertise to load it most efficiently and pad the furniture so it wouldn’t break. Plus, they had the knowledge and expertise to easily maneuver the furniture out of the house.
  • Insurance on the items*: On top of that, using these movers gave them better insurance coverage. If something is broken, the insurance is enough to replace it.
  • Someone else to unload the truck: Finally, they had someone else to unload the truck. Not only that, but the movers put the boxes in the rooms they need them in, so it’s less work and hassle.

While the cost is high, it could be worth it to hire a full-service mover who handles everything from start to finish, especially if you have a moving stipend.

A note about insurance: Make sure your moving company offers replacement value on the items being moved. Some companies only offer depreciated value, which means you would only receive a small portion of what it would cost you to replace many items. Other insurance policies only offer a flat amount based on the weight or value of the item. This insurance is generally woefully inadequate.

You might also be able to purchase renter’s insurance or a specific policy from your former renter’s insurance or homeowner’s insurance policy.

Whatever you do – make sure you’re covered!

You can save a lot by doing it yourself – but be prepared to work

I estimate we moved for less than half the cost of hiring a full-service moving company (or more, since we packed our boxes ourselves and used our own materials).

Paying a company to do everything for us – provide boxes and packing materials, pack our boxes, load the truck, deliver, and unload, would have cost us several thousand dollars.

So much that I didn’t even bother getting an estimate.

As you can see above, using a full-service moving company does take away the heavy lifting, but doing it yourself can add some convenient features.

We got moved into our new home in less time that it would have taken to hire a moving company.

Most intrastate moving companies only give you a partial truckload and share the load with other cargo, meaning you have to schedule the pickup and delivery around other loads, potentially taking several extra days.

We saved money and got moved in more quickly, but we put in our fair share of work.

We boxed everything ourselves and helped with both loading and unloading.

But that work saved us several thousand dollars, so it was well worth it in my book.

Do your research, assess your family’s costs and needs, and decide how much work you’re willing to put in.

Frugal Moving Tips

Now that I’ve unpacked (pun intended) my family’s moving costs and how we minimized them, let’s look at some general tips for saving big on your next move.

Save money on padding and packing material

Plastic bubble wrap is expensive! Newspaper is an inexpensive alternative to protect your belongings and recycle at the same time.

Save your newspapers for a couple weeks, or if you don’t get the newspaper, go to a local recycling plant.

You should be able to get all you need for free.

Pillows, blankets, and linens are other great household items you can use for padding, spending less money on packing materials.

Note: newsprint easily transfers to items, so wash your dishes before using them and don’t use newspaper to pad anything that might get stained from the ink. An alternative is to buy bulk sheets of newspaper without the print.

Get free boxes

Free is the best price! Back to my earlier point, there are several places you can score free boxes.

The first place to check is Facebook or Craigslist. Check in the “what’s happening in your town” section, or a neighborhood group if you have one.

Next, check with your workplace. Printer paper boxes are great for moving small items and they stack easily.

But be sure to ask before you start taking things or you may have to use those boxes to move the contents of your desk!

You can also ask local businesses; many throw out boxes daily.

Grocery stores and department stores are great places to look. Another great source for free boxes can be found at local recycling locations.

Not everything must go in a box

Soft items like pillows, blankets, clothes, etc. can be transported in large garbage bags, or can be used to protect your fragile items.

Other items can be wrapped in padding and strategically placed in your load. This is common for small furniture items and decorations.

Reduce your load

Do you have a lot of stuff just collecting dust? Sure you do, and there is no sense in spending money to move it!

Be sure to separate the things you don’t use or need and get rid of them before you move.

Consider selling more valuable items on Craigslist, Facebook, eBay, Decluttr, or by having a yard sale. Whatever doesn’t sell, donate – you’ll get a nice tax deduction.

Anything else? Throw it away!

You won’t miss it, I promise!

Enlist cheap help

Make a party out of moving. Friends, relatives, neighbors, and coworkers are a great source of cheap labor – especially when pizza and beer are involved.

Just make sure to keep the beer at your new place, and don’t put it out until after all the large and expensive items have been placed!

A couple of weeks after you move in, inviting your helpers over for dinner or housewarming party is also a good idea.

Don’t forget – if you enlist the help of others, be sure you are willing to return the favor!

Hire someone to move large/expensive items

The worst thing you can do is try to move something that is too big or expensive to move on your own.

Items like pianos, buffets, curio cabinets, and other large pieces of furniture are better left to professionals.

Besides, if they break it, they have to reimburse you.

If you break it, you have no recourse!

Make sure you research the moving company you hire, get several quotes, and buy proper moving insurance.

Get reimbursed

If you are moving for a new job, check with your company for reimbursement.

You may also be able to get a federal tax deduction based on how far you moved or other conditions.

Moving can be very expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.

With a little planning, you might be able to save hundreds of dollars by doing it yourself.

Tips for Protecting Your Belongings When Moving

Aside from saving money on your move, protecting your belongings is the most important consideration.

Whether you are moving across town or across the world, packing up your belongings and moving to another location can be an exciting and stressful time.

I know – as a military veteran I have moved quite a few times.

Worrying about your belongings being protected shouldn’t be on the list of items to stress over.

Here are some pointers to ensure your stuff stays safe.

Research the moving company before hiring them

There are some moving companies out there that are less than honest.

Common problems people have with some moving companies include theft, damaged items, and price gouging – holding your items hostage for a larger payout once everything is packed and moved.

Buy insurance!

Full value replacement insurance is the best way to go.

Even if the moving company “promises” full value replacement for anything they break or damage, get your own insurance.

Inevitably, something will break and you will be glad you did!

Inventory your items

Before moving, take pictures of your belongings and write a detailed description of them to include make, model, and serial number.

Ensure this list gets incorporated into your bill of lading or inventory.

You can even have the movers sign a copy of it. Make sure you keep a physical copy with you when you move.

Use manufacturer shipping boxes

As I said earlier, I have kept the original boxes that many of my electronics items came in.

Each time I move I put the item back in its original box. The boxes were designed for that particular item and have form-fitting Styrofoam so you know your item is well protected.

This can also help save on shipping costs!

Keep an eye on the movers

Sometimes the movers’ greatest concern is getting out of your house as quickly as possible.

Make sure they are doing a good job and taking care of your belongings.

If they aren’t, tell them so in a nice way.

Prevent sticky fingers from ripping you off

Once your items are out of your hands, you don’t know what will happen to them, and some movers feel obliged to help themselves to your belongings.

It’s very easy for them, too – the bill of lading clearly states the contents of each box, so they know which boxes contain valuables.

On one of my moves, a group of movers stole over 50 of my DVDs.

They cut open the box, removed the DVDs from the cases, replaced the DVD cases, and resealed the box.

I didn’t know until well after the movers were gone that my movies were gone, too. Unfortunately, it was too late to find the thieves and I had to write it off as a total loss.

How do you prevent this kind of theft?

Take a Sharpie or other permanent marker and scribble or write over the tape across the length of the box.

If anyone opens the box, you will know immediately.

Transport your most valuable items yourself

Your most valuable items are those that cannot be replaced.

There is no way I would let any movers take possession of my bank records, computer with personal information, family photos, jewelry, or several other items that have an intrinsic or personal value that cannot be replaced.

Of course, this might not work for large antique furniture, but the other things I mentioned can and should be moved by you.

Bonus Tip: Be nice to the movers. They are people, and the nicer you are, the nicer they will treat your belongings.

Offer to provide them with drinks, or let them know if they take care of your belongings you will take care of them (i.e. tip them well).

I have even bought pizza for movers before.

They did a nice job of protecting my goods.

Moving is stressful, so anything you can do to make the process easier and protect your belongings will make you feel better about the entire process.

Tips for Traveling With Young Children

Now that you’re on the road to saving money and protecting your items, you might be wondering about the trip itself.

My wife and I just returned from an out of state vacation, our first with both of our children, ages 1.5 and four.

Two years ago we traveled with our oldest daughter who was two at the time, and we stayed with my parents.

That was a relatively easy trip, as we didn’t need to book a hotel, rent a car, or worry about too much, but that might not be the case when you’re making a major move.

Traveling with young children can be an adventure.

Hopefully, these tips can make this part of your move a little easier!

Flying vs. Driving

On the trip I mentioned above, you would have had a 20+ hour drive, which would have meant a two-day road trip down and another two-day trip on the return leg.

Or, we could drive an hour and a half to the airport, spend a couple hours in the terminal, and take a two and a half hour flight, then of course, rent a car and drive to the hotel.

Altogether, we were looking at two twelve hour days, or one seven-hour day for each leg of the trip.

We chose the latter, which cost more but saved us an enormous amount of time and emotional energy.

When our children are both under age four, time and convenience are the most important factors for us!

If you decide to hire full-service movers, you might want to consider flying to your new home with the kids in tow, especially if it’s a day-long drive.

Flying with a Lap Child

If you have a child under the age of two, you may be able to take your child on your lap during the flight.

Airline travel is safer than driving and easier than most people think.

We decided to take our youngest on board as a lap child.

There are pros and cons to this choice, but some of the deciding factors came down to traveling as a family and saving money.

We flew on Southwest Airlines, so we had three seats in a row.

If we had bought four seats, we would have had to split up (which we will likely need to do in the future).

When flying with a lap child, you need to make sure you inform the airline in advance.

For Southwest Airlines, you need to call and have the child’s name and DOB added to your itinerary.

You also need to bring proper identification for your child, which includes a copy of a birth certificate, passport, or shot records.

You also can’t print a lap child’s boarding pass from home, so you will need to check in at the airport to get a boarding pass for the child so he or she can get through security and onto the plane.

A bonus of traveling with Southwest Airlines is that they don’t charge you for up to two checked bags per person and you can check a car seat free, not counting against your bag limit.

You really might want to consider a stress free flight to your new home, especially with young kids.

Renting a Car – and a Car Seat?

When you are renting a car, be sure to get one that will meet all your size and safety needs and be large enough to accommodate car seats if they are needed.

We rented a small SUV, which was only a few dollars a day more expensive than an economy car.

It didn’t get as good of gas mileage, but we were all more comfortable in the larger vehicle, and there was room to spare for the car seats.

Speaking of car seats, many car rental agencies will rent car seats to you if you don’t want to take yours when you travel.

This can be a great convenience, but it comes at a cost.

The company we used charges $15 per day to rent a car seat.

We needed a car for 5 days, so that came out to $75, plus taxes and fees (and if you know anything about car rental taxes, they can approach 20% in some localities because cities *love* to tax hotels and car rentals!).

We opted to travel with our own car seat to save the extra dough.

But be sure to double check with your airline before you take a car seat – just in case.

The last thing you want to find out is that you could have rented a car seat for a few dollars more than you had to spend to check it as luggage.

If you decide to fly on your move, you might bring your own car seat to save a little, or rent for a day since you’ll likely be reunited with all your stuff upon landing and getting home.

Choosing a Hotel with Young Children

This can be tricky. I remember traveling as a family when I was younger.

My parents would often rent a hotel room with two queen size beds and we would all double up (and one of us usually ended up on the pull-out couch as well!).

But the hotel situation may not be as easy when you have young children.

For example, my youngest daughter goes to bed around 6:30-7:00 most nights.

That is very early and something we had to consider when making travel arrangements.

We decided the best thing to do was rent a family suite for the trip.

The room included a bedroom with a King Size bed that was closed off from the living room area, which included a pull-out couch, and a full kitchen.

This gave us the option of putting our youngest daughter to bed earlier and allowing everyone else to stay awake awhile longer without disturbing her.

Thankfully, there are a few hotel chains which offer these types of rooms, and more importantly, they aren’t as expensive as you would think.

We found the rates to be about 30% higher than single hotel rooms with similar ratings. I’m sure this varies by hotel chain and region, so look into it.

Some hotel chains to look into include:

  • Embassy Suites.
  • Holiday Inns (some locations; check first).
  • Homewood Suites.
  • Hyatt House.
  • Residence Inn.
  • SpringHill Suites by Marriott.
  • TownePlace Suites.

We booked everything through Expedia, which we always find to be incredibly competitive.

I also recommend checking out Priceline, Travelocity, et al.

Just be sure to read the terms before booking because some tickets are non-refundable.

Whether you’re making a multi-day drive to your new home or have to stay in a hotel while waiting on your home to be ready, researching your hotel room options is key to a stress-free stay.

Bring Toys & Activities to Occupy Your Children!

My wife packed an assortment of activities for our children, including coloring books, activity books, snacks, toys, and even some “presents.”

She wrapped a few small items for each child to open at different stages of the trip.

This is a great way to give them something to anticipate, and the “present” makes it more fun to open and use.

You can wrap anything, including notebooks, crayons, small toys, snacks, etc.

Be Flexible

As I mentioned above, our children normally go to bed very early.

But it might not be possible to get your children to bed at their normal bedtime when you’re in the middle of moving.

You’re excited about the move, so your kids are probably wound up from all the excitement as well!

Not everything can or should be scripted, and you can’t prepare for every possible situation – especially with children!

Tips to Prepare for the Trip Itself

You can think of your move to your new home as a road trip.

With any road trip, whether you’re moving or vacationing, planning ahead goes a long way.

My sister recently graduated from college, and my family all made the trek to watch her receive her diploma.

She graduated from Gannon University in Erie, PA, which was out of state for all of us.

My parents and younger brother live in Texas, I live in the greater Chicago area, and my older brother lives in Southern California.

My brother and I decided to make a trip out of it and do the 8+ hour drive together.

We had a solid day’s drive ahead of us for each leg of the trip, so I decided to take my car in before we hit the road.

Here are some tips from my recent road trip that you can take with you on your big move:

Get Your Vehicle Serviced

Before I took off on the road trip, I took my car in to get an oil change, tire balance and rotation, and an alignment.

All of those services are good for improving mileage per gallon, reducing wear and tear, and extending the life of your tires and vehicle.

I do most of my service at national chains (in this case, FireStone) because that is where I bought my tires – which is good for free balancing and rotation for the life of the tires.

I also bought a lifetime alignment there, which was a great deal and something I recommend looking into.

A few years ago my car slid on some ice and bumped into a curb.

I was only traveling around 5 mph as I was accelerating from a stop sign, so there was no damage to my car.

However, it did knock my alignment out of balance.

The cost for a lifetime alignment was roughly double the cost of a one-time alignment, so it was a no-brainer to buy the lifetime alignment (I’ve used it about once per year since I bought it).

I also use FireStone because they perform an inspection each time I get my oil changed, top up fluids, make sure the tire pressure is good, etc.

All of these things are good to do before hitting the road on a long trip.

MPG Claims Aren’t Always as Advertised

Sometimes they are better!

There has been a lot of talk about how many cars don’t get the miles per gallon average manufacturers claim on the window sticker (part of this has to do with car manufacturer’s engineering their vehicles for the testing standards set forth by the EPA).

Depending on your driving habits, you may experience a better or worse MPG than what is stated on your window sticker.

I bought my Mazda 3 new over 6 years ago and the stated mileage was 26 town and 31 highway.

That’s not bad mileage for the year the vehicle was manufactured (the Mazda 3 now gets around 40 mpg on the highway).

During the trip, we had several stretches where we exceeded the highway MPG, with tanks of gas averaging 34 and 35 mpg.

I was impressed to beat the stated highway MPG by 10%, especially for a 6-year-old car.

We didn’t do anything special on the trip either – other than use cruise control at 75 mph for most of the stretches where we got the excellent mpg.

The stated speed limit was 70; I often drive five over and set the cruise control when driving on the highways if the weather is clear, which it was).

Limiting your speed to only five over the limit is usually enough to avoid a speeding ticket.

Related: How to improve your gas mileage.

Book Lodging Early

My brother and I went to a college graduation, which meant there were hundreds of more people in town that weekend.

We planned early and booked our hotel room well in advance, and we got good rates for the area and the hotel class we stayed in.

While we were checking in I overheard the hotel receptionist tell someone on the phone that almost all hotels in the area sell out during the spring through fall months.

I never would have guessed that for a city the size of Erie, but then again, you don’t always think about those things when you plan a trip.

Don’t just assume you’ll be able to find lodging when you get to your new home or make a stop along the way. Local events and limited hotel options could hinder your smooth move if you don’t plan ahead.

Plan early, and make sure you get a hotel that fits your moving date, is conveniently located, and fits your budget.

Related: How to get a good deal at Priceline.

Paying for Everything

It’s always a good idea to notify your credit card company if you are planning a trip – this will help prevent your card from being frozen by accident.

Some companies are good about notifying you if they suspect something, which is cool, while others may just shut off your card without warning.

My brother and I switched off on buying gas and snacks on the road, which worked out well.

I have no idea if either one of us paid more or less than the other person, but it felt right, so in the end, that’s all that matters.

If you decide to make a fun road trip out of your move and stop to see some sights, costs add up.

Just make sure you keep track of it all, and enjoy!

Wrapping Up

Moving is an exciting endeavor.

Whether you’re in the military and accustomed to regularly relocating like me or you’re making your first move, thoughtful planning can make a huge difference.

If you take the time to research rates for trucks and movers, carefully consider insurance to protect your belongings, and plan smartly for the trip itself, your move can be stress-free and enjoyable.

Take the pointers above on the road with you and make your next move a seamless transition!



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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of Cash Money Life. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started Cash Money Life in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about military money topics and military and veterans benefits at The Military Wallet.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free account here.

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