Anybody ever move cross-country?

Congrats on the move. I just know you will love San Diego. The weather is beautiful and the beaches are fabulous. You might buy a “learn to speak Spanish” book because the Mexican culture is very rich there. San Diego has the BEST Mexican food restaurants. One of my favorite restaurants when I visit San Diego is Casa De Bandini in old town San Diego, good food and good ambience.

Before you think of driving across, how good is your car. California has very strict smog checks before you can license a vehicle. But, since the winters in San Diego are not at all cold, I don’t know the last time it snowed there but I would bet it is over 50 years, you should be able to find a used car for <$5K in great shape and that meets the smog requirements. If your car is in good shape, take the time and drive across country and consider it a vacation to see the US. When I was in the military, I had my books and some other stuff UPS shipped to me. Worked out fine. Just pack it in good boxes. The rest, since you will probably be going home for turkey-day and Christmas, you can just bring back with you.

I moved from New York State to Utah several years back. I was a student, with little money. Here’s what I did:

1.) Packed up all my books and sent them to myself in Salt Lake City, by way of General Delivery (Since I wasn’t sure where I would be). Book rate is the cheapest rate, which will save you money. Sending things General Delivery essentially means that you hasve free storage until you pick them up.

2.) Left all my furniture behind. Sell it, chuck it, or give it away. If you’ve got a good item of furniture you might want to leav it with someone and make a special trip later.

3.) Rent a U-Haul or equivalent and bring the rest with you. I was told that my car wouldn’t have enough oomph to drag a U-Haul, so I bought a very light and cheap trailer, figuring to sell it when I got to Utah. I spent a lot of time and effort fixing it up. But between Gary, Indiana and Lincoln, Nebraska I had six (SIX!!!) flat tires on the trailer, and then one of the suspension springs broke. I was forced to swell the trailer and rent a U-Haul. Fortunately, the doom-sayers were wrong, and I was able to drive it across country from there. But when I was crossing the Continental Divide in Colorado I was beginning to wish there was a lower gear than first, since I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. (I did, to my relief.)

Moving - oh the joy. I am two weeks away from a 1600-mile move. I did lots of checking around for how to send my stuff & here is what I found:

Forget movers. Neither easy or cost-effective.
U-haul was the cheapest (I have a little furniture and about 50 boxes of various sizes), but if you don’t want to make the drive, or can’t for some reason, not an easy choice.
I have too much stuff to ship normally and have it be cost-effective.
End result - I am using U-Pack, which is an outfit that rents space in a commercial carrier. They bring a trailer to your house & drop it off for 1-2 days. You purchase linear feet (the truck is 8 feet wide and 9 feet tall) with a minimum of 5-feet. They give you a pre-fab bulkhead to put up between your stuff and the next load, then pick up the trailer and ship it to the other side. You can check out their web site at to get a quote. If you don’t have much stuff this will not be the best option for you, but it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than getting movers if you are moving furniture or lots of boxes.

Good luck - and I hope for your sake you don’t have to move with animals. I am bringing 4 cats with me, whick is why I didn’t want to have to worry about a U-haul truck.

I am having a bad day with links today.

The correct link for U-Pack is

Sorry for the confusion

If you don’t feel like driving out with all of your stuff. (Thats what I did, it was marvelous and I highly recommend it. I drove from DC to Ventura, wonderful trip.) But, if you would rather just get out there and be done with it, I suggest using Amtrak to ship your stuff. If you call them and ask about shipping they offer a service that is really cheap and works great. The only downside is, you have to take everything to the train station to be picked up, and you have to pick it up in San Diego. So, its not super convienient, but based on price it was well worth it.

Of course, if you fly you will arrive a few days before your belongings, but if you take enough to last a couple of days you will be fine.


I have moved cross country 4 or 5 times and shipped my stuff without any problems. Avoid Mailboxes, Etc. places, though, because they add a surcharge. I found the cheapest places by calling everyone and asking for the price for a 30 lb box so that I could compare. You might also see if they have home pickup. I once got UPS to pick up about 25 big boxes for the $5 per pick up address charge. (It was on the 2nd floor, though, so I tipped the drivers $20, but still it was a good deal!) And although I have never lost anything, I agree with the recommendation of insurance. Also, if you have a significant number of books, book rate via the US postal service is the way to go. Just make sure you don’t exceed the maximimum weight and don’t have anything but books in those boxes.

Good luck with the move!

I’m a virtual expert on moving. I’ve moved more than 20 times in the last 15 years. (No I am not military! Just flighty:)) Several of those moves have been cross-country, including Ohio to FL, FL to SC, SC back to FL. I’ve learned a couple things…

First, the advice the other posters have given you is all very good.

The most important thing I’ve learned is that planning is key. It only took me 10-12 moves to figure that out. The more you can get done ahead of time, the better off you’ll be. Ask way too many questions so you can get as much information as you can in order to make the best decisions for yourself.

Another thing I’ve learned: It’s much easier to move if you don’t have multiple pets. If you do, let me know and I will offer some special tips about the furry kids!

I’ve moved with movers – and not had much furniture, so that was less than $850. But you have to wait up to two weeks to get your stuff, so you still have to cram your car.

Florida used to have a law about charging people huge fees for registering a car from another state. They have lifted this (it was unconstitutional and I got my $450 back!), but CA might have even more stringent requirements. I urge you to contact the CA DMV and find out what the deal is. It might just be easier to sell you car, fly to CA, ship your stuff to you and buy a new car when you get there.

I’ve moved with van rentals. Ryder is usually the least expensive. You can also buy boxes and rent moving supplies from them as well.

For your situation – as much info as you’ve given us – I’d recommend sucking it up (this was not your first choice) and cramming your car with the necessities and make the drive. Could be a lot of fun. Leave yourself plenty of time and have AAA (or do it yourself at make hotel reservations along the way. I also like the suggestion about taking Amtrak – good one! (Wish I’d thought of it five moves ago!) Especially if you’re concerned about your car making the trip. Don’t forget LOTS of CD’s/Tapes for the ride – either way. Nothing is worse than a cross country trip with no music!

I have moved from Santa Cruz, CA to Florida AND back to Santa Cruz AND back to Florida. Rent a van, pack it and enjoy the drive. Its the only way to go.

I moved last year from Tampa, FL to Chicago, IL.

I didn’t think I had a lot of furniture, but I managed to pack a 16 foot truck to the gills. I got a U-Haul and ended up towing my car behind it. I was actually super nervous about the procedure since I had no experience towing like that before. It was the type of tow dolly where just the front two tires go up, and I ended up driving this 30 foot long contraption across the country by myself.

What scared me most was the last leg of the journey – manipulating this beast through the streets of the city of Chicago. Luckily my destination was only a couple blocks off of 90/94, so I didn’t have too many problems.

I did get stuck a little in a hotel parking lot. For a minute there, I thought I was going to have to take the car and trailer off in order to get it all turned around. Instead I opted for driving up on the curb and the lawn and taking off.

I think I paid a total of about $600 for the truck and trailer, but I got the optional insurance, in case I drove the damn thing off a cliff or something, I wouldn’t be liable.

Even though I was alone, I really enjoyed the drive. I saw a lot of Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois. Kentucky was by far the most interesting to look at – lots of horse ranches along the highway.

I think the rental truck was the way to go. Get everything done all at once, not as difficult as I thought, and ended up being kind of fun.

How did I know that if anybody could give me good advice, the Dopers could? :wink:

First of all, thank you all for such good info! It is most appreciated, and now I’m going to sit and figure out my finances and what I can afford to do.

One thing I should have pointed out - I do not currently own a car. My car died 2 years ago and was not worth getting fixed, and since I live with my parents and my mother and I work in two different companies right next to each other, we started carpooling. Then, since I was dragging my feet about buying a new car, and since she has no social life, I’ve been using her car to run around in. Actually, it’s worked out great - freebie for me, no skin off her nose for her, and I keep the tank filled with gas. Of course, one of the reasons I was dragging my feet was that I hadn’t yet decided on where I was going to end up, and not only didn’t I want to drive cross-country, but I found out how stringent California car laws are, so I knew that buying a car here if I was leaving was kind of pointless. (This is one of the many reasons I’m moving - I could move in Philadelphia, which would mean car payment, car insurance and rent; but in California, all I have to worry about is car payment and car insurance - no rent.)

I need to start doing my homework:

[ul][li]Although I like the idea of driving cross-country (I do have lots of friends along the way I could visit and stay with), I’d rather just get there and start looking for a job (not sure if I could afford the week - how long does it take? - without pay). Still, I’ll get some quotes on rental trucks.[/li]
[li]When the guy I’m moving in with moved from here to there, he shipped most of his stuff, but thinks he lost a package or two along the way, and I’m not keen on that idea, which is why I was thinking of movers or doing it myself on various trips home as I could trust that more.[/li]
[li]Amtrak sounds like fun, actually - would only take a couple of days, and could take more with me. I’d hate to do it alone, but it would be interesting (and I love taking trains to boot). I’ll have to find out how much they allow me to bring. (I was surprised - one airline let me take five suitcases, which holds a lot for me.) And even if I just ship stuff with them and fly out it still might be a good idea.[/li]
[li]That U-Pack sounds interesting - I’m going to definitely check that out.[/ul][/li]
I’ll post more when I decide what I’m going to do. Fortunately I’ve got at least 2 months to plan it.

Now all I have to do is tell my parents… :frowning:


I’ve never lost a package through the US Postal Service, for what it’s worth.

Check the prices on Amtrak. I love the trains, and used to go from Boston to NYC on Amtrak all the time, but their prices can be outrageous. Driving is often less expensive (and flying a lot less so). And agree with you about driving – it’s a great way to see what’s in between. You meet a lot of people when you’re changing flat tires…

Moved from North Carolina to Denver. 2 people, 2 vehicles: My Nissan Pickup and a small U-Haul truck. Went pretty well…

I’d also jump on the side of driving it… especially if you never have before. You get a true sense of how large and varied this country is, and once you leave the coasts the interstates are great.

I’ve never had trouble with stuff I’ve sent with the USPS, though they did jack a $500 Sony videocam I bought off eBay (and it’s easily worth $650+). I’d recommend, based on personal experience, giant suitcasing everything except your computer (which I would send FedEx or UPS insured, as they are both easier to get insurance money from, should the unfortunate situation arise, than the USPS). I personally have a HUGE Samsonite suitcase that I got up to 82 pounds once (and over 70 pounds on at least three other occasions), in preparation for a move. Though if you have the time, I’d say just use the internet to find jobs in the area, set up interviews for dates at least a week and a half in the future, and drive out. Should be cheaper and more fun.

I have to agree with this. I rented a Uhaul trailer to haul my “furniture and essentials” from Idaho to New Jersey, but sent my 25 boxes of books via the train. The cost of sending the books was under $150. Mind you, I could only send the books from the Boise station (not Pocatello, so a friend had to send them for me) and I had to pick them up at the Newark station (not the New Brunswick). But it was cheap, cheap, cheap, and I could still enjoy the drive across the country.

I’ve used most of those options, and the only one I’m really satisfied with was packing everything myself and driving.

I haven’t, however, taken the train. I always wanted to, though, and probably will the next time. I did check out the train (in this case it was VIA) and they usually let you take two or three trunks of stuff, well packed. I’m assuming Amtrak has the same policy.

Any chance you’re stopping in LA on the way?

Do you have a car Esprix?

You could pack all your stuff into your car (wrap foam around the computer and fragile stuff–and put it in the trunk) and have your car trucked across country for like $400 bucks.

How much stuff are you bringing across country?


Such fun, we have had to move near and far several times.

If you ship many boxes- be sure to keep an accurate list of box #'s and what is in each- that way, you don’t have to rip each one open every time you are looking for something.

Moving companies may be expensive, but it’s nice not to deal with the moving of your crap.

We have done it both ways, movers are nice, but mailing is cheaper. Try to mail the things you won’t need right away- take the essentials with you. We cheated and sent non books at the book rate to help keep costs down. Weight is also an issue with shipping, we used all bankers boxes so that it couldn’t get too heavy. Only used large boxes for bulky or light stuff.

Good luck! I know you will enjoy San Diego, we loved it when we were there!

Suo Na, I’m only about an hour and a half south of LA - I’ll be there often, as I have lots of friends, and two very good friends who insist I go to Disneyland every weekend with them. :smiley:

Silo, dear, read the thread - I already said no, I do not own a car. But as far as how much stuff I have, I don’t really know until I start throwing things out and going through my room. As it is I have my bedroom, plus another room in the house that’s mostly just my computer and files and stuff, and then I have just a few things up in the attic. I’m going to store all my camping stuff near the place I go every year next August. The biggest thing I’ll be shipping is probably my computer.

I checked into a couple things already. U-Rent quoted me, for 5’ of space from Philly to SD in the middle of the month in the middle of the week… $1500! :frowning: I’m going to check other dates, but I have a feeling that’s the ballpark figure I’d be looking at.

But I also checked Amtrak, and wow, what a deal! I can ship up to 100 pounds for $34.00! The size and shape of the packages don’t seem to matter much, and they count one whole shipment as one weight, they don’t weigh each individual box. Cool! I have a feeling this is the way I’m going to go (and I’ll be sure to bring the really important/irreplacable stuff with me on the plane).

As I said, I like the idea of driving (and one of my future roommates just volunteered to fly out to Philly and drive back with me if I didn’t want to do it alone), but I really think I’d rather just get out there. Maybe on a trip home or back sometime I’ll have the money, time and inclination to do it, but until then, I think I’ll just take 8 hours and get it over with. :slight_smile:


If you’re right in San Diego you’ll find out quickly that LA is not just an hour and a half away unless you drive really fast in the middle of the night. It took us almost three hours (I think. I wasn’t driving.) from Pasadena, so that’s about two and a half from LA to SD. It takes much much longer if you drive during the weekday.

But I suppose the trip gets easier the more often you drive it.

I’ll be living in Mira Mesa, which is about a half hour north of downtown San Diego, and I’ve only driven to Redondo Beach, and it took me like 1.5-2 hours, depending on traffic. I guess my frames of reference are a little skewed… :wink: