5 Survival Tips for Your Long-Distance Move


Moving is the third most stressful life event behind death and divorce. Combat the stress with these 5 survival tips for your long-distance move!

Allow for serendipity

Long-distance moving is like choreography. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to figure out how to keep all the plates spinning at once!

Timing is key to carrying off your long-distance move with minimal hiccups. Having a clear plan with a timeline can help you stay organized.

Still, events are bound to come up that are outside your control. These unexpected surprises from the universe are not necessarily negative though.

In some cases, they are serendipitous!

For example, serendipity played an instrumental role in my long-awaited, long-distance move to the Pacific Northwest.

The wheels of our move began turning after I got back to Washington, Iowa from my wildly successful scouting visit to Olympia, Washington in April 2022.

However, I did not expect the wheels to turn quite so slowly.

It took us six loooooong months to re-declutter, pack everything up, get a few small repairs done, tidy up the yard, and stage our house.

The idea was to get our house looking so great, it would sell quickly. This ultimately turned out to be a good strategy.

At the same time, we were working on getting financing for an as yet-to-be-determined house in Olympia through a realtor I’d met on my scouting visit. Financing was contingent on selling our house in Iowa, so we were dealing with a very “fluid” situation.

Miraculously, we had a buyer immediately after we put our Iowa house on the market. The day our house cleared the home inspection, a sweet, affordably-priced bungalow in Olympia popped onto the market – and we jumped on it!

The timing was especially serendipitous because, up until then, there had been practically no houses on the market in Olympia within our price range. With closing dates on both houses set two days apart, our move officially kicked into high gear.

When you’re planning your long-distance move, be open to serendipity. Because, you just never know – things might turn out better than you could have ever imagined!

Expect the unexpected.

Even with a solid plan in place, you will likely encounter some not so serendipitous events over the course of your long-distance move.

For example, there is no way we could have prepared ourselves for moving day.

I decided to hire a moving company rather than use a U-Pack or a U-Haul. I knew it would be ridiculously expensive, but figured it would be easier and less stressful.

After researching national moving companies, I selected American Van Lines. They had mostly decent reviews and seemed great when I talked to them.

(Tip: Some moving companies have fewer negative reviews than they should because customers who leave negative reviews online run the risk of losing whatever money the company owes them.)

Things began to unravel as soon as the contract was signed.

We knew we were in trouble when they ignored the move-out date on our contract and sent the moving truck out the following day with a one-man “crew.”

Our house had three stories. We have an upright piano. We had a ton of boxes. How on Earth was one guy supposed to move all our stuff?

Answer: Not well and verrrrry slowly.

It took 12 hours for him to load everything on the truck. My husband had to help with the piano. Then, at 11:30 p.m., he announced he was not going to move the love seat because he claimed it wouldn’t fit through the door.

He got very confrontational – to the point where we said, fine, leave it.

It was the last piece of furniture. It was late. We were stressed out and exhausted. The next day was closing day on our Iowa house. We had to get up before dawn, pack up our cats, and head out.

I told our realtor about the temperamental mover and that we’d arrange to have the love seat taken to the dump. Miraculously (and serendipitously), the buyer decided to keep the love seat, so we didn’t have to mess with it!

Sadly, our saga did not end there.

It took almost a month for our stuff to get to Olympia.

Still, we’re grateful it arrived at all and that more of it wasn’t destroyed. Apparently, the guy driving our moving truck had ended up in a drug-fueled standoff with law enforcement somewhere in the Arizona desert!

Fortunately, we had a much more professional mover step in and drive our truck the rest of the way, and two-movers unloaded everything (mostly intact) in Olympia.  

With such a lot happening over the course of your long-distance move – much of it outside your control – you have to try to stay alert and ride the rapids as best you can!

Pack fewer, bigger boxes.

I packed waaaay too many small boxes for our long-distance move.

We were storing all our boxes in the basement and garage to keep the house empty for staging. My main concern was to avoid getting hurt arranging and lugging heavy boxes up and down stairs – a thought that never would have occurred to me 20 years ago!

The mover who dropped our stuff off in Olympia was horrified by all our small boxes. He tipped me off that the most cost-effective way to pack for a long-distance move is to use fewer, bigger boxes – and I’m passing along that tip to you!

Keep your eye on the ball.

Long-distance moving is an endurance test. You have to get a ton of things done within a set amount of time. It can be grueling.

The key is to remain vigilant – especially when the finish line is in sight.

We left Iowa in early November. Our 2,000-mile drive northwest would take us over the Rockies and the Cascades. Everything was fine until the second day when I decided to take “the scenic route” from Denver to Salt Lake City.

I have no idea why I thought this was a good idea.

Not long after we headed out, a snowstorm hit as we went over a mountain pass. The pickup in front of us spun out on some ice and into the median.

My heart sank.

Our three cats were in the back seat. Closing on our house in Olympia was the following day in Salt Lake City. We had to get there in one piece!

Fortunately, we managed to dodge a near-disaster in the Rockies.

But it all could have been avoided had we paid closer attention to the weather and taken the more “boring” route back up I-25.

The secret to surviving your long-distance move is to never let your guard down. Keep your wits about you until you arrive safely at your destination.

Pace yourself (and your pets).

Anyone who has embarked (pun intended) on a long-distance move with pets knows that it adds an extra layer of stress to the proceedings.

We were very concerned about keeping our three beloved kitties safe and comfortable during our move. How often we stopped and where we stayed along our 2,000-mile route was dictated largely by our cats.

If you have more than two cats, it can be tricky to find accommodations that will accept them – or that don’t charge a mint in fees if they do.

My research for the friendliest pet-friendly hotel uncovered a true gem: Kimpton Hotels

According to Kimpton’s pet policy, they do not charge additional pet fees, require a deposit, have size or weight limits, or limit the number of pets allowed.

We tried to plot our drive so that we only stopped in cities with Kimpton Hotels. This was a little awkward because (downside) there are not that many of them.

Fortunately, the Kimpton in Salt Lake City where we stayed for two nights to take care of closing on our house in Olympia was swanky and the ideal stopover.

We learned there just how much our cats love luxury!

Whether you are moving with pets or not, keep in mind that moving is a marathon, not a sprint. The idea is to arrive at your destination intact, so try to pace yourself

Tame your long-distance move with MoveMapper.

Tackling a long-distance move can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Learn how the MoveMapper Program can help you design a method to the madness with personalized tools, strategies and 1:1 coaching support.

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About the Author

I founded Your Place Finder in 2017 to help retirees and almost retirees like you anticipate and overcome the pitfalls and challenges – and reap the rich rewards – of finding the perfect location to move for retirement.


  1. teresa on Mar 6, 2024 at 9:41 am

    We have made 2 cross country moves over the years and three short distance moves in the last year. This advice is priceless even for short moves.

    • Margaret on Mar 6, 2024 at 9:57 am

      Thanks so much for your comment, Teresa! I’m glad you found my advice helpful.

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