Moving Cross-Country by Car, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

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Life in the USA
American Community
Moving

Moving Cross-Country by Car
The material courtesy of Taylor Fleming-Henning

Life changes such as starting college or a new job may require you to pack your car and move to a new city in a state far away. Moving long-distances can be pricey and stressful, whether you do it yourself or hire cross country movers, but it can also be a great way to see the United States. Here are a few guidelines designed to help you plan your trip:

Buy a recently updated road atlas. Mark your route ahead of time in order to avoid getting lost or sidetracked while on the road. Also, you can mark points of interest so that you can add a little time to your schedule to stop and see them. Use an online mapping service to get an idea of how long it will take you drive to your new home. However, a good rule of thumb is to give yourself at least a week to make your journey. And, depending on your tolerance for long drives, and/or whether you have another driver, plan to drive between 8-12 hours each day. The online service can also help you determine the best routes through major cities, which can sometimes be hectic and busy. The online service can tell you exit numbers and driving directions before you are stuck in traffic trying to cross four lanes to get to your exit.

Don’t book hotels ahead of time. The road is unpredictable. If you get behind schedule for some reason—road construction or sightseeing—you may lose a reservation you already paid for. Wait until you are an hour or so outside of your stopping point and then keep an eye out for road signs that advertise a Motel 8 or Clarion hotel. Chain hotels such as these are generally clean and comfortable, which is important because driving all day can make you really tired and a good night’s rest is crucial.

Driving cross-country can be a great time to visit friends or relatives. Let people know you will be in their area, even if they are a little ways off your route, it’s worth the extra time. They may offer you good company along with a couch or futon to sleep on. You will have a free place to stay and you will be able to visit someone you may not see often.

Make sure your car is ready for the journey. Driving cross-country requires a vehicle’s engine to operate at high temperatures for long periods of time. Some cars just can’t handle that sort of rigorous activity. Take your car to your most trusted mechanic at least a few weeks before you set out, and tell him or her what you plan to do. Don’t skimp on repairs. It’s worth it to know that your car is in good shape and ready to go. If you don’t already know, learn how to check your oil and anti-freeze levels and pack a bottle of each just in case. Make sure your have a jack and a functional spare tire, also. Ask your mechanic for a quick tire-changing lesson if you need it. Get roadside assistance from your insurance company or buy AAA’s roadside assistance. (Members of AAA also get discounts on hotels and many other things.) If you have to get towed even once, it pays for itself. Bring a cell phone with a good roaming plan in case you get stuck in a remote area with limited cell service.

Last of all, don’t over pack the car. It can damage it as well as significantly decrease your gas mileage. Mail heavy items such as books and papers ahead of time. US Postal Service offers a very inexpensive rate for books. You can also mail lighter items such as pillows, towels, blankets, or clothes. It’s better to donate, sell, or store furniture items if you are limited to the space in your vehicle. Research Goodwill, thrift stores and inexpensive furniture stores like IKEA near your new destination. It may be easier and cheaper just to get new stuff when you get to your new home.

Well, now it’s time to pack up your favorite snacks, music CDs, and good pair of sunglasses. You are setting out on a life-changing journey, and America is a fantastically beautiful and fascinating country.


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