Potential Tips From Our Long Distances Moves

Double rainbow after the lightening our first drive up!

My family and I have been on two long distance moves. Both moves were over land rather than requiring air travel so although we downsized we didn't need to start completely fresh in a new location. Here is what we did along with some potential tips we learned and I'd also love to hear yours in the comments below!

Pinterest geared image with a collage of four images, my post title, and website url.

I know that there are a lot of blog posts and articles out there for the logistics of planning a long distance move and which companies to trust so instead I decided to share more generalized tips and tricks I've learned as the logistics themselves will change over time

The first move we did was international (from Canada to the United States) so it consisted of way more paperwork and limitations on just when we could first cross the border. As such we scheduled the process so we could be at the border the night before we were allowed to cross which optimized the time we had before Matt's job started to drive the rest of the way and set ourselves up.

In contrast the more recent move was within the United States, about half as far in distance, and we had way more time to prepare so it had way less pressure.

Scoping Out The Location

The Unknown

The first move was about 24 hours away via Google maps. We also weren't 100% sure about the move until Matt was indeed hired so between an almost one year old daughter, packing everything up, Matt finishing up projects at his current job, and selling our house all within a month or so it was busy. We had visited San Francisco proper earlier but hadn't checked out the rest of the Bay Area so everything we knew was based on research online. We decided to rent a furnished short-term rental ahead of time to use as our base while we got used to the area, switched over to a new country, and looked for a longer term rental. As such, other than finding that first rental, online, we didn't actual scope out the location ahead of time.

The Vague Area

With the second move we made the decision months in advance and were able to talk to people who lived in the general area for recommendations on cities, school districts, and neighborhoods. This second time around, with the kids, we knew we wanted to skip a furnished short-term rental and have something with less transitions than last time but we still wanted the flexibility of moving again if we wanted a different neighborhood or even city. As such we cautiously chose to rent to get a feel for the area and have the freedom to look around once we were situated.

With the extra time we had to plan we were able to see what rentals options were on Zillow and narrow down the potential areas ahead of time. We were also able to plan a vacation to roadtrip to the new area with the kids. About a week before that trip we picked homes, based on previous research, and messaged the owners to book in person viewings. We had a couple cities picked out but seeing the location and potential homes in person truly helped make that decision. Beyond the knowledge that the school district was good and, once we signed our lease, doing a drive through the elementary school parking lot that we were zoned to we didn't do too much in depth research. That said, the act of seeing the area in person gave us, and especially the kids, peace of mind with our decision and helped with the final packing and goodbyes as we knew exactly where we were going. It also helped that we had spotted a restaurant that we wanted to check out that we looked forward to eating at that first full day in our new home.

In Depth Research

We didn't do too much in-depth research either time. That said one person I know was deliberating on a long distance move to a new house purchase rather than a rental. When she checked out the area in person she brought her workout clothes and went running through the potential neighborhood to talk with the neighbors and get a feel for the area. She also booked in-person visits with all the local schools her kids were slated for.

Planning Ahead

Choosing Our Moving Company

What we looked for in a moving company changed between moves. The first time around we planned to stay in a furnished short-term rental while we looked for our new home so we choose a company that could take our packed items in one country, store them for us until we knew where we'd be, and then deliver it to the new location. The second time around, in contrast, we wanted our stuff on a quicker timeline.

I can't remember exactly how we chose the moving company that first time but the second time around we contacted four moving companies and got four different quotes. The first company did a video chat walkthrough and gave us a weight and cost estimate. The second company took that pre-determined weight to make their estimate. The third company had us install an app where we recorded short videos of our stuff which were analyzed to calculate their estimate by their AI. And the fourth company scheduled an in-person walkthrough.

We had read to go with the company with the mid-range estimate and planned to do the same here but quickly noticed that the numbers in each estimate were quite different and that the estimated weight from that first company was drastically larger than we expected. That said, we liked their reviews online so after some back and forth we got another estimate assuming that we had only half our weight which let us to realize that they may be charging us just under a $1 a pound. We then bought a heavy duty scale so we could decide if our items were worth moving or replacing as we went. With this purchase we ended up weighing our boxes as we packed, looking up the weight listed online of our heaviest items, and choosing to potentially getting rid of more items than we had initially thought which ultimately lead to sending a more accurate weight estimate to that first company. In response they offered to switch us to volume-based moving which ended up cheaper but meant we had a general delivery window and had to wait several weeks to get a firm delivery date and our stuff. And with that the first company was chosen.


With the move we analyzed our items, especially the larger ones, to see if they were worth moving or if we should just donate it. In hindsight I realize that this move we were able to take advantage of replacing items while the first time around, since our items were newer, it felt more like a forced downsizing.

One example of this was with the kids' bunk bed. We had bought a sturdy one that we pictured growing with the kids as it had stairs with storage and, if needed, could be taken apart to make two separate beds. With the move; however, we calculated the cost and space of moving the bunk bed and knew the kids would probably prefer a regular twin sized bed instead. This simple realization led to donating their bunk bed, junking their mattresses, and even donating their dressers. It then expanded to the rest of the house where we also donated all of our bookshelves and junked both our couch and entertainment stand. This saved so much space and weight while moving and allowed us to upgrade our items (bed, mattress, and couch) or simply not replace them (dresser and bookshelves). This also allowed us to research, purchase, and set up the needed replacements before our stuff even arrived.

Buy Nothing

On the topic of replacements I found my local Buy Nothing group on Facebook years ago and, especially downsizing for the move, found them so helpful to have. At first I did posts with individual and grouped items and scheduled pickups but closer to the move I just put everything outside for an unmanned free garage sale and posted quick photos online in the group.

Shopping Apps

We used to pay for Instacart and during that time I discovered the app was useful to scope out which store a particular item might be located in. An example of this was years ago when I was looking for lots of cornstarch for the kids' birthday party and realized a kitchen supply store unknown to me was the best bet. When we stopped our subscription I kept the app downloaded in case I had trouble finding a particular item again.

As such, this time around, I was able to go back into the app and set my location to some business in the general area we thought we'd move to so I could see which grocery stores were nearby and what they had. This was particularly helpful when the kids were concerned about items they may miss like Ghirardelli branded brownie mix which I realized through the app was available everywhere. That said, if you're using it just to find an ingredient and already know the stores in the area I've recently noticed using a store-specific app can be more helpful in seeing if they have it in stock and, potentially, where it might be located or if the item needs to be shipped to you.

Restaurants and Fast Food

Before the move the kids kept mentioning fast food locations they loved so I kept looking up locations online to show whether they already existed in our new home area or not. Places like In-N-Out weren't in the new area so they were focused on repeatedly along with a goodbye meal both times we drove out of California. The fast food restaurant concerns were numerous enough that I showed the kids where the stores existed in the new area on a map and made sure to check out a few of them, like Panda Express, while searching for our new home to prove that it did in fact taste the same as in California... a frequently mentioned concern once the location was shown. For Matt and I we made sure to visit favorite restaurants each time we went out hoping to get our fill before we moved and couldn't eat there anymore.

Kids enjoying their burger and fries together.
We had only ordered In-N-Out to take home until closer to our move when we dined in. The kids loved eating in as it was so novel.

Stores and Experiences

I absolutely adore the local flowers, Farmer's Market, and the ginger beer from Ginger Labs so when I knew I was moving away I made sure to make all three a priority whenever I could. I had actually hoped to get tired of the ginger beer... unfortunately I now love it even more and in the process discovered some amazing sheep milk yogurt popsicles I'm also now missing.

Tree with large white and purple blooms.
I love all the flowers but the magnolia trees were my absolute favorite.
Image is a closeup of me holding a yogurt popsicle and bundle of flowers with a sunbeam in front.
Loved the solo walk to the farmers market and tried to go often especially closer to the move.

Social Media

First through numerous sewing groups and later through city-specific mom groups I’ve discovered a large community within Facebook. As such, when we first made the decision to move I immediately hopped onto Facebook to see what location-specific groups were close to our potential hometown. There I was able to search for home-related questions, ask for recommendations (found and booked our orthodontist and pediatrician before moving), and get a general feel for the community. After the move I searched for more specific groups based on the activities I was interested in and hoped they would provide me with ideas of what to do, gorgeous views of my new area, and potential meetups.


Are there any birthdays or occasions coming up that might be better to celebrate early with your current friends than right after you move and haven't met anyone yet? My girls' birthdays are a couple of months apart right before and after when we planned to move. I realized it would be much easier to invite guests pre-move which led to an early venue-based joint birthday party that the kids had an absolute blast at while the parents visited.

Image shows an orange lined table with food and decorations,
Quick set up at a venue made for a party with less work and more visiting.


Make a point of checking what the expiration date is on your membership cards so you can take advantage of a final visit before you have to justify paying the daily admission fee for a quick goodbye. I dropped the ball on this but luckily a friend brought up the local zoo and amusement park only a couple weeks before mine expired but it felt rushed trying to get it in. I completely missed out on another one, the local LEGOLAND® Discovery Center, but as we made a point of visiting a LEGOLAND® prior I was able to point out that we did have a LEGO® goodbye... I cared more about missing it than the kids and if they were younger I would've paid for one more time.

Image shows the kids playing at one of their parks.
We absolutely enjoyed Happy Hollow as the kids grew up and I'm so glad we had an opportunity to visit it before our membership ended.
Image shows a goat resting in an empty water barrel while another one rests in the back. Zoey approaches with grass.
And how can you not enjoy hanging with the goats!


Do you have any appointments booked before you move? Don’t forget your records! Knowing we were moving ahead of time led to requesting our medical records when attending our final appointments. Although I'm still having difficulty moving my medical records over I was able to request and receive our vaccination record (for our new school but it also helped at the first well-child appointment too), all of our most recent dental x-rays, and our current optometry prescription. I knew it would be easier to reach out when we were still in the area than attempting to get it post-move when we were further away and it may be more time specific.

This isn't just for medical appointments. The girls and I had a hairdresser that we absolutely loved so when I went to our last appointment I made sure to understand what she did and take lots of photos of my hair immediately after so I better know what to ask for with a new hairdresser later.

Selfie I took after my haircut.
Say cheese!

Enjoy Your Current Location

Before your move be sure to enjoy your current location. For instance are there any bucket list places you've been meaning to check out? Any favorite go to places you're going to miss? Or even a particular view on your commute? Try to take some time to experience them more.

Leading up to moving we did check out some new locations but mainly focused on current favorite places. For the last several months I told the kids to assume each visit might be the last visit whether it was a simple playground or something larger like our final vacation to LEGOLAND® and the beach. Each time I tried to also remember to say goodbye to both the location and the experience when we left.

Since we had time I always tried to prioritize visiting friends and locations and loved when friends could visit the locations with us. That extra time, compared to our first long distance move, meant packing could be done in the times between while my website and other hobbies took a break since I could pick them back up again post-move. My biggest regret from my first move was not saying goodbye to the area and not having enough time to hang out more with my friends.

Image shows the kids posed by the Welcome sign outside the entrance.
Loved that we could visit LEGOLAND® again.
Kids looking at the chickens.
But I think I enjoyed visiting our old haunts like Deer Hollow Farm even more.
Image shows the kids eating while looking through a window with a heard on it showing the Golden Gate Bridge.
Although I had biked the Golden Gate Bridge years ago even before moving to the area we had only driven on it ever since.... so we made a point to walk over it, grab some food, and head back.


Our Stuff

During the first move we downsized to a single vehicle and imported it by driving it over the border and to our new location. Since it would be months until we got our stuff we made sure to pack the van full of our important documents and bare necessities. I hadn't included any kitchen items as the short-term rental came furnished so looking back I wish I had brought more of our essential day to day items (like a favorite pot and smaller utensils) along with a playpen so the days in the new place could have gone easier for me.

The second time around we moved to an empty home but knew it would only be weeks until the movers came with our stuff. As such we again took advantage of the room in our van and the fact that we took two trips. The first drive up, when checking out rentals, we made sure to pack items we thought were essential to our new home but that we also knew we didn't need before the move. In case you're doing the same the first time there we stored:

  • sleeping essentials: sleeping bags, air mattresses, and backup sheets
  • kitchen essentials: pots (split them up so I'd have some at both places), cookie sheets (perfect as a flat bottom in bin), pizza stone (heavy and breakable to pack), and some backup essential items like steak knives, a cutting board, and an extra grater.
  • important awkwardly shaped items: Matt fit a heavy and cumbersome project he was working on in an old suitcase
  • activities: yarn and a hook, sourdough kit, card games, and some craft kits that the kids' had received for their birthday and seemed better to save for after the move
  • surprises: ordered some map magnets of our old and new location that I could pull out if and when the kids missed it or were sad. Also added the kids signed birthday party shirts to surprise them with at the new place.

All these items were packed up along with our suitcases, for what we needed on the actual trip, and our first stop before even going to the hotel was the storage company we had checked out online ahead of time. After our move, right after getting our keys and unpacking what we currently had, we went back to the storage facility and grabbed our stuff so we could set up for the night.

In that second trip, while moving, we made sure to bring the items that couldn't be moved (batteries) and the essentials we couldn't live without. We also made sure there was room for our two suitcases with one containing everything we needed for the hotel. That along with our backpacks containing electronics, important papers, and water bottles also needed to be readily accessible on the road for whenever we stopped. Looking back some of these items included:

  • important papers
  • batteries: movers didn't let us pack them
  • electronics: day to day laptops, ipads, and game system
  • internet: wifi/router and related power cords for easy internet hookup
  • all our favorite dishes: so we could use it right away and it's protected in the move
  • kitchen essentials: coffee machine, kettle, teapot, instapot, knives, silverware, dishclothes, and linen that had a double duty to pack everything securely
  • suitcases with ten days worth of clothing for each of us and main toiletries
  • vacuum with the charging cord but not the stand or extra accessories: I missed our vacuum with the first move and this way I could vacuum after the movers left
  • general fun: inflatable paddleboard and my life jacket: we planned to buy lifejackets for everyone else and head out when we still had more time before our stuff arrived
  • kid stuff: closed bin for each kid and open basket at their feet for their chosen essential toys and activities

This load was more pivotal than the last because if something didn't fit we wouldn't have any way to take it with us as the movers had already gone so we did two practice loads in advance.

The first practice load was a week or so before the move. In this one we brought out more bins than we needed, suitcases, backpacks, empty boxes, and some larger items. This run was to figure out what we could bring based on what fit and what configuration would work best. Everything that fit was put in a special pile which I packed into over the next week. During this process we made sure to plan to only include a basket of toys, accessible to the kids, in the seat area as that would be ideal and, realistically, there's always extra items you forget about so there needs to be extra space unaccounted for.

The second practice load was a day before the move once I had switched to paper plates and everything we wanted in the van was packed up. This was the final dress rehearsal where all the spots were figured out and anything that didn't fit could still be packed. Once we figured it all out the items were removed, the essentials for that night and the next morning were made accessible, and everything went back into its own pile for the movers to ignore.

In hindsight I'm so glad we did the practice runs as Matt knew each empty space we could've used in the first two runs so when we inadvertently discovered new things we needed to bring we somehow found space for it.


It's a tough day but you've got this!

This time around we simplified the process by scheduling a junk pickup the day after the move so we could leave things at the curb. During the move itself we let the kids binge on their iPads while sitting on their mattresses in the corner of their room while the movers emptied everything out and we cleaned. When lunch came Matt and I kept going while the kids helped empty the last of the pantry outside and out of the way.

Room mostly packed up with the kids on their iPads in the background.
The kids hung out out of the way as we all packed, moved, and cleaned.
Two baskets of snacks, water bottles, paper plates, and two happy kids at the patio furniture outside.
And when one of the batteries ran out and they got hungry I sent them outside with the last of the snacks I had saved, a compost bin. a garbage bag, and their water bottles for a snacking extravaganza!

The first move Ada was just under one so I think we added toys to a play pen and stayed close. I do remember the move going longer than expected so we moved her play pen to a quiet walk in closet for a nap and frequently checked in on her.

The local move, between these two longer ones, were filled with playdough, art, kitchen toys, picnics, and, of course, the emergency electronics once the toys disappeared.

Image shows a table strewn with playdough toys, playdough, and toy cars along with two kids.
Leading up to the move there was a lot of playdough fun while I packed which was made funner when combined with the kitchen set with toy pots and pans.
Image shows a simple marbled disc of playdough saying Zoey with two hearts above and below beside a box of washable markers.
Adding in markers was simple to clean but also upgraded their cakes while adding a cool marbling effect on their own terms.
Cheersing water bottles as we picnic.
I premade a simple lunch of tortilla wrapped bananas for the girls and set aside a picnic blanket so when we got to the new place the kids and I stayed out of the way with an outside picnic while Matt helped the movers bring in our boxes.

This time around with the movers gone, the van packed for the last time, the place cleaned, and the keys passed on we were on our way!

View of the space between the girls and the full back.
On our way and truly packed in.

Enjoy Your New Space

And remember to enjoy your new space after the move! Life gets crazy and then suddenly there's a new routine you may feel stuck in.

I had made sure the potentially messier craft kits and some window markers we'd never used before were in the first van load so in the downtimes the kids had fun personalizing their new space. It was also cool to see what they picked when given an item limit at the local Dollar Tree... we quickly were glitterized. We also enjoyed the local area with a lot of swimming and local walks.

Room with outdoor chair, cushion, and a blanket covered air mattress for a couch.
Once the kids got their new beds their air mattress became a temporary couch while we waited for that purchase to arrive.
Image shows a collage of Dollar Tree toys, crafting snow globe, and drawn on windows.
Crafts, new toys, and window markers both gave them something to do and helped personalize their new space.
Image shows a dirt path through trees.
With life back on track I returned to coding and blogging while also making a point to check out the area.

I hope this helps you as you're going through your own move. If you have your own tips or tricks I'd love to hear about it in the comments below so it can help someone else. And with that I leave you with the double rainbow we saw on the road after driving through the lightening our first drive up!

Double rainbow after the lightening our first drive up!
I hope you're having a great day and a good week!

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