How I Moved Across the Country Completely by Myself

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Category: Long Distance Moving

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Here’s the way things started: I had an opportunity, a big one, but I needed to move across the country to take it. And I had to take some of my stuff with me.

But the biggest issue? The move needed to happen in April, and I would be traveling across the northern part of the country from Idaho to Pennsylvania, plowing through late winter snows and other potential issues.

Oh, and I’d be doing it alone.

I started off with a plan, some goals, and some ideas of how things would go. And as is typical of these kinds of adventures, not everything went smoothly. Here is what I learned on my long distance solo journey.

I Went With a Rental Truck

One of the first moving related decisions you have to make is what how to move, including if you should go with a rental truck.

You ultimately need enough room, but you don’t want to pay too much. If you opt for a rental truck, you need one that is reliable the whole way across, and that gets as good of fuel economy as you hope for from a large vehicle. (You will save a lot of money driving your own truck versus a Full Service option, but it’s still roughly a $1,000 rental after expenses, on average.)

Which rental truck do you go with?

I chose to rent from Penske. According to Moving101 user reviews, it was the brand that was both the most reliable and comfortable. I had a sense this was true, thanks to my package delivery days when we had to rent delivery vehicles whenever our own trucks were in for repairs.

I got a discount right on HireAHelper’s page for booking my rental truck

How do you tell how much room you need?

There are some handy charts online made by truck companies like Budget and Penske where you can estimate based on the number and type of things you need to bring with you.

Penske.com

In my case, the most important things were in my office, like a desk, books, computers, other supplies, and books. About 1-2 rooms worth of stuff. This meant a small truck was fine for me, which would also get better mileage not being weighed down. Huge, since I’m the one paying for the gas!

Do you need movers?

Lastly, since I was by myself at one end, and then only had my cousin to help me unload at the other, I hired pros for the heavy lifting part for just a couple hundred bucks. This was a way more affordable way to move across the country, as opposed to hiring a van line for several thousands of dollars, which I didn’t have time to wait around for anyway.

The movers I got packed my truck way better than I could do by myself, which ensured that nothing would slide around or get damaged. And the person I got on the phone at HireAHelper was invaluable from start to finish, finding me the most affordable and highest rated movers for both ends of my journey in maybe 15 minutes.

I Dealt With Weather

Long Distance Moving

Sometimes when you gotta move, you just gotta move.

Early spring is often the time for late winter in the northern United States, and snow was a real possibility—one that turned into a reality in Utah, Wyoming, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.

In Utah, the snow was almost blinding for over 150 miles!

What this ultimately meant to my move was a slower drive and a later arrival. Another unusual factor you don’t really read about while moving in those flyover states: wind. And with a moving truck that wasn’t loaded with overly heavy things, it was a larger factor than I at first imagined.

Adding to the adventure was the need to pass large semi-trucks carrying heavy loads, something that often involved those rumble strips on the side of the freeway and white knuckles on the steering wheel.

Finding Alternate Routes Actually Helped Me

Long distance moving

Besides snow and wind, early spring is often the time when states start their annual road construction projects on freeways and highways. For the most part, I let Google pick the fastest route across the country, like most people. The good thing about that is that Google Maps knows how to bypass rush hour in cities I was not familiar with. The downside? Google did generally point out road construction … but it didn’t know what kind of vehicle I was driving.

Orange cones, narrow lanes, and slow speed zones were all things I encountered along the way. Having alternate routes mapped out was seriously a lifesaver for me a couple of times on my trip.

(I’m looking at you, eastern Wyoming.)

I Didn’t Reserve Places to Sleep Ahead of Time

I decided to go with the reservation-less trip, and risk not being able to find a place to stop for the night. Since I was traveling alone, I figured at worst, I could sleep in the cab of the truck for a few hours.

As you might have predicted, this actually turned into an issue.

Long distance moving

As I passed the Chicago area, there suddenly were no vacant motels for a long time. I finally spotted a Motel 6 sign and pulled off the exit to find a large concrete structure I was convinced had once been a bunker or a hospital.  A couple of weary looking truck drivers followed me off the exit, and we all seemed to be ready for a bed, any bed.

The rug-free floors and bare walls, the old television, and the lack of other amenities did not matter as I fell onto the aging mattress.

The rest of the trip I was able to find reasonable lodging wherever I went, but I was close to cab-resting a couple of times. Next time, if there is one, I might plan things a little differently.

I Kept Eating and Drinking Alarms on my Phone

I had to eat, drink, and stay alert as I drove. Driving by yourself for a long time makes that tough to do. Here are some things I found helpful to do after my alarms went off every five hours:

  • Grocery shop: All that road food is not great, so I grabbed some healthy snacks at a grocery store each morning along the way and kept a small cooler in the passenger seat to put them in.
  • Drink wisely: I needed to stay hydrated, but didn’t want to have to stop too often to empty my bladder. On the other hand, bathroom stops offered a chance to stretch and walk around, so I eventually found the right balance of drinking only every few hours and not being afraid of semi-frequent pit stops.
  • Know your caffeine tolerance: Caffeine helps keeps me awake. But it’s is also a diuretic, and too much tears up my stomach. Caffeine is not a super great long-term plan.

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Staying alert also involves listening to the right things

Long distance moving

Silence is not good, and neither is soothing music. I rolled down the windows when possible, listened to talk radio or audio books; these were all things that kept my brain engaged. I also had to pre-download listening materials, knowing there were big sections of land with no radio reception.

Finally, I had a hands-free way to talk on the phone in order to stay in touch with people along the way. In some states, hands-free phones are the law, but in all of them it’s a good idea.

You Will Be a Magnet to Law Enforcement

As I traveled across Illinois, I was pulled over by a state trooper. Then it happened again.

Long distance moving

Not because I was doing anything wrong, but because I was driving a moving truck, plus it was windy … so I wandered over the fog line a couple of times. Okay, okay, want to know the real reason they pulled me over? Apparently, it is quite common for drug runners to use moving trucks filled with junk to disguise their shipments.

Understand that even the most minor traffic violation in a moving truck might get you pulled over. Since it quickly became clear to officers I was not a drug smuggler (the second state trooper bought one of my books from me!), they let me go. But it was still a delay.

Simply know that the police will be watching, be sure you have all of your rental paperwork in order, and don’t carry anything illegal across state lines—even if it is legal in the state you’re going to. (We’re looking at you, marijuana). You will get in trouble, the kind that can really stick with you.


Moving across the country by yourself is a challenge, and one not all people are up to. Once I arrived at my destination (during a gentle snowfall, actually) everything was fine. The best news: I got to my unloading movers on the right day! The move was more about the journey than the destination. I am now back in Idaho, but I learned a lot along the way:

Choose your truck, your timing, and your route carefully. Have goals, but be flexible. And keep things legal. It will turn your trip into something you will never forget.


Troy is a freelance writer and author who lives, works, and plays in Idaho. When not found behind the screen toying with the alphabet, he can be found cycling, hiking, skiing, and walking his very talented dog in the great outdoors.

How Moving Helped Me Pay off $107,000 in Student Loans

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Student loan debt is higher than ever, with 44 million Americans owing $1.48 trillion on their student loans. In fact, the average Class of 2017 graduate left school owing $39,400.

Assuming a 4.45% interest rate and a 10-year repayment plan, a balance of that size would require a monthly payment of $407.

That’s a serious burden for new graduates, let alone anyone facing today’s sluggish wage growth and sky-high rent.

So here’s an out-of-the-box idea for conquering your student loans: Move to another state. I moved from New York City to Austin, Texas, and it helped me pay off $107,000 in student loans.

Here’s how this decision helped my finances, along with surprising reasons why relocating could help yours, too.

Moving seriously lowered my cost of living

Andy Josuweit, CEO of Student Loan Hero

I attended Bentley University and majored in managerial economics. My degree helped me start my business, Student Loan Hero, but it also left me saddled with $74,000 in student loans.

In total, I had 16 different loans from four different loan servicers, none of which helped me understand my repayment options. I put some of these loans into deferment, only to watch my balance balloon to $107,000.

Between the stress of carrying all this debt and the challenges of starting a business, I realized that living in New York, one of the country’s most expensive cities, might not be the best idea for my finances.

In 2015, I decided to move to Austin. I’d heard the quality of life there was great, and I loved its mix of urban culture with outdoor activities. Having grown up in rural Pennsylvania, I was drawn to a city that still had trees and nature.

Plus, the cost of living in Austin was a lower than in NYC. In New York, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $2,070, according to Apartment List. But in Austin, the median cost is just $1,120, nearly half that of New York.

Overall, Numbeo found that rent prices in New York are 97.6% higher than in Austin. Even groceries are 47.26% higher in the Big Apple!

Besides enjoying more affordable rent and food, I also saved money by not owning a car my first two years in Austin. I mainly relied on my bike to get around.

Of course, this might not be an option for a lot of Americans, especially for those who don’t live in cities with many options for public transportation.

In my case, though, giving up my car helped me reach my financial goals.

Relocating could help you save on state income taxes

Decreasing my cost of living wasn’t the only reason I saved money by moving to the Lone Star State. My tax bill also decreased significantly, since Texas doesn’t have state income taxes.

It’s one of seven states that don’t have an income tax. The full list includes:

  • Alaska
  • Florida
  • Nevada
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

Additionally, New Hampshire and Tennessee only tax interest and dividend income, which is money you make from stocks or mutual funds.

Between lowering my cost of living and eliminating state and municipal income taxes, I saved over $15,000 by relocating to Austin. Thanks to these savings, I was able to make extra payments on my student loans.

“If you put those savings toward your student loans, you could get out of debt 67 months earlier and save $7,193 on interest.”

As a result, I started to see my student loan balances go down. Not only did I save money on interest, but I also watched my six-figure balance return to a manageable level within a year.

I had been tackling my balance as aggressively as I could since 2013, and moving to Austin helped me pay it off even faster. In August 2016, I made my last payment on my student loans.

How much you save

Since my move helped my finances so much, I was curious about what impact a similar strategy could have for other Americans. To find out, Student Loan Hero conducted a study on the financial impact of relocating to a state with no state income taxes.

Student Loan Calculator

We learned that moving to a state with no income tax would save the average person $1,977 per year. We also found that nearly one out of three people said they would move to an income tax-free state if it meant they’d save money.

Although this number seems fairly high, it’s not all that surprising that debt, taxes, and finances affect where people choose to live.

If you’re interested in how moving could affect your finances, check out the state tax savings calculator in the study. It compares costs between two states and reveals how moving would impact your student loans.

If you’re considering a move, be sure to compare the cost of living between your current and prospective cities. But if you’re focusing on state income taxes, the calculator reveals how much you could save year to year.

For example, let’s say you’re living in Oregon and making $60,000 per year. You only have one exemption, and you owe $25,000 in student loans at a 5.70% interest rate. By moving up to Washington, you could save $4,777 per year on state income taxes.

If you put those savings toward your student loans, you could get out of debt 67 months earlier and save $7,193 on interest.

Should you move to pay off your student loans faster?

Although I’ve been discussing how much you can save by moving to another state, there are expenses involved in relocating. For one, you have to pay for the move itself. Plus, you must make sure the new destination has job opportunities in your field unless you’re capable of working remotely.

If you’re considering a move, ask yourself these essential questions:

  • Can I find a job in my line of work?
  • Can I work remotely in my current role?
  • How much in moving expenses will I have to cover?
  • What will my new cost of living look like?
  • Is the new state a good fit for me in terms of climate, culture and other factors?

You might also estimate your moving costs with HireAHelper’s moving cost calculator. This tool gives you a quote based on your old and new zip codes so you can prepare for the expenses of your move. The great news is that there are many moving options to considerably lower your moving costs, which you can read about here.

Moving Cost Calculator at Moving101.HireAHelper.com

As long as you’ve done your due diligence, moving could be a smart financial move. With the money you save by choosing an affordable city over an expensive one, you could pay off your student loans ahead of schedule and move closer to a debt-free life.

Saving money, by the way, might not be the only perk in moving. In Austin, I now enjoy 228 days of sunshine, not to mention some of the best tacos I’ve ever had.


Andrew Josuweit Bio: Andrew Josuweit is CEO and Co-Founder of Student Loan Hero. After he graduated with $107,000 in student loan debt, he realized he wanted to help others become debt-free and financially independent.

The (Un-Criminal) World of Hostage-Taking Movers

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[Synopsis: Fraud and deception runs rampant in our industry. Why isn’t more being done?]

We bust our butts to do our jobs well, to treat our customers right and give our industry a good name. But we still hear about swindles, scams and those customers standing out in their own driveway facing a hostage situation. To those lucky enough to not know what I mean…

Hostage situation:  A mover has your stuff and won’t give it back but under certain conditions.

How do these guys get away with it? They’re relentless. (And almost as successful as the fraudsters running that Nigerian Prince e-mail scheme.)

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How Do I Renovate a Property From Far Away?

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Just recently a friend of ours bought a lake house in the woods of Wisconsin. She kept her house in the Chicagoland area, but was excited to use this second property to relax, entertain, and make new memories on the weekends and throughout the summer.

As much as she wanted to move-in and start enjoying this space immediately, she had some work to do before it was “move-in ready”. To top it off, she works Monday through Friday near her primary residence in Chicago, which kept her from traveling up to Wisconsin and getting these jobs done immediately. She was limited to making this new property her “home away from home” on the weekends, when she would physically travel up to the new property and get to work. (more…)

Real People: Cross Country Moving Comparison – Full Service Movers vs. Moving Labor

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This tale of two moves is from Gabi Logan and is the latest installment in our Real People series.

In the last few years, I’ve had the (mis)fortune of moving clear across the country, twice. Before I was engaged, the man who would become my husband relocated from Boston to California for work (a.k.a. completely paid for) without me and I had to follow a year later on my own dime. Picture of the California Coast at Sunset

Just a year after I arrived in California, he had to move for work again, setting me up for my first full-service, cross country moving experience.

(more…)

Real People: Midwest Move with PODS and HireAHelper

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Casey-picHere’s another post from our “Real People” series written by web celebrity Casey O’Halloran from The DIY Playbook. Casey chats about her recent interstate move with PODS and HireAHelper from St. Louis to Chicago.

Let’s face it, moving is not fun. It’s difficult, time-consuming, stressful…all of those terrible things wrapped up into a poorly packed cardboard box. But we all know that moving is a very real and inevitable part of life.

My fiancé and I recently found new jobs in Chicago, and had to pack up our loft in downtown St. Louis. We brainstormed a few possible options on how to get all of our belongings from point A to point B, and still keep our relationship and sanity intact. (Spoiler Alert: the wedding is still on!)

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Real People: Moving 2,800 Miles with 1-800-PACK-RAT

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Thursday Bram
Here’s another true story in our Real People series. This one is from Thursday Bram about her 2,800 mile cross country move using 1-800-PACK-RAT.

 

Two thousand eight hundred and five miles. I mapped out the move my husband and I were making from our old home in Maryland to our new home in Oregon and it came in at just a hair more than 2,800 miles. The number intimidated me: not only did I need to figure out how to get all of our belongings packed up, but I had to figure out how to get them all the way across the continental United States.

2500 Mile Move Map Screenshot

I was lucky, despite how much work I knew I’d have to do. I have a professional mover in the family. My dad has run a local moving company since I was in high school. I knew I needed some expert advice, so I phoned home.

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Real People: Using PODS Portable Storage and HireAHelper

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Picture of MerlisaThis post is part of our “Real People” series from Merlisa L., age 47 of Central Florida.

Pros/Cons/How-Tos of Moving using PODS

My philosophy when it comes to time and money is that it’s easier to make more money than it is to find more time. So when possible, I use money to buy more time.

This is one of the reasons I had always used full-service moving companies. I thought the one-stop shop approach to moving saved me enough time to offset the extra cost. However, that changed when I chose PODS to move from Arlington, Va. to Orlando.  (more…)

Real People: PODS vs. U-Pack ReloCubes (ABF)

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Picture of Shiromi A.

This post is part of our “Real People” series. Each post is written by a real person, not employed at HireAHelper, that actually used the service listed. These posts offer the inside scoop on the pros and cons of using moving equipment and services from moving container companies like PODS, U-Pack ReloCubes and 1-800-Pack-Rat, or rental truck companies like Penske Truck Rental, Budget Moving Trucks, and U-Haul. Today’s post is from Shiromi A. of Seattle, WA as she documents her research and decision making process when comparing U-Pack vs. PODS


UPDATE: We’ve gone back and updated this post with fresh numbers for 2019.

My husband is a retired military member, so our lives involved moving seven times in four years. Let me tell you, it never gets easier. You’d think we would have the moving thing down by now, but I find each move has its own set of unique challenges to overcome.

When we decided to move from Portland, Oregon up to Seattle, Washington so we could finally live near the water, we knew it would take some planning. We called around a few interstate moving companies, but the quotes were super pricey. We didn’t want to rent a truck because you pay by the day and that time crunch can be stressful.

That’s when my husband and I quickly came to the conclusion that based on our location, either PODS or U-Pack ReloCubes would be our best bet.

(more…)

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