Tips For Moving Across Country in a Car

Moving Across Country In a Car

You have a big move planned. You will start a new life in a new state, but how do you get there? Moving across the country is expensive and you may need to save as much as possible to get settled in your new home.

A great way to save some money on moving costs is by driving your own car. Paying a professional moving company to transport your car is a hefty expenditure. If you are willing and able, driving your personal vehicle to your new home is easy to do.

There are some details about moving in a car that will complicate or change the best approach. Packing all your belongings in a moving truck for a professional to move will lessen your burden. However, there may be some last-minute essentials you need to fit into the car.

Also, you may need to move your family or pets too. Fitting family members in the car complicates matters and entertaining them is a whole different story. Children and pets need a different schedule compared to adults. Also, you will need to pack more items for them to make the journey.

Don’t worry, with a little of planning, you’ll able to make the cross country move in your car with as little headache as possible.

Editor’s Note: If you’re looking for info on how to move with just your car, check out this guide.

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Table of Contents

How to Pack your Car

Before you even begin to start packing, making a to do list is the best way to maintain your sanity throughout the packing and moving process.

This to do list can not only cover what needs to be done, but should be used to organize your plan. For example, if you’re using your vehicle and a moving truck for your long distance journey, plan out what is going to packed in each.

Travel Essentials

Travel Essentials
Your driver’s license and credit cards seem obvious now, but there is A LOT happening on moving day. Have a plan to not misplace them. (This guy is a dog gone good driver by the way)

In a cross-country move, it is best to be prepared. You will need to be well prepared with a first aid kit in case any injury occurs along the way.

Dependent on the length of your trip, you will be eating many meals on the road. Whether you are a picky eater or just looking to save some money, you may plan to pack food and drink on your journey.

We have always chosen to pack drinks in a small cooler, so we do not have to stop. Water, soda, and juice are packable and will save you both time and money.

There are other essentials that are necessary for driving, such as money, credit cards, identification, a spare key and other important documents. Thankfully, all these items are small and can either fit in your pocket or you can lock them in the glove compartment.

Finally, before your departure, you will want to make sure your car is in tiptop shape. If your car is due for an oil change and tune up, take it in to be performed before your long distance move. Even with a good check by a trusted mechanic, issues can still arise.

A roadside kitOpens in a new tab. to fix minor issues is vital. Flat tires happen when you least expect them, and you want to fix the problem and be safe doing it.

Moreover, check into your roadside assistance options so you are prepared no matter what happens.

If you’re already a AAAOpens in a new tab. member, you should be all set. If not, now may be a good time to look into it. Some insurance companies also offer roadside assistance. Take the time to figure out what that entails (just in case!) so you’re not trying to do it on the side of the road with spotty internet.


Dependent on how you pack your belongings in your car, you may need to find space to fit them. Fold the back seats down to use as much space as possible. Use the foot space and front seat if you do not have any passengers. (Even under the driver’s seat can be utilized if necessary!)

While boxes are great for a moving truck, they can take up lots of unused space in a car. Use bags instead that will be more form fitting to small spaces.

Car top carriers and racks are excellent additions to a car for a cross country move for even more space. In fact, these added features allow you to access all your passenger seats and still travel with your belongings.

Regardless of how you pack your items, whether in a carrier or in the car, you will want to secure the items properly. There is no doubt that items will shift in travel, and you do not want them to do so in an unsafe matter.

Straps, ropes, bungees and bubble wrap are all excellent tools for securing items in transit.

If done properly, your car can actually be the best place to pack some of your most precious fragile items. My grandmother’s China that was given to us years ago is something I always pack with me personally in my own vehicle.

Finally, it is best to pack your belongings as not the obstruct your view forward or obstruct your mirrors. On a long journey, your driving safety is of the utmost importance.

How to Drive Cross Country

Oil Being Poured Into Engine
Basic car maintenance checks like an oil change is an absolute must.

Make Sure Your Car is Ready

As mentioned above, before your journey, take your car in for a tune up and oil change. This will ensure your car is ready to make the journey. You will want to fill up on gas and plan your future fill ups.

Before you leave, clean any garbage or unnecessary items out of your car. Loose items are best to be pack

ed away for the journey.

For items you intend to use on your drive like food or snacks, make sure they are reachable in a safe place that will not distract you. Otherwise, plan to pull over to access anything.

Any time you make a stop, inspect your car for damage or issues. A tire with a slow leak will cause problems down the road. Also, check your fluids. You do not want to run out of windshield wiper fluid or overheat your engine.

Plan Your Entertainment

Kids in Car with Book and Ipad

No matter what your favorite form of entertainment is, prepare it. Entertainment can help keep your mind sharp.

Personally, I can hook up my Bluetooth and listen to music the entire drive. Others prefer books on tape.

Loading up Ipads with Netflix shows or movies is a great way help pass time for passengers, especially younger passengers!

Plan Rest Time

Driving long distances is exhausting and a cross country move is as long distance as it gets. It is essential for your safety and well-being to take as many rests as needed. There are no prescribed number of times to stop, but listen to your body.

When you stop for a rest, either rest your eyes in a rest area or get out and stretch your legs. Plan timely meals as well. Hunger can cause serious issues with your focus.

How to Travel with Companions

It is possible you will travel with someone. Sharing driving responsibilities with another adult will certainly make it easier on your body and mind. Also, traveling with someone will give you companionship and entertainment on the long drive.

Traveling with children or pets is a different story. Both need more and longer breaks from the car. Overall, children get restless in the car and can even add distraction to the driver.

For more advice on traveling with a baby, read our article, “How to Move Across the Country with a Baby”.

Pets and children will take up space you may need for belongings. An overhead carrier will ease this burden and will be worth the investment. For your pets, find a proper carrier or dog wall. This will allow your pets to travel comfortably and safely.

Coming from someone whose dog has shifted the car into neutral on the highway, securing your pets is of the utmost importance for your safety as well!

For more advice on traveling with dogs and cats, read our articles, “How to Move to a New Home with a Dog,” and “How to Move to a New Home with an Outdoor Cat.

Make a Plan

A good plan will give you the best success in your cross-country move. Not only should you plan your route ahead of time, but you should also plan ahead your potential rest and gas stops during the day and where you will rest if this is a multi-day journey.

Additionally, planning food and entertainment will keep your mind on the road and other cars on your drive. This journey is difficult and you do not want boredom or hunger to get in the way.

If you can do so, plan some fun stops along the way. After all, not everyone drives across the country anymore. You will see wonderful sights and experience all kinds of new things. A slower journey will make it easier on you and maybe more enjoyable.

Moving cross country in a car is not a challenge taken lightly. While many individuals and families have taken on the challenge with success, there is still some logistics you will need to work out personally.

Keep the items pack in the car to the absolute essentials. If you need to transport all your belongings, research overhead carriers or racks. These additions will give you the full use of the interior of your car.

In fact, if you have companions with you, you may need that space for them to travel safely.

All in all, the most important thing is planning. Plan your stops for gas or rest. Also, plan the items you will absolutely need in your car, like drinks and snacks.

Sharing the driving will ease the burden on you. Even if you do all the driving, an adult companion will give you someone to talk to and another set of eyes on the road.

With these tips in mind, and a little planning, you will make the move with ease.


I've been a college coach for going on 20 years now and that career has led Jen and I on quite the journey. We've lived in 7 different states and have moved a dozen different times. We've learned A LOT over the course of all those moves and we want to pass on our knowledge to help others going through the moving process.

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