How to Make Moving Cross-Country Go Smoothly

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By Niccole Schreck

Moving to a new state is an exciting change, but it's also one that comes with a fair amount of stress. After all, picking up all of your belongings and relocating cross-country takes even more preparation and effort than moving across town -- and moving across town is stressful enough. I've moved cross-country twice in the past 10 years -- from Michigan to Florida and Florida to California -- so I know the challenges of relocating well.

Here are seven of my tips to help the process go as smoothly as possible:

Give yourself plenty of planning time. When making a move cross-country, you should start planning and preparing about eight weeks prior to your scheduled moving date. There's nothing worse than scrambling to pack up your things and find a rental truck at the last minute. Unlike a regular cross-town move, you can't make multiple trips.

Determine your moving method. There are a few ways to handle moving your belongings across the country: There is the traditional pack-everything-into-your-car-and-drive method; you can rent a moving truck; or you can leave it to the professionals with a full-service moving company. If you choose to hire a moving company to help you with the process, get estimates early on to find the best company for you. Contact the movers well in advance to make sure that they are available for the date or dates you need them. I have tried moving on my own and hiring help, and though I love a good road trip, hiring movers ended up being the less expensive option.

Invest in good, durable boxes. The boxes that you choose are going to be the ones holding onto your precious belongings as you move all the way across the country. Therefore, they have to be pretty sturdy. Often, manufacturing plants have boxes they don't use that they may be willing to give away. You can also look for free boxes at liquor stores, banks, offices and schools.

Pack tight. Ask yourself if you really need that waffle maker you haven't used in 10 years. There are definitely going to be things that you can give away, sell or throw out instead of packing them up in boxes. When you're moving cross-country, you want to have as little stuff to pack as possible. Go through all of your belongings before you start putting everything into boxes.

Track down important papers. It's hard to forget your couch or your TV, but it's easy to forget about or lose track of important documents. Gather all special papers, like birth certificates, insurance policies, passports, auto registration and more. Place them all into organized folders to make them easy to track down once you arrive. You should also consider keeping them with you, instead of packing them in the moving boxes, just to be sure they don't get lost.

Take inventory and label your boxes. This step is especially important if you hire movers or have your belongings shipped. While you pack, take photographs of all of your valuables. Make sure to label your boxes so it's easy to identify what's in each box and you can make sure everything made it to your new home. Plus, if you get to your new apartment and have a living room filled with blank, brown boxes, it's probably going to be tough to know where to start the unpacking process.

Stay calm. A cross-country move is bound to be a little frustrating at times, but it's important to stay calm and focus on the positives. Get used to the idea that this is going to be a process and look forward to settling into your new home and life.

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POPULAR MOVING DESTINATIONS:

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How to Make Moving Cross-Country Go Smoothly

Sarasota's Siesta Key Beach was ranked the No. 1 beach in the U.S. in 2011, making it a major attraction to the area. The city also boasts world-class restaurants and enviable seaside communities. It's also affordable: The media home sale price there is $164,750, according to Trulia.

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With Bank of America and Wells Fargo headquarters there, Charlotte has become the second-largest financial center in the U.S., behind only New York. Banking professionals are flocking to the city, where the median home sale price is $170,000, according to Trulia.

Find homes for sale in Charlotte, N.C., or search listings in your area.

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Amazon recently bought its Seattle headquarters and plans an expansion, lending the city prestige as a tech hub and bringing many young people to the area looking for tech jobs. Public plazas have been opening up around the area, with more planned for the future, breathing new life into Seattle's downtown area. The median home sale price in Seattle is $362,500, according to Trulia.

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Adventure seekers have more than enough at their fingertips in Denver. In this big-city mountain town, there's ample opportunity for skiing in the winter and mountain biking in the summer. The median home sale price in Denver is  $232,000, according to Trulia.

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The obvious draw to Houston is the weather: Mild winters and hot summers make this city one of the most attractive in the country. But there's another thing Houston has going for it: jobs. The city was recently named one of America's strongest job markets, with transportation and financial services sectors leading the way there. The media home sale price in Houston is $120,000, according to Trulia.

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Perhaps considered the second-best city in the U.S. behind New York, Chicago's diversity shows in the wide variety of restaurants, entertainment and neighborhoods. Here's the best part: The median home sale price there is $190,000, according to Trulia -- almost unheard of for a city its size.

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Orlando is a prime destination for retirees looking to settle down for the rest of their lives. There's also a large golfing community here, with the most pro golfers calling the city home than any other other in the country, according to Yahoo! Finance. The median home sale price in Orlando is $117,500, according to Trulia.

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If the Southwest is more your style, there's no better town than Phoenix. The housing market has been slowly crawling back from the depths of the bust, and the median home sale price is a vey reasonable $132,000, according to Trulia.

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The Dallas-Fort Worth area has been one of the best job markets in the country for a while. Besides that, though, Dallas is a world-class city with top-notch entertainment venues, such as the Texas Motor Speedway. The median home sale price there is $62,536, according to Trulia.

Find homes for sale in Dallas, or search listings in your area.

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This is the third year that Atlanta has topped the list of the most popular cities to move to. It's a city that has much of what New York house -- minus the freezing winter temperatures. Atlanta is also home to the largest aquarium in the world. The median home sale price in Atlanta is $199,950, according to Trulia.

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