Tips for Moving Cross-Country to LA

Beverly Hills, Free People Park Slope Maxi Dress | Moving Cross Country by popular LA lifestyle blogger, Alicia Tenise: image of Alicia Tenise wearing a floral print maxi dress, tan heel sandals, and straw hat and walking outside under some palm trees.
Shop the Dress

After spending 7 weeks on the road, I’m happy to announce that today is the day. I am moving cross country and into my Los Angeles apartment!

ICYMI: last month, I packed up my entire life, sold most of my furniture, and began my journey out west. I’ve only ever lived on the East Coast, so this is the farthest move I have ever done. However, I’m stoked about this new chapter, and after being in town for about a month, I’m very confident in my decision to relocate to the Sunshine State.

If you’re another East Coast-er looking to make the move to the City of Angels, or if you’re thinking about moving to California in general, here are some things you need to know to make your transition as smooth as possible.

Santa Monica | Moving Cross Country by popular LA lifestyle blogger, Alicia Tenise: image of Alicia Tenise wearing a floral print maxi dress, white ankle boots, and straw hat while standing outside on a walking path near the ocean in Santa Monica, California.

Moving Cross Country

Moving Your Belongings

Let’s face it: long-distance moves aren’t cheap. Or easy.

Tom and I wanted to keep costs down as much as possible, so we had to do two things. First — we purged. It would be best if you tried to purge as much as possible before any move, short or long distance. However, we knew the less stuff we brought, the cheaper our move would be. So, we decided to sell most of the furniture we owned.

We looked into a lot of different moving and shipping options. We could have driven a UHaul across the country or hired a long-distance moving company, but ultimately, the most cost-effective option for us was to have our belongings shipped and drive my car cross-country.

We went with U-Pack to ship our belongings over. They have two options: fill a pod or go for the variable trailer option, and we went with the latter. I always underestimate how much space in a truck I need when moving, so a shipping container with limited space didn’t seem like the right move. With their variable trailer option, you only pay for as much space as you take up in the trailer.

Once we filled the trailer, ABFreight picked it up, and other shipping companies leased the remaining space in the truck. Our trailer arrived in L.A. about 2.5 weeks after leaving our home in Virginia, but the timing is variable.

Finding the Right Apartment

I have a separate article that will do a deep dive into our apartment search, but I would recommend doing a deep dive to see what kind of neighborhood you want to live in.

I know that sometimes you have to get an apartment sight unseen; however, if you can apartment hunt while you’re in Los Angeles vs. from afar, it’s beneficial. We got an Airbnb for a month while we apartment hunted, and it allowed us to get a feel for each neighborhood, get a sense of traffic, how long it took to get to the freeway, etc. I was surprised at some neighborhoods I thought I’d love at first glance that ended up not being a fit once I drove through the neighborhood, looked at the shops/stores within walking distance, and got an idea of what my “commute” would look like. And I use commute lightly because I’m self-employed and I’m really just going to LAX and back, mostly!

Smog Checks

If you’re bringing a car with you to L.A., take into consideration that it will need to pass a smog check before you can register it with the state of California. California’s standards are pretty tough, so if your car is older or has had maintenance issues, I’d consider selling your car and buying or leasing a new one once you get to California.

I have a Honda Civic that’s only three years old (I bought it new), and I felt that my car was in fantastic shape to pass a smog check easily. 

Be Prepared for a Driver’s Test

Surprise — in California, even if you have an out-of-state driver’s license, you still need to take your driver’s knowledge test before getting your California driver’s license. Make sure to study before you head to the DMV!

Changing Your Address (& Mail in the Interim)

In total, Tom and I were technically in between homes for 7 weeks.

What did we do with our mail? Tom had his mail held while I opted for a digital mailbox to continue to receive packages and important mail in the interim. I started using a digital mail system called iPostal a couple of years ago for blog mailers, and it worked well enough for me to use it during this road trip.

Since brands send me mailers all the time, I couldn’t really go 7 weeks without some sort of mailing address. Think about how long you’ll be on the road and if you want your mail held or if you want to opt for a mailbox. Also, don’t forget to submit a USPS Change of Address form a few days before your move-out date.

Driving vs. Flying

If you’re moving cross-country, you have a critical decision to make: are you driving, or are you flying to your new home?

Tom and I opted to drive over, and we spent three weeks on the road and got to see some of the coolest sights in the country. However, getting a car shipped is always an option if you’re not interested or not in a position to drive over. Do what’s best for you!

If you are driving cross-country, make sure to get maintenance on your car before leaving. Also, consider buying a dashcam for a little more peace of mind!

Save, Save, Save

If you can, I would save $10,000 before moving cross-country. I can’t tell you how many times we budgeted, only for additional moving costs to pop up. 

Some rentals in Los Angeles require you to put down a security deposit, first and last month’s rent, when signing, which can easily add up. Movers always seem to cost more than you’d think, and sometimes, small emergencies might happen. I’d recommend saving no less than $10k for the move so that if any emergencies arise, you can cover it with ease.

Be Flexible

Even with an abundance of planning, some things are out of your control. So you’ve got to be flexible and stay calm to ensure a smooth move.

For example, I won’t even have the most seamless transition to my apartment. We couldn’t hire the movers before we needed to check out of our Airbnb, so I’ll be picking up the keys to our new place and staying in our new apartment for a few days sans furniture, pots, pants, and the majority of my belongings. I just decided to buy an air mattress, book a weekend trip to get me in a proper bed for a few days and called it a day.

Movers might be late. Issues might arise on the road. Just take a deep breath when these issues arrive, and figure out a Plan B.

Have you ever experienced moving cross country before? Let me know your tips in the comments below!

Photos by Tom McGovern

Leave a Comment