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How To Move Across the Country On A Budget

April 10, 2018

Figuring out how to move across the across the country can be one of the most stressful things a person can endure. There are so many different aspects to worry about, such as logistics, lodging and figuring out the cost to move. 

I thought I would share my tips as I have moved several times. I have moved across the country twice, as well as out of state. I've also relocated to a different city in the same state, so I have quite a bit of tips when it comes to moving.

Whether you are moving across the country on a budget or just moving a few hours away from your current home, I want to share all my favorite moving tips that I have learned over the years.

Configure Daily Mileage

Once you have figured out the total mileage for the trip, it's a good idea to break the mileage down into days or even hours so you can prepare your budget.

Some people like to drive at a more leisurely pace and incorporate frequent stops. Others want the trip to be over as quickly as possible.

After determining how many miles you would like to cover in a day, it's important to look at a map and make sure it is feasible.

I also like to refer to a map to make sure my overnight stay is in a safe area with lodging.

Since I will be pre-booking my hotel stays in advance, it's important there is a hotel in the vicinity of where I would like to stop for the night.


This might include adjusting my original daily mileage to make sure I am stopping in a safe area with lodging, gas station and dining options.

Will You Need a Moving Truck?

Getting a moving truck can be expensive, especially if you're doing a move across the country. Most truck rental companies will have a mileage limit so you'll need to keep that in mind.

Before comparing quotes on vehicles, you may want to look at all your belongings and see what you really want to bring with you to your new home.

Lots of people who move far distances opt to bring a limited amount of items in their car, then purchase new furniture, kitchen supplies, etc. once they reach their destination.


If you're going to rent a moving truck, however, realize that it could be your priciest expenses and you'll want to get the most bang for your buck.

Budgeting For Gas

Once you have figured out how many miles your trip is, you can estimate how much money you'll need for gas and you can start planning out when you'll stop to refuel.

Simply divide how far you can go on a tank of gas into your overall mileage and round up.

Once you have your total, multiply how much it costs you to fill up a tank of gas by how many times you will need to refill.


This is one of the easiest and best ways to figure out how to move across the country on a budget and avoid any unexpected surprises.

Preparing For Tolls

Do you have any toll roads on your drive? You should know ahead of time based on your travel route. It's a good idea to keep the change and some cash on you.

You don't want to be unprepared and have to stop at an ATM while traveling and deal with those expensive fees. Plus, as you're passing through states that may have toll roads, you don't want to miss some tolls and have to burden yourself with the responsibility of paying them later on. Odds are, you could forget.

Choosing Affordable Lodging

To maximize savings, it's best to book a hotel stay as early as possible. I'll initially start my hotel search with hotel chains where I have reward points. I also check out TripAdvisor which is the world's largest and most trusted travel community. Trip Advisor compares pricing on hotels, helps you find better deals, and is a great resource to use when you're trying to find local attractions and dining options. 


What's great about TripAdvisor is that actual travelers leave reviews on different hotels and vacation homes and upload their own photos so you can get a realistic expectation of the hotel experience along with pricing info.

Another option I use for lodging when I travel is Airbnb and it's often very budget-friendly. 

Tip: Airbnb is a fun and creative way to save money. Over the past couple of years, I have stayed at a handful of Airbnbs and saved a ton of money. I've been able to rent an entire house, condo and apartment instead of a room at a hotel. If you want to stay at an Airbnb, here's a coupon for $40 off your first stay anywhere! 

My lodging requirements include:

  • Pet-friendly room
  • Safety
  • Cleanliness
  • *Breakfast is a great perk, but not always necessary. Usually I leave too early in the morning, so I grab coffee and food on the go!

My biggest priority is to search for pet-friendly hotels. Since I will be traveling with pets, their comfort is my main concern.


When reserving a room, I generally ask for a ground level room near a front or side entrance. This makes for a quick dash outside if my pets have to go to the bathroom.

I also like to walk my dogs in the evening and in the morning so they can get some exercise, so hotel location and safety is a top priority!

Saving Money on Dining and Groceries

In an effort to eat healthily and save money, I like to pack a small cooler with bottles of water, fruit, granola bars, etc. If breakfast is included with my hotel stay, I'll usually grab a piece of fruit or yogurt for the road. 

If you really want to be committed to a better diet on the road, you can order a few groceries from Shipt prior to your departure and keep them with you in a cooler while you travel. Shipt also has same day delivery with Target, which is amazing. You can prepare sandwiches and munch on other healthy snacks instead of having to stop and settle for pricey and unhealthy fast food. Get $10 here for signing up with Shipt!


Because I am obsessed with coffee, I always refer to my Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts app on my phone for coffee locations.

The Yelp app is another great app to use on a move across the country. It's really convenient to be able to search for dining options ahead of time instead of relying on road signs since a lot of places aren't advertised. 

Finally, using the Google Maps option is a great tool to find gas stations, restaurants, and hotels!

How to Move Across The Country With Pets

While I touched on hotel lodging earlier, my primary concern is making sure my pets are comfortable during the entire trip.

First, I make sure the back area of my car is covered (I have an SUV) with this protectant liner. The liners come in different sizes. I wasn't sure about my size when I ordered, so I sized up to be safe. It ended up being a little too long, so I just folded the extra part of the liner under for extra padding. Pet hair drives me crazy and this protects everything from getting dirty!


I actually leave almost all of this in the back of my car in a bin, but here's a good list of what you can pack on a road trip or when moving across the country.

  • Dog beds (I prefer beds that have the memory foam dog mattress bed to make the ride more comfortable!)
  • Portable water bowl (I use this one on all our walks and outings)
  • Dog bags for going to the bathroom
  • Ziploc bags of food (this takes up minimal space and easy to toss once each bag is empty)
  • Food bowls
  • Wee-wee pads (these are great to put in the bathroom at hotels for emergencies, under a litter box, inside a crate, etc.)
  • This stepper is a must, especially if you're dog can't jump out of the car. My SUV is pretty high up and with my dogs being older, jumping in and out of the car is no longer an option. I tested out a few different ones, and this stepper is the sturdiest. My dogs also like how it feels – it's a mix of carpet on the stairs, but is made out of plastic.

At every pit stop, one of us will walk the dogs while the other person gets gas. This saves time by multi-tasking! 


Tips on how to optimize your move

Leave really early in the morning. I find that if I can be on the road by 5 or 6 am, I can really get a head start on the day. I prefer driving during daylight hours, so I would rather drive early in the morning as opposed to late at night.

Multi-task at the gas station. Assign one person to pump gas and another person to run in to buy snacks, use the bathroom or walk the dogs. Each time you stop to get gas, you can easily waste 15-30 minutes of your time that you could be driving. This can add up, especially if you have to get gas three or four times in one day!

Try to avoid congestion during rush hour. While this cannot always be avoided, take a look at where you will be at a certain time of the day. If you anticipate being in a huge metropolitan area at 5:30 pm, see if you can leave an hour early to try to beat traffic. This take some planning, but there is nothing worse than driving for several hours only to get stuck in rush hour traffic! 

Keep a small garbage bag in your car. I can't stand having a bunch of garbage in the car and making it dirty. Fill the bag up and then toss it at the gas station! This car garbage can on Amazon is pretty cool!

Put your receipts in an envelope, especially if you will have reimbursements from an employer or for a tax deduction. You can deduct your move across the country as long as you are starting a new job within 6 months of your move!

Keep your car organized! If you have an overnight bag, keep it in a convenient spot to make it easy to take out and repack each day. You don't want to have to dig and rearrange items each day, as that wastes time!

Be flexible. There are many elements you can't control, such as the weather or traffic. Give yourself some leeway when it comes to your move. 

Other ways to save when you move across the country

  • Redeem gas saving discounts (generally in increments of 10 cents a gallon) from your grocery store club card
  • Cash in points for gas cards or dining gift cards from reward programs. I rely on Ebates, Shopkick, and Ibotta
  • Save your Starbucks freebies for the trip
  • Use an Entertainment book for Buy One, Get One free coupon. There are tons of nationwide dining coupons and coupons for oil changes. Try to purchase one for the city you are moving to so you can reuse it.
  • AAA cards can provide additional savings
  • Try to use the same gas station repeatedly to earn reward points

Download podcasts, music playlists or audio books to make the drive more enjoyable. Audible offers a free 30 day trial and is my favorite place to look for books.

Book your lodging through a cashback website like Ebates if you don't have hotel reward points. Note: Ebates is offering 1.5% cash back when you book on Trip Advisor.  This is my fave money to earn money back when I book hotels online. I earn a percentage of everything I purchase and the money gets deposited into my PayPal account. Hello, free money!