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101 moving tips for families

Planning a move? Make the process easier for the whole family with these 101 tips for moving — from finding the right neighborhood and preparing kids to settling into your new home.

101 moving tips for families

Even if you and your family have vacationed across the country in true nomadic style, moving states, cities or just across town with kids is a whole new ballgame. You know you have to get your family and all their belongings from Point A to Point B, but how? There are so many logistics and moving parts. And more importantly, how do you prepare kids emotionally for this big change?

“More than 13 million children move each year, and all of them survive the move, whether or not their parents take special steps to ease the transition,” says Lori Collins Burgan, author of “Moving with Kids,” and mom of three who moved five times in seven years. “But we don’t want our kids just to survive … we want them to thrive.”

Feeling like you could use some moving tips to make everything go more smoothly for both you and and your kids? Here are 101 tips for moving — from finding the right home and neighborhood and preparing kids for a move to settling into your new place — to make the whole process a little easier for your whole family.

Searching for a new home

  1. Start looking for a place to live at least six months in advance.
  2. Find a knowledgeable rental agency or real estate agent who really listen to you.
  3. Research day cares, schools, nannies and neighborhoods in your new city ahead of time to narrow down areas you like.
  4. Don’t assume the closest school is your assigned school. “School district lines can cut into neighborhoods in strange ways,” says Burgan. “Check that out before you purchase.”
  5. Look at properties online, even if you’re working with a real estate agent.
  6. Compare the cost of living between your current and future location, keeping your budgetary restraints in mind.
  7. Think about what will make your day-to-day life easier — whether that’s a laundry on the same floor as the bedrooms or a backyard big enough for the dogs and kids to play in but not not too much to maintain.
  8. If you know someone near the area you’re moving to, ask them to go look at a place with you.
  9. Check out school ratings if you have more than one option.
  10. Consider proximity to public transportation if your family will be using it a lot.
  11. Trust to your gut if something about the home or neighborhood seems off.
  12. When searching for a new neighborhood, check the national sex offender list to be aware of offenders in the area.
  13. Avoid moving in cold winter months or in the middle of the academic school year, if possible.

Preparing kids for a move

  1. Make sure you are the one to tell your kids about the move.
  2. Give your kids their own address books to collect old (and soon new friends’) contact information.
  3. Answer every question your child has to help quell anxiety.
  4. Read books about moving to help younger kids understand.
  5. Ask for your kids’ input — if they want their own bedrooms or a bigger backyard, see if that’s possible.
  6. When the new home is official, have your kids draw a floor plan of their new rooms and start planning where everything will go. “Empower your children to make as many decisions as possible,” Burgan recommends. “This will help them feel they have regained some control over a situation in which they at first felt powerless.”
  7. Talk with your kids at length about any major changes to their routine the move will cause.
  8. Make a countdown until moving day to build anticipation and excitement.
  9. Don’t discuss negative factors in front of the kids, especially if the move is not your choice.
  10. Support your child as they mourn the loss of their friends and loved ones they are leaving behind.
  11. If you’re able, spend time at local hangouts and playgrounds in your new neighborhood to get your kids excited.
  12. Talk about the move like it will be a big, fun adventure.
  13. Throw yourselves a farewell party, and let your kids invite their friends and teachers.
  14. Plan a trip back to your old town a few weeks or months after the move, so your kids can visit their old friends (and goodbyes are a little bit easier).

Planning and packing tips for moving

  1. At least a month or two before moving, do a little sorting and organizing every day, even if you only have a half hour. Toss old paperwork, menus and coupons from local places, receipts and other items you will never look at again.
  2. Go through everything! Eliminate or donate items you no longer need or want.
  3. Gather copies of all important documents, including including school report cards and children’s immunization records.
  4. Search for free boxes on Craigslist or call your local big box stores to see if you can pick up their empty boxes.
  5. Start packing a few weeks ahead of time by putting little-used or off-season items in boxes in the garage.
  6. Pack up your children’s rooms last so there’s as little disruption as possible.
  7. Have fun stickers, markers and cool tape on hand to let your kids decorate their moving boxes.
  8. Take breaks while packing, and stay well-fed, hydrated and get enough sleep.
  9. To avoid tantrums, pack most of your children’s toys when they are not present.
  10. Consider hiring a babysitter so you can pack uninterrupted.
  11. Have a small supply of paper plates and plastic utensils for a few days so you can pack your dishes entirely.
  12. Don’t wait until the last minute to sell the furniture you don’t want or can’t bring.
  13. Get two debit cards in case one gets lost.
  14. If moving for work, be sure to ask your employer about relocation reimbursements.
  15. Keep your receipts if your move is tax deductible as a business expense.
  16. Let kids pack towels, bedding and other nonbreakables to give them a sense of contribution.
  17. If you know you will be doing a large house project right away, such as replacing carpet, do it before moving.
  18. Have a moving sale to unload items that don’t make the cut.
  19. If moving across town, give yourself some time between closing on the house and moving day. Shampoo carpets and do a good clean before you have boxes there.
  20. Give yourself more time than you think you need for packing.
  21. Couples can tag team — have one parent pack while the takes the kids to the park and switch the next day.
  22. Pack extremely fragile items and sentimental keepsakes safely in the car with you.
  23. Make sure you pack all chargers and electronic cords in a backpack you will have easy access to.
  24. Place strips of bright tape on the sides of boxes with necessities so you can find what needs to be unpacked first.
  25. Label boxes by room instead of by items to prevent endlessly shuffling boxes around the new place.
  26. Do not pack your child’s special blanket or toy.
  27. Change your address early for all bills, magazine subscriptions and bank statements.
  28. Check that your current bank has a branch in your new location.
  29. Arrange a clear end date for your cable, phone and utilities so you don’t pay any overage after you’re gone.
  30. Pack an overnight bag with some clothes, toiletries and essentials to have the first few days after the move.
  31. Have a pizza party or picnic on the floor the night before the move.
  32. Take lots of pictures of the kids in their old room or other special places in the house.

Getting through moving day

  1. Keep your laptop or tablet handy so you can stream movies to keep kids occupied while you are busy.
  2. Ask friends and family for help.
  3. Have the kids write themselves a postcard and send it to the new house. It will be fun to get a piece of mail right away and see how long it takes to get there.
  4. If possible, when parking a moving truck, choose an area you can drive straight through to turn around so you don’t have to back up the truck.
  5. Stay relaxed about moving — your kids will feed off your stress.
  6. Keep a playpen set up so your baby is safely contained amid the moving chaos.
  7. Keep pets safely closed in a bathroom with food, water and bedding on moving day. Clearly mark “Do not open, pets inside” on the door.
  8. Make time to say goodbye to the house and do a final walk-through.
  9. Keep some cleaning supplies out and do a final house cleaning after it is empty. Or hire a house cleaner to tackle this for you.

Hitting the road

  1. Let your child pack their own special bag to keep in the car, full of comfort items needed for bedtime and books for the car.
  2. If driving the truck yourself, leave early to maximize daylight hours and get a full day of driving in. You don’t want to deal with a flat tire after dark.
  3. Have some fun car games at the ready to make the trip easier. (Here are 53 car games for inspiration.)
  4. Separate pets from kids on a long car ride.
  5. Include money in your moving budget for the unexpected, such as a flat tire on the road.
  6. Travel with a cooler filled with water, sandwiches and healthy snack foods.
  7. If you can, make the actual moving trip fun for your children — plan small adventures like riding scooters at a new park to break up long car rides.
  8. Model a positive attitude at all times (or at least most of the time!).
  9. Keep a few rolls of quarters in your car for tolls, but remember if you are riding in a moving truck or hauling a trailer, tolls will cost more.
  10. Haul your car on a tow dolly to save money on gas.
  11. Plan your travel route in advance and prebook your hotel rooms.
  12. Document the entire move in photos.

Settling into your new place

  1. Have a family “campout” in the living room the first night in your new house.
  2. Unpack the kids’ rooms (or at least their cribs or beds) first. Then your bed! Then everyone can nap or crash whenever needed.
  3. Look up fun attractions in your new city and visit them as a family as soon as possible after the move.
  4. “Take proactive and deliberate steps to ease your child’s transition,” says Burgan. Now’s a great time for their favorite meal or movie.
  5. Make sure your pets are wearing a collar with updated contact info on the tag.
  6. Give the kids a small housewarming gift, such as something special for their new room.
  7. Encourage your kids to write letters or emails to keep in touch with their friends.
  8. Get back into your typical routine as quickly as possible once you have made the move.
  9. Have empathy for your kids and remember that this is a big change.
  10. Make decorating your child’s room a priority and let them have a say in the decor.
  11. Give the kids empty boxes and markers to create a “box city” while you’re unpacking.
  12. Talk to your kids about how to make new friends.
  13. Arrange a tour of the new school so your child can find their classroom and meet their teacher. Follow these 8 Tips for Being the New Kid at School.
  14. Take breaks while unpacking to get out of the house with the kids.
  15. Involve your kids in unpacking and organizing their bedroom so they know where everything is.
  16. While unpacking, let your kids entertain themselves with packing supplies — bubble wrap, anyone?
  17. Sign kids up for a class or club in the new city to help them make friends.
  18. Use social media or Meetup to find local parenting groups in your new area, to help you meet other families and learn the ins and outs of the neighborhood.
  19. Go for scavenger hunts around the new neighborhood to make checking it out more fun. Start with these 8 Scavenger Hunt Ideas for Kids.
  20. Have your kids draw a map of the neighborhood, including where all the fun places are.
  21. Don’t wait for your neighbors to come introduce themselves — pop over to say hi!