How To Move Cross Country With Kids

While moving across the country as a family unit may not be at the top of anyone’s “most fun things” list, sometimes it is mandatory, due to job relocation, changing family obligations, or military reassignment. We don’t guarantee that your move will be completely seamless, but with the following tips and tricks, it can at least take some of the burden off your plate.

Life is full of change. The seasons change, your children will undoubtably change and grow and life as you know will continually be adjusting and changing. One of life’s most major (and many times stressful) changes is a cross country move. If the time has come for your family to embark on this exciting new cross country journey you are likely filled with a wide range of emotions. Moving to a new state can be filled with both wonder and opportunity. Back in the days of being single or even just newly married and without children this move could be as simple as loading up your moving van with your small amount of belongings and hitting the road. Adding kids into the mix creates a whole new ballgame. Before you can experience the wonder of this journey and a new home you have to actually get your home packed away into boxes and get your kids set up for the long journey ahead. Think about how hard it can be to get dinner on the table on a normal night. Getting a whole house packed away may seem like quite the task. Don’t fret; today we are bringing you some tried and true help to make this journey as pain free as possible.

Planning for the Move


1. Turn mundane tasks into exciting games

  • Your child will inevitably become bored with being stuck inside the house, especially without the full attention of mom and dad. Allowing your child to “help” can drastically improve their spirits, and they will be delighted about their contribution to the family move. 
  • Organizing your boxes as they enter the truck is vital. You don’t want your most important items to be stuck all the way at the back of the truck. We love the idea of using different colored markers or tape to differentiate your stacked up boxes. Using either of these methods would be perfect to involve your child in. If they are smaller, have them scribble on the sides of boxes using ultra washable markers. They will wash off surfaces that they aren’t intended to be on (such as walls or furniture) but they will not wash off the cardboard on the box. If your child is a bit older, have them rip off sections of washi tape or different colored duct tape and label the boxes that way. 
  • The great thing about being surrounded by cardboard and packing paper is the fact that the coloring possibilities are endless! Have your preschooler practice drawing facial features (often used as an admittance/readiness test for kindergarten) on the side of a box. Draw some letters and have your toddler trace them with a crayon. Decorate those moving boxes and give them some personality, to boot! 
  • Set up a box-fort, or have them draw some wheels on the side of a box and watch their favorite TV show from inside their “car box” or the tablet inside their “box-fort.” 

2. Have a flexible schedule

  • Let’s be real here. All normality will be tossed out the window during the week leading up to your big move. Schedules will be thrown off, activities will be different, and their small world will fall out of orbit. It’s important to remember to keep things flexible when you’re preparing for the move. Your kiddo may not head upstairs for bedtime at 7:30 on the dot, and siblings who are suddenly bunking in the same bedroom may wake each other up earlier than usual. This is all normal. It will return back to the usual ebb and flow once you get settled into your new home. 

3. Spend some time burning off energy every day

  • While the thought of you leaving the house and taking your kids somewhere else may not seem practical (or especially fair to whatever spouse is left at home with household moving tasks) it is important to take the time to let your kid burn off some energy. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate trip to the zoo; a simple game of chase in the backyard will suffice. Spending time outside will rejuvenate your child’s spirit (and yours!) and allow them to ultimately sleep better during nap time, or at night. 
Want some more reasons why your child should spend time outside? Check out this post on 5 Ways to Get Outside and Reconnect to Nature and Why Your Kids Need to Play in the Cold
  • If the weather isn’t conducive to be outside and play, try contacting your local gymnastics gym, and inquire about when their “open gym” times are. Most gyms have these, and they are a great way to let your child explore a different environment with equipment meant to stimulate their senses that you probably don’t own at home. We love going to open gyms because they typically only last 1-2 hours, so it’s an easy “out” for those children who tend to not be happy to leave an open-ended activity, such as a park. Plus, all that jumping, climbing and flipping is tiring!

4. Have a “safe room”

  • While the name may sound insane, having one bedroom that is designated as the “safe room” is a great thing for your kids (and you!)
  • Empty a bedroom of all items, except those items that you need to live, and/or will be making the journey in your vehicle with you. It’s important to make sure that you remember anything that your child will need, such as their favorite bedtime story and stuffed animal, as well as vital toiletry items, bedding, diapers etc. 
  • Instruct anyone assisting your move that nothing in the safe room is to be touched, moved or packed. 
  • The safe room is a great place for your child to hang out and watch movies on the tablet, or play ABC Mouse on your phone while you’re busy working. You know they are safe and out of the way, and it quickly becomes their special place to hang out and spend some time relaxing. 

Product Recommendation

One of the hardest parts about moving with kids is the “camp” style sleeping, and it can prove extremely difficult to get them to sleep simply sleeping on the floor. Mattresses are often among the first items packed in the moving truck, so having a back up option for kids is extremely important. Kids will go to bed easier when they are excited about their sleeping place, and our own Daily Kids literally couldn’t wait to jump into their “special cot” every night. We’re referring to the innovative Kid-O-Bunk from Disc-O Bed. 

The Kid-O-Bunk is simply amazing! First and foremost, it’s practical:

  • It can be used in multiple configurations, from single beds side-by-side, two “bunk bed” style, and even as a “couch!” Placing this item into the “safe room” is perfect. It can be bunked to save floor space for sleeping, and used as a sitting bench to watch movies and play games during the day.
  • It is modular, portable, compact, and super strong (holding up to 200 lbs per cot).
  • Can be used indoors, or outdoors. (Maybe your road trip involves camping out?)
  • The high-grade polyester sleep surface provides a wonderfully contoured sleeping surface. There is no annoying metal brace in the middle, and it works great for smaller kids who typically need a railing when they sleep so they don’t fall out – no railing needed with the Kid-O-Bunk!
  • The frame is made of powder-coated steel, and is anti-rust, so it is sure to last through many trips to Grandma’s house down the road, as well.
  • You don’t need any tools to assemble it.
  • All the parts are packaged and contained within the included and ultra-convenient two zippered, polyester bags for easy storage and transportation.

The Kid-O-Bunk truly is the most practical item to have on hand during your move, because it transitions seamlessly into a variety of other options, such as instant sleeping arrangements for Grandma’s house, to a fun slumber party bed perfect for camping indoors, or even in a tent under the stars. It grows with your child, and can be used for toddlers when they are disconnected, or stack them up for older kids (ages 6+ is suggested for “top bunk”.)

See it in Action:

Special Coupon Exclusively for Daily Mom Readers:
Kid-O-Bunk is offering $20 off using the code DM20
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Kid-O-Bunk

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5. Know when to outsource

  • There are many different ways that you can outsource during your move, depending on your budget. The most inexpensive way to outsource would be to hire a babysitter, or mother’s helper to come and help out with the kids, allowing you to optimize your time to the fullest and buckle down and get some hardcore work done. 
  • Hiring packers and movers is an amazing luxury that, if you can afford it, will save you weeks worth of work. Make sure that you are still present and available for the packers and movers, and don’t trust that they will always make the best decision when it comes to the fragility of your prized possessions. Make sure to ask trusted friends if they have any recommendations for movers, as websites like Yelp or Angie’s List may not always be accurate. 
  • When movers are packing up the truck, remember that they have no idea about the contents of your boxes. Be sure to have them well labeled and organized as to which order they need to come out in. You don’t want your cleaning supplies buried in the back of the truck, when you need to give your new house a once-over cleaning job before you move in. Items coming from a storage area should be packed first, as they are likely to return back into storage (we’re talking about you, Christmas decorations!)

6. Don’t forget the paperwork

  • When you move across the country, as opposed to within the same area, it is crucial that you update your address before you move. It isn’t like you can drive by the old place and pick up mail or packages delivered after you move. First, change your address with the U.S. Postal Service to have your mail forwarded to your new address. You can change your address online quickly here.
    • You just need a credit card to pay the $1.05 for I.D. Verification.
    • If you are married, you and your spouse do not have to fill out separate change of address orders. You can fill it out as a “Family Move” and all your mail will be forwarded.
    • The change of address forwarding lasts for one year for first class mail and two months for periodicals.

After your change of address order is in, you still have to notify those who need your address on your own. The change of address process with USPS is just to have your mail forwarded. You still need to notify companies and family and friends on your own. Sit down and make a list of everyone who needs your new address. Your bank and credit card companies need your new address right away. Once you change your address with them, you will have to update the billing address with any online merchants where you have your credit card information saved. We’re looking at you, Amazon and Zulily!

While updating your contact information with companies can be a tedious task, giving out your new address to friends and family can be fun. Why not commemorate your exciting move with a gorgeous moving announcement?

Product Recommendation

minted makes it easy to send out your new address in style. Just pick the card that suits your style from their huge selection of moving announcements. You add your personal information to customize the card. You can choose from paper options and whether or not to have minted print the recipient addresses on your envelopes. Everything from minted is created by minted’s independent artists.

We love the Planted Roots Moving Announcement for its simple yet beautiful design. For a cross country move, this card symbolizes that you are done moving and plan on your family growing up in your new home. If you leave the back of your card blank, write a personalized note to the recipient. If a friend helped you pack up for the move use this as your thank you note. 

Your customized, luxurious quality cards will arrive quickly. Once it is time to send them out, enlist your kids for help. Kids love to use stamps and stickers so they are perfect to help with the mail.

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We love using a return address stamp from Zazzle for all our envelopes. Zazzle has an amazing selection of self-inking stamps that you can customize.

Pick the style design you like, add your information, and it will be in your mailbox before you know it. We love the modern look of the Hamilton Return Address Stamp.The Family Names Address Stamp is a fun choice because you can include the first names of everyone in your family on the stamp.Both stamps are designed by independent designers, something Zazzle prides itself on. Because they are self-inking, you don’t have to fuss with the mess of a separate ink pad. Just show your child where to line it up on the envelope. He just has to push down on the stamp and your return address is on your envelopes. Any correspondence in the future will be easier to mail with your return address stamp. Think of all the time you will save when mailing your holiday cards!

Your kids can help with the postage as well. Postage stamps are just expensive stickers. Show them where the stamps go and they will stick them on in no time. All you have to do is write the recipient addresses and drop them in the mail. Your family and friends will love receiving this announcement in the mail. Save one of the cards for yourself. Frame it and display it in a special place in your new home to commemorate the beginning of your new life there.

Planning for the Car Ride


Now that you’ve successfully armed yourself with tips for inside the home, you are forced to switch your concentration over to the daunting cross-country car ride, kids and all! But, there are tips to making the trip doable and enjoyable for all.

1. Inspect car seats

  • If you’ve never had your car seats inspected for correct installation, NOW is definitely the time to do it. Double check that your child’s car seat fits your child’s needs for height and weight requirements (they grow fast!), check that the seat hasn’t expired, and most importantly, check that the seat is installed correctly. While following the instructions in a manual is easy, it’s still possible to miss small steps that could potentially save your child’s life.
  • Once installed, find a car seat inspection site in your city and have it checked by an expert. Bring your child with you and have them show you how to buckle them in properly as well. You’d be surprised how many well-meaning parents don’t use the chest clip correctly or don’t pull tight enough on the harness.
Product Recommendation

If you end up on the hunt for a new car seat, we love what Britax has to offer. For children big enough for a booster, but still needing the added protection of a five point harness, we love the Britax Frontier Clicktight. This award-winning seat offers an easy clicktight installation system (seriously, installing a car seat has never been so easy!), safe cell impact protection, steel frame, impact-absorbing base, and a quick-adjust 9 position harness with two position buckle. Not only will you love the safety features, but your child will love the cup-holders and feel of a “big-kid” seat with its booster-like design. When your child is truly ready for a booster, the seat is designed to become a harness to booster, by simply tucking the straps into the interior of the seat. With the extra padding, your child won’t feel a thing. 

To learn more about the Britax Frontier Clicktight, check out our helpful guide post.

2. Pack the car by means of necessity

  • You will likely need certain items above others along the way; for example, overnight bags for hotel stays or a cooler of food for roadside picnics. Pack the car first without those necessary items, then add them in last so that they can be the first to be grabbed when needed. If you happened to have packed your whole closet for your trip — the weather changes a great deal from place to place and we need to be prepared, right? — be sure to pack a separate small bag with your essentials for one night (pajamas, toiletries, and a change of clothing). One small bag to include necessities for everyone in the family for one night is doable and easy.
  • Keep the small overnight bag separate to save you from having to dig through the car and various bags when you reach your hotel destination. 
  • If you’re lacking storage in your vehicle, consider adding a cargo box on the roof. While it could hinder your gas performance just a smidgen, it adds peace of mind and ease that is well worth the few extra dollars at the gas pump.

3. Keep the kids’ stuff organized and accessible

  • It’s only logical to keep necessary items within arms reach, but it is also helpful to make it accessible to little hands as well. By using a car storage system, such as a pocket organizer on the back of the seat, all of the items your child will need will be nicely stored in front of them and off the floor, lessening the clutter and possibility of having to search for an item. Small toys, electronic devices, snack bags, and juice boxes or water bottles, which can also be stored in your child’s cup holder, can be easily stored in each pocket and placed back into its spot after use.
  • Give your child some responsibility in helping pack the pocket organizer, picking out what toys, art supplies, and snacks they will want throughout the trip. All other cargo can be safely stored in the rear of the car or up above by using a car top carrier. Let’s be real, a car is small enough, and long hours in a cluttered and over-packed area can only add to the overwhelming feeling of being trapped.

4. Schedule your trip ahead of time

  • Plan each day of travel with your child’s normal routine in mind, to include sleep patterns and eating habits. Start your journey bright and early — maybe before the sun even comes up. By starting out each day at 6 a.m., you can probably assume that your children will go back to sleep for a little while once in the car. Once they wake, they can play with their packed toys or electronics until lunch time.
  • Prepare for lunch ahead of time by planning a specific stop along the way. Locate scenic overlooks, state parks, playgrounds, or child-friendly rest stops before you hit the road. Pack a picnic lunch, find a restaurant with a playground, or locate a fun downtown area with little shops and cafes, perfect for perusing while stretching your legs and letting your children move around.
  • After lunch and when back in the car, plan a movie, audio book, or more independent play time until it’s time for afternoon naps. Nap time should take you somewhat close to dinner time. Plan to stop for the night around dinner time.
  • One more great tip for traveling with children — book a hotel with a pool! Your children will be excited to get to the hotel and it will offer you and your family the perfect outlet for pent up energy before going down for a good night’s rest and another long day of travel.

We promise that, with a bit of planning and a whole lot of patience, your move will be memorable and (perhaps) even fun for you and the kids (amidst the craziness!) Your children will look back and remember the fun, and not the stress. Take a deep breath, remember to leave a wine opener and solo cup out, and enjoy the memories of the moment. 

Once you move into your new home, make sure to check over this list on 20 Items Every Homeowner Should Have.

Photo Credits: Memoirs Photography, Kristen D., The Art of Making a Baby, Stephanie, Dani

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Megan

Megan lives in Michigan with her husband, daughter, and son. Her days are spent hanging out and doing family projects on her real-life farm, and spending time on the Great Lakes. She loves swimming, celebrity gossip, University of Michigan and Denver Broncos football, trashy reality TV, and writing. In addition to being a Mommy and self-proclaimed urban-farmer, she owns a photography business located in Southeast Michigan, Memoirs Photography.

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