Escape Across The Country
We love a good road trip. In fact, two years ago this week, we took one of the biggest road trips we've ever made. We decided to take the plunge and move away from sunny Southern California to the hustle and bustle of New York. When we finally made the decision to move, the turnaround was pretty fast. We decided around the first week of December and spent the next month planning, packing, and giving away most of our belongings, in order to make it to NY at the beginning of January. Along the way, we searched tirelessly for advice on how to make the move, and while some blogs did give us some amazing advice, there were a few things that we wished we had known. Below is a list of ideas and advice that we love and continue to share with people who make the same move:
1. Sort Out How You’ll Get There & What To Do With Your Stuff
While flying is the easiest move, we decided that we’d drive. This was motivated by the fact that the only way to bring Whiskey with us, and not in the cargo hold of a plane, was by car. The length we would go for that dog knows no bounds… Whichever way you decide to go, you’ll likely need to get rid of, or ship, some of your belongings. We did both. The purging of stuff was so strong. It was liberating getting rid of the vast majority of our belongings. We got rid of about 16 bags of clothes, furniture, sporting gear, and more to Good Will. This was great because at the end of the year during tax time, we could write off a great deal of the move and up our quota for donations. Plus, we love helping those in need and Good Will is a great cause. For the things we couldn’t part with, we got a small storage unit for $80/month. This is a waste and we regret keeping it. Next time we’re out in Southern California we vow to clear it out. Trust me, it’s not worth it and you’ll need that money in NY. There were also items that would not fit in the car or trailer which required us to ship them via fedex/ups and also by Greyhound Shipping. For the most part, Greyhound shipping was great and it was suggested to us for furniture and heavy items. This was perfect for the move, but not so great for the picking up. The depot doesn’t have much parking around it in Brooklyn, and if you’re shipping heavy boxes you’ll need to carry them to wherever you do find parking, so it might be worth renting a large truck when you get there just to pick up those items.
2. Find a place to live
The moment we found out that we were going to move, the idea of where to live loomed heavily over us. We knew we would end up in Brooklyn, but weren't sure exactly where. With the stress of how quickly we needed to move out East, we went back and forth about the best way to handle the apartment situation. James wanted to make the move and then get an AirBnB until we found an apartment, while Hayley wanted to find a place prior to the move to keep costs down. So, long story short, James used his frequent flyer miles and was on a plane a week later.
The housing market in New York lives up to its reputation in every regard, apartment hunting has all the charm of a blood sport, and for the price of a 2 bedroom apartment in California you can get a “cozy” studio the space of a walk-in closet in New York. Prior to his arrival, James contacted a broker with the MDRN group and arranged about 15 showings. By luck, a friend of ours had recommended the Park Slope and Prospect Heights area of Brooklyn, so we focused our search there. 72 hours after landing, James had been up and down Brooklyn via dollar vans, train, taxis, and Ubers, and viewed upwards of 30 apartments. After sending Hayley videos of each, we landed on one that she had suggested via apartment site Street Easy and we submitted an application. We made note of an additional 10 to apply to as well, should our first pick be denied. While filling out applications, you’ll have to submit a letter of employment, the last 3 months of financial bank statements, the last 3 years of tax returns, paystubs, and letters and numbers for recommendations. We were lucky to get our first choice, but not without a few costs. Thankfully, Hayley’s step-brother had moved out to NY with his partner 6 months prior and had given us the head’s up about the fees.
When you get an apartment in New York, you have to pay first, last, and a deposit fee. If you use a broker, you’ll also have to pay their fee which is about 15% of the annual rent. For the rental application, you’ll sometimes have to make a certain amount more annually than the monthly rent. If needed, you can also use a guarantor in case you don’t meet the minimum amount.
3. The Trip
We rented the largest trailer U-Haul offers, despite grim online reviews, to tow behind our Land Rover Discovery. We packed it tight, roughly estimating the weight as we and a group of our friends helped us load, to the ensure we kept well under the weight limit.
First and foremost, when using a trailer, factor in additional travel time. Don’t underestimate the delays caused by an additional 4000 lbs behind your truck when you’re travelling through a Texan high plains ice storm or traversing the snowy switchbacks in the Appalachians. And second, use high quality ratchet straps to secure the load from shifting, even slightly, backwards in the trailer. (You want about 60% of your weight in front of the axle and the remainder behind) Otherwise, you’ll end up like us, with the load shifted back up against the cargo door after crossing your first mountain pass, rendering it un-openable for risk of not being able to shut the door again without repacking the entire trailer. Because of that, it’s imperative you bring a “go-bag” with you in the car and not the trailer. We didn’t and were forced to stop at Walmart in the middle of nowhere for the essentials we had packed away in the trailer at 2 am.
For navigation, we used Waze ( make sure that it’s set to “fastest” not “shortest” route. We didn’t and wasted a half a day in the mountains) and a few other apps: Roadtrippers, Field Trip, Hotel Tonight (which was clutch when we didn’t know where we were and needed to stop for the night), and iExit. Roadtripper and Field Trip gave us info about cool stops and historical sites along the way, while iExit let us know which fast food places, rest stops, hotels, and gas stops were coming up.
The trip took us a total of 5 days, driving about 12-14 hours per day. To say it was difficult was an understatement. We awoke in the dark and stayed on the road until the sun had long since set. When we had talked about driving cross country, we thought we would be able to take cute short cuts and see the country. This did not happen. If you have more than a week, it is do-able and we fully suggest it, but if you need to make the drive quickly, kiss those landmarks goodbye.
To pass the time, we listened to a ton of podcasts. We highly suggest:
4. The Tolls
The tolls, oh the tolls. We can’t state this enough, BRING CASH! Something we hadn’t factored into the trip cost wise, on top of food, gas, and lodging were toll roads and bridges. Most tolls charge extra for any additional vehicle axles beyond the standard two – which multiplied our costs. The U-haul had two additional axles. We didn’t keep a perfect record, but we estimate close to $300 dollars were handed out over the course of the drive.
5. Keep Your Receipts
Because this move was partly brought on for Hayley’s job, we were able to write off a lot of it come tax time. Make sure to save every receipt and keep track of costs for gas, lodging, miles, and food.
Towing a trailer, especially a large, heavy one, is dangerous. Roughly 8% of all traffic related fatalities involve a trailer. You must drive slowly, allow yourself extra space between your vehicle and the one in front of you, and make sure your car is in excellent operating condition. It pays to have a comprehensive inspection of your car by your mechanic prior to the trip. Additionally, your dog should be wearing a harness connected to a pet specific vehicle restraint system, because in the event of a serious accident, the chances of your pet surviving are much less than yours, especially if they aren’t restrained. We suggest this one.
7. Get Movers
A lot of blogs suggested getting movers. We now understand why. Reflecting back, we would probably bite the bullet and get movers to take our stuff across the country. When making this move and finally arriving at your destination, you'll need to take into account finding parking and carrying your boxes up multiple flights of stairs, while making sure that your stuff is safe on the street. It's a lot to do and having a trailer doesn't make it easier.
One thing we did do, was last minute hire movers for the night we arrived. It made all the difference. We loved "Sweet Lou Moves You" . They arranged to meet us at our new place the same night that we called for a pretty low cost. The three guys were able to unload our truck within 30 minutes and helped us get our truck out of the way of traffic pretty quickly. Make sure to get cash to tip, it's worth every penny!
When we finally arrived and everything was unloaded, we opened up a bottle of wine from our wedding that we were saving for a special occasion and drank to our new home. It was definitely difficult, but it was one of the best trips we have ever had and we loved (almost) every minute of it.
What is some of the best advice you have heard? We love hearing your feedback!