Tools for surviving a cross-country move

Genie Leslie is a copywriter (as well as regular writer) and actor in Seattle.


We left Mississippi at 6 a.m. in a small car stuffed full of pillows, boxes, suitcases, and a fold-up bed frame that fit only because the end poked (dangerously) between the two front seats. As we backed out of the driveway, I panicked. Can we really pull this off? 

My boyfriend, Aaron, and I were moving from Mississippi to Seattle. Without jobs or an apartment at the other end, there was not really a plan to follow. We simply tackled the process one step at a time.

Choosing a locale

When we decided to move, we had one place in mind: somewhere new. We turned to the advice of friends and the world of Internet quizzes. We answered a few questions about weather we prefer (rain OK, extreme temperatures not); culture (theater and live music, please); areas of the country we’d like to try (anywhere?); and more. Then we sorted through cities that might suit us. We had fun looking at cities we never would have known about, and we quickly honed in on the Pacific Northwest.

From there, a friend suggested Seattle. A city filled with culture and greenery? A summer high-temp average of only 74 degrees? Yes, please. As risky as the distance felt, we decided to go for it.

Finding lodging on the road

We stayed in hotels each night as we drove West, but we wanted the flexibility to stop when we were tired, and to be able to detour when we wanted. Maybe you want to see Mt. Rushmore, or the garlic capitol of the world. Plan as you go by taking advantage of apps, like HotelTonight or Hipmunk, designed for booking your room on the fly. And while you’re resting in your hotel room for the night, make sure to load up your phone with podcasts and audiobooks for the next day’s drive.

House hunting

Aaron and I didn’t land an apartment before leaving Mississippi but we did look around to get a feel for neighborhoods and pricing. StreetAdvisor is great for getting a glimpse into a neighborhood’s personality, walkability, and culture. 

Once we made it to Seattle, we stayed in cheap motels for the three nights that we didn’t have a place. We hit craigslist and rental sites hard. We sat in a coffee shop with our laptops, made notes on places that looked good, and began using our phones…as phones. While you’re house hunting, you can also check out sites that offer rentals in the apartments or spare rooms of locals. You can hop around and get a closer look at different neighborhoods before choosing a place to settle.

Settling in

About a week later, we sat on the floor of our furniture-less apartment, exhausted but happy. We’d done it—four days in a car together, finding an apartment, and Aaron had even found a job. Which is great, because while moving to a new city is many things—thrilling, exhausting, exhilarating—it’s not cheap.

Published on AT&T Thread, March 29, 2016