what I’ve learned from making a cross-country move

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It’s five in the morning here and I just woke from a twelve-hour “nap.” One minute I lay my head down to rest and the next I wake to darkness, cat curled up beside me. After months of planning, and creating unnecessary drama regarding the transportation of my cat (yes, I sometimes manufacture drama where none exists and I’m working on this), I’ve finally made it to Los Angeles. While I don’t have much to share in terms of my home (my movers haven’t arrived yet), or my area (I’ve been in my apartment for most of the time dealing with various utility companies and deliveries–except for the five minutes I ventured out to Whole Foods and came home to realize I’d forgotten to pack any dishes in my checked-luggage. Cereal tastes good when you’re eating it out of mixing bowls you had shipped to your new house), I do have a wealth of information to offer about those who want to embark on a big move. I’ve made some good choices and BAD mistakes, and I’m here to give you the low-down.

Moving Your Pet: I’m starting with this because I think I’ve read through more cat forums and articles about moving your cat than I’ve read about anything, all year. First off, you should know that you can’t take a pet larger than twenty pounds on a plane, and most airlines now won’t allow pets into cargo. That means twenty pounds or less in the cabin. Pets can’t also be in first, business or exit row seating–on all airlines. After a pretty exhaustive search, I discovered that JetBlue is the BEST airline to fly your furry friend. They even have a frequent flyer program for your jetsetting pooch or kit. Most airlines will charge you a fee for traveling with your pet and my total ticket from JFK to LAX was $400, which included expedited security, my pet fee of $100, and an aisle seat with more leg room.

We tried the Thundershirt. It worked, but he wiggled out of it when I put him in the carrier so I didn't get the full airline experience.
We tried the Thundershirt. It worked, but he wiggled out of it when I put him in the carrier so I didn’t get the full airline experience. That’s Felix in his carrier during our flight. He did so well!

Since airlines are pretty strict about pet rules (DYK that your pet has to remain on the floor for the duration of the flight?), I purchased this TSA-approved carrier, which was roomy enough for Felix and rested comfortably below the seat in front of me. In terms of calming agents, know that I purchased and road-tested nearly everything on the market (multiple collars, sprays, catnip spray, etc), and nothing worked except for the Thundershirt. Apparently the pressure is purported to calm animals, and when I tried it out the day before we left, he loved it. While he did do the “fall and flop” (which means cats are getting used to the slight change in pressure), he was soon purring. Sadly I didn’t get to test this out while traveling because as soon as I got him into the carrier he flipped out for the first ten minutes and managed to wiggle out of the shirt.

When you fly with a pet, you have to check in at the airport counter and they’ll note that you’re carrying a pet with you. The worst part of traveling is airport security. I’ve already calmed down from the rage blackout I had yesterday where I yelled at a TSA agent, but let me tell you this–if your pet won’t come out of the carrier you have to go into a special room for a pat-down, and let me tell you this: NO SUPERVISOR WANTS TO DO THIS. I waited twenty minutes–along with another cat and dog owner–until all of us had to force our pets out of the carrier and hold them while our hands were wiped while holding the pet and the carrier x-rayed. Luckily, Felix was so traumatized he fled back into the carrier. When I got on board, I asked my seatmates if they had a cat allergy (as I was prepared to move seats). I told everyone that Felix might mew before take-off, but no one would hear him above the engines. Luckily, he was docile for the flight and trip to my new home.

My friends recommended that I carry tins of food, two bowls (water and food), and have his litter and litterbox in my home before my arrival. True to form, the first thing Felix did when we arrived was use the bathroom. Although Felix adjusted surprisingly quickly to our new home, these pet tips were super helpful and informative.

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Selecting Movers + Prepping: Remember when I told you I was checking out PODS? Well, don’t go near them. They’ve scores of terrible reviews and they quoted me $4500 for a move and I’d STILL have to pack up my truck. After one conversation and a quote, they also sold my information to TONS of people. In one day, I received four phone calls with inquiries for how someone can help me move my products into my POD for the low, low price of $1,000. No thanks. I ended up going with Schleppers (my move cost $2,095). I moved with 49 boxes total (a mix of small and medium), two tables, one lamp, one bed, two chairs, and one desk–enough to fill 400 square feet. While my furniture hasn’t arrived yet (they give you a nine-day window), the team has been nothing but prompt, helpful, patient with my endless questions.

A word to the wise: pack your books in small boxes and buy loads of bubble wrap. You’d be surprised about how much you have to wrap and protect in preparation for your move. I love the boxes I purchased because they’re not only eco-friendly, they allowed me to get specific when it came to labeling (room, placement, contents, etc).

THE BIGGEST MISTAKE I MADE: I thought I was pretty smart to have decided to ship essentials (bowls, towels, basic appliances) before I left since I’d be without the essentials for the better part of 10 days. What I didn’t realize was how much it would cost. Yes, you can use book rate, but I just don’t trust sending my valuables without tracking information and the promise of arrival by a certain date. I didn’t ship so far in advance (I would have saved $600 for boxes that have YET to arrive. Showering without towels is hilarious) because I was worried about packages being left around and stolen. Had I known to ask if my leasing company would store my essentials, I would have saved so much money.

I also brought so much checked luggage (one was just for my air mattress, which is quite large), I ended up spending over $500 on baggage fees. In retrospect, I would have shipped a lot of my checked luggage with the movers, but now I know.

THE SMARTEST MOVE I MADE: Buying and shipping some of the basics before I arrive. While I fouled up my kitchen and bath essentials, I did manage to order cleaning products, toilet paper, cat food, cat litter/litterbox, new flatware, and basic food via Amazon + Amazon Fresh. I was torn about this, having recently read about Amazon’s subpar culture, but I couldn’t find any other way. Recommendations are always welcome!

Before I moved, I boxed up all of my cupboard items and spices. Why throw out good food when you can ship it? Make sure you check the expiration dates on all your items, especially spices, since you don’t want to pay to ship something you’ll only end up throwing out.

Purchasing Furniture: I left a great deal of my furniture behind in New York and opted for a whole new look and feel in my new home. Not only did I ask my leasing company for the dimensions of each room, I inquired about the fit of certain pieces of furniture (i.e. couch, bed, ottoman), so I had a good sense of where and how items would fit–a decent proxy for the fact that I wasn’t able to actually see my place before I moved in. While I’ve plans to show you a tour of my new home when I’m settled, I bought pieces from One King’s Lane (ottoman, rug), CB2 (bookcases), Crate & Barrel (couch), Overstock.com, GiltHome, Wayfair, Target, IKEA (stool, storage carts). Order any custom pieces at least 8 weeks before your move so you don’t have to live, like me, without a couch for two months.

Misc. Logistics: Before I left, I scheduled appointments with all my doctors (GYN, GP, dentist, eye doctor) to run all my annual tests, get new glasses + contact lenses, and secure prescriptions. Note that you can’t transfer a lot of out-of-state prescriptions. CVS/Walgreen’s/Duane Reade will allow for a one-month grace, but the pharmacy in your new home will require a new prescription. This might vary for controlled substances, but query your local pharmacy (as well as your new one) to understand the rules.

I also made an exhaustive list of all the addresses I needed to change, services I needed to cancel, mail that needed to be forwarded, etc. I stuck to my original plan and everything’s been pretty flawless. I did have to call Verizon regarding the return of my equipment, and the good news was that if you’ve owned your DSL wireless modem for over a year you can toss it. All other equipment requires a return, and VZ will ship you a box and instructions once you file to cancel services. I changed my address for all the online retailers I frequently patron and my banks a week prior to my move.

Finally, I used Paperless Post to schedule my move announcement. They’ve tons of fun templates, and it was easy to upload addresses from my address book and schedule my message.

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So! I’m in my new home, adjusting. I’m back to blogging but you’ll see some new changes over the coming weeks. I plan on featuring other women freelancers/entrepreneurs so you can see how they’ve grown and managed their careers + businesses. I also plan to share more book reviews, and more about my novel (which will be published in 2016 by The Feminist Press–I’m so privileged to have Jennifer Baumgardner, a hero of mine, as a publisher!). You’ll still get recipes and personal stories, but I want to let a little air in and share more about those whom I admire, those women who are breaking ranks, kicking ass and taking names. Lots of good stuff to come and I hope you’ll remain for the ride.

Thanks for your patience during my radio silence and I hope to bring a lot more clarity to this space as the days move on. And if you any questions re: moving, please don’t hesitate to ask!

26 thoughts on “what I’ve learned from making a cross-country move

  1. So glad to see that the move has gone well- your “nap” must have done you a world of good, even your writing feels invigorated.
    Was just reading a New Yorker piece on Didion and was reminded of a quote of hers I thought fitting: “I was never a big fan of people who don’t leave home. It just seems part of your duty in life.”

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  2. So happy you and Felix made it out there OK! How exciting to explore and discover new favorite hang outs and restaurants! Have a ball Felicia!

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  3. Great to see you back and I’m so glad everything seems to have gone well for the most part! I’m looking forward to hearing more about your thoughts on the impact of picking up and moving as that may be something in my future as well..

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  4. So glad you and Felix made it safely and are adjusting. Can’t wait to hear about your new book and see the featured post from other women, as well as hear all about your new journey in SoCal. Enjoy all the new discoveries in your new neighborhood. Best to you!

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  5. Very happy to see that you made it there safely – both you and your lovel feline Felix. Reading your post is great for me since I am seriously considering moving across that country too. Enjoy your new home and your new beginning!

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  6. Glad you’re back to blogging. Although I feel fortunate I’ve been able to follow you on Facebook, I’ve missed reading your words here. Welcome to California!

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  7. Wow- the move sounds intense but clearly you pulled it off flawlessly (better than I would have, for sure). Your new space seems so fresh and I can’t wait to see how it turns out. I adore the pieces you linked to that you’ve bought, particularly that sofa. I’ve been eyeing it so I can’t wait to hear what you think.
    I agree with a comment above- even your writing seems like a breathe of fresh air and that its been rejuvenated. I’ll gladly follow along on your fresh takes.
    As an aside- I’m currently on my first trip with the new suitcase and it is a godsend- so much easier to maneuver than my last. Thank you for saving me!!

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    1. thanks, Emily. It’s fascinating how a change in scenery can affect how one writes about what they see.

      I’m so HAPPY you love your luggage. It’s my carryon for all my trips and it’s worth the cost 🙂

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  8. Felix is such a beautiful cat! I am glad that the move went smooth and he is feeling good at his new home. My moving day is coming closer though and I am very concerned about my two cats. I hope that they will be alright with flying to their new home. I am moving with a lot of bags and I am also as stressed as my pets. I hope that everything will go smooth! Thanks for sharing! I find the post really useful!

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