Tips for Relocating Across Country with Small Children
About 3 years ago my husband mentioned wanting to relocate our family to Las Vegas, Nevada due to better employment opportunities in his career field. I must admit that I was not immediately sold on the idea. I mean, we loved visiting Vegas on vacation, but I never looked at it as a place to raise a family. So, I was a little reluctant to say the least. Add to that the fact that we had just had our third baby, a little girl, and I was just…nervous about making such a huge transition.
Our family and friends (who are much more like family) are all here in Richmond, Virginia. When we need someone to watch our children, our son’s godparents and godsister are usually always available at the drop of a hat. We can call on neighbors and other friends to be emergency contacts and things of that nature. It was simply a scary thought to leave all that was familiar to start over hundreds of miles away. Thankfully, my cousin and his family live in Las Vegas along with a close girlfriend who has also been more like a sister for the past two years! God had already started piecing things together even before we officially decided to take the leap. He really supplies all of our needs!
On January 13th, 2021 my husband said that he felt like it was time to move and that January 31st would be our official relocation date. That left us exactly 18 days to pack the house, make travel arrangements, secure housing in another state, arrange for our belongings and vehicle to be shipped and stay sane while doing it. Thankfully we had already begun the process of slowly transitioning out of our house since 2019 by packing, selling and donating things we no longer needed. In addition, we started prepping the house to sell by painting and doing small repairs here and there.
So, when my husband said it was time to go, we were able to move with seemingly short notice because we had been preparing for the move for almost 3 years. But what about the kids? How would we prepare them and help them transition?
Here are some tips for relocating across the country with small children:
- Learn about the area that you’ll be moving to. What is there to do, see, and where can you go? At the time of this post, we are in the midst of a pandemic so most community events and local parks, etc. are closed to the public. So, you’ll need to get creative here.
Start planning for non-messy, portable activities for the children to do while traveling. If you’ll be driving, what can the kids do in the car to stay entertained? Coloring books for preschool aged children and above work really well. Grab some crayons or washable markers to add to their activity bag to make drawing fun. Construction paper is a great alternative once the novelty of the coloring books wears off. For elementary-aged children: think about their interests and find books centered around that. For example, my oldest son loves Minecraft and Legos, so I found paper back books to pack in his bag for the trip.
- If you’ll be flying, having non-electronic based activities are essential. Most planes do not offer Wi-Fi and if they do, you’ll have to pay for it before you can use it.
Pack plenty of non-messy snacks. My kids love cereal bars, granola bars, applesauce pouches and veggie straws so I made sure to have those in abundance.
- This is especially important if you’re traveling by plane because getting food at the airport can be (a) expensive, (b) next to impossible if you have a layover and need to run to the next flight (personal experience here, and I can tell you that we would not have been able to fly for 7+ hours without plenty of snacks to pass around!)
A sweet friend gave our children activities and toys to keep them occupied. It helped so much especially with unexpected flight delays due to snow!
My 2 year did so well on the flight. I was so proud of her. It was a total of 7 hours and she did not nap! She was perfectly content with counting, singing, playing with toys, drawing, coloring and walking the aisles towards the end of the trip!
- Talk to your children about the move and make it sound fun and exciting. Children adapt very well and most often they will go with the flow if you are calm and easygoing about it. They will pick up on your non-verbal cues and respond accordingly.
- If you have an anxious child, validate those fears and empathize. Try not to dismiss or minimize their feelings by saying “oh, it won’t be so bad…” or “that’s silly…” Children have real fears sometimes, and most often those can be mitigated simply by listening and validating their concerns.
- When making temporary housing arrangements, consider staying at an Air bnb. Not only are Air bnb’s more cost effective, but most have full kitchen access which is golden if you’ll be staying for a few days until permanent housing is secured.
Outsource as much as possible (or as much as your budget allows). Hire a cleaning service to deep clean your house, hire painters to paint the house for you if you can’t physically do it yourself.
- Tell friends and family that you need help! This one was huge for me because I don’t want to feel like I’m burdening anyone by asking for help. But what I’ve learned is that, those who are able to help will. Those who want to help but can’t will tell you, and those who don’t want to, won’t. No hard feelings either way.
- Start prepping for materials that you’ll need on your journey. I can’t say enough good things about these luggage carts! I bought them to carry the kids’ car seats through the airport and I am so glad that I did! When we had only 30 minutes in between flights, we needed those seats on wheels to run as fast as we could to not miss our flight!
- Use delivery services without shame. If you need to have dinner delivered or grocery brought to your doorstep, do it! This will save you time and energy as you travel and adjust.
- Work as a team with your spouse. You will need all hands on deck to get through this transition smoothly. Two days before our official move out, the kids and I stayed at a hotel to be out of the way as my husband finished packing, and doing some last-minute touch ups on the house. When he was done with the house pack-up stuff, he joined us at the hotel and jumped right in to help out.
Allow room for error and mistakes. Don’t wait until the last minute to schedule services. You will need a cushion for moving companies to run late, service providers to cancel, etc. Try to schedule your moving service about 2-3 days before you’ll actually be leaving. Our moving company was a day late, then the day of the reschedule they came that afternoon instead of that morning. Had we had them come the day of or even the day before our move, we would have been beyond stressed out trying to coordinate how our items would be moved while simultaneously needing to catch a flight.
- This is also a good place to extend grace to yourself. Recognize and accept that things are not going to go perfectly and that’s ok.
Pack light! Even though you’re moving your entire life to a different location, you only need about 5 days’ worth of clothes and toiletries in the luggage you bring with you. Everything else can be packed on the moving truck.
- Wash your clothes daily so that you can have a continuous supply of items. That’s why I love staying at Air bnb’s! We always choose one with a full kitchen, but having one with a washer and dryer in the unit is an added bonus when relocating.
- We also cloth diaper and I need to be able to wash diapers every 2 days or less.
- Meal plan. After you get settled in, you’ve probably eaten out more than you’ve ever eaten out in you life! You’ll want a home cooked meal, so plan your menu, then grocery shop for what you’ll need one week at a time. We love using Instacart for grocery delivery!
For those who have relocated long-distance, what tips would you add?