A Step by Step Guide To Moving Across the Country with a Baby + 2 Cats: Part 1

August 2016: 13 days before we had to be out of the house

August 2016: 13 days before we had to be out of the house

In early March of 2016 I flew from Ohio to Oregon for my one and only campus visit. The rest of March and most of April passed by before I received a job offer. In all honesty, I assumed that I hadn’t gotten the position and that we’d be sticking around the Midwest for a little bit longer. At ~8 months pregnant, that seemed like a good idea. I could take a leisurely approach to finishing my dissertation, enjoying our new baby, and recovering. But of course, the minute you “settle” for one thing, life says, “just kidding!” In late April I got the job offer... a month before Ellie was due. In my, from grad student to academic mama post, I mentioned that the timeline for graduation and moving and becoming a parent was pretty tight. Ellie was born at the end of May, I submitted the final draft of my dissertation to my committee in late June, and then defended my dissertation in early July. The day after my defense our townhouse went up for sale. Three days later we accepted an offer on our house and got to packing (and purging).

The process of moving 2,000+ miles with an infant (and two cats) was part of what got me thinking about starting a blog. I searched and searched and searched for other people who had written about their cross country moves with an infant (and pets), and I couldn't find much. I know there’s probably not a huge contingent of people who do long distance (driving) moves right after having a baby... but it does happen! Ellie was ~7 weeks old when we started officially planning our move and ~13 weeks on the day we left Ohio. Over the next few posts (in addition to my weekly updates), I’ll share details from our week long trek across the country.

This first post talks about a few things to consider before you officially start the process.

Step 1: Wait!

In an effort to stave off the chaos and make sure we were 100% going to move across the country, we pushed pause on any serious moving prep until after my dissertation was defended and our house was in contract. If my dissertation defense had not been successful or if our house didn’t get any offers, we would have had to rethink a few things (perhaps pushing off my start date). No sense in turning our lives upside down for nothing!

Step 2: Create folders (paper and electronic) to store all of your moving documents

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have spreadsheet upon spreadsheet upon spreadsheet to track every part of your move! I created a shared google folder for Mike and I to store all our tracking documents, any electronic receipts, apartment lists, trip route info, etc. We also had a paper folder that housed paper receipts for anything that was getting reimbursed (as the move was covered by my university).  

Step 3: Outline what needs to happen

While we waited for some of the major pieces to fall into place we created a list of all the things that needed to happen before I started my job (even though we didn’t know many specific details yet). This list served as a starting point for planning our move. Here's what our list looked like.

  • Sell house

    • Open houses

    • Inspection

    • Fix anything that needs to be fixed

    • Appraisal

    • Closing

  • Finalize dissertation and submit final copy to the graduate school

  • Check up for Ellie

  • Family visits

  • Friend’s wedding

  • Graduation and parties

  • Quit job (Mike)

  • Get temporary health insurance

  • Clear out our house

    • Donate, sell, or trash

    • Pack up what’s leftover

  • Figure out how we’re moving

  • Find housing in Oregon

  • Create a driving route

  • Vet visit for the cats

  • Jill’s car - in for maintenance

  • Mike’s car - sell

  • Get wills taken care of (using my free student legal services benefit before I graduated!)

Step 4: Come up with a preliminary timeline

Something else we did while we waited was create a tentative timeline for all the things on the list above. I knew my start date (mid-September), which gave us some constraints around how long we could drag things out. Here’s what our timeline looked like.  

  • Early/mid July

    • Dissertation defense

    • Final dissertation --> graduate school

    • Open houses

    • Family visit

    • Fix anything in the house that needs to be fixed

    • Donate/sell/toss/pack

  • Late July

    • Inspection

    • Fix anything that needs to be fixed

    • Appraisal

    • Meet with student legal services about wills

    • Ellie’s check up

    • Trip to VA/PA for final visit and wedding

    • Donate/sell/toss/pack

  • Early August

    • Figure out apartment

    • Family visit

    • Graduation

    • Grad parties

    • Car maintenance

    • Donate/sell/toss/pack

  • Mid August

    • Quit job (Mike)

    • Sell Mike’s car

    • Temporary health insurance kicks in

    • More grad parties

    • Donate/sell/toss/pack

  • Late August

    • Get all stuff out of house

    • Closing

    • Drive across the country

  • Early September

    • Move in to apartment

  • Mid September

    • Start work

Step 5: Set your moving budget

Hopefully moving expenses are a part of your startup package. I received $7,000 from my university to help with the costs of the move, so that’s pretty much what we set our budget at. If you’ve ever done any long distance moving, you probably know that this won’t get you very far unless you do everything yourself and don’t have that much stuff. Luckily we’d never hired movers before, so we didn’t consider that route as an option. We also don’t have a ton of stuff (or a ton of stuff we are super attached to) so we didn’t have that much to actually move. We were just happy to have someone reimbursing the costs. In the beginning I just estimated the big things (e.g., moving cube, hotels, meal per diem) and then left the rest for things that would be “nice” to spend money on but weren’t absolutely necessary. Here is what we actually spent…


Couple things to note. For meals, we actually spent $303 for a week’s worth of meals on the road. We used the remaining $1169 to hire 2 people to help us move stuff into our apartment and then also to go towards our closing costs from selling the townhouse.

Next up, figuring out where you’ll live in your new city!