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I met my husband in the winter of my Senior year at the University of Delaware. I was a Delaware native and had never lived out of state…He was a Florida boy who had moved as a child depending on his father’s military assignment. When I became pregnant shortly into our relationship, we settled in Delaware to be near my family and allow me to finish my Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Fast forward a few years and we have had:
Ø 3 premature babies
Ø Several cats, dogs, and fish
Ø 1 daughter with severe asthma and allergies as a result of her prematurity
Ø 1 cancer diagnosis
Ø Multiple chronic conditions
Through every hill and valley, we always had faith that things would work out. Where God leads, He provides. Over the years, we discussed moving South. December 2016 our decision was made for us. Our daughter, “A” was at a breaking point with her asthma treatment plan. She was on 8 daily medications, had failed pediatric dosages, had numerous hospitalizations, missed many days of school, and was all around miserable. The day her specialist from the Children’s Hospital called to tell me they needed to change her medication to “a medication with a black box warning- it causes asthma related death in children under the age of 12” was the day we knew we had to do something drastic. Her physician knew A did well in the Southern climate and recommended moving if we were able to do so.
So we did. I resigned my position in a renowned private practice. Chris returned to traveling. We packed our belongings and readied for the move. And along the way, I realized there were things I would recommend to other families who were also moving across the country.
Here is what I would do again:
1.Label EVERYTHING: Even if you have a great, fabulous, fantastic packing method, I highly recommend labeling everything. Label boxes with what room they go in AND what is in them. For example, KITCHEN (Tupperware). A little bit of extra effort and organization in the beginning makes for a smoother transition and unpacking process in your new home.
2. Pack a hotel bag AND a 1st night in the new home bag: Chris drove ahead with the big UHAUL and one of our dogs. A few days later, I followed with the kids, 1 dog, 1 cat, and a turtle in my SUV. I knew that we would take our time and had booked a hotel for the first night ahead of time. This allowed me to pack a hotel bag with PJ’s, travel clothes, toiletries, and pet supplies. Having the hotel bag made our travels SO much easier since I wasn’t digging through suitcases for needed items. Pack a 1st night bag or box too. When we pulled up to our new home, we unloaded the car but did not unpack the bags! We had a 1st night bag that had fresh PJ’s, clothes, toilet paper, paper plates and plasticware and snacks. Driving 1,000+ hours with 3 kids and animals was entertaining, but exhausting. I was so thankful to have only one bag to deal with and let the rest wait until the next day.
3. Break up the drive: I wanted our trip to be the beginning of a new adventure. I didn’t want the kids to feel stuck in the car or miserable. We divided our drive over 2 ½ days; stopping outside of Washington, D.C. and Savannah to spend the night and of course food and rest stops along the way.
4. Encourage the kids to notice landmarks: Our route was jampacked full of cool sights to see. Since we had animals with us, we couldn’t really take time for tours; however, the kids enjoyed taking scenic routes and pointing out familiar and new sights along the way.
5. Make sure hotels are pet friendly if you have animals moving with you: GAMECHANGER folks! I was traveling with a menagerie and being the only adult was also the only driver. Yikes! Since sleeping on the side of the road or at a rest stop isn’t exactly legal or safe, being able to stay at the Red Roof Inn was a blessing. Red Roof Inn has pet friendly facilities and check in was a breeze. I just let them know I had pets and they gave me my room key and showed me to the nearest dog walk at the hotel. Both Red Roof Inn properties were clean, secure, and spacious. I really can’t say enough positive things about our stay at their properties during our transition! (No sponsor or affiliate relationship with Red Roof Inn, we were just super pleased!)
6. Allow the kids to explore your new hometown on their terms: Moving is full of uncertainty. Fortunately, our children were somewhat familiar with our adopted town since we often visited family. But visiting for vacation and living somewhere are completely different! Our first summer in Florida was particularly wet and rainy; Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, & Jose welcomed us to the Sunshine State. The kids spent rainy days Googling things to see and do, found new home bases for their activities (Horseback riding & All Star Competitive Cheer), and exploring our new town. We are fortunate to have our own pool and spent many days swimming from sunrise to well after sunset.
7. Take the summer off: I had a job lined up prior to the move with a start date after the kids started school. The day after to be exact. My philosophy was that this summer would be the freest summer of our lives. There was no extra stress of finding daycare or babysitters. I really enjoyed having special time with my children. We were able to have spontaneity; if we wanted to stay home and swim, we did. If we wanted to go down to the Gulf of Mexico, we did. Additionally, having this time off allowed me to become familiar with roads/highways and stores.
8. Research kids’ extracurricular activities: Our oldest daughter, “H”, has ridden horses for 7 years. She was adamant about finding a barn immediately upon arrival. The first barn was not the barn for her…that story requires a post of it’s own! A has done All Star Competitive Cheer for 6 years. Prior to our move, the coaches and staff from her gym were able to get us in contact with gyms near our new town. Our son, “C”, hadn’t started any structured sports when we moved.
9. Have kids school records ready and available for school enrollment: When we moved, I was told by our schools in Delaware to not worry, that the Florida schools would request their school records. Our pediatrician’s office provided vaccination records to have in hand at enrollment. What I did not anticipate was that the state of Florida required vaccines to be entered into a specific Florida database and would not accept the Delaware records. We had to schedule pediatrician visits to have vaccines entered into the database and physical paperwork signed by a Florida physician. We were on COBRA insurance at the time, so fortunately the visits were covered.
Here is what I would do differently:
1. Have vehicles serviced the month before the trip…not the week before the trip: I had a service appointment scheduled for my SUV for the week before our trip. I figured this would be perfect timing for an oil change, tire rotation, and A/C service. And I was wrong. My A/C had been on the fritz and the part to fix it was on nationwide backorder!!! We drove to Florida in June without air conditioning! We had open windows, cooling towels, water bottles, and lots of cool treats along the way. Surprisingly, we actually had a really fun and memorable drive. The joke was on us when we encountered a Florida rain storm 10 miles from our new home.
2. Pay for expedited shipping on new furniture: I ordered new beds for everyone. The kids’ mattresses were purchased at a local furniture store. We ordered a Lull mattress for Mama & Daddy’s room. I chose standard shipping; next time I would choose preferred or expedited shipping. The kids and I ended up sleeping on the floor or sofa for 2 weeks before the beds arrived. It was fun and added to the adventure we were having, but my back was thrilled to have a bed again!
3. Stick to a timeline for getting belongings out of storage units: We have been in our new home for almost a year. We still have 2 storage units full of our belongings in Delaware. These items were not immediate necessities and we still own our home in Delaware. There was not a huge rush in getting those belongings down South. Chris’ work takes him back to the area and I am hopeful he will clear out the storage units after his next trip. Having the rest of our belongings and décor will really allow us to settle in and make this house feel like home. Plus, I will really be thrilled to not have to pay monthly storage fees!
I hope these tips help prepare you for a cross country move. Take it a step at a time and don’t get overwhelmed. Every day is a new adventure.