The Ultimate Moving Checklist for Families

This article is the last part in a series about moving:
Part 1 |
14 Tips for Finding the Best Neighborhood
Part 2 |
How to Find a Quality House to Rent
Part 3 |
Find a Low-Cost Mover without Getting Scammed
Part 4 | How to Plan, Purge, and Pack for Your Next Move

Who can remember everything that needs to be done to relocate your entire life? Based on the experience of moving ten times in the past 20 years, here are my best tips for keeping it together amidst the chaos.

Set Up Childcare, Schools, Summer Camps, Swim Lessons

Since there are deadlines associated with schools and camps, you’ll want to figure out childcare as soon as you know where you are going.

If you don’t know the area, the best way to start gathering information is by asking locals, like real estate agents, friends of friends, or online parent or neighborhood groups.

While public schools usually have to take you as long as you live within the boundaries, you can start organizing registration paperwork, such as proof of residence and health forms. You might also need to arrange for your child’s current school records to be transferred to the new school district.

Cancel Local Memberships and Services

Do you belong to a gym? Do you get your lawn mowed? Informing businesses of your move date is especially important if you are using automatic bank payments. Call two months ahead of time to make sure payments are stopped before your move.

Open a New Bank Account

With so many bills being paid online these days, getting all your financial transactions transferred to a new location can be quite a task.  Doing this ahead of time can prevent things from slipping through the cracks.

Plus, if you are signing up for direct paycheck deposit at your new job, you’ll need a check from your new account to get it set up.

  1. Find a new bank. Since I don’t feel like going through the trouble of switching banks again, I decided to go with an online bank:  USAA Federal Savings.  (If a family member has served in the armed forces, this banking and insurance company gives excellent rates and customer service.)
  2. Open an account with a minimum starting balance to get the ball rolling and your checks ordered.
  3. Transfer extra cash into the new account until new job paychecks are deposited.
  4. Go through past bank statements to remind you who is getting automatically paid from the old account.
  5. Once you have a chunk of change in the new account, start moving your auto withdrawals to the new bank account by informing each creditor of your new bank information.  Usually this can be done online.

Find New Doctors and Have Records Transferred

To find a new pediatrician or OB-GYN, use your mom networks and local contacts together with health insurance rosters.

About a month before moving, have your records sent to the new providers.  Usually this requires filling out and signing a simple release form or, if you have to do it long-distance, sending a letter to the previous doctor.

If anyone in the family is taking medicine, you might want to take a moment to refill any prescriptions now until you get your bearings in the new place.

Change your Address with the Postal Service

The Official Change of Address form is now online.

Order New Address Labels

Get these ahead of time to tell friends and businesses of your new address.  For the cheapest return label that will do the job, try a sheet of these address labels at 100 for $1.

Notify Businesses of Your New Address

This used to be one of the most tedious tasks, but now most companies have a way for you to change your address online.  However, it can be hard to remember all the various entities you deal with.  Here is a list to help jog your memory:

  • Newspapers, magazines
  • Banks, investment firms, credit cards
  • Old job, old school
  • Frequent flyer programs
  • Insurance (life, health, car, property)
  • Doctor’s offices (especially if bills might be pending)
  • Charities you support
  • IRS (print out a form online)

If you have a list of all your computer login names and passwords, this would be a good way to remember all the companies you deal with.

Set Up Newspaper Delivery and Cable (or Not)

Since we are practically a TV-free household, we don’t sign up for cable when we move to a new place, but I do make sure a paper is delivered the first morning we move in.

For basic TV needs, we can usually get some kind of reception without paying for cable, and that works out just fine for us. (And this year, with no reception for our only TV in the basement, we went entirely without TV. The kids occasionally watch DVDs, but I’m loving that we find other ways to entertain ourselves.)

Register to Vote and Establish Residency

Sometimes to enroll in a school or to take advantage of other public services, you need a few documents to prove you really live there.

A voter registration card is usually among the accepted forms of proof of residency.  Check with your state’s Board of Elections for procedures by searching online for your state and the words “voter registration.”

Deal with the Department of Motor Vehicles

I know it’s painful, but if you can get anything done ahead of time, it’s gotta beat standing in line.

Find out what you need to do to register your car in the new state, county or city.  Some DMVs even offer a new resident ready pack.

Set Up New Utilities (and Cancel Old)

Once you know your moving dates, tell your old utility companies when you’ll be leaving and start setting up service in your new place.  If you can and want to stay with the same company, some national companies (like Verizon) can make the transfer pretty seamless.

Think about:

  • Electricity
  • Gas
  • Phone (land and cell)
  • Cable
  • Internet (See my article at Parentables about telecom bundling)
  • Water

Reconfirm Movers and Prepare Contact Info and Payment

When you reconfirm your move date, make sure the movers have ALL your details: old and new addresses and more than one contact phone number.

If a cashier’s check or money order is required for payment, get that ready, plus cash for tips.  (Ten percent of the total fee is considered standard.)  Make sure your checkbook is among the items that don’t get packed.

Pick up some Gatorade for moving day:  we were amazed at how much the movers will happily guzzle down!

Arrange for a Move-Out and Move-In Clean

Here is another instance of a luxury you might want to make room to afford.

Seriously consider hiring a cleaning service to clean your old house when you leave and your new house before you get there.  Even if you are not doing any heavy lifting, moving is incredibly draining. Remember it’s up there in the top 10 most stressful events in life!

Even if you are a clean freak, you’d be shocked at how much guck and dust accumulates under and behind things in your own house.

Ditto for the other end.  If time and energy are tight, consider paying for a move-in clean.

Arrange Travel and Accommodations

Where to stay the night when everything you own is locked in a truck?  If you don’t have a comfortable friend’s house to stay in, think about splurging on a motel. Since our next move is also long-distance, we’ve had to stay in hotels while house-hunting, and I recommend as a way to find and book hotels.

We thought we’d camp out in sleeping bags in our house the night after the movers left, but that was before we saw what our house would look like.  To quote my husband:  “Empty, dirty, and full of flies.”

What would you include on your family’s moving checklist?

This article is the last part in a series about moving:
Part 1 |
14 Tips for Finding the Best Neighborhood
Part 2 |
How to Find a Quality House to Rent
Part 3 |
Find a Low-Cost Mover without Getting Scammed
Part 4 | How to Plan, Purge, and Pack for Your Next Move

Photo credits: keys, motel, newspaper.

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  • Jason with Van December 30, 2015, 9:25 am

    I think you should also (if applicable) order a mail forwarding service or figure out a way to get your mail delivered to your new address. Cause there’s always this gap when changing places of residence and you might loose some important mail delivered to your old address. Otherwise a great checklist!

  • Nadine Buchanan October 7, 2015, 9:30 am

    Canceling Local Memberships is essential. Last year when I moved to my new house I forget to cancel some of my memberships. It was really hard task later to cancel them. Be careful. Best regards!

  • Nancy June 1, 2015, 10:52 am

    This a really helpful article! Checklists are really great when moving house and they are especially helpful when moving with the whole family! Thanks!

  • Robert@Packingboxes May 28, 2015, 5:59 am

    Label boxes with their destination room and the items in it to make unpacking and locating items easier.

  • Christian Reese August 27, 2014, 4:02 am

    Really awesome post. I’d definitely add “box of essentials” to the check-list. This box should contain items such as toiletries, canned food, eating utensils, kids toys and other valuable items you will need during the first night at your new home. You might not be able to unpack all your boxes right away, so the box of essentials will definitely come in handy.

    I didn’t come up with this idea. I found it on this helpful blog post full of packing tips for when moving house

  • Moving your mobile home February 24, 2012, 1:11 pm

    We all experienced the experience of moving house and now we understand how hard it could be. For this reason if it is moment once more to go, leaving behind anything towards the very last minute …Home Moving

  • Netta August 12, 2010, 8:10 pm

    This is a wonderful guide.
    I’ve moved 17 times since graduating from high school… but each time I take a few minutes to sit down & start thinking about what in the world I should do first (before hunting down boxes)!
    Your site is great!

  • End of tenancy cleaning chelsea August 6, 2010, 8:50 am

    Very detailed checklist. I am sure will come in use sooner or later. Thanks

  • Outsourcing Guide May 30, 2010, 8:57 am

    Wow very interesting post. This is a perfect guide and I will keep this moving checklist handy. Thank you for sharing this one.

  • kirwin @ Graceful Creative May 28, 2010, 3:52 pm

    Jenny from LobotoME sent me the link to this post, because I’m in the middle of moving-stress. I am so thankful to her, because what a treasure this post is!! I’ve already gleaned so many good ideas from you:
    (1) I just finished organizing all my papers and post-its into ONE “Moving” folder.
    (2) I was just talking to the husband and he mentioned writing the list of contents on each box. I told him that we were going to number the boxes and have one master list. He was so impressed with MY idea that I almost didn’t credit the source!! LOL. But, I came clean and told him I’ve bookmarked this amazing post with all sorts of ideas.

    Thank you so much.

    • Amy May 28, 2010, 9:40 pm

      Nicole – Hey, thanks for helping spread this around!
      Jen – I remember you are moving. So glad it came just in time!
      Kirwin – Wonderful that there were tips in here that made a difference in your moving process. Let me know how it all turns out, and what you would have done differently. Thanks so much for writing in!


  • Jen May 28, 2010, 1:33 pm

    Ditto! What a fantastic post, Amy! Our family is packing things up this week, so this is quite timely for us. Thank you!

  • Nicole Feliciano May 28, 2010, 1:08 pm


    What a great comprehensive article. I just re-tweeted. Hope to see you at another event soon.

  • Brooke May 28, 2010, 1:10 am

    This is a very helpful list. Thank you.

    • Amy May 28, 2010, 11:43 am

      So glad you found it useful, Brooke! Come back and let me know how your move went. Sincerely,