15 Tips for Cross-Country Relocation with a Toddler

Cross-Country Relocation with a Toddler

Many of us have had to move at least a few times in our lifetime. While the prospect of starting fresh in a new place might sound fun and exciting, packing and moving is rarely fun for anyone, especially children. 

When faced with the prospect of moving cross-country with a toddler, you may find yourself stressed and overwhelmed before even starting.

Whether you’re moving due to your job, military reassignment, or changing family dynamics or obligations, a little planning can go a long way when moving with little ones.

Let’s explore some helpful tips for cross-country relocation with a toddler that will help you before, during, and after your move for a smoother experience.

Sanity-Saving Tips for Cross-Country Relocation with a Toddler

Before the Move

1. Prepare Your Toddler Emotionally for the Move

Moving is undoubtedly stressful and chaotic, even when giving yourself plenty of time for it. 

While you may think your toddler may be too young to understand why you’re relocating, it is still important to have a conversation about what is going to happen and what to expect.

Keep the conversation simple and in terms they can understand. Explain that the life and things they love will still be there but in a new home and place.

Try to point out the positives, but allow them to express themselves, even if they cannot find the right words. 

Hug them and offer plenty of reassurance and love.

2. Count Down to Packing Day

To make it an exciting event the whole family can look forward to, make packing day on the calendar. This can signal the start of your new life together and turn it into an adventure instead of something to be dreaded.

Before you begin packing, you can even have a goodbye home ‘party’ thanking it for the memories and talking about the new experiences that await you. 

The idea is to put a positive, exciting spin on it.

3. Pack Early

Give yourself plenty of time to pack. Not just weeks, but months!

It is easy to underestimate how much time it takes and how many things accumulate over the years.

If you’re planning to purge out unwanted items as you pack, allow yourself even more time as that is time-consuming in itself.

Additionally, having small children to take care of in the middle of packing can delay things further. And don’t forget how much toddlers like to ‘help.’

4. Let Your Toddler Help Pack

While you may want to pack your toddler’s room last so they have a safe place to sleep and play while you take care of the move, you can allow them to help pack some of their least used toys or seasonal items not in use.

Doing so will make them warm up to the idea of moving and even enthusiastic if they feel they are part of the process. Be sure to give them simple, clear instructions to avoid issues.

Make it extra special for them by allowing your toddler to draw or put stickers on their boxes. Not only will this keep them busy, but it will make it easy to spot their boxes after the move.

5. Make an Essentials Box

There’s nothing more frustrating than getting to your new place and having to rummage through boxes upon boxes to find some of your essentials for that night.

Make it easier on yourself and make a box of first-day/night essentials for each member of your family. 

It can include pajamas, clean clothes for a day or two, toiletries, blankets, pillows, a book, a couple of toys or favorite plushy for your toddler, etc. You get the idea.

6. Pack a Road Bag

Along the same lines as the essentials box, pack a road bag, especially if you’ll be staying in hotels during your trip. 

This can include things you want to keep handy during your trip as well as pajamas, toiletries, an outfit or two, a blanket and neck pillow for kiddies to use in the car, and things and toys to keep them entertained during the trip. 

Don’t forget to pack a first aid kit as well. You never know when it might come in handy. Even if it’s for something as simple as a scrape. Antibacterial ointment and a Band-Aid can make a world of difference for an emotional toddler.

7. Plan Your Route

If driving, consider your toddler’s road endurance, naps, meals, and even diaper changes when planning your travel route. Identify safe places where you could stop along the way in case they are needed.

If you’re flying, plan for transport to and from the airport and keep your identification and other travel documentation handy. Have a travel suitcase or bag and some in-flight snacks for your toddler as well as some type of entertainment.

During the Move

8. Make Regular Stops

Toddlers get restless, no matter where they are. This is especially so when strapped to a car seat for hours. 

Allow for some stretching time by stopping for bathroom breaks or at a local park as you pass through a town. Making time to let your little ones get their wiggles out will do wonders for their mood and your overall trip experience.

9. Allow For Some Downtime

Try not to get to your hotel only to go straight to bed. Yes, you may want to get the most out of your driving day, but allowing a little bit of downtime to relax before going to bed will help all of you feel refreshed and less drained.

Your little ones will look forward to going to the pool, playing in the recreation room, or simply going for a walk before going to bed and doing it all the next day.

10. Try to Keep to Your Toddler’s Schedule

Being on the road with a toddler is not easy!

Children thrive in routines and stability and a road trip is anything but that. Still, try to keep to their usual meal, nap time, and bedtime schedules.

Just because you’re staying in a hotel is not an excuse to stay up watching cartoons past their bedtime. Otherwise, you may end up with a grouchy, restless toddler the next day.

11. Avoid Driving Solo

Relocating cross-country with a toddler is not easy, especially when driving solo. 

Driving on your own becomes especially difficult when you need to give your kiddo something, when they drop something, or when they become restless and begin to cry. If you have multiple little ones, you know how contagious crying can be. A backseat with crying children is not fun!

If your partner plans to drive the moving truck, this may be a good time to consider hiring one of the moving companies including A2B Moving and Storage to save both of your sanity.

If you’re on your own, maybe enlist the help of a friend or family member as a trip companion. You’ll be grateful for the extra set of hands and the conversation.

12. Have Plenty of Snacks on Hand

Pack plenty of snacks for your road trip. While tempting, everyone knows that gas station snacks are not the healthiest. 

Take some fruits and veggie sticks along with some of everyone’s snack favorites. Juice and water are also a must. Having snacks on hand will not only keep you from making unnecessary stops but will also save you some money.

After the Move

13. Unpack Kitchen and Toddler’s Room First

Other than your ‘essentials’ boxes, unpacking the kitchen and the toddler’s room is a must for obvious reasons.

Make the boxes easier to find by labeling them accordingly.

14. Allow Them to Explore Safely

Once you’re safely settled in, allow your toddler to explore. Hold their hand and show them around, including the outdoor spaces. If your little one is more of an independent spirit, let them take the time to look around on their own, while keeping an eye on them from a distance, of course.

Be sure to establish clear rules and boundaries from the start to keep them safe.

15. Make Your First Day at Your New Home Memorable

Moving into a new place can be hectic. 

When the dust of the move settles a bit, try to find a way to make your first day at your new place memorable by either ordering your favorite takeout food, going to a park, or going for a walk in your new neighborhood.

The Takeaway

While moving is never a seamless endeavor, you can make it less chaotic and stressful for everyone involved with some careful planning.

With these tips for cross-country relocation with a toddler, we hope you can save your sanity and find a way to enjoy the process with your little one. 

Gloria Ruby Ramirez

I am a freelance writer, mother, and lover of coffee, twinkle lights, and rain who believes in the magical power of words. I am a former agricultural microbiologist/plant pathologist with a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from Arizona State University. Born in the desert of northern Mexico, I currently reside in Chandler, Arizona.

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