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Moving Across Country In My Car

I will soon be moving from VA to OR. All of my belongings will fit in my car, so it will be just me and my geriatric chihuahua. The longest trip I have ever taken alone was 9 hours away. I'm looking for tips to save money, be safe, and also things I should pack that I might not have thought of. It's gonna take me about 5 days (I hope) to get there.


Margaret from VA

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October 2, 20060 found this helpful

Safety, number one, never park in a dark area. Fill up at stations that are busy. Truckstops are some of the safest places, believe it or not. Stay on all main roads and only stop at motels that are well lit and nice, or make reservations ahead of time thru one of the websites. Request lighted areas.

Put as much of your belongings in the trunk of your car as possible, do not leave anything valuable visable, maybe put clothes and covers in the backseat to hide anything that might be of value.

At the motel, back your car into the space, as close to your door as possible. Do not stop for anyone on the road, unless it is an accident and you are the first to the scene.


If you have or can get a cb radio, you can listen to and communicate with the truckers. Most of them are very helpful and friendly. Road side parks are ok to stop at, in the day time, if there are a lot of vehicles there, I would not stop after dark, or if the area is empty.

Obey the speed limit and try to stay in the left lane unless passing someone, use all of your typical driving skills, blinkers and such. If your car is not equiped with daytime lights, turn them on.

If you get tired, pull over at a well lit area, by a store and walk the dog and rest a bit. Don't push yourself, if time allows, visit a historical site.

Packing, dog food, dog poo bags, bottled water and a small bowl. An ice chest for snacks and water, duct tape, paper towels, flashlight & extra batteries, notepad & pen, map, blanket, first aid kit, water and any medication that you may need to take or at least some tylenol. All of these things should be in the front for easy access.


A gallon jug of water for the car if it were to overheat, have the oil changed at a reputable place before heading out and check it several times along the way. As well as having all fluids checked, including the windshield washer fluid. Keep your windshield clean and clear. Make sure tires are inflated properly (saves gas). Keep a bottle of oil in the car, a blanket, a small first aid kit, map already charted out (I find it helpful to write it down step by step before taking off). Your car really needs to be serviced completely, everything checked, tires, belts, hoses, water, oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, everything.

Please drive safe and watch out for those that do not and when you reach your destination, let us all know.
Happy traveling,

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By jean (Guest Post)
October 2, 20060 found this helpful

Stay in the right lane except when passing. Do not let your gas get below quarter tank.


Take your dog's bed if he has one. If he normally wears a collar, consider a harness because he could slip out of the collar.
Once you know your destination, get a good map, and plan out your route, allowing for how many miles you feel you can drive in a day. Pick towns/cities about that far apart. Say every 350 miles or so. Then do Mapquest for each leg of the drive. I recommend from experience that 300 - 350 miles is about 8 hours driving. (my last round trip was NY to MO, about 2800 miles)
If you are not a member of a roadside assistance club, consider joining one. AAA has really helped me out a few times.
If staying in a multistoried hotel, ask for a room on the 2nd through 10th floor. If there is a emergency, the 10th floor is as high as rescue ladders and equipment can reach.
Wherever you stay, make sure that you know the nearest way out in case of emergency. Always use the deadbolt lock.

If possible, choose hotels with restaurants, so you will not have to go out alone.
If you do not have a cell phone, get one for the trip. Those tracphones sold at Walmart are about $20. If you already have one, make sure it is on "roam" so it will work outside your area. Then make sure it is off "roam" whn you reach your destination.
Best wishes for the trip and your life in your new home.

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By theroadrunnerla (Guest Post)
October 3, 20061 found this helpful

I agree 100% with "trbrownn22" in her hints and tips for traveling alone. My husband and myself, and sometimes me alone have traveled the roads for many years. One suggestion is to wear a baseball cap (or other manly hat/cap) with your hair tucked under the cap. Most folks only get a view from behind through the back window, or do a quick glance from the side, and the cap/hat gives the impression of a man behind the wheel.


Walmarts (K-marts, etc) make for good one stops, also. They have bathrooms, eateries, and plenty of room to walk and stretch your legs. You can pick up anything needed such as gas, oil for your car (saves a lot of money compared to buying from independent stations) snacks for yourself during your ride and dog treats.

Buy a loaf of bread and chicken salad or luncheon meats, chips or fruit and you have meals for the rest of the day, possibly two days. Gas is available at most Walmart Supercenters too. Never go to any restroom without a handful of toilet paper or napkins, and do your absolute best to avoid highway rest area bathrooms.

Keep water and sodas in a small ice chest on the frontseat (within reach while driving) for yourself, and cool water for your dog. Any veterinary office should be happy to have you stop to walk your dog, giving you much needed stretching for yourself. Small town city parks are usually a very good place to stop for making those sandwiches, walking the dog, and just resting, just be sure to drive around the park first and check out the immediate area for safety.

Carry a bottle of aspirin/ibuprofen/pain relievers within reach. A Ziploc bag with a damp washcloth, which is kept in your little frontseat icechest, is very cool and refreshing to wash your face and hands. With a spray bottle of Febreeze or wrinkle releaser, you can get by wearing the same outfit for a couple of days. Loose elastic waist pants/shorts are most comfortable for riding. If wearing summer clothes, always have a long sleeve shirt handy for when you may reach chilly areas.

Stick an umbrella under the front seat. Bring one plastic drinking glass, a plastic plate, roll of paper towels to wipe off/clean items, a manual can opener, metal fork and spoon, and keep them in the car. Always grab a few extra napkins at eateries to store in your car for stains/cleaning/accidents.

Instead of buying drinks at drive thrus, buy a two liter bottle and a bag of ice for the ice chest. Saves a lot of money. Boiled eggs done before you leave home make for a good snack on the road for the first couple of days. If you get tired during the day and you just can't drive any further, stop at a police station, explain your situation (traveling alone) and ask if you can rest in your car with the doors locked and windows cracked for about an hour in their parking lot. They'll keep an eye on you. It's a good place to stop for walking, too.

Invest in jumper cables for that car battery that may go dead. You'll usually find a "hero" but they often don't have jumper cables with them. Men can be our saving heroes, but please don't be too friendly with most that you may encounter, you don't want to encourage anyone while you are alone! No need to smile too much, a thank you and a nod will usually be enough.

Stop for the night an hour or two BEFORE dark. Have your car filled up before you stop for the night, and definately back your car into your hotel/motel parking place. It wouldn't hurt to prepare your hotel bag for the coming night while you are in the parking lot of that Walmart during the day, putting change of clothes and toilet items you'll need once in the hotel room. You don't want to make but one trip from your car to your room, puppy, puppys food and all.

This may be the one "splurge" expense since you will be alone, stay at one of the better hotels, ask for a bottom floor, close to the front desk. Don't be afraid to ask the hotel for an escort to your room. If you don't have a cell phone, you may want to invest in a Tracphone, just for this trip. A one month phone card for the Tracphone should get you all the way across the country since you'll only be on the road about a week, if you use it only when needed.

Let several family members and friends know the route you will be taking, your estimated time of arrival to your new destination, as well as your car make, year, color and license plate number. A copy of your drivers license for yourself and to leave in Va. with a family member might be a good idea too.

Make an extra set of ignitian, door and trunk keys, and keep them on a chain around your neck during this entire trip! It's so easy to lock yourself out of your car! They can go in your wallet once you arrive in Oregon.

Gas is usually cheaper away from the interstates. If you feel comfortable doing so, drive about a mile from the interstate exit and see if it's not cheaper, or take the business exit and follow it through town.

Never, never leave your purse in the car, this would be a good time to consider a waist pouch that is not taken off until bedtime.

Take a picture of your dog, and carry it with you should something happen and you get separated. Have a name and phone number of a responsible person, and the brand of his dogfood on a special card in your purse/waistpouch, should something happen to you. Be sure and have the dogs health records with you too. (Rabies tags, health certificate if you have a regular vet). A gallon Ziploc bag will hold all the previous listed dog items just fine.

There is a website that lists all hotels/motels that allow pets, but I can't remember the web address. Perhaps another reader could supply that, or just enter "hotels that allow pets" in a web search. Traveling, almost non-stop, is going to be harder on your dog than on yourself, so stop frequently, and take his "special" blanket or toys if he has one or two. You can get cardboard pet carriers that are folded flat, and if you have the money, it may be a good idea to have one if you don't have a "hard sided" one to bring along. You never know when you may need one.

If you don't already know how to do it, LEARN HOW TO CHANGE YOUR OWN TIRE (don't mean to shout, ha)! Should you need to change a flat tire, on the side of the highway is not the place to linger, trying to get everything back in the trunk neatly. Get the tire changed, throw everything anywhere in the car, get behind the wheel and drive away. You can stop later at a safe place to rearrange everything.

Bring a little notebook and pen, write down the price of gas per gallon and your total gas purchase, and what town you bought it in. And at the end of each day, write down any adventures you have had, where you stayed the night and how much you paid for the room, anything special you saw, etc. You'll enjoy going back over your trip in years to come. I may have repeated what "trbrown22" has told you, but take all of our advise to heart. You should make it across the country in fine shape, and yep, "trbrown22", I hope she lets us know when she gets there!

Have fun Margaret, I envy you taking this wonderful adventure! P.S. Throw your own pillow in the backseat!

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October 4, 20060 found this helpful

One last thought to add with my previous post on your trip across country. Putting as much as possible in your trunk, out of roving eyes is a great idea. Just make sure your spare tire is not under all your stuff in the trunk! It's so frustrating, dangerous and time consuming to have to unload the trunk of your car to get to the spare tire. If you have a sedan with the tire under the cover in the trunk floor, you may want to consider carrying the tire and jack, jack handle, etc. between the front seat and back seat on the floor. Since you'll be alone, even an SUV or pickup with the tire underneath the car can be a battle to get out. Get someone to show you, with you actually doing the work from start to finish, how to use the jack to elevate your car. Make sure you can undo the lug nuts by yourself, which you do before jacking the car up. A "four way" lug wrench is the easiest to use, you'll have better leverage for undoing the lug nuts. Much better than the single long arm kind that usually come with vehicles. Ask a guy if you aren't sure what a four way lug wrench is. And carry a can of Fix-A-Flat. Go as soon as possible to have your tire repaired or replaced. Just make sure that if you have to use Fix-A-Flat on a flat tire (in the case of a nail in your tire), that you tell the tire repair man that you have used it in your tire. And if the need ever arises that you are caught on the side of the road with a flat and are really scared or in a dangerous place, or it's after dark, just ride on that flat tire toward the side of the road, somewhat slowly and carefully, but keep going with your emergency flashers on until you get to a safe area with people and bright lights. Don't stop for anyone flagging you down, just wave to acknowledge them and keep driving with your doors locked. Getting a new rim and tire is nothing compared to your need for safety, you can get a tire and rim, but not a new life! And if a police officer sees you, he'll usually follow you with his lights flashing until you are safely off the road at a business. Now I've got my husband helping you go across the country now! haha...Our best to you~

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October 5, 20060 found this helpful

You've been given many great tips. I can only think of two more. Borrow a cell phone from a friend if you don't have one - you can always mail it back. It will be very valuable if you're driving along and have an issue or just have a situation where you'd be safer making a call. My other recommendation is to pack a tin coffee can w/ some candles and matches in it. It by chance you do get stranded in the evening in a cooler climate, a tin can w/ a candle in it can actually heat the entire inside of a vehicle without the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning that comes with leaving your car running. Good luck on your journey. Don't forget to take your guardian angel.

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October 6, 20060 found this helpful

All of the tips you've gotten are great. I'd just add, be VERY, very careful not to leave any personal, valuable papers, etc. in your car at night--take them into the hotel room with you. My aunt moved from WI to AZ a few years back, and had someone break into her car and steal her birth certificate, social security card, etc. (along with other items) while she was in the hotel for the night. What a mess for her to have to deal with all of that while she was in the process of moving far away! So try to protect yourself that way too. Have a safe journey and good luck!

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By Kersti. (Guest Post)
October 6, 20060 found this helpful

People have given you such good ideas, but I thought that you might want to pack any pillows, large cloth items, clothes, comforters, etc. in either the space storage bags, the kind that you use the vacume to get the air out, it flattens down a lot so you have extra room.They range in prices, and I have also heard that you can use a plain old large garbage bag, just isolate a section around the vacume cleaner hose.You can then use a rubber band to tie it closed.There are also space bags that you can just press the air out.Hope your trip is enjoyable.Let us know how you do.

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October 6, 20060 found this helpful

be careful. i moved from florida to maryland 5 years ago with my old dog and me. the car was a blinking sign that said i was moving. they obviously saw i was alone. i only had to spend 1 night out there. i ate at a reputable restarent. and brought a carryout bag back for breakfast. only fill up at very well lite gas stations. i bought a cb radio plus my cell phone both at the ready.
make sure people on both end of your trip have your itinerary. check in every night so they will know you are ok. one end could notify the other end each day.
if for some reason a police man wants to pull you over do NOT just assume he is who you hope he is. go to a busy and well lit area. then you and he will be safe.
praying for a safe trip for you. sandy

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By Nellie (Guest Post)
October 11, 20060 found this helpful

One thing I always try to do is in the weeks leading up to the departure, I purchase some gift cards for restaurants along the way. Not any huge dollar amounts but enough to buy a meal or two. I do this in case I get robbed, lose my purse, etc. I keep them in my vehicle, one or two in my purse and so on. I've had a time where I had a car repair purchase and I had to pay cash (had no credit cards) this always makes sure I can eat on the road. I also make a master list of all items to go and things that have to be done and keep it on hand so I don't forget anything.

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By (Guest Post)
March 1, 20070 found this helpful

First, take your car in for a tune up and oil change. Make sure tires are in good shape with proper air pressure. Is your spare in good condition? Buy a good cross country map. Map out your route before you go, decide how much driving you'll want to do before stopping and then make hotel reservations to stay over night along the way. Give a copy of your itinerary to a close friend or relative and notify them when things change. Take a cell phone and a calling card just in case. Stop at grocery stores along the way for food so the restaurant/fast food bills don't add up. Be prepared for changes in weather with warm/cold weather clothing. Pack a car safety kit with a flashlight, (batteries) fix-a-flat, first aid supplies and bottled water. Don't forget water/food for your pet. Fill up the tank before it gets dark and do not sleep at rest stops. Make sure you call your home contact daily with travel updates and your location. Take some travelers checks b/c if stolen, they can be easily replaced. If possible, it's always safer to travel with someone. Anyway, stay safe and enjoy the ride. Oh, don't pick up hitch hikers. If you don't know that, please fly! E

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By Bob (Guest Post)
May 16, 20070 found this helpful

Wow, there are some real worrywarts here.

Tune up the car, check airpressure, spare tire, and pack some extra Oil, Coolant, Water, and small toolkit, flashlight, jumper cables.

Buy a Road atlas at Walmart, because it shows every walmart within 2 miles of the highway and you can stop for nap breaks in the parking lot, food, or restroom.
I stopped at many rest areas across the country and found them to be very nice these days.

Pack some snacks and water, so you don't have to stop as often.

And one item that's really handy: Wet wipes, to keep you feeling clean and refreshed for the next leg of your journey.

I'd say the first day is the hardest, mentally, until you settle into a rhythm.

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May 16, 20070 found this helpful

I have gone from Seattle to Boston by myself (and my cat) and then back to Oregon with my husband, both driving separate vehicles. I've also made many road trips around the West Coast.

There are lots of good tips posted already. I wouldn't worry too much about the safety. I was a 29 year old female alone and no one ever bothered me. Just be prudent, stop in well lit areas and have a cell phone for emergencies and you will be fine. If your insurance has roadside assistance or you have AAA, that would be a safety net. My husband locked the keys in the moving van (still running) in Montana and that would have been more of a hassle without roadside assistance.

One thing that you may not have considered bringing is lots of spare change for the toll roads. I don't know what route you are taking but I was surprised at how many times I had to pony up a handful of change. If you can have a cooler of snacks and a comfy place for your dog, you will get into a groove. I wouldn't go more than 300 miles without a serious leg stretch.

Be sure not to drive too late at night or when you get sleepy and don't stay in your car. I found that Motel 6, although not glamorous, was cheap and clean across the US. Book ahead if you are traveling on the weekends but that will lock you into a time frame and you might be surprised at how much driving you do. I did Seattle to Boston and Boston to Portland, OR in about 72 hours. It was exhausting but I just wanted to get there.


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By Abi (Guest Post)
August 1, 20070 found this helpful

i'm doing the same thing as you but opposite. i'm moving from california to Virginia Beach. My boyfriend and i will be driving across country in February with a uhaul truck. i've never lived on my own, let alone with a boyfriend, so i'm very nervous. he's 4 years older then i am and has done this before, but is very sympathetic of me. i wish you luck! and let me know how long it takes so i can have a good idea of how long it will take us lol

- Abi

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April 6, 20080 found this helpful

Another couple of suggestions:

Remember to eat extra fiber - hard to get in fast food meals on the road.

Pay cash rather than by credit card anywhere your card is out of your sight (like a restaurant where you pay the server). You don't want to find out in OR that your credit has been compromised by thieves enroute.

If paying by credit card, don't sign your mailing address on a guest book. Again, learned from experience...

Have a happy and safe trip!

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By (Guest Post)
January 11, 20090 found this helpful

Thats awesome. I am about to move from RVA to Portland, Or. but instead of a dog, I'll be taking two rabbits.

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