It took me 9 hours to relocate from LA to NYC. The biggest takeaways from my first cross-country move include packing, savings, and patience.

It took me 9 hours to relocate from LA to NYC. The biggest takeaways from my first cross-country move include packing, savings, and patience.
Split image of Pauline Villegas at LAX airport and the Empire State Building.
I filled three suitcases with my clothes and shipped all furniture straight to my new apartment in NYC.Pauline Villegas/Insider
  • At 22 years old, I moved for the first time from Los Angeles to New York.

  • The weather and my five-story walk-up were shocking, but the overall move went smoother than I anticipated.

  • Here are seven things I learned about moving across the country by plane.

In August, I moved from Los Angeles to NYC by plane. The entire process, from door to door, took about nine hours.

Pauline Villegas and her mother in the airplane flying to NYC.
My mom and I flew United from LAX and she stayed for a week to help me get settled in my new space.Pauline Villegas/Insider

I was born and raised in Southern California, and I grew up in a suburb 25 miles outside of downtown Los Angeles. After graduating from the University of Southern California in May, I decided to move to New York City with three friends. I've never lived outside California, and NYC has always been my dream.

I flew out of LAX and into Newark International Airport in New Jersey. My mom and I used a car service that cost $100, which is comparable to Uber and Lyft prices from Newark into the city.

The move was easier than expected, but I learned a lot, practiced patience, and now I know what to expect if another long-haul move is in my future.

1. When it comes to packing for a big move, procrastination is not your friend.

Three suitcases Pauline Villegas used for her cross country move.
I checked two bags and was able to fit most of my clothes and shoes in them.Pauline Villegas/Insider

As an avid procrastinator, I naturally waited until the last minute to pack up my childhood room. For the trip, I filled three suitcases with clothes and shoes. We both checked two bags at $35 per bag and a carry-on.

My suitcases were not quite organized to my liking, and if I planned ahead I would've properly cleaned out my closet prior to leaving.

My mom and I landed in Newark at peak rush hour, so the traffic into Manhattan was heavier than normal.

Pauline Villegas stands outside Newark International Airport after landing.
My mom and I chose Newark because tickets were less expensive than JFK or LaGuardia.Pauline Villegas/Insider

For transportation, my mom ordered a car service ahead of time to avoid the chaos of Uber and Lyft. The service cost about $100, and the driver picked us up right outside of baggage claim. The traffic after our flight was bumper to bumper, so what should've been a 30-minute trip turned into an hour.

I was the last of my three roommates to fly into the city, but we all moved into our Little Italy apartment within the same week.

The humid weather and intense walk-up were some initial challenges off the bat, especially after the nine-hour journey.

Split photo of Pauline Villegas' apartment stairs and the suitcases she had to carry up.
It took multiple trips to get all my things to my apartment, but after a couple of days, we got used to the climb.Pauline Villegas/Insider

Though we were exhausted after the flight, my mom and I still had to lug our suitcases up five flights of stairs to get to my apartment. Since our building has no elevator, the trek took some getting used to.

The weather was also not on our side during moving week, as it was hot and humid each day. Luckily, the precious tenets before us left some of their A/C units so we could cool down the apartment.

2. Costs will sneak up on you, so budget wisely but include some wiggle room.

Split image of the Splitwise app and the A/C unit Pauline Villegas rush ordered.
Splitwise allows you to keep track of shared costs with a group of people.Splitwise; Pauline Villegas/Insider

Throughout the moving process, costs would creep up seemingly out of nowhere. From splitting laundry detergent to rush ordering an A/C unit for a heat wave in late August, there are a million little things you won't know you need until you arrive at your new location.

In terms of budgeting, it's best to create an idea of how much money to spend and be willing to be flexible depending on how the move goes. I definitely recommend downloading the Splitwise app to split costs evenly, if you have multiple roommates.

3. You're going to create a lot of trash, but try not to let it pile up.

The trash from Pauline Villegas' online orders in her apartment.
Every day we'd fill our hallway with all of our trash to take down.Pauline Villegas/Insider

New York apartments aren't built for copious amounts of trash, but that is exactly what moving creates. Be cognizant of taking the trash out regularly, because it can collect without notice and soon the whole apartment will be covered in cardboard.

For peace of mind and to declutter, my roommates and I made regular trash runs every time we left the apartment.

4. Be patient with orders, delivery dates, and yourself.

Pauline Villegas' suitcases and mattress lying on the floor in her bare bedroom.
My mattress showed up before my Ikea bed frame, so I made due.Pauline Villegas/Insider

Though online stores like Ikea, Amazon Prime, and Walmart promise quick delivery, you should remain patient because shipment dates might change.

I was in a rush to get everything on time, but as long as there's a bed, everything else will fall into place. For me, it was nice to have staggered shipment dates so that I could finish one thing at a time and watch my room come together.

5. Plan on staggering your shipments so that they arrive before you or a few days after.

Pauline Villegas' empty closet in her NYC apartment.
For now, my closet is mostly empty, since I shipped my bulkier items before the move.Pauline Villegas

It was nice to have staggered shipment dates so that I could finish one thing at a time and watch my room come together.

I shipped five boxes from Los Angeles to NYC, filled with mugs, books, coats, and sweaters that wouldn't fit inside my suitcase. Since I wasn't in a rush to get these items, shipping them later worked out.

 

6. Taking advantage of helpful tools like Task Rabbit and purchasing protection warranties can make your move smooth.

A wooden Ikea desk that Pauline Villegas built for her room.
Some things I built myself, but bigger items required the help of a task rabbit.Pauline Villegas/Insider

In New York, it's almost impossible to move without asking for help. I would definitely recommend asking family, friends, or hiring movers to help.

At Best Buy, my roommates and I bought a $200 yearly warranty that guaranteed Geek Squad would mount and set up our new TV. I also hired a Task Rabbit to carry my Ikea bed up five flights of stairs and build it for me for a total cost of about $150.

Other smaller builds I was able to put together myself or with the help of my roommates.

7. On the first night in my apartment, I slept on an air mattress instead of a bed. Be sure to think of sleeping arrangements ahead of time.

Pauline Villegas' finished bed
My bed didn't come together until days after I flew in, so I slept on an air mattress instead.Pauline Villegas/Insider

Ahead of our arrival, I ordered an air mattress since my bed and mattress hadn't been delivered yet. The $60 air mattress from Amazon really came in handy when we arrived at an empty apartment.

My mattress was at my apartment when I flew in and my Ikea bed frame arrived three days after.  The rest of my furniture, a desk, and mirror, was also from Ikea. Those items showed up a week after. After my bed was complete, I was able to take my time with the rest of the furniture and decorations to pick out what I really love.

Overall, the experience was an exciting introduction to my new life in New York City.

Pauline Villegas stands in front of the NYC skyline.
After the move, I felt extra thankful for the support of my roommates and my mom.Pauline Villegas/Insider

Though there were some bumps, the transition to the east coast has been smooth, so far. Thanks to services like Geek Squad and TaskRabbit, and help from friends and family, my apartment felt like home in the blink of an eye.

As I acclimate to city life and settle down after the move, the next hurdle to overcome for this Californian is the winter weather.

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