For many people, the best time to move is whenever the weather is pleasant. Moving is always challenging, but moving in winter during a snow storm or sub-zero temperatures can make it downright miserable. Unfortunately, many people don’t get to pick the time of year that they need to move, and it doesn’t always align with sunny, warm, rain-free days.
Here’s how to minimize the struggle, and optimize moving during the winter months:
1. Make a Back Up Plan.
More than any other time, moving in the winter requires a clear roadmap. This plan must also be flexible for problematic weather, such as snowstorms or extreme cold. Movers have to be scheduled in advanced — there typically isn’t much leeway due to the logistics of coordinating workers and ensuring truck availability. Winter weather can be unpredictable, so you should set up a back up moving date just in case. Discuss bad weather options with your moving company. Most moving companies will not send their trucks out to a move if roads are impassable due to snow or ice.
2. Hire Movers, and Hire Early.
Winter weather also makes hiring a mover all the more important, since professionals can more quickly load your things, reducing the risk of damage. That said, take extra care to double wrap fragile items as there is a greater likelihood that even the best movers might drop something if the ground is slippery. When planning for your winter move, don’t wait until the last minute to hire movers, contractors, and other services. Especially around the holidays, schedules get tight, and some of these companies may take time off.
3. Prepare for the Unexpected.
To best prepare yourself for severe weather freezing out your moving day, make sure you have an emergency supply of clothing, toiletries, and anything else you may need while your things are in transit. Gather these items well in advance to avoid last minute trips to the store. Also make sure your vehicle is outfitted with an emergency kit, ice scrapers, and a bag of salt or kitty litter in case you get stuck in the snow. Having a good pair of snow boots on hand isn’t a bad idea either. If you are facing any kind of snow or ice, give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination and don’t follow too closely.
4. Double Check Your Route.
If you are traveling, make sure to add contingencies to your plans for a weather-related delay. Weather may be less of a concern in a short cross-town move, but traveling a considerable distance may take much longer than expected during a storm. Be sure to pay close attention to winter weather conditions and be aware of snow plow schedules on either end of your move.
Just as winter weather can throw a wrench into the best-laid moving plans, holiday traffic can be rough and unpredictable. Be careful with travel around the busiest times of the season. Pad your schedule with time, since traffic may be heavier, and you’ll feel less time crunch-induced stress. Avoid high traffic areas when possible.
5. Make Sure Your New Home is Move-In Ready.
Another consideration when planning your move is making sure that the heating systems, electric and other utilities are properly switched on at your new home. Coordinate the services at new home with the seller. If your new home has been vacant for some time awaiting your move, it is essential to protect pipes from freezing. Avoid the costly nightmare of burst pipes by insisting that your seller maintain service up until the moment you move into the house. If it isn’t possible to turn the heat on before you arrive, be sure to pack a space heater or two to make moving in a little bit more comfortable.
6. Plan Out Moving Day Logistics.
On the day of the move, make sure you are ready for whatever mother nature tosses your way. Since most of the packing work occurs indoors, the weather might minimally impact the pre-moving day work. You’ll likely still need some outdoor staging space, so take the time to determine how furniture and boxes will flow out of your old home and into your new residence.
7. Clear a Path.
Clear driveways, walkways, steps, decks and the street of all snow and ice. Safe conditions help ensure the fastest move. You don’t want movers spending time shoveling – many won’t do extra work, and you will end up spending more on moving services.
8. Protect Your Floors.
One often overlooked step is to cover and protect floors at your old and new residence. Movers (and your family members) may track in snow and mud. You don’t want to ruin your new floors, but you also do not want to leave your old home a mess for the next occupants.
9. Communicate With Buyers, Sellers, Movers and Landlords.
Speaking of other occupants, take the time to coordinate with other moving parties, such as the seller of your new home or the purchaser of your old one. In most cases your real estate agent would be able to coordinate communication between buyers and sellers. Be flexible and expect that they too are dealing with potential winter weather-related delays. Keep in touch with all other parties and be reasonable to requests for closing day extensions — you never know when you’ll need to ask them for a favor.
If you feel that you cannot be flexible for whatever reason, communicate with them and develop rapport, which can help avoid problems. Keep them in the loop about your plans and challenges, and it may prompt them to follow your organization and planning lead. Make sure to provide a phone number to anyone who might need it in case of an emergency or delays.
10. Provide Some Warm Beverages.
Whether you are hiring movers or enlisting the help of friends of family, it is not a bad idea to pick up some coffee, hot chocolate or apple cider to make the day more enjoyable for everyone involved. This small gesture will go a long way to motivate your crew to go the extra mile, or at the very least complain less.
11. Don’t Forget to Celebrate.
For many people, the stress of the holidays is enough to tax one’s mental state, and adding a move is unthinkable. But, sometimes you cannot avoid scheduling a move around the holidays. Prepare your family for a potentially rocky season, focusing on the new home as a warm light at the end of the tunnel.
If you have kids, try to focus attention away from chaos and towards family time. Packing and stress over buying or renting a new place can make home life less comfortable. Schedule together time with the family, and no matter the reason for the move, discuss the positive aspects of relocation for your family frequently. If you cannot be in the new home for a special day, such as Christmas morning or New Year’s Eve, plan an alternative family celebration once settled.
12. Ask For Discounts.
Winter moving is not all doom, gloom and stress. In fact, for some, it may be the ideal time to move. There might be financial benefits, since moving companies may be less busy and more open to negotiating prices. If you are renting, you may find that apartment complexes and private landlords may offer winter deals during these potentially slow months. You will have more bargaining power during the winter season during peak rental and moving seasons. This is also true if you need to rent a storage unit as part of your move.
13. Look on the Bright Side.
Beyond saving some money, winter can present an ideal opportunity for organization and starting the year off right. Packing and moving involve a great deal or purging and organization. You’ll have a leg up on all the people who list decluttering as a new year’s resolution or those waiting until spring for organization and cleaning.
Lastly, moving during the middle of a school year break may work well for your kids. While some people advocate for summer moves as they allow for a natural break and opportunity to have closure with old friends, there can be benefits to encouraging kids to go with the flow and deal with changes immediately. When some kids start at a new school in the fall, they can get lost in the shuffle of classmates reuniting after a long absence.