If given the choice, it’s safe to say most people would rather move in the warm weather months. Moving day can be tough during the best of times, so a cold weather move can cause quite the headache.
Of course, sometimes life gets in the way and a cold weather move is unavoidable. When it comes to a cold weather move, Hannah Monday, a real-estate professional in Helena, Montana, says to “hope for the best, and prepare for the worst.” Putting in the work before you move can make all the difference when it comes to a successful cold weather move.
If you do need to move during the coldest months, check out our tips for making the experience as painless as possible.
Make Sure the Heat is on at Your New Home
If you are moving into a place that’s been vacant, check that utilities are turned on ahead of time. The last thing you want to face is frozen pipes on your first day.
Consider Renting Storage Ahead of Time
Moving can take time, and winter weather will just slow things down. If you can, consider renting a storage unit to hold your stuff so you can move your things into your new home at your leisure.
If you’re concerned about the weather, read up on our climate controlled storage options.
Start packing before you think you need to
Planning ahead is always important, but getting an early start is even more critical for a cold weather move. Start packing those boxes well ahead of schedule so you will be ready for the big day. Make a list of certain items to pack later that you’ll start using right away in your new place, like paper products, kitchen items, food, pet supplies, etc. As moving day gets closer, make sure each family member has a suitcase or “go bag” that contains any clothes, medications, toiletries, and other items needed to make everyone feel as comfortable as possible during and after the move.
If your winter move also takes place during the holidays, be sure to read our guide on holiday moving.
Keep an eye on the weather and stay flexible
Even the most rock-solid moving plans can be affected by ice and snow, so keep an eye on the sky and a finger on the calendar. Flexibility is the buzzword for cold weather moves, so think ahead but be ready to change your plans if necessary.
If you’re using a moving company, Sarah Christie of Boston-based Mastodon Moving notes that you may want to choose one that doesn’t charge a change fee for last-minute weather-related delays. Christie also recommends scheduling a morning move, as “daylight is scarce and puddles turn into ice in an instant. Morning/sunlight moves are critical to moving safely in the winter.”
Weatherproof your belongings.
When the weather gets cold, your belongings may need extra protection, so pack them well, take good care of them, and make sure they arrive at your new home intact. Opt for solid plastic containers over cardboard boxes that may crumble if exposed to heavy snow.
“Breakables are more fragile in colder temps, so double or triple pack fragile items like dishes, china, glass, and ornaments,” says Christie. “Glass becomes harder and more brittle under thermal stress so using old clothes or rags for your most sentimental items is suggested.”
Christie also notes that Mastodon “uses cardboard in-between each ‘wall of furniture’ to give all items some extra insulation.”
Need tips on storing winter clothing once temperatures thaw? Check out our blog.
Don’t forget about your car
If you’re planning a long-distance cold weather move, your vehicle may need extra attention as well. A pre-move tune-up and safety inspection will give you peace of mind and help you avoid a moving-day breakdown.
If you’re not familiar with driving in bad weather, Monday suggests doing your research so you know what to expect.
“When it comes to the driving, research and preparation can go such a long way,” she says. “You want to know how to identify black ice, or how to turn your steering wheel if you hit ice. If you watch videos and you know what to look for, you can set yourself up for success.”
Monday also notes that “you should always keep your gas tank at least half full. If you get a flat tire and you’re waiting for a tow truck to come, you want to be able to keep your heater going and keep yourself and your family warm.”
Allow for extra travel time
The journey from old home to new is likely to take extra time during a cold weather move so plan accordingly, leave early, and allow plenty of travel time. This advance planning can help you avoid a disruptive time crunch once your move is underway.
If bad weather is involved, “you’re likely not going to make it as far as the GPS says,” notes Monday. “If you’re going a long distance, think about making a hotel reservation along the way in case it’s snowing or it’s icy.”
Set your new home up for easy unpacking
Moving your belongings out of your old home is only half the battle; the other half is getting unpacked at your new place. Be sure the walkways are shoveled, apply ice melt to the sidewalks, and clear the driveway ahead of time for a trouble-free move-in and unpacking experience.
Monday recommends “having one of the last things that you pack in your moving truck being a snow shovel so that you’re ready to clear any walkways. Also, you can put some old towels down inside the door to help try to keep the snow and the ice out.”
Monday also reminds anyone moving to dress in layers, because even though it’s winter, you can work up a sweat. Christie says that their moving teams utilize “wool clothes that are warm but also wick away sweat. Steel-toed boots, hand and foot warmers that skiers and hikers use are great. We also keep a container of Vaseline handy for cracked hands and lips.”
Be sure to stay limber with our nimble moving stretches.
Say thanks to your moving crew
If your friends or family are helping you move, you will want to reward them with a hot meal, some refreshing drinks, and perhaps a glass of wine or two. If you are using professional movers, there’s nothing wrong with giving the crew a tip and the company a glowing Google review.
Moving day is tough in the best of times, and the challenges are even greater when the weather turns chilly and the snow and ice begin to fly. If you want moving day to be as stress-free as possible, a little advance planning can make a big difference. So make your to-do list, pack up those boxes, and get ready to make the big move you’ve been waiting for.