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How to Survive a Move During Christmas

How to make it through a move to a new state during the holidays.

By Jordan Teicher on December 10, 2021

Preparing for the winter holidays can be a massive headache for most Americans. Adding a move to a new state on top of that could be too much to bear for some families.

Samantha Dean moved during the holidays several years ago, but while she admits it wasn’t an ideal time to move, she says it wasn’t impossible. The family had been living in Kaneohe, HI, for about three-and-a-half years because her husband, a Marine, was stationed there. Then, around Thanksgiving, he learned that he would likely be transferred to Tennessee to be a recruiter. On December 12, they got official word of the new assignment, and the next day, movers came and packed up their things.

“Looking back now, I’m like, ‘It was no big deal.’ But I know that’s complete B.S. I remember freaking out,” Dean says.

Empty House, Full Hearts

After the movers came, the Deans still had nearly two weeks left in Hawaii. Dean’s oldest daughter was in the second grade at the time, and she wanted to ensure she could finish the semester, which ended on the 19th. After that, the earliest flight they could catch to Tennessee was the day after Christmas. That meant they’d spend the holiday in an empty house, without decorations or much to denote the holiday.

“The baby was in a Pack’ n Play, my daughter was on a friend’s borrowed air mattress, and we had the little Christmas tree that our neighbors loaned us,” she says. 

Still, the family tried as best as possible to celebrate the holiday. On Christmas morning, since they didn’t have any silverware, dishes or food in the house, they went to the Hale Koa, a hotel for the military in Honolulu, to eat. They walked around Waikiki afterward, knowing it was their last chance to say goodbye to the city before they got on a plane the following day.

“It was a little bit crazy, but honestly, my husband had been gone for about two months of recruiting school, and before that, he’d been gone for seven months to the Marine Corps Shooting Team. We were all just pretty excited he was home and wasn’t leaving any time soon,” Dean says.

The Happiest, and Slowest, Time of the Year

For moving companies, winter tends to be the slowest time of the year. Clients prefer not to sell their homes or look for new ones when cold and snowy weather are complications. Further, people tend to avoid such a big undertaking during the holiday season when they’re busy buying gifts and planning celebrations. There are additional complications for families with children in school.

“If you’re moving during the summertime, it’s an easier time to transition kids to a new school where they can start fresh at the beginning of the school year rather than having to leave in the middle of the school year,” said Melisa Sullivan, director of marketing communications at United Van Lines, the largest moving company in the U.S.

In 2014, Sullivan says, United made 128,000 interstate moves. Twelve percent of those moves happened in July, the year’s busiest month. The slowest month of 2014 was February, with approximately 6 percent of moves occurring then. The percentage of moves in December was at 7 percent, just slightly higher. Even though it’s a slower time of year, Sullivan says the company tends to book up more quickly, so customers should schedule their move as early as possible.

“Our drivers are on the road a lot of the year, and many will take off during Christmas if the business isn’t there, so if you know you’re going to be moving around the holidays, it’s always best to book a little earlier, so we can make sure all the arrangements are made to get your belongings where they need to go,” she says.

How Will Santa Find Us?

When the Deans landed in Tennessee on December 26, it was 5 degrees, a harsh contrast to sunny Hawaii. They had a proper Christmas celebration with her husband’s family that day and stayed at their home until after New Year’s Day. They then moved into a hotel while looking for a new home in Dickson, a small city of 16,000, where the rental options were slim. They looked at every available three-bedroom, two-bathroom house in the county – a total of five – and picked the one they liked the most. 

While it wasn’t the smoothest Christmas, Dean says having a husband in the Marines has made her used to improvising around the holidays. That’s a more complicated thing to explain to a child, however, but when Dean told her oldest daughter that they’d be having an unusual Christmas that year, she took it in stride.

“Once she knew Santa would find her, she was fine,” she says.

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