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Moving to a Colder City for the First Time? Here’s How to Prepare

Young couple owners on balcony in new flat, moving in, new home and relocation concept.
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The most stressful thing about some moves isn’t packing or driving the moving truck — it’s dealing with the unknown, like cold weather, when you get there. As someone who’s lived in cold climates my whole life, I can tell you that it gets better. 

With the right preparation and a little time to adjust, you’ll be enjoying the winter wonderland before you know it. (OK, maybe not enjoying, but at least tolerating.)

Winterize your new home

Moving to a colder climate means you’ll have to take some extra steps to protect your new home from freezing temperatures in the winter. Here’s where to start.

Prevent pipes from freezing

I had a pipe burst when I got my first apartment in Cleveland, and — you’ll have to trust me on this — you don’t want to deal with a burst pipe. 

Research conducted at the University of Illinois found that the “temperature alert threshold” is 20° F, particularly if pipes are exposed in an uninsulated area. Here’s how to keep them from freezing:

  • Look around your home for vulnerable pipes. These will be exposed to the air, and often in unheated areas like the garage and basement. 
  • Purchase wrap-around pipe insulation or pipe tubes for any exposed pipes.
  • Keep garage doors closed.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinets to let warm air circulate.
  • Run water at a trickle from faucets connected to vulnerable pipes.
  • Leave the heat on at least 55° F when you’re away.

Seal up drafty windows and doors

Rear view of girl drawing on condensed window at home
Cavan Images / Getty

Trust me, your energy bill will thank you if you take a little extra time to insulate windows and doors during the winter. In one window-heavy apartment in Seattle, I saved about $50 per month on my heating bill once I sealed up the windows with film insulation.

Start by going around the house and feeling for any drafts that are coming through. Once you’ve identified the problematic areas, you have a few options: 

  • Window film insulation kit: One of the most popular options for drafty windows, these large plastic sheets fit around the entire window to help keep out the cold.
  • If you can feel cold air coming through cracks around the window and door frames, a caulk sealant is a better option. (You’ll also need a caulk gun if you don’t already have one.)
  • For easier installation, you can also go with foam insulation strips that go around the edges of windows and doors.
  • Insulated thermal curtains are another good option to help keep the heat in. 

Make a plan for the snow

If you’ve never lived in a colder climate before, the amount of snow you have to deal with might be the biggest adjustment of all. It’s a good idea to have some basic tools set aside before the first big snowfall of the year. 

  • A quality snow shovel for sidewalks and frequently used paths. 
  • A snow blower for areas that get heavier snowfall. 
  • Salt for particularly icy stretches.

How to take care of yourself in the winter

Your new home isn’t the only thing that could use some winter prep — it will be a big adjustment for you, too. The good news is that humans are very adaptable. In one study, U.S. Army researchers found that men who spent eight hours a day in a 50°F chamber became habituated to the cold after about two weeks. 

Protect your skin

Winter takes its toll on our skin. The combination of cold air, dry indoor heat, and low humidity all work together to draw the moisture from our skin. Here’s how you can alleviate it:

  • Use a good daily moisturizer.
  • Don’t go too hot with your showers and baths. Higher temperatures and longer times spent in them translate to drier skin. Dermatologists recommend keeping baths to 10 to 15 minutes in the winter, and gently patting your skin to dry off.
  • Stay hydrated. It might seem obvious, but not drinking enough water will dry out your skin much faster in the winter. 
  • Invest in a humidifier for your bedroom. 

Plan for your pets

A Stylish Russian Toy Terrier In A Winter Costume Walks In The Park
Anastasiâ Krivcova / EyeEm / Getty

You aren’t the only one who’s getting used to the cold weather. Salt and other chemicals used to melt snow can take their toll on a pet’s paws, and licking them can irritate their mouth. The ASPCA recommends using petroleum jelly or protective boots when you take your pet outside, and wiping off their paws when they come back in.

Keep baths to a minimum during the winter months, as pet skin dries out just like ours. If you have a short-haired dog, you might also consider a dog jacket for those chilly strolls. 

Driving in the snow

If you’re not used to driving in snowy conditions, your first few times out can be a stressful experience. Car and Driver recommends following the golden rule of winter driving: stay smooth. When in doubt, pretend there’s a cup of hot coffee on your lap that you’re trying not to spill.

“Jerky movements with the controls easily unstick tires that have a tenuous grip on the slippery road, so every turn of the wheel, push of the brakes, and movement of the throttle must be deliberate, gentle, and gradual.”

You’ll also want to be prepared for the snow with some essential winter driving gear: 

  • An emergency roadside kit is always a good idea, but it’s even more important in the winter.
  • Keep an extra pair of gloves and a warm hat in your car in case you have an unexpected breakdown. 
  • A good ice scraper is a driver’s best friend in the winter. Trust me, you don’t want to get stuck trying to defrost your car with only your jacket sleeve. 
  • Winter wiper blades are specially designed to deal with freezing temperatures and the ice and snow that come with them. 

Get your utilities set up early

This goes for all moves, but especially if you’re heading to a colder city in the winter months. Set up your utilities like heat, electric, and internet about four weeks before Moving Day. No matter how cold it is outside, you’ll be warm and cozy inside, with your favorite TV shows to help you wind down after a long moving journey.