Whether you're considering an international move or a move to another state, city or town, start with researching your potential new home. With the vast array of websites available at the click of a button, it's now easier than ever to be an armchair traveler.
City Data lists thousands of cities (population over 6000) and towns (population under 1000) from across the U.S. With stats on crime, education, income-earnings, housing prices and seasonal temperatures, this is a great place to start your research. It even has a "Top 100 Cities" listing, ranging from most racially diverse cities to highest elevation to cities with the highest population of single men. If you're debating between settling in a few different spots, check out this list. It makes a very interesting read!
50 States outlines factual trivia that will prove helpful if you're looking for overall information. Providing links to the official state pages, city guides and with links to practical information such as each state's DMV website, it's a site you'll return to again and again.
Go See it For Yourself
Now that you've researched your potentially new home, maybe it's time to actually see it for yourself. Reading about a place will provide you with an overview, with the practical points you need to know, but it doesn't compare to actually walking down its streets, getting a sense of what it might be like to live there.
Whenever I've had an opportunity to move to a new city or country, I always try to travel there first. Once, when I was offered an interview with a company in London, I declined their telephone interview and opted for an in-person interview, just so I could better imagine what it would be like to move to England. Even though I'd previously traveled to London many times for business and pleasure, and had lived for a while in Wales, I still felt the need to experience it for myself. I flew over, had my interview and even though I was offered the job, I did end up declining. For the first time in my life, I realized I'd reached an age when I no longer wanted to be away from my family and friends, that experiencing life somewhere else wasn't as important as maintaining my close ties. It was a life-changing moment, and if I had accepted the telephone interview, without actually experiencing London through new eyes, I would've moved. And probably for a very short time.
By allowing yourself a few days, a few weeks or however long you think you might need, you can discover the soul of a place, and you'll feel better knowing that the decision you're making feels right.
If you're moving with a spouse and children, take the entire family. If you can afford it, rent a house or an apartment. Try to live as close as you can to a local's life. Find the grocery stores, check out the schools, visit the library and talk to people. If possible, visit the area in the off-season and see what it's really like to live there. It's surprising what you'll discover.
And before you go or when you first arrive, purchase a city travel guide. Guides will suggest where to eat, what to see and do, and tips on transportation. Also make sure you're equipped with a good map and try to find a local newspaper or community magazine. Published for a particular area, small newspapers or magazines are written for the locals and will prove to be a useful resource, for getting to know your neighborhood.
Take Time to Trial
If you can afford it, another option is to do a temporary, trial move. This is a great idea if it's not just you involved. Before you uproot your family, and if you can manage to maintain two households, try living in the potential city for a three to six month period. Rent a furnished apartment, try out the new job, see if you can imagine you and your family living in this new place. This trial period will also allow family members to visit and have more opportunity to see if it will work. In addition, it provides a great transition period, especially for children who may need some time, and coaxing, to feel comfortable with the idea of moving away from what's familiar.
Spending time in a new place also offers the opportunity to get some of the practical matters of moving done, such as finding a new doctor or vet, obtaining a new driver's license or checking out the best financial institutions. Getting some of the practicals out of the way will make the move easier and the settling in process faster.
And in the end, you may decide that Dallas or Denver or Daytona Beach is not right for you, or you may wonder why you hadn't moved sooner. Either way, you'll know you made the right decision - for everyone.