Adventures In Moving: How To Decide Where To Relocate Your Family

This is a guest post by my husband Blake.

Before we decided to take a family sabbatical to live in France, we thought we would settle somewhere on the east coast. We went through the whole moving process from start to finish from the west coast to the east coast. This is a very high-level look at how to decide Where To Relocate Your Family. Things you should consider whether you are relocating your family across the country or to the other side of the world.

First, some background:

We rented 2 huge Penske trucks, left our home in the San Francisco Bay area, and planned to settle clear across the U.S. in the Boston area.

We never ended up settling in Boston. Instead, we left our stuff in storage and lived semi-nomadically with friends and family up and down the east coast while we homeschooled the kids and waited for the French Embassy to approve our visas.

It worked out great because when the embassy finally approved our visas in September of 2011, we packed what few clothes we had and left in less than 2 weeks.

Want to move someplace different? It’s easy! Just do this…..

  1. Figure out where you want to move to
  2. Pack up all your stuff
  3. Transport all your stuff
  4. Unpack all your stuff

Easy, yes? No, not at all. Annie already covered some related move topic in her recent post about downsizing your book collection, but I’ll be coming at it from a slightly different point of view. In this post, I will address how we decided to move to the Boston area.

one of two penske trucks we used to move to the east coast

Deciding where to live

Ask twenty people the best place to live, and you’ll get forty different answers. There are a number of factors that go into deciding where your next home could be.

Do you want to be near family? Are there jobs that align with your current or future career? What is the cost of living? Are you looking for something urban, suburban, or rural?

Coastal or inland (sometimes described as saltwater or freshwater)? Love the cold? Hate humidity? If you have kids and aren’t rich, how are the public schools? What about the junior colleges and state universities? Our research, thinking, analysis, and tea leaf reading lead us to the Boston area.


Annie has close relatives in Montreal, western Quebec, Ontario, and New Brunswick. I grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, and went to the University of Vermont.

My siblings live with their families in Maryland and Virginia, and I have good friends up and down the East coast. Boston was not super close to any one of these, but it was a lot easier to see everyone. And at least we’d all been in the same time zone (except for those outliers in New Brunswick!).


Jobs are another big factor in determining where to relocate your family.

Although Annie and I wanted to strike out on our own, we thought it prudent to be near a source of jobs if things didn’t work out. We both worked in high tech. Outside Silicon Valley, the main tech hubs in the United States are Seattle, Austin, North Carolina, and Boston.

These are all fine places to live, but after you’ve lived in the Bay Area for a while, you might be more inclined to Seattle or Boston rather than Austin or North Carolina. Boston was the home of early microcomputer software hits such as VisiCalc and Lotus 1-2-3. Although not the powerhouse that Silicon Valley had become, it clearly still had much to offer.

Cost of living, housing, and schools

A key metric on how to decide where to relocate y our family is figuring out the cost of living.

There are several cost of living calculators and comparison tools out there. We used this cost one at Sperling’s website and found it generally useful.

An important cost difference between San Francisco and Boston was the cost of homeownership. As a percentage of one’s salary, homeownership was significantly less in Boston (significant means 30-50% less). Of course, you must also figure in what your new salary might be (about 15% less in Boston over San Francisco for my field) and what additional expenses your new home might require (Sorel snow boots, snow blower, snow tires, snow shovels, a lot of Advil, followed by contracting with a snow removal service). Depending on the city you decide to live in, you may be prone to more home improvements from Summit Point Roofing, and that is something to take into consideration.

While the advent of the internet has not yet meant the complete demise of real estate agents, there are some great sites you can use to help better understand home costs. Trulia, Zillow, Movoto, and Redfin are all useful real estate websites; you can spend hours surfing the web for homes to buy.

The rental market was a little harder to get a feel for (at least remotely), but you can start with everybody’s favourite, Craigslist. For schooling, most states would be an improvement over California. If you want to start with the big kahuna of school testing score, start with the NAEP. Since we already knew we were interested in Boston, I used a few commercial sources to help narrow down the neighbourhoods.

In our case, I started with an article from Boston magazine, which no longer exists, but it listed out schools by best and worst, then used Great Schools to winnow out more information. Most big cities have some sort of lifestyle magazine, and these will have annual school rankings, which can help you with your search.

Sports, public transportation, city life, etc.

Family, jobs, and cost of living were the main drivers in making Boston our choice, but there were a number of secondary criteria that were also important.

  • Our oldest son Kieran is an accomplished dinghy sailor (Optis, moving up to FJs and 420s), and we wanted to be in an area that fostered sailing. It would be hard to do much better than the Boston area. More broadly, we enjoy water sports and being near the ocean, so again, the Boston area was a logical choice. Skiing, although not as good as Lake Tahoe, was a few hours away.
  • Between the commuter rail and the T, Boston’s public transportation is excellent compared to San Francisco. It’s not perfect, but coming from the Bay Area, it feels like we’re in a European city.
  • Museums, restaurants, bars, all that history, the French Cultural Center, were other draws. We like to enjoy ourselves and try new things, and Boston offered no shortage of these.

How To Decide Where To Relocate Your Family

Yes you can

Moving is hard, ask any survivor.

I grew up in an Army family, and we moved a lot. It was worse for my older sister, who tells about moving fourteen times in her first fourteen years.

Fortunately, our father’s moved frequency dropped as his career advanced, and all of us kids were able to attend the same high school.

But the point here is you must also weigh the disruption to your children against your new home’s future benefit.

I have no calculator to offer you for that one, but if you find one, let me know and post it here. Still, under the right circumstances, a move can be a great thing. Good luck! I hope you enjoyed this article.

Photo of Annie André:

Annie André

About the author 

I’m A Bilingual North American With Thai And French Canadian Roots Who's Been Living In The South Of France For Over 10 Years. I Love Writing Weird, Wonderful, Interesting, Forgotten, And Fascinating Articles For Intellectually Curious People Amazed By France, French Culture, And World Travel.

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  1. Great post. Thank you for your useful and amazing informations. Great job with this article.

  2. Hi Blake,

    Great post, I just wrote a similar article. I completely understand what moving abroad is like, I’ve done it 4 or 5 times. The last one was from London to Sydney and back :)

    I think the biggest mistake people make is they set their hopes too high, and probably live in a dream world when it comes to visualising a life abroad.

    I might add a link to this post if you don’t mind, you’ve covered a few things that I haven’t.

  3. Thanks for sharing your adventures in moving and for the tips on how to decide where to relocate.

  4. One of the many reasons why I want to live to be a 1000 is so that I can take some real time to live in “exotic” places.

    That would give me enough time to be more than a tourist and to really kind of dig in.

    1. Jack,
      Agreed. Too many places to see, you need more time. And i much prefer to live like a local than a tourist. Better get started soon.

  5. Hi Annie

    Finally landed on your page after seeing your tweet. moving around can be fun. although my moves were more or less dictated by my company back then, i had some good experience in some cool cities. but perhaps when i have kids it’d be different and need to consider more things. My fiance and i were just chatting about moving back to australia when we have kids for them to grow up there instead of an asian city.. let’s see how that goes
    but it’s a few years down the road. for now, we are in beijing. i’m tired of moving for now (4 cities in 6 years!) and just want a home to stay put in
    there’s a time for everything

    Noch Noch

    1. Noch Noch,
      I traveled a lot for work back in my corporate days too and i can say it is really different when you are doing it on your own and with kids.
      4 cities in 6 years is a lot. In some ways it’s more fulfilling doing it on your own but other ways it’s more stressful. And you are right, it does get tiring moving around a lot. Which is why we are staying put in France rather than trudging around Europe right now. It would be too stressful.

      I think raising your future children in Australia would be absolutely fantastic. I want to tell you though, being half asian myself,I still had a strong connection to my asian side and i’m glad i got to experience both cultures.

    2. Noch Noch,

      Kids certainly add an additional set of criteria that a couple can ignore: schools, friends, proximity to family, activities for the kids, and so on.

      Sounds like in a few years the starting of a family could coincide nicely with the urge to stay put for a while; indeed, the first (having kids) forces the second (settling down).

      Separately, a stint in Australia is on our future travel list.

      Good luck, thanks for reading.


  6. I found this post really interesting with a lot of great information. My wife and I have had several discussions about moving abroad somewhere. It wouldn’t be hard for her since she is a nurse and can work a lot of places. It’s still a scary, but exciting idea to move somewhere completely different like that. The big thing holding us back right now is our house which would be hard to sell. Even if we did sell it, we wouldn’t get much from the way the market is right now. I know it is something I really want to do sometime in my life so I know it will happen. I’ll have to show her this post and see what she thinks.

    1. Hey Steve,
      I know what you mean about the market right now. I’m sure you’ve considered this, but what about renting out your home? Even renting it furnished while you move abroad?

      1-This would also save you from having to put your things in storage and pay for a unit.
      2- You can get slightly more rent if you rent it furnished.

      It would depend a lot on where you live i suppose.
      My home is rented out and i wouldn’t even think about selling it right now but it’s nice to have something solid, like a house so maybe it’s best you keep it anyways. So much to think about isn’t it?

  7. Very thorough advice! I’ve moved country three times (and about to again – this time with a family). Researching thoroughly certainly helps, but you never know how it will work out until you actually live there…

    1. Holly,

      Absolutely agreed: until you go, you won’t really know. That was part of our thinking regarding leaving California -we could speculate to no end, but until you’re there, it’s just an armchair move. And we could always come back to the West if we thought that was the right thing to do.

      Good luck!


  8. Hey Blake, great to finally meet you even if it is only through blogging.

    Nice post and you did a fabulous job of sharing all the different things that you might need to know especially when it comes to the researching.

    I admit, I’ve lived in the same place my entire life. Okay, I grew up about 35 minutes east of Houston and have been in my current location for 22 years in April. My Dad was a salesman so he didn’t move us around.

    I would like to move someday but I have no intention of doing that while my Mom is still with us. I’m the caregiver of the family so that’s very important for me to remain close to her. But I tell you one thing, when I get ready you have provided the perfect information for me figuring out where I want to go. Whatever you do, don’t ever take this blog down or I’ll be in deep trouble.

    Thanks again and you guys enjoy your time in France! I’m so jealous!

    1. Adrienne,

      Thanks for the note and your comments – I appreciate that.

      While France is fun, one thing I’ve learned is that there are many interesting places to live, and you don’t have to necessarily travel too far afield to find them. For example, right now I am onsite at a client’s office near New London, New Hampshire. This is a lovely town: there is a small liberal arts college (Colby Sawyer) that serves as a sort of cultural and events anchor, and it’s not too far from Hanover, where Dartmouth is. In particular the college has a great indoor pool where I swim. While I don’t think Annie would necessarily want to move here, it’s a great place to be. But good college towns are usually that way.

      Good luck, keep in touch, and let us know where you land.

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