Relocating Your Family: A Different Type of Travel – Part I

I hit confirm on the airline’s website and it’s done.  Five one-way tickets.  We are officially scheduled to leave the home we’ve known for what seems like forever, and not return, at least not until we return as visitors.  It feels so permanent.  And wistful.  And exciting!

The past few months I’ve experienced a different kind of family travel.  The kind that involves saying goodbye to a city I know and love and discovering a new city I hope I grow to love.

The planning involved in relocating a family across the country is similar to planning a long vacation to an unfamiliar destination:  a lot of research, a bit of networking and some pre-trip involvement with the kids.  In fact, other than the practicalities of living in a new town (which alone are not insignificant), you explore the new city as if you were on vacation.   Looking for playgrounds, finding things to do with the kids and learning about the history and culture of the city or region.

Part I of this series involves practical matters of setting up in a new town.  Things I discovered along the way and hope will help any of you making a big move.   I plan to later write about exploring our home city “one last time” and other tips I’ve gathered during the move.

For now, some practical advice.

Moving with Baby

Moving with Baby

Get out a map.  Whether it’s to see where in the world you’re going (as I had to do) or to see how the city’s neighborhoods are laid out, you’ll need a good map.  Highlight areas you’re considering living in, where you’ll be working and where friends, acquaintances or co-workers and their families live.  Familiarize yourself with names and places on the map and pull it out when you are house-hunting or talking to your family about the move.

Talk to your kids before the move.  Moving can be scary for kids at any age.  Be positive when talking with them, or around them, about the move and reassure them about their fears.  Mine were worried about everything from whether their beds, toys and books would come with us, to what the weather will be like, to whether they’d see or talk to their friends again.  These days, thankfully, Skype and FaceTime can make distant friends feel close every day.   You may want to buy some age-appropriate children’s books about moving, such as the Berenstain Bears Moving Day, to start the dialogue.

Also, pick up some children’s books related to the city you’re moving to, such as the “This is…” series, or any other city or state specific travel books so they get familiar with the local sites and culture.  You may also want a travel guide to use with your family before and after the move.

Kids are extremely resilient and impressionable.  If you are excited, and acknowledge their natural feelings about the move, they will be excited.

Research schools.   A good website to compare schools, both private and public, is www.greatschools.org.  It has ratings, reviews, test performance stats, maps and links to other helpful information.

If you go public, call the registrar before you sign a contract on your home to confirm the address is in fact in that school’s zone.  If you have a chance, stop by the school and ask to take a tour.  Try to go around pick-up time to get a feel of the school from the kids, parents and teachers you see.  Whether you visit or call, get registration materials and important dates before you move.

If you’re thinking private, call schools as soon as you decide you might move to check the admissions calendar.  The application process could start 9 to 12 months before the start of the school year which could limit your ability to be admitted the year you move.  Ask about wait lists and mid-year transfers.

Network with other moms in the area.  Ask your real estate agent if she can get you in touch with other families in the area with kids the same age as yours.   Ask them about family activities, sports, babysitters and other questions you may have.   Look online for a moms group in the neighborhood or area you are moving to.  Check the postings or links, and see if they have meetings you can go to when you arrive.

Research sports and other recreational activities.  Before you move, try to research activities for your kids. Find out registration and start dates or whether holiday camps are offered, so your kids can hit the ground running when you arrive.

Get the movers to pack.  If you can afford it or your company is covering moving costs, have your movers pack as much as they can.  You’ll still want to purge and send things to your favorite charity, but having someone carefully pack your dishes, your wardrobe, wall hangings and other personal belongings, to me, is worth the extra charge.  My movers did suggest packing up toys myself however, to ensure little things don’t get thrown in one big box or lost. (My biggest pet peeve as it is are pieces of toys dumped in random places around the house).

Hire a reputable moving company, get answers to your questions in advance and be there with the inventory list to make sure what leaves your house arrives in your new house.  A website I found that compares moving companies is www.movereviews.com.  The big interstate moving companies use local moving agents, so check reviews of the local agents as well.  Get a few free estimates.  For me, I saw a big difference in quality just from the answers the agents gave during the in-home estimates.

Confirm your insurance coverage.  Call your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance agent to see what is covered under your existing and new insurance policies.

Our insurance doesn’t cover breakage during a move, for example, so we need to weigh the cost of additional insurance offered by the movers with the risk of them dropping or damaging our belongings.  (Theft or external damage such as a truck accident or off-site fire is already covered under our existing policy.)  Whatever it is, be informed of what’s covered and what’s not and then make your decision whether or not to buy supplemental insurance.

Make sure you will not have a gap in coverage between your old policy and new policy and be current on your policies.  Ask your insurance agent, real estate agent and/or your moms network what the risks are in the area regarding flood, hurricane, or other issues you may want to consider in your new insurance policy.

Wait to transfer medical records until you move.  I called, thinking I had to get copies of records before I move, and found out it’s free (and easier) to get records transferred once you’ve already selected your new doctors.

Do you have any relocation advice to share?  Please do so in the comments below! Thanks!