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9-Step Guide to Family Relocation in California

“Are we there yet?”

If you’ve ever vacationed with children, you’ve heard this before. You probably responded with, “It’s not just about the destination — relax and enjoy the journey!” But as you consider relocating your family to California, you might find yourself overwhelmed with questions, logistics and timelines. Now you’re left wondering: Are we there yet?

A big move can seem daunting at first, but it doesn’t have to be. This step-by-step guide will make your move to sunny California an absolute breeze. And while it’s normal to be focused on your destination, you can still relax and enjoy the journey.

1. Find the Right Area

The West Coast utopia comprises sunny skies, white-sand beaches, world-class ski slopes, desert destinations, and nine national parks. Its famous amusement parks are just a thrilling bonus that makes this state the happiest place on Earth. But with a state this large, how does one start their California adventure?

The Golden State is ripe with opportunity, so it’s vital to prioritize. Make a list of everything your dream region includes. Consider your ideal climate, location and topography. Discuss with your realtor to make your dream city a reality.

2. Find the Right Neighborhood

Once you’ve found your dream city, it’s time to find the right neighborhood. Be sure to prioritize what the “right” neighborhood will have. Think comfort, safety, transit, community character and school districts. If you present your realtor with a clear vision of your family’s needs and desires, he or she will have thoughtful recommendations.

3. Find the Best Schools

You’re moving to California to give your children the best lives possible, and quality education is paramount. Luckily this state is home to fantastic districts, schools and teachers.

Again, utilize your realtor’s expertise in the area to gather a list of its best schools. Once you’ve procured a list of exceptional options, do your due diligence with some further research.

If an in-person tour isn’t an option, peruse websites that help you easily compare schools on a 1-10 scale. Overall scores are calculated based on academics, equity and environment. They provide concrete data about test scores, academic progress, student demographics and teachers. You can also find logistical information such as the bell schedule, academic calendar, classes and available sports and clubs. These sites include testimonials from parent reviews that offer an honest overview of their child’s experience.

4. Tell Your Children

As soon as you’ve made the decision, call a family meeting. Have a clear vision of your message before you sit down to share it. Your message should give them honest information without inundating them with details. Ideally, tell them why and when you’re moving, and then three positive things about their future home.

Be open to how your children respond to the news. Give them time and space to process, and be sure to validate their feelings. Remember to stay positive, respond honestly to their questions and remind them that the decision is final.

Explain how moving is bittersweet: it’s sad to leave things and people we love, but it’s exciting to meet new people and explore new places. Take time to reiterate that while there will be a lot of significant changes, that you will move together as a team. Children are much more resilient and adaptable than you might think.

5. Ease Your Family’s Transition

It is normal and healthy for your children to grieve the life they’ve had up until now. Honor this process and help your children say goodbye. Depending on your children’s ages, you can have their friends over for a goodbye party and provide your children with a “yearbook.” You can even help your child create a memory box with photos and keepsakes to bring with them to their new home.

As they say goodbye to their past, help them say hello to their future. You can help them research fun new places in their next hometown. Let them print out pictures and make a vision board. If they’re older, allow them to create a “Wish List” of activities they want to do and places they want to see.

6. Pack Your Bags

Moving presents a fantastic opportunity to downsize. Sort into three piles: discard, donate and keep.

Next, establish a plan. Create a packing basket filled with materials and prepare boxes for each room. Remember to keep similar items together, number your boxes and include an “open first” box with essentials that you’ll want as soon as you arrive. As you pack, use an unused room in your house to store packed boxes as you go.

Hire professionals or ask for friends for help. Remember to place valuables, such as important documents and expensive jewelry together and keep with you at all times.

7. Move

On moving day, make safety your top priority. Gather supplies such as tarps, blankets, moving straps, dollies, gloves and ropes. Wear appropriate clothing and sturdy footwear, and get help from your community or hire loaders. In general, boxes should weigh less than 40 pounds, the dolly should always be in front of you and you should lift with your legs.

As you load a truck, be sure to stack items upward from floor to ceiling. Heavy items should be on the bottom with lighter items on top. Fragile items should be placed last, secured tightly and labeled as fragile.

8. Settle In

Ideally, any sort of cleaning and repairs would be completed prior to arrival, but if not, take care of this before unpacking your boxes. When you first arrive, find your “open first” box and take out the essentials. Create an unpacking calendar with a timeline. Next, sort your boxes by room. As you go, break down boxes for recycling. Once you’re mostly unpacked, you can decorate to create your ideal space!

In an effort to ease your children’s transition, allow them to organize their own space to give them ownership. Keep structures, such as morning and nighttime routines, to increase serenity. And enroll your children in familiar activities to create continuity. Help them maintain contact with their old friends via technology or snail mail while arranging playdates or encouraging teens to have their new friends over.

9. Enjoy!

Congratulations! You made it, and now it’s time to celebrate as a family. You are creating a better life for your family, and they will be thankful you have taken this leap.

By following these steps, free up your mental bandwidth, and spend your energy getting excited about your family’s new adventure! With this comprehensive guide, achieve a golden state of mind as you plan your move to the Golden State.