Advice about Moving to the East Coast

Parent Q&A

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  • Hi There, East Bay Community!!!

    I am going to miss being part of this community, as we will be part of the statistical set of families leaving California :( That said, we are thinking of driving cross country (Massachusetts) with 5 year- old and 2 year - old who both have not had a lot of car experience. Are we bananas to think this is going to be fun or am I setting us up for weeks and weeks of no solid routine, a move away from everything that will equate to a lot of emotions? We have a camper van (Westfalia) and have driven at most 4 hours with my littlest and 8 -10 hours with my eldest. I hope, if we plan it right, we will visit with family along the way, stop and see some amazing sites, and take in all that is the West. I fear that a move, a cross-country road trip, and new schools will just rock their little emotional systems once we land. I would love to get any feedback, pros - cons, sites we should see, places to stay/camp in our van, or advice against the road trip altogether. We will be leaving the first week of August and will want to stop in Colorado and Iowa. Thank you in advance for your thoughts.


    My husband and I have been driving cross country every summer for almost 15 years, about half of those years with small children. My kids are now older than yours (we are leaving again on 6/1), and we do it pretty differently than most folks, but I would be happy to share insights and field questions if it would be helpful to you. You can contact me directly at rosekindness [at]

    Warmly, Rachel

    My first thought is, bring the porta potty. One that can accommodate adults and children. There can be long stretches of empty highway. It should be fine if you plan it well! Games with little prizes and plenty of healthy snacks. A few farm animal petting zoos along the way. Good luck and have fun!

    My family and I moved from MA to Berkeley in january of last year but I did the drive by myself (with our dog) as I thought it would be hell with our 2 year old.  How many days do you want to spend driving?  If you were driving by yourself in theory you could do it in 4 days but those are super long days.  With two kiddos, I would double if not triple the amount of time.  While it's certainly possible to see the sites, there are large stretches of that drive that are super super boring.  Also, I'm not convinced there is a lot of stuff in between Iowa and Massachusetts that you'd be super excited to visit.  Personally, I think the time would be better spent getting your children acclimated to their new environment in Massachusetts by planning fun trips/activities in and around where you'll be living.

    When I had to drive (MN to Maine and back) with my kiddo, 4 then 5 years old, I planned my stops at hotels/motels with pools with water slides. We had hours of excellent physical play every evening. I needed it, too. (Driving through Canada I found that indoor pools with elaborate water slides are a thing!) We drove 350 miles per day max, I allowed 2.5 hours of screen time on the road. We had picnic lunches. We borrowed the complete Hans Christian Andersen audiobook from the library and enjoyed the whole 15 hours, story by story. During her screen time with headphones I listened to a book on tape. It felt like privacy and luxurious  solitude! 
    I’m an introvert so staying with different people, even loved ones, along the way is stressful for me when I can’t get time to myself after the kid is asleep. I feel obligated to stay up or go out with folks. Or maybe I’m just not good with boundaries. 
    So find campgrounds with pools! Kids that age often have zero interest in “sights” Create an absolute routine and keep repeating it during the day: breakfast, on the road, screen time, naps, lunch, playtime out of the car, dinner, swim, bedtime. It these are constant it becomes instant routine and kids will adapt quickly. 
    And my Americana road trip restaurant tip is: Chinese!! No, not orange chicken or anything fried and coated with sugar! Just about every independent Chinese restaurant (not Panda Express) makes fresh chicken stock/broth daily. I typically order a large wonton-soup-without-the-wontons and it comes with fresh veggies and other options. We ate that almost every night. Plain rice, too, fir the kiddos flavored with some broth. 
    Iowa to MA stretch could be REALLY hot. Do you have good ac? August is heatwave time...

    Last, from Iowa if you head north through Sioux Ste Marie to Canada it’s a bit out of the way but the Provincial Park Campgrounds are wonderful. Iowa to MA camping will be hot and it’s all lousy campgrounds. and it’s all toll roads. Being hot in the car with the sun on me is my worst childhood road trip memory.
    Moving is super expensive, but if you price out having your camper trucked to MA and you fly you may have time to have a nice camping trip in New England, get to know the area. 

    i wish you so much joy in your new life in New England. Good Luck getting there! 


    I've driven cross country many times, but never with kids - I'm planning a similar trip this summer with my three-year-old though, so I think it COULD be a good idea. Based on my previous experiences, August can be really hot - even at night - especially once you get through the west part of Colorado and can't cool off with altitude as easily. After Iowa, Indiana Dunes State Park would be a fun place to spend the night. In preparation for our trip I've also looked at googlemaps and searched for playgrounds in random places - there are lots! We're planning on at least a few hours a day of running around. 

    Moving cross country is going to be a huge transition for them either way, so I road trip probably won't make it worse. 

    We did this drive last year Labor Day week with our then 6-year old. We were pretty COVID-cautious then, so we brought a portable toilet, our camping supplies, and most of our food. It took us 7 nights, but I'm sure could be a bit shorter. We rented a mini-van, which gave us a lot more space and comfort compared with our own station wagon. We left during a heat-wave / smoke, and our first two nights camping in NV and Utah were not particularly memorable (we weren't sure how far we could drive, so didn't make reservations, which meant we had to settle for sub-optimal camping spots over the holiday weekend). We found city parks to stop for picnic lunches and play time. We then ran into a snow/wind/rain storm, so spent the next 2 nights in (very deserted) motels (NE and IA). Our last three camping nights were the best - Indiana Dunes Nat'l Park, and two beautiful state parks at either end of PA. We started our days with small hikes to give us time to explore those parks and stretch our legs. Setting up and breaking camp, making meals, etc. definitely takes time, which is partly why it took us 7 days. Our longest driving day was probably 9 hours when we were hurrying to beat the snow. Otherwise, we took our time. 

    A few things that helped: We planned ahead and requested lots of audiobooks from the library, and downloaded them to my son's tablet as they became available. He had headphones, but the only thing he could really do on the tablet was audiobooks. No videos, games, etc., which helped him not get carsick. Some of the audiobooks we listened to as a family over the car stereo. It's good to have a selection of audiobooks, as we found some were not good for roadtrips (couldn't understand the narrator over the road noise, etc.). We liked the Wild Robot books and Cricket in Times Square, and my son listened to a lot of Magic Treehouse and Ballpark Mysteries on his own. I brought a few small toys that my son could play with in the car and gave them out each day (book of mazes, scavenger hunt cards, etc.). He also had a box of legos and would take some out to play with on his lap each day. We got my son a clip on desk to go on his carseat that could hold toys, snacks, etc. - he didn't love it and only used it sometimes, but it was helpful when he did. 

    We brought some sporty things to do on our stops (paddle tennis game, etc.), but what my son loved the best was bubbles. I would blow bubbles with the bubble wand and he would run around popping them. It was quick to pull out at potty stops and helped him use some energy. I highly recommend bringing bubbles if your kids like them!

    Our trip went better than expected - my son really rarely complained and enjoyed zoning out with his audiobooks and toys, watching the world go by. He loved getting to camp and see new things. However, we just have one kid, and he's pretty mellow. Your experience could be very different.

    Feel free to get in touch if you want more details. Good luck! 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Moving to East Coast from Berkeley

March 2015

After 20+ years in the bay area, my husband and I have decided to leave. There - I said it out loud. There are many reasons for our decision but, in short, neither of us is happy here anymore, it's just too expensive here (see first reason), and the time is right to sell our house. Also, since having kids I worry about earthquakes a lot. Not a great use of my time, I know, but I can't turn it off and I don;t want to worry about my young kids in an earthquake anymore. We both have family in the north east, so our compass is facing that direction, but the ultimate location of our new home is up in the air.

Now that we've made the decision, I am totally overwhelmed. How do you sell a house? My house is old and needs some work - how do we decide what work to do? Any resources would be most welcome.

How do we decide where to live? We are considering Maine (family near Portland) but open to other places in the northeast where we can live more inexpensively, in a more rural setting. We think we will rent for a year or so, before taking on a mortgage again. Once we narrow in on a new location, is it crazy to move there without a job? We anticipate making some money off the sale of our home. Not a ton but enough. Is it nuts to think we can use that until we find jobs?

Any thoughts on Portland, ME? Pros/cons to living there? Other Berkeley-like towns on the east side? We've thought about Ithaca, NY, as well. Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts. Overwhelmed but Resolved

We were in your shoes about 18 months ago although my husband had found work north of Boston. We are in Durham, NH. Here is my opinion - it's not the weather per say but living inside. It's kind of a shock to spend November - December through February inside. And we ski, ice skate, sled -- but many days it's simply too cold/windy/snowy/icy to go out. I drive all the time. Everyday. We are fortunate to live in a lovely neighborhood where kids can run to each other's homes but many people don't have that and have to drive for all kid to kid interactions. It's cheaper in some ways - yes, houses - but heating your house, house maintance is significantly more (nothing lasts as long), gas, electricity - all expensive. And in the better school districts it's not super cheap - a friend just moved to a well regarded district/town south of Portland - $450(?) for a 3 bedroom. Oh and property taxes! In our town $11,000 for a house worth low $400,000. NH has no state income tax but Maine and Mass both do. Feel free to email me - is a huge move. I wish we had looked more in the greater Bay Area before leaving. Email me - tkjbca

We moved across country (from Berkeley/Oakland) 8 years ago, with a baby, for similar reasons; considered many places in the US, but decided on New England for proximity to family. We chose western Massachusetts--Northampton--for its similarity to Berkeley/Oakland culture & politics (arts, academia, liberal, etc.), relatively affordable (although not the least expensive place either), and it's a beautiful agricultural valley on the Connecticut River, surrounded by hills (called mountains). We also found like-minded Bay Area transplants here when we arrived. We also looked in Portland, ME--seems like a great city to live in and raise a family in as well--but western Mass felt more centrally located (short drive to VT, NH, Maine, Boston and NYC). I could go on, and am happy to share more if you'd like to know more. p.s. after 8 years, we do miss California, but it's still too expensive for our artist- income/earning potential. and I LOVE that I never have to think about traffic!! pccleeds

We absolutely love Charlottesville, Virginia. It's a great place to raise kids - good schools, family friendly area. It's a college town (University of Virginia) with lots to offer. Beautiful area, good weather, great restaurants, close to Shenandoah National Park, easy to get to DC from there. Lots of open space that is close by. Far more affordable than the Bay area. We've been there 10 years (now in Berkeley on sabbatical) and love it. Karen

I would be happy to tell you all about the Berkeley to Portland ME move - we did it 5 years ago. We also left because much as we loved our Berkeley life we felt priced out and wanted to live a little bit differently and more sanely than we felt like we could do there. I can say without reservation that the move was a great decision for us. I really love it here, and think Portland is a magical little city which has become known for such a great quality of life that it seems like half the people we know moved here from someplace else (lots of CA transplants too.) We moved here without jobs and were able to make it work, but one downside to Maine is that it is a much smaller economy than the Bay Area so coming without a job lined up is definitely a risk if you don't have a nice cushion to fall back on. I definitely think coming and renting first is a great plan - we did that for 2 years while we figured out if we were in the community where we wanted to settle more permanently. I could go on and on about all the things that I think makes Portland a such special place, please feel welcome to email me if you'd like more info or have any specific questions. Good luck in your planning! We have been there and know it can be daunting. Kcurry

We spent a year in Ithaca when our kids were 5 and 9. We liked many things about it, but if any of you is at all sensitive to amount of light you get (like suffering from SAD, or similar) be aware that the sky is grey there a very large percentage of the time. When people think about 'the weather,' they easily imagine snow, rain, cold, humid summers, whatever, but you also need to consider the effect of grey skies for days on end. I might also suggest, if you can swing it financially, that you rent your house out here for a year until you really get a feel for what it's like to leie in the new place. Decided to come back!

Yes, I know that most people think you are crazy to move away from here but I think you are in a great position. If you don't mind the weather and have friends and family there and like that lifestyle, why not!? If you are going to a smaller city rather than say New York or Boston, you will have a lot of money to start there. the Real Estate market is crazy here!! My suggestion is that interview few Realtors, you want someone with experience and that you can get along with, someone that you like. The Realtor will prepare a market analysis, will suggest what do you need to do to in order for your house to look great and will do all marketing necessary for you to get top dollars with the least stress possible. Sometimes you don't have to do anything because fixers are also selling for crazy amounts....but you should make that decision once you talk to a Realtor. Commission varies from 5-6% of selling price and there are costs related to the sell of your home. Just remember, once you leave the Bay Area it is really difficult to come back because of the inflated market. If you have doubts, you could rent your home for a while, that is another market that is very intense but of course, you have to deal with tenants, etc but a management company could do that. Good luck!! Mariedda

Congratulations! While there are many wonderful things about the Bay Area, all of what you said is true. It is very expensive to live here, it is crowded, there is traffic everywhere and the schools are not good. Even out here in Orinda, by comparison to much of the East Coast (we came from Pennsylvania), the schools are far superior on the East Coast. Get a realtor. You must have friends who have sold recently. In Berkeley, Grubb does a lot of business. I'd get at least two realtors to walk through your home. They will best advise you on what people are looking for, what is worth doing and what isn't, as well as a likely sale price. Trying to fix things, wondering about what to do, price and the like isn't worth doing on your own. Having a realtor walk through will give you a ton of info, reassure you and it doesn't cost anything.

As far as where to live, it isn't crazy to move without jobs. But what about health insurance? Since neither of you has a job, I'd venture to say you should absolutely focus on living where you have family so they can help you out. They will be able to steer you toward resources, housing, and help when you need to interview, etc. Portland, Maine is amazing. But a total lifestyle change. While we have no water, they are getting absolutely pounded with snow. You need to find housing with a garage, because in Maine, things like your battery freezing happen. Really. You are smart to rent because you really need to figure out exactly where you want to live and put down roots. You are, after all, moving 3000 miles for a better life. Take your time and set short term goals for the first year. Research the schools. You will see that except for pockets of wonderful out here, the schools are far superior there. Good luck! I am jealous. I'd move back East in a heart beat except all of our family is here. East Coast at Heart

I don't have any advice whatsoever for finding the right place out east, but as far as selling your house in Berkeley goes, I absolutely wouldn't sweat it. I don't know if you have been to any open houses lately, but people don't have to do much more than stick a 'for sale' sign in their front yard to sell their house for hundreds of thousands over asking. I have been to houses where there was dirty underwear in plain sight in the laundry basket, or where part of the house was sinking into the ground, or where there wasn't even room to put a fridge in the kitchen; all of these homes sold, and most of them went in days. For cash. A home on the corner of an extremely busy and complicated intersection, across from a fire station, with un- openable windows and an upstairs bathroom so vile I didn't even want to venture inside the room, just sold for a cool million. In cash. So if you have a house that isn't literally falling down, you should be just fine. Good luck to you! This place is ridiculous

I very enthusiastically second that vote for Charlottesville, VA. It is an awesome college town with so many neat things going on in a beautiful part of the world. I have been going there since I was a kid to visit grandparents and then my mother when she retired. Charlottesville just keeps getting better and better.

Go Hoos Go!

Possible move back East

July 2002

Well- this seems to be a more common posting on this list serve. My husband and I are actually entertaining the idea of moving out of the Bay Area to Portland, ME. Does anyone know anything about living in Maine?? Quality of life, ethnic diversity, most common jobs, liberal attitudes, etc. Of course, this goes without saying, we LOVE the Bay Area and are very sad to even think of leaving.

The only reason(s) we are considering this move are a) the costs of living and housing here are beginning to seem a bit out of our reach (we want to buy a modest size home without having to overbid $100k) and b) we want to live in an area where the PUBLIC schools are decent.

Of course, we want to find an area that has the wonderful qualities/diversity the Bay Area has to offer: the racial and ethnic diversity (we are a bi-racial couple and it goes without saying that acceptance of this - and our bi-racial child- is probably the MOST important deciding factor in where we would move to), the sense of community (I actually grew up in small town MA until I was a teen and remember how hard it was to be a newcomer to New England- it takes a long while to be accepted), the wonderful, organic, high quality grocery stores (like Berk Bowl, Andronicos and Whole Foods) and restaurants (where I was from in MA - burritos were consider exotic and hard to find!), (also: is it possible to be a vegetarian back east?), the educated and liberal attitudes and general feel that we, here in the Bay Area live outside of the mainstream.

Any input on what it would be like moving to small town New England after living 10+ years in the Bay Area would be appreciated! Thanks Anonymous and reluctantly undecided

Hi, I grew up and went to college back east. Try looking in college towns. For example, Northhampton MA has several colleges in or nearby (Smith, UMass, Amherst) has a very liberal feel to it, lots of bookstores and organic food and cooperative farms. Maine is probably a bit harder, but check around Bowdoin College. cheers anon

Gosh, no, there aren't any vegetarian on the East Coast, you can't get burritos, and people aren't progressive. And you can't get New York Style Pizza , Maine Lobster and there aren't any seasons in California. I went to school in Ithaca, NY, on the East Coast and it was in fact MUCH more progressive and vegi-friendly than San Francisco. There were lots of cultural opportunities, not as many as in SF, but then again it's a much smaller city than SF. You can buy a house for a lot less, but you can't get a job that pays as well, and the taxes are higher and you pay for heating oil. All life is a trade-off, so you make decisions based on your particular circumstances. East Bay Mom

to the ''anonymous and reluctant'' bi-racial family thinking of moving to New England ... I don't know much about New England, but have you considered Denver? It is a pretty diverse city, with good job opportunities and decent public schools. They have some sort of local initiative that when the budget has to be trimmed, schools are EXEMPT from being cut; but whenever there is a surplus, public schools get 1% of the surplus. So their schools are in good shape. Also, they are building new, and affordable, housing at the site of the old Stapleton airport (see URL).

I grew up in Denver, so if you want to ''talk'' more, you can write to me directly. -- Mary Carol

I have lived in the Boston area for the last five years. In that time, I have heard a lot of positive buzz about living in Portland, ME, from people who have lived in New England for a long time. I've also visited it a couple of times and walked around and enjoyed some of its dining establishments. As you know, it will probably feel smaller and more quaint than what you're used to on the west coast, but relative to other New England towns, it has a lot going on. There are a number of interesting as well as upscale restaurants. And, yes, vegetarians are thriving there. One of its most famous restaurants has been called ''the Chez Panisse of the east coast.'' There is also a neat market hall (similar to the one on College Ave. near Oliveto) that you can walk through and find a variety of food stuffs to eat on the spot or take home. Portland is also pretty accessible to Boston (1.5 hours), so you will have good access to bigger city life if you want it. I have heard people draw parallels between Boston and San Francisco--a city that's close to the water, mountains, skiing,islands. The biggest adjustment for me and my husband, coming from NYC and Chicago respectively, was cultural. People were generally more reserved and take longer to warm up to others. But over the years, the friendships we made were deep ones--Ones we will miss a lot now that we've moved out here to the Bay Area! I meant to post last month but had to take care of my own relocation from Cambridge, MA, to Oakland, CA! Shirley