Fewer things are as exciting as a move all the way across the country. Are you lured by the prospect of regularly seeing Broadway shows in New York City, going on wine-tasting tours in upstate New York (one of the best regions for wine tasting in the country), or hiking in the Adirondack mountains? You might be motivated by adventure, a relationship, or a new job. Whatever the reason, it’s time to get prepared. A cross-country move from California to New York requires careful planning to make sure it all goes smoothly.

Whether you’re packing up a small studio apartment or an entire house, here’s the lowdown on what you should know before making a move, suggestions on the best places to live in New York State, and practical tips on how to move from across the country. When the time comes to pack up those boxes, you’ll want to check out our ranked list of the best California and New York moving companies that offer great rates on coast-to-coast moves.

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Should I Move to New York? Things to Know Before Making the Move

Here are some of the things you should know before moving from the Golden State to the Empire State.

Get Ready for Winter

One of the biggest things to be ready for when switching from the West Coast to the East Coast is the change in weather. Winters in New York State can be severe; the “Snowvember” of 2014 dumped more than six feet of snow on Buffalo alone. When summer comes, you can expect temperatures that climb up to levels like what you might be used to in California, although with more humidity.

But, it’s not just the weather that may require a bit of an adjustment.

Public Transit is Plentiful

Getting around without a car is incredibly easy in New York State. You have a lot of options when it comes to public transit. Even if your commute has you headed from a suburb to a major city, there are ways to get around without owning a vehicle. The Metro-North railroad serves southern New York State, New Jersey, and southern Connecticut, making it a convenient choice for getting around the region. Amtrak is another excellent option for travel within New York State. And, when it comes to the Big Apple, New York City itself has numerous subway lines and buses connecting all five boroughs. You won’t be held back by limited service hours: the New York City subways and buses run 24 hours a day, although some trains run at different stations than usual during nighttime service.

If you do own a car, be aware that the traffic around major cities, especially New York City, Albany, and Buffalo, is intense during the morning and evening rush hours. Depending on where you live, you might have to commute up to two or more hours each way.

Real Estate Prices are High

New York State rivals California for some of the highest real estate prices in the country. You can expect to pay about $260,000 on average for a small condo or medium-sized house. Even rental costs aren’t immune from sticker shock. The average rent of a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan, for example, is $3,895. Across the rest of the state, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment hovers around $1,638, but you’re likely to find options that are even cheaper in New York’s smaller hubs.

That said, the cost of living in New York is much cheaper than in California. You may find that a move from the Golden State to the Empire State saves you money. For example, the average cost of a doctor’s visit in California is $142.61, but it is only $105.00 on average in New York.

Job Prospects Here are Great

New York’s job market is thriving, making it an ideal place for starting or advancing your career. Education and health services have experienced the most growth over the past year, but there have also been significant increases in the number of jobs available in professional and business services.

New York City is a top destination for jobs in finance, fashion, and the arts. Brooklyn has the hottest job market in the country. Amazon recently announced that Long Island City is one of the locations for its new headquarters, which brings with it a host of job opportunities. You can also find jobs in healthcare, hospitality, and several other industries in abundance throughout the state.

You should expect to fork over a substantial portion of your paycheck regardless of your income level. New York State is known for its high tax rates, but that won’t be much of a change from California.

You’ll Find so Many Ways to Fill Your Weekend

New York offers many ways to have fun indoors, outdoors, and everywhere in-between. There are family-friendly festivals, events, and activities throughout the state.

Knitting fiends flock to the New York Sheep & Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, New York every fall to cuddle angora bunnies, exchange knitting tips, and witness sheep-shearing demonstrations. New York is home to plenty of state parks and wildlife preserves for camping, kayaking, and other outdoor pursuits. The Adirondack Mountains, north of Syracuse and Albany, are some of the most well-loved and best-known outdoor places in the state. This pristine wilderness is just a few hour drive from most towns in New York. Hikers looking to complete part of the Appalachian trail will find a worthy challenge in the 88.4-mile section that crosses through the state.

New York City is famous for its Broadway shows, but there are many other ways to take in the arts in the Big Apple. Experience jazz, ballet, and film at Lincoln Center, or head to the 92nd Street Y or The Strand Bookstore to take in a reading or book signing. There are cultural events held throughout the city every month, many of them for free or at reduced prices.

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Where to Move: Best Places to Live in New York

If the rich culture, exciting outdoors, and robust job market of New York State entices you, it may be time to head for the East Coast. Where you choose to live will be influenced by several factors, like housing availability, crime rate, commute times, and the quality of the local schools.

As you consider where to relocate, here are six cities and towns with the best New York has to offer:

1. New York City

The East Coast is known for its fast pace, and New York City has that in spades.

Each of New York City’s five boroughs has a different character and are always changing with the times. Manhattan, the wealthiest (and most expensive) of the boroughs, has a dizzying array of culture and art. It is also home to a host of top-ranked universities, including New York University (NYU) and Columbia University.

Overall, New York City has a low unemployment rate, which is not surprising considering the number of financial institutions, hospitals, entertainment venues, and other large employers spread throughout the five boroughs. The Big Apple also has a low crime rate. The crime rate in NYC has been dropping since the 1990s, and today New York City has one of the lowest crime rates among major cities in the US. There’s never been a better time to move to the City That Never Sleeps.

New York City, NY

2. Albany

The New York State capital combines a small-town vibe with big-city politics. The state is the biggest employer here; over 300,000 people work for the State of New York. But Albany is also home to a host of tech startups and has the moniker “Tech Valley.” Living here puts you close to the Adirondack Mountains and the funky small town of Troy, the Brooklyn of upstate New York. Troy boasts up-and-coming restaurants, cozy coffee shops, and a robust farmer’s market.

Colleges and universities fill Albany and its surrounding region. Union College is in nearby Schenectady, and Skidmore is in Saratoga Springs. In addition to top-notch schools, the crime rate in the city of Albany is lower than the national average. The crime rate in the Albany region is also meager.

Albany, NY

3. Rochester

Wegmans, a regional grocery store chain and a local treasure, has its headquarters here. Wegmans routinely ranks high on the Fortune best list of companies to work for; it’s currently at the number 2 spot. But Wegmans isn’t the only great employer you’ll find in Rochester. Strong Memorial Hospital, the University of Rochester, and the Rochester General Health System are some of the area’s largest employers.

Rochester also has some great things to do. The Eastman Museum honors Kodak founder George Eastman and provides a fascinating history of cameras. The Strong Museum of Play is plenty of fun for all ages, not just children. You can learn about the history of toys and play through two floors of interactive exhibits.

But while there are many job opportunities, local activities, and super-affordable homes in Rochester, be prepared for some harsh winters. Rochester has just 61 days of bright sun per year. It’s also a prime spot for the winter weather systems that annually dump several feet of snow on the region. You may need to invest in some serious winter gear and snow tires if you have a car.

Rochester, NY

4. North Hills

This overlooked gem in Nassau County (a suburb of New York City) balances a small-town vibe with convenient access to the Big Apple. North Hills is located on the Long Island Expressway, making it easy to commute to the city by car if you own a vehicle. It’s about an hour and forty-five minutes to get to New York City by public transit.

Its residents describe North Hills as a special place, and it’s not hard to see why. The median value of a home here is $957,600, and the unemployment rate is tiny: just 1%. You’re also incredibly close to the authentic Chinese and Korean restaurants located in Flushing, Queens. Or, if you’re in the mood to hit the links, North Hills has two golf courses: North Hills Country Club and Deepdale Golf Club. A low crime rate and excellent local schools make North Hills a great place to be.

North Hills, NY (Photographs Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Residences)

5. Buffalo

There are plenty of great reasons to move to Buffalo. It has experienced a resurgence in popularity thanks to a waterfront revitalization project. This makeover has brought new restaurants, shopping areas, bike lanes, and kayak tours to downtown. IBM recently moved to Buffalo and entered a contract with the state to invest in making Buffalo a new tech hub. Buffalo is also conveniently located in Erie County. Pretty much everything you’ll need is within a short 20-minute drive.

Although Buffalo is one of New York State’s busiest cities, it retains a close-knit community feel. Buffalo is known as “The City of Good Neighbors,” and you’ll find that friendly spirit pretty much everywhere you go. Be advised, however, that Buffalo can be unsafe after dark, so it’s best to tread carefully if you need to be out at night.

Buffalo, NY

6. Rye

Rye is an affluent city located in southern Westchester County. It has beautiful views of Long Island Sound. The three elementary schools in the award-winning Rye School District are National Blue-Ribbon Schools and New York State Schools of Excellence. There’s no shortage of things to do in and around Rye. Playland Park is a major attraction, and the Rye Shopping Center has many upscale boutiques for both men and women. Rye Beach is a popular destination for local families looking for a beach escape close to home. Rye is about 45 minutes from Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan on the MetroNorth railroad. Homes in Rye are costly and can top out at over $1 million; studio apartments are a slightly cheaper alternative but can still cost upwards of $700,000.

Rye, NY

How to Move to New York from Across the Country

So, you’ve found a place to live and are ready to leap the East Coast. Here’s how to plan your move to make sure it goes smoothly.

Create a Plan as Soon as You Know You’re Moving

Your move may be happening in three months or eight. Either way, it pays to stay ahead of the curve. Are there school enrollment deadlines you need to remember or utilities you’ll need installed at the new place? Keep track of these important dates and other tasks in one master file so that you can refer to it throughout the process. You may also consider sharing this file with close family members so that they can stay updated and informed.

If you can, try to move during the off-season. Summer is one of the most popular times to relocate, which can make navigating the roads to your new house tricky. Try moving in the spring or fall when the weather is still good, but things won’t be as crowded. Making this transition in the off-season can also save you money when hiring a mover.

Find the Right Moving Company

You will want to find movers that have done this kind of long-distance move before, so you know you’ll be in good hands. It can help make you feel calmer as you make this significant transition in your life. Professional movers and packers will safely secure your most valuable items to ensure they won’t get damaged during the move. Great Guys Moving can help you find qualified cross country moving companies that are ready to handle your relocation.

Take Time Off for the Move

If you’re changing jobs, your new employer will likely already be factoring in your move time to your start date. If you’re switching locations for a current employer, you may think about taking one or two days off work to give yourself adequate time to get settled and be ready to hit the ground running.

Get Rid of Some Belongings

You may not be able to take all your belongings with you when you move. As you sort your belongings, make sure to set aside things you’re willing to part with, so they can be donated, recycled, or thrown away. You may not need that surfboard or those skate shoes in New York. The lighter your load, the easier it will be to unpack once you arrive at your destination.

Sort by Category

Before you sort everything into boxes, make a comprehensive inventory list. This step will save you time as your belongings arrive at your new destination. You can check your arriving belongings against your inventory list to confirm that your coffee maker or bed frame has made it.

If you currently live in a house, one tip is to pack room by room. Make sure to write the category of belongings on the side of each box, so it is visible when you unpack or even get clear containers so it’s easy to see what’s inside. If you like, you can also add a color-coded sticker to your boxes, so you know which boxes are for the kitchen and which ones will head to your bedroom.

Here are some other tips:

  • Add your last name to each box to mark it as yours.
  • Mark which boxes contain fragile items.
  • Take pictures of large electronics like your TV before you unplug them, so you remember how they connect.
  • Two to three weeks before the move, start packing a little bit each day. This will save you time the day of your move for any last-minute details.
  • Clean out any gym lockers, storage units, or safe deposit boxes in your current location.

Pack the Essentials Separately

It’s also good to plan around the delivery window for your belongings. If you know the rest of your belongings won’t be at your new place for another few weeks, you might consider packing a box or suitcase of the essentials you know you’ll need as soon as you arrive at your destination. This is also sometimes called an “open first” box. These essentials could include:

  • A change of clothes
  • Phone and laptop chargers
  • Bath towel
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Shampoo and conditioner

Having these essentials on hand will make it easier to get settled in after a long cross-country drive or if you have jet lag from your flight. Another tip: toilet paper and a toolbox should be two must-haves to have on hand as soon as you make it to your new home.

Change Your Address

This is one of the most critical steps on your move. Register your new address with the United States Postal Service at least one week before you move. Then, in your master file about the move, keep a running list of all the places your current address is listed (for example, online shopping profiles), so you can go through and change them. And don’t forget to share your new address with your friends and family so that they can send you cards and packages at your new place.

Update Your Documents

In addition to registering your new address, you will also need to update other essential documents like your driver’s license and voter registration. Figure out where the closest DMV is to your new location so that you can take care of this within the first few weeks of your arrival.

Collect the medical, dental, and optical records for all the members of your household and make sure they are all in one place. You will want to keep your most important documents, like passports and ID cards, on you during the move.

Make Time for Friends

Make time to visit with the friends and family you’ll be leaving on the West Coast before you head to New York. It can be as simple and intimate as a dinner party. You’ll have some extra memories to take with you to your new place. If you know people who live in your new area, you can arrange to get together within the first month of your arrival. Putting down new roots is rewarding.

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