Are you contemplating a move from the balmy beaches of Florida to the laid-back California coast? Though you can anticipate equally sun-filled skies in most parts of the Golden State, California has some distinct differences from the Sunshine State. While you can look forward to magical trips to Disneyland, trekking through the woodsy trails in Sequoia National Park, or chasing down movie stars in the Hollywood Hills, you have some substantial work ahead to plan your relocation and ensure you’re ready for the changes it entails. Here’s your guide to planning a smooth East to West Coast relocation.
Should I Move to California? Things to Know Before Relocating
If you decide to move from Florida to California, you’ll find that while the beaches and climate of both places are similar, there are several differences between the two states. Here are some things to know before relocating to the expansive, scenic state of California.
1. You’ll Need the Car
Apart from the Bay Area, most of California is not known for its public transportation. Just as in Florida, you’ll need a vehicle to get around, and if you’re living in a major metro area, brace yourself for a lot of traffic and long commutes. At least the state’s notorious traffic jams will give you an excuse to blast music, sing carpool karaoke, and catch up on your favorite podcasts.
2. Distances are Long
Florida only encompasses about 40% of the landmass of California – 65,755 square miles to the Golden State’s 163,696 square miles. California is also about 320 miles longer. While the distance between most of the major cities in Florida is drivable in a single afternoon, the same doesn’t hold true for California. For example, L.A. is over six hours from San Francisco, while San Diego to Sacramento is over eight hours. In many cases, it’s easier and cheaper to fly between cities. If you do decide to drive, always account for the rush hour and traffic.
3. The Cost of Living is High
Compared to Florida, California has a much higher cost of living. It will take more to live, study, eat, work and play in your new home state. For example, if you’re moving from Miami to Los Angeles, Bankrate’s comparison tool indicates that the cost of living in L.A. is almost 25% more than that of Miami. If you’re moving from Tampa to San Diego, expect to pay 58% more to maintain your standard of living. Before you relocate, make sure you have a job lined up that enables you to afford the added expense of sky-high living costs.
4. Tax Rates are Exorbitant
Low tax rates across the board spoil Floridians. In addition to zero income tax, the state also boasts a reasonable 6% state sales tax rate and a 1.06% effective property tax rate. Californians pay a lower effective property tax rate of just .81% but pay a higher state sales tax of 7.25%. The real clincher is income tax – the California income tax rate ranges from 1% all the way up to 12.3% (the highest percentage of any state in the country). So, in addition to paying more for living costs, also expect a big bite out of your paycheck to go towards lining the state’s coffers.
4. It’s a Different Time Zone
Florida has two time zones. Part of the Panhandle follows the Central Time Zone, while the rest of the state is in the Eastern Time Zone. California follows Pacific Daylight time, which means that it is two or three hours behind what you are used to. Since only 14% of the United States lives in this time zone, imagine the hassle of calling family and friends back in Florida, or elsewhere, for that matter. Make sure they know about the time difference and plan conversations to avoid someone waking you up in the middle of the night or calling you at work.
5. You’ll Need to Wear Layers
Northern California has distinct seasons, but Southern California has more-or-less the same weather year-round, much like Florida. Be sure to prepare for whatever weather might come your way. Keep any heavy winter wear at home and bring light layers and rain gear for everyday use. If you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors, then stock up on hiking and exercise clothes. California’s climate tends to be less humid than Florida’s. While many days are sunny, the temperature often falls at night. Stick to lightweight fabrics and versatile layers that you can pile on, or take off if needed.
6. The Culture is Laid-Back & Friendly
Californians are friendly, and the pace of life here is more relaxed than in other areas of the country. At the same time, people are focused on their careers. People tend to eat healthily, due to the ready access to fresh fruit and vegetables. Those who have any dietary restrictions will find specialty foods easy to come by, due to the large population and high demand for alternative foods.
7. Attractions are Endless
There are plentiful opportunities for exploration in The Golden State. Hike and relax in Yosemite National Park or Sequoia National Park. Spend a day at Disneyland. Stay in a resort on Lake Tahoe. Walk the Golden Gate Bridge. Spot some celebrities in Los Angeles and go surfing in Malibu. Visit the animals at the San Diego Zoo. Whether you prefer the outdoors or are more into cultural attractions, California has it all.
If you can live with the expensive living costs, traffic, and high tax rates, then you can enjoy the scenic views and good times that await you in California, your new home. Make the most of it!
Where to Live in California
The Golden State is not only a top tourist destination, but it’s also a great place to live! California, which spans almost 164,000 square miles, has something for everyone. Whether you want to live in a bustling metropolitan area or a close-knit farming community, it’s not difficult to find the perfect home in this diverse and sprawling state. The 39.54 million people already enjoying life here are living proof. Check out the top five cities to live in for the real California experience.
1. Irvine, CA
While most people have heard of Irvine, many don’t know where this community is. You might be surprised that it’s only 36 miles from the world-class city of Los Angeles. Nestled in the southern part of Orange County, Irvine has a lot to offer those who are seeking a family-oriented community. Its crime rate is lower than the national average, and many of the schools in the Irvine Unified School District offer students top-ranked education. It also has a strong economy bolstered by the presence of significant corporations including Broadcom, Western Mutual Insurance Group, Samsung, and Toshiba. Those looking to escape the congestion of L.A. are happy to find that traffic in Irvine is sparse. This environmentally-friendly city is also dedicated to green energy production and offers rebates to residents and businesses that are also committed to going green.
Irvine’s 212,000 residents benefit from a wealth of parks and green spaces, shopping centers, and excellent schools. Locals get to enjoy all Irvine has to offer under Southern California’s perpetually sunny skies. As a bonus, tourist attractions such as Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm are just a hop, skip and jump away in Anaheim.
2. Santa Barbara, CA
Dubbed the American Riveria by the local tourism board, Santa Barbara sits about a two-hour drive northwest of Los Angeles along the central California Coast. Sparkling beachfront dotted with Spanish-style red-roofed buildings set to the backdrop of the Santa Ynez Mountains does indeed make one feel as if you’ve landed in a quaint Mediterranean village. This beautiful scenery makes the town an appealing destination for weddings and vacations. Even the architecture of its top-tier community college is awe-inspiring as it hangs on a cliff by the sea. This observation begs the question: why be a tourist in Santa Barbara when you can move there?
Although Santa Barbara is a relatively small city with about 91,000 residents, there is no shortage of things to do. The year-round sunshine here allows residents to take full advantage of the beach and other outdoor activities, like concerts at the Santa Barbara Bowl, picnics in Lookout Park, and biking along the coast. Of course, it’s not all play and no work. Santa Barbara County is known for a healthy economy, with most workers finding employment in tourism, agriculture, and wine, business, healthcare, or building and design. For those with families, the community is served by the well-regarded Santa Barbara and Hope School Districts, as well as several private schools.
3. Sacramento, CA
A prominent city during the Gold Rush Era, today, Sacramento boasts the title of the capital of California. Although it is just a two-hour drive from the Bay Area, Sacramento has a more affordable cost of living and a healthy economy bolstered by employment opportunities with state and county agencies, major healthcare systems, and the local school districts.
The city is a dream for outdoor enthusiasts. Two large, freshwater rivers, the Sacramento and American Rivers, run through its neighborhoods, converging north of downtown. There is also a plethora of grass-filled parks placed throughout the city, including the William Land Park, Fairytale Town, and McKinley Park. The city also has a bustling downtown area filled with all kinds of restaurants and cultural events. Most Sacramentans like to highlight the fact that the town is conveniently between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe. This location makes it the perfect hub for weekend getaways. If you plan on moving here make sure your residence has good air conditioning; summers in Sacramento can get pretty toasty!
4. San Jose, CA
As part of the Silicon Valley, San Jose is a top choice for those employed in the tech field. The nearby city of Cupertino houses the headquarters of Apple. Just down the highway is the primary site for Google. Of course, if coding isn’t your thing, you shouldn’t have a problem finding employment at one of the area’s other major employers – like Stanford or the County. Overall, the city enjoys an unemployment rate below the national rate, and economists expect future job growth here to outpace other parts of the U.S.
San Jose is one of the larger cities in the San Francisco Bay Area. Although it suffers from a high cost of living, residents enjoy all the benefits of living in a metropolitan area. There are many different housing options in this city. You can live in a high-rise building downtown or retreat to a quiet suburban neighborhood.
Spend your free time can be dining in San Francisco or hiking in the nearby Santa Cruz mountains. San Jose is also close to the ocean for those who prefer long walks on the beach. With over 300 sunny days each year, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy San Jose’s scenic surroundings.
5. San Diego, CA
No list of the best cities in California is complete without including San Diego. This city embodies what most people think of when they picture California. It doubles as a major metropolitan area and oceanside community, with laid-back citizens, happening nightlife, and nearly perfect weather. The temperature hovers around 70 degrees Fahrenheit almost all year-round. San Diego is also beach lover’s paradise. From Imperial Beach to Pacific Beach, there are over 17-miles of coastline to enjoy.
The city also houses famous attractions such as LEGOLAND, Sea World, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. The Gaslamp District, farmers markets, and hiking trails provide additional weekend activities. Thanks to its proximity to the border, the area is also known for its authentic and delicious Mexican food restaurants.
If you think you can’t afford to live here, then think again. It’s true that housing in the San Diego area is pricey. Nonetheless, neighborhoods such as Hillcrest, National City, and Little Italy are considered more affordable options. The job market in San Diego also provides higher than average salaries, and the area enjoys a low unemployment rate. Most of the residents fare well despite the high costs.
The cities mentioned above are just a small sample of the excellent places to live in California. Those considering a move to the state might also look into the big cities of Los Angeles or San Francisco. Those looking for smaller, affordable communities might want to check out towns in the Central Valley. You may have to visit California to get a good feel for the culture and lifestyle each city offers. In the end, California is a diverse state that has something for everyone.
Tips & Advice for Moving Across the Country to California
Moving to a new home is difficult, especially when you’re making the 2700-mile cross-country trek from Florida to California. While there’s no way to know what issues may arise along the way, being prepared helps ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible. We’ve put together helpful tips on what to expect, what to avoid, and how to make sure you’re as prepared as possible for your journey to the Golden State.
1. Determine How You Will Travel
Before you begin boxing up your belongings, you must think about how you’re going to get from Florida to California. If you’re like most, you’ll hire professional cross-country movers for this long trek. This choice allows you to fly to your destination while the movers transport your belongings and auto transport company ships your car.
However, you might prefer to make the drive with your belongings on your own. If you do choose this, then it’s critical to map out your travel, look at the weather forecast, find hotels, and plan bathroom breaks. You must also have a vehicle and truck that’s capable of moving everything thousands of miles.
If you’re unsure which option is right for you, hiring professionals is a surefire way to have peace of mind. Since they do this for a living, they already know the best routes and moving methods to use. They’ll also have the moving trucks ready to go, which can simplify the process for you. However, if you want to weigh your options, this calculator can help you anticipate the cost of each choice.
2. Don’t Move Everything
Sure, it’s tempting to move all your belongings because you’ve had them for a while or they hold sentimental value. While it’s ideal to bring along great grandma’s prized vase, the dresser that’s holding on by a thread should go. These types of items likely won’t survive the trip and will only increase your costs by taking up precious space in the moving truck.
When you pack up each room, mark boxes for things to throw away, donate or save. When you look at the furniture, analyze each piece to determine which are in good shape. Items that are broken down or decades old are best left donated, sold, or tossed out. Check out this guide to help you narrow down what to keep.
3. Keep the Items You Need
Moving means packing everything, however, that doesn’t mean you should walk out of your house with only the clothes on your back. Whether you’re relocating by yourself or with your family, the essentials should be kept out in a bag or box. These necessary items include extra clothes, toiletries, chargers, essential travel documents, snacks, water, and money. For a long distance move of this magnitude, it’s likely you’ll need to pack multiple essentials boxes.
If you’re traveling with little ones, then don’t forget to keep their car seats and strollers handy. When you arrive, you won’t have easy access to your things for days or weeks, so you’ll want to have the essentials with you always.
4. Find a Home Before You Move
Yes, there are homes virtually anywhere you want to move. However, these houses may not be in the neighborhood you like, and they may not be your preferred style. Since you won’t have a place to go back to, you must make sure you have a home to sleep in once you arrive in California. Having housing nailed down will provide you with peace of mind and can help ensure your belongings don’t have to be taken to an expensive storage facility while you frantically search for a place.
Tip: If you’re selling your home in Florida and thinking about buying a new one in California, this article is a great resource.
5. Consider Your Pets
Moving from Florida to California with kids might be hard, but when it comes to traveling with pets, the challenges can increase. Fortunately, some services specialize in moving furry friends to the new destination safely. You can also take them with you on the road, although preparation is critical. Don’t forget to take any animal you own to the vet before you move. This step helps ensure they are in optimal health while keeping them up-to-date on any shots they may need.
6. Pack Creatively
Since space is limited no matter how you move, it’s important to get creative with packing. Wrap dinnerware in towels instead of bubble wrap, stick flatware in socks, roll vases in clothing, and pad boxes with old newspapers. With a little bit of creativity, you can save space in your truck and reduce the number of boxes you need overall.
Tip: Since this is such a long move, make sure you pack every item well. Don’t skimp on padding and be sure not to overload boxes.
7. Have a Plan
While you might have an idea of how moving day will go, this isn’t enough when you’re going across the country. Write down a detailed plan (or use the checklist here), knowing that even the best thought out plan may not go like you expect. This planning will save you a lot of stress while helping you anticipate things that might go wrong when you least expect them.
The journey of moving from Florida to California is a long one, whether you decide to drive or fly. However, if you prepare, you may be able to avoid some pitfalls along the way. Don’t forget to take your time, devise a plan, and think things through to have the best experience possible.