Tips For Moving to a Big City

Moving from the country to major cities like Chicago, San Francisco, and New York City can be intimidating.It can also be an adventure for young adults from rural areas to experience the big city for the first time.

From cultural events and international cuisine to new careers and abundant social opportunities, the sky’s the limit when moving from a small town to a new home in a large city.

But there are downsides too.

Getting lost in the shuffle, feeling isolated and depressed, and missing friends and family back home are genuine concerns.

To help decide whether trading rural scenery and wide-open spaces for subways and high rises are right for you and your family, we’re sharing some big city relocation tips that may make the process less stressful.

But first…

What Cities are People Moving To

According to sources like LinkedIn and North American Moving Services (one of the country’s largest van lines and relocation companies), the following cities have been among the most popular destinations in recent years –

  • Austin, Texas
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • Tampa and Jacksonville, Florida
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Charleston, South Carolina

On the other hand, these cities have experienced significant outbound relocation traffic –

  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Hartford, Connecticut
  • New York, New York
  • San Francisco, California

Did You Know? 

People are largely moving to the first eight cities (and others) due to their relatively low tax rates, business-friendly environments, abundant jobs, and economic growth.

Pros and Cons of City Life


  • Abundant sports venues, concerts, and cultural events
  • More job advancement opportunities and higher salaries
  • More multicultural activities and communities
  • World-class colleges and universities
  • Inexpensive public transportation
  • You may not need a car
  • Museums and art galleries
  • International cuisine
  • Nightlife


  • High rent and real estate costs
  • Smaller homes and apartments
  • Lots of competition for jobs
  • Lack of privacy and natural areas
  • Heavy traffic and construction noise
  • The high cost of education and healthcare
  • Everything is more expensive
  • High taxes

Moving from a Small Town to a Big City – A “How To” Guide

1. Consider New City Options and Do Your Research

Benjamin Franklin once opined that failing to prepare is the same as preparing to fail.

And with respect to moving, truer words were never spoken.

In short, when moving to a big city, planning is vital.

When thinking about potential cities to call your new home, consider –

  • Climate
  • Population
  • Crime rates
  • Demographics
  • Cost of living
  • Job opportunities
  • Closeness to your old home
  • Availability of a public transportation system
  • Quality of schools, universities, and health care

Insider’s Tip

Our free City Guides are great resources for getting familiar with new cities from Miami, Florida to Oakland, California, and dozens of metropolitan areas in between.

2. Are You a “Country” or “City” Person at Heart?

  • Am I tough enough to make it in a big city?
  • Will I be comfortable using Uber and the public transit system instead of driving my car to the grocery store and coffee shop?
  • Can I trade clean air, fishing, and biking in the country for nightlife, heavy traffic, and limited living space?
  • Is commuting on the subway at night safe?

Asking yourself questions like these before committing to moving can help determine whether or not you’re cut out for living in a large city.

City life has its perks, but it’s definitely not for everyone.

Realize it’s not for you? You might consider moving to a small town. Here’s what you need to know about moving from the city to the country. 

3. Explore Job Opportunities

Having a job (preferably a better job) lined up before moving is a great way to minimize stress.

Moving into a new apartment, making new friends, and enjoying big city life are great, but without a steady income source, you may not be able to enjoy them.

However, if you’re OK with flying by the seat of your pants and have enough savings to last a few months while looking for work, heading out and hoping for the best might be a good option.

But beforehand, think about –

  • The overall job market
  • The state of the economy
  • Your education, qualifications, and experience
  • The amount of competition in your particular field(s)

In addition, you’ll want to update your resume, set reasonable salary expectations, visit job fairs, and ask friends and family for leads and personal recommendations.

Did You Know?

Many employers offer relocation packages to qualified new hires, and some cover moving costs, storage, and temporary housing.

What the Average Corporate Relocation Package Looks Like

4. Network

Social media and job search websites like Careerbuilder and Linkedin are definitely worth checking out periodically, but employers typically get hundreds of applications for each posting.

And standing out from the crowd isn’t easy.

In fact, many jobs fill their openings with candidates who come with personal referrals from friends, family, and business associates.

Though most of us avoid it like the plague, networking is a necessary evil for those looking for work in a new city.

But don’t wait.

The more people you meet socially and professionally before moving, the more likely it is that one of them will be able to suggest a company that’s hiring, make a personal introduction, or hire you themself.

5. DIY Move vs. Hiring a Full-Service Moving Company

Though you may save a few bucks moving, hiring reputable, vetted, full-service movers is almost always the way to go when it comes to safety and convenience.

Related: 5 Best Interstate Movers Of 2024

That said – the moving industry is full of shady players, and unless you know what to look for, the red flags may not be so obvious.

Thankfully, we’ve broken the process down into 15 easy-to-follow steps.

You can find them here – How to Hire Movers.

You’ll also want to do a cost-benefit analysis between renting a truck and packing and moving yourself, and letting professionals handle your relocation.

We suggest starting with our Moving Cost Calculator.

6. Downsize, Discard and Donate

Moving things you don’t want or rarely use isn’t smart.

This especially applies to interstate moves when charges are based mainly on the weight of your items.

Instead, pick-up date to go through your belongings to determine what to keep and what to get rid of.

Sound overwhelming?

Rest assured, it’s not.

For helpful tips, check out Decluttering & Downsizing for a Move

Did You Know? 

Getting rid of “junk” has never been easier.

Here’s how – The Ultimate Guide to Full-Service Junk Removal

7. Prepare a Budget

Though it may seem like a task best left to accountants, preparing a moving budget is smart when considering a move to a large city.

If you’re moving yourself, consider the following costs –

  • Truck rental
  • Packing material (boxes, tape, packing paper)
  • Fuel, food, and lodging while en route

For full-service moves, include –

  • Transportation and labor costs for moving, packing, and unpacking
  • Fuel surcharges on interstate moves and travel time charges on local moves
  • Insurance (valuation) costs
  • Additional delivery costs for shuttles, stairs, and elevators
  • The cost for shipping your car

Also, factor in utilities, cable, internet, and stocking your new home with food, housewares, and furniture.

Insider’s Tip

You may not need it, but it’s always a good idea to have a few storage options on-hand in case moving into your new home or apartment is delayed temporarily.

Cheapest Storage Options

8. Find a New Place

It may go without saying, but finding a new home or apartment before moving is important.

If you’ll be moving for work and the company is helping with your relocation, you may be offered temporary housing for a set period.

Otherwise, they’ll probably recommend local realtors who’ve helped other transferees find suitable homes or apartments.

If possible, stay in an Airbnb property temporarily until you’re familiar with the area.

If your new life in the big city and the new job doesn’t work out, you won’t have to break a lease or forfeit a security deposit before moving back home.

For young people living in the city, roommates are also worth considering. Just make sure you get to know them before moving in.

9. Say Goodbye to Friends and Family

Break out the tissues and cue the violins…

Saying adios to friends and family can be emotional, but remember, new adventures almost always require sacrifices.

And though you may be heading hundreds or thousands of miles away, loved ones are just a phone call, flight, or Zoom meeting away.

10. Don’t Waffle

It’s 8 AM.

You’re on your third cup of coffee.

A big diesel-powered vehicle turns the corner down the street.

The moving company’s shiny tractor-trailer is at your apartment.

Hefty overall-clad moving men are walking toward your door!

Time to panic or hide in the closet, right?


According to the US Census Bureau, nearly 10% of Americans move every year.

Yes, it’s stressful, but you can do it.

11. Get Settled in and Hit the Streets

Remember that fear you felt walking into school on the first day of kindergarten all those years ago?

Despite being older and wiser, you may need to summon that same courage when moving to a new city.

New faces and unfamiliar surroundings can cripple the best of us, which is why it’s so important to get active and meet people as soon as possible.

Here we’re talking about “baby steps” like –

  • Taking a walk around the neighborhood
  • Introducing yourself to someone in the mailroom
  • Joining new coworkers for lunch or happy hour
  • Checking out out an art museum or cultural event
  • Stopping into a local restaurant for a sandwich or beer
  • Joining Meetup and connecting with people who share similar interests

Then, after a few awkward interactions and with a bit of luck and persistence, you’ll be off to the races.

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