September 20, 2011 — Doing a great job of finding your best place to retire is a process. This article will focus on one of the last steps in a successful best places to retire quest – exploring different communities and forming perceptions based on what it is actually like to live somewhere.
But first, here is a quick review of the steps to help you successfully find your best place to retire (see helpful resources for each at end of article):
1. Identify your location priorities. If you have a significant other, find out and discuss how those match.
2. Work on a budget, which will help narrow your search to the best places that fit you.
3. Decide on broad areas of the country to which you would consider moving.
4. Identify priority activities and lifestyles that you want to focus on.
5. Review different communities online and over the phone to narrow down the possibilities. The reviews on Topretirements can be particularly helpful on this step. The maps on our States and Communities pages identify towns we have reviewed – click on the red pin to see the name and a link to each town.
After you have completed Step 5, you are ready to graduate to Step 6, making site visits to the communities on your list. In this article we provide you with a few different scenarios on how you might handle your visits, depending on whether you intend to find your best place to retire in the western or the eastern parts of the U.S., as well as how long you can spend on your trip. This is just a sample that might or not be right for you. The best way to find your own itinerary is to get out some maps and start planning.
When planning your visits please remember our mantra – the more places you visit the smarter you will be about selecting your new home. In this market renting is a lot safer than buying, so don’t be too eager to pull the trigger until you have seen what is out there.
Short Trip: Assuming that you live on the East Coast and can’t spend more than 2 weeks on the road, here are a few options:
– The Western Mountains of the East Coast. Fly to Asheville, NC. From here you can visit a lot of towns in western NC like Murphy or Mt. Airy, eastern Tennessee like Knoxville, northern Georgia like Blue Ridge, and northwestern SC like Clemson. When planning your tour be prepared, the mountains along the Carolina/Tennessee border are forbidding, particularly in winter. Depending on your preferences, you could adapt your tour in many different directions. You will find many great towns in this region reviewed at Topretirements. Read the reviews here and then plan on visiting the ones that grab you. If you have a chance to visit some active communities along the way, even better.
– Eastern Coast Carolinas. If you fly into Wilmington NC there are a lot of coastal towns you could visit in both Carolinas and even northern Virginia. Places like New Bern and Myrtle Beach should be on your list. Or, fly to Charleston and explore the Beaufort and Hilton Head Island area, which not only have many interesting towns but hundreds of active communities.
– Florida. Both coasts of Florida make for a pretty easy tour because they are so linear – just keep going and you will see a lot of towns! Don’t miss Sarasota in the west and Vero Beach in the east. But you might also consider the Central Florida region since it is home to so many towns and active communities, most of which are quite inexpensive. Flying into Orlando is easy; then go out and visit Ocala (don’t miss the tour at The Villages), Winter Haven, Mount Dora, and more.
– Virginia and Maryland. You can drive to a lot of places in these states. Check out towns near the Chesapeake, the Potomac, and in the western mountains.
– Other places. Don’t overlook a trip to Fairhope in Alabama. Many towns and places in Kentucky or Tennessee like Maryville or Tellico Lake are worth a visit.
If you only have a week or 2 to explore, you might want to fly to a central point and then explore the region in a rental car. Another option, if you are close enough to a region that you can drive to in a day or two, is to explore towns in nearby states.
– Arizona. From Phoenix you could cover most of the state. Tucson, Bisbee and Green Valley are in the south; whereas Sedona, Prescott, and Flagstaff are the north.
– New Mexico. Albuquerque is a good place to start because it’s in the middle, with Santa Fe up north. Down south you might enjoy looking at Ruidoso, Las Cruces, and Alamogordo. You could even visit west Texas from here.
– Utah, Nevada, Texas, and Colorado. The problem with almost all of the western states is that they are so big. It is hard to explore more than one of them at a time, unless you are either driving from point A to point B and cherrypick your stops, or you visit one which has communities that abut another state. Some of Utah’s nicest retirement towns are either in the south (St. George’s) or in the north (Park City), with not much in between. Most of the Colorado towns reviewed on Topretirements are in the central or north central part of the state.
– California. A huge state with plenty of nice places to retire. Many of them can be discovered driving north to south.
– Oregon and Washington. Although these are big states too, it is possible to tour a lot of the best places. Medford, Bend, Olympia, Portland – there are some terrific places to retire that are also fun to visit. In Oregon most of the best places are in the western half of the state, whereas in Washington they tend to be in the northwest.
Longer Trip: Lets say you just retired and this is your first winter without the pressures of a job. What a great opportunity! Here are some recommendations:
– Line up as many Stay and Play packages as you can in active communities that interest you. These discounted packages are usually for 1 or 2 nights, but are often longer. There is usually a little selling that goes along with these visits, but that is OK because it gives you a chance to learn more and ask questions. Call the communities to get details.
– Get a short term rental (usually hard to get for less than 1 month) in a community somewhere.
– Visit your friends and relatives who have a place.
– Rent for the whole season and use that time to thoroughly explore that region. If you go online or call communities directly it is fairly easy to find rentals, but it is much harder if you wait too long.
– B & B’s and hotels are nice, but they can get to be expensive and you might tire of living out of a suitcase.
Comments: What kind of road trips have you taken, or are thinking about? Do you have suggestions on a good route or place to visit? Let your fellow members know in the Comments section below.