My Family Is Moving to Arizona!

My family is moving to Arizona in a few days. We had planned to go for months. And then we couldn’t go. Now, suddenly we are packing our bags. I’ve been suffering from migraine headaches and what I assume are near panic attacks due to all of the stress of preparing for the move and my worries over whether we’re making the right choice. But I’m glad we’re going. I’m ready for a change and a new adventure. If you’re wondering, “Should I move to Arizona?” Then this story might help you decide if life in Arizona is right for you.

Moving to Arizona
Off to pricklier pastures – moving to Arizona (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Over 14 years ago I moved to San Diego with my then-fiancé and now husband of many years. We had start-up company dreams and beach wishes. With me entering business school full-time, his lower wage, and the difference in cost of living, we took a 70 percent cut in pay to plow our way out of the snow of Minnesota and into the shores of Southern California.

We’ve clung to the California dream for years. We almost moved away once before, to Silicon Valley or back to Minnesota, whichever job made the offer first. Then my husband’s miracle job swooped in to save us. I couldn’t picture starting my family outside shore-lined San Diego. I had envisioned a beach baby who would giggle at the delight of the ocean at her toes. A few years later, I got her. And then I got my little sand digger boy three years after that.

But here’s the thing. We rarely go to the ocean. Ocean waves in San Diego are too big. The water is too cold. Eventually, the dream job became a nightmare when the economy crashed into a frothy mess. My husband works in the mortgage industry. They’re the first to feel the pain and the last to see relief.

Last year when my family began considering a move, we talked about Portland, Costa Rica, Minnesota, and, yes, Arizona. I lived in the Phoenix area from age 8 to 22, besides one year in Montpellier, France during college.

I swore I’d never go back to hands burnt on a blazing steering wheel and blow drier air blasting from open summer car windows. One day I marched into my husband’s home office and announced, “I can’t live in Arizona. We have to take it off the table.”

But then things changed with his job. We were doing well, making good money, actually SAVING money for the first time in years. Then his company switched sails. They priced themselves out of the market on purpose, afraid of upcoming financial changes.

Suddenly we were bobbing in the sea without a motor. We needed to swim to shore…somewhere where housing is more affordable. Somewhere we could breathe again without swallowing salt water.

Again, I marched, “We need to move to Arizona. It’s the only thing that makes sense.” And it did. My husband could keep his sales territory and commission. We would have more money to spend and save. My parents live in Arizona. So do my brother and his two kids. The Mexican food in Arizona is as good as what you’ll find in Mexico if you ask me. Plus, there’s so much more to do in Phoenix now than when I was growing up. Besides, we’d have a backyard swimming pool. We decided to dive in.

We put our dream house up for sale. For months we prepared our children to leave the only home they’d ever known. Then we hit a reef — no more Arizona. We needed to stay put due to a job change for my husband. With Travel Mamas, I can live anywhere. Him? Not so much. Suddenly, we wanted Arizona ever so much.

For months we searched for an affordable rental home that met our expectations in San Diego, with no luck. And then…a break in the waves. My husband’s new company said we were free to venture to sunnier and more cactus-filled pastures. This was just a couple of weeks ago.

Still, I can’t help but feel it’s not the desert for which we are destined. It’s like we were stuck in the dream of San Diego and Scottsdale is our first step to getting unstuck. Today I told my husband that I see Arizona as a stepping stone and that I cannot picture living the rest of my life in the desert.

I was surprised when he said, “Me neither. I can’t believe I’m moving to Arizona. But it makes sense. We want to live near family. It’s more affordable. This is what we’re doing.”

I asked our two kids, “If it were up to you, and it isn’t, would you rather stay in San Diego or move to Arizona?”

Sea of cholla cactus, Arizona
A sea of cholla cacti (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

They both answered right away, “Arizona!”

I was shocked. “Why?” I asked.

“Family!” they said.

So off we go to Arizona.

When I close my eyes, I envision rain, green, wet, and trees. That’s where I think I belong. But off we go to the desert.

Off we go on a new, drier adventure. I look forward to sharing our journey with you…cactus thorns, swimming pools, and all!

My kids jumping into our backyard pool in Scottsdale, Arizona (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)
My kids jumping into our backyard pool in Scottsdale, Arizona (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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An Update: Where Are We Now?

Want to know more about our move to Arizona and how we settled in? Take a look at this story about adjusting to life in Arizona!

Scottsdale, Arizona sunset
My kids enjoying a Scottsdale sunset (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Learn More About Life in Arizona

Discover the best things to do in our hometown of Scottsdale with kids.

For cooler weather and small-town vibes, take a look at this array of things to do in Prescott.

Explore Northern Arizona’s biggest city with this guide to Flagstaff.

Read about Arizona’s #1 tourist attraction with these tips for visiting the Grand Canyon.

Are you considering moving to Arizona, too? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!

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  1. Hi Colleen. I just came across this article, as I work with clients relocating to AZ and just wanted to see how AZ is treating you these days. I moved here in 2012 and haven’t looked back. Of course the summers are hot, so we generally try to travel in the summer, but even a quick road trip to Flagstaff is a great, close and easy get away. Best of luck on your adventures! – Rachel

  2. Hope moving went great! I have been wanting to move to Arizona for years as well but I own a horse farm in Texas. So I have to work this process of moving my horses through and be really prepared. Your article is really helpful and inspiring. Thanks!

  3. Hey Colleen,

    Best of luck with the move! I am from Arizona. This is a nice place. It has so much to offer, aside from low living cost, we also have a lot of mountains and other photogenic scenes.

  4. Hello,
    I’ve always considered moving out of state but, never done so besides going away for college and coming back home and I’ve had some resentment over the years. However, I’m married now with three children (10,2,10 months). We live in Chicago and my husband is from Michigan. I’ve been really considering Arizona for the past year because of the heat, job market is in abundance, cost of living sooooo much more affordable and environment is sooooo much better than Chicago but, my husband is not to fond of it but, I know he’ll come around. I wanted heat, safe environment and family oriented place to raise our children especially somewhere other than Chicago and I kept putting it off but, I feel this is the year for us to make this move. I want to make sure we’re well prepared first before we go. my 10 year old has been in private school most of her life because the public schools are not so good here and the ones that are good you have to live in that area and I know that’s not the case on Arizona so when we make our move I want her in charter or public school and wanting to find a great school for her. We are a family of color and I’ve done lots of research on Arizona but, it’s hard trying to find the best neighborhoods, communities and schools for your family online especially for us . I sometimes worry if my children will be ok well my oldest will be ok with adjusting she’ll be going to 6 grade . We have been looking at different areas but, haven’t nailed it down to anything specific we’ve been looking at Surprise, Litchfield, Avondale, Scottsdale, Tucson and Maricopa. We have some time to consider seeing as though we don’t plan to move until this upcoming August but, I want to know based on those areas what are parts to stay clear of ? Are there any good daycare for infants and toddlers? What about good doctors? Where are the schools mostly Friendly great educational areas? I want my children to be able to play outside and enjoy themselves Keeping in mind we’re coming from the inner city of Chicago😬 so we are looking forward to a much healthier environment for our family I know every place has their shortcomings but, we want to be able to embrace this new journey. If you have any advice it is greatly appreciated and most welcoming!!!

    1. Hi Torri –

      Congratulations on your upcoming move to Arizona! Since we live in Scottsdale, I can attest that it is a very safe city. Of course, every city has certain areas that are safer than others and with that, prices go up. The schools are quite good in Scottsdale, too. (Unfortunately Arizona doesn’t pay its teachers enough, though, so the state is having a hard time keeping good teachers.) I would say that North Scottsdale is the “fanciest,” safest, newest and typically most expensive area in Scottsdale (and that’s where we live). After living in San Diego for 15 years, Scottsdale feels like a bargain to us, though!

      I have also heard and read wonderful things about Gilbert, where some of our friends from California just moved. It’s a planned community with great schools and lots of families.

      I don’t know a lot about the other communities you are considering but this article should help:

      Good luck with your decision and move!

  5. Hey Colleen-

    I am planning on moving to the area this time NEXT YEAR and I am seriously already semi stressing out about it.. My son will be going to bible college out there.. in Mesa, AZ but I have been looking at Gilbert and Chandler areas… I am desperately trying to find ways to be able to find a place WITHOUT having to fly out there several times because that is a great deal of money as well –

    Do you have any suggestions via neighborhoods to live in OR even to stay clear away from ?

    Thank you so much

    1. Hi Val – There are good and bad areas of both Mesa and Chandler but I believe Gilbert is a pretty safe and lovely area throughout. You won’t be able to find a rental home until 30-60 days prior anyway, but I suppose if you’re looking for an apartment you could come out earlier to see what works best for you. (You’ll get a lot more for your money if you choose a rental condo or house, though.) We picked out our rental house online and signed the lease sight unseen before we moved here but my parents went to look at the place and gave us a thumbs up. This was also because we had very short notice before our move and we knew the general area where we wanted to live (North Scottsdale). Honestly, it will all come together when it needs to. You can only plan so much so far in advance. Trust and the take the leap when it’s time to jump!

  6. Really torn between moving back to Minnesota or Arizona? So confused I can transfer to Arizona but in Minnesota the closet job for me is 2 hours away from my family. I have no family in Arizona and I feel we will not have visitors because it’s so far from Illinois and Minnesota. Help my path goes 2 directions and my time is clicking down

    1. Hi Jennifer – I definitely understand the desire to live near family — it’s one of the reasons we decided to move to Arizona where my parents and brother live! However, I bet your Illinois/Minnesota family and friends would LOVE to come visit you in Arizona in winter! We have tons of “snowbirds” from snowy places like this who live in Arizona specifically every winter. Then you can visit your family in summer when the heat is so bad in AZ. I am sure you will make new friends in AZ, too, because there are so many transplants here. Best wishes in making your decision!

  7. Hi Colleen,
    I am embarking on a journey from Wi to Buckeye Az. I have never moved more than 20 miles, but a job offer for a company I have worked at for 33 yrs presented itself and my husband is all for it. I have a 35 yr old daughter with Cerebral Palsy I am hoping she will be able to find the same services there as she receives here, Special Olympics, employment, and respite care. Do you have any Advice on how to transport 2 dogs & 3 cats, because we are really at a loss at what to do. 🙂

    1. Hi Colleen (Nice name!) – Congratulations on your job opportunity and upcoming move to Arizona! I don’t have any advice when it comes to finding the care your daughter needs, but I will say that Phoenix is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S & therefore offers a wide variety of services and opportunities for its community members. As for moving the dogs and cats, I personally would probably just put the cats in carriers and pack up all the pets to do a road trip to AZ. You could map out pet-friendly hotels/motels along the way. I read a good tip once to stop at Petsmarts and Petcos along the way if you need to use the restroom, because you can bring the pets inside with you. (Of course, if you’re traveling with other people, you could just take turns, too.) Another option would be to hire a pet moving service. We were considering this when we were considering moving to Mexico because we would not want to do a road trip there and we would not want to put our dog in the cargo hold of the plane since it is dangerously cold for them. Best wishes!

    2. Colleen Breunig,
      I am considering moving to Arizona and I have a 19 year old son with cerebral palsy. How has it been getting services for your daughter in Arizona? I am currently living in Iowa and have been having a harder time getting services the older my son has gotten.


  8. Hi Colleen,
    I am so thrilled I came across this conversation! I moved to AZ from PA (outside of Philly) in 2004 and moved back in 2007 to be with family again. Well, here I am 12 years later wanting to be back to Scottsdale. I have three children now (7,5,3) and I know they would look at it as an adventure. Although I do like the greeery of PA, it is 4 degrees today! Please tell me that you still have no regrets moving to AZ. I want to be absolutely sure that I am making the right decision to move my family there. Being a teacher, the most important thing to me is choosing the perfect school for my children. A happy, safe joyful learning environment. If you could steer me in the right direction, I would so appreciate it! I taught second grade in Paradise Valley when I lived there and I thought it was a nice district. Would you say the same or does Scottsdale SD have a better reputation? Thanks for reading and I would love any words of wisdom you can provide me! Do feel safe? Are your children happy? Do you feel rooted in the community? The one thing you said that is already resonating with me is that you only wish you had made the move sooner!

    1. Hi Mandy – Yes! We are still happy and enjoying life in Arizona! In fact, we recently purchased a new home and set down more permanent roots here after renting here for four years. Basis schools are charter schools in Arizona that consistently rank among the very best in the nation. Your kids are still young enough that they would likely easily get in, too. My kids are too old now because they give preference to kids who have attended their elementary schools and they often don’t have any openings at all for middle school or high school. It is a rigorous curriculum, though. Both Scottsdale and Paradise Valley rank pretty well among schools in Arizona. I feel extremely safe in North Scottsdale. South Scottsdale is older and more affordable, but I am partial to North Scottsdale for its clean, safe, beautiful neighborhoods and plentiful shops and restaurants. Getting involved in school, religious or community activities will help you feel rooted. My daughter is very involved in choir and theater and my son is very involved in sports, which has been great for them in terms of making friends and feeling a part of something. My husband coaches Little League and my dad is assistant coach, so that has been wonderful for us in terms of getting to know other families. As with most things, the more effort you make, the more you gain! I hope that helps!

  9. Wow – sounds like that was quite the journey!
    It’s awesome you were willing to step out of your comfort zone for the long-term benefits for your family. 🙂
    Love your content, keep it up!

  10. I am moving to Ariizona next year, my whole family is making the decision to move to the Gilbert Arizona area due to high cost housing ins rattle. We all have a decent amount of equity and will be able to put 100-200,000 down on a new house. Coming from a place like Seattle, we love California, we don’t wanna be depressed anymore, we wanna be in the sunshine. Arizona seems to be the best match after months of research. Are we in for a world of surprise? People in Seattle are so open and it’s a melting pot of great people. Is Arizona have the same care free melting pot feel? Any advice and houghts would be great!

    1. Hi Andrew- It depends on what you mean by open melting pot. If you mean liberal, Arizona is definitely on the conservative side. Although now more a purple state than a strictly red state, there are A LOT of conservative republicans here. According to a Forbes article that ranks the most conservative and most liberal cities in the U.S., Seattle ranks as the 3rd most liberal, whereas Mesa in AZ ranks as the #1 most conservative. As far as demographics go, according to 2005 U.S. census information, about 25% of Arizona’s population is Hispanic, and there are much smaller representations of African American and Asian populations here. The majority of AZ residents identified as white non-Hispanic. My kids go to a good school in predominantly white Scottsdale but have friends of all races and ethnicities in their classes. One of my kids, though, came home from grade school during the last presidential election and told me that he was horrified when the lunch lady told the kids that she would be voting for Donald Trump and nearly the entire lunchroom started chanting and pounding on the tables, “Build a wall! Build a wall!” My son and his friends did not join in. So, is there racism? Yes! But I have met and befriended lots of open-minded people of different backgrounds here. I am sure you will be able to find people with similar values as yours.

  11. Hi! We have no job really pulling us to Scottsdale, but my husband has the ‘itch’ to change it up. We have no family or friends there, but that’s no biggie to us. We have owned our first home for 3 years this summer. There’s supposedly a good amount of equity, so we are thinking stepping g stone too! My only heart ache is that I have a sophomore and a fifth grader. My teen says no way and my tween says hell yeah!
    What’s you’re suggestion? I’m worri d about difference in bills CA vs AZ

    1. Amber – Typically everything is cheaper in Arizona than in California, so you would probably save money on your bills with a move. Scottsdale is one of the most expensive areas in the state, but I still find it to be MUCH more affordable than San Diego, where we lived. Of course, if you’re coming from San Ramon or Temecula, that might be different. Whenever making big decisions like this, I ask my kids what they would choose if it were up to them, but I also remind them that it is NOT up to them! It really is about what YOU and your husband think is best for your family. My kids struggled when we first moved here a few years ago but now they consider Arizona home. They will adjust and so will you. Good luck in making your decision!

  12. My husband and I are seriously considering moving to AZ- his two daughters and grand children live in Phoenix. We are thinking more towards Prescott Valley. My children are 13 and 11, so I’m not sure how they’ll take it.

    1. We love Prescott! It’s such a beautiful area with lots of trees, hiking trails, lakes and a darling downtown area. Plus it offers wilder weather than what we get in Phoenix. I don’t find it to be the friendliest city, maybe because they get so many tourists. (Honestly, people seem a little cranky to me in the Phoenix Area too – especially drivers!) Best of luck with your decision!

  13. My hubby just got a job offer in Scottsdale and we are looking to move our family to the Peoria or Surprise area to rent and hoping to buy a brand new home that we can customize to our liking. I am incredibly nervous as I will be leaving my 90k job and will be out of work until I can find suitable employment in AZ. Also having our oldest move in the middle of the school year is not gonna be fun.
    My BIGGEST fear of the move is that I’m reading about mouse sized flying roaches in AZ! Please say it isn’t so. I can deal with a snake but not with rodent sized roaches flying around.
    Also do you know of any good Mom groups? I have a newborn too

    1. Hi Stacy – I have seen some big flying roaches in AZ, but honestly not since I was a kid (which, ahem, was a while ago!). Get yourself a good exterminator. We had scorpions at our rental house several times during our first year or so here but haven’t seen any since we got a monthly exterminator. As far as mom groups, I would suggest getting involved with your kids’ schools and trying to get chummy with the fellow moms. If you have a baby or toddler, I suggest Stroller Strides/Fit4Mom. I did those classes with my son from age 3 mos to 5 years in San Diego and met lots of other moms that way. There are Stroller Strides/Fit4Mom options in Phoenix/Scottsdale too. Hope that helps!

  14. I do appreciate all the conversations you guys are having,I was wondering if I can get an advice, I have a husband and a 1y/old and planning to have one more this & my husband is so into California and we wanted to move to San Diego from Az.but my sister & brother all lives here in az. Really nervous about moving & having 2nd thought bec I will have no support over in San Diego but I’m just tired of the heat.pls help me decide! Thank you

    1. Bernadette – It’s so tough to make big decisions like this. I can’t make that decision for you. We really loved San Diego for its beautiful weather, the ocean, and the plentiful things to do there. However, it became quite a burden for us to continue living there because the cost of living is so high. If you don’t mind downgrading your lifestyle (less meals out, less money for shopping and excursions) or you are quite wealthy – then go for it! Otherwise, you could look into more affordable, cooler destinations for your next residence. Good luck making your decision!

  15. I read all these posts and I have to say, I’m also nervous for such an unknown change and adjustment. My family and I were born and raised in San Diego, it’s the only place we have lived and love it here. It’s just too expensive! We are planning on selling our home and move to The Chandler or Gilbert area. We went in December because my hubby had an interview for a job, well he got it and we’re putting our house on the market in two weeks. We have a 9 year old and a 1 year old. We don’t know anybody in Arizona, all our family and friends are here. I’m scared for such an unknown change. We want good school, parks, and things to do near us. I will miss the beach and the ocean breeze. Any advice or tips wpuld be mich appreciated. Thanks in advance!

    1. Ilima – I have heard wonderful things about Gilbert, but have not been there myself. We live in Scottsdale, which is more expensive and have actually considered moving to Gilbert since the home values and rental prices are so much more affordable. I hear you about fear of change but, honestly, I wish we’d made the move years earlier. Yes, there will be an adjustment period but the anticipation of the move was worse than the move itself for me. Good luck in the Valley of the Sun!

  16. Hi Colleen,

    Ok, didn’t quite catch all the comments above, but I very much get what you wrote three years ago. My hubs’ job sent us temporarily to Gilbert in early 2017, and we were able to rent a nice house there in an amazing lake community. Man, it was awesome! We had a great time overall — much better quality of life than what we were normally accustomed to.

    We are from Northern Virginia and love the trees and trails in our state and region; but the cost of living here is high compared to AZ ($260k for a 2BR condo; $360k for a no-garage townhome; $600k+ for most single-family homes in 2017). So, we’ve debated whether or not we’d want to move out to AZ, too. But, like you, we don’t see ourselves staying long-term. Our quality of life would be better out in AZ for a while; but long-term, we know that we would be wise to stay put here in VA. For all the problems where we are in VA, we still have it very good here in VA. I just gotta remember that, I suppose, and make the best of it. But kudos to you for being more adventurous and moving! = )

    Now, if I could just count my blessings, and focus on enjoying life here in VA…. oh, but those lake community homes — so hard to pass up…………… must….. step….. away…. from…. Zillow……. ; )

    1. Hi LG – Glad to hear you enjoyed Gilbert! My family has actually considered moving from Scottsdale to Gilbert because we’ve heard such good things and it’s more affordable. It’s hard to focus on the good of where you live sometimes. For me, that time is in the summer when it’s so crazy hot in AZ! I hope your family is happy no matter where you land – AZ or VA or elsewhere!