Many people thinking about where they might retire use their vacation time to test-drive potential new hometowns — sometimes years before they're ready to make a move. It's a sort of getaway that requires a different, more focused
1. Give it time. Plan on staying at least a week to get a good sense of the community.
2. Find a short-term rental. Rent a house or apartment (try sites such as Airbnb.com, vrbo.com or Homestay.com) so you can experience life in a residential area rather than through the eyes of a hotel guest.
3. Talk to anyone and everyone. Chat up store clerks, waiters and people standing next to you at the post office. Tell them about your interest in relocating, and ask what they like and — this is important — don't like about the area.
4. Visit places you might frequent as a resident. Go to your favorite kinds of spots — libraries, churches, coffee shops — as well as community events. See if you feel comfortable. Retirees often say there was a moment in their search when they suddenly knew a town was right for them.
5. Keep your mind open. You just might bring home the ultimate souvenir: a new place to call home.
Here are six very different places that you might consider for both vacation and, someday, retirement.