2012 USA Timeline
Our familly spent the first 7 months of 2012 in Boston. Our 3 kids were 8, 9 and 14. I was visiting Harvard CfA, and my wife Boston College. The following list may help you in case you're planning something similar.
12/10/2010 First mail sent to request an invitation. Didn't know anyone at Harvard, but e-mailed on behalf of people who knew someone (R. Narayan)
28/10/2010 Invitation letter received. THE  key to everything else. Time scheduled: January-August 2012
13/01/2011 Start VISA paper work with Harvard. They needed to send me the "DS-2019" form to get a "J-1" VISA. Didn't need to certify any funding, though questions were asked about it.
22/01/2011 Start required procedures at my home institution. Very early, but I knew the last months before leaving would be hot, so I did everything I could, as soon as I could.
03/03/2011 Permission granted from my home institution. My 2nd semesters lectures will be covered by colleagues. No need to hire anybody to replace me.
03/03/2011 Start to wonder about the best moment for a preparation trip (needed because we're a family of 5 - Can't just camp at the hotel in January while searching for a home). Harvard Staff + Real Estate Agents tell me 2 months ahead of arrival is fine.
08/06/2011 Call open for the grant I was planning to get (Spanish "Salvador de Madariaga"). Found maximum duration had been shrunk down from 1 year to 6 months, with respect to previous calls.
22/06/2011 Proposal sent.
07/07/2011 Email as many real estates agent as I can about housing. My wife will be visiting Boston College in Newton, and we want to have but one car. So look for housing near CfA Cambridge, of BC Newton. They tell me to get back by October.
17/07/2011 Book flight for preparation week (nov 7-12) as soon as I have my 1st 2011 semester lecture schedule.
09/09/2011 Found a fantastic hotel deal at the "Royal Sonesta" Cambridge for preparation week, on
03/10/2011 Appointment taken for VISA interview at Madrid US embassy. Tried to make it earlier, but wouldn't let me. Appointment given for nov 4th.
11/10/2011 Start to find out how to open an bank account in the US. Impossible to live there without this. HUECU needs US "Social Security Number" (SSN), like almost every bank.
13/10/2011 Email real estate agents with a detailed description of what I'll be looking for in November. Also browse ""
18/10/2011 Account remotely open at "Cambridge Trust Company" just emailing scans of  the invitation letter, my DS-2019 and passport. No SSN needed. They do it simple for Harvard visitors. I then wired money from Spain.
31/10/2011 One week from my trip, I schedule house visits.
31/10/2011 Buy an US GPS and have it deliver at the Sonesta. I may drive next week, and would need it. Cheaper to buy a new one that renting it, or just buying the map. I'll need it anyway in 2012.
01/11/2011 (Through November) We make sure the kids have all the vaccines required for US schools. Cambridge schools sent me a list. Not Newton.
04/11/2011 VISA interview at Madrid US Embassy. Warning: though the website does not tell, SEVIS is required. Everything goes smoothly. My wife and I are granted a J-1, and our kids a J-2, as expected. My wife leaves them her passport + kid's, and I keep mine for the US trip next week. I'm told to ship it to them  when coming back from Boston.
07/11/2011 First day of the preparation trip. First stop by the bank for paperwork, debit Card and a few checks (I need this to secure the rental). Bought a cell phone at the airport.
07/11/2011 Exiting the bank, I visit the only place I found myself (on ""). It's in Newton, close to BC. Owner takes me to someone else, willing to rent the first floor of his house. Then go through some 6 more with an agent (Amy Smith, from "Niello Realty Group" - Extremely kind and efficient)
08/11/2011 Visit 6 more places. The best one is the second place I found in Newton. Cheapest, nearest to BC and furnished. (Cambridge was too expensive. Very few furnished places seen.)
08/11/2011 In the afternoon, rent a car and drive from the various places to BC and Harvard. Email the owner of the chosen house to settle the deal. We'll meet nov 9.  I realize Friday 11th is off (Veterans Day).
09/11/2011 Lease signed (Jan through July - We'll tour US in August). Finding the place myself spared Agent commission (= 1 month rental). Get in touch with car sellers on Harvard intranet. Go to Newton School Headquarter for my kids. I'll need to call back when we arrive.
12/11/2011 Fly back to Spain.
15/11/2011 Book flights. Madrid-Boston extremely expensive (it was cheaper in nov). We'll fly to NY, then rent a car and drop it in Boston. We'll need it anyway before we buy one.
18/11/2011 Rent a car to go from Ciudad-Real to Madrid on Jan 1st. More convenient than train, cheaper (we're 5), and they'll be no train anyway on Jan 1st at the time we need.
19/11/2011 VISA's received, with issue date 17 nov.
28/11/2011 email a car seller and set an appointment for Jan 2nd.
28/12/2011 I'm informed I've been given the Grant. Just 3 days before leaving! But that was expected.
01/01/2012 We fly off.
02/01/2012 We buy a car (Dodge Gran Caravan 2001 - $3000) - Then need 1/ Insure it, 2/ Register it, and 3/ pass  State Inspection. Warning: Cambridge is extremely car UN-friendly. Harvard parking was $13/day.
06/01/2012 Appointment to check English levels of my kids. Alex (14) will attend Oakhill middle Scholl. Esther and Ines (9,8) Bowen Elementary. Newton's public schools are incredible. Great program for non-English fluent kids ("ELL"=English as a Learning Language")
10/01/2012 Kids start school, and we can start to work. My wife bikes to BC, and I drive to CfA. Public transportations (Bus-Bus or Green line/Bus) take me at least 1h15 one way. Driving is 25 min.
17/01/2012 Medical check-up for the 3 kids. Needed for school, and for any activities they'll have. $250 each! My Spanish insurance (MUFACE) will reimburse the full amount on April 19th, after a fair amount of paperwork.
22/01/2012 Already time to plan July summer camps! We choose YMCA after asking multiple advices around us.
01/05/2012 Already time to think about leaving. I post the car on the Harvard intranet. Also on Craig's list. Never got any serious offer from the later.
30/07/2012 Finally sold the car $1000 to "CarMax". Having a deadline to sell, we could not wait for someone offering a good price. In addition, the market is low in July (but high in September).
25/08/2012 Back to Spain after an August US Tour.
All in all, a LOT of organization. But no regrets at all. It was fantastic for the kids, for our carreers and for the familly as a whole.