Judith Portugal has lived in Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey and New York and is intimately familiar with the rigors of "relocating," as it is called by the business community.

That's why she can empathize with the couple from the West Coast -- traveling with a sick infant -- who arrived at National Airport to relocate in Washington and found six inches of snow on the ground. No one was there to meet them so they rented a car -- and not only got lost but had an accident.

It is this kind of a situation that Portugal and two other women, Carole Kaminsky and Regina Frank, try to eliminate. The three have formed a referral agency called Relocation Information Centers (RIC). The agency specialized not in the exhaustive details involved in physically moving but in easing the decisions that accompany the shift to a strange city. It scouts out information about neighborhoods, schools, a spouse's job or any other aspect of life that will help a family decide where to live even before it arrives in Washington.

The three women, who set up shop in downtown Washington last October, call themselves pioneers in the business because few agencies take a comprehensive look at moving.

"When people think of relocation, they think of real estate or moving vans," said Frank. "They're not looking past the physical aspect of moving." v

It costs about $30,000 for a company to pay for an employe's move, and Frank says more and more businesses -- including the military services, government agencies and foreign companies -- find that orienting the family to a new city not only helps guarantee the employe will stay there but helps the employe be more productive faster.

In addition, more men are finding they cannot move without considering their wives' career. In the age of two-income families, a major consideration in moving is whether both spouses will be employed.

For a $50 fee, the person who is moving fills out a "personal profile" form that seeks information about the family's need and such services as employment opportunities, schools, transportation, pets, maintenance services, religion, recreation and handicapped programs.

"The process of going through the questionnaire helps them to know what they need," said Frank. "Most people don't sit down and think these things through. They're too worried about moving and finding a new house.

"But they find that when they get there, all the deadlines are past. The deadline for schools, for recreation programs. We can arrange to meet these services."

The Washington metropolitan area, with its suburbs in two different states, can be especially confusing.

"One of the things we find happens is that people don't know where they live, which municipal services they're receiving, which library they go to," said Frank.

She said there is no centralized place in any of the jurisdictions that will provide information about living in the area. This is the gap their service tries to fill.

"This is the infant of the relocation business," said Frank, who added they have been encouraged by potential clients. "We've been told that this aspect of relocation is to be the thing of the '80s."