Wishes And Pixie Dust

Follow the journey of a Wisconsin family of 4 who relocated to the Walt Disney World area in July 2011


3 Comments

Hold On Tight

The evening star is shinin’ bright. So make a wish and hold on tight. There’s magic in the air tonight, and anything can happen.

Tiana– Princess and The Frog

It has been 1, 276 days since we first dared to dream the dream of moving to the Walt Disney World area, and with only 21 days to go, we can honestly say that we have no regrets.   We can only imagine how incredibly difficult it will be to leave our son behind; it’s a parent’s mission to protect and care for their children, and even though he is nineteen years old and a sophomore in college, it still seems wrong to not bring him with us.  We are reassured that he does have a solid plan in place, and in fact he signed the lease papers today on his new apartment.

We have been busy scheduling our disconnects in Wisconsin, and arranging our utilities and cable hook-ups for Florida.  The comment that we have been hearing a lot refers to the fact that we’re moving at the wrong time of the year.  🙂  Yes, granted, July is not an ideal time of year to be moving to hot and humid Florida, but we wanted the kids to finish out the year at their respective schools, and would rather not have them join a new school in Florida after the start date.  The first day of school in Florida is August 22, which gives us less than a month of summer vacation left after we arrive in Clermont.

Wednesday we went down to the AAA office and ordered our Trip Tix and picked up a complimentary guidebook for Tennessee.  Silly us, forgot to get the Florida book, but we will make sure to get that when we pick up the Trip Tix in a couple of weeks.

We are pleasantly surprised at how inexpensive the utilities and cable bill are projected to be compared to Wisconsin.   We didn’t realize the extent to how much more we are paying here, and it definitely is one of the perks of moving to Florida.   Our rent will be $286 more than we are currently paying, but our bills will probably go down by an equivalent amount, more or less.  Of course, there is the monthly payment plan to Disney that we add on 😉

The Florida Department of Education released today its school grades based on the FCAT results, and we are very pleased to see that the middle school the kids will be attending received an A for the third year in a row.   Click here to access the database.

We are still packing boxes and listing items on Craigslist, and we have lists all around of what we need to do yet.   We titled this blog post “Hold On Tight”, because we feel like we are in a queue area, waiting to experience the attraction.  It’s like packing and planning for the ultimate Disney trip, afraid we’re going to forget to plan for something, but uber-excited about the final destination.  It is going to be so weird driving through Wisconsin for the final time, and knowing we won’t be returning.

Happy July 1st to all our readers~may all your dreams come true.

 


4 Comments

Allowing for Changes

It is incredible to believe that we are down to our final three-and-a-half weeks, after years of dreaming and months of planning.  Our house doesn’t really resemble our home anymore; it is more of a loading area for our boxes,  and the kitchen breakfast counter resembles a command center for organizing our move.  As soon as it gets cleaned off, the piles reappear again.  There are days this seems so surreal, like we’re going to wake up any minute and find this to be a huge dream.  🙂

Our original plan involved staying in a hotel the night before the movers arrived, as our beds will be gone and we’re not ones for sleeping on the floor. Our love for Walt Disney World precipitated our move, so we intended to stay at Port Orleans Riverside for our night of arrival, this being the first (and only) resort hotel we have stayed at, and have mattresses delivered on Tuesday.  As the weeks passed we realized this strategy was full of sinkholes and probably needed to be revised.  A one-night stay at the resort for our family of four would run $208.   Ok, we reasoned.  Let’s get our driver’s licenses right away and be eligible for the Florida rate.   This brought the cost down to $167.  Still, it seemed too high for one night’s stay, and we didn’t really want the hassle of rushing to arrive in Clermont so that we could fit in all our appointments necessary for obtaining our driver’s license.  We drove constantly when we went to Disney in 2009, and we vowed this time it will be different.  It also wasn’t realistic to expect mattresses to be delivered the next day; while it could happen, it’s not likely.

We then made the decision to purchase airbeds once we arrive in Clermont and sleep on those until the mattresses arrive.  This was kind of our holding-thought pattern until this weekend, when we decided why not buy them now?  It would allow us to cancel the reservation we have for the hotel on July 21st, it would save the time and hassle of having to shop for them on our first night in Clermont, and chances are it would be more cost efficient to buy them now in Wisconsin as opposed to Florida.  It helped that a few local stores had airbeds on sale, and we spent Sunday afternoon checking them out.  We decided on a queen mattress for ourselves ($45), and two twin mattresses for the kids ($10 each). We also bought a pump for $20.  (Just as a side note, the airbeds at Target got horrible reviews–we passed them by, went to Fleet Farm and selected Coleman brand instead).  We felt the investment of $85 was well worth saving on three (possibly four) nights in a hotel.  This eliminates the pressure of finding mattresses immediately, and it will also allow us to spend our last night in our home together.  The airbeds will be put to use later for sleepovers or when Nick visits us during the holidays.

We’ve updated the website with a new “Schools” tab, that contains links to all the resources we’ve utilized in the process of getting the kids registered for school.  A physical examination and up-to-date immunizations are required for all students entering the Florida school system, and immunizations must be put on a Florida Certification of Immunization Form DH 680 (aka the Blue Form).  Only Florida providers or the Health Department have access to this form, so please be sure to bring an updated copy of your child’s immunizations to have them transferred to this form.

Ben and Catie both had their physicals completed today, and Catie was identified as having a possible vision problem in her left eye.  Thanks to a cancellation, she is scheduled to see an optometrist tomorrow afternoon already, and we are thankful that we made the doctor appointment early enough before our move that we are able to see our own eye doctor before we leave.  In your relocation efforts, plan to complete your medical appointments at least a month before your final move to allow for any surprises that may pop up.

There are times lately where life is routine as usual, and then there are those moments where you think:  OMG we’re moving to Florida and Walt Disney World will be part of our regular lives.  It kind of takes your breath away when you stop to think.  It reminds us of the Disney song from Aladdin  “A Whole New World”, where Ali instructs Princess Jasmine “don’t you dare close your eyes”.  Yeah, that’s kind of where we’re at.

Please follow us on Twitter @wishespixiedust, @jvitek and @FondyMark, and friend us on Facebook at Jen Vitek and Mark Vitek.

Thanks for following along with us~   Mark & Jen

 

 


1 Comment

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, 28 Days To Go!

As I sit here writing this blog post, the piles of boxes in our home surrounds my view. This, of course, is not a bad thing.  It means that we are inching closer to living our dream of moving to Florida.  We moved to using the large boxes recently, and I wanted to share a picture I took of Ben:

We are pleased to announce that we packed up the sunroom yesterday, so that is another room ready to go.

Before:

After:

I will say, out of all the rooms in the house, this room I will miss the most.  I love how the sunshine comes in through the windows in the later afternoon/early evening; it’s my happy place to be while I work on my scrapbooks or other assorted projects.  I will not, however, miss the frigid cold of this room in the winter:  it is not insulated nor is there central heating in this room, so there are certain days (weeks, even) when I cannot be in this room and must keep the door closed.   The joy of living in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin!

In the mail Tuesday we received our SunPass unit, so we are set for tolls at least in Florida. There are two different units that are available for purchase:  a portable transponder which moves from car to car (it attaches with suction cups), and a mini-sticker which, once you place it on your car, it cannot be removed.  You do not need to be a Florida resident to purchase SunPass, which can be purchased online at http://www.sunpass.com, Publix, CVS, and at all Turnpike service Plazas and Turnpike gas stations.  The portable transponder is $25, and the mini-sticker is $4.99, but you will receive a rebate of $4.99 in toll credits, so it is essentially free.  We chose the portable transponder unit mainly for personal preference reasons, and we like the convenience of not having to worry about having change when we travel into Orlando or take day trips around the area.

We are very much on schedule as far as packing boxes is concerned, if not ahead of schedule.  🙂  I would much rather be bored the last week before we move, than to be rushing frantically around trying to pack boxes.  I don’t think I’ll be bored, though.  🙂 I’m looking forward to having a lot of quality time with the children before we leave, playing games, trips to the park, etcetera.  The games are packed but the box is not sealed, so we can grab them as we want.  The kids have their physicals on Monday, and God willing, that will be the last doctor appointment we have in Wisconsin.  I’ve talked with the special education specialist, and I have to say I am impressed with how willing they are to make this transition as smooth as possible for Ben, and I am reassured that they will do everything they can to make this a good school experience for him.  This only reinforces that Clermont is the city we are meant to be in, and we simply cannot wait to come home.

Follow us on Twitter @wishespixiedust, @jvitek, @FondyMark

Wishing all our readers a magical and pixie-dust filled weekend!

Jen 


Leave a comment

Just Around The River Bend

As we approach the one-month milestone in our long journey, it seems wild that we will no longer be residents of Wisconsin; it’s almost too much too take in at times.  In the early planning stages, we decided to make this our future reality, but we always knew that if things didn’t work out, we could always postpone the move.  Even as we moved forward with our dream in January, our “escape route” of delaying the move was always a possibility.  We have reached the point now, however, that backing out is not an option 🙂 It’s kind of scary to go out there without a safety net.  The quotation by Robert Burns “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry” really applies.   It doesn’t matter how much you organize or how hard you plan, there will always be something that changes.   It may be a good thing, it may not be so good, but you need to go with the flow and accept it for what it is.

As we approach our 30 days countdown, we thought it would be fun to make a list of 30 things that haven’t gone according to plan:

  1. Our first moving date was going to be September 15, 2012
  2. Our second moving date was going to be in 2013.
  3. Our third (and final) moving date is July 22nd, 2011.
  4. We considered renting a U-Haul truck at one point.
  5. We thought about renting Pods.
  6. We considered driving both cars down.
  7. We considered letting Mayflower do part of the packing for us.
  8. We considered renting a house.
  9. We decided against the first city we picked.
  10. We paid much less in a security deposit than we anticipated.
  11. We didn’t get the apartment we wanted.
  12. We got a better apartment!
  13. We didn’t meet our packing goals.
  14. Car repairs cost way more than we thought it would ($1564)  Some might question the wisdom of this given the age of our car, but we expect to get at least two more years from it, it purrs like a dream now, and it also means no car payments, which totally rocks.
  15. We didn’t sell nearly as much stuff on Craigslist as we would have liked.
  16. We considered having a rummage sale but decided the grunt work wasn’t worth it.
  17. Disney raised ticket prices so the cost of an annual pass will be higher than anticipated.
  18. We’ve gone through 33 end rolls of paper that we use to pack boxes.  We received 5 free, so that totals $56.   We didn’t expect to use so many, and we’re not done yet.
  19. All our boxes have been free so far, from either Mayflower or the seafood restaurant, and we currently have 138 boxes packed.  $138 x $2 (average) = $276 savings.  We expected to have to pay for boxes (although we’re not done yet!)
  20. We don’t even want to total the cost of packing tape 🙂
  21. Our bank decided to drop the Disney Rewards program for our bank cards.  This was a disappointment, however, we currently have $172.44 saved in Disney Reward Dollars, will probably accrue a few more dollars before it ends, which we will be able to use at Disney World.  Good news.
  22. We didn’t realize just how much stuff we had.  Let’s put it this way:  we should have our own wing in the Goodwill store!
  23. We didn’t think we had so much paper/documents/art projects stored in the house, and it took weeks to go through it all.
  24. We didn’t realize how hard it will be to move away from businesses we’ve frequented for years.
  25. We weren’t able to sell our oak desk, but we were able to dispose of it a lot easier than we anticipated.  It will not be missed!
  26. We acquired a lot more medical bills than we would have liked.
  27. We didn’t expect that our son Nick would be able to get one month’s free rent at his new apartment, which saves us on needing to rent him a hotel room for a week, and a storage unit for his furniture.
  28. We were hoping to take a visit down to Wisconsin Dells to ride the Ducks, but given the cost of the car repairs, we are unable to do that before we leave.
  29. We were also hoping to possibly visit Chicago for a day trip, as our son Ben absolutely loves the city of Chicago, and Mark was born and raised in Chicago.
  30. We are fine with putting off the day trips, because it gives us an excuse to come back.  🙂  Not that we need one with Nick here, of course!
We don’t know what the following weeks have in store for us……just around the river bend….. but we are excited to see how things will unfold and begin our new life as Floridians.  Walt Disney said it best:  “Many of the things that seem impossible now will become realities tomorrow.”  Since we first imagined our dream, it has been 1,266 days in the making.  Wow.  Hold on to what you believe in, and keep persevering.  If you believe in it, you will do it.
We hope all our readers have a magical Disney-filled week!  31 days and counting!  What are you doing now to pursue your dreams?  


4 Comments

Choosing Our Florida Home

It’s hard to believe looking back, now that we’re at 32 days, but we began this journey with a decision way back on January 1st, 2008 after our Christmas season visit to WDW.  Then came our next decision, where to live.

We started by deciding that we wanted to be no further away than a 20-30 minute drive.  Then by reading through the blogs of people we knew online who lived in various areas of Central FL we had many ideas as to which areas we’d like to make our new home.  We then made a list of all of the cities we had found from that reading as well as those we knew of from past visits.  Then using Google Maps we scouted other cities within that 20-30 minute ‘zone’.  That gave us our original search areas of NW Osceola County, NE Polk County, S Orange County and S Lake County.

With the areas “narrowed down”, our plan was then to visit as many of these areas as we could on our 2009 Disney trip (our first time driving down); with our primary focus being the areas just south of WDW.  We were able to drive through several places and stop in a few stores (to gauge prices, etc.) and made some notes to take back home with us.  The drive-through was cut short by a FL rainstorm, but we did come away with a new perspective.

At this point I want to say that where you choose to live will depend a lot on your personal feelings, choices and lifestyle.  And keep in mind that when choosing a new home in the WDW area you will need to make some trade-offs.  From many months of research online and from having mailings sent from many different commerce groups, I did learn several things.  As an example, the closer you live to WDW property, the higher the prices tend to be in the local grocery stores; but further away you’ll have a longer drive to WDW but the grocery prices are lower.  This is especially true in the “tourist corridor” to the immediate south of Disney property where many stores raise their prices to catch the tourist dollars from those staying in Vacation Homes and/or Suite Resorts.  So you’ll want to keep things like this in mind when you start your adventure, and everyone’s choice is theirs, there is no “right or wrong’ choice…just the choice that is best for you.

This is where the work began.  Using websites such as www.greatschools.org, www.homesforthegoodlife.com, www.bardellrealestate.com (Relocation tab), www.discoverourtown.com, www.mydreamlocale.com, www.cort.com/relocation, www.city-data.com/city/Florida.html (city-data is excellent for giving pure statistics on everything) and www.moving.com/real-estate/ (Real Estate Tools section) we researched the ins and outs of each city: schools, taxes, crime rates, cost of living, etc.  The city at the top of our list going in ended up being eliminated early because we could see the cost of living would be far higher than we liked and a city we hadn’t even considered moved to the top of our list.  This process took almost a year of being thorough in looking for what we wanted to see in a new hometown.

Once we narrowed our choices to Clermont, Windermere, Winter Garden, Reunion, Groveland and Minneola we started “visiting” these cities virtually using Google Maps, Google Images, YouTube videos, blogs and also through the help of local friends who live in these areas or who would visit for us.  This helped us to ‘see’ what areas looked like and to learn what shops, restaurants, etc. were in each area.  We also learned at this point that apartment and home rental costs were very similar.  Sites such as www.rent.com, www.rentalhouses.com, www.apartments.com, www.forrent.com, www.trulia.com and www.realtor.com are excellent resources for viewing apartments and rental homes.  The last two are great if home-buying.  We also read the online versions of all the local newspapers.

By this time Clermont had risen to the top of our list and we do have friends living there who were able to give us great info on the city in general.  Then it was a house-search.  We decided mid-way along that we wanted to rent an apartment to start so that we could personally learn about the communities and neighborhoods.  Using the apartment search sites above we narrowed our search to 3 apartment complexes.  Our preference was to have a first floor apartment and we needed 3 bedrooms, so this narrowed the search to 2.  At this time an ‘outside contender’ popped up unexpectedly.  There was a house for rent in the city which had topped our list early on.  The house seemed great; a pool and yard (lawn care and pool maintenance included), a nice sized house and the price was right.  But the owners couldn’t get licensed to rent and so we dropped this house from the list and we had our final contenders: Village at East Lake and The Gardens at Citrus Tower.

We spoke and emailed with leasing reps at both apartments and Carrie at The Gardens just really sold us on them.  She took the time to answer all our questions and we came away from our calls knowing everything about The Gardens and only half as much about Village at East Lake.  The rest is history.

~Mark.