Wishes And Pixie Dust

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


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What Does it Feel Like To Move?

Relocation to a new state requires perseverance, determination and courage.  When you decide to follow your dream, you are also agreeing to take along your “friends” doubt, discouragement and fear.  We have friends who intend to follow in our footsteps and recently asked us about the different range of emotions we have undergone.  We gave a brief answer, but after taking time to think about it, we thought it might be appropriate to address it here for all to see.

So what does moving feel like?  You can do all the research in the world but nothing can really prepare you for what you will be feeling.  When we made the decision to move, we knew that our oldest son would not be coming with us.  His life is in Wisconsin, and he had no desire to leave his world behind.  As a parent, it is a hard choice to make:  by leaving, we knew that essentially he had no home to come back to.  Of course he is welcome to come to Florida at any time, but with the separation of 1, 287 miles between us, it does not make it an easy endeavor.  But on the opposite side of the equation, how long do we put our own lives on hold?  This, of course, is a personal decision dependent on your child’s maturity level and your own comfort zone.   We felt our son had the maturity level that would enable him to live on his own and be successful.  We want to make it clear that if we felt he was not able to handle it, we would not have moved.  Our children have always been, and will always be, our first priority in our lives.

After we crossed the state line and left the Florida Welcome Center, we cranked up The Princess and The Frog soundtrack and we were really on cloud nine.  We don’t believe we’ve felt as much joy as a family as those couple of hours driving through the state of Florida.  The children were screaming with excitement when they saw the Clermont city limits sign, and again when we reached the apartment complex.   After years of dreaming and months of planning, we really were on an emotional high to see our dreams being realized.

At first we felt like we were on vacation, and do we really need to laundry already?!  It was also overwhelming to walk into Target that first afternoon–without a list–and try to determine what needs to be bought for the first couple of days.  We highly recommend making lists of things you decide not to move, so that you know what it is you will need to buy.  Even if the list seems long and you think you will never be able to buy it all back, it will prove invaluable to you those first few days.

We have been blessed by having the opportunity to meet Facebook friends at the Disney Parks, and discover that they are just as wonderful face to face as they are in the internet world. We are looking forward to developing these relationships and meeting more friends as the opportunity arises.

We are slowly learning how to navigate our way around Clermont.  It is kind of unsettling moving to a new area and not knowing where anything is, and having to rely on GPS.  We find ourselves comparing Clermont to Fond du Lac a lot, and noticing the differences; liking some of them, and not liking others at all.  (We suspect there is a hidden sensor in our license plate that alerts all the traffic signals to turn red as we approach).

We have discovered that at first, we liked to spend time at Disney; not only because it was Disney, but because it was familiar, and wonderful, and it provided an escape away from the huge changes our lives were undergoing.  It’s part of the reason we went to the Magic Kingdom today– both kids started school on Monday and they needed to experience the magic of Disney, to help ease the transition of summer vacation to a new school year.

Moving to a new city and state requires a huge leap of faith; but if you plan for it and try to anticipate potential roadblocks, it will help the transition to progress smoothly.  It’s a huge part of why we started our blog, to help other families in their process of relocation.  If we help only one family in achieving their goals and dreams of relocating to Florida, then we consider our blog a success.  Its not about attracting a huge readership but helping out those who do find us.  We firmly believe that Disney is a huge part of what made it work for us.  As much as we dislike Wisconsin winters, we would not have moved on that reason alone.  Yes, it’s a very nice perk that we will love come December, but it’s also a huge undertaking to uproot your family, and you really need to have a motivating reason besides weather conditions.    For us, (and for many other people, no doubt) Walt Disney World is that reason.

 


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Disney Quest

Friday night we took advantage of our premium annual passes and decided to check out Disney Quest, located at Downtown Disney West Side.

Disney Quest offers five floors of interactive adventures, and we will briefly go through each of the floors and describe what each offers.  Ben was amazed that they have the same turnstiles to enter as he sees in the parks….lol

Floor 1 offers the Virtual Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for Buccaneer Gold, and the Disney Quest Emporium.   Both kids decided to ride the Virtual Jungle Cruise:  you enter an inflatable boat and are given oars to steer the boat through the course.   We felt it was an okay experience, but they seemed to have trouble navigating the boat with the oars so the virtual experience was not as good as it could have been.  We all went on the Pirates attraction, and give it two thumbs up!  An excellent experience and worth the 30 minute wait time.  The Disney Quest Emporium offers various Disney souvenirs for purchase.

Floor 2 offers the Radio Disney SongMaker, Animation Academy, Living Easels, Sid’s Create-A-Toy, Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride and CyberSpace Mountain.    We did Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride, which was fun but not something we’ll feel the urge to do everytime, and CyberSpace Mountain, which is Ben’s dream come true 🙂  You can design and then ride your own roller coaster.  This was awesome and we’re sure a must-do every time we visit.

Floor 3 features the Underground Arcade, Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam, Race Zone, Classic Games and Buzz Lightyear’s AstroBlaster.  This floor offers a lot of video games that you will find in a typical arcade.  Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam puts you in control of your ball, and you use your body to navigate it on the screen–you definitely get your exercise from this game.  Buzz Lightyear’s AstroBlaster is a bumper cars style attraction; you can choose to be a driver or a gunner, and try to spin your opponent’s car by firing cannons at them.

Floor 4 offers the Sports Arena Arcade, Ride the Comix and a Kid’s Area for children ages 2 to 7.  We just briefly walked through this floor and didn’t participate in the attractions.

Floor 5 offers Invasion! An ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, Ride the Comix, Classic Games and Food Quest.  We did not travel up to this floor yet.

Let’s say you’re planning a Disney vacation and trying to determine its value:  is it worth the $43 admission price per person?  If you are an individual who really enjoys gaming, and who can devote a good portion of one day to staying at Disney Quest, then yes, we feel it is worth the price of admission.  For a Florida resident, it definitely is worth the extra $10.65 you will pay more monthly to obtain a premium annual pass (as opposed to the standard annual pass); which allows you free entry to not only Disney Quest but also the water parks, golf course and ESPN’s Wide World of Sports.


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Going to Walt Disney World

What does it mean to be 24 miles away from Walt Disney World?  We thought we would share our perspective here.  Just a side note: our blog focus has been and will always be the issues surrounding relocation.   If you are searching for the latest merchandise displayed at the parks, or the latest news regarding refurbishments, this is not the blog to read.  There are several Disney blogs out there that provide that information, and we feel what we have to offer would only duplicate previously published news, and it is not worth our time to write about it nor your time to read it.  What keeps us unique is our primary focus on the issues surrounding relocation.

There is something magical about living here as a resident with the knowledge that we can go to Walt Disney World any time we can fit it into our life.  We don’t feel the urgency to go to the parks every day, and when at the parks, we are able to stroll about leisurely and not feel harried to fit every single attraction in.  As our son noted, he never has to feel sad about leaving Walt Disney World again, and he gets to see “his buddy” (Mickey Mouse) any time he wants.

We chose to purchase premium annual passes to Walt Disney World using the monthly payment plan that is offered to Florida residents.  The premium annual pass allows unlimited admission to all four theme parks, complimentary parking ($14 value per visit), 20% discount on merchandise purchased, special offers in regards to resort stays and dining, unlimited access to Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Disney Quest, and the Water Parks.  Disney requires a down payment equal to the admission price of a one day ticket, and then monthly payments of $37.63 per person. Click here for more information.

We keep a box in the laundry room that is dedicated for items that we need when we travel to Disney.   We purchased insulated water bottles with a carrying strap from CVS for five dollars each, and it has been the best investment for us.  We fill up the bottles with ice water when we leave the house, then place them in a soft sided cooler filled with ice for the drive to Disney, and they really do stay cool for quite awhile once we are in the parks, which is impressive in the Florida heat.  The SuperTarget located in Kissimmee (4795 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy) does sell them as well, with Mickey Mouse imprinted on the insulated carrier, for $8.99.   This store has an impressive selection of Disney merchandise, and if you have access to a vehicle, we recommend a stop here to check it all out.

As noted in our last post, it takes us approximately an hour to travel to WDW, given the waiting time at traffic lights and traffic in general.  Once in the parking lot, it is necessary to board a tram to take us to the front gates, or in the instance of the Magic Kingdom, to the Transportation & Ticket Center, where we will need to board a monorail or a ferry to arrive at the Magic Kingdom.

The Florida heat does not lessen as a resident, unfortunately.  We have been told by several people that it does get better, but after chatting with a CM about it, he told us that we will learn to not go to the parks in the summer!  Well we certainly doubt that will happen!  Though, on that note, we have not yet been to Animal Kingdom park due to the excessive heat.   We may brave a trip in the next couple of weeks, but we look forward to being able to explore the park at length when the weather is less blistering.

We typically try not to spend an entire day at any one park.  One of our goals while going to Walt Disney World is to try to avoid purchasing food or merchandise items unless it is planned in advance.  It is so tempting to stop for lunch or wanting to purchase that unique souvenir, but these items add up very quickly.  We have discovered that we really miss the dining plan; not only for the delicious food but also as a way to relax, escape the heat and refresh for the rest of the day’s activities.

However, as a resident we are able to take in a meal at any time of the year.  We plan to purchase Tables in Wonderland, which offers a 20% discount on all food and beverage purchases at participating Walt Disney World locations.  Annual passholders receive $25 off the purchase price of $100, and we anticipate that it will more than pay for itself over the course of a year.  For example, this Friday we have reservations at the Crystal Palace for our daughter’s birthday lunch.  The cost is $30.88 per adult, which equals $123.52 before tax and gratuity.  Twenty percent off would equal $24.70, bringing the balance down to $98.82:  one meal results in recouping a third of the cost!  If you mail in an application, it takes approximately two weeks to receive your card, but you may also visit Guest Services at any of the parks or Downtown Disney for immediate purchase.

Does the Disney magic lessen for us because we have continual access to it?  No, not at all. If anything, it leads to a deeper appreciation of the vision Walt Disney had, a desire to discover more about the man behind the mouse, and it allows us the ability to experience as much Disney magic as possible.


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School Days

We finalized the registration for both children in the middle school today, and just wanted to share our experiences for other families who may be moving to the Lake County area.  We have links on our website across the top relating to different forms that are needed, but we will also include them in this blog for your convenience.

The following documents are required for out-of-state and new registrations:

  • Proof of Residence (Utility bill, Rental/Purchase Agreement)
  • Birth Certificate
  • Social Security Card
  • Physical Exam within the last calender year
  • Immunization record
  • Last Report Card/or Current Grades
  • FCAT Scores/or State Testing

The physical exam can be completed out of state; we printed out the form and had our children’s pediatrican fill it out.   In regards to the immunization record, Florida requires that all immunizations be placed on a blue form, Form DH 680.  Only the health department and Florida physicians can do this; it is not a downloadable form. Please click here for more information.

We opted to have ours completed at the Health Department.  There is a temporary location in Clermont where we were able to drop off the vaccination records last week, and then pick them up this morning, for a small fee of ten dollars per record completed.  We also had the option of driving to Eustis (about a 35 minute drive one-way) and receiving the record the same day.  Click here for the Lake County Health Department website.

Our children are attending the schools in the district in which they reside.  To find out where your address lies, click here for address look-up/boundary zones information.  This link lists a directory of all the schools in Lake County, and provides names, addresses, phone numbers and website information.  Registration forms may be available online; ours were but there are some schools that do not have them available as a download.  There is a school choice option that allows you to place your children in schools outside of your assigned district, but as our children are attending an “A” rated school we felt it was not necessary to transfer out.  It is quite an unknown variable, sending your children to schools you know little about, and it could be that the school you decide to use school-choice for is not as good as the school your children would normally attend.  Without knowing the area, you are taking a calculated risk.

For disabled students and new this year for students with a 504 plan is the McKay Scholarship, a tuition voucher that can pay tuition for private schools if parents wish to opt out of public schooling.  It may be an option we decide to utilize for our son in the future, but we’ve heard positive comments about the high school he is on track to attend, so we will wait and see; we have a couple of years before we need to make that decision.

Our children do not need to wear uniforms to school, but there are some schools in Lake County that do require them.   We receive school updates from the Orlando-Sentinel specific to our area, and it appears to be on track that uniforms may be required county-wide next year.

To register our children, we brought in the registration forms and supporting documents.  It will save some time if you provide a photocopy of the documents; we did not need to show the originals.   We have a list of general supplies that are needed for school, but we have orientation on Thursday and will receive the teacher’s lists then. It’s a little strange not to be shopping for school until the weekend before, as normally in Wisconsin everything is bought in July, and it’s really strange for them to be starting in August (normally after Labor Day), but they’ll really enjoying having an extended winter vacation when they will actually be able to go out and enjoy the weather!

 


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3 Weeks & Counting…

Today marks the three-week anniversary of our family arriving in Clermont, and we thought we would take the time to just make some observations about what we’ve experienced so far, the good and the not-so-good.

We had certain expectations before we moved here regarding the size of the city.  We knew the population to be roughly 28,000, we knew the area to be hilly, and we knew Clermont was located 22 miles west of Orlando.  In our home in Wisconsin, we lived in a city of approximately 48,000; we were able to travel from one end of the city to the other in ten minutes–everything was very centrally located.  We assumed Clermont would be similar, only smaller.  (Our friends who live in Clermont or know the area–you can stop laughing now.  LOL)

We didn’t realize how encompassing Clermont is!  Wow.  We will say the views are absolutely amazing:

When we were looking at apartments, we knew that Cagans Crossing was further away and not as centrally located.  What we didn’t realize was that Cagans Crossing was thirteen miles and twenty three minutes away!  For our Wisconsin friends, it takes us just as long to drive from our apartment to Cagans Crossing, as it does to travel from Fond du Lac to Oshkosh.  It amazes us that we can travel from our apartment, past houses, businesses, and even a state park, arrive at Cagans Crossing, and STILL be in Clermont!

When we were going to the Disney Parks the first couple of days we were here, we always seemed to lose track of time, and couldn’t understand it, as we estimated our travel time would be around 35 minutes.  When we finally tracked our time last week, we realized that it actually takes us a lot longer:  23 minutes to Cagans Crossing, 28 minutes from CC to the Magic Kingdom parking lot, and for that particular day we took the ferry over, and it was an hour later that we were finally on Main Street USA.   It was an unusually busy day, however, and we’re sure the monorail would have been a lot faster.  But it’s still almost an hour drive to the parking lot, which is a lot more than we estimated.

One observation we’ve noticed is that we use a lot of gas here, because everything is so spread out, and because the traffic lights take absolutely forever to change.    It’s going to be an adjustment in getting used to that.   We are starting to get acclimated to where everything is, but we still use the GPS on occasion.

We picked up a membership at BJs, not so much because the club prices are spectacular, but for the discounted gas.  The gas at BJs is five cents cheaper than anywhere else, and we estimate that we should at least get our money’s worth on the membership fee over the course of the year in gas savings.  And, it’s really not fair for us to comment on the club prices, because everything here in terms of grocery and Walmart type items is more expensive than in Wisconsin, and right now we’re fairly bad judges at what is a good or not-so-good price.  To us it’s all bad….LOL!    One feature that attracted us to BJs is that they send out their store coupons, and you can also apply a manufacturer’s coupon to it as well.

Our apartment is slowly coming together.  We only have a handful of boxes to unpack, and most of those are boxes that contain books, and are just waiting on a bookcase to put them into.  The living room is a lot smaller than we’d like, but we’ll make the best of it.   It really is an exercise in making the best use of what available space there is.  Right now the storage closet is totally unorganized–we’re thinking some shelving units in there will help, so that we don’t need to pull everything out to get to an item in back, but it’s not a priority at the moment.

Would we change anything, if we could go back in time?  We really wished we lived closer to Disney, but we would still choose Clermont as our home city and would still choose not to live at Cagans Crossing.  The only three bedroom apartments in that complex are on the third floor, and we really like the convenience of first floor living.  We love the area we are in, and we love the management team with the apartment complex.  Even though Cagans Crossing is closer to Disney, we would probably use just as much gas (or more) coming back into the main area of Clermont to do shopping or run errands.  We feel the trade-off of having to travel farther to Disney is worth it in exchange for the area we live in.