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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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!