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 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.

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Should You Pack Your Photographs? The Melting Issue

This was one of those questions that we could truly not find an answer on prior to our move.  We knew it was not safe to pack into moving boxes items such as videotapes, candles and crayons; items that would melt in transit.  But what about photographs?   We read conflicting answers and to be safe, we decided to pack in the car the family pictures that we did not have a digital copy of.   It took up quite a bit of trunk room, and it really was a hassle trying to re-pack the trunk every morning, but as the pictures are irreplaceable, we felt the effort was worth it.

Today as we unpacked some boxes, we came across the few albums we did pack, and as it turns out, the pictures were just fine.  If we had to do it again, we would pack all the pictures.  We wanted to share this information with our readers, as we know a few of you are planning to relocate to Florida, and we hope you might find this information helpful.. 🙂


The Question Of Furniture

Early on we made the decision to not bring most of our furniture.  We wanted to blog about the reality of that decision, and what we would do differently if we had to do it all over again.  You may be wondering, so what did we bring?  Here is a short list:  3 end tables, jewelry armoire, 2 corner tables, decorated stool, laptop table, couch table, kitchen table, baker’s rack, 2 scrapbook carts, 3 headboards, 2 bed frames, 2 small chests and 2 small bookcases.

The concept is nice:  discard all of the old furniture and purchase new.  We had a lot of pieces we acquired from relatives; functional but not in the best of condition, and we decided that it would not be worth moving the pieces to Florida.  This meant, however, that we arrived at our apartment with no place to sit down.  We purchased a nice padded counter stool from TJ Maxx, so the first night we at least had one chair.  When our furniture arrived five days later, we also had the decorated stool:  two chairs.   We are ambivalent right now as what to do with dining room chairs.  The ones we are considering are a little out of our budget right now, but we don’t wish to purchase cheap ones just to get through, either.  It’s not that we want to purchase highly expensive ones, but we do need to purchase all four at one time to ensure they match.  At this point in time the dining room table is covered in items, so it’s a non-issue right now, but we hopefully will restore some order this week.  We still feel it was the right decision not to move our dining room chairs, as they were in need of replacement.

If you follow our blog regularly, you know that we decided to sleep on airbeds until we were able to purchase mattresses.  Nice in theory, but our Coleman airbed decided to blow out on our third night sleeping on it, and we had to sleep on the floor for the following nine nights.  It was not returnable, as we purchased it at a local store in Wisconsin, and we are extremely dissatisfied with the lack of customer service Coleman has since provided to us. Blessfully our mattresses were delivered this morning; our bodies will definitely thank us for that.  In hindsight, we would have chosen to move our beds.  Did the mattresses need replacing?  Yes, but an uncomfortable mattress is still better than the floor.

One of the misconceptions we had is that we would be able to purchase mattresses inexpensively once in Florida.  A Google search reveals several mattress companies offering sets starting at $299.  However, after visiting several mattress stores in Clermont we are here to say that the cheap mattresses are just that:  cheap.  You get what you pay for, and in our opinion, these mattresses are flimsy, cheaply made, and not worth purchasing.  A nice queen set will run you at minimum one thousand dollars.  Several stores do offer financing if you cannot afford to purchase your mattress set outright.  We do recommend bringing your bed frames with you if they are in good condition; bed frames start at 69.99.

We found a desk we love at Ikea; but as we only have a car, we are having transportation issues in bringing it home.  Tonight we decided to purchase it, with the trunk hood partially open and tied down, but then while at Ikea it decided to storm, and we had leave it behind. We need to purchase a desk soon as Mark goes back to work in a week and we need to have the workstation established and ready to go.   We don’t regret leaving our desk behind, as it was extremely heavy and too large for the apartment.  Another consideration is the placement of the kids’ computer:  we may utilize the baker’s rack as a temporary “desk” but it would also mean it would be without internet capability until we purchase a wireless card.

We’re finding that dressers aren’t an absolute necessity right now, as clothes can be placed in bins for the time being.  Our dressers were in pretty rough shape, so it was an easy choice to leave them behind.  We will make getting Catie’s dresser a priority, as her bedroom is the smallest, and she needs the room the most.

Last week we focused on emptying the boxes, as we’ve been living with boxes since January and really tired of seeing boxes.  🙂  However, we discovered that without furniture, it is really hard to put things away, and things are now piled up on the floor.  Our storage closet is almost to capacity, but truth be told the Christmas boxes were not unpacked, just placed in there, so once those items can be placed in totes, it will free up a lot of room in there.  It’s not a priority right now, and we’re thankful and amazed that it all fits with a little room to spare.  The big question out there for us was regarding whether we decluttered enough stuff so that it all fits, and we’re glad that we did and it does.  Our advice is that you cannot declutter too much:  sell or donate as much as you can.  You will not miss it, we promise.



The Cost of Relocation

While the kids are enjoying some pool time, we thought it would be a perfect time to put up a new post.  This is one of the moments that kept inspiring us forward during the not-so-fun packing moments of the past several months:  sitting underneath palm trees using the computer while the kids enjoy swimming in the pool.  Yea, life is good.

One of the questions we’ve been asked is how much money do you need to relocate to Florida.  This is a decision your family will need to make, depending upon your circumstances, but we’ll share what our expenses have been for our relocation.

Boxes.  Whether you use a professional moving company or plan to move yourself, you will need boxes.  We were fortunate enough to have Mayflower give us a stash of free boxes, Nick brought home several from work, as well as obtaining a few on Freecycle.  We ended up only spending $10 on boxes, but this could well have cost us hundreds.  Our advice is to start collecting boxes now, because you will underestimate how many you need, and better to have too many than have to pay for them as your move gets closer.  We ended up having 288 items packed on to the moving truck, and most of those were boxes.

Paper to stuff the boxes.   We opted to purchase end rolls of paper from our local newspaper company, for $2 a roll.  We estimate we’ve spent $90 for this.  You can elect to use newspaper to stuff boxes, but you risk the newsprint transferring to your items.  We had no problem using newsprint for local moves, but felt for a week on a moving truck it might be best not to use that option.

Packing tape.    We didn’t keep track of how much packing tape we used, but it was a lot.  It easily surpassed one hundred dollars, as towards the end we were using four rolls a week, and at $5 per roll, it adds up quickly.

Moving Truck.   We chose to use professional movers for a long distance move.  We have always used U-Haul in the past, and it was always totally exhausting and always took hours and hours longer than we expected.   That is not the experience we wanted this time. We wanted to go with a reputable company, as some moving companies will under quote and then hold your goods until you pay what they demand.  We paid $3400, all based on weight, so the more you dispose of, the cheaper your move will be.

Housing Costs.  Our experience is based on apartment living costs.  We paid a $149 non-refundable fee to apply for residence living as well as $100 deposit fee which was applied to our security deposit, which was $554 total.  Upon move-in, we wrote a check for $1233, which covered the first month’s rent plus a pro-rated amount for the week of July 25-July 31.

We recommend doing an internet search on apartments in the area and narrowing down your search to one or two options.  We originally were going to put in applications at two or three different complexes, and then tour when we moved down here, but the application fees were too prohibitive for that to happen.

If you plan to travel down before you move to check out the area, be sure to factor in that expense as well.   Airplane tickets, rental cars or cab fares, and incidental expenses add up quickly.

If you are looking at renting or purchasing a home, factor in the expenses of pest control and pool maintenance, as these are necessary items that must be done regularly, and if renting, are usually not included in the price of rent.   We can tell you how nice it is not to have to worry about those two things.  We don’t pay any more in rent for our apartment than we would if we rented a house; in fact less if you factor in the expenses of these two items, and it simply is awesome to be able to walk to the pool and not worry about cleaning it.

Car Maintenance.  This is necessary if you are driving across several states, as we did.  You definitely do not want to break down in the middle of nowhere needing extensive repairs. We paid over two thousand dollars to get our vehicle ready for the trip; we definitely did not account for so high a cost, so please be sure to over-estimate your possible expenses in this area.

AAA.   We highly recommend AAA coverage.  This cost us $82 for the year, and gave us a personalized Trip Tix, state guidebooks, maps, and peace of mind if the unthinkable would occur.  (It didn’t).  We are now covered through next June, and this is something we always renew.

The Next Exit.  This book is very helpful if you are traveling interstates; it allows you to see at what upcoming exits there are food, gas and hotel stops.   We used this book to guide us to what exit to take, and then used our GPS navigator on our phones to determine the exact location.

Tolls.  We paid $2.50 in Illinois, $5.60 in Indiana and $1.00 in Florida using our SunPass. The SunPass unit plus ten dollars worth of toll money cost $36.50, and the unit was mailed directly to our house in Wisconsin  We still have a balance of $6.75, as we find that we do not need to take the Turnpike to go to Disney World, and most everything else we could need is located in Clermont.

Iphone or Android.  While not a necessity, we highly recommend having a phone with GPS functionality.  It helped us find various things while en route, and it literally has been a life saver in finding locations in Clermont.  If you’re into social media as we are, it also allows you to post status updates and tweet endlessly 🙂

Gas.  This of course is dependent on gas prices in the various cities you travel through, and you really have no control over this expense.  We paid $225 for gas from Wisconsin to Florida.

Hotels.  We found it interesting that as we traveled towards Florida, the cost of our hotel stays kept decreasing.   We took four days/three nights to reach our destination, and our total cost for hotel stays was $249.

Food/Meals.  Our original intent was to eat home-cooked meals through the Wednesday night before we left, but things really got way hectic and we wanted to have meals at our favorite places one last time, so this was an added expense the week of the move that we hadn’t anticipated.  We also experienced a similar experience once in Clermont:  even though our intent was to eat in the apartment, the lack of cookware and with everything going on, we ate out a lot more than anticipated.

Shopping.  If you are donating or selling items that you plan to purchase again once you arrive, be sure to keep a list and tally those costs.  They really do add up.  This includes everything from furniture to kitchen utensils to groceries.

Disney Passes.  For us, this was one of the main reasons for relocating to Florida, so we factored in the cost of annual passes.  We chose to purchase premium annual passes, which required a down payment of $362.12 for the four of us and monthly payment amount of $150.52.  Disney does not charge any fees for this option, and you may pay extra to bring your balance/monthly payment down or pay it off at any time.

Car/Renter’s Insurance.  Renter’s insurance is a prerequisite for living here, but it proved to be an additional expense for us as our insurance carrier in Florida does not offer renter’s insurance and needs to underwrite it through a different company, so we were not able to add it on to our monthly payment plan as we did in Wisconsin.  This required a $157 deposit, plus quarterly payments.  Our car insurance rates should stay about the same, but with less coverage (we dropped collision and comprehensive) and minus the renter’s insurance.

Driver’s Licenses.  We will blog about our experience later, but in terms of costs it runs $48 per person to convert an out-of-state license to a Florida license.

Car Registration.   We had estimated this expense to be $180.35 based on the information available on the website.  Our actual expense was $408, so we were way off in our estimation.  Again, we will blog later on this experience.

Utilities.  If you rent a house, you may be required to pay a deposit for water to be turned on.  Because we live in an apartment, the entire complex is billed at once, and management just sends each resident a bill that we just add on to our rent.  Progress Energy may also require a deposit payment, depending on your credit history, up to two months service at your new address, based on prior usage.

We’re sure there are expenses that we are forgetting to mention but we wanted to hit on the highlights.  We hope this proves helpful to those of you who are considering a move to the beautiful state of Florida 🙂  We absolutely love it here!  We keep hearing from our friends here that we will get used to the heat, and really the only times we find it overbearing is when we do hours at Disney 🙂



As you consider a move across several states, the question that is always top-most in your mind <at least it was in ours> is trying to figure out how much stuff to move.  We finished unpacking Ben’s room today, and he was thrilled to have all his belongings back and put in some semblance of order.

We’ve discovered the little things that you don’t think will make a difference once you move really do.  We packed plastic storage containers–we could have easily donated them and purchased new–but it was nice to have that storage available when unpacking, and it really didn’t add that much weight to the truck.  You can never have too many storage containers, as what works in your house now will not necessarily be functional in your new home.  Ditto with toilet paper and kleenex.  It can be used as filler in the box, and it sure is helpful to have in the new place.

Pack as much in terms of everyday kitchen utensils and cookware and make sure it is the last box on the truck, and the first box off.  If you are using movers, remember it can take as long as a week to receive your boxes.  We enjoy eating out but it gets tiring after awhile, hits the budget hard, and is not the healthiest option.  You will need items for making meals, such as cookie sheets, pans, etcetera.  If you can, make up a list of what you will need to buy once you move into your house.  We had gotten rid of a lot of our items, and as we walked into Target our first day, we were really overwhelmed with trying to remember what we needed.

We’ve been saying from the start, pack only what you love.  However, we’d like to make an addendum to that:  also pack what you need.  We’ve had several items that we disposed of in Wisconsin, only to have to buy back in Florida.  It’s hard to spend money on items you know you had two weeks ago, that were in perfectly good condition.   It doesn’t make sense to dispose of everything you own.  We’re grateful for what we did pack, and it helps to make the apartment our home.  It really helps with the adjustment process, whether you have children or not.

Tomorrow the plan is to unpack the kitchen boxes.   We also need to contact maintenance as a lot of our outlets are not working, and Catie had ants crawling on her wall this morning. We believe its due to the fact they sprayed our building yesterday and the ants were coming inside to get away, but we will alert them anyway.  We need to contact Brighthouse as a couple of our cable outlets are not functional.  We’re also supposed to have ceiling fans installed this week in the bedrooms.  We have to say management is totally on top of everything and we are impressed with the way things are handled here.  We are blessed with living here.