We have officially been here a little over 5 weeks now, and I thought it would be a good idea to update you on how we are doing. I realize you see our family outings on the blog, but sometimes it’s what you DON’T see is sometimes the most important. Let me give you a peek of what life is like now, and how we are dealing with it.
Driving, Directions, Roads, and Traffic
I am dealing well with the driving here in our area of FL, so far. We only have to take 2 main roads to get to WDW from our home, so that has been nice to get there so fast. But, we have had a bit of stress with Highway 192. Now, we lived near some busy roads in Appleton, about three of them, which constantly had traffic most of the time. But the difference in College Avenue vs Highway 192 here is that College Avenue had traffic lights that were quick, and the traffic flowed much better. 192, in the Maingate area anyways, seems to always be busy, packed, and traffic lights that seem to be incredibly long. I swear I have been sitting at a red turning light for an easy 10 minutes, be about the 5th car back, and I can barely get through the YELLOW that is already up! Long red lights, quick green lights.
You really have to research what the rules of the roads are here in the great State of FL. In WI, we don’t have many U-Turn areas. In the BUSIEST of traffic, I have had someone cut me off because they were making a U-Turn. In that amount of traffic, especially after the Parks let out, you have to be an extremely defensive driver. Some people do not care that it is your turn to go, so bring your patience with you when moving here.
192 is the “Main Hub” before Walt Disney World in our area, but it’s not necessarily in our area. We live in a suburb in the Country, so there are many other roads to get to where we need to go. Tollways and side streets have given us peace of mind that we don’t have to deal with 192 if choose not to. Now the fastest way to WDW for us is 192, but we could take Interstate 4 to get to Disney as well- it’s all about timing and traffic.
We have not purchased the Sun Pass yet, but keep an endless amount of quarters and other change in both vehicles for any times we jump on the tollway.
It is funny that I would have to address this, since I have been one myself, but it’s something you have to understand when you move here. You are, or will be, a RESIDENT- where you shop, get your gas, your favorite fast food snack is among the thousands who do not care you live here. From the one who is from a county over, to the ones who come here from another country- this is their vacation and they are here to do what they want to do. What does that mean? It means that your favorite store won’t have most things in stock because the tourists are grabbing them up, along with the parking spaces, and the time in drive-thru lanes. I REFUSE to go to McDonalds on 192 near the Maingate area EVER again because it usually has 10 cars in the drive-thru at all times, which pours onto the Highway. It’s dangerous and nuts, so I avoid it at all costs.
You need to be ready to live by Park times if you plan on traveling around the Maingate area- and here is why- traffic, traffic, traffic. It seems the police are out in full force for one, and two, the exit from Disney Property to 192 gets backed up severely after any Park closes. The problem with 192 heading into the Maingate area is that everyone coming off that exit usually needs to move over almost 2 lanes to get to other main roads that branch off that highway. Having 3 full lanes of traffic already on 192 and then add a full park letting out heading out on the ONE lane of that exit- it is chaos. If you can avoid it at those busy times, I encourage you to do so.
I have to add that shopping at Wal-Mart here is a nightmare any time from mid-morning on to the nighttime hours. Why? Tourists invade and take over. There is no quiet time to myself to focus on my shopping list- I find myself grabbing and trying to add quickly because the crowds drive me nuts. So I go now VERY early in the morning to have the place to myself and have the chance to breathe while shopping. The crowds are never that bad at Target because, again, they charge more- it’s a Super Target so it’s nice to have the food options, but they still have way to many items that are overpriced.
I love our home- we have a lot more space than we did in WI and the girls get their own bedrooms. We are trying to get “comfortable” in it, but it still doesn’t feel like home yet. The walls are still bare, they are replacing the kitchen floor soon, and we still need to buy more furniture. The kids rooms are almost completed, which makes me happy that they are settling in to their new surroundings.
We rent, and many of you have asked how we found our home. Craig went to rentalhomes.com and searched Kissimmee to see what there was available. To start anywhere, look at a map online at the areas that surround WDW. Decide what is best for you and your family when it comes to the distance to the Parks, along with school zones. Choose a city, check out the schools online to see if it something your kids would like, and THEN look for the home to rent. We were blessed to find a private Landlord, which makes things speed a bit more than a corporation that is renting out places. We didn’t have to put any money down for application fees, but most places will make you pay to have your credit checked along with other fees. When looking so much, be careful of those fees because most will NOT return them if you don’t pass their standards for renting the place you desire. It can get quite expensive, so only pay the fees for something you REALLY are interested in.
Yes, we found this place ONLINE and rented it blindly. What that means is that we were unable to walk thru it first before making the final decision. We paid our security deposit in good faith to hold the place for us, and they worked with us on the date to move on. Most out of state folks HAVE to do it this way because a plane ticket to come and look for 10 minutes is not worth the cost. If you know someone in the area, have them check it out for you and take pictures. We weren’t super sure on the layout of certain rooms and such, so make sure to get full and clear pictures of everything. If you are able and the cost is minimal, come down and make a trip of checking things out. That was my goal this past November, but it never happened due to unseen circumstances.
For our family, it was so much more worth it to rent a home than an apartment. You are going to pay over $1000 a month to rent most homes, but you most likely will get a pool, several bedrooms, garage, and larger living space. I realize some cannot afford this, which I understand, but if you have to pay $1000 for an apartment versus a home, take the home. Work with your Landlord and most are willing to work with you on anything needed to be fixed or changed once you arrive. Don’t be afraid to speak up to make sure your home is what you need it to be- but nicely so you don’t burn any bridges in the process.
Bugs, Animals, and Others
We have learned that inside and out, bugs seem to be an issue in this area since we live literally on land that was one swamp. Beetles, cockroaches, red ants, and large spiders have been seen mostly outside our home. Craig has sprayed several times on the outside, around window sills, front door, garage, and inside the pool area. Even though we have a “caged” patio area, bugs still get in. if we can’t get them under control, we will look into hiring someone to kill them for us.
Our neighbors have informed us of a black snake in our area, along with the hawks that circle the area. It is a completely different eco-system down here, and you have to be ready for anything. Talk to your neighbors, research anything you come across, and watch where you walk. Just a few weeks ago a man was BIT by a RATTLE SNAKE down the road from us, so it is a serious issue that you must be ready for. Now, we have bears in WI and I never saw one in all my 37 years living there, so it’s not meant to scare you, just prepare you. We educated the kids on our new animal friends so they know what to look for.
Not only do we have lots of bugs and other animals, we have a large amount of stray cats in the area. I am not sure why, but when Craig and I walk we see several types of cats running around. Also, we learned that there IS a leash law for dogs- we were walking last week with the kids and a dog just ran at us, while the owner just stood there. Craig blocked him from us, but the owner did NOTHING to stop the dog nor came up to us apologize. The law here is that your dog MUST be on a leash, so if you are bringing your pup to FL, keep that in mind please- we don’t know if your beloved pet has had their shots or not.
Money and Budgeting
When living in WI, we would need the “spending cash” for things like the local Movie Theater, the special events, and the occasional dinner outside our home. Living in FL, there is SO MUCH to use our spending money on that it is a bit overwhelming. We had to get “real” right away with our budget and decide on what we wanted to spend each pay check. With hundreds of Restaurants, both on and off WDW Property, it’s easy to spend out of control because the level of excitement is always high around here. The kids used to spend their allowance at the Fox River Mall, now it’s at the “World of Disney” or “Mousegears.” I am starting to almost forget what doing nothing feels like, which isn’t a bad thing, but we can’t afford to do everything that is out here right now because we have other responsibilities.
My best advice on moving here, when it comes to money, is to think about WHAT you spend on your normal WDW vacation, and then think about if you could and DID have the time to have that vacation all the time- what that would look like in dollars and cents. The beauty of living here is that you don’t have to eat at 5 Table Service Restaurants in one week- you can choose them for special occasions when it’s worth the cost. Think of where you live RIGHT now, would you lay down over $120 for a meal for you, your spouse and 2 kids? I know we NEVER spent that kind of money on a meal in WI- EVER. Because it is Disney, and you pay for the atmosphere, you NEED to be picky and choosy as a Resident so you don’t go broke.
Yes, it is hot, we knew that coming here it would be. We have enjoyed walking out in our shorts every day without worrying if it’s going to be cold or not. The humidity is another thing, which basically means “get used to sweating.” It can be early in the morning, or after dark, you will still sweat. You get used to it, and it’s only annoying when you are trying to ride a ride and you either stick or slide everywhere.
We have our air condition on every day, as well as the ceiling fans. The air conditioning in WI ran from the basement, so the vents were in the floors in each room. Because there are no basements here, the vents are in the ceiling. Our bedroom is right behind the Central Air unit, so our room stays the coldest. The kids are on the opposite side of the house, so they don’t get as cold. We run their fans more than anyone, and make sure to keep their curtains and blinds shut during the days they aren’t home. It will cost you to run the a/c often, so make sure to get on a “Budget Billing” plan with the Electric Company right away.
Because of the heat, you sweat more often, which means you change clothes more often and use more water to shower after swimming. More laundry and a higher water bill could be in your future, so again, keep it in mind when relocating here.
Yes, some of this isn’t the most “uplifting” news, but it is what is the real stuff that is happening here. With every bug I have found, I have had 10 magical moments with my family and friends in Walt Disney World. Yes, it is worth it to live here, you just have to learn to adjust and get used to it. All good things come to those who just give it a chance. We are giving it the chance.