Moving To The Mouse

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At some time in every Disney World fan’s life a thought starts to brew somewhere deep within.  Maybe it was a bit of pixie dust stuck under your collar from your last trip that got the idea cooking in your head.  Or you were looking at pictures of your children and the smiles on their faces as they stood there meeting Mickey Mouse, and how you wish that you could see that more often.  And suddenly you’re asking yourself, “How can I move to Disney World?”

Believe me I’ve been there and it when you suddenly realize that this is something you want… something you need… everything changes.

Phase 1: The Spark

Once upon a time (a dream? it seems so long ago), my wife Cheryl and I lived in Massachusetts.  We’d been coming to Disney World about 4 or 5 times a year, were fairly new DVC members, and we’d already begun getting Annual Passes.  Now I’ll have to be honest here, the initial bug for us to move to WDW didn’t come from me, but rather from Cheryl.  And when she first brought it up to me, I was somewhat against it.  To me Florida was a place you visited.  For starters, my parents lived there (both remarried on opposite sides of the state – hey, I’m a Long Island boy).  I’d also tried living in southern Florida for a very short spell before I’d met Cheryl, it had left a bad taste in my mouth, and I hadn’t stayed long.  As much as I loved WDW, I wasn’t ready to move to Florida.

That was in 2000.  Cheryl and I went back and forth about this for close to two years.  And, if you take anything away from what I’m telling you this is the most important thing: everyone participating in the move needs to be in agreement to move.  You can’t expect to take a step as life changing as moving your family to another state without having everyone being on the same page.  It has to be a joint effort with no contention, resentment, or regret after its occurred.  And this is why Cheryl an I held off – while it was something she definitely wanted to do, I wasn’t ready yet.

Those two years later, Cheryl and I were on a heading to WDW via the Auto Train.  Now for those of you who haven’t taken the Auto Train it’s an overnight trip between Lorton, VA and Sanford, FL for you and your car.  I won’t go into great detail here, but I will suggest listening to Episode 669 of the WDW Today Podcast if you’re looking for more info. In the dinning car, each table has 4 seats, so if you are less than 4 people you will be sitting with at least 1 other person.  Cheryl and I sat with a software engineer who was on his way down to FL temporarily re-locating for a contract position he’d taken with Disney.  I don’t remember the conversation specifically, but I do remember something about it resonating with me, and that in my head there was a distinct click.

Phase 2: Finding a Job

Cheryl and I spent that entire vacation discussing the possibility of moving to Central Florida, and for the first time, I was ready to give it a shot. This is when we encountered the next big hurdle that many will have when they are looking to move down: a job.  Cheryl worked from home already, so her job could move with her.  Mine however was not as portable.  When we got home, I did what you’d probably expect: polished up my resume and put it up on some job sites.   I did manage to get some phone interviews, but what became readily apparent was that no one was taking me seriously because I was not yet in Florida.  After many months we realized this was a show stopper and we shelved the idea.

Things didn’t go any better for us in 2003 when we tried a new tact job-wise.  We scheduled two separate trips down one for both of us, and one just for me solo.  Both trips were scheduled to coincide with job fairs.  Both of these were advertised as “Tech Job Fairs”, and we figured that I was bound to get a bite or two out of them.  Quickly though we learned that in Central, FL “Tech Job Fair” generally means “Science & Health Job Fair” or “Hospitality Job Fair” neither of which I’m qualified for.

That same year my father passed away, and with everything that surrounded that we ended up shelving the idea again.  But his passing made us more determined then ever to get down there.  I did not want to participate in another long distance passing of a parent.

Phase 3: The Plan

By the time winter 2003-2004 rolled around we were antsy and a bit depressed.  It was looking like we’d never make it down to Florida.  Then it started to snow – that winter is snowed in excess of 180″ total.  I was shoveling my condo, an elderly neighbor’s condo, and my Temple almost every single day – it was snowing that often.  And in January 2004 I was done – if I never saw snow again I could care less.  Under no circumstances were we not going to be in FL by the following winter.

So we came up with what at the time was a really risky and scary decision: we’d move to Florida without me having a job.  With the way the economy is today, I’m not sure I’d be as willing to make the same decision, but back then it was what we felt was necessary.  We needed to do this for ourselves.  Otherwise the plan itself was very simple as our condo had accumulated quite a bit of equity: we opened an equity line that was more than ample to cover our expenses for moving.

Phase 4: In With the New and Out With the Old

The first thing we did was research apartment complexes down in Central Florida.  As Cheryl is almost always one step ahead of the game, she already had a short list.  We scheduled a trip down and visited each complex, by the end of the trip we had narrowed it down to 3 places we’d be willing to live.  Each was dog friendly, and willing to work with us long distance to secure an apartment.  We went home, talked it over, and picked one.  Called them up, and sorted out the lease – having it start approximately one month before we were planing to move down - there’s a good reason for this I promise.

Next we put our condo on the market.  As we lived in a large complex where units seemed to almost always be on the market we did some research with our realtor and agreed on a selling price that we felt would make our unit the next one to sell.  At the time the market was still pretty good, so it went quickly and we set a closing date that coincided with our plans. Whether you were to get a realtor or not is up to you, it’s what worked for us.

I’m not really sure why, but we felt much more comfortable with the process of securing our new home before selling our old home.

Phase 5: Saying Good-Bye with a Bit of Luck

The day after we were under agreement for the condo sale, I went to work to tell my boss that I was moving to FL and to arrange my last day.  This was well in excess of a standard two weeks notice, which I realize is not for everyone to do, but I’d been at the company for 5 years at that point and was a key player in their core technologies.  However, things didn’t go according to plan - something unexpected happened.  My boss looked across the table from me, told me he completely understood my need to move, but that he saw no reason why I couldn’t continue to work for them remotely.

I cried.  The weight of my greatest fear about moving, no job, had been lifted.  Suddenly the whole process of moving became a whole lot easier.  Now, I’d gotten very lucky, and looking back today, six years later, I’m still completely stunned by it.  And despite that I haven’t worked for that company in almost 3 years now, I still feel that I owe my old boss a debt that I can probably never repay.  I won’t ever forget that day.

Phase 6: The Move Itself

The next big step was hiring a mover.  Renting a truck was out of the question, I wanted to make sure that I had people to help me move in when I got to Florida, and hiring movers does that.  Sure it costs a lot more money, but unless you’re lucky enough to have friends on both sides of your move (mine was MA and FL), there’s really no other way to do this.  So since Cheryl and I didn’t know anyone living in FL at the time, we went with movers.  My only real recommendations are this: make sure they’ll come to your home to give you the estimate, and make sure you receive proof that they are licensed, bonded, and insured.

Once our lease started for our new apartment, which if you recall was before our moving date (I told you there was a reason), we planned a trip down to Florida.  This was a road trip as the plan was to move down many of our more precious items and get them situated in our new apartment.  We rented a van and headed down.  I don’t honestly remember a whole lot from that trip as there was so much was going on.  We didn’t actually stay in the apartment because it wasn’t yet furnished, but we did stop by a few times just to make sure we were still comfortable with the location.

For our closing, we met with our lawyer at the buyer’s mortgage agent.  Again, not everyone will have a lawyer at their closing, but it helped us quite a bit.  In a closing you don’t generally get the money you’re due right away as it has to sit in escrow.  As we left Massachusetts for Florida that same day, literally from the closing, having a lawyer allowed for us to have them receive the payment for us and get it to us not long after we arrived down in Florida.

Phase 7: The Other Stuff

Cheryl and I are Jewish, so I felt it important to mention that throughout much of this process, we were researching synagogues.  In the United States the Jewish population has about a 45% affiliation rate – meaning that 45% of the Jews in the US belong to a synagogue.  Central Florida is much lower, having about a 30% affiliation rate.  Strangely though it has more synagogues to choose from then you might expect.  We narrowed it down to three we were really interested in, and on subsequent trips we managed to attend two of them.  We didn’t finalize our decision between those two until after we moved down, and we’ve since moved to a completely different Temple closer to where we live now.

The point here is that you should try to remember all the other things in your life that need a transition as well.  It’s not just about moving you, your stuff, and your job.  It’s about moving your whole life.  Try not to let something important slip by you in the process, or you may later regret it.

The End?

I’m certain that I’m not the only person who’s gone through this (I can think of two others who I see quite often), so I’d love to hear some experience from others.  Have you moved to Florida to be closer to WDW?  What was the process like for you?  Are you thinking of moving to Florida? Or any other questions you might have? Won’t you be my neighbor?

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Posted on June 1, 2010

58 Responses to “Moving To The Mouse”

  • Excellent story on your move! I moved to Florida in April 2009 and love everything about it. I’m on the Atlantic coast so I still have a decent drive to Walt Disney World, but it’s way closer than where I lived in Pennsylvania!

    For me, the process was easier as I was renting in PA and am renting in FL. Plus, I interviewed for and was offered a job before I moved down, so that made things go more smoothly, too.

    • Fantastic Tim! Glad things went smoother for you. One of the two phone interviews I had was from Fort Lauderdale, and the other was more local. One of the two is out of business today, so I guess it all works out.

      I think that in the early oughts Central Florida had the potential to be a bigger tech center than they are today, but they sort of killed it by companies not being super flexible in terms of drawing on out of state talent.

  • Todd, awesome to read your story that brought you closer to the Magic… Simply amazing at how much of a draw some of us feel to be closer to it all the time.

    I did the same thing in 1998, but different from you, I had a job to transfer to and I also took a PT position as an Attractions Host/Tour Guide at the Studios park. Why did I ever leave? Well I left when I married my (now ex) wife in 2001 and moved to Atlanta.

    Today, I am planning the course correction and I hope that 2010 is the year I return to the area that I come to the most. Like Cheryl, my position is ‘virtual’ and as portable as I am. I will look back on your post quite a bit over the next few months to remind myself of my motivations to return. Excellent read!

  • Thanks for sharing your story Todd. I also did the “move down without a job” and it worked out for me. Employers really don’t bother with out of state people for one reason or another.

  • LOL this is funny since my house just went under contract this weekend and I am moving to central Florida. I have lived in the are once before, so it is not that new to me. I have a tentative move date of 7/19, so I hope to see you all around the parks.

    • You actually touch on something… if you’re coming down a lot right now, before the move, it’s a really good idea to familiarize yourself with the area. For Cheryl and I this was primarily during the apartment hunting phase, though we’d driven through Orlando a lot (parents on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts) and some idea of where things were.

      Once you’re down just find me on Twitter and let me know. Always willing to meet up.

      • I had lived in Orlando before. I had lived on Kirkman over by universal. I am looking for a home or condo this time around.

        • Over near SeaWorld was one of our original choices for an Apt. that place has since gone condo. Housing prices are pretty good in many areas down here right now.

          Kirkman always makes me lament the loss of Mystery Fun House.

  • Great story Todd! My wife and I are looking to moving to the Orlando area when she retires in 5 years. I too am in IT. I know my current employer would never let me telecommute so what your Boss did at that time was truly a blessing. We have family in Pensacola and Tampa so that is one reason why we are moving to FL other then the Mouse. Hopefully we will see you in 2016.

  • Hey Todd! Where on LI are you from? I am a suffolk county girl who’d LOVE to live near the mouse!
    What a great story!!! I’m glad it all worked out for you. :)

  • Todd wonderful story, we’ve been planing for 20yrs and now’s the time to make the move. House goes up for sale soon. Pray we get it sold fast 20yrs of waiting is way too long! Can’t wait to meet everyone in the Parks! :o)

    • Fantastic! There are certainly some aspects of moving that I left out, like “the purge” (getting rid of your junk), and the excitement of it. But I was focusing on the steps more than anything else here. I think you’re going to really enjoy it when you get down here.

      And I look forward to meeting you too!

  • I luckily lived in Florida, but moved the two hours to work at the wonderful world of Disney.

    I will never regret it. It’s been amazing and I literally work at a place where dreams come true.

    While I moved back to my hometown to finish my degree and have a full time job, I still work for the mouse and visit every week to play and work. And within a year I’ll be back to being 5 minutes away.

    .. It’s like living a dream, and I hope everyone gets a chance to live close enough where you never escape the magic.

    • Great. I’m not a castmember myself, though I’m not ever going to rule that out as a “someday” option. I do love hearing from castmembers with such a positive attitude. And maybe “Micheal B” below will catch your post and see that you can work at WDW and still have a positive relationship with Disney.

  • Wonderful and compelling story, Todd! Makes me feel like I know you and Cheryl that much better — even without ever meeting you guys. Congratulations on following your instincts (and Cheryl’s!).

    • Hey AJ, thanks. I’ll be the first to admit that, for me, change is difficult. That’s probably why it took me much longer than Cheryl. And someday I’ll know the person behind the Mickey waffle :)

    • Nice post. We’ve been thinking of this for a while. Gotta get off of this high taxed island (Long Island). Son graduates H.S. this year, daughter still has a few years left. Finding a job is also my biggest concern. Was also wondering if the “magic” would be the same being so close to WDW.

  • Nice article, but you left me hanging!

    My question is, and this is probably a follow-up article, how do you feel now that you are there? What’s the Central Florida lifestyle like, how has it affected your ‘relationship’ with WDW, what if anything do you miss about home, etc.?

    My fear would be that actually moving close to WDW would not necessarily destroy, but would definitely change that magic feeling. Something about getting off the plane, etc. that makes it special.

    Living there would definitely change things–and I wonder about it taking the gloss off. I have wondered the same about working there as well.

    There’s also a big difference between WDW and Orlando itself, of course–people, culture, facilities, etc.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing this and hope you have not regretted the move!

    • No problem, I got you thinking, and you’ve got me thinking on potential new articles (one about Orlando itself).

      As for how moving changed my life, I touched on this last week over here: A Local Perspective

      And if you look at the comment above by Ofantastic he (she?) is a local and a Disney castmember who still loves the mouse.

      • That other article was fun as well! I’m interested and curious in life outside of the two times a week you get to go to the parks, mainly.

        I’m a special effects artist. Back when Disney/MGM (at the time) and Universal were opening, my business partner and I spent three weeks in Orlando talking to everyone under the sun (including an afternoon wandering around Disney Central Shops with one of the higher-ups there, WOW!).

        We were thinking of relocating our business there. As it turns out, the “movie biz” didn’t really emerge as they were saying it would, as the “studios” devolved into theme parks (not a bad thing, but you understand we were looking for film work at the time). So, we didn’t move.

        But a big part of the decision not to move was Orlando itself. I’m sure it’s changed a lot since we were there, but there was a certain lack of depth of culture. We drove all over the place and talked to lots of folks. The answer to “where do you go for fun?” was always Disney and Universal. Even the locals didn’t have a good answer beyond those two. Now, I’m much more Disney nuts than my biz partner, but even then we looked at each other and said “huh”. Not much for art museums, local festivals, orchestra, etc. And not much for sports at that time, either.

        Infrastructure in the Orlando area was dicey and inconsistent, from quality of housing and roads, etc. assuming you didn’t want to live on I-Drive or anything like that.

        So, we found it a mixed bag. Now, in Orlando-time, early 90′s is an eternity ago. The past few times I’ve been there I’ve only Magical Expressed myself into bliss, lol. So, I have no idea about Orlando proper anymore.

        I have heard that the schools are not good–and I have three kids so that’s a consideration as well.

        I’m thinking that a move, if at all, would be a retirement thing at some point. I have spoken to many retired people who are CM’s who seem VERY happy to be there and really enjoy the family perks and the atmosphere.

        Anyway, that’s a few things that roam through my mind as I recall considering a move some years back.

        • There’s plenty to do, and Orlando has come a long way since I remember it as a kid going around with my dad visiting his clients.

          I-Drive is a mess, but it was designed to do that I’m convinced.

          Schools depend on where you go sort of thing. A lot of the schools within Orange County do have a bad reputation. Other counties such as Seminole have a fantastic reputation.

          There are plenty of museums in the downtown area now – one hosted the Jim Henson’s Fantastic World last year.

          We also have tons of outdoor festivals year round – because we can thanks to the weather. Farmer’s Markets are a huge draw in the area and are common weekend activity.

          I’ll have to write about all this in more depth in a future post.

          P.S. My retirement plan is to be a Castmember :)

  • Todd, great post, thanks! Have always thought that central FL would be a great move (I’m from MA as well….and am so ready to leave the snow :-)) but can’t convince my hubby yet. We have 2 teenagers and we venture to WDW about twice a year….

    Interesting to hear about the steps that you followed before the move and how long you and Cheryl were actually thinking about it.

    I am looking forward to reading future posts on the Orlando area.

    PS I’m thinking/hoping castmember someday as a retiree also :-)

  • Hi, Todd! I really enjoyed your post. I’m planning on moving to FL next summer. My husband is in the army and has a few years left. Therefore, I’m going to go ahead and get us settled while he’s deployed. I have to take into consideration the schools, though, because my kids are so young. I am also going to move there without a job and just hope for the best. I’m really wanting to work at Disney, but I don’t know if I’ll get that lucky :) I have been a little worried about whether or not it’s the right thing to do, but after reading your post, I feel better. I’m just going to go with my gut instinct. I’m tired of the snow too. :) Thanks again, and take care!

  • I would love to move to Florida, especially since I’m a recent graduate who hasn’t quite “settled down” yet… but my bf has no interest, and also I’m Canadian. I love being Canadian… love the free health care and the people and my family (but I hate hate hate the snow UGH). It’s one thing to move to a different state or province, but moving to a whole new country is a lot more complicated. For now I’ll just have to visit lots I guess!

    • Thanks for taking the time to respond. I can’t begin to fathom moving to another country. Living in Canada, how often do you get down to WDW? Do you go to both DL and WDW? Which airport/airline would you use?

      • Umm well I have a family of teachers so every spring break for the past 11 years we’ve gone on our spring break, and we’ve always driven (it ends up being 4-6 families, and some families have 5 kids so flying would be waayyy too much money).

        I’m a recent university grad and I’ve been making it down more like twice a year lately, and the odd time even 3 times. I was just there in March with the family, I’m going for two weeks in August with my bf’s family, and then since I ended up getting the annual pass I just might do another trip with my best friend (she’s probably buying into DVC). So… a lot haha. The amount will have to decrease once I have a job and have to be a “real” adult haha.

        When I do fly, its out of Buffalo which is about 2 hours from my home… that way we avoid international taxes and its waaayyy cheaper than flying Air Canada out of Toronto (although Air Canada is way way better than Delta or whoever we end up with). We just get the cheapest flights we can, but they usually end up being early morning, long layovers, etc… it ends up being better off just driving!).

        Oh and just WDW… its about 21 hours to drive (its actually WAY less time to drive to Disney than it is to drive to Manitoba which is the next province over haha). We’re further south in Toronto than a lot of US states, so its not so bad I guess!

        • Also, my best friend is doing some long-term planning of moving to the Orlando area… so some of us Disney fans are crazy enough to even switch countries!

        • Wow! Largest family group I ever had was 9. Unless you count my extended family from Skagway, Alaska :)

          With that many people I imagine a 21 hour drive isn’t all that bad. It’s funny the only times I’ve been to Canada was by car or bus. I never considered that to be due to airport taxes. Interesting. I know WestJet does the YYZMCO market.

          Thanks for the info, love this stuff.

  • I loved your description of the various phases–I went through many of the same issues before my own move in 2008 to Melbourne, about an hour and a half away on the Space Coast. My final decision-making was a bit more fast-tracked, though! The spark happened back in the late 80s when I daydreamed about being—don’t laugh!—a bilingual guide for one of those crazy Brazilian tour groups. I ended up in Minnesota to finish my undergraduate degree in the 90s and I loved it when my dad moved to Florida around the same time because I could justify twice-yearly visits to WDW even though I couldn’t afford to stay on property. But I never seriously considered moving to Florida. I LOVE snow and winter—I start to melt when it hits 80 degrees—so the weather was the true deal-breaker for me. But suddenly April 2008 brought me a bicycle accident bad enough to need short-term disability from work and two weeks later my then 78-year-old father had a stroke. May was a quick trip down to Melbourne to see how I could help. The day after my disability leave ended in June, so did my job. In July my landlady informed me that my apartment lease would not be renewed. August was a flurry of long-distance family conferences and frantic planning and packing. I arrived on Labor Day to the Sunshine State in a Honda Civic loaded to the rooftop with as much as I could cram in—including two dalmatians in the back seat! The job came in October, a lucky break since I was hired as a dog trainer and corporate training/HR jobs were some of the first to go away when the economy tanked. (I still check the Disney website from time-to-time, though, sadly knowing I can’t commute that far.) Almost two years later, my stuff is still in storage (no room for it here), my dad is much healthier (he can even walk the dog now!), I get to visit Disney all year long (woo-hoo, Annual Pass at the Florida resident rate!) and I stay in air conditioning as much as I can (and feel warm and fuzzy when the Floridians put on their parkas at 50 degrees). All told, my life may have changed dramatically and unexpectedly, but Disney has been my constant. As a wise man once said, “If you will it, dude, it is no dream.”

    • Desmond is my constant… oh… wait… wrong site :)

      Seriously yes the park pass price perks for FL residents are great. I also pull DVC in on top of that. Fantastic!

      I’ve actually adapted to the weather quite well, I’ve always liked warmer weather though. Best way to adapt is to resist wearing shorts all the time. Your body will compensate quickly. I am one of those who “freezes” below 70 degrees.

      Believe it or not, I actually have a former co-worker who used to commute from the space coast over to Lake Mary on a daily basis. He did eventually move, but did this commute for more than 6 months. So it can be done.

      Now you’ve got me wanting to go bowling :)

  • loved your post. my job of the the future might be down there. (hopefully).

    current plainview, ny resident. (exit 44 LIE)

  • Hey Todd: Did you make it to any of the Lebowski Fest shenanigans a couple of weeks ago? We didn’t make it to the Winter Park bowling event, but the oat sodas were definitely flowing at the movie showing at House of Blues. What a blast! It really tied the vacation together ;-)! I’m not sure if I met you at the May 24 MK meet-up, but I will for sure see you Saturday!

  • This post is so timely for me, as we are moving to the mouse one week from now. The process has made me a ball of nerves. My husband did land an excellent job, and we have secured a townhouse to rent. However, I am very nervous about making this move without selling our house.

    There is still much to be done once we move too like finding a church and making new friends. It was so encouraging to hear how it all came together for you as I hope our experience will be the same.

    • Wonderful on the move JL. Yes I would be too about the no sale on your own house, but worrying will make it worse, keep thinking happy thoughts. There are some wonderful Churches down there! We “Disney” just seems to all pull together. :o) I hope to be there soon!

    • JL just keep in mind the payoff of living down here, and getting your NDP fix whenever you want it :) I’m looking forward to having you as a neighbor, and I’ll be expecting to hear from the new “local you” real soon. And remember to contact me if you need anything.

  • I read this blog and I had to chuckle with relief!!!

    We are happily and unexpectedly moving to Orlando within the next month and are jewish! :D

    Everything is moving really fast, so your tips are super helpful!!!

    We are still trying to figure it all out, but I am thankful that the JCC had a space in their PreK program!!!

    • Glad I could help you relax a bit. I know the pre-move and acutual move time can be stressful from experience. Which JCC? Maitland or Rosen?

      • The Rosen J. Maitland was on a wait list, and it is looking like my husband will be working on that side of town. But if not, I figured that I have survived Atlanta traffic so I can make it…or at least I hope so!!! :)

        They were so sweet and talked to me a little about places to consider looking, since we are still in that stage of the game!

        We are super involved with our J in Richmond, so it is sad to leave but exciting on so many other levels!!!!

        • I live closer to the Maitland campus, but the Rosen is a gorgeous location, and very new. I’m sure it’ll be worth the drive. Come back and post about how the move went once you’re down here.

  • Todd,

    I just came across your blog tonight! Awesome blog you’re living the dream and had the courage to pursue your dreams! I’m from MA too! Where did you and Cheryl live in MA?

    It was great meeting you at the @TouringPlans and BOGP meet a couple weeks ago! I wish I had a chance to talk to you in depth! We’re coming back to WDW in December for 10 nights, I’ll keep you posted and we;ll get together if you’re up for it!

    Thanks,
    Dennis

  • by Kathy Winfield-Sheely on August 2, 2010, at 9:04 am EDT

    Just wondering if anyone knows of Gated Communities around about Hunters Creek area’s, Lake Nora/Hart, Windermere & lower Winter Garden or even St Cloud. Does Reunion have more than 1 gated Comm.? These aren’t showing up in any searches, only golf course homes. If you know of any? I would appropriate it greatly!

    Thank You!
    Kathy

  • I need to find stick people clipart that I can use to make signs out of vinyl like on car windows. Help!!?