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.
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?