How often did you think you’d be visiting the parks?
Julia: I thought that we’d probably be at the parks once or twice a week.
Natalie: As long as we are living nearby, we’ll be at the parks a few times a week.
How often do you actually visit the parks?
Julia: Like we thought, once or twice is what we do in a typical week. We often do end up at a resort once a week as well, just to grab breakfast or dinner.
Natalie: When we lived within a few minutes’ drive, we were nearly always on Walt Disney World property. When we moved about 35 minutes away (before NYC), our time there dropped drastically. I won’t make the mistake of living far away again. The drive really kills the spontaneity and fun for us.
Julia: You tour the parks differently. You find that you spend a lot of time doing stuff that you wouldn’t “waste your time on” if you were on a vacation where you had to make every minute count — like letting our daughter play on the Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure or in The Boneyard for an hour.
The first weekend we were down here, we didn’t go on any rides, but we did drive over to the Grand Floridian to see the decorated Easter eggs on display, for example. The only time we spend a full day at the parks is if we are staying on property for a stay-cation. Otherwise, if we go to the parks to do an attraction, we’ll go in, do one or two attractions, and leave. This is the only way to do it, in my opinion! Much better than a vacation!
What are the big differences between visiting FL and living there?
Julia: Florida has some really cool things you can’t do elsewhere. In DC, you can visit the Air and Space museum. In Florida, you can just go out and watch a rocket actually get launched. There’s a state park that does pancakes on a griddle at your table (think teppan-style pancakes!). Airboat rides. Going to see mermaids in the wild at Weeki Wachee. Picnics on the lawn with the carillon playing at Bok Tower. Feeding gators at Gatorland. Slumming it at Old Town. The huge (22 mile long) hiking/biking West Orange Trail. Picking oranges fresh from the groves. And did I mention Florida has a fascination with castles everywhere made of everything? And bacon festivals. And the Great American Pie Festival.
Natalie: Florida resident discounts are a huge perk. Whether it’s a cruise or theme park tickets, you stand to save so much money just by having a Florida address. You can be spontaneous on a cruise or beach vacation because there’s no air involved.
Julia: This leads to the biggest issue – when you move down here, you aren’t on vacation. It can be a tough adjustment to realize that. If people do come and visit you, they’re probably going to head to the parks…and you’re headed into the office for a work day. They’re riding Splash Mountain, and you’re digging out of a mountain of laundry. You’re taking the pets to the vet for their annual checkup, and shopping for groceries, and doing your taxes, and all sorts of very boring normal life stuff while everyone around you has fun. Some people try to stay in vacation mode, but they quickly burn themselves out or they ruin their finances. You have to be careful about buying souvenirs or eating out or even just grabbing a bottle of water at the theme parks, because that can quickly sap your budget.
The Florida Lifestyle
Julia: In DC for professional careers, the focus is on doing “whatever it takes” to get the job done. That means long hours, being “on the job” even when you aren’t on the clock and the emphasis that you must be driven to try and claw your way higher on the professional ladder. My husband and I have very different views from the majority of people we met up there in terms of how to live life. It is more healthy to surround ourselves with lower-stress people…and much less frustrating for the people around us not to have major envy cases about our lack of stress in life because of our choice to have a low-stress life or our socio-economic status.
Natalie: Julia, your situation in DC reminds me a lot of what we found in Brooklyn! Especially the bit about the job being the most important part of life, and how that allows you to fit in socially. Even in a really creative neighborhood, I found that my son’s classmates all had parents who had worked very hard to maintain a high social profile. They had done their schmoozing to get where they were… I could not do it.
You can slow down and truly enjoy Florida, and there is so much to do here. Since you’re not on vacation and there’s always tomorrow, nothing has to be done in big chunks. You can go to the beach for an hour, instead of feeling like you have to pack up your car and spend the entire day at the beach until you’re sunburned and exhausted. You can explore the natural world. Orlando is within a few hours of a variety of completely unique ecosystems. There’s something different in every direction!
So, have you bought your one-way plane ticket yet? I’d like to give a huge thank you to Julia and Natalie for their wonderful insights and information. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and if you’re thinking of relocating to Florida, let me know in the comments!