In the ParksWalt Disney World (FL)

Relocating to Florida: Part Three: The Florida Difference and Disney as a local

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TouringPlans logoWe’ve made it to the final installment in my relocation series! Below are links to Part One and Part Two.

Part One: Weather and Finances

Part Two: New Surroundings and the Disney Distance

We’re back with fellow Touringplans bloggers Julia Mascardo and Natalie Reinert as we discuss the Florida difference and traveling to Walt Disney World as a local.

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.

Does being a local change what you do while at Disney World?IMG_9287

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!

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Angela Dahlgren

Angela is cohost of the TouringPlans Podcast and regular contributor to the TouringPlans YouTube channel. When she's not talking about the happiest place on earth, she spends her time entertaining her own little Minnie and Mickey Mouse. You can find her on twitter @AngelaDahlgren or via email -

11 thoughts on “Relocating to Florida: Part Three: The Florida Difference and Disney as a local

  • Thank you, Angela. This series was just so interesting, on so many levels. Thanks for sharing your family’s experiences.

    • Thanks DisneyDad!

      I really value these kind of comments. It makes my job with TouringPlans that much more fun and gratifying. I’m so lucky to do what I do!

      I appreciate the comment. 🙂


  • Great follow up to the rest of the story! Thanks for posting!

    • Mountain8778,

      Interviewing these two ladies was so much fun. I learned so much and it really makes me rethink this whole, “living in the cold Midwest” thing.

      Thanks for the comment!


  • I loved the ability to go to the parks without having to “get our money’s worth” every time. My husband lamented just the other day how much he missed just meeting over at Epcot after work for a few hours on a Friday. We lived maybe 15-20 minutes away (depending on the park), which I thought was just about perfect.

    How often we visited varied widely depending on the season. During the summer, there might have been a month or more where we didn’t go at all (neither of us handle heat particularly well), but during the spring and small (Particularly if Flower and Garden or Food and Wine were on), we would go multiple times per week. When I was pregnant and couldn’t ride much, we still went and just walked around, and then when I was on maternity leave in the spring Disney was a great place to just get out of the house and wander around.

    We went back in late August to get one last use out of our passes and it really is amazing how different it felt. 6 hours at MK in the Florida summer heat and humidity is exhausting compared to 3 leisurely hours in late February.

    My favorite day I spent in Florida while living there was taking a day off work, going to watch the second-to-last shuttle launch on the coast, having lunch in Melbourne near the beach, then finishing the day at MK.

    • That was the big difference for me, too… after always being a local we took a couple of Walt Disney World vacations – like, the full vacation experience – and I couldn’t really get used to it. All the stuff to fit in, without the option of coming back in a few days to catch something I missed… it was fun, but it wasn’t the way I’m used to doing the parks. It’s just a completely different approach to the parks (and resorts).

    • Bluesabriel,

      That sounds so wonderful! I was on maternity leave during Minnesota’s polar vortex last year. Being stuck inside all that time really made me yearn for the Florida sun. How nice it would have been to just pop over to Disney with baby for an afternoon stroll!

      Thanks for the comment. 🙂


  • Thank you so much for the series of Relocation to Florida articles. We do plan on moving there in the next 5-10 years. I know it’s a long ways away, but I love reading about it now.

    • Jennifer,

      Isn’t it fun to dream? That was the best part about interviewing Natalie and Julia. It really got my imagination going.

      Someday perhaps!


  • The first article of this series popped up literally 3 days before I was heading down to Florida to do some research for moving to the Orlando area. I really appreciated this series and I’m moving down there next month!

    • Anna,

      I hope all goes well for you.

      Good luck with the move!



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