All about moving to Orlando and Florida:
Lots of Disney fans dream of moving to Orlando. After we visit Disney World it’s sad to come home, and how great would it be to live right there in the middle of the magic? In fact, many fans do take the plunge and end up relocating to Florida. With beautiful weather, lots to do, and the magic of Disney it’s a great choice for many.
But of course there are lots of things to think about when moving to Orlando, and the process can be overwhelming! I talked to a number of Disney fans who made the move about pros and cons, what they didn’t expect, etc. and gathered lots of information to share with you here. I was also able to do a video interview with a real estate agent about her advice and what she’s seeing – she has a ton of knowledge so definitely check that out if this is something you’re considering!
Research cost of living and job salaries
Some of this is going to be the case for moving anywhere, but it’s especially true in Orlando. People tend to come here from all over the country, so the cost of living can vary wildly depending where you come from. Those relocating from New England may find housing prices in Florida much more affordable. In the midwest Orlando will seem very expensive. Make sure you look at potential job salaries as well. Even if you’re in New York and that $300k house seems like a bargain with your $100k/year salary, you probably won’t be making that sort of money even with a comparable job in Florida.
Create a budget
Yup, lots of math is important here! When considering the items above I like to actually crunch the numbers to have an idea of what I might be looking at. I’ve done research into moving (haven’t actually done it yet though!) and I like using these calculators for Mortgage Calculators. At the very least you’ll want to have an idea of house prices, what you can use as a down payment, and interest rates. They’ve also got calculators for renting vs. buying, how much you may need for closing costs, a minimum income requirement calculator, and more. I definitely recommend playing around with some numbers using these calculators and other tools before doing too much other research or making any commitments.
Find a real estate agent
Orlando has become a really popular spot for relocating, so you’ll definitely want a real estate agent to help you out. Especially in these times when the pandemic is still around it might be a bit more difficult to do a lot of tours or in-person events. A good real estate agent who specializes in the Orlando area can help you work within your budget, find the options you want in a house, and actually close the deal to secure your dream home. Someone who lives in the area can provide a wealth of information and really help you figure out how to approach things. I also want to emphasize that it doesn’t cost you anything to work with an agent until you close, so take advantage of the resources they offer! I recently spoke with Cristina Wittmann, a real estate agent for Century 21 who lives in Orlando who is also a long time Disney fan and former cast member. She had so much valuable information we even did a video together which you can view below!
If you’d like to work with Cristina you can reach out to her in whatever way you prefer – she has a website and is on facebook, instagram, or you can email her at [email protected] or give her a call at 407-789-5334.
Consider somewhere an hour or two away from Disney
You don’t have live right in Orlando to still be close to Disney World. There are lots of places within a few hours that are really nice, as well as neighborhoods within Orlando that are a bit further away from the main city. Disney fans I talked to who made the move lived in Melbourne, West Palm Beach, Ponte Vedra beach, Orlando, Kissimmee, Winter Garden, and Ocoee.
There are a number of reasons why you might want to be right in the middle of the action, but one of the top ones is traffic. As Adrianna K. told me, “I live an hour east of Disney (50ish miles), and it takes me just as long to get to the parks as someone living 10 miles away on the other side of Orlando sometimes!”
The actual act of moving can be expensive
There will probably be lots of things to pay for that you didn’t anticipate when moving! This is often the case but may especially be true if you’re coming from another state or somewhere more than a few hours away. If you already own a house you will have costs involved with selling it and getting it on the market. Moving your stuff can be costly as well.
There may be all sorts of hidden costs too. Sometimes it may take your stuff time to arrive, in which case be prepared to pay for things like takeout or easy meals (even if you have your stuff with you, you might want this on hand since you’ll be so busy moving in!).
Go through your stuff
Before moving to Orlando go through all of what you own and decide what you really want to bring with you. The less you bring the easier it is to transport and unpack, but aside from that you may also find yourself moving into a different sized space than you had previously. Houses in Florida don’t have basements (they’re built on swampland, after all!) and attics seem to be a rarity as well. You may not have the storage that you’re used to so be prepared to clean out some old stuff or pay for a storage unit.
Consider where your family and friends are
Before you make your final decision to move, there’s one other thing besides money and research you should consider that’s a bit more emotional – think about how close or far you’ll be from your friends and family. For some moving to Florida will put them closer to family, but others will find themselves across the country. Out of everyone I talked to who had moved to the Orlando area, the top reason why people ended up moving back home was because they felt like they felt isolated and were too far away from their family.
The theme parks
Of course for Disney fans, what could be better than living near the theme parks? So many people talked about how nice it was to be able to visit Disney often – it adds some real magic to their lives even if they only get there once a month or less. And with so many great restaurant options, especially at Disney Springs, it’s easy to pop in for just a little bit, spend a few hours, and go home.
Is it hot? Yes. Is there great weather a majority of the year? Also yes. Most Floridians seem to really appreciate the good weather they have in the spring, fall, and winter and feel it’s worth the hot and humid Florida summers. Being here in Pennsylvania where it won’t stop snowing and it’s usually below freezing this month I don’t blame them!
Feeling happier and healthier
One thing I didn’t expect was how many people who told me they felt like moving to Florida had improved their mental health and their physical health. One person mentioned “I have depression and I didn’t realize how badly the seasonal changes impacted me until we were away from them.” Since I also suffer from depression and seasonal depression is very real, it’s a great point. It’s one of the reasons why I personally plan a trip to Disney in February every year, so I can escape the dreariness and depression of winter. Wendy D., who moved from Michigan, commented “Since we’ve moved I’ve felt less depressed and have started sleeping much better than I can ever remember.”
Even physical health is improved for some people when moving to Orlando. Dana C. mentioned that “the warm weather is also better for my health, given the degeneration my joints have gone under in recent years.” Some people found that their allergies improved, though some found they were a bit worse, depending on what you’re allergic to. But those spring allergies from pollen and that sort of thing happen a lot less often!
Other vacation destinations nearby
Lauren L. pointed out that “I am no more then a 40 minute drive to lots of different fun things to do in my area, and if I want to make a little weekend to Disney it’s not far.” There’s a reason why so many people come to Florida to vacation, and it’s because there are so many places to unwind! You can enjoy the theme parks, a beach vacation, or a cruise. You have two major cruise ports in Florida (Port Canaveral and Miami) so you can easily get around to many of the islands in the area or to Mexico.
Florida resident discounts
On top of that, when you live in Florida you get a lot of discounts for those vacations! Adrianna mentioned that “the best part is that you get to enjoy those coveted Florida Resident discounts when you want to just be a tourist. I have cruised on thanksgiving before for less than $200 per person!” Especially if you can travel last minute you can get some incredible deals on cruises, hotels, and tickets to attractions. What an incredible opportunity!
The heat and humidity
Even though Florida does see some great weather, the summer months can be tough with the heat and humidity. Lauren mentioned that the ideal situation would be everything else that Florida has to offer but in a location further north to avoid that severe summer weather. It’s definitely hot, though this was not a deal breaker for anyone.
No real seasons
Along the same lines, you don’t really have seasons in the traditional sense. If you like seeing the leaves change color in the fall or the snow falling in winter you may miss these things. Only you know if 80 degree weather on Christmas sounds like something you’d enjoy or not! As Wendy mentions “ I very rarely find myself missing snow, freezing temperatures and all the effort it takes to bundle up to go out just to get the mail.” Honestly that sounds pretty great right now!
Home prices and cost of rent
Unfortunately, money is a reality of life and whether or not you can afford a house or rent might make or break where you want to live. Property taxes can be high, so be sure to factor that in. And if you’re looking to rent, be aware that that can be pricey too. Anita R. said that “the cost of rent has increased quite a lot over the last five years.” Wendy chimed in – “Where we currently live we would never be able to afford a house. The new house construction community less than a mile down the road is selling homes at the starting cost of $605,955, which is more than double our budget…. in comparison, we’re paying $1,200 a month for a one bedroom apartment that would cost us probably half of that back in Michigan.” Whether or not those prices are something you’ll be able to handle will depend on where you’re coming from and what sort of job you have. It’s also good to be aware of areas that are typically overpriced – one study by Florida Atlantic University showed which markets in Florida tend to be the most overpriced.
Theme park jobs can be harder to find
Don’t expect to just move down and work for Disney – especially in today’s climate, theme park jobs aren’t always easy to find. Many cast members have worked for Disney previously, whether in a past college program or as a seasonal worker at one point. Some fields will have more availability than others. But just because Disney is a big place doesn’t mean you’ll be able to get a job easily.
Being away from friends and family
If you’re close to family and friends who live near you, it will be a big adjustment. One person commented that “other than the people you move with, you will have no one to come to your aid if the sh*t hits the fan, at least for the first few weeks/months. I’ve always been very independent so it didn’t bother me as much, but my husband is a social butterfly so not having those social connections hurt him. He adjusted but it was a struggle for him and a challenge for our marriage.” Along those same lines, another travel agent who moved to Florida mentioned that “whenever my parents got sick I felt sad that I wasn’t there and worried greatly.” If you’re used to living near your family keep in mind that things will be more difficult when you’re further away.
A common complaint is traffic, especially I-4. Wendy said that “We have certain routes we won’t take, even if it’s the most direct route simply because we know the traffic will be insane pretty much all day.” Especially when you live close to Disney, you have to be aware of peak vacation times and when tourists visit because that will affect things like your daily commute and even running errands. But there are ways around it – you may learn the back roads, or as Adrianna pointed out, “Unless you work [in Orlando] there’s no reason to live there and deal with the traffic daily!”
Of course Disney is known for some bugs too! “The thing that bugs me the most about living in Florida is just that, the bugs!” That can definitely sum it up. And it’s not just bugs, but also alligators and snakes. You also have to factor it in financially, with things like termite bonds. Lauren mentioned that she “never had to deal with that up north. They come once a year and check your house and put some preventive things down.
Things to consider
You can’t live in the “Disney bubble”
Sure, you might be close to Disney and get to visit often, but you still have to deal with real life even in Florida. “Living in Florida as a resident, you quickly realize that you have to work to live, and you life has to exist outside the Disney bubble! It can get very pricey to be dining out the same daily as you would if you were just visiting.” Adrianna has a good point, since you can’t act like you’re on vacation all the time! Just remember that if Disney is the main reason why you’re moving to Orlando.
Sure, we may not like to talk about it, but politics and the general climate of an area is an important thing to consider when making a move. One person mentioned that where she was moved from “is a more liberal state and I wasn’t used to being around so many folks with views different than mine on social issues, race, etc.”
Your hobbies and lifestyle
What are some of the things you like to do? You might want to think about that and how important they are when you find a new place to live. For example, if you have a sport you play you may want to know what it’s like playing that sport in Florida. Or if you’re involved with choirs, theater, volunteering, etc. you could do some research on those things in places you are considering.
Well, I never would have thought about this, but a few people pointed out that car registration in Florida is expensive! Adrianna said “A lot of people don’t realize how expensive that first time car registration can be. It’s almost $300 the first year.” Lauren chimed in by mentioning “it’s expensive to change your car registration to FL!”
If you’ve got kids or you’re thinking about having them, look into the school districts for the areas where you are moving. Even if you don’t have kids, if you’re moving to Orlando school districts can be a good indication of the type of neighborhood you might want.
Top 5 pieces of advice on moving to Orlando
- Look at locations an hour or two outside of Disney
- Don’t go expecting to work for Disney and buy a house right away
- Consider how far you’ll be from family and friends
- Use a real estate agent who lives in the area
- Don’t underestimate the benefits on mental health and happiness
And again, a big thank you to all of the Disney fans who took the time out of their day to answer my questions about moving to Orlando and Florida, as well as Cristina who was willing to set up a video interview with me. I learned so much and I’m more tempted now than ever to make the move!
Have you ever thought about moving to Orlando?
Debbie Kolacki says
Very comprehensive article!
Kait | Slumber & Scones says
This is so thorough! I know that I would miss seasons for sure; I absolutely love the leaves changing in fall. When my parents moved to Florida, they decided to be a couple hours from Disney since they figured they’d still go there on vacations and stay overnight. Now, they can just drive over so they can plan shorter, last minute trips!
Sarah Forest at Ponder Trail says
Wow, this is so detailed! I love all of the thought and information you packed into this one helpful guide. It’s definitely important to consider all of the pros and cons when it comes to moving. I like how you included the part about going through your stuff; it’s way easier to move when you have fewer items, and it can be a great opportunity to “force” you to declutter. I bet it would be so fun to live a few hours from Disney. I would miss the four seasons for sure, though! 😉 Thanks for such an awesome post, Becky!
Mark Brown says
I think this is pretty comprehensive.
[email protected] says
Thank you! I ended up doing a lot of research for this one.