What You Need to Know before Moving to Orlando
Updated: Oct 20, 2021
The Orlando metro area welcomed 61,000 new residents in 2020 and the trend is likely to continue. Coming from Macomb, Michigan where I was desperate to escape from the cold (and boredom,) Orlando has been a blessed haven. Driving pass the Orlando Science Center, and the museums on East Princeton Street, and having a fresh coconut here on my first day, have made a lasting impression. If you're considering Orlando as your next city, or is planning your move here, here are the things you need to know before moving to Orlando
The Alligators and Snakes
The alligators and snakes were all I heard about before our move to Florida. Yes, there are alligators (the locals call them gators) but I have never seen them in or near Downtown Orlando in the wild. The first time I saw an alligator in the wild was 45 minutes away, 3 years after our move to Orlando. So if you live around downtown, it's unlikely you will come face-to-face with one. If there are any gator sightings, they will be handled and taken away to Lake Jesup. So if you want a major gators sighting, you know where to go (besides Gatorland.)
The snakes fuss, on the other hand, is very real. If you have a lawn you will likely cross path with one. I saw a razor snake slithering by as I was walking out my front door, and we live in the city right next to quite a bit of traffic. The incident still gives me the chills, but to be fair, I think the snake was traumatized by my scream too. The good news is, if you live in a condo or townhome with no yard, it's unlikely you will spot them that often.
Florida is also home to all sorts of reptiles, the further south you go, the bigger the reptiles get. I am sure some of you have heard of "falling iguanas?" Lucky for Orlando, the geckos and lizards here are not that big, although weirdly enough they seem to be getting bigger every year.
A Bug's Life
Besides alligators and snakes, Florida is the perfect habitat for all the bugs to thrive due to the moist, tropical climate. The worst ones, in my opinion, being fleas, mosquitoes, termites and cockroaches.
When we first moved to Orlando we stayed at an Airbnb before moving to our condo. The few days we stayed there, our dog managed to get fleas despite a very limited time outside. So before moving here, don't forget to give your pet their flea medicine. Coming from Michigan where everything freezes, we didn't give much thought to it. Another bugger are the mosquitoes, as the weather gets warmer here comes the mosquitoes. Check out my summer essentials list with the mosquito repellent and insect killer granules to treat your lawns. As for termites, if you plan to buy a home just be mindful if the structure is a wood construction. You will want to check out a termite bond, it's basically a termite insurance. As far as the cockroaches go, they have been around more than 280 million years (yes, before the times of the dinosaurs.) So if you're going to be in Florida, you will just have to get used to them la cucaracha.
If you haven't heard about the coyotes, you heard it here first. Besides the gators, snakes, reptiles, and all the insects, Downtown Orlando has a pretty big coyote population. Coyotes are attracted to urban neighborhoods due to plenty of food sources like garbage, pet food, birdfeeders, pets, and feral cats. So always make sure your pets don't wander off too far. I hear about them more around the winter time when the weather is nice out. The worst time is from February to March, which is the coyotes' peak mating season. The males become more aggressive and may even attack human, though chances are very rare. So don't mistaken coyotes for a lost dog without a collar wandering around your neighborhood.
Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot
Orlando is hot. But it depends where you're coming from and how much you like or dislike the heat. The hottest Orlando gets is usually in the low 90s, but with the humidity it does feel hotter. Introducing you to the word "heat index" or what the temperature really feels like to the human body. So even though the highest temperature of the day is 92, it will likely feel a lot hotter (just like the wind chill, but with the opposite effect.) Another thing to be aware of is the air temperature vs. temperature of different surfaces eg. concrete, asphalt, and sand. When the air is 90 degrees, the sand can be up to 120 degrees and a 2nd degree burn is possible. So always pack those sandals, and no running barefoot on the beach in the summer time!
From late May through September, the weather is unpleasant but it's the best time for the beach, water parks, and water sports. With the heat, also comes the tropical rain, and overall it's not too bad. I will take the heat and sunshine over the cold, snow, and gloom. Always have your sunscreen, hat, and portable fan and you should be fine. Despite the grueling summer, winter here is glorious, (hence all the snow birds migration,) and I cherish every moment of it.
Theme Park Capital
Welcome to Orlando, the Theme Park Capital of the World. More importantly if you plan to move to Florida, say hello to Florida Resident tickets. I don't know why people just spread the hate and only talk about the alligators and snakes. Floridians get special ticket deals and awesome annual passes at all the theme parks. Just having a proof of your Florida residency, it's like you're holding the golden ticket in Willy Wonka.
I constantly have to tell our kids how lucky they are, and that it's not usual for children to be able to visit the World's best theme parks all of the time. Note that the theme parks are not the only attractions in Orlando, but even if that was the case, it's definitely a blessing more than a curse to be living close to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
We moved to Orlando the year Irma hit Florida. So exactly 2 days after we just bought our house, we were hearing about how big Irma could potentially get. Talking about home ownership jackpot, we were so new to the state and hurricane, we just didn't know what to expect. The grocery aisles were empty, water and most bread products were out. With everyone preparing for the worst, seeing some people boarding up their windows, and hearing helicopters every night, that just added more madness to the hurricane frenzy.
With Orlando being on the direct path, and a very big potential of having the electricity goes out, my then 2 year old and I caught our last flight to Michigan and escaped from Orlando. That was then. What we have learned now is that Orlando is located in such a central inland location that the hurricane effect won't be that devastating, unless you have a huge tree fall on your house. Here is my recommended tree service company and my hurricane survival kit.
This was the safety bunk I created for my husband and our dog before the arrival of Irma. Our half bathroom is tiny, but I think it turned out pretty cozy with everything they needed to weather out the hurricane. My husband said Irma sounded like a big jet taking off on top of our house. He stayed in "the safety" bunk for a good while, until he couldn't take it anymore. What an experience it must have been, thank you for the warm welcome Florida.
Sinkholes are something that I have just learned about after moving to Orlando. It seems like something out of a science fiction movie but sinkholes are a very real natural phenomena. It's of course anything but phenomenal. The good thing is it is very rare for it to happen overnight. There will be signs of the Earth's activity that will give you warnings in advance. Check here for sinkhole warning signs.
The top 10 sinkhole-prone counties in Florida are (Credit from RiskMeter.com:)
Living cost in Orlando is generally pricier than cities of similar size due to it being a big tourist destination. You may be surprised to find out that despite the higher living costs, the average pay is noticeably lower than many other states. I guess that's a price you pay to be in the sunshine state with all the theme parks and the year-round sunshine. You will be in a winning situation if you come from pricier cities, your work is remote, or you're in an industry that pays well. Use Cost of Living Calculator to tell you how much you need to make in Orlando to maintain the same lifestyle you're enjoying in your current city.
When I see homeless people in a city, to me it's a sign that a city's living conditions are desirable. There is a large population of homeless people here in Downtown Orlando. Many will keep to themselves, some will approach you, and a few will harm you. An award-winning facility like the downtown library, downtown bus stations, or the beautiful Lake Eola Park are filled and frequented by the homeless people. If you're uncomfortable or unfamiliar with homelessness, Downtown Orlando may not be an ideal place for you.
Just like most cities in the US, despite being a big tourist destination, Orlando's mass transit system is extremely lacking. I have had the pleasure of catching the bus once with my then 2.5 year old. Even though I had a good experience, the bus conditions were horrific. The bus fabric seating needed a change a decade ago, and if you have any other options, you would want to avoid using the bus.
Downtown Orlando has had different companies offering application-based bikes or scooters, which I think it's great, but it's just difficult to control consumer behaviors. The problem of these vehicles being parked randomly in the city is essentially the end consumer's responsibility. Hopefully there can be better solutions like an alarming sound when the vehicles are not parked in the designated area, and the users will get fined. What I am extremely excited about, however, is the high-speed railway connecting Orlando to Miami which is projected to be finished in 2022.
The Flattest State
The Earth is round, Florida is flat. My husband always make a joke every time we're on I-4, "Look, the highest point in Florida," pointing to Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando. If you like mountain climbing, or scenic hills and beautiful elevations, sorry you can't find them in Florida. The closest mountain from Florida is in Northeast Georgia. So if mountain views and hills fill your heart with joy, you will have to get on a flight or a long drive to find it.
There's no shopping mall in Downtown Orlando. I'm not exaggerating, currently ZERO department store. Unless you want to count Fashion Square which has practically been empty for years. The best shopping malls (in my opinion) nearest to Orlando is The Mall at Millenia and Florida Mall which are about 15 and 20 minutes away respectively from downtown Orlando. The Mall at Millenia is a premium experience with all the high-end brand name stores, while the Florida Mall is much more casual and is more kid-friendly with a playground and a Crayola Experience. My favorite shopping and dining experience is, however, Disney Springs. I would recommend everyone coming to the Orlando area to give it a visit.
What I came to learn in Orlando is that the previously owned or garage sales items here are priced really high. Almost like people don't want to be getting rid of their stuff. And that includes goodwill or thrift store goods. We moved our queen bed, dining table and chairs, along with several other furniture items from Michigan to Florida, which proved to be very cost effective.
The difference in the previously-owned market is quite drastic. I have a second hand dresser that cost 20 bucks back in Michigan, the same dresser in Orlando would be at least 60 dollars. On the other hand, if you're selling items for under $20, sometimes it's better to just give it away. You end up having to answer to so many pointless inquiries that it almost costs you money to sell. Time is money after all.
If you don't want visitors, you probably don't want to be telling people you're moving to Orlando. When we were in Michigan, we were able to catch up with old friends, but that was about it. No one was willing to make a special trip to Michigan unless they have family in Michigan or they used to live in Michigan. Florida is certainly not the case. I was even able to catch up with my international friends, and we have had many friends and family visited the Orlando area. There's always somewhere to go and something to do year-round in this sunshine state. Prepare the guest bed and get ready to welcome friends and family. We love it.
I hope you find this article useful. These are just the things that are highly beneficial for you to know before moving to Orlando. Our preferences and requirements vary, and some aspects maybe an ultimate no-no, while some may just be a shrug to different people. For example, the alligators or the year round heat may not be ideal to some. Personally we love Orlando, especially where we are in the city. Different pockets of each city varies greatly. If you have questions, feel free to contact me via my social media channels below.
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