Walt Disney World!!

Welcome!

welcome!

Although it has been a few weeks since last posting, I will be making up for that absence with a bunch of posts on our stay at Fort Wilderness Campground, on the grounds of The Magic Kingdom.  After our first day, I had good intentions of putting a post out right away, but with so many photos and videos to sort through, plus being tired from playing tourist for 12 hours, I figured it would be best to wait until our “vacation” was over, and then work on the blog posts.

And yes, I am calling it a vacation.  Many of you may think we are on a permanent vacation, but the reality is we still need to work.  Our ‘house’ just has wheels and a changing view!  But for this week, we went into ‘vacation’ mode.  If you enjoy Disney, then hopefully you will also enjoy the next several blogs, as they will be all about Disney.  If you are one of the few that can’t stand the big mouse, well……!

But first a little background.  Last year we were invited to Disney by our friends Karen and Al, whom we had met at Amazon.  Neither Dan nor I have ever visited any of the four parks at Disneyworld.  And when it comes to Disney characters, I am pretty clueless.  Karen and Al have been visiting Disney for years, and are very knowledgeable about the entire complex.  We hooked up with them last year for one day at Epcot, just to get a feel of Disney.  You can read about last years blog on Epcot here, as well as my blog on Disney history and pricing here.  We had a great time last year, and decided to come back for a longer stay this year, so we could see all four parks.

Our opinion that Disney is still very expensive has not changed, and they just reported on the local news that Disney recorded record attendance and profits in their last quarter.  So Disney can continue raising prices, and it does not appear to have any affect, so far, on their attendance.  But since we changed our residency to Florida, we can now get a resident pass.  For $233.00 (which includes tax), we can visit any of the four main parks, Monday thru Friday, most of the year.  Holidays, summer months, and the weekends are blocked out.  And we can go to more than one park in a day.

This year, we did stay at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, which is both the nicest, and the most expensive campground we have stayed at.  We paid $82.00 per night (plus tax) for a premier site.  They do not offer any discounts, weekly or monthly rates.  And their pricing varies depending on the season (we stayed during the cheaper “off-season”).  But they do allow up to 10 people per site, without an extra charge, and we did see a few sites that had both an RV and a tent (which is permitted), so if you come down with a few families, it is not a bad deal.  And it does include a parking pass (which would cost $17.00 per day if not staying on the grounds).  They also offer a boat shuttle to the Magic Kingdom, as well as a shuttle bus to all the other parks and Downtown Disney.  We were able to link our reservations with Karen and Al, so we were all in the same loop (they have family and friends that also visit every year, and we joined in with the group).

Welcome to Epcot

Welcome to Epcot

Our first day was spent back at Epcot, on a much more relaxed pace than last year, when we were trying to see and do as much as possible!  When you stay at any Disney hotel, you will receive complimentary FastPass bands, which allow you to make advance reservations for up to three rides/attractions at each park.  This will allow you to avoid long waiting lines on the more popular rides.  Last year we did the ‘green’ option on the popular Mission Space ride, which simulates a rocket launch and spacecraft flight.  This year, we opted to try the more intense ‘orange’ ride.  This one made my stomach a bit queasy, but it was not too bad, since we were familiar with the ride from last year.  When it was over, I did notice several people getting off and sitting down right away on benches, holding the complimentary “space bag” that is on the ride.  I would recommend not doing this ride right after eating!

After that, we toured the Journey Into Imagination, with Figment, before our next FastPass, Turtle Talk with Crush.  This was an interactive, animated story telling with Crush The Turtle that is geared towards children, but is fun for adults as well.  It appears that you are watching an animated movie, but the character does interact and talk with the audience.

You can tell when you are close to more kid friendly attractions, when you run into the designated stroller parking areas!

lots of strollers

lots of strollers

Dan and I originally set up our FastPass to include Captain EO, but Al stated there is never a long wait for this, so we did not have to waste one of our three options on this.  Captain EO was originally made for Disney in 1986, and was discontinued several years ago.  But after the death of Michael Jackson, Disney brought back this 18 minute 3D film.  It was interesting to see how much 3D technology has changed since this was made.  What was state of the art back then, just seems a little ‘ho hum’ now.

With the FastPass option at Epcot, Disney only let’s you select one of the two biggest rides.  You can choose either Soaring, or Test Track, but not both.  Last year we went on Soaring, which was excellent.  This year we opted for Test Track, which was also a lot of fun.  You design a car, and then take it for a ride along a test track to see how it performs on turns, speed and under adverse conditions.

Test Track entrance

Test Track entrance

Both would be great choices, and both have long ‘stand by’ wait times.  Your best bet would be to get to the park right away and stand in one of the lines, and have a FastPass for the other later in the day.

where's Nemo?

where’s Nemo?

All these rides made us hungry, so we headed over to the World Showcase portion of Epcot for a late lunch.  Al had made reservations in Italy, at Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria, where we sampled several different wood-fired pizzas.

We then headed over to France, for some excellent desert at Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie.  We stopped there last year, and it was so good, and reasonably priced, that I wanted to stop there again this year.  We burned a few calories walking around the rest of the world, and then headed back to the campground to let the dogs out.

Epcot World Showcase

Epcot World Showcase

Since I took so many pictures last year at Epcot, I do not have a lot of photos from Epcot this year, but I did manage on finding a few more characters.  This year I did a little better in guessing who they were!

Alice in Wonderland

Mary Poppins

Do you know how to tell these two apart?

Chip and Dale

Chip and Dale

Chip has a brown nose, and Dale has the red one.  Learned something new at Epcot!

After feeding Makena, Dan and I took the free shuttle boat ride from our campground to the Magic Kingdom, to watch the evening parade and fireworks.  Since this blog is already pretty long, and I took a lot of photos in the evening, that will be the topic of my next blog.

Quote for the day:  “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – Walt Disney

 

Florida RV Supershow

Every January, the biggest RV show in the country takes place at the Florida state fairgrounds in Tampa.  We have heard a lot of good things about the Florida RV Supershow, and decided to check it out last week.  Everyone we talked to said it is too big to see everything in one day, and they were correct.  We spent 2 days at the show, and still did not see everything that was there.  They had RV’s of every shape and size, from $4,000 trailers to a $3 million dollar custom coach.

We also ran into Kristen and Jason (Snowmads), whom we first met last January in Cedar Key, FL.  They have sold their Airstream trailer and will be venturing out in a new Trek motorhome, which was on display at the show.  They travel with three dogs that were happy to great all visitors at the show!

Kristen and Jason

Kristen and Jason

Trek motorhome

Trek motorhome

We also ran into a number of co-workers from Amazon, and had a nice lunch with everyone.  Then all of us went over to one of the exhibitor buildings, to say ‘hi’ to the human resource personnel for Amazon that handle the Camperforce program.  Kelly, in the purple shirt below, was our HR rep that came with us up to Jeffersonville, IN last December.

Kelly and gang

Kelly and gang

Across from the Amazon booth, was a booth selling these “exercise” machines, that you stand on and “lose weight” due to the vibrating movement!  Donna was checking them out.  I think Amazon is a more effective weight loss program.

Donna working off lunch!

Donna working off lunch!

After lunch we ventured over to the Heartland display, and checked out the brand new Charleston 5th wheel model.  It received the ‘Best in Show’ ribbon.  It  was a beautiful 5th wheel, and had a very residential feel to it. We noticed many of the 5th wheels are now including residential refrigerators, induction stove-tops and dishwashers, as options. Dan was able to spend some time talking with a technician from Heartland about some routine maintenance questions that he had.  That is one nice part about a big show like this, as they usually have the representatives from the manufacturer’s to talk with, and not just sales representatives.

Heartland Charleston

Heartland Charleston

Of course if money was no object, I found a coach that I could live in, the Monaco Dynasty 45P!  It was one of a few motorhomes that had a lot of storage space in the kitchen, a comfortable layout in the living area, a shower that you can move around in, and a curbside dinette.

Monaco Dynasty

Monaco Dynasty

They had a few antique trailers on display, including this 57 foot long, long trailer.

a long, long trailer

a long, long trailer

And we found a little trailer that would be perfect for Makena.

doggie trailers

doggie trailers

You can spend a lot of time walking at this show, as there is row after row of vehicles to look at.  And we saw many RV’s with ‘sold’ signs on them, including some in the seven-figure price range.

lots of RV's

lots of RV’s

On the second day we attended the show, we were finally able to meet up with two more couples whose blogs we have followed for a while.  John and Kathy, have an excellent podcast (available on ITunes) that we have listened to for several years, as well as a blog and website, Living the RV Dream.  Nick and Terry of the Gypsy Journal were also at the show.  In the photo below, Dan is talking with John (in the white shirt), with Kathy behind him.  Terry is a bit hidden behind Kathy, and Nick is sitting on the end of the bench.  We had a nice conversation about full-timing with both of them, and look forward to meeting up with them again somewhere down the road.

Living the Dream/Gypsy Journal

Living the Dream/Gypsy Journal

Quote for the day:  “There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.” – Linda Grayson

 

 

Changing our Domicile to Florida – Part Two

Welcome to part two of our “moving” blog.  You can view part one here.

To get a driver’s license in Florida, you need several forms of identification.  We used our South Dakota drivers license, Passports and social security cards.  Florida does recognize SD licenses as a primary form of ID, but for some reason, they do not recognize licenses from 20 other states as a primary form.  It is best to be safe and have more ID then needed.  You can read more about the requirements at the DMVFlorida.org website.

In addition, you must have two pieces of mail from your new address to get your license. (and the mail must have all names of those registering on it, and be from a bank, utility, insurance company, etc.)   So it is very important to set up your mailing address about a month before you officially change your domicile, to insure you have the proper mail to complete the process.

Also, you must have proof of automobile insurance issued by a Florida agent before you can apply for your driver’s license.

When we signed up with St Brendan’s Isle as our mail forwarding service, we stated we would come in person to complete the forms in person, and pick up our first batch of mail. They were very helpful and went over the forms we needed, and gave us a map of the area so we knew which buildings to go to, and what order.  Our only “glitch” at the time, was getting our VIN number verified for our 5th wheel.

Florida does require a VIN verification of any vehicle getting registered in Florida.  When we left Amazon in Indiana, we drove down through Atlanta (on a Sunday with minimal traffic) and stayed overnight just south of the city.  It was a long travel day, but we needed to get to Florida before everyone closed up for Christmas.  The next day we stopped in Lake City, Florida which is near the intersection of I-10 and I-75.  We decided to stay here, even though it was another 65 miles to Green Cove Springs. We figured we could just contact the police, have them verify the VIN on the 5th wheel, and then drive in to Green Cove Springs and complete the rest of the registration process.

However, the police in Lake City require you to go to their courthouse in town, pay a $4.00 fee, then call them back and they will have an officer come out when they have time.  Since we only had the afternoon to complete our registration without staying another day, we decided to just skip this step, and register the 5th wheel another time via mail.  We were not aware there would be a fee to have the VIN verified. (more on that later)

After picking up our mail, we drove over to the Clay County Courthouse and filed our Declaration of Domicile.  This form is needed to register to vote in Florida.  We used our SD Drivers license as our proof of identification.  The cost for this form is $15.00 per person, which includes a $10 filing fee and $5.00 notary fee.  We had two young couples ahead of us in line applying for marriage licenses, so our wait was about 15 minutes to complete this process.

Clay County Courthouse

Clay County Courthouse

After the courthouse, we went to the Clay County Administration Building to apply for our drivers license and vehicle registration.  After making sure we had all of our paperwork, they gave us a number and told us to have a seat in the waiting area.  But before our butts hit the chairs, our number was called.  We encountered the most pleasant employee, Christie, who made for a very smooth process. (that’s right….a pleasant DMV employee!!)   She also stated they are now able to complete our voter registration, so we did not need to go to another building to complete that.

Clay County Administrative Building

Clay County Administrative Building

We explained that we were not able to verify the VIN on our 5th wheel, and mentioned the fee that the Lake City police were going to charge.  She said she has never heard of any law enforcement department charging for that service, and several of the other employees who heard us talking mentioned that as well.  So apparently the charge is just unique to that city.  She also stated since our fifth wheel did not have an odometer, it did not need the VIN inspection, and she could register it because we had the original, clear title, which had the VIN on it.  We were very happy about that!! She did go out with Dan and verified the VIN and odometer on the truck.

She scanned all of our documentation in for the drivers licenses, and we did a very simple eye test, and took our photos.  Christie even re-took Dan’s photo, because she didn’t like the way the first one came out.  The driver’s license (good until our birthdays in 2023) cost $48.00 plus a $6.25 service fee.  In Florida, you can renew your license up to 18 months prior to expiration, and you can renew on-line or by mail one time, before you have to appear again at the DMV.

The application for our titles were $87.75 for each vehicle, and the license plates were $52.10 for the 5th wheel (5 months, expires in May) and $127.35 for the truck (12 months).  Since our pickup truck is over 5500 pounds, it falls into a class that gets renewed every December.  Otherwise, the renewal is based on the month of birth of the first person listed on the title.  That is how we ended up with 2 different renewal dates.

So our total costs with the DMV was $463.45, and if you include the $30 for our domicile declaration, our total cost to become members of the Sunshine State was $493.45.  It took us about 30 minutes to complete everything, and then we were on our way!!  It was a very simple process, and a lot cheaper than we expected.

IMG_20131226_112415_923 (1)

And now that we are Floridians, we are eligible for the reduced rates at Disneyworld!!!

And for the Quote of the Day……

 

 

 

 

 

Changing our domicile to Florida – Part One

Since June of 2013, when we became “full-time” RV’ers, we have been legal residents of South Dakota, which has a reputation as a very RV friendly state.  No state income taxes, low auto/RV insurance rates, and affordable health insurance were the main factors in our decision to join the “Great Faces, Great Places” state.  But for those of us who do not have employer sponsored health insurance, or are too young for Medicare, that is changing in 2015.  If we remained SD residents, we would not be able to have in-network nationwide coverage (except for emergencies).  For a more detailed assessment of the changes, you can read this article HERE.  The article is from the excellent healthcare website, dedicated to RV’ers, RVerHI.com.  South Dakota remains an excellent choice for those on Medicare, or for those who do not need to purchase their own health insurance.

The other two main RV friendly states are Texas and Florida.  We had no real preference, and decided to look into the costs for both.  I have decided to put this post in 2 sections, this first part will just cover mailing services and insurance companies  The second part will cover our actual process of changing to Florida.

PICKING A ZIP CODE/MAILING SERVICE

Currently, we use MyDakotaAddress.com as our mailing service in South Dakota.  We have been extremely pleased with the excellent service that Terri Lund and her staff provide.  If you are going to change residency to South Dakota, we would highly recommend them.

Texas has the very popular mail service provided by Escapee’s, of which we are members.  Escapee’s is now offering mail service in Florida.  We started looking into health insurance rates in Texas, based upon the zip code for the Escapee’s organization.  Rates for the two of us, on the healthcare exchange, were $273/month for the bronze plan with BCBS of Texas, offering an excellent nationwide plan.  (we had been paying $198.00/month in SD for a silver plan through Avera.  That plan was going to increase to $269.00/month, without nationwide coverage).

Once we started looking into Florida zip codes, we quickly realized Florida would be a better deal for us, so we eliminated Texas.  Another concern for us is that Texas also requires a vehicle inspection when renewing your tags.  Currently, you can request a waiver if you are not in the state at the time of renewal.  But as we have seen with SD, things can change.

Florida has four main mailing services that we are aware of:  Escapee’s, American Home Base, MyRVmail, and St. Brendan’s Isle.  We had no preference, and started checking health insurance rates based on the four different zip codes/counties.  Our best option was to become residents of Green Cove Springs, in Clay County, Florida, and use St. Brendan’s Isle as our mailing service.  We will be paying $11.99/month plus postage for their mailing service.  They were the most expensive of the four in terms of monthly costs, but that zip code provided us with the cheapest health insurance rates.  We have a bronze policy with Assurant for $198.00/month for the two of us, with a $6,000.00 deductible.  Preventive healthcare is covered at 100%, no deductibles, as required under the Affordable Care Act.  Since we are both healthy, we decided this was the best option for us.  If we had chronic conditions, then we would have gone with a silver policy, which has a higher monthly premium, but lower deductibles.  The policy has an option for a health savings account, which we were able to fully fund last year.

Again, this is just what works for us.  If you are considering changing your residency, take the time to check out all the zip codes/counties/states to decide what works best for your situation.  Another thing that we considered in our decision, is that our current doctors in Wisconsin are covered in-network by our Florida plan.  So we can keep our same doctors/clinics/hospitals.

I spent several hours going through all the websites of the mailing services, comparing monthly costs and fees, and then getting health insurance quotes on the exchange using all the different zip codes.  Not the best way to spend a day off, but the more time you spend doing your homework, the better prepared you will be to make such an important decision on where to “live”.

Auto/RV Insurance

South Dakota has very reasonable auto and RV insurance rates, so we were prepared to pay more for coverage in Florida.  It is important that you get proper insurance coverage, if you plan on living full-time in your RV.  Howard Payne of RV-Dreams.com has written several articles on their website regarding RV insurance coverage (click HERE)

We contacted American Adventure Insurance, Miller Insurance Agency, and Epic Insurance Company for quotes.  Given the wide variation in pricing that we received, it certainly pays to shop around.  Just make sure the quotes you receive contain the same information, so you are truly comparing apples to apples.

In South Dakota, we had coverage through Blue Sky Insurance, and we paid $639/year for our truck insurance, and $813.00/year for a full-timers policy on our 5th wheel. (total $1452).   In Florida, the best rates we received came from Epic Insurance, with coverage provided by Progressive.  Truck insurance $1064  and 5th wheel insurance $796 (total $1860).  We are paying $408/year more for the same coverage we had in South Dakota.   A bit of an “ouch”, but we have piece of mind knowing we have better health insurance coverage.

In my next post, I will go over the steps needed to complete changing our domicile.

Quote for the day:  “The more that you read, the more things that you know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

 

 

 

 

 

Goodbye Florida

After staying at campgrounds without internet, we used up all our data on our Verizon cell phone, so I have not been able to post for awhile….sorry!  I will try to catch up on the last few weeks in Florida in this post now that we are in a new month of data.

We met up with Dan’s parents a few more times before leaving the East Coast area of Florida.  In addition, we had a nice golf and dinner outing with 2 other couples from Dan’s hometown of Oconto Falls, WI that were down in New Smyrna Beach on vacation. Unfortunately, the photos of our golf and dinner are on Dan’s mom’s camera.  But we had a great time with Les, Beth, Jeff and Cheryl.  We had a nice dinner at Dixie Crossroads Restaurant in Titusville.  It’s a bit of a touristy place, but the food was good.  Not a place you would want to go for a nice quiet dinner however.  Everyone recommended we try the Royal Red Shrimp, which we had never heard of before.  We both love shrimp, and agree this was the best tasting shrimp we have ever had.  Very sweet and tender.  Royal Red is a very deep-water shrimp found off the Atlantic Coast in Florida.  It is normally in season in the Spring.  If you love shrimp, and ever get a chance to try these, you will not be disappointed!

Les and Beth enjoy fishing in the Atlantic Ocean, and Dan was curious about this style of fishing from shore, so he watched them for a few minutes when it was “fish on”!

Nice catch Beth!

Nice catch Beth!

We had a nice “end of season” cook-out at our campground, and by the time we left on Saturday, April 5th, the campground was pretty empty.  It was too soon for us to leave Florida, so we headed back over to the Gulf side, and found a nice Passport America park in Venice, Florida.  We got together that night with our friend Mary Jo to watch our beloved Wisconsin Badgers play Kentucky in the final four.

Go Badgers!!

Go Badgers!!

Despite our cheering, the Badgers lost by one point.  They had an excellent season, and almost all the players should be back next year.  Who would have expected at the beginning of the season they would make it to the Final Four?!

On Sunday, we again got together with Mary Jo and watched two manatees at play right off the dock by their house.  We were all invited for an impromptu get-together at Gary and Elaine’s, Mary Jo’s neighbors down the road.  A few years ago, Mary Jo invited me to go on a boat trip with 6 other gals.  Other than Mary Jo, I only had met one other gal that was going to be on the boat.  To be honest, I was hesitant to go, as I was terrified of the idea of spending a week on a boat with complete strangers.  It’s an introverted person’s nightmare!  But Dan was very encouraging, and it was an opportunity of a lifetime, so I did go, and had an excellent time.

Elaine invited 2 other couples over for dinner as well, so we had a “mini reunion” of sorts with some of the other gals.  And Dan finally got to meet all the people I was talking about.

Elaine, Mary Jo, Cindy, me and Terri

Elaine, Mary Jo, Cindy, me and Terri

And of course, since we were back on the Gulf Coast, it was time for another sunset!

sunset in Nokomis

sunset in Nokomis

Monday was a special day, and I will do a separate post on that day’s activities.

 

Quote for the day: “My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned sixty, and that’s the law.” – Jerry Seinfeld