March 16, 2017
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Can’t Afford a Trip? 7 Ways to Take a Family Vacation on a Budget

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

Taking a Family Vacation on a Budget

For a majority of families, what stops them from the family vacation of their dreams is their wallets. They think they can’t afford a vacation.

I think they’re wrong.

Even as a family on a tight budget, we’ve found that there are many ways to make a vacation happen.

Travel brings so much joy, adventure and memories to families. I can safely say that most of our happiest family memories are from our vacations. I’m sure I’m not alone in that sentiment.

So why aren’t you taking a vacation? What is truly stopping you from planning and going on that dream vacation? And if your answer is “money”, here are a few ideas to consider.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

Think You Can’t Afford a Trip?

According to a recent survey on Spring Break Family Travel, conducted by Vacatia, TravelingMom and TravelingDad, agreeing on a budget and coordinating payment is a concern for 36% of respondents. If you’re on a tight budget than you might fall in that 36% range.

I’ll be frank though – My family is on a tight budget and we still find a way to take several vacations a year. I think family travel is way more important than having the newest gadgets and that little sacrifice can go a long way! Here are 7 ways we make those all-important vacations happen:

1. Day to Day Savings

Naturally your day-to-day spending can make or break whether you have extra vacation money or not (those lattes add up!) By cutting back on little things (generic instead of name brand, packing a lunch instead of purchasing), you can always seem to “find money” that can be used for your vacation.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

Every dollar counts! Put saved money towards your trip & get the kids involved.

Yeah, it can be a downer to eat pb&j from home when you’d rather get a sandwich at the deli but the $5+ savings means more money for you to take that trip. But there are little ways to cut back without it feeling like a major sacrifice. Consider a month of no extra expenses. Take a hard look at all the money going out and choose a few easy ways you can save on expenses.

2. What Can You Do Without?

I’d rather plan another vacation than have cable television. That’s just me, but traveling is just more fun than watching TV. I make the choice to do without. What do you have that you could cut back, freeing up more money for a trip?

It can be hard to tell the kids “no” when it comes to spending on things. When my older kids ask why they can’t have a cell phone or my preschooler wants a toy at the store, I use a distraction technique. I remind them about an impending trip and how we’re using extra money towards our vacation. Then I’ll bring up a certain part of the trip I know they’ll want to talk about and soon enough they’re excited, talking about the vacation instead.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

3. Buy Less Stuff

A recent article suggested that parents should spend less on toys and take more vacations. I’m all for that. We save toy purchases only at Christmas and even then, we try to choose high-quality classic items that work for a wide age group.

We take this concept of limiting stuff even further by branching out into other parts of our home. All the money saved by not buying “stuff” (Dollar Spot, I’m looking at you!) goes into our vacation fund.

4. Use Points for Your Trips

I’m not a huge credit card hacker but I do have a few practical and very easy tips for earmarking points towards travel. Since we do a lot of Disney travel, I have a Disney Visa that I use to pay household bills. The Disney Dollars earned go towards our meals at each trip and we have very little out-of-pocket expenses there.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

Our Costco Visa is used solely for groceries and gas and we earned about $250 in Costco cash last year. I took the check we received to Costco, they cashed it out for me and I’m using that money on our road trip. I’ve also plotted out on a map where all the Costco gas stations are on our route so we can get our gasoline at a great price! We purchased 2 new cell phones at Costco last year and received a $450 Costco gift card rebate so this is our gas money for the road trip.

I also use and love Ebates and book all my travel through the links. I get paid in a “Big Fat Check” and naturally, that’s money to go right towards the vacation.

5. Realize that Separate Vacations Are Okay

According to the responses in the survey, 38% say that coordinating everyone’s schedules is the worst part of planning a vacation. And once you do choose a date that works for everyone there’s also the challenge of making everyone happy. 32 percent say the ickiest part of planning is finding a destination that makes everyone happy and 24 percent say it’s choosing accommodations that will make everyone happy.

Here’s a solution to this issue – Plan separate vacations. Don’t wait until you can get things “just right” because that day might never come. When trying to work out a trip between my husband’s work and school schedule, the kid’s school year and allotted vacation time, finding that week when everyone is available is the equivalent to a needle in a haystack.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

We compromise with separate vacations. My husband likes going to Disneyland as a family once a year for a few days but traveling cross-country to Walt Disney World for a week is not his idea of fun. He’d rather be riding the ocean waves in his kayak, fishing for tuna (definitely not my style!) while the kids play in the sand.

Our kids get the best of both experiences and nobody is gritting their teeth through a week of something they’re not happy with. And on the budget-side of this, a vacation with fewer family members is going to cost less.

6. Find Ways to Budget on the Trip

Once you nail down the itinerary, decide what features of the trip are the most important to you. If spending time at a fancy hotel suite is a must-do, place the majority of your budget there. If you don’t care where you lay your head, then scrimp on the hotel costs and drop your money where it matters most, like on activities or meals. Survey respondents note that they spend about half of their travel budget on accommodations, which tells me that maybe the call of the upscale hotel pool is high!

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

7. Take the Time Off (and Save More)

If you’re white-knuckling those sick leave hours, you might need a vacation! Here’s a hint: Your coworkers can survive without you. Take the vacation time!

If you wait until summer vacation when the kids are out of school, the costs of a trip during peak travel season will be higher. Consider pulling the kids out so you can plan your vacation when the travel prices are best. I’m taking my kids out this spring for 5 days so we can take a road trip. I was able to contact their schools about independent study. The kids will be able to get their school work done on the road and not get “dinged” with unexcused absences while they’re gone.

Research tells us that family vacations have long-lasting impact on your child’s happiness. I know that seeing my children soaking in new experiences is going to have a greater impact on their lives than any gadget ever will!

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

How do you budget for your travel? Share with me in the comments!

March 11, 2017
1 Comment

Win a Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Castle Vacation Giveaway

Win a Disney's Beauty and the Beast Castle Vacation Giveaway

Have you ever been to Scotland? Ever slept in a castle? No, me neither.  How about a vacation with 20 of your closest friends? Well that sounds like a lot of fun already, doesn’t it?! Keep reading to find out more about this amazing Disney’s Beauty and the Beast vacation giveaway from HomeAway.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. #partner

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Castle Vacation Giveaway

The grand prize is absolutely mind-boggling – One winner will win a five night stay in the HomeAway castle holiday property “Duns Castle” in Scotland for the winner and up to 20 guests, including the costs of economy airfare & ground transport to and from the Castle Holiday Rental. Also included are some meals, entertainment and cash to off-set the taxes. I’m already plotting which of my 20 friends I’d invite!

Win a Disney's Beauty and the Beast Castle Vacation Giveaway

Imagine the fantastic conversations we’d have over dinner around this table!

And if you aren’t the lucky grand prize winner, HomeAway has other vacation giveaways in this contest to five runner-ups. Wow, wouldn’t I love to take my family to Italy. Or Australia. Or Hawaii, I can’t decide!

You have until the end of the month (March 31st, 2017) to enter. You can only enter once so your odds are as good as anyone else! Good luck :)

ENTER THE HOMEAWAY BEAUTY AND THE BEAST VACATION GIVEAWAY HERE

 

 

 

March 3, 2017
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Best Books to Buy When Planning a Disney Trip

Planning a Disney trip? Pick up one of these recommended Walt Disney World or Disneyland books for everyone in your group!

I’m all for doing my online research ahead of time. I search Google for everything far and wide so I can get the most information when planning a Disney trip. But there’s just something about having all the tips in one place – A book! To have a book in hand is invaluable; to be able to flip the page, see photos, tab and highlight favorite sections – That’s one of my favorite parts of Disney vacation research! See my recommendations for the best books to purchase when planning a Disney trip.

Planning a Disney Trip? Pick up a Book

Whether you’re just in the research stages, getting the kids familiar with Disney or looking for some background and history there is a Disney book for everyone in your family! You can even take some of these books along with you for the trip.

Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Clicking through and purchasing through the links helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Planning a Disney trip? Pick up one of these recommended Walt Disney World or Disneyland books for everyone in your group!

Research Books to Help You Plan & Stay Organized

If you read this blog at all you’ll know that doing your pre-vacation research is an important way to save money and time on your trip! These Disney vacation research books will help you properly plan and be prepared. The Unofficial Guide was my go-to research book when planning my first vacation to Walt Disney World.

The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2017

Birnbaum’s 2017 Disneyland Resort: The Official Guide (Birnbaum Guides)

PassPorter’s Walt Disney World 2016

    

The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World Planner: A Complete Organizer, Journal, and Keepsake for Your Unforgettable Vacation

Frommer’s EasyGuide to Disney World, Universal and Orlando 2017 (Easy Guides)

102 Ways to Save Money For and At Walt Disney World: Bonus! 40 Free Things to Enjoy, Eat, Do and Collect!

  

Books for Kids to Get them in a Disney Mood

Get the kids on board by supplying them with a few Disney themed titles. They can help with vacation planning or just get in the Disney mood with a few storybooks. My son owns several of these Disney Storybook Collections and they are a bedtime favorite leading up to our vacation day whenever we’re planning a Disney trip. My older kids have read and loved the Kingdom Keepers series.

Birnbaum’s 2017 Walt Disney World For Kids: The Official Guide (Birnbaum Guides)

Going To Disneyland – A Guide for Kids & Kids at Heart

Disney*Pixar Storybook Collection

    

Kingdom Keepers Boxed Set: Featuring Kingdom Keepers I, II, and III

The Mystery at Walt Disney World (Real Kids, Real Places)

The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2018

    

Books for Little Ones

If this is baby’s first Disney trip you’ll want to make them familiar with characters. These sweet books are ideal. The encyclopedia is great for acquainting kids with the characters and you can take it with you on the trip to have each character sign inside!

Junior Encyclopedia of Animated Characters

Disney® Mickey Mouse “My First Books” (Set of 4 Shaped Board Books)

Disney Classics Little Golden Book Library (Disney Classic)

Disney Baby My First Colors

     

Books with a History and Background

Ready to dig a little deeper into Disney lore? You want a book with a bit of history or that gives you some background into the Disney experience?
I’m wanting The Disney Book for myself, it looks like an amazing read!

Disney A to Z (Fifth Edition): The Official Encyclopedia

Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making More Magic Real

  

The Disneyland Encyclopedia: The Unofficial, Unauthorized, and Unprecedented History of Every Land, Attraction, Restaurant, Shop, and Major Event in the Original Magic Kingdom

Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination

Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service (Disney Institute Book, A)

       

Books to Use When on the Trip

Once you’re on vacation, there are a few books that you can bring with you to maximize your Park experience. They also help alleviate boredom when standing in line or waiting in restaurants! I think my preschooler would get a kick out of finding Hidden Mickeys on our next visit!

Disneyland’s Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Disneyland® Resort’s Best Kept Secrets

The Hidden Mickeys of Walt Disney World

The Walt Disney World Trivia Book: Secrets, History & Fun Facts Behind the Magic (Volume 1)

The Disney World Queue Line Scavenger Hunt: The Game You Play While Waiting In Line

    

What are your favorite Disney books? Share in the comments!

February 27, 2017
2 Comments

Budget-Friendly and Quick-to-Make Healthy Breakfasts for Kids

You want healthy breakfasts for kids but they have to be quick and cheap! Check out these 13 healthy breakfasts for kids (that you'll want to eat too!)

When preparing breakfast for my kids, I have three criteria: It shouldn’t cost a lot. It shouldn’t take me a long time to prepare. And it has to be healthy. It’s important to me that my kids start the morning off right and filling them up with something healthy helps them stay focused at school. It’s not really that challenging to get a decent breakfast on the table each morning – Here are 13 ideas for penny-pinching, quick and healthy breakfasts for kids!

Well-Balanced and Easy Healthy Breakfasts for Kids

I was shocked to hear from my older children how many of their peers skip breakfast. And then I remembered my own childhood – I do remember my mom making me pancakes for breakfast when I was in elementary school but once I hit junior high (and she was at work in the mornings), my brother and I were on our own. We often resorted to grab-and-go sugary breakfast pastries or a snack bag of dry cereal to eat in the car on the way to school! Yeah, not exactly healthy and after a hour or so at school, my stomach was burning with hunger. That sure made it hard to focus on my studies.

You want healthy breakfasts for kids but they have to be quick and cheap! Check out these 13 healthy breakfasts for kids (that you'll want to eat too!)

Pair these fruit muffins with a bit of protein and you have a healthy and balanced meal!

After going through a weight loss program that taught me how to keep my blood sugar levels steady I’ve learned the enormous benefits of a well-balanced meal. Without the proper balance of carbohydrates, fats, protein and fiber your meal will “burn off” quickly causing you to be hungry much quicker.

Kids need to have a decent breakfast so they can best concentrate at school. Serving a healthy breakfast doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. My tweens are able to prepare many of these themselves, though for the sake of speed I tend to put breakfast together quickly for everyone in the morning.

Prepare the Night Before

I totally understand the morning time crunch of getting kids out the door on time. I have 4 kids and my eldest starts school at 7:45 am. I wake the kids 1 hour before we have to be out the door. This allows them time to get dressed, make their beds, sit at the breakfast table for a meal, brush teeth & hair and get in the car.

 

The kids do all their prepping the evening before, including making sure their school tablets are charged, their homework is in the backpack, their outfit is chosen and their shoes are ready to put on. There are no morning scrambles to find any missing items because they’ve prepped for their school day the night before (PS. None of my kids have ever been late to school).

Read more about how I streamline the morning routine here!

There are some breakfasts that can be prepared the night before. Round out the carbs in the morning with cut fruit and a glass of milk (we drink both cow and almond milk at home). Kids can just grab a few ready-made items and start eating.

For baked goods I like using whole wheat flour instead of white. I like Wheat Montana brand Prairie Gold, which I buy at Target. It’s not pricey and it has a smooth taste and texture so I easily sub it in for white flour in all my baked goods.

Whole Wheat Baked Doughnuts – Baked doughnuts are easy to make and if you sub in whole wheat flour they’re an even healthier option. I melted semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave and dipped the doughnuts in just for a special treat.

You want healthy breakfasts for kids but they have to be quick and cheap! Check out these 13 healthy breakfasts for kids (that you'll want to eat too!)

They look decadent but they’re really baked from whole grains!

Yogurt Parfaits – Into glasses or custard dishes, layer plain or vanilla flavored yogurt with cut fruit or berries, dry oats and chia seeds.

Fruit Salad – Chop up all those ripe and ready fruits into a colorful fruit salad that can chill overnight in the fridge.

Muffins - Use healthier ingredients like whole wheat flour, applesauce/mashed bananas/honey instead of white sugar and include chopped fruits, nuts and grains.

You want healthy breakfasts for kids but they have to be quick and cheap! Check out these 13 healthy breakfasts for kids (that you'll want to eat too!)

Muffins that include fruit bits means you can use less sugar when baking

Budget-Friendly Foods

I have two teens, a preschooler and a toddler. When they want scrambled eggs, I cringe a bit, knowing that I’ll be using half the carton and eggs aren’t cheap. I want my kids to eat a healthy wholesome breakfast but they don’t need to eat a full plate of eggs. Instead I’ll give them a smaller amount of eggs, topped with cheese and salsa and served with beans and a whole wheat tortilla. Or try these ideas:

Omelettes with leftovers - Have some leftover veggies from dinner the night before? Don’t let them go to waste – Fold them into the center of an omelette and sprinkle with a bit of cheese. Sauteed mushrooms, squash or steamed broccoli are favorites of my kids.

Oatmeal – Can’t get more basic for breakfast than a warm, bubbling pot of hearty oats! So cheap and you can dress it up nicely. I love chopped apple, lots of cinnamon, walnuts and a sprinkle of brown sugar.

Whole Wheat Pancakes – Pancakes are super simple to make from scratch and truly only take a few ingredients. Use whole wheat and toss some blueberries into the batter. Or top them with chopped bananas and walnuts (my favorite way to eat them!) A drizzle of pure maple syrup tops them off.

You want healthy breakfasts for kids but they have to be quick and cheap! Check out these 13 healthy breakfasts for kids (that you'll want to eat too!)

Egg Sandwich - One egg per kid is all you need. Make it fried, sunny-side up or scrambled and place it on a toasted English muffin half or a bagel. Layer a slice of cheese and some spinach leaves and this is a filling breakfast that is way healthier than the fast-food variety (and takes less time than going through the drive-thru!)

Smoothies -When your fresh fruits and greens start to turn, chop them up and freeze them for use later in a smoothie. Just lay them out on a parchment covered cookie sheet and place into the freezer. Then take the frozen pieces and transfer them into zip close bags. Frozen pineapple or berries, a huge handful of frozen kale or spinach, almond milk and a dollop of Greek yogurt is a favorite to sip in the morning (and I promise, you won’t even taste the greens!)

You want healthy breakfasts for kids but they have to be quick and cheap! Check out these 13 healthy breakfasts for kids (that you'll want to eat too!)

You can’t even see or taste the greens in this smoothie when you use dark berries to conceal the color!

Total Time-Crunch

Need to get out the door but the kids haven’t eaten yet. Toss these winning breakfasts together and they’ll be ready to eat within minutes.

Cold cereal with berries - Pre-boxed cereals don’t have to contain a boatload of sugar. Tossing in fresh berries will help sweeten them up. Check out this list of best and worst boxed cereals at 100 Days of Real Food. The book 100 Days of Real Food is a wonderful guide to eating more wholesome foods.

Frozen Premade Whole Wheat Waffles – Use a lazy weekend day to prep breakfast for the week. By making your own whole wheat waffles you can control the ingredients and they’ll be just as convenient to pop into the toaster as the prepackaged variety. Sometimes I “make it fun” with a topping of whipped cream.

Sprouted Grain Toast with Peanut Butter, Banana and Chia Seeds – Sprouted grain bread tastes wonderful after it’s been toasted and when you top it with peanut butter (no sugar variety, just nuts/salt/oil), banana slices and a sprinkling of chia seeds, it’s almost like dessert! My husband takes this one step further and drizzles his slice with honey!

Greek Yogurt with Toppings –  Another quickie to toss together with ready-to-go toppings! I like chopped banana, walnuts, a bit of agave and I’ve even been known to toss on a few dark chocolate chips

You want healthy breakfasts for kids but they have to be quick and cheap! Check out these 13 healthy breakfasts for kids (that you'll want to eat too!)

Greek yogurt with toppings (even dark chocolate chips!)

What are your favorite healthy kid’s breakfasts? Share an idea in the comments!

February 22, 2017
4 Comments

20 Trusted Tips for Traveling Alone with a Baby to Disney

Traveling Alone with a Baby to Disney? Check out these 20 trusted tips for solo travel with a baby.

Traveling with a baby has many challenges. Traveling by yourself with a baby? Even more to consider! How about traveling alone with a baby to Disney? I’m here to tell you it can be done! With some advance planning and knowledge, traveling alone with a baby doesn’t have to be vacation-doom. Read on for my 20 tips for traveling alone with a baby

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Orange Loop. Today we are sharing tips and ideas for a solo trip to Disney.


Traveling Alone with a Baby

Last year I had the opportunity to travel to Walt Disney World for a conference with the TravelingMoms. With a 6 month old at home, I knew that I’d need to bring her with me for the 4 days I’d be out of town. I was feeling confident and excited. First of all, I was going to Disney World! Second, with only a baby in tow, it was going to be almost like a solo vacation (hmm, almost but not quite!)

Traveling Alone with a Baby to Disney? Check out these 20 trusted tips for solo travel with a baby.

Starstruck by Chip

I had a lot to learn, it seems! I’ve outlined all the details you’ll need to consider when traveling alone with a baby, with special considerations given for Disney vacation travel.

Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Clicking through and making a purchase through these links helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

1. Travel Times

When considering booking your flight, take a look at your baby’s schedule. I chose to fly in the morning, which would fall during my daughter’s first nap of the day. She’s also in a much better mood in the morning than in the evening so I knew she’d be happier during the flight. I was flying from San Diego to Orlando which clocks in at just around 5 hours. I lucked out and she was able to sleep for about 2 hours on the plane while I wore her in the front carrier.

Solo with a Baby Traveling Tip: Choose a non-stop flight whenever possible. Getting on and off the plane with all your stuff and a baby is less daunting if you know you only have to do it once each way.

Traveling Alone with a Baby to Disney? Check out these 20 trusted tips for solo travel with a baby.

2. Checked Luggage

One of the best things about a Walt Disney World vacation is that luggage is handled for you when you stay on-site. Check it curbside at the airport and the next time you’ll see it will be inside your Disney World resort hotel room! Yes, they take care of getting your luggage from the airlines and then deliver it directly to your room. One less thing to worry about for sure!

What do you need to pack with you for a Disney vacation? Be sure to check out these two handy printable lists, a list for mom and a list for baby! I’ll mention that I underestimated the number of wipes I’d need and had to buy more on the last day. Fortunately they sold them inside the Baby Care center at Epcot!

Solo with a Baby Traveling Tip: You’ll be lugging your luggage to the front of the hotel on check-out day so make sure you have one that rolls well and isn’t so impossibly heavy that you can’t handle it yourself.

3. Carry-On Bags

In addition to what you’d normally pack in a carry-on bag for yourself, you’re also going to need to carry everything for baby as well. This would include plenty of diapers and wipes, changing table pad, baby snacks, blanket, bottle or cup and at least 1 change of clothes (some babies have intestinal issues during air travel because of the increased pressure, so you might want to bring 2+ outfits!)

The baby’s #Disneyland outfits are done, we can officially go on vacation! #Disney #sewing #babyclothes

A post shared by Julie Bigboy (@juliebutterfly2000) on

Solo with a Baby Traveling Tip: Consider making your carry-on bag a backpack. Not only will it be easier to carry through the airport, you’ll also be able to access your supplies easier when you can compartmentalize in a backpack rather than a cavernous tote bag.

4. Navigating the Airport

From checking your luggage, passing through security checks and making the long walk to your gate, you’re going to need free hands. Holding a baby and juggling these other tasks is tricky so make it easy on yourself and wear the baby so your hands are free. On my flight to Disney World I was allowed to pass through security while baby-wearing and didn’t have to take her off my body. I use a Boba Air Baby Carrier and wore it through my entire trip. Invaluable!

Solo with a Baby Traveling Tip: Wear shoes that slip on and off easily without your hands so you won’t have sit and bend over to tie them.

5. On the Flight

My daughter sat on my lap during the flight, mostly held in her front carrier. I opted not to purchase a seat for her or bring her car seat because I knew that I would not be able to carry it on the travels by myself. Once in my plane seat, I used a sanitizing wipe to clean down any surface that my baby might touch (windowsill, arm rests and tray table).

Ready for takeoff! SAN to MCO #waltdisneyworld here we come #tmomdisney #Tmom

A post shared by Julie Bigboy (@juliebutterfly2000) on

I was blessed to have an empty seat next to me on the flight there and a completely empty row on the flight home! This allowed me to spread out a bit and use the empty seat to hold my carry-on backpack. You might not be so lucky and of course, space is tight on a plane. Pack your carry-on bag judiciously so you can reach in for what you need quickly when it’s at your feet.

Solo with a Baby Traveling Tip: Forget pulling out the laptop on the plane; with a lap-sitting baby you probably won’t have the space for it on the tray table. Bring a good book or magazine for when baby naps (or heck, take a nap yourself!)

6. Bathroom Breaks

When you gotta go, you gotta go! What do you do when you have to use the bathroom? Because I wasn’t going to have a stranger on the plane hold my baby, I placed her inside the front carrier and still had my hands free to do my business and properly wash my hands. When in the Disney parks, I’d simply roll her inside the bathroom in her stroller and use one of the large stalls. Take the changing pad with you and take care of baby’s needs while you’re in the bathroom too.

Solo with a Baby Traveling Tip: Changing diapers on the plane has it’s own challenges! Be sure to read this post with tips for changing a diaper on a plane from my friend Leslie at Trips with Tykes.

7. Using a Stroller

Since I was using the front carrier to tote my baby through the airport, I opted to leave our regular stroller at home. I had used Amusement Park Rentals in the past for my son and contacted them once again for a stroller on this trip with the baby. It was so convenient to meet them in the lobby, have the rental stroller for the trip and then have them pick it up at the end of the visit. They even included a rain cover for the stroller in case of showers.

Solo with a Baby Traveling Tip: If you choose to bring a stroller with you, roll it right up to the entrance of the plane and the stewards will store it for you.

Heavy sleeper. @disneyland #disneybaby #Rollercoaster #Disney #Disneyland

A post shared by Julie Bigboy (@juliebutterfly2000) on

8. Take the Magical Express

One of the fabulous benefits of staying at a Disney World resort hotel is complimentary use of Magical Express. This is bus transportation that will take you from Orlando Airport directly to the front entrance of your Disney World resort. Babies can lap sit just like on the plane. If you have a car seat they will not allow it on the bus, it will be stored underneath the bus with carry on luggage.

Solo Traveling Tip: If staying off-site at a non-Disney resort hotel and unable to use Magical Express, bring a car seat from home for baby. Services like Uber and Lyft do offer car seats in some vehicles but they aren’t rear-facing seats for babies under 2.

Need park tickets? You can buy them before the trip at a discount from Park Savers!

Park Savers affiliate link

9. Transportation on Disney Property

Once on Disney property you’ll be able to get to and from your hotel to the parks and Disney Springs via transportation buses, monorail system and friendship boats. You’ll be in charge of carrying your baby, folding and carrying your own stroller and handling your own bags so consider this when packing for a day in the parks. If you find yourself in need of help, ask someone standing in line with you for assistance. In my case, I always had someone asking me if I would like help or they’d even swoop in and grab my stroller to put it on the bus for me!

Solo Traveling Tip: During peak season and when mass groups are entering or leaving the parks, seating can be very limited. There were several times I had to stand on the bus and hold onto the rail. Wearing baby in a front carrier so you can hold on to the rails and not take a tumble when the bus turns or stops is imperative.

10. Hotel Choice

The rooms at All-Star Music and Sports were on the small side but adequately suited for just the two of us. It had enough space for me to park the stroller in the doorway and the second bed allowed me to spread out luggage and use it as a changing table for the baby. I was co-sleeping with my daughter so we simply shared one of the queen sized beds. However resort guests can request a pack ‘n’ play portable crib when booking your reservation. It would have been a very tight fit for a crib in the All-Star rooms so keep that in mind when looking at the resort hotel square footage.

Traveling Alone with a Baby to Disney? Check out these 20 trusted tips for solo travel with a baby.

All-Star resort hotel room

Solo Traveling Tip: Getting back and forth from the hotel room to the bus pick-up, the time it took to travel and then the walking from the bus depot into the parks really takes a great effort when alone with a baby! Consider booking a hotel on the monorail line to cut transportation time and struggles.

11. Room Location Requests

On my visit, I stayed in three different hotels. Certainly not ideal but I was padding my stay at the conference hotel on each end of the visit with a Disney Resort hotel. Unfortunately the two Disney Resorts were All-Star Music and Sports, which are both very large resorts. The rooms I was given at each hotel were the furthest walk to and from the front entrance. It would seriously take me 15 minutes of brisk walking to get from my room to the bus each day. It took even longer on check-out day when I was trying to push a baby in a stroller, carry a diaper bag and wheel my luggage at the same time!

Solo Traveling Tip: If you’re traveling alone with a baby put in a request when booking the room for a location that isn’t such a long distance away.

Thankful for this sweet girl, who has been the best travel companion I could have asked for! #TMOM #TBaby #WaltDisneyWorld

A post shared by Julie Bigboy (@juliebutterfly2000) on

12. Consider Renting a Locker

If you’re packing in everything you’ll need for a Disney day including diapers, wipes, a change of clothes and baby food, consider renting a locker in the Park to hold items until you need them. No need lugging around all the diapers and food for the day if you can store some of them in a locker that allows in and out privileges.

Traveling Alone with a Baby to Disney? Check out these 20 trusted tips for solo travel with a baby.

13. Dining at Disney

If your baby is big enough to sit inside a highchair you’ll find that they are plentiful inside restaurants, including quick service locations. I decided not to pack the highchair cover because it was just so big to lug around with me inside the parks. All of the highchairs I used were quite clean and had functioning buckles. I simply wiped the chair down with a sanitizing wipe before putting my baby inside.

Although children under 2 are free to eat at the buffet with a paying adult, I chose to skip the buffets. It’s next to impossible to hold two trays of food on your own as well as handle your baby! I also opted out of full-service dining on my trip as my baby wasn’t eating table food yet.

Traveling Alone with a Baby to Disney? Check out these 20 trusted tips for solo travel with a baby.

Definitely ask for help if you need it. Navigating inside the quick service lines with a stroller and balancing a tray of food through crowded seating areas is hard when you’re alone. I requested help from the server when I ordered, asking if I could have assistance with getting my tray to the table.

Solo Traveling Tip: Check out this post about feeding your baby at Disney, including what to pack (disposable bibs and stick-on place mats are a must!)

14. Taking on the Rides

There are so many rides and attractions to experience, even with a baby on board. Since you won’t be able to use Rider Swap on this trip if you want to go on a ride, you’ll have to take baby with you!

Pre-trip, check out the height restrictions on the Disney parks website. If there are no restrictions, you can bring baby with you onto the ride. At both Walt Disney World and Disneyland I’ve been able to ride dozens of things with my baby on my lap, even Pirates of the Caribbean, Mad Tea Party teacups and the Haunted Mansion.

PeopleMover for the first time! #Tmom #MickeysNotSoScaryHalloweenParty #WaltDisneyWorld

A post shared by Julie Bigboy (@juliebutterfly2000) on

Sleeping baby in a front carrier? Ask the Cast Member at the front of the attraction if you can ride. I was able to hop on Dumbo the Flying Elephant while my daughter napped and she never woke up. At Walt Disney World on the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh I was instructed by the Cast Member to remove her from the carrier and turn her forward facing with her legs under the bar. And keep baby in the front carrier through the queue waits…your tired arms will thank you!

Solo Traveling Tip: Use FastPass when you can to keep the line waits down. You’ll find that getting a FastPass for the non-thrill rides is pretty easy. I even used my choices for character meet n’ greets.

Traveling Alone with a Baby to Disney? Check out these 20 trusted tips for solo travel with a baby.

My very cool travel companion.

15. Shows for All Ages

Certain shows (like Mickey’s PhilharMagic and It’s Tough to Be a Bug!) have extremely high volumes and may contain some frightening elements. Things like the fireworks spectacular may frighten your baby. If you’re far enough away from the action, she may be fine with the show (mine wasn’t fazed by the noise).

Other shows are very calm, like Enchanted Tales with Belle and The American Adventure. Some shows feature lively music or bright colors (like Finding Nemo-The Musical, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room or Country Bear Jamboree) that baby may enjoy watching the action. Of course the parades are all very fun for baby to watch as well. All of the indoor shows I saw requested that you leave your stroller outside.

Solo Traveling Tip: Read up on what show elements will be appropriate for baby in the books The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2017 and The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2017. There are details on the scare-factor of each attraction.

    

16. Quiet Areas

Baby’s overstimulated? Or do you just need a quiet place to rest and recoup? Check out the Baby Care Centers. There is one located in each Disney Park and it’s a clean place to nurse, feed, diaper change, rock or just relax quietly with your baby. The nursing rooms are dimmed and some have rocking chairs. For more breastfeeding tips at Disney parks see my post on DisneyBaby blog.

Solo Traveling Tip: Bring your cell phone and charging cord inside with you. I found outlets inside the nursing rooms (for plugging in a breast pump) but you can use it to recharge your phone while feeding your little one (so long as someone with a breast pump doesn’t need it).

Traveling Alone with a Baby to Disney? Check out these 20 trusted tips for solo travel with a baby.

Each Disney Park has a Baby Care Center.

17. Naptime Needs

Babies tend to sleep wherever and whenever, which is a great thing! However over-stimulation may result in naps that are delayed or skipped and shortened sleep schedules. Rested babies are happier babies so take time to make sure baby gets the rest she needs, even if it means returning to the hotel. I was able to get my daughter to fall asleep in the parks, usually after a feeding and then placing her inside the front carrier. There were times when my daughter was napping in her stroller. I took that time to browse the shops, stand in line for character meet n’ greets, eat a meal or simply rest and people-watch from a bench.

Traveling Alone with a Baby to Disney? Check out these 20 trusted tips for solo travel with a baby.

My sleepy girl “meeting” Jessie & Woody at Magic Kingdom

18. Capture the Moments

You NEED memories of this trip so be sure to take a camera with you! Take selfies. Hand over your camera to Disney PhotoPass photographers. Get in line with the characters for a sweet meet n’ greet. Make sure to get in the pictures yourself, too! Take pictures of it all, you’re going to love looking back at your baby’s first Disney trip!

Solo Traveling Tip: Don’t forget to collect a “First Visit” button to document your baby’s first day at Disney!

Traveling Alone with a Baby to Disney? Check out these 20 trusted tips for solo travel with a baby.

19. Accept Help

I was checking out of the hotel on the last day and struggling under all my bags. I had acquired a few souvenirs for the kids back home and my bags were overflowing. I was wearing the sleeping baby in her front carrier, pushing a stroller loaded down with one bag and pulling a suitcase behind me. Suddenly someone came up from behind me and started pushing my luggage for me, a teacher from Minnesota who was on the trip with students. She’d seen me lunking that suitcase across the sidewalk and happily pushed it for me as we chatted on the way to the front of the hotel.

Sure, there are sometimes you really can do it alone but if someone wants to help, let them! It makes them feel good to help you out. I can still remember the conversations I had on the transportation bus with the dad of the adopted children from Africa who carried my stroller on board. And the smile from the Cast Member who carried my food tray to my table.

20. Go With the Flow

For sure, traveling alone with a baby is sure to be a vacation that’s different than any other. You’ll be dealing with diapers, tears and feedings all by yourself. Baby’s having a meltdown at the sight of Mickey? Believe me, it won’t be the first time a baby has cried in a character’s face! Don’t stress, just laugh about it.

Traveling Alone with a Baby to Disney? Check out these 20 trusted tips for solo travel with a baby.

She woke up and the first thing she saw was Mickey’s face. She was not amused.

And just because you aren’t riding coasters and are going by baby’s schedule instead of your own, doesn’t mean you can’t have a magical time! Think of traveling alone with your baby as the perfect opportunity to do things on this trip that you wouldn’t consider otherwise because you’re at a slower pace. Before you know it, your baby will be joining you on the coasters!

For more ideas for traveling solo to Disney,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Orange | Traveling Solo to Disney Loop:

Have you ever considered traveling alone with a baby to Disney? I’d love to hear your comments!

February 15, 2017
6 Comments

Disneyland Splurges for Kids (and Where to Cut Costs)

Disneyland Splurges for kids (and Money-Saving tips that still feel like a splurge!)

Disneyland splurges can really add a certain magic to your vacation. From tiny sweets to full-blown boutique make-overs, there’s a Disneyland splurge to fit every kid (and every budget)! With four kids in our family we don’t tend to go “all out” but it certainly adds joy to our trip to surprise the kids with a few little splurges. I have some suggestions of Disneyland splurges for the kids, plus some money saving ideas that still allow for special treats!

Disneyland Splurges for Kids (and Money-Saving Splurges You MUST make!)

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Blue Loop. Today we are sharing fun ways to splurge at Disney.

Disneyland Splurges for the Kids

Yes, Disneyland is already a magical place. Throwing in a few splurges here and there on your trip will really put a twinkle in your child’s eye! These are some of the Disneyland splurges that kids will enjoy, with a range to fit any budget.

Please note that I include affiliate links in this post. Clicking the link and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Sweet Treats

When I think of Disneyland splurges, I think dessert! All those sweet treats to indulge in, with many of them perfectly designed for the delight of children. There are character-themed marshmallows on a stick sold all over the Park, sundaes from Gibson Girl, milk shakes from Flo’s V-8 Cafe and adorable cookies we found at Jolly Holiday Bakery & Cafe (check out the Cheshire Cat cookie! It matched my daughter’s leggings!)

Disneyland Splurges for Kids (and Money-Saving Splurges You MUST make!)

And of course there are some amazing caramel apples sold throughout the Parks. We love watching them create the apples at Marceline’s in Downtown Disney District. Each apple is painstakingly dipped and decorated by hand.

Disneyland Splurges for Kids (and Money-Saving Splurges You MUST make!)

*Money Saving Splurge* – Buy a caramel apple and request to have it cut into slices. Then everyone can indulge and share the treat!

Watch the video of how caramel apples are made at Disneyland on my YouTube channel.

Portrait Drawing

Older kids may appreciate this more than youngers but having your portrait done (in the streets of New Orleans Square, just down from the exit of Pirates of the Caribbean) is a souvenir worth framing. Choose from silly caricatures or more serious pastel drawings.

A Splurge in Hand

Handheld goodies will put a smile on a child’s face! Items like balloons, light-up toys, spinners, Princess wands, swords and bubble blowers add to the Disney joy and are a nice souvenir too.

Disneyland Splurges for Kids (and Money-Saving Splurges You MUST make!)

*Money Saving Splurge* – If you buy a balloon and it pops, return the remnants to any balloon vendor in the Park for a replacement.

A Special Meal

Looking for a dining splurge you’ll never forget? Consider a meal at The Blue Bayou Restaurant. Not only do they have a location to die for inside the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction (it’s the only restaurant at Disneyland inside of an attraction!) but they have a menu that’s kid-friendly.

There are simple dishes like mac and cheese with veggies or more sophisticated options like salmon and beef strip loin. Kids will get a kick out of watching the ride boats float by and in the decor, which looks like you’re dining outside (complete with chirping crickets!) Just be sure to a get an Advance Dining Reservation because this is a very popular dining location.

*Money Saving Splurge* – Dine for lunch instead of dinner to save on the cost of adult meals.

Splurge-Worthy Special Event

There are several special events and packages available at Disneyland if you’re wanting to splurge! Check out the World of Color Dessert Party that gives guests reserved seating as well as dessert and drinks.

Disneyland Splurges for Kids (and Money-Saving Splurges You MUST make!)

Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

Visiting Disneyland during the fall? A ticket to Mickey’s Halloween Party is a must so that kids can dress in costume and trick or treat through the Park at night!

Stay On-Site

From the themed rooms, Extra Magic Hour, and the amazing pools, staying at a Disneyland Resort hotel is a splurge worth making. I’ve stayed in all three of the Disneyland Resort hotels and each offers their own magic.

Disneyland Splurges for Kids (and Money-Saving Splurges You MUST make!)

*Money Saving Splurge* – Naturally weekends, holidays and peak season dates will have higher prices. Stay mid-week and in the off-season to save on a Resort room. Sign up for offers and you may be sent a discount code in the mail or via email.

In-Room Decor

Want to give your kids a magical impression from the moment they enter the hotel room? Contact Disney Floral & Gifts for an in-room celebration that includes decorations, goodies, treats and personalized souvenirs laid out for them when they arrive.

*Money Saving Splurge* – Bring your own store-bought treats like bubbles and glow necklaces. Put them on your kid’s pillows and say that Tinker Bell delivered them!

Character Dining

Do your littles have a hearty appetite? Consider a character dining experience with an unlimited buffet. You’ll not only meet n’ greet with characters who come to your table for one-on-one time (photos and autographs too), you’ll also have some great options for dining that will please everyone in your group. Goofy’s Kitchen is a favorite, with an expansive buffet that includes pb & j pizza as well as freshly carved meats.

Disneyland Splurges for Kids (and Money-Saving Splurges You MUST make!)

Donald nabbing a strawberry at Minnie’s Breakfast at the Plaza Inn

Disney’s PCH Grill is our breakfast go-to with made-to-order omelettes. The Plaza Inn hosts Minnie in the mornings with a vast breakfast spread that kids will love (in between photo ops with a wide range of characters).

*Money Saving Splurge* – Choose breakfast instead of lunch or dinner to save on the cost.

Take a Tour

Older kids may enjoy the in-depth tour like “Walk in Walt’s Footsteps”. For a major splurge, reserve a “Plaid” for a VIP tour that will allow you priority access, reserved seating and a personal guide for the day.

Splurge-Worthy Souvenirs

Build-your-own light saber inside The Star Trader. There’s a large station with bits and parts to make it your own design. This area is usually crowded and you’ll be carrying around a big light saber so consider this a late stop in the day. If your kiddo is more the soft and cuddly type, they might prefer a Disney-themed teddy created at the Build-a-Bear Workshop in Downtown Disney District. Start your daughter’s first Pandora charm bracelet and purchase a Disney themed charm.

Disneyland Splurges for Kids (and Money-Saving Splurges You MUST make!)

*Money Saving Splurge* - Have a teddy at home? Shop the a la carte teddy bear outfits instead of making a bear.

Afternoon Tea

Do you have a sophisticated little lady who would enjoy an elegant snack of scones, tiny sandwiches and sips of tea? The afternoon tea held at the Disneyland Hotel has three options (classic, premium or kid’s tea party) and takes place in the elegant Steakhouse 55 restaurant. Dress to impress!

*Money Saving Splurge* – If this upscale experience is too much, consider a stop at the more casual Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe inside Disneyland. You can still indulge in treats, sandwiches and Very Berry Diamond Tea. You might even see Mary Poppins and Bert!

Sip and Splurge

Yes, even your beverages can be a splurge when you indulge in some of the fun that Disney offers. There are souvenir sippers, glow ice cubes and silly straws that can “upgrade” your drink. Check out the restaurant menu for other child-friendly beverage treats like mint julep at French Market, Louisiana Lemonade at Blue Bayou or Red’s Apple Freeze at the Cozy Cone Motel.

Disneyland Splurges for Kids (and Money-Saving Splurges You MUST make!)

A cool Olaf sipper

*Money Saving Splurge* – Ask for a “Shirley Temple” at some full-service restaurants. We were able to get this sweet drink (Sprite mixed with cherry juice) at the same cost as a fountain drink at the River Belle Terrace Restaurant.

Birthday Celebrations

No better time to splurge than for a birthday! Parents can pre-order a custom birthday cake to be served at select Disneyland Resort restaurants. Contact Disney Floral & Gifts for a birthday themed in-room celebration that includes room decoration and special gifts. The Build-a-Bear Workshop hosts birthday parties as well.

*Money Saving Splurge* – Pick up a complimentary personalized birthday button from guest services when you enter either of the Parks.

A Snack & a Splurge

Many of the snacks sold throughout the Disneyland Resort have an upgrade option. Choose to have your popcorn sold in a regular carton or splurge on a whimsical souvenir bucket. When ordering a kid’s meal at Flo’s V-8 Cafe you can opt for a Lightning McQueen keepsake. Order the “Kitchen Sink” like we did at Clarabelle’s and receive a souvenir Mickey-themed sink (mine holds desk supplies at home!)

Disneyland Splurges for Kids (and Money-Saving Splurges You MUST make!)

*Money Saving Splurge* – The Kitchen Sink is definitely big enough to share. Order ice cream cones separately if you want to fill them with the sundae from the “sink”.

A Magical Make-Over

What little princess wouldn’t love a head-to-toe fairy tale make-over from Bibbidi Bobbidy Boutique? Sparkling new gown, glittered up-do, make-up, nail polish and more! Even your little prince can get in on the action with a Knight’s Package. For the over-the-top splurge, Disney PhotoPass photographers will capture the moment for you with a customized portrait package.

Disneyland Splurges for Kids (and Money-Saving Splurges You MUST make!)

*Money Saving Splurge* – Purchase your own princess costume from DisneyStore online before your trip and wear it into the Park. Instead of going for the full-out make-over, you can still choose the hairstyle and make-up but save on the (very expensive) dress.

What are YOUR favorite Disneyland splurges? Share them in the comments (and be sure to check out the other Blogorail posts!)


For ways to splurge at Disney,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Blue | Disney Splurges Loop:

February 9, 2017
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Disney Souvenirs To Buy BEFORE Your Disney Vacation

Buy Disney souvenirs before your vacation? Here are the practical reasons why you should buy these things ahead of your Disney trip.

Disney souvenirs bought in the Disney parks can be expensive! Yes, there are sometimes exclusive Disney souvenirs that can only be found in the parks, but more often than not you can purchase them at home for a reasonable price. There are also some souvenirs that you can purchase ahead of your trip and take them with you on vacation to use in the Disney parks! Keep reading for my list of Disney souvenirs to buy BEFORE you go on vacation.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. Clicking and purchasing through my links helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Buy Disney souvenirs before your vacation? Here are the practical reasons why you should buy these things ahead of your Disney trip.

Why Buy Disney Souvenirs Ahead of Time?

Why should you consider buying your Disney souvenirs before your vacation?

#1 is the cost benefit - You’ll save a great percentage buying items at home and bringing them with you versus purchasing them in the Parks.

#2 is that you’ll have more choices - Rather than be “stuck” with the limited choices available in the Parks, you’ll have the option of picking from the entire world wide web if you order them before you leave home!

#3 is that you’ll save precious vacation time – Why spend your vacation shopping for trinkets when you could be maximizing your Park time, swimming in the resort pool or sipping another Dole Whip float?!

No need to fill up your suitcases before your trip. You can certainly have souvenirs shipped to you at home or have them sent directly to meet you at your Disney Resort hotel.

Buy Disney souvenirs before your vacation? Here are the practical reasons why you should buy these things ahead of your Disney trip.

From the Walt Disney World website:

If you intend to receive mail during your vacation, be sure the letter or package:

  • Includes the mailing address of your Disney Resort Hotel
  • Clearly features the word “Guest” on the front and the date of your arrival

Please note that a $5 per package handling fee will apply to all packages that are received through the Front Desk or are delivered to your Disney Resort hotel room.

Buy Disney souvenirs before your vacation? Here are the practical reasons why you should buy these things ahead of your Disney trip.

Souvenirs to Cover Your Head

Did you know you can get Mouse Ear hats before your Disney trip? And adorable Ear headbands too! Or choose a ball cap to shield the sun from your eyes or a warm Disney cap to keep you toasty. Wear your hat on the plane to save on luggage space.

Pins for Trading

Some of these souvenir pins are PRICEY! Purchase ahead of time and shop for individual Disney Parks authentic trading pins from Disney Store. You can also purchase bulk lots of authentic pins on Amazon (like this Disney Trading Pins Lot) if you don’t have a specific pin in mind and don’t mind a few obscure pins. This is a great gift to give a child before your trip to get them started on pin trading.

  

If you must buy them in the Parks, choose only those pins that can’t be purchased elsewhere or that are limited edition specials.

Misting Fan

It can get hot at Disney and as the sweat rolls down your back you’ll be eyeing these misting fans that many of the guests buy in the Parks. You can find a Disney Misting Fan on Amazon for a lot less than you’ll pay in the Parks.

Lanyards

Lanyards can serve multiple purposes from holding trading pins, paper tickets & FastPass cards at Disneyland or your medical identification. You can purchase these in the Parks or find them online. Some even have a coin purse or pouch to hold cash.

Disney Store has Park Authentic lanyards, including this pretty Vera Bradley version. I like the Disney Mickey Mouse Lanyard with Coin Purse from Amazon.

Souvenir T-Shirts

I saw a souvenir t-shirt at Walt Disney World that I was considering for my baby girl on my last visit…until I saw the price tag of $30! Yikes! You can get three for the price of one if you shop wisely beforehand.

Target, Disney Store and Amazon all have fantastic authentic Disney designs and you won’t be paying more than you should for one tee.

Souvenir Plush

Cute little stuffed animals in the Parks come at a premium price. Why not buy them upfront and take advantage of frequent sales and special offers, like the Disney Store online often has. You can still get Mickey and Minnie but you’ll likely get them for a steal when you buy them beforehand.

Snacks

Unless you’re using up your Disney Dining Plan snack credits, don’t use your souvenir money to buy pricey snacks. Tote in your usual snacks and if you must “Disney” them, pack them in a Disney-themed container.

Purchase Disney Park tickets ahead of your trip at a discounted price from Park Savers!

Park Savers affiliate link

Pretty Baubles

Okay, I’ll admit it, I can’t seem to stay out of the Pandora shop! I’ve purchased myself Pandora charms at both the tiny shop in New Orleans Square in Disneyland and the dreamy Main Street U.S.A. shop at Walt Disney World. Okay…and at the World of Disney too! These are the three charms that I have on my Pandora bracelet.

Pandora seems to have a set price on their charms so you won’t find that the price higher or lower by much. They do sometimes put them on sale at the Disney Store online (including the Disneyland 60th Anniversary charm).

Souvenirs to Light Up the Night

I’m a big fan of the Target Dollar Spot glow jewelry. Makes it easy to spot my kids after sunset. I use a few to wrap on the handle of the stroller so I can spot it in the crowd in the dark.

As soon as the sun is setting, the Disney Parks crew will pull out the carts stocked full with fun toys that glow and spin. Come prepared with your own light-up souvenirs for the kids, like the Mickey Mouse Glow Spinner.

For the Pool

Resist the urge to buy the new bathing suit, sandals, sunglasses or towel in the Disney Resort gift shop. I’ll admit that I bought my two older kids each a Disney-themed towel when I went to Walt Disney World and they cost me upwards of $20 a piece!

Get two for the price of one by purchasing Disney swimwear and towels before you leave home.

Souvenirs to Keep You Warm

Yes, I have several “souvenir” sweatshirts from day trips to Disneyland when the weather was chillier than expected! $50 later I wasn’t cold anymore but wow, I could certainly buy a nice sweatshirt or jacket for much less at home. Don’t forget to pack rain ponchos if showers are in the forecast!

What souvenirs do you buy before your trip? Share in the comments!

February 7, 2017
15 Comments

ALL the Disney Princesses in a Disney Collection by Jamberry GIVEAWAY!

 Disney Collection by Jamberry featuring All the Disney Princesses including Disney Princess Belle from Beauty and the Beast
I’ve been in LOVE with the Disney Collection by Jamberry wraps! Truly, I love these amazing designs that feature my favorite Disney characters and have enjoyed wearing them on my Disney vacations. Now ALL of the Disney Princesses are being featured in this next round of wraps in the Disney Collection by Jamberry, Volume 5.

Disney Princesses in the Disney Collection by Jamberry

What a dream come true! This new collection features ALL eleven Disney Princesses, including Disney Princess Belle. Naturally these arrive just in time for the premiere of the live-action “Beauty and the Beast” movie! See all of the wraps here!
Disney Collection by Jamberry featuring All the Disney Princesses including Disney Princess Belle from Beauty and the Beast
Yes, Buy 3 Get 1 Free applies to the Disney Collection by Jamberry! You can get four for the price of one, including Jamberry Junior wraps for little fingers.
Disney Collection by Jamberry featuring All the Disney Princesses including Disney Princess Belle from Beauty and the Beast Disney Collection by Jamberry featuring All the Disney Princesses including Disney Princess Belle from Beauty and the Beast

JAMBERRY GIVEAWAY!

I’m hosting a giveaway here on my blog of a $25 Jamberry gift card that you can use to purchase any Jamberry products on the website, including the Disney Collection by Jamberry wraps, Going, Going, Gone styles or anything else on the website that makes your Princess dreams come true.

Disney Collection by Jamberry featuring All the Disney Princesses including Disney Princess Belle from Beauty and the Beast

If you can’t WAIT for the giveaway to end and just HAVE to buy them now, these Disney Collection by Jamberry wraps are available NOW through my link.

I am a Jamberry Independent Consultant so please email me if you have any questions about Jamberry wraps, the Disney Collection by Jamberry or if you are interested in hosting your own Jamberry party in-home or online!

Disney Collection by Jamberry featuring All the Disney Princesses including Disney Princess Belle from Beauty and the Beast Disney Collection by Jamberry featuring All the Disney Princesses including Disney Princess Belle from Beauty and the Beast Disney Collection by Jamberry featuring All the Disney Princesses including Disney Princess Belle from Beauty and the Beast

“Save Up for Disney” as a Jamberry Independent Consultant

If you’ve been considering becoming a Jamberry Independent Consultant there is no better time than NOW!!! In the month of February, you’ll receive a discount off the cost of your consultant kit.  If you’ve been on the fence, now’s the time to JOIN Jamberry!! (P.S. The 30-40% commission is lovely too!!)

Message me or email at savingupfordisney@yahoo.com for more info. You can also join up via this link.

Disney Collection by Jamberry featuring All the Disney Princesses including Disney Princess Belle from Beauty and the Beast

Disney Collection by Jamberry featuring All the Disney Princesses including Disney Princess Belle from Beauty and the Beast Disney Collection by Jamberry featuring All the Disney Princesses including Disney Princess Belle from Beauty and the Beast

Enter the Giveaway HERE!

February 1, 2017
1 Comment

Lovely Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day at Disneyland

Lovely Ways to Celebrate Valentine's Day at Disneyland

If you love Disney what better place to spend Valentine’s Day than at the Happiest Place on Earth! What can you do to celebrate Valentine’s Day at Disneyland? Whether it’s just the two sweethearts or you’ve got the whole family with you, there are some very lovable ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day at Disneyland. Keep reading for sweet ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day at Disneyland from morning to night!

Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Clicking through and purchasing via the links helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day at Disneyland

Love is in the Air – Photo Credit: Disney Store

Breakfast

Start off the day on either a sweet or a savory note. Since you may indulge in some sweet treats through the day, might be best to have some protein in your tummy first! We like to grab breakfast inside Downtown Disney District and eat while we wait for rope drop. There are hearty (and low-priced) breakfast sandwiches at either Earl of Sandwich or La Brea Bakery. Or sip and go with a fruit smoothie from Jamba Juice.

Sweet Ways to Celebrate Valentine's Day at Disneyland

Inside the parks if you’re prefer a leisurely breakfast with your sweetie-pie, you can dine on Mickey waffles, eggs, bacon and fruit at Carnation Cafe and watch the crowds rushing by. And if you want to start the day with something sweet, swing into Jolly Holly Bakery and Cafe for a cinnamon roll or muffin.

A Fresh Bouquet

If you’re staying at a Disneyland Resort Hotel, consider a call to Disney Floral & Gift for the delivery of a magical floral arrangement. They can also go all out with romantic in-room decor like rose petals on the bed, spa robes and chocolate covered strawberries! If you’re celebrating the love with the whole family, they even have collections that include something for everyone, like red roses for Mom and sweet treats for the kids.

A Sweet Souvenir

Keep your eyes open for adorable love-inspired souvenirs in the Disneyland shops, including this Mickey & Minnie boutique lace-trimmed bag!

Image Credit: Disney Store

If you like to purchase your souvenirs online and have them arrive to you at home, shop the Disney Store online. They have dozens of precious Valentine’s Day themed items that will delight everyone.

Sweet Sips and Snacks

Enjoy a classic afternoon tea at Steakhouse 55 inside the Disneyland Hotel. As a special treat for Valentine’s (available Feb. 3-5, 10-12 and Feb. 14), the Classic Afternoon Tea will feature Shanghai Rose black tea, specialty tea sandwiches, a chocolate raspberry scone with vanilla glaze, chocolate cupcakes with ganache, pink velvet cupcakes with champagne mousse, a chocolate ganache cupcake, chocolate-dipped strawberries and a heart-shaped macaron.

Lovely Ways to Celebrate Valentine's Day at Disneyland

Image Credit: Disney Parks

Very Sweet Treat

Only available on Feb 14th, both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure park will offer Valentine’s Day cherry-vanilla flavored cotton candy for sale at their street vendor carts.

A Valentine’s Day Gift

Pop into the Pandora shop in New Orleans Square for a Valentine’s Day gift she’ll never forget (or buy it early online via Disney Store and have it ready for gifting at the parks!)

Image Credit: Disney Store

Dinner for Two

Perhaps your Valentine’s Day at Disney will be spent with just the two of you? A romantic dinner is in order then and Disneyland has some special meals planned.

On Valentine’s Day The Blue Bayou will feature a special menu item: Lobster A L’Americaine, a rich blend of lobster sauce, roasted lobster tail, snow crab, sautéed mahi and potatoes in a creamy lobster-cognac sauce with onions, celery and peas.

If you’re looking for an amazing splurge the ultra upscale Napa Rose inside Disney’s Grand Californian has a 4-course meal that includes a wine flight. Be sure to book your Advance Dining Reservations early for these meals!

Purchase discounted Disney parks tickets upfront with Park Savers.

Park Savers affiliate link

Watch the Sunset

Finding a lovely spot to watch the setting sun at the Disney resort is a perfect way to close out the day. The sun will set behind Mickey’s Fun Wheel so catch a ride on this Ferris wheel for a panoramic view. Or grab a drink at Wine Country Trattoria and take a seat on the steps in Paradise Park (located in front of the Little Mermaid ride, where World of Color is shown). Or dine on the patio at Carthay Circle for a view over the crowds.

Planning a Disneyland Vacation? These are the Dates to Avoid!

Sun setting over Cars Land

Dinner for the Family

Several other Disney restaurant locations will be offering Valentine’s Day dinners that are inclusive of the entire family. Carnation Cafe will be serving up Surf & Turf featuring sirloin steak, shrimp skewer, mashed potatoes, sautéed broccoli, sun-dried tomato butter and herb beurre blanc sauce.

The Disneyland Resort hotels will also be offering special dinners. On February 14th, Storytellers Cafe a prix-fixe, three-course meal will be available, featuring farmer’s market field greens, New York strip loin and lobster tail with sun-dried tomato risotto and asparagus, vanilla crème brûlée with berry compote. At Goofy’s Kitchen, Valentine’s Day-themed desserts will be available on the buffet.

Lovely Ways to Celebrate Valentine's Day at Disneyland

For an elegant meal, Steakhouse 55 will have a three-course dinner that wine pairings, featuring chipotle-spiced Ahi tartare, bacon-wrapped filet of beef with Mascarpone whipped potatoes, vegetables and a cognac cream sauce and white chocolate crunch cake with dark chocolate ganache and raspberry ice cream (hello!)

Special Desserts

The Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe in Disneyland Park will have a heart-shaped strawberry macaron, how delightful! Over at Disney California Adventure life is sweet with three special Valentine’s desserts. At Clarabelle’s pick the Valentine Sundae, featuring strawberry and vanilla ice cream in a waffle bowl topped with strawberry sauce, graham cracker, pink whipped cream, Valentine’s Day sprinkles and chocolate-covered strawberries.

Lovely Ways to Celebrate Valentine's Day at Disneyland

Image Credit: Disney Parks

If you’re a simple gal, perhaps you’d enjoy the chocolate-strawberry swirl soft-serve ice cream at Paradise Pier Ice Cream Company. Or sip your way to bliss at Schmoozies with a decadent chocolate-strawberry smoothie with frozen fresh strawberries, strawberry juice, chocolate syrup, ice cream and milk blended with ice and topped with whipped cream and chocolate syrup.

Which way to celebrate Valentine’s Day at Disneyland sounds the most sweet? Share with me in the comments!

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January 30, 2017
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10 Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy - 10 money-saving tips including recipes

Grocery shopping doesn’t have to bust your wallet. You can still eat healthy and save money on groceries. Some will tell you that you’ll need to use coupons to save cash (not true!) Or the hype that tells you organic and healthy foods are so much more expensive. That’s certainly not true either! With 6 to feed in my family and only one full-time income, these are tried and tested money-saving tips. Here are my 10 practical ways we save money on our groceries.

Save Money on Groceries (and Still Eat Healthy!)

Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Clicking through and purchasing through the link helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Don’t Use Coupons (with One Exception)

I used to spend hours each week clipping coupons from the newspaper mailers and driving around to several different stores to redeem. So much work! Sure there were some times where I’d get a great deal (25 cent tube of toothpaste! 75 cent box of cereal!) however those really great deals weren’t the norm. Most of the time I was purchasing things I didn’t need just because I had a coupon.

I remember looking in my storage cabinet and bemoaning that I didn’t have any more space because it was already stuffed full of about 5 years worth of deodorant, mouthwash, hair conditioner and macaroni and cheese!  And my kids didn’t need to be eating all that sugary cereal, whether I got it on sale or paid full price.

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Here’s my one exception to using coupons: If you flip through the mailer and see something there that you already use and plan on purchasing in the near future, then by all means clip and use the coupon.

If you can save 50 cents off your favorite brand of pasta then yes, you should definitely use the coupon. But if you find that you’re making purchasing just because you have the coupon, it’s time to step away from the mailers.

Make a Price List

It can be hard to remember which store has the best prices on the top 20 things you purchase each visit so I recommend creating a price list. Jot down the price on your list next time you’re at the store so you’ll know which store has the best price on bananas, peanut butter and milk, etc.

Our local Sprouts has the best prices on fruits, veggies and dry bulk bin items but prices for dairy and cereal are considerably higher. Keep track so you’ll know where to shop for certain items and aren’t spending more than you have to.

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Recipe for Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread

Don’t Shop at the Grocery Store

Grocery stores notoriously mark up the price of certain “convenience” items that you might pick up when you’re there grabbing fruit and veggies. Items in the health and beauty department are usually at a higher price than somewhere like Target or Walmart.

But I’ve found that other items can have a higher cost at the grocery as well. Things like canned tomatoes, pasta and cereal are often found cheaper at Target. You might find that your options are limited at the “big box” stores but that might not matter if you always purchase the same brand.

Shopping Apps

Certain grocery stores have special shopping apps that you can pull up on your smart phone before checkout to save you a few bucks. I personally use Cartwheel when at Target, Shopkick at many locations in my area (just open the app at the front door), and Ebates when I’m shopping online. I’ve received gift cards and cash just by using these apps and it doesn’t take me more than a minute or two.

And of course, if I’m shopping at Target I use my Target Red Card (debit) to save me 5% off my total purchases!

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Buy in Bulk

Yep, we’re Costco shoppers and buying in bulk is definitely one way we save money on groceries for our big family. But don’t load up that enormous shopping cart just yet. You’ll need to make sure you can get through that 5 lb bag of mixed greens before it goes bad! And do you really need a giant tub of coconut oil? Knowing how much your family can eat and balancing that with the product’s expiration date is a must-do before bulk buying.

   

Dry goods in bulk bins that you scoop and weigh yourself can give you a great deal. Just be sure to compare the weight per pound of the bulk bin versus purchasing the item prepackaged. A 1 lb bag of beans may run me about $1.25 but only 75 cents a pound if I scoop it from the dry goods bin. Consider purchasing your own oats, flour, sugars, beans, lentils and nuts from the bulk bins and storing them in your own containers at home.

Price Per Ounce

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at the price per ounce listed on the shelf label and noticed that it’s actually more cost effective to buy the product in a small size. See, groceries often “trick” you into thinking the bulk size is more economical! So be sure to check out the price per ounce (or pound, or whatever) to make sure it’s really the best bargain.

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Hidden Tip: Foods like pizza are cheap and easier than you think to make at home. Skip the frozen box pizza and make a quick dough, smear with pasta sauce and top with a few slices of mozzarella. For just over $1.00, I made this pizza for lunch in about 15 minutes! What other foods are you buying that you could be making yourself for pennies on the dollar?

Go Shopping More Often

What was the last item you had in the fridge that went bad before you had the chance to eat it? You might be purchasing too much upfront and then it spoils before you can cook it. Certain foods move quickly through my house, like onions, bananas, garlic and apples so I can purchase them in large quantities. But we can never seem to eat enough of the giant bag of spinach before it starts to smell funny.

Rather than bulk buying some items, we purchase smaller amounts and shop more frequently. We might spend a bit more on our greens upfront but if we aren’t tossing out half the package when they’re slimy, then we’re probably making out better on the cost in the end.

Pricing Organic VS Non-Organic

If you usually avoid organic foods as a rule because you believe they are more costly, take a look again because that’s not necessarily so. Yes, for sure there are some products that are more costly than others because they are organic but not always. At our local Sprouts, many of the organic fresh veggies are cheaper in cost than their non-organic versions! Some canned goods (like beans and tomatoes) are similarly priced organic versus non-organic.

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Isn’t that a gorgeous loaf? Bake your own artisan bread with the book, The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking. The beauty of making it yourself is that you know what ingredients you’re adding!

Shop the Outside Aisles

Visualize your grocery store. Generally stores are designed with produce, meats, grains and dairy on the outside aisles and canned and processed foods in the middle. Gone are the days when I purchased pre-seasoned rice and pasta mixes. Commercials will have you think that you’re saving time and money buying these types of products but it’s really not that much more time-consuming and definitely not more expensive to cook your own rice and add your own seasonings.

By avoiding processed foods, you’ll not only save yourself money but save your health from excessive preservatives, sodium and unpronounceable ingredients. Think about the foods you’ve been purchasing in the middle aisles of the grocery and how you could prepare them yourself instead.

Avoid Boxes & Bags

I’m working towards feeding my family more “real food”. By following Lisa Leakes’ book 100 Days of Real Food. I’m aiming to choose foods that have 5 or less of the “approved” ingredients. That means a lot of items that come in boxes and bags are off-limits. Avoiding foods that come packaged in boxes and bags (unless they follow the 5 approved ingredients or less) will save you money and help your health as well.

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

What are the ways YOU save money on groceries? I’d love to hear your tips…share them in the comments!

Julie-signature