Sunday, October 4, 2015

Disney: Surprising Your Kids

Making a Surprise Work

There are lots of different ways to surprise your kids with a Disney Trip (and I will get into that), but first lets talk about making the surprise "work".

The only way a surprise will be exciting and "work" is if your kids actually want to go to Disney World. Essentially they have to know what Disney World is and that it would be amazing to get to go there. This is what I like to call "Keeping the Disney Dream Alive" in your home. Your kids should know what Disney World is and it should always seem like a dream come true if your family would be able to go.

How to "Keep the Disney Dream Alive" (I am solely responsible for this in our house):
  • If you have been on past trips this is relatively easy, just reminisce about your past trip, look at pictures/videos from the trip, talk about your trip, etc. And always make it seem like it was a dream that you even went once and it might not be a possibility to ever go again.
  • If you have never been on a trip, your child needs to know what Disney World is in order to be excited about going.
  • This probably seems like a no-brainer, but: Tell them what Disney World is.
  • Watch Disney movies, especially ones that have rides, restaurants and characters themed at the parks (Dumbo, Aladdin, Toy Story, Star Wars, Swiss Family Robinson, Pirates of the Caribbean, Lilo & Stitch, Snow White, The Haunted Mansion, The Lion King, Finding Nemo, Cinderella, Beauty & The Beast, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, The Little Mermaid, Frozen, etc).
  • If your child is young, make sure you watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. When Lily was 17 months for our first trip, her and Mason would talk about how they were going to see where Mickey lived (that trip wasn't a surprise).
  • Order the free Disney planning DVD and watch it with your kids, talk about how amazing and fun it would be to go on a Disney vacation.
  • Listen to Disney music CD's.
  • Watch the Christmas Disney Parade.
  • Record some of the Disney specials on Destination America.
  • You might do a Disney themed special celebration for no reason, like this Frozen themed breakfast I did on a day of a snowstorm.

Now that you know that your kids will definitely be excited about your trip (because you have been Keeping the Disney Dream Alive), it's time to surprise them!

How we Surprised Our Kids

This was the second time we surprised our kids with a Disney Trip. Last time (2009) Lily was 4 and Liam was 1.5, so they were excited, but not as excited as they were this trip.

There are lots of ways to surprise your kids with a Disney Trip. Just tell them (and record it of course), I've seen people do scavenger hunts, have them put together a puzzle, open a box with Disney stuff, etc. If you search the Internet you can find tons of ideas.

Lily had been telling us since the last trip that if we ever went again she wanted it to be a surprise. So, we knew we would be surprising them again. We also liked the idea of surprising them and leaving for the trip right away (similar to what we did in 2009).

Because they were older this time around, keeping it a surprise was a lot harder. I came up with a code word that Chris and I used if we need to talk about something and they were around. We called it WD3 (Walt Disney 3rd time we were going with 3 kids).

My plan for the surprise was to have a box with balloons and some things they would need for the trip and then a letter underneath everything. The letter would explain how there was no Doctor appointment and we were really going to Disney World.

The gifts I included were a spray fan for each of them (this is essential when it's so hot at Disney), a water bottle for each of them (also an essential) and a Bit Belt to hold their Magic Bands on.

Originally I had wanted them to open the box and balloons would fly out, but the only box I had was not big enough for all the balloons. So, I just tied a balloon to each gift pack and they were sticking out of the top, which actually made it more exciting when the doorbell rang and a box with balloons was on the front porch.

That morning Lily went to school as usual and we told her we would be picking her up at 11:30am for a Doctor's appointment.

I dropped Lily off at the bus stop with Liam and Lydia in tow (Chris was sleeping as late as possible because he was going to be doing most of the driving...did I mention we were driving down? We always do....another post on the Disney drive is coming). Then I took Liam and Lydia to Target to get a couple last minute items that we needed.

While we were gone, Chris woke up and moved the box from the basement to the garage.

We came home and Chris kept Liam and Lydia entertained while I packed the car. (We used Rubbermaid bins as luggage, and they were already stacked up in the garage). Then I took our other car to go pick up Lily from school for her "Doctor's appointment", we stopped at McDonald's to pick up lunch for everyone and came home to eat.

While the kids ate, I finished packing the car. We cleaned up and then told the kids it was time to go to the appointment. Chris went out to the garage and as I wrangled them all into the mudroom to start to get their coats on Chris went to the front door and put the package on the porch and rang the doorbell, then he ran back into the house through the garage and the mudroom and met us back inside as the kids ran to the front door.

I don't know why, but I was super nervous and I had butterflies in my stomach.

Here is the video of the surprise.

The surprise was a hit!

We got the kids changed into some comfy clothes, took some pictures, packed everyone up and headed out on the road about 2:00pm.


And we were off!!!

We love surprising them and they seem to love it too, but Chris and I both agreed it was a lot harder to keep the secret this time around with them being older. So maybe next time there will still be a surprise element, but it would be fun to have them help with some of the planning.

Other Disney posts to check out:
Disney: Planning
Disney: Dining | Fastpasses | Touring Plans
Disney: Planning Binder
2015 Disney Vacation Video

Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Disney: Planning Binder

This is pretty self explanatory, but if you are planning a trip to Disney, I suggest making a Disney Binder. It is much easier to have everything about your trip in one spot.

There are ways to make a super spiffy Disney Planning Binder. Zazzle sells lots of different Disney binders that you can even have customized. And if you search Disney Binder printables on Pinterest a million websites pop up. So, you can make a binder that is customized and totally Disney if you want.

In the future I may eventually get a Disney Binder from Zazzle, but for now I just made my own from things you can get anywhere, and it may not have been as cute, but it certainly got the job done.

What you need:

  • Binder (color of your choosing)
  • Page Protectors
  • Post-its
  • Black Sharpie
  • Other Colored Sharpies
  • Pen
  • Highlighters

What you will put in your binder:
Everything that has anything to do with your upcoming trip, which includes, but is not limited to:
  • Packing List
  • Park Maps
  • Touring Plans
  • Dining Reservations
  • Hotel Phone # on Post it Note right out in front
  • If you are bringing notes for Tinkerbell Gifts, keep those in the binder in a sheet protectors, so they don't get wrinkled
  • If you are driving all of your maps and notes about the drive
  • If you are flying all of your airline information
  • If you are stopping at a grocery store, keep your grocery list in the binder

If you end up going more than once to Disney, you might end up with a Rubbermaid tub of Disney things that you save from trip-to-trip...or at least that is what I have. For each trip I bring it out and look back at past touring plans and notes I have about what worked well and what didn't.

Happy Disney Planning!!

Other Disney Posts:
Disney: Planning
Disney: Dining | Fastpasses | Touring Plans
2015 Disney Vacation Video

Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Disney: Fastpasses | Dining Reservations | Touring Plans

In my last post I talked about the start of our planning process.

In this post I will go more in depth about our Dining Reservations, what we choose for Fastpasses and or touring plans.

Please note: I am not a Disney expert. I just have experience traveling with my own family to Disney and along the way have learned a few things that I am sharing.

Also, I can't stress enough how a little planning from home in advance can really make a difference with your trip when you get there, and remember planning is half the fun!!!

Let's get started...

We traveled to Disney for Spring Break 2015 (April 3-10), and we knew it was going to be busy during that time, but had picked that time versus the summer (which would have been our other option due to my work schedule), because we knew it would be too hot (we had been there before during summer). The crowds can be avoided, the heat really can not.

We were driving down and planned to leave on Thursday, April 2nd between 1:00-2:00pm and planned to drive straight through (with breaks built in for dinner and breakfast and stops for the kids to run around/use the bathroom). Which would have us arriving about that time on Friday, April 3rd. We were staying at the Caribbean Beach Resort for 7 nights.

My Disney Experience

If you are planning a vacation to Disney the first thing you need to do is sign up for a Disney account (if you have been there before you already have one), all the reservations you make for Dining and Fastpasses will be viewable under the My Disney Experience tab. Also if you have a smart phone, iPad or iPod Touch, you should get the My Disney Experience App. All of your Fastpasses and Dining Reservations will be in there, as well as park maps, and wait times for attractions. If you are going as a big group I believe there is a way to link up with your friends and family, but have not used that feature yet, hoping to in 2017 if our entire family can go.

Which days will you do which parks?

Before you can figure out your Touring Plans, Fastpasses or Dining Reservations you have to know which days you are doing which parks.

We opted to do Magic Kingdom as our first full day in the parks and our last full day. I like starting the trip with that park and ending the trip with that park, to me Magic Kingdom most encompasses Disney.

We also knew we wanted a break day somewhere during the week. The way I picked which parks we would do on the other days was by using a Crowd Forecast Calendar for April of 2015 and picking the "forecasted least crowded day" for the other parks. That way we could avoid some of the crowds. Our first day and last day at Magic Kingdom were forecasted to be very busy, but I definitely knew I wanted that to be the first and last park for our trip, so we were just going to have to work around the crowds on those days.

Extra Magic Hours

I should note that each park was offering Extra Magic Hours (EMH) while we were there because it was Spring Break (an extremely busy time). Extra Magic Hours are hours a particular park may open early and and close late (extended times). BUT, EMH are only available to guests that are staying on Disney Property (this is a major perk). So for instance, the park may open for everyone at 9:00am, but it opens at 8:00am for Disney Property guests.

EMH also put those particular parks as the most busy for those days. We normally avoid the parks that are offering EMH because they will be the most busy for the day. However, during the EMH you are usually able to ride things without waits as not everyone has been allowed into the park yet, the drawback is that those parks become extremely busy later in the day.

However, if you choose to use Park Hoppers, EMH can be utilized to take advantage of those extra hours that a park is open in the am and then when it gets busy you can "park hop" to another less busy park and "park hop" back to the park offering EMH for the evening. We don't currently pay extra for the Park Hoppers because of our kids ages, it is just more hassle than it's worth right now. They tire out easily and moving from park to park with a stroller and three kids, logistically isn't saving us any time at their ages.  When they get older and don't tire out as easily, I could see us Park Hopping, a lot.

So our Park Days ended up being this:
Friday, April 3rd - arrive
Saturday, April 4th - Magic Kingdom (forecasted most busy)
Sunday, April 5th (Easter) - Epcot (forecasted least busy for Easter)
Monday, April 6th - Break Day/Pool/Downtown Disney
Tuesday, April 7th - Animal Kingdom (forecasted least busy)
Wednesday, April 8th - Hollywood Studios (forecasted least busy)
Thursday, April 9th - Magic Kingdom (forecasted most busy)
Friday, April 10th - head home

Advanced Dining Reservations (or ADRs)

Please note: You can absolutely go to Disney without purchasing the Dining Plan.

Our first trip after having a child we did that. The Dining plan doesn't necessarily save you any money, but for us it gives us the "all-inclusive" feel, that everything is already paid for and taken care of by the time we are on our trip. During certain times of the year Disney also offers Free Dining plans as a promotion, if you are traveling during dates that it is offered free, it is absolutely worth it.

After we knew which days we were doing which parks, it was time to start thinking about what sit-down meals we were going to need to make reservations for.

We were not particularly excited about the Quick Service Dining plan we had in 2012, so we opted to go with the Disney Dining Plan which offers 1 Quick Service, 1 Table Service and 1 snack/person/day. The Quick Service plan just seemed like we were always eating the same food everywhere (pizzas, chicken tenders, burgers and fries). If you opt for the Quick Service Dining Plan or no Dining Plan at all, you will NOT need to make Advanced Dining Reservations. Reservations are only needed when you dine at a Table Service Restaurant.

We also were looking forward to using our Table Service credits towards Character Meals (you can do that). That way we would have a built in break (in air conditioning) where we could eat and the kids would be entertained by the characters. Also, because we aren't big on standing in lines to meet characters, this would give the kids a chance to meet them without waiting in a line. A win-win. We were also opting towards doing more buffets. Chris (my husband) loves buffets and since the kids are at ages where they are hit or miss with what they want to eat, a buffet would offer lots of options, and Lydia could eat without us paying for her out of pocket (she was too little for the dining plan), but could eat without us ordering for her at the buffets. This worked out very well.

Our travel agent was great about all of our Dining Reservations. She was great to bounce things off of, because I had only ever dined at Quick Service places, Arkeshus and the 50's Prime Time Cafe. She had a lot of information about the different options. She also booked all of our Dining for us as soon at the 180 day window opened up, and got us everything we wanted.

I got a lot of advice about where to dine from my sister, my cousin and friends (lots of friends on Facebook) and our travel agent. Always talk to people who have been to Disney before to get ideas and opinions.

What we Choose for Our Dining Reservations:

Arrival Day | Chef Mickey's: Mickey and Friends, buffet
Day 1: Magic Kingdom | The Crystal Palace: Pooh & Friends, buffet
Day 2: Epcot | Arkeshus: Princesses, order from menu
Day 3: Break Day | T-Rex (Downtown Disney), order from menu
Day 4: Animal Kingdom | Tusker House, Mickey & Friends, buffet
Day 5: Hollywood Studios | Hollywood & Vine, Disney Jr Friends, buffet
Day 6: Magic Kingdom | Be Our Guest: The Beast (dinner only), order from menu


What is a Fastpass: A fastpass will get you on a ride with little to no wait, pretty much walking on the ride and passing everyone in the long line. You get to choose 3 FP/day in advance. After you use your 3 FP you can get more at the kiosks located in the parks.

In my last post I mentioned how I wasn't too excited about the new Fastpass+ system at first.

And here's why: I felt like it took planning your Disney trip to a whole new level. You book your Fastpasses 60 days in advance if you stay on Disney Property (30 days if you stay off-site), to me that seemed ridiculous! Whatever happened to just getting to the park and then deciding what everyone wanted to go on and getting Fastpasses for those rides. What if it was raining and you decided you wanted to do something else? Or if you kid was having a meltdown and didn't want to do something?

But there was nothing I could do about it, so we booked our Fastpasses 60 days in advance,

I talked to our travel agent about what I was thinking of picking for FP and she had suggestions and we came up with a plan on what to try for. She was actually on vacation when our "window" opened up, so with a lot of information from her (on how to do it), I stayed up that night and kept hitting "refresh" until our window opened up at 11:01pm and I was able to get on and get all the Fastpasses we wanted, even the coveted Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Anna & Elsa. It actually was pretty simple and easy.

When you are picking your Fastpasses, DO NOT focus too much on the times, just get what you want and then you can go back in and adjust times.

In fact, our travel agent went back in after I got all our Fastpasses and fixed up our Epcot Day, because of the timing between our lunch and our afternoon Fastpass was going to cut it too close.

The important thing to remember about Fastpasses is that they give you an hour to use it for the attraction.

This is what we choose for Fastpasses, our kids are ages 6, 4 and 1.

  • Day 1: Arrival | Friday
  • Day 2: Magic Kingdom | Saturday
    • 9:45-10:45am Peter Pan's Flight
    • 10:50-11:50am Enchanted Tales with Belle
    • 12:30-1:30pm Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Day 3: Epcot | Easter Sunday
    • 9:30-10:30am The Seas with Nemo
    • 10:50-11:50am Soarin'
    • 1:40-2:40pm Spaceship Earth
  • Day 4: Break Day - Pool - Downtown Disney - Magic Kingdom Fireworks | Monday
    • 7:55-8:55pm Big Thunder Mountain
    • 9:00-10:00am Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
    • 10:00-11:00am Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Day 5: Animal Kingdom | Tuesday
    • 9:25-10:25am Kilamanjaro Safaris
    • 10:30-10:50 Festival of the Lion King
    • 2:30-2:50 Finding Nemo the Musical
  • Day 6: Hollywood Studios | Wednesday
    • 9:40-10:40am Toy Story Midway Mania
    • 12:20-1:20pm Star Tours
    • 2:20-2:35pm Frozen Singalong
  • Day 7: Magic Kingdom | Thursday
    • 9:40-10:40am Jungle Cruise
    • 10:40-11:40 Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
    • 12:10-1:10pm Meet Anna & Elsa
  • Day 8: Departure | Friday

Fastpass Quick Tip: If you look above at Day 2: Magic Kingdom, you will notice that our first Fastpass was at 9:45-10:45am for Peter Pan's Flight...what does that mean? 

You have from 9:45-10:45am to use that Fastpass. 

So, here's a tip: what I did was made sure that our family was in the area of the Fastpass close to the time our window opened, BUT if there were rides in that area that had little to no wait, we rode those first. Make sense? For example: we got to Peter Pan around 9:45am, but It's a Small World directly across from Peter Pan had a 10 min wait, so we rode that first, knowing we would still be done in time to ride Peter Pan's Flight. When we exited It's a Small World the wait was already up to 30 minutes. So, choose some other things near your fastpass attraction that may have little to no wait, to do first.

After I had booked our Fastpasses, I actually started to like the idea that if nothing else happened during our day in the park, I at least knew (and had peace of mind) that we were doing the 3 rides we had Fastpasses for and eating. I was also glad we weren't going to have to run into the park and try to rush somewhere to get a Fastpass (that was how it used to be, people would be running at rope drop - some still are for Anna & Elsa). So, I started to like the idea.

And after going and experiencing it, I am a big fan, it actually made our trip easier I think and less rushed. 

Touring Plans

Once you have your Advanced Dining Reservations and your Fastpasses picked out, you will have a basic plan to work around, but should also try to figure out a touring plan for your day.

When I say "Touring Plan" I don't mean a minute-to-minute schedule of where you are going in the parks, that will kill you and make your Disney trip super stressful...what I mean is a basic idea of what things you want to do with your family and where you will fit those things in with your Fastpasses and Dining Reservations.

In the past I have made my own excel spreadsheets for our basic plans, but after buying the eBook from it came with some spreadsheets (in word) that I just modified a little to work for us. Did I mention I highly recommend her eBook and her website? She is great!

I plugged in my Dining Reservations, our Fastpasses and then just listed other things that we wanted to do in the park.

So, our basic Touring Plan looked like this:

To keep this all straight before your trip, I suggest making a Disney Binder or some sort of organizational system to keep all your paperwork in.

You will see when I do our Daily posts, that we didn't stick to this plan exactly, we did what felt right for us and the kids at the time, which I personally think is the only way to do Disney!

Hope this helps you a little with your Disney Planning!

Other Disney Posts:
Disney: Planning
Disney: Planning Binder
2015 Disney Vacation Video

Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Disney: Planning

So, you all know that we recently got back from another great Disney vacation (well it's been 3 months now, I have 3 kids now and hardly have time to blog). I am going to break the posts up, because there is just too much to cover in one post.

I will start with our planning process....

And when I say "our" I use that term loosely, Chris isn't really into the planning like I am, but of course I need him to bounce things off of and his opinion on things {sometimes}.

Before we get started let me just say this: I love Disney World. I love the magic that happens there, I love watching my kids there and I love how I feel when I am there. So you can all understand why I also love the planning process, for me it is half the fun!

But the main reason I think some planning is sort of important....Disney is not cheap, so if you can spend a little time planning ahead of time, you can really maximize your time and money, as well as avoid crowds and long waits in lines (which also means avoiding wearing out little kids and yourself), with just a little planning in advance.

When should we go?

We were last in Disney in June 2012 (and before that in October 2009), and since then we had talked about going back. We knew for sure once we had another baby and that baby was over a year old, we were definitely going back.

What we weren't sure of was, if we would go during Spring Break or summer again (our last trip we visited during the last week of June 2012).

After we had Lydia in November of 2013, we sort of started to talk about when we would go. We had taken both Lily (at 17 months) and Liam (at 21 months) and thought it was a good age (at that age they can go on a lot, and aren't really whining or complaining about anything and they are still FREE). With that in mind that would put us at a vacation in 2015, we just needed to decide if we wanted to go during spring break or summer (I work in a school, so the dates I can travel are limited).

It came down to one question that I asked Chris:
  • What bothered him more about our last trip, the crowds or the heat?
His answer was the HEAT, the crowds didn't bother him as much. I was glad that was his answer because the heat was almost unbearable for us when we went the last week in June 2012, we were hot and miserable and so were the kids. Also, there are ways to avoid the crowds, unlike the heat. So, spring it was!

How does the new Fastpass+ System work?

Another thing that was different since our last trip in 2012 was the new Fastpass+ system and Magic Bands. The last time we went in 2012 I read pretty much the entire Birnbaum's Official Guide and that's how I figured out which Fastpasses we would get and what rides would be good for the kids. However, the entire Fastpass+ system had changed, so you no longer showed up to the park and picked your Fastpasses once you got there, you had to pick them 60 days in advance. This was confusing to me and I found it to be stressful at first...

Maybe I should back up a you know what a Fastpass (FP) is? It is a pass that will get you on a ride without waiting, or a minimal wait. Fastpasses are your need them to have an excellent trip and you should plan for them well. You can get 3 Fastpasses for one park. Once you use those, you can pick up more at the park at the kiosks. Fastpasses used to be paper and you used to get them once you arrived at the park, now they are loaded on your Magic Band and you just scan it once you get to the ride.

When I started to do some research on the new Fastpass+ system to try and educate myself (because I had no clue how to "work" the new system), I stumbled upon Shannon Albert and her website .....and I was hooked.

If you have not been to her website and you are planning a Disney Trip, I recommend reading her posts and listening to her podcasts. Last summer I started listening to her podcasts and couldn't stop, they were great for me because I could be cooking dinner or on the treadmill and listening to them. They are awesome. Also, I would highly recommend purchasing her eBook, the maps that come with it are worth the $12 alone (she has the parks broken down by which hours you should do which rides, I may have laminated mine), but you also get sample touring plans, a handy dandy excel spreadsheet to fill in (I had made my own for our last trip, so really loved this, I also color coded mine), and you can scan some QR codes in her eBook to get touring plans for each park on your phone, or for me, my iPod. Also, if you have never been to Disney before and the whole process seems totally overwhelming, she breaks the planning process down into 6 steps, you can read about it here or watch a video about it here.

Should we use a travel agent or not?

After reading her site for a while, I felt like I understood the Fastpass+ system better, but was still nervous about reserving my Advanced Dining Reservations and Fastpasses online ahead of time, so I decided to go with a travel agent this time around.

In 2009 and 2012 we had booked everything our self online through Disney's site (which is very easy) and then just had touring plans in mind. I was actually sort of annoyed with the new Fastpass+ system and picking Fastpasses so far in advance (in another post I will get into how I feel about it now after doing it), so I felt like I was going to need help with what to choose. We went with a travel agent that was recommended to us by a friend, Mickie's Glass Slipper Concierge, she can be as involved as you need her to be, she handled all of our reservations, room requests, Advanced Dining Reservations, park tickets, Magic Bands, Fastpasses, Lydia's egg allergy for dining, etc.

In August of last year I got in touch with her and she had me fill out a questionnaire of things I knew we wanted to do.

What I knew we wanted:
  • To travel during Spring Break, April 2-10, 2015
  • We knew we wanted to stay on Disney Property and at Caribbean Beach Resort (we had stayed there in 2009 and 2012 and we like it), there are benefits to staying on Disney property
  • We knew we would be driving down to Florida
  • We wanted to start and end our vacation with Magic Kingdom Days
  • We wanted to visit Magic Kingdom (two days), Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom
  • We knew we wanted a "break day" to hang out at the pool
  • We wanted to check out Downtown Disney (we were only there once in 2009)
  • We knew we wanted to do the Dining Plan that included one sit-down meal per day (in 2009 we didn't do a dining plan and in 2012 we did the Quick Service Dining plan and got really sick of the same food at pretty much every Quick Service place)
  • We knew we wanted to do more Character Dining Experiences
  • I knew we wanted to use the Disney Memory Maker Photo Package (otherwise I am never in any photos)
  • As far as Fastpasses, I pretty much knew which rides/attractions we wanted to get Fastpasses for, but definitely wanted to talk to a Travel Agent about my thoughts (because Chris gave little-to-no feedback).

Touring Plans | Fastpasses | Advanced Dining Reservations

I am not a believer in completely planning out your entire trip. If you do, you will be disappointed and stressed-out your entire trip. But you should have a rough idea about what you are doing. At the very least, if you are getting Fastpasses, you need to know which days you are going to do which parks. I will get more into our touring plans for this trip in another post.

If you are doing any Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs), then you will need to decide on which places you will be eating (should usually be at the same park you are at for the day), and roughly the times you want to eat. Because our kids are little (6, 4 and 1 at the time of our trip), we opted to do our Advanced Dining Reservations for breakfast or lunch, knowing that we would probably leave the park for the day or at least a break around dinner time.

Go to Disney's website and create an account. Under the My Disney Experience you will be able to make your dining reservations and select your Fastpasses once your window opens up. Dining reservations can be made 180 days in advance and Fastpasses can be selected 60 days in advance for guests that are staying on Disney property and 30 days in advance for guests that are staying off-site.

If you have a smart phone (I use my iPod), you should download the My Disney Experience app, all of your Fastpasses and Dining Reservations will be in the app, as well as wait times, parade times and park maps.

Talk to Disney "Experts"

Or what I like to call "Disney Princesses at Heart". I know a lot of these Disney princesses. I have a lot of co-workers that I turned to for advice, as well as my sister (who had last been there in February 2013), and my biggest "expert" is my cousin Val, who lives in Florida and is an annual seasonal pass holder, she has given me advice for every trip I have taken and has helped answer a lot of questions for me. If you decide to go with a travel agent, they can help you with a lot of decisions too, they just might not know you as well as some of your friends do. Almost everyone I know that is a "Disney Princess at Heart" loves to talk about Disney, use them, they love to answer questions.

Planning shouldn't be stressful, it should be fun and add to the excitement of your vacation!!

As part of the planning process, I suggest:
  • The mydisneyexperience app is essential, so make sure you have it on your phone or iPod
  • - tons of info on this website, order her eBook, it's great
  • Watch youtube videos before your vacation to get ideas about rides and to get your kids excited
  • There is tons of information on the Internet, but I still love having Birnbaum's Official Guide  to read and look at
  • Order a free copy of the Disney planning DVD, it shows a lot of the rides and the parks and gives you a great sense of what Disney is all about
  • Make yourself a Disney planning binder, one place where you have all your Disney info
  • Make sure to book your dining reservations and Fastpass+ reservations the minute the system opens, you can always change/modify things later
  • Talk to people and get advice from anyone who has been there before
  • Book online directly through the Disney website or get a travel agent that works directly for Disney, they will be the most knowledgeable about all things Disney

Best Blogger Tips

Friday, June 19, 2015

Update: Lydia's Room

So...I've been kind of absent from the blog....

I know, I know, I never even blogged about Christmas! Lydia's First Birthday really consumed a lot of energy and then it was Thanksgiving (that was canceled and rescheduled due to the stomach flu) and then it was a month of Christmas holidays...and, then well...I got busy planning our Disney trip.

And now I sort of feel like there is too much that I have skipped and part of me feels like I need to get the last months up on the blog and part of me feels like the break has been nice and needed. So, right now, I'm not going backwards...or at least not as far back as Christmas (that was a half a year ago already!?!)

But today, I will start small and finally post Lydia's COMPLETE know, since I just finally finished it before her first birthday (#thirdchildproblems). Oh, and because I should be pricing things for a rummage next weekend and I am avoiding it and doing a blog post instead.

You can check out the before pics in this post.

Here are the afters:

Finally purchased her wall letters

And finished making these Fabric Poms

And got some pictures up, I plan to make this a group of four with some great shots LaDeeDaa got at her first birthday photo shoot (hopefully I will do that before she's 2)

I love how a baby nursery looks at night

So, another room in the house is done :) Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Disney: Our Trip

Here is a video of our trip....I plan to pop back with some more posts about what we did on each day, etc., but for now, here is a video to enjoy.

It was hard to fit 8 days of awesomeness into 30 minutes, but I think I captured the feeling of our trip - amazing!!!

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Disney: The Surprise

I know I have been totally absent from the blog lately....I have several posts I'm "working on", but just haven't been feeling it lately, so I took a break. During my break I found out that there are more people that read this blog than I ever would have imagined....more people than just my mom!

We just got back from a great vacation to Disney World and I am hoping to do a couple posts about the trip. We decided to surprise the kids again this time....mostly because Lily told us that if we ever went again, she wanted it to be a surprise (it was much harder this time around).

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Friday, January 2, 2015

Christmas...All Wrapped Up

Decorating our house for Christmas....they get so excited about opening all the bins and putting everything out.

Their Christmas Trees

Christmas Parade

December 1st...Opening the Advent Calendar and calling the North Pole with the North Pole Communicator

St. Nick's

Breakfast with Santa

They spotted Santa!!!

Lylah and Mackenzie's First Breakfast with Santa


Getting Our Christmas Tree

Every.single.year. I run out of lights - ugh!

Ornament pileup

Christmas Village

I started a small Christmas Village this year. The kids are in love with it (so am I!).

All Decorated for the Holidays!


Christmas goodies for school parties.


Cookie Day!


 Visiting Santa

Christmas Eve!

 Putting out the reindeer food before heading to my sister's.





Christmas Morning

Christmas Day is also Grandpa's Birthday

Our last event of the holiday season is Christmas with Cousins. Me and my cousins all get together with our kids. This year instead of presents for all the kids, the kids exchanged names and bought books for each other.

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