05 October 2015

31 Days: Disney's MyMagic+

Hi all! 
So today we'll be discussing MyMagic+ which is your key to everything Disney, more or less!
This is an all-encompassing term. It includes your MagicBands (seen below), your FastPass+ reservations for rides, and your account on the Disney app or website! Let's dive into this...

Disney with Young Kids: MyMagic+ info
(photo from disneyworld.disney.go.com)
If you stay on Disney property, you will receive a MagicBand in the mail before your arrival. This will be the "key" to your room. It will also allow you access onto the rides for which you make a FastPass+ reservation. As long as you have a credit card linked to your room, you can also use it to make purchases throughout Walt Disney World resort! It's your key to the World while at Disney! If you're staying off property, you may purchase a MagicBand to enjoy many of these same features. 

Before your arrival to Disney, you'll be able to make reservations for rides! This allows you to bypass the regular "stand by" lines and send you right to the front of the line! Now in reality you still will have to wait in line, but generally a much shorter one. Not every ride has a FastPass+ available, it tends to be just the larger ones with long lines. Also available for FastPasses includes some shows and character meet & greets!

My Disney Experience
This is the name of the smartphone app that you can download to view all your reservation goodies, wait times, and more! Super useful to have during your vacation and at the parks. Highly recommended! Your MagicBands and FastPass+ reservations will be on there, and you can also access all your information online, under the section also marked "My Disney Experience."

PhotoPass/Memory Maker
At the parks, there are tons of Disney photographers that will take your photo if you ask! These photos will be linked to your account, via your MagicBand or park ticket, and you can later purchase them and/or download them on Memory Maker. You can add fun borders or Disney characters to your photos on Memory Maker too! Some ride photos can even be linked to your PhotoPass account! You can view the photos on My Disney Experience. 

These are the basic areas that cumulatively are referred to as "MyMagic+" Any questions? :)

04 October 2015

31 Days: Deciding Where to Stay at Disney World

Disney World with Young kids: Deciding where to stay

So today's topic is pretty straight forward- do you stay in a Walt Disney World resort hotel (on property) or stay off property? They each have perks and drawbacks. I've had experience in both staying on-property and staying off-property at our family's timeshare. Both have their perks, but I'll admit that I'm a sucker for staying on-property when the budget can afford it!!

Disney World with Young kids: Deciding where to stay
Disney's Port Orleans Riverside
On Property @ a WDW resort hotel
  • All Disney all the time!! Truly a magical experience :) Each resort has unique theming that makes the stay really special!
  • Complementary shuttle from Orlando (MCO) airport
  • Complementary shuttles throughout the parks
  • Complementary parking at the parks (if you prefer to drive yourself)
  • Concierge desk can arrange non-Disney shuttles to other local attractions (Sea World, Universal Studios, etc) which are usually a reasonable fee
  • MagicBand (which will be discussed further later): your room key and you can charge anything in the parks to your room using the MagicBand (except a few free-standing drink/ice cream carts that only accept cash or card)
  • In-park purchases can be sent back to your resort (so no lugging them around the parks!)
  • Extended Theme Park Hours: one park is open late or early each day for On Property guests only
  • Complimentary baggage check & boarding pass printing at your resort for participating airlines
  • Disney Dining Plan: a pre-paid dining plan (your choice of a few different options/levels) that is only available to on-property guests
  • Gift or Flower baskets can be delivered straight to your room. Find out more {here}.
  • Priority tee times for Disney's golf courses
  • WDW TV, with exclusive insider Disney info being shown all day and night
  • Disney has their timeshares (Disney Vacation Club) which allow you to have a kitchen right in your room! Great for keeping costs lower by preparing food in your room.
  • Fees for shuttles to visit any non-Disney attractions (if you didn't rent a vehicle)
  • Using the complementary Disney transportation only, you are at the mercy of their schedule, which doesn't always coincide with your toddler's nap time!
  • Generally higher priced rooms 

Disney World with Young kids: Deciding where to stay
our favorite off property timeshare
Off Property
  • Timeshares (and some hotels) will have full kitchens or kitchenettes to facilitate cooking meals so you don't have to always eat at the parks. 
  • Some hotels may even offer free breakfast 
  • Convenience of having a car allows you the flexibility to leave whenever you need 
  • Check out {AllEars here} before you book- their readers can get special discounts for some hotels and resorts!
  • Cheaper than staying on-property
  • Often times you can get larger accommodations off-property for the same or lower prices.
  • Requires a rental car and parking fees at the parks or a daily shuttle service
  • At peak holiday times, sometimes the Disney parking lots will fill up and close
  • Not as close to all the Disney action
  • No Disney Dining Plan available, so you have to keep tabs on your meal spending
  • No Keys to the World, so you'll have to have credit cards, room keys, cash, etc. all with you at the parks
  • No complementary package delivery. You'll have to carry them throughout the park or remember to pick them up at the front of the park before you leave 
So I hope this has helped you weigh the pros and cons of staying on or off property. If you hope to save money by bringing your snacks to the park. If you're looking for convenience, not having to drive or think about much of anything besides having fun and relaxing, on-property could be the way to go!

NOTE:: I do not receive any compensation for recommending the above links or locations. These opinions are purely my own!!

03 October 2015

31 Days: Disney Planning Timeline

Disney World With Kids: Planning Timeline

Hey all! 
Thanks for joining me here- today will be a short post. It's all about timelines so you don't miss anything important when planning your Disney vacation! So print out a calendar, bust out your planner, and get ready to jot down a few dates here :) 

Book your resort! As soon as you know for sure what dates you'll be traveling, get that resort booked. Some fill up quicker than others, especially if there's any events going on during your trip dates. You can always adjust the days if you find yourself flying out a day sooner or later than originally thought. 

6 Months Out (180-190 Days)
Dining Reservations! Make them. Use them. Some restaurants will literally fill up 180 days out (or sooner!). If you're staying at a Disney resort, you can make your reservations starting 180 days out, plus up to 10 days of your trip. So you can make reservations for actually 190 days out! 

1-2 Months Out
FastPass+ Reservations! Make them. Use them. We'll discuss how later in this series. These are the rides that you really want to get AND you want to skip the long lines. Check out the Disney website to see which rides have FastPass+, it tends to be the big demand rides. If you're staying at a Disney resort, you can make these reservations 2 months out. Everyone else can reserve these 30 days out. 

10 Days Out
Magicbands customization! Make sure it's done by this time, as this is when they'll ship to your house! Don't fret if you miss this deadline- you can customize them up to 6 days prior to your arrival, and you'll just pick them up at the front desk at check in. We'll discuss this more later! 

02 October 2015

31 Days: Walt Disney World Overview

Disney World with Young Kids

Welcome, friends, to the first post of the series! I'll be kicking things off today with a brief overview of each park and area in Disney World. There's SO much to do and see, so be sure to check out the official Walt Disney World site for tons of great info.

Disney World with Young Kids

Magic Kingdom
Quintessential Disney! If you only have one day, this is the park to hit, especially with wee ones! Take a step back in time as you stroll down Main Street USA (the main entrance way), stop by the ice cream parlor, get a hair cut at the Barber Shop (perfect for first hair cuts!!), browse through the shops, and of course stop to get a photo in front of Cinderella's Castle (there's many Disney photographers lining the street to help you out!). A mix of different themed "lands"- Tomorrowland, Adventureland, Frontierland... truly a magical place!

Take a step into the future- EPCOT actually stands for "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow!" As an adult, this is our favorite park. Admittedly, there's not an overwhelming amount for young kids here. Mid-2016, the new Frozen ride will be opening here, which will be a huge draw though. I wouldn't say skip this park altogether, but it could certainly be done in a half day for the kids. If the kids take a nap in the stroller, take a tour around the World Showcase- a recreation of 11 authentic villages from around the world, including Germany, Mexico, Norway, and more!

Hollywood Studios
A throwback to Old Hollywood (and some new Hollywood magic too!) This park is currently undergoing many changes in 2015-2016 (and possibly beyond), as it's being expanded to include a Toy Story world and a Star Wars world! At the moment, again, there's not a ton for young children. I'd even say you could skip it, if you're tight on time. Even for adults, it's a half day park at the moment.

Animal Kingdom
If your wee ones are animal lovers, this is a fantastic park! It's one of my favorites, and has a great mix of kid and adult-friendly rides. There's a few bigger thrill rides geared towards adults. There's a dinosaur-themed "carnival" area with games and rides for little ones. There's a live-show all about birds, a Finding Nemo musical (in an air-conditioned theatre!), and a Lion King mini-broadway style show (also air-conditioned!). And, of course, there's animals everywhere you go! From a safari ride, to long walkways with animal-viewing areas, to a large petting zoo area! The theming at the park is truly lovely.

Disney World with Young Kids
(photos from disneyworld.disney.go.com)

Disney Springs
Formerly known as "Downtown Disney," you'll find the best shopping around here! A store for everything, pretty much. And we can't forget the incredible restaurants here! Some of our favorite places (like Raglan Road!) can be found here. Make a day of it, to be sure. Not as crowded as the parks, so let the kids run around. If they fall asleep in the stroller, take the time to peruse the racks- most, if not all, of the stores are stroller-friendly. Or just take a stroll- Disney Springs is a big place, and some very pretty water views. Relax with a Starbucks or an adult beverage and take in the sights!

Disney's Boardwalk
You'll feel like you're on a real boardwalk by the ocean! Such great theming here, and some great eateries and small shops. Home to two of Disney's hotels and Disney Vacation Club resorts (timeshares), it's a great place to have a "down day" away from the hustle and bustle of the parks. It's nestled in-between Hollywood Studios and Epcot, and we always make time to pop in here! You can take a boat or walk here from either park, too!

Water Parks & Mini Golf
Disney has two water parks- Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. I've been going to Disney since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, and we've only been to the water parks once. They each have a "preschooler" geared area of play slides and activities, but I don't feel like my 3 yro has been quite ready for them yet. If you have a fish in your family though, it could definitely be worth a day!! Honestly, we've found the resort hotels to have great family-friendly pools too.
There are also two miniature golf courses, which could be great fun! I have yet to be to either of them, but largely only because there's SO much to do at Disney that I haven't wanted to sacrifice a day at the parks, hehe. There's Winter Summerland and Fantasia Gardens and Fairways, the latter of which also has a miniature scale 18-hole golf course too!

01 October 2015

31 Days: Walt Disney World with Young Kids

Hey all!
So I'm doing the Write 31 Days challenge again this year! This year, I'll be writing specifically about going to Disney World with young children. Our oldest as been to Disney at 8 months old, 17 months old, 20 months, 2.5 yrs old. I'll be bringing you along on my journey as I plan a trip with both our kiddos- for my youngest's first trip, they'll be 11 months & 3.5 yrs old, and then again shortly thereafter at 13 months & almost 4 yrs old!

Some of these trips have been sans their Daddy, since his Army schedule doesn't always allow it. Those trips I tag along with my parents while they're visiting Disney! So some of my posts will center around flying solo with wee ones- tips that can be useful no matter the location of your final destination! We've also road tripped to Disney, 12 hours one way, when our oldest was 2.5 yrs old- so I'll also have some road trip tips, great for no matter where you're headed!

Some posts will be quick tips, and some posts will delve a bit deeper into topics. Some posts will even be great for going to Disneyland too! Below is an outline of what you can expect to see throughout the month- I hope I'll see you here :)

Walt Disney World Overview
Planning Timeline
Deciding Where to Stay
Dining Reservations
MyMagic+: your ticket to the 'World
FastPass+: go to the front of the ride lines
Family Movie Nights
Disney Crafting
Dollar Spot Your Way to Disney
Disney Countdown

Disneybounding: character-inspired outfits
DIY Disney Wardrobe
Packing Tips: Solo Edition (flying solo with wee ones)
Packing Tips: Family Edition

Flying Solo: Snacks, Toys, and more!
Road Trip! Planning
Road Trip! Packing
Road Trip! Eating
Road Trip! Playing
Road Trip! Sleeping

To Nap or Not to Nap
Get Out & Play (where wee ones can burn off some steam in the parks)
Baby Care Centers
Park-friendly Snacks & Meals
Meeting the Characters
Tinkerbell Gifts
Capture the Memories

12 August 2015

Quick & Healthy Kid-Friendly Snacks

(links found in this article are Affiliate Links, which means a small percentage of your purchase helps support our family!)

Hi lovelies!
I'm stopping in here today to share some of our family's favorite kid-friendly snacks that are QUICK to prepare! With two kids under three, a home-based business, and a husband in the military, I know a few things about being strapped for time! Hehe. Really, any mama out there can relate!

Anyhoo, with time being a factor, I know how easy it is to reach for a bag of chips instead of something more nutritious for the wee ones. We've all been there, to be sure! So here are a few tips, tricks, and ideas that might help you get some extra healthy options on the table for our little ones! When you're done here, take a look over at Nuts.com for a great collection of healthy snacking ideas, and a great place to buy your snacks too!

16 April 2015

GF "Spaghetti" with tomato sauce

Hey all!
So we found a dinner that our whole family, even the toddler, enjoys! So of course I wanted to share. It's also gluten free and fairly low effort, so it's great for a busy night!

2 spaghetti squash
2 large cans crushed tomatoes
1 green pepper
1 large onion
EVOO (or other cooking oil)
Spices to taste (I used sage, garlic powder, cracked black pepper, kosher salt, fresh parsley, fresh basil)

- Slice spaghetti squash in half the long way and scoop out seeds (you can prepare these just like pumpkin seeds!)
- Spread butter liberally along the insides of squash and sprinkle with pepper and salt. 
- Place squash facedown on a large cookie sheet (or any oven-safe dish) and bake for 50 mins at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. You want the inner flesh fork tender so you can easily scrape the spaghetti-like innards easily with a fork. Baking times may vary slightly, so start checking for doneness around 30-40 mins. 
- When done, scrape squash innards out with a fork and place in large serving bowl. Alternately, you can add in innards right into your sauté pan (after you've made the sauce!). 
- In a large sauté pan, sauté diced green peppers and diced onion. Add in spices and tomatoes and simmer for 10 mins. 
- As a side, I popped some Udi's GF bread in the toaster, then buttered and sprinkled with garlic powder for an easy Garlic Bread. 
- Top squash with sauce and enjoy!

19 March 2015

Easter Egg Fillers

Looking for some Easter egg fillers other than the typical candy? With two wee ones, I wanted more than just sweets to fill their eggs. So here's a few ideas to get the ball rolling- especially for your older toddler or preschooler! Check back over the next few days for more Easter ideas for the whole family!

21 February 2015

GF Chocolate Chip Coconut Cookies

Hey all!
So it being a rainy, blah type day here, we figured some homemade cookies were in order! They go great with a cup of tea, curled up under a blanket with a good book :) This recipe is GF as long as you use ingredients that assure no contamination (ie. GF oat flour, etc.), but all ingredients should be naturally gluten free!

1.5 tsp xantham gum
1 cup shredded coconut
10oz butter, room temperature
1.25 cup sucanat (or brown sugar)
1/2 cup sugar
4 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1.75 cup + 2 TB oat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2) Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpats.
3) Mix together sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt. Add in eggs and mix until well blended.
4) Whisk together flour and baking soda in a separate bowl. Add mixture to above wet ingredients and mix until blended.
5) Stir in, by hand, coconut and chocolate chips.
6) Scoop ~2 TB of dough onto cookie sheet, 6 cookies per sheet fit nicely!
7) Bake 18-20 mins.
8) Let cool ~5 mins then transfer to cooling rack.
9) Enjoy!!!

05 February 2015

Valentine's Day Toddler Gift Bag

Hi all!
Today I'm super excited to share with ya'll that I'm being featured over on The Twinery Blog! A sneak peek is shown above :) If you'd like, head on over there to check out the super cute Valentine's Day gift bag that I created for our toddler using The Twinery's fabulous twine! 

While you're there, be sure to check out all of the fabulous other guest bloggers that have been featured there lately with other Valentine's Day inspiration! And definitely head over to The Twinery's Shop to grab some fantastic twine, and made in the USA!!

Need some ideas as to what to gift your little sweetie this Valentine's Day? Here's what I included in my bag for our toddler- a mix of fun Frozen gear and sweet heart items :)
(NOTE: please exercise caution/supervision when giving small children small items) 

playing cards
coloring book
mini tin lunchbox
DIY hairband (instructions below!)
more stickers
"magic" expanding bath foam animal capsules
DIY magic wand 
(instructions how to make the wand over on The Twinery blog above!)

 DIY Hairband 
I made my girlie a quick hairband using items I picked up at Target. The hairband and clips can be found in the, well, hair product section, and I picked up the felt flower from the Dollar Spot you can find in most Targets, usually near the entrance. 

The felt flower had a clothespin attached to the back, so I carefully peeled that off. I whipped out my hot glue gun, chose a clip, and glued the flower to the two tips of the clip. I then clipped it on the hairband. Easy peasy! I love that by using the clip, the hairband decoration is interchangeable :)