Category Archives: Vacation

Part II: Money Magic

Hey, hey.  Hope that you guys have a had a great week.  Aren’t you glad that it’s the weekend?  I am.

It’s time for some more tips and tricks for Walt Disney World.  In this series, we’ve already covered:

Today we are going to be talking about ways to save some money on the “big” expenses while at Disney.  Notice that I said …some money.  Things cost.  Prices were similar to other vacation spots -in my opinion. Inflated, yes, but not shocking.

Hotel

Staying in a Disney Resort would have been wonderful, but for us it was not an option.  Why?  We have too many children. It would have meant purchasing another room.  Major expense.  And simply not an option with our children’s ages -even if we did have the money.

**The current Disney resorts only allow up to five occupants per room.  However, Walt Disney World is putting the finishing touches on a new economy resort featuring Finding Nemo, Little Mermaid and Cars.  These new suites will accommodate up to 6 guests and boasts of fairly good rates.  We looked into these (obviously not for this trip but for the future) and found that our hotel rates saved us nearly $1,000 over this new economy Disney suite.  We had booked our hotel in advance and received some really good rates.  We could have gotten even better rates a few months earlier but we were not ready to purchase them yet.  So weigh your options and then book in advance.

On the flip side, we did stay in a really nice hotel near Downtown Disney that was affiliated with the resort and ran a daily shuttle to the parks.  It was called Hawthorne Suites (Lake Buena Vista).

We did our research and found that it had many, great reviews.

We LOVED it.

  • it was very clean
  • the staff was wonderful
  • the HUGE continental breakfast was delicious.

(Tuesday’s breakfast: country fried ham, mini waffles, eggs, donuts, bagels, fresh fruit, cereal, oatmeal bar and hot/cold beverages)

Our hotel was quite close to the Disney parks, so we opted to drive the short distance to and from the parks everyday.  Traffic was surprisingly never an issue.  This allowed us the freedom to come and go according to the needs of our little ones and not be regimented by the hotel’s shuttle schedule.  If you do not have little ones though, definitely save yourself the daily parking fare.

Parking

  • Go early.  Depending on how quickly you are able to leave your hotel, you may or may not be able to get good parking.  Things start getting really busy shortly after the park opens.
  • Parking attendants are EVERYWHERE to help direct you to closest available parking.  They are great.

(I added the actual row number later as we walked by it {painted on the ground} to the tram.)

  • Always, always take note (literally!) what parking lot you parked in and also what row.  Write it down on the back of your parking ticket and stick it in a safe, dry place on your person or in your bags before going into the park.
  • Hang onto your parking ticket so you can get back into that park throughout the day.  We would leave each park after lunch (with the exception of Animal Kingdom) and head back to the hotel for naptime.  When we would return in the early evening, we would simply hand over our morning parking ticket to enter.  Otherwise we would have had to pay parking twice if we had chosen to leave and had misplaced/lost our ticket.

So word to the wise, check for your parking ticket before you leave the park in the afternoon.

Strollers

If you are like us, strollers were a must.  Bringing our own stroller could have posed an issue with using the hotel shuttle if we had opted for that route.  (We had read online that the hotel shuttle did not allow double strollers- wasn’t sure what that meant for our Sit-n-Stand.)

Renting strollers at the parks is an option for those who don’t want the hassle or those who flew to DW.  Yet there were several cons that I felt outweighed the pros of renting their strollers.

  • The Disney strollers are MAMMOTH in size.  I noticed some people getting frustrated as they tried to navigate their wide load through crowds.  Not easy.
  • They are expensive to rent.
  • They also have zero storage.  No place for drinks or storage underneath the seats.  So if a rented stroller is your only option, make sure that you and those in your family all bring back packs to store food and necessities.  Shoulder bags would be irritating and uncomfortable after awhile.
  • Also when renting, once you’ve returned the stroller, you would then be on your own to get yourself, the babies, older kiddos, back packs, and any purchases corralled and safely out of the park.  (I admit- it would be a bit easier if you were staying in a resort- simply request at the time of purchases to have them sent to your resort for pick-up at your convenience.  You also would have the ease of hopping on a resort bus at the gate and not having to lug kids and loot by hand through the parking lots.  So that would definitely be a perk for residing at the DW resorts.)

All-in-all using our own stroller worked really well for us.  It was way more comfortable for the babies (DW are made of solid plastic for ease of cleaning/sanitizing), smaller to navigate, easier to spot in the “endless sea” of stroller parking (required for specific attractions), made walking to our van a breeze and saved us a boatload of cash.

Food

This can be a huge expense.  Yet it doesn’t have to be.  Disney lifted the ban on bringing in your own food and beverages which allows people to save mega bucks in their budget.

We did not buy 90% of the children’s food or drinks at any of the parks- with the exception of Animal Kingdom.  We bought everyone’s drinks there.

**You are not allowed to bring drinks with straws or caps into the park-for the safety of the animals.  This ruled out pretty much everything but filling your own water bottles.  On the other hand, we read that Florida water doesn’t taste very well, so we opted for spending some money.

Not buying meals for our small kids was an easy decision.  You see, we have found out over the years that our children simply do not do well eating in stimulating, public places.  Eating is the last thing on their mind and we have wasted a LOT of food and money in the past.  Was not gonna happen at Disney.

They can also be picky at times.  What to do?

Well, our kids have a special love for peanut butter sandwiches.  Plain.  So that’s what we did.    We packed lunches every day.  (And no, it wasn’t always PB.)

And snacks.  And drinks.  And we were all happy.

So was our wallet.  =)

Fuzz enjoying her Sprite at AK {comes with a paper straw}

However, we would allow the girls to pick one treat each evening.  They really looked forward to this and would spend the day discussing what they would choose. Too cute

Flame Tree Barbecue {Animal Kingdom}

Hubs and I would split a meal at one of the quick service/fast food counters.  This was another tremendous savings each day.  With all the walking, the stress of keeping track of four little kiddos and the fatigue (oh, the fatigue!), sharing a meal was more than enough.  The portions were certainly big enough to do this.

All the same, if we were still hungry, we’d grab another appetizer, snack or just munch on the kids’ packed treats later on in the day.

Memories vs. Money

We were definitely touring Disney on a Dime, but then again, so were most of the families there.  And you know what, we had a blast in spite of being frugal.  Years down the road, we won’t remember the areas where we had to pinch pennies or that we had to drink bottled water all week instead of soda or lemonade.  We were making memories with our children and that’s what we’ll remember- the smiles, the looks of wonder and the laughter.

And those, to me, are priceless.

I will share some more details about snacks/foods next week as we discuss saving money on “little” things.  So stay tuned.

Happy weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part I:Tick-Tock for Time

I guess one of the most important details for our Disney Trip was planning our time.  There is soooo much to see and do that you are somewhat dazed.  And flying through Disney World at break-neck speed just doesn’t sound right.

Here are a few things that we learned that helped maximize our minutes and allowed it to be a truly wonderful week.

Time of year

You go when you can -obviously (and when you can afford it).  However, if possible, it is best to avoid the heat of summer (ask me how I know-even nearly 25 years later I can still feel the burn).  Remember we are talking about Florida here.

They also recommend not going during spring break.  (uh-oh.  remember rule #1-you go when you can.)  For us, well, spring break was the best time.  Knowing that it would be crowded meant we just had to manage our time even better.

Picking the Right Day

We found a site called TouringPlans.com which was helpful in steering our planning for Disney.  It was not free, but it helped us to know which park was busiest, what attractions were closed, how many minutes wait for rides, etc.

Touring Plans helped us map out a plan for each day.  We chose DW touring plans for parents with small children and then tweaked it specifically for our family.  By the end of the week, we were not sticking to our original plans via our Androids like we thought we would.  The site does not take into consideration the use of rider swaps.

Would we purchase the membership again?  Probably not.  It helped us in our pre-plans, but then most of those plans got screwed with longer waits, rider swaps, etc.  I wouldn’t consider it money wasted, because it gave us a game plan for each day.  It was helpful for newbies like us.  We just wouldn’t need to purchase it again.  Just my two cents.  However it may be just what your family needs, so check it out.

Rider Swap

Speaking of rider swaps earlier, this is an excellent feature.  It allowed Hubs and I to enjoy going on rides with our children.  Due to our wee ones, we were never able to ride attractions as a couple which would have been fun.

Oh, well.  Watching the thrill on our girls’ faces was just as special.

We had to approach the attractions as a family- so the Disney workers could see the other spouse and the “need” {read: many kiddos} for the rider swap.  Then one of us would take Bunny or Fuzz and get in line for the attraction.

The spouse left with the babies and the other big girl would go sit and enjoy the gorgeous Florida weather.  It was a time for snacks, diapers, drinks, etc.  Bird watching quickly became a favorite pass time for Zip and Pop.  Or should I say bird chasing?!

Then when… say, Hubs got back with Bunny (who’d be all smiles), I would go to the fast pass lane with Fuzz (or Bunny would ride again if Fuzz was too short or scared).  The rider swap would be handed over, gaining us immediate access to the front of the line. Rider swaps saved our family from having to wait in the line twice.

**You could even save the rider swap for later that day if you prefer.  Unlike the fast passes, the rider swaps are good for any time on that given day.

Fast Pass

I cannot say how much I loved this feature.  As soon as we arrived at a park, we would try to have in mind which fast pass we wanted to get first.  Then we would come back at our cards’ allotted time and give them to an attendant who would then direct us to a separate line.  It was such a relief to by-pass the multitudes of people waiting for Space Mountain (for 90+ minutes) and be in/out in 10-15 minutes tops.  As soon as we made use of our fast passes, we were eligible to get some more for another {busy} attraction.

Sometimes you may be given “surprise” fast passes at the ticket gate or at the machines (like above).  We actually didn’t use the fast pass for the Carousel of Progress.  It was an older attraction that moves people through fairly quickly. (Btw, it was a really cute ride- times really have changed over the past century.)

We also did not use the above Meet Mickey passes since we had already met him and his friends at Camp Micky-Minnie (in Animal Kingdom).  Not to mention that the Mickey attendant told us that we could not use the passes since we were three hours late.  We had assumed that the Disney princesses AND the Mickey passes were for the same time…10-11pm.  We’d received them at the same time.

However the attendant for the Princesses told us that she would slip us in to see Mickey after we were done with the others- if we wanted.

We went straight to the head of the line to see Cinderella and Co.  The line to see them was HUGE considering the hour (after 11pm).  Once we were done, forget about seeing Mickey again- we got on the ferry to start the trek home from Magic Kingdom.

So, yeah, sometimes you don’t use them, but they certainly do come in handy when the day is hot and the line is long.

(By the way, my girls are like any other little girl.  Mesmerized by princesses.  It was too sweet.  They were just full of questions…are there really princesses out there somewhere? ….where do they live?…are there really princes?…what about their castles?  Of course, it was an excellent opportunity to remind them that through their faith in God, they, too, are little princesses.)

Make Your Minutes Count

If you are waiting in line for an attraction, then your spouse or someone else can run and grab a fast pass at the same time. Or take the kids to the bathroom.  Or change a dirty diaper.  Or buy a funnel cake for their sweetie.  Ahem.  Whoever that might be.

Every Wink is Important

To maximize our sleep at night, we would bath the kids the night before.  Four very sweaty, dirty, sticky-with-sunscreen kiddos would go flying through the tub every evening from anywhere between 10pm-12am.  (Thankfully we only had one late nighter at MK due to the fireworks, princess meetings, and the necessary ferry/tram ride just to get to our van.)

I would do this to Bunny with her damp hair at night.  This made hair styling a breeze  and helped avoid some serious bed-hair in the morning:

**Hats can also hide messy hair and protect from the sun.  A win-win.  =)

I also had packed the kids outfits in labeled ziploc baggies with socks, undies- everything needed.  This was a tremendous help.  Let me say that again.  This was a tre-men-dous help.  It made the mornings so much smoother.

I also took my showers the night before.  I tried out Laine’s No Heat Headband Curls.  Loved it.  I felt so fancy and put together in spite of the late nights and early mornings.

I laid out our clothing the night before too.  (and no, there were no ziploc bags for us.  Not a bad idea though- I just didn’t have any big enough to not wrinkle our clothes.)

Pack the diaper bag.  Charge your phones, cameras and computers.  Pack the snack bags- as much as possible.

Seriously.  Do these things.  You will thank yourself in the morning.  And your Hubs will thank you for it.  And your kids will thank you- for us, it meant getting to the park on time.

Save Your Legs and Arms

Ride the tram.  As much as of hassle that they were, the trams made toting four weary children and food/diaper bags much easier. 

Strollers have to be collapsed to ride the trams- which was/is a royal pain.  We quickly learned that carrying the babies and having the big kids help with all the bags the short distance to the tram pick-up was way, way easier than loading and reloading everything in the stroller.

Another tip would be specifically for entering the Magic Kingdom.  Drive to Epcot and park.  It will not be crowded due to opening an hour later than MK.  Then simply load the stroller down with babies and bags, grab the hands of older kiddos and walk to the monorail station (remember you arrived early and found good parking).  Roll the stroller and kids right on and ride to MK.  Then tranfer to the MK monorail and sail smoothly into the MK gate entrance- with NO juggling of children or loot. 

Or if you’d prefer, you could roll right onto the ferry for a boat ride instead of the second monorail to the MK entrance.Little things like this {that are hassle free} make a HUGE difference when daddy and mommy are tired. =)

Make every minute count.  Children grow up way too fast.

Also in this Disney on a Dime series:

We’re All Ears (Intro)

A Mouse Celebration (Telling the Kids)

Happy planning.

Disney on a Dime: A Mouse Celebration

Hello, hello.  Whew!  What a week.  We had a great, no, a terrific time at Walt Disney World.  It was a gorgeous week.  It was in the low 80s every. single. day.  Not a cloud in the sky.  *sigh*  It was kinda sad to leave, but we were ready to come home. (we were exhausted)  Lots of sweet memories with our children and TONS of pictures.

Now…for you guys, Disney on a Dime.  It’s time to share all of the details and tips that we learned along the way.  Let’s start at the very beginning…..

As the week of our vacation was nearing, we wanted a memorable way to tell the girls about our trip.  And it had to be frugal and fun.  It would be a celebration.

It all began with a little Mouse {all-day} party.  Hubs and I had told our children that we would be a having a surprise day (one week before we left).  We stayed up late decorating our eat-in kitchen and living room and making treats after we had tucked the kiddos in bed.  It was a blast.

A few days before the party, I began crafting a few things.  I made a super-duper easy banner using poster board, ribbon and hot glue.  One mouse ear for each  member of the family.  (i used an assortment of plates, bowls, glasses, etc. to make the mice- two big ones and four little ones)  Hung it up with a bit of tape and balloons….so cute.

We hung different colored streamers, balloons and mouse ears from the ceiling.  It made the room look quite cheery and festive.  The mouse ears are simply the free paint chips from Home Depot.  I used some curling ribbon from my gift stash and some double sided tape from Target and slapped those babies together.

At first I only used one mouse paint card but as it hung suspended in the air, it would twirl and show the back info side.  Thus the reason for the double sided tape- I placed two together.  Ahh…much better.

For the table, I grabbed a cheap plastic table cloth (Walmart: $1.97) and fully intended on wiping it down and saving it for a rainbow party for one of the birthday girls later this summer.  (just like I”m doing with these party hatsDream on, Heather.  We are talking about life with four kids.  It was in sad shape after using it for the party and the rest of the week as we prepared to go (we hated to take it off).  Oh, well.  It was a good plan.

The red polka dot napkins were $1.97 at Walmart.  We’re still using them- they were a big pack.

I also grabbed a bag of straws from the Dollar Tree.  I then clipped out some black mouse ears (paint card) and snipped two horizontal cuts in the middle to create a “holder” for my straw.  It was moment of midnight inspiration that turned out adorable.  (not always the case!)

At Party City, I picked up a pack of 12 multi-colored party hats.  I recycled some plastic bags to make pom-poms for the “boys” and I used polka dot ribbon to make bows for the “girls.”  For the ears, I used some leftover poster board from the “Cheers for Ears” banner.  I grabbed a glass, traced two circles, bent a little bit of one edge back and hot glued them on along with the bows and pom-poms.

The inspiration for this craft was from Pinterest. Yes, the inspiration for this hat was selling for $21 on etsy.  each. Whoa!  I think mine came in at $0.55 (boys) and $0.60 (girls) a piece.  A much more affordable price.

(Here are the inspiration links: pom-poms, and mouse hats)

Hubs made some “Mickey and Friends” chocolates.  (isn’t he the best?  making sweets for his kiddos at midnight…is just, well, sweet.) Thanks to one of my readers, the mickey candy mold was perfect for the party.

The stand was just a foam square from Dollar Tree (pack of three) wrapped in one of the polka dot napkins and stuck in a ramekin (I got this from Target a while back).

Total rabbit trail: anyone else bake with ramekins?

At each place setting, we had “mouse souvenirs” for the family.  A “mouse shirt” and a dvd.  The shirts I had been gathering for the past year or so- Target-$2.40, Gapkids- $0, Walmart- $2.00.  Yeah, way cheaper than Disney World’s prices.  We then selected some classic dvds from Walmart and Ebay:  Davy Crockett, Winnie the Pooh, Bambi, Swiss Family Robinson, etc.  I tied them up with assorted mickey ribbons which I later made into bows for the girls to wear at Disney.  (sensing a theme here?  everything serves double duty to really get the bang out of our bucks.)

The kids loved it.  They promptly sat down at their seats.

And they were super quick to don their mouse ears. ;)

Here’s the cutie patootie mouse baby:

(he was only given the apple slice for the pictures to keep him busy and his hands off of his hat.  didn’t really work!)

We feasted on Mickey chocolate chip pancakes (some with faces and some without), Mickey’s clubhouse yogurt ($0.50 for the 6 pack at HT triples), apple slices and Clarabelle’s Moo juice {aka: milk}.

After we tidied the kitchen together, the girls were allowed to select one chocolate character treat to munch on while snuggling in the living room with Daddy watching Disney’s Pixar Animation Up.  Really cute movie and quite touching in the beginning.  Made me think about how blessed I am.

(yes, I’m a mean mommy-making my daughter pause for a photo shoot in the midst of chocolate.  how cruel.)

We spent the rest of the day faring on mouse food.  The girls (bunny and fuzz) really looked forward to reading the labels at each meal.  Cracked me up.

Lunch- Mickey’s CLUBhouse subs, Clarabelle’s Cheese Puffs and Goofy’s Golden drink {aka: AJ}

Dinner- Pluto’s Pizza, Hot Diggity Dogs {aka: pretzel dogs with mustard}, Donald’s Dunkers {aka: buffalo chicken strips with ranch}, Daisy’s Lays and Clubhouse Cola.

HT did me a great favor by offering ALL of the things that I had wanted for dinner in their weekly “meal deal”- talk about working out the details!

For dessert, we devoured “Pluto’s Dog treats” {aka: homemade chocolate chip cookie sandwiches}.

I simply turned on the oven (yeah, no microwaving here -but you could if you wanted), allowed the marshmallows time to puff and melt a bit and then topped them with another homemade cookie.  Mmmmm….nice n’ gooey.  I soo need to make these again.

We ended the evening muching on these while watching Swiss Family Robinson together.  And snuggling in front of the fireplace.

My mouse banner was another pinterest find.  (and yup, mouse paint cards.  sorry-could not find someone to credit for this idea)  I simply hot glued the cards to some thin white ribbon….and called it done with curling ribbon and balloons.

Free paint cards, balloons, streamers and scoring on some great deals on food and souvenirs helped make this little mouse bash a success.

Fun, frugal and reusable (I saved everything that I could -maybe a Mickey bday party for Pop later on down the road).

Love that. ;)

Stay tuned for another post on the Disney on a Dime series next week.

Happy weekend.