10 Tips for Planning a Stress Free Walt Disney World Vacation

We love going to Walt Disney World, and for me planning it all is part of the fun. However I know for some people it can feel like so much work for just planning their vacation. 

Some people like to plan every second of their trip, however for me I just want to plan the basics. Dining, FastPass+ , any extra things that may require a reservation like Bippity Boppity Boutique and then make a list of things we want to do in each park, or resort we want to visit so we at least have a plan and know what is of higher importance on our list than other things. 

My Top 10 Tips for planning a Stress Free Disney Vacation

1. Know the Dates you can Book the Extras 

The best way to do this is to make sure to have the dates written down. You can get my free printable here that will help you in planning. 

You can book your Dining Reservations 180 days out plus 10 days. Whether you are staying on or off property you can book dining 180 days out. The perk to being on property is that you can book at 180 for years entire stay up to 10 days so you get to do this all at one time. If your off property you have to go day by day. 

FastPass+ can be booked 60 Days out for On Property Stays and 30 days for off property.( which again have to be done day by day) Again just another perk to staying on property. 

 

2. Download the My Disney Experience App 

This is must in your planning and for your trip! It had everything you need from booking FastPass+, to dining reservations and stores all that information for you to see daily in the parks. This is available in the app store for both Apple and Android. 

3. Make it fun! 

This playlist is perfect to listen to while booking dining, FastPass+, packing. Gets you in that Disney Spirit. 

Countdowns also make the process more fun. You can do a board where you change the countdown daily, or a chain. This gets the entire family engaged and in on the fun! Here are 50 great ideas from Sarah Lemp over at All Things with Purpose for your countdowns.

4. Don’t over plan 

Don’t plan every second of every day. FastPass+ and Dining Reservations of course. Ideas of what you want to do and knowing Parade and Fireworks Times most definitely. But don’t plan the time you will be at each ride, character meet and greet etc… I love to plan our trip but I like to be flexible when we are in the park, have an idea but yet go with the flow. 

5. FastPass+ Scheduling 

With FastPass+ one of my favorite things is to book them all back to back. So just as an example I will book 10-11, 11-12 and 12-1.  We will take advantage of shorter lines at opening until about 10:45 and then go to our first attraction, then right to our 2nd FastPass+ and then wait in line for another attraction. Around 12 we will venture to our last FastPass+ and once we scan our bands at the entrance we look to book an additional FastPass+. 

We may not get that FastPass+ until later in the afternoon depending on what’s available but it gives us that option to book a 4th and possibly even a fifth FastPass+ sometimes.  

We are a family that tends to take a mid day break and park hop so this really works well for us and for days at Magic Kingdom. I’ve also found when we don’t book them that way we spend a lot of time figuring out what to do while waiting until our next Fastpass which could be several hours later. 

6. Getting that Hard to find Dining Reservations 

When you get to book dining 180 days out you sometimes get a great selection of choices, however sometimes many families may book less than 6 months out. We often take last minute trips and have found very popular restaurants with a little extra work. Even when I book 180 days out I am really good at changing things when it gets closer. 

In the My Disney Experience app and on the website you can check dining reservations many times a day, and when I want something specific I do that a lot. I also find that upon arrival when we check for reservations they start to pop up in that 24-36hr before hand window. One trip I got a Cinderella’s Royal Table Reservation 3 Days before we were set to arrive. 

Don’t spend so much time obsessing over finding that one reservation (I actually just enjoy looking) that you drive yourself crazy. There are some sites that you can sign up for email alerts when reservations become available. 

7. Use a Disney Travel Agent 

If it’s your first time, or even your 10th time booking and going on a Disney Vacation I totally recommend booking with a travel agent. They will do all the work for you! You can give them free reign to book what they think you will enjoy or you can tell them specifics. They will do your FastPass+, Dining reservations and anything else you need. 

If you need some help I totally recommend Jones Family Travels for all your needs! 

8. Save Money on Your Trip Cost or for Spending Money

Did you know there are various ways to save a little money on your Disney Vacation even when Disney doesn’t have many discounts? 

One way is through saving up all your loose change in jar. This can all add up very quickly and you can cash it in before your trip for extra spending money

Purchase Disney Gifts Cards from Target (with the Red Card), BJ’s  or Sams Club and save 5%. I like to grab one on occasional Target trips and save them up. I will also save Target gift cards from their in store earning offers and use those to purchase Disney gift cards. 

Use cash back apps like Ebates and Ibotta and use those earnings for your Disney fund. I go more into depth about these apps in this post here

9. Shop for fun Disney Outfits and Other Goodies Ahead of Time 

One of my favorite things about planning a trip is planning fun outfits! From planning for myself and my daughter, and yes sometimes even my husband. Of course you can grab shirts and things upon arrival but there are so many great ones you can get from Small Shops and other places. Some of my favorite places to grab shirts for my trips are Target, Happily Ever Tees,  Oh Yeah Apparel, All Things Cute Designs, and Pretty Little Monograms are some of my favorites. There are other shops out there I love that I have yet to order from but definitely plan to do so. Once Upon Apparel, The Lost Bros, and Magical Monograms are on my list for a few future trips. You can find all these shops over on Instagram and I definitely recommend doing so!

Another item I love to add to my Disney wear is ears. To me they are great for any age and I love them both from the parks and small shops! Here are some of my favorite small shops for ears you can find on instagram, Ears Full of Sugar, Bippity Boppity Brooke, Pixie Made Ears,  and Aloha Ears. I also make bow and floral wire ears over in my shop which you can shop up in the shop tab.

 

From shirts to ears, to bags, pins, buttons, shoes there is so much cute and fun Disney things out there these days from Small Shops and other retailers it’s hard to make decisions on what to purchase!

 

10. Purchase Maker

I honestly can’t recommend this enough. It’s so great to get family pictures while on our trips that are high quality, not to mention not having to ask random strangers to take pictures. Just stop at the photopass photographers and get your pictures. I also love getting to enjoy the moments at character meet and greets while the photopass photographer snaps away. I don’t have to worry about getting pictures of my own most places and it is the best. We have it included with our  annual pass and it’s perfect, but I would totally pay for it if wasn’t part of our pass!

You can read about the perks of an Annual Pass and if it’s right for your family here!

For many Walt Disney World can be a Once in a Lifetime Vacation. For others it becomes a Home Away from Home. Take the time and truly enjoy the process of planning, and planning with your family. When the trip comes don’t sweat it if things don’t all happen the way you plan. Go with the flow, enjoy the family time, the magic and what I feel Disney does best bringing families together on a Magical Vacation. Happy Planning!

5 Ways to Earn Cash Back and Save Money this Holiday Season

*This post may contain affiliate links. That means I may receive a small commision if you purchase something off my link at no extra charge to you.

There are several ways to earn extra money, gift cards or save money just by doing very little this holiday season. If you’re shopping online, buying groceries, things for a holiday party or Christmas gifts why not use some of these things to save or get money back. 

Ebates

If you do online shopping and you aren’t using Ebates you should be! This is a great way to earn money back on online purchases from 1000’s of merchants, even small businesses on Etsy. Cash back could be anywhere from 1% and I’ve seen it up to 15%. During the holidays they are great at offering bigger cashback promos, and  even have merchant discounts listed on their site. You receive a check or can get a direct pay pal deposit quarterly so it’s nice to get that extra cash back after the holidays.  If you don’t have an account sign up here and receive a $10 Credit on your first qualifying purchase. Ebates now has an app if you tend to find yourself shopping on your phone often like I do. Why not earn a little cash back while doing your online shopping this season.

Ibotta

I’m hit or miss with Ibotta. Sometimes I can do really well and they have tons of things I purchase and other times I forget to look all together. When I’m consistent I do really well earning $20-$25 a month back. They also now have online shopping for cash back on their mobile app so it’s not all scanning your groceries. Join here and when you sign up you get a $10 signup bonus, plus you will be on my team which is also important for bonuses! 

Drop 

 I discovered Drop not long ago. This is basically an app where you link one of your cards and pick 5 merchants you shop from. They know when you purchase and you start to earn points from those merchants. I use Amazon, Starbucks, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Target. I’ve never earned from Target because I have a Target Red Debit Card and I didn’t think of that when I signed up but I have already cashed in for my first $10 Amazon gift card (there are many others to choose from), and I’m halfway to another. They often send me bonus offers for the merchants I chose and other random merchants on occasion. They use a completely safe server. Join here and get 1000 drop points to start, and download the app! 

Swagbucks 

I’ve done really well with Swagbucks and I’ve had months I kinda forget it exists. I’m a busy Mom so this one takes a little more work. Swagbucks has surveys, videos you can watch, offers you can do, and also cash back options. If you like to try different subscription services its great to get cash back. I tried an Honest Beauty Box, got it when it was 50% off so $25 , and earned 2500 Swagbucks which is $25. If you really want to learn the ins and outs of Swagbucks their are Facebook groups and lots of articles online. I typically cash out for Target gifts cards and I find myself using Swagbucks a little more when we are saving extra for our Disney Trips. Signup here and get a sign on bonus. 

Target Red Card and Cartwheel

While this isn’t a cashback deal it is a great way to save a little extra money. We have a Target debit card and it’s the best thing we ever did. Who doesn’t love 5% off every single purchase as well Free Shipping on all online orders. Plus if you are ordering online you can also use Ebates for cashback.  When the holiday rush of shoppers sets in this is really great to have. Target also runs some amazing sales in November and December, on toys, and various other items so I always make sure to check the weekly ad, and cartwheel. When you combine the two things you really can get some great savings.

The Holiday season can get expensive and stressful, so why not earn some cash back or money you were already spending. What are some ways you love to save during the holiday season?

6 Reasons a Walt Disney World Annual Pass may be right for your Family

6 Reasons a Walt Disney World Annual Pass may be right for your Family

My family and I love to go Disney! There are a lot of reasons but here is a few. It is our second home, I was a cast member there for 4 years, we got engaged there, and it is just the perfect place for a fun family vacation. Being a previous cast member I know a lot of the ins and outs, tips and tricks of  Walt Disney World even though it has been 4 years since I worked there. We visit frequently, I read Disney Blogs on the regular and much more to constantly stay up to date. This past year in November we decided it was time to get a Walt Disney World Annual Pass. We have been blessed with many trips to Disney for cheap thanks to Disney friends but with a child we needed to be able to have more flexibility and plan on our own.

 

So is a Walt Disney Word Annual Pass right for our Family? Here are 5 reasons why it might be.

 

  1. You have a child under the age of 3 (Disney with young children – Another post for another day)

 

Our daughter is only 1.5. She has been to Disney 3 times already. We are taking extra advantage of it since we don’t have to pay for her right now, as our ability to go more often may change once she turns 3. (We hope not though.) At Disney 2 and under are FREE. No ticket required, no dining plan or meals have to be purchased, we can even still get a King size room. She can get her own plate at character meals at no charge, and eat off ours at others. However, she is an eater so we do buy her meals sometimes. This just makes things that much easier. I know it seems so young for a child to go to Disney but its free and they may not remember but you will!

 

  1. If you plan to go for more than 10 days in a calendar year it may pay for itself

 

When we got our pass in November we actually got an extra month free which gave us 13 months to use our pass. We have already been for around 14 days and the pass has easily paid for itself and then some. Price compare the options, especially if you like to park hop like we do. Also annual pass holders get room, food and merchandise discounts so that adds more savings.

 

  1. Memory Maker

 

This can be confusing to some as its listed as Photo pass under the pass holder perks, but it’s the exact same thing as the memory maker. It is one of my favorite perks of the pass. If you’re a Florida resident not every pass comes with this, but it is worth it for one person in your party to have the one with photo pass for the perk alone. Memory Maker cost $169 a trip, $149 if booked in advance. Over 2 trips that’s $300 or more you would pay for it close to half the cost of a pass. I wouldn’t do a trip without it, it is worth every bit!

 

 

  1. Free Parking

 

If you ever decide to go and stay off property, your parking with an Annual Pass is FREE! Parking is crazy expensive at $20 a day. Our most recent trip we stayed off property ( not my favorite thing, but we had a good deal!) and the pass saved us $140 in parking fees we would have paid.

 

  1. Discounts & Perks

 

Pass holders save on rooms, dining and merchandise. Room discounts can be up to about 30% off depending on the type of the resort. You receive 20% off merchandise and 10-20% off at certain food and beverage locations. We have yet to use the room discount but have easily saved upwards of $100-$150 from dining and merchandise discounts. You can even use your pass holder discount on the shop Disney parks app. Also just this year they have added special pass holder entrances. It was so great to skip the line at the turnstiles on the early mornings.  Who doesn’t love a discount, and good perks!

       6. Special Events and Merchandise

There are so many great special events throughout the year at Disney. From Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival, Food and Wine Festival, Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party, Mickeys Very Merry Christmas Party, Holidays around the World , to the New Festival of the Arts Disney always has something fun and new to offer! The Fall and Christmas are one of our favorite times to visit, and no it never gets old! With an annual pass you can experience it all, and there is always special merchandise just for annual pass holders.

 

As I mentioned we have already been 14 days since our first day of use in November. The park days alone have already paid for themselves and then  some based on what we have paid for 2 different trips worth of 7 day park hopper tickets. Because we got 13 months at time of purchase we plan to get one more week trip, and hopefully a long weekend or 2.

Do the math and the research and see what works best for your family. You could take one trip with your pass in 2017 and one in 2018 before its expiration saving you on trip for the following year. I think so many people don’t realize this is even an option.

Annual passes may not be the best option for every family depending on how often your family likes to make the trip. Sometimes we like to be spontaneous and plan a last minute little get away. That’s not easy for everyone to do, but if you can sometimes it is fun to fly by the seat of your pants. Happy Disney planning!

Tips for Saving at Target

Tips for Saving at Target

 

 

 

 

Who loves a good deal? I mean we all love Target right? Seriously we spend so much money at Target each month between diapers, the special non dairy milk my daughter drinks, household items and well all the other random things you find at Target that you may or may not need. I also grocery shop there on occasion since we have Super Target near by.

Finding more ways to save and get FREE things makes Target that much better.   The first way to save at Target is with the Red Card. Now I am not saying go get a credit card, ( you can if you want too) what I love about Target is they offer the debit card option too! You save 5% every single time you use your red card in store or online. You also receive an extended return time frame, and free shipping on online orders. Every so often they also send some good coupons just for red card users. The debit card connects right to your personal bank account so if you don’t want to go open a credit card and are a frequent Target shopper this is the way to go. We finally got the debit card and when we started saving money each trip we wondered why the heck it took us so dang long! When you are saving a couple extra bucks a trip it really adds up over a year. Combine other coupons you may have, in store specials, and cartwheel and your savings really add up. For example a few weeks ago Honest Company diapers were buy one get one 50% off which made 2 packs around $38, then cartwheel had 10% off Honest Company products. Then you add another 5% with the Red Card and that made them about $33. One box is $25.99 regular price so this was a fantastic way to stack savings together! We typically use Babyganics or Honest Company so I watch for these type of sales on these diapers often, stacked with other deals.

So I mentioned Cartwheel. I’ve had Cartwheel for sometime but have really learned to utilize it so much better in the last year. If you are not familiar with Cartwheel it is an app specific for Target. The app offers certain percentages off of certain items. I see the percentage range anywhere from 5-50% off an item. New things can be added daily and when you add things you can see when that offer expires. You only get so many slots to add offers on cartwheel and the more you use the app with the offers you earn more spots to add additional offers. When I first really started using it I would have to delete offers sometimes for something that had better savings and sometimes because I wasn’t going to use it that trip.  I typically will skim through the app before I go. Its divided in categories so if you know what your going for that helps. I love now that I can scan items from my phone while in store to see if there is an offer for that item available. Often Target has signs posted of more popular Cartwheel deals. During the holidays they ran some really great offers that sometimes only ran for 24 hours. I love saving extra money, and saving an extra $10  or more sometimes on a trip makes me feel much better.

In combination with Cartwheel is a newer service called Red Perks. This used to be a separate app but is now combined into the Cartwheel app. Not all Target areas have this perk just yet, but I have to say it is one of my favorites. I love that the 2 are combined now also so the cashier just has to scan one bar code at check out. So what is Red Perks you ask? With Red Perks you earn 10 points per dollar spent in store. Once you hit 5000 points you get to choose a perk. Used to it was a 5% off shopping day so it didn’t appeal to me all that much but I still used it. Now they have a list of FREE items you can choose to use your perk on. I have gotten FREE toys, a skillet, a SIP water bottle ( these retail for $25), jeans, and even pajamas. I always try to use my perk on something worth my wild. For example I have seen a bag of chocolates on there. I would rather spend the $3 on the bag of chocolates if I want them and get something that is a little more costly instead. If you are not using Red Perks you should check to see if its available in your area.

Another great perk is when Target has gift card offers when you make certain purchase amounts. For example recently there was a coupon out that you got a FREE $10 gift card for spending $50 on groceries. I ended up using this deal twice in the time it was available. These are the kind of deals that make me do my weekly grocery shopping at Target. I mean that was a FREE $20 to spend at Target that I was going to spend anyways on groceries! To top it off of course I had Cartwheel Deals and also got my extra 5% from my red card. The way to really save is to scan this coupon prior to cartwheel in case you don’t spend the $50 dollars after cartwheel discounts. This wasn’t really an issue for me because who gets out of Target without spending $50+ anyways!

So this is just a few ways I save at Target. Do you have other ways you save at Target? Tell me about them! Make sure to follow me on my Facebook and Instagram pages as I will help keep you up to date as Target deals come along each week. Happy Shopping!

 

 

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