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!

12 Must-Dos at Walt Disney World for Christmas

*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.

It’s November and we can finally start talking about Christmas! I’ve got so many good Christmas things planned for the blog. It’s my favorite time of year, especially in the Disney Parks. Today I wanted to share the must do things when visiting the Disney Parks during the holidays! 

1. Castle Lights Frozen Holiday Wish 

While it’s changed from Cinderella to Elsa the last few years seeing the castle get lit up in all its shimmery glory is probably one of my favorite things of the entire Christmas season at Walt Disney World. 

2. Minnie’s Holiday Dine at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Hollywood and Dine 

I wasn’t sure what to expect when we did this last year. It was a lot of fun to dine with the characters in their festive clothes, while feasting on holiday food. I will say the food wasn’t my favorite but my daughter and husband were fans. I loved all the desserts, I have a major sweet tooth. 

You get your picture with Santa Goofy upon arrival by a photo pass photographer. Then Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Daisy come around to your table just like at other character meals. There is Christmas decor and music playing, and just really gets you in the spirit. You can now experience  this at both lunch and dinner. 

3. Disney’s Grand Floridian Gingerbread House 

This is another one of my favorites, and I even love stopping by the resort and watching the building process. This is a life size gingerbread house, and they actually open a little shop inside where you can purchase different items. They seriously pipe the smell of gingerbread through the resort. 

4. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Disney’s Magic Kingdom

It’s the Spirit of the Season you can feel it in the air. From Snow on Main Street USA, hot cocoa and cookies, special character meet in greets in their holiday best, a night time parade, fireworks and snow on Main street it’s one of my favorite events of the holiday season. 

Last year it got a bit of an upgrade with different types of cookies, and snow cones at different stations instead of just hot cocoa and snickerdoodles like it’s been for years. It was a much appreciated upgrade. I loved the peppermint bark cookie! 

 

5. Meet Santa 

Nothing is more special than meeting Santa at Walt Disney World. One of my favorites was about 5 years ago when he was meeting right in the front middle of the park. We got pictures with Santa at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party with the castle in the background and it’s one of my favorite pictures and memories. He doesn’t do that anymore sadly but you can still meet him at the party, Disney Springs, Hollywood Studios, and with Mrs. Claus in the World Showcase at Epcot. 

6. Christmas through the Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts

All the resorts get decked out for Christmas as well. The Disney’s Boardwalk, Yacht and Beach, Club and Contemporary Resort all have different Gingerbread structures as well. 

 

 

I love the trees at both Disney’s  Wilderness Lodge and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge as well with their huge open lobby’s the trees are just spectacular. Honestly the decor everywhere is just perfect. 

All the Parks have trees, decor, and music of course. With all of them having their own special things for the season!

7. Holidays around the World at Disney’s Epcot 

Last year they added various food booths to Holidays Around World at Epcot which was a fun addition. My favorite of this celebration however is what I like to all Santa’s around the World. While it’s not Santa in every country there are Story Tellers in each country. In France is Pierre Noel they tell the story of Pierre Noel and Christmas in France. I’m Mexico it’s the Three Kings. I love going place to place to learn more about their cultures and Christmas. 

Father Christmas in the United Kingdom
Pierre Noel in France
Pierre Noel
Morocco
Japan

8. Candlelight Processional at Disney’s Epcot 

Celebrate the Reason for the Season. This one is amazing. With a Cast choir and celebrity narrators it’s a do not miss! The story of Christmas is told. I love that the true reason for the season is celebrated. The choir is amazing and there are some great narrators lined up. The seats fill up fast, so get there early. You can actually make dining reservations with seating for Candlelight and that’s a really nice perk to have. 

9. Pick out Special Holiday Merchandise 

Some of the best merchandise Disney comes out with each year is their holiday merchandise. From ornaments, to festive ears and hats, mugs and more. We always love to get an ornament each and every trip for our Disney tree. 

Not going to the parks for Christmas and still want in on some of the fun? Check out some of the items below and you can shop them over at Shop Disney! 

10. Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail and Decor at Disney Springs 

New just last year Disney added a trial of themed trees to see at Disney Springs. Sadly it started the day after we left but I can tell you it’s still a must see. From Minnie, to The Little Mermaid and more new ones coming this season make sure to add this to part of your Disney Christmas Itinerary. 

Snow people at Disney Springs

11. Take a ride on the Jingle Cruise at Disney’s Magic Kingdom 

Starting November 2nd this year Guest can enjoy a Christmas themed ride on the Jungle Cruise which has been transformed to the Jingle Cruise. 

The Jungle Cruise is decked out with Christmas cheer, even the script changes a bit. As always there were Boats and Jokes, and fun to be had by all!

 

12. Eat All the Festive Treats 

Ok but really calories don’t count at Disney right? There are so many fun festive treats through the parks. Cake Pops, Cup Cakes, Rice Krispy Treats, Peppermint Mochas on Main Street, Peppermint bark samples at Ghirardelli. My absolute favorite the Holiday Sandwich at Earl of Sandwich in Disney Springs. ( ya I know it’s now available year around) There is something for everyone and you should enjoy it. 

Holiday Sandwich

 

Special Treats at MVMCP at the Cone Shop

 

Christmas Treats in the Confectionary at Magic Kingdom
Cranberry Mojito Shop Ears here

Disney really makes the Christmas Season extra magical. There is so much to see and do. While I still miss the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights I’m excited to see the new entertainment coming to Hollywood Studios this holiday season. What are your favorite things to do around the Disney Parks and Resorts during the holidays? 

 

Disney’s Toy Story Date Night In

Disney’s Toy Story Date Night In

 

Today starts my Date Night In Series.  Dating your spouse is so important! When you add a child into the mix, the dynamic of things change. Those weekly date nights, time alone with just your spouse become few and far between. By the time bedtime rolls around for the kids you are just plain exhausted. Budgets can be tight not allowing for a date night and a sitter, and even schedules can get crazy. However you can’t let that foundation you set for your marriage fade. That is why date nights even if they are not out of the home are so important.

We are lucky that we have grandparents that watch our daughter about once a month so we can get out. Otherwise we would not have nights out very often at all. Not everyone has that option, and lets be real leaving a young child with a sitter is hard. Because of this and our need to make sure we are creating that time more than once a month we started Date Nights In at our house.

I am not talking always starting up Netflix and getting cozy on the couch more often. I am talking really creating a night where you can talk, dream, and inspire each other and have that one on one time without the distractions. That can even be tough on a real date night out. Find things to do that maybe take you back to things you used to love to do together.

I love to create things with a theme.  These date nights at home give me the ability to do so. When my daughter is old enough to watch and enjoy these things I can see many family themed date nights with movies in our future. I love to plan also, and as a Mom I’ve lost the ability to be creative as often as I would like to be so this gives me the ability to do it a few times a month.

A lot of this all started when I created our 12 Dates of Christmas.Something that has been a tradition of ours for the last 6 years or more. I’ll share more about that when Christmas is closer. I’ve been picking my brain for sometime about the things we loved to do and a lot of our most favorite dates night take us back to Disney Date nights from our time in Florida. The first date night in My Date Night In series, is Toy Story themed.

When we lived in Florida we absolutely loved hitting up the parks for really fun yet simple date nights. One of our favorites was to hit up Hollywood Studios for Pizza Planet and Toy Story Mania. (It was best during the non busy times.) Of course we would hit the other parks too. The goal was to create that at home for us and I did just that!

So the making of this date night was combined of homemade pizza, a Sheriff Woody inspired drink we called ” There’s a Snake in my Boot”, White Chocolate Chex Mix, and the Nintendo Wii Toy Story Midway Mania game. We also decided to pop in Toy Story 3 when we tired out from the game.

The Sheriff Woody inspired drink was actually fairly simple. Add 1.5 oz of Bourbon into a cup, top with  Ale 8 One which is a soda from Kentucky that is kind of a mix of Sprite and Ginger Ale. You can find it here. The glass bottle is better if you just want to drink it but we stock up when we go to Kentucky. These are a tad pricey to order online but you can sometimes find them at a local Kroger or Harris Teeter. Even Cracker Barrel sometimes has them as  they have started to expand outside of Kentucky! Add a few gummy worms and you have a “There’s A Snake In My Boot.” If you don’t have these just use ginger ale.

The recipe for the White Chocolate Chex Mix can be found here. Its super easy and the perfect movie snack!

We had the best time being competitive with each other playing Toy Story Mid Way Mania. Sometimes it is easy to forget how much fun you can have. For the dinner portion we decided it would be a non family dinner  night. We were more than ok and we would have dinner just the 2 of us after our daughter was in bed. It was the perfect time for conversation which does not happen much at dinner anymore. We are both are lucky enough to eat while trying to make sure our daughter is fed, not attempting to find a way out of her high chair, or dumping her plate on the floor.

There are so many ways you can create these great date nights at home. Most of this one with our grocery budget or things we already have in the house so this can definitely be done on a budget. Make sure to stay tuned as more Date Night In’s are coming every Friday in the month of June!

*This post may contain affiliate links. This means if you purchase something through my link I may  get a small commission from it.

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!