Saturday, May 19, 2012

Disnelyand - Lessons Learned

We had a fantastic time at Disneyland. I'm so glad we took our kids when they were this age. I think they got a lot out of the magic. Some things I learned from this trip:

  • Go in the off-season, crowds are manageable.
  • If you can, go for four days. Take your time and see the charachters, we skipped a lot of charachters because we felt like we would spend too much time waiting.
  • Take a break in the middle of the day, it will help everyone recoop for the remainder of the day.
  • Bring hats and sunglasses!
  • Be prepared to replace hats and sunglasses.
  • Visit Walmart just down the road for lanyards, shirts, sunglasses, sunscreen, hats, etc.
  • Having a spare camera battery was so wonderful, saved me more than once!
  • Split dinners with your spouse.
  • See the parades, they are wonderful!
  • If you can put your entire group in obnoxiously brightly-colored t-shirts. We did that the first day and it made it so easy to spot anyone we were missing.
My kids are still talking about Disneyland daily. They loved it. It was worth every penny to me because of the happy memories they have.

If you want to read more about our Disney adventure check out these other posts:

Organizing Disneyland - Part 1
Organizing Disneyland Part 2
The Extras

During / After
Saving money and still having fun
Our Hotel - Review
Ridemax - Review
The Flight

Disneyland - Saving $ and still having fun

So being on a budget my husband and I decided that we wanted to come home with some cash in our pockets.

Some of things that we did that helped us save money on this trip were:
 - I went to the grocery store and purchased lunch and snack items. We took some time each morning and made sandwiches. I bought chips, fruit and drinks. This really helped hold off the munchies and the constant whining for snacks. Plus I knew my kids would eat it and I didn't feel like I wasted money on items they wouldn't eat.

Eating lunch, waiting for the show to start
-Set a spending limit for the kids. I gave both of my two older children $75 to spend and then I made them wait a day before they started spending on souvenirs. I think they both made pretty good choices.

-I brought cash for food. This helped so much. Every day I separated out the cash I needed for the days food purchases (dinner and snacks) and I left the rest in the safe at the hotel. This allowed me to be careful with what I spent. I find that when I swipe my Visa I don't watch what I spend as much.

-The hubs and I would split a dinner plate.

-For other activities, I picked ones that were inexpensive and involved the whole family. Like renting bikes. We rented bikes in Hermosa and biked along the Strand. Inexpensive and fun. Or go to the beach and play. Except for parking, FREE!

-I shopped around for prices for a car rental. I found that had the best price.

-I held back on my spending. I've learned that I would rather bring home lots of photo memories than "junk" that would need to find a place to gather dust.

All in all we did pretty well, we came home with some money in our pockets and wonderful memories to last a lifetime!

Disneyland - Our Hotel

We were on a budget on this trip, nothing fancy, really we just needed a clean place to sleep and we really wanted a place that offered breakfast.

I used the ever faithful Facebook to ask friends about a hotel reccomendation. A friend suggested the Days Inn on Harbor Blvd.  She thought it was clean, comfortable and had friendly staff. I would say that I agree. The rooms were not fancy or large. We didn't spend a lot of time in our hotel room but it was more than adequate for our needs.

We got a room with two queen beds which worked for the 5 of us. My one year old slept in our bed, but they did have a playpen available which was nice.

The hotel offered a free breakfast daily which I would rate as so-so. Their continental breakfast included orange or apple juice, coffee, milk and hot chocolate for beverages. Food included banana and orange slices, bagels and cream cheese, glazed, chocolate or powdered dougnuts, toast and cereal. It wasn't exactly what I was hoping for and one morning we did end up going out for breakfast just to do something different. It was nice though to feed the kids while everyone was getting ready and they loved having cereal and doughnuts.

This hotel offered a shuttle, but it left only 20 minutes before Disneyland opened and we wanted to be there sooner so we drove instead.

This Days Inn had a pool and a hot tub which was great after a long day. I find that kids are easy to please and a hotel with a pool is a big deal.

Our average nightly cost for this room with taxes and fees was about $75. I feel that was fair. Obviously depending on when you go you'll pay a different price.

I did pay about $15 for the week to "rent" the key to their in-room safe. I brought a lot of cash and it made me feel better to leave it in the safe while we were out sight-seeing.

If you would like to check out this hotel here is the link to their website:
Days Inn Anaheim Harbor Blvd

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Disneyland - Ridemax review

So I was reading another friend's blog and she had used a program called Ridemax. I looked into it and thought, why not?

You'll find this program and I spent $15 for the 90-Day membership.

It has some really good tips on things like fast pass, the parades, certain rides, etc. I thought those were helpful.

Basically you tell the program the Park and the day that you are going to visit and then pick the rides that you want to ride for sure that day. It then generates a schedule with an order of rides to visit at what time with estimated waiting times and includes walking distance to next ride and duration of the ride.

Here is my review of the program:
It did not work super great for my family. We had a larger group with 3 sets of needs and wants. I also struggled with the wi-fi at our hotel to be able to update and change our plans.
We used it mostly at California Adventure the 2nd day and it allowed us to catch some of the busiest rides first. We also were extremely lucky and were at the parks on rather slow days and so the majority of the rides that we did all had 15 minute or less wait times allowing us to go on some of our favorite rides multiple times.

I did like that it gave me an idea of where to start. For example, when we were at California Adventure we headed first for Toy Story Mania, one of their newest rides. I am so glad we did. That was the first ride we went on and we had to wait about 20 minutes and this was right after they opened. Later in the day we walked past there again hoping to ride once more and the line was 45 minutes long.

I think this program would work wonderfully for a smaller or singular group of people. We had 3 families trying to work together and they were all at different walking speeds. If I had just taken my husband and kids, I think we would have followed the plan more closely.

After planning our trip to Disneyland we found out that our in-laws would like to take all of us to Disneyworld next June. Due to the fact that I have never been to Disneyworld I think I will actually try and use the Ridemax program for that vacation. Plus we will be going to Disneyworld during a high traffic period and so we will want some order to the trip.

Let me know if you have any questions about this program, I'd be happy to answer them.

***I was not paid for this review. This is 100% my opinion.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Disneyland - The Flight

Sorry about the delay in posting, I went through some back to back illnesses and then with the craziness of Disneyland prep and travel, I've gotten behind. I'm back now and so excited to share with you all the fun things that worked and didn't work on our trip to Disneyland.

So the flight.
We flew with a 7 year old boy, 5 year old girl, 3 year old girl (my niece) and a nearly one year old girl.

For the 3 older children here is what I did -
Each child got their own backpack for the flight. In the backpacks were packed the following:
 - Gum for ears, they chewed this during takeoff and the landing. It helped A LOT.
-  Snacks, the airline we flew is a "no-frills" type airline and you had to pay for snacks or drinks.
-  Drinks, you can't take liquids through security so I was just prepared to buy them drinks right    after we got through for the flight. You could also bring empty water bottles to fill with water at the drinking fountains. Your choice.
-  New toys, the two older girls got a Disney Princess set and my son got a new Lego set.
   They did not get the toys until right before we boarded the plane.
Here the kids are playing with their new toys right before we got on the plane.
The kids were THRILLED to get some new toys to play with. It really helped with the boredom of sitting still for two hours.
Playing with his new Lego Set
Now the nearly one year old. She was another story. I had to bring LOTS of snacks for her, I did not bring enough to entertain her. She was actually quite difficult, very wiggly and didn't want to be held or sit still after awhile.
First Flight
Here is what you should always bring when flying with an infant.
- clean empty bottles and formula - you'll have to get water usually past security
- snacks (I think a variety is good)
- small toys, books, sensory items to keep them entertained
- pacifier or be prepared with a bottle or to nurse during take off
- diapers and wipes
- change of clothes - one outfit at least
- blanket
- Lots of patience

I think we actually did pretty well, my kids were so happy to fly instead of drive all the way to Disneyland. It was a very exciting part of the trip for my kiddos.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Goodwill Shopping - Office Supplies

I love office supplies. I almost would rather go shopping for office supplies than new clothes. I'm trouble as soon as I walk into an office supply store. I can easily spend $50 without blinking an eye.

In order to save money and yet still fill my appetite for office supplies I head to Goodwill.

Goodwill is great for finding treasures.

Here is what I purchased on my last trip:

A portable file box and file stand

a desk file sorter and a spiral notebook.

To purchase all of these items at a regular office supply store I would have spent at least $35 to $40. I spent $1.99 for each item, bringing my total to less than $8.

Here are other office supplies that I have found for very reasonable prices at Goodwill:
2-Hole Punch
Large box of white envelopes
New boxes of specialty paper
New boxes of file folders
and so much more!

So here's a money-saving tip for the day. Look at your local Goodwill first before you go spend the big bucks on office supplies!

Coming up I'll be showing how I use these purchases to clean up my disaster of a desk!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Feature Photo Frame - Part 1

We are in a rental and in our living room we have a nice big fireplace that is essentially non-functional. Above the mantel we have this large wall space for which to decorate. We've had this beautiful fall-ish painting hanging there for the longest time. With spring arriving I felt the need for a pop of color and I wanted to see my beautiful children's faces.

So I took down the large painting and framed off a nice large square with painter's tape. I then took out my measuring tape and made sure that it was equally measured on all sides. I painted it a lovely turquoise blue. One of my favorite colors.

Once the paint had dried I then hung up the photo of my kids. It's looks cute, but it needs some finishing touches those are soon to come. Stay tuned!

I'm linking up here:
Organize and Decorate Everything


I love to make gifts for the grandparents from my kiddos. I love putting their handprints on things and passing them out for birthday's and special occassions. Recently I realized that I wasn't saving these handprints for me!

I want to be able to look at my baby's hands and see how little she used to be and watch as she grows.

Now, I am a Goodwill shopper, I've found so many awesome deals at that store. A huge chunk of the furniture I own comes from Goodwill. A couple months ago while shopping there I found a brand new pack of small artists canvas' for about $5.  I immediately knew what I wanted to do with them. I picked out some bright paint colors from my stash of acrylic paint and painted the canvas' different colors. After those had dried I had each of my kids come up and place their hand prints in a different color on top. The little bug couldn't keep her hands open very well so we also did her feet.

I then took a sharpie and labeled their names and date in the corner. It's not fancy but I've placed them on my office wall and I love looking at them to remind me what every day is for.

It was a great simple, inexpensive way to capture a moment in time.

I'm linking up here:
Organize and Decorate Everything

Monday, March 26, 2012

Disneyland - the extras

So we've planned a couple fun things for our kiddos for this trip.

At first the idea was to have them wear the same brightly colored shirts so that we could notice them. So we picked out a set of 3 bright orange shirts for the older kids and then I got one and my husband got one. The baby is getting an orange outfit. Then the kids wanted to personalize them so we got Mickey Mouse appliques at the fabric store

Here's my son in his shirt.

After that we got drawn in by all the cute clothing they have for little girls. So we ended up buying lots of matching outfits for the 3 little girls and my son is getting his fill of Phineas and Ferb and Angry Birds shirts.

The two older girls will have Rapunzel mini back packs and my son will have a Cars mini back pack. These will hold snacks and activities for the plane ride first. Second we will use these through out our trip for the kids to store their snacks and treasures. They might just end up in the stroller, we'll see how well they hold on to them.

Water Bottle Holders
Please forgive my horrible sewing skills, but I did make each child over 1 a water bottle holder as seen in this picture.

 I found the tutorial at she has lots of great tutorials for all sorts of creative things. I had made these two Christmases ago for some kid's friends that go hiking a lot. She told me that they loved them and so I knew that these were a must have for this trip. Hopefully this will help them to stay hydrated on the trip.

I'm thinking that these little extras will make the trip that much more special and fun! I can't wait!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Organizing Disneyland Part 2

We're in the countdown phase...3 weeks from today and we fly to Southern California for some much needed sunshine and a visit with the man himself, Mickey!

I seriously love traveling, and I know I can blame this gene on my father. His love for traveling has left me itching to take my family places! I hate sitting still, it's just not something I can do!

I have more tips to share and again these are all pre-trip phase. When I return I will report on how good my tips really were.

For tips # 1 - 3 see Organizing Disneyland Part 1

Tip #4  Shop around!
Since we are flying into Los Angeles we needed to rent a car. Having lived in the area before we are confident into our ability to navigate the area (large amounts of patience is needed!). I looked at so many different travel sites and car rental sites and I was surprised that and their travel section had such good prices. We were able to rent a minivan for under $300 for an entire week (Sunday - Sunday)! I also considered another site, but it seemed too difficult to actually get the minivan from the airport. So I picked one that was not only well priced but conveniently located. I mean come on, we'll have 3 extremely excited children with us and a busy baby girl!

Tip #5 Budget (this probably should have been Tip #1)
There are a lot of things that you need to consider when planning any vacation. Before getting all excited and just starting booking things, budget what you are going to need. I did not want to come home to piles of debt and stress, I really wanted this to be a vacation. Where we came home and did not feel the stress of the finances for months afterwards. Don't forget to plan for hotel, airfare, car rental, gas, food, spending, activities and emergencies (i.e. forgot sunscreen, etc).  Once you figure out your budget, reasonably figure out a time frame in which to save up the money for the vacation and where the money is going to come from. Do you have the additional money available in your budget, do you need to pick up some part time work, or are you using your tax refund? Just remember to plan!

Tip #6 Food Budget - save where you can
I think food is one of those items that you can WAY overspend on. Trust me, you must feed me or I am a big grump. My poor hubby learned that the hard way when we were dating. He still married me!
So here is my plan. One of the other reasons we picked our hotel is that it comes with a complimentary breakfast. Not just one of those rolls and juice breakfast, but a full on choice of waffles, juices, cereals, muffins and more. This should help us save money, since we will be pigging out every morning before we leave the hotel. My middle child is a BIG breakfast eater, so this should help her attitude before we even leave.  We will be buying inexpensive snacks for the kids to eat at Walmart or Albertsons once we get there. I'm going to let the kids get a special treat when we are at Disnelyand, but I want inexpensive snacks to calm their constant snackiness. Then we are planning to eat at restaurants where we can split larger portioned size meals to save money.

Okay so those are my money saving and budgeting tips. Next time I'm going to show you some of the fun things we've been doing to get ourselves ready for this trip.

Organizing Disneyland Part 1

Our family has been working hard and saving for our upcoming trip to Disneyland! We are so excited to go and I can't wait to share all the things we've learned for our trip.

I've been before but as a child with my own parents and then again with my husband and our very young son. Now I'm going not only with my husband but with my 3 children (ages 7, 5 and 11 months) as well as with my niece (age 3). It's going to be an adventure.

I love to plan trips, I love to organize and prepare things to do. Oh how I love spreadsheets, they make my brain do happy flips on a trampoline!

So here are some of the things I have done with planning for this trip. We are on a budget, a tight budget mind you.  We debated driving, it's definitely cheaper with a family of 5, but after considering that we would spend an additional 4 days driving (2 days each way), plus then the cost of a hotel and additional food, we looked into flying.

Tip #1 - Look for smaller airlines and airports.
We found that by driving two hours south to a smaller airport and flying a smaller airline we could save over $400! That made the price of flying comparable to driving with the cost of gas, hotel and food factored in. Not to mention that we were saving our sanity! 4 children under the age of 8 for two days in car (oh the horror!)

Tip #2 - Start saving that change!
We got a large empty water jug and started putting our extra dollars and change into it. We encourage the kiddos to put their money into it, and everytime they got a little extra cash from Grandma or Grandpa, or for doing an extra chore they would put their money into it. Lo and behold after several months we had $150 saved up. That is going to be the kids spending money.

Tip #3 - Ask!
I had no idea where to book a hotel. We can't afford a fancy place like the resort hotels. So I used my best friend for finding tips, Facebook!  I posted the question to my friends, where was nice, inexpensive place to stay in Anaheim close to Disneyland. The reccommendation that I got was for the Days Inn on Harbor Blvd. My friend told me that they stayed there and thought that the place was comfortable, clean and the staff was friendly. I checked it out through and I got the place for $75 a night. I thought very reasonable for a family of 5 with 2 queen beds.

Well more to come next post...I have lots more planning tips to share!