Top 10 Tips For Traveling To Disney with Kids

Have you ever been on a family vacation that left your children asking to go back for days, weeks and even months afterward? For my children, that place is Disney World. Our family has been to the "happiest place on earth, " both in California and Florida, sailed across the sea in the most magical ship on the water (Disney Cruise Line for the win) and have even gotten up at the crack of dawn to run miles and miles through their parks (runDisney anyone?).

So this confession will be no surprise to you: Riley has been to Disney four times by the age of two. Gracie experienced Disney World at the ripe age of 3.5 months. So, together with my sister-in-law, Lauren Crosby, we have experienced Disney vacations with little children and even babies many times.  Disney can be STRESSFUL. Especially with little ones! We have found that if you plan your trip out in advance, use these tips, and the Magical Disney Planning Package list it will help the trip be more enjoyable for all at the most magical place on earth. Hope you enjoy and find it helpful!

 

1:  Call Disney ahead of time, make reservations for your family's needs. 

IMG_7194.jpeg

Disney’s customer service is top notch. They are ready and available to meet the needs of your family. I was able to reserve Pack 'n Plays for both kiddos as well as a bottle warmer and  diaper genie. That's right. Diaper Genie! It kept our room smelling clean. Such a small yet significant detail. When we arrived at our Disney resort in the evening, the Pack 'n Plays were setup ready to go in the room. All that you have to do is call and reserve it. 

2:  Is staying on Disney property worth it?

Yes, we loved it! If you stay on Disney property, they completely take care of transportation for you to all the parks and Disney Springs. They have a bus system running all day to bring you to and from the park so that you don't have to deal with carseats or parking. If you are traveling with young children, we would highly recommend you stay on property. Every resort is close to the parks for naps (big win!), the themes in each hotel are so fun, and the pools are absolutely amazing! We'll talk about the importance of pool days in a little bit. Disney resorts come in budget, moderate and deluxe to fit each family's financial preferences. You'll likely be able to find the right fit for your family and receive all the benefits that come from staying on property. Now, we just talked about the amazing resort transportation but it get better. See our next tip. 

3: Disney Magic Express

IMG_1420.JPG

Another wonderful aspect of staying on Disney Property is their Disney Magical Express. As soon as we got off the plane in Orlando, we followed clear signs to this nice, comfy coach bus. You don’t need any car seats. Yes, you heard me right NO CARSEATS! Yet another item you don't have to pack because Disney has taken care of it for you. They have Disney cartoons playing (which engage your travel weary kiddos) as well as a video showing you all the fun things to do at the park. At the end of your trip, Disney Magic Express picks you back up at the hotel to take you back to the airport. Another perk with this service is the luggage tags. Disney will send you custom luggage tags weeks before your big vacation. This means that the moment you check your luggage at the airport, you are DONE worrying about it. Disney will have your luggage delivered to your room later that day. AH-MAZ-ING. Trying to manage the airport with 2 little ones and luggage makes you want to pull your hair out. With the Disney Magic Express you don’t have to worry about it!

4: Travel with a day bag for when you land and your room isn’t quite ready.

IMG_8805.jpg
fullsizeoutput_6c5.jpeg

Your luggage will most likely be unavailable when you first arrive at your resort. So you'll want a day bag ready with the essentials for enjoying your resort. This bag should be placed in your carry on item, because once you check in your luggage at the airline you will not see it again until your room is ready at Disney. It should have, at a minimum, clothes, swimsuit, a small container of sunscreen, PJ’s, and a hat (all for you and the kids). Having the day bag allows you to start enjoying Disney as soon as you arrive. Check out our product page for a helpful packing list for children, day bag in the park and several other "helpfuls" to maximize your planning and vacation!  

5:  Have Amazon Pantry delivered to your room.

Yet another way to avoid traveling with unnecessary items!  Four or more days before your vacation, simply order an Amazon Pantry box for your room. We included everything from diapers, wipes, juice, water bottles, baby food, and individual packed Goldfish for the toddlers.   Simply put the resort's address down with your name, reservation number and date of arrival; the package should be ready for you at the front desk when you arrive!

6: Strollers: Rent or Bring?

IMG_5923.jpg

We vote bring the stroller! It will be your “headquarters” for entire day in the park. I don’t know about you, but my children only like to walk so far. You want a good stroller that they can sleep in, rest, and a place to throw all your belongings. Extra tip: Put a fun bow on the stroller. Most attractions do not allow strollers (unless, occasionally, your child is already asleep inside), so you will leave it in the provided stroller parking. There are a million strollers, so make yours stand out with a fun and colorful ribbon. 

 

7:  Make your reservations and fast passes ahead of time. 

IMG_5776.jpg

The My Disney Experience app is a must for the ease of your trip. You can reserve your fast passes, make dining reservations, check wait times, find where characters are located in the park, and so much more. We recommend making your dining reservations in advance (the earliest you can reserve 180 days before tour trip). But you can use the app to get dining reservations (for less popular restaurants) in the same day easily. The app also allows you to get new fast passes once you have used your first three allotted fast passes for that park day.  Definitely do your research before going to each park to know what interests you, your kids, and how to make the most out of it. We have the most adorable Disney Itinerary sheet on our products page.  It is perfect for planning our your day in the parks! Be on the lookout for a future post on the most kid friendly attractions at each park.  

8:  Is Character Dining, worth it?

Worth every penny. They are pricey but they are so convenient for little ones. Enjoy air conditioning and great food while the characters come to YOU. And guess what? You don't wait in line for an hour. And your children get to meet multiple characters. Our very favorite character meals are:
1. Tusker House in Animal Kingdom. Meet Safari Mickey, Goofy, Donald, Pluto and Daisy. 
2. Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom. Meet Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore during their "friendship day celebrashun" in the absolutely gorgeous Crystal Palace right off Main Street.  
3. Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway, Epcot. Meet Belle, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel and Mulan. This meal is unique because they characters can talk with your child and make them feel enormously special. 

9:  Take a Pool Day!

IMG_3265.jpeg
IMG_7370.jpg
IMG_5817.jpeg

Plan a day OFF from the parks and play at resort pool. Disney is incredible, and incredibly overstimulating for little minds. Take a day off from the crowds and craziness of the theme parks and enjoy the resort at your leisure. Take long naps, play on park playgrounds, relax by the pool…maybe more realistically play with your kiddos in the pool and cover babies in sunscreen. Take advantage of planned and provided activities by the resort. Disney goes above and beyond to accommodate families at every turn. Spending a day at a slower pace on resort property will do you and your whole family good. 

10:  Plan your child's outfits ahead of time. 

IMG_8792.jpg

Friends, try the costumes or outfits on at home before you leave for Disney. When we took our nine month old on a Disney vacation, we packed an adorable Tinker Belle outfit for her. The costume was cute but itchy and tight and our little princess was so unhappy in it. Make sure the pre-planned clothes are comfy and that your child feels confident and happy in them. Davis, three years old, would hate to be at the parks all day in a costume. But a personalized Mickey shirt was perfect for him. Riley, however, couldn't imagine anything less than full Cinderella garb, all day. And she loves it! 
We just love these little Mickey stickers we created (included in our Magical Disney Packing Package) for a little extra fun as you travel to the "happiest place on earth." Enjoy each crazy, beautiful moment. We hope your trip to Disney produces memories that your family will have for a lifetime.  

IMG_7199 2.jpg
IMG_7246.jpeg

Helpful Tips For Christmas Cleanup

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!  After months of preparing and decorating for arguably the biggest holiday of the year, it's time to take down the decorations and get the house back to being organized.  Here are a few helpful tips that have worked well for our family:

IMG_6074.JPG

1. Gifts 

How did we acquire so much stuff!?  First, take everything out of the unneeded boxes and recycle them. This will help cleanup your room and feel less cluttered.  We have two small kiddos so some of the gifts I like to put away in their closets for a "rainy day".  I'm also a big believer in going through their rooms and/or playroom, taking the toys they don't use, and either selling them or putting them away in storage for the next child.  I like to call it the "one in one out" rule.  Then you can place all their new gifts in their room or closest in an orderly fashion.  

2. Christmas Tree

I guess this only applies to people that have fake trees, but what is the best way to store it?  The tree bag is one of the best, simple, helpful tools to storing a tree for the following year, just ask my husband. For a few years we would lug that box up and down the stairs.  This bag has wheels and zips up to keep every part of the tree nice and snug.  

 Click on image to find link to Amazon

Click on image to find link to Amazon

fullsizeoutput_4ed.jpeg

3.  Ornaments 

I love this ornament sorter.  It keeps our ornaments separated and safe.  The other thing I really like about this one is that you can customize the size of each opening, this allows you to utilize your space well.  I'm always afraid of breaking special keepsake ornaments, and this has been extremely helpful!

 Click on image to find link to Amazon

Click on image to find link to Amazon

4.  Decorations 

First, take pictures of your centerpieces and decorations so you can remember how they were designed. Then once you take your decorations down, start to sort your items.  I personally like to group by room.  That way you can start one room at a time when you take down and put up.  When you start to put away the decorations I would recommend clear bins, allowing easy viewing of what you have stored and where it needs to go.  Make sure you get plenty of tall storage bins, and don't rush the process. It's worth taking your time so when you open the bin next November, you don't find broken pieces.  Lastly, label those bins! 

fullsizeoutput_4f0.jpeg

5.  Wrapping Paper 

If you're like me, I love shopping the 50% off section after the holiday, but then where do you put it all?  Well, it depends on how much room you have and where you store it.  Here are two helpful ways to store your wrapping paper, bows and ribbon.  The first, is to store it with a vertical, tall bin.  You can then place it in your unfinished basement or a hallway closet. Next to it, I have a square bin that holds all my bows and ribbons.  I personally keep all styles of paper and gift wrap in the bin, so therefore it is my little wrapping station throughout the year.  

 Click on image to find link to Amazon

Click on image to find link to Amazon

If you don't have much room or live in an urban area, utilize the space underneath your bed or guest bed.  These bins also work great if you need to stack them in an attic or basement.  

6.  Clean & Relax

Lastly, make sure you vacuum and clean before you start rearranging the furniture and placing everything back where it belongs.  And once that is done you get to sit back and admire your work.  Another fantastic Christmas in the books, and last but not least, remember to relax and take some time for yourself! 

 

 

Organizing Your Medicine Cabinet

I don’t know about you, but my medicine cabinet is either neglected and/or forgotten, until the moment I need something.  I find myself buying duplicates of everything or worse searching for the medicine for my 3 year old in the middle of the night, and finding the medicine is expired.  So, I’m going to walk you through the steps I’m taking to be prepared, and get our medicine cabinet orderly & organized, just in time for flu season!  

fullsizeoutput_15c.jpeg

First, we need to remove everything from the cabinet.  Wipe the cabinet clean of dust or liquid that may have spilled, then look through all the medication and remove anything that is expired.  In most cities there is a place you can take prescriptions, and expired medicine, and they will dispose of it properly.  If you live in Columbia, MO here is the link https://www.como.gov/WaterandLight/Water/drugdisposal.php

The other option is to dispose of the medicine in a clear plastic bag with either dirt, kitty litter or used coffee grounds, and a little water.  The reason for this is according to the FDA it makes the drug less appealing to children and pets, and unrecognizable to people who may intentionally go through the trash seeking drugs.  Then place the sealed plastic bag in the trash.  Lastly, dispose of the containers or prescription box after blacking out and removing names or any other personal information.

fullsizeoutput_179.jpeg

Now, let’s start separating and putting similar items together.  Some of your items might be prescriptions, anti-itch cream, allergy meds, cold meds, etc.  Once you have your categories separated out, look through everything and take notes on what needs to be replaced. 

Next, we need to talk about how every household should have a first aid kit either in the medicine cabinet or close by.  Click the link below to see what the The Red Cross recommends that all first aid kits have for a family of four:  http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/anatomy-of-a-first-aid-kit

fullsizeoutput_15b.jpeg

Now that you have your medicine categorized, and have a list of what you need from the store, we can start focusing on what type of bins to buy or use.  Most of the time you may have a bin already in your home that you can reuse for this project.  If you don’t, or want something new, I prefer shallow clear bins for the medicine cabinet.   Then in the linen closet where I have my first aid kit, and all the other medication I prefer having bins with lids.  It is one more way to keep the medication safe and away from any curious kiddos.    

Next to your medicine, I like to have a sheet of paper with proper doses for each of my kids, and doctors contact information .  At every doctor appointment my child receives an updated piece of card stock with the child’s information on it.  I can then place that on the inside of the cabinet, where all the children’s medicine is kept. 

fullsizeoutput_159.jpeg

So, after going to the store and buying bins, any other medicine and first aid items the next step is deciding where to put everything.  I personally keep the adult medication separate from the children, because I would never want to take the chance of giving my children the wrong medication.  The children’s medicine is kept in our kitchen on a high cabinet next to their plates and cups.  The adult medication, first aid kit and any other prescriptions in our linen closet on the highest shelf (that I can reach) with a lid on it.  You can personalize this system to better fit your needs.  You have to find something that works for your individual family.  I’m sure as my children get older, the placement of our medicine cabinet will change, but for right now this is what works well for us and keeps everyone safe and well. 

fullsizeoutput_158.jpeg

Lastly, it’s time to label, and place the bins back into the cabinets and or linen closet.

How To Create An Organized Solution For Your Child's School Papers

School is just around the corner, and that means a lot of papers, art work, and school news letters filling up your kiddos backpacks.  Before you get bombarded with all these papers, set up a filing system for your children with these 3 simple steps!  

Step 1: 

First off, lets talk about what papers we are keeping.  Your kids come home with multiple papers every day; it can be overwhelming to figure out what to keep, and what to throw away. Each family differs on what should be kept and stored, and what should be recycled/thrown away.  For an example, our family keeps:

  • Art work 
  • School events or special projects 
  • Sport certificates or special achievements 
  • Personal notes or letters from their teachers 

Coming up with categories for your child's project, papers, awards etc. make storing them much easier and even simpler to find later on to show proud grandparents :)

Note: If something is to big to fit in the filing bin, we will take a picture of it, and then file that away. 

Step 2: 

Now we get to do the fun part: shopping!  The supply list below is for one child.  If you are making multiple bins then buy accordingly. (Click on each item for the link)  

 Clear plastic filing bin-  

A pack of folders with hanging hooks-

A pack of manilla folders- 

Labels- (I prefer Avery 8160 address labels)   

Step 3

Once you have all your supplies, the next step is making the labels and organizing your filing bin.  First print out or write the child's name on the front of the filing bin.  

Next, if you prefer working on the computer, you can print out your labels or if you have perfect penmanship, then proudly display your skills.  The labels consist of your child’s age and/or grade.  For example I would label Preschool Age 2, Preschool Age 3, Preschool Age 4, Kindergarten, 1st Grade, etc.  Once you have your labels printed place them on the tabs on your manilla folders. 

Next, place the hanging folders in the filing bin, and stagger the labeled manilla folders accordingly.  If you want to get creative, I like to put a picture on the front of each manilla folder along with the child’s school info, and interests.  

Note: Some prefer having subcategories within the age group.  If you prefer to do it this way,  label the hanging folder with the age/grade, and then on the manilla folders label sports, artwork, etc.

Now that your paper filing system is setup the next part is actually filing it.  Some of my clients have put these containers in their laundry room cubbies, while others keep them in storage.  Either way the hardest part now is being disciplined to put the paperwork where it belongs.  I have found that if your child gets to file it away, they are more willing to let you remove it down from the refrigerator or bulletin board.  Plus, they like to be part of the process and might do the filing for you :) Happy filing!

Top 10 Tips Traveling to Disney with Infant & Toddler

       This spring my family and I took a magical trip to Disney.  I did months of research and weeks of packing for this trip.  I decided to make it a little easier for a mama out there, and come up with my top 10 tips.  So, my son was 2 ½ years old and my daughter was 9 months old when we went to Disney.  We stayed at Port Orleans for a night, and then boarded the Disney Cruise “The Dream” the next morning.  Disney will do everything they can to make the stay easier and enjoyable for you.   Here are my top 10 tips.