Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Eating On A Budget At Disney

Disney World has SO many amazing options for food, drinks and snacks. It can be hard to pass them up and I can see how families end up spending $1,000's on dining at Disney World. My family sets our food budget before arriving at Disney World. With a little planning your family can easily save money on dining at Disney. For starters, set your families food budget. I find it easiest to set a daily food budget for the whole family. We eat breakfast in our hotel room to save time and money. I also pack my kids 'breakfasts to go' in cute little bags that the can carry on the Disney buses and eat on the way to the parks. This is a great way to save money. The top 5 ways to eat on a budget at Disney are:

  1. Pack your lunches in a cooler. Disney allows soft sided coolers to be brought into the parks but they can not contain any alcohol or glass bottles. *Baby food is allowed in a glass jar* Please note that straws of any kind are not allowed in Animal Kingdom. My kids love Lunchables and they are great for on the go lunches. I also pack at least 2 juice boxes per child. The heat in Florida can really get to children so be sure to pack plenty to drink. I also pack a sippy cup and fill it with water throughout the day. Pack plenty of snacks too. I create a fun Disney themed snack mix in a sealed container prior to leaving for Disney World. Each child gets 1 container which contains goldfish, cheerio's or fruit loops, a few Mickey fruit snacks, m&m's and raisins.
  2. Order from the children's menu. The kid's meal portions fill me up and at half the price you can't beat it! I have a 3 year old toddler and a 19 month old and they are not the best eater's, so when we are at Disney they always share a quick service kids meal.
  3. Ask for a free cup of water available at most quick service locations. No need to drink from the water fountain all day.
  4. Share a fun snack with your kids. Snacks can get expensive especially if you have more than one child. We usually order a cupcake at Starring Rolls in Hollywood Studios and split it between the 3 kids. These cupcakes are huge and extremely rich so it is best to split.
  5. Avoid eating at the buffet restaurants. Chances are if you have a toddler he or she will not eat enough to justify a $20+ childs buffet cost. Now unless this is a special buffett such as Chef Mickey's then I would say avoid it like the plague. All you can eat buffets really add up for the average family of 4. You could eat 2 dinners at quick services or even a non buffet restaurant for the cost of 1 dinner at the buffet restaurant.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ways To Save For Your Disney Trip

There are many ways to save for a Disney vacation. I start by making a list of all of the monthly bills and then I decide what percentage of the money should go to savings each month. If you live on a tight budget already then consider cutting out one or more of your bills such as getting rid of cable tv for a few months or stop eating out.
  • Create a savings jar and have your children make weekly deposits :-) This will teach them the value of money, how to save money and help with their counting skills. If your children earn an allowance you could encourage them to deposit a portion of their allowane to the Disney savings jar.
  • Stop eating out, cut back on your grocery bills. Start couponing if you dont already cut coupons you are missing out on big savings each week. Set a weekly grocery budget and try to stick to it. If you don't have to have it don't buy it!
  • Don't have a birthday party this year for your children--this is a big way to save money, especially if you have more than 1 child! Average children's birthday parties are $300. Tell your children you will celebrate instead by going to Disney World.
  • Call your insurance company and find out if there are any ways to lower your monthly rates.
  • Stop subscriptions to magazines--to catch up the daily gossip just go to websites like or
  • Before making any purchases ask yourself DO I REALLY NEED THIS? Chances are you do not. Avoid going shopping for leisure, trust me, this is one of the ways that I have been able to save a lot of money. I just avoid the mall, window shopping and especially Target.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

How To Baby Proof A Hotel Room

Staying in a hotel can be a challenge if you're traveling with a baby or toddler. There are cords, small objects, drawers, doors, etc. Before checking in to your hotel you should ask the front desk if they offer any type of baby proofing, I have heard of some hotels doing this. I wish more would offer this! But you can baby proof your hotel room in under 15 minutes if you follow the advice you are about to read!

For starters, purchase ahead of time any baby proofing equipment you would normally use at home. Or bring your own items from your house to save the money. Outlet covers, a toilet lid, doorknob covers, lysol, tape, a safety gate and table corner covers are all on my must have list. When you enter the hotel room I recommend getting down on the floor (on your baby or toddler's eye level) and looking for anything that could pose harm to your child. For example, if you see a lamp cord that is dangling across the floor you might want to either unplug the lamp or tape the cord to the wall to prevent your child from grabbing or tripping on the cord. Lysol is my #1 recommended item for spraying the hotel room television remotes. I read somewhere that tv remotes have so much bacteria and germs and are usually not cleaned by housekeeping! EEK! I always do a quick spray of items that I know my children will want to grab when we first get to a hotel. Don't forget to check the blinds and any long cords that may be a potential hazard to baby. I always place the trashcan in the bathroom so that my children can not touch it. You want your hotel room to feel as safe and as close to home as possible.

We always bring a few of our children's favorite toys, dvd's and stuffed animals as well. We place them in a designated spot of the room and this is usually where the children will sit and play while we pack the cooler, get ready for the day at Disney, etc. If you have a crawler I would recommend putting down some of those cute brightly colored squares on the floor if you have them.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Childcare At Disney World

If you want a nice date night while on vacation then you have come to the right place! There are several options for childcare at Disney World.

  1. The Mouseketeer Club
  • Located at the Grand Floridian
  • Ages 4 to 12 years old *must be potty trained*
  • Hours 4:30 pm to midnight
  • $11.50/hour per child with a 2 hour minimum
  • Dinner is included and is served between 6 pm and 8 pm
  • Pagers are provided for parents
  • Unlimited video games, moves and crafts
  • Reservations: 407-WDW-DINE
     2. Camp Dolphin
  • Located at the Swan & Dolphin Resort
  • Ages 4 to 12 years old *must be potty trained*
  • Hours 5:30 pm to midnight
  • $10/hour per child
  • Have dinner at Shula’s, bluezoo or Il Mulino OR enjoy a spa treatment at Mandara Spa and receive up to two hours of complimentary time at Camp Dolphin. Simply present your receipt as proof of purchase at time of child pickup. (NOTE: One child admitted for each adult entrĂ©e purchased. One child admitted for each purchase of a spa treatment of 75 minutes or more.)
  • Reservations: 407-934-4000, ext: 4241
   3. Simba's Clubhouse
  • Located at the Animal Kingdom Lodge (1st floor)
  • Ages 4 to 12 years old *must be potty trained*
  • $11.50/hour per child with a 2 hour minimum
  • Hours 4:30 pm to midnight
  • Dinner is included and is served between 6pm and 8pm
  • Advanced reservations are recommended: 407-WDW-DINE
  • No outside food is allowed
   4. The Neverland Club
  • Located at the Polynesian Resort (near Snack Isle)
  • Ages 4 to 12 years old *must be potty trained*
  • $11.50/hour per child with a 2 hour minimum
  • Hours 4:00 to midnight
  • Buffet dinner is included in the price and is served between 6pm and 8pm
  • Toys, Disney movies, arts and crafts and activities all themed around Peter Pan
  • Reservations are recommended: 407-WDW-DINE
  • No outside food is allowed
   5. Cubs Den
  • Located at the Wilderness Lodge
  • Ages 4 to 12 years old *must be potty trained*
  • $11.50/hour per child with a 2 hour minimum
  • Board games, western themed arts and crafts, toys, Disney movies
  • Hours 4:30 pm to midnight
  • Dinner is included in price and is served between 6pm and 8pm
  • Reservations are recommended: 407-WDW-DINE
  • A limited number of walk-in's
    6. Sandcastle Club
  • Located off of the Beach Club lobby
  • Ages 4 to 12 years old *must be potty trained*
  • $11.50/hour per child with a 2 hour minimum
  • Hours 4:30 pm to midnight
  • Must be a guest of a Disney resort
  • Advance reservations are required: 407-WDW-DINE
If you have a child who is under 4 years old then you will need to use an in room sitter. The Disney Company recommends Kids Nite Out sitter's. To learn more information you can call: 800-696-8105 or 407-828-0920. Kids Nite Out rates are based on the number of children and start at $16/hour for 1 child and go up to $23.50/hour for 4 children. There is a $10 transportation fee. Children must be at least 6 weeks old. There is a 4 hour minimum.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Top 10 Rides At Magic Kingdom For Babies

The top 10 rides at Magic Kingdom for babies in my personal opinion are:

10. Walt Disney World Railroad--this is a great ride to save for the end of the day when you're tired of walking. I recommend riding the railroad from Fantasyland station to Main Street Station. This twenty minute scenic ride is a great way to see the park. Also a great to spot to nurse a baby.

9. It's A Small World---this is such a fun ride for children of all ages. Hop in a boat for a leisure ride throughout the different countries, the music entertains my kids and they are left singing the song for days afterwards.

8. Jungle Cruise--this is such a classic Disney ride, I remember riding this back in 1988 when I was just a child. The Jungle boat takes you on a fun ride throughout the jungle where you will see elephants, tribal natives, giraffes and even a waterfall.

7. Tom Sawyer Island--A great place to explore, get away from the crowds and let your little one's run! Tom Sawyer Island is also a great spot to have a picnic, there are picnic tables on the island and a small playground. There are also bathrooms and water fountains. *It is hard to push a stroller on the island as there are many caves, steps, etc. so I recommend using a baby carrier.

6. Prince Charming Regal Carousel--This is a great photo op and a must do for children of all ages. Parents can stand and hold their children (there are buckles) and parents can even ride too.

5. Peter Pan's Flight--The wait is usually long for this ride so I suggest getting a fast pass. Peter Pan's flight is a quick ride so dont blink or you will miss it! It is worth the wait in my opinion, kids will feel like they are flying while riding this cute little iconic ride that tells the story of Peter Pan.

4. Astro Orbiter *Not recommend for anyone who gets motion sick* My children love this ride, the wait is usually less than 10 minutes and it is a great way to see the park from up in the sky. If you have little one's who are afraid of heights then I would avoid this ride. The tiny airplanes will seat 1 adult and up to 2 small children.

3. Magic Carpets of Aladdin--The carpets will seat 2 to 3 children per row, there are 2 rows per carpet. Our family takes up 1 whole carpet and I recommend having a parent sit in the front carpet so you can turn around and take your children's picture on the carpet :-) You can control the carpet and make it go up high or down low. The children get a kick out of this. You might even get a spray of water from the camels!

2. Dumbo--The ride has been much improved with the new Fantasyland expansion and now the wait time has been cut in half. There is no height restriction on this ride and even my littlest one was able to ride at only 11 months old (of course a parent must hold little ones). Each Dumbo flies high in the sky for just a few minutes but this is such a classic Disney ride that children of all ages love it.

1. Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin--This ride can be a little scary if your child is afraid of the dark, however, it is so much fun. Children really love the bright lights (neon) and the ability to shoot a lazer gun is the highlight of the ride for my children. You can control whether or not your spaceship spin's around too which is neat. The wait times can be rather long for this ride, try to grab a fast pass and  while waiting go and meet Buzz himself--he is usually right outside of the ride area.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Disney Goody Bags

I decided to surprise my kids with road trip goody bags to keep them occupied on the 12 hour drive to Florida! I purchased the tote bags and had them personalized with a cute Mickey font and their names.

The bags included Disney stickers, coloring books, crayons, glow sticks, flashlights, my daughters favorite princesses on a necklace and bracelet and a cute personalized Disney themed shirt. All of the items (except the personalized shirt) were found in the $1 section of Michael's, Target and the Dollar Store.

To read more about my goody bags check out my article featured on Tips From The Disney Diva: road trip goody bags

Monday, January 21, 2013

Tips For Choosing Your ADR's

Many people ask me for advice on which restaurants are the most 'child friendly'. For starters I always recommend previewing the menu of the restaurant prior to making an ADR (advanced dining reservation). You want to check for two things, the prices and the kids menu. Not all kids menu's are created equal. Meaning, they are not all going to serve the same old typical food consisting of chicken nuggets and pizza. The new Be Our Guest restaurant serves a much more upscale and healthier kid's menu consisting of grilled fish, grilled steak, whole grain macaroni and grilled chicken breast. I dont know about you, but my children are not going to eat any of that.

My family packs our own lunch in a cooler to save money. However, we do budget to have at least three ADR's. We always plan to have one character meal and we vow to try a new restaurant once. My favorite character meal is Chef Mickey's. We love Chef Mickey's because of the wonderful character interaction. You can find the "Fab Five" here-Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto. The food is not gourmet but it is good not to mention the great variety. The typical picky eater won't go hungry here. My favorite is the Mickey shaped waffles and the fresh fruit selection is wonderful.

Our family loves the Polynesian Resort and we always try to make at least one ADR to eat there. We love venturing to the Polynesian Resort to explore the property, gift shop and of course the yummy food. We have chosen to eat at the Kona Cafe for breakfast and O'hana for dinner on our next trip in April. We did the Laua last year at the Polynesian and absolutely loved every second.
Here are my tips for choosing your ADR's if you have young children especially babies. Choose a restaurant that is loud-O'hana is a great choice because it is not a quiet. Avoid places that are more of a romantic atmosphere where a loud baby might be an annoyance to someone on a date. Fulton's Crab House is one of the places that I have always wanted to try but with three kids under 6 years old I think I will pass. Also try to find a restaurant that is in your price range, a $40 per person all you can eat buffett may not be the best choice for your family if you have picky eater's who won't really eat much at all. Make your ADR's early-do not wait until the week before your vacation to decide where you would like to eat. I recommend making your ADR's once it is 180 days until your vacation. There will still be plenty of time to cancel, change a time, etc but at least you will have a plan.

And I'm Back!

I took a year off from working on the blog to focus on my family. to be honest I was a little overwhelmed with the transition from two to three children. Things have settled down in our house now and we are back to planning our next Disney World vacation this upcoming April 2013.

Anyone else planning a Disney World vacation for April 2013?

We have learned from last year (we decided to stay off property to save money) and we are staying on property this year! I am so excited to have the convenience of staying on property and free shuttle service to the parks to name a few. We were able to snag a great deal--saving us 25% off our resort! We are staying at Coronado Springs Resort.

I am going to have an upcoming series every week on ways to save money while at Disney World, I hope you will enjoy!