The Most Useful Things I Bring to Disney

Packing can be stressful for anyone, right? If you’re like me, you do that thing where you pack 8 pairs of underwear for 3 days (like what do you actually think is going to happen?) and 10 shirts because you just don’t know what you’re going to “feel” like wearing. Am I alone on this one?

Fortunately, after so many trips, we kind of go on autopilot when we’re packing. We have a shared checklist on our phone that we reuse every time to make sure we’ve packed the essentials. But what are the few must-haves that I make sure to pack every time we go to Disney? I’m gonna let you in on the secrets!

FuelRod

I’m sure most of you have a portable charging pack that you bring along. I personally love my FuelRod. This company has partnered with Disney and there are FuelRod stations located all over property- in the hotels, parks and Disney Springs. Some airports have them as well! It’s $30 when you initially purchase your FuelRod, but it comes with all the necessary cords and once it’s empty or you’re just near a kiosk and you want to switch it out, then you simply put the old FuelRod in the machine and it pops you out a freshly charged one!

I bought mine a few years ago and honestly, it’s so useful to be able to just switch out my FuelRod and keep charging. I’m always on my phone in the parks taking pictures and using the My Disney Experience app and that tends to be a battery suck, even on their WiFi. Keep an eye out next time you’re there!

Rechargeable Fan

So…Florida is hot. Is this news? No? Okay. Well, we (and by we- I mean the kids) really love this rechargeable fan that clips right on the stroller. Have I been spotted walking around fanning myself? Absolutely. This thing is powerful and there’s nothing like a good stroller nap accompanied by a nice breeze. Cue me hopping on Amazon right now because it will not go well if we don’t have two of them. Oh the sibling jealousy.

Nothing like a stroller nap with a fan

Tupperware/Ziploc Bags

If you follow any of the vast amount of Disney influencers out there, or my personal favorite, the Disney Food Blog, you probably roll up to your trip with a list a mile long of things to try. And there’s never enough time! We’ve started packing a few plastic containers and plastic bags to bring home the various treats that we don’t have room for in our stomachs. Plastic bags also come in handy if you have a child like mine, who NEEDS to have one of the lollipops the size of their face and then they get bored after a few minutes. My favorite thing to bring home is a Carrot Cake Cookie from Trolley Car Cafe in Hollywood Studios. You can read about some of my other favorite snacks in this post.

My favorite take-home snack 😍

Those Sticky Placemats from Chick-fil-A

I actually got this hack from my sister-in-law! So smart. Disney tables are probably cleaner than your average restaurant table, and they do a very good job keeping things clean, but that being said, when you have a kid that still wants to eat the table as much as the food, these come in handy! I always grab a couple extra whenever we go to Chick-fil-A and then I’m ready to go come packing time!

Coming through in the clutch!

ChooMe Soft Tip Food Pouch Tops

ChooMe in action

 

I’ve mentioned these before and since I’m still traveling with a little one, these are a MUST. Especially since we are renting our double stroller and you know how kids can somehow turn a benign cracker into a complete wasteland. These toppers fit on any pouches and the prevent the inevitable pouch geyser. They’re great to have for the applesauce that’s a side choice with the kid’s meals. I like that if they have it in the stroller and it drops beside them, it’s not going to squeeze out everywhere or on their clothes.

Gum

Did you know that gum isn’t available to purchase anywhere on Disney property? They’re onto something, I’m sure. I can imagine cleaning up wads I’d dropped gum in the Florida heat is a less than desirable task. Plus imagine if you were waiting in line to ride Haunted Mansion and the queue was just filled with ABC gum. Gross. While I applaud Disney’s thinking here, I still need some gum. If you do too, make sure to pack some. Or at least buy an overpriced pack at the airport before takeoff.

 

Reusable Straws & Cozies

Disney Parks are headed in a more eco-friendly direction, which means no more plastic straws. Paper straws have long been the only option available at Animal Kingdom, to help protect the large amount of wildlife on property, but now they are extending that throughout the parks and resorts. I have nothing against paper straws, I promise. It’s just that…they get soggy and flimsy. And nothing ruins that $5 Starbucks iced coffee like a floppy, deteriorating straw. Reusable straws are all the rage these days anyway, so I’m sure you have a few kicking around. I’m a big fan of these stainless steel ones and we also bought a pack of Disney ones from one of the recent kitchen lines they had out!

And I can’t mention my iced coffee without mentioning the coffee cozy to go with it. I’ve bought so many awesome cozies from different Instagram small shops. They come in handy when you don’t want to be handling a sweaty cup and even on the rare, (but I’ve been there and it happens) rare occasion when it’s 39° in the morning and you actually buy a hot coffee!

The perfect cozy for a birthday trip!

That’s all I’ve got for now! I’m sure as I’m packing this week, I’ll think of some others, but maybe I’ll save it for a Volume 2. Be sure to let me know if you have any packing hacks!

*Linked items are from my Amazon Affiliate account. Thank you!

What I’m Reading to Combat my Mom-Brain

Hello, there. Self-proclaimed book nerd over here! Since I can remember, I’ve always loved reading. It’s one of the reasons I joined UBAM and started selling kid’s books. I just think it’s so important for kids to read and to be read to! I also think it’s super important for adults to find the time to read. There are so many amazing books out there and for me, it’s such a nice escape from the world of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Fancy Nancy.

So what have I been reading these days? A little bit of this and a little bit of that! Here’s my most recent 5 book recommendations I definitely think you should check out!

1. Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis

I’ve definitely needed a kick in the pants these days to shake me out of my postpartum haze and this book has done the trick. I also recommend her predecessor to this book, Girl, Wash Your Face which I’ve read and found a lot of great takeaways as well. What I like about this book is that it’s applicable for a wide range of women (and men). Regardless of where you’re at in your life, whether you’re a working mom, stay-at-home mom, small business owner, person with a dream, or someone who just is in a rut and needs to find their way out- Rachel’s voice and words are going to get you moving. I follow her on Instagram @msrachelhollis and starting May 1, she’s going to be having a book club for Girl, Stop Apologizing where she goes live every morning and you can sign up for an email with a workbook to go along with the book. Definitely check it out!

2. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

I totally started reading this because I saw that there was a Netflix movie based on the book and I also saw that this is the first book in a trilogy, which I’m ALWAYS a fan of because I tend to rip through books like this quickly. It’s definitely not Game of Thrones dense, but if you’re looking for a rom-com teenage romance, this book is great. Side note: I have a crazy imagination which gives me insane nightmares, so I like to read books like this before bed to put me off to a peaceful dreamland!

3. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

I’m a huge Harry Potter/Divergent/fantasy fan in general, so when my sister recommended this series, I was excited. They’re long books, which I’m generally a huge fan of, as long as it’s a story that keeps me captivated. This series has 4 books in it and I’ve already read through them twice. I’m a big Sarah J. Maas fan now because of this series and I’ve read her Throne of Glass series as well, which could easily have taken the number 3 spot here. If you’re a fantasy/fiction lover, you’ll enjoy these books. You actually won’t want to put them down…I found myself burning the midnight oil to keep reading, which is a dangerous game when you have a baby that most certainly could start screaming at any minute!

4. The Nightingale  by Kristen Hannah

Some historical fiction for you now, this book is amazing. I’ve always been drawn to WWII stories, way back to…wait for it…the days when I had my Molly American Girl doll and read all of the books that went along with her character. I’m that many years old. Anyways, this book takes place in France, around the time of the Nazi invasion and follows the story of two sisters. It was based on a true story, which makes it that more fascinating to me. The power and strength that people possess, especially during times like this is just astounding.

5. You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero

One more in the self-help/motivation department. Can you tell I’m trying to get the juices flowing and dig out of the trenches? I feel like this book is just packed with awesome, lift your spirits quotes. The kind that can become your mantra, that quote you print out so you can see it every day or make it the background on your phone. She also has two other books out, You Are a Badass at Making Money and You Are a Badass Everyday both of which are now on my list.

I’d love to hear any book recommendations you might have! I’m always adding to my list!

 

*Products linked are affiliate links

Top 10 Table Service Restaurants at Disney World

It’s no secret one of my favorite things about Disney World is the food. Even with how much information there is out there, I still get disbelieving responses from people who assume it’s just “theme park food.” And don’t be fooled, there’s plenty of that too, but there are also a ton of awesome restaurant options too.

Here are some of my favorites!

1. Le Cellier Steakhouse

This is definitely a special occasion/treat type meal because it is on the pricier side, but for us- it’s worth every penny. Located in the Canada Pavillion, Le Cellier has maybe the best filet I’ve had and it’s also home to my all-time favorite poutine, now called the Annual Passholder Poutine (but anyone can order it). This poutine is fries, Canadian cheddar, truffle, and red wine reduction. What makes is so amazing is they bring it to the table and pour the reduction right there in front of you. Amazing. It’s a must-order every single time.

Disney Dining Plan Eligible: 2 Table Service Credits

gYkKcsnHT6+DpTczPA5evA_mini_6f9e.jpg
Come. On.

2. Kona Cafe

Located on the second floor of the Main House at the Polynesian Resort, this possibly tops ‘Ohana for me for a sit-down dinner on Poly property- which is huge. They just had a big menu overhaul and it’s important to note you can eat breakfast, lunch or dinner. The breakfast menu is ridiculous, but I’m going to focus on dinner here. Kona has an awesome sushi menu and I’m always a huge fan of the pot stickers or the pork wings. Delicious!

Disney Dining Plan Eligible: 1 Table Service Credit

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_35d8
“Dad, make sure you order mac and cheese!”

3. Ale & Compass

Ugh. This place is so good. Located inside Yacht Club, this restaurant opened in late 2017, so it’s still fairly new. Jon and I absolutely loved our experience here. Top to bottom, the staff, the food, the atmosphere was amazing! The menu has a great variety on it, so there’s really something for everyone! I would 10/10 recommend the Parker House Rolls & Spreads as an appetizer. Wow.

Disney Dining Plan Eligible: 1 Table Service Credit

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_mini_604e.jpg
Bacon Jam, Pub Cheese, & Citrus Butter…SO GOOD.

4. Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant

Besides the food being awesome, the menu is huge here so you really have some great options. My favorite part is that they have live music and Irish step dancers every night. It’s so entertaining and kids and adults love it. It’s the one place that my parents ALWAYS request to eat when they come along. That must be worth something, right?

Disney Dining Plan Eligible: 1 Table Service Credit

5. San Angel Inn Restaurante

Now, you may not be taking any of those bright, colorful IG photos in here because it’s so dark, but the food is oh so worth it. This restaurant is located inside of the Mexican Pavillion. If you’ve ever ridden the Gran Fiesta Tour inside of the pavillion, you’ve ridden past all of the candlelit tables of this restaurant. I was going back and forth whether La Hacienda de San Angel would take this spot or not. That restaurant is located across from the Mexican Pavillion and honestly, it’s great too. You can request to sit at a table overlooking the water, it’s a bit brighter and more spacious inside too and the food is great. But, I really, really enjoyed the entire experience at San Angel Inn. It’s cozy and the food is great. I absolutely loved my Blood Orange Margarita here as well!

Disney Dining Plan Eligible: 1 Table Service Credit

zP0tpwRKSMyj6REElEmgoQ_mini_360e

6. Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria

EPCOT really has some of the best food you’re going to find on property and you can find Via Napoli at the back of the Italy Pavillion.  Grab lunch or dinner here and you’ll be a happy camper. The pizza here is just amazing. Obviously. If anyone knows how to do pizza. But I’m a thin crust pizza person, so this fits the bill for me. If you’re not, maybe check out the window service pizza place attached to Via Napoli. I’m not an eggplant parmesan fan, but my mother has dreams about the eggplant parm here, so if that’s your kinda meal, make a reservation ASAP!

Disney Dining Plan Eligible: 1 Table Service Credit

7. The BOATHOUSE

Honestly, this was a place that I never had a strong feeling about in either direction. So on one of our recent trips, Jon and I saw an open reservation and snagged it, figuring it was a good excuse to go over to Disney Springs and walk around. I am SO glad that we did. As the name suggests, a very nautical theme to the restaurant and lots of great fish options. Jon was a huge fan of the fish tacos. I loved my meal too, but the real MVP of this meal was our order of truffle fries. You order them as a side to share, or in our case, we ordered them as our appetizer and wow. They were so good, we actually were coming home the next day and we put the leftovers in a Tupperware and BROUGHT THEM ON THE PLANE. Hand to God, we could not leave them behind!

Disney Dining Plan Eligible: 2 Table Service Credits

meJb%JdiRri5eeXv%GTQwg_mini_6f8d.jpg
Lemon Aioli on the side…scrumptious!

8. California Grill

I put California Grill up there with Le Cellier as a special treat/special occasion type meal. It’s not cheap, but the service and experience is second to none. Located on top of the Contemporary, if you get lucky and get seated by the windows, you’re going to have sweeping views of Magic Kingdom and Seven Seas Lagoon. There’s also a viewing area here for the fireworks, so save your receipt in case you have an early reservation and you can come back and watch from their balcony! We ate here for Jon’s birthday and I mentioned it was his birthday and they sat us by the window and the table had celebration Mickey confetti and we got a sweet complimentary cupcake for dessert! Reservations are hard to come by here, so make sure you plan in advance and make your reservation as early as possible!

Disney Dining Plan Eligible: 2 Table Service Credits

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_4029
Okay, maybe not the best weather, but the view was still amazing!

9. Yak & Yeti Restaurant

I’ve definitely mentioned my love of Yak & Yeti’s Quick Service location which is outside to the right of the restaurant, but the Table Service portion is also amazing. Wok Fried Green Beans, Lettuce Wraps, Honey Chicken. It’s basically a better version of PF Chang’s. Don’t forget to try the Mango Pie and the Fried Wontons for dessert! I’m salivating just thinking about it!

Disney Dining Plan Eligible: 1 Table Service Credit

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_36b8

10. Grand Floridian Cafe

Rounding out the top 10, we’re stopping at the last location left on Seven Seas Lagoon. The Grand Flo Cafe at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. There are usually reservations available here, so it’s a good fallback in case you’re making a last minute reservation. Tons of seating, and very spacious thankfully.  You can also have Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner here which make it a versatile option. The Heirloom Apple Salad appetizer has crispy prosciutto on it, so basically just take my money because I’m a sucker for crispy prosciutto. Good luck picking an entree, because there are going to be at least a handful that catch your eye, it’s difficult to narrow it down!

We had a great experience here, our waitress was amazing. She found out that we were out to dinner for a night out without the kids, since my mother and MIL were watching the girls back at the room and she gave us a bag with 2 cupcakes in it for us to bring back to them at no charge. I’m always taken aback by the Disney magic!

Disney Dining Plan Eligible: 1 Table Service Credit

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_mini_8beb.jpg

The great thing is Disney World is always opening new restaurants, the bad thing is, there’s just not enough time for us to try them all! Such a difficult decision to go back to your favorites or try something new, right? But we have a few reservations for upcoming trips to try some new spots, so who knows what might get knocked out of the coveted Top 10!

How I Pack for a Plane Ride with Small Children

Snacks. Snacks. And more snacks. But honestly, I’ve never heard a child ask for so many snacks at 6 in the morning! After many flights with my kids, I have a system down for what I pack for the plane. I like to think of myself as a modern-day Mary Poppins.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_mini_67ad.jpg
Those rare occasions that I’m not traveling with kids, I get to take my purse!

My first stop is usually some combination of the Target Dollar Spot and the Dollar Store. There are so many great little toys, activity packs, stickers, etc that I stock up on. Variety is the spice of life here because with my daughter, her attention span is limited when she knows what lies in our destination. My main Mouse, Mickey!

I’ve also had some serious luck with the Usborne supplies I’ve brought along. Is this a shameless plug because I sell Usborne Books? Kinda? Not really though. I usually bring some Wipe-Clean books and cards and lately she’s been digging the Little Transfer books and any sticker book she can get her hands on!

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_mini_a852.jpg
Wipe-Clean cards for the win!

Once they get their own seat, then we pack a backpack for them as their “personal item.” Meryl is 3, so she’s more than capable of wearing her own backpack and she likes to feel part of the packing process. The key here is I don’t let her see anything that I got so it keeps things fresh on travel day. I let her pick 1 or 2 things she wants to bring in her backpack while we are packing and then the night before we leave, I put the new goodies in. That way, once we’re onboard, it’s a good surprise and distraction.

Backpack Rundown (for the kid)

  • iPad- fully charged with content downloaded. We got this great case that is awesome for little hands and has withstood so many drops!
  • Headphones- These bluetooth headphones were a great investment and they are made specifically for little ears so the sound won’t blow out their ear drums! I promise, I did the research!
  • Activity packs, Wipe-Clean books, Crayons, Stickers, Melissa & Doug Water WOW, small puzzles
  • Water bottle
  • Sunglasses
  • Snacks- you know the things they like. I always try to pick up a “treat” snack as well which I keep in my bag as a last resort distraction.
  • Ring Pops– This has been a recent addition. We’ve been struggling hardcore with takeoff and landing and ear pain. Now, we let her pick a Ring Pop before we take off (yes, even for early flights) and she’ll suck on that until our ears aren’t popping any more. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than a toddler meltdown and the sympathetic stares or blatant eye rolls from strangers.
  • Extra pair of pants/shorts and extra pair of underwear- You just don’t know when they’re going to decide to have an accident! Airplane bathrooms are scary!
kuruiQjjS8C8uDkPISf7oQ_thumb_8c87.jpg
You just can’t get any cooler when you rock headphones like that.

Mom Bag Rundown

Technically, since I’m traveling with an infant these days, I can bring a diaper bag AND a personal item- but for sake of sanity, I just bring a backpack and call it a day.  So what’s inside?

  • Diapers (usually 5) & wipes
  • Change of clothes for each kid (usually a dress so that it takes up less room! Ah…girls!)
  • FuelRod- this is a portable charger that you can change out for a freshly charged on at tons of locations on Disney property. So useful! I also usually bring a second portable charger because…kids.
  • Chargers- iPhone and microUSB
  • AirPods & case- I’m obsessed with this new Minnie case! Can’t wait for our trip!
  • 2 bottles with milk (I’m pumping) and my pump and extra milk bags. I’m going to shoutout my Freemie Independence here. If I didn’t have this pump, it would be so hard to travel!
  • Pouches of food for the baby and these ChooMe covers have been a lifesaver so she doesn’t squirt food everywhere and they give her some independence with eating.
  • Tissues- Someone always has a runny nose.
  • Ibuprofen, Children’s Tylenol, Children’s Benadryl, Bag Balm, Sunscreen, Diaper cream, bandaids, floss & Tums- a nurse is always prepared for whatever calamity is coming.
  • Extra hair elastics & comb- I’ve been burned by an elastic breaking mid-flight. Have you seen what airplane air does to a child’s hair? Please see example below.
  • Extra snacks & empty water bottle- because someone is always still hungry and I can fill up my bottle after we get through security.
  • Gum- this is purely because Disney World doesn’t sell gum on property and that’s usually always where we are going!
UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_59f8.jpg
Airplane hair. You just can’t buy static electricity like that.

 

Basically my backpack is usually filled to the brim, but I try to be as prepared as possible because you just never know what chaos will ensue!

Generally, I wear the baby onto the plane. Our first ever Disney trip we used an Ergo and then I smartened up when I saw a woman wearing a far lighter/smaller carrier and we ended up buying one as soon as we got home and haven’t looked back! We use an Infantino 4-in-1 carrier and honestly, it doesn’t take up much room and it’s super easy to put on/figure out. Since we’re always traveling to the tropics of Florida, I enjoy having a carrier that isn’t extremely bulky and sweat producing. Those little furnaces called babies are hot enough as it is!

UhN8K886QlGYyBUcgbZydQ_thumb_8ca5.jpg
Please note: Carrier & Ring Pops- we are ready to rock ‘n’ Roll!

So that’s it! It’s not super fancy or rewriting the book on traveling on a plane with kids by any means, but it has worked for us and no ones complaining!

The ride home is usually filled with whatever new toy or doll has weaseled it’s way into our lives, so I just do my best to repack her backpack so that the stuff that wasn’t on heavy rotation on the first flight is on top. Thank goodness it’s not a long flight! 🙂

Do you have any special tips and tricks that have kept your kids occupied on a flight? I’d love to hear about it!

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_mini_9981.jpg
Well, what do you think?

 

*Linked items are through my personal UBAM site and my Amazon affiliate link! Thank you!

 

So What is This Disney Vacation Club? 

If you’ve been to a Disney Resort or Park, you’ve probably heard the acronym DVC thrown around. Perhaps you’ve walked past one of the many DVC kiosks throughout the parks and resorts. Or maybe you’ve driven behind someone with a DVC bumper sticker? Or better yet, maybe you know someone who seems to go to Disney more times than should be financially possible.

That last point there is the kicker. Disney World/Disneyland/Aulani- you name it, it’s an expensive vacation. For many people, a once-in-a-lifetime-type expense. Heavens knows, I had never been to Disney before adulthood. Who can afford it and afford it on a regular basis? That’s the question we asked ourselves before we bought a Disney Vacation Club contract.

Jon and I had been on a handful of vacations before we took the plunge. My husband is a numbers guy and he was quickly realizing that with the cost of the trips we were taking, it only made sense to look into a DVC membership.

Don’t get me wrong- I was skeptical, at best. A timeshare? With Disney? Yeah, good luck selling me a timeshare. I’m not a timeshare person. I’m that person that constantly feels like someone is going to scam you, lie to your face, you know- like a sleazy used car salesperson. That’s what I was envisioning. Now that you know where my head was at… we set up an appointment and tour to learn more about the whole shebang.

I will say this, even if you aren’t going to buy into the Disney Vacation Club, it’s worth going on a tour because they do it right and they take care of you. We were staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge and DVC set up a special van to pick us up. It had a carseat for Meryl and they drove us directly to the Polynesian Resort. My angel of a MIL whisked Meryl off to Magic Kingdom and we started our tour.

They showed us around the property, we were able to see inside the rooms and it’s just so beautiful, it really is. I’ve said it multiple times and I’ll say it again, we could not afford to pay the regular room rate to stay somewhere like the Polynesian. It’s just too exorbitant and would remain a pipe dream- until we became Members.

After we said yes, filled out the paperwork and just stared around smiling, a private van brought us over to the entrance to Magic Kingdom and we were informed that we had 3 VIP Fast Passes loaded onto our accounts, for everyone on our reservation! Not. Too. Shabby. We also received a $100 Disney Gift Card!

How does it work?

You purchase an allotment of points. In order to get the benefits that come along with being a DVC Member, you must purchase a minimum of 50 points. The points cost a certain dollar amount per point. For example, if the cost was $100/point and you purchased 50 points, you’d sign for a contract of $5,000. Financing is available through Disney for contracts of 50 points+. This makes it really manageable if you can’t pay the total upfront. Is the interest rate good? No. Can you refinance and get a much more reasonable rate? Yes.

Now, you have your points. It’s time to book a vacation. Like I mentioned, not a huge timeshare fan, but it’s my understanding with most timeshares, you get an assigned week to vacation every year. I knew I didn’t want that, and that’s why Disney is awesome. You can use your points to stay on Disney property any night of the year. There are no assigned weeks/days/etc. The calendar is split into seasons- I know you’re like “umm..yeah, Sarah. We know. This isn’t preschool.” No, no, no! Disney seasons are wayyyy different than the normal seasons. We have Adventure Season, Choice Season, Dream Season, Magic Season, and Premier Season. Each season the point values differ per room/night- with weekdays being less points than weekend days. So you can pick any day of the year to stay, it might just cost you more points per night depending on when you’re going. For example, you’re going to use a lot more points to stay during Christmas than in September.

f47Us5KqTi23MZ3+zPlzMQ_thumb_5aa3

Where/when can I book? 

There is a Disney Vacation Club website, where you use your Disney/ESPN login and you can book your stays right there. When you purchase your contract, you’re purchasing at a specific resort, which will be your Home Resort. Our Home Resort is the Polynesian Villas and Bungalows. Because that is our Home, we get an earlier booking window there. You are allowed to book at your Home Resort 11 months in advance. Once you hit the 7-month window to your trip date, then reservations are opened up to any DVC member.

Here’s an example: If we know we want to stay at the Polynesian, we will book our vacation at the 11 month window. If we want to go in December, we will book that trip in January of the same year. However, if we want to stay at a different DVC resort, such as the Contemporary or Grand Floridian, then we can’t book until 7 months prior. For a December trip, we would look to book our stay in May.

How do the points work exactly?

Gee, I’m glad you asked. One of the cool things about the points system is that you can borrow and bank your points so you don’t lose them. When you sign your contract, you are assigned a use year. Our use year is October, so every October, we get a new allotment of points to use for that next 12 months.

If you aren’t a family/person that envisions taking a Disney trip once a year or multiple times a year, but instead could see yourself going every 2 or 3 years, this is where being able to bank your points comes in handy. You can bank the points you aren’t going to use into the next use year, effectively doubling your points. This way, you could take a bigger vacation the next year because you now have double the points to use.

O7fPVzfmTwSBPqzhNSDUhQ_mini_5b6a
We also love that we can bring people with us to enjoy a vacation too! 

To take it a step further, if you wanted to take a trip every 3 years, you could bank your points from the current year for the following year and then when you book your trip, you can borrow your total or some of your allotment from the future year and you’d have 3x your point total to work with.

What I’m saying is that you really have the flexibility to use your points in many ways so that it fits your families needs.

Can I only use my points in Disney World?

Nope! Isn’t that awesome? You can use your points to stay at the Grand Californian at Disneyland, at Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii, or any of the DVC resorts on Walt Disney World property. You can also convert your points to stay at the hotels at the various other Disneyland properties around the world or the non-DVC resorts at WDW.

In addition to the Disney properties, you can use your points to stay at a variety of RCI resorts around the world, so you’re not just stuck taking a Disney vacation every year!

What are the benefits that come with being a DVC Member?

There really are so many benefits, so I’m just going to highlight a few!

I think the best benefit that we’ve taken advantage of is discounted Annual Passes. If you’ve been to Disney World, you know that the park tickets and park hopper passes add up very quickly. As a Member, we are eligible to purchase the Gold Pass, which is usually just available to Florida Residents. An Annual Pass comes with another slew of benefits, so it’s been great to have!

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_36ad
Being an AP holder opens up even more benefits!

Another perk we constantly take advantage of is a discount on merchandise and food. For the most part, we can get 20% off all Disney merch across the parks and resorts and there are other discounts at select Disney Springs locations. There is also a list of restaurants across property where we get a discount on dining, anywhere from 10-20%, which is always great to be able to use.

One benefit that we need to use more is discounts on select tours and parties. We have used the discount for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and you can also get discounts on various tours in the parks and activities during the many festivals that take place in Epcot. DVC also puts on free Moonlight Magic events throughout the year at all of the parks that you can RSVP for and attend at no cost. At these events, the parks are closed to outside guests and there are exclusive character meet and greets, exclusive merchandise, and you get to ride your favorite rides with minimal wait times and get free snacks and drinks! Jon and I will be checking out one of these events in May, so look for a future post on how it went!

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_6613
Moonlight Magic at Magic Kindgom

A perk my mother has taken advantage many times now, as a Member, you get access to free laundry on site at each of the DVC resorts. When you’re traveling with 2 sticky kids, who fall asleep with lollipops stuck to their face and shirt, access to a washer and dryer is awesome! And you can pack less clothing- hahahahahaha yeah, right. I overpack like it’s my job.

RrRM5PjpQ9e7MQQMciylnQ_mini_746b.jpg
Lollipops as big as her head that inevitably get stuck to some item of clothing. Kids, amiright?

Lastly, DVC Members have access to lounges at Bay Lake Tower (Top of the World Lounge) and Imagination Lounge (Epcot). Top of the World Lounge is a great bar with amazing food and drinks and it has an amazing view of Magic Kingdom, making it the perfect place to watch the fireworks! And Imagination Lounge is a must-stop for us every single time we visit Epcot. It’s a great place to cool off and kick up your feet. Located in the Imagination Pavilion, it’s spacious and has places to charge your phone, grab a free drink from the Coke Freestyle machines, make some coffee or tea, and a Cast Member even comes around with a complimentary snack cart!

Is DVC right for me?

Well that’s up to you to decide, right? If you’re a Disney nut, or love Disney enough that you want to visit every few years then I’d strongly consider it. If you’re a “do it once and I’m good” type person, then perhaps not. My advice is if you find yourself on a trip to Disney World, take a tour. Take the hour, and make the appointment, hear the spiel, ask your questions and then make the decision. There are almost always perks that come along with booking the tour, so I think it’s worth it for the gift card or fast passes alone!

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_8997.jpg

In a nutshell…

  • Yes, it’s a timeshare, but you can stay any day of the year, no set weeks or days.
  • You purchase an annual allotment of points and financing is available.
  • You can book your vacations online. 11 months in advance at your Home Resort and 7 months in advance at all other DVC resorts.
  • Banking and borrowing points is an option which allows you to take a larger vacation less frequently.
  • You can use your points at RCI resorts around the world.
  • So many member perks!
  • Book a tour!

 

Still have questions? Send me a message or comment below! You know what? Comment anyways and let me know what you thought! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Quick Service at Disney World (that keeps parents AND kids happy!)

Ahhh I remember the days when I’d hit 180 days from my reservation and be on my computer ready to book my Advanced Dining Reservations at our favorite Table Service restaurants on Disney property.

But, times have changed. And to be completely honest, unless we have another adult on the trip to babysit the kids so we can go out alone, we’re more likely to just choose Quick Service options during our trips. It’s cheaper (obviously), there are so many great options and there’s an even more relaxed atmosphere. I’m so proud to report we now know of every place on property that serves up Mac and Cheese and I will attest that in all of its plastic cheese goodness, I love it as much as I do Panera Mac and Cheese. SO, with that being said, let’s dive in, park by park!

Magic Kingdom:

Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe

Let me start by saying, out of all 4 parks, Magic Kingdom is by far the most basic. It’s the closest to standard “theme park” food. That being said, there are plenty of hidden gems if you do some planning. We love Pecos Bill’s. Simple Mexican food, they have Mac and Cheese and Uncrustables and they also have an awesome adult entree menu. I’m partial to the Southwest Salad, but they also have some awesome tacos. The best thing about Pecos Bill’s is the toppings bar. I mean who doesn’t love a toppings bar?

I’ll also make a point to say here that opting for a kid’s meal here is also a great option. If you’re a snacker and want to try all of the awesome snack options throughout the park like we do, a kid’s meal is a great way to tide you over so you can enjoy some Cheeseburger Eggrolls or a Dole Whip!

Is there anything better than a Dole Whip on a hot day?

*This is the most important part of this paragraph so if you skip everything else, please read this: Do yourself a favor and USE MOBILE ORDERING through the MY DISNEY EXPERIENCE app. You will save yourself so much time over the course of your trip if you do this. You can pick out all of your food and pay for it (with your attached credit card or with meal plan credits depending on what you’ve chosen) and when you arrive at the restaurant, you simply press Prepare My Order when you’re ready to pick it up.

I swear, there is hardly ever a line at the Mobile Order counter, yet there are lines out the door to order at the register. It is the same food, same menu, same everything. In fact, there are some “secret menu” items only available through the app at select Quick Service locations, so I really don’t see the downside here! MOBILE ORDER. MOBILE ORDER. MOBILE ORDER.

Casey’s Corner

You ain’t done Magic Kingdom right if you haven’t stopped at Casey’s. Hot Dogs and fries. Does it get any better?

What I love about Casey’s is the always have a hot dog of the month, which is some outlandish hot dog with crazy toppings that usually sound odd but taste delicious and also CORN DOG NUGGETS. Yup. I said it- corn dog nuggets and they are amazing.

Grab yourself a table outside and listen to the piano player play some ragtime while you have the perfect view of Cinderella Castle. If you’re lucky, you may even see a parade passing by. Since Casey’s is in a prime spot on Main Street, try to plan your meal outside of normal lunch/dinner time. You’ll have a better shot of snagging a good table!

I’ll repeat this again….Use Mobile Ordering here!

Animal Kingdom

Satu’li Canteen

Deep in the heart of Pandora, and I do mean deep. It’s all the way in the back of Pandora, across from the exit for Flight of Passage so you’ll have to walk under the floating mountains to get there. Sounds awful, right?

Yes, Mobile Ordering is available here so get on that! There is a boatload of seating available both inside and outside so this is a great way to escape the heat and reset in the air conditioning. Bathrooms and changing tables are right outside, just an FYI.

I’m partial to the sweet potato hash!

Huge fan of their menu mostly because it makes me feel like I’m actually eating something not fried for once. They have Bowls that you choose your meat, base (sweet potato hash, noodles, rice and beans, hearty salad) and sauce (charred green onion vinaigrette, black bean vinaigrette, creamy herb sauce). They are so good and served on these funky ceramic dishes that make you feel like you’re eating at home.

Kid’s options are great, there a hot dog (simple), and cheeseburger pods (delicious) and a cheese quesadilla (crowd pleaser). Don’t forget to check out the dessert because they have one of the coolest. The Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse is out of this world (but actually, because you’re in Pandora), so definitely give it a go.

Flame Tree Barbecue

The name says it all, right? If you like that smokehouse flavor, this is THE place. Just an aside, they have a Mandarin Orange Lemonade here that is so good, and about the only place I don’t just opt for a fountain ice water.

I haven’t had a bad meal here and haven’t tried something that I didn’t like so if this is your kind of cuisine, make this a priority! We usually split the Ribs, Chicken and Pulled Pork sampler because it is a massive amount of food and obviously, it’s a great value. If you’re looking for something smaller, the fries with pulled pork are, as you guessed it, amazing. Can’t go wrong there.

You know when you’re so hungry, you dig in before your wife takes a picture for social media to prove it happened?

There are decent kid’s options here too- Uncrustables, Turkey Sandwich and hot dog, or a baked chicken drumstick. Reminder to use Mobile Order here as well!

My favorite part about Flame Tree is the seating. It’s all outside, but it’s covered and there are multiple levels. While you’re sitting, don’t be surprised to see some bird visitors walking around. Pro Tip: My favorite place to sit is way in the back. If you just keep walking past all of the seating areas, there is a small ramp which leads down to a smaller seating area next to the water. It’s usually pretty quiet and shaded and you have the most perfect view of Expedition Everest.

Yak & Yeti Local Food Cafes

You may be slightly confused- Yes, there is a Table Service restaurant named Yak & Yeti Restaurant which is located just to the left of this Quick Service option. I will say, I love the restaurant. The food is amazing and the restaurant decor is so cool, so if you’re looking for a sit down option, I would definitely recommend it!

From a Quick Service perspective, I’ve never seen this place not busy. Again, use Mobile Order, but also, this is a great place to try to plan a meal during an off-peak eating time. There’s plenty of seating located around the back of the counter, but you may have to linger a bit for an open table. There are bathrooms located in the seating area too, in case you need a quick diaper change, etc.

Game Changer- they also serve breakfast. Breakfast sandwich, breakfast burrito, french toast sticks?! OH yes.

But for lunch and dinner, we’re looking at an Asian flare. I’m a big fan of the Honey Sesame Chicken and the Teriyaki Beef Bowl. This is also a Chicken Strips Kid’s Meal place. Hurray! But the real reason why we frequent Yak & Yeti? The Mango Pie. It’s unreal. It’s worth a trip just for the pie. It’s one of those pies that has a graham cracker crust. You know the buttery kind that you would just eat by itself and be satisfied? Yeah, it’s that plus an insane mango filling and the perfect ratio of graham cracker to filling. You’re welcome.

That ratio though

Hollywood Studios

ABC Commissary

Probably the most boring choice on this list? But I don’t mean that in a bad way. I actually have grown to really enjoy ABC Commissary over the years. Firstly, it’s huge. There is a ton of seating and it’s indoor seating. That is so clutch in the Florida heat and something that you don’t find at many of the other Quick Services. It’s also “boring” in the sense that there’s probably something for everyone on their menu. If you’re traveling with a picky eater or someone who isn’t into crazy food options, this is a great choice. The food is always good, you can mobile order and it’s the perfect place to rest for awhile. There are bathrooms inside- I know, I sound crazy with these bathroom name drops but knowing where bathrooms are is so important! Diaper blowouts happen, toddlers who need to pee at the drop of a hat happen, so knowing you have one in the seating area is a big plus.

Woody’s Lunchbox

A newer, more trendy option. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all possibilities here! Located in the back left of Toy Story Land, Woody’s Lunchbox has quickly become one of my favorite options. Homemade pop tarts, Smores French Toast, Breakfast Bowl, or a Brisket Sandwich, fancy Grilled Cheese or Totchos? All of it is good. While the menu might not be enormous, it’s a crowd pleaser and where else can you sit at a chair that’s shaped like a Babybel Cheese wheel?

Smores with a view of the Luxo Ball!

There is very little shade in Toy Story Land to begin with, but these tables all have umbrellas so it’s a nice place to get out of the sun, if not the heat before you head over to Slinky Dog Dash!

P.S.- Mobile Order is available here!

Fairfax Fare

Alright, so you’re going to sense a trend- we like the Mexican/Latin food places. If that’s not for you, you can skip this one. We actually had never eaten here, but were sitting in the Beauty and the Beast show across the way on Sunset Boulevard and it was really hot and I didn’t want hot food and I stumbled upon Veggie Salad. Now, normally, I’d just keep scrolling, but stay with me here.

“Wedge Salad with Fire-roasted Corn Medley, Crispy Tortilla Strips and Cheddar Cheese served with a Jalapeño Ranch Dressing”

Sounds pretty dang good, right? And cold. And it was just what I needed. It’s available with pulled pork on it too, in case you’re in need of some protein. Also it’s an enormous amount of lettuce so be prepared!

Looking at the menu now, we will certainly be trying the Empanadas and I saw someone get the Fajita Combo platter last trip and it looked amazing. So, if you’re in need of something cool and refreshing, this might just hit the spot. (*cough cough* Mobile Order)

Epcot

Electric Umbrella

(purely best kid option)

One of two places you can Mobile Order at Epcot. Basically, if you’re in World Showcase and in a pinch go to Liberty Inn. If you’re in Future World, hit up Electric Umbrella. Unless I’m starving and someone is dragging my limp body around Epcot, I’m not going to eat here as an adult. There are just too many other amazing options between World Showcase and whatever Festival is inevitably going on (Flower & Garden, Food & Wine, Festival of the Holidays or Festival of the Arts).  Sorry summer visitors- no festivals, but still plenty of good food.

However, there’s lots of indoor seating here, air conditioning, mac and cheese, you know the drill. I don’t have adventurous eaters (though the baby might surprise us here) so knowing I can just fill up the threenager here and move on is wonderful.

Starbucks is across the way so generally one of us will sit with the kiddos and the other will get our much needed caffeine.

Now prepare for more Mexican- I’m sorry!

La Cantina de San Angel

Right in the heart of Mexico, directly across from the Mexico Pavillion is this gem.

I have a problem, I know. But it is just so good! Also, Mexico is one of the first stops in World Showcase and I’m usually pretty hungry and the smell just lures me in. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great options for fish and chips in England and Les Halles Boulangerie in France is becoming a fast favorite as well, but this place is just a guaranteed good meal.

Tacos, Salads, Empanadas, and Churros for dessert, you can’t beat it. You can also find Chicken Tenders and Mac and Cheese for you know who. Plus you can snag a seat on the water and catch a breeze off Crescent Lake.

No Mobile Ordering is available here so you’re going to have to wait in line, but it’s worth it!

That’s it for my list of in-park Quick Service favorites. But I have to add a few more that we try to frequent whenever we can. They’re just that good!

*Choza de Margarita

Technically still in a park, this stand is located in World Showcase in Epcot, directly to the left of the Mexico Pavillion. I know, I know, but this is the last Mexican joint I mention. Meal Plans and Mobile Ordering are not available here, but they make some of my favorite food on property.

Seating is limited here, so grab a spot on the wall!

You want a legit Margarita? Stop here. They’re amazing.

But my favorite? The guacamole. Just stop and read the description: “topped with Mango and Pumpkin Seeds. Served with Fried Flour Chicharrón, Salsa Valentina and Lime.” Oh. Man. Fried Flour Chicharrón = Pork Rinds. Ridiculous. We usually opt out of the salsa because it is spicy and sometimes I just want to house this without having to stop for 87 sips of water.

They also have a ridiculous Empanada de Barbacoa here, which is served with a side of Corn Esquites (Mexican Street Corn). Just yes. Okay, that’s all for in-park food. Now onto some on-property, out of park options.

Options Outside of the Parks

*All of these options are easily accessible from Magic Kingdom by boat or monorail.

Capt. Cook’s

Ahh, Capt Cook’s- so near and dear to my heart. This is located at the Polynesian Resort, which you can reach by boat or by monorail from Magic Kingdom. The Poly is our Home Resort as Disney Vacation Club Members so we try to stay here at least once a year. That’s how much we love this resort. Even if you don’t choose to eat here, I always recommend checking out the other Deluxe Resorts on property because the theming is so beautiful.

Worth noting, even if you don’t have a park ticket on a certain day, if you are staying on Disney World property, you can take a bus to Magic Kingdom and then get on the monorail or a boat to these places without entering the park!

Capt. Cook’s is the Quick Service restaurant located around the corner from the main gift shop, you can also access it from the pool area. They have awesome meals for whatever time of day you are visiting. For breakfast, I highly recommend the Tonga Toast. Banana-stuffed sourdough bread that’s fried and rolled in cinnamon sugar. Do I need to repeat that? I didn’t think so. It’s other-worldly and you can totally share it with someone. It’s that huge.

For lunch or dinner, there are so many great options. The Thai Coconut Meatballs are one of my favorites, as is the Pan Asian Noodles or the Pulled Pork Nachos.

They have indoor and outdoor seating and if you pick the right table, you can look across Seven Seas Lagoon and see Cinderella Castle!

Roaring Fork

Located at the Wilderness Lodge Resort, you can visit here only by boat from Magic Kingdom. It’s an awesome ride and a great way to check out the Lagoon and nearby properties.

Roaring Fork will always hold a special place in my heart. My first trip to Disney World- which was in 2014 (not that long ago at all), we stayed here and this is where the slippery slope of my Disney obsession began.

Breakfast is amazing here. The Mickey Waffle options are to die for. Loaded Mickey Waffles with a Banana Foster sauce amongst other toppings and a Chicken and Waffles which you can have any time of day are just two of the ridiculous choices. Don’t worry, health nuts- there are always healthy options available too. But what’s the fun in talking about that?

Though for lunch and dinner, I will talk about one of their salads that I always have difficulty deviating from. The Wilderness Salad is one of my favorites. It’s simple but the apple vinaigrette and candied walnuts just pull me in every time.

There’s lots of indoor seating and outdoor seating as well. I like to sit outside in the shade because the theming of this resort is just too cool. You can sit right near the waterfall and if you stay long enough, you’ll probably hear Fire Rock Geyser go off as well!

Roaring Fork usually has some great desserts too. Just check out this Campfire Cupcake we got last time we were there!

Contempo Café

Last, but certainly not least, Contempo Café is located on the 4th floor of the Contemporary Resort. You can get here by walking from Magic Kingdom (maybe 10 minutes at best) or taking the monorail- right into the resort!

We love the Contemporary because there is always so much to look at. I could just sit and watch the monorail come in and out all day, so I’m easily pleased. Contempo Café serves food all day long and they have some tasty, simple options and always have an absurd dessert selection.

You’ll find pizza, salad, sandwiches and a kid’s menu that everyone can find something on.

My last tidbit of advice here is that if you are staying on property and you purchase a resort mug. Though they’re expensive, if you’re staying for more than 3 days, they are totally worth it because you can bring them to any resort on property and fill them as well. Plus they make a great souvenir! So for these last 3 Quick Service options I’ve mentioned, make sure to bring your resort mugs so you can fill up!

Well, I’m out of breath (ha- I’m not, but my fingers are tired) and I’m sure you’re sick of reading! I hope you found some new places to try out for your next trip!

Let me know in the comments what other types of Disney posts you’d like to see or where you’re most !

 

 

Disney World with a One Year-Old- It Can Be Done!

Now that Meryl is THREE (read- catastrothree/threenager), I guess I can write a little bit about bringing her to Disney World when she was one (and 1.5!). This is what happens when you’re a mom- your life is paved with good intentions and blog posts, yet many are started and never finished. OH, and then you miraculously get pregnant and have another child and being a mom of 2 completely takes over your life and liquefies your brain. We’ve taken so many Disney trips since I started this post and have brought the new bundle of joy back twice already, but we just booked our next big Disney trip, so now is a perfect time to reminisce (on the easy days with one child) and get excited!

 

*hit the rewind button*

At this point, plenty of time had past since MGM was a horrible, colicky nightmare. She was 11 months old now….and walking!! Thoughts going through my mind…

1. This is so great. She’s going to be able to walk until she’s tired and then she will go in the stroller.

2. Do I even need to bring the baby carrier? No, probably not. But, who cares. It doesn’t take up much room.

And thoughts after…

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Kids run the world. Let’s not forget that. So here are my top takeaways!

unadjustednonraw_thumb_514
Who runs the world?

1. Keep your expectations low.

Plan to not plan. Keeping the bar low will make everyone happy. Traveling with a one year-old is akin to walking around with a grenade that has a loose pin- They could be set off at any moment. Disney is the definition of overstimulation and that can be a recipe for disaster if you don’t prepare for it. Don’t try to ride every attraction. Make your three Fast Passes, use My Disney Experience to make more if things are going well and check wait times to keep waiting in line to a minimum. I’ve yet to meet a small child who doesn’t become instantly bored waiting in line. In a world of instant gratification, don’t try to be a hero.

2. Try to keep some semblance of a nap schedule.

From my experience, the heat, overstimulation and excitement of each day in Florida is enough to all but ensure that my kid is going to fall asleep. When she was one, we made a point to go back to the hotel midday to give her a nap in the Pack N Play. It was a good excuse for us to get out of the heat and recharge as well. It’s worth mentioning that Disney will provide a Pack N Play for you if you call Mousekeeping. If you’re staying in a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) room then there is usually a Pack N Play already in the room for your use, which, for us, is a nice perk. We’ve since become DVC members, so look for a post on that in the near future as well!

unadjustednonraw_thumb_4c5
Sometimes they give in and fall asleep!

3. Take advantage of the Baby Care Centers.

Disney has done a decent job here. I have my gripes, which I’ll explain, but these centers can be a valuable resource to you. There are Baby Care Centers in each of the 4 parks. Disney Springs does not have one, just a heads up. They are stocked with baby supplies and baby/toddler medicine, diapers, hats, pacifiers- basically anything you forgot to pack and it’s all available for purchase. Not the best deal, but in a pinch, it’s a lifesaver. We forgot a pacifier once….never again!

Magic Kingdom’s is located around the corner from Casey’s and is pretty small considering the traffic that Magic Kingdom sees. If you’re headed in for a quick diaper change, you should be fine, but be cognizant if you’re going to head there around meal times. Many…I repeat, many people will be joining you and there probably won’t be a seat available. People bring their toddlers to feed them meals, babies to give bottles or nurse, extra family members usually join and it can be chaotic. I find it to be super stressful and anxiety-provoking, particularly with a smaller baby (under 12 months) because there are many eyes on you during those peak feeding times and with the noise level, babies get distracted easily. Not to mention, people love to look, no not look, stare at small babies and make comments and give unsolicited (usually poor) advice, amiright?

Hollywood Studios also has as supremely small Baby Care Center located inside of Guest Services. Not my number one choice, but it’s so tucked away that sometimes it’s forgotten and you might get lucky and be the only person inside, which is nice. You’ll never get that chance at MK. Side note: I think Disney really needs to expand/redo/add more Baby Care Centers throughout the park. During busy seasons, it can be impossible to find a mildly quiet bench to sit down on and feed a child and it would be nice to be able to rely on finding that at the Baby Care Center.

Epcot has the second largest Baby Care Center and it’s located in the Odyssey Center in between Future World and World Showcase. Nothing fancy, but it just has more room to breathe. Amen.

By far, my favorite Baby Care Center is located in Animal Kingdom. It’s located around the corner from Creature Comforts (Starbucks) and it has an awesome room with a movie playing for the kids as well as a bunch of small tables and chairs for them to sit at. The room is also lined with benches for the adults to just sit and collect their thoughts. I’ve never seen it overly crowded and the bright, vibrant colors make it feel more “Disney” than the others.

Anywho, don’t be afraid to pop in and cool down in one of the Baby Care Centers. They are a great resource and I do hope that Disney decides to invest more of my dollars into them in the future (even if we won’t be using them in a few years!)

4. Find a baby carrier you like, and BRING IT!

I laugh thinking about that fact that I wasn’t going to bring a baby carrier with me because Meryl was walking. She was an early walker at 9 months so I was convinced in my slowly atrophying Mom-brain that she’d be able to walk around until she was tired enough to sit in the stroller.

What I didn’t think about was just how long Main Street is and just how long it would take an almost one year-old to walk that distance. Did she want to? Of course she did. Did she want to sit in the stroller? Of course she didn’t. The carrier is the go-between.

Here’s my side-note about the carrier:

During our first trip with Meryl, when she was 8 weeks old, I saw a relatively tiny baby (what a relief- we weren’t the only crazy ones) in a carrier, outward facing. We had brought the bulky Ergo with the infant insert and frankly, I just wasn’t a fan and it wasn’t comfortable. So I asked her about the one she was using. It was an Infantino 4-in-1 and total score- it’s only $30 and I was sold. . I could have ordered it that night. It’s lightweight and small and you can use it (as the name implies) four different ways. Highly recommend it if you’re not loving your carrier or you’re trying to figure out which of the 8,000 available you should start with.

unadjustednonraw_thumb_597
I wish someone would carry me around like that!

Back to the story- When Meryl was getting too tired to walk or we had to get somewhere quickly and she didn’t want to sit in the stroller, I’d put her in the carrier and off we’d go. I switched between outward facing and inward facing and I even got her to take a few naps that way as well. I would also make sure she was in the carrier for rides like Kilimanjaro Safari and even Pirates of the Caribbean.

Here are some other tips that are just things we do normally now for our trips:

1- Gate check our stroller on the plane.

Getting through the airport with our stroller is so much easier than carrying a small child or getting them to walk. Even now with 2 (and I’ll write another post about traveling with 2 of them), we still check our stroller even though we rent a double stroller to use in the parks.

2- Ship an Amazon Prime order to the resort with necessities.

Diapers, snacks, pouches, bottle brush, soap….anything you don’t want to waste space packing, ship it. Only once have we had to pay a delivery fee to the resort for handling our package. The other times, it’s made its way to our room, or we’ve picked it up at the front desk without an issue. It’s so helpful to have snacks to pack if you have a picky eater. I assume most babies and toddlers are picky eaters like mine. If not, you are so lucky and I am très envious. That’s fancy for very. (Can you tell we’re now in a Fancy Nancy phase?)

3- Be cost-effective with your food orders and use mobile ordering.

If you’re going to buy food in the parks for your one-ish year-old, our favorite thing to do, even now, is to order one kids meal and one adult meal (quick service is our jam these days) and split it amongst the 3 of you. If you know me, I love to snack at Disney. There are always so many limited time snacks and new things to try so for meals, Jon and I like to split something and then we’ll just pick at whatever mac and cheese, Uncrustable or turkey sandwich is left from Meryl’s meal. We’re satisfied and we saved a few bucks. Win-win!

And it needs to be said that one of the biggest timesavers is using the My Disney Experience app to use the Mobile Order feature at various Quick Service restaurants around the parks. You place your order and pay ahead of time and simply hit the button that lets them know to prepare your order. Then head right to the Mobile Order station to pick it up! So simple and no waiting in line. A must-do if you have hungry little ones!

4- Bring cups from home and Ziploc bags or snack containers.

You’ll probably be bringing bottles from home, while you’re at it, pack the water cup too. It’s so frustrating to get the park and realize that when your kid is thirsty that they’re most likely going to drink from something that will inevitably spill all over them and also get back wash in it. It’s super easy to just fill their cup with water and away you go!

It’s also great to have Ziploc bags or snack containers to fill up with those snacks you ordered. Disney allows you to bring in snacks and drinks, so take advantage. We also use the Ziploc bags to bring home snacks from the parks that we couldn’t eat during the trip! I almost ALWAYS bring home a Carrot Cake Cookie from Trolley Car Cafe at Hollywood Studios!

unadjustednonraw_thumb_3503

Just remember, you can do it. And you will have fun as long as you don’t try to do too much. Disney World is so magical and wonderful, but you can burn out and be stressed if you’re striving for perfection every minute of the day. I try to take solace in the fact that at any given moment, there are probably at least 100 other parents in the parks dealing with a baby/toddler meltdown at the same time as me. We’re all in this together!

I’m sure there are more tips and tricks that my cobwebbed brain is just not remembering, but if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment below and I’d be happy to help!

*Products in post are Amazon Affiliate links

About That Book Lady Life 


4 months ago, I took the plunge into direct sales. Something I never imagined doing. You can read about it in my previous post. It’s been a surprising (in a good way) start and has really pushed me out of my comfort zone. I continue to be impressed by Usborne as a company and love the books more and more each time I open up a new one. 

My favorite part, so far, is hearing back from customers about their son or daughter finding a new favorite book. Or hearing that someone’s child who hates reading, found a book that they can’t put down. I’ve always been such a bookworm. I love to read, I love to learn. I genuinely get excited when I can see Meryl engaged and interested in a book and am so hoping that by surrounding her with books, she develops the same love of reading. 

A few things have surprised me such as 1) how many people have never heard of Usborne, 2) How little people know about the children’s literacy crisis in this country, and 3) How supportive my Usborne team has been. I have truly enjoyed the support and motivation that my team brings me.  It has also been a pleasure introducing these books and this company to some wonderful women…and men! My viewpoint has been that if I can help one family establish new reading routines or get one person to pick up a book and actively participate in reading with their child/niece/nephew/grandchild, then it’s all worth it. 


From the beginning, I never wanted to be “salesy” or pushy. If people want to buy the books, then they’ll buy the books. That has been my mindset from day one when I joined and I hope to continue in that mindset. 

In just four short months, I can definitely say I have experienced the ups and downs that comes with working in sales.  One day can be a total downer and super depressing, leaving me wondering if I’m spinning my wheels and then the next day you have 5 amazing conversations or a great party and it makes you forget about your hesitations. 

Besides consistency, the motto that I have always loved and will continue to remind myself of is from none other than one of my favorite people, Walt Disney! And from one of the best and most underrated Disney movies…Meet the Robinsons! 


Keep Moving Forward is such a fantastic mantra regardless of what you’re going through. Meet the Robinsons celebrates failures and reminds us that progress cannot be made without some setbacks. This is true in work, life, parenting, relationships….selling books! If you follow me on IG (@samedeiros3), you’ll see the hashtag #keepmovingforward makes frequent appearances because it’s that awesome! 

I can’t wait to see what my future looks like with Usborne Books & More. This company is exciting and while I am unable to attend convention next month, I’m looking forward to hearing about all the new plans to advance this company, stay relevant and keep people excited….plus I cannot wait for sneak peeks of the NEW CATALOG!! New books!! So awesome! 

If you’re reading this and wondering what this is all about, or you want to check out the books or come to a party or host a party…let me know! 

(I just figured I’d update the 2 people who aren’t my parents or family who may have read my first post and wondered what I was up to! 😂) 

Check out the books here

Life as an Usborne Books & More Consultant

Sometimes we make decisions that seem impulsive and out of character, but in reality, it’s something we’ve probably been unconsciously considering for a long time. That’s the only way I can describe my jump into becoming a consultant with Usborne Books & More. Totally out of my comfort zone. I don’t sell things. I’m a nurse. I do my very best to keep people who are an inch from death alive, whether they can pay for my services and knowledge or not. Not someone to plaster myself and promote something all over Facebook of all social media sites, Instagram maybe, but definitely not Facebook. Yet here I sit, with a month of Facebook parties ahead of me, selling children’s books.

A page from one of the bestsellers, Animally.

 

With a couple parties under my belt and training videos watched and read, I find myself with a motivation that I never expected. For a couple of years now, particularly since becoming a mom, I haven’t felt completely fulfilled in my work life. Nursing is hard. I work in Critical Care and the physical, emotional and mental toll that a 12-hour shift takes on my body is indescribable. I think anyone who works in healthcare would agree, patients are getting sicker. They all have multiple co-morbidities on top of whatever ailment has brought them into the hospital, which makes managing their care multifaceted and complicated. More often than not, I come home filled with horror stories and little hope. It is just the nature of the beast in the setting that I work in. Are there days where I see true progress and healing that fills me with happiness and pride in what I do? Absolutely. But it’s not the norm. Nursing has provided me with the flexibility to keep my daughter out of daycare and be able to be home with her which is something that is truly invaluable to me. There are also days where nursing stretches my mind and challenges me, keeps me on my toes and in the thrill of a critical moment, it fills me with adrenaline. So for that, and for those moments, I don’t think I will ever fully leave nursing. However, I do know that I needed something else.

 

All of the books I got for free when I hosted my party prior to becoming a consultant.

When my daughter grows up, I want her to see a mother who is hard-working, smart and driven. I want her to see someone who enjoys what they do, day in and day out. I want her to see someone who makes her want to work hard and stay focused. I think that’s part of the reason I joined Usborne. I’ve hosted every direct sales party under the sun…Jamberry, LuLaRoe, Scentsy, Tastefully Simple, Tupperware…you name it, I’ve tried it. And nothing has grabbed me and made me want to even consider joining as a consultant, until Usborne. I knew NOTHING before I hosted. I leafed through a catalog, looked at the website, I had seen a few books and they looked cool, but I was by no means a junkie. Something about that fact that this was all about books drew me in. I am a reader, I’ve always been a reader. I credit my parents for being really, really adept at picking awesome books for us. Reading was always a priority and I believe that it has helped me in school, with my vocabulary, writing and communicating with others, in general. So, it all comes down to an affinity for books.

Hoping my daughter will learn a second language before I did. My First French Word Book.

 

Even though I’m still relatively green in this business, I can honestly say that I’ve been nothing but impressed with the product. The books are all high-quality, with beautiful illustrations and there are just so many options. I truly believe there is a book for every kid. I have seen first-hand how much my daughter enjoys the books and actively seeks them out amidst other books we have at the house. Becoming a consultant gives me the ability to not only provide my family with access to all that Usborne has to offer, but I can reach so many more children in an age where technology runs rampant and social media permeates every corner of our being. Literacy rates PLUMMET after 4th grade, mostly because we stop reading to and reading with our children. If I can help to spread the word and get some books into the hands of kids so that they actually WANT to read, then it’s all worth it.

My starter kit.

 

Ultimately, nursing is a solid profession, it pushes me and challenges me and in a world where healthcare will dramatically change over the course of the next decade even, it is somewhere I will stay. But, books….children’s books? Now that’s fun. That’s bright and colorful and joyful. Books bring a smile to a child’s face. Books bring families together. Books bring cultures and countries and people of all ages together. I can’t be sure, but I think I found a way to make my professional life feel just a little more complete and whole.

*And this is my shameless plug to join my team. One reason I joined was that there are no sales minimums. I never had to run a party if I didn’t want to. Worst case scenario is I bought the kit which contained 20 books that my daughter will put to good use. Could be much worse. But if I do decide to pursue it fully, I can get that starter kit refunded if I meet enough sales and the commission is pretty good. And there is a surprising dearth of consultants, so if you have some questions….let me know. 

 

I’m always looking for people to introduce to the world of Usborne Books & More and I would love to host a party with you or even better…come join the book lady life on my team! Please get in touch with me by commenting below or through my website. I truly can’t wait to show you all we have to offer! 

Top Ten Thoughts on Turning Thirty

Woahhh…a new post. Stop traffic. 

1. That’s a lot of T’s in that post title.
Just kidding. There’s been tons of thoughts swirling through my brain regarding this impending milestone. 30. In some ways, it sounds so old. In others, so very young. So as I continue the (faster than I would like it) descent into the next decade, I leave you with these thoughts. 

1. Happiness is all around you (if you look hard enough)

It’s so easy to get swept up in the chaos that inevitably ensnares our every day life. But, I’m realizing there is so much in my life that brings a smile to my face and it’s important to stop and reflect on that. When I’m tired and overwhelmed, sad or stressed, I only need the fraction of a second it takes for my daughter to smile or laugh at me and all of that falls by the wayside. Her innocence and blissful unawareness of the chaotic world that surrounds her is a breath of fresh air and will always bring me joy.

I’ve found that it’s the intangibles that bring happiness. Obviously, finding a new flavor of Burts Bees or the new Disney Lip Smacker line can certainly bring me happiness but that is a transient happiness. I think it’s helpful to take a moment and be grateful that I have so much that is good in my life. There is always something positive to be found when we delve deep enough. So I look to 30 with a smile, knowing that there is so much more happiness in store for me in the coming years. 

2. True friends are hard to come by.

It’s true. I’ve read some crazy statistic that has been meme’d to the extreme and Instagrammed and Facebooked to the high heavens that says something along the lines of, “Psychologists say that once you’ve been friends with someone for 7 years, the friendship will last a lifetime.” And I don’t necessarily think they’re wrong. Let’s be honest…7 years is a LONG time. And making and sustaining meaningful friendships becomes infinitely harder as you get older. Life gets in the way. Everyone is busy and not in a bad way, we just have a lot to accomplish at this point in our lives. So friends come and go and you find new groups of friends who are at the same point in life as you and you bond over those commonalities but then you change again and sometimes those friends stick, sometimes they don’t. Fortunately, my parents gifted me two automatic friends in my sisters so regardless of what stage of life I’m in, they’re stuck with me and for that I’m very grateful. Add in a few more from various other stages and they are all I need. 

My crazy sisters. #sistersforever
 
3. I’m not about to waste my time. 

I’m really not. Are you? No. Life is too short to be worried about who said what and who’s not talking to who. Mean girls should have stayed in high school, which is where they belong. I’m good with the people I have in my corner and if you’re not on board, then that’s your loss. So here’s to calling it like I see it because there are far more important things to be worried about in life! 
4. Being a parent is going to get significantly more difficult. 

If I thought the first few months of my daughter’s life were difficult, I’m coming to terms with the fact that it’s going to get a whole lot worse. And I know that sounds like a bad way to put it, but it’s true. I was a wise-guy, pain in the butt preteen and a mouthy, entitled teenager. Scarily enough, I was actually a pretty good kid and made pretty much the right decisions, and did well in school, but I was still a teenage girl. A hormonal, sarcastic knowitall with FAR less technology and social media at my fingertips than this up-and-coming generation. My husband and I are in for it. So consider this my cue to buckle up and get prepared for the onslaught. Luckily, my daughter is one so, I think I have a small window of enjoyment left! As someone once told me, “Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems.” So let’s take on the little problems! 

5. Thank God for my husband. 

Turning 30, I am so glad than I can look to the right of me on the couch and see my best friend. I am thankful that we have been able to build this life we have and create our little family of 3. After 9 years together, we love each other and we even still like each other which is a feat in and of itself. It has been wonderful to see him grow as a father and see the love he has for MG. I’m proud of our accomplishments and that in this age of drowning in student loan debt, we have found a way to remain relatively financially stable, which is completely attributable to my husband as you can see from his love of all things finance related.  He makes sure we are taken care of and is one of the hardest working, driven people I know. I’m excited for what this next decade brings for us and our family.

B. Fresh Photography

6. Everyone has SOMETHING going on. 

I find this to be true more and more as I get older and I have a feeling that’s not going to change. People are always dealing with stuff that no one on the outside knows about. Internal struggles, family issues, work issues, health issues…you name it and I guarantee every random Joe on the street has one of them going on. I am going to make a purposeful effort to try to keep this is mind in my every day encounters. 

Do I have stuff going on? Yup. Am I still happy? Please see #1. Fact of the matter is, we live in a volatile world today. People are quick to judge, easily offended and kindness comes at a premium. So if we remember that the next time someone cuts you off at a light or jumps in front of you in line, maybe there’s a reason. Maybe we’re too quick to judge people and think they’re horrible and rude. Maybe, in this season of giving, we can be a bit more forgiving, understanding and accepting. Pay it forward, smile, toss kindness around like confetti. It’ll help us all in the long run. 

7. I’m going to have to stop swearing so much. 

Yet another random fact I’ve seen floating around on the internet is that people who swear are more honest, loyal and smarter than their counterparts. Hmm…so do I have to stop? Well, like I said, my child just turned one. She’s at the point that we have a few words but a greater proportion of an alien language in which I’m not yet fluent. 

Now there are few things funnier than a small child saying a swear when they have no idea what they’re saying. When they are actively verbally assaulting people with them, that’s a different story. So I suppose until MG and any future children are old enough to hear these things on the playground, I gotta cool it. If they hear it from Papa though…

8. At some point, I’m going to have to take care of me. 

This one’s scary to terms with. There is nothing easier than playing the Mom card. My time and energy goes into my kid, easy. I mean,  I took care of me through infertility treatment, through gestational diabetes, and years ago, at the gym (which you can read about in the archives), but prenatal and maternity care weren’t really for me. I think that’s why it was an easier lifestyle to maintain   All of the work and healthy decisions and choices I made were to benefit my future child/the child growing inside of me. It was all for a greater purpose. I’m 100% confident that I will have to go through it all again if we are going to expand our family. 🙄 God, help me. 

I just read the other day that in your twenties, you should focus on skin and hair maintenance…great. I have 2 weeks left. In your thirties, you need to start to worry about fine lines and wrinkles. Excuse me, what? These bags under my eyes are going to become permanent? I can’t just keep using the $10 moisturizer from the cheap aisle at Target? I suppose that since 30 and New Years pretty much coincide that maybe I should use this as my wake up call and get moving! I sound really convincing, right?

9. My career definitely hasn’t gone as planned. 

Read into that however you’d like. When I was in undergrad, yes, I had a much different mindset. I was out to change the world. Who wasn’t? Life happened. Med school became nursing school. And you know what? Knowing what I know now about the inner workings of a hospital, I made the right choice. I’d have a life if I went down the other path, sure…but it wouldn’t be the life I have today. Of that, I am certain. 

Being a nurse has been a very enlightening 5 years of my life. It’s odd working in a profession that is outwardly recognized and respected by mainstream media but when you get down to the day to day operations of it, it’s a much different story.

 I’ve learned much more in practice than I ever did in a book. My knowledge and skillset have helped me as a mother, a daughter, a friend, a wife, and for that I’m grateful. I’m also fortunate enough that it has allowed me the flexibility to be at home with my daughter the majority of the week. For me, time away from her is time I will never get back and she is my greatest accomplishment so I appreciate that I can be there for her milestones, her good days and her bad days. For now, nursing has been good to me, but I have to leave the door open on my career. 30 isn’t so old…

10. I actually think my 30s are going to be the best yet. 

I’m ready to settle into my Mom self. I’m ready to go to soccer games again, watch Disney movies (as if that’s anything new) and share my Disney obsession with someone who can experience the magic in an authentic way (and not roll their eyes at me). I’m ready to experience the magic of Christmas and Santa through the eyes of a child. I’m not ready for gray hairs. I’m not ready for my metabolism to get more sluggish by the day. And I’m not ready for the inevitable heartbreaks that will come alongside the joys in the years to come. But for now, I look toward a new year and a new calendar year filled with new memories. Maybe I’ll actually finish the baby book! 😂 

Mom life. Except with no makeup, sweats and random stains on everything.

I also think this post means a blog name change is in my near future! #talesofathirtysomething