July 21, 2016
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Prepping the Car for a Family Day Trip

Find out How I Prep the Car for a Family Day Trip #RoadTripOil #AD

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #RoadTripOil #CollectiveBias

Living in San Diego, we don’t have to drive far to find great adventures! Our summer plans include visits to the beach, local amusement parks, museums and even a drive to the mountains for a hike.  I bought my car brand new almost 12 years ago. It has over 140K miles on it and still runs great! Regular maintenance and oil changes is key, of course. Here’s how we have fun on our day trips, what we pack in the car when we hit the road and how the Walmart Auto Care Center gets the car in top shape.

Find out How I Prep the Car for a Family Day Trip #RoadTripOil #AD

Where To Go

You don’t have to go far to find family fun. Check local activities in your area for a great day trip, some place you can drive to and return home in the same day. Even if it’s just a nice picnic spot in a park, make a day out of it by bringing some outdoor games like a frisbee with you. Or grab a favorite board game and enjoy playing on the grass. We like to head out into the mountains for an afternoon fishing at the lake.

Have everyone in your family give some input on a place they’d like to go and then choose one each week until you’ve covered them all! My big kids wanted to play baseball at the park, I wanted to wander through Old Town San Diego and my little one wanted to swim at the bay. We’ve covered all three this summer and still have a few more fun day trips planned before school starts up!

Find out How I Prep the Car for a Family Day Trip #RoadTripOil #AD

What To Bring

Depending on where you’ll headed, your day trip packing list may vary. I have written this checklist on Traveling Mom for essentials everyone should pack with them in their bag. I keep a fabric bin in the trunk that’s loaded with day trip needs so I’m always ready and I can save myself some time.

If you’re going to be gone all day and would like to budget your meals, make sure to pack snacks and lunches to avoid having to make a costly stop for fast food. Bottled water is a must and I plan on three different snacks per person for the entire day. We like to choose snacks that can handle the heat inside the trunk, like nuts, dried fruit, apples and crackers. If you bring a lunch that needs chilling, place a small cooler in the car with a freezer chill pack that will keep everything a good temperature.

Find out How I Prep the Car for a Family Day Trip #RoadTripOil #AD

Don’t forget a towel, waterproof blanket or beach chairs to sit on. A disposable tablecloth is a good idea if you are going to be dining al fresco (picnic tables aren’t always the cleanest). On that note, bring hand sanitizer too, in case you aren’t able to wash hands before eating.

If you’re going to be gone until sunset, take note of the weather and bring a jacket if necessary. I like to bring my kids at least a clean shirt and shorts to put on at the end of the day so they aren’t sitting in the car wearing sweaty and dirty clothes! Bring a big plastic bag to throw everything in at the end of the day and pop it in the trunk to clean out when you get home. This will help you keep all the mess in one place.

How To Prep

My car has a lot of miles on it but it never lets me down. Pennzoil® High Mileage Vehicle® motor oil helps clean out the sludge lesser oils leave behind, while helping to reduce leaks and oil consumption in worn or higher mileage engines. It’s a motor oil specifically designed for new or late model vehicles with over 75,000 miles, with the mission of keeping engines running clean and going strong.

Find out How I Prep the Car for a Family Day Trip #RoadTripOil #AD

Make your life easier and get your oil changed with Pennzoil at Walmart’s Automotive Care Center. So nice that you can shop for your day trip and get your oil changed while you shop. You’ll be ready to hit the road immediately after check-out! I loved that I was able to drop off my car in Walmart’s Automotive Care Center and take the kids inside the air-conditioned store to pick up snacks for our recent drive up the coast to a theme park.

High mileage oil changes are on Rollback at Walmart ($35.88) from June 15 – September 28 so it’s a great time to prep the car for those summer adventures. Find your Walmart Automotive Care Center and drop in (no reservation needed) to get the oil changed on your vehicle so you can be trip ready too when the adventure-mood strikes!

What family day trips you have planned this summer? Share with me in the comments.

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July 20, 2016
3 Comments

7 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid When Planning a Disney Vacation

Tip #1 - No surprises! Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation!

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Blue Loop. Today we are sharing some common Disney mistakes and how you can avoid them.


Going to Disney can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned travelers. So much to remember and so much more to learn! But I find that I can have just as much fun in the planning stages as in the actual vacation itself. Last year my family and I (all seasoned Disneyland travelers) took our first last-minute trip to Walt Disney World and made *ahem*,  many mistakes! It happens to the best of us and if this is your first Disney vacation, you have your hopes up that everything will go well. And it can!

In order to make your vacation go as smoothly as possible, check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

7 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid When Planning a Disney Vacation

Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

“Surprise! We’re Going to Disney…Right NOW!!”

It sounds like a great idea, right? You’ll take them to the airport or pop them in the car for the road trip and surprise them with a trip to Disney! They’ll be so happy, right?? Depending upon your kids, this surprise of a lifetime could go either way. And you’ll really have to know your kids to know how a big surprise like that would go down.

For my two older children, a surprise vacation would not be welcome and might indeed spark a meltdown. They both like to know early-on what’s going to happen and be totally prepared so a surprise Disney trip would not be the best idea. However, my 4-year old would be thrilled! He tends to roll-with-the-punches a little better and doesn’t mind a few changes in his routine. Only you know how your kids might react.

7 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid When Planning a Disney Vacation

What kind of reaction are you expecting?

Instead of surprising the kids just as you’re leaving, consider a surprise early on in the planning stages of the vacation. This still gives you the excitement of “Wow, we’re going to Disney?!” but allows them time to let the idea of a big vacation sink in. They’ll also be able to properly prepare and help you plan the trip as well and give input on what rides and attractions they’d like to see. I like the idea of a surprise that includes a Disney Vacation Planning DVD (you can order one free through this link) so they can watch and take notes on what to expect during their trip.

“Why Is It So Crowded?”

If you plan on visiting Disney on a weekend, summertime, holiday season or pretty-much anytime that kids are out of school, you’ll need to be prepared that the Parks will be crowded. Be sure to take a look at the calendar before booking your trip to make sure an avoid three-day weekends and holidays if you want to visit when the Park crowds are lighter.

Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

See my post about the Best Times of the Year to Visit Disneyland

Best times

“I Am Totally Lost”

Finding yourself directionally challenged once you pass Main St. U.S.A? Take some time in your pre-vacation planning to study the maps of each Park. Each of the Disney Parks are large and have lots of nooks and crannies to explore. If you have a general idea of the layout of the “Lands” then at least you won’t be looking for the Haunted Mansion in Tomorrowland.

Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

“I Thought I’d Be Able to See ALL the Characters?”

At any given moment, you might find a dozen characters meeting and greeting guests throughout the Park. Will you find your favorite? Maybe! Not all characters meet guests year-round. Some you’ll be sure to see, like Mickey and the “fab five” throughout the day at the Parks and others only come out for special occasions. You’ll get an idea of which characters will be out that day from the Entertainment Times Guide you receive at the front gate. There are also special appearances that aren’t in the schedule and of course you can see characters in the shows and parades as well.

Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

Be sure to see my post on Traveling Mom, Ways to Meet Mickey and Other Characters for more details on how to see your favorites along with tips for having the best character meet n’ greet experience!

Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

“What Are We Going to Eat?”

Waiting until your vacation day to decide on your Disney meals is a mistake. Even if you only plan on grab & go counter service meals, you should still plan ahead of time what food you’ll be eating. This not only saves you time deciding on the spot, time spent zig-zagging across the Park to get to the restaurant and time perusing the menu deciding on your meal. With such a large family, I always print off a few of the restaurant menus online so we can decide what we’ll be ordering before our trip. We can decide early about sharing platters of food, budgeting for meals and save us time in line trying to decide. One of us orders and the other gets the table and it’s a much more expedited process!

Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

Gaston’s Tavern is open, just stop in!

In the case of full-service dining, much of the dining at Disney is considered an “experience”. And at Walt Disney World especially, you’ll need Advance Dining Reservations (ADR) to get into these restaurants. When we were checking in for our reservation at 50’s Prime Time Cafe, there were a half-dozen people trying to get in to the booked restaurant without any luck. You’ll definitely need ADR if you plan on full-service. You can play it by ear at Disneyland for the most past, save for Character meals and peak season.

Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

Dining at Be Our Guest requires Advance Dining Reservations

Check out these posts about Sharing Meals at Disneyland and Dining at Disneyland without ADR.

Sharing Meals-PIN         ADR-PIN

“I Should Have Brought the…”

Regretting that you forgot to bring something with you into the Parks? Having a packing list ready before your trip will help you to remember everything you’ll need to pack up in your day bag. I find that jotting down essentials as I recall them in the weeks leading up to the trip will help me better than if I go off the top of my head when I’m loading up the suitcase. Certainly there are a lot of things you can buy inside the Disney Parks gift shops from antacids to flip-flops but the prices will be higher as well. At least at Disneyland, there are convenience stores within walking distance of the front gates.

Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

Thought you wouldn’t need a stroller and now you regret not bringing it? Fortunately you can rent one in the Parks.

See these posts about What to Bring to Disney, Expectant Mom’s Packing List and the Disney Packing List for Kids

What to bring -PIN     Expectant Mom's Disney Packing List-PIN     Disney Trip Packing List-PIN

“Why Are the Kids So Cranky?! This is Supposed to be the Happiest Place on Earth!”

Disney Parks are chock full of entertainment from rope drop to midnight, and beyond. For most kids, the constant activity combined with a disruption in their usual routine (and nap schedule) can cause tantrums like you’ve never seen before! For other kids, anxiety about all the new noises, sights and smells might put them into stress-mode. Be sure to work in some downtime into your Disney vacation schedule. A mid-trip “off day” will give everyone a chance to sleep in, relax and unwind a bit before getting back into the theme-park frenzy again.

Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

Someone was ready for a break

Here are a few handy posts about Avoiding the Disneyland MeltdownCalming Anxious Children and Things to Do on an Off-Day.

Meltdown-PIN (2)     Scared kids-PIN     Off-Day thumbnail

Need more help with your first time Disney vacation planning?

Be sure to check out this post about the 5 Things You Need to Do Before Your First Disney Trip for more travel planning tips!

5 Things You Need to Do

For more ways to avoid mistakes at Disney,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Blue | Disney Mistakes & How to Avoid Them Loop:

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July 15, 2016
1 Comment

I’m a DisneyBaby Contributing Author!

I’m just delighted to share that I’m a new contributing author to the DisneyBaby website!

One of my "Disney Babies", 3 month old Natalie.

One of my “Disney Babies”, 3 month old Natalie.

I’ll be sharing my thoughts and Disney travel advice with DisneyBaby readers in several posts a month on their site with features on their Facebook page, Pinterest, Instagram and other social media outlets.

I currently have two posts up, 6 Items for Baby You Might Not Think to Take to Disney Parks and 7 Disney Experiences to Enjoy Before Baby Turns Two. You can find all my posts here on the DisneyBaby website along with my author profile. I’m so excited with this new venture and hope that you’ll follow me along with the fun!

July 14, 2016
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All You Need to Know About Disneyland Tickets

Everything You Need to Know About Disneyland Tickets, from discounts, FASTPASS, Annual Passes and Where NOT to buy them!

One of the major expenses of your Disneyland vacation is your Park entrance ticket. Disneyland tickets are paper (no Walt Disney World MagicBands here!) and they are also your “ticket” so-to-speak for grabbing FASTPASS throughout your vacation. Naturally, with something so important there’s a lot to learn.

Here’s the scoop on what you need to know about Disneyland tickets!

All You Need to Know About Disneyland Tickets

My number one tip on buying Disneyland tickets is….

Don’t wait to buy your park tickets when you get to the park.

Seriously.

You are able to buy park tickets on the Disneyland website. You can buy them from travel agencies, AAA, credit union or at Costco. You can buy them at the Disney Store in the mall. Some of the Anaheim Good Neighbor hotels sell them. You can even buy them at Southern California grocery stores. I recommend purchasing online through Park Savers (affiliate link) because they are an authorized seller of discounted tickets.

Do not buy tickets at Disneyland…that is, unless you like to stand in line for 30+ minutes when you could be getting into the park. Or if you like paying full price instead of getting a possible discount by doing a little shopping around!

Everything You Need to Know About Disneyland Tickets, from discounts, FASTPASS, Annual Passes and Where NOT to buy them!

Lined up in the morning at the box office…when they could be in the Park!

If you buy your tickets elsewhere, you can go directly to the front gate and they will trade your ticket in whatever form it is (it might look like a plain print-out or like a plastic gift card) for an official park ticket right then and there.

Who doesn’t need a ticket?

If your child is under three years old, their admission is free!

Everything You Need to Know About Disneyland Tickets, from discounts, FASTPASS, Annual Passes and Where NOT to buy them!

Kids under three don’t need a Park ticket.

What’s a Park Hopper?

A Disneyland ticket with a Park Hopper option allows guests to visit both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park on the same day. “Hopping” between Parks is generally quick (they are just across a short esplanade from each other) though entry to Disneyland can sometimes take longer on busy days.

Park Hoppers do add a bit more cost to your ticket price. If you are staying for only 1 or 2 days, I would highly recommend a Park Hopper option. This way you’ll be able to make the best use of your mornings by hitting popular rides, grabbing FASTPASS and going back and forth between the Parks. If you are staying for 3+ days, I would purchase non-Park Hoppers because you’ll be able to spend more time exploring each Park thoroughly by staying in one each day. You’ll also get a better rate on 3+ day tickets.

Everything You Need to Know About Disneyland Tickets, from discounts, FASTPASS, Annual Passes and Where NOT to buy them!

Standing in the esplanade between the two Parks (yep, very pregnant!)

How Do I Get the Best Rates on Tickets?

Generally the more in-park days you purchase upfront, the better discount you’ll be getting. Consider one of the Annual Passports if you plan on going back at any point during the year or if your vacation is going to be longer. If you purchase a Signature pass, you’ll have no blackout dates, receive free parking, food discounts and some retail shop discounts as well.

I highly recommend purchasing tickets from Park Savers (affiliate link) online as they are an authorized seller of discount tickets for Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios and LEGOLAND . They also offer the SoCal City Pass which includes tickets to Disneyland as well as other Southern California attractions and you’ll save buying the set versus buying individual tickets for each park.

Park Savers logo

Stay at one of the Disneyland Resort Hotels and book one of their travel packages, which can include park tickets at a discounted rate. Of course, staying at a Disneyland resort hotel is going to cost more than an off-site hotel. Park Savers also offers discounted vacation packages, so I’d definitely request a quote from them first!

If you are a Southern California resident you often have the advantage of receiving discounted prices on short visit tickets during certain times of the year. You’ll need proof of residence upon entry to the Park. Military, teachers and some other professionals may receive discounts through your employer.

Keep in mind that a 1-day ticket price has seasonal pricing based on when the Park crowds are “peak” (more expensive ticket), “regular” or “value”(less expensive ticket). You’ll pay more to visit on the weekends and holiday seasons. Unless you are very tight on time and only have one day, you should definitely avoid the 1-day ticket.

How Do I Use My Ticket for a FASTPASS?

Everything You Need to Know About Disneyland Tickets, from discounts, FASTPASS, Annual Passes and Where NOT to buy them!

First I should answer, “What’s a FASTPASS?”

FASTPASS is a way for you to get a “reservation” in a shorter line for a particular ride. FASTPASS is free so there’s no reason not to try it! Each of the following attractions have a FASTPASS Distribution Area where you will scan in your park ticket and in return be given a special FASTPASS “return” ticket. This will have a window of time printed on it for you to come back to the attraction and be able to take a “short-cut” by using the designated FASTPASS line instead of standing in the regular line-up.

There are a few tips and rules about using FASTPASS

always use FASTPASS whenever possible. Of course there are days you won’t need to use it, like if the park isn’t terribly crowded. There are even days when Disneyland won’t offer the FASTPASS because the lines are short enough already.

However there are certain rides I absolutely will not wait in the regular line-up and will only use FASTPASS for. Radiator Springs Racers is one ride that you should grab a FASTPASS for first thing in the morning. Anything new, like the show Frozen – Live at the Hyperion will have a long wait in stand-by so nabbing a FASTPASS if you want to see it is imperative.

When you approach the FASTPASS Distribution Area for a particular ride, pay note to the time frame that you will be asked to return. If the Park is really crowded your return time might be a few hours out. There is even a chance that FASTPASS will not be available on extremely busy days because they will be “filled up” very early in the day. This happened to us for Soarin’ last time we visited on a busy weekend. It was about noon and the FASTPASS times weren’t available until after 6pm!

Everything You Need to Know About Disneyland Tickets, from discounts, FASTPASS, Annual Passes and Where NOT to buy them!

Get your FASTPASS early for Radiator Springs Racers!

Each person in your party will need their own FASTPASS. This means you’ll have to individually scan in each person’s ticket so they will each get a FASTPASS.

The best use of FASTPASS is to have a game plan of things to do until the FASTPASS time is ready. For instance, the Autopia line is always long and I always get a FASTPASS for this. You’ll have about 40 minutes to wait until your FASTPASS is valid so you could ride the Disneyland Railroad all the way around the Park, go on the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, watch the Star Wars show that’s close by or go inside the Star Wars Launch Bay for a while. The point is to do something else while you are waiting for your FASTPASS time to come up. Make the best use of your time and find something else in that area to occupy you until your FASTPASS time is ready!

Annual Passport

If you decide mid-vacation that you’d like to upgrade to an Annual Passport, you can apply the amount that you paid for the ticket (so long as it hasn’t expired) to the cost for the Annual Passport. If you buy the AP, consider which pass makes the best sense for you and your family. Different AP have certain blockout dates so check the calendar before deciding which one is best for you.

Keep in mind that you can mix and match AP within your family to get the best deal that works for you. When I had AP, my boys had the SoCal Passport and I had the Premium (now called Signature). This meant that I could get free parking and a discount on food and some merchandise. There was no reason for the kids to have the Premium because they would never be at the park without me and I would be making all the purchases, so I was the only one who needed to have the higher costing AP with the best discounts.

Annual Passports have a monthly payment option (after an initial down payment) so you can take the year to pay the price of the Passport off.

All You Need to Know About Disneyland Tickets

My husband having his photo taken upon entering the park for the first time with our multi-day Park Hopper ticket.

What NOT to Do When Buying or Using Tickets?

  • Don’t buy tickets on Craigslist or on Ebay. You have no way of looking at the tickets and knowing if they are valid or legal.
  • Don’t buy tickets from anyone selling them outside the Park. Buy only from an authorized dealer.
  • Don’t buy anyone else’s multi-day ticket from them. You have no way of knowing how many days are still valid on that ticket! Also your photo will be taken the first time you use your multi-day ticket and verified each time you enter.
  • Don’t lose your ticket!
All You Need to Know About Disneyland Tickets

Take a photo of the backside of your ticket in case it gets lost.

Your park ticket will allow you entrance in and out of the park for the day and also use for FASTPASS so don’t lose your ticket! I recommend that you take a photograph of the backside of your ticket as soon as you have it to capture the bar code/date stamp. You’ll be able to get a replacement at Guest Relations should your ticket go missing (make sure everyone in your group and all the tickets that were purchased are with you).

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July 5, 2016
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One Way to Make Cooking for Picky Eaters a Lot Easier

One Way to Make Cooking for Picky Eaters a Lot Easier (and a $20 off code to use on MasterPan!)

We cook 99% of our meals at home, by scratch and on a budget. This means a few things – With 5 eaters to please, it can be a challenge to make a meal that everyone will enjoy (keeping in mind the “I don’t want onions in mine” concerns!) Also, making dinner at home means there is always clean up. Dishes & utensils, napkins & place mats, leftovers to put away and always pots and pans to wash. Lots of pots and pans!

I really try not to fall into the trap of making multiple dishes to please each person in our family. We have a rule in our our house, “You don’t have to like it but you do have to try it”. There is also no crying about food. After all, we try to teach our kids that a plate of healthy food in front of them is something to be grateful for.

That being said, if it’s easy for me to make a meal that doesn’t automatically mix onions and peppers that my pickiest eater won’t try (I’m looking at you, four-year-old!), then I’ll take that route if it means he’ll eat his dinner without complaint. Here’s one way to make cooking at home easier for picky eaters.

I received a complimentary MasterPan to facilitate this post but all thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.

One Way to Make Cooking for Picky Eaters a Lot Easier (and a $20 off code to use on MasterPan!)

MasterPan Keeps it All Separated for Picky Eaters

I recently had the chance to try out MasterPan for dinner last week. I was intrigued by it and hoped (fingers crossed!) that it would make dinnertime a little easier as in I could keep certain foods separated and at the same time only dirty one pan. I liked that it only used one burner which saves on gas (versus having four burners going with four separate pans) and I would only have to watch one pan instead of four.

I had some leftover steamed Yukon gold potatoes that I wanted to warm and fry up for dinner. I also had two chicken sausages from the deli and some chopped red peppers and onions to saute. This is a family favorite that I usually cook in several pans (because my little one fusses about the onions and peppers touching his sausage…sigh!)

One Way to Make Cooking for Picky Eaters a Lot Easier (and a $20 off code to use on MasterPan!)

There were a few questions I had before trying MasterPan and as I cooked, I found the answers –

Will it work on one burner? – Yes, only one burner is needed to cook. The  center of the MasterPan is the hottest cooking area but the heat flows through the rest of the pan to heat the outside compartments as well.

Timing your foods to be done at the same time is one of the usual challenges of cooking. I liked that the outer compartments on the MasterPan heated slowly so I was able to add everything to the pan at once and with a few turns on the sausages and some shifting of the onions and peppers, everything cooked evenly and stayed warm.

What about the oven? – Yes, you can use it in the oven. It’s oven safe to 350* for one hour.

How big is it? – It’s a large pan (14.9″ x 21.75″ x 1.75″). I think it would be great for college students or for keeping in the RV; any place you’re cooking where space is at a minimum and having one great pan like this versus five individual pans makes sense.

One of the compartments is on the smaller size. I originally had placed the red peppers here and the onions in the larger section. Once the onions cooked down a bit and were smaller, I easily exchanged their places to allow the red peppers more space to cook.

How easy is it to clean? – Super easy! It’s made of quality nonstick (not Teflon) and there was no hard scrubbing after cooking our meal. And it’s dishwasher safe, so that’s even better!

One Way to Make Cooking for Picky Eaters a Lot Easier (and a $20 off code to use on MasterPan!)

So how did MasterPan work for our dinner? It was a success! With the burner on medium heat, as suggested, the sausage cooked nicely on the stove top. The potatoes warmed and crisped up a bit with a little oil and the peppers and onions sauted along with the sausage. The compartments were a bit on the smaller side for our big family but I think the pan would be perfect for portion control if I was cooking for fewer people.

Want a MasterPan for your house?

The MasterPan has been a great addition to our kitchen and I bet you’ll love it too. Not only does it save you time, energy and clean-up, now you can get it at a lower price too. Check out this coupon code to save when you purchase!

Enter the exclusive $20 OFF coupon code MP206, just for my readers through the MasterPan link.

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June 30, 2016
2 Comments

Best Times of the Year to Visit Disneyland (and Why)

Planning to visit Disneyland? Find out when you'll best be able to avoid crowds, what dates to skip completely and what to expect of the weather!

One of the big questions when it comes to planning a Disneyland vacation is WHEN should we go? You not only have to figure out a perfect date between work and school schedules but you want to take weather, holidays and special events into consideration as well! So many things to consider before you visit Disneyland.

Here is my guide to the seasons, with tips on the best times of year to visit Disneyland!

Planning to visit Disneyland? Find out when you'll best be able to avoid crowds, what dates to skip completely and what to expect of the weather!

When Will We Be Able to Avoid Crowds?

The parks will be packed anytime that kids are out of school, which would be all holidays and breaks. This would include weekends, summer, Christmas vacation, Thanksgiving weekend, Spring Break, Labor Day, President’s Day, and Memorial Day.

There are also random days through the year when you will find it’s busier than normal like Bats Day in early May and Gay Days in late September. I’ve personally been during both of these times and the park is much more crowded than it would be usually during this time of year. There is also an assumption that Superbowl Sunday is a good time to go but really, I’ve been twice on Superbowl Sunday and it’s just as crowded as any other weekend (probably more so, because everyone else had the same great idea that the park wouldn’t be busy!).

Planning to visit Disneyland? Find out when you'll best be able to avoid crowds, what dates to skip completely and what to expect of the weather!

Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

Dates to Avoid if You Don’t Like Crowds

  • Martin Luther King Jr. weekend
  • Superbowl Sunday
  • President’s Day weekend
  • Spring Break for the local schools
  • Easter weekend
  • Bats Day (aka Goth Day)
  • Memorial Day weekend
  • 4th of July weekend
  • Labor Day weekend
  • Gay Days Disneyland (traditionally late September/early October)
  • Columbus Day weekend
  • Veteran’s Day weekend
  • Thanksgiving break for schools
  • Holiday/Winter break for schools, including Christmas and New Years

What Does More Crowded Mean?

It means waiting…lots and lots of waiting. It means standing in line for 60+ minutes for a ride that you might be able to walk on without ANY line during a non-peak time of year. It means waiting in line for the bathroom. It means waiting in long lines for food. It means that you might be standing to eat once you finally do get your food because there aren’t any tables or chairs left. It means not being able to see the sidewalk in front of you in congested areas of the park. It means being shoulder to shoulder at certain times. It means if you want to watch a parade or attraction you’re going to have to get there very early if you want a seat or even standing room to watch it. I’ve been during those times and it’s a miserable feeling to stand in line and wait for everything, especially with children.

Planning to visit Disneyland? Find out when you'll best be able to avoid crowds, what dates to skip completely and what to expect of the weather!

Ideal Disneyland conditions…free and clear!

Plan an Off-Peak Vacation

If you hate to wait (and really, who doesn’t?), consider going to the park during off-peak times. The most optimal days of the week to visit the park are in the middle: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Obviously Saturday and Sunday will be the busiest days of the week but Monday and Friday (especially Friday evenings when locals get off work) may be heavy as well.

I’ve found these are good times to visit:

The first weeks in January – though you might experience some rain & cold weather. Twice we went during the early part of the year and did experience some heavy rain. Navigating through the park, pushing a stroller and carrying an umbrella (which conveniently turned itself inside-out mid-gust!) wasn’t the easiest thing to do and we stuck to inside amusements like the show in the Golden Horseshoe and the Enchanted Tiki Room. I wouldn’t recommend that first-timers visit this time of year at the risk of having your entire vacation rained out. (See the next section for more information about weather). Then again, you might not have any rain at all and have a very warm visit, as we did on one very hot January visit!

Planning to visit Disneyland? Find out when you'll best be able to avoid crowds, what dates to skip completely and what to expect of the weather!

Late April to Mid-May– just after Spring Break is over and before kids are out for summer. Springtime at Disneyland and the flowers are in bloom. You might have a few light spring showers.

September – just after Labor Day but before Gay Days (late September). You’ll have to take the kids out of school but weather is warm and lines are short. It’s a great time to go if you like to take breaks at the pool for swimming.

Planning to visit Disneyland? Find out when you'll best be able to avoid crowds, what dates to skip completely and what to expect of the weather!

Mid-October through November – ending before Thanksgiving. And the park is all dressed up for fall, it’s just beautiful! The weather is still usually warm (and sometimes VERY hot). Consider avoiding days on which Mickey’s Halloween Party takes place because the parks will be more crowded. If you choose to attend Mickey’s Halloween Party, don’t use a Park ticket that day because you’ll be able to access the Parks early with your special event hard ticket.

Late-November through first two weeks of December – the few weeks just after Thanksgiving. Fortunately my son’s birthday falls during this time and I’ve taken him there a few times. The park is decorated for the winter holidays, there are special activities, shows and parades and the crowds are still thin enough.

Keep in mind that Disneyland often schedules revamps and maintenance during slow seasons or off-peak times. You can find that information on the Disneyland Daily Calendar Park hours might also be shorter, so check the calendar for the days you’ll be in the park.

Planning to visit Disneyland? Find out when you'll best be able to avoid crowds, what dates to skip completely and what to expect of the weather!

When Will the Weather Be the Best?

Fortunately, Disneyland is in Southern California and weather is generally pretty nice year-round. There are times of the year however when you can expect it to be quite hot (July through September). And there are times when it might rain (December through March). There are times when it will be very overcast and cloudy for most of the day (usually May and June). But an overcast day never hurt anyone and you’ll be at Disneyland, so who cares about a little May-Gray or June-Gloom?!

And the rest of the year is usually in the mid-70s so you’ll be comfy in shorts!

Planning to visit Disneyland? Find out when you'll best be able to avoid crowds, what dates to skip completely and what to expect of the weather!

Cold Weather

If you are going during cold weather, dress in layers. Don’t be shy about bringing that hat and those gloves. Wear socks and not flip-flops! I had the pleasure of sitting on the cold concrete one icy winter day to watch a parade at the Park…brrr!! It was at that time I thought about how nice a blanket would have been to sit on! If the weather warms up and you find yourself overdressed, you can always stuff everything into a rented locker and fetch it later if you need it again (you get in/out privileges for the day). Pack a poncho if rain is in the forecast as it’s much easier than dealing an umbrella.

Planning to visit Disneyland? Find out when you'll best be able to avoid crowds, what dates to skip completely and what to expect of the weather!

Warm Weather

I would recommend similar advice for warm weather as well, layers are best. Evenings can still be cool in the summer, so bringing a light jacket or sweatshirt will be necessary or risk having to buy one at a premium price at the park when you get chilly! Believe me, I have many souvenir jackets from the park because of this very reason… And it’s always smart to bring an extra set of clothes and socks anyway because you never know when you might get wet (or soaked!)

So what is your favorite time of year to visit Disneyland? Share your reasons in the comments!

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June 28, 2016
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3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SweeterTogether #CollectiveBias

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

How to Have a Budget-Friendly Summer

As the mom of four (from newborn to 12-years old) we don’t have a big budget for entertainment. Our summer days are simple, spent poolside with warm weather foods like grilled chicken, cold pasta salad and DREYER’S ice cream for dessert! Summer lazy days shouldn’t break the bank. Check out my budget-friendly summer activities everyone in the family can enjoy.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

Let’s Start with Dessert!

I’d start with dessert every day if I could but it just seems right in the summertime when the weather is warm and ice cream is just such a wonderfully refreshing treat!

I picked up DREYER’S SLOW CHURNED® Caramel Delight Light Ice Cream and DREYER’S SLOW CHURNED® Vanilla Light Ice Cream in the freezer section at Walmart this week for our summer kick-off.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

DREYER’S Ice Cream is a staple in our freezer because they are “Simply made, simply delicious” with no GMO ingredients, no artificial colors or flavors and is proudly made with fresh milk & cream with no rBST. And it just tastes SO good! Check out your local Walmart to see if DREYER’S Ice Cream will be hosting a store demo.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

Keep It Simple with These Free Summer Family Activities

Kids don’t need every summer day to be scheduled out to the minute. Allow for plenty of free time for imaginative play and activities. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t come up with a calendar of ideas when boredom strikes. Nor should kids be on their electronics from dawn to dusk. This is my first summer with my kids as a new Stay-at-Home-Mom and I’m looking forward to planning fun and togetherness into our summer days.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

These are a few of the simple fun activities I have planned:

Library – Not just books to borrow, but our local library offers age-specific gatherings from story time, crafts, music and special events

Community – Check out your community calendar online to find out about special summer events like concerts or movies playing in the park.

DIY Camp at Home – Can’t afford to send the kids to camp? Here are some ideas for making your own “camps” at home.

Parks – Expand your horizons beyond the park down the street and take a day trip to a cool new park. Some have fun splash pads so bring a suit & towel!

Pool – Find out how much your community pool rates are for visitors. Even better: Work out a plan with a friend who has a pool! You bring a few new pool toys for them and they let you go swimming.

Staycation– Check out my list of summer staycation ideas that are easy on the budget!

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

Pack a Picnic

Every kid loves a picnic, whether it be poolside, at the park or even on the floor of your living room! Keep the fare light and easy, like leftover grilled chicken, pasta salad and fresh summer fruit.

Use up leftovers with my recipe for budget-friendly pasta salad. A little of this, a little of that and you can have a tasty pasta salad that’s unique every time. With a few pantry staples and some leftover veggies, you can quickly whip up this family favorite that’s perfect for hot summer days. Top it with grilled chicken (either hot or cold) and it’s a full and delicious meal.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

Start with a simple base of 1/2 cup olive oil, 6 Tbsp red wine vinegar, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese. Combine in a large bowl. Cook one box of pasta (I like bow tie) and rinse with cold water. Mix in with liquid.

Add your choices of the following ingredients:

  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Red onion, chopped
  • Grape tomatoes, quartered
  • Green onion, chopped
  • Parsley, chopped
  • Sliced olives
  • Black beans, rinsed and drained
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Doesn’t that sound delicious (and easy?!)

How will you make Summer #SweeterTogether? Share your summer fun plans in the comments!

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June 23, 2016
Comments Off on What’s New at LEGOLAND California?

What’s New at LEGOLAND California?

Find out What's New at LEGOLAND California, including the innovative NINJAGO World

I was able to take my little guy for the day a few months ago and we were able to play in the park together and experienced the newest film, ‘The LEGO Movie 4D: A New Adventure’. However since baby girl has arrived, I’ve not been able to visit again. My mother-in-law was happy to take my son to LEGOLAND recently and they enjoyed the theme park and water parks on their visit. The new NINJAGO World area was all he could talk about and I can’t wait to experience it myself soon!

So what’s new at LEGOLAND California?

Find out What's New at LEGOLAND California, including the innovative NINJAGO World

CA.(Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Legoland California)

NINJAGO World

NINJAGO The Ride uses “cutting-edge Maestro hand gesture technology”. This enables guests to throw fire balls, shock waves, ice and lightning to defeat villains during the ride, collecting points along the way. Their scores are displayed when the quest is completed. Special effects like heat, smoke and wind are incorporated, giving guests an interactive 4D experience. My four-year old delightfully reenacted his hand gestures for me when he came home!

This ride is the center of NINJAGO World. In addition there are 22 new LEGO models, a retail outlet and and a dining option, Ninja Kitchen. LEGOLAND chefs serve up Asian street food like pork belly sandwiches on steamed Bao Buns with crispy pork belly, lemongrass chicken or baked sweet chili tofu.

Two 4D Films

My son and I were able to attend the red carpet premiere of ‘The LEGO Movie 4D: A New Adventure’, the fast-paced story of Emmet, Wyldstyle and friends from the popular feature-length movie. My son and I loved the humor and silly special effects (you will get wet!)

‘LEGO NEXO KNIGHTS: The Book of Creativity’ is  the newest film that combines LEGO Nexo Knights in a 4D world of wind, water and smoke! This new 12 minute film was created especially for LEGOLAND Parks and LEGOLAND Discovery Center and is a way for children to interact with the NEXO KNIGHTS world. Guests can go on a quest of their own to discover six shields hidden across the Resort to unlock exclusive ‘power ups’ for the LEGO® NEXO KNIGHTS Merlok 2.0 mobile app. I’m sure my kids would love this one too!

I recommend Park Savers for purchasing discount LEGOLAND California tickets (affiliate link)

We received complimentary passes to experience NINJAGO World at LEGOLAND California. All thoughts and opinions as an official LEGOLAND Blogger are my own.

Legoland Blogger

June 20, 2016
18 Comments

Undercover Mama Nursing Tank Review and GIVEAWAY!

Find Out How This One Tank Top Can Save You Money!

The little Mouseketeer is my third baby so she has three siblings in our blended family. With so many kiddos, we are always on the go and that means I’m often nursing her while out and about. As a nursing mom, I want to be able to modestly breastfeed my baby in public and not expose too much of myself. If I’m wearing a regular t-shirt, I have to hike up the tee revealing myself from waist to bra on one side! Nursing shirts can be expensive and why should I invest in buying new shirts when my pre-pregnancy shirts fit just fine?

Find Out How This One Tank Top Can Save You Money!

Ugh, I hate showing off my postpartum belly every time I need to nurse the baby when I’m wearing my regular clothes!

Find Out How This One Tank Top Can Save You Money!

I loved hearing about Undercover Mama because it converts any shirt into a nursing shirt. This nifty nursing tank attaches at the top to your nursing bra as a sort-of nursing “undershirt”. There are two ways to attach, depending upon the nursing bra you have. You simply slip your regular shirt over the top of the Undercover Mama. When you’re ready to breastfeed, unhook your nursing bra as normal and the slip it down along with the top edge of the Undercover Mama, then pull up your regular shirt. The Undercover Mama conceals your sides and you can nurse discretely without any added exposure!

Find Out How This One Tank Top Can Save You Money!

There are two ways to attach the Undercover Mama to your nursing bra.

Review

I received an Undercover Mama to review and chose navy blue as a good neutral that could be worn under my darker t-shirts. The Undercover Mama is $24.99 each but a “value bundle” in choices of basic black and white are two for $40. I appreciate the ease of how the Undercover Mama works and how discrete I can nurse the baby without exposing my entire hip and side. I wore my navy blue Undercover Mama for several weeks to test it and one day I noticed that the hook on one side had fallen off. I was able to easily contact the company and they sent me a new tank (in white). I’ve been wearing this white Undercover Mama several times a week for a few weeks and haven’t had any issues. In fact, I now wear it any time I know I’ll be nursing in public. I’d absolutely purchase Undercover Mama! (their polka dot version is pretty cute!)

Find Out How This One Tank Top Can Save You Money!

What I Loved

  • No more flashing my “love handles”!
  • It was very easy to connect to my nursing bra.
  • The variety of colors available.
  • Can continue to wear with a regular bra as a layered tank after you are done nursing.

What I Didn’t Love

  • Despite ordering based on the sizing chart, my shirt was still a bit snug. The website does say that the Undercover Mama is intended to fit snugly but because it seemed to be on the smaller side, my navy blue tank tended to roll and bunch up at the bottom. My replacement white tank was one size larger and it fit much better.
  • I would have liked the fabric to be stretchier, especially around my hips.
  • Wearing two layers (the Undercover Mama underneath my regular tee) is a little warm during hot weather.
Find Out How This One Tank Top Can Save You Money!

Happy to nurse at the park without exposing any parts of me!

Undercover Mama Giveaway!

Would you like to try Undercover Mama for yourself? The prize is for one 1 nursing tank in winner’s choice of size and color ($24.99 Value). Check out the website to see all the colors available!

Photo Credit: Undercover Mama.com

Photo Credit: Undercover Mama.com

This contest is open to US Residents only. I will randomly choose the winner and Undercover Mama will ship the prize in your color and size choice.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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June 18, 2016
1 Comment

DIY Handpainted Finding Dory T-Shirt

Paint Your Own Finding Dory T-Shirt

Paint Your Own Finding Dory T-Shirt

Even if you think you can’t paint, this DIY activity is easy! It’s totally do-able to create, even if you don’t consider yourself an artist! I painted Dory here but you can use any coloring page on hand with this fun technique.

Paint Your Own Finding Dory T-Shirt

I like this technique of painting onto cotton fabric rather than directly onto the shirt for a variety of reasons. It’s quite a bit easier to apply fabric paint onto cotton rather than a knit fabric that stretches. Also because t-shirt knit stretches, the design won’t warp or crack this way. You can also blend colors easier on the cotton than on the knit.

I used a pretty sparkly blue fabric paint for Dory so she’ll really shine in the light! Paint your Dory as simple or as realistic as you like.

Paint Your Own Finding Dory T-Shirt

You’ll need:

  • T-shirt. This is a chance for you to use a tee that might have a stain on it as you’ll be able to “save” the shirt by placing an applique over the stain.
  • Coloring page printed out and resized as needed so your design will fit your shirt
  • A full color image of Dory to use for reference when painting
  • Scrap of white cotton
  • Sharpie Fine Point Marker
  • Fusible bond, like Heat’n Bond Lite Iron-on Adhesive
  • Disappearing ink pen, like this one from Dritz OR a pencil
  • Fabric paint in blue, white, black, yellow and red; I like the So Soft Fabric Paint Collection
  • Paint brushes in a variety of sizes; I use this Loew-Cornell Fabric Brush Set
  • Old dish and cup for water
  • Sharp scissors
  • Paper towel or old dishtowel (for wiping off brush between colors)
  • Iron
  • Optional, if you decide to sew the design down:
    • Thread in matching colors. Gutermann thread is my favorite brand as it’s strong (doesn’t break mid-project!), wide range of colors and holds up to wash and wear.
    • Bobbin thread in color to match the shirt
    • Sewing machine needle (jersey or Ballpoint Machine Needles give the best results for applique)

Paint Your Own Finding Dory T-Shirt

1.Place your printed coloring page on the window with a piece of tape and use your Sharpie to outline the outside edge of the design onto the reverse side of the paper. This will create a “mirror image”.

2. Place a piece of fusible bond (bumpy side down) onto the mirror image (backside that you just traced) and trace out Dory’s shape using a Sharpie marker (ball point pens or pencils will smudge or smear off onto your iron, so a Sharpie is best).

Paint Your Own Finding Dory T-Shirt

3. Iron out the wrinkles on your cotton fabric. Iron the fusible bond Dory (bumpy side down) onto the WRONG side of the fabric.

4. Cut out the Dory shape on the line.

Paint Your Own Finding Dory T-Shirt

5. Place the Dory shape (fabric side up) onto your coloring page. Use your disappearing ink pen or pencil to lightly draw the details of Dory onto the cotton fabric.

6. Peel off the fusible bond backing.

7. Lay your shirt down and iron out any wrinkles in the design area. Lay your Dory shape down on the tee, make sure the design is placed where you want it. Iron on securely.

8. Optional: Using a straight stitch, sew with a small hem (1/4″) around the edge of the fabric, securing the Dory shape to the tee.

Paint Your Own Finding Dory T-Shirt

9. Squeeze a small bit of each color of paint onto an old dish. Best to start off with small amounts because you can always add more paint if you need it. Mix colors if you need to get the right tones for shading.

10. Fill a cup with water and have an old towel or paper towel for brush swishing and cleaning in between colors. Don’t leave brushes sitting in water (bristles will bend). Clean them thoroughly in between colors, wipe on towel and lay flat to dry.

11. I like to start with the largest section of blue, adding shading and highlights by mixing the blue paint with black or white. I added the yellow next, then the black sections and saved the white areas for last. Fill in the red for the eyes. Go back in with the black paint on a very thin brush to add details like the rims around her eyes and in her mouth. Finish with the white on a thin brush, adding the catchlight in her eye. I also used black and white, thinned out with water to create shadows & highlights.

Your handpainted creation can be machine washed in cold water, with the shirt turned inside out.

Paint Your Own Finding Dory T-Shirt

Want to see all of the blogger Finding Dory posts? Check them out at Love Our Crazy Life!

Please note that this post contains affiliate links

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