April 19, 2017
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Budget-Friendly Guide for Mother’s Day Gifts Under $20

Looking for Mother's Day gifts under $20? Check out this budget-friendly guide with items to make mom (and your wallet!) happy!

I love to give gifts! And naturally, I love to receive them too. But it seems like there is always another “holiday” coming up with yet another gift to buy! And all the gift giving can really take a hit to the budget. I want to show my mom and mother-in-law my love and appreciation for them with a gift but I can’t really get too extravagant with it. Are you looking for Mother’s Day gifts under $20? Check out this budget-friendly guide with items to make mom (and your wallet!) happy!

Budget-Friendly Mother’s Day Gifts

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Black Loop. Today we are sharing gift ideas for Mother’s Day.


Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Clicking through and making a purchase will help me in a small financial way, thank you!

Something with Memories

I know what my mom likes to receive for Mother’s Day: new photos of the grandkids! From prints that she can put in a frame, mugs, a photo book or magnets for the fridge, she loves to show off the photos. I love Shutterfly for printing all my photo memories. Sign up to receive notifications of sales from Shutterfly and you can often receive 50% off or even free products!

Looking for Mother's Day gifts under $20? Check out this budget-friendly guide with items to make mom (and your wallet!) happy!  

Something to Eat

Give Mom a treat with no expectation of sharing! This Godiva Truffles Flight are decadent and all for her to indulge. Or maybe Mom’s a gourmet in the kitchen and would love this White Truffle Oil? Ever drizzled this stuff on popcorn, amazing!

Something to Drink

This beautiful poppy print Tervis Mug is a bright spot on a dreary day and perfect for re-hydrating Mom. Maybe Mom’s more of a coffee drinker? In that case, a Starbucks gift card is always appropriate so she can pick up her own latte!

     

Something for Pampering

A day at the spa is special but for pampering on a budget, there’s nothing like DIY at home. I love these little ways of treating Mom to a manicure at home with Jamberry nail wraps and hand care products.

Something for Travel

A cross-body bag (like this messenger bag that’s under $8!) is a great size for travel. Small enough to stay out of the way but roomy enough for essentials. A Travel Life Journal will give Mom a special place to jot down her travel memories and keep them all in one place.

Something for a Song

Mom loves to sing and dance to her favorite songs? For under $10 a month, you can give Mom the gift of song with an Amazon Music Unlimited subscription. There’s even an Amazon Music Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial to check it out first.

Rose gold is such a hot look and these in-ear headphones are stylish and practical.

Something for Summer

Think ahead to summer and gift Mom a new pair of sandals. The lightweight and stylish Crocs Kadee II Flip are summer-ready for beaches, boardwalks and beyond.

COUPON SAVINGS! Use code TOWEL30 and pin 4082 at Lands’ End to save 30% on a beach towel for Mom.

Something for Fun

One of my mom’s favorite things to do is to play a game with her grandkids. From board games to cards, a fun family game night will be something Mom will cherish.

Something Scented

Instead of splurging on the largest bottle of Mom’s favorite perfume, choose a travel size instead. She’ll love to receive her signature scent and appreciate the purse-sized bottle that she can tote with her.

COUPON SAVINGS! Spend a few dollars more at Sephora ($25+) and you can choose from one of 7 deluxe samples using the code SKINSAVER.

I hoard those trial-sized bottles of Disney resort Sea Salt Shower Gel! I just love the scent and this big bottle of it would have me in shower heaven.

 

Something to Warm Her Up

The Yankee Candle in Lilac Blossoms large candle with a spring time scent will burn up to 150 hours. Mom will think of you each time she lights it! This stylish scarf will keep her cozy and also has a clever zipper pouch to store cash or keys while she’s out exploring – Women’s Scarf with Zipper Pocket

Something with Art

If Mom is crafty, consider a box of Crayola art supplies and a grown-up coloring book. Nothing like a fresh new box of Crayola crayons! Or maybe she’d like to have something crafty that she can display in the house. This chic Craft Crush Felt Succulents Kit will give Mom something very pretty to show off when she’s done creating.

For more Mother’s Day Gift Guides,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Black | Mother’s Day Gift Guides Loop:

April 17, 2017
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Walt Disney World Guide for Toddlers at Magic Kingdom

Toddlers at Magic Kingdom? Here's your Walt Disney World guide including what attractions are best, where to eat and what to pack with you for the day.

Toddlers at Magic Kingdom? A toddler’s emotions can go up and down quicker than a roller coaster! Is a trip to Magic Kingdom a good idea with your little one? I’m all for taking kids of all ages to Disney parks and I’ll give you the practical tips. Here’s your Walt Disney World guide including what attractions are best, where to eat and what to pack with you for the day when visiting with toddlers at Magic Kingdom.

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Blue Loop. Today we are sharing tips to for taking toddlers to the Disney Parks.

Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Toddlers at Magic Kingdom

Toddlers can be a fickle bunch. One moment they’re happily clapping along with Mickey during a meet n’ greet and the next they’re screaming in Pluto’s face when Mom tries to snap a photo. You might be wondering if it’s a good idea at all to take a toddler to Disney parks. I’ve been traveling to Disney parks all my life, including my very first visit to Disneyland when I was just one year old. I’ve been taking my children to the parks for years, including taking my then-6 month old daughter cross-country to Walt Disney World! I think taking toddlers to Disney parks is a wonderful idea and I’ll tell you why Magic Kingdom in particular is the perfect toddler vacation spot.

Of all the Walt Disney World parks, I think Magic Kingdom is tailor-made for toddlers. There is really so much that little ones can enjoy here including shows, attractions and dining. Many of the rides in Magic Kingdom do not have height restrictions, so toddlers can join their parents in the fun.

Toddlers at Magic Kingdom? Here's your Walt Disney World guide including what attractions are best, where to eat and what to pack with you for the day.

1. Do Your Research & Get Toddlers Prepared for the Trip

As noted, toddlers can be unpredictable. That being said, there is quite a bit you can do pre-trip to get them ready for Disney.

  • Brush up on which Disney rides your toddler will be tall enough for on your vacation. This list of rides that do not have a height requirement will be safe for everyone!
  • Order a Disney travel planning DVD and watch it with your child to show them what Disney World looks like.
  • Watch YouTube videos of the rides you think they’ll want to go on. They’ll be less stressed out or worried if they have an idea what to expect ahead of time.
  • Read Disney-themed books and watch age appropriate Disney films or Disney Junior programs to get toddlers familiar with some of the characters.
  • Create a countdown calendar that will count down the days until your vacation.

Toddler Tip #1: Find out from your toddler what their top three “must-do” things are for the trip. Whether it’s meeting a certain princess or eating a churro, put those things at the top of your vacation list and make sure they happen!


Toddlers at Magic Kingdom? Here's your Walt Disney World guide including what attractions are best, where to eat and what to pack with you for the day.

2. Have a Well-Stocked Toddler Bag

Every great Disney day begins with a well-stocked bag. These are a few of the essentials you should consider packing in with you.

  • Disposable bibs
  • Snacks
  • Sipper cup
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Diaper supplies (changing pad, diapers, wipes)
  • Change of clothes
  • Wet bag (for storing wet or soiled clothing)

Toddler Tip #2: Choose a backpack instead of a diaper bag. You’ll be able to wear the backpack in queue and remain hands free.

Toddlers at Magic Kingdom? Here's your Walt Disney World guide including what attractions are best, where to eat and what to pack with you for the day.

3. The Early Bird Gets the Rides

If your toddler is an early bird, I’d recommend getting to Magic Kingdom at “rope drop”. Arriving early will allow you to experience many of the rides in Fantasyland with less of a wait than if you waited until mid-day.

One you’re inside Magic Kingdom, immediately hit Fantasyland. Rides like Peter Pan’s Flight, “it’s a small world”, Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Dumbo the Flying Elephant are toddler favorites.

Toddler Tip #3: Start the day with a quick snack in the hotel room. Something like fresh-cut fruit, a granola bar or even dry cereal (avoiding sugary snacks) will get toddlers on the right side of the bed in the morning.

Toddlers at Magic Kingdom? Here's your Walt Disney World guide including what attractions are best, where to eat and what to pack with you for the day.

4. Shows to Make Toddlers Smile

  • Country Bear Jamboree
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
  • Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room
  • Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade
  • Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire
  • Move it! Shake it! Dance & Play it! Street Party

Toddler Tip #4: Most toddlers will enjoy a day that’s well-balanced with rides, shows, play and rest. Instead of rushing around the park tackling all of the rides, make sure to schedule in some downtime before and after some of the shows that will allow for a nap, free play or a snack.

 

Toddlers at Magic Kingdom? Here's your Walt Disney World guide including what attractions are best, where to eat and what to pack with you for the day.

Toddlers that are too shy for meet n’ greets might just enjoy waving to characters at the parade instead.

5. A Full Belly Makes for a Happier Toddler!

A grumble in a toddler’s tummy will make them turn from beauty to beast! Here are some dining tips to keep toddler bellies full and happy.

Children Under 3 Eat for Free (sort of) – You are welcome to share your meal with your toddler at no additional charge. You can also prepare them a plate at any buffet meal without cost. However if you order your toddler their own plate from the menu or something from the kid’s menu, you will need to pay for it.

Look for the Mickey Check – Kid’s Mickey Check meals meet Disney nutrition guidelines as a healthier meal. These dishes limit calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar.

Full-Service Dining –

  • Plan ahead by making Advanced Dining Reservations for any full-service meals you wish to eat in Magic Kingdom (here’s how to get the reservations for the meals you want!).
  • Research menus ahead of your trip before deciding what restaurants will work best for your family. While you might be hungry for the Layered Ratatouille at Be Our Guest restaurant, your toddler may be less than thrilled at the Chicken Brochette. Make sure that what’s on the menu will be something your toddler will eat.
  • Plan on a much longer dining time at full-service locations. If your toddler can’t sit through a usual restaurant experience or fusses because he’s done and wants to leave, consider dining quick service instead.
Toddlers at Magic Kingdom? Here's your Walt Disney World guide including what attractions are best, where to eat and what to pack with you for the day.

You want Disney dining & your toddler probably only cares about the corn dogs!

Quick-Service Dining – 

  • Quick service meals are often delivered fast, making them great for when your toddler is hungry RIGHT NOW!
  • Divide up the adults when in a quick-service restaurant. One adult can grab a table and high chair for the toddler and the other adult can place all the orders.

Character Meals – Toddlers may especially enjoy the buffet character dining in The Crystal Palace with Winnie the Pooh and friends. One caveat: If your toddler is afraid of characters (or you suspect they might be), avoid booking character dining or risk having them cry during the entire meal!

Snacks – There are snack locations and carts all over Magic Kingdom with savory and sweet treats for toddlers.

Toddler Tip #5: Don’t think you have to rely only on the snacks sold in the park. Pack in your toddler’s favorites; you’re allowed to bring snacks in the parks with you! Be sure to balance out snacks with fresh fruits, veggies and lean proteins to avoid mid-day crash!

6. Let Them Think They’re In Control

Disney parks puts toddlers in control of the fun. Some rides let little ones take control and everyone knows that toddlers like to take the reins! If your toddler likes to push buttons, turn the knobs and take charge of the wheel, check out these Magic Kingdom attractions –

  • Astro Orbitor
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade (for the cost of a few quarters)
  • Mad Tea Party
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • Tomorrowland Speedway (32″ or taller)
Toddlers at Magic Kingdom? Here's your Walt Disney World guide including what attractions are best, where to eat and what to pack with you for the day.

Let your toddler think he’s in control behind the wheel!

7. Sleepy Kids (aka: Avoiding the Meltdown)

If your toddler is accustomed to napping you might want to consider returning to the hotel before nap time to ensure that she gets the rest she needs before the dreaded meltdown ensues!

If your toddler can sleep despite the extra noise and excitement inside Magic Kingdom, start by winding things down a bit and enjoy a few mellow attractions like Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid, Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover or Liberty Square Riverboat. Then seek out a location where your toddler can rest in the shade of their stroller. I found a nook near Gaston’s Tavern to be a great resting place that included a seat in the shade for me!

Toddler Tip #6: Use a stroller, even if you think your toddler won’t ride in one. Little legs get very tired from all the walking and it’s great to have a shady place for them to rest or just eat a snack. If you don’t want to bring your own stroller, consider renting one during the trip from Amusement Park Rentals.

Toddlers at Magic Kingdom? Here's your Walt Disney World guide including what attractions are best, where to eat and what to pack with you for the day.

8. A Place to Toddle

Take your toddler out of the stroller and let them roam in these fun and save environments (naturally, you’ll need to follow closely behind!)

    • Swiss Family Treehouse
    • Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station (bring a swim suit, towel and waterproof, slip-resistant shoes)
    • Tom Sawyer Island

9. It’s the Little Things

With a focus on the big shows and attractions inside Magic Kingdom, you might miss out on some of a toddlers favorite little things to discover. Toddlers often need more time to just watch and absorb the entertainment so make sure you’re taking this into account before pushing the stroller away. These little things might be your toddlers favorite too, so be sure to spend a bit of time checking them out:

  • Toddlers love to sing and dance. If you see Casey’s Corner Pianist playing or the Dapper Dans singing, let you toddler get up out of the stroller to dance and clap along.
  • Pressed coins. What toddler doesn’t love to turn the crank on the pressed coin machine and have a quirky souvenir to show everyone? Aim to collect several from around the park.
  • Save a souvenir to hand your toddler when you leave the Park. Something small like a race car or a bottle of bubbles can help prevent cranky kid meltdown at the end of the night (and also give them something to entertain themselves on the bus back to the hotel).
  • Electrical Water Pageant. Another great way to get your toddler out of Magic Kingdom, by showing them this simple and sweet parade that takes place each night outside the park exit.
Toddlers at Magic Kingdom? Here's your Walt Disney World guide including what attractions are best, where to eat and what to pack with you for the day.

Back at the Port Orleans Riverside, dreaming of Disney!

For more advice on taking toddlers to Disney,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Blue | Traveling to Disney with Toddlers Loop:

April 11, 2017
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Getting Disney World Advanced Dining Reservations for the Meals You Want

Getting Disney World Advanced Dining Reservations doesn't have to be impossible; here are 8 tips for getting the ADR for the meals you really want to eat!

Want to eat at all the best Walt Disney World restaurants on your vacation? Here’s how to get the Disney World Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR) for the meals you want! Follow these 8 practical tips and you’ll soon be dining alongside Mickey, Cinderella and the Beast!

Getting the Best Disney World Advanced Dining Reservations

Disneyland regulars very rarely book ADR because most of the full-service restaurants are easy to dine in as a walk-up.  There are a few exceptions, like character meals, Blue Bayou restaurant and certainly during busier seasons and the Holidays.

Walt Disney World is completely different however, and ADR are needed for most (if not all) full-service restaurants. Many of these restaurants are experiences in and of themselves. Guests can dine inside of a castle like at Be Our Guest or Cinderella’s Royal Table. Or step back in time at 50’s Prime Time Cafe or Beaches & Cream Soda Shoppe. Watch fireworks from a rooftop vantage at California Grill or giddy-up at Hoop-dee-doo Musical Revue. And of course if you want to dine with Mickey, you’re going to need a reservation!

Check out my Top 10 Tips for Surviving a Disneyland Rainy Day!

So how can you get that Advanced Dining Reservation for the meal you really want? These are basic tips for newbies looking to grab a few ADR for their trip. Keep in mind that these “dining experiences” often take up a good amount of time so build them in to your trip. I only book 1 ADR per day, usually for dinner. This allows us to eat a light breakfast in our hotel room, grab a quick service lunch whenever hunger strikes and then enjoy our fancy ADR meal at dinner time.

1. Plan Out Your Itinerary

Before you start picking out ADR willy-nilly, you’ll need to plot out your basic itinerary. You don’t want to be booking The Crystal Palace for breakfast at Magic Kingdom on a day you’d planned on being at Typhoon Lagoon.

Likewise be sure to check the times of the attractions you wish to watch before booking an ADR. I almost booked a coveted Be Our Guest dinner reservation but stopped short after checking my itinerary and realized it fell right during the fireworks show we’d planned on watching.

Dozens of ways how to save money on food at Disney!

2.Book at 180 Days

Your best bet for getting the reservation you want it is to book the very day that you can, at the very first moment they open the reservations (either by phone or online). This would be 180 days out. That is how you’ll get the most coveted slots like Cinderella’s Table, by being the early bird!

3. Check the Website Frequently

Missed the 180 day window? You may still be able to grab the reservation you want by frequently scoping out the ADR website for openings. I was able to grab a reservation for 50s Prime Time Cafe five days before my trip just by checking the site several times a day.

Walt Disney World Restaurant Review - 50's Prime Time Cafe

Dennis the Menace

4. Search by Meals, Not by Exact Times

When checking for availability, search by meals instead of exact times. You’ll have a greater chance at finding a reservation if you use the more broad “meal times” instead of exact times.

Inside the “Check Availability” box there is a drop-down menu that will say Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (if the restaurant isn’t open for a particular meal, that meal won’t show up in the menu). If there is a time available there will be a button with the time available that you can click to reserve your spot.

5. Use a Travel Agent

Many agents will include booking dining as part of your vacation package. So instead of having to get up before sunrise to make those calls to Disney dining, your agent will do the work for you!

Getting Disney World Advanced Dining Reservations doesn't have to be impossible; here are 8 tips for getting the ADR for the meals you really want to eat!

6. Use Touring Plans

If you don’t have time to be constantly checking for open ADR, there’s a site that will help you with that! Touring Plans offers a Disney World Dining Reservation Finder. You just plug in the details of the restaurant meal you want booked and Touring Plans sends you an email when a reservation opens up.

Naturally you have to be the first person to grab it before it’s taken by someone else, but it definitely saves time not having to stalk the website yourself! I used it last month to get a reservation for Beaches & Cream Soda Shoppe. The email came through letting me know there was a reservation available and I was able to immediately go online and scoop up the reservation for the meal time I wanted!

7. Be Open to Different Times

How many of you would be willing to eat at Be Our Guest if the only reservation is for 9:30 pm on a Wednesday night? What if you had your baby and preschooler with you? I actually have this reservation set for my next visit and for us, it will work out great! Since we’re coming from the West Coast, I’m planning on keeping my little ones on Pacific Time so 9:30 pm (6:30 PST) won’t be that late of a dinner for them.

Getting Disney World Advanced Dining Reservations doesn't have to be impossible; here are 8 tips for getting the ADR for the meals you really want to eat!

Certainly, some reservation times just aren’t ideal for many families. But if you can be open to dining at a different time you’ll more likely be able to find a reservation. Consider pushing back lunch so you can have a later dinner. Then stay to play in the parks and sleep in the next day. Or if you find an early dinner reservation, eat a big breakfast, skip lunch, have your early dinner and then enjoy dessert later in the evening.

8. Last Minute Find

Even while on vacation, an ADR may open up for something you want on the trip. Many guests overbook and then cancel at the last minute (to avoid any no-show charges). This opens up an ADR for you! I was able to book a last minute Be Our Guest lunch the day we arrived. Keep checking the website on your mobile phone to see if an ADR opens up for the time you want.

What ADR tips do you have? Share in the comments!

 

April 7, 2017
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5 Things I Do When Budgeting Money Makes Me Cranky

What are the little things you can do when budgeting makes you cranky? 5 Things I Do When Budgeting Money Makes Me Cranky

Okay I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but constantly budgeting my money makes me cranky! With 4 kids and a limited budget, there’s not always a lot of wiggle-room when it comes to “fun money”. Yes, I’m always putting money in the savings account for our retirement and there’s a little bit going into the Disney bank. But when it comes to right here and now, not being able to just buy whatever-I-want whenever-I-want-it makes me irritable!

What are the little things you can do when budgeting makes you cranky? 5 Things I Do When Budgeting Money Makes Me Cranky

So I can’t go on a spending spree and that’s okay. These are 5 things I do when I need a little escape from reality. They are just the right pick-me-up when the budget is tight.

Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

1. Plan a Fake Vacation

Can’t hop a plane or jump ship? Just like reading a book transports you into another world, planning a fake vacation can transport you around the world with a click of a button. This is one of my most favorite ways to daydream. Pick a spot on the map and delve into this area as if you were really going to visit!

  • Borrow travel books from the library. Which part of the world are you most drawn to?
  • If you could only drive 500 miles or less, which direction would you go and what would you do?
  • If you had to travel in central Europe which country would you go to? (I actually made this decision when I won a travel contest!)
  • Read up on cruising. Check out the Disney cruise restaurants and menus – They’re all online!
  • Which attractions would you visit in Orlando other than Walt Disney World?
  • If money were no object (and it never is when planning a fake trip) which extravagant add-ons would you make?
  • Perhaps someday when you win the lottery (that’s totally going to happen, right?), you’ll already have your travel itinerary ready to go!

Planning a Disney trip? Pick up one of these recommended Walt Disney World or Disneyland books for everyone in your group!

2. Fill my Online Shopping Cart with Clothes I’ll Never Buy

I’m not literally going to go to Target, load up a cart and then abandon it at the door. But it’s TOTALLY okay to do that online! In an online shopping cart you can virtually mix and match, quickly move from dresses to shoes to jewelry. And when you’ve gotten the shopping bug fix, simply close the browser window and you’re wallet is still intact!

3. Get Rid of Stuff

If I’m on a budget I can’t buy more stuff but it does give me some joy to pass along some of the stuff we already have. Purging and giving makes me thankful for things I was able to purchase and reminds me that I already have enough “stuff”.

  • Weed through kid’s closets. What doesn’t fit and who can you pass the clothing down to?
  • Is there something in your closet you haven’t worn in a very long time? Request a bag from ThredUp and you may be able to resell some of your items.
  • Have a garage sale. Put the money you make towards something special.
  • Be ruthless in the kid’s toy bin. Keep only what they really play with and donate the rest.
  • Next time you pull out the holiday or seasonal bin, see how you can pare down the decorations so that you only keep your most favorite items.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

4. Buy Something Little and Fun

A cheap but meaningful splurge can really boost spirits when the wallet is tight. Obviously you can’t do this one every day (or even every week!) but once in a while buying something small is just what you need. What little thing makes you happiest? For me it’s something that pampers me, like new Jamberry nail wraps or a lipstick! For family fun, choose a new board game or get a gallon of vanilla ice cream and a few toppings for mid-week sundaes.

What are the little things you can do when budgeting makes you cranky? 5 Things I Do When Budgeting Money Makes Me Cranky

A manicure at home (on a budget) makes me feel better!

Look Ahead to Something Real

What fun thing do you have coming ahead in the calendar that you can look forward to? Whatever it is, start your planning now! I love planning and think that research is half the fun. So if you have a vacation ahead, cultivate your own official itinerary. Research restaurants, peruse online menus and decide which mouth-watering dessert you’re going to order when you get there. I find that looking ahead (and not dwelling in the I-can’t-right-now) really fills up my thankfulness cup and reminds me why I’m budgeting and saving in the first place!

What do you do when budgeting gets you down? Share in the comments!

March 23, 2017
Comments Off on Epic California Road Trip – 5 Tips for Traveling by Car

Epic California Road Trip – 5 Tips for Traveling by Car

Check out these helpful tips for a California road trip.

My family and I will soon be heading for the open road on our first family road trip since adding two more to our brood! We’ll be hitting the road from San Diego and heading to Pismo Beach, Monterey, Reno and Bishop. Eight years ago we took a similar road trip when our older kiddos were in kindergarten. Now that we have four kids, we’re excited (and a bit nervous!) about taking the whole family on the road. Check out where we’ll be visiting so you can follow us on our road trip adventures!

My family and I will be hosted at several of these locations on our trip #hosted

California Road Trip

My husband and I are big time “planners” and like to have a solid route and itinerary. We already know a bit of what we’ll be doing at each location, with free time built in for relaxation, play and adventure! With our little one only just turning one year old, we know that extended time in the car won’t be feasible. We’ll be in the car no longer than 3 hours at a time. We’ll be working in plenty of time to get out, stretch and play at each stop.

Check out these helpful tips for a California road trip.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Ventura

We’re starting our road trip from San Diego and the first stop will be in Ventura. Even as a SoCal native, there are so many coastal towns I’ve never been to, including Ventura! We’re planning a stop at Marina Park Beach for a picnic lunch and to allow the kids to play on the pirate-themed playground.

Road Trip Tip #1 – No reason you have to eat all fast food or expensive restaurant meals on your entire road trip. Make a quick stop at the local grocery for healthy fruits, prepped veggies or freshly made sandwiches. Our favorites in California are Whole Foods Market and Sprouts.

Check out these helpful tips for a California road trip.

Dinosaur Caves in Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach

Our first overnight of the road trip will be in Pismo Beach with a stay at the Hilton Garden Inn. We stopped in Pismo Beach in spring break of 2010. Our kids participated in an awesome Easter egg hunt and festival at Dinosaur Caves Park that overlooks the ocean. Hoping to make another stop at this beautiful park again this trip! There is an amazing Monarch Butterfly grove here but it’s only open from October to February each year, so we’re missing it this time.

Road Trip Tip #2 -Check the City Calendar

Each of the cities I mention here have a clickable link that leads to their website. You’ll be able to see what activities are happening in each community. Before your visit, check the city calendar to see if any special events are occurring. There might be a festival, art show or seasonal activity. For instance, the Pismo Beach annual Easter egg hunt was a highlight of our last road trip (totally free and fun for the kids before we got back on the road).

Check out these helpful tips for a California road trip.

Where the mountains meet the ocean in Big Sur

Monterey

Next up for us will be two days in Monterey. With a county that includes Big Sur (a waterfall that pours into the ocean!), Pebble Beach (golfing!), Carmel-by-the-Sea (shopping!) and Salinas (food, glorious food!), there are countless things to do in this beautiful coastal area. We’re staying at the Monterey Tides Hotel, right on the oceanfront.

We’ll be taking in the amazing Monterey Bay Aquarium, an agricultural tour at Earthbound Farms, and a surrey ride from Adventures by the Sea. We’ll be dining on local fresh seafood at Flaherty’s Seafood Grill & Oyster Bar and Peter B’s Brewpub. We have a pretty packed schedule so I’m not sure but we might try to squeeze in a Big Sur visit for some hiking. Also hoping that the Dennis the Menace park will be reopened by the time of our visit, it was a favorite of my kids last trip.

Check out these helpful tips for a California road trip.

Dennis the Menace park in Monterey

Road Trip Tip #3 – Study Road Conditions

Check for road construction, updates and closures online before your trip. 7 years ago we drove Hwy 1, a two-lane route alongside the Pacific. Gorgeous, but slow-moving at times. And there is a section of this highway that is currently closed so thank goodness we’re aware of this and not planning on taking the same route this time! Check with CalTrans before your visit for a quick look at road closures.

Fairfield

About 3 hours outside of Monterey we’ll be stopping in Fairfield, home to two cool factory tours. Grown-ups will enjoy the Anheuser-Busch factory tour (with beer sampling). Kids (and adults!) will love the Jelly Belly Factory Tour. We’ll be making time for the Jelly Belly tour for sure!

Road Trip Tip #3 – Research Between the Big Stops

When plotting your course, check out those little towns along your route and see what they have to offer. We never would have considered a stop in Fairfield if we hadn’t seen that the Jelly Belly Factory offers tours here. Fairfield will be the perfect place to have lunch, take a family-friendly tour and make memories!

Lake Tahoe & Reno

After two days along the Pacific, we’ll be heading inland for “snow-much” more adventure! We’re heading to the Lake Tahoe and Reno area, where we’ll be visiting family and exploring the area. We’ll be staying with my husband’s family, except for one overnight at the Atlantis Casino in the city.

I’ll be pampered in the Atlantis Casino spa for my very first massage! While I’m lounging in the spa my family will be taking advantage of the indoor pool. Other than hopefully playing in the snow, visiting family and checking out the local culture, we don’t have much planned yet. And that’s okay by us, we’ll play it by ear.

Check out these helpful tips for a California road trip.

Enjoying the snow in Reno, Nevada

Road Trip Tip #4 Allow Plenty of Travel Time –

The last time we drove this route (from Monterey to Reno) we got held up in a snow storm. Being SoCal natives, neither of us had ever driven in a snow storm before so it was a very tense few hours. After putting on chains, it was a late night white-knuckle drive through the pass that had us arriving to our destination several hours later than expected. This year we’re allowing ourselves plenty of drive time and leaving much earlier in the day.

Bishop

Our final day of travel will include an overnight in Bishop, CA, one place we’ve never been before. We’ll be letting the kids play at Law’s Historic Village, taking a warm dip at Keough’s Hot Springs and visiting the historic Manzanar site. Bishop is where many “cowboy” movies were filmed, so as we leave town, we’ll stop in for a tour of the Museum of Western Film History in Lone Pine and take a short hike in the Alabama Hills to view some of the movie sites.

Road Trip Tip #5 A Mix of Fun and Learning –

Along your travels see where you can combine history, teaching as well as fun. While we’ll be visiting the Manzanar site (place where Japanese Americans were interned during WWII) we’re also leaving space in our itinerary for free play and fun.

What are your road trip tips? Share with me in the comments!

March 22, 2017
8 Comments

Is it Worth it to Stay at a Disneyland Resort Hotel vs Off-Site?

Disneyland Resort Vs. Good Neighbor Hotels? Tips on how to choose the right spot for your family vacation.

When considering a Disneyland vacation, you really have some outstanding options when it comes to accommodations! With Disneyland located in the middle of city there are a bounty of “off-site” hotels to choose from. So why would anyone choose to stay at one of the three Disneyland Resort hotel when there are hundreds of other lodging options surround the Parks? I’ll break it down and determine whether it’s worth it to stay at a Disneyland Resort hotel…or not.

Disneyland Resort Vs. Good Neighbor Hotels? Tips on how to choose the right spot for your family vacation.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Orange Loop. Today we are sharing parts of a Disney vacation that people often ask, is it worth it?.


Should You Stay at a Disneyland Resort Hotel or Off-Site Location?

My family and I have stayed at all three of the Disneyland Resort Hotels over the course of many years. We’ve also stayed at dozens of the off-site locations and found some of them to be nicely accommodating!

So which one should you choose – A Disneyland Resort Hotel or an Off-Site Hotel? I’ll be giving you many discussion points to review before you book your Disneyland-area vacation hotel.

Disneyland Resort Vs. Good Neighbor Hotels? Tips on how to choose the right spot for your family vacation.

What are the Disneyland Resort Hotels?

The Disneyland Resort area is smaller than Walt Disney World and includes only three resort hotels – Disney’s Paradise Pier, The Disneyland Hotel and Disney Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.

Each of the Disneyland Resort hotels have themed rooms, pool areas that offer a full day of entertainment, offer a unique Character meal and are within walking distance of the Parks. Some of the hotel areas are more “Disney” than others but each of them offers great customer service and that feeling of being inside the Disney Bubble while on vacation.

Disneyland Resort Vs. Good Neighbor Hotels? Tips on how to choose the right spot for your family vacation.

Disney’s Paradise Pier is always the lowest cost of the three resort hotels (but still not “inexpensive” by any means!) The hotel has a whimsical beach theme with a rooftop water slide and great views of Disney’s California Adventure park.

The Disneyland Hotel is a classic – The entire hotel is heavy on the Disney theming, from the Mad Tea Party teacups in the lobby to the imaginative light-up musical headboards in each room. A fantastic pool area with Monorail-themed water slides make this a magical place to stay.

Disneyland Resort Vs. Good Neighbor Hotels? Tips on how to choose the right spot for your family vacation.

Disney fans will appreciate the nods to Walt inside the Disneyland Hotel.

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is the closest hotel to the Park and hosts it’s own Resort guest-exclusive entrance to Disney California Adventure park. The dramatic lobby and more sophisticated style with subtle Disney details add to the upscale nature of this beautiful hotel.

Purchase Your discounted Disneyland Park tickets in advance from Park Savers!

Park Savers affiliate link

What are Good Neighbor Hotels?

Good Neighbor Hotels are off-site Anaheim area hotels that Disney promotes on their website. Not sure if these are actually hand-picked and approved hotels by Disney or if the hotels pay to be listed under the “Good Neighbor” umbrella.

Disneyland Resort Vs. Good Neighbor Hotels? Tips on how to choose the right spot for your family vacation.

Castle-themed room at Anaheim Majestic Gardens

I’ve stayed at over a dozen and there is a vast range in quality, from low budget basic rooms to elegant family suites. Bottom line is that some of these hotels are better than others. Some of them are downright lousy, if I’m being honest! Do your research – Read Yelp reviews. Take a look at the area map. Do a Google search. Ask a friend.

A few of my favorite off-site Disneyland area hotels:

Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel

Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites

Disneyland Resort Vs. Good Neighbor Hotels? Tips on how to choose the right spot for your family vacation.

A suite with a view! Watch fireworks from this window at the Holiday Inn & Suites.

Why Should I Consider an Off-Site Accommodation?

Cost

Far and away the best reason for booking off-site are the more reasonable low costs for a room. Hotel accommodations can be the major expense of any vacation and with Disneyland resort hotel rooms at $300+ per night, you might want to consider off-site lodging that is considerably less cost.

Walkable

Many very good off-site hotels are within walking distance of the Disneyland Resort. In fact, some are even closer to the front gates than the Disneyland Resort hotels! Be sure to look at a map of the area before booking though. Some off-site locations boast that they’re across the street from Disneyland only to find out that you’ll still have a long walk to get to the entrance!

More Dining Options

There are restaurants and fast food places located all around the Disneyland area, many of them inside off-site hotels. Many of the off-site accommodations also have a complimentary breakfast – sweet!

Disneyland Resort Vs. Good Neighbor Hotels? Tips on how to choose the right spot for your family vacation.

Free breakfast at the Holiday Inn is awesome!

Shuttles or Public Transportation

Even if the off-site hotel is a mile away, many of them offer free or low cost shuttles to the park entrance. Public transportation (like the ART) stops near other hotels for a nominal fee (definitely cheaper than parking your vehicle at the Disneyland parking lot!)

Variety of Room Options

The rooms at the Disneyland Resort are all pretty standard sized. If you need something with more space or a suite on a budget, looking off-site will give you what you need.


What are the Benefits of Staying at a Disneyland Resort Hotel?

Extra Magic Hour

Want to get inside the Park early and avoid extra long queues? Disneyland Resort hotel guests can take advantage of Extra Magic Hour for each day of their stay.

Staying in the Magic

If you prefer to avoid the “outside world” while enjoying a Disney vacation, you’ll love the Disneyland Resort hotels. You’ll never have to leave the area or step outside of the Disney bubble!

Special Guest-Only Offerings

When you check in, the Cast Member will give you a calendar of items that are happening at the Resort during your stay. This may include pool-side activities, Disney movies under the stars, early access to shops in the Downtown Disney District or free tours.

A History Like No Other

When you take a look at this wall of photos in the Disneyland Hotel you can see the rich history of the resort and what it has meant to so many. That’s a history that many Disney fans will love to soak in!

Disneyland Resort Vs. Good Neighbor Hotels? Tips on how to choose the right spot for your family vacation.

Wall of historical photos inside the Disneyland Hotel.

If you want to know more check out these valuable reasons to stay at a Disneyland Resort hotel.

For more opinions on what is & isn’t worth the splurge at Disney,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Orange | Is It Worth It? Loop:

March 16, 2017
4 Comments

Can’t Afford a Trip? 7 Ways to Take a Family Vacation on a Budget

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

Taking a Family Vacation on a Budget

For a majority of families, what stops them from the family vacation of their dreams is their wallets. They think they can’t afford a vacation.

I think they’re wrong.

Even as a family on a tight budget, we’ve found that there are many ways to make a vacation happen.

Travel brings so much joy, adventure and memories to families. I can safely say that most of our happiest family memories are from our vacations. I’m sure I’m not alone in that sentiment.

So why aren’t you taking a vacation? What is truly stopping you from planning and going on that dream vacation? And if your answer is “money”, here are a few ideas to consider.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

Think You Can’t Afford a Trip?

According to a recent survey on Spring Break Family Travel, conducted by Vacatia, TravelingMom and TravelingDad, agreeing on a budget and coordinating payment is a concern for 36% of respondents. If you’re on a tight budget than you might fall in that 36% range.

I’ll be frank though – My family is on a tight budget and we still find a way to take several vacations a year. I think family travel is way more important than having the newest gadgets and that little sacrifice can go a long way! Here are 7 ways we make those all-important vacations happen:

1. Day to Day Savings

Naturally your day-to-day spending can make or break whether you have extra vacation money or not (those lattes add up!) By cutting back on little things (generic instead of name brand, packing a lunch instead of purchasing), you can always seem to “find money” that can be used for your vacation.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

Every dollar counts! Put saved money towards your trip & get the kids involved.

Yeah, it can be a downer to eat pb&j from home when you’d rather get a sandwich at the deli but the $5+ savings means more money for you to take that trip. But there are little ways to cut back without it feeling like a major sacrifice. Consider a month of no extra expenses. Take a hard look at all the money going out and choose a few easy ways you can save on expenses.

2. What Can You Do Without?

I’d rather plan another vacation than have cable television. That’s just me, but traveling is just more fun than watching TV. I make the choice to do without. What do you have that you could cut back, freeing up more money for a trip?

It can be hard to tell the kids “no” when it comes to spending on things. When my older kids ask why they can’t have a cell phone or my preschooler wants a toy at the store, I use a distraction technique. I remind them about an impending trip and how we’re using extra money towards our vacation. Then I’ll bring up a certain part of the trip I know they’ll want to talk about and soon enough they’re excited, talking about the vacation instead.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

3. Buy Less Stuff

A recent article suggested that parents should spend less on toys and take more vacations. I’m all for that. We save toy purchases only at Christmas and even then, we try to choose high-quality classic items that work for a wide age group.

We take this concept of limiting stuff even further by branching out into other parts of our home. All the money saved by not buying “stuff” (Dollar Spot, I’m looking at you!) goes into our vacation fund.

4. Use Points for Your Trips

I’m not a huge credit card hacker but I do have a few practical and very easy tips for earmarking points towards travel. Since we do a lot of Disney travel, I have a Disney Visa that I use to pay household bills. The Disney Dollars earned go towards our meals at each trip and we have very little out-of-pocket expenses there.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

Our Costco Visa is used solely for groceries and gas and we earned about $250 in Costco cash last year. I took the check we received to Costco, they cashed it out for me and I’m using that money on our road trip. I’ve also plotted out on a map where all the Costco gas stations are on our route so we can get our gasoline at a great price! We purchased 2 new cell phones at Costco last year and received a $450 Costco gift card rebate so this is our gas money for the road trip.

I also use and love Ebates and book all my travel through the links. I get paid in a “Big Fat Check” and naturally, that’s money to go right towards the vacation.

5. Realize that Separate Vacations Are Okay

According to the responses in the survey, 38% say that coordinating everyone’s schedules is the worst part of planning a vacation. And once you do choose a date that works for everyone there’s also the challenge of making everyone happy. 32 percent say the ickiest part of planning is finding a destination that makes everyone happy and 24 percent say it’s choosing accommodations that will make everyone happy.

Here’s a solution to this issue – Plan separate vacations. Don’t wait until you can get things “just right” because that day might never come. When trying to work out a trip between my husband’s work and school schedule, the kid’s school year and allotted vacation time, finding that week when everyone is available is the equivalent to a needle in a haystack.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

We compromise with separate vacations. My husband likes going to Disneyland as a family once a year for a few days but traveling cross-country to Walt Disney World for a week is not his idea of fun. He’d rather be riding the ocean waves in his kayak, fishing for tuna (definitely not my style!) while the kids play in the sand.

Our kids get the best of both experiences and nobody is gritting their teeth through a week of something they’re not happy with. And on the budget-side of this, a vacation with fewer family members is going to cost less.

6. Find Ways to Budget on the Trip

Once you nail down the itinerary, decide what features of the trip are the most important to you. If spending time at a fancy hotel suite is a must-do, place the majority of your budget there. If you don’t care where you lay your head, then scrimp on the hotel costs and drop your money where it matters most, like on activities or meals. Survey respondents note that they spend about half of their travel budget on accommodations, which tells me that maybe the call of the upscale hotel pool is high!

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

7. Take the Time Off (and Save More)

If you’re white-knuckling those sick leave hours, you might need a vacation! Here’s a hint: Your coworkers can survive without you. Take the vacation time!

If you wait until summer vacation when the kids are out of school, the costs of a trip during peak travel season will be higher. Consider pulling the kids out so you can plan your vacation when the travel prices are best. I’m taking my kids out this spring for 5 days so we can take a road trip. I was able to contact their schools about independent study. The kids will be able to get their school work done on the road and not get “dinged” with unexcused absences while they’re gone.

Research tells us that family vacations have long-lasting impact on your child’s happiness. I know that seeing my children soaking in new experiences is going to have a greater impact on their lives than any gadget ever will!

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

How do you budget for your travel? Share with me in the comments!

March 11, 2017
1 Comment

Win a Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Castle Vacation Giveaway

Win a Disney's Beauty and the Beast Castle Vacation Giveaway

Have you ever been to Scotland? Ever slept in a castle? No, me neither.  How about a vacation with 20 of your closest friends? Well that sounds like a lot of fun already, doesn’t it?! Keep reading to find out more about this amazing Disney’s Beauty and the Beast vacation giveaway from HomeAway.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. #partner

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Castle Vacation Giveaway

The grand prize is absolutely mind-boggling – One winner will win a five night stay in the HomeAway castle holiday property “Duns Castle” in Scotland for the winner and up to 20 guests, including the costs of economy airfare & ground transport to and from the Castle Holiday Rental. Also included are some meals, entertainment and cash to off-set the taxes. I’m already plotting which of my 20 friends I’d invite!

Win a Disney's Beauty and the Beast Castle Vacation Giveaway

Imagine the fantastic conversations we’d have over dinner around this table!

And if you aren’t the lucky grand prize winner, HomeAway has other vacation giveaways in this contest to five runner-ups. Wow, wouldn’t I love to take my family to Italy. Or Australia. Or Hawaii, I can’t decide!

You have until the end of the month (March 31st, 2017) to enter. You can only enter once so your odds are as good as anyone else! Good luck 🙂

ENTER THE HOMEAWAY BEAUTY AND THE BEAST VACATION GIVEAWAY HERE

 

 

 

March 3, 2017
Comments Off on Best Books to Buy When Planning a Disney Trip

Best Books to Buy When Planning a Disney Trip

Planning a Disney trip? Pick up one of these recommended Walt Disney World or Disneyland books for everyone in your group!

I’m all for doing my online research ahead of time. I search Google for everything far and wide so I can get the most information when planning a Disney trip. But there’s just something about having all the tips in one place – A book! To have a book in hand is invaluable; to be able to flip the page, see photos, tab and highlight favorite sections – That’s one of my favorite parts of Disney vacation research! See my recommendations for the best books to purchase when planning a Disney trip.

Planning a Disney Trip? Pick up a Book

Whether you’re just in the research stages, getting the kids familiar with Disney or looking for some background and history there is a Disney book for everyone in your family! You can even take some of these books along with you for the trip.

Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Clicking through and purchasing through the links helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Planning a Disney trip? Pick up one of these recommended Walt Disney World or Disneyland books for everyone in your group!

Research Books to Help You Plan & Stay Organized

If you read this blog at all you’ll know that doing your pre-vacation research is an important way to save money and time on your trip! These Disney vacation research books will help you properly plan and be prepared. The Unofficial Guide was my go-to research book when planning my first vacation to Walt Disney World.

The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2017

Birnbaum’s 2017 Disneyland Resort: The Official Guide (Birnbaum Guides)

PassPorter’s Walt Disney World 2016

    

The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World Planner: A Complete Organizer, Journal, and Keepsake for Your Unforgettable Vacation

Frommer’s EasyGuide to Disney World, Universal and Orlando 2017 (Easy Guides)

102 Ways to Save Money For and At Walt Disney World: Bonus! 40 Free Things to Enjoy, Eat, Do and Collect!

  

Books for Kids to Get them in a Disney Mood

Get the kids on board by supplying them with a few Disney themed titles. They can help with vacation planning or just get in the Disney mood with a few storybooks. My son owns several of these Disney Storybook Collections and they are a bedtime favorite leading up to our vacation day whenever we’re planning a Disney trip. My older kids have read and loved the Kingdom Keepers series.

Birnbaum’s 2017 Walt Disney World For Kids: The Official Guide (Birnbaum Guides)

Going To Disneyland – A Guide for Kids & Kids at Heart

Disney*Pixar Storybook Collection

    

Kingdom Keepers Boxed Set: Featuring Kingdom Keepers I, II, and III

The Mystery at Walt Disney World (Real Kids, Real Places)

The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2018

    

Books for Little Ones

If this is baby’s first Disney trip you’ll want to make them familiar with characters. These sweet books are ideal. The encyclopedia is great for acquainting kids with the characters and you can take it with you on the trip to have each character sign inside!

Junior Encyclopedia of Animated Characters

Disney® Mickey Mouse “My First Books” (Set of 4 Shaped Board Books)

Disney Classics Little Golden Book Library (Disney Classic)

Disney Baby My First Colors

     

Books with a History and Background

Ready to dig a little deeper into Disney lore? You want a book with a bit of history or that gives you some background into the Disney experience?
I’m wanting The Disney Book for myself, it looks like an amazing read!

Disney A to Z (Fifth Edition): The Official Encyclopedia

Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making More Magic Real

  

The Disneyland Encyclopedia: The Unofficial, Unauthorized, and Unprecedented History of Every Land, Attraction, Restaurant, Shop, and Major Event in the Original Magic Kingdom

Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination

Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service (Disney Institute Book, A)

       

Books to Use When on the Trip

Once you’re on vacation, there are a few books that you can bring with you to maximize your Park experience. They also help alleviate boredom when standing in line or waiting in restaurants! I think my preschooler would get a kick out of finding Hidden Mickeys on our next visit!

Disneyland’s Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Disneyland® Resort’s Best Kept Secrets

The Hidden Mickeys of Walt Disney World

The Walt Disney World Trivia Book: Secrets, History & Fun Facts Behind the Magic (Volume 1)

The Disney World Queue Line Scavenger Hunt: The Game You Play While Waiting In Line

    

What are your favorite Disney books? Share in the comments!

February 27, 2017
2 Comments

Budget-Friendly and Quick-to-Make Healthy Breakfasts for Kids

You want healthy breakfasts for kids but they have to be quick and cheap! Check out these 13 healthy breakfasts for kids (that you'll want to eat too!)

When preparing breakfast for my kids, I have three criteria: It shouldn’t cost a lot. It shouldn’t take me a long time to prepare. And it has to be healthy. It’s important to me that my kids start the morning off right and filling them up with something healthy helps them stay focused at school. It’s not really that challenging to get a decent breakfast on the table each morning – Here are 13 ideas for penny-pinching, quick and healthy breakfasts for kids!

Well-Balanced and Easy Healthy Breakfasts for Kids

I was shocked to hear from my older children how many of their peers skip breakfast. And then I remembered my own childhood – I do remember my mom making me pancakes for breakfast when I was in elementary school but once I hit junior high (and she was at work in the mornings), my brother and I were on our own. We often resorted to grab-and-go sugary breakfast pastries or a snack bag of dry cereal to eat in the car on the way to school! Yeah, not exactly healthy and after a hour or so at school, my stomach was burning with hunger. That sure made it hard to focus on my studies.

You want healthy breakfasts for kids but they have to be quick and cheap! Check out these 13 healthy breakfasts for kids (that you'll want to eat too!)

Pair these fruit muffins with a bit of protein and you have a healthy and balanced meal!

After going through a weight loss program that taught me how to keep my blood sugar levels steady I’ve learned the enormous benefits of a well-balanced meal. Without the proper balance of carbohydrates, fats, protein and fiber your meal will “burn off” quickly causing you to be hungry much quicker.

Kids need to have a decent breakfast so they can best concentrate at school. Serving a healthy breakfast doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. My tweens are able to prepare many of these themselves, though for the sake of speed I tend to put breakfast together quickly for everyone in the morning.

Prepare the Night Before

I totally understand the morning time crunch of getting kids out the door on time. I have 4 kids and my eldest starts school at 7:45 am. I wake the kids 1 hour before we have to be out the door. This allows them time to get dressed, make their beds, sit at the breakfast table for a meal, brush teeth & hair and get in the car.

 

The kids do all their prepping the evening before, including making sure their school tablets are charged, their homework is in the backpack, their outfit is chosen and their shoes are ready to put on. There are no morning scrambles to find any missing items because they’ve prepped for their school day the night before (PS. None of my kids have ever been late to school).

Read more about how I streamline the morning routine here!

There are some breakfasts that can be prepared the night before. Round out the carbs in the morning with cut fruit and a glass of milk (we drink both cow and almond milk at home). Kids can just grab a few ready-made items and start eating.

For baked goods I like using whole wheat flour instead of white. I like Wheat Montana brand Prairie Gold, which I buy at Target. It’s not pricey and it has a smooth taste and texture so I easily sub it in for white flour in all my baked goods.

Whole Wheat Baked Doughnuts – Baked doughnuts are easy to make and if you sub in whole wheat flour they’re an even healthier option. I melted semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave and dipped the doughnuts in just for a special treat.

You want healthy breakfasts for kids but they have to be quick and cheap! Check out these 13 healthy breakfasts for kids (that you'll want to eat too!)

They look decadent but they’re really baked from whole grains!

Yogurt Parfaits – Into glasses or custard dishes, layer plain or vanilla flavored yogurt with cut fruit or berries, dry oats and chia seeds.

Fruit Salad – Chop up all those ripe and ready fruits into a colorful fruit salad that can chill overnight in the fridge.

Muffins – Use healthier ingredients like whole wheat flour, applesauce/mashed bananas/honey instead of white sugar and include chopped fruits, nuts and grains.

You want healthy breakfasts for kids but they have to be quick and cheap! Check out these 13 healthy breakfasts for kids (that you'll want to eat too!)

Muffins that include fruit bits means you can use less sugar when baking

Budget-Friendly Foods

I have two teens, a preschooler and a toddler. When they want scrambled eggs, I cringe a bit, knowing that I’ll be using half the carton and eggs aren’t cheap. I want my kids to eat a healthy wholesome breakfast but they don’t need to eat a full plate of eggs. Instead I’ll give them a smaller amount of eggs, topped with cheese and salsa and served with beans and a whole wheat tortilla. Or try these ideas:

Omelettes with leftovers – Have some leftover veggies from dinner the night before? Don’t let them go to waste – Fold them into the center of an omelette and sprinkle with a bit of cheese. Sauteed mushrooms, squash or steamed broccoli are favorites of my kids.

Oatmeal – Can’t get more basic for breakfast than a warm, bubbling pot of hearty oats! So cheap and you can dress it up nicely. I love chopped apple, lots of cinnamon, walnuts and a sprinkle of brown sugar.

Whole Wheat Pancakes – Pancakes are super simple to make from scratch and truly only take a few ingredients. Use whole wheat and toss some blueberries into the batter. Or top them with chopped bananas and walnuts (my favorite way to eat them!) A drizzle of pure maple syrup tops them off.

You want healthy breakfasts for kids but they have to be quick and cheap! Check out these 13 healthy breakfasts for kids (that you'll want to eat too!)

Egg Sandwich – One egg per kid is all you need. Make it fried, sunny-side up or scrambled and place it on a toasted English muffin half or a bagel. Layer a slice of cheese and some spinach leaves and this is a filling breakfast that is way healthier than the fast-food variety (and takes less time than going through the drive-thru!)

Smoothies –When your fresh fruits and greens start to turn, chop them up and freeze them for use later in a smoothie. Just lay them out on a parchment covered cookie sheet and place into the freezer. Then take the frozen pieces and transfer them into zip close bags. Frozen pineapple or berries, a huge handful of frozen kale or spinach, almond milk and a dollop of Greek yogurt is a favorite to sip in the morning (and I promise, you won’t even taste the greens!)

You want healthy breakfasts for kids but they have to be quick and cheap! Check out these 13 healthy breakfasts for kids (that you'll want to eat too!)

You can’t even see or taste the greens in this smoothie when you use dark berries to conceal the color!

Total Time-Crunch

Need to get out the door but the kids haven’t eaten yet. Toss these winning breakfasts together and they’ll be ready to eat within minutes.

Cold cereal with berries – Pre-boxed cereals don’t have to contain a boatload of sugar. Tossing in fresh berries will help sweeten them up. Check out this list of best and worst boxed cereals at 100 Days of Real Food. The book 100 Days of Real Food is a wonderful guide to eating more wholesome foods.

Frozen Premade Whole Wheat Waffles – Use a lazy weekend day to prep breakfast for the week. By making your own whole wheat waffles you can control the ingredients and they’ll be just as convenient to pop into the toaster as the prepackaged variety. Sometimes I “make it fun” with a topping of whipped cream.

Sprouted Grain Toast with Peanut Butter, Banana and Chia Seeds – Sprouted grain bread tastes wonderful after it’s been toasted and when you top it with peanut butter (no sugar variety, just nuts/salt/oil), banana slices and a sprinkling of chia seeds, it’s almost like dessert! My husband takes this one step further and drizzles his slice with honey!

Greek Yogurt with Toppings –  Another quickie to toss together with ready-to-go toppings! I like chopped banana, walnuts, a bit of agave and I’ve even been known to toss on a few dark chocolate chips

You want healthy breakfasts for kids but they have to be quick and cheap! Check out these 13 healthy breakfasts for kids (that you'll want to eat too!)

Greek yogurt with toppings (even dark chocolate chips!)

What are your favorite healthy kid’s breakfasts? Share an idea in the comments!