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We recently enjoyed a wonderful 8 day vacation in sunny Florida. It felt so amazing  to soak in the sun on our vitamin D deficient bodies….and spend time with family.   As I look back on this trip, I am recalling all the hours I spent on Pinterest looking for tips and tricks on how to tackle Disney World and traveling with children. So I thought I would add my experience and hopefully provide some great tips to the next mom out there looking forward to a wonderful vacation with their family! 

1. Start saving early! We purposely started saving for this trip last Summer. Any trip that includes Disney World in the plans is not cheap. So once you get past the sticker shock….you work hard and SAVE. For us, my husband and I worked overtime (Jayme) and booked extra weddings (Melissa). Those long days of working were so worth it knowing we were saving our money for one really really fun week. We live debt free….so we wanted to make sure we didn’t take home debt as a souvenir along with all those Disney stuffed animals my girls can not live without. 

2. We flew with Allegiant Air. If you are looking to fly on a budget….Allegiant Air is great….however, they charge you for everything. You get your seat for cheap, but you are charged for your carry ons and of course your checked luggage. So we decided to each bring a rolling carry on and our backpacks. So we did our best to pack light. We visited friends for the first 1/2 of our trip and brought enough clothes for just that first half and then washed everything before we headed to Orlando to the parks. This allowed us to have extra room in our carry ons for the girl’s souvenirs….and those are always stuffed animals. 

3. Plane Ride Tips: (my girls are 6 and 10 years old) iPads or tablets are very helpful with headphones. We let them add a new app for just the trip so they have something new to play with on the iPad. Snacks are a must. We brought teddy grahams, crackers and cheese, and as a special treat I brought their favorite movie theater candy. We also brought empty plastic water bottles to go through security and then once we pass through we will fill them up with water so they have water on the plane. 

4. The big tip I have is that we bought a cheap $27 stroller at Walmart before we did our four park days (Sea World and then Disney). It costs $15/day to rent a stroller at the parks and we do not have stroller at home any more and if we did we would not want to pay to check it on the plane. Purchasing this cheap one (it was a step above an umbrella stroller…had a very small bottom basket and cupholder, which is a must), saved us over all about $33. There was no way our little 6 year old would have made it all for days without it. She is cute, but honestly kind of lazy. 😉 At the end of the week, we left our stroller in stroller parking at Disney, knowing they will either recycle it or donate it. 

5. Disney allows you to bring in snacks, pop and water. So we stocked up at a grocery store before we checked into the “Art of Animation” Disney resort. You can also get a cup of ice water at no cost at any food vendor in Disney. I took advantage of this and made sure they gave me a full cup of ice since it was so nice and WARM there. 

6. We stayed in the Little Mermaid standard room, it was not fancy but super cute….and had the essentials…including a little dorm fridge. We bought milk, cheese sticks and the Starbucks Coffee drinks (for me) to put in the fridge for the week. Our goal was to cover breakfast and snacks while at Disney.

7. Save when you can so you can splurge when you want. We saved money on breakfast, snacks, drinks, and the stroller. And we splurged on two character meals…..Cindarella’s Castle Dinner with princesses was amazing. We met five princesses while there, and the food was incredible…as it should be for the cost, but again nothing is cheap in Disney. The other character meal was Breakfast with Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Lilo and Stitch. My girls LOVE Stitch and this was the only place we found that we could meet him. We surprised them the last morning we were there with this breakfast….those smiles were so worth it!! 

8. We had our girls save their money before we went to Disney. They have been saving for about six months. They had chore money and extra Christmas and birthday money. They each saved about $150. Having their own money gave them the responsibility to choose and stick with their purchase decisions. $150 goes really fast in Disney, so we told the girls we would buy them each a t-shirt and sweatshirt….and they had to then pay for whatever else they wanted. 

9. We stayed at the “Art of Animation” Disney resort. It’s so cute and perfect for kids. The “Finding Nemo” pool was huge and decorated so well. Disney always does an amazing job in the details!! They had a movie night on the lawn at the resort the last night we were there….they played “Beauty and the Beast” and even gave us a big bag of popcorn. I was pleasantly surprised,..since nothing is free at Disney! 🙂 For our rest day, we swam, walked around our resort and got pictures of the girls next to all the decor and then spent a couple hours at Disney Springs.

10. I am a photographer and it is always hard for me to decide what camera to bring. iPhone? Pro-camera? Point and shoot? This year I challenged myself and brought my smaller DSLR with a fish eye lens and had fun getting crazy wide angle images at the Magic Kingdom. I easily could have done just fine with my iPhone….if I go again I think I will just do that since carrying that DSLR camera is a little hassle.  We decided to purchase the Memory Maker Photo Pass. I LOVE this thing. You prepay for it and every time you see a Disney photographer (they are all over the parks, especially at the big landmarks and with the characters) you get your picture taken and it automatically will upload to your account so I could then access the Disney My Experience App and see our photos and when I got home from our trip, I downloaded all the images. We had almost 200 images!! I loved this option as a photographer….the pictures were great, and I didn’t have to worry about anything. As soon as I got home, I made up an album for us and we had it delivered to our door today….4 days after we returned from our trip. I knew if I procrastinated I would never do it, so now its done and we enjoyed looking through it as a family as soon as it came!

11. Use the fast passes!! They are awesome and FREE!! Once you use up the three you set up that day at the park, you can get more, one at a time…and I could do it all from my app. That Disney My Experience App is fabulous and was so helpful all day long. The interactive maps of the park were so helpful! 

I hope this blog post was helpful. We had so much fun….the memories we made as a family are priceless….the trip came with a price tag….but the memories were priceless. Already looking forward to when we can go back again.