Disneyland Vacation (Tips and Tricks)

If you’ve been around a while, you know we started saving for a debt free (no credit card) trip to Disneyland.  Many gift cards and monthly deposits later we were ready.  We set off on our road trip for four nights and three days in the parks.  Hopefully, you follow along on Instagram for up to date pictures and tips!

Disneyland Vacation on a Budget


We definitely went on a budget vacation but I tend to like to splurge a bit when it comes to trips.  In this case, splurging met character dining and restaurant reservations in the park.  Eating in the parks can really add up but it was so worth it.  Each restaurant was pretty accommodating when it came to my little vegan so don’t worry too much about dietary restrictions.  We did research before arriving but don’t be afraid to ask!

Tip: Make a late dinner reservation at the Carnation Cafe for right around when the evening parade starts.  They don’t allow people to stand in front of the patio so the view is pretty nice and being able to avoid the crowds made it a fabulous experience for us all.

Disneyland Parade Tips


We gave each kiddo a budget for souvenirs (using gift cards we’d been given throughout the year) and let them shop on the last day.  In addition to their own gift cards, I picked up some Disney items on sale and brought them along, hidden in my suitcase.  Each day the kids found these little souvenirs in our hotel room. We also tried our hand at pin trading.

Tip: I picked up some Disney pins online (be careful of fakes or scrapers, but you can find great deals online) and the kids loved finding pin boards in shops and restaurants.  We purchased some mystery pins in the park, too, and traded between ourselves.  I highly recommend this activity; pin trading was a really fun experience!


We stayed at a wonderful Good Neighbor hotel within walking distance, Hotel Menage.  It isn’t right across the street but it is down the street and the price is so reasonable.  Accommodations were clean and friendly and the view of the Disneyland fireworks is one of the best aspects of this hotel.  If the walk proves too much (I mean Disneyland is ALL about walking) Hotel Menage is right on the ART line, in fact, it was the last stop on the way to Disneyland, making it super fast to get to the park.  My husband and I agree, we’d definitely stay at this hotel near Disneyland again!

Tip: Hotel Menage has a 24 hour pool (that is heated at night) which is the perfect way to end a long day of traveling!

Disneyland Hotel Walking Distance

The kids are still talking about all the amazing things they say and experienced on our fun adventure.  I’m so glad we were able to take them and have zero debt involved.  Disneyland can be pricey but with a plan and a budget you can make it work and make some amazing memories.

Top 6 DVDs On A Loop In Our Home

Top 6 Movies for Kids


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If your kids are anything like mine they have their favorite movies and they play them on a loop.  Over and over. And over.  We have about 6 regulars at the moment.  Of course, we try to limit screen time but when it’s movie time they seem to pick the same ones… Here’s what’s playing in our home this month.

1.  It’s no surprise. Disney’s Frozen has been the #1 played movie in our home since it came out on DVD.

2.  Megamind is an old favorite over here and the kids still request it regularly.

3. Disney/Pixar A Bugs Life is one I wasn’t sure if they’d like. They not only like it but one has decided he now wants a Bug themed birthday party!

4.  Monster House isn’t just for Halloween!  This one is fairly new on our rotation but has been playing non-stop for the last week.  My youngest LOVES it.  He was devastated when it broke this morning.

5.  Apparently they like monsters because Disney’s Monsters University seems to be always on…. at least it’s one I happily watch with them.


6. You thought Tangled was a ‘princess’ movie for little girls?  No way!  My three boys giggle continuously when watching this one!

What movies are your kiddos loving right now?  Leave a comment and let me know;maybe I can share some new movies with them and change things up a bit!

Planning and Saving for Disneyland

Disney on a BudgetI was recently invited to an amazing conference for Disney Social Media Moms (On the Road) #DisneySMMoms and got the inside scoop on Disney related stuff, as well as amazing info from some role-model worthy women (check out my social media for more on the conference).  This prompted me to really make a decision…it is time to seriously consider a family vacation to Disneyland!

We are big Disney fans in this house.  We show our DisneySide in some way everyday.  All six of us have our own Disney favorites; Jelly Bean, my red-headed 12 year old stepdaughter grew up loving Ariel and her resemblance to Merida is uncanny.  Seriously, people have stopped us and told us to seek out monetary compensation because clearly “Disney used her as a model!” My younger boys have watched all of the Toy Story movies over and over and most recently Frozen has been playing on a loop.  My husband’s favorite is by far The Sword in the Stone.  And I refuse to pick just one and since I am the writer of this article; I don’t have to!

Disney's Brave

Disney Snack

My oldest boy is now 5 and has been asking when he’ll get to visit the magical and mysterious land of Disney, or as you and I call it, Disneyland.  The younger two boys are blissfully unaware that there is a place, only 7 hours away, that houses all their favorite Disney characters, rides, food and magic.  Jelly Bean has been lucky enough in her short life of only 12 years to have visited Disneyland twice.  I have a burning desire to share the pixie dust with my kiddos and have become determined to take them in the next year.  It would be an especially amazing experience for my nephew (you can read about our Kinship Foster Care story here) who has never traveled and who’s future is somewhat uncertain and who might not get the chance to feel the Disney magic later in life.

We live on one income and our budget is very tight.  We don’t use credit cards so we’ll be saving old school for this trip; little by little.  I prefer this way because their is no debt involved and it gives our whole family something to work for and get excited about.  Would it be awesome to get some Disney instant gratification and go next month?  ABSOLUTELY!! Does that really work for my family of 6? Not really.

Photo Credit: Scott Brinegar/Disneyland

Photo Credit: Scott Brinegar/Disneyland

My first step in planning is to price out some trip prices.  Because I am hoping to take them around this time next year I can get a pretty good idea of how much a trip like this will cost.  Planning is half the fun (if you are new here let me introduce myself, “Hi, I am Nicole and I LOVE to plan and organize things…it’s kind of an obsession”) and I am getting really excited with all the amazing options and things to see while visiting Disneyland.  It’s been almost 10 years since I last went!

So,  I am putting our plan out into the world!  To make this work I’ll be working extra hard here on the blog and tightening up any extra spending for a while here!  I know we can do it, though and I am excited to see it all come together.  Of course, I’ll be sharing my saving and planning along the way.

Share some money-saving tips for Disney below!



Disney’s MALEFICENT (Review and FREE Activity Sheets!)

I have been waiting with bated breath for the Disney movie Maleficent to come out since the moment I saw a short preview what feels like forever ago.  I am, of course, a huge fan of all things Disney but I was also so excited to see a new twist on this fairy tale.  Hearing a well known story for a different perspective has quickly became one of my favorite kind of genre (is that a technical genre?  Well, it should be).  I especially love it when the perspective is the villain…shhhhh!

I was able (and so blessed) to be able to attend a preview of the movie and I have been bursting at the seams to share my thoughts!  If you follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter then you already know I took my beautiful Jelly Bean (12 years) as a reward for her stellar academic performance this last quarter (she’s beautiful AND and honor roll student!).  The preview happened to be on her last day of school so it was perfect.  Also, if you follow me on social media you probably already got a spoiler to my review….I absolutely LOVED this movie.


It was visually stunning.  We saw it in 3D and it was amazing.  The movie was a bit dark, as expected, and I would recommend it for ages 7+ (although, you know your kiddos far better than me!  Go with your own instincts on it.  My 5 year old isn’t quite ready for this movie yet).  The story was fresh and new and told in a way that both kids and parents can enjoy it.    I fell in love with the young Maleficent (played byIsobelle Malloy), though she was only on screen for a short time.  Angelina Jolie was magnificent as Maleficent (see what I did there?!), a portion of my review that I don’t think will surprise anyone.  I mean, seriously, there is no other actress for this role; she was beautiful, scary, caring and strong.  A ‘villain’ you will really cheer for.  Diaval, Maleficent’s crow/human/anything she turned him into, was perfect as a loyal servant, as well as, a bit of a moral compass to Maleficent.

Jelly Bean (my own little “Beastie” :)) and I both agree; we could watch this movie over and over again.  Check out these Free Maleficent Activity Sheets!

A Disney Party Showing Off Our #DisneySide

Who doesn’t love Mickey Mouse and all his friends?  I know around these parts; Mickey, Minnie and Donald are favorites and often Disney Jr. is the kids’ pick when it’s TV time.  When I found out I’d been selected to host a #DisneySide @ Home Celebration my mind was racing with different themes; there are SO MANY options!  If you follow on Instagram (or Twitter) you may have seen some of the party and planning process; if you don’t follow, you should (I share fun stuff and do giveaways)!

Disney Party

We received a fabulous host pack with tons of goodies (and a beautiful piece of luggage from American Tourister; a company I am already in love with!  Check out my post on Travel Tips: Packing for Vacation).  After checking out the host pack and realizing my nephew’s birthday was coming up we settled on a general Mickey Mouse themed party.  We knew some of his guest have food allergies so we really wanted to focus on making everyone feel included so we check on the exact allergies and worked hard to make sure the kids could eat all the food available (and help parents relax and not have to worry their kiddo might get a hold of something that could hurt them).


My nephew’s 5th birthday party was casual and low key; perfect for showing off our #DisneySide and love for all things Disney.  Unfortunately, on the day of the party my oldest son was in the hospital (he is completely fine; we went in for stomach pain/possible appendicitis and they wanted to keep him there so we stayed for two days)!  So we missed the actual party but my handsome dude was showing his #DisneySide in his hospital bed. We were lucky enough to celebrate when we got out with cupcakes, oranges and a little playdate.


Have you hosted or been a guest at a Disney themed party?  Share your experience with me below!  If you know me, you know I love a theme and my youngest son is turning 3 this summer!