Top 10 Vacation Tips To Save Money in Walt Disney World

If you have been hanging around here more than one second, you know that I love all things Disney, and this of course includes vacationing in Walt Disney World. However, it can be very expensive to vacation there especially if you have kids. Over the years I have learned a thing or two to help cut costs while still having a ton of fun. Some things just don’t matter as much if it means you get to still go to your happy place, right? Check out my top 10 10 vacation tips to save money in Walt Disney World:

Save Money in Walt Disney World

1.) Bring food from home or order groceries: All WDW hotels have mini fridges, and all DVC (disney vacation club) rooms have microwaves, and 1, 2, and 3 bedroom DVC villas have full kitchens. If you are driving to WDW, bring food with you or stop when you get to Orlando for groceries. If you are flying, take advantage of grocery delivery services like Garden Grocer. One of my favorite Disney memories is staying at a DVC resort and grilling burgers and eating outside with the family at picnic tables. (Yes all villa resorts have grills!) We aren’t big breakfast eaters so have brought milk, cereal, and protein bars for breakfast, and even made sandwiches for lunch. It saves a ton of money because let’s face it, Disney food is pricey.

2.) Purchase base tickets: Choose a base ticket instead of a park hopper to save money. Remember, with a base ticket you can only go into one park per day, but you can go in and out of that park as many times as you want. If you have little ones, consider going to a park in the morning, then going back to your resort for a nap and swim, then head back to the park in the early evening.

Save Money in Walt Disney World

3.) Target gift cards: If you have a Target red card, you already (hopefully) know you save 5% on all purchases. Did you know this includes Disney gift cards? Pick up a couple everytime you shop at Target then save them for your trip. You can even pay off your hotel or package balance with them.

 

4.) Souvenirs from home: Disney shirts, toys, and the like are SO expensive. Like it’s painful. Thankfully, I have a Disney Store outlet near my house with great prices. I have bought toys and clothes for Emma Kate there and then given them to her when we are at Disney. We have even surprised her in the morning and said “Mickey or Tinkerbell left her a present overnight”. This way we can stay out of the stores and save some money. You can literally find a lot of the same toys from the parks at the outlet (there is even one in Orlando near Disney!) or online when the Disney Stores has sales.

5.) Bring your own water:  We always bring out own water from home by the case, but you can also bring a refillable water bottle, or ask for free ice water in a cup at any counter service location. A bottle of water at WDW is $3+, and I can get a whole case for that much. Save your money for other things!

6.) Choose where you stay wisely: There are tons of on site WDW hotels, and if you go at certain times of the year and are flexible with your dates, you can go when prices are lowest and snag a resort of package discount, maybe even free dining. However, don’t be afraid to look outside Disney property. There are several great hotels near Disney Springs as well that can save you a lot of money. Remember, holidays and summer are the most expensive and most crowded.

Save Money in Walt Disney World

 7.) Chase Disney Visa: We have a Chase Disney Visa credit card that we use for everyday purchases (please note, we pay it off in full every month!) and we earn points that translate into Disney dollars. (holla!) We use the cards for everything from gas to daycare bills to groceries and money adds up fast! I have a friend who paid for 3/4 of a Disney cruise with her points, so it is like getting free money! They also offer merchandise discounts as well around the parks.

8.) Share meals: At the sit down restaurants (not the fancy ones) we have found that portion sizes are quite large, and Emma Kate and I can easily split a meal. You can always get a mickey bar or popsicle later if you are still hungry, which is actually what I prefer anyway. 🙂

9.) Have an “off” day: Disney Springs has been revamped over the past couple of years and now it’s a destination in and of itself. The best thing? It’s free! (well, unless you have a shopping problem.) Free parking, free wifi, free live music, and chocolate samples. You can also play with Legos and there is a splash pad area that has kept Emma Kate entertained many times while we eat outside at Earl of Sandwich. Take a day “off” from the parks in the middle of your trip and hit up Disney Springs for a half day, then spend a half day at the pool, or ride the monorail around and look at some of the gorgeous hotel lobbies.

10.) Bring your own stroller: Lastly, if you have small kids, bring your own stroller. This will save you from renting from an outside company or renting one of the uncomfortable hard plastic ones from the parks, which by the way you cannot take back to your hotel. It may not be a huge savings but every little bit counts when you want to have the vacation of your dreams!

Save Money in Walt Disney World

Related: Tips for Pandora with a Preschooler

5 Things Friday XXXI

Hey-o! Happy Friday my friends. We made it through another week, which means time to catch up on some things that I either haven’t mentioned on the blog or that you may have missed on social media. (Psstt Follow me on Instagram and Twitter for the most up to the minute happenings!)

1.) Dumbo Teaser: Did you know that there is a live action version of the beloved story of Dumbo coming out in early 2019? YES! I grew up on this Movie, and Emma Kate’s “must do” ride every time we go to Magic Kingdom is Dumbo. I can’t wait for us to watch this together! Take a peek at the teaser now:

2.) Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama: Bobby and I are heading out on a press trip with Carnival Cruise lines next week, and we will be going to a new to me port (Bermuda) on the new to EVERYONE ship, the Carnival Horizon! I had the privilege of checking out this beauty at the naming ceremony last month, and can’t wait to sail on her for four nights with some other amazing bloggers. I will have wifi on the ship and will do my best to update as much as I can, signal permitting (again, the best place for updates will be Twitter and Instagram/Instagram stories).

carnival horizon

3.) Nerd Alert: If you follow my Instastories you may have already seen this, but lately I have been having problems with fatigued eyes, headaches, and having a hard time falling asleep at night. I decided to take the plunge and get some blue light blocking glasses. I found some cheap ones with great reviews on Amazon, and so far I am loving them! My eyes don’t feel so worn down at night, and I am falling asleep way faster than before. You can check out the affiliate link for the ones I purchased here.

4.) Action Hero: I was invited to be a Women’s Health Action hero! I will be partnering with them on different campaigns throughout the rest of the year, testing out products and things and telling you which I like, and why. It’s an amazing encouraging and uplifting program and I am so thankful to be a part of it. Look for #WHActionHero on social media for more.

5.) Adventure Island: Last weekend, Bobby and I took Emma Kate and my parents to Adventure Island courtesy of the water park, and we had a blast! We had never been and I will admit I was super impressed. It’s so fun to know something so great is just a few minutes from my house, and I hope we get to go back (especially because I totally want to rent one of the super cool cabanas!) Emma Kate loved the splash pad area with slides and more, and we even all went down a super fast and cool raft ride together (EK and my mom were not fans but they did good!) Bobby rode the brand new Vanish Point slide and said it was a lot of fun, and an adrenaline rush as you anticipate the floor dropping out from under you (YES it happens my friends!) Check out AdventureIsland.com for a fun promo they have going on through July 1 that involves Busch Gardens.

5 Things Friday XXX

Greetings! It’s been awhile since I did one of these posts (like, October!) so I thought it was high time to do a little catching up for those who don’t regularly follow my Instagram stories.

1.) Great but quick trip to NYC: I wrote a post about the naming ceremony and my time on the Carnival Horizon, but I haven’t talked a lot about my evening in the city and the next morning before getting on the boat.  Carnival put us up at the Sheraton Times Square, so we were right in the middle of the action. Amanda and I walked down 5th Avenue, past the Plaza hotel, and all through Central Park (even to the fountain from FRIENDS, see below). I have been to NYC one other time but not to the park and was super pumped to check it off my bucket list. The weather was rainy and chilly, but that didn’t stop us.

2.) Moving on up: The way Emma Kate’s daycare is structured, they go ahead and move children up at the start of summer instead of fall. Even though she turns 4 in September, she misses the cut off of September 1, so she moved from the young 3’s to the older 3’s this week, and I cannot believe how much she has changed in a year! Below is her last day of 2’s vs. last day of young 3’s and she had changed so much. I’m happy for her but sad for me at the same time. My little toddler is no longer so little.

3.) Timehop Sweetness: Some days I really dislike Timehop and things it reminds me of, but some days I love it! I was reminded yesterday that it has been TEN YEARS since we brought Bella home to be a part of our family. How adorable was she as a puppy?!? Dying over here. She was so tiny that she had a hard time jumping over the threshold to get in and out the back door.

4.) Disney Day: I have a gold Florida resident pass which means I am only blocked out for Christmas and spring break, but Bobby and EK are blocked out all summer as well after this weekend, so we are going to brave the crowds and go to the Magic Kingdom on Saturday with my parents. I just want to soak it all in one last time as a family before fall….along with every other family in central Florida I’m sure! Be sure to follow along on my Instagram stories and on Twitter.

5.) Make money blogging: I have gotten a lot of questions over the years about how to work with and pitch brands and how to make money blogging and via social media. Well I finally got my rear in gear and created a quick guide you can purchase. Check it out here and let me know if you have any questions, I’m happy to help! 

Carnival Horizon Naming Ceremony

Disclosure: I was provided this trip by Carnival Cruise Line, however I was not asked to write this post and all opinions are my own.

The Carnival Horizon, their 26th ship, made her way across the Atlantic last week where I had the honor of helping welcome her to New York for a special naming ceremony. Not only were we celebrating this gorgeous sister ship to the Vista, but we were celebrating St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and all the amazing work they do for over 8,500 kids a year battling tough illnesses. While we were in NYC, Carnival presented St. Jude with a $100,000 check, and have given 16 million dollars to St. Jude so far!

horizon naming ceremony

We were able to board the ship in the afternoon and head to our balcony staterooms to prepare for all the festivities.

I loved the bright colors in the staterooms, and there was plenty of space to move around.

horizon naming ceremony

I particularly loved this beautiful print on the wall. It really added a nice pop of color to the rooms.

I had some time before my first event, so I took some photos of some cool spots on the ship, like the first ever Dr. Suess water park at sea! Emma Kate would love this area. There were slides, water sprayers, and more. So much fun!

horizon naming ceremony

I of course had to head up to Serenity, the adults only area (Bobby and I spent a lot of time here on the Vista in November!) and loved seeing the NYC skyline from this part of the ship. True to its name, it was quite serene.

At 5:00 I headed up to the ribbon cutting for the all new Pig and Anchor restaurant, and Guy Fieri was even on hand to cut the ribbon. There are four new craft beers brewed right there on the ship, and I got to taste some as well as delicious pass arounds, and I hope I get the chance to eat here when I sail to Bermuda next month.

Next it was time for the naming ceremony in the lobby atrium, where the already beautiful dreamscape was decked out in a special way, with artwork from thirty kids at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. It couldn’t have been more beautiful. It was explained that art is a great way for the kids to express themselves and feel like “normal kids” while in the hospital, and I loved seeing their imaginations shine through in their pictures.

I was also excited to see the ships new Godmother, Queen Latifah, make a speech. We got to see her earlier in the day at the press briefing, and it was great to hear her speak once again. You could tell she was truly honored to be named to this special position.

After the naming, we headed to the Liquid lounge for a special lip sync battle between Queen Latifah and Jake Elliot from the Philadelphia Eagles. Jake tried so hard and put on a great show even though I’m sure he would have been much more comfortable on the football field. 

(source)

Next it was time for dinner, and I was super pumped to have my favorite Carnival dessert, the chocolate melting cake. Guys, don’t skip this one on your next cruise!

The night ended with a special deck party and fireworks, before the Horizon sailed off the next day to Bermuda. It will sail out of New York this summer, and then take her place in Miami later this year. Be sure to check out Carnival.com to price out your next cruise vacation, you don’t want to miss our on all this gorgeous new ship has to offer.

(source)

You can also check out Instagram story videos of all the fun I had by going to my Instagram Profile and clicking on the Highlight titled “Carnival Horizon”.

Carb Load at Harvest Bistro

Disclosure: I was provided a free meal at harvest Bistro, however all opinions are my own.

If you have been hanging around my blog long enough, you know how much I love runDisney races. A lot goes into how I “do” a race weekend, but one thing is for sure, I love to get a good meal full of carbs the night before I run. Lucky for us (and you hopefully!) Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek provides a special Carb load dinner at one of their restaurants, Harvest Bistro, every time there is a runDisney race weekend.

Carb load before your next runDisney race at Harvest Bistro at Hilton orlando Bonnet Creek hotel

I love how much they think of runners and their needs before their big race! It’s the little things, right?harvest bistro

When I ran the Star Wars challenge in April, I decided I needed to check out said menu and the chef was kind enough to make me miniature portions of all three so that I could test out all the flavors and tell you about them. (You can also order off the regular menu while you are there.)

harvest bistro

First we have the chicken meatball rigatoni. Pomodoro braised chicken meatballs with fresh basil. It was the most hearty of the three, and the chicken was delicious. The sauce and pasta were both very filling and I would definitely get this again!

harvest bistro

Next up was the fettucini carbonara. It contained sauteed pancetta with fresh green peas and roasted tomatoes. This is my favorite style of pasta, and the pancetta gave it really nice flavor. It was filling without being too heavy, and the peas gave it a nice touch as well. This was my favorite of all three!

 

harvest bistro

Lastly was the vegetarian option of whole wheat spaghetti. It was tossed with carrot walnut pesto and topped with lemon zest and parmesan. It was unique, but slightly too “herb” tasting for my liking, but that’s just a personal preference of course. I ate all three and would definitely come back!

harvest bistro

This restaurant is located downstairs, and has indoor and outdoor seating near the pool but still in a quiet and tucked away location.

harvest bistro

They open at 5:00, so you can get in plenty early and then get to bed for the race morning wake up call, fueled up and ready to run.

harvest bistro

Also, if you are looking for a place to stay during your runDisney weekend, check out this post as to why this is my hotel of choice!

harvest bistro

The meals are $18 per person, and if you want to lounge in your room and put your feet up while you eat, you can also order this special menu through in room dining!

 

Fun is on the Horizon

Disclosure: Both trips discussed in this post are hosted by Carnival, however all opinions are my own and I was not asked to write this blog post.

You may remember that back in November I had the privilege of sailing on the Carnival Vista, their newest ship, for a trip to the Caribbean. (You can read all about it here, here, here and here.) now, the Vista’s sister ship, the Horizon is ready for sailing, and thanks to Carnival I get to see her not once but twice in the next month! Check out the details:

First up, I leave TODAY for New York City for the naming ceremony on board the Horizon. I will be spending the night near Times Square tonight, then boarding the ship tomorrow afternoon and spending the night on her in a balcony stateroom.

Queen Latifah is the Godmother, and she will even be facing off in a lip sync battle with Jake Elliot from the Philadelphia Eagles. Cannot. wait. It’s a quick trip and I will be flying back home on Thursday, but thankfully I will have another opportunity to explore the Horizon in June when I sail on her for a four night press trip to BERMUDA from New York, and Bobby gets to come with me!

Accommodating almost 4,000 guests, Horizon is then to sail from New York throughout the summer and arrive in Miami in late September to begin year-round 6- and 8-day Caribbean voyages. 

Neither of us have ever been to Bermuda, and I have never sailed out of New York so we are super excited for the opportunity. I don’t have a lot of details on that one yet, but I will let you know when we get closer to sailing so that you can follow along. For now, be sure you are following me on Twitter and Instagram because I will be posting there today through Thursday and doing Instagram stories live.

Star Wars Days LEGOLAND Florida

Disclosure: I was provided with free tickets to LEGOLAND Florida, however all opinions are my own.

May is a very special time at LEGOLAND Florida, because there is the amazing added bonus of Star Wars days! This year, Star Wars days are happening the first three weekends of May, and all the fun is included with the price of admission. If you or your kids are Star Wars fans, then these weekends are a must! We had the privilege of attending the first day, May 5th, and Emma Kate had an amazing time.

There are lots of cool things to experience on these weekends such as character meet and greets, costume contests, the Lego Miniland display, fun Star Wars themed food and music throughout the park.

 

As we entered, we were surprised at the amount of meet and greets, with little to no lines! Emma Kate got a ton of photos, so many that I can’t even post them all! The characters were all super great with her, too.

 

We headed over to Miniland, and really loved the life sized characters built out of Legos as well as the amazing scenes from some of Bobby’s favorite Star Wars movies.

 

Some of the displays had moving parts which Emma Kate thought was awesome. I can’t imagine the amount of hours it took to do all of this!

 

On top of all the Star Wars fun, we also enjoyed the regular attractions at LEGOLAND, and even spent a little bit of time at the water park. The highlight I will say was as we were headed out, Emma Kate wanted to ride the carousel. As she was getting on, so were some of the Star Wars characters! She got to ride next to a Storm Trooper and you couldn’t pay her to wipe the huge grin off her face!

Star Wars Days

Star Wars days at LEGOLAND Florida will only be around for two more weekends, May 12-13, and 19-20, 2018 so be sure to get over there soon. Remember, all the fun is included in your price of admission! There is plenty to do, we ended up spending the entire day there, even despite a few rain showers. Here is a quick recap of the special Star Wars offerings:

  • Join us as we unveil the newest addition to MINILAND with the LEGO® Star WarsThe Force Awakens MINILAND Model Display! This giant new display, made out of thousands of LEGO bricks, features memorable moments from Episode VII of the popular Star Wars saga enhanced with lights, sound effects and animation.
  • Meet LEGO® Darth Vader and a new LEGO® Star Wars character – announcement coming soon!
  • Dress up as your favorite Star Wars character for a chance to win LEGO prizes
  • Hands-on building activities and much more!

Also be sure to follow LEGOLAND Florida on Twitter and Instagram.

Tips for Running a runDisney Race

I have gotten a lot of questions from people about runDisney races over the years. Tips for getting the most out of the weekend, what to expect, when to go where, special things to note that are different from regular races. Well, I thought it was high time to compile all of my info into a blog post of tips for running a runDisney race to share with you all!

tips for running a rundisney race

 

 

Expo: Try to get to the expo the first day it is open if you are able. Merchandise can run out, especially in popular sizes, after the first day. For marathon weekend, all the Goofy merchandise was sold out by Friday afternoon, and the expo had a line to even get into the building!

tips for running a rundisney race


Waivers: A couple weeks before the race, waivers will become available online and you will be able to see what corral you are in for the half and full marathon. Feel free to print it out in advance, but there will be printers at the expo you can use if you forget. Remember, you have to PERSONALLY pick up your own bib and show a photo ID.

Characters: There are plenty of characters along the course, especially within the parks. Have your phone or camera out and ready to hand to the cast member, and give them any instructions you want to give. They aren’t all “great” at photo taking, I had to tell the to tap the screen to focus the picture after getting a few blurry ones. Bummer. There will also be professional photopass photographers on the course and at some of the character stops, so be sure your bib is visible to the camera when they are taking your photo. If you purchase Memory Maker or if you are a gold or higher annual passholder (for FL residents) you get all the photos for free! Huge perk in my opinion!

tips for running a rundisney race

Fueling: There are PLENTY of aid stations and I have never brought my own water bottle. There was water and Powerade available about every 1.5 miles. I do bring my own fuel/gel minus one for the half and two for the full (there is one clif shots or sport bean stop during the half, and two during the full). If you aren’t used to taking these products, be sure to bring your own or practice with them before the race. These are the ones I take and love. They taste like vanilla frosting!

Hotels: Be sure to stay at a host hotel on property (or at Hilton Bonnet Creek, they have half and full marathon transportation) for the least amount of stress come race morning.  Not only will you be surrounded by other runners, but it is the only way to have official race and expo transportation, which is important when you don’t have a car!

*Bonnet Creek note. While they do NOT have a bus for the 5k or 10k, I drove myself to these races and there was no traffic in the morning, and it was super easy. You could also Uber for very cheap as it’s less than a 10 min drive.

tips for running a rundisney race

Transportation: There are buses outside of the host resorts to take you to the expo and the race and back if you stay on property. Typically there are big signs out front of the resorts directing you to race transportation pick up. If you aren’t sure be sure to check with the front desk at your hotel. After the race, there are buses near the family reunion area to take you back to your resort, just look for the signs so you know which line to get into. Keep in mind the time when you decide to get on a bus. There is a LONG walk from the family reunion area to the corrals for marathon weekend (half and full) and Princess weekend (half), and it is a slow walk full of people, so allow yourself even more time than you think you would ever need. Trust me on this one!

Sweepers: You have to keep a 16:00 per mile pace or you will be swept off the course. They have busses at certain cut off points to transport those who cannot maintain pace. Keep in mind Disney doesn’t start the timer as far as SWEEPERS go until everyone crosses the start line, so you have a bit of a head start as long as you aren’t the last one to start. Try to get to the front of your corral to have more time.

tips for running a rundisney race

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weather: You can’t control the weather, neither can Disney. I have run in Disney in weather in the 20’s and in the upper 70’s. Be prepared when you pack for ALL weather situations, they can quickly change. A garbage bag is a good alternative to a poncho, and remember that if you throw off old sweatshirts, etc. Disney picks them all up and gives them to charity. runDisney has had to cancel a race before due to lightning, so just make sure you pay attention as they will make announcements for these types of situations on social media.

RELATED: I love this jacket for running!

tips for running a rundisney race

Finish line/family reunion area: After you cross the finish line and get your medal, Disney will give you water, Powerade, and a little box of snacks. Then you can take photos, get your bag at gear check pickup, and meet your family in the family reunion area. There are big signs with letters on them so plan a meeting spot to meet up with friends and family after you finish the race otherwise you may be wandering around for awhile because cell reception is horrible with so many people in one place.

Training: There are training programs on the runDisney website to help you get ready for your big race day!

Gear check: Disney gives you a big clear bag when you get your race shirt, and there is a sticker with numbers on it, you put it on the front of your bag (or they will give you a sticker race morning, depending on the race) and this makes it your gear check bag (be sure to tie a knot in the top of the bag so your stuff doesn’t fall out!) I pack my Magic Band for walking back through EPCOT to our hotel if I feel like it and am staying in the EPCOT resort area, my license and keys if driving, flip flops, a jacket, a towel, and my hotel room key if staying off property.

Corrals/proof of time: You are put into a corral based on your proof of time from a 10k race or longer. If you have no proof of time, you will be put towards the back. Be sure to put an accurate proof of time, runDisney checks them and puts you into a corral accordingly. There IS a cut off date for proof of time! The volunteers DO check corrals and have flashlights to read your bib to make sure you are going into the right ones.

tips for running a rundisney race

Bathrooms: There are plenty of port-o-potties at the start, but there will still be lines so arrive early. There are some at the family reunion area but we usually skip these and use the ones right before you get into the corrals, they usually have shorter lines. There are also potties all along the course, but we usually try to wait and use the “real” bathrooms in the parks. There are some you run right by in Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom, as well as in Frontierland. When running the full we have stopped at the ones at the Ticket and Transportation center as well, and you run right by some in Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.

 

tips for running a rundisney race

Family fun run/5k: The 5k is typically the day before the 10k, early in the morning. It is a fun run, but you still get a shirt, bib, and medal. There are characters along the course, and it’s a fun relaxing way to get a taste for runDisney racing. The 5k typically doesn’t fill up as fast as the half marathon. No strollers allowed.

tips for running a rundisney race

Kids races: The littlest runners can take part in runDisney races too! There are kids races at the Wide World of sports (think diaper dash and kids one mile run). These typically take place Friday and Saturday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. Kids get a shirt and a medal. Emma Kate has done 2 and loves it!

tips for running a rundisney race

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spectating: Have a plan! Disney has info for spectators on their website. The chEAR squad packages are nice, but not necessary to see someone at the finish. I know a lot of spectators that catch their runners at multiple points during the races, relying on Disney transportation to get them around and the monorail to the finish line.

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I also have some personal tips….

-Have FUN! runDisney races are great for running with friends and family Don’t take yourself too seriously!

-Take lots of photos! Where else do you get to run through a castle and get character photos in your running gear? Enjoy the cool things you don’t get to do at other races

-Be prepared. All right boy scouts, always be prepared for any situation. Don’t forget things like chapstick, tissues, layers to keep warm, sunscreen, and your camera.

-Wear your medal around the parks after the race, be proud! Other runners will be doing the same.

-Bring extra safety pins in case there aren’t any or enough in your bag or you lose them (guilty).

-If you are wearing a costume practice in it beforehand to make sure it doesn’t rub or chafe. I use body glide especially when wearing costumes!

-Need packing advice? Check out my “packing for a runDisney race” vlog to make sure you have everything you need!

-Check out the runDisney website and Facebook page, they are always updating them with great info and photos to get you pumped up!

-Check out my runDisney page for lots of tips and race recaps from past races!

QOTD: What are your best tips for running a runDisney race I have left off?

*This post contains affiliate links.

Our Polynesian Vacation

My family and I had a blast on our vacation to Walt Disney World resort last week, and I wanted to share some of the highlights with you in case you missed me live posting on Instagram stories. My parents are Disney Vacation Club members, and last year we stayed with them in a two bedroom villa at Bay Lake Tower. While it was wonderful and huge, we didn’t want to spend as many points this year so we only stated 3 nights, and we all 5 stayed in one studio villa. Yup, you heard that right.

It was a tight squeeze, but we were literally only in the room to sleep so it worked out fine. Plus, the room had two bathrooms (kind of, two showers and sinks), so that helped us to spread out a little bit. We arrived early Friday morning, checked in, and then headed straight to the Magic Kingdom. Having a small child in a stroller, staying on the monorail is a HUGE plus. No stroller folding, and quick easy access to the Magic Kingdom.

We rode the mine train (my dad’s first time) while my mom took Emma Kate to see some princesses, we rode Ariel, as well as Winnie the Pooh and Aladdin’s Magic Carpets. We recently introduced Emma Kate to the movie Aladdin, so she was pumped to ride the carpet ride! After lunch at Columbia Harbor House, my dad got his hair cut, and Bobby and I decided to take EK back to the Polynesian. We got our things from the car to the room since it was ready, and then mom and dad met us there shortly thereafter.

We loved our room and building location, and even had a pool view plus sideways castle view! We were hoping the wee one would nap, but no such luck, so we decided to head to the pool. Emma Kate LOVED the splash pad area when we were there over a year ago and I had been talking up the “awesome slides” for days, and she was so excited. We lucked out and were able to get chairs right in front of the splash pad area, and Emma Kate played for over three hours going up and down the stairs and the slides. I was tired just watching her!

 

Bobby and I had a “date” that night at the Grand Floridian Cafe, so we got showered and changed and took the monorail over for an early dinner. Honestly, my food was not good at all, but we used to really like this place (Bobby did like his food) so not sure if I just picked a bad menu item or what. After we ate, we walked around for a bit then decided to walk back to the Polynesian since the weather was so nice.

 

We split a Dole Whip then called it a night, and were all in bed at 9:00!

The next day we went to EPCOT. (pro tip: walk to the transportation and Ticket Center from the Poly instead of riding the monorail all the way around!) My parents had not seen the Flower and Garden Festival yet, so we rode the Frozen ride, met Mickey Minnie and Goofy, then walked around the world showcase to look at the flowers. I of course got one of my favorite ever adult beverages in France and we decided to head back to the hotel because Emma Kate was begging to go back to the pool.

Once again we lucked out with the chair situation, and ordered lunch from Captain Cook’s and ate by the pool (hello pulled pork nachos!) Emma Kate once again played for hours. This time we went back and forth from the big pool and big slide to the splash pad area. She played until 6:00! My parents went up about 4:00 to go on their dinner date but I figured, as long as she was happy we were staying at the pool. 
We watched the torch lighting ceremony, had some marshmallows at the campfire, and headed back to the room to get cleaned up. We ate jambalaya that my mom had cooked and brought with us (the villas have microwaves!) and just hung out in the room until my parents got back. We were all pretty wiped and we were in bed by 8:30!

The next day (Sunday) we went back to the Magic Kingdom to hit the things we didn’t do on Friday. We arrived right as it was opening, and grabbed breakfast from Starbucks and took our time heading over to Buzz Lightyear, the Peoplemover, Dumbo, and the Jungle Cruise.

We also watched the castle show with Emma Kate lloovveeess. We knew it was supposed to rain later in the afternoon, so we told Emma Kate it was her last chance to go to the pool if she wanted to do so, so we hopped on the monorail, headed back to the hotel, and ate by the pool again while Emma Kate played.

 

I was watching the radar, and watched it get darker and darker and knew it was about to rain. We decided to head up before we got soaked, and literally as soon as we got into the building it started MONSOONING outside! We lucked out and just missed it.

We then got cleaned up and ready for my dad’s birthday dinner at Trail’s End buffet. Again not wanting to use our car, we decided to take the monorail to the Magic Kingdom then a boat to Fort Wilderness. It worked out perfectly in between rain bands and just started to sprinkle as we got to the restaurant. Emma Kate was so good while we ate, and we enjoyed embarrassing my dad with some happy birthday singing by our waitress.

 

I saw another break in the rain on the radar, so we grabbed a boat from Fort Wilderness to the Contemporary, then took the monorail back to the Polynesian. My dad had to leave to drive home right after since he had to work the next day, which was sad because it made me feel like the trip was “over” even though we were still going to a park without him the next day.

Monday morning we packed up, loaded up my car, and headed to Animal Kingdom. It was COLD! The rain had brought a front through, and it was 53 degrees, which is insane for mid April in Florida! It was extra magic hours, so we arrived a few minutes before regular park opening and walked right onto the safari ride. We then hit up Starbucks before letting Emma Kate play for almost an hour at the Boneyard playground. She loves it there!

 

We were all tired so we decided to eat lunch at Flame Tree then call it a day and drive back to Tampa. I hate how fast fun trips go by, you just want to hang on as long as you can but poof, they are here and then gone in an instant. We had a wonderful 3.5 days in Disney with my family, and I wish we could have stayed longer, but Emma Kate was getting really worn out. She didn’t nap a single day we were there and played so hard.

I highly recommend staying on the monorail if you have small kids and can swing the cost. We loved how easy it was to get to everything and the activity and food options are top notch. I’m ready to go back! I am so thankful my parents have DVC and let us come stay with them for free!

5 Delicious Dishes To Try at the EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival

Disclosure: I attended an event at Walt Disney World for the 25th anniversary of the flower and garden festival, however all opinions are my own.

The 25th anniversary of the EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival is in full swing, and I was fortunate enough to get to taste some more delicious dishes at an event last week. (If you are not yet convinced you want to go to the festival check out my other post after reading this one!)

5 delicious dishes to try at Disney's EPCOT international flower and garden festival this year. So many outdoor kitchens for the 25th anniversary!

As I mentioned, this year marks the 25th year of the festival, and it was wonderful to get to hear from people who have been around since the beginning, and hear all about how the festival has changed over the years. Fun fact: Did you know that an artist used two cast members to “model” as Anna and Elsa in order to design the topiary for their characters? The poses we see are ones the girls came up with. How fun is that?!)

EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival

Ok, so let’s get down to business. Like I said, I had the opportunity to try more of the festival offerings at the outdoor kitchens, and these are my (and Bobby’s, he added in one!) collective favorites from our sampling at the event:

1.) Spicy hot dog with pineapple chutney and plantain chips from the Pineapple Promenade. This is a fun twist on an old favorite, but be warned, it is quite spicy, so if that is not your thing, you may want to skip this one. I do love how the chips gave it a nice crunch!

EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival

 

2.) Local wildflower honey-mascarpone cheesecake with orange blossom honey ice cream garnished with fennel pollen meringue kisses from The Honey Bee-Stro: This dessert was DELICIOUS and I may have had two. The cheesecake was so creamy and light, and the ice cream tasted amazing. I even loved the meringue kisses and I’m typically not a meringue kind of gal. Do not miss this one.

EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival

3.) Pulled pig slider with coleslaw from The Smokehouse: This was probably my favorite non-dessert food that I tried. It had excellent flavor, and don’t worry, you can get it without the coleslaw! 

EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival

4.) Spicy blackened shrimp and cheddar cheese grits with brown gravy and local sweet corn relish from Florida Fresh: This is one of Bobby’s contributions since I don’t eat seafood, but I did try the corn and grits with gravy and they were good! Bobby said the shrimp tasted fresh and we both said the corn/gravy had a little kick to it but it wasn’t unbearably spicy.

EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival

5.) House-made potato and cheddar cheese biscuit with smokes salmon tartare from Cider House: Another one that was all Bobby, but he said he enjoyed the mix of the flavors of the biscuit and the salmon together. I tried one of the biscuits and it was delicious enough just to eat by itself!

EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival

There are so many more things to taste at the outdoor kitchens, this is just a sampling. The flower and garden festival is bigger than ever and running longer than ever, and they have pulled out all the stops for the 25th anniversary. Be sure to make a visit before it’s gone May 28th. You can thank me later!