Traveling with children is no joke. I want to share with you a few of my top travel tricks, favorite hotel spots, and items that will help you not need a vacation from your vacation.
Disney: Part One
It’s been about two weeks since returning home from our Disney World trip. It was our first time so I feel like I’m still processing everything and all that I wanted to share with you! Let’s recap before I get into what and why I’m sharing this information. My family of four were on a mission to have the most MAGICAL vacation at Disney World for under $2,000! Mission was definitely accomplished because we went with a very strategic plan. So here’s my review/suggestions/thoughts on Day 1 at Magic Kingdom.
So first thing first. Before going you should have a general plan as to what parks you are going to each day. We were flexible with our plans because you have to be when traveling with little ones. But my best piece of advice for first times is to download the app. The Disney World App is linked to your entire Disney vacation plan (packages, photos you take with princess, fast passes, a map with current wait times and GPS directions to get you there). So you can plan out your vacation according to your families’s interests, age, and abilities.
Our plan of action
Day 1: Register Bands at night to take advantage of timing/lines
Day 2: Magic Kingdom
Day 3: Disney Hollywood Studio
Day 4: Epcot
Day 5: Magic Kingdom
*Note we did not do Animal Kingdom.
When planning our fast passes (remember they can be reserved 60 days prior to ensure you get the rides you want) we discussed two options. We wake up leisurely and head to the parks with lunch in tow and spend all day/night at Disney and come back for bedtime so our fast passes could be back to back. Option two was to head there first thing in the morning (Magic Kingdom open at 9 am) so our first fast pass was around 10 am, head back around noon to refresh then back to the parks around 3:30 for a 4:00 fast pass and back to the camp grounds around 8pm.
As a group, we decided it would be best for our families to head to the parks first thing in the morning (so wake up time was 6:45 a.m. out the door no later than 8:00 am). Then head back Fort Wilderness for lunch and afternoon naps. So our fast passes were typically 10 am, 12 pm, and 4 pm.
There is magic everywhere
Magic Kingdom was for sure my favorite park throughout the Disney World “State” as Colette called it. There is so much to do and so little time but do not let that stress you out! I could not believe how much was going on around us at all times. Even when we were walking to our next fast pass location, we were entertained by live performances, character sightings, and fireworks. Colette and I got a little caught up in the magic and decided to stay and wait 60 minutes to meet princesses while the little ones headed back for naps. Which, I’ll be honest, did end in tears because it was a BIG day, but still worth it.
Favorite Magic Kingdom Rides/Events
Make sure you get a good spot for the 3:00 pm Festival of Fantasy Parade. People tend to stand in their spots for this parade about 30 minutes prior, and I would say the best spot is right as they go over the bridge and make a left turn towards the castle.
One thing that important to note, make sure you plan your mode of transportation well. There are really only two ways to get to Magic Kingdom. If you drive, the Magic Kingdom Transportation and Ticket Center parking lot opens about 2 hours before the park’s official opening. After paying a fee or show your resort slip you’re directed to a parking space, then transported by tram to the TTC, where you catch either a monorail or a ferry to the park’s entrance. So you need to allot for that time (make sure to pack snacks and busy bags for this as I found it to take an hour itself to get to Magic Kingdom after security and getting on the boats).
One thing we did not prepare for
I have to say that we did not pack well enough for the forecasted weather we had while in Orlando. The weather was supposed to be in the high 60s and one day was supposed to be 78 degrees. So we left the winter coats and sweatshirts at home and just packed a carry on bag for each of us, big mistake. But my brother in law was well prepared and we were all layered up (in men’s size XL clothing we made it fashionable). So prepare for any kind of weather!
Meal planning and our day at Hollywood Studio! If you follow me on IG you can see my videos under highlights! #DisneySMC
Disney Vacation Under $2,000
Missed birthdays and holidays combined with long road trips make our family vacations priceless! And since I’ve been taking time off of teaching to pursue my blogging dream, our vacations have been limited. So when people tell me they spend at least $6,000 on a Disney trip, I quickly convinced Colette that we had already been to Disney World (that time I took her to Disney on Ice).
BUT last year my brother in law broke down each and every penny that could be saved on a Disney vacation making it completely attainable! Like under $2,000 for a family of four to do Disney (not including flights). So I’m going to break it all down for you below.
We played with the idea of going to Disney on my brother in law’s thought out cost spreadsheet for a year. So I watched every single thing for about 8 months. Flights, Disney promotions, wait times, so on and so forth. As we all know the best time to buy a flight is on a Tuesday night (and don’t search it too much as they will bump up costs).
I was able to get four round trip flights for $650!! Buffalo to Orlando on orbitz.com . So start watching flight prices and off-season pricing from your location. Now if you decide to drive gas is around $2.30 a gallon. My brother in law is driving from TN to Disney, its 750 miles. Towing his RV, he will get on average 9 miles per gallon. So he will pay $190 each way for a total of $380 in gas round trip. If you want to compare driving from Buffalo to Disney (18.5 hour drive 1200 miles) so in an SUV with 18 MPG, that’s about $150 each way for gas, $300 roundtrip. My brother in law pointed out that you probably need to add in a motel stay along the way for about another $100 ($200 for both ways), so that’s about $500 total gas and motel each way (add sanity in there I would say flying is still the best option).
Let’s face it, theme park tickets are not the most expensive part of a Disney vacation but with the military discount, they save hundreds! My brother-in-law is actively serving in the military so we are able to use his military discount while going to Disney with him.
Here’s a look at ticket prices with the Military discount:
- 4-day park hopper for $259.75 plus tax
- 4-day park hopper plus for $291 plus tax
- 5-day park hopper for $257 plus tax
- 5-day park hopper plus for $307 plus tax
- Note these are 2019 prices and they may have changed
- Keep in mind that kids under the age of THREE are free!
Without the discount its about $488 for one 4-day park hopper. So for a family of four it’s $1,952 (without tax) just for the passes.
Hotel (sort of)
With the military discount comes other perks, like accommodation discounts but you don’t need it to save! One of the cheapest ON RESORT (I will talk about why it’s important to stay on grounds in another post) is Fort Wilderness Campground. We will be staying at Fort Wilderness in my brother-in-law’s RV! Yup, three adults and three kids will be camping together to cut costs to about $80 a night. Now, that being said my brother-in-law owning an RV is a huge advantage BUT you can get a tent site for $67 (plus tax) a night. They have different prices points all throughout the campgrounds. There are also a ton of RV rentals very close to the campsite. I am going to ask my brother-in-law to jump on here one day and do a full RV post because that is a whole other animal, and he’s an expert.
A little note from my brother in law: Weekends and holidays are more expensive (sometimes double the price!). I recommend people spend Monday-Friday instead if they can. Also easier to book a week day vice a weekend (people reserve up to 499 days prior especially for major holidays like Christmas, etc). You will rarely find something on a weekend open without reserving far in advance and that is especially true for holiday weekends. Also time of year changes price points (peak season, etc).
Everyone has to eat, even at Disney! But this is a BIG BIG way to cut your costs while at Disney. You’ll need to account for food costs in your Disney vacation cost budget to see the real cost of it all. They do have dining plans and so on but dining ala cart is the best way to cut costs. One of our goals is to not spend one dime on food while at the parks.
You can bring food into the parks, so if you are pulling an all day/night and plan accordingly you won’t have to spend a dime while in the park. We will be eating breakfast at the RV camp, bringing am snack and lunch with us to the park, coming back for naps (I will be prepping dinner during nap time) when children wake up we will have a pm snack, pack dinner to bring along with us, and then come home for a bedtime snack around the campfire.
Just say no, your kids will not implode.
Here’s a little bit of parenting advise to go along with the Disney or any other vacation; set expectation. Before any trip to the mall, party, or vacation I set expectations so that my kids know don’t set themselves up for disappointment and there are no arguments! So Disney will be no different. I will explain to my children that we are not going to buy anything while at the parks BUT they can take a picture of their most desired item and ask for it for their Birthday. If you know you are unable to do this one thing I suggest is going on amazon a few weeks before and buying small items to leave on their beds so that when they get back from the park the “Disney fairy” paid them a visit for being well behaved.
$80 a night x 4= $320
Groceries=$180 (this includes adult beverages)
4 Day Pass x 4 people= $1036
I will write a follow up post to let you know how it all went and what we actually spent! Stay tuned!
Emily’s Top Ten Tips for Asheville N.C.
Asheville is just two hours away from Charlotte, but can seem like you’re in a whole different state. It has it’s own charm, sense of community, and some amazing restaurants. So I left the kids behind to give you my top ten tips when planning a trip to Asheville N.C.
There are so many places to eat in Asheville, but my three favorite North Carolina restaurants are conveniently located in Asheville.
I cannot put into words how much I love Curate. The decor and cuisine is unlike anything you think you would find on a mini-getaway, it felt like I flew to NYC (first class) for this meal.
I have been a big fan of Bartaco ten years ago when it first made it’s way to NY, right down the street from my small studio apartment. So when I saw it had made it’s way to NC, I was excited to get back to my favorite dishes. Make sure to order the street corn, guac, and of course a margarita.
Another James Beard award winning restaurant. Make sure to order the Butter chicken, okra fries, and takki rolls! It was so delicious I did not have enough time to take pictures of the food as I devoured each one of them as they were served.
We ended up renting from the Carlonia’s Morning rentals as we wanted to basically drink wine, eat cheese, and enjoy the peace and quiet. So we didn’t want a hotel or resort, we just wanted a log cabin and all the quaint decor that went with it. I did not get to take a photo or the gorgeous outdoor kitchen, two patios, and Jacuzzi but the indoor photos sum up how peaceful one of these rentals can be.
It’s known for it’s history, massive fireplaces, and restaurants. I have stayed at the Omni Grove many times and fell in love every single time. You can dine at a five star restaurant or pick up a simple cup of coffee while staying here. No matter where you choose to dine you’re guaranteed to soak up breath taking mountain views.
This boutique hotel is so aesthetically pleasing! The decor is spectacular and makes each room unique.
Go outside! Head out for a hike in the mountains, sip on delicious tea, or sit downtown and do some amazing people watching. You can’t go wrong with just heading out into the heart or off the beaten path and explore all Asheville has to offer.
If you follow my Instagram stories you know how honey obsessed I am. I put it in and on almost everything. So when we stubbled upon Asheville Bees Charmer I was beyond excited. They have a honey tasting bar, honey body butter, and apparel.
I bought the best romper from Minx for only $30! They have the best selection of trendy women’s fashion for all budgets, styles, and body types. While I was shopping I was a 40+ women, a new mom, and a few millennias.
Be sure to stop at these locations and let them know Visionary sent you! Enjoy Asheville and let us know what colorful adventures you endeavor! If you can’t make it to the mountains, I’ve gathered a few items that will give you that Asheville feel without the travel.
What’s 2019’s hotel hottest design trend? Industrial Chic decor. Think wood, sleek concrete, brass finishes, and art that pull colors from natural metals. My family and I went on a little road trip and stumbled upon Renaissance Allentown Hotel. This hotel was recently renovated and I think has the definition of the 2019 trend of Industrial Chic decor.
Everything has a raw, industrial look, but it’s anything but shabby chic. Rather, the entire hotel reflect a minimalist aesthetic by adding details – textures, colours and other furnishings.
The hotel features lots of local inspiration. The hotel includes artwork from local artists paying homage to Lehigh Valley businesses, and even has the grill of a Mack truck on the second floor lounge, which the kids loved!
Get some Industrial design inspiration for your own home with my top picks below.
The Wall Clock
If you’re ever in PA and need some visual therapy or decor inspiration stop by The Renaissance Hotel. Take in all the rich colors and local designs.
Location: Seventh and Hamilton streets, attached to PPL Center
Suites: 15, one luxury suite
Meeting space: 11,000 square feet
Ballroom: 4,000 square feet
Employees: 150, 80 percent from Allentown
Standard room rate: $159 weekend Jan. 30; $179 weeknights Jan. 27, 28
Amenities: fitness center, business center, The Dime restaurant
Of note: There are 79 Renaissance hotels in the U.S. including three in Pennsylvania.