Visiting the Mouse – Part 2

Part 2 Time to Plan & Book Your Fun at Walt Disney World

There are so many important dates to remember, it is easy to get lost.  Make sure you put these big ones in your calendar as they do approach so quickly.  This is a long post but filled with tons of information as I didn’t want to leave anything out. 
Photo credit

We called a Disney meeting in the backyard during the summer which included dinner, drinks and a movie to keep little ears away.  We laid out a grid with thoughts as to a game plan each day and what park we’d like to go to when.  We all came with some homework done as to which park had the late night when, and what shows or special events were happening on which day.   This was everyone’s chance to get their must do’s on the board and to do our best to make it all fit.  We sat armed with cell phones, My Disney Experence App and computers so we could all look up a variety of questions that arrose.  All in all we talked for over an hour trying to make sure we didn’t leave any request or information off the list.   I will say, start to become familiar with the app as it is truly the most helpful tool while in the park once you dump all your data in it. It is linked between family members, reminds you of fastpasses+ and reservation as well as things you’ve marked and possible. 

Special Adventures – Bippy Boppy Boutique & The Pirate’s League both can be booked 180 days in advance.  The Star Wars Jedi School at Hollywood Studios can only be booked for the day of by the parent & CHILD being present when the gates open, sometimes as early at 7am. All of the special adventures are such great fun.

There is just so much information when looking into special adventures at Walt Disney World.  In the hopes of not overwhelming my blog post here, I decided to break this out into an additional post which can be found by clicking here.

Dinner Reservations – Can be made 180 days in advance of arrival.  Book all character meals first as those fill the fastest.  I’d personally recommend at least one meal a day where you sit and relax to dine.

Fast Passes+– 60 Day prior to arrival.  Book ASAP they go so quickly.  Pick the 3 important things for your family each day and make sure those happen. It might be a sit down meal, seeing a princess, catching the fireworks, or a thrill ride. Know you won’t get to it ALL but a good plan helps see lots.  Plan the use of your passes in a logical direction noting where  you need to be for meals.  Don’t use passes for the first hour of park opening you’re likely to get on a ride in short order and you will have wasted a fastpass+ booking.

PhotoPass Memory Maker – I went against my better judgement and did not order this ahead of time. The package is available at a discount before you arrive but goes up the closer you get to arrival date. It is a such an easy and great program.  They snap some great photos, scan your bracelet aka Magic Band and they appear instantly on you phone with the My Disney Experience app. When you get home you can download them a bunch of times.

Strollers -Which would you rather roll in for the day?  Photo credit: Mom Endeavors. Kingdom Strollers worked out to be awesome for us.  I booked a city mini double.  It arrived clean, ontime and was great.  My 6 year old enjoys ridding and it was so much easier to just have both kids sitting safely when navigating crowded parks or late at night.  It was nice using the stroller from our hotel room door and back.  The park strollers have to be handed in prior to park departure where as we would keep ours as we stood in line for monorails, trams, and busses loaded with sleeping children.   The 2016 pricing for a double was $18 a day for Stroller Kingdom and $27 per day for the Disney stroller. (Note that if you keep your receipt and are using a park hopper you can show it at the next park and get another stroller.)

Groceries If you book Stroller Kingdom first you’ll receive a coupon for Orlando Groceries.  You have until prior to 72 hours before arrival to book and guarantee on time delivery.  My grocery list will appear in a latter blog post.

This only represents our trip there are tons of suggestions out there.  Have fun and enjoy the journey and adventures of Walt Disney World.


Additional blog posts and more coming soon…

Part 1: Research & Booking 

Special Adventures

Part 3: Time to Shop

Part 4: Packing & Hunting

Part 5: Here We GO!

Part 6: Playing in the Park 

Part 7: Memories & Lessons Learned


The Ultimate Day Camper’s Packing List

From a former camper, counselor, Camp Director and mom comes the real list you need when sending your kid to day camp this summer.

Before your kid leaves each morning, make sure the bag is packed and some things are taken care of to prepare them for an awesome day.
Read the Welcome Guide/ A-Z Guide or Welcome Email.  Nothing is more annoying than parents that show up 30 minutes after their bus leaves and say no one told them or parents who want to pay their site counselors the balance when they can’t accept payments outside the office.
Pre-camp lessons.  Some kids will make camp their first stop before heading to Kindergarten.  Your kid should be able to change them-self into and out of their bathing suit within 5 minutes.  They should know that once you take it off it goes strait into their backpack and not thrown around a locker room.  Have them practice packing their own bags and checking behind them as they leave a space to see if they got it all.  They should be able to eat lunch in about 20-30 minute window and master all juice boxes and cheese stick wrappers etc.
 A Good Night’s Sleep.  You know your kid so let them get hit the sack early and be on their A-game.
Breakfast Fuel them up and get them ready.   All of their highly physical activities will burn a tons more calories than being at school.
Sun Screen I highly recommend doing this while your kid is in the buff or just in their bathing suit.  Use lotion to get all those places that will be exposed throughout the day and are hard to reapply to.
Bug Spray After they are dressed and ready for the day cover them from head to toe.   Extra sprays around the ankles and socks keep those ticks, and mosquitoes away.
☐ Do your daughter’s hair.  They will be sweaty, wet and it helps the spread of dreaded lice.  I find with my daughter, braids are best, they stay in longer and if the elastic breaks they might stay in place.  I really have no desire to play beauty salon in the AM for your kid and discourage my staff from doing it either.

The following list is intended as a guide for families. Please note that camper equipment need not be new and remember to write your camper’s name or initials on ALL camp gear and clothing!  This list is geared towards traditional outdoor day camps.

walking staff with campers

Come on slap your kid’s name on it!  The lost and found pile at your kid’s camp will be so massive by the end of the week it is crazy what people will just walk away from.  At some camps the parents will never see the pile so if it’s labeled we’ll make sure it gets tossed in their bags.  It is so much easier if you just label it once maybe twice.  I’ve also found that if you have things embroidered for cheap, staff will think they are more special.  We might shake our head, thinking you’re that parent, but you’re more likely to get it back.  Looking for some good products for labels or easy DIY options click here for my Back to School post that has links for permanent adhesive labels for purchase, free printable downloads and disposal cheap DIY options.  Full name is better than initials and even luggage tags work just fine.

☐ A Backpack that your camper can handle, they will be carrying it all day long.  Nothing worse than a counselor who acting like a Sherpa instead of teaching your kids camp songs and getting them to archery on time.  Some camps provide a location for bags during activities so make sure it zips close and can be stuffed in a cubby or tossed in a pile without loosing it’s contents.
Water bottle(s) are an absolute must.  There are two schools of thought pack one water bottle that can be refilled all day long.  (confirm the type of camp i.e. a boating camp may not be able to refill when on-board) or the other to send an AM and PM bottle.  The AM bottle should be iced and filled with cold water.  The PM bottle can be frozen.
☐ No-refrigeration-needed snacks and lunch (in reusable container or disposable brown paper bag) with beverage (water or juice).  Check with your camp, as some provide lunch, and or snack programs.  Try freezing some foods that will defrost in time for lunch it helps keep the rest cold as the morning heats up.  i.e. juice boxes, fruit cups.  Always pack heavy lunches, kids are so hungry spending a day in the sun moving and running.  Consider packing an AM and PM snack.  Check to see if your kid is attending a peanut-free camp.
Shirt guaranteed it will be covered in dirt, paint, grass, and shaving cream (yes, always a possibility)
Shorts or long pants 
Underwear (to wear!)
Closed-toe shoes sneaker are the best.  Just like in school, only send tie if your kid can handle it.  Crocs, or Keen sandals are sometimes permitted at camp or on the water front. The big one is no flip flops, we mean it, no flip flops!  Nothing is sadder than having to tell a kid that they have to sit out of rec field or adventure course because they are wearing Crocs or old navy flip flops.

To pack in your backpack each day:
Sweater or sweatshirt.  Surprising the early am wait at a bus stop can be chilly.
Bathing suit & towel (needed each day).  Set aside 1-2 sets.  Buy 2 of the same, so staff gets use to kids in the same gear.  We do remember who has the orange pineapple towel, and will call your kid out when we pack up from the pool each day.  Also consider a rash guard shirt these are great coverage from the sun.
Baby Powder this helpful items when placed on wet and sandy feet will absorb the water allowing you brush off the sand and get dry sand-free feet back into socks and sneakers for the hike after fun at the beach.
☐ A wet bathing suit bag or zip-lock bag they make great new pouches that will keep the wet suit from getting everything else soaked.  If you don’t have the pouch a gallon zip-lock bag works just fine.
Clear Gallon Zip-lock Bag toss the baby powder, bug spray and sunscreen in it.  Chances are your kid will use their backpack as a seat in the dirt while waiting for the nature staff to explain the differences between moths and butterflies.  Save yourself the headache of internal explosions.
Rain gear (rain jacket or poncho.  Boots if they fit in the bag)  Having a kid at camp will force you to become a local weather watcher.  Some camps have rain sites and can do most stuff indoors some camps keep a regular rotation and just alter programs having campers still walk from place to place.  Ask your Camp Director or previous camp parents what the scoop is.
Sunscreen.  Send both lotion, spray and chap-sticks.  Campers will often share and hap haphazardly apply the spray.  Which will cause you to take out stock in your local drug store sunscreen isle.  Most camps do not encourage sharing for allergy reasons and will avoid having a counselor apply sun lotion to your child and instead encourage other campers to help each other.
☐ Non-aerosol insect repellent.  
 Hat or Visor consider tossing in sunglasses if your kid would wear them.
☐ Extra pair of underwear place these in a clear zip-lock bag that can live nicely on the bottom of the backpack.  (very helpful after the other camper unit sneaks up on your group with coolers full of water balloons.)
☐ Optional: Small amount of cash (approximately $5—$20) to purchase items in the camp store, aka Trading Post.  Check with your camp as they will probably only have a specific day of the week where they will get to visit the camp store/trading post so you don’t have to send it every day.  Plus if your kids tells you they need $20 every day they are either flat out lying or skipping the camp bus and heading to the arcade downtown.

colton-rv-camping-with-kids-01Additional Equipment for specialty camps
Life Jackets- Don’t forget to label them.
Field Trips– If your camp has a special camp t-shirt wear it!  It only makes your kids that much safer when in a large group.  If you’ve lost it put them in a similar color.  Gift Shop money.  Don’t bother, nothing is more annoying than a kid that has $4 and wants to get a $18 dolphin from the aquarium or the kid who has $25 and just spent the whole amount on sugar filled pixie sticks.  This isn’t the time nor place to have a lesson in personal finances.
Sporting Equipment i.e. cleats, pads, helmets etc.

Seriously people just don’t bring the following; crazy that we have to say it but you’d be surprised. The following items are prohibited at traditional day camp programs: iPods, cell phones, jewelry, electronic games, weapons, pets, illegal drugs, and alcoholic beverages. You’ve sent your kids to be engaged in something new, making new friends, learning a skill.  None of that is accomplished if they are scrolling the internet checking on their friends in another group or camp.  If you need them, you have the camp phone number and if they need you; we’ve collected it all during the mountain of paperwork you filled in, back in the spring at registration.

Once your kid gets home it’s time to…
☐ Empty and re-load the bag.  Check out the art project that just came home or the gods-eye they worked on all day, or the friendship bracelet they are making for someone.  Make sure you pay attention to the weekly calendar of events.  Is it a dress up theme day? Are you suppose to bring something special? Kids that participate in the theme weeks, dress up days or activities have by far more fun.  The counselors are more likely to naturally engage with your kid if they are sporting an awesome pirate map they made and rolled up with sticks.
☐ Get them cleaned up.  A tub/shower can do wonders as well as give your a chance for a tick check.
☐ Get them a good meal.  Remember camps now post on Facebook, website, Instagram or even email out some happenings of the day.  I always post some type of conversation starter for my camps.  Ask your kid at dinner specifics about camp, new favorite song, least favorite meal in the mess hall, most talented counselor.
☐ Than it is early to bed, to do it all again the next day.

My goal as a Camp Director is to send your kids home tired and dirty with a smile on their face.  If you’ve found something to be helpful or should be added to your camp’s specific list, email your Camp Director.  We spend all of December, January and February updating our packing list, and paperwork; and welcome honest feed back.

Make memories, make friends and have an awesome summer!

Visiting the Mouse

Part 1: Research & Booking your trip to Walt Disney World

In November 2016 our family went on  a trip to pay homage to the Mouse.  We planned an awesome 5 day 4 night trip for 2 adults, 2 kids (ages 6 & 2.5) 1 teen (age 17) and 2 grandparents (who well, could have been considered teens themselves; they went on so many rides).  This only represents our trip; there are tons of suggestions out there on the internet.

Have fun and enjoy the planning.  Do not let it overwhelm you, as it can easily, but enjoy talking to friends, family, hunting thru blogs and talking to the people behind you at the grocery store.  Everyone will have had a different trip, but take all the pieces and create your own.  I created a Pinterest board and my mother-in-love and I had a bit of fun pinning all the ideas, must dos, and suggestions to it.

Do your homework there are always packages out there.  We researched online at AAA and Disney direct.  We went with AAA cause they had better pricing.  We booked flights separately as we used our credit card points and frequent flyer miles.  If you book your flights separately be sure to give this information to your travel agent as they are able to link your itineraries together.  This will eliminate any gaps, or misinformation between your travel and your Disney experience.

You will only have access to booking the Disney meal plan when you book your room and tickets.  You can’t add it on later, so know if you want this option.  We took the meal plan and it worked well for us.  It’s a sit-down, quick service, and snack each day.  We had a small soft cooler and zip lock bags and squirreled away food that wasn’t eaten within the meal time for later.  Think college days in the mess hall.  All transactions are done thru your magic bands for meal plans and room charge purchases (i.e. bottle of wine at dinner, meals not covered in the Disney meal plan, souvenirs etc.)  Sometimes the meal plan is free depending the time of year you are booking.  If we had gone a week later they were offering it as a promotion.

There are never discounts on park tickets (only FL residents)  I’d say just get passes for every day.  Even if you spend a whole day at the hotel pool, you can go into the park for dinner and fireworks.  I think it would be hard to pick which day you’re doing fun in the sun poolside and not buy passes that far out without a weather report.  There is one park that is open late each night.  It rotates so grab a schedule and plan from there.  For us the Park Hopper was a must.  This additional charge isn’t cheap but allows you to go between parks within a single day.  We would go to one park for the day and than cross over to another for dinner and fireworks.

We booked our flight for early in the AM.  We left our house at 4am and arrived in MCO at 11:30am.  We were in our room at the hotel by 1pm.  We took advantage of the Disney Magic Express which is the free bus service from the airport to your hotel.  With this service your luggage is handled by airport employees and than Disney Cast members (they aren’t called staff or employees).  You won’t see it or have to pick it up in the airport upon arrival.  They do say it can take up to 3 hours from your arrival time to when your bags arrive in your room.  We chose to take naps and unpack taking time to get settled before we  hit the parks.  We had dinner early at our hotel at 5pm and went strait to the late night park for fastpass+ rides, character meetings, and fireworks.  Worked well for us.  It was a week day so the fireworks started at 9pm and we were back at the hotel and in bed by 10:30pm.  Where we all crashed.

Learn some fun facts about the time of year you’re planning.  Mickey Mouse’s Birthday is November 19, 1928.  What type of weather or crowds are expected?  What holiday will the park be decorated for?  If in November you can get an awesome Christmas card photo without a lot of work.  Arriving at the same time as Santa?  Ship your items already wrapped via Amazon or set up delivery for your hotel.  All deliveries are held at the luggage room so you don’t have to worry about little people walking in on them at the wrong time.

Remember this trip, if it’s your first time, can be overwhelming so seek help, support, and enjoy the process and excitement.  Happy planning and by the time you get home you’ll be in love with Mickey Mouse and planning when you can go back!


Blog posts coming soon…

Part 2: Time to Plan & Book your Fun

Special Adventures

Part 3: Time to Shop

Part 4: Packing & Hunting

Part 5: Here We GO!

Part 6: Playing in the Park

Part 7: Memories & Lessons Learned


Best Teachers Hands Down

How do you thank the people who nurture, teach, inspire and love your child(ren) each day?  The end of the year gifts are always so special.

These are some of the ones I’ve put together and received over the years. Each is so unique.  My absolute favorite are the notes that are hand written with such care and love by students.

Helping Me Grow is so easy to make and and totally affordable. IMG_8704Use a terracotta pot I chose 2 sizes one for the Director and the 2 smaller ones for the supervisors.  I used a 6 inch pot and 4 inch pots.  Use a little yellow paint and a sharpie marker with a ruler to get good spacing and off you go.  Trace your little one’s hands and glue to Popsicle sticks, fill the planter with mints and a I tucked in a gift certificate to a local nail salon and bingo; adorable.   P.S. This is still on the Director’s desk filled with mints (new ones) 3 years later.

For those classroom teachers I grab something I hope that they will use and think of my kiddo.  A chiller cup and gift card to a local coffee shop.    Another trip through the coffee shop will take care of those bus drivers and monitors that wake up oh so early each day to meet your kid with a smile at the bus stop.  These gifts also work great for crossing guards if you’re a non-bus family.  Usually can’t go wrong with a good bottle of wine, especially if you can get a good spy to find out their favorite. But remember it’s best not to send this gift into school with your underage student.  A quick trip into the school office to tuck it in a mailbox is wise.  I found these and had to buy them, honestly I bought them in the summertime.  They screamed elementary teacher cute.  They are salt and pepper shakers 

What ideas do you have for your teachers this year?  Feel free to share below because there are about 18 years worth of teachers to buy for.


Why do I have a blog?

I was giving a gift that keeps on giving.  My grandfather who I admire immensely wrote short stories during his adult life.  Stories about people he worked with, people he meet, people he admired especially his family.  He wrote these stories and had them put into binders with pictures and all.  He graciously gifted these stories, all 5 binders 2inches a piece to each of his 5 grand children and his 2 children.  These binders have moved house to house, town to town, state to state and honestly collected dust.

My sister about a year ago took her to be spiral bound and said that they now sit on her coffee table, bedside table and elsewhere she’s likely to pick one up.  No story is longer than a few pages; so to sit for a moment and get lost in a time period when monthly rent was $1.75 and you walked to get where you needed to, go is special.  Christmas rolled around and I was jealous that she was enjoying her books and mine were collecting dust.  I requested that she have mine bound not an expensive items but one that took time.  She did and I have been enjoying them so much.  Escaping from my little New England town in Rhode Island to his little New England town in Massachusetts.

As I’ve been reading these books I realize why I enjoy writing this blog.  I’m not one for story telling and not one for keeping journals in a timely fashion; but I do want to leave my mark, even if it’s little.  I feel like these small snapshots into my wacky world and personality perhaps will one day be read by my kids and perhaps their kids.  They’ll look back on the memories that they help be a part of or were based around them.  Some glowing and some not.  They will look at the crafts and say I remember and perhaps try them with their kids.  They will go thru the piles of art work I’ve collected or made over the years and understand why it was so special to me.

So yes I enjoy my little blog with my few followers, but hopefully when they are older and past the hatting mom teen years, my favorite followers will be my kids.


A Pink & Green 1st Birthday Party

A first birthday is a BIG deal.  It’s a year full of first for your little cutie but it’s also a year full of first for the parents.  I like to call it a congratulations parent party.  Congratulations you made it, with a lack of sleep, new routines, and milestones galore.  That all being said celebrating my daughter’s 1st birthday was pretty special.  I was lost on a good party theme so we stuck with two colors that were fun, happy, and welcomed summer; pink and green.

Shout it from the roof tops my little lady is turning ONE.  My friend Julia at the blog A Little Bee Told Me made these adorable invitations.  All I said were the colors and that I wanted a picture of the birthday girl.  We had a bit of fun with a photo shoot and Julia took it from there. Hailey1bday_webOnce I had some basic details set it became a lot of fun.  I pulled all sorts of things that are fun when you’re one, toys and bubbles etc.

I set a special place for cake time, and remembered the background.   There will be tons of cameras clicking that day, having a neutral and nice backdrop will allow the focus to be on your little one.   These photos are bound to become a special part of your memories and scrapbooks.  IMG_0291

IMG_0269Time for CAKE!  Cake it’s the best part of a 1 year old’s birthday party.  Watching them potentially smash into that much sugar, as an adult, can be hysterical.  We had two little cakes as my husband was away at work; so we celebrated once when he was home and again with family.  He melted my heart by having flowers delivered to both my daughter and I that day.


IMG_0262Kids and balloons, can’t go wrong with fun decorations.  I also had pre-made a little frozen treat full of toys for our two pup friends to keep them busy on the warm day. Think of it as a puppy pinata.

I was exhausted after a busy day of fun and hosting.  It was amazing to be surrounded by the people that will make up my daughter’s “village”; cause lord knows I’ll need a village.

To see my son’s 1st birthday party with an UNO theme click here.


A Girl Scout Cookie Thank You

Now everyone loves a sweet little hostess gift. It doesn’t have to be anything big or elaborate and that is why my new go-to is a box of Girl Scout thanks-a-lot cookies.  A little bow and personal note and it’s ready to roll. On each order that left our house we made sure to include a thank you note.  I will say that this served two purposes.  One side was a thank you and cute photo of my kiddo. The other side was the count and total sheet for customers for easy reference.   It worked well for us as it had the number of boxes, amount due or paid and info on how to order more. Now to thank the saints that keep this whole thing rolling.  Each troop has a cookie Mom (or Dad) that keeps everyone and everything organized. These people  have a special place in heaven.  Not only do they keep it on time and collect the money they also anwser your texts, emails and your panicked phone calls.

My daughter and I collected empty cookie boxes and took them to our local print shop where they cut and bound the cover into small notepads.  Finally we had to thank everyone that bought, packed, donated, liked, shared or visited a booth. I did do a bit of social campaigning for my daughter as it’s the new wave. When all was said and done I posted a final shoutout… at least until next year. More posts about Girl Scout Cookies coming soon

The New Season-Cookies

Cookies on the Move