How to Plan a Disney Vacation

Booking a Disney trip was so exciting for our family!! With every move I made I got that much more excited about going. Before I planned the Disney trip I read so much info. Anything and everything on the Disney tips + FAQs + Everything you need to know on Disney.com. I read several Disney blogs and mom blogs on what worked best for them. I was ready!! I complied my list of things I needed and was ready to start planning. I got everything I needed that would make my trip easier like the apps and notifications from Disney said to do and for more what you need to have for Disney read about it here.

I wanted to be well prepared and make sure I didn’t forget anything. But once I started scheduling and planning there wasn’t much out there to help with that. There wasn’t best rides for AM, or things to do before noon. Of course it’s not that easy bc there’s so much to do to keep you busy throughout the day. So ultimately it’s your choice.

However there were things that helped make our trip a breeze and quite simple. So I wanted to share them with you all to help when you plan a Disney trip. Hopefully it can make your scheduling hurdles a little easier. The five things below will help you when you book your trip, schedule your fast passes and help create you’re plan of action, and make your flying travels a little easier.

mde_app-001.jpg

1. Do everything through the app.My Disney Experience has everything you need + more. Yes you can go to Disneyworld.disney.go.com and make an account, register, and buy tickets there. Be set to go. But with the app you can do everything!! Book hotel, book reservations, link your hotel so you can see bus schedules, food menus, and even unlock and lock your hotel door. You know for those times you head out for ice and you forget to wear your magic band. All the parks schedules, character showings, times for shows, and maps are available through app. It even has map access to follow step by step to get you to attractions or restaurants you want to find. My favorite is it stores all your photos you take during your trip as well!! Plus you can link your flight times on there so you can get picked up with the Disney Magic Express! {Which I discuss later}

Hear it from me, it’s kind of a pain to do everything on Disneyworld.Disney.go and then have to link everything afterwards on the app. So just do it all there and make it easy for yourself so you don’t have to try and keep up with all the confirmation codes. {Trust me.}These are the times when you need to take advantage of technology. I promise the app came in handy sooo much for us. Plus once you get to the hotel they ask you to book a few reservations for food and spa times through the app anyways so you have to have it.

IMG_6007

2. Book your hotel early and it should be the first thing you book before everything else!!! I booked our Disney tickets first because i wanted to make sure I got those out of the way, then signed up on the app, and then was ready to make reservations and realized I couldnt. I made the mistake of doing it out of order. You may be asking does it matter and yes it does!!!! When you book your hotel first it allows you to make reservations and access to schedule fast passes and food reservations as early as 60 days before your trip! Which I promise you, is very important, taking us to the next point.

3. Get fast passes— these are crucial for maintaining sanity throughout Disney. I seriously cant stress this enough. They make it seem like it’s no big deal everywhere when you read about them, but guys, it’s a fast pass to the rides!! Let me say it again, it’s a fast pass. Meaning you quickly pass all the other people and the line to go ahead and get on the ride of your choice without a wait! You can schedule up to three a day but once you use the three you can schedule two more to use during that day. These made our Disney day a breeze. I can’t imagine waiting in the lines for over an hour for a 2-5 minute ride. The longest time we had to wait for a ride was 12 minutes. That was because there was a hiccup in the ride and they had to fix it putting wait times on both lines.below I discuss two reasons why fast passes are awesome and how to best utilize them:

-Spread out your fast passes – I mean this point in two different ways. Let’s dig in. When using your fast passes to select your adventures don’t cram them back to back. I did at first thinking; well we will use these up and then have access to book more and we can keep having a magical day. On Disney it says after you use the three you can keep booking for more. It sounds great! We were hooked. Then I started looking the following week after I scheduled ours and so many of the fast pass options were gone for several rides, character meetings, and light shows. I was bummed because I thought well we are going to miss out on so many adventures. Especially like the ones on Pandora and animal kingdom. Then something magical happened the next day. There was availability on two of the rides I wanted so I went ahead and canceled previous reservations and made those and decided well everyday I want to use a fast pass in am, then afternoon, and one at night. So I rescheduled everything. I wanted to make sure I utilized the fast pass access throughout the day since the access to reserve was dwindling away. Like I said I didnt book my hotel first so I had to wait until the 30 days before to start reserving with fast pass and a lot was not available. Food reservations had tight windows left, and on the busier parks like Magical Kingsom there was no ability to book fast pass for anything after the 25 day mark. Not to forget to mention we booked our trip during the busiest week at Disney out of the whole year. So we were fighting for access with a lot of people.

-Now my second grand idea that worked out beyond great!! If you have multiple members of your family like we do. Then use it to your advantage. Schedule a ride with the whole family in am. Because you do want to use up your three to get the access to book more. Keep in mind though every other fast pass holder is trying to do the same and a lot of things won’t be available past 12 but most of magical kingdom didn’t have anything available two weeks out so this is why I’m saying do it this way. After you scheduled a ride that is suitable for everyone then use momma and son for one fast pass access and if the ride allows other kids to ride then say “we will swap” or if y’all all can go then say “we are trying to add the other family members on all but it’s not letting us.” If your bands aren’t working but two family members are, they always let you in!!! Everytime! It was awesome!! So I was so happy that I took a chance and scheduled it that way because I was able to reserve up to 6 things prior that way. I booked greetings without waiting, rides for all of us, and while the girls went and napped I had rides reserved just for our big guy. Then when we all gathered back, he shows for us all to enjoy together without any waits. Guys I’m telling you it worked! Then, come to find out, you only get the chance to use fast passes two more times after you use your three so it’s not unlimited like I thought. So I was so glad I did it this way vs the original plan bc we would have had some uncomfortable wait times that no one was ready to have.

IMG_5241

4. Buy the early bird tickets to Toy Story Land. Just do it. We had access to the Hollywood Studios an hour and half early!!!! We got there with an hour to spend but it was still worth it. When you buy the early bird tickets it comes with a complimentary breakfast that is only given to the early birders and it was probably one of the best breakfasts that we had the entire time. You have a choice between several hot meals choices and there is a smorgish board of fruits, pastries, and cereal options. They allow you to eat there all the way until 10 AM. If you really want to you can get there right at 7:30, eat, ride, then eat again. That was our original plan but like I said we didn’t get there until 8. After we ate, we had 30 mins to enjoy Toy Story Land, and it was worth every penny. Not only was it the park we all were really looking forward to because we have watched it on TV every commercial break, but it is an oversized Toy Story Land! Are you kidding me who wouldn’t love it! In all seriousness it was the only park we saw that had workers waiting with a 65 minute wait sign before the park even opened up. They knew that park would have the most visitors, and they were right, within 10 mins of opening the park the Slinky Dog Ride had a 75 minute wait. After we utilized the 30 mins of no waits, we were able to wait a short 10 mins for character experiences and boom we were done with that park just as soon as they opened. It still is one of our favorite experiences because while the bigs rode the Slinky Dog, we rode the Alien Ride. My youngest was able to ride it twice without waits and she had a blast on it. We rode all these and still had our reserved fast passes to use. It was an amazing day!

dxIlTdtTQ8i2LzY6XrUDIw

5. Take advantage of the Disney Magic Express + all its perks. The express not only takes you to and from the airport which makes everything so much easier, but it also will take your checked luggage for you! I saw so many people trying to haul their kids, plus their suitcases through the airport, through the express line, and through the hotel and check in. Now if you want to be champs and keep it all with you go right ahead. But our children wonder around and want to see all the cool and magical things before their eyes if they aren’t in the stroller. With three kids theee suitcases, stroller, like 5 carry on bags it just wouldn’t have been easy for us. Plus all that in one small line, no thanks. It was such a breeze going through the line without all the luggage and check in was ice bc we didn’t have to manage all the extra items. Once we got to our hotel we went to eat, look at all the animals and when we got back tinkerbell made the delivery. It was only a 1.5 wait to get out things once we got there so it wasn’t that bad.

I hope these five tips help you in planning your magical trip. There is so much to think about, and things that no one tells you about, so I do hope these help a little. and know the hassle of traveling takes a toll on anyone especially a family with littles. So anything that makes your trip easier and more efficient I want to try and help. That way all you have to worry about, is the magic that awaits for you. If this helped you in your magical adventures then please comment below, thanks for your stopping by and have a magical day.

Mickey Mouse Magic

A Weekend Getaway | Road Trip Across West Texas

Go Across West Texas + Big Bend  in One Weekend

Are you trying to squeeze in a quick vacation before school starts like we did? I really wanted to take our kids somewhere before school started this year. After all, this is Ayden’s first year at school full time! I’m starting to have those anxious thoughts that moms have about school starting and school is still a week away!

I hate the idea of not having the freedom to just go when ever I want, or wherever I want. Until now, I could just take the kiddos on any lil day trip or weekend getaway starting on a Wed or Thursday and go. Now, this option for us is out of the question starting next week. It’s lame, makes me angry and all kinds of different emotions and thoughts that I can’t explain.

This alone made it very important for me to get us away on a lil mini vacation that wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg, and I wanted adventure so the kids could remember.

Josh and I discussed that this would be the first vacation that our 6 year old would probably remember for the rest of his life. We can recall as far back as 5, some little moments, but definitely anything big that happened from 6 and up we remember. With that thought in my head I really wanted to go to Disney, but due to the short time with Ayden this summer we just couldn’t swing that trip. Somewhere tropical? Well, we weren’t mentally, financially, or emotionally prepared for a trip like that with the kids. Besides, you can’t go somewhere like that with three kids for a weekend and expect to enjoy it when most of the trip you’re flying there and back.

I wanted our trip to count, be meaningful, connect us, and to add adventure and dreams to our lives before we all go through this new chapter of our lives. My hubster asked me one night, how bout we just take an RV somewhere? I was ecstatic! I was all in and put together this fun and adventurous road trip for us. We left on Wed night and came back on Saturday night. If you’re trying to get a way for a weekend that’s quick, easy and cheep– this is the trip for you!!!

If you’re interested in what we used to help make the trip easier see this guide of Five things to take for kids on road trips.

The RV

We rented a RV from our favorite place, American Dream Vacations. We’ve rented a RV 5 times now from them and each time the RV’s get better and better. We’ve considered investing in one and keeping it there with them because their service and upkeep has been great for us. If there was ever a problem they were fast to make it right or credit us if they couldn’t solve the problem. They have 24/7 helpline and are always willing to help us out when we need them.

Alpine, Texas FREE

We chose Alpine for our first stop on our way to Big Bend. This stop was 7 hours from Austin, Tx and was a great stopping point for sleep. It was a great way to kick off our adventurous outdoorsy trip. We took I-10 the whole way.

We stayed at Lost Alaskan RV Park and I’m not even going to lie, to wake up with the mountains around us, was so refreshing! This was seriously one of the best RV parks I have ever seen. They had tent set ups, tiny homes to rent, and spots for your own + all the accommodations for RV travelers. The kids swam first thing in the AM and played on the playscape and I could’t get over the views. Let alone everyone there we met had traveled our trip countless times, shared great trips, and had awesome stickers, and memorabilia that kept our interest peaked.

Hike Hancock Hill

Our first adventure in Alpine was to hike Hancock Hill at Sul Ross University. We pulled into gate 4 and parked  right in front of the museum but to get right next to the trail, you can park at the uppermost parking lot by Mountainside Dormitory. Three students carried “The Desk” in 1981, with a notebook left inside so all who comes can sign it, and leave a little part of themselves behind. The desk is the endpoint after a 20 minute hike. Once you pull in head towards the …building and the path is right there. It looks like ummm, should we do it, there’s no signs, or navigation guides so you have to take a chance but it is the only path there. Once on the path it does split so it’s easy to get confused but all the info I read said go directly up the hill to the big pile of rocks. Along the way we did see a message letting us know we were going the right way.

Well, sadly we never found the desk. I started to see little hints along the way, like some rocks being painted with white spots along the path, but they got farther and few in between. Once we were at top the path had many splits. So we never made it to the desk although online it says, once you get up the hill the desk is easily to find. We got to the top after a 20 minute hike with the kids, looked around, walked for five minutes down one path, and saw multiple paths and had no idea which way to go from there. So, unfortunately that was a bummer, but we didn’t let it affect any of us. The two big kids made it all the way to the top on their own, even after our 3 year old kept telling herself that her legs were too tired. Then would take a drink of water and say to herself, “You got this! You can do it!.” We were so proud of them. They were so excited to be on top that they were screaming.

There was an awesome pile of rocks on the top that they got to climb on and see the whole town from up there. All of alpine and it’s small quirky character was visible. I will admit if you are taking kids with you it’s doable, but the weather at this time of the year might be a little much for the kids. We got super lucky, or as I called it the whole time, a blessing from God, because there was a rain storm happening literally right next to us, but never got to us. Josh was a little concerned because it was lightening but literally the storm stayed in the town like it was stuck in between all the mountains. The breeze made the climb so bearable, and easy to deal with. It even sprinkled a few times and it was so nice!! The views here were quite beautiful, the scenery was amazing and I’ve never been high enough on foot to see a whole small town right in front of my eyes.

Parenting Tip: Frozen water

If you’re going on any hikes with littles, freeze bottles of water and grab a few to take with you. The kids are in love with the frozen waters, and it takes about 20 – 30 minutes to start thawing out. Right when you’re ready for replenishment the cold water is ready.

Musuem of Big Bend

The museum was easy to go to next, as it is at the University. So, this spot is definitely a twofer. I think this slot was great for the kids becuase not only did they see the history of the area we were going to visit but they saw a preview of where we were headed. So it made them Uber excited to get to big bend.

The museum had some really cool interactive models for the kids with lots of buttons to push. It was a highlight. Plus the interactive videos along the way made the tour a little more interesting.

Marfa, Texas- FREE

Marfa was a 35 minute drive from alpine so it’s a great next stop during the day while traveling with kiddos. We went specifically to see the Marfa Lights. It’s something to see because it’s a very mysterious and unexplained activity. Unfortunately, like the desk, we didn’t see the lights. It was cloudy and rainy so we were told that most likely we wouldn’t see them. However we tried anyways and it was a fun adventure for the kids and us because we pulled out our night goggles and explored. And what kids don’t like being night explorers? They all said they saw lights, and other people around us said they saw them but I have no idea what they saw because Josh and I never saw anything.

Prada Store. Another great photo op in Maria is the cute little Prada store.

images-4

The Capri

If you do go to quirky Marfa, then you need to stop at The Capri! It has an eclectic relaxing and quaint vibe going on. With the hammocks, and fire pits buried in a garden it was a lucky find for sure. Marfa’s restaurants close at 5:00 pm so you have to be careful not to miss out on the good food. We got lucky because this place didn’t open up until 5:30. However if you have picky eaters this is not the stop for you. The only option they had for the kids was Duck Liver. Luckily, it was sweet and the kids mopped it up, along with their Mexican Street Corn. Of course we had to end the meal with some yummy ice cream.

Marathon, Texas- FREE

On the way to big bend leaving Marfa we drove through a town called Marathon and got to stop at the little Target store. This was my favorite because I am obsessed with target lol. So to find a store that I could take with me in my pocket, I was in love!!! Plus the views!!

It had a cool post to leave your logos, your message, or your stamp behind!!

McDonald’s Observatory

We didn’t make it to this destination, although we really wanted to but after the hike and the museum we would have only had about 30 – 45 minutes to be there. So we opted for a nice restaurant instead.

If you schedule enough time then this is a must stop!! Joshua was a little bummed because we weren’t going but even he knew it requires the appropriate amount of time. But just look—>  HOW COOL IT IS

Big Bend National Park $33

After a full morning of driving we made it! The kids were excited. We watched the mountains go by and get bigger and bigger. Our favorite game we played was I spy and the littles loved when we got the chance to spy a Sand Tornado. We drove by several and the kids had the same reaction every time.

The entrance fee is $33, but it was for a whole week pass so that’s not that bad at all.  I recommend to grab all the literature from the park guide when you pay, because it was completely different literature than what we found at travel guide places, RV Park, or the Museum. I had originally planned for us to hike two trails, The Lost Mine Trail, and the Chisos Basin Trail. The Lost Mine Trail is a 4.6 mile hike, and the Chisos Basin Trail is a 2.5 mile hike. Just remember while you are out there you are the only one who knows you’re limits and you have to always remain flexible. When we arrived the map that we received had two colored paths on it and one was red saying no big trucks or RVs could pass on those roads, well both our trails where Red Trails.  Which both hikes we planned where on those. So we did the safe kid friendly touristy route without hikes and there was still plently to keep our day full + without wearing out the kiddos, It was actually a relief becuase our youngest started getting a heat rash, so being able to go right back to the RV every 20 minute after a small  adventures was perfect for her. I mean honestly, if you have kids, the RV at Big Bend was a nice retreat to have.

Discovery Fossil Exhibit

First Stop–Dinosaur Bones!! When we had to quickly change our POA I was super nervous, but the fear quickly went away once I saw this attraction on the map. It’s easy to miss when driving by so keep your eyes open for the one sign that points to it. It also says no RV turnaround but we went down there and parked with plenty of room. However yes, if the Park is full of tourist then no, we couldn’t have fit, but considering it is the the 8th least visited national park, I doubt you will have anything to worry about. We spent about 3 hours there and we only saw maybe 4 other cars pull up.

To think we almost parked our RV on the side of the main road and walked down a mile. WHEW, so glad my husband is a risk taker.

Overlook Hill (View)

At the exhibit up just right of the Discovery Exhibit there is an awesome Overlook Hill with a stunning view of big bend! We got so lucky to come across this view. The climb up is made for visitors with stairs and a smooth sidewalk leading up to it making it very kid friendly, but keep your kids near because there are no rails. The winds up here were strong and felt amazing. It was very refreshing!! We all felt close to God, imagined that’s what it would be like to be birds  and just took in the scenery.

The Exhibit

This was another unexpected treat considering we only planned our trip 15 mins before. Again the views!!! I mean views for mom, fossils for Dads and Kids, it’s perfect!! The fossils were really cool too, it was filled with things I’ve  never seen before. It had three huge rooms of fossils that were found there at big bend with signs of information and facts of everything. We saw the huge (bird fossil) that was highly spoken about at the museum, and the kids got to play with the Dino heads and were amazed at their teeth. I personally loved the last room as I saw countless fossils of water creatures were the coolest. Give me a sec while my inner geek …

Moms, another cool spot for kiddos!!!  Joshua and I both made constant comments on how we were shocked how great the breeze felt. The breeze and our frozen water was perfect combo. This exhibit had several photo ops but by this point kiddos weren’t having nothing with me, it was all about the Dino’s.

DID YOU KNOW:

That horses came from this little guy. 😮😮

Adventure Hike

Ayden wanted to go exxxplooooore, “the unknown lands” as he calls it. We let him choose a place that he wanted to see, and  found a cool little grotto/cave to play around in that was right next to the exhibit. I wasn’t too nervous about snakes or anything like that, but mind you, the ants here where the biggest ants I’ve ever seen. Then there was the pesky horse flies but other than that we didn’t have too many critters that were bothersome.

The big kids enjoyed the 5 minute hike to the cave and loved climbing through it and on top of it, with yet another beautiful view of Big Bend.

After the kids were done playing around in the cave we walked back and the kids stopped to play in the dirt. They made piles and kept putting little flags in it, so it inspired me to leave our mark behind with rocks. Aliyna and Addie both jumped up screaming “like Moana!” Since they were excited about it we went ahead and did it and the look of sincerity in Aliynas eyes is too much sometimes. Guys you don’t always have to do big things to impact our kids, something so small as stacking rocks and leaving our mark somewhere can define them, and allow their hearts to become full of wander, and adventure. She now knows she’s a voyager that traveled across Texas.

Panther Junction Visitor Center

This is a must if you have kids. I had done research before and this visitor center is one of the 2 in the whole park that has amazing interactive exhibits that provide an overview of geology and natural and cultural histories of the park. It was a  great center for the kids to retreat to for another adventure with AC, and it has water fountains, and restrooms, making it a great stopping point + have fun with all the interactive guides. The visitor center also has a theater, with a park orientation movie shown every 30 minutes, 9:30AM to 4:00 PM.

The visitor center complex includes a Big Bend Natural History Association bookstore, U.S. Post Office, and restrooms. The Panther Path, a self-guided nature trail, begins adjacent to the porch of the visitor center.

The second Visitor Center is Chisos Basin but we didn’t go to that one since that was the one close to the red trail. But it is said that this is the second best visitor center to go to if you have children.

Honestly, if you are doing what we did and don’t want to do big hikes that they have mapped out, just drive around Big Bend and you will see plenty of little mountains that you can climb and get shots with stunning views. Not to mention along the way there’s little drive off spots on the side of the road for pics. My favorite is the one by The Panther Junction Service Station, 200 yards west of the visitor center, its open every day.  It had rocks that we could stand on and take cool family pictures.

This store closes at 6 but the pumps do stay on. If you are traveling with a card then you have nothing to worry about. We were terrified we weren’t going to get gas and were concerned if we could even make it out of the park. So don’t pass up the gas station while you’re there at the park after all it is 800000 acres. If hiking isn’t your thing, then tour the visitor centers there each one showcases different things, but keep in mind each one is atleast 30-45 mins apart.

If you haven’t traveled to Big Bend, try it, it’s beautiful and very doable with kids. I can’t believe it’s one of the least visited spots, it’s beauty alone took my breathe away. I can only imagine if we did complete some of the hikes and got to actually be in the heart of the park. The hikes I read about were beautiful, easy, an hour long, and you would see plyographs along the way. So maybe another time when we have a car we will actually complete these hikes.

We ended our night with eating supper under the stars and sat there viewing the meteor shower with nothing to get in our way. Except the moon, it was a full moon so it cast a ton of luminous light but it didn’t stop us from seeing ten or so long tailed shooting stars. I can only imagine the stars on a night the moon isn’t lighting up the sky. Plus, we saw a weird desert  kvmtm/j jY  ju o98ob9phenomenon that looked like a spaceship casting down a light from above down on to the ground. It gave us the biggest goosies, and I’m not even going to lie, I was afraid to look up and see something that I didn’t want to!! It was nothing though, we looked it up, and turns out the moon reflects light through the desert that creates these eerie lights. We may not have seen the Marfa Lights but we did see the Big Bend Mystery Lights.

Waco, Texas

Josh really wanted to go to Waco first because he couldn’t wait to have some water fun. The slides are worth the drive, giving Waco another attraction than just magnolia silos. With Waco just an hour and half away go for it!! I’m dying to go back so I can do a wall art hunt there!!

BSR Cable Park

BSR Cable Park was an adventure for sure!!! This was our first “water park” adventure with the kids. It has four 50 foot water slides at various levels and a about a 25 foot slide for the kids. A cable Park with ramps and rails for the advanced wake borders, a wave pool for surfers, and a lazy river. The two oldest kiddos loved the water slides. They were a little nervous but overcame their fears and did the slide twice!! They were so brave!!! The lazy river was small and simple for us so it was good for the first time for our family but get there early because people show up fast around noon on the weekends.

This trip can easily be done in three days if you’re just doing BigBend trip. Any of these can be split up into separate weekends. However I think if you do it like we did and just hit up the main attractions along the way, it keeps the trip moving along and helps keep up the morale. I hope you have enjoyed going along with us on our trip, and if you have any questions please feel free to email me.