Kids FREE November in Jacksonville, Florida

Did you know that Lonely Planet recently name Jacksonville, FL  one of the "World’s Top 10 Best Value Destinations”?  To celebrate, the city is hosting Kids Free November all month long!  Jacksonville kids free November is a special promotion that offers FREE admission, and other discounted activities, for children at local museums and attractions. Jacksonville is an affordable, family friendly getaway year around. A trip to Adventure Landing will have the entire family engaged.  Try your hand at mini-golf, drive go-karts or play in the water at their ShipWreck Island waterpark. The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is one of the most visited attractions in Northeast Florida. It's also one of the top 9 animal attractions in the nation. Kona Skate Park is the oldest operating skate park in the nation.  Lessons are available for all skill levels. Jacksonville’s beaches are also highly family friendly.  They offer dozens of activities for the entire family to do including … [Read more...]

Family Stay at Disney’s Art of Animation Little Mermaid Room

Is Art of Animation Resort the best choice for your Disney World Resort money?  Here's all the fun details of a stay at in the Little Mermaid Rooms. From the Awesome Cars and Finding Nemo pools, to the drawings and character design you'll find throughout this resort, it's a family Disney Vacation delight. Room Photos, the Food Court, and Disney Transportation... plus how far is it to Magic Kingdom from the Art of Animation Value Resort?  I'm a pretty strong advocate for always staying at a Disney World Resort.  Between that and being a Value Resort fan, I was very excited when the newest addition Art of Animation opened in 2012.   This whimsical, incredibly family-friendly resort has four Disney movie themed areas.  Three of them consist of family suites:  Cars, Finding Nemo, and The Lion King.  Although these rooms look spacious and awesome, alas - for my family of four, a suite is unnecessary.  And with a nightly suite rate that is comparable to staying at a Disney … [Read more...]

7 Magical Reasons to Stay at Wyndham Lake Buena Vista (near Disney World)

Let's talk about the elephant in the room first.  I almost always advocate for staying at a Disney World resort.  However, after two visits now to the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista property, I’ve now decided this is my one exception. They’ve got a  LOT to offer, and have gone to great efforts to make sure that families staying with them for a Disney World vacation still feel surrounded by that special Disney magic. There are even a few hidden Mickeys on site! Take a look at these solid reasons to consider staying at Wyndham Lake Buena Vista during your next vacation to Walt Disney World. #1 On Disney World Property Location The Wyndham Lake Buena Vista is literally ON THE WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT PROPERTY, across the street from Disney Springs!  If you want to save money but still stay as close to Disney World as possible, it’s an absolutely perfect location. Staying at this resort really adds no more travel-to-park time than staying at one of the other periphery … [Read more...]

Frights and Delights Found at Cocoa Beach, Florida

Being outdoor lovers from Colorado, we never pass up an opportunity to see the ocean.  So as much as we cherish our Disney World time, a visit to the beach always gets included during trips to Florida.  Cocoa Beach is the closest - a mere 45 minutes from MCO airport, or about 1 hr 15 minutes from Walt Disney World Resort. I think there are numerous benefits to adding an ocean stay to your Disney trip.  We've done so at the beginning, middle, and end of our vacation.  Middle is our favorite, as it provides a breather from the crowds and chaos of the parks.  But then you get to head back for a bit more excitement before you head home! Cocoa Beach Beach Delights Walking Right Out to the Sand I have one core requirement for selecting a hotel when we stay at Cocoa Beach.  I want an oceanfront property, so we can walk right out of our hotel room in our swimsuits and flip flops on to the beach. An ocean view is also nice, and recently when staying at the DoubleTree Cocoa Beach … [Read more...]

Easy Disney Resorts Planning 101

My family and I are big fans of taking our vacations at Disney World.  This love extends blatantly into our daily life at home, including my work office bedecked in Mickey Mouse and Cinderella Castle mementos. In other words... it's no secret.   And while not everyone knows about my planning spreadsheets I create for each Disney trip, they do know I love Disney Resorts Planning!  So I'm often asked for Disney planning advice.  I say "Disney Resorts" because it's the #1 tip I always give people:  Stay on the Disney World property.   This brings with it so many benefits, additional pixie dusted ambiance, and even cost savings. But this post is about easy Disney Resorts planning!  It can be intimidating to plan a Disney World vacation, worrying that you'll miss something.  In recent years, exciting changes like FastPass+ and the use of My Disney Experience to make reservations and keep track of your itinerary makes it even more critical to do some planning up front. So here … [Read more...]

Disney Pressed Penny Money Holders

Sprinkled throughout the Disney Parks are pressed penny machines, adored by children of all ages.  Each typically features 3 designs to choose from, often themed to the attraction or land they are near. And kids are drawn to them like moths to a flame. Disney Pressed Penny Machines ~ The 51 Cent Souvenir At first, we resisted.  There’s so much to see, and do, (and spend money on) at Disney… surely this tiny thing can’t be that big of deal?  After awhile it occurred to me, that the resulting pressed penny is actually a pretty neat souvenir. They’re also cheap.  And small.  Both good things on vacation. Most machines currently take 51 cents:  2 quarters and 1 *shiny!* penny.  (There are a few pressed quarter machines, which cost a little more, but they are more rare.) But let's face it, having your child pester you for change every time they spot a Disney pressed penny machine can be annoying... even on a vacation when anything goes!  So when I heard about this … [Read more...]

Disney Trip Surprise Bags for Kids

Mom is on the final, exciting stretches of Disney World vacation planning!  It's finally time to wrap up those last few details, and execute the ideas I've been dreaming up for months. For the first time, this trip is a SURPRISE to my kids! Another first:  I'm putting together some Disney Trip surprise bags for my kids. Here is what I've put together thus far, and I'd love to hear from you on any other tips to add or consider.  Have you done something similar? Disney Trip Surprise Bags On our last trip, I had a fun Mickey themed tote bag full of Disney World snacks and goodies delivered to our room by Disney Floral and Gifts.  My family loved having this magical surprise waiting for us in our Disney resort room. They do an amazing job, and the tote bag turned into a useful and fun souvenir to bring back home.  But I thought I'd save some money this go-round, and do something a little different. So I've put together two Disney Trip surprise bags for my kids!  (Ok, so I … [Read more...]

Disney Cruise to the Mediterranean – Highlights & Tips

Avast, Ahoy, Ay-yi!   Disney Cruise Line sailed back to Europe in 2013 (also 2014)!   To celebrate their wedding anniversary in grand style, my friend author Robert Medina and his wife recently set sail on the Disney Magic to soak in the Mediterranean.   He has now generously put together this overview in breathtaking photos and witty commentary, for me to share with my readers some highlights and tips from a Disney Cruise to the Mediterranean! Departing from the port in Barcelona, Spain - the Disney Magic was their floating home for the week.  They took in the fantastic sites, sounds, and foods of these European ports of call:  Nice, France; then on to Italy for Naples, Florence, and a grand finale of Rome. I'll let Robert tell you the story from here.  It's a good one...  *o*  (And don't miss the great tips at the end!) Disney Cruise to the Mediterranean ~ Highlights Greetings. It was an interesting trip to say the least. We began by spending  5 days at Disney World before … [Read more...]

Yo Ho, Yo Ho, Cruising’s Not For Me

I had my fake tan, perfectly timed pedicure, and cruise wear cover-up style dresses (not my typical garb) all ready to go, for my very first cruise!  After finally convincing my hesitant, prone-to-motion-sickness husband to give this type of vacation a try for our 10th anniversary trip with no kids, I was certain we were going to love every minute of it. Now recently returned from this maiden voyage of ours, and at the risk of sounding like a negative party pooper, I'm here to report that much to my surprise I've discovered cruising is not for me. Don't get me wrong, we had a wonderful trip.  And there are definitely some charming and enjoyable aspects to vacationing on a cruise ship.  The food was great, we had fun filled days at port, and being a girl raised on the river - I absolutely love being out on the water in any type of boat. But alas, there were a few not-so-savory aspects to our cruise, which I found myself unprepared for. Camping On The Sea Pay careful attention … [Read more...]

Celebrate Your Anniversary at Disney World

Visiting Disney World feels like something to celebrate in and of itself, but have you ever timed your trip with a special occasion of your own? When my parents were set to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary, we talked them into meeting us at Disney World for a joint Disney celebration trip (their 40th, our 6th year).  At the time, we didn't realize how this would end up being the most magical, week-long anniversary celebration we've ever experienced. Disney's Happy Anniversary Buttons Perfectly timed with Disney's "What Will You Celebrate?" marketing theme that year, the Disney reservation site at the time prompted whether you were celebrating a special occasion.  Our Mickey & Minnie Happy Anniversary buttons were ready and waiting for us in our registration packets at our Disney Resort.  What fun!  You can still ask for these buttons at the front desk of your Disney Resort, I believe they continue to carry a supply. Donning our cheery buttons the first morning out, … [Read more...]