Halloween on a Budget – Make Your Own Adorable Costumes (and Save a Ton!!)

Make Your Own Halloween Costumes

I’m a crafty girl so of course, I always make my kid’s Halloween costumes. But even if you don’t have a crafty bone in your body, I know you can make a costume this year (or at least vow not to spend an ungodly amount of money on a crummy costume at the store, okay?). Want to make your own Halloween costumes? I’ll show you my 100+ tips, tricks and ideas to make your own Halloween costumes.

Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Clicking through and making a purchase helps in a small financial way, thank you!

Tons of tips for making your own Halloween costumes, all on a budget!

Make a Halloween Costume Plan Early

A few months before Halloween I ask the kids to start thinking about what costume they want. Sometimes it takes them a few weeks to decide but this year they’ve been firm and have stuck with their original ideas. Two of the three have a Disney-theme, go figure! *wink*

I’m starting the Halloween planning a full 60 days in advance, which will give me plenty of time to make three kid’s costumes. I highly suggest starting early so you have plenty of time for planning and crafting and avoiding the night-before cram session (been there, done that!).

Some kids have a hard time deciding on a final theme so allow about a week of waffling before you tell them they have to nail it down. Once the planning process starts there is no changing of minds!

Dozen of Halloween Costume Ideas with Tips & Tricks on How to Make Your Own Costumes on a Budget

Draw Out a Basic Design

I draw a quick and simple design of the costume idea and present it to each child for approval. Make your drawing very simple and direct (don’t forget to show both front and back). Allow input from the kids about the design as they often come up with the most creative ideas!

I stress this…do not make them a costume as a surprise! This quite often will backfire. Kids want and need to approve what they wear. I believe that they should be involved in choosing their own theme. After all it’s the child that will be bringing the character to life! You want them to be happy and comfortable with what they are wearing (and not refusing to put it on!).

Dozen of Halloween Costume Ideas with Tips & Tricks on How to Make Your Own Costumes on a Budget

One of my favorite years was when my kids decided together that they wanted to be pirates. My son had a pair of glow-in-the-dark skeleton pajamas that became the base of the design. One child chose black and the other red as their main color scheme. I used the same skull and cross-bones design on the backs of their vests (drew out a image, traced it onto white fabric, cut it out and sewed it on).


The costumes had a similar look but each one unique with the choice of accessories. My son had a simple sash tied at his waist and a loose vest. For my daughter I made a tighter top (that laced on the sides) and a sash that laced with ribbon in front. I accented her outfit with inexpensive gold braid trim. These costumes look fantastic and I truly only spent about $15 total on the striped and black fabrics.

Argh! Brother and sister pirate Halloween costumes {Saving Up for Disney}

Know What You Have & Buy Only What You Need

As a seamstress, I have more than enough fabric and notions in my bins to costume a Broadway production! For this year’s costumes, I don’t think I’m going to have to purchase much of anything. But perhaps you’re starting from scratch? Save those fabric and craft store coupons now.

Figure out what fabrics you’d like to use for the costume (be practical about what will be easiest to work with and what washes up the best) and watch for sales. Dig through your odds and ends including buttons, ribbons and leftovers from previous craft projects. You might just find a diamond in the rough that will be the inspiration of your design!


Take a look at your closets and see what can be tweaked or reworked for a costume. In many cases I only have to make one main piece or an accessory to complete the look. The rest is straight from their everyday wear. I recommend Fabric.com online if you do need to purchase fabrics or supplies.

Like this adorable gnome. My son already had the corduroy pants so I just made a basic tunic (trimmed with white bias tape). Felt is so cheap and it was appropriately stiff so the hat stood up all on its own. I attached an elastic chin-strap and a strip of fur for the beard. This costume cost less than $10. It took only a few hours to create and he looked absolutely precious!

Dozen of Halloween Costume Ideas with Tips & Tricks on How to Make Your Own Costumes on a Budget

Keep An Open Mind & Creativity Flowing

I haven’t purchased a new pattern since 2007 because I use and reuse the classic styles that I already own. Don’t get hung up with needing a specific “princess” costume pattern. And you don’t have to exactly match the design on the cover.

Don’t let yourself get distracted by a dull or outdated design on the packaging. Simply changing up the fabrics and adding trims can make that style a true gem.

Scour the sale pattern bins and look for classics that can be manipulated for your design. A basic tunic pattern and elastic waist pants and skirts are the basis for countless costume designs.

Halloween spider costume on the cheap {Saving Up for Disney}

What do you have around the house that can be recycled for a costume? My son came up with the idea of “Hollywood Super Star Spider” when he was five. He knew he wanted a cane and a top hat. My dad made the cane with leftover PVC piping. I made the top hat from the thin cardboard of a cereal box, hot glue and leftover fabric strips.

I spent very little on the actual fabric for the costume and batting to fill in the spider arms. Mono-filament (fishing line) strung the arms together. He wore his own black pants with the tunic. My son was over the moon when his design and character came to life!


Tons of tips for making your own Halloween costumes, all on a budget!

A homemade cupcake, Sorcerer Mickey and a Marine

Less is More (Thinking Cheap)

Specialty fabrics can be very expensive so try to use them minimally instead of in excess. They generally have a greater impact when used strategically, like in the bodice of a dress instead of in the entire skirt.

For my son’s spider costume I used only a small amount of the priciest fabric (the sheer, sparkly red spiderweb design), choosing to place it only on the front of the tunic. Same goes for fancy trims: Instead of edging the entire hem of a skirt, use a pricey trim only around the neckline or sleeves.


When I want to create drama without the expense on a costume, I pull out my fabric paints. A little glittery fabric paint can go a long way to making your look more professional! When my nephew got a hold of this Spiderman costume it had already been through two previous Halloweens over the course of 8 years but the paint pen marker that I’d used to draw the web was still holding up!

Spiderman costume on the cheap {Saving Up for Disney}

For the cost of a few plastic buttons and some stretchy knit fabric, you can have your own Mickey in the house! Check out my DIY Mickey Mouse costume tutorial.

mickeycostume

Face Paint Can Be a Costume

Keep your outfit simple and go with dramatic face paint. This is an awesome way to dress up as a wild animal.


Turn That “OOPS” Into “I MEANT TO DO THAT!”

See my daughter twirling in her lovely fairy butterfly dress? When I tried it on her for the first time it completely fell off her shoulders! I needed a fix and I needed one fast! I improvised by sewing strips on the dress inside the neckline. This created a unique bejeweled collar that became the signature look of the design. When something doesn’t work it’s time to pull out all the creative stops and look at it a different way.

Halloween butterfly fairy costume {Saving Up for Disney}

Outside the Box

My son is nothing if not imaginative. He came to me with the idea of being a bush for Halloween when he was 6 years old. His idea was that he wanted to hide in corners and then jump out and scare people who thought he was just part of the landscaping!

After pricing the cost of fake leaves we had a discussion and I convinced him to be a tree. The cost of completely covering his entire body with leaves was going to be prohibitive. But one strand of fake greenery was acceptable. He could still be in disguise and if he squatted down, he’d still look like a bush. He went for it!

We used an old shirt and I hot glued on the leaves. A bucket hat received an overlay of green fabric, more leaves and even a tiny nest and bird that we had in our craft box! He wore brown pants for the “trunk” and everyone loved his creative costume. And he got the biggest kick out of jumping out at people along the trick-or-treating trail.

Halloween costume - A tree with a bird's nest {Saving Up for Disney}

Give Yourself Enough Time (and Know Where to Cut Corners)

This zebra jacket took more time than you’d ever know! Seriously, I worked for hours and hours cutting out strips and sewing them in place. I made the headpiece with a firm piece of latch-hook plastic. I looped the black and white yarn through it and then sewed the plastic in place onto the hood.

But by the time I got to the bottoms I’d run out of time! I’d planned on making black pants and adding the stripes but instead had to resort to tweaking an old pair of soccer shorts with a few stripes sewn on and having him wear a pair of his sister’s black leggings. It all worked out in the end, he loved the costume and he still wears this jacket!

Zebra costume made from a hoodie {Saving Up for Disney}

My point is to judge how long you’re taking on a particular project and know whether it’s worth your time to keep going or to amend the project to suit your time and needs. In the case of my daughter’s fairy butterfly dress, the skirt fabric was two silky layers and I didn’t have the time to hem it in the traditional way.  I serged the edge in a contrasting thread so it was still finished off. The pretty threads added a colorful charm to the design.

Very Hungry Caterpillar baby costume {Saving Up for Disney}

For the baby’s first Halloween, I knew he’d been spending the night in his stroller, probably asleep. I didn’t need to make him anything fancy, instead opting for fabrics I already had in a theme he loved from his favorite book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. A simple elastic tube of green fabric trimmed with colorful ribbons up the spine and a quickly appliqued knit cap was enough for his first Halloween.

Costume From the Closet

Rather than full out costume, see what you can use from your own closet to create. I made a DIY Vanellope Von Schweetz for my daughter using items that were from her closet or easily purchased and that could be re-worn as clothing. Hooded sweatshirts are so easily manipulated into a costume with a few inexpensive trims.

 

If you really don’t want to spend much (or any) money, take a look at what you already own that can be finagled into a costume. My little guy loved the Wizard of Oz a few years ago (and his sister was already dressing as Dorothy) so I easily put together his scarecrow costume with a plaid shirt, overalls, a bucket hat and some raffia. Adorable…and free!

Baby scarecrow costume with items in the closet - totally free! {Saving Up for Disney}

Alright, Okay…So, You’re Going With Store Bought

Remember when I said I always make my kids own costumes. I lied. One year I bought my son a Jack Sparrow Pirates of the Caribbean costume. In all honesty, I had been listing a hand painted pirate costume in my Etsy shop that year and I’d made a half-dozen of them and just didn’t have enough time for my own kid’s costume!


So we splurged and went with store-bought. It was a nice quality Disney store costume and he “made it his own” by pairing it with my brother’s vintage pirate hat. It was a nice enough costume that it was handed down to my nephew the following year and then I sold it the next year on Ebay!

Halloween costumes on the cheap {Saving Up for Disney}

My Hollywood SuperStar Spider and his cousin, wearing the store bought Jack Sparrow costume the second year.


If you do go with store bought, keep a few things in mind:

Quality vs. Price.

  • Is the fabric so cheaply transparent that kids will have to wear a second layer underneath for modesty?
  • How many times after Halloween night will the costume be wearable?
  • Could it be resold either on Ebay or to a friend afterwards? There are some really precious costumes out there. But is it really worth it to you to spend $80 for a one-day outfit?

Dozen of Halloween Costume Ideas with Tips & Tricks on How to Make Your Own Costumes on a Budget

Shop the Thrift or Resale Shops First

It’s what everyone did with last year’s costumes: They donated them and they are yours for the picking! I found my daughter’s Wizard of Oz Dorothy costume at the thrift store last year for a whopping $4! The ruby slippers were $10 and she wore them for every Christmas event and school dance that year so I say that is one bargain Halloween costume!


Start with Accessories Before Buying the Head-to-Toe Costume

Can you get away with buying a store-bought accessory and using items from your closet for the rest? I present to you, Indiana Jones! An accessories set included the Indiana Jones Child’s Hat and Whip Set and Indiana Jones Satchel (which was of course, his trick-or-treat bag).

It cost me about $15 total and I pulled a khaki shirt and brown pants from his closet to complete the look. He added the smolder on his own!

Dozen of Halloween Costume Ideas with Tips & Tricks on How to Make Your Own Costumes on a Budget

Is it Comfortable?

  • Itchy fabric? Too tight elastic? So many store-bought costumes are sealed up inside their packages and can’t be tried on first.
  • Some of the retailers have very strict return policies in regards to Halloween costumes so make sure that you are able to try it on completely before making the purchase.
  • If your child isn’t comfortable wearing the costume in the store, they will be miserable trick-or-treating and who wants those kind of memories?

Dozen of Halloween Costume Ideas with Tips & Tricks on How to Make Your Own Costumes on a Budget

Will This Costume Ever Be Worn Again?

Will your kids wear their costumes to play dress-up through out the year? Invest in nice quality pieces that won’t fall apart in the dress-up bin. The hours of entertainment they provide are worth it. Every item that I’ve made has either been handed down to another child or has been worn again for dress-up and pretend play. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mickey hat that I made for Halloween became the theme of my son’s birthday so he wore the hat for the party too!

Tons of tips for making your own Halloween costumes, all on a budget!

On a final note, I think Halloween costumes are a wonderful way of expressing creativity and style. Not only just for the person making the costume. The child who chooses the theme and helps design makes the costume come to life with their own personality.

This final shot of my nephew and son, rocking their individual looks perfectly reflects that. Choose a costume that transforms you and makes your character come to life!

Streamline the Morning Routine (What Keeps Me Sane and On-time During the School Year)

I have the morning routine down pat! It wasn’t always that way…in fact, I have a decades-old history of oversleeping, scrambling out the door wearing two different shoes, hitting the snooze alarm 13 times and all those other not-so-fun ways to meet the sunrise! Just ask my mom, the poor lady who had the privilege of waking me throughout elementary school…boy, was I a groggy mess!

12 Ways to Streamline the Morning Routine

Live and learn and I’m here to tell you that budgeting your time is just as important as budgeting your money when it comes to household happiness. Nobody feels very excited about their day when it starts in a frantic rush. Read on for my tips to streamline your morning routine and keep yourself sane in the process!

Ask me how many times my kids have been late to school and I will proudly tell you NEVER!

No more stressful or rushed mornings! These 12 tips for streamlining the morning routine are easy and practical.

Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

1. Mornings don’t start in the morning, they start the night before!

Prepare as much as you can the day and night before. This way mornings are started off in a calm manner and there isn’t any wild rushing around in search of things or trying to get too much done in a limited amount of time. Here are 7 ways that you can streamline the morning routine by prepping the night before.

2. No Wardrobe Malfunctions

Ever since I was in Kindergarten, I’ve planned my wardrobe the evening before. My son has no issues with getting up, pulling out a shirt and shorts and easy-peasy, he’s dressed. But us girls, we take a bit more time on our style, I guess! I work with my daughter to plan outfits for the week and stack them inside a closet organizer along with socks, underpants and hair accessories. All she has to do in the morning is grab the next outfit and get ready.

No more stressful or rushed mornings! These 12 tips for streamlining the morning routine are easy and practical.

A hanging organizer for outfits.

Wardrobe planning has always been something I take pride in. Every night I decide what I’m going to wear and set it aside in my closet. I pull out my jewelry and set it on my dresser so in the morning I don’t even second guess myself, I just grab and go. Have your kids help choose their outfits on Sunday night and gather all parts (socks, underpants, accessories) so they have them together.


3. A Place for Everything

No mad dash looking for anything in the morning because it will have already been put there the night before. Teach your kids to prep the night before and get them in a lifelong good habit of organization and timeliness!

Backpacks should be cleared out every afternoon with all paperwork, library books and homework returned to the backpack in the evening so it’s ready to grab in the morning. Shoes should be sitting together where you can step into them going out the door. Hairbrush, detangling spray and elastics/bows should be together (we keep ours in a bin under the bathroom sink) so it’s easy to style in the morning.

Jackets are on a hook next to the backpacks. Bedrooms are tidied up and toys and books are put away before bedtime. We have no morning scrambles for anything because it was already set in the right place the night before!

Streamlining Your Morning Routine

4. Lunches Made in Bunches

I buy in bulk and portion items out into plastic snack bags. I store cold snacks in a bin in the fridge (like cheese cubes, melon slices or carrot sticks). Dry snacks are in a bin in the cupboard (like chips and crackers, granola bars or a cookie).

The only thing I make the morning-of is the sandwich. Everything else has already been prepped so in the morning all I do is grab a few pre-portioned bags to make a well-rounded meal.


5. Set the Stage for Sleep

As I’ve instructed my husband, a tickle-fest is not going to get our kindergartner in the mood for sleep! Shortly after dinner, we start the routine of quiet playtime, reading in bed, a light snack and teeth brushing before turning off the lights. A warm bath or shower right before bed can help kids relax.

We turn off the television long before bedtime to keep stimulus at bay. The pace is slow and calm and our kids know what to expect, even the toddler (don’t try to skip story time!). Keeping your routine the same each night can also help sleep come quickly and have them sleeping all night in their own beds.

6. A Reasonable Bedtime

According to the National Sleep Foundation website, elementary school aged kids need about 10-11 hours of sleep each night. My kids wake up at 6 am Monday through Friday so that means they should be going to bed no later than 8:00 pm.

No more stressful or rushed mornings! These 12 tips for streamlining the morning routine are easy and practical.

With a toddler, kindergartner and junior high kids in our house, we have everyone in bed around the same time each night. Bedtime is between 7:45 to 8:15 pm and no later than 9 pm on the weekends. We aim for consistency on the bedtime and the kids show the consistency in their behavior and attitudes. They hop right out of bed in the morning, aren’t groggy in the afternoons and are sleepy enough in the evenings that they put themselves to bed on time each night.

7. Put Yourself to Bed at a Decent Time, Too!

I’m the worst offender of this in my family. After everyone else is in bed and I finally find time to myself I find myself puttering around doing nothing, reading too many Facebook posts and starting projects that really shouldn’t be started at 10:36 pm. And then I’m kicking myself in the morning when I don’t want to get up!

I’ve pledged to start getting to bed at a decent time, one that gives me more than 5 measly hours of sleep each night. Even after just a week of this I’m feeling better, waking easily and am not “hitting the wall” at 2 o’clock each day any more.

8. A Restful Room is Conducive to Sleep 

A slightly cool room, comfy bedding, white noise (like a fan), darkness, and a soothing scent (like lavender) can all invite refreshing sleep. On occasion (especially during periods of stress), my kids have enjoyed listening to a relaxing story tape or soft music with the lights out.

I’ve trained my kids not to require a nightlight because if the lights are on, they are more likely to have their eyes open. If it’s very dark in the room then what’s the point of having your eyes open, there is nothing to look at…close your eyes and go to sleep!


Good Morning Sunshine!

After a peaceful evening the night before and a good night’s rest, your kids will be in a better position to have a happy morning routine. Here are my 4 tips for nailing the morning routine!

Streamlining Your Morning Routine

9. Awakening to an Alarm Clock 

If you have kids who struggle to get out of bed in the morning, get them used to waking with an alarm clock. Looking back, if I’d used an alarm clock as a kid instead of waking to my mom coming in to my room (over and over!) I would have gotten up the first time instead of the tenth. The alarm clock only goes off once (unless you use the Snooze button, but I’ve never taught my kids what that is, they assume that the clock goes off once and that’s it…tricky me!).

If you don’t get up you’re going to be late, easy as that. If MOM is waking you, as a kid you know that she’ll keep coming back in as many times as it takes and eventually the kids and mom are trained in the wrong direction!

If you are a habitual snoozer, try to break yourself out of the habit. It’s not good quality sleep anyway. Get up right away and either open the window to let in the morning sunlight or turn on the light in the room to get your body adjusted. Make your bed right away and you won’t be tempted to crawl back in!


10. The Most Important Meal of the Day: Breakfast

We never leave the house without breakfast and I’m surprised when my kids say that so many of their friends don’t eat breakfast in the morning. I can’t imagine trying to function for so many hours until lunch on an empty stomach.

I get up early enough to prepare a quick and balanced breakfast for me and the kids. This could be scrambled eggs, toast and a slice of melon. Fruit smoothies with juice, milk or soy milk are a hit. Homemade oatmeal with diced apples and cinnamon is often requested. Or if we are more rushed, a bowl of cereal and a banana.

I like a bowl of Greek yogurt with fruit, agave and a sprinkling of granola. I often take mine “to-go” and eat it when I get to work. Sometimes the night before I will make banana or apple nut muffins to include with breakfast.

On weekends when I have time to make pancakes or waffles, I make extras and freeze them to heat up for breakfasts during the week. Add some whipped cream and a few blueberries and voila, a fancy breakfast on a Thursday!

Streamlining Your Morning Routine

11. Final Brushing Call: Teeth, Hair and Out the Door!

I have the kids take turns in the bathroom brushing teeth and hair because mayhem and delays tend to ensue when they attempt to share the sink! I usually give my daughter’s hair a quick style and maybe pop in a bow. We keep a box under the sink that holds hair elastics, a brush and detangling spray so everything is in one place. If a fancier hair style is requested (like for picture day), we allow extra time by getting up earlier.

We keep shoes and backpacks on a shelf in the garage so the kids grab their lunches off the counter on their way out and within a few minutes we’re in the car and on our way.

Streamlining Your Morning Routine

12. It’s Early…Know Your Limits

Don’t try and cram too many chores in the morning routine. I keep it simple by only requesting that beds be made before we leave the house. If complicated hair styles or made-to-order breakfasts are making your kids miss the bus, save them for the weekends when you have more time.

I’ve also been known to set the timer for my daughter when she dilly-dallies over her cereal bowl…when it dings she knows she has one minute to wrap things up and move on to the next task. If you keep finding yourself running late, set the alarm clock for fifteen minutes earlier to allow a little extra time…there’s no harm in arriving early.

Only you know where to draw the line so set the limits for your kids and it will set them up for morning success!

No more stressful or rushed mornings! These 12 tips for streamlining the morning routine are easy and practical.

 

 

Budgeting Tip – Don’t Want It? It’s Defective? Tips for Making Returns

Tips for making returns to the store {Saving Up for Disney}

If you got it home and changed your mind, don’t keep it or give it away…take it back to the store and get a refund! It’s broken or defective, even months after you bought it? Again, take it back and either get a replacement or a refund!

My husband has earned the title “King of Returns” for a reason. He knows the policies of the store before he buys so he knows his consumer rights to return or exchange if the item is broken, defective or just simply doesn’t work out.


Don’t want it, Don’t need it

  • Tried on a blouse at Kohl’s but wanted to see how it looked with a particular pair of pants at home. Bought the blouse, it didn’t work out so back to the store it went.
  • Ordered a pair of shoes online from 6pm.com but they were the wrong size. Used their return label to get the right size.
  • Tried a new color lipstick at Target. Oh boy, wrong color for me! Returned it for a full refund, no issues.
  • Purchased clothes from Lands’ End online (free shipping) and whatever didn’t fit, I was able to return directly to my local Sears store.

What do you have in your home that you bought and had second thoughts about once you got it home. You should have taken it back but you kept it instead? From now on, when you bring something home, retain all the packaging and tags for one week. If that blender just doesn’t mix as well as you’d expected, clean all the parts, box it back up and return it to the store. The more timely the return, the more likely the store will accept it back without issue.


Defective or damaged items

  • We had plants die within a week of buying them. My husband took them out of the ground and returned them to Home Depot for a full refund.
  • The hanging loop on my daughter’s backpack frayed and L.L. Bean replaced it for free (they no longer had the same style so we had to choose a new one, which was totally fine with her).
  • My new craft table from Costco had a sway in the middle and was off balance so my sewing machine was bouncing up and down when I ran it…back to the store went the table.
  • The knob on our Cuisinart Griddler melted after we’d had it for a year! I looked at the warranty info online and was told to return the item to any Cuisinart retailer for an exchange, which we easily did at Kohls.

If that t-shirt hem unravels the first time you wash it, take it back with the tags and let them know what happened. At the very least you’ll receive back a store credit and you won’t be stuck with something that didn’t hold up to the proper quality.


Know the Store’s Policy

Kohl’s return policy is legendary…return anything at any time for any reason. Home Depot, Target and CVS are easy as well. Read up on the store’s return policy (in particular before making large purchases) so you’ll know what your return window is and if there is a restocking fee.

My construction worker/electrician husband will only purchase tools from Home Depot or Sears because the return policies are so great that if a tool breaks or wears out, it can exchanged for a new one.


Keep receipts, sometimes.

Some stores will not accept returns at all without a receipt. Some will only give store credit without a receipt. Some stores limit their returns to within a certain timeline. If you are shopping at smaller shops or boutiques, keep your receipts. At bigger stores, they may have a record of your purchase so you may not need your receipt to return.


Handy Links:

Good Housekeeping –How to Shop Smart so You Can Return Almost Anything

Lifehacker – How to Return Nearly Anything Without a Receipt

A Day at the Amusement Park -What to bring With You (And What to Leave at Home)

Do you know what to bring to Disneyland…and what you should leave at home? These are the the “must-haves” for an enjoyable day at Disneyland! You can always buy some of these things in the park if you forget them, but it will be at a premium price, so it’s best to remember to pack them on your own. And don’t make a mistake and bring any of these banned items!

Please note that I include affiliate links in this post. Clicking through and purchasing helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

What to Bring to Disneyland?

What do you bring with you to Disneyland?

1. Tickets

Always pre-purchase your tickets on the web first so you can skip the long lines outside the parks and go straight in! I recommend Get Away Today for Disney Park tickets. You’ll save a few dollars and save time standing in line at the gate. They are even offering my readers a vacation discount!

Use the Promo Code REWRITTEN and receive an extra $10 off any 2-night or longer Southern California package. (Hotel and 2 ticket minimum purchase to qualify for the discount). 

2. Jacket or Hoodie

Even if it’s warm in the daytime, the night can get chilly. Check the temps online before your trip to know what to expect.

3. Camera and/or Video camera

Capture those memories and bring in a camera (something besides your cell phone). This would also include batteries (or a charged up battery) and a second memory card.

20 things to bring with you on a Disneyland vacation (and the banned items you should leave at home!)

A Disneyland PhotoPass photographer took this shot with my own camera, for free!

Throughout the parks at Disneyland there are Disney photographers ready to take your picture in all the prime locations in the park (like at the entrance or in front of the castle). At the first stop, they will hand you a Photopass card, a scannable card that you will present to each Disney photographer you meet on your trip. Don’t lose the card! You will use this card to view, edit, share and purchase your photos online once you get home.

Disneyland photographers are always happy to take pictures for you with your own camera too! Check out my post on getting the best family photos at Disney.

4. Purse or Backpack

Make sure it’s a bag that you don’t mind carrying around all day. I have a Baggallini I can wear crossed over my chest. I slip my ticket right into the front pocket and it’s waterproof, lightweight and holds everything I’ll need. Anything else goes into a backpack that either one of the kids wears or it goes into a rented locker.

What to Bring to Disneyland (And What to Leave at Home)

A comfortable backpack is great for carrying necessities

5. Snacks

I have never had any issues taking outside food in at Disneyland. Obviously don’t be bringing in anything that will spoil without refrigeration but bringing your own simple sandwiches, beef jerky, fruit and pretzels can save you big money. There is a Picnic Area outside the parks at Disneyland if you want to purchase food at the Downtown Disney District and eat it before going into the parks.

6. Water Bottles

They can be new and sealed bottles full of water or empty bottles that you can fill with drinking fountain water.

7. A Change of Clothes For Each Person

Nothing like getting totally soaked on a ride and having to schlep around with soggy socks for the rest of the day! Also, those chocolate covered bananas can get pretty messy and tend to drop big chunks of chocolate all over the place (I bought my son a new shirt at the park before for this very reason!) If your hotel room is very close and you can run back there to change if you wish, you can probably opt out of bringing in a full outfit but I’d definitely bring at least a second shirt.

I also usually bring an extra pair of shoes. I tend to start off with tennis shoes and when my feet get achy or swell a little, I’ll move to sandals.

Bring extra clothes (and plastic bags to hold them) in case you get wet! {Saving up for Disney}

Bring extra clothes (and wet/dry bags to hold them) in case you get wet!

8. A few plastic bags or a Wet/Dry Bag

Perfect to hold wet or dirty clothes. Ziplocks are ideal, as they can be sealed up. Bumkins even has Disney print wet/dry bags.

9. Cell phone battery charger

On our last Disneyland day, both my husband & I had dead cell phones. We’d been texting each other when we were separated, snapping photos and posting to Facebook all day and our cell batteries were drained. I bought a cell phone battery charger for the next trip and it was fantastic to have a fully charged battery at the end of the night, why did I ever wait so long?

10. Sunscreen

Apply frequently. Vacations with sunburns are a big bummer! Bring a lip balm with SPF too.

Bring a stroller, nobody wants to hold a heavy sleeping baby in the parks {Saving up for Disney}

11. Stroller

There are strollers for rent in the Disneyland parks, but I have always liked having my own because that walk back to the car or hotel at the end of a long day can be awful when you’re trying to carry a sleeping child (and you are already tired yourself!).

If you’re going to Walt Disney World, I can highly recommend Amusement Park Rentals. We used them on our last visit and it was great to have the stroller at the parks and resort but not have to deal with it at the airport.

12. Sunglasses

The bright sun can make everyone a bit cranky…and squinty.

Sunglasses make hot days more bearable {Saving up for Disney}

13. Cash (In Addition to Your Credit/Debit cards)

The little kiosks scattered around the parks don’t always take debit or credit cards so if you want a Mickey shaped balloon, a rainbow glow stick or a bucket of popcorn be sure to have cash on hand. If you only have your credit or debit cards, you can still withdrawal cash at the ATMs around the park.

14. Hand Sanitizer

Great to use on a regular basis throughout the day (have you seen how many hands have touched the rails in the queues?!)

15. A Hat (Ears are optional!)

Choose a hat with a nice brim to protect your face from sun. However if you forget a hat, this makes a good souvenir to buy in the parks.

Don't forget your hat! {Saving up for Disney}

16. Handi wipes (or Baby Wipes)

Always nice to clean up before you eat that bucket of popcorn and then wipe your face down after gnawing on that giant turkey leg!

17. Gum

You won’t find it for sale anywhere in the park so if you have to have it, bring it yourself.

18. Baby Stuff (If You Have a Baby)

Don’t rely on buying diapers & baby food in the park, bring your own with you. At Disneyland make sure you stop in the Baby Center as there are high-chairs, rocking chairs, quiet nursing areas and even teeny-tiny toilet stalls for toddlers that are potty training. Read my article “What Can Babies Do at Disneyland?” for more information about taking a baby to the Parks and What’s In my Disney parks Diaper Bag?

Disposable bibs are great for messy meals {Saving up for Disney}

Disposable bibs are great for messy meals.

19. Medication

I’ve visited Disneyland First Aid for Ibuprofen when I’ve felt pain coming on and I’ve forgotten my medication at home. Of course I get a headache just looking at the Mad Tea Party ride so I usually try to bring my own pain reliever! First Aid can even give you an ice pack or bandage up a wound. I can’t tell you how handy it is to have a few Tums stored in your bag when indigestion flares up after eating a diet of corn dogs and ice cream sandwiches all day.

Also, if anyone in your group suffers from motion sickness, consider getting a prescription for the medicated patch. I suffer from motion sickness myself and the patch is perfect for me (it’s a small medicated sticker that goes behind your ear for three days of coverage). Use caution in choosing motion sickness tablets as many of them will cause extreme sleepiness!

An anti-nausea patch is a must if these rides make you sick! {Saving up for Disney}

An anti-nausea patch is a must if these rides make you sick!

20. Umbrella or a Poncho

If there is a chance of rain, bring an umbrella that folds up very small when not in use or purchase a rain poncho (I’ve heard you can get decent ones at the 99 cent store). Southern Californians are more of the umbrella-type than poncho wearing-type.


What NOT to bring (from the Disneyland website):

  • Pets—which may be kept at the on-site kennel. (Separate fees apply and space is limited.) Service Animals are permitted
  • Wagons
  • Skateboards
  • Scooters (motorized and non-motorized)
  • Drones
  • Remote control toys
  • Inline skates
  • Shoes with built-in wheels
  • Bicycles
  • Motorcycles
  • Tricycles
  • Unicycles
  • Pogo sticks
  • 2-wheeled vehicles, including Segway™
  • Human Transporters
  • Strollers larger than 36″ x 52″
  • Suitcases, backpacks or similar bags with wheels
  • Suitcases, backpacks or similar bags larger than 18″ wide x 25″ high x 37″ deep (the size of our large rentable lockers)
  • Any trailer-like object that is pushed or towed by an ECV, wheelchair or stroller – Note: Guests are not permitted to pull items behind them. Any item that requires a Guest to pull it behind him or her, including a stroller, is not permitted into the theme parks.
  • Coolers larger than 6-pack sized are not permitted into the theme parks. – Note: Guest can store coolers up to 18″ wide x 25″ high x 37″ deep in rentable large lockers located outside the Disneyland Park Main Entrance. Lockers are not refrigerated and availability is limited. Guests who need to refrigerate medication may do so at First Aid. Exceptions may be made for special dietary or religious needs.
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Any illegal substances
  • Folding chairs, with the exception of cane-chair and seat-walker mobility aids
  • Glass containers, with the exception of baby food containers, medicine or small perfume bottles (under 4 oz)
  • Sporting goods or equipment (e.g., baseball bats, helmets, hockey sticks, golf clubs, bows and arrows, camping equipment, chairs, stools, tables and Frisbees)
  • Weapons of any kind or object that appear to be weapons (toy guns, toy blasters, squirt guns, etc.)
  • Self-defense equipment (e.g., pepper spray, mace, stun guns)Restraining devices (e.g., handcuffs, zip ties) or any suspicious items (e.g., box cutters, razor blades, duct tape, wire)Items that may be disruptive (e.g. laser pointers, slingshots, stink bombs, air horns)
  • Cremated remains (e.g., urns, vases, boxes)
  • Miscellaneous other items (tools, fire extinguishers, musical instruments, megaphones, pots and pans)
  • Wrapped gifts (all gifts must be able to be unwrapped for inspection)
  • Items with spikes (e.g. purses, bracelets, etc.)
  • Selfie sticks (hand-held extension poles for cameras and mobile devices)

What are your amusement park must-haves? Anything you’d like added the list? 20 things to bring with you on a Disneyland vacation (and the banned items you should leave at home!)

 

 

10 Lessons Learned While Traveling to Europe for the First Time

Nervous First Timers in Europe - 10 Lessons Learned {Saving up for Disney}

Last year I won a trip through Intrepid Travel in a Pinterest contest from Skype. It was a 9-day adventure in Central Europe starting in Munich, Germany. It was our first time traveling to Europe and we were nervous about the entire process!

After one day in Germany, we traveled to the Czech Republic for two days in Prague and two days in a small village called Cesky Krumlov. Moving on, another two days in Vienna, Austria and ending with one overnight in Budapest, Hungary. We extended the trip with one extra overnight in Munich to get ourselves adjusted to the 13 hours of air travel it took to get there.

Neither my husband or I had ever traveled to Europe. We were nervous and excited and apparently, still had a lot to learn. Here is what we discovered in our travels:

Schonbrunn Gardens in Austria


Lesson Learned #1 -Leave the heels at home.

Before the trip, I was envisioning in my head that we’d walk the city during the day, return to the hotel in the evening for a shower and to change into dressy evening clothes before hitting the town. Well, things didn’t exactly go down that way. I packed pretty dresses and several pairs of heels to wear for dinner but only one night did I even wear a dress and never did I wear heels. Even though it was mid-August, the weather generally wasn’t conducive to dress-wearing (it was too chilly) and I ended up just wearing my same ol’ day clothes for dinner along with my hot pink rain jacket and walking shoes.

“Going to dinner” either meant taking public transportation or walking long distances, so the heels never made it out of the suitcase. There was one reason for that: Cobblestones. The cobbled streets in Central Europe make it challenging enough for you to walk in regular shoes, let alone heels.

Cobblestoned streets of Europe


Lesson Learned #2 – The tap water is great…but restaurants won’t serve it to you.

I’d heard in advance that tap water was frowned upon in restaurants but I still was surprised to get the eye-roll when I requested “tap water” in a restaurant in Prague. “Still or sparkling”, said the waiter, firmly. My only two options for water for most of the trip. Water was always pricier than beer and you only get a tiny glass, 8 ounces at the most! Restaurants averaged $2.50 a bottle for water. Only at our last meal in Budapest did the restaurant bring us pitchers of tap water to the table…I drank 6 glasses!


Lesson Learned #3 – Pack several pair of good walking shoes.

I’d taken my slip-on shoes off on the plane trip and when we landed in Munich, I had to cram my swollen feet back into them! I didn’t realize my feet would swell so much on the plane. By the time we reached the hotel, I had terrible blisters along the tops of my feet and heels and my newly-polished toes were broken from walking in too-small shoes. Next time, I would choose something with adjustable straps when we get off the plane to accommodate my puffy feet!

The constant pounding of feet on cobblestones kicked my butt. Seriously, by day two my feet were aching. I relieved that by changing my shoes every day and taking two Ibuprofen before bed to help with swelling. On Day 5, we were just walking into a museum when the plastic ring on my sandal snapped and my shoe was flopping off my foot. Fortunately my husband was able to rig up a decent fix with a piece of string. Might be a good idea to carry even a lightweight pair of flip-flops in your backpack as a shoe backup!

Schonbrunn Palace in Austria


Lesson Learned #4 – No ice cubes. Not a one for ten days.

I am not even sure they exist in central Europe. I ordered a “Coke Light” and it came to the table in the tiniest of glasses, like a child-sized cup. It was chilled but there wasn’t any ice. Water is also served cold but never iced.


Lesson Learned #5 – Know your currency.

We traveled to 4 countries. Two used Euro, one used Hungarian Forint and one used Czech Koruna. Each one, of course a different currency rate. We ate lunch in a cute cafe and not until we left the restaurant did we realize that the (very small) chicken Caesar salads we ate for lunch were $15 USD each. After that costly meal we started taking a closer look at the prices on the menu and figuring out the exchange rate before stepping foot in the restaurant. Good thing we didn’t order the bread pudding with the sky-high meringue…it would have set us back $10 USD for one slice!

Prices in Central Europe


Lesson Learned #6 – Prepare to pay to pee.

Okay, so maybe it’s okay to have a fee to use the bathroom at the metro station. And even at the McDonalds. But in the high-class restaurants? They still had either a dish near the door to place your payment or an actual bathroom attendant collecting the charge (while simultaneously playing a game of cards with a friend, really!). Generally the bathroom fees were around 50 cents. On a positive note, I never once experienced a dirty bathroom, in fact bathrooms in central Europe were always cleaner than the ones here. There was never urine on the seat or floor, there was always a scrub brush in every stall and only once was there no toilet paper (I was supposed to grab a wad of it after I paid my Koruna, oops!).

Fresh beer in Prague

Watch your liquids…unless you have change to pay to use the bathroom!


Lesson Learned #7 – A Queen is two Twins.

In every hotel room we stayed at two Twin beds were pushed together to create a Queen-sized bed. I suppose that makes it easier for single travelers to separate the beds into two, but in the case of the hotel we stayed at below in Vienna, the headboard and end tables were built in and there was no room to physically separate the beds, so it didn’t make much sense. Pillows were often enormous floppy feather bags that didn’t serve much of a purpose. What we did like…the individual feather-stuffed duvets. My husband stated that he never wanted to leave the hotel in Prague, our bed there was heavenly!

Hotel in Vienna


Lesson Learned #8 – A sleep mask is worth it’s weight in gold.

I used a sleep mask every night while we traveled and slept a perfectly solid eight hours every night. In several hotels the curtains were completely sheer and there was no drapery to close (what was up with that?!) so the room was not dark enough to my liking. The sleep mask blocked out all light, had a nice silky pad against my closed eyelids and was scented with lavender (ahhh!!) so I always drifted off quickly. I used the sleep mask on the plane and slept five hours straight and also on the bus when we were traveling to the next city. Get a sleep mask for your trip, you won’t regret it. I’ve been continuing to use it at home, I love mine so much.


Lesson Learned #9 – The meaning of “Salad” changes around the globe.

In some locations, it was perhaps three small lettuce leaves, sliced tomatoes and cucumber. In another place, it was dry spinach leaves sprinkled next to your schnitzel. In all cases salads were very tiny and were nearly always drowning in vinaigrette. In fact there was almost always a quarter cup of liquid at the bottom of my bowl.

Dinner in Prague

A lovely meal but technically, I wouldn’t consider that a “salad”.


Lesson Learned #10 – Avoid jet-lag….if you can!

I’d heard about jet-lag but had never experienced it. Going there wasn’t terribly bad. We flew overnight and were able to nap on the plane so that when we arrived at 8:30 am in Munich we were okay to start the day. We did take a brief nap in the afternoon, got plenty of water and sunshine, and went to bed at a decent hour and I think that helped.

Coming back, it was a completely different story. We awoke at 6am in Budapest. We spent 15 hours in the air and 6 hours layover (which was mostly rushing to catch our connecting flight and waiting in queue through customs). By the time we touched down at home, we’d been awake for 24 hours. I had 4 soul-crushing days of jet-lag to follow where I was foggy-headed and exhausted, akin to recovering from the flu. We’d wanted to stay awake so that when we got home we could go to bed at our usual time but maybe we did that flight home “wrong”? I’m not sure. In any case, we’re still waking up at 4am, ready to start our day so our bodies are still not on U.S. time yet.


We did a lot of research before our trip but there are always things that you can only learn along the way through experience! That, of course, is part of the fun and adventure!

Helpful Links:

Rick Steves Europe

Conde Nast Traveler

Travel + Leisure

Traveling Mom

Follow my adventures on Pinterest – European Vacation Planning


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Every Picture Tells a Story – A Fairy Tale Village

Double rainbow of Cesky Krumlov in Czech Republic

We were in Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic, a small fairy-tale like village surrounded by forest and with a picturesque river that runs right through the town. My husband and I were sitting at an outdoor barbeque restaurant with our tour group when it started to rain. We were partly under the protection of a tarp but the rain was running off and dripping us on the backs. My husband ran back to the hotel room to grab his jacket and umbrella and on the way back saw this beautiful double-rainbow arched over the village and snapped a picture with my cell phone.

This picture pretty much sums up the time we spent in this lovely area, it was definitely the treasure at the end of the rainbow for me!

First Timers in Europe – Jet-lagged but full of amazing memories

European Vacation {Saving up for Disney}

Wow! I am finally home after a whirlwind trip to Europe covering 4 countries and 5 cities in ten days. I won this trip on a Skype Pinterest contest and my husband and I traveled with 14 other people on an Intrepid Travel Tour group through Central Europe.

Jet-lag. I’d heard of it, of course, but never knew what soul-crushing symptoms I would be faced with upon my return! I was affected only slightly on the first day in Germany but after walking in the city, napping briefly and drinking plenty of water I was fine the next morning. Coming back and settling in to home life has been a different matter, however. I have been experiencing nausea, vertigo and extreme exhaustion. I have read that it takes about 5 days to get back to normal, so if that’s true, I should be finally feeling better in the next day or two. Talk about a crazy brain fog, I can only hope and pray that my body goes back to normal very soon.

I’ll be getting my posting back to normal next week! In the meantime, enjoy this photo of me above the city of Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic. Looks like a little fairy tale village, doesn’t it?

10 Staycation Ideas for a Free Summer

Still squeezing out the last bit of summer?

I have a guest post on The Budget Diet with lots of fun kid-staycation ideas! Please stop over and check it out (click this link).

10 Staycation Ideas for a Free Summer

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Travel Planning – You’re Going on Vacation (But the Kids are Staying Home)

A Vacation without the Kids! Tips for preparing {Saving Up for Disney}

Last year my husband and I spent our first weekend away from the kids. I knew the older ones would be fine but the littlest was a few months shy of two years and I didn’t know how he’d be staying with Grandma overnight. Turns out he was totally fine, didn’t miss us and didn’t even ask where we were!

This month my husband and I will be gone for 10 days traveling to Europe and we’re leaving the kids at home with the Grandmas again. My mother and my husband’s mother live next door to each other and they will be splitting time taking care of our three children. I’ve mentioned a few times to my little one (he is 2 3/4 years old) about our going away. I’m trying not to make it a big deal or give him undue stress about our leaving. I do want to prepare him though, so he doesn’t wake up one morning and we’re just gone! I have told him that he is going to be staying with his Grandmas while Mom & Dad take a plane and that we’ll be back with a present for him. Naturally, he’s two so he says, “No! Dillon go on plane with Mom and Dad, too!”. Hmm…what a difference a year makes!


Here are a few things that I’m doing now to help ease the transition while we’re gone.

Making a list of meal ideas that can be prepared that all the kids will eat. This was created at Grandma’s request so there is no more confusion about who wants mayo on their sandwich, ketchup with their chicken nuggets and who won’t eat peaches. I’ve listed a brief outline of fruits, veggies and snack ideas as well as some lunch and dinner ideas.

Printing out some pictures and putting them in a simple album. I’m taking one with me and leaving one behind with the kids. It’s specifically for the little one, he likes looking at family albums and recalling memories.

Writing a letter to each child. My husband and I will each write a letter to each child that they can read while we are gone. Just something short and sweet that tells them we’ll miss them.

Making sure everyone has an itinerary. I want my family to know where we’re going to be not only in case of emergency but so they they can track where we are each day on a map.

A property installed car seat. Both the Grandmas will have a car seat in the center of the back seat for any travel with the little one.

Leaving contact and emergency info, including insurance cards for each child.

Packing up the “blankie” and special toys and books. The Grandmas will take good care of him while he’s gone but given that he won’t be sleeping in his own bed each night, I want to make the bedtime transition as familiar as possible.

Leaving behind a special gift that they can use while we are gone. I have purchased one special new treat for each child to play with while we’re gone. My hope is at least they won’t be bored…for a few hours!

And once we’re gone…

Keeping in contact, within reason. Our cell phone plan has unlimited international texting and calls are 20 cents a minute. I think we’ll try to call once a day (timing that when we’re half a world away will be a challenge!) and maybe send a few texts and phone pictures.

Skype. I won this vacation from Skype on a Pinterest contest, so it’s only fitting that we use it on the trip to keep in touch with family back home!

Do you have any tips you could add to the list with your own experiences? Please comment below and I’ll add them!


Handy Links:

Babble – How to Travel without Your Kids

Today – Should Parents Vacation without the Kids?

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Favorite Food Friday – Disneyland Chocolate Covered Banana

Nothing quite hits the spot for me on a warm day than a chocolate covered banana at Disneyland! A large banana, dipped in chocolate and rolled in nuts and then frozen solid, you might be tempted to take a bite right out of the freezer (but it usually takes a few minutes to soften before you can start nibbling!).

Chocolate covered bananas {Saving up for Disney}

As you can see, it’s my son’s favorite treat as well (I must have half a dozen photos of him eating a chocolate covered banana at Disneyland!). We like to find a spot in the shade to rest and snack on our treat.

Sure, you can probably get a chocolate covered banana any place, but to be honest the only place I ever get one is at Disneyland! What is your favorite snack at Disneyland?

Disneyland Chocolate Covered Banana {Saving up for Disney}

Click the photo to link up with your favorite food on Disney Day by Day!

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