Tips and Products for Keeping Kids Safe on Vacation

Over our spring break vacation to Monterey we lost my 5 year old son. One moment he was playing on the lonely beach in the sand with my husband. The next moment he was gone. It was the scariest ten minutes of our lives, not knowing where he was. Looking back there are a few things we should have done to ensure that he’d never been lost in the first place. And there are also steps and precautions we can take in the future to keep him safe. Here are my tips and products that help keep kids safe on vacation.

Travel safety with kids is priority #1. Check out these practical and inexpensive ways to keep kids safe on vacation.

Getting Lost (Scary for Kids & Parents!)

On our Monterey vacation I was on the hotel balcony watching my sons and husband on the beach below. My husband and teenager were poking in the sand with a stick, looking for crabs while my preschooler ran up and down the wet sand behind them. When the baby needed a diaper change I took her inside and returned to the balcony a few minutes later. What I saw next made my heart stop.

My eldest son was yelling up to me, “Mom, is Dillon up there with you?”

Then I saw my husband. He was running up and down the beach, calling Dillon’s name. He was stopping strangers to ask if they’d seen a little boy in a blue bathing suit.

He didn’t go into the water, I knew that (he was scared of the ocean’s big waves). My eyes squinted at a crowd of people sunbathing in the distance. Had he wandered that far?

My husband was now in full panic mode. He ran around to the front of the hotel, concerned that my son might have gone with someone to the parking lot. My teenager was racing down to the crowd further down the beach. I raced down to the hotel lobby.

I met my husband in the lobby as he’d looped around the front of the hotel. He was cradling our 5-year old in his arms. My son had wandered into the lobby, wanting to return to the hotel room and asked for his mommy. The reception desk had wrapped him in a towel and had him stay put. Thank goodness, found.

Travel safety with kids is priority #1. Check out these practical and inexpensive ways to keep kids safe on vacation.

One moment he was there, the next moment he was gone.

Tips to Keeping Kids Safe on Vacation

It was a scary 10 minutes and honestly, it’s taken its toll on us all. For the first month after our vacation, my son was extremely clingy and afraid of getting lost. He has cried during drop offs at school and Sunday school at church, something very unusual for my independent boy. I started trying to think of ways that we could have kept him safe.

Here are tips and products that help keep kids safe on vacation.

I received complimentary product for testing and review. All opinions are my own. Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Clicking through helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

SafetyTat

If my son had been wearing a SafetyTat when he was lost, it would have saved us 10 minutes of worry. The hotel lobby would have been able to call me immediately! SafetyTat is a water-resistant temporary tattoo. The original SafetyTat can be pre-printed with your contact info and applies with a damp paper towel.

Travel safety with kids is priority #1. Check out these practical and inexpensive ways to keep kids safe on vacation.

The SafetyTat temporary tattoo is water resistant.

Write-on SafetyTat peels and sticks with a bit of pressure and can be personalized with the included water resistant pen. I love the idea of using the SafetyTat when traveling to busy locations like at the zoo, children’s museum or amusement park when kids can easily become lost.

Travel safety with kids is priority #1. Check out these practical and inexpensive ways to keep kids safe on vacation.

Write your number to personalize the SafetyTat and keep kids safe on vacation

In addition to returning lost kids, several of the SafetyTats have specific child-safety needs printed on the tattoo. Alerts like, “I have Autism”, “Allergies – Ask First!”, “Non-Verbal” and “Alert – Diabetic” help other adults know immediately about your child’s special needs. These special SafetyTats would be great for children to wear when in large groups where they might be separated from their parents, like at day camp, church or at a party.


Fairy Tales Bug Bandit

I received a complimentary bottle of Fairy Tales Bug Bandit Repellent just in time for my trip to Orlando Florida. On my last visit, I’d gotten a nasty bug bite on the final day and it took ten full days to clear! I was hoping to avoid such a fate this time, especially for my kids!

The contents of Fairy Tales Bug Bandit are Deet-free and include lemon Eucalyptus oil, soybean oil, cedar bark, citronella, peppermint and rosemary blend. These non-toxic and pesticide free ingredients help to repel mosquitoes, flies, fleas, gnats and other biting insects. It’s proven effective in children 3+, though I did use it sparingly on my 1-year old’s legs and arms with good success.

Travel safety with kids is priority #1. Check out these practical and inexpensive ways to keep kids safe on vacation., including the Fairy Tales Bug Bandit

Spray Fairy Tales Bug Bandit before going outside to protect skin from insect bites

Simply spray the Fairy Tales Bug Bandit onto your body after dressed and ready to head outside. It worked like a charm! The smell is pleasant and works for several hours.

And then there was the day I forgot to apply the spray. I was headed to a conference and stepped outside briefly to access another building and within 2 minutes a bug got me. Within moments my ankle was swollen and itchy, ugh! I immediately texted my sister-in-law to remind her to spray the kids before they went outside! Happy to report that my kids returned from our week-long vacation without one bug bite.

Travel Baby-Proofing Safety Kit

Before settling in at the hotel, make sure you check out the room for any potentially hazardous items. Looped window cords? Furniture that your toddler or child could climb and topple over? Loose cables? Exposed electrical outlets? Bring a safety kit along with you on your travels to “baby-proof” the room (even if your child is no longer a baby, they might become curious).

If your baby will be using the hotel crib, be sure to inspect it for any loose screws, chipping paint or pinchable parts. If you’re taking medications with you, be sure that they stay inside their child-proof bottles and keep out of the reach of your children (consider a box with a lock).

Preventing Stomach Bug

Ugh, nothing ruins a vacation like coming down with the stomach bug.

Help keep the bug from spreading through the family with frequent hand-washing and the use of hand sanitizer. Disinfect items in the hotel room that are frequently touched, like the door knobs and remote control.

Travel safety with kids is priority #1. Check out these practical and inexpensive ways to keep kids safe on vacation.

Of course if spending your vacation in another country make sure that the water is drinkable before allowing your child to sip.

Avoiding Sunburn

If your kids are extremely prone to sunburn, consider indoor activities during the day and then swim at night. I’ve found that one of the best ways to avoid sunburn is to cover up as much as possible. My kids have Lands’ End rash guards with UPF 50 rating. A hat for toddlers that can be worn while their splashing will protect scalps and faces.

Travel safety with kids is priority #1. Check out these practical and inexpensive ways to keep kids safe on vacation.

And of course, you can’t forget the sunscreen! Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before getting into the water otherwise it’s just going to rinse off in the pool!


Pack a Get-Well Bag

Despite all preparations sometime your child may get sick. Rather than have to make a run to the 24 hour market at 3 am, have a get-well bag ready to go with what you might need.

    • Stomach pain relief like antacids or kaopectate
    • Fever reducer
    • Benedryl (in case of allergy)
    • Aloe vera or sunburn relief cream
    • Anti-itch spray or lotion in case of rash or bug bite
    • Travel First Aid Kit with antiseptic and bandages

Car Seat and Stroller Safety

Don’t assume that you’ll have the car seat you need when you arrive. For instance Uber may provide car seats for some children. However they don’t have rear-facing car seats that children under two must use. For infants and toddlers, it’s best to bring your own.

For pre-K and up, bring along a mifold Grab-and-Go Car Booster Seat. Weighing only about one and a half pounds, the mifold is a booster seat designed for ages 4 to 12. So clever and convenient when using Uber, Lyft or a taxi.

If renting a stroller at your vacation location, be sure to inspect for any spots that might pinch little fingers. Always use the buckles to secure your child in tightly. Get in the habit of putting the stroller brake on each and every time you let go of the handle. You never know when the stroller might roll away from you. Never leave your child in a stroller unsupervised.

Travel safety with kids is priority #1. Check out these practical and inexpensive ways to keep kids safe on vacation.

Safety After Dark

If you’re worried about losing your kids, it can be even more challenging once night falls. Remind kids to stay close to you. Carry a flashlight. I keep a supply of glow necklaces and bracelets for my kids to wear when we’re walking about after dark. If walking in a dark area where there are vehicles, dress your children in light colored clothing. Consider adding a reflective strip of tape to their back and down each pant leg for better visability.


Other Things You Can Do to Keep Safety First

  • Before hitting the road for an extended vacation, be sure to schedule a pre-trip check up with your child’s pediatrician. The doctor will be able to check for any developing illnesses.
  • Bring your child’s immunization records.
  • Dress your child in very bright clothing. It’s so much easier to see them if you can spot a bright yellow, orange or hot pink shirt.
  • Remind kids not to touch wild animals (this includes squirrels and pigeons)
  • Take a photo of your child each morning so you have a record of what they are wearing.
  • Before going into an establishment (like a theme park or museum) discuss what to do if lost.
  • Wash hands frequently and especially before eating.
  • Remind children to stay put in case they are lost.

Travel safety with kids is priority #1. Check out these practical and inexpensive ways to keep kids safe on vacation.


For more on this really awesome topic,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


No Painful Feet! How to Find Foot Comfort in Your New Shoes

If painful feet stop you from exploring check out these tips and products that will minimize blisters, swelling and foot pain!

I hate shoe shopping. Okay, so I know I’m in the minority and lots of ladies love to buy new shoes. But I don’t. I HATE getting new shoes because it means I have to try them on, break them in and suffer through the pain and discomfort of new shoes. The thought of painful feet is enough for me to avoid buying new shoes. So I stick with the worn out and broken in shoes I already own. I’m on the hunt for foot comfort, especially when I know I’ll be traveling and walking a lot!

Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Clicking through these links helps me in a small financial way, thank you! I’ve received complimentary product for some of the items reviewed in this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Painful Feet? Try These Tips

  1. Compression Socks
  2. Open-toed shoes
  3. Shoes that don’t require “breaking in”
  4. Stick with what works for you
  5. Inserts

Compression Socks

Several years ago my husband and I flew overnight to Europe. It was my first long-haul flight and I made the mistake of taking off my shoes and putting on cozy socks while I slept. When it was time to get off the plane, I had to cram my swollen feet back into my shoes. By the time we reached the taxi I had blisters on every toe, across my heel and several of my toe nails were broken! Not the best start to a 10-day trip.

The next time I flew long distance you can believe I was wearing compression socks! I’ll be honest: I always thought that compression socks were for “old people” or if you were in the hospital and couldn’t exercise. But these adorable patterned socks from Vim & Vigr changed my mind (they are so cute!)

These nylon compression socks from Vim & Vigr have a multi-dimensional weave and 400-needle count that allow for comfort, flexibility, and breathability. They even offer socks for wide calves.

I hear that compression socks are great if you’re running (not that I’d know about that!) I’ve worn the Vim & Vigr socks on each flight since and no blisters or broken toe nails after flying again!

Vim & Vigr 15-20 mmHg Graduated Compression Socks – Nylon Collection – M – Cream & Black

Why I Gravitate Towards Sandals

After the birth of my last baby I realized that my feet had grown along with my belly! In fact I now have one foot that is over a half-size larger than the other foot – how annoying is that?! And it makes it nearly impossible to purchase certain shoe styles. I suffer with having one shoe too tight or the other flopping off.

If painful feet stop you from exploring check out these tips and products that will minimize blisters, swelling and foot pain!

My 7 1/2 months pregnant feet walked the Disney parks in Crocs!

That’s why I tend to choose sandals over any other shoe type. Fortunately I live in Southern California, where I can wear sandals 75% of the year! Here are a few of my favorite sandal choices that are comfortable for long distance walking. I discuss more sandal options in my post, Best Shoes for Disney Parks – Why I Love Sandals! 


Comfortable Shoes for Kids (No Breaking In Period!)

I’ve been purchasing pediped shoes for nearly 6 years. They were my son’s very first pair of shoes. When I saw how comfortable they were for him and how much he enjoyed walking in pediped, they quickly became the only pair of shoes I would buy for him. It’s a happy day for him when he sees a box from pediped in the mail!


When I first found out I was having a baby girl, a pair of pedipeds Originals was one of my first purchases! They are the shoes she took her first steps in and I’ll be putting them into her keepsake box. Any other shoes she outgrows will be gifted forward to another child. We’ve handed down my son’s outgrown pedipeds to his cousins.

If painful feet stop kids from exploring check out these tips and products that will minimize blisters, swelling and foot pain!

My kids wearing their pedipeds at Walt Disney World.

I’ll be honest about the price because it might be more than you’re used to paying. Many people will not pay a high price for kids shoes, preferring to buy cheaper shoes. I’d much rather purchase something of high quality that is comfortable for my child, supports her feet and won’t fall apart or look worn after just a few wearings. My kids only have 2 or 3 pairs of pediped shoes and rotate between them (instead of a dozen pairs of “cheap” shoes).

If painful feet stop you from exploring check out these tips and products that will minimize blisters, swelling and foot pain!

My son in his Flex Sahara Red sandals at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom.

Because many pedipeds are washable they uphold their look. And the high crafted quality means they last and last. My son is currently wearing pediped sandals he had last summer and they still look in perfect condition!


My only complaint? That my eldest daughter is now 13 and has outgrown them! I’ve only bought her pediped shoes for the last five years. She has one foot that rolls inward, causing shoes to get a hole in them after just a few wearings. Pediped is the only brand that we’ve found that will hold her foot solidly upright and not to roll. pediped footwear has been awarded the American Podiatric Medical Association Seal of Acceptance for the promotion of healthy foot development.

Stick with What Works

I legit own 8 pairs of shoes total. Four of these shoes are exact duplicates of each other, just in different color schemes. I know what works for my feet so I tend to purchase two at a time.

I gave up a long time ago trying to wear regular high heels. Now if I’m dressing up I wear my favorite crocs Women’s Leigh Ankle Strap Wedge Sandal. I have them in oatmeal and black and they’re versatile enough to wear with either a dress or jeans. And the best part is that I can actually dance and walk comfortably all night in them (and not revert to the barefoot walk back to the car at the end of the night!)

If you have a favorite shoe, next time buy two so you can switch out between them!

Comfort Aids for Inside Shoes

Adding extra support where your foot needs it is a great way to get comfy. A little lift here, a little cushion there and your foot pain can be greatly relieved. I recently tried Silipos Active gel products. These conform to your body reducing friction, abrasion and burning sensations during high impact activities.

I tried Silipos Active Ball of Foot Gel Cushions. Slip the loop around one of your toes and the cushion rests underneath, covered by a sock. These cushions are so thin I wondered if they’d make a difference. I tested them on a 5 mile hike we took across concrete and gravel. I could really tell the difference after walking as I didn’t have the usual ache in my foot bones that I usually do after walking on that type of terrain.

Ever worn a pair of flip-flops when the center post cut into your toes? That is just the worst! Silipos Active Sandal Toe Protectors slips over that post to cushion between the toes.

How do you counteract painful feet? Share in the comments!

Gifts for Father’s Day that Dads Really Want!

What are the gifts for Father's Day that Dads really want to receive?

Stop right there with the tie. Put down the funny patterned boxer shorts. And a money clip? No, thank you. Most Dads don’t really want any of those gifts for Father’s Day. So what does Dad want? Besides sleeping in and full control of the television remote, these are the gifts for Father’s Day that will make Dad happy!

Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Purchasing through these links helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Gifts for Father’s Day

I’ll be honest, we don’t usually buy my husband anything for Father’s Day. He’s really hard to please and always says he doesn’t “need anything”. I thought hard about the things that would make him happy and this is the bomb list that would totally make his day. (I also asked him specifically what he’d like to receive!) Check out these gifts for Father’s Day that will truly make him smile.

Shower Products That Aren’t Girly

My husband not-so-secretly loves a good soap. He wants to get the grime, sweat and stink off but he doesn’t want an overpowering scent after he gets out of the shower. He’s partial to the hard-milled natural and organic soap bars from the market. I think he’d really enjoy these vegan soaps that are more “manly” scented – Beer Soap Gift Set of 4 Bars and Three-Pack of Activated Charcoal Bar Soap, Handmade & Natural Vegan Soap

   

Key Chain That Helps Dad Locate His Keys (and Wallet) (and Phone)

My husband is forever misplacing things. They’re not LOST he says, he just can’t remember where he last set them down. I’m totally buying him these! The slim design means you can slip them inside your wallet or hook them to a key ring. Use the app on your phone to send a message to the Tile tracker and a loud noise will sound so Dad can find his stuff. Can’t find his phone? Press one of the Tile trackers and his phone will ring (even if it’s on silent mode). – Tile Mate & Slim Combo 4-Pack

Comfy Lounging Clothes

As soon as my husband comes home he takes off his heavy work pants, showers and slips into comfy clothes. It’s flannel in chilly weather and knit when it’s warmer. He likes the ComfortSoft brand because they have a comfortable drawstring. Plain Tagless Hanes tees are a favorite as well –Hanes Men’s Cotton ComfortSoft Printed Knit Pants and Hanes Men’s ComfortSoft Tagless Tees.

Cell Phone Charger (Because He Almost Always Forgets to Plug in His Phone)

I plug my husband’s cell phone into the charger every night before I go to bed. He’s an early riser and usually heads to bed without remembering to plug in the phone. If I’m not home, he doesn’t always remember to charge before going to bed. He needs this charger to keep in his glove box so he’ll be able to recharge on his work lunch break!-  Anker PowerCore 10000

Something That Lets Him Jump into Summer

My husband loves the water (while I’m more of a land-lubber). I do enjoy sitting pool side though, watching him swim and play with the kids! I buy Lands’ End swimwear for all of us, Dad included. And a swim tee means I don’t have to use half a bottle of sunscreen lotioning his back! – Lands’ End Men’s Swim Trunks and Swim Tee

Books with Subjects that Your Guy Likes

My husband isn’t a reader. However there are a few subjects he enjoys that I think he’d crack open a book for. Think about your husband’s favorite interests (mine loves exercise, being outdoors and cleaning…yes, really!).

The Men’s Fitness Exercise Bible: 101 Best Workouts to Build Muscle, Burn Fat, and Sculpt Your Best Body Ever!, Best of The Total Outdoorsman: 508 Skills: Featuring Field & Stream’s All-Time Greatest Hints and Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook: The Essential Guide to Caring for Everything in Your Home.

  

Polarized Sunglasses

This is the most expensive item on the list but if well cared for, a good pair of sunglasses can last a long time. The Maui Jim brand are my husband’s favorite. He says they are very comfortable and stay on his face, even when he leans forward. He liked the polarized lenses (as a fisherman, he can see clearly past the water glare at the fish in the water) –Maui Jim – Five Caves – Polarized Lenses

Something Yummy That Dad Doesn’t Have to Share (Unless He Wants To!)

My husband has a chocolate sweet tooth! Chocolate is one of his few indulgences and See’s Candies is his favorite. He prefers the dark chocolate so I graciously take care of the milk chocolate candies so he can just eat the dark 🙂 – See’s Candies Father’s Day Gifts

 
For more Father’s Day gift ideas,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Budget-Friendly Guide for Mother’s Day Gifts Under $20

Looking for Mother's Day gifts under $20? Check out this budget-friendly guide with items to make mom (and your wallet!) happy!

I love to give gifts! And naturally, I love to receive them too. But it seems like there is always another “holiday” coming up with yet another gift to buy! And all the gift giving can really take a hit to the budget. I want to show my mom and mother-in-law my love and appreciation for them with a gift but I can’t really get too extravagant with it. Are you looking for Mother’s Day gifts under $20? Check out this budget-friendly guide with items to make mom (and your wallet!) happy!

Budget-Friendly Mother’s Day Gifts

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Black Loop. Today we are sharing gift ideas for Mother’s Day.


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

Something with Memories

I know what my mom likes to receive for Mother’s Day: new photos of the grandkids! From prints that she can put in a frame, mugs, a photo book or magnets for the fridge, she loves to show off the photos. I love Shutterfly for printing all my photo memories. Sign up to receive notifications of sales from Shutterfly and you can often receive 50% off or even free products!

Looking for Mother's Day gifts under $20? Check out this budget-friendly guide with items to make mom (and your wallet!) happy!  

Something to Eat

Give Mom a treat with no expectation of sharing! This Godiva Truffles Flight are decadent and all for her to indulge. Or maybe Mom’s a gourmet in the kitchen and would love this White Truffle Oil? Ever drizzled this stuff on popcorn, amazing!

Something to Drink

This beautiful poppy print Tervis Mug is a bright spot on a dreary day and perfect for re-hydrating Mom. Maybe Mom’s more of a coffee drinker? In that case, a Starbucks gift card is always appropriate so she can pick up her own latte!

     

Something for Pampering

A day at the spa is special but for pampering on a budget, there’s nothing like DIY at home. I love these little ways of treating Mom to a manicure at home with Jamberry nail wraps and hand care products.

Something for Travel

A cross-body bag (like this messenger bag that’s under $8!) is a great size for travel. Small enough to stay out of the way but roomy enough for essentials. A Travel Life Journal will give Mom a special place to jot down her travel memories and keep them all in one place.

Something for a Song

Mom loves to sing and dance to her favorite songs? For under $10 a month, you can give Mom the gift of song with an Amazon Music Unlimited subscription. There’s even an Amazon Music Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial to check it out first.

Rose gold is such a hot look and these in-ear headphones are stylish and practical.

Something for Summer

Think ahead to summer and gift Mom a new pair of sandals. The lightweight and stylish Crocs Kadee II Flip are summer-ready for beaches, boardwalks and beyond.

COUPON SAVINGS! Use code TOWEL30 and pin 4082 at Lands’ End to save 30% on a beach towel for Mom.

Something for Fun

One of my mom’s favorite things to do is to play a game with her grandkids. From board games to cards, a fun family game night will be something Mom will cherish.

Something Scented

Instead of splurging on the largest bottle of Mom’s favorite perfume, choose a travel size instead. She’ll love to receive her signature scent and appreciate the purse-sized bottle that she can tote with her.

COUPON SAVINGS! Spend a few dollars more at Sephora ($25+) and you can choose from one of 7 deluxe samples using the code SKINSAVER.

I hoard those trial-sized bottles of Disney resort Sea Salt Shower Gel! I just love the scent and this big bottle of it would have me in shower heaven.

 

Something to Warm Her Up

The Yankee Candle in Lilac Blossoms large candle with a spring time scent will burn up to 150 hours. Mom will think of you each time she lights it! This stylish scarf will keep her cozy and also has a clever zipper pouch to store cash or keys while she’s out exploring – Women’s Scarf with Zipper Pocket

Something with Art

If Mom is crafty, consider a box of Crayola art supplies and a grown-up coloring book. Nothing like a fresh new box of Crayola crayons! Or maybe she’d like to have something crafty that she can display in the house. This chic Craft Crush Felt Succulents Kit will give Mom something very pretty to show off when she’s done creating.

For more Mother’s Day Gift Guides,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Black | Mother’s Day Gift Guides Loop:

5 Things I Do When Budgeting Money Makes Me Cranky

Okay I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but constantly budgeting my money makes me cranky! With 4 kids and a limited budget, there’s not always a lot of wiggle-room when it comes to “fun money”. Yes, I’m always putting money in the savings account for our retirement and there’s a little bit going into the Disney bank. But when it comes to right here and now, not being able to just buy whatever-I-want whenever-I-want-it makes me irritable!

So I can’t go on a spending spree and that’s okay. These are 5 things I do when I need a little escape from reality. They are just the right pick-me-up when the budget is tight.

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

What are the little things you can do when budgeting makes you cranky? 5 Things I Do When Budgeting Money Makes Me Cranky

1. Plan a Fake Vacation

Can’t hop a plane or jump ship? Just like reading a book transports you into another world, planning a fake vacation can transport you around the world with a click of a button. This is one of my most favorite ways to daydream. Pick a spot on the map and delve into this area as if you were really going to visit!

  • Borrow travel books from the library. Which part of the world are you most drawn to?
  • If you could only drive 500 miles or less, which direction would you go and what would you do?
  • If you had to travel in central Europe which country would you go to? (I actually made this decision when I won a travel contest!)
  • Read up on cruising. Check out the Disney cruise restaurants and menus – They’re all online!
  • Which attractions would you visit in Orlando other than Walt Disney World?
  • If money were no object (and it never is when planning a fake trip) which extravagant add-ons would you make?
  • Perhaps someday when you win the lottery (that’s totally going to happen, right?), you’ll already have your travel itinerary ready to go!

Planning a Disney trip? Pick up one of these recommended Walt Disney World or Disneyland books for everyone in your group!

2. Fill my Online Shopping Cart with Clothes I’ll Never Buy

I’m not literally going to go to Target, load up a cart and then abandon it at the door. But it’s TOTALLY okay to do that online! In an online shopping cart you can virtually mix and match, quickly move from dresses to shoes to jewelry. And when you’ve gotten the shopping bug fix, simply close the browser window and you’re wallet is still intact!

3. Get Rid of Stuff

If I’m on a budget I can’t buy more stuff but it does give me some joy to pass along some of the stuff we already have. Purging and giving makes me thankful for things I was able to purchase and reminds me that I already have enough “stuff”.

  • Weed through kid’s closets. What doesn’t fit and who can you pass the clothing down to?
  • Is there something in your closet you haven’t worn in a very long time? Request a bag from ThredUp and you may be able to resell some of your items.
  • Have a garage sale. Put the money you make towards something special.
  • Be ruthless in the kid’s toy bin. Keep only what they really play with and donate the rest.
  • Next time you pull out the holiday or seasonal bin, see how you can pare down the decorations so that you only keep your most favorite items.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

4. Buy Something Little and Fun

A cheap but meaningful splurge can really boost spirits when the wallet is tight. Obviously you can’t do this one every day (or even every week!) but once in a while buying something small is just what you need. What little thing makes you happiest? For me it’s something that pampers me, like new Jamberry nail wraps or a lipstick! For family fun, choose a new board game or get a gallon of vanilla ice cream and a few toppings for mid-week sundaes.

What are the little things you can do when budgeting makes you cranky? 5 Things I Do When Budgeting Money Makes Me Cranky

A manicure at home (on a budget) makes me feel better!

Look Ahead to Something Real

What fun thing do you have coming ahead in the calendar that you can look forward to? Whatever it is, start your planning now! I love planning and think that research is half the fun. So if you have a vacation ahead, cultivate your own official itinerary. Research restaurants, peruse online menus and decide which mouth-watering dessert you’re going to order when you get there. I find that looking ahead (and not dwelling in the I-can’t-right-now) really fills up my thankfulness cup and reminds me why I’m budgeting and saving in the first place!

What do you do when budgeting gets you down? Share in the comments!

Budget-Friendly and Quick-to-Make Healthy Breakfasts for Kids

When preparing breakfast for my kids, I have three criteria: It shouldn’t cost a lot. It shouldn’t take me a long time to prepare. And it has to be healthy. It’s important to me that my kids start the morning off right and filling them up with something healthy helps them stay focused at school. It’s not really that challenging to get a decent breakfast on the table each morning – Here are 13 ideas for penny-pinching, quick and healthy breakfasts for kids!

You want healthy breakfasts for kids but they have to be quick and cheap! Check out these 13 healthy breakfasts for kids (that you'll want to eat too!)

Well-Balanced and Easy Healthy Breakfasts for Kids

I was shocked to hear from my older children how many of their peers skip breakfast. And then I remembered my own childhood – I do remember my mom making me pancakes for breakfast when I was in elementary school but once I hit junior high (and she was at work in the mornings), my brother and I were on our own. We often resorted to grab-and-go sugary breakfast pastries or a snack bag of dry cereal to eat in the car on the way to school! Yeah, not exactly healthy and after a hour or so at school, my stomach was burning with hunger. That sure made it hard to focus on my studies.

After going through a weight loss program that taught me how to keep my blood sugar levels steady I’ve learned the enormous benefits of a well-balanced meal. Without the proper balance of carbohydrates, fats, protein and fiber your meal will “burn off” quickly causing you to be hungry much quicker.

Kids need to have a decent breakfast so they can best concentrate at school. Serving a healthy breakfast doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. My tweens are able to prepare many of these themselves, though for the sake of speed I tend to put breakfast together quickly for everyone in the morning.

Prepare the Night Before

I totally understand the morning time crunch of getting kids out the door on time. I have 4 kids and my eldest starts school at 7:45 am. I wake the kids 1 hour before we have to be out the door. This allows them time to get dressed, make their beds, sit at the breakfast table for a meal, brush teeth & hair and get in the car.

 

The kids do all their prepping the evening before, including making sure their school tablets are charged, their homework is in the backpack, their outfit is chosen and their shoes are ready to put on. There are no morning scrambles to find any missing items because they’ve prepped for their school day the night before (PS. None of my kids have ever been late to school).

Read more about how I streamline the morning routine here!

There are some breakfasts that can be prepared the night before. Round out the carbs in the morning with cut fruit and a glass of milk (we drink both cow and almond milk at home). Kids can just grab a few ready-made items and start eating.

For baked goods I like using whole wheat flour instead of white. I like Wheat Montana brand Prairie Gold, which I buy at Target. It’s not pricey and it has a smooth taste and texture so I easily sub it in for white flour in all my baked goods.

Whole Wheat Baked Doughnuts – Baked doughnuts are easy to make and if you sub in whole wheat flour they’re an even healthier option. I melted semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave and dipped the doughnuts in just for a special treat.

You want healthy breakfasts for kids but they have to be quick and cheap! Check out these 13 healthy breakfasts for kids (that you'll want to eat too!)

They look decadent but they’re really baked from whole grains!

Yogurt Parfaits – Into glasses or custard dishes, layer plain or vanilla flavored yogurt with cut fruit or berries, dry oats and chia seeds.

Fruit Salad – Chop up all those ripe and ready fruits into a colorful fruit salad that can chill overnight in the fridge.

Muffins – Use healthier ingredients like whole wheat flour, applesauce/mashed bananas/honey instead of white sugar and include chopped fruits, nuts and grains.

You want healthy breakfasts for kids but they have to be quick and cheap! Check out these 13 healthy breakfasts for kids (that you'll want to eat too!)

Muffins that include fruit bits means you can use less sugar when baking

Budget-Friendly Foods

I have two teens, a preschooler and a toddler. When they want scrambled eggs, I cringe a bit, knowing that I’ll be using half the carton and eggs aren’t cheap. I want my kids to eat a healthy wholesome breakfast but they don’t need to eat a full plate of eggs. Instead I’ll give them a smaller amount of eggs, topped with cheese and salsa and served with beans and a whole wheat tortilla. Or try these ideas:

Omelettes with leftovers – Have some leftover veggies from dinner the night before? Don’t let them go to waste – Fold them into the center of an omelette and sprinkle with a bit of cheese. Sauteed mushrooms, squash or steamed broccoli are favorites of my kids.

Oatmeal – Can’t get more basic for breakfast than a warm, bubbling pot of hearty oats! So cheap and you can dress it up nicely. I love chopped apple, lots of cinnamon, walnuts and a sprinkle of brown sugar.

Whole Wheat Pancakes – Pancakes are super simple to make from scratch and truly only take a few ingredients. Use whole wheat and toss some blueberries into the batter. Or top them with chopped bananas and walnuts (my favorite way to eat them!) A drizzle of pure maple syrup tops them off.

You want healthy breakfasts for kids but they have to be quick and cheap! Check out these 13 healthy breakfasts for kids (that you'll want to eat too!)

Egg Sandwich – One egg per kid is all you need. Make it fried, sunny-side up or scrambled and place it on a toasted English muffin half or a bagel. Layer a slice of cheese and some spinach leaves and this is a filling breakfast that is way healthier than the fast-food variety (and takes less time than going through the drive-thru!)

Smoothies –When your fresh fruits and greens start to turn, chop them up and freeze them for use later in a smoothie. Just lay them out on a parchment covered cookie sheet and place into the freezer. Then take the frozen pieces and transfer them into zip close bags. Frozen pineapple or berries, a huge handful of frozen kale or spinach, almond milk and a dollop of Greek yogurt is a favorite to sip in the morning (and I promise, you won’t even taste the greens!)

You want healthy breakfasts for kids but they have to be quick and cheap! Check out these 13 healthy breakfasts for kids (that you'll want to eat too!)

You can’t even see or taste the greens in this smoothie when you use dark berries to conceal the color!

Total Time-Crunch

Need to get out the door but the kids haven’t eaten yet. Toss these winning breakfasts together and they’ll be ready to eat within minutes.

Cold cereal with berries – Pre-boxed cereals don’t have to contain a boatload of sugar. Tossing in fresh berries will help sweeten them up. Check out this list of best and worst boxed cereals at 100 Days of Real Food. The book 100 Days of Real Food is a wonderful guide to eating more wholesome foods.

Frozen Premade Whole Wheat Waffles – Use a lazy weekend day to prep breakfast for the week. By making your own whole wheat waffles you can control the ingredients and they’ll be just as convenient to pop into the toaster as the prepackaged variety. Sometimes I “make it fun” with a topping of whipped cream.

Sprouted Grain Toast with Peanut Butter, Banana and Chia Seeds – Sprouted grain bread tastes wonderful after it’s been toasted and when you top it with peanut butter (no sugar variety, just nuts/salt/oil), banana slices and a sprinkling of chia seeds, it’s almost like dessert! My husband takes this one step further and drizzles his slice with honey!

Greek Yogurt with Toppings –  Another quickie to toss together with ready-to-go toppings! I like chopped banana, walnuts, a bit of agave and I’ve even been known to toss on a few dark chocolate chips

You want healthy breakfasts for kids but they have to be quick and cheap! Check out these 13 healthy breakfasts for kids (that you'll want to eat too!)

Greek yogurt with toppings (even dark chocolate chips!)

What are your favorite healthy kid’s breakfasts? Share an idea in the comments!

10 Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy - 10 money-saving tips including recipes

Grocery shopping doesn’t have to bust your wallet. You can still eat healthy and save money on groceries. Some will tell you that you’ll need to use coupons to save cash (not true!) Or the hype that tells you organic and healthy foods are so much more expensive. That’s certainly not true either! With 6 to feed in my family and only one full-time income, these are tried and tested money-saving tips. Here are my 10 practical ways we save money on our groceries.

Save Money on Groceries (and Still Eat Healthy!)

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

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Don’t Use Coupons (with One Exception)

I used to spend hours each week clipping coupons from the newspaper mailers and driving around to several different stores to redeem. So much work! Sure there were some times where I’d get a great deal (25 cent tube of toothpaste! 75 cent box of cereal!) however those really great deals weren’t the norm. Most of the time I was purchasing things I didn’t need just because I had a coupon.

I remember looking in my storage cabinet and bemoaning that I didn’t have any more space because it was already stuffed full of about 5 years worth of deodorant, mouthwash, hair conditioner and macaroni and cheese!  And my kids didn’t need to be eating all that sugary cereal, whether I got it on sale or paid full price.

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Here’s my one exception to using coupons: If you flip through the mailer and see something there that you already use and plan on purchasing in the near future, then by all means clip and use the coupon.

If you can save 50 cents off your favorite brand of pasta then yes, you should definitely use the coupon. But if you find that you’re making purchasing just because you have the coupon, it’s time to step away from the mailers.

Make a Price List

It can be hard to remember which store has the best prices on the top 20 things you purchase each visit so I recommend creating a price list. Jot down the price on your list next time you’re at the store so you’ll know which store has the best price on bananas, peanut butter and milk, etc.

Our local Sprouts has the best prices on fruits, veggies and dry bulk bin items but prices for dairy and cereal are considerably higher. Keep track so you’ll know where to shop for certain items and aren’t spending more than you have to.

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Recipe for Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread

Don’t Shop at the Grocery Store

Grocery stores notoriously mark up the price of certain “convenience” items that you might pick up when you’re there grabbing fruit and veggies. Items in the health and beauty department are usually at a higher price than somewhere like Target or Walmart.

But I’ve found that other items can have a higher cost at the grocery as well. Things like canned tomatoes, pasta and cereal are often found cheaper at Target. You might find that your options are limited at the “big box” stores but that might not matter if you always purchase the same brand.

Shopping Apps

Certain grocery stores have special shopping apps that you can pull up on your smart phone before checkout to save you a few bucks. I personally use Cartwheel when at Target, Shopkick at many locations in my area (just open the app at the front door), and Ebates when I’m shopping online. I’ve received gift cards and cash just by using these apps and it doesn’t take me more than a minute or two.

And of course, if I’m shopping at Target I use my Target Red Card (debit) to save me 5% off my total purchases!

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Buy in Bulk

Yep, we’re Costco shoppers and buying in bulk is definitely one way we save money on groceries for our big family. But don’t load up that enormous shopping cart just yet. You’ll need to make sure you can get through that 5 lb bag of mixed greens before it goes bad! And do you really need a giant tub of coconut oil? Knowing how much your family can eat and balancing that with the product’s expiration date is a must-do before bulk buying.

   

Dry goods in bulk bins that you scoop and weigh yourself can give you a great deal. Just be sure to compare the weight per pound of the bulk bin versus purchasing the item prepackaged. A 1 lb bag of beans may run me about $1.25 but only 75 cents a pound if I scoop it from the dry goods bin. Consider purchasing your own oats, flour, sugars, beans, lentils and nuts from the bulk bins and storing them in your own containers at home.

Price Per Ounce

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at the price per ounce listed on the shelf label and noticed that it’s actually more cost effective to buy the product in a small size. See, groceries often “trick” you into thinking the bulk size is more economical! So be sure to check out the price per ounce (or pound, or whatever) to make sure it’s really the best bargain.

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Hidden Tip: Foods like pizza are cheap and easier than you think to make at home. Skip the frozen box pizza and make a quick dough, smear with pasta sauce and top with a few slices of mozzarella. For just over $1.00, I made this pizza for lunch in about 15 minutes! What other foods are you buying that you could be making yourself for pennies on the dollar?

Go Shopping More Often

What was the last item you had in the fridge that went bad before you had the chance to eat it? You might be purchasing too much upfront and then it spoils before you can cook it. Certain foods move quickly through my house, like onions, bananas, garlic and apples so I can purchase them in large quantities. But we can never seem to eat enough of the giant bag of spinach before it starts to smell funny.

Rather than bulk buying some items, we purchase smaller amounts and shop more frequently. We might spend a bit more on our greens upfront but if we aren’t tossing out half the package when they’re slimy, then we’re probably making out better on the cost in the end.

Pricing Organic VS Non-Organic

If you usually avoid organic foods as a rule because you believe they are more costly, take a look again because that’s not necessarily so. Yes, for sure there are some products that are more costly than others because they are organic but not always. At our local Sprouts, many of the organic fresh veggies are cheaper in cost than their non-organic versions! Some canned goods (like beans and tomatoes) are similarly priced organic versus non-organic.

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Isn’t that a gorgeous loaf? Bake your own artisan bread with the book, The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking. The beauty of making it yourself is that you know what ingredients you’re adding!

Shop the Outside Aisles

Visualize your grocery store. Generally stores are designed with produce, meats, grains and dairy on the outside aisles and canned and processed foods in the middle. Gone are the days when I purchased pre-seasoned rice and pasta mixes. Commercials will have you think that you’re saving time and money buying these types of products but it’s really not that much more time-consuming and definitely not more expensive to cook your own rice and add your own seasonings.

By avoiding processed foods, you’ll not only save yourself money but save your health from excessive preservatives, sodium and unpronounceable ingredients. Think about the foods you’ve been purchasing in the middle aisles of the grocery and how you could prepare them yourself instead.

Avoid Boxes & Bags

I’m working towards feeding my family more “real food”. By following Lisa Leakes’ book 100 Days of Real Food. I’m aiming to choose foods that have 5 or less of the “approved” ingredients. That means a lot of items that come in boxes and bags are off-limits. Avoiding foods that come packaged in boxes and bags (unless they follow the 5 approved ingredients or less) will save you money and help your health as well.

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

What are the ways YOU save money on groceries? I’d love to hear your tips…share them in the comments!

Julie-signature

Hearty Bean and Lentil Soup Recipe

Let’s be honest. Lentils don’t make for the prettiest soup. They often look dark and unappetizing, making most kids turn up their noses at dinner. This lentil and bean soup is something different entirely though because it not only tastes delicious, it’s also lovely to look at and appealing for everyone. I hope that you’ll enjoy my hearty lentil and bean soup recipe!

Never Cooked with Lentils? This Hearty Lentil & Bean Soup is quick & delicious!

Never Cooked with Lentils?

We aim to eat 2-3 meatless meals during the week for our health and digestion (lots of fiber in this bowl!) We also try and choose organic when we can. This is a deliciously hearty cold-weather meal that can be served with a slice of buttered bread, roll or a warm tortilla.

I’ll be totally honest: I never cooked with dried beans until just a few years ago. I thought they were time consuming and that I wouldn’t make them correctly. And I never really liked the flavor either.

Never Cooked with Lentils? This Hearty Lentil & Bean Soup is quick & delicious!

I didn’t make beans because I didn’t think the kids would eat them. However all of my kids have grown to love beans, and so have I! If you use great ingredients, the flavors just come together. My preschooler says he doesn’t like soup so I just serve him the beans and the veggies on a plate, sans broth and he gobbles it up (silly boy!)

My local store sells these lentils and beans in a dry goods blend. For around $1.50 a pound, you’ll get a great mix of lentils and dry beans. If your store doesn’t sell this type of mix, you can easily put one together yourself with a colorful mix of lentils and some dry beans.

Never Cooked with Lentils? This Hearty Lentil & Bean Soup is quick & delicious!

Sometimes I use the beautiful organic rainbow carrots for an even more colorful bowl of soup! The dark specks are from the fire roasted tomatoes, which add lots of great flavor but not a bunch of heat.

Hearty Lentil and Bean Soup Recipe

Hearty Lentil and Bean Soup Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup of celery, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups dried lentil & bean mix
  • 2 cans (or one box) vegetable broth
  • 4 cups water
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots and celery. Stir and cook until onion is tender.
  2. Add garlic, oregano and basil and cook 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in lentils and beans then add broth and water and the can of tomatoes with the juice.
  4. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer covered for 90 minutes.
  5. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot!
Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin
http://momrewritten.com/2017/01/11/budget-dinner-bean-lentil-soup-recipe/

Never Cooked with Lentils? This Hearty Lentil & Bean Soup is quick & delicious!

 

No Spending Month – 30 Days Without Extra Expenses

I have a 30 day dare with myself and my family not to have any extra expenses. This is our “no spending month” and I’d love for you to join me on this challenge. Read about my “why” and how I plan on implementing these no spending rules, without undue stress or resistance from my kids!

Challenge Yourself to a No Spending Month - 30 Days Without Extra Expenses

The Start of my No Spending Month

It was January 2nd and I needed to make a Target run for more whole wheat flour and canned tomatoes. I had no reason to walk through the Dollar Spot area but I did, you know, just to see what was there (I know you feel me on that, right?)

Into my cart went stickers ($1 – for the students I teach at the rec center), Valentines ($3 – for my preschooler) and a Day planner ($3 – for my husband, who’d mentioned wanting one). Then I remembered that the dish soap had run out so I grabbed a refill bottle ($3.99).

Almost eleven dollars spent. Sure, that’s not much but  in hindsight, it wasn’t anything I needed to buy. I already have stickers I could use for my students, I didn’t need to buy more but they were cute and “cheap”. Valentines Day is still a bit of time away and I actually could probably print them myself at home. The dish soap wasn’t really needed. I have multi-purpose soap concentrate that we bought in bulk that can be used as dish soap. And my husband said he didn’t really need the paper day planner after all, he’s going to use a free app on his phone.

If I took a more serious look at my budget I just know that there are more ways I could be cutting back; I know there are extra expenses I’m making that don’t really need to be made! I’ve decided to make January my “No Spending Month” and intend to go at least 30 days without extra expenses.

Challenge Yourself to a No Spending Month - 30 Days Without Extra Expenses

What are “Extra Expenses”?

Extra expenses mean different things to different people. Perhaps for you it’s skipping the coffee shop and making your morning brew at home. Maybe it’s brown bagging lunch to work or not buying any clothes for the month. Or eschewing entertainment costs for at-home family fun.

For us, eliminating extra expenses means-

  • Not eating out
  • No frivolous food purchases, including chips/crackers, dessert items and alcohol
  • Nothing that we don’t imperatively need or require to run our family or home.

What are your “No Extra Expenses” rules? Write them down to make them real and do your best to stick to it for at least 30 days.

Discuss it as a Family

Everyone will need to be on board to accomplish getting through 30 days without extra expenses. Talk about your plan with the kids so they’ll know what to expect. If they’re used to spending money out on the weekends or dinner in a restaurant a few times a week, they’ll need to see and hear why you’re making changes in the usual routine.

However saving money doesn’t have to be a downer and here’s a story to reiterate that. Once in a while I take my preschooler out to lunch, just the two of us as a special treat. Those “special treats” are usually only twice a month but with the average cost around $15 a visit, that’s $30 I could be saving! Today when I picked him up, he asked if we could go to lunch in a restaurant and I had to tell him no, that we aren’t doing extra spending this month.

However I want to make saving money a positive thing for thing, so I told him we could still do something special. When we got home, we made pizza together for lunch. It cost me about $1.50 in groceries (that I already had at home) and it was still a special treat for just the two of us!

Challenge Yourself to a No Spending Month - 30 Days Without Extra Expenses

Why are Your Doing it?

In essence, why are you making this change to eliminate extra expenses? Your reason might be different from your spouses, and even your children.

  • Do you feel like you’re overspending?
  • Do you have too much unnecessary stuff in the house?
  • Are you an impulse buyer and need to rein it in?
  • Do you want to save up extra money for something specific?

Consider the Cut-Back First

If your family is accustomed to movies, date nights, dinners and shopping every weekend and you’re planning a nix to all of it, a drastic change in the usual plans may be a shock to them! Perhaps consider a cut back for 30 days first before completely cutting things out. If you’re used to eating lunch out every day, cut back and only indulge in one or two lunches out and pack your lunch for the other days. If you always purchase concessions at the movies, still go see a film but have a snack at home first. When you’re ready to cut back further, skip movies in the theater and watch them only when they come out on DVD.

Challenge Yourself to a No Spending Month - 30 Days Without Extra Expenses

Fun Stuff Already in the Plans

What is you already have something planned during the 30 days? Use good judgement and don’t outright cancel your fun plans. If you’re going to a birthday party it would be okay to purchase a gift rather than showing up empty handed.

What About Entertainment?

We’ve slowly eliminated most costly entertainment over the years so it won’t be much of an affect for my kids during the 30 days of no extra expenses. We eat at home before we go somewhere or pack a lunch and snacks to take with us so we aren’t tempted to eat out when hunger strikes. We choose free things around town to do, usually something that gets us up and moving. We’ll take the soccer or basketball to the park or we’ll set out on foot to explore a trail. We can usually find a family movie on Netflix or we pull out one of our tried-and-true DVDs to watch in the evening.

What Will We Do With the Extra Money?

As usual, I’m “Saving Up for Disney”! Hoping to be able to take my kids to a conference at Walt Disney World this year and airfare is over-the-top expensive for all of us. $11 here and there really can add up! My goal is to save $200 a month for the next 4 months to get the airfare costs covered.

What will YOU do with the extra money you’ll save from this challenge? Share with me in the comments!

 

2016 – A Look Back at the Year that Was on Saving Up for Disney Blog

It’s been another very interesting year for me personally as well as for my blog and I’ve appreciated those of you who have been following along! Here is what I’ve been up to this year and what I have planned for 2017.

Please note that this post includes affiliate links

Shirts for Disney Fans That They'll Love to Wear!

Me, in a shirt from Etsy seller MouseApparel

This Life

Last year I’d found out that I was being laid off from my full time job and would be a stay-at-home-mom for the first time. That offered enough challenge on its own but then I also found out I was expecting another baby! We live in a small home so I “nested” before she was born and I got busy and organized the house on a budget and shared the tips in my post Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

I tested out a few new recipes on my family before sharing them with my readers here including Roasted Garlic & Rosemary Potato Soup, Slow-cooker Baked Beans and Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies. Since having the baby and working to get the excess weight off, I’ve been focused on cooking “real food” and limiting processed meals, prepackaged items and other than the occasional Chick-fil-A lunch, have been dining mainly at home. I will continue to find and post budget-friendly recipes that incorporate real, wholesome foods.

This baked beans recipe is the perfect side dish! It's budget-friendly and crowd-pleasing. Best of all this baked bean recipe goes together in the slow cooker!

LEGOLAND Blogger

Early in the year I was asked to be a LEGOLAND Official Blogger! We’ve been visiting LEGOLAND California since it had first opened so this partnership was welcome. We visited several times this year, including the Brick or Treat Halloween Party.

pin-legoland-preschoolers   LEGOLAND® California Resort Brick-or-Treat Party Nights Halloween Celebration

LEGOLAND California – A Delightful Amusement Park for Preschoolers

Brick-or-Treat Party Nights Halloween Celebration at LEGOLAND® California Resort

Legoland Blogger

Traveling Mom

Before baby girl was born, we squeezed in one last Disneyland trip. It gave me plenty to write about and I was able to cover several topics for TravelingMom including Important Advice You Can’t Ignore If You’re Pregnant at Disney and Tweens & Toddlers at Disney – What You Need to Make Everyone Happy.

pin-disney-pregnant   PIN-Tweens and Toddlers at Disney

I loved my second year as a TravelingMom in 2016. The TMOM crew is extremely supportive and I’ve been living vicariously through those who are touring the globe! Having the opportunity to travel more outside of my small community is one of my goals for 2017. In the meantime, while I have a young baby at home, I’ve been exploring my area and wrote about it as the Day Trips TMOM.

Free in San Diego – 21 Things for Families in Beautiful Balboa Park

Little Italy San Diego – A Day Trip Tour of What to See, Eat and Do

pin-21-free-things-for-families   little-italy

My baby girl was only a few weeks old during the Traveling Mom’s annual spring retreat so I had to miss it in 2016 (believe me though, I was trying to convince my husband to the bitter end that I could travel alone with a 3-week old!). Fortunately for me, Traveling Mom hosted a retreat in the fall and I was able to travel cross-county alone with my girl (who was 6-months at the time) to Walt Disney World. It was my first solo trip with any of my kids and fortunately she appears to be a born traveler! We never had any issues and we had a fantastic time exploring the parks and Disney Springs at our own pace. The Traveling Moms lovingly welcomed #TBABY during the retreat.

I wrote for Traveling Mom about the character buffet we experienced at the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista.

save-half-the-cost-on-a

My Number One Viewed Post for 2017

Given the questions I receive via email from my readers, I wrote this post that was extremely well received. It’s my #1 most viewed this year!

5 Things You Need to Do Before Your First Disney Vacation

These are the 5 Things You Need to Do Before Your First Disney Vacation! Don't be caught unprepared before your first Disneyland or Walt Disney World trip!

Preschool Playdate #DisneyKids

About a week before I delivered the baby, I hosted a #DisneyKids Preschool Playdate at the park. It was a blast and I was honored to be invited to host two years in a row!

Celebration Fun at Our #DisneyKids Preschool Playdate Party 2016!

Celebration Fun at Our #DisneyKids Preschool Playdate Party!

Insider Disney Tips

As a Disney travel “expert” I wrote several articles about planning trips that were successfully shared via social media. Pinterest is my number one traffic driver, so it’s a good thing I love Pinterest and enjoy creating “pinnable” images! I love when my readers share, so please continue to pin and share away!

Tip #1 - No surprises! Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation!  Check Out these 12 Best Uses of Waiting in Line at Disney Parks

7 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid When Planning a Disney Vacation

12 Things to Do Waiting in Line at Disney Parks

Disney Baby

In mid-July I was approached about a dream writing opportunity, as a contributing author for the Disney Baby blog! I have been able to blend my love for babies and Disney into these posts and have so loved this amazing opportunity. I am writing about Disney Parks travel tips for families with babies as well as other baby tips as a “seasoned mom”!

pin-naps   pin-breastfeeding   pin-halloween-party

9 Guaranteed Ways to Get Baby to Nap at Disney Parks

8 Tips for Breastfeeding Your Baby at Disneyland

Taking Baby to Mickey’s No-So-Scary Halloween Party

Social Media Moms On-the-Road

In August, I was delighted to receive an invitation to the Disney Social Media Moms On-the-Road Event at Disneyland. This year was invite-only and the bloggers there were able connect with each other in a small venue, hear from celebrity speakers and watch a sneak peek of Moana! Afterwards we were able to enjoy the Disneyland parks, my baby girl’s first visit!

Disney Social Media Moms On-the-Road…at Disneyland! #DisneySMMCDLR

Find out more about Disney Social Media Moms On-the-Road event that took place at Disneyland including up-coming Disney events & the new film Moana #DisneySMMCDLR

New Affiliates

I picked up a few new affiliates over 2016. Thank you again for anyone who has clicked and purchased through my affiliate links; it continues to help me in a small financial way to run my business.

Park Savers affiliate link

If you’re needing Disney vacation tickets, hotel room or an entire vacation package, Park Savers is my go-to!

Target is a favorite and I happily welcomed them as an affiliate this year. Gotta love saving that 5% with a Target Debit RedCard!

What to do with all those vacation photos? Put them in a book, on a place mat or on a coffee mug from Shutterfly! A Shutterfly calendar has been my must-do family gift for 10+ years so I really appreciate being able to share their products as one of my affiliates.

gymboree2

Baby Girl in her new Gymboree outfit

I’ve been shopping at Gymboree for nearly 13 years for my kids and love that they are one of my new affiliates. My kids received a lot of Gymboree clothing this Christmas (their sales are exceptional!)

And naturally The Disney Store is a favorite place to buy gifts for my fellow Disney-lovers (or gifts for myself!)

Blogorail

I love my Blogorail community and how we’ve continued to grow and learn from each other! They really help me think of new and exciting topics to write about. Some of these posts are among my most popular and in part, because they are shared in the Blogorail community.

Insider Tips -Make the Most of Your First Two Hours at Disneyland  What to Wear in the Parks? These are the Best Disney Outfits for Kids  Knock out travel boredom with these helpful Kid-Friendly Road Trip Tips for Driving to Disneyland and Walt Disney World

Insider Tips -Make the Most of Your First Two Hours at Disneyland

What to Wear in the Parks – Best Disney Outfits for Kids

Kid-Friendly Road Trip Tips for Driving to Disney

Jamberry

I continue to run a side business as a Jamberry Independent Consultant. I was beyond thrilled to see the Disney Collection by Jamberry come to fruition and have the hardest time deciding on a favorite wrap! Remember that if you’re saving up for Disney too, all those little ways you can earn money count and Jamberry is a great way to do that. Let me know if you’d like more information about becoming a consultant (or would like to host an online party!)

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Family Media Day

I was tickled to receive an invitation to Family Media Day at Disneyland in 2016. It was my first visit to Disneyland during the holiday season in 4 years. We loved being able to have one last visit for the year and taking fantastic family photos together at the Happiest Place on Earth. I welcomed having new holiday photographs as well, since it had been so long since we’d last visited during the holidays and I’d used every Christmas shot I had in my portfolio!

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I also had enough new material to write this post for Traveling Mom.

9 Must-Do Attraction Tips for Disneyland Christmas Celebrations

Pinterest

My most Pinned post of the year came right at the tail end of 2016! Hoping this one will grab some traction for next year too (Click through and Pin it yourself!)

Dozens of ideas for taking special holiday photos at Disneyland Resort

If you’d like to take a look back at my blog over the years, here’s how Saving Up for Disney has evolved –

2015 Look Back

2014 Look Back 

Looking Forward

Looking forward to 2017, I’d like to give thanks to my readers and subscribers. I particularly appreciate the comments and connections and seeing you share my posts via social media (that’s what really helps me to grow!) I’ve had a few readers reach out with personal trip planning questions and I’ve enjoyed the personal connection and helping them out.

Thanks for bouncing along with me in 2016!

Thanks for bouncing along with me in 2016!

I’ve said it before, but please continue to comment and share my posts via social media if you can, it helps me (as a small business owner) to grow and succeed. Reach out to me or comment on the posts if things resonate with you!

Blessings to everyone in the new year and cheers for what’s to come in 2017.

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