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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.

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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.

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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!)

disney-hand2 disney-hand1

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!

disney-holiday-pin  disney-holiday11

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.

Julie-signature

 

2014 – A Look Back at the Year that Was

My first six months of 2014 were vastly different than the last six. It has been a whirlwind either way, to say the least! We loved, lost and experienced new things.

Buckle up…we’re going on a year 2014 review!

Planning Your Disneyland Vacation - Should You Pinch Your Pennies or Break the Bank?


I had been posting on my former blog Painted Butterfly Studio since 2008 and on another site before that so I’ve been blogging for a long time. My posts in early 2014 were mostly about my dad and his health struggles. It was a way of updating my family and friends that are spread around the country. They were able to read about his daily life in a very real way so much better than a Facebook update ever could convey. I wrote about his declining health in the post My Dad and my last post on that site was this one, Remembering My Dad.

You are never too old for your first pair of Mouse Ears!

I hadn’t written much in 2014 because I didn’t feel like I had much to blog. After my dad’s death all energy and joy to write had been sucked right out of me. For three months I didn’t write at all, thinking about what I wanted to do with myself. I was in a serious rut, for sure! In addition to this, my husband decided to switch careers and started a new apprenticeship as an electrician. This meant a pay cut and limited time at home with him attending school again. The budget was strapped tight and we made additional cutbacks throughout our household.

In May, my family and I went to Disneyland (with passes I’d won on the radio) and I felt myself become rejuvenated again. Disneyland had been my dad’s favorite place and I could feel his presence with me through the Park. It was as if he guided me that day in the direction I needed to go. I had a plethora of Disneyland posts on my original blog that I’d been wanting to rewrite. I had tons of images, trip reports, stories and knowledge from 40 years of visiting Disneyland that I wanted to share. I knew that I wanted to start fresh and move in a new direction and from that on June 17th, 2014, Saving Up for Disney was born!

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I started by writing and posting once or twice a day until I had a decent amount of material on my site. I focused on the budgeting aspect of being able to save for a dream vacation on a frugal budget. I wrote Disneyland tips, a few DIY ideas and some recipes. It was a start!


I searched endlessly online, reading all that I could about Disney blogging and joined a few groups on Facebook. I have found a warm community of like-minded Disney fans that are helpful and welcoming!

Pilot-Junior

I stumbled across The Magical Blogorail and applied as a Junior Pilot (guest writer). I was overjoyed to be accepted and am thrilled with the friendships and challenges I receive from posting with them. My first post was about How Disney Helped Me Deal with the Loss of My Father. It was well received and I was so happy to be able to share my thoughts. I am glad to say that I am now going to be a Full Time Blogorail Pilot in 2015 and can’t wait to be posting monthly with the Blogorail in the new year!


It was through the Disney online community that I also discovered the Disney Parks Moms Panel search. I’d seen the question and answers on the Disney websites but never knew how the application process worked. I was able to apply this year and over the course of a wild 3 month process, made it through: Round 1 question and essays, Round 2 questions, essays and video entry, Round 3 phone interview (with Gary Buchanan, Disney PR & Social Media extraordinaire!) and finally to the instant Round 4 quick-turnaround question. I can call myself a Disney Parks Moms Panel finalist (one in eight in consideration for the sole Disneyland slot) but unfortunately I didn’t receive the final position . It was terribly exciting and terribly crushing at the same time. I blogged about my experience in the post What I Learned by Reaching Round 3 in the Disney Parks Moms Panel Search. Next year I’ll have a “FastPass” straight to Round 2 and you can be sure I’ll be trying again!


In August my husband and I had the opportunity of a lifetime, traveling to Central Europe with a vacation that I won on Pinterest from Skype. What an adventure that was & I blogged about the experience here. In making time for blogging, I’ve cut back a bit on my contest entries but I did write a post on how the contest process works for me. Let me know what you win!

Double rainbow of Cesky Krumlov in Czech Republic


In October I received an invitation to join other media families at Disneyland’s Family Media Day. It was a trip like no other I’ve ever experienced. Though I’ve visited the Parks 100+ times over my years, this was a visit where I felt as if I was Disney royalty! In addition to receiving complimentary Park-Hopper passes for me and my family, we also enjoyed a party with treats and eats, special souvenirs and even a designated space to view the fireworks. I can guarantee you that there were a few happy tears shed when I watched the finale explode over Sleeping Beauty Castle that night! I feel very blessed that in a short amount of time blogging I was recognized by Disney to receive that invitation.

What to do at Cars Land at Disney California Adventure Park


Moving in to 2015 I have plans and ideas in place that I hope my readers will find exciting! I intend to incorporate more guest writers, giveaways, unique DIY, Southern California travel ideas and lifestyle advice that helps us continue to “save up for Disney”. I plan on hosting a few more in-home #DisneySide parties just for fun. My post about a simple #Disneyside birthday party in a Mine Train theme was my most-read post of the year!

Seven Dwarves Mine Train Party ideas

I hope to grow my blog with more readers and comments (that’s where you come in, hint hint!) We plan on taking another day trip to the Happiest Place on Earth in the coming year and I’ll bring you more entertaining reviews and posts about my discoveries. As a San Diego native, I’ll also be writing more about other Southern California attractions so you can plan your own vacation here to our sunny state!


In the meantime, I wish all my readers and followers a very Happy New Year! Please join me in January for my new budget-friendly Resolution Series!

Blessings!

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Hop on board the Magical Blogorail

I have a new title…Magical Blogorail Junior Pilot!

I even have a fancy new badge and everything…

MB-Junior-Pilot-Button

I’m so excited to be joining this group of wonderful writers to share my knowledge of Disneyland and blog alongside them. Stop over on the Magical Blogorail to get your Disney fix!