3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together

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3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

How to Have a Budget-Friendly Summer

As the mom of four (from newborn to 12-years old) we don’t have a big budget for entertainment. Our summer days are simple, spent poolside with warm weather foods like grilled chicken, cold pasta salad and DREYER’S ice cream for dessert! Summer lazy days shouldn’t break the bank. Check out my budget-friendly summer activities everyone in the family can enjoy.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

Let’s Start with Dessert!

I’d start with dessert every day if I could but it just seems right in the summertime when the weather is warm and ice cream is just such a wonderfully refreshing treat!

I picked up DREYER’S SLOW CHURNED® Caramel Delight Light Ice Cream and DREYER’S SLOW CHURNED® Vanilla Light Ice Cream in the freezer section at Walmart this week for our summer kick-off.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

DREYER’S Ice Cream is a staple in our freezer because they are “Simply made, simply delicious” with no GMO ingredients, no artificial colors or flavors and is proudly made with fresh milk & cream with no rBST. And it just tastes SO good! Check out your local Walmart to see if DREYER’S Ice Cream will be hosting a store demo.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

Keep It Simple with These Free Summer Family Activities

Kids don’t need every summer day to be scheduled out to the minute. Allow for plenty of free time for imaginative play and activities. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t come up with a calendar of ideas when boredom strikes. Nor should kids be on their electronics from dawn to dusk. This is my first summer with my kids as a new Stay-at-Home-Mom and I’m looking forward to planning fun and togetherness into our summer days.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

These are a few of the simple fun activities I have planned:

Library – Not just books to borrow, but our local library offers age-specific gatherings from story time, crafts, music and special events

Community – Check out your community calendar online to find out about special summer events like concerts or movies playing in the park.

DIY Camp at Home – Can’t afford to send the kids to camp? Here are some ideas for making your own “camps” at home.

Parks – Expand your horizons beyond the park down the street and take a day trip to a cool new park. Some have fun splash pads so bring a suit & towel!

Pool – Find out how much your community pool rates are for visitors. Even better: Work out a plan with a friend who has a pool! You bring a few new pool toys for them and they let you go swimming.

Staycation– Check out my list of summer staycation ideas that are easy on the budget!

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

Pack a Picnic

Every kid loves a picnic, whether it be poolside, at the park or even on the floor of your living room! Keep the fare light and easy, like leftover grilled chicken, pasta salad and fresh summer fruit.

Use up leftovers with my recipe for budget-friendly pasta salad. A little of this, a little of that and you can have a tasty pasta salad that’s unique every time. With a few pantry staples and some leftover veggies, you can quickly whip up this family favorite that’s perfect for hot summer days. Top it with grilled chicken (either hot or cold) and it’s a full and delicious meal.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

Start with a simple base of 1/2 cup olive oil, 6 Tbsp red wine vinegar, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese. Combine in a large bowl. Cook one box of pasta (I like bow tie) and rinse with cold water. Mix in with liquid.

Add your choices of the following ingredients:

  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Red onion, chopped
  • Grape tomatoes, quartered
  • Green onion, chopped
  • Parsley, chopped
  • Sliced olives
  • Black beans, rinsed and drained
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Doesn’t that sound delicious (and easy?!)

How will you make Summer #SweeterTogether? Share your summer fun plans in the comments!




10 Budget-Friendly Staycation Ideas for Summer with Kids

10 Budget-Friendly Staycation Ideas for Summer with Kids

Summer is coming and I need a bag-of-tricks ready to keep my four kids occupied all summer. I’ve come up with a few staycation ideas that I know my kids will love and remember! As much as I’d love to run away to Walt Disney World right now, sometimes it’s just not in the budget for a big family vacation. The ultimate summer-on-a-budget staycation is easy on the wallet and still full of fun! It just takes a little creativity and planning.

This is the first year that I’ll be spending at home with the kids as a SAHM. I’m equally excited about being able to relax and also worried that I’m going to have four bored kids on my hands after the first week at home! My plan is to get the kids on board and schedule special at-home events on the calendar. Some of these activities could be spread out over the course of the week, leading up to the “big day”. It really gives everyone something to look forward to and not focus on what we “can’t” do (take a vacation).

Here are my 10 budget-friendly staycation ideas!


Art & Craft Show

Kids love to get crafty and it doesn’t have to be pricey. You probably already have some craft supplies laying around that you could dig out. Set up an area outside where you can get messy and creative.

  • Local craft stores frequently mail out 50% coupons or you could search for one online or shop the dollar store for cheap crafting supplies.
  • Give everyone a sketch book and have a thirty minute session where you draw the portrait of the person next to you (this is sure to induce giggles!)
  • Save your glass jars from jelly or spaghetti sauce and use acrylic or glass paints to decorate.
  • Make pipe cleaner sculptures.
  • Use torn pieces of tissue paper and a glue stick on velum paper to make “stained glass” images.
  • Using clean paint brushes and bucket of water outside, have kids quickly “paint” a picture on the sidewalk and see if everyone else can guess what it is before it evaporates!
  • Recreate a famous painting in your own style.
  • Pull out cheap watercolor trays and paint a scene from your backyard.
  • Rainy day? Set up a still life on the table and have everyone draw the same scene then compare your pictures.
  • Cut out pictures from magazines and “mod podge” the images onto wooden frames or boxes.
  • Make paper bag puppet and have kids create a puppet show with their creations.
  • On the last day, display everyone’s artwork in the house and hang a handcrafted blue ribbon on each kid’s best work!
Art night for a staycation with the kids {Saving up for Disney}

Oh sure, honey, it looks JUST like me!

Under the Big Top

After we went to the circus (the animal-free variety) a few years ago, my kids were fascinated with the tricks and skills they saw.  Lots of great activity here to get you off the couch!

  • Dress up like a clown in old over-sized clothing and costumes.
  • A strip of blue masking tape on the patio makes an acceptable “tight rope”.
  • See who can keep multiple hula hoops going at the same time (one around your neck and one around your arm?!).
  • Practice balancing a balloon on your nose…and then walk the tight rope!
  • Create an obstacle course in the backyard.
  • Paint each child’s face like a circus animal
  • Enjoy a snack of peanuts and popcorn

Go Camping

Camping is cheap and fun {Saving up for Disney}

  • Local campsites have inexpensive overnight fees and you could try to catch your dinner in the lake!
  • Take a walk with flashlights to explore the sights and sounds after nightfall.
  • If you don’t want to stray too far from home, camp in your backyard instead. Pitch a tent, barbecue dinner over coals, roast marshmallows and fall asleep under the stars.
  • Or simply roll out the sleeping bags in the living room and “camp” in the house under the comfort of your ceiling fan!

Get wet!! Free ideas for summer fun {Saving up for Disney}

Get Wet 

  • If you don’t have your own pool, perhaps a family member or friend will let you “borrow” theirs for the day (especially if you volunteer to bring everyone dinner!)
  • Our local YMCA has a great zero-entry pool, water slide and play area for just a few dollars per person. Check at your local pools and find out when open-swim time is available.
  • High schools often open their pools in the summer for a nominal fee.
  • Wash the car, there is always an opportunity for a soapy sponge fight there.
  • Or just set the sprinklers or spray the hose and run through the water, every kid loves that!
  • I’m not crazy about water balloons because of the mess they leave behind, but sponges soaked in water are perfect for a good super-soaking!


A Night at the Movies…in Your Living Room

  • Pull out an old favorite and host a themed movie evening complete with handcrafted posters, costumes and a themed dinner around the film. (ie: Watching Mulan? Make Chinese stir fry and rice).
  • Pull out the floor pillows, pop up some kernels and settle down together after the sun has set.
  • Give the kids a task of recreating a favorite film in their own interpretation. Come up with a script and costumes and present it to parents!

Backyard carnival fun for summer {Saving up for Disney}

Backyard Carnival 

Gather up stuff from around the house for game play in the yard. Kids love to get in the silly spirit!

  • Craft blue ribbons for the winners of the contests.
  • Empty 2-liter soda bottles and a ball for a knock ’em down game. Or fill 2-liter bottles with water and use them for ring toss.
  • Toss a ball into a bowl or a coffee can.
  • Have a watermelon seed-spitting contest.
  • Pull out the face paint for added fun!
  • Have a mini-pie eating contest.
  • Serve hot dogs and potato chips outside, followed up with root beer floats.

Make sweet treats for inexpensive fun {Saving up for Disney}

Sweet Treats

If you have a budding baker on your hands (or simply kids who love sweets!), this is a fun way to get creative and maybe a little messy.

  • A bucket of vanilla ice cream, a few toppings and candy from the dollar store and you can all have amazing sundaes!
  • Or find a recipe online for making your own ice cream.
  • Find a delectable over-the-top recipe on Pinterest and make it for dessert.
  • Bake cupcakes and have fun creatively decorating them.
  • Spoon frosting into plastic baggies and snip off the corner for quick and easy pastry bags.
  • Make a summer-time themed “gingerbread house” that requires no baking with graham crackers, store bought frosting and candies.

2015-02-15 14.13.18

Fort City

When it’s too hot to play outside, take refuge in the house under a homemade fort!

  • Sofa pillows and blankets are fair game for fort making inside.
  • Pull out the dining room chairs, drape sheets and use binder clips to hold them up.
  • If you want to get fancy, a string of twinkle lights would be fabulous.
  • If you have a few cardboard boxes, take the time to paint and decorate them, cutting out windows and a door flap.
  • I think a quiet evening of reading is in order under your forts because horseplay would make your city fall down!

Family Game Night {Saving up for Disney}

Board Game Bonanza

One of our favorite family events is gathering around a few board games for a fun evening of competition and laughs.

  • Borrow some games that you don’t have from friends or family so you have a nice variety for all ages and host a game day at home.
  • Simple sandwiches make a great meal and have plenty to snack on between turns.
  • Write out your own Pictionary or Charades game ideas.
  • Find “Minute to Win It” games on Pinterest that use items from around the house.


An Elegant Evening

  • Every kid has a dress up box or can at least borrow something fun from mom and dad for the evening.
  • Time to pull out the sequins, get glamorous and have a fancy night at home.
  • Light a few candles at the table and elevate even the most boring weekday dinner.
  • Serve up a Shirley Temple in a fancy glass and the kids will feel so special!

Hope this list of ideas starts you on your way towards a memorable summer staycation! 


Create Budget-Friendly “Summer Camps” for Your Kids…At Home!

Create Your Own Budget-Friendly "Summer Camps" for Your Kids...At Home!Preview

I’d love be able to send my kids to camp for the summer, but wow, some of those summer camps are over-the-top expensive! I’d still like to give my kids the experiences that those camps offer, whether it be dance camp or sports camp. With the internet at our fingertips, it’s quite easy to do the research yourself and host your own budget-friendly summer camps for your kids, at your own house! Here’s how:

  1. Talk to the kids about what kind of “camp” they’d be interested in.
  2. Do your research.
  3. Plan out your days. Make each day just a little bit different and write out a schedule to avoid getting distracted.
  4. Get out of the house! It’s too easy to get wrapped up in the chores if you’re at home. Make it a true camp and get outside.
  5. Don’t be afraid to be a little wild, get a little dirty and have lots and lots of fun in the process. This will be your child’s summer to remember! And you’ll have saved hundreds of dollars as well.


Whether it be the great outdoors or your own backyard, nature is there to be explored. If you’re living in the country, this one might be easy for you. In mid-city, you might have to get more creative. Search for local area parks that offer hiking trails, open space, fishing, overnight camping, or evening sing-a-longs or bonfires. You could even include a day at the zoo to explore the plants and botanical gardens.


  • Blindfold your child and have them listen to the birds in the trees or the rustling of the leaves. Place different natural items in their hands and ask them to describe them for you.
  • Go on a nature scavenger hunt 
  • Grab a pair of binoculars and go bird watching. You’d be surprised how many of them can hide out in one tree!
  • Take a picnic lunch and lay outside under the clouds.
  • Plan a camping overnight, even if it’s just in your own backyard.


Check with your local school to see if they are open during the summer for public use on the field. Otherwise you can hit the park (go early before the crowds). Make sure to pack plenty of ice water. Focus on a different event each day. Jog to warm up and then get out your favorite equipment. Work on a particular skill (dribbling a soccer ball, catching pop flies) or just get out and play.


Don’t have equipment? Practice your track skills, including the long jump or 10-yard dash. A stopwatch is something that kids love and they enjoy trying to “beat the clock”. End your camp day with stair climbing and see how many you do the first day compared to your last day.


You’ll need a big mirror and lots of music for this one! I was a dance teacher for many years and dance is great exercise for the body and mind. Memorizing routines can be a challenge but so much fun, especially if you are learning alongside your child.

  • Pick a different theme for each day of the week. Perhaps ballet on Monday, jazz on Tuesday, tap (with or without tap shoes) on Wednesday, hip-hop on Thursday and a recital on Friday.
  • Keep it moving! Choose a good mix of slow and fast music. Have your child follow along with you by watching in the mirror and mimicking your actions. Start with basic steps, like a step-together, step-kick or step-hop (skipping).
  • Focus on the body line, from head to toe. Encourage your child to keep their head up and back straight and to point their toe when the leg is lifted off the ground. When my students do a kick, they always want it to go as high as possible which often results in bent knees, curved back and flexed feet. I tell them I’d rather they had better posture than a high kick so I encourage them to keep the kick lower but to focus on a straighter back and pointed toes. This in turn helps them to straighten their legs as well.
  • Use visualization – For instance, if your arms are gracefully moving back & forth say you are a tree in the wind. If you point your toes, say that your legs are like sharpened pencils. Kids remember the visualization when recreating these moves.
  • For older kids, find an age-appropriate music video (Janet Jackson, circa 1980s is a good place to start, so fun!) and learn the routine. Practice it together until you’ve got it down pat.
  • Keep it upbeat and take a break if you child gets frustrated trying to learn a particular step. This camp should be about fun and you can always go back to try the skill again the next day.
  • On “recital day”, gift your child with something they can continue to use when practicing like ballet slippers or a helpful book for teaching dance like Dance Technique for Children. This CD, Kids in Motion was a must when I was teaching dance classes, it’s fantastic and perfect for teaching at home.


Also check out 12 tips for Teaching Tots on Dance Advantage.


I’m not sure there is a kid alive who doesn’t like building with LEGOS. And more than likely you already have the supplies you need for this camp. We keep our LEGOS in a big plastic bin that gets dumped out regularly for play! If you don’t have a big collection yet, the LEGO Classic Medium Creative Brick Box is a perfect place to start.

  • Focus on a different architectural or mechanical skill each day. This could include creating a building with columns, making a staircase or building a bridge.
  • Have a vehicle contest. Set up a ramp with a piece of cardboard on an incline and race your vehicles down to see whose is the fastest (and whose makes it to the bottom in one piece!)
  • Create an animal. See if everyone can guess what the other person’s animal is.


  • The LEGO Ideas Book is wonderful. We own this book and my kids have spent hours working on these fun and creative projects.
  • Replicate your own face using only LEGOS. This is bound to be a funny one!
  • Create a three-dimensional art sculpture. Using a thin layer of Mod Podge glue you can paint over the creation and keep it forever.


Crafting on a summer afternoon sounds like my kind of day! Know your audience and offer craft projects that you know are age-appropriate and that your kids would enjoy. Purchase a few supplies like sketch paper, drawing pencils and acrylic paint. Hit the 99 cent store or scrounge up scraps of what you already have from old projects.

  • Learn a new technique. Attempt tie-dying, make soap or wax candles, paper quilling, build a bird house, try jewelry making or clay. My daughter received Sculpy Clay for Christmas and has been delighting us with her whimsical creations for months.
  • Grab the drawing paper and pens. Set up a still-life scene and have everyone draw it in their own style.
  • Using only recycled products from your house, make an “upcycled” item or creation. Supply tape and glue and see what they make from “junk”.
  • Wooden boxes are great for crafting because they are so versatile. Paint or stain them, cover them in jewels with hot glue, cut out magazine photos and decoupage with Mod Podge…unlimited possibilities and you can use the box for whatever you like afterwards.


I’m usually working full time during the summer and my kids spend their days at Grandma’s house. At least once during the summer I plan on taking time off and implementing a “camp day” for my kids, I know they’ll love it. Even if you have to work and don’t have a full week for your own summer camp, try some of these activities over a weekend.

Create Budget-Friendly "Summer Camps" for Your Kids...At Home!

Me, and my three.

If you do decide to sign up the kids for a camp outside the house, don’t feel like you have to take the price at “face value”. Request with management if there are any discounts, whether for early pick-up, multiple children or scholarship (if you qualify). Groupon even offers camps in local areas. Many camps are willing to work with you on price if you ask.

Have fun playing with your kids! 

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Disneyland Resort Hotel Swimming Pools – What to Expect of Your Fun in the Sun!

Disneyland Resort Hotel Swimming Pools - What to Expect of Your Fun in the Sun!

The fun-packed resort pools are a great reason to choose to stay at a Disneyland Resort hotel on your vacation. All three of the unique pools at the Disneyland Resort offer a little something different, along with something special for each person in your family.

Our vacation isn’t complete without a day spent at a Disneyland Resort pool! We usually hit the whirlpool spas the night before we visit the Parks, where we sit in the warm bubbles and discuss our upcoming adventures. During our stay we often take a break back at the hotel in the afternoon to cool off with a swim. And we always reserve the last day of our trip to enjoy pool-side.

Disneyland Resort Hotel Swimming Pools – What to Expect of Your Fun in the Sun!

Here is a brief overview of the three Disneyland Resort Hotel swimming pools –

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa


We recently stayed at this hotel for the first time and truly enjoyed our visit poolside. It’s beautifully tree-lined and has a very “woodsy” feel. The quiet Fountain Pool features a turtle fountain. The Redwood Pool has a 90-foot-long waterslide that curves around the giant stump of a Redwood tree…how fun is that?!

Disneyland Resort Hotel Swimming Pools - What to Expect of Your Fun in the Sun!

A Mickey Mouse-shaped Children’s Pool and a whirlpool hot tub are also in this area. The Mariposa Pool features decorative butterflies and lights in the pool deck area, with a whirlpool spa nearby. It’s a beautiful and relaxing looking space.

Disneyland Resort Hotel Swimming Pools - What to Expect of Your Fun in the Sun!

 Paradise Pier Hotel


This third-floor pool area offers pretty views and more! We’ve stayed here many times and have visited the pool area at night as well. You can view the Disneyland fireworks show from the pool area and the music is piped in over the loudspeakers. My big kids enjoy going back and forth between the Paradise Pool and California Streamin’, the classic waterslide!

Disneyland Resort Hotel Swimming Pools – What to Expect of Your Fun in the Sun!

My littest one liked dipping his toes in the shallow Children’s Pool. And of course if you just need to relax, the Paradise Spa whirlpool hot tub is available here. The Sand Bar offers outdoor dining, though they’ve never been open on the times/days we’ve visited. That’s something to keep in mind if you like to nibble poolside, so ask first at Guest Services.

Disneyland Resort Hotel Swimming Pools – What to Expect of Your Fun in the Sun!

Disneyland Hotel


Spending time at the Disneyland Hotel pool area is one of the highlights of our vacation memories! My husband enjoys relaxing in either the Mickey or Minnie Whirlpool Spas. My big kids like to swim laps in the D-Ticket pool.

Disneyland Resort Hotel Swimming Pools – What to Expect of Your Fun in the Sun!

And well, you’d be hard pressed to pull my preschooler away from the Monorail Pool!  Two large water slides (180-foot-long and 80-foot-long) make a big splash and are replicas of the original Mark 1 Monorail trains. The 2-lane mini slide is where you’ll find my little one. He loves to splash around in the zero entry pool area with pop jets, fountains and a waterfall to walk under.

pool pool1

We have spent many afternoons here swimming under the sun or relaxing in the warm whirlpool. We’ll often pick up food from Tangaroa Terrace and lounge on a chaise, eating our lunch. They also offer poolside service and drinks from the bar during certain times.

Disneyland Resort Hotel Swimming Pools – What to Expect of Your Fun in the Sun!

Extra Fun in the Sun

  • Luxurious and private Poolside Cabanas are offered to guests staying at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa or the Disneyland Hotel. Rent them for either a half or full day and enjoy a respite in the shade that includes cable television, mini fridge with bottled water, complimentary fruit platter and ample lounging space. A cabana server will be available to take your food and beverage order. To learn about pricing options or to make a reservation, please call (714) 635-2300, option 5, or visit the Guest Services desk inside the hotel.
  • Pool Parties are offered seasonally at different times (depending upon the resort) and include an hour of games, music and dancing. Check with the Resort hotel for more information.

What to expect 

  • There are bathrooms at each resort, with showers outside for rinsing off.
  • Towels are supplied poolside, so no need to bring one from your hotel room.
  • For babies and toddlers, there are swim diapers provided as well as life jackets.



Guest Post from An Apple Per Day – Get Your Kids in the Pool With Swim Lessons

Thank you to Kaitlin from An Apple Per Day for this guest post about teaching kids to swim. Summer will be here before you know it so if you are able to start teaching kids now (search locally for indoor pools), the kids will be ready for the resort swimming pool when summer rolls around!
My littlest just learned to swim this past summer… at only two years old! Not all children are as fearless as he is, so Kaitlin’s post is timely and helpful in gearing up for the swim months.

Get Your Kids in the Pool With Swim Lessons

Julie’s son Dillon at the Disneyland Hotel pool

There are a lot of things to take care of when you’re raising kids, but one thing that was high on my list was to make sure my kids knew how to swim. It was a skill that would ensure their safety, and allow them to enjoy the fun of being in the water.A lifetime skill. We want to take family vacations to the beach, and it is important that the kids know how to swim for those kinds of trips. But looking down the road, the kids will be around the water as they get invited to pool parties, when they want to go to the community pool with their friends, and many other occasions. After they grow up, they will go on vacations of their own where swimming will be involved. It just made good sense to get the kids involved with the water early. Here are some resources with great ideas about kids and swimming:

The safety factor. The Center For Disease Control reports that drowning is a serious issue for children, and formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by as much as 88 percent. That statistic reinforces that it is imperative for my children to know how to swim. It doesn’t take long for a child to fall in a pool and get in serious trouble, so the swimming skill could easily save their life.

The fun of the water. When I was growing up, the pool was the source of so many of my fond memories, and I want my kids to enjoy the water as much as I did, and still do. I started early with getting them accustomed to the water. I introduced them to the pool with Mommy and Me classes when they were about 6 months old, and they all quickly learned the fun of splashing. They learned basic skills like kicking, while I held them and let them float on my arms. I would show them how to dip their head under water and blow bubbles, to start on proper breathing techniques.

Formal lessons. The accepted rule is that by age 3 or 4, a child will have developed sufficiently for formal swimming lessons. By that age, they can hold their head up, and follow what they are being taught. I considered teaching them myself, but though I’m a great mom and I love to swim – I’m not a swim instructor. I felt it was very important that the kids learn swimming skills correctly. Also, the kids sometimes tune out Mommy, and I didn’t want that happening for something this important. So I signed the kids up for basic lessons as soon as they were the proper age. Their lessons were in the fall, because they were back in school mode, and they would pay more attention than in the summer, when they just want to run and play.

Watch the kids learning. It is a joy to see my children when they are learning something new. With a well trained swim instructor, they quickly progressed with their swimming skills, and their confidence grew so fast I was amazed. Before I knew it the instructor had them going up and down the pool with all the basic swim strokes. He was also excellent about reinforcing safety in the pool area – and when he said “no running,” boy, did they pay attention.

I sit by the pool and watch my kids romp and play with their friends. They are comfortable in the water, and that makes me smile, knowing I have provided them a way to safely enjoy hours of fun in the pool.


Kaitlin Gardner started An Apple Per Day to explore her passion for a green living lifestyle, and healthy family living. She and her husband have just moved to rural Pennsylvania, where they enjoy exploring the countryside to discover interesting and out of the way places. She is also learning how to paint watercolors.

Thanks again Kaitlin! Even though the weather may be less than ideal to swim outside, look around your area to see if any gyms or indoor pools offer swimming lessons now. That way your kids will be in good practice before summertime. And with these great tips, they’ll be splish-splashin’ in no time!


It’s Hot at Disneyland! What to Do When Temperatures Soar

How can you prepare if you know the weather is going to be really hot at Disneyland?  You’ll want to keep cool so you and your family won’t be cranky, tired and wiped out by the heat mid-day. Find out what you can see, eat and do to stay cool under the sun at Disneyland.

California summers are fun in the sun! What can guests see, eat and do when it's hot at Disneyland.

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

What Can You Do When It’s Hot at Disneyland?

Sure, summer in California is usually warm and sunny. However even though summer may wind down that doesn’t mean the temperatures start to drop. In fact, here in California August, September and October are usually our warmest months of the year. There might be pumpkins on Main Street USA but the thermometer is still reading 100 degrees!

We’ve also been known to get 90 degree temperatures in February, when the rest of the country is blanketed in snow. Unlike the moist warmth in Orlando at Walt Disney World, our heat in California comes in from the desert so it’s a dry heat you might not have experienced before. After scorching under the hot sun all day you’ll be wishing for Elsa’s frosty touch!

Read on for my tips on what to do when it’s hot at Disneyland

California summers are fun in the sun! What can guests see, eat and do when it's hot at Disneyland.

Princess Dot Puddle Park at Disney California Adventure park

Seek the Shade Inside

  • Get toddlers out of the heat and inside the adorable Disney Junior – Live on Stage!
  • Take the Bakery Tour, Hosted by Boudin Bread. That’s about ten air conditioned minutes and you’ll get a snack!
  • Watch The Disneyland Story presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. A restful theater and cool air. Some guests admit they come here to take a brief nap.
  • I love the Enchanted Tiki Room and it’s especially refreshing on a hot day. Pick up a Dole Whip before going inside (you can snack during the show).

  • Soak in a glorious Broadway-like production at the Hyperion Theater. It’s a Frozen-themed show, how appropriately cool!
  • The underground cave of Bug’s Life Theater hosts a 3-D show It’s Tough to Be a Bug! Creepy and kooky (but cool!).
  • In the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough you can soak up the a/c and take as long as you like to admire the dioramas.
  • The Disney Animation Building hosts a variety of indoor activities that can take up the hottest part of the day.
California summers are fun in the sun! What can guests see, eat and do when it's hot at Disneyland.

Little Mermaid’s Underwater Adventure at Disney California Adventure park

Take a Ride

  • Hop aboard The Disneyland Railroad for an 18-minute grand circle tour. You’ll be shaded in the open train cars and get a great breeze as the train takes the trip around Disneyland.
  • Haunted Mansion offers a rest for weary souls with bone-chilling a/c. All thrills viewed from the comfort of your Doombuggy.
  • Take a long, cool walk in the shady queue for Indiana Jones Adventure.

  • “it’s a small world” – The happiest cruise that ever sailed. And it’s 15-minutes of lovely air-conditioning accompanied by music!
  • What could be more refreshing than going under the sea? The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Underwater Adventure.
  • A windy spin on the Silly Symphony Swings will cool off any sweat drops!
  • Yo-ho! 15-minutes of dark caverns and the swarthy Pirates of the Caribbean will have you rested and ready to take on the sun again.
California summers are fun in the sun! What can guests see, eat and do when it's hot at Disneyland.

Getting soaking wet on Grizzly River Run at Disney California Adventure park

Get Drenched

  • If you’re really looking for a soaking, try Grizzly River Run. Rarely does anyone escape without at least one article of clothing sopping wet.
  • Princess Dot Puddle Park is the perfect play space for a good drenching. Bring an extra change of clothes!
  • Splash Mountain includes 3 dips and a massive waterfall…you will get wet!
  • Take a swim break back at the pool mid-day. That’s definitely one of our family favorites.
California summers are fun in the sun! What can guests see, eat and do when it's hot at Disneyland.

Stay hydrated with bottled water that you bring into Disneyland park with you

What to Bring With You

Park Tickets. Purchase your tickets ahead of time on Park Savers. You’ll not only save a few dollars, you’ll avoid standing in a long line to buy tickets at the gate.

Park Savers affiliate link

Sunscreen. Always. SPF 30 and reapply often, especially if you are sweating.

Hat. Wear one to block direct sun off your face and the top of your head (I always tend to get a burned scalp when I forget my hat and wow, does that hurt!)

Sunglasses. Nothing like squinting into the sun all day to give you a headache.

Deodorant. If you find that you need to reapply mid-day when the weather is hot, do your queue-mates a favor and bring in deodorant!

Frozen bottles of water. Pour a little off the top before freezing them and pack them in your bag or soft-sided cooler.

Bandanna or a Chill Towel. So refreshing to rinse in the bathroom sink and wrap around your neck. Doing this will lower your body temperature several degrees.

Change of Shoes. In particular, it’s nice to have a pair of plastic flip-flops or sandals that you can change into before going on wet rides or in water-play areas.

California summers are fun in the sun! What can guests see, eat and do when it's hot at Disneyland.

Cool off with a refreshing mint julep in New Orleans Square, Disneyland Park

What to Buy in the Park to Keep Cool 

Parasol – Pop it open and you’ll be made in the shade! Sold at a cart in New Orleans Square. Price comes with handpainted name personalization and either hearts or flowers (additional designs offered for extra cost).

Mint Julep – Stick around New Orleans Square and pick up a mint julep (or two) . You can get them either at the Mint Julep Bar and sit in the shaded patio of French Market Restaurant or seek the cool comfort inside the Blue Bayou Restaurant.

Misting Fan – These are sold in kiosks throughout the park. This is a squirt bottle with an attached fan and strap to hang from your neck. On a hot day, it’s priceless!

Sundaes – Eat an ice cream sundae (big enough for two) and catch a show inside The Golden Horseshoe (my favorite is the mint chocolate chip!). With 8 toppings and 8 scoops of ice cream, the Earthquake from Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop will chill everyone in your group! And the classic Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor is the place for people watching…and waffle cone ice creams!

Change of Clothes – When the sweat is unbearable, seek shelter inside a shop and buy yourself a fresh new tee or tank. You’ll feel (and probably smell!) so much better.

California summers are fun in the sun! What can guests see, eat and do when it's hot at Disneyland.

Sunhat and sunglasses are a must when coming to Disneyland!

Things to Remember When It’s Hot

Water. Drink lots of water. You can always ask for free ice water at walk-up dining locations. I like to bring several empty bottles with me and keep them filled with water from the drinking fountains.

Stay out of the sun. As often as you can, keep in the shade. On busy days, a shady spot might be harder to come by. Seek out shady areas in out of the way spots.

Avoid High Noon. Get to the Parks early, leave mid-day when the sun is hottest and return to the Parks after a swim and a rest in your room. Or simply retreat to an indoor show or shopping when the sun is blazing.

Heat Illness. If the heat has you feeling sick, stop by First Aid at any time. Symptoms include dizziness, confusion, nausea and cramping.

With all these handy hot-weather tips, you’ll still be ready for fun long after the sun sets!

What are your favorite ways to spend the day when it’s hot at Disneyland? Share them in the comments!

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


What Else is There to Do at Disneyland?

You've gone on all the popular rides, so what else is there to do at Disneyland?

You’ve ridden everything from Pinocchio to Pirates of the Caribbean and eaten everything from cotton candy to corn dogs. What else is there to do at Disneyland? There are about a million other things to do at Disneyland besides rides and fair food. In addition to the basic stuff that is considered an “attraction” on the park map like parades, shows, fireworks, character meet & greets there are also so many other little things that make Disneyland a great place to spend your day.

What Else is There to Do at Disneyland?


  • Start off your morning riding one of the Main Street Vehicles down the center of the street. There is a fire engine, a car or the horse-drawn trolley. The drivers are helpful and friendly with tips and Disneyland trivia.
  • Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island is always a hit. However stay with your kids because if they go into one of the narrow cave tunnels they may come out on the other side of the island without you!

Pirate Island at Disneyland {Saving Up for Disney}

  • Sleeping Beauty’s Castle Walkthrough is a hidden gem…everyone rushes across the drawbridge to Fantasyland, forgetting to walk through the Castle itself! There are miniature scenes brought to life with special effects as you walk through the stairways, I love it.

What Else is there to do at Disneyland? {Saving Up for Disney}

  • Mark Twain Riverboat or the Sailing Ship Columbia take you on a gentle spin around the Rivers of America.
  • Disney Gallery features original artwork and models that were created as a precursor to many of the attractions in the parks.

Inside Minnie's House {Saving up for Disney}

  • Mickey’s House & Minnie’s House are both fun walk-throughs and you get to meet your favorite mice! Donald’s Boat, Chip & Dale’s Treehouse and Goofy’s Playhouse are nice places for kids to run around (and plenty of sitting space for grown-ups in the shade!)
  • Enchanted Tiki Room is one of my favorite places. Don’t be shy…sing and whistle along with the songs. I promise you won’t be the only one! You can also eat inside, so be sure to grab a Dole Whip at the juice bar first!

Meeting Tink {Saving Up for Disney}

  • Pixie Hollow is where you can meet Tinkerbell and other fairy characters from the series. Swing by Fantasy Faire and you can meet your favorite Princesses there.
  • Put your change in the Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition and use an infrared rifle to shoot at the interactive targets. My dad always made it a point to spend a few quarters here on every trip!
  • Climb up high into Tarzan’s Treehouse. Sometimes Jane & Tarzan are at the bottom, greeting guests.

Attractions-Disneyland’s California Adventure 

  • Walk into the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop and receive a free chocolate sample.
What to do at Disneyland {Saving up for Disney}

The entrance to the Animation Studio…and they lived happily ever after!

  • From the moment you walk in the room of the Animation Studio and witness the floor to ceiling movie scenes being shown on the gigantic screens, you will be immersed in all-things animation. Watch the Zoetrope (over & over & over!) in the Character Close-up area, visit with Crush the turtle from Finding Nemo in an interactive show, take a drawing class from a Disney animator and draw a cartoon in the Sorcerer’s Workshop. Walk through the Beast’s library or karaoke with Ursula the Sea Witch. This is a great (air-conditioned) place to spend a hot afternoon.

Redwood Creek Challenge {Saving up for Disney}

  • My kids always love running around in the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. Do a little rock climbing, tire swinging and rope bridge walking. Stay with your kids because it’s an easy place to lose them!

Shows -Disneyland

  • The Jedi Training Academy Star Wars show in Tomorrowland is always great fun and even if your children aren’t chosen to participate, everyone still enjoys watching. My kids have been chosen and battled with Darth Vadar & Darth Maul! After their “training session” the kids received a certificate.

Battle with Darth Vadar! {Saving up for Disney}

  • Fantasmic is an amazing, bright, colorful (and loud!) show on the water. Get there early and find a place along the rail (you’d be surprised, some people camp out there very early to get a good viewing spot!). (currently on hiatus during construction)
  • The Golden Horseshoe is my favorite lunch spot because you can sit inside the air-conditioning, eat a nice meal and watch a show. Or skip lunch and go straight for the sundae!

Shows – California Adventure 

  • The Aladdin show is jaw-dropping fantastic and a definite don’t-miss. I can’t even tell you how many times we’ve watched this show, it’s incredible. (The curtain has closed on Aladdin and it’s soon to be replaced with a Frozen inspired show)
  • The Disney Jr. Show Live-on-Stage was a big hit with our kids. The shows are especially geared to preschoolers but the older ones liked it too. My son enjoyed jumping up and dancing and my daughter talked about the “gold doubloons” that fell from the sky for weeks!
Bugs Land {Saving up for Disney}

Stick Bug! In Bugs Land

  • It’s Tough to Be a Bug takes some thick skin (I still close my eyes and cringe at some of the scenes!) so be cautious taking skittish people into this one! My mom is afraid of spiders and won’t go near this one. Our daughter is on the spectrum and sensitive to loud noises and surprise elements so she doesn’t care for it either. Just keep that in mind and know your family because you wouldn’t want one negative experience prevent them from trying other shows/rides.
  • World of Color…WOW!!! It’s really extremely well done, appropriately full of color but beware…if you stand too close, you will get wet! We were in the second section and still got drizzled on.

And then what??

Just sit and watch.

  • There are so many great people-watching locations throughout the park. Sit on a bench or in the ice cream parlor along Main Street and watch the families rush by. Aladdin’s Oasis (a patio area in between the Tiki Room & the Jungle Cruise) is where we’ve stopped to eat a snack in the shade. Sit in the shade of trees in front of the New Orleans train station or sip a mint julep in New Orlean’s Square.

Catch an impromptu show!

  • Sometimes Mary Poppins dances with the band in front of the Castle or you can clap along with the Dapper Dans on Main Street.
What makes Disneyland so special? {Saving up for Disney}

Dancing with a Cast Member to the music of the Dapper Dans on Main St.

  • I’ve seen Alice and the Mad Hatter conducting a game of musical chairs near the ice cream parlor and have had a conversation with a moving & talking trashcan. One day there was a “beauty” contest in front of the Golden Horseshoe (that my stepson participated in).

What Else is there to Do at Disneyland? {Saving Up for Disney}

  • Some of these things are just luck, they aren’t featured on the park schedule so you’ll never know when they’ll pop up where you are.

{Saving Up for Disney}

Pose for pictures.

  • There is always something coming up and with great backdrops to pose with, take the opportunity for a great shot!

What Else is there to do at Disneyland? {Saving Up for Disney}


  • Or at least just go inside and see what fun things there are. We love The Mad Hatter’s Shop for obvious reasons.

Get wet!

  • Princess Dot Puddle Park at California Adventure has squirting fountains for getting really drenched if Splash Mountain didn’t do it for you already!

What Else is there to Do at Disneyland? {Saving Up for Disney}

Make friends with the locals.

  • If you arrive at the park first thing in the morning there are often many characters there for photo ops. However you can find them scattered throughout the park during the day in their respective “Lands” as well. Some of my favorite photos are of the kids meeting their favorite characters for the first time.

Meeting Minnie {Saving Up for Disney}

Look for Hidden Mickeys!

  • There are books about this subject or just set yourself free while walking through the park. My son randomly found this Hidden Mickey in a vent just under the stage inside The Golden Horseshoe!
What Else is there to do at Disneyland? {Saving Up for Disney}

Do YOU see the hidden Mickey?

Just wander around and explore.

  • There are so many gorgeous details in the buildings and in the designs of the gardens. Capture them on camera.
  • Instead of walking straight across the drawbridge and into Fantasyland through the Castle, try taking the path on the side. This path on the right will take you to Snow White’s Grotto with statues of the characters and her magical wishing well (where donations are given to children’s charities).
What makes Disneyland so special? {Saving up for Disney}

Snow White’s Grotto

  • Jump on the dance floor in Tomorrowland when the live bands play at night (I have so many fun memories of The Boy at 4 years old, doing “the robot”).
  • Touch the apple in front of the Snow White ride and hear the witch cackle.
  • You can also see the evil Queen peek out and close the curtains above the ride from one of the windows.

There are a wild amount of little details that set Disneyland apart from all other amusement parks. It’s what makes Disneyland so special to so many people around the world!

What Else is there to do at Disneyland after the Rides? {Saving up for Disney}

If you are interested in all the other little things that really make up the BIG picture of why Disneyland is “The Happiest Place on Earth”, read some of the forums or blogs online.

Mice Chat Why Disneyland is the Happiest Place on Earth to Me

Buzz Feed16 Awesome Hidden Gems You Must Experience at Disneyland 


What Else is there to do at Disneyland? {Saving Up for Disney}

Saving Money at the County Fair

Saving Money at the County Fair

A day at the fair could end up costing the same (or more!) as a day at Disney, but if you plan ahead and do a little research your day at the fair could be a lot of fun for cheap!

I’ve only been to one County Fair but I’ve been nearly every single year, the San Diego County Fair (aka: Del Mar Fair). I’m going to venture that most county fairs are the same if not very similar to our large fair so I think these tips could be applied most anywhere. Here are my tips on how we save money at the county fair:



Full cost: $14 per adult, $8 per child, Free for kids 5 and under.

My cost: Free. My husband’s grandmother works at the fair so she was able to give us free tickets. Savings of $30 for me and my two ten-year olds. The toddler was free. Even if you don’t have “connections” you don’t have to pay full price for fair entry. Some grocery stores, military bases or employers sell discounted tickets. Kids can often get free entry from their school for reading books. Some of the competitive one-day contests allow for free entry.


Full Cost: $10 per car

My cost: Free. We park off-site and take a free shuttle. Savings $10. Check your county fair website and see if off-site parking is available.


Full Cost: Dependent upon what you eat, but of course fair food is pricey and over sized. One family’s meal could easily cost $50+. The cost of those weird specialty snacks could cost you upwards of $10 each.

My cost: $30. Packing lunch and snacks in was allowed (no glass bottles or containers). I brought in snacks for us so we wouldn’t be tempted to buy $8 chocolate covered bacon! We had a big bag of kettle corn from Sprouts for $1.99, half-pound of trail mix with M&Ms and nuts for $2.00, and a bag of Twizzlers for $1.00. I did splurge and buy us lunch (because we very rarely eat out, this was a treat). A half-lb burger with waffle fries, two large hot dogs, macaroni and cheese and three drinks set us back $25. I knew that some of the vendors were offering a kids meal for $5.25 so that’s what I bought them. Some other vendors were selling kid’s meals for $9.00 so just shopping around saved me $7.50 on the two meals. We were so full from our big lunch that we only had a light snack at home for dinner.


Full Cost: Depending upon how many you purchase upfront, the cost per ticket for our fair is between 50 cents and 75 cents; Each ride takes between 3-10 tickets.

My cost: Free. My husband’s grandmother gave us a sheet of 40 ride tickets. That sheet (which allowed 5 total rides) would have cost us $20.

Plan upfront how much you want to spend on tickets and stick with it. Prepare kids ahead of time by letting them know how many rides they can go on. Kids can then choose to be more selective with the tickets they have and decide which rides are most important to them (as in, is that House of Mirrors really worth my $3.00?) Some fairs offer a Ride-for-One-Price wristband which offers unlimited rides on certain days of the fair.

Budgeting for a Day at the County Fair

Yes, my daredevils are on this ride!

Shows Pig Races, Demolition Derby, Buggy Races, Magic Shows, Hypnotist, Live Bands & Concerts.

Print out the daily schedule before your visit and highlight the top attractions you’d like to hit. You won’t be able to see it all in one day. Get input from the rest of the family (take a vote) on which shows are a “must”.

We arrived just in time for my daughter to be the volunteer in a magic show. She was inside this box stuffed with umbrellas (what the illusionist was calling the Mary Poppin’s Box of Doom!).

Cheap fun at the Fair -

Attractions, Exhibits & Demonstrations Petting Zoo, Wood Carving Demo, Gem exhibits, Home & Garden area, Butterflies, Arts & Crafts.

We saw big cows, had butterflies land on our shoulders, made a craft and watched a pottery show (and got a free vase from the potter). The toddler rode a little tractor and the big kids watched the wood carvers (who gave them each a free puzzle). All free stuff!

Budgeting for a Day at the County Fair


I had no intention of shopping but my son had a $5 bill burning a hole in his pocket. He found a booth selling cheap jewelry, three pieces for $4.99 and that satisfied the souvenir itch. If you know your kids are going to want to leave the fair with something have them bring a small amount of their own money and plan what they would like to buy in advance.


A few years back I entered my Summer Pasta Salad recipe in a contest and won a second prize ribbon. Another year my son brought art painted in a specific theme and won a first place ribbon.

This year my kids were looking forward to trying one of the one-day competitions. My son was all about the Pie Eating Contest. He loved it and received a participant ribbon!

My daughter is the champion ice cream speed eater in our house so she was excited to enter the Ice Cream Eating Contest. She would have won too, if she’d not been picking around the pineapple in her banana split!

Budgeting for a Day at the County Fair

They both had fun and it was a free treat for them both!

Bottom Line: Do your research and plan ahead how much you intend to spend. This day could have easily cost us $150 or more. Instead I paid a total of $30 for our meals (and that could have been reduced as well, if we’d decided to pack in our lunch). Enjoy all the unique and free things that the fair has to offer!