Disney + Travel Tips || Part One - Flights

Part Two - Hotels, When to Book and Budgeting Click Here.
Part Three - All Things Disneyland Tips Click Here. 
Part Four - Flying with Kids Click Here. 

Part Two - Hotels, When to Book and Budgeting Click Here.
Part Three - All Things Disneyland Tips Click Here. 
Part Four - Flying with Kids Click Here. 

You guys! I'm so excited to share some of my travel tips with you all. We don't travel internationally... yet! But we do love our family getaways to Disneyland and Hawaii. Over the next couple posts I'm going to share all my tips for Disney travel with kids & how we make it work budget-wise! I'll get into Hawaii a little later! This post is in no way sponsored by any company! I may be using affiliate links to my favorite travel friendly products though :)

So to start, I want to talk about flights. Josh and I live in Utah (about a 10 hour drive to California). We've driven to California two times when we were first married and one time with our boys. After we drove with the boys this past time, we will never be doing that again! It was so long and we even stopped over night half way. The kids just didn't do well. Finley especially. He's our little needy child and long car rides are not his jam. It ended up making him constipated while in California and his sleep schedule was sort of thrown off the whole trip.

We fly whenever possible. The reason why we chose to drive this last time was because we didn't have enough points to fly (we used most of them for Hawaii in December) and the remaining points we decided to save to use later on this year. Anyway. Flying is a must for us so we use our Visa Southwest card. We've had this card for a few years now and LOVE it! It does have an annual fee ($99) but for us it's worth it! In the past 4 years we have only had to pay for 1 flight (for Copeland because we didn't have enough points) but only 1 flight that was around $100 round trip! Copeland has flown I think about 6-7 times round trip in the past 4 1/2 years. That means we've gotten nearly 18 flights for FREE! We usually take at least one trip where we have to fly per year, sometimes two if we can budget enough throughout the year.

Alright so let me break down why I LOVE our Visa Southwest card.

  • No paying for luggage. Yep! You get two free bags per person. That's a total of 8 bags for our family! For Free!!
  • Put big purchases on the card. We put all our big purchases on our card. When we were building our house, every trip to home depot, our garage door, electrical, etc., were all put on the card! We use it when we have any big bill. We also use this for our groceries every month and get about 600-700 points alone just for that! You can also put your utilities, car payment, etc on it and get points all month long! We need to start doing this because we would be getting over 1,000 points every month! 
  • You get 40,000 points when you spend X amount in the first 3 months for opening. This is what made us sign up for the card! When we first got our card we were poor college students with a new baby and a mortgage who desperately wanted a vacation. We signed up, used some of our points and have never looked back! 
  • 1 point per $1 spent. Pretty self explanatory.
  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions. This is great because you can travel whenever you want! We always find amazing prices from Salt Lake to California and we only use the Wanna Get Away pricing because it is the cheapest. Sometimes we can find roundtrip flights for around $100 but most of the time they're about $150 or typically somewhere around the 4,000 points mark. 
  • No change fees. You're points get put right back into your account if you need to change or cancel a flight. We sometimes will book a flight with our points and change it if there is a price drop! It's awesome! Or we will book flights when prices are amazing and then see if we can plan a vacation around those flights (ie., find a cheap hotel, car, etc). 
  • Family boarding. I believe most flights do family boarding. But for those of you who don't fly southwest, it's first come first serve seating. So the earlier you check in (24 hours in advance) the more priority you get when it comes to boarding or you can pay extra per ticket and get early bird check in, however, if you have kids you get family boarding. We almost never check in super early and when we get to the gate we get to pick our seats right after business class. So we always get to sit together. 
Okay and this has nothing to do with our card but take advantage of flying with kids under two years of age! They are free if you have them sit on your lap. We took as many vacations as possible when Copeland and Finn were both under two because of this! 

How to find cheap flights. I'm just always checking flights. Always as in once or twice a month-ish. I like to see what flights are doing price wise and sometimes Southwest will have their sales so I just like to check every now and then to see if they're at a decent price. 

You can also use Hopper. I've heard great things about this app but it does not include Southwest flights because Southwest doesn't share data with automated algorithms who chart flight prices. And honestly they don't need too. Southwest flights are usually the cheapest I've found. I really just love Southwest! And Delta, those are my two favorite but Delta is typically way way more in price! Just to compare, I checked flights for September (4 months out!). Same time of day, Southwest $156 RT with free luggage, Delta $180 RT + $25 for first bag each way ($50 total) = $230 RT. Total savings of $74 using Southwest.

And for the record, I've never had a bad experience with Southwest. The staff has always been incredible and friendly! The flight attendants have always been so helpful with the boys, we just love them! Again, not sponsored by Southwest or Visa.

If you guys want to sign up for this card I'd love if you guys would use my referral code/link! Again this is not sponsored by Chase or Southwest, but they have a great refer a friend program that even YOU can take advantage of once you get your own card and refer your friends! You can sign up using my referral code by clicking HERE!

To learn more about the refer a friend program, CLICK HERE!

Disney + Travel Tips || Part Four - Flying with Kids

Part One - How to Fly for Free Click Here
Part Two - Hotels, When to Book and Budgeting Click Here.
Part Three - All Things Disneyland Tips Click Here. 

I wouldn't say I'm an expert flight traveler with kids but we have taken lots of flights with them and I'm just going to share what works for us.

  • Check EVERYTHING. We literally check as much as we can. I've already covered that when flying Southwest you get two free bags per person. We usually take one large bag and a small bag when we travel. This next trip however since we wont have a car we'll be taking a second bag full of food. But honestly when you have that many free bags check all the things haha. Take as little as possible onto your flight. The only thing we try to take as a carry on is anything of value (ie., camera, ipad, laptop, chargers, phones.) Just anything valuable I bring onto the plane with us and I'm crazy about luggage getting lost (knock on wood it hasn't happened yet) so I make sure to pack one outfit per person in my carry on just in case we were without luggage for a day or two. It's so much easier to go onto a flight when you only have one carry on VS a carry on for everyone. I do however, let the boys take a small child size backpack with snacks and toys. That is, one backpack shared between them because lord knows I'm the one that ends up carrying it. 
  • Check your stroller at the gate. We will check everything we need to when getting a boarding pass except our stroller. It's easier to put the boys in the stroller and get to our gate than A) carrying them, B) listening to them complain that "it's too far and my legs hurt and my arms hurt and my nose is cold" haha or C) having them run around like the crazy toddlers they are and try to wrangle them in. Checking the stroller at the gate, just do it. BUT make sure to check it in prior to boarding. You don't want to go to scan your ticket and not have your stroller ready with it's check-in tag. So as soon as you get to your gate, find a Southwest employee and tell them you need to check your stroller and they'll help you out. 
  • Have some things for your kids to do on flight. Luckily for us the flight form Salt Lake to California is less than 2 hours but the kids still get restless. We like window clings, water works books, stickers hidden in Easter eggs, movies uploaded on the iPad, etc. Just busy play. Also, yes you can bring packaged snacks on the plane when traveling with small children. Just tell the TSA beforehand and they'll help you out!
  • Fly early in the day! This is so big. Especially when you're flying into LAX and have to get to Anaheim. We've booked flights before for after Josh gets off work, so like 6 or 7 pm. BAD idea because we typically wouldn't get to our hotel until nearly midnight, not fun with kids. We've learned from this and now try to get into LA around noon-ish. That way we usually get to the hotel right before check in which gives us time to chill out and relax. (tip: when you land and know you'll be early to the hotel call your hotel and tell them you plan on being early to see if they will have your room available) We've almost always been able to get early check in when we give them an hour or two notice.
  • Mentally Prepare. So this sometimes works for us and it's something we like to do; Mentally prepare the kids for the flight. We start about a week or so in advance and just get Copeland and Finn pumped for the trip. We talk about going on a big plane, that it's taking us to California, etc. We talk about manners on the plane and being respectful. I mean obviously a 2 year old isn't going to be that respectful when he's grouchy but it does help Copeland at least, to know that other people will be on the plane with us and to try and be a good boy. 
  • Get up and walk if you can. When the seat belt sign goes off and the kids are restless, I do let them run down the plane and back. Josh or I will go with them to make sure they're not bugging anyone but it just helps get the wiggles out. And a smiley toddler running up and down the isle is way better than a screaming one trying to sit still, so most people don't mind. Also, we've had plenty of times where the boys have been just pissed. It sucks, but I mean, that's life. You do what you can. We usually sit in the back of the plane, grit our teeth and try to get through it haha. 
Have more tips? Share them in the comments!

Disney + Travel Tips || Part Three - Disneyland

So excited about today's post covering all things Disneyland travel!

Part One - How to Fly for Free Click Here.
Part Two - Hotels, When to Book and Budgeting Click Here.
Part Four - Flying with Kids Click Here. 

We usually buy our tickets through Getawaytoday.com. I have used some other vendors before but I always go back to GAT. If you don't want to drop a grand or more all at once, you can just purchase your tickets and use the layaway plan through them which is amazing!

Character / Dining
I love doing Character Dining every trip we take to Disney. It's so magical and the food is always amazing! The first time we did a Character Dining was at the Aulani resort in Hawaii. Copeland was 2 and he loved it! At the Disneyland parks we LOVE Minnie & Friends breakfast buffet at The Plaza Inn. It is inside the park, which I personally love. You can make reservations up to 60 days in advance, which I recommend doing. They have a few characters that come around to the tables and interact with you. You can take pictures, get autographs, etc. It's really fun! Not to mention, Mickey shaped waffles and all you can eat bacon ;)

This next trip we've decided to splurge (since it will be our last Disney trip for the next couple years) and also make reservations at The Lamplight Lounge over at Pixar Pier in Disney California Adventure. We've heard awesome things about the Lobster Nachos and the Infinity Fizz drink. But again, make sure you get your reservations set up in advance.

Themed Outfits
Okay, I'm that person that has an outfit planned for the entire family for each day we're at Disney. I don't do matching outfits, necessarily, but I definitely have a color scheme, a theme or something of the sorts. Our next visit I bought the boys some Childhood Clothing outfits in "vintage" Disneyland colors. I'm also going to have them Disney Bound as 101 Dalmatians. Spotted tees, black pants, red converse and custom dalmatian ears. I definitely like to splurge on fun Disney outfits. I think it adds to the magic. Showing Disney pride is my favorite thing to do at Disney! You can find some amazing custom ears and tees on Etsy.

I always pack two bags to bring into the parks. One bag is just a tote style bag, I love these $10 reusable ones from Amazon

I pack blankets,a change of clothes for the boys (including a new pair of undies, just in case!), sweatshirts or jackets depending on weather, diapers, wipes, and anything else I don't need on my person at all times into this tote bag. The second bag (a comfortable backpack) is filled with things I would take on every ride. This included my phone, camera, a couple snacks/little toys for the boys to keep them busy while in line, hand sanitizer, small package of wipes and a diaper, etc. 

Having two bags makes it easy to just grab the backpack (or Josh will usually just wear it throughout the park) without having to lug around a huge and heavy bag filled with everything we brought to the park. 

- Vinyl Lined Bags. You guys I LOVE my vinyl lined bags from Dragonfly Sis Boutique. They are perfect for putting the boys snacks into, makeup, making little first aid kids to throw in the backpack, etc. So many uses for them! And the fact that they are almost entirely vinyl is amazing. She can make custom Disney characters so just shoot her a message! 

- Baby Carrier. This was a must for us when Finn was smaller. Unlike Copeland, Finley wasn't a huge fan of the stroller when he starts to get tired. He becomes very needy and extra whiny. Having a baby carrier was great! We were able to get him to sleep on us while waiting in line and being hands free was a plus. 

- Bring lots of healthy snacks! 
I mentioned this in the last post but seriously... If you're anything like me, I love my high calorie and fatty snacks from Disneyland. It's one of the things I look forward to most when going there. Copeland definitely shares my sweet tooth so with all the unhealthy things we're buying at the park it's good to have healthy and filling snacks on hand. We packed grapes, string cheese, nuts, peanut butter and celery, and wheat thins, along with frozen water bottles instead of using ice packs to save on space. Just make sure everything you pack is in a soft cooler so you can bring it in the park with you.

- Don't forget the extra change of clothes and sweatshirts.
As mentioned above don't forget some extra clothes for the kids! Accidents happen no matter how potty trained you think your kids are. With all the excitement of Disneyland, it can happen so come prepared. Also it does get chilly at night (depending on when you go). Somehow I forgot to bring Finn his sweatshirt and it was FREEZING. We ended up spending nearly $40 on a Disney hoodie for him when if I had just planned better, we would have had him covered. Blankets are a must for us as well. Who doesn't love cuddling a blanket while being pushed around in a stroller? ;) We always bring a fleece blanket. 

- Bring a full size stroller!! Bonus if it lays flat
Okay so Josh and I argued about this before our last trip with both boys. He wanted to bring an umbrella stroller and I said no way! His complaint was packing the double full size stroller through the airport and to the hotel. I finally convinced him it needed to come along and we are both glad we had it! Not only did it do the obvious, but it held all of the stuff you need to bring into the park with you. Yes you can get lockers for your things, but when you have a toddler and baby, it's so nice to have everything in the basket under the stroller. Diapers, snacks, blankets, sweatshirts, souvenirs, change of clothes, etc, etc, etc. Also before when Josh wanted to bring only one umbrella stroller, he was thinking Copeland would just want to walk and if not walk, Josh was planning on toting him around. Holy smokes was he glad we had a double stroller. Copeland sat in the stroller more times then not. He took naps in the stroller during the day as well! Trust me you'll want the full size double stroller :) Josh and I got a tandem opposed to a side by side and it was great! I think a side by side would have been way too wide, especially with the crowds. 

It can be so fun and easy to get caught up in the Disney magic and just want to buy all the things. Trust me, even I at one point was asking Josh for just one more pair of mickey ears. When he told me that as soon as we got back to Utah, the $25 pair of ears were just going to be sitting in a box for years on end. I snapped out of my Disneyland trance and realized he was right. It's easy to spend money at Disney. Set a limit for the kids (and yourself haha!). This year since Copeland is now 5(!) we will be getting him is very own Disney gift card of a set amount. He can get whatever he wants, but when the gift card is out, that's it. So whether he chooses to buy one big toy or a few little ones, it's totally up to him :) He's extremely excited about this!

Rider Swap
Rider Swap is great when you have a little one who isn't quite tall enough for the bigger rides. Let's say Josh and Copeland want to go on Indy. Josh would get a rider swap and I'd hang back with Finn until they came back, then I would be able to get back into the Fast Pass lane with Copeland and go with him again while Josh now stayed with Finn. This next time we go we're crossing our fingers Finn will hit 40" and we can all go the rides together! 

Take Breaks
The Disneyland hustle and bustle is fun! But remember to take breaks. One of my most favorite things about Disneyland is sitting under a tree or parking the stroller by a bench, grabbing a box of popcorn or an ice cream cone and just enjoying the atmosphere that is Disneyland. It's honestly so magical! Let the kids run around for a bit and take a break from waiting in line. The entrance to Toon Town is a great place to do this. We also love to sit in New Orleans Square across from The Haunted Mansion. Or hop on the Mark Twain Riverboat. 

We are definitely doing this next time! It costs $10 extra per ticket per day but worth it! It's basically like a mobile fastpass. You can grab a "fastpass" for your favorite ride over in DCA while you're waiting in the Peter Pan line over at Disneyland all via the app. We're excited to try it out! It also comes with unlimited Disney PhotoPass photo downloads. 

Rough Itinerary
I always make a rough itinerary for each day. I like knowing somewhat what we're doing so that we can hit as many rides as possible. We sometimes will follow the plan and sometimes just see where the day takes us. I'm a list person though, so it makes me happy to have one :)

I'll be sharing my FAVORITE Amazon finds for Disney travel in a post coming up!

Disney + Travel Tips || Part Two - Hotels, Cars and Budgeting

Welcome back to part two of my travel trips for budget friendly travel! Today I'm going to be sharing my tips for hotels, rental cars and budgeting in general. Again, these posts are not sponsored. I'm sharing what we use and love!

Part One - How to Fly for Free Click Here.
Part Three - All Things Disneyland Tips Click Here. 
Part Four - Flying with Kids Click Here. 

Lets start with budgets. First thing; traveling is going to cost money. Period. Obviously you're going to spend some change when it comes to traveling but how can you get the most bang for your buck?

Set a budget and stick to it. We typically plan on spending $2,000 for a hotel + Disneyland tickets (3 day park hopper for 3 of us. Finn is still free). We usually try to stick around the $1,600 mark. This is only for hotel and tickets. Not food, souvenirs, flights, etc. But in our last post we covered flights and how we almost always fly for free! So how do you come up with $2,000 for hotel and tickets? Well $2,000 is about $167 per month for a year which is roughly $40 a week. So during our month we try to cut costs, meal plan, and save money so we can spend it on our vacation. Vacation is huge for our family. Josh works hard and so do I as a mom. Getting to spend time together doing what we love with the boys means everything to us so we cut costs during the year to be able to do this. This is why I don't have a new outfit to link with Like to Know It every week or whatever it may be. That's not our reality and I'm fine with that as long as I get my yearly vacation with my family. When we were poor college students we did not have an extra $1,000 - $2,000 no matter how many costs we cut so instead of doing a week stay at Disneyland, we opted for a few nights with a one or two day pass to Disney instead of a 3 or 4 day park hopper. You just do what works for your budget and be grateful :) 

Check hotels, a lot! You guys, I'm always checking hotels and packages. Like at least once every month or so. I love going through booking.com or getawaytoday.com. These are the two places where I always find fantastic deals! Getawaytoday has a great layaway option. You can book your hotel + tickets in one package and pay on it month by month which is great if you don't want to pay a large lump sum. Booking.com has a great Free Cancellation feature. We like to use this feature (which is usually about $100 extra but worked into the final cost of the hotel) when we're still shopping around. Currently we have two hotels booked, both have a free cancellation policy up to a week before our stay. So if something does come along that is cheaper or a nicer hotel we can cancel the other rooms free of charge and go with the hotel/price that fits what we want out of our vacation! 

AirBNB and HomeAway. I know a lot of people who say this is cheaper than a hotel but honestly I've never found it to be cheaper or closer to Disneyland in the past couple years I've checked. If you're traveling with more than your own family then I think it would be cheaper to get a house and split the cost. But if it is just you and your kids I always find that a hotel is the way to go. 

Hotel Distance. This last time we went to Disneyland we stayed .3 miles from the park and it was AWESOME! No loading and unloading strollers, bags and kids into a car/shuttle. Being able to get up and walk to the park was the best! Another reason why I recommend staying close to the park is because there is no need for a rental car = money saved. Apparently now you can even get the local Vons grocery store to deliver groceries to your hotel! We may plan on doing this next time. Also, if you search Vons Anaheim delivery you can usually find a free delivery coupon.

Speaking of Food. You always want to bring your own snacks to Disneyland. It saves SO MUCH MONEY because park food is pricey! So you can either have food delivered like mentioned above or if you're flying southwest, use one of your free luggage bags as food storage. This next trip we will be packing lots of dry food. Think granola bars, pretzels, pop tarts, pringles, fig newtons, cereal as well as plastic bowls, utensils and ziplock baggies etc. That way the only thing we'd really need is milk, fresh veggies and other perishable items. which we can have delivered.

Airport Transfer. We almost always rented a car but once we started staying close to the park, it's way cheaper to just walk, obviously. So how to get from LAX to your hotel? There are lots of options, Uber, Lyft, Shuttles, etc..We're thinking of trying out SuperShuttle which is about $50 one way airport to hotel transfer from LAX. I'll update to let you know how we liked it! 

Hotels. Lets talk hotels again. What matters most to you? Closeness to the park? 5 Stars? Motel/Hotel setting? Free breakfast? Sometimes you can't have it all when you're on a budget so pick what is most important and then shop around. Again, set your budget then divide and conquer ;) Figure out how many days you'll want at the parks, figure costs for rental car or shuttle and then figure your hotel budget and shop around. Sometimes if I can't find something that works in our budget I'll wait a month and look again. 

Off Season. We never travel during peak seasons. We don't like crowds at all and would rather go when a ride or two is shut down for maintenance. There aren't as many parades or firework shows but we usually don't mind because the kids are out by then anyway. Spending time together and sticking to a budget is our top priority over parades and other things + I don't mind going when the park closes at 8 or 9 pm because even that is a long day for the boys. Being back at the hotel by 10 is great and gives them plenty of time to get rested and ready for the next day. By traveling during the slow season almost everything is cheaper. Our favorite time to go is February, May or Fall. When we went in February we were able to do 17 rides in one day! It was amazing. We walked on almost every single ride.  

Book in advance. We usually book at least 5-8 months in advance for travel. It's typically cheaper all around the further out you book. I know it sounds crazy but when we are on vacation is when we start looking at hotels for our next vacation. I know, crazy! But you can find great deals that far out and when we know we have another vacation to look forward to (even if it is months and months away) It's easier to budget every month because you have something to look forward too and a goal you're working towards. 

Next post I'll be talking about Disneyland specifically.