11 TIPS FOR A MAGICAL DISNEY TRIP!

Finally!  Tips for visiting Disney World!!  Been wanting to do this post for some time and I finally pulled it together.  Here’s the thing about Disney and me…Disney World was a thing for me growing up.  Living in Miami and being 3 hours away – it was one of my most favorite memories with my family.

I’ll never forget the first time riding “It’s A Small World” with Bobbi and AJ. I shed a few tears thinking back about moments with my mom on the ride and how that was a full circle moment for me and my own little family. Disney World is a magical place and I love to relive these moments with my children while we create our own special memories!

One Balanced Mama_0492.jpg
Carousel rides with my Mom….I look scared.

Our first trip with our kids was in July 2016.  Since then, we’ve gone to the parks over 10 times!! We’re annual pass holders (just myself and Bob) and we are a good 2 hours and 45 minutes away from the parks.  Being Florida residents, we take advantage of the discounted ticket options that Disney offers for the kids.  They don’t need all the perks that come with the annual passes so we tend to save money doing it that way.
One Balanced Mama_0487.jpg
Having done this a few times – I often get asked about “how to do Disney.”  So here are my top tips for a successful trip!

1. Sign up for a Disney account:  When I first logged on to the Disney website – I immediately had anxiety. It was overwhelming…so many options…and even for someone as savvy as I considered myself to be, I needed someone to walk me thru what all of my options were and how this whole Disney thing works!  So take some time to learn your way around the website…its a breeze once you figure it out!

2. Secure the pass: Once you’ve signed up for an account and made your purchases…sign up for your fast passes! If you are staying at a Disney resort, you’re allowed to lock in your fast pass 60 days before your day at the park. If you are staying elsewhere, you can secure your pass 30 days prior to your visit. Getting your fast pass early will ensure you get the rides you want with a very short wait time. Fast Passes also gives you an hour access during your time slot, to get into the ride.

BONUS TIP: You should also plan your fast passes back to back, that way you’re able to add more passes once your main three are complete.  For example:  If you’re at Hollywood Studios – and you book your fast pass for Frozen Sing-Along at 2 PM; Toy Story Mania at 3:30 PM and Slinky Dog RollerCoaster at 4:30 PM – once you complete the last fast pass, you will able to add more fast passes for the rest of your time there. Which leads to…

3. Download the app: My Disney Experience! The app is my go-to for everything! Making dining reservations, purchasing tickets, view my photos from the parks and updating my fast pass schedule. I also use the app to check on wait times for rides or to guide me around the park.  It comes in handy to check fast pass availability throughout the day. Earlier this month we scored fast passes for the new Toy Story Land rides that were technically sold out – just by constantly checking the system.
One Balanced Mama_0488.jpg
4. Plan accordingly/Make reservations: When I plan out my day, I usually include a stop for lunch. There are times we don’t do dining reservations and just eat in the casual dining areas.  There are a few good ones sprinkled around. But if you want a good meal at any of the parks, there are great options for fine dining.  But they also get packed, so make your reservations early and plan it out according to which rides you will be on at a particular time.  Disney allows you to make reservations up to 6 months in advance. You will need that if you’re looking to get reservations at Magic Kingdom’s Be Our Guest Restaurant or Cinderella’s Royal Table. Example: We booked reservations at Jungle Navigation at the Magic Kingdom to time up around our Jungle Cruise fast pass.

BONUS TIP:  A lot of the restaurants also have mobile dining. Go to your app, order your food, skip the lines and your food will be ready by the time you get there.

One Balanced Mama_0482.jpg
Schedule in break times for the kiddos…they’ll need it and so will you!

5. Scout the park! When planning your rides and dining, make sure you look at the map to plan accordingly. The last thing you want to do is zig-zag thru the park from one end to another. Check out the map to see what rides are close to each other, which restaurants are nearby…where you want to start and end.

BONUS TIP: Take full advantage of the indoor shows! Plan them when you know you’ll need some cool air and to sit down for a break (or nap in Bob’s case) Animal Kingdom’s Finding Nemo or Hollywood Studios Voyage of the Little Mermaid or the Frozen Sing-Along are all pieces of heaven when you want a quick time out from the sun and walking..plus they are really good shows!

6. Pack accordingly!  In the heat of the summer – you want to bring cooling towels and ponchos. It will rain – its Florida.  No need to buy expensive Disney ponchos when you buy them on Amazon or at a local store and pack them with you. In the winter months – it definitely gets chilly at night so pack a coat or dress in layers! You’ll also want to bring an extended charger or two.
One Balanced Mama_0491.jpg
7. Stay near the park: We have never stayed at a Disney hotel during our trips with the kids. Its still something I want them to experience but sometimes it doesn’t make sense for us. Because I usually travel with a squad, I normally rent a house in the Encore/Reunion development, which is less than 10 minutes from the park. I love the options of Disney hotels where you can arrive at some of the parks on water taxis and trains – but wherever you choose to stay…stay close! You will be exhausted and the last thing you want to do after a day in the park is drive 20-30 minutes to get home.

8. AM or PM?  A lot of families like to hit the park first thing in the morning. I’ve never tried that. I prefer to hit the parks late afternoon in order for us to get in some of the evening shows. We tend to go around 3 PM – beating some of the foot traffic and still having 6-7 hours to get thru some of our favorite attractions. We also go often so starting early in the morning will work best for those who have limited time in the parks.

One Balanced Mama_0490.jpg
The new River of Lights show at Epcot is one to see!

9. Park Hopper versus One-day tickets: Park Hoppers are useless for us…at least for now.  My kids wouldn’t stand a chance of doing more than one park in a day…it’s not that easy to get from one park to the next. Park Hoppers works best for older teens and adults that have the energy and can get around without worrying about strollers, diaper changes, etc. Plus, each park really takes a full day to explore.
One Balanced Mama_0485.jpg
10. Travel with other families: I like to travel with a squad. So when I go on a trip, I am recruiting friends and family members who have kids the same age as mine. While Disney is guaranteed fun for all…there are some miserable moments (kid meltdowns, untimely bathroom breaks, parents need a drink, etc..) and there’s nothing better than having other people to pass your kid off to or child swap when yours is acting up!
One Balanced Mama_0489.jpg

One Balanced Mama_0481.jpg
SQUUUUUAAAADDDD!!!!

11. Take the photo:  You know those awesome photographers who are strategically placed throughout the park to capture your family moment? Take advantage!!! Sometimes there may be a wait – but the photos always come out awesome and even though you may be tired and just want to go home – take the photo. You also want to jump in the character photos with your kids as well. Those memories will last a lifetime!
One Balanced Mama_0483.jpg

One Balanced Mama_0484.jpg

One Balanced Mama_0480.jpg
Mainly – enjoy the moment. It will be tiring but the experience and memories makes it all worth it. The good, the bad, and all the moments in between. If you have any additional tips that would be helpful – please share.  Have a Magical Trip!!

One Balanced Mama_0486.jpg
Taking time for kisses at Animal Kingdom

While you’re reading up on Disney – check out all the fun from our other Disney Ventures:

Disney Pre-School Playdate

Bobbi Elle’s Disney Royal Birthday Celebration

Bobbi Elle’s Disney Princess Photo Shoot

FIVE AND FIERCE: BOBBI ELLE’S BIRTHDAY PHOTO SHOOT

She’s FIVE…and FIERCE!!!!

Bobbi Elle turning the BIG 5 is bittersweet to me. I just pushed her out yesterday! Where did the time go???  It was not long ago when I shared on this blog my pregnancy announcement:  The Sperm Done Met The Egg.

Many of you have been on this journey with me and have seen her growth.  Doesn’t it make you feel old watching someone else’s child grow up?? Happens to me all the time!

Turning five is a major milestone. Definitely more for me than her.  I mean…she starts real school this year!  I no longer have a little girl. I can barely pick her up at this point – she dresses herself and there are major meltdowns if I attempt to choose anything for her. She’s super independent, knows what she wants and will verbalize it in detail for ALL to understand. If you follow her on any of my social media platforms, then you know that she is a spirited child with a huge personality. While she’s still into her Disney Princesses, she’s also now very much into ratchet music.  And while I’m sad to see her shed the baby girl vibe that I once knew…I’m so excited to see her coming into her own!

For her birthday photo shoot this year – we went with a big girl grown-ish vibe while still capturing the innocence and sweetness of a being a girl. The scene was Lincoln Road on Miami Beach. We used Laduree’s Bakery as our setting…they were sooo awesome to allow us to shoot her there. Plus – we racked up on macaroons (my fave) and espressos. It was a win-win!

Here are some of my favorite shots from our Breakfast At Tiffany’s inspired photoshoot – thanks to Erica Melissa.

We also did shots of her in a fun look – the halter top rose petal shirt that Bobbi was obsessed with!!  Listen…you couldn’t tell her that she wasn’t modeling for Vogue!

One Balanced Mama_0373.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0374.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0377.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0376.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0375.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0378.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0379.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0382.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0384.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0383.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0390.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0380.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0381.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0387.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0386.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0385.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0388.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0389.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0391.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0394.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0392.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0395.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0396.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0397.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0393.jpg

Since her birthday falls a few days before Valentine’s Day – I always get my two loves in a few shots together…sharing a few of those here: Sibling Love: Valentines 2018. Also – check out her Mad Hatter Tea Party/Birthday Party!

SaveSave

BOBBI ELLE’S MAD HATTER TEA PARTY!

5th Birthday Party Celebration

While we were celebrating Bobbi Elle’s 4th Birthday...strolling down Main Street at Disney’s Magic Kingdom….after spending the day with her favorite princesses…having a VIP dinner with 5 of her closest girlfriends at Cinderella’s castle…my little diva declared: For my 5th birthday – I want an Alice in Wonderland themed party!”

*Insert record scratch here*

Ummmmm…can we get thru year FOUR, please????

This is Bobbi Elle. Always thinking ahead. Planning. Strategizing. She’s a little too much like me and it’s scary.

I told her:  1) RELAX. And 2) Enjoy the moment. We have plenty of time to plan year 5.

“Ok. But I want Calyann to be the Mad Hatter and you will be the Evil Queen!”

Great.  Thanks, Bobbi…

— Cut to February 2018 —

She got her wish (of course!)

Now some of you may be aware that we have several celebrations for my kids birthday. And here’s why: I have a huge family and they have a ton of cousins their age. They also have a ton of friends at school that they love to hang out with. So sometimes – we just have to do two. One main party and a smaller celebration at school…and yes – they get to pick a theme park of their choice to spend the day. Cause we live in Miami and nothing is more than 3 hours away…and we pay for annual passes to most of the theme parks…and dammit I’m gonna get my money’s worth….and they only turn this age once…and I fully enjoy the process just as much as they do….so can I live??? And based on my explanation – can you tell that I’m constantly told I am “doing the most” – and I constantly have to respond with these answers?? Ha!

Back to the party!

So she got her wish…..and I found the perfect venue for her tea party at Serendip-A-Tea in South Miami. The tea room is small and quaint, so we rented it out and invited 20 of her closest friends/cousins and 20 adults. The place was super cute – so little decor was needed.

Bobbi Elle's Mad hatter Tea Party

The menu consisted of tea sandwiches, quiche and tomato basil soup for the adults, while the kids munched on mac and cheese, chicken fingers and pizza. For dessert, we offered macaroons, Rice Krispy cards, lavender cookies, brownies, and madeleines. And lots of tea!!!! It was all so delicious!!!!

And can we discuss the detail and gorgeousness of the cake??!! Designed by none other than – Divine Delicacies.

The kids had a blast…the parents had some adult fun…and Bobbi got her wish…along with a special surprise visit from Alice and The Mad Hatter!

And yes – she already knows what she wants to do for her 6th Birthday: A Troll’s Party.

Scenes from the day:

One Balanced Mama_0416.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0427.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0436.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0439.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0420.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0433.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0431.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0428.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0438.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0421.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0419.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0417.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0437.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0425.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0422.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0429.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0424.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0418.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0435.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0434.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0426.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0432.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0430.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0423.jpg

Check out Bobbi Elle’s 5th birthday Photo Shoot: Five and Fierce!

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

A PICTURE PERFECT LOVE: VALENTINE’S DAY PHOTO SHOOT

SIBLING LOVE!

To witness their love is truly a blessing. There is something about sibling love that is a beautiful mess. These two argue and fight like cats and dogs…but to see them show each other love and be affectionate with each other makes playing referee between the two – worth it.

There’s is no way I can do a photo shoot with one without the other wanting to get in on the fun. So a few years ago, I started the Valentine’s Day theme around Bobbi Elle’s birthday shoot to make it fun and have awesome photo keepsakes.  Last year we did a beach theme and one year we had a kissing booth.  I totally get into this and so do they – until one day, they won’t 🙁

Here are some of my faves from our Valentine’s Day 2018 photo shoot.

One Balanced Mama_0400.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0401.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0402.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0404.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0410.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0411.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0409.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0414.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0405.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0408.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0407.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0412.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0413.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0415.jpg
One Balanced Mama_0406.jpg

Amarii Joseph:  3 years old

Bobbi Elle:  5 years old

Photography by:  Erica Melissa

Styled by:  Toni Lowe

Scene:  Somewhere on Lincoln Road

SaveSave