I have never been to a Disney Park. A weird admission from a travel and media geek like myself.
See my parents didn’t really love theme parks. I don’t think my dad went to a single one with us as kids. And the biggest theme park I had been to before 2015 (I was 24) was Elitch Gardens in Denver, Colorado.
It wasn’t that my dad didn’t like fun, or even Disney movies. In fact he adores the music from quite a few of them, it was the crowds and the noise and the heat, and most importantly, the cost.
When you’re living below the poverty most of your childhood, a Disney vacation is at the bottom of the list.
Therefore, at the age of 28 I am taking on the work of planning a day at the Magic Kingdom at Disney World!
What I thought would be a simple planning of a day or two has turned into months of opening dates and reservations and hourly details. It’s insane.
Therefore, what has been a deep dive into planning a Disney World vacation, and at times a headache, has lead me to thinking that other people could use some guidance. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing my tips and tricks to figuring it all out, saving money, and having the best time possible! I look forward to helping others along the journey.
Many times we are reminded that theme parks are for kids. They are money sucks of candy and cartoons and memorable characters and wild rides that make many adults queasy. We are reminded to take our kids to this and that so they have fun and memories and pictures. But I say, hold up, theme parks are as much for adults as kids, and you damn well can have a great time.
This year, if anything, is becoming my year of theme parks. For a long time I shied away from the parks. Well, I didn’t actively shy away, but I didn’t try to go to theme parks. I had not been to anything since 2015 on my last trip to Florida, and I decided to change that.
The last eight months have been a stressful, but mostly positive experience in my family. My husband had a job change, I am having two surgeries this year (more on this later next week), I have had promotions and job trainings. It has been crazy, an emotional roller coaster (pun intended), and stressful. I decided that my stepdaughter and I needed some fun on a day we had free together and that’s what we did.
We took a whole Saturday, grabbed Lily’s friend Josiah, and spent a whole day eating junk food, riding rides, and weaving through crowds at Elitch Gardens in Denver, Colorado. It was silly, it was fun, we made goofy jokes, we laughed at the rides, we got dizzy on the tea cups and we had an overall great day.
We enjoyed it so much we are looking forward to going next week with our Girl Scout Troop! There is even a new ride based on Meow Wolf, the Kaleidescape, which is an amazing art installation! It’s classic fun, in a local setting, full of all the grease and Dippin’ Dots that made a 90s childhood amazing.
So, fellow adults, and adult adjacents, get off your ass and enjoy the insane stupid fun of your local theme park this year. You will blow off steam, you’ll get some sun, you’ll walk like five miles so don’t stress about the calories, and you will make some memories.
My sister is getting married in October, in Orlando, in a backyard wedding. This means the whole famdamily is going to the wedding. Which means we are going to be trying to make the most of the vacation, family time, and sightseeing in one giant Robinson Wedding Week.
As you can imagine, trying to organize approximately 20 people to show up to pre-wedding events, and another 60 for the wedding, is a bit of a project. While it’s my sister’s wedding, and she is tackling the wedding EVENTm I am working on extra events to keep kids, parents, cousins, and myself sane.
While my family likes a good time, I can’t say they are the best at planning in advance to make the most of their time. If you are in a situation like me, it’s vital that you make a plan and stick to it so that you can actually enjoy your “vacation” without getting lost in a sea of relative needs. Here are my tips for surviving and enjoying the journey.
Make a list of people going, lists of priority sites and activities, lists of time needed for travel.
Lists will help you prioritize and plan more comfortably.
If you are headed for theme parks, make a list of activities and rides that are most important, and that will work for different people and ages. For instance, my five year old cousin won’t be able to do many of the rides my 12 y/o step daughter wants to ride. Therefore, with some planning we can split up and get to ride everything we want. (see above)
Plan What You Want or Need
Vacations are expensive, so it’s important to make a plan to get the most out of your time on a trip. With a group, things go slower, and sometimes you just won’t get everyone to commit to a plan. Therefore, it’s important to choose what you want and need the most then invite everyone.
For example, I pick days that work the best for the most important things. What day do we need to do the Bachelorette for the Bride? What day will be more comfortable for everyone for sleep, timing, obligations etc.
You won’t be able to make everyone happy, but people usually will make something work if they want to join in. If they can’t, then they usually find an alternative option.
Know You Won’t Make Everyone Happy
Inevitably you will have people that aren’t happy with the schedule. While it’s nice to make things work for everyone, it usually doesn’t ever work. If you waited for everyone to be able to go, the truth is that you probably would never get to go!
Prioritize the most important people, sometimes this is the people getting married, sometimes it’s making sure the kids get to have the most at their day at Disney. While it’s nice to wait for Aunt Janet to get her nails done, maybe Janet needs to reschedule or join everyone at another time.
Don’t plan on Being with Everyone All The Time
It’s nice to plan on being together a lot, but the truth is that everyone will want to do different things at different times.
It’s common for everyone to get sick of each other too. This gives kids and adults a chance to get space, quiet time, and down time to relax.
The sooner you start trying to book an AirBnB, hotel, rental cars, and other arrangements, the better the rates and the better selection you will have. Booking a last minute flight and room probably won’t give you the best price and options.
Start drawing up plans for each day so that you can get a feel for what everyone wants or needs. This gives you time to rearrange plans in case of closures, event changes, or other situations.
Plan for Down Time
If kids are involved you will need some time to relax. If adults are involved, you will need some time to sleep, eat, talk, and not have to be anywhere. I highly suggest making a day or two free days, or open days, where loose plans are made, and everything is casual. If people are exhausted, cancel plans, and take time to sleep or just chill.
Colorado has had a hot summer, along with much of the United States. With the heat comes the discomfort of not having great air conditioning at our apartment and many other homes in the area.
When the days hit the 90s and up to 100, many of us take to the mountains, or the Poudre river and finally, our Horsetooth Reservoir. “Horsetooth” (as the locals call the area) was established in 1949 and was created to stabilize the water system of the region. Since then it has been a great recreational area for locals and visitors.
This summer a friend of mine encouraged me to try Stand Up Paddle Boarding at the reservoir as a way to have fun and try a new skill. I found a new sport that has proved to be a great way to cool down and have fun.
I took my stepdaughter on my first times out, and the second time for a chance to really experiment with a SUP (Stand up paddle board). I found my spills into the water a hilarious and amusing way to cool off. Paddling meant a great workout and just enjoyable to take in the scenery and other paddlers. Our favorite is seeing those with dogs on their boards who are having the time of their lives.
If you want to check out paddle boarding on Horsetooth Reservoir the best area is on the North Shore (Satanka Cove). This area has less people in motorized water crafts (I’ve only ever seen jet skis).
There are two companies that operate rentals on the shore, and both charge approximately $20/hour. They have life jackets included in the rental price, and two smaller people can comfortably fit on a board. It’s a great experiment in balance and fun. If you want to try something more intense yoga classes are held regularly.
Earlier this month I took a road trip to Iowa to attend a cousin’s wedding. The first half was spent on the never ending drive through Nebraska with my great aunt Jayne, her granddaughter Ivy, and my stepdaughter Lily. We stopped at the Omaha Zoo and made a comfortable adventure of the journey.
To return from the wedding, since I needed to be back to work before Jayne planned to return, my stepdaughter and I could either fly, rent a car, or how we decided – take the train.
The Amtrak’s California Zephyr runs through Iowa, and we caught it about an hour south of Des Moines. From there one journey’s overnight before arriving in Colorado around 7:00 a.m. making the train journey approximately 12 hours depending on delays.
The train was only around $130 for the two of us one-way in basic economy seating. We sat on the top floor of the double decker economy cars and with ample leg room and the ability to walk around it never felt particularly cramped on the journey. No it was not luxury accommodations and a bed would have been nice, but for one overnight journey it was a reasonable price and journey.
I would say if you were to journey much longer, then a sleeper car of some sort would have been ideal. If only to be able to stretch out properly and have some privacy. Amtrak offers Roomettes and Family Rooms, depending on one’s budget and preferences.
Naturally, train travel is not the fastest or most efficient, but the experience is worth having and it’s an economical means for some routes. Additionally, trains are not nearly as crowded as buses I have traveled on or even planes, meaning you feel less cramped and trapped by everything.
Here are some of my tips for making the journey more comfortable:
Most train stations will not have the ability to check your bags, so you will have to carry on suit cases and they need to be small enough to fit overhead. A larger carry-on bag is ideal
Keep comfortable items closed
Have a smaller personal bag with you to have by you and your seat, here it is ideal you have things like books, phones, laptop, and a toothbrush or any night creams and other items you may want handy. This includes snacks.
Keep the kid(s) happy
I brought the Nintendo Switch from our house to keep Lily gaming until I felt we should sleep. She also had books, snacks, and other items to keep her comfortable.
My emergency kit for all kid-related items includes wet wipes, chapstick, lotion, hand sanitizer, and a game of some sort.
Wear comfy clothing
Like with a flight, wear items that are comfortable to sit in for 12 hours + and that are stretchy or okay for swollen feet, and other discomforts of travel.
Keep medicine handy
Sometimes aches and pains happen, as well as the inability to sleep, keep your medicinal items handy for easy treatment.
The journey will be much longer if you don’t move around, so make sure you check out the dining car, observation car, or simply journey the aisles to get some legs stretched.
Avoid the food
This may be a no-brainer, but food on flights, and apparently trains, are not like the Hogwarts Express as I had hoped. Everything was overpriced, greasy, and lacked flavor. For my next train adventure, I plan on bringing my own oatmeal and other noms
The train offers water bottle/cup refill stations, take advantage of this to avoid buying bottled water. AND it’s ore environmentally friendly. (For other tips, check out Ditching Disposables.
Travel can be hard, no matter the means, make it a time to enjoy things you don’t usually. Watch the sunrise, have a glass of wine on a train, talk about silly things with your kiddo, or write in your journal. Sometimes just being is the ultimate treat.
My mom and I used to fight about who got to pack bags for trips. My mom and I are both type A personalities, and stubborn, and sometimes control freaks (just being honest).
Thus, when stubborn preteen me took a trip, she would argue with her mom about what was packed and what made sense to take.
Mind you, I have never forgotten more than like a toothbrush on a trip. I have maybe broken many chargers, sunglasses, tubes of shampoo and more, but it usually makes it in the suitcase first!
Anyway, fast forward 17 years and I have a step daughter that doesn’t care what goes in her bag. Which helps so much when we travel! The down side is that she doesn’t end up helping in the planning stages as much as I would like.
Thus, I put together this handy guide on what kids need for a summer car trip with a train return. Making it an easy and simple way for adults and kids to know what to plan when hitting the road.
Side note: I totally forgot shoes, which are usually attached to the kids feet.
It’s Wednesday, and I am here to inspire you to get out and experience life in the simple ways. We don’t all have money to get out of town every few months, but we do have innovation, creativity, and often a lot of inexpensive means to get the most of our lives.
In order to make the most of my weekend I contacted a local goat farmer!
Because they are some of the most adorable creatures on the planet!
Also, the farm, Barnyard Buddies Fainting Goats, is absolutely fantastic in their rearing of animals, and community outreach that educate and inspire others to learn more on the goofy babies.
The best part was that it meant my money, a donation for food and effort, went directly to encouraging small farmers and their mission of raising rare livestock.
Okay, actually the best part was getting to love on baby goats for an hour and a half. BABY GOATS FOR AN HOUR AND A HALF.
You’re probably thinking, how did this rando blogger in Colorado get such a deal?
WELL the farmers want the babies socialized so that they make the best possible pets for their clients that buy the babies as pets and friends. Therefore, having people visit is a win-win for everyone. The farmer gets the goats socialized, the goats get lovings and hair to chew on, and the visitors have a freakin’ blast.
How did I know about the fainting goats?
Well they have a fantastic Facebook page! There, they post gobs of adorableness of babies playing, running, jumping, spazzing, fainting, and the other things goats do.
They also hold Yoga classes with the babies, of which I attended about a year ago, and had a blast with. This they do with the talented and wonderful OmKai Yoga based in Fort Collins. If you want to attend such a class, click here.
The added bonus to the whole adventure was some family visiting for my mom’s birthday. My mom turned 50 on the 2nd, so to celebrate; I took her to a goat farm. Which is a little odd. Originally the plan was Disney World, but life happened, so goats it was. I know this sounds selfish, and maybe a part of it was, but my mom grew up with goats, and loves goats, so I truly believe she had a good time. The photos also speak for themselves!
P.S. poop happens, just be prepared for stinky shoes, and maybe some accidents 😉
I love Mulan, and I always have. From seeing it in the theater as a 7 year old, to a 24 year old watching it and analyzing its feminist message. At 7 I dressed up like her for a costume party, and carried around my barbie doll of her, always in her kung-fu outfit! At 24 I feel a tattoo is in order for my celebration of a fabulous story, and studying Ancient China in college has given more depth and inspiration to the story that pours from a rich, vibrant culture and time.
I remember being in love with the idea of a female character saving the day, I loved the funny dragon, I loved the touch on a culture so different from my own that I could only be mesmerized. I fell in love with not only the movie, but the idea that the world was so much bigger than what I had been thought to believe.
It was the art, the characters, the music, and all the other subtle details. It was getting to go to, what I believed, the “authentic” China-China in Manitou Springs and eating won-ton soup and listening to traditional music every time we were in “The Springs”. It was a fantasy and escapism for a child that longed for her own war to fight and adventure on the horizon.
Mulan wasn’t just an excitement for a child, it was further permission to dream. It encouraged me to read National Geographic’s and go into History and Journalism in academics so that I could explore more and more of the world. It has inspired me to travel alone to Europe three times, and to plan bigger adventures for the future, including China. It has encouraged me to take on scary challenged, because though the battle was hard and frightening, it was worth it. Though tiring and tumultuous, saving myself, and maybe my nation, was worth it.
Okay I am getting a little dramatic, but the sense of pride that Mulan instilled in me, the idea that as a girl i could do really AMAZING things will never be forgotten. The idea that a girl could be just as good as the boys, and that a girl could be the main reason something fails or thrives was a driving force like no other. No other princess movie in my childhood had that same message, and no other movie left my heart full of joy and confidence that I too could take on something evil and defeat it.
Regardless of some of the nonsense that inevitably comes with Disney movies, this one is still in my top five. The others came to me in my later childhood and adult life. Lilo and Stitch was innovative and hit home to how important family is to all of us and that differences make us beautiful. Tangled allowed goofiness to be charming and that we all have to save ourselves. Brave explored the complexities of mother-daughter relationships and the expectations we all have hovering over our heads. All of these movies have altered me, but Mulan was the first and the strongest.