Tuesday, September 13, 2016

How I Saved Money on Our Disney Vacation

My family has done two Disney Cruises and next month we are going to Disney World for the first time.  I've blogged several times about my obsessive planning (find Disney Cruise posts here, and the Disney World post here), and I've worked hard to make our trips really fun for my family.  I really love to plan, but more than that, I love to save money.  I swear, no matter how much money we ever have, I know I will always be on the hunt for a bargain.  I hate to pay full price for anything and Disney is no different.  Disney does not have any reason to discount things, so I had to do a little research and find out the best way to save money without actually changing our trip and leaving out things that we wanted to do.  The ideas that I'm going to share with you aren't going to get you huge savings, but I look at as anything I save can be used towards something else fun later on.  Disney is definitely not cheap, but being the frugal person I am, I'll take any savings I can get.

*Disney has recently done away with the Disney Vacation Account program.
Ok, here's first task at hand..Open a Disney Vacation Account (DVA) at least 120 days prior to your payment due date for your cruise or trip to the parks.  This is a free service, and acts like a savings account.  You set your goal amount that you need to save, add the goal date, and then can either set up recurring contributions or do one time contributions anytime you'd like.  You can make your final payment directly from your DVA.  So, why use this and not your regular bank account?  For every $1000 you pay out of your DVA, Disney will send you a $20 Disney Gift Card.  When we did our cruise, I just took those cards with me on the ship and had them add it to our on board account for any extras we did while sailing.  Our Disney World trip is costing just over $4000, so I'll get $80 in gift cards for us to use (because I know the kids are going to want souvenirs and that sort of thing) while we are in the parks.  $80 for adding money to an account? Totally worth it to me.

The next way that I saved can be done a handful of ways, but I'll only go into detail on the one that is tried and true for me.  I pay for our entire trip with Disney Gift Cards.  Say what??  One of the fun things about the DVA is that you can add funds from Gift Cards instead of from your bank or credit card.  I know you're thinking, "Why would she want to do that?"  Don't worry, I'll tell you.  Do you have a Sam's Club near you or a Sam's membership to shop online?  If so, you can buy Disney Gift Cards there at a discount.  They sell $150 in cards (three $50 cards per pack) for $142.98.  That means for every $150 in cards you buy, you save $7.02.  For our vacation, I bought 29 packs of cards which equaled a $203.58 savings on our trip.  I added all 87 of those cards to my DVA and then called my final payment in to Disney.  If you don't have a Sam's near you, I know there is another way to buy gift cards and save, but since I've not tried it I can't speak much about it, and it also seems like a lot more work.  There is a website called raise.com where people sell gift cards they no longer want at a discount.  You can purchase Target gift cards there at a varying discount (some even use their Target RED Card for additional savings), and then they go to a Target store and purchase Disney cards there.  I did the math when I was researching all of this for our cruise and it was easier for me to just go to Sam's and buy my gift cards there.  It was a small amount of effort on my part, but totally worth it to save over $200, plus get the $80 in bonus gift cards I will receive from my DVA account.  

Monday, June 27, 2016

A New Adventure!

If you've been following my blog for awhile, you know that I am a huge lover of fashion.  I wanted to be a fashion designer as a kid and I really just love everything about it.  I love putting outfits together and I really love finding clothes that make me feel great about myself.  I was doing Fashion Friday posts here on the blog for awhile and would put together an outfit with links to where I bought everything.  Several times I featured clothes (here, here, and here) from a company called LuLaRoe that I was obsessed with.  A friend of mine was a consultant and I started buying from her about 2.5 years ago.  Over the last couple years, I've added almost every style offered to my closet and I don't have any other clothes that I feel so comfortable and happy in.  

Leggings & an Irma Top

 Azure Skirt

As LuLaRoe quickly began to take over my closet (and my daughter's closet!), the option of becoming a consultant myself started taking over my thoughts every day.  I receive compliments on my outfits every single time I leave the house and I've never felt better in anything I've worn.  I wanted to be able to share these amazing clothes with other people and I just couldn't resist any longer.  In April I made the decision to join LuLaRoe, turned in all my paperwork, and was added to the Onboarding Queue.  

If you haven't heard of LuLaRoe before, here is a little information for you.  Each print is made in very limited quantities.  When I order, I am able to order by style and size, but the print that I receive is a surprise.  This is one thing that makes LuLaRoe so special...no consultant has the same inventory!  I've learned my lesson the hard way by not buying a piece that I love and then finding that it is impossible to track down.  These items are referred to as "Unicorns" because they are often impossible to find.  If you find something you love in your size and style, do not wait to get it because it will be gone.  Those pieces that you miss out on will haunt you. :)   There are lots of different styles of skirts, tops, dresses, and leggings.  They make styles for kids, men, and womens sizes XXS-3XL.  There is literally something for everyone!

The wait to join is a long one, but I am thrilled to say that my wait is officially over!  As of 3pm today I am now an official LuLaRoe Fashion Consultant!   I am so incredibly excited to share all of this goodness with you!  I'd love to have you join my VIP shopping group on Facebook at LuLaRoe with Janae, and please follow me on Instagram (LuLaRoeJanaeNaber) and Periscope (@LuLaRoeJanaeNaber) as well.  I'll be selling through Pop Up Boutiques in people's homes, on Facebook, and also through live sales on Periscope.  This is going to be fun! 

Amelia Dress

Cassie Skirt

Monday, May 16, 2016

Disney World Planning in Progress

I have planned and gone on two Disney Cruises (find all of my cruise posts here) with my family now, so I feel a little like a pro when it comes to that aspect of Disney.  We'd planned on booking another cruise while onboard the Disney Wonder in January, but decided at the last minute that we'd like to try our hands at Disney World for our next family vacation.  Once I had nailed down dates, I did what I do best and started obsessing over trip planning.  I thought there was a lot to learn to plan a cruise, but holy heck, Disney World planning is nuts!

The first thing I did was talk to our Disney travel agent and get some advice from her on places to stay, the amount of time to stay, and get information on package options.  If you are going to plan any type of Disney trip, I highly recommend using a Disney authorized travel agent.  They are free to use and it has been such a tremendous asset in planning our vacations.  I can't say enough good things about Carrie Johnson at Small World Vacations.  If you need an agent, she's been an amazing help for all our trips.  She recommended 5-7 days in the parks for a first visit, and with our schedules we are able to do the full week.  I looked through the different resort options, did a little research, and based a lot of my decision making on price.  In the end I chose Port Orleans Riverside and when I asked our travel agent, she said liked that resort very much.  We also decided to do the Disney dining plan.  I've read reviews for pros and cons of the plan, and I really do think it will be the best option for my family.  We shall find out in October!

As soon as I had nailed down dates, resort, park tickets, and dining details I pretty much just started adding every bit of Disney World info I could find to my Pinterest board.  I have boards for Disney World and for Disney Cruises that you are welcome to follow to save yourself the time of searching through everything.  I am an obsessive planner, what can I say?

Aside from using our travel agent and Pinterest, I picked up a book called The Unofficial Guide to Walt Dinsey World 2016 from the library (recommended by my travel agent) that has more information than you can even imagine.  When I had no plan at all, this book was overwhelming.  Once I had mapped out a few things it became incredibly helpful and I just keep renewing it from my library instead of returning it.  I have used it a lot and definitely recommend it.

So far, the only other big planning thing I've had to do was make our dining reservations.  This was a really overwhelming task for me and I am not sure what I would have done if I hadn't been able to chat with my travel agent about it.  I'd read some different blogs and posts on Pinterest about how to best use the dining plan and recommended restaurants, but there are so many to choose from that I didn't even know where to begin.  My husband thinks I'm nuts, but I sat down and made an Excel spreadsheet to keep everything organized.  I had to first decide the order we wanted to do the parks in, and how many times we plan to go to each park because I opted out of Park Hopper tickets.  I just didn't see my family going from one park to another in the same day, so the cost didn't seem worth it to me.  I broke each day down into breakfast/lunch/dinner and kept a running total of what dining credits we'd be using for each meal.  I told my travel agent that we'd like to do some character meals, but didn't want them all that way, and she gave me an amazing list of her restaurant recommendations for each park.  I looked through the menus and reviews for each of those restaurants and then made my list of where we wanted to eat each day.  You may begin making dining reservations at 6am EST 180 days out from your vacation date.  There were a few restaurants that we really, really wanted to go to and I'd read that you have to be on right away to make reservations.  To add to the list of things I do that make my family think I'm crazy, I got up before 4am (because we are MST) to make our dining reservations.  I was able to reserve everything I wanted to, so to me it was worth it.  I lucked out and it was on a weekend, so I just took a nap later that morning to make up for it.

My next big planning task will be to figure out FastPass+ reservations.  Luckily I have a few friends who live in Florida that frequent Disney World and they've offered to give me some advice with this part of my planning.  I still need to figure out flights and a handful of other little things for the trip, but I feel like I've got the big things covered so far.  I love a good project, which is what this trip planning is.  I'm excited to share more of what I learn with everyone and we can't wait to experience the magic of Disney again!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Art of Procrastination - Wrapping Up the School Year

In the fall I wrote this post about my need to get the kids back to school and back into a routine. Well, here is my late spring post about needing to get the heck out of school and dive head first into summer. The last few weeks of school always seem to be packed with projects, choir concerts, presentations, and craziness.  I've got to believe I'm not the only one who lives in survival mode for the majority of the month of May each year.  Show of hands please?

I'm a crazy planner, so it may come as a surprise to those of you that know me, to find out that I consider myself a professional procrastinator.  It is an art, and I don't mean to brag, but I'm sooooooo good at it.  Like, really, really good you guys.  I don't care if you tell me that something needs to be done months in advance, I promise you, I will complete whatever it is with approximately 12 hours to spare (on a good day).  Yes, I'm aware that this is stressful and is an unfavorable way to go about life, but I'm certain that I can't function any other way at this point.  I like to say that I work best under pressure.  I will have it written on every possible calendar and have a list of all the things I need to do to complete the task, but I will without a doubt be working right up until the final hour.  To make life a little more fun, my kids both seem to have inherited this trait from me.  To them it is no big deal at 7:00 am to mention that they have to take snacks to school, or to tell me at 7:00 pm that they have a big assignment due the next morning.  Every time this happens, we have a big talk about not waiting till the last minute, but deep down I can't even be mad at them.  I've been that way my whole life.

Yes, this is us...


[proh-kras-tuh-ney-shuh n, pruh‐] 


the act or habit of procrastinatingor putting off or delaying, especiallysomething requiring immediate attention:
She was smart, but her constant procrastination led her to be late withalmost every assignment.
Both kids have had some major projects due the last couple weeks.  R is in 1st grade and her class was assigned a big animal research project at the beginning of the trimester.  I will say that we actually worked on that a little at a time for about two weeks prior to the due date.  We did however, still have a giant poster we had to make the night before.  She has one more project due next week and then she can sail into summer.  J is in 6th grade and also had a big project due last week.  Luckily the majority of the research for that had been done during class throughout the trimester, but again we were making a poster and cooking a Brazilian recipe the night before.  I'm pretty sure he feels like school should have ended after the presentation of that project because he'd worked so long on it.  Not much longer to go and he's done with all the big stuff.  So, we had a crazy little dash of projects in the last week, but I will say that both kids totally nailed them. 

We have made it through several projects, two presentations, a choir concert, the school carnival and field day. Not to mention that we've been to dance classes and a competition, baseball practice, and soccer practice/games.  There are 8.5 days left of school and I'm finally feeling confident that we are  going to make it through!  Summer will be here before we know it, at which point we'll gradually drive each other crazy until school starts again in the fall.
It is the circle of life folks.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Disney Cruise Stateroom Door Decorations

We've taken two Disney Cruise vacations now, and one of the things that my family loved to do was decorate our stateroom door.  It made it easy for the kids to find our room when we went down the hallway and it was really fun to see how others had their doors decorated.

The major rules that you have to follow is that you can't use any type of adhesive stickers on the doors or anything that goes over the top of the door (like over the door closet hooks, etc).  The doors are metal and everything must be hung using magnets.  You need a pretty heavy duty magnet and I've tried two different kinds.  On our first cruise I bought a roll of adhesive backed magnets that were labeled as heavy duty.  They were a little pricey, but I could cut them in the sizes I wanted and stick them on my projects (like these Fish Extender gifts I made here).  They didn't end up being quite strong enough to really hang well on the stateroom doors.  Sometimes we'd come back to our room and we would find a few decorations had slid down the door or were on the floor.  I found some adhesive backed magnetic buttons in the craft section at Walmart (only sold in stores) and used those for our next last cruise.  They worked perfectly and they were cheap at 18 for $1.97.  I added a little E6000 glue along with the adhesive sticker because I wanted them to really stick.  

These are what I used...

You can really do anything you want for your door decorations.  I wanted to keep with a Mickey Ears theme, so I found a template (I liked this one) and added my own designs to the inside of the ears in Microsoft Word.  I did one for each member of our family with their name and their favorite Disney character.  I also did a bunch of our favorite sports teams (and a CO flag) to show our Colorado pride.  I made one specific to our cruise for the second trip because I had someone from our cruise group (more on joining a group here) make one for us on our first trip that I loved having.  I had also seen a lot of cute character decorations to put around the round part on your door that has your stateroom number on it.  I found some really great templates on Pinterest and used this one to print a Pirate Mickey.  Really, you can do whatever you want.  I saw people with battery operated lights that they hung on their door, decorations for birthdays, anniversaries, etc.  Get creative!

To design my decorations, I used Microsoft Word.  I inserted the picture template, inserted another picture for the design I wanted, added a text box, and then played around with sizes.  I saved one and then kept that size and used it for the rest that I made.  I printed them, cut the design out, and then laminated them.  Make sure you cut the paper to the shape you want it prior to laminating, then laminate, then cut the plastic down to the correct size.  If you cut the paper after you laminate, there won't be anything to hold the seal and it will separate.  I have this Scotch Laminator and absolutely love it.  I got it as a gift and then bought extra 5x7" and 8.9x11.4" sheets from Amazon (much cheaper!)  After laminating, I glued a few magnets on the back and then stuck them all in a ziplock bag to pack in my suitcase.  You can read about my packing tips here

I somehow forgot to take a picture of our stateroom door on the first cruise, but managed to remember to do it on the last night of our second trip.  Side note, I let my seven year old daughter arrange the door and had to stop myself from moving things around every time I looked at it.  I thought about moving things around for the picture, but this is how she wanted it so I left it be.  We were also gifted some fun magnets from our Fish Extender group (more info on Fish Extenders here) that we loved adding to our door.

Decorating your door just adds a little more magic to an already magical Disney Cruise vacation.  It can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it, but it adds a fun touch that my family really enjoyed.  If you aren't creative, I'm sure there are Etsy shops that sell pre-made decorations, or you could do simple stuff with Disney scrapbooking paper.  Make whatever you want and have fun with it!

How to Start Planning Your Disney Cruise

How to Start Planning Your Disney Cruise   Our family has been on three Disney Cruises so far, and we've sailed on three of the...