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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Tour of our Home: Britt's Princess Room

You can see Britt's nursery here and Mermaid Room here!

When we first moved into our home we planned on the downstairs bedrooms always being used for the youngest children in our home. That meant that for several years we didn't utilize the upstairs rooms at all (one was the original play room and the other was a guest bedroom). As we've added more children, the older ones have moved upstairs. When we had Tess, Kye moved upstairs first. And now that we're preparing a nursery for Tab, it's Britt's turn!

We allowed both Kye and Britt to have some freedoms in choosing the theme for their upstairs room. They chose the theme, Mommy and Daddy decided how to best achieve it. Britt wanted a princess room. While this isn't a bedroom she'll be wanting forever, it's one that she will LOVE for many years still to come so it was worth it to us to go ahead and go all out princess with it ;)


We went with a light pink for the walls and it is a perfect shade. It's hard to tell in photos but it's not TOO pink or TOO bright. If/when she does phase out of princess stuff, I think she may still like the color and it could be switched up to a different theme pretty easily. 

We kept her same furniture (PBK) and reused many of the elements from her old room. We used these white shelves in Kye's nursery and have had them in her room ever since. Zach painted a frame that was used in her mermaid room (and was originally Katie's grandmothers and then used in Casey's wedding!) and we added ribbon to it. I got excited to find some perfectly matching pieces at the Target Dollar Spot that tied it together and I printed off several photos of Britt with some of her favorite Disney characters. She got to pick which 15 pics made the board and she was so funny when choosing. She was all about having photos of herself ;) 





She's growing up and starting quite the jewelry collection so I passed along some necklace storage I had from my Stella and Dot days!


This little table was in Kye's nursery and then our guest room and now it's the perfect spot for her princess castle!



I love the nice big closet she has! I know as a teen she'll appreciate it!



We kept a dresser from the guest bedroom (used to be in Kye's nursery) and put it in her closet. It gives added storage and added shelf space! I couldn't bare to part with her personalized mermaid print so we stuck that on the wall in the closet too!


Again, the dresser is from her Mermaid room, the chair is from her nursery. I bought the mirror at TJMaxx and love it! I also found the prints on Jane.com and got them all for under $30! We got the frames at Ikea and I love how they turned out. This room was a lot trickier to decorate than I had anticipated. Most princess stuff you find is SO cheesy or it's like really the most with tons of bling and such. I wanted her room to have a princess feel but not be cheapy looking either. It's a tricky balance and I loved these prints because they provided that balance I was looking for. I also got the lamp and shade at At Home. Eventually I'll probably do something different on her dresser space...I struggle with these super long dressers and what to put on them haha! For now though, it works!






Donald will always be her main man ;) 
(And yes...video monitors in my kids rooms..FOR LIFE ha!)


The "You Are My Sunshine" pillow was a gift from my mom to me many years ago and Britt loves it!





The little space leading to her window is probably my favorite in the room!



I saw a similar idea in a Disney group I'm in and had to make it happen for Britt's room! The decal was done by the amazingly talented aNn Monograms. I found the crown hooks at Kirklands on super clearance and Zach painted them to match. The wooden letters are from Hobby Lobby and we have been taking them on our recent Disney trips to have all of the princess/female characters sign them (Britt has been SUPER choosey about who gets to sign...the only boy allowed has been Donald ha!). They turned out better than I had even imagined and it's the perfect spot for her to hang all of her princess dress up clothes!




And the window spot is also perfect for her vanity (again, thanks to aNa Mongrams for personalizing her vanity!) 


Zach really loves the symbol used in Rapunzel and wanted to find a way to work it into the decor of the room. I ended up ordering it as a clock from Society 6!


The reason the rest of her room is a little bit understated with the princess theme? Because her BED screams princess room loud and clear haha! We did NOT like Britt's bed AT ALL in her Mermaid Room (it was from Ikea and we won't be buying a bed from there again) so we knew we'd have to make a change. Why not just go all out with the whole princess theme, right? The bed itself is actually from Walmart. We got it on clearance and don't mind that it's not top quality. We know she won't be wanting a castle bed forever ;) 

I know I'm going to get a ton of inquiries about how to make this bed. I get SO many emails asking for instructions for many elements of our playroom. Zach just really, really has an amazing talent and awesome eye for this type of thing. He literally built all of this with no instructions or any sort of guide to follow. He did a lot of measuring, and remeasuring. He created the entire design (we looked together at inspiration photos!) and he put it into action. It's actually all done with plywood which is much lighter and easier for him to handle with his back issues and concerns but he still had to have help for many elements of it. 

Typically the way Zach and I work together is I have an idea (often Pinterest inspired ha!) and he makes it come to life. This was one of the times where he really went above and beyond all expectations. The door? The crown cut out on the door? The windows? The fact that the front panels in front of the bottom bunk open to make for easy sheet changing? Seriously he's got mega talent!!!



Her princess bedding is from Pottery Barn Kids (I use their credit card to buy furniture then pay it off in full and then use the rewards I earn from them to get the bedding FOR FREE). I'm glad I didn't pay for it because you really don't even notice it at ALL with how awesome the castle is around it!

We wanted to get Britt a bunk bed because she has said for a long time now that someday she wants Tess to share her room with her. While Tess isn't old enough to even try that yet, we could see them wanting to sleep together and like the idea of Britt having bunk beds to allow that to happen if it's desired and it works out. I loved that this bed has stairs going up to the top. Not only is it safer than a ladder but it makes changing out the top bunk sheets WAY easier for me. The bottom of the bed is a drawer that is meant to be a trundle. We instead have all of Britt's stuffed animals and dolls in it :) 




Whenever I buy anything for our home I always find items that have the max amount of storage possible. I love these drawers on the sides of the steps!




The one negative about her bed is that she isn't able to have shelving or a desk area like Kye has in his set up (but the advantage is that she has WAY more floor space to play). It was important to me for her to have shelving space. I like that Kye can read in his bed and wanted the same for her. We found this shelf at Ikea and Zach installed it along the wall and it works perfectly! It's also a great spot for her to have her princess decor on display where she can see it and enjoy it...but it's not seen by anyone else viewing her room ;)



She LOVES her new room!!!


So thankful for her Prince Charming Daddy who made all of her dreams come true!



Want to see other rooms in our home? Our complete home tour is here!

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Top 5 Disney Tips from a Travel Agent

Y'all know I LOVE me some Disney! I'm always reading up on the latest news and tips and had a blog friend and fellow Disney lover reach out to me with the offer to share up her knowledge as a Disney Travel Agent! So excited to learn some new tricks and tips from someone who lives and breaths Disney ;) Thanks to Allison from Key to the World Travel for contributing to the blog (be sure to read the whole post for a special offer just for blog readers whoop whoop #dealz)!

Introduction:

A lot of people want to take their family on a trip to “The Most Magical Place on Earth” (a.k.a. Disney World) but feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.  And really, who can blame them when there are so many moving pieces, details, and acronyms?  There’s where to stay, which parks to visit, dining plans, FastPass+, BBB, PPO ADRs, CRT, DS… the list goes on!

Well, have no fear because your travel agent is here!  My name is Allison DeYoung, and I am a travel planner specializing in Disney destinations.  I work for a company called Key to the World Travel, and our agency is an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner (otherwise known as an “Earmarked” agency.)  I spend a lot of time planning Disney World trips for my clients, handling all the details like helping them decide where to stay, snagging hard-to-get character breakfast reservations, and creating touring plans to maximize their fun.

(That’s me with my kiddo at Disney World last year!)

Today, I’m here to share with you my Top Five Tips for planning the ultimate Disney dream vacation.  Hopefully, after reading this blog post, you’ll feel excited and confident enough to begin planning your own trip!

Tip #1:  Know When to Go!

In my opinion, any time is a great time to be at Disney World.  That said, if you have a variety of trip dates to choose from, there are some ways to narrow it down.  First, check out crowd calendars to get an idea of which seasons are busiest.  I like the calendar from WDW Prep School because it follows the school year calendar, which many of us are bound by!

Also, check out the weather for various times of year.  This is super easy to do by looking at monthly calendars on AccuWeather.  Central Florida is warm year-round, but gets extra hot and rainy in the summer.  If you don’t care for heat, try to visit during the winter months.

There are some special events at Disney that might make a difference in your planning.  Here’s a non-exhaustive list:
      WDW Marathon Weekend (early January) and Princess Half Marathon Weekend (late February) are great for runners who want to do one of these events!
      Epcot has a beautiful Flower and Garden Festival in the spring
      Epcot Food and Wine Festival runs late August through mid-November and is fun for foodies
      In the fall, you can go to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party…
      ...and during the Christmas season, you might want to check out Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

While it’s true that these events can sometimes cause higher crowds, they might also be really fun events for your family to participate in!


(Candlelight Processional is one example of a special holiday event at Disney World).
Photo Credit: DisneyCopyright.com

Finally, consider your family’s special needs.  Is it okay for your kids to miss school?  Can you visit during a holiday, or would you miss family traditions too much?  Would you wilt in the summer heat, or, conversely, be disappointed if a winter visit made it too chilly to swim?  Is there a time of year when it is easier for you or your partner to take vacation days?  Thinking about your family’s schedule and needs when planning can make for a more successful trip!

Tip #2:  Stay In a Disney Resort Hotel… or Don’t!

Did you know that there are 20 different Walt Disney World resorts?  These include different price ranges (value, moderate, and deluxe), kid-friendly hotels, upscale resorts, and even a campground with cabins for rent!  There are some benefits to staying on property, including being able to make your FastPass+ reservations early, add the Disney Dining Plan to your package, and use Disney’s free transportation.  When you stay on site, you also get Disney Magic Bands, which are convenient bracelets that serve as access to your room, transportation, park tickets, dining plan credits, and more.  For many families, staying onsite is fun, convenient, cost-effective, and easy!


(My favorite resort at Disney World is Disney’s Port Orleans Resort - Riverside.)
Photo Credit: DisneyCopyright.com

However, it’s not for everyone!  The good news is, if you have a large family or are traveling in a multi-generational group, it’s also fun and convenient to rent a vacation home near Disney World.  This can be cost-effective, too, especially for a longer trip (many vacation homes rent Saturday-Saturday only, making them impractical for short trips).  Renting a vacation home is great if your family likes to spread out or if you prefer to do some cooking on your trip and have the convenience of throwing in a load of laundry during your afternoon break.  This can also be convenient if your family is driving to Orlando or plans to rent a car, since you’ll have your own transportation.

When planning your trip, sit down and ask yourself a few key questions in order to make the on-site versus off-site choice:
      What is the size of our travel group?  Most Disney resorts accommodate four- or five-people per room; if you have more, you may want to look at a vacation home!
      Will we have a car available?  If not, you will want to take advantage of on-site transportation.  If yes, make sure you factor parking costs ($20 per day at Disney parks) into your budget.
      Do we want to mostly eat in restaurant or cook some of our own meals?

Working with a travel agent who specializes in Disney Destinations can also help you make an informed choice!

Tip #3:  Avoid the Lines with FastPass+

FastPass+ is an attraction reservation system that is absolutely FREE to everyone who visits Disney World!  Here’s how it works:

1.     Guests create a My Disney Experience account & down the smartphone app
2.     Using the app, you’ll pick three attractions for each day of your trip and a time for that experience.  Most are one-hour windows. 
3.     When it’s time to use your FastPass, approach the ride, enter the FastPass line, and scan your Magic Band.  Then jump on and enjoy!
4.     After using your three FastPass+ reservations, use your app or an in-park kiosk to schedule more!


(The teacups are a favorite ride around our house.)

I am not kidding when I say that my family does not wait in lines at Disney World.  We arrive at the parks early and enjoy some attractions before the crowds build.  Then, we use all our FastPass+ reservations - I always pick rides that I know build the longest lines!  After that, I just start scheduling more FP+ as we go.  A typical conversation for my family in the parks goes like this:

Me:  What else do you guys want to ride?
Kiddo:  Elephants!
Husband:  Haunted Mansion!
Me, looking at the app:  Okay, there’s only a 15 minute wait at the Haunted Mansion, so we’ll go there next.  And we can get a FastPass for Dumbo at 4:00, so we will go there after.
Everyone:  Yay!

It can seem overwhelming, but once you know the system, FastPass+ makes park touring much easier and can help you avoid the dreaded theme park lines!


(That’s the face of someone who rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad three times without standing in line.)

Tip #4:  Add Some Extra Magic to Your Vacation!

Of course, a trip to Disney World is a magical experience in and of itself, but who can resist the urge to plan some special moments and watch their children’s eyes light up with wonder?  There are lots of opportunities to spread pixie dust during your vacation!

Here are three of my favorite ways to add extra magic:

      Character Meals: Enjoy a breakfast, lunch, or dinner where favorite characters like Mickey and Minnie or the Disney princesses visit your table for photos and autographs.


(This is actually at Disneyland because my family defected to the West this year, but I can tell you where to eat with Chip and Dale at Disney World, too!)

      Special Makeovers:  Schedule a princess makeover at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for your little girl, or pirate or mermaid makeovers at the Pirates League inside Magic Kingdom.  (Tip: the Ivy Trellis Salon at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort also offers princess makeovers as well as special occasion hair and makeup for more, ahem, mature princesses.)


(Look at that smile!)

      Dessert Parties:  These are special events that allow your family to enjoy a buffet of delicious desserts plus reserved seating for a nighttime show such as the Wishes fireworks at Magic Kingdom or the Star Wars Galactic Spectacular at Hollywood Studios.

Of course, there are also FREE ways of adding extra magic, several of which Emily has highlighted in her trip reports!  Search for Hidden Mickeys across the parks and resorts, sign up your young padawans to participate in the Jedi Training Academy, or pick up buttons to advertise that you are celebrating a birthday or other special occasion. 


(Sometimes, Disney magic happens spontaneously with Grandpa.  Have that camera ready!)

I also love this 15 Unique Things to Do at Disney World from WDW Prep School for more ideas on how to make your trip extra special.  It includes everything from where to ride a horse to how you can mail a coconut from Disney World!

Tip #5:  Use a Travel Agent!

Travel agents may not seem necessary in the modern world of online travel planning, but we can add huge value with our specialized knowledge and inside information!  It is literally our job to know everything about Disney, and we do!  Travel planners who work for Authorized Disney Vacation Planners (such as Key to the World Travel) are graduates of the College of Disney Knowledge, an intense training program designed to keep agents current on Disney destinations around the world.

Here are the top five reasons to use an agent from an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner (also known as an “Earmarked Agency”):
1.     Your agent works to save you money by calling to apply promotions and deals to your package.  If Disney releases a discount like free dining or a 25% off rooms offer, your travel agent will automatically apply this discount to your package!  (When summer discounts were released a couple weeks ago, I saved a family $900 by calling to update their package!)
2.     Your agent gets up early to book your dining reservations 180 days before arrival and FastPass+ 60 days before arrival.  Most people do not have time in the early morning to sit on the computer and schedule these reservations, but your travel agent does!
3.     Your agent can book ANY other experiences during your trip, too!  Need to rent a stroller?  Want to schedule a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique makeover for your princess?  How about a golf tee time or a side trip to Universal Orlando?  Your travel agent takes care of all this and more!
4.     Your travel agent will prepare a customized itinerary and touring plans so that information like park hours, FastPass+ times, dining reservations, and more are at your fingertips and optimized for the best experience for your family.
5.     This one is the best: our services are 100% FREE!  We are paid by Disney, NOT by the client!  Booking your package with a travel planner will cost you no more than the prices you see on the Disney website - and sometimes less because we know where to find discounts and promotions!

Whether you’re overwhelmed by the details of planning a Walt Disney World vacation or just want to take advantage of the personalized service offered by a travel agent, Authorized Disney Travel Planners add value to your vacation!


(Sometimes I sneak away from my family and take selfies with the castle.  Don’t judge me.)

Conclusion

If Emily’s magical family vacations at Disney World (or even her recent solo trip!) have inspired you to consider a Disney vacation of your own, I hope these tips will help you get started on the planning process.


I’m also offering a special deal for blog readers: mention that you heard about my planning services through Journey of Parenthood and you’ll receive up to a $50 Disney gift card when you book a Disney vacation with me!  You can contact me for a quote via email (allison.deyoung@keytotheworldtravel.com) or by completing my Getting to Know You Google Form.  I’ll get right back to you with some vacation quotes and then we can begin planning your own magical vacation!
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