Disney Cruise Tips from a Tight wad mom: What to do on your cruise

1. Character encounters: One thing we did not expect was that there were always long lines to see characters during their scheduled meet and greets.  To get a photo with Captain Mickey, I got to the meet and greet 20 minutes early and waited to have a prime spot on line.  I also found that the meet and greets for the second dinner seating were shorter than first dinner seatings.  The best thing to do though was as soon as you get on the boat, sign up for any free character meet and greets.  This is essentially a timed ticket for your little one to meet a group of characters at once.  There are also wonderful photo opportunities all over Castaway Cay if you bring your own camera.

2. Pampering: I had heard about a day pass to the spa for $27 which is essentially entry into the steam shower/turkish bath like area.  The day pass included a body scrub.  I am personally a great fan of the turkish bath and was in need of a little pampering on the day I purchased the pass  but I did note that the women’s locker room at the spa was free to access (it was also used by those using the workout equipment) and it had a shower and sauna.  I realized that with a bit of my own aroma therapy scrub, I could have taken a hot steamy shower and sat in the spa and saved myself $30.  I also noted that massages were much cheaper on days we were in port – even in the evening after we had set sail again.

3. Adult Dining: My husband and I did a date at Palo restaurant.  I know that many Disney enthusiasts rave about the food at Palo but I honestly did not find it to be much different from the food served in the dining rooms.  On some cruises the dining which costs extra buys you really unique food items.  On Disney it just brings you the opportunity to eat without a child around.  There are adult spaces (pool, outlook cafe) where you can have child free time and you can get a table for two in the dining room and enjoy a child free meal without paying $25/per person.

4. Trading Gifts with other Passengers: This seems to be something unique to Disney IMG_2848Cruises – exchanging gifts.  Passengers meet up with others on their ship via facebook or other groups and then agree to pass out little gifts known as fish extender gifts.  Outside each room is a little fish clip.  People make or buy little pockets to hang on their fish and use them as a sort of mailbox to receive gifts. We received simple items like glow sticks to very elaborate gifts including stuffed animals and bottles of wine.  We also participated in a candy exchange where everyone brought candy from their area of the world.  It was delicious.  There are also organized pin exchanges where people trade Disney trading pins.

5.Shows: There are wonderful shows and movies shown on the ship.  Definitely take advantage and go see the shows.  If you can not get to a show, you can watch it on the tv in your room.  There are also a wide assortment of films being shown on your tv at any given time.  One nice place to watch films is at the pool.

 

 

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Disney Cruising tips from a tightwad mom: What to pack

Disney Cruises and Disney mania

Disney Cruises like all things Disney have hordes of devoted fans who obsess about cruising on Disney.  You can join facebook pages, disney fan boards, and read countless blogs (like this one) on this to do and/or bring on your cruise.  I booked my cruise over a year in advance and was up night nursing quite a bit so I had a chance to read tons of advice.  The fan sites also will offer up free art work to make your adventure more special.  I am going to review what I agree is worth packing and what I think might be a bit too much.

Things I am glad I brought:

1. Water bottle – this was great advice.  I bought a plain water bottle at the dollar store and ordered vinyl mickey stickers from someone on etsy to decorate my bottle and other stuff.  IMG_2849I used it for water on day trips and soda while on the ship.  In addition, we brought a case of water onto the ship (facilitated by my parents driving to Miami).  This was nice to keep in our room and grab when we went around the ship or off the boat.  The cruise ship sold water bottles for $1.25/bottle vs $3 for our case of 24 bottles. If you want to pack light, a water bottle should be fine – there are places all over to fill it.

2. Lanyards– Your “key to the world” (basically your room key/on board charge card/ship id card) can be carried in a pocket but its easier to stick it in a plastic holder and hang it around your neck for quick swipes.  I bought fancy ones on Amazon for the family and then found great ones at the dollar tree.  I ended up wearing my dollar store ones because they were lighter around the neck and very comfortable.  Highly recommend.  Second time cruisers and Disney Vacation Club members get free lanyards on board but first timers like ourselves have to bring your own or buy them in the gift shop (or do without).  Many people also use their lanyards to hold Disney trading pins.  I bought a lot of pins on ebay and put some on our lanyards but all they did in my opinion was make our lanyards heavy on the neck.  Perhaps when the kids are older they will do a trading night.

3. Sand Toys for Castaway Cay and other beach stops.  I brought a small bucket and a few other sand toys from my three year old’s sand table.  This saved me from buying a $10 bucket and shovel at the gift shop.  I saw other families just give their kids the plastic cups to built sand castles.  If nothing else, I would recommend a shovel for each child.

4. Disney outfits.  I went a little overboard with Disney outfits before we left but I am glad I did as it helped make our trip more special.  Babies r us had 40% off of Disney clothes just before we left so I got my baby a little get up with a hat to be dressed as Mickey and Tigger.  The Disney cruise staff (aka cast members) loved my little baby mickey and my three year old loved wearing his favorite character wear.  I also ended up buying (after coming close to making) matching Disney inspired tshirts with our names on it.  It made for a nice boat boarding photo op.  The adults will also be able to reuse the tshirts at the parks in the future.  You can always go print your own tshirts using vinyl or tshirt transfer sheets.  In the end I ran out of time and just ordered my shirts already done.

5. Disney Goods – I know many people are big fans of buying souvenirs from their trips IMG_2851but I tried to create a fun Disney atmosphere and avoid paying insane prices for Disney goods on the ship.  To do that I took advantage of an annual sale that the Disney store offers in November which includes a discount on merchandise and free personalization to buy fleece shirts, personalized Disney baby blankets, and other items.  I also bought vinyl (if you look at all the photos of items I made, you will see I just ordered the same shape in two sizes from one seller on etsy) so that I could make my own Disney inspired gear and shopped at the dollar store which offered lots of items for the Disney cruise.  These included: little toys that I could gift my three year old in lieu of hitting the gift shop; a mickey mouse watch for my son to tell time on the ship; a mickey mouse and friends journal to be used as an autograph book for characters; stickers and coloring books for the airplane trip.  I also got other fun stuff at the dollar store like glow sticks to take out on deck at night.  I also made little items like adding vinyl disney inspired stickers to these luggage tags I got in the dollar bins at Michaels to help us find our luggage quicker.

6. Booze – Disney is one of the few cruise lines that allows you to bring alcohol on the ship IMG_2850(as long as it is in your carry on luggage).  We brought mini bottles of rum which we added to our coke (free on the cruise) or fruit punch (served free on Castaway Cay).  We also brought already made margaritas (mix with alcohol in it) which we drank over ice in the glasses provided in our room.  I made these little wine glass to go cups but we didn’t end up using them.  It was just nicer to use glass or our aluminum water bottles.  In the end I wouldn’t suggest bringing a whole lot of booze because the drink prices (especially on the daily specials) aren’t terrible and depending on your taste, it may be more hassle than its worth.

7. Pirate Costumes – Disney Cruises which go to the Caribbean have a pirate night in which people dress up as pirates.  I shopped after Halloween for  cheap pirate costumes, eye patches, foam swords and hats for my family.  I dressed the baby up as a parrot (which he hated so I swapped him into a pirate t shirt for the rest of the night after extracting an unhappy bird picture).  Everyone else – from my three year old to my father – enjoyed dressing up for the evening.  It produced one of the best photos of the cruise.

8. Stacks of small bills – There was a lot of tipping on our trip for which we were not prepared.  Everything from the porters to room service, etc.  Having small bills to give out tips will help you out.

Things that were suggested that I did not find helpful:

1. Nightlight – There was limited access to outlets and certainly not one to spare for a night light.

2. clothes pins – my clothes hung on the line just fine without clothes pins

3. dry erase boards – we used our wave phones to communicate where were.

4. Candy for the movies – I did snack a bit but I would have been better off grabbing some fruit from the breakfast buffet for snacking on in the theaters later on rather than bringing candy.

 

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Disney Cruising and the tightwad mom: Paying for the actual trip

My husband and I took the boys (3 years and 6 months) on a five day Disney cruise.  For a coupon clipping, bargain hunting, discount queen like myself it was hard to fork over tons of cash to a company that offers virtually no discounts.  Nevertheless I had wanted to take a cruise to celebrate my 40th birthday and with young children Disney really was the only option for me (Cunard’s nannies sounds nice for my 6 month old but my three year old needs a jungle gym at sea to stay content).
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Pricing for the cruise: the initial sticker shock and a few cost saving tips:
If you are used to cruising on Carnival cruise or similar mega boats be prepared for the Disney cruise to cost as much per person as your whole cruise on a cheaper ship.  However even the smallest of Disney ship rooms are like luxury suites on other ships because they are built to squeeze in families.  As a result, our bottom of the line stateroom had not only a bed but a nice sitting area with a couch (which converted at night into a bed along with a bunk bed that came down from the ceiling).  Disney also in almost all cabins has nice features like a toilet separate from the shower/bathtub area; a beverage cooler/refrigerator; and insanely great service.

A few tips on paying less for your cruise:

1. the most expensive part of the cruise is paying for the first two adult occupants of any given room/cabin.  additional children after that don’t cost that much but if you are an adult plus a child in a room – be prepared to be walloped.  This means single moms are better off finding a friend with a kid to split the costs.

2. The bigger your family, the more expensive the room will get to accommodate your family.  You may be better off booking 2 rooms to accommodate a larger family.  Just make sure you have at least two adults so you technically put one in each room.

3. When trying to find a good rate, check for off season cruises (basically when most kids are in school) or for last minute deals posted by Disney.  With Disney you either need to book right when cruises open or at the last minute.  Anything in between and you are more likely to be looking at high prices.  Also, departing from Miami is cheaper than Orlando.

4. The Disney credit card is one way of financing your cruise.  If you book far enough in advance, you can book your deposit and then pay it off with interest free financing for six months.  Then you can pay the balance and take another six months of interest free financing time to pay it off.  Make sure to sign up when they are offering a Disney gift card (you can use this to help pay for the cruise and/or to use as on board credits. We booked a year in advance and used the card to pay daycare tuition each month.  We then applied the reward dollars from that and the actual purchase of the cruise to our on board account.  It covered the tips and a few other perks.  I noted that many other bloggers take advantage of credit card rewards programs and other rewards programs to lower their costs including hotel points, airline points, and cash back bonuses.

5. Florida residents and US military personnel get discounts on Disney cruises.

 

Don’t forget when budgeting to consider: transportation to the ship, hotels before and/or after the cruise (if needed), tips ($12/per person – including children – per day), extras on board the ship.

We left from Miami stayed at the Comfort Suites by the Miami airport because it offered free shuttle service to the hotel from the airport, free shuttle from the hotel to the port and free breakfast.  I highly recommend it.

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And then there were two

So I haven’t posted in a number of years.  Turns out once they are walking, it is even more exhausting to keep up.  I now have a three year old boy and an almost six month old boy.  Baby #1 was still in bed with me co-sleeping on the day I went into labor with #2.  We had set up a new bed and bedroom for him but didn’t manage to transition him out on time.  As a result, he is now co-sleeping in his room with his father (sorry to anyone who was hoping for a magical answer on transitioning baby out of the parental bed.  I don’t have your answers.  Baby #1 did self wean sometime half way through my pregnancy which made getting him out of my room at least a bit easier but he does not want to sleep on his own.  Baby #2 is now co-sleeping in bed with me.  I think this one’s temperament is such that he will not cling to sleeping in my bed forever – and I will miss that.

 

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The Nest: Our Family Sleeping Area

When we got married, my husband and I talked about our ideal parenting styles.  He was an advocate of co-sleeping and I was staunchly in favor of preserving our bedroom as a sacred space for us as a couple.  I knew that in the first few months after my son was born that we would have to share the bedroom with him until he was a bit older but I imagined him in his own room by 3 or 4 months of age – maybe six months at the latest.  I also imaged he would sleep in the co-sleeper – a sort of side car attached to the side of the bed.  Instead my son would sleep for hours in my arms and a few minutes in the safety of the co-sleeper bassinet.   I was sleep deprived and going crazy with no more than half an hour of sleep at a time.  My mother in law would come over and hold him for a few hours so he would sleep and I could sleep but she wasn’t always available.  Eventually out of desperation, I would hold him while he slept until one day I fell asleep in the bed holding him.  We both woke up and he was still ok.  I have to admit I was a bit shocked.  I had been led to believe that he would suffocate without the perfect set of sleeping circumstances (Since my husband’s family had a history of SIDs cases, I had bought a crib with a special mattress, a sleep sensor pad, and anything else that had ensured safe sleeping).   I eventually worked out a method of sleeping with him in the bed with me and soon we were both sleeping for hours on end.    Contrary to all advice, he slept with a pillow and a down blanket snuggled up to me.

At eight months, my son is still in the bed but now he is an efficient crawler.  The other night I woke up to him heading rapidly to the foot of the bed.  I grabbed an ankle and yanked him back into the center.  I realized that I would need to take drastic action – and soon.  I could either force him into his own bed at this point or create a family sleeping space with the bed safely on the floor and the surrounding area baby proof.  We of course opted for the latter.  We disassembled the bedframe and put it along with the boxspring into the attic.  We cleared the furniture out of an area of the room and then used the dressers to create a wall.  We then needed a baby gate in between the dressers but ours was too small so we took a bedrail and tied it to the feet of the dressers to secure it in place.  I then gathered up some toys (only the types that don’t make noise) and put them in the area just at the foot of the bed.  Our hope is that when the baby tries to get off the bed, we won’t have to worry about him hurting himself.  Also, when he wakes up at an impossibly early hour, we can let him play happily on the floor while we can lay comfortably in our bed (in the past, we have taken him to play in his room and just laid on the floor with a pillow and blanket – not the most comfy option).  Hoping for the best!

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Attached at the hip: the good, the bad, the ugly

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I found the above cartoon on facebook and found it to be so true! I have literally heard the line about how my baby will manipulate me, how I should not tend to his every need and literally by the same people commenting on how baby boy is the happiest baby. I do think temperament plays a role but I see how during my visit to my parents delays to baby’s needs leads to cranky baby.
Examples:
(1) mom’s childless friend comes to see baby and is uncomfortable that I don’t feed baby with a bottle. So I have to let her coo over cranky baby until Mom politely shoos her out.
(2) very well meaning sister tries to hold crying baby so I can eat. I convince her instead to cut up my food so I can eat while holding baby.
(3) mom goes into near panic over my slightly exposed breasts outside of designated nursing area at zoo. Everyone else has their eyes glued to animals, not a bit of my breast (far more of which was exposed in my earlier low cut shirt days.

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Baby Bib organization

So I have been playing with different ideas for ways to organize my baby bibs.  I need a way to keep clean bibs near the baby and another place to put dirty bibs so I don’t have to run upstairs to throw them in the laundry.  I was thinking a two pocket bag might be one solution.  At the moment, I have bibs in a drawer across the room and a little mesh laundry bag (the kind you can get 3 for a dollar at the dollar store) serving as the laundry bag.  Not exactly an elegant solution.  Here are some ideas I have toyed with:

There is of course the easy way out – buy a little laundry bag and purchase this bib holder.

There is this tutorial on how to make a little bag (the tutorial is for a clothes pin bag but with a little different decoration on the front, it seems like it would be a nice bib bag too) which I could hang off the back of the high chair or even make two – one marked dirty and one marked clean.

This no sew solution was proposed by my mid wife (and the current front runner).

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