Posts Tagged ‘vacation’

This blog post is sponsored by Shell, for which I was compensated. But the story, experiences and opinions are all my own.

I’m beginning to realize that traveling and vacationing with kids are two totally different things. I enjoy both for different reasons so it’s hard comparing one over the other. But today I’m going to share a recent road trip we took with our kids, and why it most definitely was not a vacation, yet it was rewarding all the same.

Family vacationing to Schlitterbahn

With my husband’s job he works four 10-hour shifts a week, then he gets three days off. Those days off rotate every month. This can make planning for things very difficult. The positive side however, is when he has weekdays off instead of weekends; we can escape for a quick getaway and usually experience less crowds.

We’re always saying we want to go places but sitting down and planning those trips is another thing. I had just gotten through a slew of deadlines for my blog, my husband had a weekend free of trainings and overtime and I had just received my first Fuel Rewards® card in the mail and I was itching to use it.

I sat down to my computer and booked a night at a waterpark and resort between Austin and San Antonio. We’ve gone together pre-children but had never taken the kids. They aren’t thrill seekers at all (I mean, my daughter cried on the People Mover at Disney World because it was dark) but I crossed my fingers I could persuade them to try something.

We told the kids we’d be heading to the water park the next morning and staying at a hotel (they love hotels). My daughter immediately started packing. My son had more questions.

As soon as the word “ride” came out of my mouth, both of them started gasping and asking for clarifications about what kind, how fast, and “do I have to go on it?”

As we hit the road down to the resort we stopped to fill up at a Shell station. I whipped out my new Fuel Rewards card and got excited when I saw the price drop by $.15/gallon. I’m not the best a couponing but when a discount is as simple as swiping a free card I’m all about it. Sign up for the Fuel Rewards program here and start saving with Instant Gold Status. It’s free, takes less than 60 seconds, and you can have your own Fuel Rewards card mailed straight to you!

My daughter on the other hand… Not feeling so excited, but a little anxious about what was ahead. The questions kept coming.

I told them we wouldn’t decide which rides we’d be doing or not doing until we were standing in front of them.

When we made it to the park my son surprised me when he saw a huge slide and immediately said “I want to go on that one!” And pointed way up at the top.

Yea, I’ll believe it when I see it. I thought.

My daughter was all “Nope… Nope… No… Not that one either…”

She went straight to the wave pool and was in her happy place. But I was hoping we could try something new as a family, not sit in a pool like the one in our neighborhood.

I bribed, begged and pleaded. I asked a lifeguard what slow water ride she’d recommend for non-thrill-seeking kids and she said the Congo ride. Great. We had a winner. Almost.

vacationing with kids

Problem was, that ride was full of mist, eerie music, and wildly obvious pretend animals that still had my over-imaginative daughter completely freaking out.

She hysterically asked to get off when we turned a corner and she saw a black tunnel. My husband exited with her and I kept going with our son.

After a semi-steep drop he was surprisingly giggly. So we kept going further down the ride into more drops and a river of sorts. He LOVED it. And I knew my daughter would too. Or at least I thought she would.

It took me a while but I realized that what she doesn’t enjoy about rides isn’t necessarily the thrill level, but the amount of thematic creepiness. She doesn’t like tunnels, non-happy music, dark spaces (hence her freak out on the People Mover when we go through Space Mountain).

I asked another lifeguard if we could enter the Congo ride AFTER the dark tunnel and he escorted us to where the little rapids started. She was extremely hesitant at first, but finally got on.

AND SHE LOVED IT!

vacationing with kids

She continued to surprise me as she’d get on more slides and rapids much more thrilling than the last. Hooting and hollering with delight the whole way down.

“Thank you for bringing us here mommy,” my daughter said, as we walked back from a slide.

Going on trips with kids may not be a relaxing vacation by any means. But the rewards come through in other ways. From watching them conquer a fear, witnessing their joy, and hearing their gratitude. I may be even more tired when I get home, but the time spent together makes it all worth it.

vacationing with kids

I’m teaming up with Shell and the Fuel Rewards® program this year and it’s inspiring us to fuel our fun. I signed up for a Fuel Rewards® card and got “Instant Gold Status” which basically means I can save at least $.05/gallon at the pump – up to 20 gallons/visit (we saved $.15/gallon this trip!) and additional savings other places when I used the card. It’s not a credit card and doesn’t cost anything to sign up!


*Restrictions apply. To qualify for the Gold/Silver Status offers, you must be a Fuel Rewards® member and swipe your Fuel Rewards® card or enter your Alt ID when you fuel at a participating Shell station. With Gold Status, you will receive 5¢/gal in Fuel Rewards® savings on every fill-up. The 5¢/gal reward for Gold Status will be combined with other rewards in your Fuel Rewards® account. If you are an existing Fuel Rewards® member, you will receive Gold Status from 6/5/2017 through 12/31/17, the “Existing Member Introductory Period”. If you are a new Fuel Rewards® member, you will receive Gold Status for the initial month you join through the last day of the month, 6 full calendar months later, the “New Member Introductory Period”. The last 3 months of the Existing Member Introductory Period or the New Member Introductory Period (collectively the “Introductory Period”) is the “Qualification Period”. You will retain your Gold Status during the Qualification Period, but you must make 6 qualifying fuel purchases to qualify for Gold Status for the next 3 months, the “Benefit Period”. During the Benefit Period, you must continue to make 6 qualifying fuel purchases to maintain your Gold Status for the next 3-month Benefit Period. A qualifying fuel purchase is any fuel purchase at a participating Shell station in which you swipe your Fuel Rewards® card or enter your Alt ID and fill up with at least 5-gallons of any grade of fuel. For example, if you are a new Fuel Rewards® member and register on 6/15/2017, you will receive Gold Status through the New Member Introductory Period (i.e., 12/31/2017). You will need to fill up with at least 5 gallons of fuel at least 6 times during the Qualification Period (i.e., 10/1/2017 and 12/31/2017) to maintain Gold Status during the Benefit Period (i.e., from 1/1/2018 to 3/31/2018). Thereafter, if you continue to fill up with at least 5 gallons of fuel at least 6 times during the successive 3 consecutive month Benefit Periods, you will retain your Gold Status. If you do not maintain your Gold Status, you will receive Silver Status. With Silver Status, you will receive 3¢/gal in Fuel Rewards® savings. The 3¢/gal reward for Silver Status will be combined with other rewards in your Fuel Rewards® account. Redeem Fuel Rewards® savings with your Fuel Rewards® card or Alt ID at participating Shell stations. Fuel Rewards® savings are limited to 20 gallons of fuel per purchase, per vehicle, or fraud limits placed by Shell and/or limits placed on your financial card by your financial institution, each of which may be lower. Fuel Rewards® savings must be redeemed in a single transaction. Once you begin to dispense fuel using your Fuel Rewards® savings, you must dispense to the 20-gallon limit or you forfeit any remaining discounted gallons of fuel. For example, if you only pump fifteen (15) gallons of fuel, you would abandon the remaining five (5) gallons of discounted fuel. If you have a rewards balance greater than the current per-gallon price of fuel, the price will roll down to the maximum capability of the fuel equipment, and your remaining rewards will be saved for a future fuel purchase. Dispenser may require a price of up to 10.9¢/gal. It may not be possible to combine multiple discounts and/or rewards in a single transaction. For purchases of $75 or more, please go inside to pay. Unbranded diesel and alternative fuels may not be eligible. The Fuel Rewards® program is owned and operated by Excentus Corporation. Offer may be modified or discontinued at any time without notice. Not valid where prohibited by law. Please see fuelrewards.com for complete Fuel Rewards® program details and Terms and Conditions. Other restrictions may apply. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. To learn more, visit fuelrewards.com/gold or call (888) 603-0473.

I am a huge planner. I enjoy it. But nothing has been as fun to plan as our trip to Disney World. I literally planned more for this last trip than I planned for my entire wedding.

Granted, it’s not saying much cause we had a super small uncomplicated wedding, but still. I was probably just as excited for our Disney trip as our wedding (kidding honey!)

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Although there are tons of Disney blogs all over the internet, I’m going to give you my informative yet simple and concise take on planning a Disney Vacation. Hopefully this will help make it as easy as possible so you can enjoy your vacation once you get there.

1. Choosing the “best time to go”: Although we were there in early February when crowds are relatively “low” it’s still crowded. I mean, it’s always going to be busy, so don’t expect NO lines on a slow week. That’s just silly. But the lines will definitely be much slower (and it may not be as hot, so that’s a perk!) Consider checking out a crowd calendar if you have flexibility for your trip.

2. Figure out where you want to stay and consider a dining plan: We stayed at a relative’s timeshare during our visit, but if that wasn’t the case (and next time we go) we’d probably stay at a Disney value resort or splurge and stay at the Animal Kingdom. That way we can be close to the parks, get free transportation to/from the airport, and possibly get a discounted dining plan (especially if it’s on a discount for your trip).

mickey-mouse

3. Consider using a travel agent: Authorized Disney Vacation planners don’t charge you a thing and can help you find the deals, and book all of your reservations for you in advance. I had WAY too much fun planning each and every detail myself, but if you hate this kind of thing, feel overwhelmed, or just want someone to bounce ideas off of, consider using an agent. I’ve been using with Matt from Wish Upon a Star With Us to help us plan a Disney Cruise vacation and he’s been extremely helpful answering all of my questions, giving me cost comparisons, and answering my emails at the strangest time of day. It’s been nice having someone to bounce ideas off of, who knows all sorts of things I’d never know about the parks and resorts.

Interacting with Snow White at Disney World. 13 tips to planning a Disney World vacation without all the stress! love these tips. #5 is great!

4. Six months out book your dining reservations: Before that, decide where you want to eat and when. There are SO many restaurants, but the popular ones go fast. Which ones are popular? Pretty much any of the ones you can make reservations for, especially the character or themed dining meals. I’d recommend Akershus (in Epcot) or Cinderella’s Royal Table (in Magic Kingdom) if you want to dine with princesses. There are so many options though, so have fun researching which ones you think you’d like before, then 120 days out book it online. You need a credit card to hold your reservation but you’re not charged until you eat. This is another task an agent could help you plan if it’s too overwhelming.

Toddler enjoying toy story mania at Disney World. 13 tips to planning a Disney World vacation without all the stress! love these tips. #5 is great!

5. Book your FastPasses: This is your ticket to skip the long lines for popular attractions. Whether it’s meeting your favorite princess, or riding a popular ride. Everyone gets three each day and they’re free, so there’s no reason to skip this! It may seem like over-planning, but you can always change it while there. And trust me, with amount of people at Disney World these days, it’s wise to have reservations just in case, to save yourself from standing in line for hours.

Toddler enjoying toy story mania at Disney World. 13 tips to planning a Disney World vacation without all the stress! love these tips. #5 is great!

6. Don’t quit trying for reservations: If everything is booked when you are trying for a reservation, don’t get discouraged. Keep checking or calling, something will open up. I called for a Bibbity Boppity Boutique reservation at least a dozen times. The night before I got one at Magic Kingdom and my daughter had a blast. Same went for FastPasses to meet Anna and Elsa (the most popular attraction right now). Don’t give up! Keep trying.

Toddler enjoying toy story mania at Disney World. 13 tips to planning a Disney World vacation without all the stress! love these tips. #5 is great!

7. Rent a stroller locally: Don’t worry about packing your huge double jogger, there are several companies locally you can rent a stroller from. Disney World also has stroller you can rent, but they’re more expensive and less comfortable in my opinion. We used Orlando Stroller Rental. It was the first thing that popped up in google and they ended up being fantastic! They dropped off the stroller to our resort, we used it for a week, then they picked it up from the bellboy as we headed home. It was so nice that they could recline and take naps during the day, and Lil’ J definitely rode more than she walked. There’s also handy stroller parking all over the place, so don’t worry about them getting in the way of lines. It’s SO organized.

packing-for-disney

8. Pack light: Make a list ahead of time to decide what you want to bring. Disney Resorts all have pack n’ plays you can rent for free. The timeshare we stayed at did as well. If you’re bringing a baby or toddler, call your hotel ahead of time and ask if they do too (most do). I probably over-packed on the kids’ outfits, but they had plenty to choose from while we were there, and backups in case of messes.

9. Buy Memory Maker: If you do it ahead of time you’ll save about $20, and if you’re traveling with friends or family you all can link accounts and share a photo package (only one fee!).

Toddler enjoying toy story mania at Disney World. 13 tips to planning a Disney World vacation without all the stress! love these tips. #5 is great!

10. Download the My Disney Experience App: It’s free, and it gives you access to park wait times, the maps, and your FastPasses. As well as your dining reservations, and other things I’m probably not remembering.

11. Make a countdown: Because what better way to get excited for your trip? I just used an app on my phone, but if we hadn’t been surprising our kids the day of, I probably would have made a fun Mickey Mouse paper chain or something.

Toddler enjoying toy story mania at Disney World. 13 tips to planning a Disney World vacation without all the stress! love these tips. #5 is great!

12. Join some FB groups: This was probably the single most helpful part of planning my trip. I joined a Disney World Junkies group, and asked several questions that were answered almost immediately. The a woman saw my questions and invited me to a Disney World February 2015 group (yes, I know it sounds like a birth club). It was a smaller group and everyone was so helpful and informative. I found out about fastpasses and reservations others visiting the same time as us were giving up. Super helpful if you’re trying to book a trip last minute! Search and see if you can find a social group visiting the same month as you.

Toddler enjoying Tigger at Disney World. 13 tips to planning a Disney World vacation without all the stress! love these tips. #5 is great!

13. Be flexible: As much planning as I’ve touted in this post, it’s important to be ready and willing to go with the flow as things arise. I had to change almost every fastpass and ended up canceling two dining reservations the day before because plans changed.

Whether you’re planning for a vacation you’re dreaming to take years from now, or you decided to go on a last-minute road trip, keeping these things in mind will make your trip less stressful, and even more magical.

Let me know if I’ve forgotten anything you have questions about! Or if you’ve been and have more tips for first-timers who are reading this please share in the comments!

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Hi! I’m Jennifer Borget



I'm a part-time journalist, full-time wife and mother striving to make the world a better place and inspiring others to do the same. This is the space where I share my journey in making the most of every day.

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