A Homeschoolers Guide to Doing NYC on a Budget

Have you ever taken one of those quizzes that tell you what state you should move to? Which one fits your personality, has the weather you desire, and the activities you want to do? I have and I’ve taken them quite a bit because I’m waiting for the results to change. Every single one of them tells me that the city I need to be in is NYC. The quizzes aren’t telling me anything new. I already know this. New York City has been in my very soul since I was a child. My parents used to tell me I would hate it. “It’s dirty. Filthy! Too crowded. You’ll hate it.” But somehow I just knew I would love it, and I did! The first time I visited I fell in love and I just knew I wanted to be there. However, our finances tell me no. I can visit all I please, but sadly, living there is not in the cards right now. Even though I can’t live there, I’ve dreamed of sharing New York City with Johanna since she was a baby!

In September one of the many local homeschool facebook groups I’m in announced a group buy for tickets to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in NY. I was all over it! Not only did I love the book, but I loved the movie too. But to get to see it on BROADWAY? I’m in. So Johanna and I read the book, watched the movie, then packed our bags and headed to the big apple dragging the Mister and the baby with us!

Planning was a bit tricky because we were on a very strict budget and very little time. NYC overnight, but under 24hrs, for less than $300? Challenge accepted, and here’s how we did it:


1) See a broadway play, but in the middle of the week and get the group rate – We were able to get tickets in the back of the orchestra for less than half the original cost by going in with a group. They needed there to be at least 20 of us in order for us to get the group rate, and that was rather easy. We ended spending under $100 for two tickets!

mark your calendars

2) Share a treat – I knew I wanted to take Johanna to the Sugar Factory when we went to NYC because it’s a chic place full of treats, just her style. But I also knew I didn’t want to spend a grip, so we shared a treat under $5 and enjoyed the cute little shop. It was actually super good!

3)Visit kid friendly stores, but look for really good sales – I know as a mom sometimes we really want to treat our kids even if our wallet protests, so when you go to the majorly cute stores in Times Square like M&M and Disney, plan ahead, go with a plan. I knew Johanna would want something out of the M&M store, so we made a cute bag of colorful M&M’s for half a pound, and put them in her M&M souvenir I bought her years ago when we got home. I also scoped out the Disney store before we came and happen to know that they were having a pretty decent sale. Turns out she didn’t want anything in there anyway, but I felt good going in knowing that I was prepared.

4)Enjoy the beauty of Times Square, it’s free! – Grab some lunch and take a seat in the middle of Times Square. I’ve never had a boring time in Times Square. There are always some characters (literally and figuratively) around there. While I grabbed a kabob from a street vendor, Johanna chose to get something from McDonald’s. We sat on a wall in the middle of TS and enjoyed watching about 8 Minnie Mouses, 2 Cookie Monsters, a Spiderman, Batman, Minion, 2 statue of liberties, and many more. Just a normal day in the city.


5)AirBNB, enough said – Our airbnb cost us $100 less than a hotel in the city would have. I chose for us to stay in Queens simply because I had never been there before. I always stay in the middle of TS or in Chelsea, and I wanted to do some place different. The organizer of the show tickets found an equally inexpensive airbnb in hell’s kitchen! As always, check the ratings and make sure to read all the details. Our airbnb was very nice and in a very chill neighborhood, just one block from the bus we took. It worked out incredibly well.


6)Choose one landmark to visit, and find a cheap way to do it – Johanna really wanted to see the statue of liberty. I knew that cruises to do so could be rather expensive so we were all set to take the ferry from lower Manhattan to Staten Island for just $5 each! While we wouldn’t be able to actually visit the Statue of Liberty, she would be able to see her fairly up close. However, as I was scouring the internet reading about parks and such in NYC, I found one about Liberty State Park and I thought that would be perfect instead, especially having the baby with us. The kids could play AND see the Statue of Liberty! So Thursday morning we found ourselves at the park with a pretty great view of her, and Johanna had a ball with her father in the park before we headed home.

I feel like we were able to pack a lot into our trip. I knew that this was not the trip to try to show her everything I love about New York, but it was enough to just get her feet wet. Enough to have her say “Mommy, when I become an adult, I’m moving to NY!”. You just don’t have any idea how sweet those words were to my ears.

Have you done New York on a very tight budget? What tips do you have to share?

To see our trip in action and for more tips, checkout our video on our Youtube channel!


This Is How We Disney – Do You Believe in Magic?

Now, we all know that Disney is Magical. You can feel it as soon as you see the castle, or the first character. But we wanted to make it even more magical for Johanna on her birthday.If you have a princess, you have to make an appointment at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (BBB).

The BBB is located inside the infamous Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom with a second location in Disney Springs. It is a salon for princesses (and knights too!) to get all glammed up. It is owned by the Fairy Godmother of all Fairy Godmother’s and the Fairy Godmothers in Training are the ones that service the kids who range in age from 3-12. This was Johanna’s favorite experience on her birthday, and here’s how we made it happen.

We learned that reservations could be made 180 days in advance (by calling 407-939-7895). That was a little tricky because I was trying to get our precious Cinderella’s Royal Table reservations at the same time, but it worked out. As soon as I made the reservation at BBB the fairy godmother magically transferred me over to dining reservations and I was able to make our CRT reservations to begin right after Johanna would be done with her makeover. We were given a couple of instructions after making our reservations:

  • Hair must be clean. Washed, and ready to go.
  • Nails must be free of nail polish
  • The child must be between the ages of 3 and 12
  • A credit card is needed to make your reservation. You must cancel within 24 hours of your reservation or a cancellation fee will be applied.

Upon arriving at BBB we were asked if Johanna was going to buy a dress there or if she had brought her own. It just so happened that she wanted to be Belle for trunk or treat this past fall, so we brought that dress with us to Disney. They asked us which package we would be getting. Here were our choices:


We went with the Crown Package. Johanna simply didn’t need all of the other stuff in the other packages. She also went with the traditional Fairy-tale Princess hairdo. FYI, The Knight Package is $19.95 plus tax and includes hair styling with colorful gel and confetti as well as a sword and shield.

They showed us to a dressing room where she could change, then we came out and waited for her Fairy Godmother to be ready. While it was packed in there, we did not have to wait long. Her Fairy Godmother was wonderful. I think it is important for my Black readers to know that her Fairy Godmother was not Black and she did her hair just fine! Scouring around the internet I found that whether or not they could do ethnic hair well was a concern for many, not just myself. I did blow dry and quickly flat iron Johanna’s hair the night before to make it more manageable though!


When Johanna is in a new situation with someone she does not know, or heck, sometimes even with people she does know, she can be very shy and look shell shocked. Her Fairy Godmother was so wonderful. She talked to her the whole time and was very sweet. I must also say that the appointment flew by! I think from the time we walked to the desk to the time we left was maybe 45. When we went to check out Johanna was over the moon about all the products she got to keep, her tote, and her sash.


When you leave your appointment you can head right across the way for a photo-shoot. It was so professional and really made our princess feel important. After photos there we looked for a Disney cast member to take a couple of pictures with the castle in the background.

Thinking of making an appointment at the Boutique? Here are a couple of words of advice:

  • Buy your own dress for your princess to wear. It’s cheaper!
  • Purchase Memory maker. Photopass photographers are in BBB taking shots of your little one during their whole transformation and upload them right away to your my Disney experience account.
  • Go early or midday so that your little one can experience what it feels like to be a princess. After the makeover every single cast member at the park greeted Johanna with “hello princess!”. Super cute.
  • Don’t be afraid to go to the Disney Springs location. We did the location at the castle because it made sense since we had CRT reservations. However, there are extra perks at the DS location, such as Build-a-Tiara, which allows patrons to select a crown in the color of their choice and add individually priced jewels to it. There’s also Build-a-Wand which allows patrons to build a wand with beautiful accents. Then there’s Build-a-Jewel-Box which allows them to fill a pink satchel or jewel box with princess jewelry. To top it all off, your little one can virtually try on a collection of Disney Princess gowns and accessories, and watch themselves transform into their favorite princess with the help of a Magic Mirror.
  • Not feeling Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique? Your little one could also get a transformation at the Pirates League or Harmony Barber Shop.
  • Is your princess too young for BBB? That’s ok. Have her wear a princess dress to the park because there are face painting stations throughout where they will do princess makeup for her.

Don’t forget, if you’re celebrating a birthday, let the agent know when you book your stay, and also when you check in. Sometimes they will lightly decorate the rooms or leave autographed character photos in the room for the birthday girl/boy. This didn’t happen for us, but I do know that it has happened for others.At check-in they’ll give you a birthday button and your little one will be wished happy birthday wherever they go. Also, when the button is worn they usually also give you a free cupcake at your table service meal.

If you have any questions about the BBB experience, please do not hesitate to ask me. It was truly magical, even for me. If you have experienced the BBB, I would love to hear how your experience was!


This is How We Disney – All the Food!

When you’re going to Disney, ya gotta eat. All that walking you do, you have to refuel. Once we had our resort picked out and figured out which parks we wanted to do and when, we had to decided on meals. If you are staying at Disney you can book your meals 180 days in advance of your arrival.That sounded so crazy to me. Who makes dining reservations 180 days advance? You do, if you want to actually be able to get in to the restaurant of your choice, especially if you want to go on a specific day and around a specific time.


Let me start with Dining at Port Orleans Riverside. I will tell you that we have no idea what table service food there is like. We seriously only at quick service food there, and it was good. There were burgers, pizza, fried seafood, an awesome little salad spot, and a sandwich area. There was also an area with just treats.We don’t have any regrets.

We knew we wanted to make Johanna’s 6th birthday extra special, so picking the right restaurant was key. Based upon her love for princesses, we narrowed down our options to Akershus at Epcot and Cinderella’s Royal Table (CRT) at Magic Kingdom. After much thought we chose CRT because at the time we were not sure if we were going to Epcot, but we knew that Magic Kingdom would be, well, magical, for her birthday.


CRT is expensive. When I called to book I didn’t have the dining plan yet. I had pay (yes pay in advance) $200 for 3 of us to eat. While that did include the tip, It was still a very expensive meal for such a little person. The plus was that she was guaranteed to meet 5 princesses, including the Princess of all Princesses, Cinderella (who she doesn’t care about at all mind you) and she would get to eat in the castle. What little girl wouldn’t love that? Once we found out we were going to Epcot I did make a reservation at Akershus, but we ended up cancelling it and here’s why. There is no guarantee of which princesses will be where for either restaurant. I believe the only given is that Cinderella will be at CRT and not at Akershus. In hindsight, I would’ve chosen Akershus for the princess experience because the food choices are much better than at CRT and Johanna could care less that she was eating inside the castle. Also, if you get the dining plan, CRT is 2 table credits. Not worth it. We went to CRT on Thursday and found out taht the exact same princesses minus Cinederella were going to be at Akershus on Friday, when we had our reservation. Because of that, we switched our reservation to Via Napoli.


I had heard wonderful things about the pizza at Via Napoli, but wouldn’t you know, pizza isn’t what I ordered. My husband and Johanna got pizza and raved about it. I got Candele, which is stick pasta, sausage ragu, polpettine meathballs, mozzarella, and ricotta. It was so friggin good. So good! But it wasn’t the best meal I had while there.


The best meal goes to 50’s Prime Time Cafe at Hollywood Studios. Oh my goodness! 50’s Prime Time is American comfort food in a 50’s kitchen/dining room. Johanna stayed boring and ordered chicken nuggets, but my husband and I ordered A Sampling of Mom’s Favorite Recipes which includes fried Chicken, Pot Roast, and meatloaf. When I tell you that is some of the best fried chicken I ever had! And that pot roast was super tender and flavorful. Even the meatloaf was yummy. And our waiter? Was super awesome. He not only had our area of the dining room sing happy birthday to Johanna, but he also has another family he was serving do the same. And although the specialty drinks are not a part of the dining plan, he brought Johanna one anyway and gave her an extra dessert for her birthday. He made it so special for her and we were so thankful. Also, when they call you to seat you, they call your name out like your mom would when she’s calling you to dinner. Love it!

Another fave of ours was Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom. Crystal Palace almost didn’t make it on our list because Johanna isn’t a big Pooh fan at all, but hubby and I are! We love him! And I’m so happy we did it because it was our best character interaction experience. She even got to hold Piglets hand in a parade around our side of the dining room! All of the characters were as sweet as you would imagine they would be, and the food. The FOOD! We went just in time to experience breakfast AND lunch (11:15 reservation), but we only ate breakfast because it was plentiful and we were still full from the day before. My husband loved the breakfast lasagna and I loved this egg-sausage combo thing they had going on.

We at at Cosmic Ray’s one night for a quick service meal and it brought back great memories from the last time I was there in my early 20s! The burgers are still as yummy as they were back then.


I must mention that we LOVED the pizza at Blaze in Disney Springs and were over the moon when we learned that they have a few in our state. Can’t wait to visit them again!


Also, my favorite snack credit was that gigantic cinnamon roll from Gaston’s Tavern at Magic Kingdom. Not only was it hot and tasty, but all 3 of us were able to eat off of it.

Here are more restaurants that were recommended to me (QS – Quick Service/SC – Snack Credit/TS – Table Service):

Magic Kingdom

  • Mini kitchen sink dessert in MK (sc)
  • The Plaza Ice Cream Parlor (sc)
  • Liberty Tree (ts)
  • Columbia Harbour House (qs)
  • Skipper Canteen (MK)


  • Electric Umbrella (qs) – Epcot
  • Lotus Blossom Eggrolls or potstickers (sc)
  • Chips and guacamole in Mexico (sc)
  • Anything from the bakeries in France and Norway (sc)
  • The Caramel Shop in Germany (sc)
  •  Garden Grill (ts and character meal – Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale)
  • Rose and Crown (ts). Get a 7:30-7:45 reservation so you can watch Illuminations after your meal

Hollywood Studios

  • Hollywood and Vine only because you can meet Doc, Sofia the First, Jake, and Handy (ts)
  • Sci Fi Dine In for good burgers (ts)
  • Starring Rolls (sn)
  • ABC Commissary (qs)

Animal Kingdom

  • Tusker House (ts)
  • Rum Dole Whip (sc)
  • Flametree (qs)
  • Yak & Yeti (qs)
  • Boma (ts)

Outside the Parks

  • 1900 Park Faire (ts – character dining: evil stepsisters) – Grand Floridian Resort
  • Chef Mickey for the character interaction (ts – the fab five) – Contemporary Resort
  • Ohana (ts – Lilo and Stitch and friends) – Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
  • Whispering Canyon Cafe (ts) – Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

My advice:

If you’re on the dining plan, order the most expensive item on the menu for your meal. Get the biggest bang for your buck. That’s the only thing that will make the dining plan worth it.

Use the dining plan calculator to see if it is really worth it for you to get the plan. It wouldn’t have been for us because we just don’t eat enough for it. In fact, we had to spend $170 more to make it worth it. However, with the stay, play, dine package , we ended up paying $20 less for the trip in total with the plan, so it worked out.

Double check that all of your dining reservations are actually listed on your account. Crystal Palace somehow fell off of ours and they had to go through some backdoor server to find it. It was a mess.If you don’t see your reservation call in to make sure they link it and follow up within 24 hours to make sure it was done!

Typcially the food at Character dining is not amazing, but the pay off is that you get to meet many characters at once, which is important if you plan on getting autographs or photos. Decide earlier which ones you are willing to stand in line to see, which ones you want to skip, and which ones you would like to get close and personal with in a dining situation.

Figure out where you may want to use your snack credits ahead of time (you can go here for more suggestions). You don’t have to have a schedule, but just have it in the back of your head so you don’t wander around aimlessly and just keep getting popcorn or nuts because you’re not sure where you can use your snack credit.

Figure out your reservations at least a week before your 180 days. It’ll make things go super smooth when you can make your reservations.

You have to call to make Cinderella’s Royal Table Reservations ((407) 939-3463). You cannot make them from your disney account.

Again, you can make reservations 180 days before your stay. Go to the Disney dining website  at 6 a.m. Eastern time, ordo phone reservations at 7 a.m.

For more information on dining, go here.

What is your absolute favorite thing to eat at Disney?


This is How We Disney -The Theme Parks

After choosing where to stay, next up on our agenda was deciding which parks we would visit and on what days, because that would affect where we would make dining reservations while there. After hours and hours of research, I got the hint – You could spend days at Magic Kingdom and still possibly not do everything! Since we were only going to be there for 4 park days and 2 travel days, and we didn’t want to have anything scheduled for our arrival day, we had to choose wisely.

Magic Kingdom was a given. The dilemma was choosing between Epcot and Animal Kingdom. We did not want to get park hoppers this go round. Park hoppers let you do just that, hop between that parks whenever you please. Being that this was my husbands first time back at disney since he was a kid, my first time since I was 22, and the first time ever for Johanna, we wanted to take it easy and just do 1 park a day.

Epcot seemed like a really grown up park. There are countries, and lots of food and drinks to try. Limited on the rides. On the other hand, animal kingdom seemed *to us* like more of a safari or really big zoo with entertainment and attractions. I know people love animal kingdom, but personally, I couldn’t imagine wanting to spend a whole day there. Don’t get me wrong, Johanna loves animals! But we have a fantastic free national zoo in our backyard, and an animal park. I know for a fact that she would’ve been over the animals and just want to get on rides. I had read very mixed reviews about the rides there, so we scratched animal kingdom off of our list. Finally we had ours days figured out

  • Monday –  Travel Day/Disney Springs
  • Tuesday – Magic Kingdom
  • Wednesday – Hollywood Studios
  • Thursday – Back to Magic Kingdom for the Princesses birthday!
  • Friday – Epcot
  • Saturday – Early Travel Day

In Hindsight, we would’ve done 4 park days, and 3 resort days tacked on 2 more days to our trip, and our schedule would’ve looked more like this:

  • Monday – Travel Day/Resort Day
  • Tuesday Magic Kingdom
  • Wednesday – Resort Day/Disney Springs
  • Thursday – Magic Kingdom
  • Friday – Epcot
  • Saturday – Hollywood Studios
  • Sunday – Late Travel Day/Resort Day

So here’s how it went. First up, Magic Kingdom!


Magic Kingdom (MK) was our absolute favorite park! We actually could’ve used a 3rd day there! The first day was all about trying to see what kind of rides Johanna liked. She had never been to an amusement park before, so this was her first time getting on real rides. Our first ride, and worse ride, was the tea cup ride. Man, let me tell you! If you are no longer in your 20s, you should probably skip the ride lol. I was absolutely miserable coming off of that thing! But Johanna of course loved it. Oh to be a kid again.

I won’t make this longer than it has to be by telling you every single ride that we went on, but I will tell you our favorites, and favorite activities.

Favorite Rides/Attractions/Entertainment:

  • 7 Dwarfs Mine Train: This wasn’t Johanna’s favorite rollercoaster, but it was her favorite! She went on Tuesday and then twice on Thursday!
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle: This is a MUST do for your princess loving ladies. Not only do they get to see Belle, but they get to play a part in her story time by being a cast member! Even my husband got a part. And they offer a part to anyone that wants to be apart of it. Johanna was too scared of the talking Wardrobe to go up and get a part, but since her daddy was chosen for one, they let her go up with him at the end of the performance to meet Belle!
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • Peter Pan’s Flight – Surprisingly amazing. We were flying! In the dark with great scenes. Awesome!
  • Astro Orbiter
  • People Mover – It’s actually a very cool, laid back ride. Especially go if you are tired and need a break.
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique – More on this later this week, but if you have a princess, just do it! No regrets.
  • Crystal Palace – I’ll talk about this in my dining post, but evenif you don’t fancy Pooh and friends, go, at least for breakfast!
  • Talking Mickey – you can find him just as you come in at the Town Square Theatre on Main Street
  • Incredibles Super Dance Party
  • Move it, shake it, dance and play it street party
  • Festival of fantasy parade
  • Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire
  • Once Upon a Time – Stay for this, even if you don’t want to stick around for wishes (fireworks). It was Amazing! And felt downright magical!

We were there 2 days and Still only did maybe half the things you can do at MK. Johanna road her first rollercoaster at Magic Kingdom (The Barnstormer) and fell in love. I’m so proud of her. She is so cautious and reserved, it was quite pleasant to see her so free. I on the other hand am not a rollercoaster rider at all. I’ve never been on one because I don’t need that kind of excitement in my life, so I had a lot of time hanging out with Isabella.

While at Magic Kingdom, don’t write off the shows if you aren’t a show person. They really are magical. You honestly feel like you’re going to have the best day ever because you’re walking down the street with Pooh and Tigger, or have a moment to chat with Cinderella’s step-sisters. Magic Kingdom is just that – Pure MAGIC!


Johanna’s Second favorite Park was Hollywood Studios (HS), but even while there she was still dreaming of Magic Kingdom, and I don’t blame her.

One of my favorite things at HS was everything Star Wars. I’m not even a Star Wars fan. Like, I’ll watch it if it’s on, but I know it has a cult like following and that’s just not me. But I’ll be darned if I didn’t totally get wrapped up in it while I was there. from March of the First Order up Hollywood Boulevard to meeting Chewbacca, I was thrilled!

Johanna’s favorite area was Disney Jr. of course! She got to sing along with her Disney Jr. friends, and meet her faves, Doc McStuffin and Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates. And she was so excited that he was 6, just like her!

While those were pretty fun, I think all of us, even baby Isabella, can agree that the Frozen Sing-a-long gave us life! OMG. I got so wrapped up in it. It was just yummy. The two comedians (historians of Arendelle) that helped tell the story were hilarious! Some of the humor goes over the kids heads, but it’s great for the adults. It is certainly a show for everyone. It was hilarious to see men trying not to sing along, but it’s basically impossible. Even my husband wanted to experience it again!

This isn’t the lady from our performance, so it’s not quite as funny, but it’s still very enjoyable.

While we had a lot of good moments at Hollywood Studios, it was a downer after going to Magic Kingdom. There simply isn’t as much to do. In fact, I believe you could get a hopper and do a half day of Hollywood studios and a half day of Animal Kingdom easily.My only regret was not experiencing Indiana Jones, but Johanna didn’t want to do it and this trip was all about her.

Favorite Rides/Attractions/Entertainment:

  • Frozen Sing Along
  • Toy Story Mania
  • Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
  • Star Wars Launch Bay
  • Disney Junior Live on Stage!
  • March of the First Order
  • 50s Prime Time – More about this in my upcoming dining post!

Don’t forget to sign your little one’s up for Jedi training while you’re there. In fact, do that first before you do anything else. It gets full pretty quick.


Our final park of our trip was Epcot. It was Johanna’s least favorite of the 3, but as adults her dad and I really enjoyed it and want to go back, just the two of us! As  you know, Epcot takes you around the world! There is plenty to see and do, but not much to ride. That was the bummer for Johanna. I think that when she is older, a preteen, she will definitely love Epcot. It is absolutely gorgeous there and if you are doing the dining plan, seriously save most of your snack credits to eat at as many countries as possible. Because it was raining while we were there, our schedule got completely messed up, so we were literally walking back and forth around the world trying to make all of our fastpasses. It was exhausting. We didn’t get to stop at each country like we really wanted to. My advice – if you go, try to schedule all of your fast passes back to back, inching your way closer and closer to the various countries, then take your time enjoying the top countries on your list. That’s what I wish we would’ve done. Also, don’t go on the last day if you don’t have resort days built into your schedule. By Friday we were all a little cranky and worn down.

Did I mention that I was stupid happy to meet Joy and Sadness from Inside Out? Like I was bubbling over with excitement. Johanna was geeked to meet Minnie and we’re all sad that we missed every ethnic Princess except Jasmine. Like, how? At Epcot there was Pocahontas, Mulan, and Jasmine. We even missed Anna and Elsa, but that was more so on purpose. Johanna didn’t really seem excited to meet them and I thought she would. We did meet Moana at Hollywood studios, but totally missed Tiana at Magic Kingdom. We’ve gotta do better.

Favorite Rides/Attractions/Entertainment:

  • Frozen Ever After – Sit in the middle if you don’t want to get a little wet!
  • Journey Into Imagination with Figment
  • The Seas with Nemo and Friends
  • Disney Animals
  • Test Track

Just a warning, Mission: Space made my husband feel unwell, and he and Johanna were on the less intense side (the orange is intense, while the green side is less intense). My husband is young and in shape, so just take that into consideration. I’m super happy that I didn’t ride!

Overall we found the fast passes to be most useful for these rides:

Magic Kingdom

  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Peter Pan
  • Space Mountain (she hated Space Mountain because it is super dark and super fast, but didn’t have to wait long to ride it)


  • Frozen Ever After
  • Seas with Nemo
  • Figment
  • Any of the characters

Hollywood Studios

  • Toy Story Mania
  • Frozen Sing Along
  • Star Tours- The adventures continue
  • Disney Jr. Live

When Isabella was born we said we would go to Disney for Johanna’s birthday, then not go again until Isabella is 6. Now we are thinking of taking another trip in a year or two. If we do we will make it a short trip (3 park days, 2 resort days) and definitely do Magic Kingdom again, try out Animal Kingdom, and head over to Universal Studios. We really wanted to go to Universal, but we didn’t know if Johanna was a thrill seeker yet, and it kind of seemed ridiculous to go if she wasn’t going to get on any rides. Well now we know our child is definitely a thrill seeker! If we can get a babysitter to come along, we’ll take a date night trip to Epcot.

What is your favorite park at Disney? Favorite ride? I’d love to hear!


This is How We Disney – Port Orleans Riverside Resort

When planning a Disney vacation, one of the first questions that comes to mind is where will we stay? Can we actually afford to stay on Disney property? That’s the question my family and I were faced with 9 months before going to Disney. My husband was totally sold on staying at Disney, so that made things a bit easier. However, being that we are a one income family, I knew we weren’t going to be able to spend a ton. That’s when I learned about Disney’s moderate resorts.

Disney has deluxe, moderate, and value resorts. The moderate resorts consist of Caribbean Beach Resort (CBR), Port Orleans Riverside (POR), Port Orleans French Quarter (POFQ), Coronado Springs (CS), The Cabins at Fort Wilderness Resort. We knew we didn’t want to stay in the cabins, that was completely out. The reviews for Coronado Springs were all over the place, and although beautiful, I kept reading that Caribbean Beach Resort was huge, very spread out, and took a long time to get off the property to the parks. So that left us with Either Port Orleans Riverside or Port Orleans French Quarter. In the end we chose Port Orleans Riverside.


Let me start off by saying that to me, the moderate resorts definitely do not scream Disney. They are very relaxed on Disney decor, much more than the value resorts. If you want your child to be wowed by the room and you don’t have a very big family, the value resorts will probably be right up your alley. They have over the top theming (my favorite is Art of Animation), and really appeal to kids. However, POR is very relaxed. It’s very New Orleans with it’s antebellum feel and it’s on a river. It’s simply gorgeous! You can either stay at a building in the Magnolia Bend (The Oak and Parterre Buildings), or Alligator Bayou. We were going specifically for Johanna’s 6th birthday, so we chose Magnolia Bend. We requested a room in The Oak building (a 3 story plantation style building) because Johanna is a princess fan and they contain princess -themed rooms. The rooms are decorated with pictures of the princesses on the walls and theres a larger picture showcasing the Bayou Princess herself, Princess Tiana! All throughout the room you can find touches from every princess from Aladdin’s carpet on the floor, to the Beauty and the Beast teacups on the borders of the walls. The touches are light, you won’t be beat over your head with them, but they’re elegant. And did I mention that the head boards light up with fireworks? It is amazing! Johanna could not get enough of pushing the buttons to make both headboards light up so that she and her sister could enjoy them.

Port Orleans Riverside, Magnolia Bend

image courtesy of portorleans.com

As far as recreation and activities are concerned, Magnolia Bend has 2 pools, but Alligator Bayou has 3, bringing the resort total to 5! I think that’s pretty amazing. Honestly, because we were super busy the whole time we were there we only saw the two in Magnolia Bend. One of the other features of the hotel that we really enjoyed was movie night under the stars. We were never able to stay for more than 15 minutes, but it was a great option and next time we are definitely planning more resort days and taking advantage. There are also carriage rides, campfires, the riverboat that takes you to Disney Springs where you can go shopping and grab a bite to eat, and surrey bike rentals.


When it comes to food, POR has 2 table service restaurants, Boatwright’s Dining Hall, and the River Roost lounge. You can get quick service meals at the Muddy rivers lounge and inside of the Riverside Mill Food Court. We did not eat a table service meal at the resort, but we did frequent the Riverside Mill Food Court quite a bit, and I’ll review that in an upcoming post later this week.

There is also a store called Fultons General Store. You can get snacks and drinks, but also apparel and souvenirs.

One of the biggest concerns we had when finding a place to stay was the efficiency of the bus services. We didn’t want to have to wait around for a long time waiting for a bus, or have them consistently be so overcrowded that we would have to skip getting on one until the crowd thinned.We also did not want to be far from the bus depot being that we had a baby and 6 year old with us. The wonderful thing about the Oak building is that it was a quick 7 minute walk to the main building and the bus depot.The longest we waited for a bus was 20 minutes, and that was only once. Other than that our wait was always under 5 minutes heading to the parks. However, January is the slowest month for Disney, and I can imagine that during the more crowded months the bus depot could be overly crowded. Since there’s no line for getting on the bus, I can also assume that there’s a bit of pushing and jumping in front of others to ensure that you have a spot on the bus and if you have a double stroller like we did, I’ll pray for you.

So why Port Orleans Riverside over Port Orleans French Quarter? Only a few reasons as I think they are both nice properties. The first is that POFQ is smaller. While that can definitely have it’s advantages (fewer people and it only has one bus stop),it felt a little too much like the POP resorts, and we could stay at one of those resorts for cheaper. Also, the pool area leaves much to be desired for me, and we just really liked the royal rooms. The food court is smaller at POFQ, and my family likes to have options. The atmosphere at POR makes you relaxed. You just want to take a stroll and enjoy the magnolias. I’m not opposed in any way to staying at POFQ, but when making our decision, we factored in all of these things.

This is normally the part where I would wrap up this already too long post, but I have to say this. We had a huge issue at POR. One of our neighbors decided a Disney vacation was the best place to smoke marijuana. I detest smoking of any kind, but the smell of weed is just straight up horrid. I was horrified that a resort full of kids is where this person wanted to smoke. He was of course there with his family, and as my husband confronted him early in our week as he sat outside smoking it, his attitude was pretty much like eh, I’m from Colorado, that’s what we do. Welp, you’re not in Colorado anymore dear. As the week went on more and more neighbors were complaining about the smell of marijuana. The guy would smoke starting at midnight, just as we were settling in to sleep, and again around 7am.The smell was heavy! My husband found himself calling the front desk and security many times while we were there and one night, fed up, he even called the police. I’m going to be very honest, we were not happy with the response we got at first.On tuesday night they said they couldn’t find the person doing it. Wednesday they apologized and offered us a chance to switch rooms. If this were any other vacation that would’ve been fine, but this was Disney. You are legit busy from the time you open your eyes until late at night. We would leave the room in the morning and return after 10 with a 6 year old and a 4 month old. We had reservations for various things throughout the park meaning we didn’t have any time to repack and move to another room. Why inconvenience us instead of finding the guy that was doing the smoking? At this point they had a description and a state. I just couldn’t understand why they were having such a hard time finding this individual!

I’m happy to say that in the end, they did find him. I don’t know if they kicked him out or just gave him a strong warning, but they did give us free fast passes for rides for two days, and they refunded us for two nights of our stay and I thought that was pretty great. The manager that we kept in contact with definitely did not want us to leave thinking that Disney didn’t care, and I’m very thankful for her for continuously checking in on us and working with us.

Would we choose Port Orleans Riverside again? Absolutely. It’s stunning, relaxing, small enough that we didn’t feel lost, and big enough that we still felt like we were at a resort. One day I would love to stay at a suite at Art of Animation, or experience one of the deluxe resorts, but for our budget at this time, POR is perfect.

Have you stayed at POR before? Have any tips for other readers? Please post them in the comments. If you have any questions for me please feel free to leave them below. I will love to help answer them as best as possible. For more information on Port Orleans Riverside, and all other resorts, you can visit the Disney website, or my favorite planning website Touring Plans.


New Blog Series – This is How We Disney

Spring 2016 my husband decided he wanted us to take the family vacation since we had a 5 year old. He thought it was time. You know the one I’m talking about. The one that seems like it could be fun, but it could also be incredibly exhausting and daunting to plan. It can eat away at all of your vacation days and your retirement plan. That’s right, I’m talking Disney World here.

So starting in June I threw myself into planning like our lives depended on it. I learned everything Disney. I can answer questions for anyone at any time now about planning a Disney vacation. You all know that I’m a planner. It’s in my blood, it’s what I do. So when he said Disney, I ferociously read everything single thing I could. I pinterest, googled, and facebooked the heck out of it. And it all paid off. Earlier this month we took our first family trip to Disney and I’m here to tell you all about it. Each day This week in a series called This is How We Disney I’ll do a post dedicated to our Disney trip. From lodging, to food, to the must do’s, I’ll discuss it all. At the end of the week I’ll list all the tools that were helpful for me and post a vlog to our youtube channel to showcase our trip! I hope you’ll join me for the ride, and more than anything, I really hope these posts will be helpful to you on your planning journey. First up tomorrow, our resort choice. See you then!