5 Tips For Planning a Disney Vacation

Safari Breakfast Mickey Mouse

My girls at Disney World, 2012. Like Katie from Mousehunters Travel recommends, we went during the off season, purchased the dining plan, and stayed on property.

This giveaway is closed Adrienne Gordon is the winner. Congrats Adrienne!

Happy Travel Tuesday ya’ll! My girls are on fall break so I’m taking a few days off from blogging. If you’re planning a family vacation to the most magical place on earth, you’ll want to check out today’s guest post from Katie from Mouse Hunters Travel and scroll down to enter to win a travel guide for planning your Disney experience, plus a $25 Disney gift card.


Have you thought about taking your family to a Disney park but it seems too overwhelming?  You are not alone!  Walt Disney World in Florida is 40 square miles with 24 hotels,4 theme parks, 2 water parks, a shopping and restaurant district called Downtown Disney, sports complex, 2 golf courses, 2 mini golf courses… This list goes on!  As a Magical Vacation Planner, Disney is not only my business, its my passion!

Here are my top 5 tips for planning a Disney vacation!

5. Always add 1 more day than you think you need. It’s all about the details at Disney Parks. If you’re rushing from ride to ride then your missing out on some great opportunities to make memories. On my daughter’s 1st trip, we took an afternoon off from the parks to visit the Boardwalk Resort. This is one of my favorite pictures from that trip.  She had the place to herself!  Will she remember it?  No, but we do.  The pictures & memories I have from this vacation are priceless.

4. Consider going in off season. Is much slower than summer months or school breaks. Plus it can be much cheaper. As always, check with your school attendance policy before pulling your child out for an extended period of time.

3. Stay on property! Not only are you closer to the magic, but you will not have to pay for parking at the parks and there are some pretty amazing perks!

  • You can use Disney’s Magical Express from Orlando International Airport to your resort.  Disney will pick your luggage up for you & deliver it to your hotel room! Your vacation starts before you even step foot in a hotel!

  • Each day one park opens an hour early or two hours late for resort guests only.

  • When purchasing souvenirs in the parks or Downtown Disney, you can have them sent back to your resort so that you don’t have to carry them with you all day!

  • You are eligible to use one of three Disney Dining plans.

2.  Speaking of Disney Dining Plans; my family does not vacation at Disney World without one.  These  dining options can save you money, time, and make your vacation feel all inclusive.  With 3 different plans to choose from, you can find one that will fit your family’s needs!

1.  Consider using a travel agent.  I don’t just say that because I am one!  Can you make reservations to Disney, show up, and have a great time?  Absolutely!  We did on our Honeymoon in 2006, but we also made a lot of “First Timer” classic mistakes! It was a fun vacation, but it could have been AMAZING if we had known what we were getting into!   As a Disney College of Knowledge graduate, Magical Vacation Planners are certified in multiple Disney Destinations including Disney World in Florida, DisneyLand in California, Disney Cruise Line, Aulani in Hawaii, and Adventures by Disney tours around the World!!  We can help with any confusion and assist with all the little details! The best part?  My services are FREE to you!!

If you’re interested in planning a vacation to a Disney Destination, you can contact me at (615)335-7551 or Katie {at} MouseHuntersTravel(.)com. Get all my tips and find out about specials on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MouseHunterKatie

Disney World Travel Guide Book

Katie with Mouse Hunters Travel has donated a great Disney planning package giveaway. To enter to win a Birnbaum Disney travel guide and a $25 Disney gift card (good at Disney parks shops), simply leave a comment letting me know your favorite Disney character. For up to three additional entries (please leave a new and separate comment on this post for each of these you do):

    • Let me know if you are a fan of BlondeMomBlog on Facebook

    • Let me know if you are a fan of Mouse Hunters Travel on Facebook

    • Tweet the following: I entered to win a #Disney travel #giveaway on @blondemomblog http://blondemomblog.com/?p=19476

I’ll select a winner from all eligible comments using Random.org; giveaway closes at midnight CST Friday, October 18. The giveaway is open only to U.S. residents, ages 18+.

Packing Your Suitcase Like A Boss

Packing Tips

How did I manage to pack only a carry-on bag for a 9-day trip to Africa in February? Yes, me. A woman whose purse alone weighs 20 pounds. A woman who carries no less than half a dozen varieties of lipgloss or lipstick at at time. A woman who can be known for her indecisiveness. A woman who now knows  the secret to packing your suitcase…like a boss!

Yes I packed for my trip to Kenya back in February like a boss. Of course it certainly helped that we were traveling to a warm climate, hence eliminating any bulky items, but still I was amazed.

My traveling companion Rene and I each could check in one suitcase and we had designated this to a large duffel bag filled with donated shoes to give to the children and teens we were working with in Kenya. That left us with the option of bringing on a carry-on for our own clothing and personal items. We could have paid more to check in an additional bag but if you’ve ever traveled internationally (and I had only once and that was just to Mexico), you know it’s best to pack light and bring a carry-on.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while. Although this was a different sort of trip, a mission trip and not a luxurious vacation or conference requiring multiple outfit changes, I still had to plan out my wardrobe for each day.

Start packing early – I planned out what I’d need each day. I really only needed one nice church type outfit for Sunday and even that was simple – a cotton t-shirt dress. I also relied on my friend, who had traveled to Kenya before, to tell me exactly what I needed (including snacks!)

Roll with it baby – Roll your t-shirts, dresses, underwear, EVERYTHING. It helps to bring clothing made with lightweight, non-wrinkle material.

Leave no space empty – Stuff your socks into your shoes, stack sandals to maximize space, etc.

Edit your toiletries – If you have a traveling companion(s), collaborate with them on items you can share. (For example, I brought hair conditioner and my traveling companion brought shampoo.)

Embrace the flat – I used a school supply pencil pouch to hold my makeup. Much better use of space than my regular makeup bag. Use ziploc bags to store items. It’s time to get utilitarian, not show off your uber cute monogram cosmetic trunk.

Make your clothes multitask – I brought one lightweight cotton cardigan to wear on the plane (as it gets chilly) and to bring along in case I needed layers at night. Consider bringing items that all coordinate so you can mix and match.

What tips do you have for packing light? I also recommend loading up your Kindle and keeping jewelry to a minimum.

Here are more great tips!


Jekyll Island Wild Georgia Shrimp Festival Prize Pack Giveaway

Annual Wild Georgia Shrimp Festival

Ya’ll know we are huge fans of the beach, especially the beautiful beaches here in the Southeast. I just hate that living in Nashville we are landlocked and a good 7 or 8 hours from the closest shore, but I digress.

Two years ago we won an amazing vacation package at the historic Jekyll Island Club Hotel and we fell in love with discovering all this beautiful island has to offer. You can take a look at some of our pictures from this gorgeous Southern getaway here.

Since I started a new job in late spring we didn’t venture to the beach this summer, so I’m excited to virtually revisit Jekyll Island and partner with them to host a fun giveaway with a decidedly coastal twist.

Jekyll Island, Ga., is hosting its 8th annual Shrimp & Grits: The Wild Georgia Shrimp Festival Sept. 20 to 22. Only in the South would you find an entire festival devoted to SHRIMP and GRITS. My taste buds just started twerking. Be sure to follow the buzz on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #ShrimpNGritsFest.

To celebrate virtually, I’ve partnered with Jekyll Island and Southern Living to give away a fun prize pack valued at $75 to one lucky reader. The prize pack will include:

  • Wild Georgia Shrimp (packed in dry ice and shipped directly to your front door)

  • Stone-ground grits from north Georgia’s Logan Turnpike Mill

  • A  beautiful Jekyll Island coffee-table book

To enter, simply leave a comment below letting me know if you’ve ever traveled to coastal Georgia (or not) and if you have, share one of your favorite things. For up to three additional entries (please leave a new and separate comment on this post for each of these you do):

  • Let me know if you are a fan of BlondeMomBlog on Facebook

  • Follow @blondemomblog on Twitter

  • Pin the Southern Living recipe below and share the link to  your pin in the comments

I’ll select a winner from all eligible comments using Random.org; giveaway closes at midnight CST Saturday, September 14

Can’t travel to coastal Georgia this fall? No worries. I’m also sharing a delicious recipe courtesy of Vanessa McNeil Rocchio – food stylist, editor and test kitchen professional at Southern Living – who will be attending this year’s shrimp and grits festival as a special guest. Enjoy!

  Grilled Shrimp Grits Southern Living Recipe



·         2 ears fresh corn

·         1 teaspoon salt

·         1 cup uncooked, quick-cooking grits

·         1 cup (4 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese

·         2 teaspoons minced, canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce

·         1/2 cup olive oil

·         1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

·         1 garlic clove, pressed

·         1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

·         1 pound peeled, jumbo raw shrimp with tails (1 6/20 count), deveined

·         16 (6-inch) metal skewers

·         1 pint grape tomatoes

·         1/2 package (8-oz.) fresh mushrooms, quartered

·         1 small green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

·         1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro


1.     Preheat grill to 350° to 400° (medium-high). Grill corn, covered with grill lid, 10 minutes or until done, turning once. Cut kernels from cobs. Discard cobs.

2.     Bring salt and 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Gradually whisk in grits. Cook grits, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes or until thickened. Stir in corn kernels, cheese, and chipotle pepper. Cover and keep warm.

3.     Stir together olive oil and next 3 ingredients (lemon juice, garlic, ground pepper) in a large bowl. Toss shrimp with olive oil marinade mixture; let stand at room temperature 3 minutes.

4.     Remove shrimp from marinade, discarding marinade. Thread shrimp onto skewers alternately with tomatoes, mushrooms, and bell pepper pieces.

5.     Grill kabobs, covered with grill lid, 4 to 5 minutes on each side or just until shrimp turn pink. Serve kabobs with grits, and sprinkle with cilantro just before serving.

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