10 Tips to Save Time and Money at Disney World

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That’s the real trouble with the world. Too many people grow up.
— Walt Disney

There’s something undeniably magical about Walt Disney World. The unmistakable smell of vanilla in the air, the feeling that a grand adventure might soon find you, the possibility that nothing will ever be impossible for you… It’s no wonder Disney World is the most visited vacation resort in the world. But with an annual attendance of over 52 million people, there are bound the be some roadblocks on your journey to a happily ever after time.

Strollers and line-cutters and family reunions galore! We’ve almost come to the unspoken conclusion that our ultimate Disney vacation will end up being a huge money sucker that zaps you of energy AND all patience. But it doesn’t have to be! After all, if you’re going to fork over the money to go to Disney World in the first place, then you might as well make sure it’s enjoyable, right?

I’ve by no means perfected the Disney trip and everything I do know I’ve learned from my husband, whose quite possibly a bigger Disney fan than me… NAH! But growing up in Florida has it’s perks and he’s taken all his childhood knowledge and applied it to all of our trips (which are averaging around 3 a year!)

Now I want to share some of those tips and tricks that we’ve used for our Disney trips to help you with yours. Whether you’re saving up to take the family one of these days, or you’re a full grown adult who needs their Disney fix, these tips will help you save both time and money, two of the most difficult things to hang onto. Apply these tips and you’ll start to find the magic in your trips.

10 Tips to Save Time and Money at Disney World

1. Check Crowd Calendars

Before we plan our tip, Jeff will check multiple crowd calendars online (which you can find with an easy google search) to estimate when the heavy, moderate and light traffic days are. Now, these are just estimates based on previous years, but they have served us well in planning our trips around the more moderate to light days. This will mean less people on the streets, in the restaurants and in line. It only takes a few minutes but it will save you A LOT of time at the park.

For example, summers are insanely busy. We NEVER go in the summer. Too hot and too crowded. But, we will go in early May, after spring breaks are over and before school lets out. Or we’ll go at the end of September when the weather is cooler but before the Halloween crowd shows up. There are always less busy days around your favorite holiday, so you don’t need to sacrifice those for a good trip!

2. Chase Disney Cards

We love Chase and one of the awesome features they have is their Disney credit and debit cards. Jeff and I both have their Disney debit cards and when you use it at the parks, some places will give you a discount equal to an annual pass holder.

One place I know of is Joffrey’s Coffee, which I’ll talk about soon, who gives you 10% off for using you Chase Disney debit or credit card. Some restaurants, shops and stands will also offer discounts. It doesn’t cost anything to get them. You just need to have an account with Chase Bank. Easy peasy!

3. Hotels Outside the Parks

Now I know it seems magical to stay at an official Disney Resort and if that is your dream then I say go for it! Or start saving now for the future. But remember that when you go to Disney, you tend to spend very little time at your hotel. Instead of blowing all your money on a resort that will make your towels look like Mickey (which I get… it’s cute!) stay at a hotel or resort and use your rental car to get around.

This is what Jeff and I do every single time and it’s worked out AMAZING! Some of our favorite places to stay are the Polynesian Isles Resort, the Hilton Garden Inn at Sea World, and The Berkley Orlando (which also has no resort fees!) They are all nice, clean and only a few miles away from the parks.

Do some research and stay at a nice place where you can relax, get some sleep and come and go from the parks as you please. Now that’s a vacation!

4. The Resort Tram

This tip we happened to stumble upon one hot Florida day when the line for the tram taking us from the ticketing center to Magic Kingdom was crazy long. We glanced over at the tram next to it, which had no line, and a fella who was walking up said, “Hey, you know these trams go to the same place, right? They just stop at the resorts along the way.” What!

We had no idea. So we hopped aboard instantly and waved goodbye to all of the sweaty people standing in the heat as we headed off to the Magic Kingdom.

This tram does stop at the resorts along it’s route, but it only spends about 5-8mins at each stop. There are two resorts on the way to the Magic Kingdom and one resort on your way back to the ticketing center. Besides, when you’re trying to stay out of the heat as much as possible, it’s so nice to relax on a tram with air conditioning… sipping on your Joffrey’s Coffee ;)

If the line for the normal tram is giving you a stomach ache, then hop the resort tram and breath a bit. There’s really no rush!

5. Disney Diversions

Multiple times a day, Disney puts on a large parade or street show, where people (especially those with children) will line the streets to catch of glimpse of their favorite Disney Princess or surround a street show in hopes of being a part of the act. But this is when we hit the rides!

These shows and parades are what Disney calls “crowd control” and they can be your cue that a lot of people will be distracted for the next 20min or so and won’t be going on rides. This is a great time to high tail it over to a ride you maybe don’t have a FastPass for and enjoy a little less people in your life.

6. Soda Fountain Free Refills

One thing about Disney is you pay for everything and you rarely get things for free… like refills. Most of the soda fountains are located behind the counter and what you get is all you get. But there are a couple of places that Jeff and I have found that have soda fountains out for the people to use. That means, you could buy a soda once and come back and get refills all day!

Two of these places we know of are the Electric Umbrella in Epcot and Backlot Express in Hollywood Studios. These also make great lunch places if you’re looking for something that’s not too big or expensive. Besides, who doesn’t love their iced cold diet coke to last all day!

7. Joffrey’s Coffee

I love coffee. It’s just the way I am. It’s also the way Jeff is and you better know that we need our coffee fixes while on vacation… especially while on vacation!

While there are a couple of Starbucks around the parks, they are crazy expensive! More so than normal it seems. And if you want to get coffee outside the park, it’s usually bad by the time you make it in. Joffrey’s Coffee shop is one of those places that is a God send! Delicious coffee, affordable prices and several locations around each park. It’s hands down our favorite place to grab a cup at Disney.

My favorites right now are the iced vanilla latte and the frozen cappuccino (if you’re in the mood for a sweet treat). They also give discounts to chase Disney card holders, like I mentioned earlier. There’s usually never a long line because I don’t think people are too familiar with them. There also happens to be a location at the transportation and ticketing center on your way to Magic Kingdom. Remember how I said I like to take the resort tram with my Joffrey’s Coffee in hand?

8. My Disney Experience App

This is hands down one of the greatest tools Disney has for making your time in the Parks a breeze. One feature that a lot of people don’t know about is ordering online. A lot of restaurants and food stands have “online order” lines that are usually much shorter! This is for people who have used their My Disney Experience App to order food using the card they put on file. You order, pay, choose a pick-up time and simply walk up to the counter and grab your food. All of the people in the regular lines will watch you with a sweaty jealously :)

The other feature that the app is probably used for the most is scheduling FastPasses. Ever notice those FastPass lines for your favorite rides? Yeah, that’s where you get those. You are allowed up to 3 FastPasses at one time per day, and once you use up all 3, you can start scheduling more one at a time for the remainder of the day. You can generally schedule them up to a week in advance and Disney Annual Pass holders can schedule them up to 30 days in advance.

My biggest advice? Pick the 3 busiest rides you want to go on in that park to schedule FastPasses for and then wait in the smaller lines (perhaps with a Dole Whip float you picked up in the online order line) and enjoy the magic Disney puts into them. Jeff and I are on top of our FastPasses and we rarely ever stand in line for more than 30min…

Some of the rides I would recommend scheduling FastPass for?

Magic Kingdom: Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain

Hollywood Studios: Tower of Terror, Toy Story Mania, Rockin’ Roller Coaster or one of the shows (Rockin’ Roller Coaster has a single rider line which we normally use because you really don’t experience the ride with the person sitting next to you. It’s too fast and too dark)

Epcot: Test Track and Soarin’

Animal Kingdom: Avatar Flight of Passage, Na/vi River Journey, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest and DINOSAUR

Remember you have one hour to use your FastPass (for example from 12pm-1pm) but Disney does give you about a 15min grace period at the end.

9. Check the Wait Time Before Using a FastPass

One quick tip about FastPasses is if you have one scheduled for a busier ride and you notice the normal line waiting time has gone down, then as long as you have plenty of time left to use your FastPass, go ahead and wait in the normal line, then run back and use your FastPass. That way you get to ride twice!

For example, let’s say you have a FastPass for Splash Mountain from 3pm-4pm. It’s currently 3:05pm and you arrive at the ride to find that the normal waiting time is only 25min… very rare for Splash Mountain! Wanting to take advantage of this short wait time, you could go through the normal line, ride the ride and then pop back out with enough time to use your FastPass!

To do this, you’ll need to go and check on your ride at the beginning of your FastPass. That way you would have enough time to get through the ride before your FastPass expires.

10. Disney’s Annual Pass

And now for the grand finale… Disney’s Annual Pass! I know what you’re thinking…. “aren’t those like really expensive?” Well, they certainly are not cheap. But they have been well worth the money for us. I feel you get your money back by your second trip. So by biggest advice for you Disney fans on a budget is to pick a year where your vacations will be to Disney and then invest in the annual pass.

Here are some ways that the Annual Pass has helped Jeff and I save time and money!

  1. You can park hop as many times as you want. No need to purchase any tickets. You can also sleep in and head to the parks whenever you want because you don’t need to be there all day to feel as though you are getting your money’s worth. You already are!

  2. Free parking at all parks. It’s usually around $20-$25 per day per park! That adds up real quick! Just flash your pass and a photo ID and you’re good to go :)

  3. A lot of restaurants, food stands and shopping stores give annual pass discounts from 10, 20 and sometimes even 30% off! You can find a complete list of where this discount is offered and how much it is HERE!

  4. Ever notice those snappy magic bands everyone’s been wearing to the parks lately? Well you get one in a color of your choice for free! No need to hold onto tickets. It’s all loaded on your band. It also connects to your My Disney Experience App to hold all of your FastPasses and reservations!

  5. Since selfie sticks are not allowed in the parks, it’s hard to get a good photo of you, especially with all of the people! But with the annual pass, you get all of the professional photos offered on the streets for free! Remember all the photographers standing around? Yep! Just get your photo taken, let them scan your magic band, and your photos will be waiting for you in your App, where you can download them for free for up to one year. Perfect for couples who want some nice photos :) **Also, if you or your loved one are planning on running in any of the Disney Races, you get all of those professional photos for free too! They are incredible!

  6. There are even special hours that the park has open to Annual Pass holders only. You can find these with a simple google search and you may want to take advantage of these!

Well there you have it. Our most practical tips for saving time and money at Disney World. These by no means are all the ways to save, but if you’re planning a trip in the near future, I highly recommend putting some of these into practice. And you’ll probably start finding your own ways to save.

The point is that going on a Disney vacation is more possible then you may realize. It just take some planning, intentionality and a few insider tips to get you there. Don’t buy into the hype that Disney is miserable. Sure there are plenty of miserable people there but you don’t have to be one of them! Enjoy the magic of the parks and be swept away in a world of possibilities. If you’re anything like Jeff and I, you’ll come back more refreshed, inspired and driven than before.

But they say if you dream a thing more than once, it’s sure to come true.
— Princess Aurora

Here’s to dreaming big!

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Have We Taken Grace for Granted?- Lessons from the High Place

His gaze was fixed on the golden idols piled across his table. There had to have been close to twenty! As he bowed, he knelt down and stretched out across the floor, as low as he could possibly go, getting up to do it again and again. He was chanting under his breath prayers to a god he had never met. It was devoted, it was long, it was heartbreaking.  While our treck up the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal was an amazing adventure full of so many glorious moments, taking in the wonder of some of
 

His gaze was fixed on the golden idols piled across his table. There had to have been close to twenty! As he bowed, he knelt down and stretched out across the floor, as low as he could possibly go, getting up to do it again and again. He was chanting under his breath prayers to a god he had never met. It was devoted, it was long, it was heartbreaking. 

While our treck up the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal was an amazing adventure full of so many glorious moments, taking in the wonder of some of God's biggest creations, it was also very eye opening to see how the gospel really hasn't made it around the world yet. Not even close. These people up here in the mountains were some of the most generous, kind and hospitable people I had ever met in my life. This very man who was now giving his daily prayers, had invited us into his guesthouse because he wanted the honor of serving us breakfast on our last day, but spent half the morning lighting incense, spinning his prayer wheel and offering up a devotion to a dead end god with no ears to hear his cry, no eyes to look into his, no words to offer comfort or wisdom and no heart to feel for his. 

But this wasn't just in the mountains. 

In Kathmandu, one thing I noticed (for it was impossible to miss) was all of the temples at every corner and the constant burning of incense. Most of the people living in Nepal were either Hindu or Buddhist and they would go around giving their prayers and doing their rituals to a bunch of gods made of stone. These people were so devoted, so disciplined and it broke my heart to see their devotion being sacrificed to something so worthless. The praise and devotion that was meant for God, the enemy has perverted to piles of rubble. 

I was mad and wanted to cry at the same time. These false gods could do nothing for them. Whenever disaster struck, they believed it was because they were being punished and prayed even harder. They didn't have a relationship; they were bound to the whims of an ancient teaching that is keeping them captive. 

If anything, it made me so incredibly thankful for what we have in Christ. The gift that our God has given to us is so great that it's sometimes easy to take advantage of it. Our God is close, He is good, He is just, He is forgiving, He is overflowing with kindness, He is our Father, He is love. We have so much to be thankful for. 

And our God isn't just there for us when we need him now. But he WAS there for us 2000 years ago when he came down as a man to set us all free. Our God doesn't just bring good things into our life, but he GAVE us life, and life eternal. We were lost, unable to save ourselves, to offer anything back to him. But because he is so good and so loving, he decided that all of the pain and struggle and humiliation was worth it if he got the chance to spend eternity with you. He is personnel because he made each and every person on purpose and for a purpose. 

We forget that so much of the world has yet to hear about our God, especially in the 10/40 Window- which stretches across north Africa and most of Asia. There are entire people groups, with their own language and customs, that don't have a single Christian represented among them. And the bible makes it clear that every race, language and people will be represented around the throne of grace. 

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’
— Revelation 7:9-10

There are still so many people to be reached in this world with the love and grace of God. Instead of looking to Jesus coming back so eagerly, we should be embracing the relationship we have with him now. For it is through having a vibrant, living relationship with our God that this lost and hurting world will begin to know him too. 

After our trip, I found myself starting to feel bad for how little I've appreciated, acknowledged or even been thankful for my faith in God. I want to be known as the girl who is crazy about her Maker, who walks on holy ground and lives a life that inspires hope in others. We were created to be those women. It's who we are! 

Let God know how much you love and admire him. There are so many people out there in the world that are lost and bound to a system that bleeds them out rather than fills them with life eternal. Take advantage of the open relationship that so many people are without. Lean into his love and let him fill you with all joy and peace that passes all understanding. We don't worship a pile of stone but a King that is above all other gods. 

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; Let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
— Psalms 95:2-3

Let him write these chapters of your life and I promise you, he will take you places you never dreamed you could go and teach you things that will forever change you. The treck awaits those who are willing to be led by him. 

xxo,
Jess

When You Marry a REALLY Big Dreamer

"I'm sorry," said Lillian Disney to her husband Walt. "You can't call a mouse Mortimer." 
"Why not?" asked Walt. "I used to have a mouse in my old studio in Kansas City, I called him Mortimer." 
"No," said Lillian. "Mortimer Mouse, It's not catchy enough. Change it to Mickey." 

You know the saying, Behind every great man is a great woman and I'm sure Mr. Walt Disney was no exception. Being attracted to a passionate, driven and ambitious guy is a good thing and as godly women, we were created to be drawn to it.  

God created men with an ambitious nature, one that propels them to achieve great things for God's glory and for their families. But I don't think I truly realized until after I got married just how big my husband's dreams were. And what a huge honor it was that he would choose me to be the one beside him. 

I've always considered myself to be a pretty big dreamer but it wasn't until I met Jeff that I began to really push myself in the direction of my dreams, believing that they were achievable and that I was meant to reach them. Even while we were just friends, there was something about him that made me want to think bigger in my life. His very passion instills passion in others. 

But once I became his wife, I suddenly, without realizing it, began to see his dreams as competition for his attention. 

After all, when a man is driven, he becomes laser focused. That's how he got me, right? Those 3 years of pursuing certainly took some passion, focus and drive. But now that he had me, and because I was a new wife and didn't understand much about marriage, I found myself looking to him to fulfill me and would get insecure when I would put myself up next to his dreams.

Jeff wasn't comparing me to them. If anything, he saw me as a part of his dreams. But when we grow to depend on someone's undying attention, and they fail to give you all of it (an impossible and unrealistic expectation) it becomes easy to compare yourself to every other thing in this world that demands any part of his attention. 

I believe that the person you marry becomes uniquely tied into your destiny and purpose on this earth. 

So if the enemy can't stop you from dreaming, then he'll try and get you to see the other's dreams as your competition. After all, you were meant to come alongside each other, support each other and ultimately, be a part of fulfilling the other's dreams. But if I just see myself as a competitor, then I risk making Jeff feel like he has to choose between us. And that's NOT what I want at all! 

I love his huge dreams. I love his creative mind and I love how well we work together. I would have to say that I'm just as excited about fulfilling Jeff's dreams as I am fulfilling my own! In fact, a lot of my dreams in life now have to do with his dreams. I think this is such a huge part of marriage that isn't talked about too often. You're each others' best friend, soul mate, lover, encourager, roommate, partner in life and their fellow dream-chaser. 

Make sure you marry someone who has dreams that you can chase. 

We were all put on this earth for a purpose. Make sure that you link arms with someone that you can be excited to run with, someone who challenges you with the way they think and perceive the world. And make sure that their first passion and drive is for God. That way, you'll never have to worry if his dreams surpass you in his heart. 

You were never meant to be inferior to your husband's dreams, but you were always meant to play an irreplaceable role in them. 

Don't let the enemy scare you into a place of insecurity. You were designed to protect and defend your husband's heart. After all, to get to the man, the enemy will have to take out his woman. Don't let him!  

So here's to the dreamers! Never let insecurity keep you from playing the role you were always meant to fill. The enemy wouldn't try so hard to get you down if he wasn't terrified of what you might empower your husband to do. Because together, dreams become a reality. 

xxo,
Jess

Disney for Valentines + Our First Vlog

As you can clearly see below... I was constantly terrified on the rides while Jeff seemed quite content. 

All in all, it was a magical trip. 

This was my first experience with Hollywood Studios and it quickly became my favorite! From rolling down memory lane in Toy Story to dropping to my death in Tower of Terror; from getting lost in the Beauty and the Beast stage production to saving the universe in Star Wars, there was always something that seemed to draw me in and draw out that crazy, Disney-lovin' girl in me. 

One of the highlights from Hollywood Studios had the be the Sci-Fi Diner. I have always fantasized pulling up in an old car to a drive in movie and splitting a chocolate milkshake with my cool date. It was all I ever dreamed of and more! The food was fantastic and the atmosphere really makes you feel like your out on top of a hill in Cali on a summer night under the stars. 

Jeff and I always check the crowd calendars before we go on a trip and the days leading up to Valentine's Day were pretty low. So if your looking for a good time to go, this would be it! The weather was perfect, the parks were dreamy and the lines were decent (thanks to our fast passes on the Disney App!). I'm already planning our next trip and it's safe to say you'll see another video from us very soon! 

Check out our first vlog below! 

West Palm Getaway

Hot and sticky... just the way we like it! Nothing beats the Florida heat and our thirsty Colorado skin soaked up every ounce of it. Making the getaway to West Palm Beach was one of the best decisions we've made in a long time. We were able to stay with Jeff's family and he took great pleasure in giving me the grand tour of his journey from childhood to adulthood. This swampy land holds so many moments and memories for him; it was so neat to catch a glimpse into his past and learn more of who he is. 

Taking the time to just be together, without the stress, demands, and interruptions of life, was an all-too-important lesson that these two learned rather quickly. Seeing each other completely at rest allowed us to see the other for who they truly are, without the mask of just making it through the day

Whether we were chasing giant palmetto bugs, pigging-out on Publix subs, kissing our salty lips in the ocean, or driving around late at night with the windows down and singing to our hearts' content, not one moment was put to waste. 

Now we're back and with just a little over 4 months till our wedding day, there is certainly a LOT to be rested up for. Until next time Florida; you will be missed. Well.. sort of. I don't miss the bugs!