I cried, on an off, since May.  I really did. I couldn’t even drop Baby Bee off at her last day of school.  I didn’t want to be That Mom, openly weeping as I loaded my child into the car for the last preschool pick up.

UntitledI cried because Baby Bee is my last baby.  There are no more left to rock and nurse and snuggle all day. What would I do, I wondered, without hours of daytime children’s television? I realized that new shows would come and go without my even knowing them because between the hours of 8 and 4 no one really turns the tv on and if they do, it’s to catch up on the sort of shows we can’t watch in the evenings with little eyes and ears around. I cried because I’d been a mom to young children for such a long time.  I’d spent 15.5 years of my life with a child at home full time.  It was the longest I’d done anything except be married to Big Daddy. It was unsettling.  If I wasn’t a full time Stay at Home Mom to little ones, what was I?


I cried because Baby Bee’s challenges worry me.  I worry about her ability to be successful at school.  I worry about her ability to behave. I worry about her ability to make friends, to settle in and to adjust.  I worry about how much down time she always needed, snuggled inside the “nest” I made by laying on my side and drawing up my knees.

I cried because, as I put it to the therapist, I was being promoted, but I’d really REALLY loved my old job and wasn’t really ready to leave it.

I dreaded the first day of school. I plastered a brave smile on my face and told Baby Bee about how amazing kindergarten was going to be.  I spent several sessions with my therapist and Baby Bee’s therapist (she sees one weekly for the anxiety that is related to her Autism Spectrum Disorder) on my fears and worries. On the first day of school, I dressed her in her puppy dress, put her hair into her trademark side pony and kissed her goodbye.

I didn’t shed one tear.

I amazed myself. I thought I’d crumple up the minute the bus pulled away and cry until the bus came back.  But I didn’t.  I think I’d cried myself out, as the tears dripped down my face as Baby Bee would lounge on me before bedtime. Everything I was afraid, didn’t come to pass and it hasn’t, yet, in a whole month of school.


Oh, Baby Bee has had a few issues, but far less than I expected.  She still heads out of the door, resolved if not cheerful, without a fuss in the mornings.  She looks forwards to riding the bus.  She does her homework fairly willingly after a few bumps at the start. She’s earning points, everyday, for things she struggled with the past three years.  Things like participation, doing something the first time she was asked and being a good partner.  She proudly hung an award she received for good behavior in music class on the fridge.

I can’t cry because there is nothing to cry about.  My Baby Bee, so small in so many ways, is growing up anyhow both despite me and because of me.

I’m always going to be afraid of what her Autism will mean for her.  I don’t think that will ever go away.  A little nagging voice inside my head is always going to worry about the results of that IQ test.  A part of me will always wonder, until we get there, if she will be able to live a happy life independently of us. If there will be a job, for her, a spouse and friends to keep her happy.

Baby Bee got a Kindle for her birthday and has been using it to make movies.  “I’m gong to make movies and be an animal doctor!” she says with great enthusiasm.  And, I hope that’s true.

I was sure I was going to miss having a buddy to run errands with. I was going to miss the banter.  I was going to miss loading the lanky little body into the front of the shopping cart and getting kisses as we strolled through the store.  But, yesterday, I was at Target for a few things (or a hundred dollars worth, you know the drill).  I noticed all the mothers around me. I heard the kids crying as it moved closer to lunch and nap time. I saw the Mom pushing a car full of kids (toddler in the seat, baby in an infant carrier inside the actual cart) while carrying her purchases because the cart was full.  I saw the Mom carrying her infant around because she would cry every time she tried to put her in the cart.  I remembered those days when that was me with a whiff of nostalgia and realized I was glad that it wasn’t me anymore.

I will always miss the days of small children.  Of diapers and small, soft bodies that form to your body in sleep. I will always miss that, but I realized that as the Princess and Littlebit and Baby Bee have grown up, I have to.  I’m a mom to big kids now and I’m going to get to have 12 more wonderful years of it.

Here is the truth of it; there is no such thing as perfection.  Even those magazine worthy homes that you see on the Internet and on blogs and Facebook are probably hiding a take out dinner problem or an over grown yard or a car that has been condemned by the county. And even though we all know that perfection is a myth, we’re all fighting for it.  It’s always  on the tips of our tongue. We want perfect family portraits and a perfectly styled living room and perfectly wrapped presents under perfectly imperfect trees.  We want to turn perfect faces to the world while kicking sand over our little piles of insecurities.

And, even people who eschew the idea of  traditional perfection are still striving for their own version of perfection.  It exists for them, too, just differently.  I’ve spent the vast majority of my married life striving towards some nebulous idea of perfection. Honestly, I’m not sure what that will look like, but I can tell you that I know it’s possible.

DSC_0321And it can happen on any old Saturday. Big Daddy was out of town last week.  It was just for a few days and shouldn’t have been a big deal, but our family has settled into some sort of chaos for the last year and it’s just making it harder to be and do everything.  We’re working on it, of course, because what else can we do? I spent the week frustrated. I spent the week running after the puppy and it seemed like as soon as I managed to get one mess cleaned up, he was making the same mess again.  By the time Friday night rolled around I was pretty sure I would burst into tears as soon as I saw Big Daddy’s face. But, I held it together. Saturday dawned with a laundry list of things to do.  You know the routine; errands to run, a trip to the grocery store, a big household chore (we needed to clean out the garage).  Nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary. After we finished the garage and Big Daddy threw the ball around with the girls, we came in the house.  I turned on A Prairie Home Companion and sent myself to the kitchen to chop veggies for dinner. I had fresh bread baking in the oven and Juno waited at my feet to see if I dropped any tidbits (I did). In the afternoon light, as I dropped the veggies into the pot, I realized I’d just managed to have a perfect day. It was peaceful. Productive. I felt at ease with Big Daddy and the girls and the puppy.   I had that happy, warm feeling in my chest.  We ate dinner in fresh baked bread bowls while Garrison Keillor warbled in the background.  The dogs behaved. We played three games of cards and no one fought or cried.  I got an eighth grade slow dance to Etta James.  Littlebit laid on the couch and read while the “mellow” playlist played on Spotify, her feet dancing in the air in time to the music. DSC_0325

Nothing had changed, of course.  Isn’t that the way it always goes? The garage was dirty and gross and the kids argued, a little, over who was going to unload the grocery cart and I woke up even before my weekday alarm, but something had shifted and all the little imperfections of an ordinary day turned into something perfect.

THe house isn’t magazine worthy.  In fact, as I type there’s a pile of carrot peelings and potato ends that need to find their way into the garbage can. Bread crumbs litter the dining room table.  Someone keep throwing their empty juice boxes onto the floor.  The bedroom is over run with laundry. There’s tape on the dining room walls from Littlebit’s birthday party. The stinkbugs are back.

But it’s perfect anyhow.


The dinner featured above is Asiago Bisque from Chef in Training.  It was pretty good and ended up being kind of heavenly in bread bowls.  It really soaked into the bread and that wasn’t at all disappointing.   The next time I make it, I’m going to add garlic.  It just felt like it was missing it.

If you want to make fresh baked bread bowls, frozen Rhodes white bread loaves are your friends.  I halve the loaves, let the rise and then back according to package directions.  They’re just the right size to fill up a bowl and your belly.


When I wrote my Forty before 40 list, I intinatlly decided that I was going to give up both the computer and the phone for six weeks.  And then I thought about it realized that I have, essentially, put my entire life on those two devices.

I don’t have a home phone anymore.

I don’t know ANYONE’S phone numbers even if I DID have a home phone (because I store them all in my mobile phone).

I’d have no way to keep to track of appointments because I load them all into my phone to remind me of them.

I wouldn’t have an alarm clock (I got rid of mine and use my phone).

I wouldn’t have a GPS (I use my phone).

Are you seeing a pattern here?

Now, obviously, I make the rules for this little experiment and could have given myself permission to carry my phone for GPS and phone calls, but that’s a slippery slope for me.  One night, in a fit of something, I grabbed my phone and decided to delete my social networking apps.  No Facebook, twitter, instragram, tappatalk, Good Reads or anything else I determined to be a social network.  I couldn’t give up my phone, really, but I could go on a social media diet and that’s what I did.

It was enlightening.

For the first few days, I’d get ahead as something facebook worthy would happen and I couldn’t share it.

I agreed that I could have two “hits” a day from Facebook, but I couldn’t use it for more than that.  Only twice was I disappointed to not be able to comment on something (once to make a suggestion and once to congratulate a friend whose daughter had finished chemotherapy). As the days passed, I found less and less that I needed to comment on and found I had less and less to say.

The Friday we left for vacation, my self imposed 5 weeks of social media diet ended, but I still find myself keeping some of those changes today.  I never downloaded twitter back onto my phone.  I never really use it.  I downloaded Facebook and Instragram and Good Reads, again, but I feel I use them differently now.

First off, I’ve stopped liking stuff.  Before, I justified this as letting someone know that I saw what they posted and that’s nice, but if it was something that was thought provoking in any way or elicited a feeling or emotion from me, I stopped liking and now I comment.  I don’t know if people I’m friends with notice a difference, but I feel like I’m doing more than being a voyeur into their lives, but am actually participating.

Second, I’ve stopped posting as much drivel.  Oh, sure, I still post a few things and I share pictures, but in thinking about the things I wanted to hear/see from people it’s enticed me to try and share more of those sorts of things.  I want to know what’s going with people’s kids and families.  I want to know if they’re on vacation or what fun things they’re doing over the summer (or in general).  I liked pictures.  But, I found that I don’t care about the rest and I assume that others feel that way about me, too.  It’s not a lack of caring on anyone’s part, but simply an understanding about how I want to connect to people and how I want people to connect to me.

So, this happened.

This not so little guy is Atlas.  He’s 12 weeks old and he’s lived at our house for two weeks.

Potty training a puppy is no joke.  I’d rather potty train toddlers. It’s a long, exhausting process that promises a time commitment that rivals any infant care.  Of course, in a few months the puppy will have grown up enough to move out of the challenging infant stage and he’ll be able to hold it and he’ll stop looking at us while he pees on the living room floor.

Juno, our first dog, is a former puppy mill dog.  We adopted her from a rescue that specializes in former puppy mill dogs.  There are a million things wrong with puppy mill dogs, but here’s Juno’s list:

  1. She was poorly bred and has bad skin
  2. She had ridiculous tummy problems for months upon receiving her that required numerous vet visits and lots of time finding a food that works for her.
  3. She’s probably as smart as she should be.  This isn’t a judgement on her as a person, but a puppy’s IQ as an adult dog is partially determined by the stimulation he or she received as a puppy with 8-12 weeks being a pivotal time of growth.  Juno likely spent that time confined in a cage with no training and little stimulation meaning she’s just not as intelligent as she could be.
  4. Puppyhood is also a pivotal time for creating attachments.  Juno’s attachments are stronger with other dogs because she had more contact with dogs than people as a puppy

Number 4 was one of the reasons why decided to adopt another dog.  Juno really likes spending time with other dogs.  She’s sad when dog company leaves.  She enjoys going to the kennel because PLAYTIME!   She and Atlas have several, vigorous play sessions a day and while she gets a little jealous our hope is that Juno and Atlas will bond and they’ll both grow to be happy dogs.

If you’re curious, here’s what our non-scientific, barley keeping it together potty training plan for Atlas.

1) Atlas is being crate trained.  Any time Atlas is entering or exiting the crate, he goes out to potty (like a newly potty training toddler!)

2) Atlas is fed and watered at certain times during the day.  Limiting his access to food and water means less accidents.  He eat three times a day.  He is taken out to potty 10 minutes after eating

3) He has to be taken out to potty at the end of every serious play session

4) And then we take him out ever 15-20 minutes.  All day long except for the brief periods of “nap time” that he spends in his crate.

Basically, we take Atlas out about 100 times a day.  I think.  Maybe 200.  Or a thousand. It kind of feels like a thousand.  Atlas is already rewarding us, though.  He understands “let’s go outside!” and hurries to the gate to be let outside.  He sits before being given his treat after a potty.  He’s having LESS accidents inside the house (but still probably 10-12 a day which is WAY less than two weeks ago when we had periods of time we took to calling “pee-a-palooza!”).  As time goes by and Atlas’s bladder gets bigger and he has the physical and mental ability to hold it, his accidents will decrease and the work will become easier.

A pet is a lifetime commitment at our house.  There are no backsies.  Atlas will be a 10-15 year commitment if not more.  Over the course of his life, he will cost thousands of dollars in food, toys, supplies and medical care.  He will only be a small puppy (relatively) for a few months.  Then he will grow into a dog and be a lot less fluffy and cute, but we won’t trade him in because we got him for life.  Not just a little while.  Our kids will learn to treat him with respect and care which are important, life long skills and in return he will be loyal, protective and their friend.

Welcome, buddy.

You can stop peeing on the floor any time now.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have found the holy grail of child activities.  It is affordable, versatile and appeals to all ages.

It is the mighty, mighty perler bead.

Several years ago, I featured the perler bead as a part of these adorable Christmas ornaments, but that’s not their traditional application.  You purchase the beads and a plastic peg board and the options become endless.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we played with perler beads for two straight days.


It takes concentration and fine motor skills, so it was also quiet.


They involve lots of great pre-math skills like sorting and counting!

They allow you to use your ability to type and spell and search the internet for patterns!  And, this is another great benefit because then Mom doesn’t have to try and figure out how they heck to make Anna and Elsa out of perler beads.

And, yes, you can.  By the way.

We bought our big tub of perler beads at Joann’s with a 50% off coupon, but Amazon.com’s every day price is as good!  I also made a mistake and only bought two of the peg boards. This was a very big mistake because it meant sharing. Honestly, creating one complicated design can take an hour, easily, so having to share something that takes so long to become available stinks so make sure you have one peg board per person wanting to craft.

Coloring for adults is getting really popular, but I say go off the beaten path.  I found making perler bead creations to be every bit as soothing as coloring can be.  Give it a try and maybe you’ll get two straight days of peace and quiet, too.


p.s  We got some awesome patterns at Kandipatterns.com. There are plenty of patterns there for whatever you’re interested in.

Lesson 1

Don’t pick fights. 

Lesson 2

Your way may not be the only right way. 

Lesson 3

Expensive mistakes can come in small packages.  Don’t let your heart lead in matters of finance 

Lesson 4

Never put up the Christmas Tree at Thanksgiving 

Lesson 5

Never feel guilty about taking time to reconnect as a couple. When the kids have grown, you’ll still have each other. Don’t let that person become a stranger 

Lesson 6

Never mix friends and money. Or family and money. 

Lesson 7

No one likes a martyr. Not even the martyr. 

Lesson 8

Never assume the vacation rental has air conditioning. 

Lesson 9

Grief is a journey and it takes the path it takes.  

Lesson 10

Sleep is underrated. 

Lesson 11

Friends are the family you choose. 

Lesson 12

Sometimes life leads you. Follow. 

Lesson 13

Make vacations a priority. Money is fleeting, but experiences stay forever. 

Lesson 14

The happiness of the family is not determined by one person 

Lesson 15

Mom was right. Don’t fight over money. 

Lesson 16

There is such thing as being too nice. 
Happy Anniversary, Big Daddy.  Here’s to many, many more. 

Me to the Princess (who is a straight ally): Did you see that the supreme court ruled on Gay Marriage today?

Her: Yes.

Me: That is so cool, isn’t it? It’s just so awesome.

I catch Littlebit’s eye in the back seat.

Me: Do you know what it means to be Gay?

Her: No

Me: Well, I’m a girl and I like boys. And Daddy is a boy and he liked girls. We were in love and we married each other. But, sometimes boys love boys and want to marry boys AND sometimes girls love girls and want to marry girls and NOW boys can marry boys and girls can marry girls if they want to. Isn’t that great?

Littlebit (always all about love!) Yeah!

Baby Bee: Boys are gross.

There you have it. A simple, straightforward conversation about what it means to be Gay AND what it means to be able to marry whomever you choose. That’s it. That’s all it took. Along with a reassurance that Daddy and Mommy want them to love and marry whomever they choose no matter their gender, race or religion. Everyone is worthy, if they are good people.

We teach our children. There’s an amazing Dennis Leary quote floating around that says something to the affect of “You know what my 2 year old hates? Naps. We aren’t born racist.” And that’s true. We’re not born racist or ageist or homophobic or classist or religionist (creedist? Xist? I’ve learned there’s no one word term for people being prejudiced towards a religious group. I mean, there’s antisemitism, but that’s sort of limiting in that it only refers to Jewish people). We teach and model this in our homes. There will be facebook posts and twitter posts and blog posts with people lamenting how they will tell their children about what happened. Honestly, it didn’t seem that hard to me. Children understand and accept our differences so easily.

“In forming a marital union, two people be­come something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves.”
–Justice Anthony Kenndy

Six years ago, on a bright June morning Baby Bee decided to be impatient and arrive just about two weeks before my due date.  My sister dropped everything to drive in from Michigan to give us a hand (and got a monster sunburn in the deal).  I don’t buy into superstition and things, but Baby Bee has always been tiny, adorable and impatient.


There is a distinct freedom that comes from being the mother of a few children. I have been able to relax and just enjoy the youngest two for what they are, not something I am able to do for the Princess. The Princess still falls pray to my growing pains. With Littlebit, it’s been about finding ways to relax and letting her grow without feeling the need to hover over her so much and with Baby Bee, watching her grow is just about joy and feeling how lovely it is to have someone be 1 or 3 or 5.

Or six.


By your third child you have an understanding of what it is to be that age. You know where the magic is laying. You understand how wonderful it feels to have the weight of a sleeping toddler draped across you or to accept a dandelion bouquet from a tiny hand sticky with dandelion milk. Hard things don’t seem so hard. It’s easy to change diapers, rock to sleep, comfort after accidents and watch, hawk-like, for dangers.

You can sense when your child is going to wrench away from you in a parking.  You can feel a meltdown coming.  You learn them, differently.  They don’t insult you when they turn their noses up at your home cooked meals and announce they liked the boxed stuff better.  You understand how little 2 and 3 still are and you excuse them for their break downs and insecurity.  You spritz them with your perfume before sending them off to preschool so they can smell you and feel near.


You greet their milestones like old friends. Crawling?  How enchanting!  Walking?  Wonderful!  Cobbled together two and three word sentences?  How I’ve missed you!  Please, come and stay a while.  Adorable stick figure representations of your family?  Yes!  I have a bed made up for you!  Goodnight, Moon?  Yes, I’d love to read it again (and again).  Playdough?  I have all the time in the world for you.

Haltering reading from thin paper books with short words and tiny heads bent over in concentration?  Yes.  Please come.  I’ve missed you.


All children are gifts. Don’t mistake my words. Every one and every moment, even the trying ones, are precious. The minutes and hours and days fly by so quickly, as if they’re on a rocket.  They’re so few and so fast.  They’re a gift.

When Baby Bee was tiny, I made up a ridiculous song that we sang to her all the time.  In it, I extolled her to “be a little baby as long as you can”.  Third babies grow up so much faster than first babies do as they run to catch up with their older siblings.  In many ways, Baby Bee has given me a gift.   I don’t have an eternal toddler or preschooler, but I have been lucky enough to get a little bit of extra little kid time through her and I’ve cherished every bit.   Her delays are cloaked in a blessing.  Her lack of maturity means more time with someone small in my lap.   Her need for more time to grow meant a whole extra year of that magical place called Preschool.

That’s not to say we haven’t had hard times with her.  We have.  And, in my heart I know that her transition to school won’t be easy for her, no matter how hard I work to prepare her or be positive about it.  Baby Bee is going to struggle and that breaks my heart in half.  No one wants that for their children, but for Baby Bee, it’s going to be unavoidable.  I’m worried that six isn’t going to be her best year and I want every single year to be her best year.


But, in the end, I know Baby Bee will continue to be what we love the most about her. She will be funny and imaginative and persistent and adorable. Our irreplaceable number three.

Happy Birthday, tiny love.

That’s my daughter in the water
every time she fell I caught her.
Every time she fell.
That’s my daughter in the water,
I lost every time I fought her.
Yeah, I lost every time.

–Daughter by Loudon Wainwright

Last night, Big Daddy, the girl and I hit our local theater (on discount day, no less) to watch Disney/Pixar’s newest feature film “Inside Out”.  After spending $60 for the pleasure of watching the film with drinks and popcorn, we settled into our seats to watch the show.

Two hour later, I left kind of speechless and pretty blotchy faced.  Let me tell you why.

Riley is born and when she opens her eyes in the hospital and becomes conscious, Joy is born.  Joy is one of the five emotions that rule Riley from Headquarters.  In time, Joy is joined by Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust, but don’t be fooled.  Joy is running the show.  Riley’s family lives in Minnesota, and they’re very happy.  Riley loves hockey and her home and her friends and just when everything seems perfect, the family relocate to San Francisco.  At first, Riley is optimistic.  Joy gathers up the emotions and helps Riley find positive things in a new, sort of ugly house and ugly bedroom and there’s a dead mouse.  Inside Riley’s head there is some weird stuff going on.  Namely Sadness.  She keeps touching stuff and turning Riley’ memories sad.  Joy tries to take over and contain Sadness but Sadness, as we all know, can’t be contained.  She and Joy struggle when she tries touching some of Riley’s core memories and in the scuffle Joy, Sadness and all of Riley’s core memories are sucked into Longterm Memory.

Sadness and Joy are no longer at work in headquarters and Riley is left trying to live life with Disgust, Anger and Fear running the ship.

Depressed folks, does this sound familiar?  Because it certainly felt very familiar to me.

Joy and Sadness go on a pilgrimage to get back to Headquarters and help Riley and on the way, Joy learns how very important being able to be sad is to Riley.  Sadness is just as powerful as Joy.  Only different.

As a Mom, I got really weepy when Riley opened her eyes and met her parents and Joy was born.  Isn’t that beautiful to think about?  And, I cried again when Joy and Bing Bong where were forgotten memories go and all those lovely, happy moments of Riley as a baby and toddler were disappearing into thin air  Wow.  That hurts to think about.  It’s so deep and profound that these happy moments just disappear and are forgotten.  Of course, we know that happens, but it was just moving to see it happen, visually.

But the thing that spoke to me the most deeply was what happened to Riley when Joy and Sadness went away and Anger, Disgust and Fear took over.  Pixar, were you watching my life?  Did the emotions running MY Headquarters reach out to you?  It was depression.  Visual, palpable depression being depicted right in front of me.   I could hardly believe my eyes.  I understood, so well, when Anger grabbed the controls and made bad decisions  when neither Sadness or Joy could be found and I knew what it felt like when everything seemed lost and gray and I felt unreachable.

Oh, Pixar, you genius.

And, yet, there’s more.  For Baby Bee, naming and understanding her emotions can be difficult and now, she has a visual representation.  We talked the entire way home about who we thought was driving in our Headquarters (The Princess was Two Disgusts, Two Angers and a Joy.  LIttlebit was Four Joys and a Sadness.  Baby Bee was Joy and Sadness and Silly. ;)  I said I was pretty sure Fear was driving me and the Princess suggested that Big Daddy is driven by some Zen Hippy).  Taking emotions and turning them into something real and tangible from an abstract concept is just beyond wonderful and I hope we’re able to consider who’s driving in Headquarters when we’re dealing with each other in our family.

Got kids?  Take them to see this one.  Don’t have kids?  Go anyhow and see how it speaks to you.


A large number of Cinemark movie theaters offer “Discount Day” and we were able to see this new movie for $5/person which is pretty cheap.  Discount Day varies by theater, but you can check your local Cinemark Theater to see when and if you can get a sweet deal. 


PS-Cinemark didn’t contact me to say that.  It’s expensive to take 5 people to a non-matinee new release movie, so I included the above link to help you out.  As I explained on my about me page, anything I recommend is purchased for my own use with Big Daddy’s credit card. 



Once you decide when you’d like to go to Disney World, it’s time to start working out the budget for your stay. Two of the hottest topics on any Disney World fan board are the topics of dining and hotels. I’ll cover dining next month, but this month I want to talk to you about how to decide where to stay and whether or not that expensive, on site hotel lives up to it’s extra cost.

Orlando is really a great destination for tourists. Not only are there ample things to do, but because of this rooms and tourists specials can be found in abundance.  The Internet tells me that I can book a top rated, four star hotel for a Saturday night in two weeks for under $100.  The internet also tells me that I can stay at a lower rated Disney hotel for $50-$60 extra per night.    At first, it seems like a no-brainer.  Seven nights at the four star resort within close driving distance to Disney World will cost you $420 less than staying at the least expensive Disney option.  So, in this case, why would anyone ever choose to stay on-site at Disney World and, more than that, should you?

If your bottom line is a low price Disney vacation, you really must stay off site.  Great lodgings can be had for far less than the price I quoted above and Orlando is a good place for finding super affordable (read: cheap) lodging so if you must stretch your money, you need to stay off site. Period.  The nearby Holiday Inn Express clocks in at just over $60 a night, less than half of a value Disney Resort.  The rooms will be the same size and breakfast will be included.   You will easily save $100/day staying at the Holiday Inn Express and paying the $17 to park at the Disney Parks than to stay at a value resort.  That’s just how it goes.

But, again, why would anyone choose to do something different?  Why would you pay so much more to stay on site?  $100 a day isn’t insubstantial.   Why do you recommend staying on site?

The first thing most Disney World Resort fans will point out is that the Disney hotels are very well themed.  If you’re concerned about everything being cartoonish, you can put your worries away.  While Disney’s Value resorts do cater more to cartoons and families,  their moderate and deluxe resorts usually don’t have to many cartoons to be found.  They’re well themed, relaxing , well maintained and beautiful.  But, that’s not really worth an extra $100 a night (considering hotel costs and complimentary breakfasts).   Disney also offers “free” family entertainment at all of their resorts including daily pool parties, games and night time movies.  But worth an extra $100?  It’s nice, but it’s not worth the price jump.

I’m not going to blow smoke up your dress about the Disney Bubble.  It’s nice.  There are some nice resorts with some wonderful themeing, but you’re seriously paying for that privilege.  Staying at a Disney World Resort, for me, is about time, effort and statistical advantages.

Disney World Resort hotels are worth the extra money because of the amenities being a resort guest affords you.    There aren’t a ton, but depending on the time of year you visit they can turn out to be substantial.

1) Disney World Resort guests have “early” access to their dining reservation system.  What does that mean?  Anyone visiting Walt Disney World can make reservations for “table service” restaurants beginning at 180 days in advance.  Popular restaurants and dining times are competitive. Let that sink in for a minute.  Some restaurants, such as the super popular Be Our Guest at the Magic Kingdom is booked SOLID.  You must have a reservation.  Resort guests are able to utilize a “+10 day” option.  What does that mean?  Your reservation window opens for your entire stay at your 180 day (6 month) mark up to ten days.  That gives you an advantage for popular restaurants over “day guests”.   That few days of advantage can be the difference between getting a reservation at your chosen restaurant at your preferred time and, frankly, not.

2) You can make FastPass+ reservations 60 days in advance where as “day guests” only get 30 days.    What is FastPass+?  It’s Disney’s line management system, essentially.  FastPass+ allows you to make a reservation for the ride you want to ride up to 60 days in advance.  FastPass+ works as a free, front of the line pass and is available for selected rides and attractions for all Disney guests.    I’ll explain more about how to use FastPass+ later.  No Disney guest is barred from waiting in line for any attraction regardless of if they hold a FastPass+ or resort stay, but for super popular attractions like visiting Anna and Elsa or riding the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, FastPass+ offers a substantial time savings, if you can get one.  Resort guests have first priority, so not only do you increase the chances of getting the FastPass+ you want, but you also increase the chances of getting the time you want.

3) Resort Guests will still be admitted to the Disney Parks during times of high volume when the park is closed to day guests.  Now, this doesn’t happen very often, but for those of us who are working around the kids’ school schedules, it means showing up at the parks when everyone else is.  Those dates, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring Break, have seen park closures before due to crowd levels.  As a resort guest, you can still get in (even if you might not want to).

One thing I do want to be clear about, is that Big Daddy and I are willing to pay more for something to save us time and effort.  Not everyone feels like that.  I understand that.   Obviously, the main benefits of staying at a Disney resort are time/effort benefits.  I don’t have to get up for a week straight at 6am when the Disney Dining reservation system opens. I just have to get up once and it increases my odds of getting popular restaurants at popular times (there’s a reason why those times and places are popular).   I also want to point out that planning to this micro level isn’t really necessary to have a good time. It’s something I enjoy, but you might not so being able to decide in May that you’re going to meet Elsa and Anna on a Wednesday in July might not be worth it to you.   Only you know what sort of trip you want to have and my advice is just that.

Disney resort guests will also enjoy the minimal savings of free theme park parking and free magic bands.  The cost of the parking and magic bands is about two nights difference between staying at the Holiday Inn and staying at a Value Resort.  It’s there, but not very substantial.

Lastly, if you are traveling with small kids and want to take advantage of he much touted “afternoon break”, staying on property should offer you a shorter commute time from the park to your room.  I say it should because nothing is guaranteed, of course, and delays do happen,