How to do Disney with a toddler...

 

Where to stay...

We went to Disney with a total of six adults and 3 children, so we were all about renting a house. We went through the Windsor Hills Resort in Kissimmee, located only 10 minutes from the Magic Kingdom parking lot. We LOVED it. For those who want to stay at a monorail-friendly Disney hotel, I've stayed at the Contemporary Resort five separate times and it's fabulous. Very kid-friendly and I recommend trying to book a "character" dinner at Chef Mickey's if you want a great meal and more importantly, if you want you kid(s) to meet Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Donald, Goofy and Pluto without having to wait in line :) 

Helpful Tips...

1. Schedule character "meet and greets" ahead of time (see above). Pay the extra money and BOOK IN ADVANCE for a character dinner or breakfast. The characters will come to your table while you eat ... it's definitely worth the money. If you book the character meet and greets at the park ahead of time using your Fast Passes, you should be all set too! 

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2. Invest in a good, "easy to use" stroller. We used the BABYZEN YOYO+ and it was amazing! It's so easy to unfold and fold (you can do it with one hand) and also fits in the airplane's overhead bin. It comes with a shoulder strap so you can carry it just like a purse, and weighs just 15 lbs. I also love that while it's super compact, it has a great storage area underneath. Oh, and did I mention it comes with a rain cover?! It's basically the perfect travel stroller, and you can check it out here

3. Schedule in nap time. We wanted to make sure that Lolo still got her naps so we purposely didn't schedule anything from 12-2:30pm. Actually, we rented a house just a few miles from Disney, so we would leave the park and do lunch/nap at the house. It worked out really well for a few reasons...1. We never had to deal with any toddler meltdowns because she got her normal rest time, and 2. We skipped the hottest part of the day! She did fall asleep one day in her stroller before we could make it to the car so we just walked around with her for an hour or so, and she was fine :) 

4. Bring a backpack as your diaper bag. Trust me on this one, you need all hands on deck not to mention a million snacks, sunscreen, water, your phone, wallet, etc., so you'll need lots of compartments! We love our Skip Hop Chelsea bag, and Skip Hop also makes a pretty awesome backpack for under $60! I also love this one from CoolBell too because it's super functional and has an insulated front pocket to keep a bottle or snacks cool! 

5. Plan Fast Passes in advance. Have a plan of which rides you want to hit and do your fast passes online in advance so you don't have to waste time trying to figure it out at the park.  We made the mistake of waiting to figure out the fast passes once we got to the park and by the time we did, a lot of the rides we wanted to hit were booked up and the wait was insane. The second and third days we planned the night before and it was MUCH smoother. 

6. Bring snacks/lots of fluids. One thing I appreciate, is that Disney allows you to bring your own snacks AND water into the park. (Also, if you pay the extra for preferred parking, they'll give you cold bottles of water before you park the car, which is nice to know!) I brought lots of options for Lo in separate snack bags like grapes, goldfish, harvest snap peas, yogurt bites, apple sauce pouches, and raisins. 

7. Utilize the Baby Care Center. If you need a break from the heat, a sink, microwave, or a clean place to change your baby the Baby Care Center is a great resource! You can also find snacks, diapers, sunscreen, rockers and more! (There are locations in all 4 theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios)

 

General Park -Touring Tips + a few of Lo's favorite rides/shows...

If you're planning a 3-day Disney trip, I recommend two full days at Magic Kingdom and one at the Animal Kingdom. If you've got 4 days, go with 2 full MK, 1 day at AK, and 1 day at Hollywood Studios. If you're going for a toddler-based trip, I'd choose Hollywood Studios because they have SO many amazing rides and shows for kids (Beauty and the Beast, Frozen, Toy Story, etc.) We didn't get a chance to go, but definitely will on our next trip! 

Magic Kingdom: It's a Small World, Peter Pan, Under the Sea; Country Bear Jamboree, Swiss Family Robinson Tree House, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise; There are also shows running every few hours or so on the stage in front of the castle. We caught one in the afternoon which included Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, and the Frozen characters! 

Animal Kingdom: Kilimanjaro Safari, Festival of the Lion King, The Boneyard, Pangani Forest Exploration Trail (walking trail)

Epcot: Meet + Greet with Anna and Elsa, Finding Nemo, Spaceship Earth (it's dark so could be scary for some kids, but Lo loved it), Frozen (it was broken when we were there, but I'm assuming it would have been a fave ;) 

                    Walking trails at Animal Kingdom 

                    Walking trails at Animal Kingdom 

  Elephants on the Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom

  Elephants on the Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom

xx, Ashley

Our Weekend...

 

My Outfit: Dress: Tobi (Under $100 and SO comfortable!)| Sandals: Nine West, similar here

London's Outfit: Top: Gap, similar here | Shorts: Gap, similar here | Sandals: Target (Cat & Jacket)

We had Chris home with us for a full weekend so we took advantage and did more "touristy" things in our city! 

Saturday morning we were out of the house early to catch the train to the North End. London constantly asks to go on the bus, train, trolley, airplane, tractor, and any other form of transportation you can think of - so we just had to do at least one of those! (Trolley is next!) We went to the Public Market for coffee + breakfast. Outside they've got loads of fresh produce but inside is where it's really at ;) ...You can find a few of my favorite places in one spot - Union Square Donuts, George Howell coffee, Levend Bagels, and sooo much more! I feel like George Howell coffee is liquid gold ... it gave me energy for the WHOLE day haha! Maybe it's a mental thing, but seriously, you have to try it. 

There's a beautiful green space that separates the Faneuil Hall area and the North End called Rose Kennedy Greenway. So adorable. There are rose gardens, fountains, usually food trucks, and always really fun events going on! We didn't plan on walking from the North End all the way to the Prudential Center, but we did! We went through the Public Garden to show London the little duck statues in honor of "Make Way For Ducklings," one of her favorite books! She loved it!

I'm so happy to have Chris home for a few weeks - it makes SUCH a difference! Sunday we took the bus to Cambridge and strolled around Harvard Square! I didn't take many photos (I try to be "phone-free" on Sundays) but we had so much fun. You can see photos from our morning adventure below. 

Carry-on Essentials...

We are leaving TODAY for a little family vacation to Florida! We are so excited to take London to Disney World for the first time and the best part is, we'll be traveling with my hubby (of course), my parents, sister and her family as well! I can't wait for us all to board the plane together and start our little getaway! I always feel like I need to pack a million things in London's carry-on (we use this Skip Hop bag) and often forget any of my own essentials! Typical mom life, right?! This time, I made sure to pack my backpack with some of the things I need to make my own life easier. I also try to pack a few items in case we should end up delayed or worse, stranded with no luggage (since that's happened to us all probably at least once!). I've included some travel sized "must haves" as well as some full size clothing items that you could sneak into your carry-on as well! 

Shop my "carry on essentials" below! I also picked up a few new things for this trip, like this $23 "vacay" tote and this polka dot one-piece that's under $40! In case you missed my blog containing tips for traveling with a toddler, you can find that here!


A few full size items you could slip into your carry-on just in case...

1. Swimsuit + cover up (I just bought this cover-up + it's under $30!)

2. Pair of shorts (Love these...)

3. Lightweight sundress (Love this colorblock maxi!)

4. Pair of lightweight sandals (These are cute...)

When I'm traveling, I like to pack a few pairs of sunglasses; black pair, brown pair, and/or my aviators. I've rounded up a few of my faves for you below and as always, my go-to Ray-Bans that fold up are making the trip - I never leave home without them! 

1. Rose gold cat eye || 2. Retro sunnies || 3. Mirrored aviators || 4. Two-tone

Shop all items mentioned in this post below:

xx,  Ashley

(BELATED) Birthday Getaway...

 

My sweet husband planned a little surprise getaway to Maine for my birthday last month and in true New England fashion, we had a blizzard that changed our plans. Thankfully, he was able to reschedule our stay at the Inn By The Sea in beautiful Cape Elizabeth. I had never stayed there before this weekend but had heard such amazing things about it. For my fellow Bostonians, it's only about 1.5 hours from the city, so it's the perfect little escape, even just for the night! 

Everything is done to perfection and there's great attention to detail. They offered us warm apple cider when we arrived and set up spa services for us as well as dinner reservations at their on-site restaurant, Sea Glass. The rooms were so spacious and lovely, as well. We had a beautiful fireplace with a view of the ocean. The shower was a beautiful walk-in with a dual vanity and complete with L'occitane bath products...LOVE! Chris booked a massage for me at the spa and it was AMAZING. The steam room and shower were available to use before or after my treatment, and let's just say, I never wanted to leave. The shower had 8 shower heads and you can adjust the temperature via touch screen. It took me a little while to figure out (I was dodging water from every direction, haha!) ...but once I did, it was amazing! 

Dinner was so yummy and the company was even better; it was so nice to spend some alone time together! We are usually rushing to eat or not even eating at all because we are so concerned with London - so it was nice to take our time and relax! (Although, all we could talk about was Lolo ;) We enjoyed breakfast there the next morning and felt refreshed even after just one evening away. There's something about being on the ocean (and in Maine) that instantly centers me. We love going home, and while we don't get to do it too often together anymore, it's so special when we can. 

Here are some photos from our little getaway! 

xx,  Ashley

Weekend Getaway: Charleston, SC...

 

Southern hospitality and LOADS of charm...the sweet city of Charleston completely stole my heart last weekend. London, my mother, and I were able to join my husband on his work trip last weekend and we immediately fell in LOVE. I can't believe it has taken me 32 years to visit such a magical place! We walked up and down the streets just taking in the amazing architecture, beautifully colored buildings, and the sunshine. I had researched a bunch of spots we needed to hit for some of the best food and of course, photo ops (because, blogger life!) :) We only had three days, but I definitely plan on returning for a longer visit very soon! I wanted to highlight a few places that we loved and also share photos from our amazing trip! 

On our first morning, we made a stop at Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts for some yummy treats and FANTASTIC coffee! Their donuts are made from scratch every day and there are a wide variety of flavors. We tried the lemon old fashioned, glazed, and a sugar-raised (which was our favorite!) Highly recommend making a little pit stop here!

Walking along King Street you'll find some amazing stores which are a mixture of boutiques and some staples like H&M, Gap, J.Crew, etc. You could easily spend a whole day on King shopping and sampling foods :) One place I knew I wanted to visit was Candlefish which sells an array of candles and features a beautiful "candle library" with over 100 fragrances. My sister and brother-in-law discovered it while on their honeymoon last Fall and I had to see it in person. (They also sell a "London" candle, so I needed to snag one of those!) The decor in this store is so gorgeous, and they offer candle-making classes which were taking place while we were looking around.

When I was researching a great dinner spot for our first night in Charleston, there were a few that always made the top of most lists; Husk, Fig, Magnolia's, and McGrady's (to name just a few), but Butcher & Bee really stood out to me. Not only is it considered one of the hottest restaurants right now, but I knew the casual atmosphere and style would be perfect for London as well! I must say, I was SO pleased with my choice. Not only was the food delicious, fresh, and presented beautifully - they were very accommodating to children. They had a box full of toys that London could play with and crayons for coloring. A few of the dishes I recommend trying are the house made hummus and/or whipped feta and honey both served with pita bread. The crispy stuffed olives and lamb ribs were also two of my favorites! 

Photo cred: Butcher & Bee website

Photo cred: Butcher & Bee website

The weather was warm and breezy so we were able to walk along the Battery, which stretches along the lower shores of Charleston. The views are breathtaking and the homes that run along the water are beautiful and absolutely HUGE. One of the most photographed parts of the city is called Rainbow Row which we happened upon while walking the Battery. It's located on East Bay Street and it's a string of thirteen pastel colored homes. It's literally the most lovely street I've ever walked and I never wanted to leave! I think Lolo loved it just as much...

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Another "must try" are the biscuits at Callie's Hot Little Biscuit. They literally melt in your mouth. The blackberry jam and whipped cinnamon butter filled biscuits were my favorite - but they were also serving breakfast sandwiches which looked amazing as well! They open at 8am and I would definitely suggest getting there early. We arrived around 9:15 and had to wait for over an hour! I'd say it was well worth the wait when I saw how much London and my mom loved them though :) 

                                    Callie's Hot Little Biscuit

                                    Callie's Hot Little Biscuit

If you're looking for more sweet southern treats, head to the Sugar Bakeshop, a little off the beaten path but worth the stop. The cupcakes are so delicious and there's an adorable garden in the back; perfect place to enjoy your dessert and snap some photos :) I recommend the lemon curd and almond chocolate coconut cupcakes! Basically, as it seems, we ate our way through Charleston! We were on our very own food tour - and it was a blast! Aside from the eating, there's so much to explore. There are horse-drawn carriage rides and walking tours offered that I definitely want to do when we return. The history of the city is amazing and I know if we participated in either of those, it would be really cool and informative. I also wish we had time to tour the Boone Hall Plantation. I heard it's pretty fascinating and definitely a place to keep in mind if we visit in the future.

Below are more photos from our quick little getaway! You can scroll through as I tried to capture a little bit of the Charleston charm! 

xx,  Ashley 

Beacon Hill Morning...

There's nothing more beautiful than Boston in the summertime. The city is so charming with its dreamy cafes, blooming flowers, and lines of row houses down cobblestone streets. I fall more and more in love with it every day! Beacon Hill, a neighborhood in Boston, is just absolutely stunning. If you plan to travel to Boston, please take a stroll through. You won't be disappointed. A few eateries to hit are Tatte Bakery for delicious coffee and pastries, Deluca's Market for cheese, wine and fresh produce, and The Paramount which is a casual bistro staple in Beacon Hill!