Posts Tagged ‘California’

When to Splurge vs. Save Money at Disneyland

Disney Splurge vs. Save

Fact: Disney vacations are pricey. There’s no way around it–Disney is a magical, a money-sucking pit with a castle on top. As a budget-conscious traveler, I put my skills to the test at the happiest (and possibly most expensive) place on Earth. Here’s what I found worth splurging on and when it’s better to save money at Disneyland. (Note: many of these are applicable to other Disney theme parks too.)

Save: Hotel

You’ll barely ever be there, so any cushy accommodations are basically a waste. At the end of the day Disney will have tired you out so much that you’ll be able to sleep easily, no matter how thin the walls and bedding are. We chose the cheapest hotel that was still within walking distance and never regretted it once, even though it was a glorified motel with absolutely no frills. Sure, we didn’t get the extra magic hour to enter the park early and we had to walk 10 minutes to get to the parks but it was definitely worth saving hundreds of dollars a night over onsite properties.

Spend: MaxPass

This one is a no-brainer. There’s no reason not to spring for the MaxPass. It’s $10 extra per person, per day and it allows you to get FastPasses right on your phone. You’ll also get all the PhotoPass photos taken of you on rides and at photo opps in the parks. Definitely a great deal for everything you get. Make sure to use your app for mobile food ordering too–more on that in a minute.

Save: Snacks

With the exception of a box of popcorn and a Dole Whip float, we didn’t snack in the parks at all. Actual meals aren’t much more than what you’d pay outside the parks, but snacks are typically pricey. You can bring small amounts of food in with you, so toss some easy-to-carry snacks in your bag.

Save: Drinks

Carry a small water bottle and look for fountains and spigots to fill up at throughout the day. In theory you can get cups of water for free at Disney, but it can be a hassle to find a restaurant that will give you one when you need it. It’s better to have water on hand and prevent those paper cups from heading to the landfill. Two places I saw water spigots are Red Rose Tavern in Fantasyland and Galactic Cafe in Tomorrowland.

Spend: Lunch

This one is kind of a save and a splurge at the same time. Lunch prices are cheaper, so if you make lunch your big meal you’ll save money. But I do recommend budgeting for a nice meal at a restaurant because Disneyland food is actually really good. I expected unhealthy amusement park food, but it was far from it. The chefs are amazing with food allergies and healthy, good quality food is the rule, not the exception. If you eat at off-peak times, avoiding crowds is easy. Try a small breakfast at the hotel, a meal at 10:30 am, then another meal around 2:30, and a small dinner (try ordering ahead on the mobile app at Bengal BBQ for fast, delicious food that can be a small meal).

Save: Apparel

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Shopping for Disney t-shirts, ears, hats and more ahead of time can save you big time. Everything for sale in the parks is expensive compared to what you can find online before you go on Etsy, which has the best selection of tees and ears from small makers. Mouse ears are a relatively easy DIY. I made ears for me and a hat for Chad as well as Beauty and the Beast stained glass pocket tees for both of us. Chad wore a Millennium Falcon tee he bought at Maker Faire and I bought a “Paint with all the colors of the wind” tank ahead of time for $9+shipping.  I also bought a secondhand tank top from Poshmark.

Spend: Pins

The parks have the entire selection of Disney pins so if you’re a collector you should definitely shop at the parks. You likely won’t find pins cheaper online after you go home. I did find pins for less at a local Comic-Con, but the selection wasn’t as broad as the parks.

Save: Souvenirs

As we left the park and headed to the hotel, I stopped by a convenience store for a gallon of water for the hotel. Inside, I found a ton of cheap Disney souvenirs for wayyyyy less than inside the parks. Basic Mickey and Minnie ears for $5.99, postcards for .89, etc. You could stock up on these things and save a bundle over park prices. I do admit splurging on Starbucks You are Here mug ornaments because they can only be found in the parks, but I held back from buying any other trinkets.

Spend: ParkHopper Pass

I went back and forth on this one, because it does drive up the cost of the already expensive ticket into the parks. In the end, I was so glad we did though. The first day, we did California Adventure Park (DCA) in the morning and then switched to Disneyland Park for the afternoon. We went back to see the Paint the Night parade at DCA and then made it to Fantasmic at Disneyland. It was super easy to get between the two parks and the flexibility of the ParkHopper let us experience all the rides we wanted to at one park and then go the other one for dinner.

Spend: Locker rental

It’s only $7/day, and it’s so much nicer to have a change of shoes on hand and a place to store things you’ve bought, snacks, a sweater for when it gets chilly at night…

I hope you have success with your mission to save money at Disneyland. Fellow Disnerds, am I on track with these splurge vs. save tips? What are your secrets for navigating the Disney parks?

California’s Most Instagrammable Inn

Are you looking for a photo op location in California, or maybe just a very interesting hotel venue? Or, like us, maybe just looking for a place to stop between the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles. I discovered the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo through a photographer’s website and I knew immediately it would be worth a look. It’s a mid-century hotel decorated in Bavarian-inspired design set on a ranch hillside in central California.

While driving to Disneyland, we stopped there for lunch. Immediately I knew I would like the place, as everything is lavishly decorated and a bit over-the-top. There is so much attention to detail here, even pink sugar packets with the Madonna Inn logo. There was a lot of pink everywhere, in fact. Upstairs are two shops, downstairs is a restaurant and a bar, so the space caters to people who are just passing through as well as hotel guests.

Since I haven’t stayed here I cannot vouch for the accommodations, but the common areas of the hotel seemed nice. It was a nice place to rest on the long drive between the cities of San Francisco and LA. It was kind of a perfect prelude to Disneyland actually, because the inn reminds me of Fantasyland. The architecture and design is straight out of Beauty and the Beast or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Just across the parking lot is a pasture of friendly cows too.

Everything in this place begs to be photographed, from the wood interior of the restaurants to the pink plush chairs of the dining room. Outside, we were able to walk around and check out the beautiful white staircases and terraces that look out over a surprisingly beautiful landscape, for being so close to I-5.

I tried to practice being a carefree California girl. Did I nail it?

This is a little treasure of a hotel destination in San Luis Obispo. It’s also a short drive to the ocean, where we stopped quickly too on the way to LA. I’d definitely recommend Madonna Inn as a place for lunch and to take photos in San Luis Obispo. I’d love to come back here sometime for an event or a hotel stay, but the bottom line is come here if you can, even just to take a look around and get some Instagram photos!

How to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Driving Lessons

I’m learning to drive a stick shift!

I’d tried driving stick a handful of times before, without much success. The first time was in a friend’s Honda in Minnesota, then a minivan when I was an au pair in Switzerland, then in a Mini in Italy, then again in Minnesota in a Mazda.  So I can say that I’ve been given driving lessons in three countries and still haven’t learned. But in my defense, 2/3 of those places were pretty hilly.

When I came out to California earlier this summer, I knew that I would eventually have to learn because it’s the only car available to me here. How bad could it be?

It was pretty bad.

I’ve stalled in intersections. I’ve had drivers honk at me. I’ve panicked when a Tesla pulls up right to my bumper when I’m stopped on a hill. I’ve had times when I came really close to giving up trying to learn. But with practice, it’s starting to click.

And I have to tell you, I have so much respect for people who drive stick now. So much respect. If you’ve only driven an automatic, you just have no idea how much harder other drivers are working to do things you take for granted.

I’m still intimidated by the highways here, because California drivers are intense! And as for parallel parking on Steiner Street in downtown San Francisco, yeah that level of expertise is a loooong way off. It’s hard for me to face my fears and take risks, but I’ve got to do it and drive just a little farther every day.

how to get out of your comfort zone

How to get out of your comfort zone and try something new

Here are three things that have helped me so far in my new endeavor that takes me out of my comfort zone every time I get in the driver’s seat.

A calm attitude. When I get impatient or anxious while driving stick, I’m more likely to make sudden movements like releasing the clutch too quickly and stalling.

Put pride aside. It’s okay to be a beginner. I announce it loud and proud with a bright yellow magnet on the back of the car that says “Learning to Drive a Stick Shift.” Seriously, this is the best thing I’ve done while learning to drive stick shift.

Keep going. Giving up is tempting, but most things do get easier with practice. I’m so proud of my ability to drive stick now. I feel more capable and confident having this new skill.

What’s one thing you’ve done to get out of your comfort zone and try something new?

Stylish Eco-Friendly Living

Eco-friendly doesn’t mean losing out on style.

Think Eco-friendly doesn’t equal aesthetically pleasing? Think again. Something as simple as stylish reusable shopping bags can be a fashion statement, not a fashion fail.

Here’s my outfit from Tech Fashion Week (reader selected by you!) plus a farmer’s market friendly tote bag. It shows that fashionable and Eco-friendly can coexist.

Non-ugly reusable shopping bags

California has a plastic bag ban, which makes sense because the Pacific Ocean doesn’t need any more plastic bags floating in it.

When I think of reusable shopping bags, I think of the free scratchy-fabric promotional totes given out at conferences and vendor fairs. Luckily, they’re not all like that. See why.

Cute reusable shopping bags

My roommate got the Marks and Spencer tote pictured above while she was living in London. I like to keep a packable nylon tote in my purse like these  from Kate Spade so I’ll never be stuck without a bag when I need one. The are washable and the nylon holds up well. It makes a good lunch bag, too.

Thrifted white tulle and lace skirt

I found the white skirt at Goodwill of Silicon Valley for $8! I linked to some similar skirts at the end of this post so you don’t have to scour your local thrift shops. Like reusable shopping totes, secondhand shopping is good for the environment because it keeps clothing out of landfills.  I do a mix of secondhand and new clothes. Like going green with your pet and gardening to save the bees, it’s all about small, doable actions to be more Eco-friendly.

Small ways to be stylishly green

Borrowing clothes is great too — just check out these gorgeous shoes that are definitely not mine but I loved wearing them!

Outfit Details

White Skirt – Jealous Tomato. Scored at Goodwill of Silicon Valley for $8!

Jacket – Anthropologie – newest style here

Shoes – Betsey Johnson

Mermaids & Summer Plans

Announcing…

Recently I posted about South Dakota travel. There was a reason for that because….I’m going on a road trip this week, one that goes through South Dakota and ends up in Northern California! After my exploratory trip to the Bay Area in March that included presenting at the Tech Fashion Week Fashion Blogger event, I decided I liked it enough to go back for the summer.

I’m excited for what the adventure holds. I’m hoping for lots of farmer’s markets, trips around the Bay Area and starting a garden in a climate where the growing season in longer than two frost-free months a year. If you have a favorite spot in California, drop it in the comments. I hope to travel around a little bit while I’m there.

To celebrate my impending departure, here’s an outfit (if you can call it that) from my last trip to California and some FAQ.

Q: What are you doing there?

A: Well last trip, I went to Half Moon Bay dressed up as a mermaid  (that Halloween costume wasn’t going to re-wear itself) and got drone footage of it so I think the answer to that question is WHO KNOWS REALLY.  But the responsible answer is I’ll be working on my freelance writing and hopefully getting really incredibly inspired by redwood trees and the absence of mosquitoes. It’s all pretty much remote work anyway so not much will change except my zip code and my ability to afford things.

Q: Where are you living?

A: In the South Bay in a house that’s way too full, a bathroom that’s way too shared, a refrigerator that’s packed and I’m just adding to the problem. I did live in a sorority house for two years so I think it will be a lot like that, but with more discussions about start ups.

Follow my adventures on Instagram to see what I’m up to.

What are your summer plans? Let me know in the comments!