Friday, October 16, 2015

Living with Less and Loving Life!

I know there are some new readers coming here from the Enderton & Mathews blog post, and I want to welcome you and give you a quick note on saving money while still loving life (or as the Enderton & Mathews blog post said, still enjoying your guilty pleasure). If you have been scanning my blog today, you have probably figured out that my guilty pleasure is all things Disney. It has been a while since I wrote on saving money and loving life, so let me give you just a brief background about me and a few tips I have learned over the years.
My husband and I have 5 kids and we have just recently finished a LONG road for his educational journey. 

He is a doctor now (please don't stop reading and think I do not understand just because he is a doctor now, trust me when I tell you, we struggled financially for the 10+ years we were married while we were going through medical school and residency). We lived far from family and had to figure out how to live on less. 
This blog originally started when I discovered the world of extreme couponing. For some time I tried to extreme coupon, but it felt like a full time job. I realized I needed easier, less time consuming ways to save, so I started to figure out how to cut costs without making myself crazy. How to cut costs so I could still have my guilty pleasures (back in the day the guilty pleasure I was skimping to keep in the budget was cable tv...I considered it my entertainment budget since I rarely went out with 3 kids at that time, and a husband gone on call as a med student A LOT).
So, now that you know a little about me, let me tell you a few of the tips and tricks I have learned along my journey:
First and foremost, I looked at my budget and figured out where I was spending the most money that I could possibly cut out of the budget, and for us, it was groceries. So my main focus was on cutting down on that bill. A lot of my tips will have to do with how to save money on groceries. Figure out what YOU spend a lot of money on that could be cut down.
Grocery Savings
  • My favorite EASY way to save money is Walmart Price Matching. If you do not Price match at Walmart, you should! Here is their Price match policy (they call it their Ad Match Guarantee). Be familiar with it! You can, and should totally use it! BUT guess what? It has gotten even easier to do over the years because now you can use the Walmart Savings Catcher and let them figure out the price matches for you! I use that every time I go to Walmart!!!
  • Another easy way that I save on my groceries is at Safeway. I have a Safeway Just for U account. (Which basically means I have a Safeway card). To set this up, all you do is get the card then register it online and use it each time you shop. (For those of you that don't want another card to keep track of, that's ok, you can just put your associated phone number in instead of scanning your card when you go through the check out-that's how I do it!). This card not only gives me automatic access to their sale prices, it gives me the opportunity to add manufacturers coupons onto my card to save even more money! (There are other grocery stores that have similar systems, but Safeway is the one I can use in my tiny town. Look for this type of program in your local grocery stores too!)
Travel Tip

Travel is my main goal in saving money these days. But as we all know, travel ain't cheap! I do my best to get the best deals I can on travel by following a few guidelines.

  • First: PLAN ahead, do your homework (research, research, research) and be flexible.
  • Compare prices. Always. I like to use Expedia first when I start to plan. I search for my airfare or hotels on there and compare the prices. Then I check the prices on the Hotel or airlines site. VERY often I have gotten flights and hotels for less simply by booking directly through them, but also often I have found that Expedia has the cheapest price. So check both places.
  • Book travel in advance. It is significantly more expensive to do so last minute!
  • Plan activities that are free or inexpensive! Even when our family goes on Disneyland vacations, we spend a couple days at the beach. The beach is free whereas a day at Disney is not. So, even when you are taking a trip that is a splurge, like a Disney trip, plan for free or nearly free activities!)
  • You can save money on food when vacationing by staying in hotels with free breakfasts. (This is a MUST for my husband when we book a hotel!)
Day to Day Activities

Besides travel, we try to save money on our day to day activities. I include in that category things like school supplies, sports, holidays, birthdays, and family time together. Below are a few om the things we do as a family to tighten the belt with those often expensive day to day things.
  • Again, I would say to PLAN ahead. We all know school is coming up in August or September, so start to watch ads EARLY to get the supplies you or your kids might need. It's great to buy the crayons when they are a quarter rather than when they cost $3. Watch the sales and buy low. :) 
  • Holidays---ug, right?! With 5 kids, Christmas and birthdays (for our kids AND all their friends) can get crazy and EXPENSIVE. One way I combat that expense becoming a huge burden is by planning ahead and watching clearance racks all year round. I have a present room. Really. It has lots of things that may end up as a present for my child to give a friend, or a Christmas gift, or whatever else. Things I know I will need. BUT I buy them all on clearance. For example, the morning after Easter last year I was at Walmart and saw all these prefilled Easter baskets on clearance. They were filled with toys and treats, and were 75% off. I bought 4 of them for $20 ($5 each). The next day there were still a few good ones left and by then they had been marked down to 90% off. I bought several more. We have opened the baskets and pulled out the toys for 10+ birthday party presents (for friends), used them for donations to the school, and given them to to our own kids. There are still 5 full baskets in the present room that will be used by Christmas I am sure (and I will not have to stress over a gift when my kids brings home a last minute birthday invitation).
  • Speaking of Birthdays, do you realize there are a lot of FREE Birthday items you can sign up for? I have an article about it from a few years ago here. The article is old, but a lot of the items are still great. 
  • Family activities: It did not take us long during those really tight years to figure out that we did not have ANY money to dedicate to going out as a couple or as a family, so we got really creative. We found all the parks and trails near us. We looked for free activities listed near us on local news. We got involved in playgroups in our community. We went to libraries. We took a lot of walks. We played lots of made up games or we played board games until they wore out. We made free fun!! 
Once you find the areas in your personal budget where you can cut costs, and implement a plan to do so, I am SURE you will be able to find you are living with less and loving life just as our family did! 

Best of luck in your saving journey! 

And please, feel free to comment with any questions you may have for me!


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

#DisneySMMC Portland: Crafty Chica and Maya in the Moment

Our last presenters at #DisneySMMC Portland were the great ladies I sat with at my table, Maya and Cathy Murillo. They are a dynamite mother and daughter who both run their own very successful blogs/social media enterprises! Cathy (mom) is The Crafty Chica and Maya (daughter) is over at Maya in the Moment. Their Talk was about going "Beyond the Blog".
A few notes from the two of them:
  • Respect your signature style
  • Have a book proposal ready to go (based on your blog)!
  • Use all kinds of Social Media, not JUST Facebook and Twitter: YouTube, Vine, Snapchat, etc
And a few bits of advice from Crafty Chica Cathy:
  • Embrace the New (ask your kids about the sites they are using to connect!)
  • Make readers laugh, cry or gasp-whatever it is, find the magic!
  • Know your 5 year destination-where will you be in this endeavor 5 years down the road?
  • Know the top search terms for your site (and buy the url if available)
  • Involve your kids!
Also, some tips from the younger generation, Maya in the Moment:
  • Bring your own personality
  • Have your hater blockers on!
  • Variety! Use a lot of variety!
  • Let yourself have FUN!
I'll leave  you with their last piece of advice:

Have a plan of action!

#DisneySMMC Portland: Marianne Richmond

Better Late than never, right?! 

As a reminder, on June 6, I got to attend the Disney Social Media Mom Conference "On the Road" in Portland. It was amazing, and I learned so much that I wanted to share! I still have a couple more posts to share with you. 

Of all the speakers, this one was the one that really stuck with me and I have really thought about and tried to use. I am so excited to share this with you all! 

My favorite speaker at the Disney Social Media Mom Conference in Portland was Marianne Richmond, Author and Artist (and self made success story). Her talk was "Building your Brand while following your Passion."

She is the author of "If I could Keep You Little" (which she gave to all of us and read aloud-LOVED that!!) as well as quite a few other books:

She accomplished many other amazing business and personal ventures by following her passion as well. You should go to her website here to read all about her.

Here are the highlights of her talk:
  • Know your Why
  • What's your Goal?
  • Embrace your Design
  • Find your Brave!
  • Dream and envision your Next level
And a few of my notes on each highlight:

Know Your Why
  • Know your why-connect to your true passion and understand why it matters in the world!
  • To find you why, finish the sentence "I am passionate about..."
  • Once you know your why, it can give you focus and help you better evaluate opportunities.
What's Your Goal?
  • What is your end game?
  • What are my absolutes?
  • What am I willing to do to accomplish goal?
  • What am I not willing to do to accomplish my goal?
Embrace Your Design
  • Be you!
  • You have a unique voice! 
  • What was I doing in 2nd grade that I still love?
Find Your Brave!

***Notes/Thoughts from Beckee: This struck a chord with me! When we are blogging or starting a brand or business, it is easy to get so caught in what the audience wants or how to built the audience that we forget the whys and the goals and start to cater to the audience. However, if we find our own brave, take our unique-ness and go ahead and bravely share what we have to offer, THAT is the real success. At least that is what I took from this amazing speech!!!***
  • Root yourself in what you have to offer
  • Create a mantra that emboldens your bravery
  • Try something out of the box
  • De-Personalize (business related) decisions
  • Create your Courage team (Another Beckee note-I love the idea of a courage team-these are the people that will buoy you up when you are in doubt, because you will be in doubt sometimes as you grow and build anything! I love my "courage team" which consists of some close family and friends!!!)
Dream and Envision your next level
  • Have an idea of where you are headed! 
And her last thought is well worth sharing-"Remember, we are all in this Together."  (I love that this last quote she said is also a quote from Disney's High School Musical!) 


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Beckee's Deals at Disneyland: Ride Lines and Height restrictions

Hallalujah! My baby is tall enough to ride MOST of the rides now! Here he is by the Tower of Terror height sign to show you how tall he is now! (He's actually 42" this trip!!! This is a 40" sign-he only needs to be up to the red arrows you can see on the sign over his left shoulder.)
Height Requirements:
One of the most common things I see parents get upset about (and try to get around) is the height requirements for rides. I have myself been upset a time or two. It is super frustrating to learn that you have a member of your party that cannot ride the much desired ride. I get that! In fact, on my last trip to Disneyland & California Adventure, my baby (well, baby is maybe an exaggeration, he's 4) was barely 42". And by barely, I mean his head barely touched the height sign. And we had already ridden Goofy's Sky School (which is a 42" ride) when I went to Grizzly River Rapids and he was turned away (after much debate amongst the 2 employees there I might add). I was alone with the kids that trip! UG! It was infuriating, but I get it. I know they have the height requirements for a reason and it is to keep us safe. BUT I also get the frustration.

To alleviate some of the frustration, I recommend knowing before you go what the height requirements are (you can find them all here: Disneyland and California Adventure Park Ride Height Requirements). If you have children close to the height requirements, I have found it is best to prepare them for the fact that they may not be quite tall enough to go on some rides. Then they can get over the disappointment before they are in a crowd of people being turned away (or they can be pleasantly surprised if they ARE tall enough).

Your day at Disneyland will look vastly different if you are coming with toddlers versus teenagers. Our Disney days are very different now with five kids ages 4-12 then they were with five kids ages 2-10. We had 2 kids that were too short for several rides back then. Now they can all go on almost every ride (since my baby E is now 42"--the only rides he cannot do now are Indiana Jones and California Screamin')! 

Indiana Jones and California Screamin' are still popular rides with the older group (including me!!! They are my 2 faves). So, we utilize a very important policy when we do them: the awesome CHILD SWAP! Not all attractions offer a child swap (or rider swap) pass, here's a list of rides that offer Child Swap. If you have a child who cannot (or will not-my 7-year-old refused to ride roller coasters until this trip) ride one of those attractions, simply ask a cast member as you enter the line about doing a child swap pass so both adults can have a chance to ride.

Wes and I end up trading off which one stays off the ride with the little guy. If I go first, when I get in line I just let them know my hubby is with the little on and ask about the rider swap. They give me a pass (I will try to take a picture of one tomorrow) that I give to Wes after I ride. Wes takes the pass and 2 of our lucky kids (since you can generally get up to 3 guests in on the pass) to the fast pass line, hands them the pass and goes through the line quicker.

Single Riders:
One more great way to get on rides quickly that your whole group cannot ride is the Single Rider line. There are some rides that offer a single rider line (See that list here). It is a fast way for people to ride these rides without waiting through the whole line. BUT it means you will not ride with your party. You will basically fill in a single spot with another party. 

Disneyland has signs all over about how kids under 7 cannot ride without an adult (really a child over 14). At this point I now have 4 of my 5 children who are over 7, and can now ride alone. This means they can do the single rider lines! It is fantastic. In fact, when Grizzly River Rapids turned the baby and I away in the story from earlier in this post, I let the older children go on the ride through the single rider line while baby and I waited at the exit. It was a reasonable go around! 

Fast Passes:
One more way to limit your time in lines besides single rider lines, is of course fast passes. 
A  fast pass is essentially a ticket you get that gives you an appointed time to come back and ride the ride using a shortened line process. Above is our fast passes from earlier today. You can read more about the Disneyland Fast Pass Policy here!

Before you head over to the parks, make sure you are familiar with the ride height requirements and are prepared for the fact that your party may have to split up and utilize rider swaps for the bigger rides! It will make the trip a lot less stressful if you already know what to expect! Doing a little homework and planning before you go can go a long way! 
One last quick trick for kids close to the height requirements: One of the cast members told my nephew (who was right on the edge of 40" when we went with him to Disneyland). If your child is close to the height limit, tell them to take a deep breath and hold it in when they get measured. It makes them stand up straight and gives them the best chance to measure tall enough, Also, if they are at that super close stage, put them in tennis shoes with the thicker rubber soles and not in flip flops. That extra tiny bit might be all it takes! :)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Beckee's Deals at Disneyland: Hotels

Oh where, oh where should I rest my head whilst I am partying the week away with toddlers and teens at Disneyland?! Well, let's talk about that...

(Here are a couple of my little Seahawks fans walking back to our hotel the other day:)

Probably the most common question my friends and family ask me about going to Disneyland, is where we stay when we come. I have to be honest and tell you that I am always looking for the best deal I can when I book hotels, but the best deal for me now looks a whole lot different than it did a few years ago. I have been in that place where I HAD to find a room under $100/night that could accommodate my large family even if it meant staying in a not-so-nice place in a far location where we would have to walk several miles. I would tell myself that the extra long walks were good exercise and it was totally bearable! If you are in that spot, that's ok. There are hotels for all kinds of price ranges near Disneyland!

I am a little pickier these days, and I try to plan ahead a little more so I can get better hotels (at not much more cost). Plus, I have 5 children. Very, very few hotels have rooms (or even suites) available for 7 people. Six people, yes, but seven, no. And when we try to get 2 adjoining rooms, they will not guarantee the two rooms will adjoin (or even be next to one another). It is a nightmare for me really to find places. Much, Much easier when we only have 6 people with us. 

Lots of my friends rave about staying on property at one of the Disneyland hotels. I remember staying in the Disneyland hotel as a kid and having breakfast with the characters. I remember the fun pool and being so close that we just walked over to the monorail to go into the park. There were awesome things about staying there as a kid. I loved it. But as a kid, I was not footing the bill. So far, I have not been willing to pay for that experience for our family now that I am the adult. (Thanks mom and dad for being so awesome and talking me to the Disneyland hotel! Please don't tell my kids about that!) :) 

Here's how I choose a hotel when I come to Disneyland. One word: Expedia! Really! When we plan a trip to Disneyland, my first Internet stop is Expedia. I search my dates for the best hotel deals for my group. Once I find the best deals, or choose the hotel I want, I do one more little trick. I check that hotel's website and see if they will offer me the same deal (or a better deal) than Expedia is offering for those dates.

That is really all I do when I choose a hotel. Of course I have learned that some of the budget hotels are NOT worth it, and I have some favorite hotels. My mom always told me to be careful of booking the hotels north of Disneyland. She says the ones on Ball road are ok, but it gets a little shady when you get further north. I agree with that assessment and thus do not book those hotels (yes I know it's a personal bias, but the whole point of this is to share my opinion based on my personal experience). 

Make sure you know what amenities you want! We look for a big room, a pool, a convenient location, free parking, free WiFi, and free breakfast (ideally). 

What amenities are must haves for you? If you must work while you are away and need WiFi (My daughter is in the other room in an online class as I type this), make sure to check and see if that is an additional charge. If you insist on a great pool, check the pictures and reviews! If you must be within walking distance, need a shuttle, or want free parking, check the hotel's website to see what they offer! 

Beckee's Favorites!

As mentioned before I have lots of kids. Our big family needs to stay in a Suite, My favorite places to stay are Embassy Suites SouthHomewood Suites, and Castle Inn and Suites.  

Embassy Suites and Homewood Suites are both Hilton properties. They are similar to one another, but my family prefers Embassy Suites given the choice. It is a little fancier. Both of them have awesome full breakfasts included! Embassy Suites has "firework view" rooms that we enjoy. The kicker on both of these is that you have to pay extra to park your car and it is a bit of a walk to Disneyland (1.4-2 miles). They do have shuttles, but we never use the shuttles (if I recall it was because it cost more for us to pay for the shuttle than it did for us to park at Disneyland parking). 

Castle Inn and Suites is my current favorite place to stay for one reason: Family Suites! What does this mean you ask? Well, usually if we stay in a suite hotel room with our kids, we want to have the kids all in one room and us in the other room. This usually means we are sleeping on a pull out couch bed. Folks, I am getting old and those things are not comfy! The regular suites at Castle Inn are just like this, BUT the Family Suites are like a piece of heaven! Instead of a blasted couch bed in the first room, there is a glorious king sized bed for me and my husband!

Here's the one I am currently using this week:

Isn't that a wonder to behold? I love it! 

Not only does Castle Inn and Suites have these amazing family suites, but it also happens to be about a block from Disneyland, plus as a guest of the hotel you get to park one car for free! Glorious! (Plus free WiFi.) The trade off is that it is really more of a motel than a hotel. It is pretty basic as an overall property. 

Beckee wants to stay...

When we arrived this time to Disneyland we saw this amazing water park at the Anaheim Courtyard by Marriott. It looks AWESOME! We will be giving this hotel a try next time we come out (well, depending on the cost!) 

Also, we have been anxiously awaiting the opening of the Anaheim area Great Wolf Lodge, and it looks like it will be taking reservations soon for it's opening in early 2016! It's also on my list of places to try!


There are a few places I will never, ever stay again, but I feel I should not name names so publicly. What I will say is this-if a place looks too good for the price, it probably is. AND, make sure to read reviews of the places you are looking into (take them with a grain of salt, but if there is a lot of negative reviews, don't ignore that completely). 

And if you have questions about the hotels around, ask. I will tell you anything I know about the hotels. Plus, I know Facebook and Twitter are just filled with people full of opinions about the hotels around Disney. You can always ask on there (whenever I am looking into staying at a new hotel, I ask a general questions on my Facebook page about whether anyone has had experiences with that hotel-I usually get really constructive comments).

If you are planning a hotel stay right now, happy hunting! I hope you find all you want in a hotel for your dream Disney vacation! 


Beckee's Deals at Disneyland: Tickets to the parks

Hello From Disneyland!
I realize that most, if not all, of my recent posts are all about Disney. If you're not a Disney fan, sorry about that (sorry because that's just sad, and sorry because I am an obsessed fan)! :) You may have picked up on the fact that I am a big Disney fan. In fact, my family is in the beginning of our 3rd consecutive year as Disneyland annual pass holders! We have had passes at other times, but this is 3 years and running now! That's just how much we like it.

The other day, before taking off for this most recent trip to Disneyland, I posted the following on my personal Facebook page:

Do you have a favorite thing about Disneyland? A favorite ride, a must try treat, or tricks to get great seats for shows?! We have annual passes and are headed to Disneyland in a few days, but I find we kind of do all the same things each time so I want to hear your Disney favorites and see if there is any new inspiration for me! 

Response to my message was varied. Some people took my plea seriously and gave me some great advice, one friend thought I was joking to even ask, and my brother-in-law commented that I was the one that should be giving the advice. I was really looking to see if I would learn anything new and awesome about Disneyland. Not kidding at all. But I realized that even with all the awesome advice I got, I did not learn anything new. Apparently my vast experience at Disneyland has not been for nothing. I have a pretty good idea of the tricks and treats and I know what my family likes.

And, maybe my brother-in-law was right, maybe I should post what I know. 

So, here it is, I will start to share some of my Disney deals, tricks, treats, and favorites for anyone who cares.

Let's start with this little question: Why would a family who lived in Arizona, and now lives in Washington state have Disneyland annual passes? Well, it's because we did the math. 

When you go to Disneyland, you really need to think about how much time you really want to spent there in the long term (like over the next year). Will you be frequently in Southern California? Do you have more than one opportunity to vacation to Disneyland? When you do visit will you want to spend multiple days at the parks? 

As you are answering these questions, you will want to keep in mind the fact that price per day of your Disney ticket goes down when you buy multiple day tickets. (Check out the price breakdown here: Disneyland ticket prices) Also note that it costs more money if you want to have park hopper passes (meaning you can "hop" between California Adventure and Disneyland throughout the day). 
Beckee's opinion about Park hopper passes: At Disney World, park hopper passes may not be worth it since the parks are so far from one another, but at Disneyland, it is absolutely worth it! The 2 parks are literally across a courtyard from one another. 
Why do we, the Beckee's Deals family, have annual passes? Like I said, we did the math. Our first year as annual pass holders, we lived in Arizona and discovered it was a 6 hour drive from our house to Disneyland. For us, that was close enough to decide we could drive down any 3 day weekend or week off school for the kids. PLUS to sweeten the deal, our good friends were living just a short drive from Disneyland and also had passes that year. We could drive out as often as we wanted and stay with our friends. (Well, often enough, but not so often they wanted to kill us!) It was an awesome year, and we got SO much use from our passes.

The next year we moved to Washington state. I actually let the passes expire thinking we would never get enough use from them. We were going to go to California in August of that year, but had decided to try the SoCal City Pass. That way we'd get to do Disney for a few days, but we'd also get to do some other things. 

While we were on that trip, my husband's sister, who we had been trying for a long, long time to plan a Disney trip with, called. Her family was good to go to Disneyland with us in October and were starting to book travel arrangements. We had let our passes lapse, and had purchased the SoCal City Passes already, but we decided to do this awesome thing, and upgrade our Disney Passes into annual passes while we were at Disneyland that trip. It turned out we were able to use them several more times through the year since my husband had some work conferences in SoCal later in the year. 

This year as our renewal date approached, I was mourning the loss of the passes as I could not see any upcoming trips or a need to renew. One day I got something from Disney saying if I renewed by a certain date that week, I could get each pass for $509 instead of $549. That same day my husband (who was in Utah visiting his family) called to tell me his parents were planning to go to Disneyland with us in the spring, so could I please renew the passes...YES!!! So, we renewed them once again.

For us, the Deluxe Annual Pass was the best option. We have used it and enjoyed it so much over the past 3 years. There are blackout dates, but we don't like to go when it's busy enough to be a blackout day anyway! You will need to watch out for those when planning trips if you buy the Southern California annual pass or the Deluxe annual pass though! 

My first piece of advice to all of you who may be planning a trip to Disneyland is to first figure out how often over the next year you plan to go to Disneyland and plan your park ticket purchases accordingly! Decide how many days you want to spent, how many trips you will take, whether you want to park hop, and then do the math to decide what your best option is for tickets! 

(Keep in mind, if this is a one time trip, or if you plan to stay in hotels near the park, many of them offer package deals, so that is also an option to look into as well!) 

Speaking of hotels, I think that will be the topic of the next installment of my Beckee's Deal at Disneyland! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

#DisneySMMC Portland Editors, Andrea & Megan

Sorry to leave you waiting for more from the Disney Social Media Mom Celebration in Portland. I had to run a fundraiser for girls camp at my church on Saturday and it kept me very busy! 

BUT now, let's talk about the next speakers at #DisneySMMC Portland. Our next speakers were editors at Andrea Roxas and Megan Sayers.

Andrea and Megan spoke about building relationships with other bloggers and with our audiences (that's you, guys!) using different social media platforms. I loved that they gave excellent tips about the top 4 big  platforms: Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram. (There are obviously lots of other platforms out there, but these are the big 4 they covered).

Here are the tips for each platform:

  • Use short, clear, engaging copy
  • Experiment and analyze
  • Post more than just links - try shareables and other native upload
  • Vertical Image
  • Text Overlay, for context
  • Descriptive copy that tells a story
  • Use Guided Search to find out which keywords are most valuable to layer in to your pin description.
  • There's no such thing as "too many tweets."
  • Tag, tag, tag!
  • Tweet on trending topics, but through the lens of your brand
  • Photo quality is key
  • Keep your look consistent
  • Share your photos on other social platforms to drive engagement
When using social media make sure to identify your strengths and spend the most time on the platform that will benefit you.

Building relationships with other bloggers is all about forming meaningful connections. Here are some ways to do so:
  • Don't be afraid to cold email
  • Suggest mutually beneficial ways to connect ( like social swap, crowd-sourced content, guest posts)
  • Approach it as a relationship, not a favor or business transaction
Probably my favorite part of their talk was about building your audience. They told us to find our people! (Beckee's note-you are my people and thank you!!!) Some ways to "find your people" when you are blogging include:
  • joining communities
  • scoping social media
  • going to blogger events
  • Look for similar blogs, not necessarily the biggest blogs. Look for quality over quantity.
One last bit of advice from Babble was to Branch Out! Do so by pitching to larger sites (find a direct contact, and tailor your pitch to that site).

Other platforms they think are up and coming and will be focusing on more at Babble are You Tube, Periscope, and Snapchat (for younger audiences).


Saturday, June 13, 2015

#DisneySMMC Portland: Victoria Lim schools me on photos and video

Our third speaker at the Disney Social Media Mom Celebration in Portland was Victoria Lim, former journalist, current managing editor for Walt Disney World Public Relations. 

She completely schooled me on taking and using photos and videos on my blog. I can tell you right now that you will find I am still learning and have not mastered the tips she taught me. Obviously.

BUT I am trying. And just in case you are wondering how to improve your photos and/or videos, I will share some of the things I learned! 

She was fully aware that most of us these days use our phones for our primary photo and video camera. She keeps with her a bag of gear. Some of the things she has (with her phones) include: a selfie stick, bracket, gorilla pod, mini tripod, portable chargers, pouch of mini lenses, and a mic. 

AND she gave us some "Visual Guidelines," summarized below

Basic Guidelines to Maximize your Mobile
  • Clean your lens!
  • Steady your shots.
  • Try Different Angles
  • Zoom with your Feet
  • Hold your phone Horizontally not vertically! (still working to remember that one...oops!)
  • Be purposeful in shooting
  • Don't tilt or pan unless purposeful
  • Use Airplane Mode (this makes sure you do not get a video ruining phone call during filming-GENIUS hack there!)
Guidelines for Interviews
  • Be mindful of ambient noise
  • Be mindful of wind
  • Where do you want interview subject to look
  • Again, I will note-use Airplane Mode!
Aside from the great advice, Victoria also gave us fabulous insights on Apps we may want to use. I have only had the chance to try a few of them, and I do not have an iPhone, so I have not tried any of those. I am an Android girl! 

However, I though I would share all the Apps she suggested:

  • Dropbox (I use and love Dropbox!)
  • Disney Memories HD
  • Show Your Disney Side (I believe only on iPhone)
  • PicCollage
  • PhotoGrid
  • Magisto (for Video)
  • Videolicious (on iPhone)
  • Cute Cut
  • We Video
If you want to see my early attempts at using some of these apps, see below.

Disney Memories HD

This app is too, too fun! I took a photo of me and Wes from Hawaii a few weeks ago and gave it some Disney magic below;

You can take a new picture or use one you already have, then you can ad dit to posed pics, or add stickers and accessories, and you can fancy up the style as well. It is a little like Instagram Disney style. Lots of fun for the Disney Fans like me!


This App is a quick easy way you could throw together a meme or something. You can pick one or more pictures and you can add stickers, text, backgrounds, etc. It is quick and easy to figure out and I can see using it a lot in the future. Here is my quickly thrown together pic of me and my Sawyer (from LOST):



This is one of the absolute easiest programs ever to be able to make a photo collage and more it around to look like you want it to. I took several of the pictures from the #DisneySMMC Portland and I threw this together:

It took about a minute total to make this and I love it. Super easy! Super cute!


On Magisto, I picked some pictures, a theme, and a song, and it put together the video for me. No choice in the order of the photos or how they come up, but what a quick easy way to show off a lot of cute pictures! I chose Disneyland photos from various Disney trips from the last year, used a fun "memories" theme, and used a song I love from my own device (Happy). Here's what Magisto came up with:


I have downloaded Cute Cut and We Video, but have not had the chance to test them out yet! I will let you know more about them when I get the chance!!!

I am really looking forward to using a lot of these tips and apps to upgrade my blog a little bit! I really appreciated all the great info from Victoria Lim!! 


Thursday, June 11, 2015

#DisneySMMC #Portland: Disney Rocks! Tyler Slater & Erin Glover's talks

At the Disney Media Mom Celebration in Portland I was super excited to hear first thing from Tyler Slater, who does "Disney Destinations PR and Social Media" He was one of my two favorite speakers. I loved, loved, LOVED hearing all about the great stuff happening in the world of Disney Destinations. Plus I am pretty sure that is Tyler and I got to hang out at all, we'd totally be BFF's. He seriously has the best job ever and he is a super nice guy that obviously realized how awesome his job is. 

So, a few exciting things going on that you may or may not know about:
I have to tell you a little more about a couple of these exciting events, the first of which is the Disneyland Diamond Celebration. 
In case you haven't heard, Disneyland is celebrating it's 60th anniversary this year! There are some absolutely amazing things they have done to celebrate! Besides tons of new merchandise, there is a lot of new and improved entertainment! There is a super upgraded firework celebration with state of the art projection mapping, a new Paint the Night lights parade, and a new World of Color show celebrating Walt Disney and hosted by Neil Patrick Harris. Check out more on all of that here. 
The second event I have to share more about is the amazing new show coming to the Disney Cruise Line: Tangled: The Musical. I cannot even express how amazing it looks, so I will just share with you the Behind the Scenes video Tyler shared with us. Watch it then thank me later for sharing it! :)

I was literally trying to plan my next Disney adventure before Tyler was even done talking. I just love Disney and love knowing all the amazing adventures out there to experience with them! But the best thing I took from Tyler's speech was this quote by Walt Disney:
(In case you can't read the picture, it says "When you believe a thing, believe it all over-implicitly and unquestioningly." --Walt Disney)
The second speaker at the #DisneySMMC in Portland was Erin Glover, Director of Social Media for Disneyland Resort. 

Erin spoke a lot about what goes into running the Disney Parks Blog. The main point from her speech that struck me was the idea that that to be successful at this, you have to figure out what is unique to you! Ask yourself the following questions: What is unique to me? What do I have access to that no one else does? What can only I say?  

She spoke about using your unique gifts and access to find your voice. She made the point that they realized early on with the Disney blogs that what they had that was unique and what they had access to was backstage and after hours at Disney, access to imagineers, and other cast members. So, what is it that I have access to, what is uniquely mine?

Erin showed us a recent video about the Box Hat Ghost's reappearance at the Haunted Mansion after 46 years. (See her article about that here. It includes the video!)
I'll share more about the fantastic speakers at #DisneySMMC tomorrow! 

#DisneySMMC on the road in Portland!

On Tuesday June 9, I got the opportunity to attend the Disney Social Media Mom Celebration on the road in Portland. There is so much to share about it that I will put it in several posts. But I wanted to give you an overview of the amazing conference.
My drive into Portland which should have taken about 2 hours 20 minutes ended up taking just over 3.5 hours. So.Much.Traffic. Luckily I had planned to arrive an hour early so I could socialize. I missed the socializing, but made it (a bit frazzled) right as they were about to begin. Luckily, the Disney magic greeted me immediately and I was no longer stressing the hassle of getting there! 
The room was beautiful! Every detail was given the Disney treatment! I quickly grabbed some breakfast and found an available seat with some really nice ladies (who ended up being presenters!) 
The first video pulled me in and made me feel like I should rush to the  Disney parks immediately. The first speakers were Disney cast members and they just added to my excitement! In case I haven't mentioned this before, I am a huge, HUGE Disney fan. My family has had Disneyland passes for 3 of the last 4 years, and we will be renewing them again this month! :) We have been to Disneyland several times, but none of them have been since the Diamond Celebration began. Now I cannot wait to go again! 
Tyler Slater, Who does "Disney Destinations PR and Social Media" spoke first. Followed by Erin Glover, Director of Social Media for Disneyland Resort. These two have dream jobs-they are living my dream! Tyler gave us a lot of info about different Disney locations. Erin talked a lot about what it takes to do the Disney Parks blog and gave us some great advice for our own blogs.
Next up was Victoria Lim, former journalist, current managing editor for Walt Disney World Public Relations. She gave us some excellent advice on making and using videos. I learned a lot from her and cannot wait to try all I learned.
After Victoria, we heard from Andrea Roxas and Megan Sayers, editors at They had a ton of excellent tips for how to interact on different social media platforms. 
Our next speaker was author, Marianne Richmond. She talked a lot about finding out own voice and knowing our why! She was excellent. My favorite part was when she spoke about finding your Brave and creating a courage team! More detail on this in a later blog post.
Our last speakers were my breakfast buddies, Kathy Cano-Murillo, the Crafty Chica, and her daughter, Maya Murillo of Maya in the Moment. I loved listening to them talk about the family aspect of all this. It was inspiring to me and has me thinking of ways to include my kids more in what I do.
Our last guest didn't say much but he made huge impact and I just love him! Here's a picture of him with me: 
All in all I am so grateful I was able to attend! I loved it and hope to attend again. I will be using what I learned and reclaiming my blog as my own. I have been looking for my voice for a while now, and I think it is becoming more clear for me. More coming soon!!!
Wednesday, June 3, 2015

#DisneySMMC On the Road...Here I come!!!

If you know me "in real life" or even on line, you may be aware that I LOVE Disney. All things Disney. In fact, my family has had Disneyland annual passes for a number of years because we love Disneyland so much.

Well, one of my dreams as a blogger has always been to attend the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. What is that you ask? Well, It is an annual conference held by Disney at Disney World (Once it was at Disneyland). This is not a conference you can apply for or register to attend, it is one where a small number of select bloggers are send invitations to travel with their families to Disney where they will have the opportunity to  learn, network, and get more involved in the Disney social media.

On top of the annual conference at Disney World (or Disneyland), Disney has begun to have Disney Social Media Moms Celebrations "On the Road". For the past few years I have been applying for these On the Road day long conferences. This year I had not planned to apply, but a blogging friend pointed out that the first stop this year is Portland (and I live a few short hours drive from Portland).

So, quite some time ago, I applied and promptly forgot. Then something magical appeared in my email while I was in Hawaii:

The email started with "Congratulations!" I was invited to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration on the road!

So, After much schedule rearranging, I will be spending next Tuesday, June 9th at the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration! I cannot wait to take you blog readers on the journey with me! I plan to post as I can and to tell you all about it!

Until then though, I'll just have to find other ways to show my #DisneySide! Here are (way too many) pictures of the "Beckeesdeals" clan showing our Disney Side:

Hope you have fun showing your #DisneySide!!!