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!