Disney Parks tips, tricks & discounts. My Disneyland & Disney World travel hacks.

Over the years I’ve written quite a few long format blog posts on how we plan successful family trips to the Disney parks. I’ve found that while some of my tips and tricks last the test of time, others change so quickly due to Disney’s ever evolving policies and procedures. With that said, I’ve decided to answer some frequently asked questions on this post and I’ll update it often. Hopefully it’ll be helpful in planning your 2023/ 2024 trips.

How do you save money booking a Disney park vacation? What discounts or sites do you use to save some money?
Currently I have a valid Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel discount code. The HOJO is right across the street from Disneyland. The location is unbelievable and my discount has no blackout dates or room exclusions. By clicking on the link above, it’ll forward you to the hotel, check to see it’s for you and send me a message. Room rates vary per season and my discount does too. But typically it’ll save you 15-25% on average. It’ll beat the best rate offer and member pricing. Send me an email or direct message on Instagram and I’ll pass along my discount promo code.

Another way to save money is using third-party sites to buy your theme park tickets. Examples of those can be AMA travel and undercover tourist. I always read the fine print because cancellation and refund policies change. Also, check both the Disneyland and the Disney World site. They have an entire page it’s usually titled current offers. And that’s where I’ve seen Canadian resident offers for 20 to 30% off theme park tickets. Free dining plans included with certain hotel stays. Florida / California resident offers, etc. I play around with the number of park days to price it out, typically with Disney parks the more days you buy, the cheaper they become. Sometimes checking with vacation providers and seeing if clustering your hotel and flight saves you any money? For the most part, we don’t normally go that route, because I like to shop flight sales (and utilize airline points) and use my hotel discount code. For Disney World only we save money by renting a house that’s usually 10 minutes away.
Finally, if you are only planning to go for 1 day there may be employee type discounted rates on one day passes. For first responders or the military as an example.

One trick to get a discount if your heart is set on staying at a Disney resort is using someone’s DVC points. That’s right folks you do not need to be a Disney Vacation Club member in order to book those rooms and use their discounts. There are plenty of third-party sites (David’s Vacation Club Rentals as an example) that have been around a really long time that basically play the middle person while you use someone’s points that will not be using them that year. It is a great way to get a DVC suite at a really good discount. But as I’ve mentioned before, always read the cancellation and booking policies, and make sure they work for your family. Also find a reputable company because this transaction would be outside of Disney, this is a third-party transaction, so you need to be pretty confident that they are legit. Many do not have a cancellation policy so that has been one of the main reasons that we haven’t done this. We know plenty of members and a handful of families that do this often. Because I have stayed at the Grand Californian hotel, and it is one of the nicest hotels, this tip has been appealing. The majority of the time staying at a Disney hotel is out of the budget, so this tip is a good alternative.

What do I need to pack? What do I need to bring to a Disney park?
We still have two kids under 10 so this advice is definitely for families with young children. Believe me when I say a stroller is your best-friend on a Disney parks vacation. I am going to be so sad when my kids are older, and we can no longer have this dream vessel to house all of our things. We typically have a stroller because one or both of our kids at some point are going to get tired and give up. And I cannot carry either one of them for long periods of time. With that said, can you have a great day in a Disney park without a stroller? For sure. And keep in mind that there are also stroller rentals right there in the park but we take one with us because we want to walk from the Howard Johnson five minutes to the front of the Disney park with all of our stuff. In our stroller you’ll find water. Usually I have a few drinking boxes for the kids and small snacks . That’s a big money saver. Water and drinks are super expensive in the park and it’s so nice to just easily access those. With that said, always check the website on the requirements of bringing in those items. As it stands right now, you need to have a soft shelled cooler. You cannot bring a hard camping like cooler into a Disney park. You also can’t bring glass, so if you want to bring that Starbucks Frappuccino in the glass container from the convenience store that is probably not gonna work for you. Just having snacks in arms length before someone gets hangry is a BIG tip. It can sometimes be difficult to get someone a snack with long lines, or if you have a person in your party that has dietary restrictions.
I also highly suggest packing a second set of clothing for young children, because you never know when they’re going to have accident. Bathroom or food… you never know! Bring layers for everybody in your party. Weather can change quickly. Bringing an extra pair of socks and /or water resistant footwear like flip-flops is great for water rides. Don’t soak your primary footwear for the entire day. If I’m completely prepared, I sometimes have rain ponchos from the dollar store in our stroller because while you can buy them in the park, they are way expensive.
Have a small emergency kit: Band-Aids, blister packs, wet wipes, sunscreen and an additional pair of prescription eyewear for me. Please consult the Disneyland or Disney World site about what items you can bring in because they do have a long list of banned items. While you’re on that same website page, make sure the stroller fits the specifications. We have a double stroller so as it stands right now, I believe you have to be under 21.5 inches wide but again that policy can change. You should always check. There was a time when a family was allowed to bring a wagon! They are no longer allowed in Disney parks, so keep that in mind.

Hot tip: Need tire air? Go to the closet guest services and they will direct you to the location within the park that has air for your stroller tires. We got a flat tire on one of ours and needed help from the great cast members.

What steps do you book 1st for a Disney park vacation? Where do you start? When booking your vacation? What steps are required when booking a Disney vacation?

Typically, I book both flights and hotel as the initial step. If you’ve got a bit of flex, and you’re looking at a few time periods that you have time off, set flight alerts and watch for a flight sale. And then I book my flights, and my hotel, in the same day to make sure that those lineup. From there I do take my time with Disney theme park tickets and potentially watch for an offer to come up on their site. With that said, you currently need a valid theme park ticket AND a park reservation. That park reservation is an additional step that has happened since the pandemic. I find you can’t wait too long because of that step. Especially if you’re going down and you only have a very small window that’ll work for those visits. If you are going during a busy time of year, holidays or spring break… sooner the better.

Next thing to keep in mind dining reservations! They typically open 60 days prior. So I set an alert to my phone and I get up bright/ early because a lot of those reservations will go within seconds. But do not feel down if you do not get your reservations right off the hop. I’ll go back on the site and hit refresh like for 15 minutes randomly just to see if someone drops a reservation that I can quickly snag, and I’ve been lucky in the past and gotten quite a few reservations that I didn’t get by getting up early in the morning. Also, you can sometimes look out and get things day off. With the new genie feature on the app you can set priorities for dining and if something comes up, it will suggest it. That’s how we got space 220 in Epcot. We actually got it day off because I was randomly on the app. Setting that feature on the app, check priorities for dining and if something comes up, it will suggest it. That’s how we got to space 220 in Disney World. We actually got it day of because I was randomly on the app checking our lightning lanes and saw that that reservation came up for us and I snagged it. Keep in mind do not hesitate if you see something that you want because you’ll need to quickly grab it before someone else does.

A big question, when is the perfect time to take your kids to Disney?

Less about age and more about height. We waited until Alastair was over the 40 inch mark so that most rides were accessible to him. But we also took Harper as a toddler while she was still free. It changes your park visit to a degree when you have a toddler or a baby along but they are also FREE so gauge if those savings are worth it. I think Disney has lots to offer everyone whether ride focused, into shows or like to snack/ people watch.

Tips I use again and again!

Visiting a Disney outlet early in your trip. It’s a great place to pick up light up souvenirs and bubble wands at a huge discount to bring into the park WITH you. Also, I’ve seen a lot of discounted pins, spirit jerseys and ears!

Pin trading! The kids LOVE this one. I’ll try to find cheap $1-$1.50 pins at the outlet or order ahead of time on Etsy. As long as they are official Disney park pins, you can walk up and trade them all over the park. So it doesn’t really matter if they like the initial pin that you’ve purchased because it’s more in the act of searching for ones that they want or interacting with cast members.

Couldn’t get a Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo boutique reservation or wasn’t in the budget? You can go into that gift shop and 99% of the time a cast member will sprinkle fairy glitter dust in your kids hair for free. It’s magic!

You can still get commemorative pin buttons for free. Like happy birthday, my first visit and I’m celebrating. It’s nice that they are still free and if you wear a button in the park, it’s signals to cast members that it’s a special day for you and I found they’ll go out of their way to create some magic. At City Hall in Disneyland and the Chamber of Commerce in California Adventure, cruise up and ask a cast member for a free button.

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5 Minute Makeup Routine with Beautysense

I’m so excited to partner with Beautysense to share my fast morning makeup routine. BeautySense.ca is a Canadian online store for all things skincare and cosmetic. You are sure to find what you’re looking for in their extensive product selection. They carry some of my favourite brands: stila, colorescience and more. It was easy to shop for my refill products that I use daily and have them conventionally shipped right to my door. All the products I’m going to share below are tried and true for me. I’ve used them for long periods and purchased refills. They are my go-to beauty products to look polished in minutes.

Here are my five products I use almost every morning:

  • Colorescience SPF 50 in glow. This product is a definite multitasker. It is slightly tinted to even my complexion with a highlighter built in. And of course, my sun protection for the day! This is my second bottle this year! I love this one. Even when I’m not wearing makeup, this will be the only product I apply in the morning. I can’t get enough of this natural sheer coverage with a hint of sun kissed glow. This is included in a kit ON SALE currently and comes with the brush on powder spf that I love to throw in my purse for on the go touch ups.
  • Stila: Convertible Lip & Cheek Colour. I tap this very blend-able cream based formula onto: my cheeks, lips, bridge of my nose and eye lids! I look flushed and ALIVE in seconds. I’ve bought the petunia shade three times in 5 years, it’s a must have product for me.
  • Stila: Smudge Stick Waterproof Eye Liner. Hear me out, I know what you may be thinking, eye liner as an easy makeup morning routine! Come on Kira! I tightly line my outer top lash line only. And it’s waterproof and doesn’t go anywhere with my sometimes watery eyes.
  • Buxom: XTROVERT Mascara. This intensely volumizing and buildable mascara is all about the brush for me. It has a large natural bristle with an innovative, X-shaped for extra volume. I curl my lashes and do one coat of this. I get so much volume quickly, I love this mascara.
  • Revive7: Style Brow X Revive7. This brow styling kit is so good. We all know I love big fluffy almost laminated brows. This formula has an instant thickening effect with extra hold for beautifully styled brows all day long. And I can’t get enough of that brush! Has my brows looking great I’m seconds.
  • Disclaimer: Beautysense partnered and paid for this blog post but my thoughts and opinions remain my own.

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Mazatlán Travel 2023 Itinerary || Tours, Restaurants & Attractions

Mazatlán has so much to offer, the city is rich in culture and history. They don’t call it the Colonial City for nothing. It’s the kind of vacation you’ll want to put down that book at the pool and explore! This isn’t my first México experience or my first trip to this region. I haven’t been to the city in almost a decade and so much has changed! Mazatlán is growing and expanding adding so many new resorts, world class attractions and restaurants. With the combination of affordable flight options through Swoop and everything this region has to offer, add it to your travel bucket list. It was perfect for us to escape our cold Canadian winter with an affordable tropical vacation option. Swoop is flying direct several times a week from Edmonton, flights start at $160. It was my Dad’s first trip to Mazatlán and he’s already looking to go back with my Mom. Our flight was filled with retired Canadians, we felt at home where every we went. This destination is definitely popular with Canadians, wherever we went on this travel itinerary below, we were surrounded by fellow tourists. Here are my picks of restaurants, attractions and tours you may want to add to your up coming trip.

Mazatlán travel Canadians tips Itinerary ideas safe


La Terraza Restaurant of El Cid Resorts. This restaurant is located on the marina featuring
spectacular Mazatlán sunsets from this outdoor restaurant. There was live music! And incredible seafood.

Mer Social, located on the waterfront right next to the iconic Mazatlán sign. This elegant concept features international cuisine, and music. The service was exceptional and the food was amazing. This airy elegant space with Pacific Ocean views is a must for your next trip.

La Costa Marinera Restaurant, opened in 1988 with a stunning view of the Pacific that will make you enjoy this food even more! This is a seafood speciality restaurant with a casual feel. You can even sit right on the beach if you’d like! Perfect for a casual lunch after a long walk up the coastline.

Pedro & Lola, located in the heart
of the Historic District. This eatery specializes in Sinaloa food with a touch of international flavours. We dined outside at night. The courtyard was filled with live music, it was magic! This spot is a must try. The bacon wrapped shrimp so delectable. And we had a mushroom sauce that you scooped onto fresh bread as a starter. I don’t see it on the menu but I’m sure you can ask. It was one of the best dishes I had on the trip.

Gusto al Gusto, by the sea that serves a fresh, young, and original concept to the region. Dine by the ocean on fresh seafood, incredible cocktails and sushi! I highly suggest to trying the Mexican twist on this Japanese favourite. So fresh and vibrant. And the best taco I had on the trip: beef, shrimp, and cheese. I’m still dreaming of that dish.
PICTURE ABOVE: 11 and 12

El Mesón de Los Laureanos, located in El Quelite a quaint old community on the banks of the Quelite river. This is a traditional Mexican village restored to its original flavour of yesterday. It was worth the drive for sure. Some tourists add it as their meal stop on the Colonial Village Tour. If it is an option, I highly recommend this very authentic meal experience.

Mazatlán historic district tour Canadians travel ideas


Explore the Historic District! Either book a city tour on the Fun bus, it’ll include the Boardwalk and the Historic District. Or take an open air taxi and walk it yourself. There are so many shops, restaurants and photo opts. The Fun Bus tours on a double decker bus: the Historic District, the old streets of the seaport, the Catedral, the city market, and Plazuela Machado. I found it very fast paced, so we went back on our own after. This district was a highlight for both my Dad and I. You have to see it.

Observatorio 1873, on the top of Vigia Hill (75 meters above sea level), this building served the city to protect the city from the constant incursions of enemy and pirate ships. Later it worked as a meteorological centre. In 2019 it was restored and opened as a tourist project. Ride up the Funicular to experience: a museum, animal and bird sanctuary, Sky Bar, and Agaviario. We grabbed a cocktail at the Sky Bar and enjoyed the most incredible view of the trip.

Colonial Village Tour, visiting El Quelite and Vinata Los Osuna (Tequila Distillery) add a lunch at El Mesón de Los Laureanos. Vinata Los Osuna has a rich history in the planting and harvesting of Blue Agave and the production of “mezcal” (from Nahuatl – “mexcalmetl” – meaning, Agave). For years, the lands of the municipality of Mazatlán witnessed the birth of numerous “vinatas” where large quantities of “mezcal” were produced. Try the lime and vanilla tequila. They were my favourite! Many hotel concierge desks can set this up for you.

I hope you found these itinerary options helpful in planning your next Mazatlán trip!

DISCLAIMER: this post was not paid by either Swoop or the tourism board of Mazatlán. They did however host us and provided some services/ experiences for free. My opinions remain my own.

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Banff || 36 Hour Travel Guide

Typically we travel as a family to Banff twice a year. I love to experience this magic mountain town during multiple seasons. This trip was short and sweet for Harper’s 6th birthday. Here is what we got up to in 36 hours before in one of our favourite Alberta spots.

Accommodation: Mount Royal Hotel

Location, location, location. Right on main street in the heart of Banff. Step outside the front doors and everything is right there. The roof top hot tub was a bonus with amazing views. This is our third stay at this hotel and we would definitely book it again.


Blue Bird

This midcentury modern steakhouse was a vibe. So inviting, warm and sexy. The food was exceptional. Even our kids meals tasted great and usually at a restaurant those meals are an afterthought and let’s be honest gross. Dishes of note, the prime rib is a must with Yorkshire pudding. Please note, it was packed when we were there, I highly recommend a reservation. On Sunday they have a prime rib special of that aligns with your travel dates.


Light, bright and such a gorgeous space for a date night. The kids were completely satisfied with their meals but the homemade ice cream sandwiches were the game changer for the two of them. Matt and I shared and sampled quite a few dishes. The stand out was definitely the ginger beef! Presentation was epic. And we are still dreaming about it.

Shopping: Jolene’s Teahouse, Spirit of Christmas, Banff candy store, Canada Goose and Patagonia. 

Sights: Bow Falls

Misses: Sad to see Banff’s Santa Clause Parade was cancelled for yet another year. We have wanted to experience that for quite some time. Maybe next year. We love to go on the gondola up Sulphur Mountain, the views are exceptional but unfortunately it was down for seasonal maintenance. NightRise at the gondola sounds incredible and I hope to experience that someday. And we were just a few days early for the Christmas market. If you were going to Banff this December I highly recommend checking it out.

Road Trip! Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo

We soaked up the last few days of summer with one last road trip. Every summer break before the start of another school year we like to hit the open road and check out a local Alberta community. This year we went to Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo. This close-knit community was so welcoming and family friendly. We discovered high ropes courses, zip lines, playgrounds and a water park at the aquatic centre. The kids had a blast and are already asking when we’ll go back for another swim! 

Here are my top 3 must do’s while in the region: 

Vista Ridge Aerial Park: Alastair and my husband had a blast on this aerial course. Harper however wasn’t quite old enough this time but she wants to try next time we go! They did the children’s beginner course and it took them about 1.5 hours. Definitely plan for a few hours to fully experience all levels of this attraction. 

Mitchell’s Café: You know it’s a popular eatery when you arrive to a line up out the door 20 people deep! Honestly one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever experienced. (I got the Montreal Smoked Meat) And Harper announced she wanted the bread recipe. 

MacDonald Island – Aquatic Facility: we swam for HOURS! And the kids did the purple water slide 8 times in a row. (IYKYK) We experienced the pool, lazy river and water slides. This was a highlight for the kids. There was so much more in that facility that we could have done! A Library, indoor play park, rinks and a climbing wall. We’d definitely come back and allot way more time for that experience. 

For more information on everything the region has to offer, visit: www.fmwb.ca

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo Economic Development & Tourism but my thoughts and opinions remain my own. AD 

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