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Confessions of a Disney Addict!

DisneyStore.com

These are my confessions, my shameless plug for the Disney Brand and my compelling WHY I love Disney so much.

If you follow us on Facebook, here at the website and/or on YouTube, you already know that we love Disney. We have multiple postings about our affection for all things Disney. And those that have been to our house, can attest to how our “love of the mouse” translates into our home, office, and cars. Yeah, we have Disney in/on our cars.

You may also note that I am not only a shop-aholic, but a discount freak. I don’t buy anything at full price–except at Disney. So why is it so easy to drop so much money at Disney–even when you aren’t at the Parks? I don’t know about you guys, but since COVID, it’s like my Disney shopping has gone into overdrive.

AND the online competition is fierce! You really have to know what you are doing if you want that Minnie Mouse Main Attraction Merch–you can’t just casually purchase those items. (See my YouTube video to learn the process)

Now, I KNOW I am not alone in my addiction of all things Disney. If I was, there wouldn’t be anyone reading this blog right now. The fact is, for some of us, Disney is not just a vacation, a place to go or a 5-foot rodent with style, it is an extension of who we are. It is a way of life.

But WHY?

Let me attempt to explain for those who do not “get it”. I understand your hesitation, I have friends that remind me that Disney is a giant corporation, and corporations do not have hearts, souls or feelings. Most corporations are just out for the almighty dollar. And you wouldn’t be wrong. Disney IS a business. But its one that I am willing to give my money to. For those that do “get it” you are my Disney Peeps, my people, my tribe. Feel free to keeping reading and shaking your head yes. I beg you to please resist the temptation to jump up and down screaming, “YESSSSS! Is she reading my mind?! OMG! I said the same thing last week!” Its ok, we are perfectly normal.

WALT DISNEY, THE MAN

I can not tell you how many times people have asked me why I love Disney so much. My response has always been the same: “What’s not to like?” Walt Disney, the man, faced so much adversity in his life and business. His ideas were stolen, his drawings were copied, he basically sacrificed everything, except his dream. His dream for families. He was an American inventor with an idea that was so innovative and creative that at first his competition laughed at him, but then as he became a threat, they tried to tear him down. And he got right back up and fought for his dream. He was a scrapper, fighting for a dream for the American family. That is inspiring. So ask yourself, what have YOU sacrificed for your dreams lately? What should you differently in the future to make your dream a reality?

DISNEY PARKS

There is no better description for Disneyland than, “The Happiest Place on Earth.” For those that have been there, I am sure just the mention of the place brings back fond memories. Do you drop a ton of money? Yep. Do you deal with ridiculous crowds? Yes. Do you stand in line for hours at a time just to ride the “new” ride? Yep. Do you sometimes deal with heat and humidity? Of course. And if you focus on the negative, that’s exactly what you get–a negative experience.

But what if you looked at the awesomeness around you? Really LOOK at the attractions, look at the incredible details, the colors, the artistic method. LISTEN to the sounds, the music, the ambiance. The Imagineers created that, for YOU. They created that for YOUR family. To enjoy, to experience, to feel, taste, hear and smell. Those that love Disney can feel, what I am describing. We relive those memories when real life brings us down.

Shop Disney Parks items at shopDisney.com!

One of my favorite memories was the second time I had ever been at Disneyland in 2010. It was the first time our boys had been to the Park, but our girls had already been there. As we walked into the Park, Pluto stopped us for a photo Op. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Just look at the sheer bliss on their faces. THIS is the “magic” that the Imagineers create in the Parks. It can not be replicated anywhere else, although many have tried.

MERCH AND ENTERTAINMENT

Do I really have to tell anyone that Disney is a master at collecting information on their guests and then providing individual value to them over and over and over based on the information they gained? They’ve got this marketing/sales process nailed. shopDisney.com is a Disney Addicts dream come true. A nightmare for their bank accounts, mostly, but an oasis of cool items that we just “Have to have!” I have watched as people make entire online businesses just promoting the Disney Brand. Its incredible that a large company can not only provide value to their own guests, but also support entrepreneurs as well.

I shamelessly promote the Disney brand too. I purchased some Disney Halloween Crocs, Masks and a Halloween Loungefly backpack a few weeks ago (see pic). I went to the Mall and so many people mentioned my outfit: “OMG! You are so adorable!” “Your outfit is to DIE for!” ” I work at the Croc store and I haven’t seen those yet!” I mean come on, twist my arm to be a walking billboard for Disney with all these random compliments! It is a TOTAL conversation starter, in a world where we really aren’t engaging with strangers anymore. It connects us in a way that is unexpected and welcomed. And sorry, not sorry, their stuff IS quite adorable!

Don’t even get me started on the the pins, Spirit Jersey’s, and “Limited Edition” Merch. Last year, the Spirit Jersey (a sweatshirt-type long sleeved shirt, named a “spirit jersey”) was so cute. But it sold out QUICK, we couldn’t find it anywhere in the parks. I ended up leaving without one and I was so upset. This prompted me to purchase the Christmas Spirit Jersey for me and Grumpy, as soon as they showed up on ShopDisney. I am not ashamed to say that Disney played me like a piano concerto on that one. The pic below is this year’s Spirit Jersey. I am not fan, but they are popular.

https://cdn-ssl.s7.disneystore.com/is/image/DisneyShopping/5815058381700

BOTTOM LINE…

The thing is, with Disney Merch, you want to bring some of that Park magic home. You want to feel like you did when you were in the Park, with your family, on vacation, having fun and leaving the world behind. It takes you away from COVID, politics, division, fires, accidents and death. All of which, our family has experienced in the past month. Disney helps you escape to your “Happy” place, even if just for a few minutes. Even if the Parks aren’t open, or if you can’t get there. It invokes a sense of calm in a chaotic world of negativity. It makes you remember, for just a few minutes, that there have been better days behind, but that if you believe, there will be better days ahead. What do you believe?

Just remember: “Nothing is impossible.”

For full transparency, this is blog contains affiliate links and I may receive a small commission if you purchase any items. You do not pay me, shopDisney.com pays me for sending you to them. Its a win-win-win: I get the commission, you get the item and Disney gets your business!

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Throwback Thursday – Disneyland 2008

Sometimes, there are vacations you take and you have no idea that your life is about to change forever. This was my experience during our very first trip to Disneyland in 2008. I had no idea what “The Year of a Million Dreams” promotion meant, but it was the experiences that happened during this trip that changed our lives forever. And secured our love and passion for the Walt Disney Company.

It was “The Year of a Million Dreams” promotion at Disneyland. I had no reference point to understand what that meant, as I had never been there before. Grumpy grew up in Oregon and had family in California, so he knew what Disneyland was all about. As a matter of fact, he drove down to Disneyland after he graduated from High School.

But this was my first time and we were taking our girls, Samantha (8) and Emily (6) for the first time, too . We went in March hoping the crowds would be less and the weather would be nice. That worked out well, as both turned out to be the case. Little did I know that I was in for a great surprise as, we were gifted a “dream” and didn’t realize until afterwards.

The Princess Experience – One of the “Million Dreams

The girls were the perfect age for a Princess experience, but we weren’t sure where to go or what we needed to do. As we were walking down Main Street, we stopped a friendly Cast Member to ask for directions and to get some expert insight into where we could “find” the Princesses. The Cast Member explained that Princess Greeting didn’t start until a couple hours later. He then handed us tickets to go to the area sooner. He told us that these special tickets would get us in.

We headed over to the Princess Fair, showed our tickets to the Cast Member at the door and were brought right into the area. There was no one there; Just us and one or two other families. We thought, “There must be some mistake.” But then the Princesses started to walk down the isle and onto the stage: Snow White, Ariel, Belle, and Aurora, there may have been more, but these are the ones I remember. The Cast Members ushered us up onto the stage with the Princesses and encouraged us to get our autograph books and cameras out. We not only met ALL of the Princesses; we were able to have 1:1 time with each of them. The girls signed autographs, took pictures, and had an amazing time.

Once we were finished chatting leisurely with the Princesses, we walked out of the area, and as we rounded the building, saw a HUGE line to get into the show, which started in fifteen minutes. It was then that I realized we had been gifted one of the million dreams. The Princess that hour was Aurora. So, all those people were waiting to sit in the theater to see ONE Princess, when we were able to see them ALL.

In retrospect, I wished we would have taken more pictures, or video. But we literally had no idea how special this experience was.

The girls with Snow White 2008

As a parent, you always want your child(ren) to be able to experience things that they will always remember. You never think that its you that needs to witness something special, something unique, something just for them that will change your perspective forever. That year, with this experience, Disney gifted me a lifetime of experiences and memories.

Next week, I will continue the story of the year of Million Dreams with another story of how and why I got hooked on Disney.  

Stay tuned for more Throwback Thursday Stories of “Da Hayden” Family!

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Wicked Wednesdays (Villains) – The Evil Queen at the Oogie Party

Oogie Boogie Party September 2019

Ok, Let’s talk VILLAINS! Last year Grumpy & I (and a group of our adult friends) attended the Oogie Boogie Bash in Disney’s California Adventure. It was AMAZING on so many levels, but the real cool part was the character interactions. I think that the way Disney handled the characters at this party, will become an intricate part of how we will see character greetings going forward. This would meet the new COVID safely precautions and still offer a great experience. Basically, the Villain, was “on stage” performing, but also interactive with the guests.

Grumpy get his pic with the Evil Queen

For example, we were walking near Grizzly Rapids and saw that there was some action going on behind the ride. We followed the treat line (basically trick-or-treating) and there on a stage of books was the Evil Queen! We tried to slip past unnoticed, but she wasn’t having it!

Grumpy was dressed as Captain Barbosa and I was dressed as a Pirate (see pic below). She first commented on the fact that there were other villains (pirates to be exact) in the vicinity, so people shouldn’t be judging her. As we attempted to sneak past with our goodies, she was like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa Barbosa! Where exactly do you think you are going without taking a picture of me? How dare you?” So he nervously stopped to take this pic. He liked the attention, although he would never admit it!

Vee and Grumpy “da Hayden Pirates”

There were many other Villains that night and all of them were just as sassy and engaging and creepy in their own way. We enjoyed every minute of it.

On a side note: because we were dressed as pirates, we had to go over to Disneyland and ride Pirates, AS Pirates. It was one of the best experiences that we have had at the Parks. We sort of felt like celebrities; and since one of our friends (Mike) dressed up like a “Plaid” people really weren’t sure if we were celebrities or not. We highly recommend it!

NEWS From Walt Disney World Resort

By: Disney DestinationsJuly 7, 2021

As we continue to take a measured and deliberate approach to reopening our Disney Resort hotels, we are happy to share we will start accepting bookings on July 8, 2021 for: 

  • Disney’s All-Star Music Resort for arrivals beginning Sept. 16
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside for arrivals beginning Oct. 14
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter for arrivals beginning Oct. 28
  • Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort for arrivals beginning Dec. 9

We are excited to continue welcoming Guests to hotels that have recently opened, like Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, and are busy preparing Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort for arrivals to begin on July 19 and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge on Aug. 26. 

With this news, all Walt Disney World Resort hotels will be open by the end of 2021 and we look forward to welcoming more Guests to the magic over the next several months!

Life Changer (the heart attack) Vee is now a certified Travel Advisor!

On May 16, I had a heart attack. I know right?! At 49-years young, the gregarious, veracious Vanessa Hayden suffered a heart attack. Unbelievable!

However, in the scariest moments of that event, I never once regretted anything in my life. How many people can actually face death and come away knowing, that you have lived your life as you would have. That you have no regrets? That you have accomplish all that you wanted and even more?

Well, I did.

Do you want to know what I thought about in those moments? I thought about the beautiful life my husband (Grumpy) and I have built. I thought about all of the family vacations I planned and executed so that my kids would have a lifetime of memories. I thought about the stories my kids tell (now as young adults and teenagers) from our times at Disneyland, Disney World and the Disney Cruise line. And other trips where we were exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest: The Columbia River Gorge, Eagle Crest in Redmon, Seaside, and Depoe Bay.

I honestly also thought about my new granddaughter, who had not yet been born. I wanted to meet her and show her all about the wonderful World of Disney and the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

I have plans, I have work to do, my time here is not finished! That was the message I heard loud and clear.

One of the best stories the kids tell, is about the time on the Disney Dream when Grumpy and I decided to run a 5K on Castaway Cay (Disney’s Private Island). The story goes that the girls (who were teenagers at the time) “busted” the boys out of the kids club and they went to The Enchanted Garden Dining area and proceeded to help themselves to a buffet breakfast. But after they sat down, and started eating, they were worried that they would have to pay for the meal. Especially since they were being waited on by a real waiter, such luxury must cost something! Of course, they made Zack, the youngest, ask the waiter if there was a charge for the meal. Much to their relief, the wait staff explained that dining options are all included in their cruise fare. That 5-star Disney service extends to kids as well. They still laugh when they tell this story. I am grateful that they have the story to tell.

The Hayden Family Boarding the Disney Cruise

The bottom line is, when you are faced with a live changing event, you re-evaluate everything. In my revelations, I decided to become a certified travel advisor. I have thought about it for years, and with a corporate job and four kiddos and all their activities, I was just a little busy. No, really, I was super busy. But I am letting go of the excuses, the fear and the limited beliefs. I am doing this!

I still have the corporate job and that isn’t going to change anytime soon, but I wanted to build something that I have passion around; something that I could share with others; something that I could use my skillset, talent, and knowledge to help other families feel the same joy that I have felt over the years. I want to help other families build their “deathbed” non-regrets–a lifetime of wonderful family vacation memories. Travel is my answer.

So about a week ago, I signed with a host agency (KHM Travel) and started training to learn about my favorite brands as a travel advisor. I am now certified to sell Disney, Sea World, Universal, Southwest Airlines and many many more.

Call to ACTION: If you know me, you know I always have a call to action. What does that mean? It means get off your booty and DO SOMETHING! I want you to reflect on your life.

Have you done the things you want to do or are you “waiting for the perfect time”. Waiting for more money, waiting for the right job, waiting for the sun to set? I implore you, as someone that looked death in the face and walked away, DO NOT WAIT! Pull the trigger, call that travel agent, book that trip, make that call, act like Nike and “Just Do It”!

If you would like to know more about why you should use a travel agent AC (After COVID) or if you would like me to send you a quote for that “once in a lifetime” trip, send me an email. I am more than happy to help you decide if getting a travel agent is the right plan for you. And I would be honored to be YOUR travel advisor!

GrumpyAndVee@gmail.com

Life Happens! The good, the bad, the ugly

Why have we been MIA for the past several months

As you can see, it has been a several months since I posted anything to the blog or vlog. The point is, amidst the COVID Pandemic, we have had some traumatic events in our family, let’s call them “Adventures”, that really took me off kilter. I wanted you, my Peeps, to know and understand that this blog/vlog is important to me, but one of my core values is family, as it should be. Family always comes first, so when I describe what has happened to our family, you will understand why the blog and vlog have moved to the back burner for the last few months. The good news is, I am finding my writing “legs” again, so I will pick up where I left off, with the following explanation.

Some of the last posts and videos were of my birthday trip to Great Wolf Lodge in August. That was an awesome, close to home and safe option to celebrate my birthday with my boys. We had a blast, but the honeymoon was soon to be over.

Zack, Vee and Dustin – August 2020

On August 31st, my 14-year-old Dustin (pictured on the right above) was in a bicycle accident. He was transported by ambulance to the Children’s Trauma unit here in town. He was placed in a medically induced coma (complete with a pediatric ventilator that was breathing for him) and was in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit for a night. Miraculously, and by powers that the medical teams cannot explain, he walked out of there the next day. To say we were lucky is an understatement, and we are grateful. He has some remaining brain injury healing to do, but all in all we were super lucky.

As many of you are parents, you really cannot imagine the emotional toll this type of injury takes on your soul. Watching helplessly as teams of people fight to keep your child alive is not something any parent should have to witness. I left a piece of my soul at that hospital that day and thank my lucky stars that we escaped reasonably unscathed. That alone would set most people back on their blogs/vlogs.

Then on September 18, a mere two weeks later, my father-in-law, Fred Hayden, lost his battle with lung cancer. He was the patriarch of our family. A fun loving, smart and loveable man that we loved more than words can say. And although we knew he was nearing the end, we did not know how deep the emotions would run, especially with our kids. You cannot prepare your children for the death of someone they loved so deeply. The cut ran wide and deep, and we struggled as a family. We still struggle with his loss through the holidays. Things just are not the same without him.

But wait, there’s more! On November 3rd, my brother was rushed to the emergency room for urgent gall bladder surgery. My brother is the primary caretaker for my father, who is 88-years old with advanced stage Alzheimer’s. So as my brother struggled for his life with multiple complications from his ruptured gall bladder, the caretaking for my father rested on our shoulders. We moved him into our home and Took care of his until Christmas. My brother’s recovery was slow.

Finally, a bit of good news came to the home front when our daughter Samantha announced that she would be having a baby this Summer. After 18-weeks, we now know that it will be a baby girl. I have named her Baby Bella, her parents have yet to decide on a name, but Izabella is in a strong lead! You can imagine the joy we felt to know that we would soon be “Grumpy and Grammy-Ness”!

The point is, these are not excuses, this is life, and these are our true adventures. The good, the bad, and sometimes ugly.  I am thankful every day for the blessings we have been given through all of these traumatic events. After all, you can only see the light during the darkness. And these were some dark, dark days, especially during a pandemic.

I want to be crystal clear; I am not apologizing for not keeping up with the blog/vlog. I am also not seeking sympathy. I simply want our followers to know what has happened. I stand firm that my family comes first, always. And if that means cutting a vacation short or putting everything else on hold, then so be it. My family is and always be my springboard, my muse. They are the reason we started Grumpy and Vee in the first place.

Moral of the story is this: Life happens. It happens to every one of us. Good things. Bad things. And Ugly things. Eventually, you move past it. Eventually, you get back to living… just differently. You learn a new normal. That’s where I am today. In this moment, I felt the need to at least explain why I was MIA for the past several months. So now you know, I thank you in advance for your continued support. Thanks for being here reading the Grumpy and Vee Blog. We appreciate you!  

Minnie Mouse Main Attraction – Second Chance!

If you received the “Dear John” Letter from Disney for the Minnie Mouse Main Attraction Big Thunder Mountain Merchandise, you have another chance Wednesday, September 23, 2020 @ 7am to get your items. Use this link below.

https://www.anrdoezrs.net/click-100225291-13949442

For full transparency, this is an affiliate link and I may receive a small commission if you purchase items. You do not pay me, Disney pays me for sending you to them. Its a win-win: I get the commission, you get the item and Disney gets your purchase!

Great Wolf Lodge (Grand Mound, WA) First Impressions

We were supposed to go to Disneyland for a short three-day get away for my birthday. However, we had to cancel that trip one week before our departure date due to a family emergency. As we figured out how to handle the family situation and things stabilized, I decided I still wanted to have fun on my birthday, just closer to home. So, I booked one night/two days at the Great Wolfe Lodge in Grand Mound, Washington. It was the Hayden Party of 3: My two teen-aged boys (13 & 14) and myself on this trip. We had plenty of time to explore the Lodge, eat at some restaurants and enjoy the water park.

These are my first impressions of the Lodge, activities and general vibe of the place, as I have never been there before. To be clear, I am NOT getting any kick backs or commission for this review. I am not in anyway connected to The Great Wolf Lodge or any of its partners or affiliates. This is just a helpful blog for inquiring minds that want to know, like I did.

Grand Mound, Washington

I rate all of my travel experiences on a school grading scale: A+ being exceptional, down to an F, which mans this institution needs serious improvements.

Overall Grade: A

When we checked in, I was told that the hotel was at 60% capacity due to COVID, so we were able to enjoy shorter wait times, great parking, and a standard room, which we scheduled one week before we arrived.

When we were driving up to the Lodge, I have to say it was impressive. This resort is half-way between Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. It is in a small Pacific Northwest town, but not off the beaten path; it is literally right off of I-5, the main Interstate highway on the West Coast. You can see the huge water slide “Howlin’ Tornado” from the highway. We also took a pit stop at the Centrailia Outlet stores a few miles down the road to the South, so that was also an added plus.

I was pleasantly surprised by the vibe at the lodge. Let’s be clear, I kept reminding myself that there was a world wide health pandemic happening, but I genuinely felt safe. I will have another blog/vlog regarding the COVID safety measures the Lodge implemented. But overall, the feel of the lodge, the theming, the amenities, the activities and the food were on par with expectations.

Price:Grade: C

It is not cheap to spend a few days at a Resort with a water park, I’m not even going to sugar coat it. We were able to get a 30% discount and still ended up paying $230 a night, add in taxes and resort fees ($60) and you’re looking at $300 for one night. Of course, they up-sale you, even online while you are checking in, too. So, if you add anything (like a Wolf Pass), you start with a $400 bill before your vacation even begins, for only one night. YIKES!

However, you can access the water park at 1:00 pm on the day of check-in and stay until park close (8:00 pm) on day of check-out, which is a huge benefit. If you want to optimize your spend, then plan for two full days to get the most bang for your buck. So the per night dollar amount hurts slightly less when you add all that you are paying for.

My invoice for one night, three guests with Wolfe passes and food

Check-in Process Grade: B+

I attempted to check in on the app, however, since I decided to change from a debit card to a credit card at the last minute, they I kinda broke the system. The app didn’t work for me. But I called the resort and they were great. They explained the check-in process, which by the way is to leave your kids in the car so there are less people in the lobby. This not only made check-in a breeze, but gave me peace of mind, knowing they had the best interest of my family in mind.

The gal at check-in also asked me if we were celebrating anything. When I told her I was celebrating my birthday, she promptly gave me a birthday button. It was a nice touch.

Birthday Button

While you are checking, they will try to up-sell you on some of the amenities. I upgraded from a Paw Pass to a Wolf Pass- $20 for each pass upgrade for an additional $49 on the bill (with tax). A choice I was willing to make. I was already thinking of doing it anyway and the gal at the front desk was very informative, but not pushy which is very important to me.

You need to also know that while you are doing these Pass activities with your kids, they again try to up sell you to the next level. This is not the sleazy “cruise ship spa” type of up-sell though, there’s no pressure. They offer the information, and if you say no thanks, conversation is over. I can guess if you had younger kids, they may beg for some of those items (clothes for the stuffed animal, more candy etc). I went with teen-aged boys, so if I wasn’t willing to shell out more money, I just gave them “the look” and they knew what the deal was.

Great Wolf Lodge App/Website/WIFI Grade: C+

They have an app that has special discount codes and coupons. Advice here is to stick to the budget, but look for deals on the app.

The app would be great if it actually worked. It didn’t for me in the areas I needed it to: for pre-check in, for example. So, I ended up checking in at the front desk. However, once checked in, it’s great for reminders of activities, menus, and some discounts. For those purposes, I recommend downloading the app prior to your arrival to use on-site.

The website is better for research and pre-arrival information. I ended up using the website before and after our stay for more details. If you’d like to avoid aggravation, I suggest sticking to the website.

The WIFI was a little spotty. There were times when it was sluggish. Not a huge deal by any means, just annoying. First world problems, right?

Theme of Lodge: A+

I absolutely LOVED the theming. It’s like an old cabin in the woods with Forrest animals and the like. Log tables, benches and beds throughout. It is consistent and charming. Sconces, lighting, art work and rugs were all appropriately themed. And how fitting that it’s in the Pacific Northwest, so when you look outside, those beautiful Douglas Fir Trees match the theming inside!

Service and Staff Grade: B

Every staff member we encountered was pleasant and competent. If they were in training, their name tag noted that they were in training. However, this score could jump exponentially higher if staff were trained on the “little details”. For example, if someone is wearing a Birthday button (especially children) acknowledge it, preferably before they mention it themselves. I was wearing a birthday button and mentioned to the staff member that it was my birthday. She was quick to offer me a birthday button, until I told her I was already wearing one. It made me feel like she never even saw me. Not good in a service role. That little extra something could have make a huge difference.

Also, the connection between staff for lost and found was clunky. I lost my favorite Disney Food and Wine zip-up hoodie at the water park. I went to the front desk to inquire after the water Park had closed, they didn’t have it at the front desk, so they told me to check first thing in the morning at the water park. I did as instructed and went to the water park lost and found the very next day and the hoodie wasn’t there. They told me to check the front desk. I did this back and forth twice, desperate to find my beloved hoodie. Wouldn’t it be easier for staff to communicate with each other with technology (aka phone) rather than have the guests running all over the resort? As I was checking out, I inquired again, one last time and the gal told me to submit a claim online. Again, just a slight detail that could have made the guest experience a wee bit better. I did submit the claim. I have received two text messages about my claim since. Hopefully, some good Samaritan with a conscious turned it in. Fingers Crossed.

Special activities Grade: A

Due to the COVID, the hotel was at 60% capacity. My boys were able to complete and obtain almost everything on their Wolf Pass (five separate activates and 6 special items throughout the Lodge) the very first day! We rode all of the big slides at the water park multiple times, and had a blast! I will be doing a separate blog/vlog on the Wolf Pass.

The arcade “Northern Lights Arcade” was empty, we walked right into Howl at the Mood Glow Golf (in-door mini-golf), MagiQuest, Oliver’s mine, Build a Beat and the Candy Shop.

By the way, as stated before, you have access to the Lodge (water park and all) at 1:00 pm on day of check-in! And on you day of check out until the water park closes, which at the time of publication is 8:00 pm. So you can leverage your time at the resort. Just be careful to stick to your budget because everything costs money.

Overall First Impression Grade: A

I had a great time spending my birthday at Great Wolf Lodge; My boys also had fun and it appeared that all the families we saw were having a good time.

Million Dollar Question: Is it worth it?!

You bet! My only regret is that I didn’t do this sooner when my kids were younger and my whole family was together.

My advice: If you have ever thought about going to Great Wolf Lodge and you were on the fence or thought it was too much money: Do it now before time slips away and leaves you wishing you had taken the time and spent the money!

What’s all the Hype about this Disney Merch?

Loungefly Mini Back Packs: Why are People Going Crazy Over These Things?

https://www.ftjcfx.com/widget-5f347319832108dee1109ce1-100180141?target=_top&mouseover=Y

This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something we may earn a commission.

The DisneyParks Loungefly Mini Back Packs are adorable, functional and an absolute must-have in the parks. They are super helpful for busy Moms and are priced at a point where you aren’t draining your bank account, but aren’t buying garbage either.

Last March, Grumpy and I took the family to Disneyland for Spring Break. My two teenage daughters and I kept seeing these mini-back packs everywhere and thought they were adorable. We each scoped out the designs we liked: Samantha liked the Guardians of the Galaxy, Emily liked the Dole Whip and I went with Red the Pirate. What we didn’t understand at the time, was how this would become a quick addiction. We Love, Love, Love them!

Why We Love Them!

  • SUPER CUTE designs – as you can see from the pictures in this post, these back packs come in various designs. There is virtually a different bag for every Disney lover (and several designs for some of us!) I currently own the following: Pirates of the Caribbean – Pirate Red, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean (see pic)s, Minnie Mouse Main Attraction – Peter Pan (which was a MerchPass purchase (video), Brave – Merida and the three brother bears and Wonder Woman (which I’m not even sure is a Disney Loungefly) but is absolutely GORGEOUS and Grumpy picked out for me, so I have to mention it.

Functional – I love how functional and versatile this bag is. It’s called a “mini” back pack, but there is nothing “mini” about it. As a matter of fact, I purchased a little bag to go inside to hold things that can get “lost” in the bottom of the bag (like chap-stick, gum, etc) I literally carry my phone, wallet, extra masks, sunglasses, a fuel rod, tissues, ear buds, han-itizer, snacks, my little bag for make up and “unmentionables” for those bags without an inside pocket. This thing can even hold a water bottle!

The dual strap back-pack style also distributes the weight, so if you go wild with packing stuff in it (and it is easy to do) it won’t throw you off balance and even better, its easier on your back. I personally like to have two hands to do things (busy Moms can relate I am sure). I always need an extra hand to carry groceries, grab a kid and shut a car door. The dual strap designs gives me the freedom to do this. There is also a “loop” on the top, which comes in handy for attaching han-itizer and masks. Which as we all know is necessary in our “new normal” world of COVID.

Now, you have to look carefully at the bag before you purchase. Some bags have a larger front zip pocket, while others have two side pockets. But I have not owned one that had both. It is a preference, but either can hold your phone, glasses, or keys.

Price: Now these bags are not as pricey as many other purses, but the for average Jane, it might be a little much for a “back-pack” with “pleather.” Regular price on ShopDisney – $80-$95. The price depends on the design and intricacy of that design. Some sequin designs are in the higher price range, And by higher I mean $80-$90 range.

They do go on sale, if the design isn’t selling. You just don’t know what you might find, so keep looking. You can find them discounted at BoxLunch -($50 – $75) and I even found one at the Fuego in my local mall. But the popular designs sell out FAST, so if you see a design you absolutely LOVE, buy it quickly because they can sell out in hours.

The one warning I would give you, is that these things are just like Pringles, “You can’t just have one”. So if you buys one and love it, get your checkbook ready for “bag 2, 3, 4 oh no my dear! I have to have more!” I am not kidding on this. One look at the Disney Facebook Groups and you will know what I mean. I have 5 of these puppies and those folks make me look like an amateur!

Bottom line is that these mini backpacks are absolutely adorable, reasonably priced and great small backpack for the Parks or everyday.

You can click on the ShopDisney icon below to start your collection now! Or start on your Holiday shopping list today!

Do you own a Loungefly mini back-pack? Comment below to tell us what you love about them.

Top 10 Carry-on items for travel during COVID

As you may know from my previous Blog post, the Hayden family will be traveling to California from Oregon in a little more than three weeks. In preparation for that trip, I needed to think about what we needed to pack. Specifically, what carry-on items did we need for the airplane. There is no doubt that COVID has changed the way we travel.

In that spirit, I created a downloadable checklist for anyone that is traveling at this time.

You can download it here:

woman sitting on luggage
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

I Just Booked a Disneyland Resort trip for 4, under $105!

Are You considering taking a short trip to California to get your Disney fix? Don’t do anything until you read this post!

Let me start off this blog by stating that I am a Project Manager by trade and a Virgo. In other words, I NEVER do anything spontaneous, or without a plan. As a matter of fact, Grumpy has told me for YEARS to “stop project managing our lives”. So, to even think about what I am writing here is crazy on a level that I can never fully tell you about.

BUT! I wanted to spontaneously fly down to Disneyland for my birthday in August. I know, I know, the parks aren’t open due to COVID and California is leading the nation in COVID cases at this moment in time.

BUT…

I simply wanted to be able to walk down the sidewalk IN Downtown Disney, hear the music, see the sights and be THERE. My Disney Peeps get it, right? I wanted to have dinner at one of my favorite dining spots in Anaheim (Bubba Gump Shrimp, we don’t have those in Portland) and enjoy myself for a few days. Maybe take a swim in the hotel pool with my boys or enjoy a Pacific Coast sunset on the beach.

Grumpy and I are also new Disney Bloggers. We wanted to experience travel and share that experience with our readers and followers. We wanted to gain insight into how things were working during COVID for travelers that want to know. We wanted to take video and pictures and do live Feeds!

But mostly, I just wanted to blow a bunch of money in World of Disney on over-priced items that I probably don’t need… If I am being completely honest!

Step 1: Hotel: A Place to Crash at Night

The first step was to check to see if my Worldmark timeshare had availability. I was looking for the day before my birthday, the day of my birthday and the day after. This year my birthday falls on a Wednesday, so that’s great. We were more likely to be able get a room one month out and during the week rather than on a weekend.

They had availability! So, I booked the room.

Since everything is online these days, there could be other people trying to get the room you want. Early Bird Gets the Worm is a good slogan to live by. Even during COVID!

I also called the resort to ensure that the amenities would still be available and to understand protocol for using the pool, the jacuzzies, gym etc. Disappointment happens in that gap between what you expected and what actually happens; I didn’t want my family to be disappointed with a sub-par experience. Setting expectations up front goes a long way in this strange new COVID world.

  • Hotel – $64 – DONE
Worldmark Anaheim

Step 2: FLIGHTS: We’re Leaving, on a Jet Plane…

So, pre-COVID I traveled for work to California pretty much once a month. I have quite a few airline miles that are in that “use it or lose it” category. I am proud to say, I fly Southwest. They are a no-frills airline, yet I rarely have issues when I fly with them.

I checked to see how much flights would be to the four area airports: Los Angeles (LAX), Burbank (BUR). Santa Ana/John Wayne Airport (SNA) or Long Beach (LNG). My preferred airport to fly into is always SNA, but Long Beach has impressed me, and its super close, so either one would have been fine. The flights were dirt cheap—I’m talking $49 one way!  WHAT?  I know, right?!

BUT! I was going to use my airline miles! The flights were so cheap, the required points were less than what I had in my account. In other words, all I had to pay for was $11 in taxes/fees for each passenger. $44 Total!

  • FLIGHTS – $44 – DONE

Step 3: Anxiety Attack and Social Media Guidance

I did it, I pulled the trigger on hotel and flights and then I had “middle-of-the-night” anxiety attacks for several days. I mean, what was I thinking? What if one of my boys got sick? How selfish was I being? Why do I need to go now, during the middle of a World Pandemic? How would I live with myself if something happened?

I could hear my older sister’s voice in my head saying, “What are you crazy?! You are willing to put your whole family in danger, for what? A BLOG?! That is the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.” She used to be a nurse, so she would not cut me any slack if I told her about it. None. Zero. Zippo!

I was second guessing my every decision. The angel/demon thing was in full affect:

Angel: “You are saving so much money! Its going to be a blast!”

Demon: “Yeah, it’s all fun and games until someone gets COVID! Sounds like fun! And then the hospital bills. Yep! Come on down!”

Angel: “Its ok, you know how to be safe: wash your hands, keep a safe social distance, cover your face. Be strategic. Be Smart.”

Demon: “Like that’s gonna work. You haven’t been out in public since March! Get a grip!”

Yep, I was freaking myself out a little bit, so, I did what any social media guru would do: I started a Facebook poll and asked a bunch of Disney Peeps what their thoughts were. On July 31st, I posted this:

“If you could fly your family of 4 (Mom, Dad and two teenage boys) to Long Beach California for  a $44 stay in a 2-bedroom suite, only ¼ mile from Disneyland this August (2020) Total trip cost of $104 – not counting spending money, just flights and hotel. Knowing full well that all you’d get to do is Downtown Disney, and other Cali stuff, for your birthday; Would you do it?”

The results are below as of the time of me typing this blog:

YES: 270; NO: 119; Are you Crazy, um COVID: 109

Total No’s = 228; Total Yes’ = 270 (and the no’s had 2 chances!)

There was a ton of comments and discussion on this topic. People had their opinions, that’s for sure! Some others had already done it and offered tips. Some wanted to know where we lived and if we would be bringing the disease to California. Some gave other options:  go to the State Parks instead or attend the Knott’s Farm food event. Still, other folks gave helpful tips like: Public restrooms might not be open, or make sure you get dinner reservations and check ahead. Everyone was respectful and helpful. But most of all the topic seemed important to all.

What did we decide?

We are going! There are bold chances that you have to take sometimes in life. Even if no one else understands, or agrees, you just have to go for it. “YOLO” my kids tell me! Maybe it’s just to prove to myself that I can be spontaneous; maybe it’s to throw caution to the wind after being quarantined for 4 months; or maybe it’s to just be able to say, “I did it!”

I am sure there will be many more nights where I stay up wondering if I am making the right decision. Worrying if I will regret it. But in this moment, my heart is set on going to California and standing at the gates of the “Happiest Place on Earth” on my birthday!

In a mask…

Slathered in Hand-Sanitizer…

Keeping a safe 10-feet away from strangers…