As all good things must come to an end, today I'm wrapping up this little mini-series on Disney.  There is SO.MUCH.MORE I could write about, but then I'd be bordering on becoming a Disney blog, and well - no thank you. My crafty/DIY soul is already itching to share some projects I've finished this month.  I have no doubt though that there will be more posts where these have come from as time goes on since I've confessed to the internet world my love of all things Disney.

What better way to end the series than to give you a checklist of final details to help for your families vacation?  

To Memory Maker or not Memory Maker.  I'm not going to lie.  This is expensive, especially when I can easily take my own pictures.  But like many of you, I'm not usually in them.  Occasionally I'll trust a stranger long enough to snap a family picture and pray everyone has their eyes open & looking at the camera.  This is certainly a perk to using Disney's photo service.  There are photographers set up in all the "perfect picture" spots.  They will take pictures with characters both in autograph sessions & at character meals. Plus rides with photos are included.  Just scan your Magic Band (or ticket) at the end of the photo session to link them to your account.

One of many Memory Maker/PhotoPass pictures from our last trip - and I'm in a family photo! Praise the good Lord!

One of many Memory Maker/PhotoPass pictures from our last trip - and I'm in a family photo! Praise the good Lord!

But if you plan to go, go, go, & not frequently stop for pictures, then it may not be a smart money move.  As much as I love the idea of this, my wallet usually revolts (as of this writing, advance purchase is $149, on arrival is $169).  Only once has my crowd paid for the PhotoPass service, when my whole extended family traveled together (10 folks, 4 families).  We linked our MyDisneyExperience accounts, and then all the pictures any of us had taken were available to the one person who had paid for MemoryMaker.  Only that person has the ability to download the pictures, but then they can share them with the whole group (FYI you have access for 45 days).  If you are considering it, decide before you go & you'll save $20 - it's the cost of 5 Dole Whips saved!  

Bounty with Dawn Paper Towels. The last three trips to WDW I've been toting around formula bottle & sippy cups.  You want to know what's not fun to clean at the end of a hot day?  Milk cups.  Gah.  Before our last cruise I discovered these Dawn-infused paper towels & I will never travel without them to WDW again.  Even if you are sans kids, the refillable mugs that come with the dining plan (or that you can buy on their own) can get a little nasty with only water rinses, so this is the perfect way to do a quick and easy clean up.  I fold a few up and toss them in a ziploc in my bag each day so I'm ready for a clean up at any minute!

Extra Magic Hours.  I have a love/hate relationship with these guys.  If you stay on property, there is the option to enter certain parks early (or stay late) on certain days.  If you are not staying at WDW, I'd generally recommend avoiding a park that has morning EMH (especially if you are going on a non-park hopper ticket).  They get really crowded early and you can start your day with even longer lines.  Though I now have a tot who requires bedtime before midnight, I doubt I'll be taking advantage of evening EMH any time soon, but thats the way to go.  The park clears out a ton the later it gets & the lines for some of the best rides become tiny!  Plan to sleep in the next day & shut the park down if you can - you can even get the chance to see "The Kiss Goodnight" (the castle twinkles while 'When You Wish Upon A Star' plays...amazing picture opportunity).

Parent Switch.  I'll be honest - Disney does a terrible job of advertising this service.  There aren't many rides that smaller kids can't ride at the parks, but they do exist.  If the parents both want to ride, for example, Space Mountain, ask the attendant at the entrance for a Rider Switch Pass, then the other parent waits with the kid(s) thats too short (or afraid) to ride.  When they return, the first parent to ride hands off the pass to parent two who can then ride.  If you've got grandparents in tow, then the second parent can take a second person with them to ride.  Click over the Disney's site here for super specific details.  

Fort Wilderness Campfire.  If a character meal isn't in the budget, there's a super easy way to plan to get a similar experience for FREE!  Chip & Dale host a campfire sing-a-long, followed by a movie under the stars.  They sell little smokes kits, or you can easily pack your own from home, then you get a cozy character experience.  It starts at 8pm most nights, but you can check the schedule using the link above.

Fold Up Laundry Bag from the Dollar Store.  Cynthia referred to this as well, helping to keep the hotel room tidy a few posts back.  I started bringing one for the same reason, but it's actually been a life saver for me as far as packing goes.  I toss everyones dirty stuff together, and then when it's the last night & time to start packing for home, I check pockets/zip pants/etc and pack all the dirty stuff in one suitcase.  Then when I get home it is SO EASY to begin the dreaded job of post-vacation laundry.  

Autograph Books.  Sure the ones Disney sells are cute and small and easy to tote.  But I can honestly say as a kid I never pulled mine out to look at it between trips.  Earlier this year I made a larger version using the Disney Character Encyclopedia (affiliate link) I found on Amazon and my little lady reads it EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.  I should probably be ashamed by the fact that my not yet 2 year old can name all the mice in Cinderella, and yet can't master using the big girl potty.  It has been a hit in our house & we take it back each trip to get new signatures added.  Click over here to see the full DIY post - it cost me less than $15 for the book & binding to make a lifelong souvenir!  Ours has held up great - 2 trips to WDW & 2 Disney cruises under it's belt & still going strong!

Guys, I hope you've learned something along the way in these last 15 posts.  If you think you missed one or two along the way, the links to each topic in the series can be found here on the Disney Vacation Planning main page.  I'm always happy to answer questions, and who knows - maybe you'll inspire a new Disney post!  

Here's to you having a magical vacation at the Happiest Place on Earth!


DIY Disney Autograph Books

We just returned from our yearly big family pilgrimage to the Happiest Place on Earth and I need a vacation from my vacation.  But in an effort to dwell on only the cutest memories of our trip, I thought I'd share the autograph book I brought with us.  Baby girl is finally catching on to the characters and I had my fingers crossed for lots of amazing character encounters.  Like this one....

I became a mini-celebrity while waiting in line to meet Chip & Dale at Animal Kingdom when a few fellow moms caught sight of it.  Not to brag, but pictures of me & our autograph book went home on a handful of SD disks that day.  So I've got that going for me.

So without further ado....

I bought the Junior Encyclopedia of Animated Characters (Disney-version) on Amazon (as of this writing it's a mere $7.38).  I love that each character has their own page with a few pictures, a mini-synopsis, and plenty of room for a signature.  Baby girl loves books and pictures & I think this will be a great one to have on the shelf & pull out to learn about new friends time & again.  I used the traditional blank page books as a kid - and do you ever remember looking at them after you left the theme park?  Yeah, me either.  I guess time will tell if we actually "read" it later this year.  But it was so fun to have them sign it!

The book itself is hardcover and has a dust jacket.  Check with your local copy shops to make sure they are willing to cut out the pages from a hardback.  I've always used my local Staples to spiral bind my Bible study books without issue.  I learned the hard way that they didn't want to use their blade to cut this, so after a few more stops, I landed at my local FedEx/Kinkos, and for less than $10, I had the final product!

I had them cut & laminate the dust jacket to become the new front & back cover.  If I were going to do this again, I would get them to add in a few blank pages at the end of the book for characters that don't have a page.  The only one we came across on this trip was Rafiki (and as you can see he took over the one blank page we did have).  But don't worry mom's of Frozenaholics, Anna & Elsa each have their own page.  

For less than $20, I have a great book that will last & be used for years (& trips) to come.  To me it was a no brainer since the ones at Disney cost not much less than that!

**Yep, the Amazon links are affiliate links.  When I pass along deals & my favorite things, your purchase helps to support TheHomemadeFig blog.  Happy shopping!