Thursday, September 26, 2019

So, You Want To Run Disney?

So, you've decided to participate in a runDisney event but have no clue where to start? Well, look no further! This comprehensive guide will give all the details you need to know to make your first runDisney event a hit!

Run Disney events come in all shapes, distances, and sizes. In fact, it was runDisney who inspired me to re-lace up my running shoes in the first place. For those who are new here, I used to run cross country in high school. Our distance limit was 2 miles and I thought anyone who ran over that was crazy! Little did I know, nine years later, I would get bitten by the running bug while spectating at the full marathon during Walt Disney World's Marathon Weekend. What began as a "I'm just going to run the half marathon next year and call it quits" has turned into 6 full marathons, 30+ half marathons, and many 10K's and 5K's over the following 10 years.

Once you've made the decision to go for it, where do you begin?  There are several races offered at Walt Disney World throughout the year, races in Disneyland Paris, and a couple of virtual race options to run at home. Once you've decided which race you want to run, the fun can begin!


Registration for the various runDisney races opens approximately 9 months prior to the date of the race. This has been different in the past and is subject to change, so keep an eye out for the individual race you're wanting to register for. A race calendar is usually released by runDisney with all the important dates, so be on the look out for that.

Having an online Disney account will help in the registration process as you will be able to sign in and be ready when registration to opens. (The same login ID used for your Walt Disney World account is the same you will use for runDisney.)

Also, it's important to be online at the start of registration because a lot of these races sell out quickly. For example, my husband likes to do the 10K's (which sell out fast) and I almost missed the window with him on the last registration round. The 10K was literally full and closed for registration within two hours of registration opening - be quick!!

Disney also offers opportunities for the whole family to run! If you have a little one that would like to participate (even infants who crawl), there's literally a race opportunity for everyone!


If you're in need of a training plan, runDisney has connected with Olympian Jeff Galloway and offers different training plans for different experience levels/distances. By utilizing the run/walk method, Jeff has helped many many runners cross the finish line and reach their ultimate goal!

Runners World is also another great place to look for tips, advice, and training plans. In fact, RW is where I started when I began running again.


Apart from the many many race packing tips out there, my main advice to anyone who is flying in for a race is to keep your running shoes on your person - either in your carry on or on your feet. Also, I prefer to pack my race specific outfit in my carry on, just to be safe (because you never know).

If you're planning on participating in a runDisney race challenge (2 races back to back), I'd also suggest bringing along two pair of running shoes. You never know what the weather will be like on race day and if it rains on your 10K day, there's nothing worse than running in soggy shoes on half marathon day.

I've also included two posts - one on packing for a race with air travel and one on packing for a race without air travel.


Apart from the race itself, the Expo is one of my favorite parts of a runDisney weekend. The excitement in the air for the upcoming race weekend is literally palpable and I love it! Oh yes, and who could forget shopping? There's definitely shopping - and lots of it!

When you first arrive at the expo, I suggest heading straight to the bib/shirt area to pick those up first.

Also, if there's a piece of runDisney merchandise you really just have to have, you should arrive early-like opening day of the expo-because merchandise can sell out fairly quickly (if you're into that sort of stuff). Our travel plans have always varied on when we arrive - sometimes things are sold out and sometimes they have plenty of merchandise. You really never know what you're going to arrive to. Apart from runDisney merchandise, many other running companies are out there selling theirs as well. Who knows, you might even find a new piece of gear you didn't know existed!

It's so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the expo because it really can be overwhelming. This happened to me at my first expo and honestly, I did not get to enjoy it much at all. So, go into it knowing there's going to be a lot going on, relax, take your time, and enjoy it!!

The Race

You've made it this far, now it's time for the race itself - the highlight of the runDisney experience!

If you're using runDisney transportation, you'll need to be on a bus early! If the race begins at 5:30 a.m., you'll likely need to be on a bus no later than 3 or 3:30 a.m. Insane, I know - but it's their only way to ensure that all 25,000 (ish) runners make it to the start line. During the Princess Half Marathon last year, I attempted to push the time closer to 4 a.m. and what a mistake - we were caught in terrible traffic and it literally took 45 minutes for us to pull up at the start line. I was definitely cutting it close to the start of the race.

Also, the buses don't drop you off at the start line. For the half and full marathons, you still have about a half mile mile walk ahead of you to the starting corrals, so don't get on a bus too late!

Unless you're planning to PR your runDisney race, don't take it too seriously. I have had some of the best "race moments" of my life, playing around in the Magic Kingdom, taking pictures, and just having fun with friends!

Speaking of pictures, be on the lookout for race photographers. They will be located along the race course, at character stops, and in the parks. If you're an AP holder or you purchased Memory Maker for your trip, these photos will be included on your My Disney Expeirence App at no extra charge! 

As far as characters go, the lines might seem long, but they typically go pretty quickly because runners are basically jumping in, snagging a picture, then running off again. Character interaction is a super fun part of a runDisney race! Also, take the time to enjoy your surroundings. Not many people can say they ran a race through an actual Disney park!

Despite this, I do need to warn that you still need to be mindful of your time during the race. A 16 minute per mile cutoff is put in place as soon as the last runner crosses the start line (which calculates out to a brisk walk.)  Throughout the race, just be mindful of the time, your mileage, and be on the lookout for the balloon ladies! (If you're unfamiliar with the balloon ladies, you can find out all you need to know with a quick google search!)


A few years back, I asked Jason for his best spectator advice and put it all together in a "spectator viewing tips" post. While that post is focused mostly on Marathon Weekend (January races) itself, a lot of the tips remain true for other runDisney race weekends as well.

So, as you can see, runDisney holds a very special place in my heart. Their races are seriously like no other and I'm super excited for those of you who are embarking on their very first runDisney experience! Please drop me an email or message to let me know how your race went and your thoughts regarding the event! I'd love to hear all about it!

Happy running! Have a magical race!

Friday, September 20, 2019

Friday Life Update

Well, it's been a little while and it's mainly because my computer has been down for the count. We aren't sure what happened to it, but it had to be wiped and re-booted from scratch and I still don't quite have all of my programs up and running again. It will be soon, though!

Since we haven't "spoken" in a while, I thought I'd give a little update on how life is going in these parts here lately!

-It's STILL hot. Although the early mornings and late evenings are starting to slowly cool down, it's still oh so hot outside during the day. Hopefully we will have a true fall day here soon. Scratch that - I just heard our meteorologist say that although the first day of fall begins on Monday, it won't feel like it all week. Ah well, one can dream, right?

-My. Child. Is. Growing. Like. A. Weed. He officially turns three and a half next month and it's amazing to watch him grow. His brain seriously soaks up information like a sponge and I'm just amazed at all he's learned (and remembers). Seriously, if you ask him our room number from our June Alaska cruise, he remembers it! His speech has significantly improved since last fall, too. Watching videos from last year at this time makes me scratch my head over the improvement. Every day, we are so thankful for our rowdy, sweet, sensitive, mickey mouse and water puddle loving little boy!

-Physical Therapy. It's still going. Hamstrings are just so slow to heal and although I'm getting there, progress seems so slow sometimes. In the past 12 weeks, I've run one-1 mile run and three-2 mile runs. That's it. For someone who has spent the past 11 years as a runner, this is tough. I know it's necessary, but it's tough. After a little discussion with my PT, it was suggested that I try a treadmill run instead of an outside run, so I did. Thinking about the mechanics of the treadmill vs the ground makes sense and it worked - I didn't have any residual stiffness the following day and I didn't feel as if it set me back. So, I'm going to attempt another 2 mile treadmill run this Saturday to see where I'm at. For the record, I'm not going fast or hard with this and I'm listening to my body the entire way. If I feel anything at all, I stop. The road to recovery is a strange one to say the least and all of my "running" has been physical therapist directed. Hopefully I'll be up and "running" for real, soon.

-Since y'all know I can't sit still - with three months of not running, do you think I've been sitting on the couch watching TV all day? No. Apart from working and spending time with my family, I've cleaned out my entire house from top to bottom. The entire attic (minus Christmas boxes) was sorted through and items were donated or thrown away. Then, my entire house-room by room-drawer by  shelf and container was gone through and cleaned. Items were also either donated or thrown away. Every room also received a thorough clean (including under the beds). I'm sure y'all feel me when I say a good purge feels amazing!

I hope life has been treating all of you just fine! A great way to keep up with our life on a more consistent basis (if you're interested in keeping up with us) is over on instagram. I've also recently published several videos from our August Disney World trip over on YouTube. I hope you all have a fabulous weekend!! Stay kind, friends!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Disney Cruise Line vs Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

I know it seems like ages, but I'm finally back with the last and final portion of my Royal Caribbean Alaskan Cruise recaps (with a little twist)! When we decided to travel with Royal Caribbean on our previous cruise, I had several questions (from my Disney friends) about my thoughts on the differences between the two cruise lines.  After much time and thought, I compiled a list of differences noticed between Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line and put them together here for anyone who's on the fence about either option.

Every single time I sail Disney, I get the same exact questions -
"Wow, that's so expensive!" 
"We can cruise other lines for much cheaper!" 
"What makes Disney so worth the price tag?"

Let me preface this by saying that we immensely enjoyed our time with Royal Caribbean in Alaska and I would do it all again in a heart beat. We were also on an older ship - the Radiance of the Seas. I've never traveled with RCCL otherwise, so I'm not sure how their newer ships match up. To be fair, I'm comparing and contrasting our time on Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas (2000) with our time on Disney's oldest ship (the Disney Magic - 1998) for a better comparison idea. Also to be fair, I need to disclose that we (obviously) love Disney, Disney Cruise Line, are Disney Vacation Club Members, and Gold Castaway Club Members. This was our very first experience with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.

Throughout the cruise though, I noticed those "little extras" added by Disney and jotted them down to remember for later. Some of the differences I noticed are silly and might make some of you roll your eyes, but it's those little differences that make me appreciate Disney Cruise Line so much more!

Room Size

I know you hear this on every cruise line compare and contrast site out there, but I can honestly say it's true. We've been on two non-Disney Cruise Line cruises (the first was Norwegian to Alaska) and yes, it's 100% true - the rooms are definitely bigger on Disney Cruise Line. To compare, we've had the smallest verandah available on DCL and still had a full size pull out couch and large bed in our room. In our verandah on RCCL, we had a large bed but a half-size pull out couch with not much room to walk between any of it once it was all made out for the kid.

Split Bathrooms/Shower-Tub Combo

Having a split bathroom is not common on other cruise lines but not having it on our RCCL cruise really made me miss it! Some staterooms (all except inside staterooms, I believe - someone please correct me if I'm wrong on this) on Disney Cruise Line offer a split bathroom idea - where you have the shower/tub/sink in one side and a potty/sink in the other side. 

The shower on this RCCL ship made me seriously want to cover my eyes with my hands like the little monkey emoji on my phone. There was no tub option - it was basically a very small half-circle in shape with a small lip at the bottom and a shower curtain. Needless to say, it was impossible not to splash water and a hot mess was made every time one of us took a shower. (Insert monkey emoji here.)

Another huge difference in the bathroom area was the shampoo/conditioner/body wash options - you receive all three plus bar soap and lotion on Disney Cruise Line. This variety of options did not exist on RCCL - we had one pump option with a body wash/shampoo combo inside, plus a bar of soap at the sink. I know it's dumb, but I missed my conditioner. Thankfully, I did bring extra!

Music in the Hallways

Ok, I can see you rolling your eyes now. Hear me out though. Walking to and from staterooms down incredibly LONG hallways can get rather boring at times. I absolutely love how Disney Cruise Line pipes themed music into their hallways, whether it's Disney music on a regular sailing or Halloween/Christmas music on a themed sailing - it always makes me walk a little lighter and brings a smile on my face!  You can roll your eyes at me now if you want to. I know this one was silly but it honestly made a noticeable difference to me.

On Demand TV

While sailing on Disney Cruise Line, I realize that you don't spend much time in your rooms, but we love to get ready for the day or unwind at night while playing a variety of Disney movies on our stateroom TV (ones we might not own or haven't seen since we were kids). Cool Runnings for the win! To be fair, I do realize that Disney owns pretty much everything in the entertainment world, but we had literally nothing to watch from our TV in our stateroom on RCCL with the except of one night - we were able to catch an Astros game.


Honestly, I felt as if dining was a high point for RCCL. The servers were just as amazing as you'd expect with Disney and the food was just as great! Although a rotational dining option was not offered, we didn't really miss it and had no problem eating in the same dining room every night of our cruise.  

Stateroom Host

We also loved our stateroom host. He was just as great as hosts we'd had on other Disney cruises and really made sure we had all we needed for our room to be comfortable during our cruise. He also took a liking to our son and loved doing the Baymax fist bump with him (which the stateroom host initiated). It was so cute and a I loved the little touch of Disney!

Pool Towel "Borrow"

Ok, honestly - what in the world is this?! Towel "borrowing" at the pool - y'all, this one seriously threw me for a loop. With this being an Alaskan Cruise, we had the opportunity to swim in the "solarium" pool which meant it was indoors and also nice and warm - a much appreciated opportunity by us all. However, in order to get back to our stateroom, we had to walk outside across the open (and very chilly) deck. On the regular, I would usually just wrap my child in a pool towel and walk him across the deck so his wet swimsuit against the cold Alaskan air wouldn't cause him to freeze. Did I do that?


Why? Because you had to "borrow" pool towels from the pool deck. They would basically swipe your card for each towel you "borrowed" and if you didn't return the towel, they would charge your room $25. Twenty five bucks. For a towel. Yes, I realize this is lazy, but I was on vacation and didn't want to have to traipse from the warm solarium pool out across the cold deck, down the elevator to my room, then back up to the cold pool deck to return a pool towel. Instead, we would "borrow" a towel to dry my kid off, then return it immediately before leaving the pool area. So he didn't freeze while walking across the outdoor pool deck, we would stick him in one of my sweatshirts to stay warm on our journey back to our room. On Disney Cruise Line, I feel as if they hand out pool towels like candy. Because they do. (Insert another eye-covered-monkey emoji here.)

Kids Clubs

Having never experienced the kids clubs on DCL, I can't compare the two, but I do know that my child enjoyed his time at the kids clubs on RCCL. He even came back with his face painted one night which completely floored me that he allowed them to do so!! Please know that the physical rooms of the kids clubs on RCCL (on our ship) do not in any way compare to the decor of the rooms of the kids clubs on DCL (the Magic).  To compare to DCL, the kids clubs rooms on our RCCL ship reminded me of a Mother's Day Out or something similar. Honestly though, it was the counselors and the activities that made the RCCL kids clubs so enjoyable for our son. The use of the kids clubs are also included in the cost of your cruise on both DCL and RCCL, but I do know from reading up on it that the hours of the kids clubs on DCL are more readily available over RCCL. Also, the counselors names on our RCCL ship were those of fairy tale characters. Our son's favorite counselor was named Moana. We seriously thought that was her real name until we saw another one named Rapunzel! :)

Shore Excursions

Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore was a legit statement I leaned over and told Jason while trying to find our tour group in Juneau.

For every excursion you book (on both DCL and RCCL), you are given a ticket in your stateroom with your excursion information - where to meet, what time, etc. Once you arrive at your designated location on the ship, you are given a sticker to wear and this is where the differences begin. On Disney Cruise Line, you are usually ushered to a waiting area with a group of people. You have a crew member as a group leader who carries a paddle with the same logo as the sticker you are wearing on your shirt. You are walked out to your meeting area in whatever port you're docked in and basically taken straight to your excursion tour guide. On RCCL, we arrived at our meeting location were each given a sticker, then told to basically "go meet your group at the pier". This meant walking down to the first or second deck by ourselves, exiting the ship on our own, walking down the pier and off to wherever we saw a group of people congregating. At those groups, they usually had a few tour guides holding signs that were supposed to match the sticker you were wearing. Well, on our "Toto" occasion, there was no such match. After asking, the tour guide said "oh yeah, you're with me..."

For someone who has no clue where in the world they are at (which applies to most of us on cruises we've never taken before), telling someone to "meet at the pier" can be incredibly confusing and frustrating. Being on vacation also means that I like to take the frustration out of my trip to simply relax and enjoy. By seriously walking through every step with you, I feel as if DCL definitely takes that unknown out of the equation here and leaves travelers with less opportunities for frustration.

Room Service/Soda

On RCCL, room service is available at no extra charge for continental breakfast only. On DCL, you can order room service pretty much 24 hours a day and almost anything you'd like to eat. This didn't make a huge difference for us as breakfast is typically the only meal we order room service for anyway, but it is a difference nonetheless. Also, sodas (aka "cokes" as we call them here in the south) are included on Disney Cruise Line - they are not on RCCL (although tea, lemonade, and coffee are included in your initial cruise package). Drink package options are available for purchase on RCCL for sodas, specialty coffee, alcohol, etc.

Grand Entrance

Here's my final "Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore" moment. When you arrive at then entrance of your ship on Disney Cruise Line, I feel as if everyone is excited to see you - there's excitement in the air and genuine smiles on the faces of the crew members welcoming you onto the ship. Also, you are greeted with a "grand" entrance that I won't spoil for you if you've never sailed DCL.

Walking onto our RCCL ship was a totally different experience and it seriously made me giggle. No, I didn't expect pomp and circumstance or any kind of crazy welcome, but I wasn't prepared for this one. We were basically ushered onto the ship and into a tight hallway where solicitors were lined on each side, attempting to sell drink packages, spa packages, dining packages, water packages, the list goes on. Welcome to the ship, indeed! (Where's that monkey emoji?)

I will mention again that we enjoyed our time with Royal Caribbean and loved sharing this entire experience with our family.

Did any of these things mentioned above make me miss Disney Cruise Line?
Yes, some of it did.

Did it take away from our cruise?
No. We still had a blast!

Would I sail Royal Caribbean again in the future?
If the circumstance and situation was applicable, yes I would.

Would I choose RCCL over DCL in the future if given an option?
 No. I would definitely choose Disney Cruise Line if it's a feasible option.

Do I think Disney is worth the extra cost?
In most situations, yes. For Alaska and the cost between the two cruise options (several thousands of dollars)? Not for us. For some, yes...but not for us and this cruise.

I had a friend give a bit of good advice to me before we cruised - when you're cruising with a new line that you aren't used to, don't set your expectations to high. Go in with an open mind and see what you think!  (This advice was honestly the best advice we could have been given.)

For recaps from our 7 night Alaskan cruise on board the Radiance of the Seas, check out these links below:
Alaskan Cruise: Travel Day & Boarding the Ship [Part 1] & VLOG
Alaskan Cruise: At Sea Day & Ketchikan [Part 2] & VLOG
Alaskan Cruise: Icy Straight Point [Part 3] & VLOG (Icy Straight Point & Juneau)
Alaskan Cruise: Juneau & Whale Watching [Part 4]
Alaskan Cruise: Skagway & A Musher's Camp [Part 5] & VLOG
Alaskan Cruise: Hubbard Glacier [Part 6] & VLOG
Alaskan Cruise: Seward and Anchorage [Part 7] & VLOG

I hope this has helped any of you who are on the fence about deciding between cruise lines! :) Send an email my way or feel free to message me if you have any questions!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Birthday/Labor Day Weekend

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to celebrate my birthday with family and friends. It was such a wonderful, jam packed, fun filled weekend that left me feeling incredibly blessed and loved! It also included a lot of food, eating out, and cake. Always cake.

On Friday afternoon, a friend called me because they were headed my way for a sno-ball. The days of having a sno-ball from our favorite stand are numbered, so of course I said yes! Knowing I was going to eat cake that evening, I ordered a small. Might not sound logical but made sense in my head. Hah!

It was delicious, too!

That evening, we had a celebratory dinner with my parents. I wanted pizza but couldn't figure out where I wanted to have it from. There's a place in my town called Stonefired Pizza that is similar to the concept of Blaze at Disney Springs, so we went with it. It was delicious, too!

After dinner, we had cake and presents! I've stuck with the same exact cake for the past several years. This year, I changed it up to a strawberry/strawberry/strawberry cake from a local bakery. It was good, but I think I'm going back to my norm next year.

On Saturday morning, Jason made breakfast at home. The Mickey waffle is actually a new recipe for me - it was my first time trying Birch Benders Paleo Pancake mix and it was pretty good!

After breakfast, I met up with my friend Mackenzie for a little Junkin' Gypsies party. This was Kenzie's birthday gift to me and I had so much fun creating our new fall door hangers with her!

Blank Pallet!

Stenciling it up!

Finished product!!

I love Junkin' Gypsies so much! It's an awesome way to have a little homemade piece of art work (that looks amazing) in your home!

On Saturday evening, we had dinner with Jason's family as a two part birthday celebration (for myself and Jason's sister)! It was so much fun and the homemade meal Jason's mom made was delicious!

We also signed the traditional table cloth. After a lot of researching, we discovered that the table cloth goes back to 1995. It disappeared for a little while, then reappeared back in 2005 or 2006! I love fun traditions like that!

On Sunday evening, we didn't have church because of the Labor Day holiday, so we took that time to celebrate with my friends!

We had dinner at Walk On's, then came back to my house for cake and presents.

We might have reused the same cake because it was THAT good (and there was a lot of it)!


As an added side project over Labor Day Weekend, I also decided to spruce up our laundry room. The room felt drab to me and definitely needed a refresher. It was still the same off-white color it had been since we purchased the house and I wanted to change it to a more light and airy feel. I was inspired by our recent stay at the newly renovated rooms of Old Key West, so I went with it!

The color on the left is the cabinet color and the color on the right is the wall color.



Although it doesn't look like much of a contrast between the wall and the cabinet in the photo, there is a slight one. The baseboards also received a little refresher and wow - the room feels so nice and clean now! I seriously love it!

On Monday, Brayden and I spent the entire day together (minus his nap). We swam, played with water outside, watched a little Mickey Mouse, and overall just had a great day together. During his nap time, I replaced all the doors to the cabinets and refilled them with items then after his nap, we went back outside for more water fun! We really had a great day together. I love soaking up those moments with him. They are passing by so fast, I love to truly live in the moment and enjoy my little guy while he's still little!

How was your Labor Day Weekend? Did you do anything exciting or fun?

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