Kalaloch at Olympic National Park Camping with Kids

We spent 2 nights camping at Kalaloch Campground at Olympic National Park. I’ve read and watch great things about the Olympic National Park but I haven’t made a visit. When I found a campground opening for 2 days at recreation.gov, I snag it.

The campground is 3 hours from us. We took a short lunch break in Montesano by the playground and let the kids and dog run around before getting back in the car. We stayed at campsite A16, overlooking the ocean. The campsite is small and barely fit our 6 person Core Block Out Tent, but the view is pretty amazing. We made sure to put the rainfly on the tent since we know that it will rain through out the day.

Ocean Front View

After setting up the tent, we walked towards the ocean. It was very sandy. The Kalaloch tree of life is within a short walk. It was interesting to see all the roots hanging between the rocks, but the kids were not that impressed. We went back to our campsite when we felt the drizzle coming in. We are hoping to be able to have dinner before it pour down.

Sandy Beach
Kalaloch Tree of Life

We had the same dinner of red pasta with bread. This time we made sure that we have marshmallows, chocolate and crackers for our “s’mores”. MBP asked for it from our last camping trip in Deception Pass. AHP just ate chocolates. We then “hike” around the campsite, and play by the amphitheater.

It started raining, so we just hang out inside the tent and play MBP’s story time chess, until we start our bed time routine. MBP slept well, but AHP still struggled. This time he didn’t want his sleeping bag. It was actually easier since I just put it on top of him instead of zipping him up. It rained through the night. When it stopped raining, I opened the tent door window for a bit, to get more insulation inside.

The next morning, we had cereal for breakfast, as requested by MBP, and then we headed back to the beach. We then head back to the campsite for lunch which was mac and cheese. The boys and I walk around the campsites until lunch was ready.

The trail from the beach

After lunch we drove 1.5 hour to Hoh Rainforest. The park was busy even during the weekday. We missed the Ranger led walk, but we ended up hiking 3/4 of a mile on the Hall of Mosses. It was awesome. MBP did it all by himself and AHP goes back and forth from walking to his carrier. We were lucky because it only drizzle during the hike, but pour down rain on the end of our hike.

Little hikers. MBP walked the entire 3/4 of a mile

The boys napped on our drive back to the campsite. I can tell that they were exhausted from the hike. It was cloudy the rest of the day so we were able to hang around the campgrounds. The kids love playing in the amphitheater until we start our bed time routine.

The next morning, we packed up and was able to get out by 9:30AM.

Overall, it was a good trip. It could be better if it didn’t rain on us, but it was our first time camping in the rain and we survived. I would say, if we ever go back, I would stay longer. There’s just so much to see. I would have love to see the Ruby beach (which was close), do more hikes and go to the hot springs.

Maybe next year?

Deception Pass State Park Camping with Kids

We spent 3 days camping at Deception Pass State Park to start the summer of 2022. This camping trip was booked 9 months ahead because camp sites tend to fill out. The campsite cost us $32/night + $8 of reservation fee, which totals to $72. My parents and my sisters were supposed to come, but my parents got COVID. So it was my husband and I and our 5 and 2.5 boys along with our corgi.

We totally lucked out of the weather while camping. We arrived on Sunday around 2PM. We booked two side by side campsites, but since my parents and my sisters can’t come, we have the entire campsites ourselves. Mr. MMD and I set up tent and the kids “helped”. They took turns staking down the tents. Our sites are very close to the bathroom and water, which I definitely appreciate.

Tent set up

We spent the rest of the afternoon at Cranberry Lake. Deception Pass State Park is a huge state park, with about 4 main campsites. We chose the one closest to Cranberry Lake since the lake gets warm enough to swim in.

Busy Sunday at Cranberry Lake

We head back to the campsite to prepare dinner. Mr. MMD prepared our meal ahead of time at home. This way, he just need to heat up our food and we only need to bring one pot. We had pasta with red sauce and mushroom. The kids surprisingly ate more, especially MBP. We tried to keep the bed time routine the same, but AHP and MBP still didn’t sleep until 9PM. AHP had a difficult first night since he also missed his nap. Surprisingly, he was his normal self in the morning. Once the kids were in bed, I did some camping chore and cleaned up the dishes. I also went to the West Beach and captured the gorgeous sunset.

Capturing the sunset at West Beach

We explored the North Beach the next day, and found the Amphitheater, which was overlooking North beach and has a view of the bridge. It was a great sight. The boys and Leela, our furbaby, spent the morning in the tides, throwing rocks. We saw a washed up crab as well. MBP tried to throw the bigger rocks. I stacked some rocks, which the boys dubbed as stone man.

North Beach

After lunch, we spent the afternoon cooling off by the lake. It wasn’t as crowded as the Sunday crowd. By this time, I can tell that AHP is tired and yawning a lot. He pushed through though. We left to attend the first ranger program and learned about elephant seals. It was actually pretty interesting. The boys made some elephant seals craft after the presentation. The boys had a lot of fun.

I took the boys for a quick shower while my husband prepared dinner. It was beef stew that was prepared at home and was frozen. We put it in the cooler frozen, just in time to thaw for the next day dinner. It taste just as good. The boys were eating more than normal, which was great but we definitely to need to pack more food next time. We had some down time inside the tent after dinner while my husband showered. MBP was busy looking through his junior ranger activity book and AHP just roll around inside the tent from one sleeping pad to the next. We attended another junior ranger program / activity craft. The kids made a Vulture Turkey followed by a ranger talk. AHP won’t seat through it, but MBP was into it. He was raising his hand, asking some questions. I learned something new, like the length of their wings spanned 6ft. So they are long around 12 ft in total. But what’s really interesting is that they are scavengers. They feed through dead animals. They don’t get infected by rabies or any diseases from the dead animals.

The Amphitheater, overlooking North Beach

It was basically bed time when we got back. We tried to put the kids a little early but they still didn’t sleep until 9. The good news – they both slept through the night. It was a little cold though and my husband and I were both worried that the kids were cold. MBP was good at sleeping inside his sleeping bag but AHP was not. We have to reposition him to make sure he was inside. I was also worried that their sleeping mat wasn’t insulated from the ground. It didn’t seem to affect them though and was still upbeat the next day.

For our final day, I put 4 sleeping pads and 4 sleeping bags back to its sacks, while my husband prepared breakfast. The boys were “helping” me on the chore. I find it is easier to pack up and keep the kids contain inside the tent while packing up everything inside the tent. We had breakfast and gave MBP some screen time so we can pack up. Thankfully, 2 adults, 2 kids and one corgi fits and we got out at 10:30 right before the 11AM check out.

We definitely enjoyed our stay here. It’s a great mix of water activities, like swimming in the lake and playing with the tide pools. It was also the kids first ranger program and they definitely enjoyed it. We’ll plan to go back next year and perhaps mix in a little hike.

Everything We Spent In 2021

We finally reviewed our annual spending for our second year of retirement. In total, we spent $52,061.21. This is 23% more than our spending in 2020, up from $39,955.36. The increase was primary driven by our health insurance. We sold our rental condo in 2020 and we paid the full amount of health insurance through marketplace.

We started to seriously consider early retirement back in 2018. We thought about it, shortly after MBP was born in 2017. In early 2018, we assessed our assets and current spending. My husband came up with a monthly spending budget of $4,618 or $55,416 annualized. We never reviewed our spending on this initial budget once we retired in 2019, but successfully spent below that in the last two years.

So where did our money went?

Food – $10.189.79

I wasn’t surprised that this was our biggest expense. The biggest chunk of this spending were for groceries. We followed a plant based diet, for majority of our meals and we think that there can be some room to decrease it. We will not limit ourselves, but will be more cognizant of the prices.

We also ate out this year or ordered a to go meal. We can easily spend $100+ on one restaurant meal for a family of 4. So this was probably acceptable. I do want to limit our fast food visit. It’s just not healthy. Alcohols and bars, were just alcohol from groceries that I categorized separately, similar with junk food. And I apparently went to Starbucks last year.

Groceries 8,528.07
Restaurants 993.70
Fast Food 428.27
Alcohol & Bars 121.92
Junk Food 101.40
Coffee Shops 16.43
Total 10,189.79

Housing – $10,133.08

We do not have a mortgage, but housing is still expensive. We spent over $6k on property taxes last year and I expect this to go up once the county completed there assessment. We’ve been thinking about moving somewhere closer to MBP’s school to an area that do not have an HOA, but the housing market is so nuts! The house prices there are comparable to where we live so we’re not necessarily saving. We’ll see if we can do it this year.

We also added a new mattress and a new to us couch for the kids playroom. We hired someone to clean our roof and gutters, our home insurance went up and we bought some things from Home Depot or Lowes that were accounted as Home Improvement.

Property Tax 6,244.80
Furnishings 1,183.57
HOA Dues 876.00
Home Services 834.83
Home Insurance 707.22
Home Improvement 286.66

Kids – $5,297.31

In theory this could be lower because we included our 529 Plan contribution as an expense. We are adding this contribution because we are hoping that there will be no significant increases in our spending 12-13 years from now (or at least nothing more than the adjusted inflation) Both kids have their own plan and we only contribute $200 each account. This should be $4800/year going forward since we just automated AHP’s contribution.

I’m also expecting an increase in preschool tuition next year. AHP will start his toddler class in our Coop and MBP will go to a different preschool in preparation to kindergarten. MBP’s tuition will more than double for the year because he will no longer be in a coop.

The rest were small items that may or may not be needed. We just didn’t pay enough attention to this. But hey, maybe next year, we will no longer Baby Supplies, because those were all disposable diapers that the boys still uses at night. One can dream, right?

529 College Fund 3,200.76
Preschool Tuition 1,228.04
Kids Activities371.68
Baby Supplies158.25
Kids Gadgets 149.43
preschool expenses 57.07
Entertainment 55.88
Toys 14.30
Total 5,297.31

Health and Fitness – $5,905.89

Major factor of our increase spending was our Health Insurance Premium. We didn’t get a subsidy in the beginning of 2021 and then CARES act provided some subsidy. I will need to check our tax bill this year to ensure that we didn’t overpay or underpay.

We also went back to the YMCA this summer. I enrolled MBP in a swim class last summer and the cost was similar to the monthly membership at the Y at $145/month. The monthly membership is for the entire family and includes swim classes for the boys, if we actually enroll them. So far, we’re just going as a family and I go by myself at least 2x a week.

My husband and I also pay for our dental cleaning out of pocket since we opt out of insurance. The cost was $140 per visit for cleaning and exam. I went once last year and my husband went twice. I also had my eye exam and purchased an annual supply of contact lenses. I also needed new glasses since my eye prescription changed.

Gifts – $5,901.33

Similar to last year, we gifted my parents some cash for Christmas. This was the big chunk of the gifts. The rest were for my immediate family and my godkids. There were also some gifts for birthdays.

Christmas Gifts 5,404.27
Gift 497.06

Utilities – $3,914.3

This price was consistent to last year. This year, I also started paying extra to offset my electric and gas or to purchase clean energy. Puget Sound Energy has an option for their consumer to pay more to use clean energy. For a month, it was only an extra $3-6 depending on our consumption. I reviewed some comparison of our home to other energy efficient, and we were pretty efficient.

Sewer was billed at a flat rate per single family home regardless of water consumption. Our water cost was also lower in comparison to other city. Our unincorporated county gets water from Tacoma and the cost are lower than the closest city we’re at. Internet was pretty normal, although I already received a letter suggesting that rates will increase next year. I also expect some increase in garbage next year. Cell phone was super low for $246.56 annually for 2 lines. We still uses Xfinity Mobile and uses about 1GB per month. There were only 4 months that we used 2 GBs.

Electric and Gas 1,248.37
Sewer 746.67
Water 620.50
Internet 556.34
Garbage 495.86
Mobile Phone 246.56

Shopping – $3,046.8

This cost was a catch all of every item we bought. Some stuff, we itemized, like my husband’s new desk. My husband also bought a new computer monitor and I bought a 1TB hard drive for my MacBook Air. I’m hoping that my laptop last another 5 years. The rest were just stuff. I think I have one purchase at Amazon that we didn’t use, which I think was a waste.

Electronics & Software849.38
Household Supplies311.73
Nick's Desk319.66
Home Supplies52.8
Books & Supplies5
Office Supplies4.94

Transportation – $2,716.91

Unlike 2019, we ventured out in 2020 and went camping for 8 nights. We visited 5 campsites last year – 4 in WA and 1 OR. This means that we drove quite a bit during the summer. My husband also went back volunteering to teach Computer Science at our “local” high school and I swim at least twice a week. We live far from these places so we drove often. Part of the reason we were thinking of moving was to lessen our commute. If we’re successful, maybe this will decrease. If not, this cost will probably be consistent, until our area is somewhat develop — maybe in 10 years.

Our auto registration and insurance increased. Our state based this on the value of the car and apparently our Prius was valued more in 2020 than in 2019. The rest were for new tires, a violation ticket, license renewal, car wash and oil change. We also paid for parking when we were in Seattle.

Gas & Fuel 1,015.23
Auto Insurance 539.00
Auto & Transport 440.23
Service & Parts 389.70
Auto Registration 326.25
Parking 6.50
Total 2,716.91

Disney – $1,369.45

Our trip to Disney was technically this year, but I purchase majority of the expense last year, including our tickets, car service and rental gear.

Entertainment – $1,354.04

My husband plays hockey and the education was for my annual subscription of CPE education for my CPA credentials. I might be able to get some free CPE credits this year, so this should decrease or perhaps be semi-annually. I also paid to rent the new 007 film and purchased 2 months worth of Apple TV subscription to watch Ted Lasso. The only thing that was valuable to add was the Music that MBP purchased from Alexa. We’re lucky he only purchased one.

Sporting Goods81.59
Movies & DVDs21.87

Pets – $852.35

Pet supplies and the cost of the annual exam for our Corgi. She’s almost 7 and is officially an adult dog. We’re lucky there were no emergency exam needed this year.

Camping – $814.7

This year was our first year tent camping. We purchased all our equipment including tents, sleeping pads, sleeping bags and cooking gear. I tried to get some of it used and I might return some of our sleeping pads purchased from Costco. We spent 6 nights at state parks and 2 nights at Kamp of America Campground in Oregon. We went to KOA during their member appreciation day and we received the 2nd night for free. The rest are some foods / groceries / games that we consumed while at the campsite.

Camping Site250.01
Camping Gear409.52
Food & Dining100.00

Vacation – $218.62

We spent one night in Great Wolf Lodge before MBP’s school started last September. This was the cost of the night stay including the arcade games.

Misc – $335.72

Some miscellaneous items like bank fee. We opened 4 new credit cards this year in preparation for our trip to Disney. Christmas cards includes the Groupon photography session and cards ordered from Canva and my annual hair cut.

Bank Fee199.25
Christmas Cards55.97
Personal Care40.00

Overall, 2021 was a great year. We enjoyed the outdoors and surprisingly enjoyed tent camping. Spending wise, we could probably be more efficient in terms of tracking our “shopping”. It’s so easy to just buy things online.

2022 started with great with our vacation. I’m already looking forward to more vacation and more things that we can do before MBP goes to kindergarten.

How was your 2021?

The Cost of a Disneyland Vacation ~ $2,000

I finally tallied our spending for Disneyland. We spent $2,011.90. This spending is for a family of four. We travelled from Seattle and spent 8 nights in Anaheim. We spent 3 days in Disneyland and 2 days in Disney California Adventure. Here are the cost breakdown:

Disney Tickets – $1,096.60

Disney have very few discounts on their tickets. A standard theme park ticket is $104 per day. It’s less the more days you purchase. Our family purchased a 5 day ticket which was about $76 per day. I purchased the ticket at Undercovertourist.com, which gave us $60 discount on our total purchase price. I opened a Chase Freedom Flex, which gave me a $200 cash back after a $500 purchase. I also paid the tickets via PayPal, which gave me 5x worth points. I paid $40 for Genie+ for 2 days to get the photo passes.

Our final night at Disney California Adventure

Restaurants – $254.07

We only had 2 seat down meals. The biggest expense was the character brunch at Storyteller Cafe, for the day that we didn’t go to the park. The second one was a dinner order for our last night at Disney California Adventure. The rest were treats, like beignets, cotton candy, churros and ice cream. If I were to do this again, I will skip the character dining all together. It was expensive and there was nothing special about the food.

Car Service – $234.25

Since we were flying from Seattle, we either needed to rent a car and haul 2 car seats (or rent a car seats) and pay for daily parking or use a car service that provides car seats. Luckily someone from our residential facebook page recommended Lansky. I was very impressed with the car service. The cars were big and clean and the drivers were on time and very was helpful. We saved money by using a car service since the cost of rental, parking at $25/per night and gas is easily more than $234.25

Souvenirs – $114.73

I’m surprised to see this low, considering that we spent 5 days in the theme parks. We let the boys have a couple of toys and I also bought a coin album for the penny press that we’ve been collecting through out the parks.

Every kids have this bubble wand

Groceries – $102.89

These were two deliveries from InstaCart. This cost was about our normal grocery spending for the week. We saved a ton in food by having breakfast and dinner in the hotel and packing our lunches and eating it in the park. We were able to have breakfast and dinner in the hotel by bringing our rice cooker. We cooked some oatmeal, pasta and rice with steam veggies in the rice cooker. For protein, we bought a couple of rotisserrie chicken, beans and lunch meats. Snacks were mostly fruits with crackers or peanut butter sandwiches. I have a bento box for kids and filled it with apples, strawberries, raisins and goldfish crackers. We prevented meltdowns by having snacks readily available in a backpack.

Stroller Rental – $85

We rented a double stroller and a bed rail. We have a double bob stroller at home that I got from our local buy nothing page. We didn’t bring it because it will not fit in our trunk along with our suitcase. Included in the rental was the bed rail so AHP can use the bottom bunk. I would definitely rent one again if we were to go back. Our stroller was waiting for us in the hotel when we checked in and we just dropped it at the same spot at check out. We used City Stroller and noticed that there were quite a few in the park with the same stroller rented from the same company. I highly recommend them if you are ever need to rent a stroller or other baby equipments.

Our stroller waiting in our hotel at check in

Air Travel – $63.60

I opened an Alaska Airline Credit Card and used 45k points to book 3 round trip tickets from Seattle to John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana. Santa Ana Airport is the closest airport to Anaheim and the cheapest flight from Seattle. I prefer flying to Santa Ana than Los Angeles. It is a smaller airport, which means less walking with our kids in tow. The car service rate was also cheaper from Santa Ana.

Entertainment – $20

These were for the arcade games that the boys played in Disney California Adventure. They won 2 star stuffy in exchange of $20 (yes, a rip off)

Hotel – $20

My husband opened a Chase Sapphire Preferred specifically for this trip and earned 100k sign up bonus. The points were enough to book 8 nights at Howard Johnson. The hotel is about 8 minutes from the main gate. Our room consists of a bunk bed and a queen bed. The set up worked out really well. The hotel also have a pool that we didn’t utilize, mainly because I forgot our swimwear and we also spent our days in the park or in downtown Disney. I like this hotel and I will book this again when we go back. The $20 was the tip we left for housekeeping.

Fast Food – $11.51

We had ice cream from McDonalds on our non Disney days and for some reason, our order of Churros was also classified as fast food.

Laundry – $9.25

We did our laundry twice. The hotel has a self serve laundry facility. I packed quite a bit less, knowing this.

We saved about $2,000 from travel hacking. This includes paying the flights and hotel via points. I didn’t include the cash back I received by using Chase Freedom Flex because the rewards was given via points and I haven’t cashed it.

This trip was definitely my favorite so far and I know that we will be back. It is so good to be able to travel again. In fact, I seriously considered upgrading our tickets to an annual pass and come back during spring break — well, maybe next year.

Have you been to Disneyland? What do you think is a reasonable budget for a 5 day theme park visit?

Disneyland Vacation, Day 7 – Route 66

January 11, 2022

We are back to Disneyland California Adventure Today. I was excited, but I also don’t want to pack a lot of things in the morning to cause the kids to be over tired. So we had our leisurely breakfast of oatmeal, brown sugar with raisins along with some fruits, packed our lunch (leftover pizza and ham sandwich) and headed to the park. 

We got to the security line just before the park opened and got through the main gate. MBP really wants to ride the Little Mermaid, but it was closed for refurbishment. We were lucky that it was open the last time we were here. We headed to Cars land first because I was hoping that I could convince MBP to ride the car race with me, but it was a 105 minutes wait – ridiculous, so I said no. We rode the Luigi ride with minimal wait. Afterwards, MBP wanted to ride Toy Story Mania again, so we headed towards there. On the way, we had our picture taken with the Pier in the backdrop. AHP and I went ahead in line while MBP and Dad went to the bathroom. We enjoyed the ride and I attempted to put in the 3D glasses for AHP, but I was not successful. They rode Jessie’s Carousel again and then we headed back to Hollywood. On our way, my husband spotted a Mexican restaurant in the Pacific Wharf. We are eating in the park on our last day, so we decided that we will mobile order our food for tonight. 

Once we’re back in Hollywood, we sat down on the bench close to the theatre to have snacks and lunch. We were waiting for the Jr Dance Party. Just before we finish our meal, the theatre opens. Luckily the lines were short and we were able to get in at the 11:15 party. This was really awesome. For about half an hour, the kids were dancing and there were some characters that joined in, with Mickey and Minnie being the last one. It also snowed again, and AHP, again, was worried about the snow on my head. After the dance party, we headed to the other side of the park, by Grizzly peak. We got our pictures taken with the airplane and then headed over to the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. MBP was scared a bit but he managed to walk on those bridge ropes. There were some animal sculptures and he imagined it being a story. AHP enjoyed running back and forth the bridges and just running in general. We were here for a bit until nap time and we headed back.

My husband ordered our food and started laundry while I put AHP to nap. It didn’t take a while until the boys were napping. As always, MBP woke up before AHP and he had his iPad time. Once AHP wakes up, the kids watched some TV and then we headed back to the park. Our food should be ready by 5:30. It’s our first time doing a mobile order, so I’m not sure of the logistics. I opened the app once we’re at the Pacific Wharf. I got the notification a couple of minutes later that our food was ready. I’m glad that we ordered ahead because there lines were already forming. My husband picked up our order while the kids and I settled on our table. We ordered 4 different types of Tacos and a side of beans and rice. It was actually tasty. MBP ate 2 full tacos and AHP ate 1.5. As always, AHP really struggles to sit while eating. After half a taco, he just wants to run around. It’s dinner time, so there was more traffic in the dining area. I told them that they can run from one point back to our chair and that seems to work. AHP will run to that point, go back to us and take a bite and then run again. That happens until he finishes his tacos. Before we left, I mobile ordered some root beer float for a treat to be picked up around 7PM.

MBP wants to go back to Redwood Creek, but we want to do something that we can’t do at home, because we basically live in a forest and are surrounded by trails. We convinced him to watch the 3D Cinema with us. On our way, we had our pictures taken on Cars Land. MBP was so excited for the show, he even remembered how the doors would open. These are the things I just don’t pay attention to. We got in and AHP still didn’t want to put on his 3D glasses. MBP though was sooo into it. He was laughing, screaming (sometimes too loud) and very happy with the show. I had more fun watching him than the show. After the show, we went back to the Animation Studio to talk with Crush (the turtle from Finding Nemo). It was a funny bit and quite interactive. We headed back to Cars Land to get our Rootbeer float. On our way, we had our pictures taken in “Hollywood”. The kids liked the ice cream, but not the float. We then met Mater and had our pictures taken with him and also had our pictures taken on “Route 66”. My husband and MBP rode Mater again, while I changed AHP’s diaper. The lines were short and we were not able to catched them before they rode Mater. Instead, we rode Luigi again. At this point, I’m really enjoying the small crowds in the park. It’s almost closing time, and we probably have time for one more ride. MBP wants to ride Monster Inc again. This time, it was a 5 minute wait. There was absolutely no line that we roded it twice!! I’d say it’s a good wrap up of our trip to Disney.

We headed back to our hotel for one last night. After the normal night time routine, the boys went to bed. 

Total Money Spent for the day: $ 115.4

Genie+ : $20

Dinner at Cocina Cucamonga: $56.5

“Route” beer float: $12.9

Laundry: $6.00

Disneyland Vacation, Day 6 – May The Force Be With You

January 10, 2022

We are back in Disneyland. I woke up pretty excited that I didn’t even check the opening hours for Disney. On our first visit, Disney was open from 8AM – 12AM, but this time, they were only open from 9AM – 9PM. Off peak hours started. Well, we experienced our first “rope drop” since we were in the security line by 8:15 and inside the park by 8:40. Our plan was to be in Fantasyland and ride Peter Pan and get some family photos. I signed up for Genie+ once they scanned our tickets in. I just want some good family photos and we’re not good at asking folks to take one of all of us. When the park opened, there was already a line at Peter Pan. This is one of the many popular rides. We waited about 10 minutes in line. We then rode the Story Book Canal as requested by AHP. He likes to go to the Big Whale mouth which he dubbed as Baby Shark. We then rode Alice in Wonderland. We have a lot of time so we got some pictures taken at the Mad Tea Cups and rode the King Arthur Carousel again. We also had our pictures taken with the sword. MBP thought that it was a real sword and asked me to help me get it. He was putting a lot of effort. We explained to him that only Arthur can get it. We went to Bibbidi Bopp Boutique to get the boys some boutons and had our pictures taken at the castle. It was basically snack / lunch time after our photo was taken and we packed quite a bit in the morning.

Give me that sword!

I wanted to walk to all the way to Star Wars, which was probably not a good idea at the time because everyone was hungry. Anyway, we made it there and sat on a bench with some enclosure and the kids had their snacks and lunch. We stayed there for a bit and just let the kids run around. We walked around and had our pictures taken by the Millenium Falcon. It was huge! This area was also a nice open spot for the kids to run around. By the time we got there, the Millenium Falcon opened up. I convinced MBP to go with me. BAD Idea. The poor kid was so scared, I thought he will have a nightmare over it. Luckily he just brushed it off. We got out of there pretty fast and asked MBP which ride he wants to do again and he picked the Buzz Lightyear. There was a bit of  a line, but not bad. After that ride, he seems to have forgotten all about the Millenium Falcon. We went to the store so I can get some more bubble juice for the bubble wand. Turned out that the cast member just refilled it for free. MBP was happy. We tried to see if there were some arcades that the boys can play with – there were none. We watched the Lincoln show, instead. MBP is very into “The Secret Museum” these days, so he got a kicked out of the “museum” before the show. I was impressed. After this we head back for naps. 

Super Impressive!

AHP had a hard time napping today and was over tired. It took him about an hour. When the boys napped, I decided to go back to Disneyland and try some rides myself using the lightning lane that comes with the Genie+. I was able to ride the Star Wars Tours and Matterhorn. I was really impressed with the Star Wars Tours but the Matterhorn is just ehh. I’m expecting more longer drops but it’s more like short round drops. The kids were still napping when I got back and we let them rest.

Inside the Star Tours

They watched some TV while the adults prepared dinner and snacks and then we went back to Disney. The crowds were definitely a lot less. MBP requested to ride It’s a Small world again and then we rode the Mad Tea Cups, all less than a 5 minute wait. After the Tea cups there were some Light Up projections on the castle of It’s a small world. We got some good viewing sights and MBP and AHP thought of it as a concert. We went back to ride the Buzz Light Year and then just hang outside the store to eat our snack and let the kids run around until the park closed.

We got back home and did our normal night time routine. It didn’t take a while for the kids to sleep. That night, I made sure to check the time for Disneyland California Adventure. Tomorrow is our last theme park day. 

Total Money Spent for the day: $20

Genie+ : $20

Disneyland Vacation, Day 5 – Exploring Downtown Disney

January 9, 2022

This day was another non-Disney day. We were supposed to have another character dining brunch reservation for Goofy’s kitchen but I canceled it yesterday. After looking at the menu, my husband and I just didn’t think it’s worth it. We had a hard time with AHP sitting in a restaurant and it’s more of a hassle than an entertainment. Instead, we decided to go and shop for souvenirs in Downtown Disney. We packed our normal snacks and lunch and headed toward the park one more time.

Downtown Disney was actually entertaining in itself. There were a couple of fountains that the boys liked. I gave them coins to throw just for fun. At the same time, MBP enjoyed playing with his bubble wand. I have some balance on my Starbucks app from years ago and we decided to get a couple of muffins and coffee cake as a treat. Even the Starbucks here have a line! The boys were outside while I ordered. After our snacks, we went to shop for some souvenirs. The World of Disney is huge and have all the Disney items you’ll need. Max had an eye on one pet toy, but it was too big to haul in our luggage and we’re not a big fan of it. We convinced him to pick another item. He picked some magnets. I liked it because I was already looking to buy some fridge magnets. I collected fridge magnets on places I traveled, but I took it all out because the boys were slowly breaking them! We also got some postcards before heading to the cashier. While in line, MBP saw a Buzzlightyear car so we let him have it. We also picked up Woody for AHP and I got some albums for the coin press.

Bubbles and Fountain

We got out of the store and the boys were holding on to their cars. We sat on a bench close to the Star Wars store and had our picnic lunch. This time, ham sandwiches. The boys played with their cars while we were having lunch and watched the monorail pass by. It was definitely entertaining for them. We went to the Star Wars store and try to find something for my brother since he is a huge Star Wars fan. The only thing I can think of is a mug, but we already gave him a Yeti mug for Christmas so we left without getting anything.

Yay, another family pic!

 We stopped by the Lego Store and of course, MBP wants to get a lego. He will get out of a stroller and pick a box and put it under the chair. We definitely have to stop him and tell him that we need to pay for these things. We let him pick one and we got out of the store after paying.  

It was a pretty successful day and AHP was ready for his nap time. After naps, we just stayed in the hotel and prepared for the next day. This time I was excited to go back to Disneyland.

Total Money Spent for the day: $91.54

Souvenirs – 85.83

McDonalds Ice cream Sundae – $6.01

Disneyland Vacation, Day 4 – Brunch with Mickey

January 8, 2022

This day was a non-Disney day. I specifically planned for this because I did not want to fight the weekend crowds in Disney. In addition to regular tourist crowds, locals also go to Disney, especially on weekends. I made a reservation for a Disney character brunch at Storyteller Cafe instead. This will still give us a Disney feel, without going to the park. I booked this brunch 60 days out because I heard that reservations were hard to obtain. I basically counted 60 days before this day and booked the reservation on the Disneyland App. 

The storyteller cafe is located at Disney Grand Californian Hotel. I didn’t know the directions, so we followed google maps. We left about an hour before our reservations to give ourselves enough time, in case we get lost. We did the usual trek to Disneyland parks and went through security. Instead of going to the parks, we followed the sign to Downtown Disney and hoped for the best — that there is a sign that will lead us to Disney Grand California. Well, I was wrong. We walked all the way and were about to leave downtown Disney. I asked the security and she mentioned that we passed it. So we went back. Another person from one of the stores, gave us a better direction to turn right after The Disney’s Dress Shop store. We saw the store and I followed the signs to the restaurant. We got there 10 minutes before our reservation and checked in. We didn’t have to wait long until our table was ready.

The brunch is a buffet style with a typical brunch menu. I wasn’t impressed with the food on the buffet – I mean it was good, because bacon is good. I don’t think you can screw it up, but it also doesn’t have a lot of “healthy” selection. I ordered off the menu, and the food was better. The chicken skewer was actually delicious and the avocado toast was decent. I also ordered some chicken and fries for the kids, and of course they enjoyed it. The highlight of the brunch was the character sightings. The kids watched out for it, but it was just OK. Because of COVID, the characters just walked around the restaurants. I expected this, but we already saw the same characters at the park, so it wasn’t new to the kids. AHP also had a hard time sitting and started running around the restaurants. There was one time he ran to the characters – which of course you can’t do. Since AHP is about to be 2 next month, I asked the server for a special cake. He got him a rainbow cupcake for the boys and we sang Happy Birthday to AHP. He didn’t know how to blow a candle, and was about to cry. Unfortunately, the singing stopped and he enjoyed the icing on the cupcakes. 

Here’s Pluto, followed by Mickey and Chip and Dale

The kids are definitely done with the restaurant after an hour and 3 sightings of the same characters. AHP and I stayed outside the lobby while MBP and my husband used the restroom. AHP had fun running back and forth while one kid try to chase him. When MBP saw the kid, he immediately says “Hey, a friend is here”. He always try to say hi to other kids at the park and is always very friendly. I think he really misses his classmates, which is weird because he really doesn’t play with them in school.

We went back to our hotel on a leisurely walk, just in time for AHP’s nap. MBP had some quiet time, but didn’t really nap. He usually doesn’t nap at home, but park days make him tired, so he’s been napping the last 3 days when we visited the parks. 

The afternoon was just hanging around our room, ordering some more fruits and water bottle from Instacart and getting pizza for dinner. Tomorrow is another non-Disney day.

Total Money Spent for the day: $131.8

Brunch – $97.15 (Excluding the $70 gift card balance from we received from my brother for Christmas)

Instacart – $31.4 

Laundry: $3.25

Disneyland Vacation, Day 3 – Finding Treasures

January 7, 2022

We’re going back to Disneyland today for the second time. We packed quite a bit on our first day, so I’m just taking it slowly today. We had breakfast – cereal for the boys and my normal oatmeal. I eat this breakfast daily. I prefer having a consistent healthy meal to start the day. It takes out the mental capacity of thinking what to eat, when you just wake up. We packed our snacks and lunch. We are having chicken salad this time from the leftover rotisserie chicken, with some bread. 

The only agenda is to see the other side of the park, mainly Adventureland and Frontierland. I can tell that it was more crowded today, being Friday and probably with the last weekend of the Holiday shows. Our first ride was Jungle Cruise. This was a great ride and the boys loved it. I loved this too – there were so many animals and they looked real. After the cruise we ventured out and took a raft to Tom Sawyer Island. I really like this side of the park because the kids can just run around and it wasn’t too crowded. At this point, the crowd was starting to get to me, so I’m glad to just be in this little area. When we got back, the boys had their snacks and we headed out to ride the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. We didn’t have to wait at all on this ride. Max ran to the gift shop after the ride. Those gift shops are strategically located once you exit the ride. You have to look to your sides to bypass it, which of course MBP will not do. MBP got some bubble wands, which every kid in the park has. I used the Disney gift card that my brother gave us for Christmas. The cashier took out the tags and got the bubble wand ready for action. We also saw Winnie the Pooh on the way out. We stayed for a bit because there was a nice area for the kids to play with their new toy. 

Finding some treasures
Bridges – be careful!
Yay, no lines!

We then head back to Toontown for lunch. We stayed at Chip and Dale’s treehouse and had our lunch there. The kids ran around and MBP played with his bubbles, which all other kids love. There was a boy who wanted to borrow his wand and took it. MBP flat out said no and took it back. Luckily the parents were there, so no crying was involved. We stayed there and we were able to convince MBP to try the Gadget Coaster. My husband and MBP were in line while AHP and I stayed in the tree house. The lines were short, so when they were about to exit, I asked the cast member to do a ride switch. I have to asked MBP to ride with Mommy this time and after some convincing, he did it. I can tell he was scared but after the ride, he got out of the chair, and screamed “it’s the most amazing ride ever”. I asked him if he wanted to do it again and he said no. I honestly don’t know what’s going on in his head. We stayed in Toontown for a bit since the crowd was dispersing. Before heading back to the hotel, we had time for another ride and decided to do Dumbo the flying elephant.

Toontown with Bubbles

We trekked back to our hotel for naps. At this point, everytime that we have to go back to our hotel, I wished that we are closer. Granted, it’s probably just another 5 minute walk – but that 5 minute walk can be brutal. 

We had our dinner after naps and dealt with some internet connectivity issues. The kids wanted to watch their shows and the internet was not working. My husband prepared dinner – our last leftover rotisserie, with rice and steam veggies with beans. Once everyone’s bellies are full, we headed back to the park, packed with some water and snacks.

It was also a bit cold today, so we made sure to bring a blanket with us. We first tried to take the train that goes all the way around the park. We left the stroller by main street and took the train all the way to Toontown, until it broke down… it was actually a good ride, especially at night so I was a bit disappointed. We now have to get out of the train and find a way to get our stroller back. Good thing though is that the train stopped close to the It’s a small world. The whole castle was lit, which we hadn’t seen last time. MBP requested to ride the boat again. It was a long wait, but it will give my husband enough time to get the stroller from the main entrance back to the ride. The kids were getting used to waiting in lines and we had enough games to play. MBP was also entertained with all the lights, which would turn off sometimes. I told him that it was Tinkerbell and her pixie dust. I was actually so glad to get on this ride again at night. It was just so different. There wasn’t enough time for another ride before the fireworks, so we decided to get some Beignet and sat down for a snack.

This is better in person
Our attempt of family selfie

We went back to main street just before the fireworks. This time we were not front and center and got some space closer to the main entrance by the tree. The kids were more interested with all the lights from the buildings in main street. The “snow” was also more powerful in this area. AHP was really worried about the snow on my hair and kept telling me to take it out. We headed back to the hotel, did the normal night time routine and tucked in for the night. Tomorrow is a non-disney day and I’m actually looking forward to some rest. 

You can still see the snow – and I capture some good photo of the couple there

Total Money Spent for the day: $9.15

Bubble Wand – $0 (It was $30, but I used a gift card we received from my brother)

Mickey Mouse Beignet – $9.15

Disneyland Vacation, Day 2 – You’ve got a Friend in Me

January 6, 2022

The kids woke up around 6:50 AM. I was up before that, since it typically takes me a while to get use to sleeping on a “new” bed. Today, we are visiting Disney California Adventure. From what I remember, this park has more “thrilling” rides. After nursing AHP, I prepared the usual breakfast of oatmeal with some apples and strawberries. I also prepared the boys’ snacks, the usual, apple, strawberries, raisins and goldfish crackers. Preparing the boys and getting out of the hotel always takes a while. We packed our lunch for the day – turkey meat and mini bagels and some water bottles. 

There were more lines in the security this time and more lines in the gate entrance. The wait was about 10 minutes in total and was manageable. I wasn’t able to find any map when we got in so we just started walking. Luckily, we stumbled into the “Little Mermaid” ride and there wasn’t any line. We rode it and enjoyed the under the sea adventure. We were really lucky because the ride was out for refurbishment during our next visit. We headed to the Pixar Pier and rode Jessie’s Carousel – again, no wait. I asked MBP if we can ride the big wheel, but he kept on saying no, so we just started walking. The next ride was the Toy Story Mania. This was a bit of a wait, but shorter than what it says on the app. MBP really loved this ride. At this time, AHP was getting fuzzy, so we ended up giving their snack while waiting in line. Another perk of bringing your own food. After the ride, we sat on the bench to finish their snacks and just walked around. It was almost lunch time, so we found another bench close to the water with some enclosure and had our lunch there. So far, we’ve been lucky on finding a really good lunch spot. My husband ordered some churros for a special treat. It was ehhh. I know that folks rave about churros, but it was just ok. I’d rather have an ice cream. 

Jessie’s Carousel

Hello! Uhmm who are you?

We started walking again and saw Woody and Little Bo Peep on stage. Our next ride was the Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind and waited for about 15 minutes. The kids don’t really know the characters but they like the different colors of the balloons. Our next ride was Golden Zephyr – a little bit higher than our usual ride, but again the kids didn’t mind it at all. We headed back to get our stroller and walk around Cars land. I was super impressed with this. It is the Radiator Spring with all the shops around. We managed to ride Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree with minimal wait. Initially, I though that AHP was too short to ride, so we waited by the exit, but then I saw that other little kids were riding it, so I measured his height and he is just an inch above the required height. Yay! This was faster than our usual slow rides, but he seems to enjoy it. The line for Radiator Springs Racer was long and MBP keeps on saying that he doesn’t want it “too fast” so we skipped it.  

Selfie in Radiator Springs

Those are all cars, right?

We then head back to the hotel for our nap break. The kids slept right away and I did the usual dishes from the morning breakfast. After nap, the kids had some screen time and we had our dinner. Pasta with red sauce with some rotisserie chicken and steam veggies on the side. All cooked in the rice cooker. The chicken and the red sauce was surprisingly delicious. We packed up some snacks and water and we headed back to the Disneyland California Adventure. 

It was busier than normal, probably from the weekend crowds. We waited about 45 minutes for the Monster Inc ride, which in our mind, was not worth it. The kids still loved it though. We stayed in Hollywood and watched a 3D Philharmonic Show, which MBP dubbed as the concert. At first, I thought he would be scared, but he LOVED it. AHP didn’t want to put on the 3D glasses so everything’s so blurry for him. We stayed there and went to a store, where I found a penny press! I was disappointed to see that it’s not the old school press anymore where you have to crank it up manually. Now all you need to do is press a button with the choice of your design. Ehhh… good thing MBP still had fun with his coin. We went to an Animation studio where we learned how to draw Tiger. I had fun and it’s so funny to see MBP’s version of Tiger. We ended up having some cotton candy and called it a night. It was AHP’s first experience of cotton candy and for some reason, he cried – probably because the cotton candy just disappeared from his mouth – he ended up eating the dried mango that we packed for snacks. We left at the right time because the fireworks just started. We were able to watched it from a distance, while the kids were sitting in their strollers. It was a lot more convenient than waiting more than half an hour before it started.

Night Snacks

We got back to our hotel, and did the usual night time routine. The kids, exhausted, slept quickly. I did the dishes from dinner, surfed the internet and called it a night. Tomorrow is another day at Disneyland.

Total Money Spent for the day: $16.5

Churros – $5.5

Cotton Candy – $11