October 2018 | Olive and Tate

FASTer Way To Fat Loss: My Experience

FASTer Way To Fat Loss: My Experience

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nutritionist or medical professional in any way. I am also not affiliated with or an expert on FASTer Way to Fat Loss. This is just a reflection and summary of my own personal experience and is not to be taken as medical advice or professional guidance.

*If you would like to sign up with my coach and ensure that your experience is similar to mine, you must sign up via this link and type Kristen Mills as the coach name. Signing up via the general website will place you in a random coaching pool/Facebook group/support structure and I cannot speak to their coaching style or methods.*

Here it is, friends!

You've asked for it and today is the day I'm finally sharing my experience with FASTer Way to Fat Loss. I'm just a few days away from completing my first six week round and knew I couldn't hold ya'll off for another second, so I'm hitting publish and sharing my progress pics to boot. Settle in, this is a long one, but I wanted to make sure that I hit all of the FAQ's that have landed in my in box! If I missed one, drop it in the comments and I'll tackle it for you!

Also, let me take a moment to say that all bodies are good bodies. Mine has been through 3 pregnancies, one miscarriage, pre-term labor and 2 c sections in the past 4ish years. I was proud of it in the before pics and am proud of it in the after pics.

Let's take this one FAQ at a time....

Why did you start FWTFL?
I have been an online Weight Watchers kind of girl (read more about that journey here) on and off for the last few years. Once we were settled from our move to Charlotte, I really got serious and followed the program, seeing a loss on the scale. By the time Fall rolled around (so, maybe six months or so) I had plateaued and couldn't seem to drop more than a few ounces at each weekly weigh in. I thought FWTFL would be a great way to shake things up, maybe break through the plateau and give myself a break from the scale.

Does it cost money?
It does. The fee for your first round of FWTFL, which is six weeks plus one "learning week" is $199. The fee provides you with your coach (the absolute most important aspect), the online portal to resources and an online community. You also need the My Fitness Pal app which has a free and a premium version.

FASTer Way To Fat Loss: My Experience

Do you need special food?
Nope. I didn't change what I was eating at all - Chick Fil A, wine, pizza night, I just had to be more thoughtful about when I ate them. Most of the recipes I made were from my coach Kristen, SkinnyTaste or suggestions from the group.

Is there room to mess up?
There is. I "messed up" regularly because life happens. No one kicked me out or yelled at me or told me that I'd blown it. In fact, I went on vacation to Disney during my round and didn't even think about a macro the entire time I was there. I came home, hopped right back on the wagon and didn't look back. The overall vibe of FWTFL is that this is a lifestyle and not a diet and so there will be days/times when life gives you Churros at Cinderella's Castle and you'd be a fool to pass them up. 

I think because FWTFL is a non-scale program, there isn't really the sense that you've had a "bad week" or that you've gotten "off track". You aren't weighing in every 7 days to track your progress, you're marking your progress in non-scale wins, which takes a lot of pressure off.

FASTer Way To Fat Loss: My Experience

So, what is FWTFL?
It's an eating plan that focuses on the macro nutrients of your diet - specifically fat, carbs and protein. Each individual has a specific target of carbs, fats and protein to eat each day, personalized based on your current height/weight and overall goals.

The goal is to eat during an "eating window" following an intermittent fasting schedule that prevents late night snacking and causes you to be conscious of when you choose to eat during the day and to carb cycle, which includes eating a higher amount of carbs some days of the week and lower amounts on the other so that your body learns to burn fat. It sounds overwhelming at first, but honestly, it's very doable. I still start my day with coffee, so that's always a promising start.

Is it hard?
Well, it wasn't hard for me so much as it was just plain different than how I was used to eating/tracking my meals. It took me about two full weeks to really get into a rhythm and understand/trust the process but after that, things became much more second nature. 

Do you have to work out?
Nope. I didn't work out routinely on Weight Watchers so I wanted to do a fair comparison and decided not to do the workouts. You can work out, FWTFL provides you with a work out plan that can be done anywhere - or you can continue your own work out plan with your rest days lined up to meet the appropriate eating days. I chose not to and am still really happy with my progress.

Why do you need a coach?
Ok, so, let's talk about the whole coach aspect. Admittedly, I am not a joiner. I have always chosen to do Weight Watchers online because the idea of going to meetings is a little much for me. I wasn't sure about the whole coach aspect but I can assure I would have been completely lost in this process if it wasn't for my coach Kristen. She invited me to join her first group as a Coach and I'm afraid she got more than she bargained for. She literally had to hold my hand for the first three weeks. Like, she had to set up my app for me (it's not hard, I just couldn't seem to get it), she had to assure me that I was "doing it right", that I should have been eating all of the food I was, that I should be thinking of carbs as a good thing, etc. I had a lot of learning to do to sort of wrap my brain around the differences between FWTFL and WW and she never gave up on me.

Each Coach (who goes through a fairly extensive interview and then learning process prior to taking on participants) sets up their own private Facebook group for each round of FWTFL, so for the seven weeks that you are in the program, your groups constantly checks in, shares recipes, shopping tips, non-scale wins and support. The check-ins have kept me accountable and Kristen has been nothing but supportive for each of us.

Some coaches support a non-dairy, non-gluten aspect of the FWTFL program but that is not the version of the program that either Kristen or I recommend. I need a program that is long term and sustainable and leaving out entire food groups is just too restrictive for me personally.

*I can only share my experience with Kristen as she has been my only coach for two rounds of FWTFL. In order to have Kristen as your coach, you MUST sign up via this link and write "Kristen Mills" in the coach line. If you sign up via googling faster way or their main page, you will be assigned a coach at random from the general coaching pool, where the experience will be different*

Are you starving?
Um, no. I eat significantly more food on FWTFL than I ever have on WW or any other plan. Honestly, I'm never hungry, you don't have to give up anything, replace any meals or anything crazy. Most days, I'm needing to snag something after dinner to make sure I hit all of my goals - it's been an eye opening experience for me, to say the least.

FASTer Way To Fat Loss: My Experience

Do you have to weigh in/share your current weight/actual weight loss?
FWTFL is a non-scale program which means there is zero weighing in and instead, you take before and progress photos and measure your success by loose clothes and your energy levels. I can say that the break from the scale has been a huge relief for me. I didn't realize how scale dependent I had become on Weight Watchers (to their credit, they are working on changing that aspect of their program) - I would look in the mirror and think that I looked great, step on the scale and be disappointed in my weight and then look back in the mirror and change my mind about how I looked. I did weigh myself around the one week mark on FWTFL but haven't since - and I don't plan to, because I'm honestly happy with how my clothes fit and what I see in my photos. 

Will you keep doing it?
Weeks 1-3, I probably would have said "definitely not" but now that we're on week 5, I really do plan to keep doing FWTFL. I love staying off the scale, I've gotten into a rhythm as far as the carb cycling, I think it's very attainable to achieve in my day to day life and I am really proud of my progress. 

So, how much weight have you lost?
I don't know! I have gone down a jean size in Madewell jeans and two pant sizes in Old Navy. I'm down a top size and my chest is smaller. My mid section seems to have a different shape, slimmer around the love handle section and at my natural waist. I'm also sleeping really well at night which means I'm feeling better during the day with less exhaustion fueled anxiety.

Can anyone do it?
In my opinion, yes - my group is made up of men and women, all ages, all activity levels, all knowledge levels, all walks of life.  

What do I have to do to get started?
You can sign up with my coach, Kristen Mills, here (affiliate link). Each six week round has an official start date and they begin on a rotating basis.

Ok, want to see my Before and During pics?? Part of me is dying a little that I'm posting these shots but a larger part of me is crazy proud of my progress, so shield your eyes if you aren't into seeing my midsection.

FASTer Way To Fat Loss: My Experience

September 20 v October 30

FASTer Way To Fat Loss: My Experience

FASTer Way To Fat Loss: My Experience

Because there was so much interest in this post, I went ahead and published during week 5, so I still technically have another full week to go, but this is my current change and I honestly can't believe it. I'll sit down and write another post directly comparing Weight Watchers to FWTFL soon so leave any questions in the comments and I'll be sure to include them in my next post!

Already signed up?? Perfect! Read this post on how to plan, prep and survive the first few weeks! 

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FASTer Way To Fat Loss: My Experience

5 Days of Drop Off Outfits

Oh, friends. Do I have a story to tell you.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen this pop up in my stories but today's post is inspired by a harrowing tale of yours truly needing to go into our preschool when I hadn't planned to. And by "hadn't planned to", I mean I forgot my 4 year old's soccer jersey and had to run home to get it, head back to school and hand it off to the school director. I did notice that her eyes flicked down below my neckline for a quick second, which is when it occurred to me that, since I was still in my pajama top, that I wasn't wearing a bra. Hoping that I wasn't exposing too much to the woman in charge of guiding and molding the minds of my young children, I hopped back in the car, pulled down my mirror and realized that not only was it very, v.e.r.y. obvious that I was not wearing a bra, I was also wearing a tee shirt from the very back of my drawer that proudly states "Mimosas Made Me Do It."


So, with that in mind, I decided that I was slacking a bit on my preschool drop off game and needed to make sure that I had easy, warm, comfy outfits on hand that could either be pajamas or layered right on top of my pajamas as I ran out the door. Yes, I could put on real pants like jeans or a shirt with buttons, but this is about being prepared and meeting my life where it is. And where it is looks something like a boozy tee shirt and exposed mom boobs.

I hit the mall and in just about an hour, I put together a school weeks worth of outfits that are perfect for those first moments of public viewing - at the bus stop, your coffee run or, hell, for the entire day. I'm going to share how I put the pieces together, my sizes and how to wear it with other pieces in your wardrobe. And you are welcome in advance for my hair and no make-up, I just wanted to make sure it was easy to visualize my entire drop off "look"!

Let's get to it:

5 Days of Drop Off Outfits

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Leggings I slept in make for the perfect base layer and since it's gotten chilly overnight here, I'm doubling down on sweaters. The crew neck knit runs small in the chest so make sure to size up for the ladies (I'm in a large and need every inch of it).

Wanna wear it again? Layer the sweater vest with a white v neck tee and distressed jeans plus a bootie, pair the crew neck sweater with faux leather leggings and live your best life pretending to work out in those Amazon leggings

5 Days of Drop Off Outfits

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I love this grey sweater coat - it also comes in cream and truly covers a multitude of sins. It runs very large so size down (I'm wearing a large in the photo but should size down to a medium). The tank is soft and flowy around the midsection and perfect as a base layer or pajamas and the pair of flats is one that I buy every single year. Last year's pair was navy and this year, I went for the blush.

Want to wear it again? I can't think of an outfit that wouldn't benefit from the sweater coat but think it would be especially cute for a date night with ankle length pants and a lacy tank.

5 Days of Drop Off Outfits

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Hello, jeans with an elastic waist band, you are perfect. Distressed, dark wash, a hem on the ankle length side - and a soft, stretchy middle - so easy to pull on and feel like you've tried, you know. I love the shape of this over sized/boyfriend sweatshirt (and no, not just because I could hide my pajamas under it!) and it also comes in a tunic length. The grey sneakers are in my cart, they just rolled them out in store and didn't have a pair to fit my size 9.5 hooves but rest assured, they'll be coming to live with me soon!

5 Days of Drop Off Outfits

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I can't stop thinking about this coat because it feels like a down comforter. I mean, if I have to roll out of bed at least I can roll into a coat that feels like my bed, you know? If I had owned this coat last week, I could have zipped it over my braless, brazen tee and saved myself the embarrassment. It is on the cropped side in the very center but runs TTS, I'm wearing a large in the photo. If you haven't tried on a pair of Spanx leggings, just go ahead and give them a go, just to see. I'm a fan and own them in both the faux leather and traditional black versions.

5 Days of Drop Off Outfits

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This sweater comes in a range of super cute colors and is just so darn soft. With jeans and a flat, it will go anywhere, but with leggings and sneakers, it's taking me to Starbucks before I even bother attempting to get my life together. I'm in a large and the neck could be a bit low cut for some - just layer it with the tank you slept in and you're all set! Check out the navy version and imagine for Spring - it would be amazing with jeans and sandals. What can I say, I'm always here to justify your long term wardrobe choices!

Ok mamas, now go forth and drop off with confidence, knowing that at the very least, you won't have to explain your booze themed ensemble to the school ethics council.....

Design Project: The Golf Shark Big Boy Room

Recently, I've had the chance to play pretend designer and put together a design plan or two for friends hoping to avoid hours of online shopping and decor scheming and didn't mind bringing in a total non-pro to do the job. While I have zero design training and have learned as we've demo-ed and reno-ed, I love getting to do this kind of styling for friends. Honestly, it's more of a gift for me (and my husband) because it hits that "I need to renovate every single space in this house!" need while we wait until the new year to start our next home project. 

I didn't have any intentions of sharing these little projects on the blog but my DM's went a little crazy when I snuck a little peek (for the room's owners!) into my stories that it became clear that I would need to get a move on with sharing here so that everyone could have access to the sources. 

A little background about my client: 
A sweet boy who is ready for his big boy room and has a love of sharks and golf
A mama who recently painted, is ready to ditch the nursery furniture and needs a design scheme that will grow with her boy. That means real deal furniture that will last, decor that can easily be updated or adjusted to meet his current obsessions and a budget that is under control. 

The room is already painted Sea Salt which is a gorgeous neutral greenish-grey and I left the color but added wallpaper on the wall behind the bed. Just one wall of wallpaper will make a huge visual impact and won't break the budget. I added in sharks in the softest, most simple way and found a really cool way to bring in a little golf action, too. 

Here's the final board that I sent off last week (sharing with Mama's permission!):

Design Project: The Golf Shark Big Boy Room
Shop the room:

How cool are those golf blueprints?? I love that you can choose a digital download option which means they can be uploaded directly to a framing site like Framebridge, saving time, effort and major cash. Be prepared to see similar blueprints hit a guy's gift guide in a few weeks!

I love that this room now has masculine lines (the hardware on the bedside tables called to me), fun patterns in the wallpaper and sheets, warm textures in the curtain panels, natural elements in the toy storage and playful shapes (check out that oval mirror!). I can't wait to see how it all comes together!

5 Ways to Little Boy Proof Your Bathroom

This is a sponsored post written on behalf of Kohler Co. 
All opinions are 100% my own.

5 Ways to Little Boy Proof Your Bathroom

Let's face it, no one can wreck a clean bathroom quite like a little boy can. 
My sweet little angel baby is as cute as they come but once left alone in a bathroom all things sweet and cute disappear and somehow things go wild. And quick. To add insult to injury, our hall bath serves many purposes - it's both our children's bathroom and our guest bath, plus it's very visible in it's high traffic location, making it very difficult for this mama to hide away our boy bathroom happenings. 

5 Ways to Little Boy Proof Your Bathroom

In the few months that we've lived in this house, I've learned a few simple tricks of the mom trade to keep our bathroom as clean as possible so that guests and our kiddos can be comfortable in the space. And the most important trick? A self cleaning toilet bowl. 

Yep, a toilet that cleans itself....I couldn't believe it either, but it's true. Our KOHLER Corbelle toilet comes complete with the ContinuousClean System that automatically dispenses cleaning solution with every flush. Every. Flush.

5 Ways to Little Boy Proof Your Bathroom

Besides cleaning itself (as if I could ask for anything more) using the ContinousClean technology which automatically dispenses a consistent amount of toilet bowl cleaner with every flush and uses CleanCoat technology to actually prevent bacteria, mildew and mineral deposit build up, the KOHLER Corbelle also taught me two other little boy bathroom must have's....wanna know what they are?  Check out numbers 2 and 4 below! 

5 Ways to Little Boy Proof Your Bathroom

5 Ways to Little Boy Proof Your Bathroom

1. Night lights. All of the night lights.

Little boys don't need a single reason to miss the bowl, a dark bathroom included, so stock that bathroom with all of the night lights. We have precious little outlet space in that bathroom (only one outlet, believe it or not) so we have one plugged in on the wall farthest from the toilet. Trust me when I say that it became very clear that we needed a little light shed on the toilet area so when KOHLER told me about their Purefresh toilet set, complete with it's own nightlight, I jumped at the chance to install it.

 Our Purefresh toilet seat now sits proudly atop our KOHLER Corebelle toilet and shines it's soft blue glow right into the toilet bowl (when open) or lights up the toilet back when closed. It's like a little beacon in the night, guiding my boy to do his business in a spot that won't require me to scrub tile at first dawn. I love it.

5 Ways to Little Boy Proof Your Bathroom

2. Soft Close

Nothing will wake you in the night like the slam of a toilet seat so make sure you snag one for your boy bath that has a soft, slow close. Our Purefresh toilet seat has a slow close and soft grip bumpers so that it doesn't shift around when you open, close or use it as a launching pad for your LEGO superhero men. As an aside, when it comes to teaching boys to close the lid, I'll take all the help I can get, so the fact that the Purefresh seat won't slam on little fingers is a huge help in encouraging my guy to close it up! As a bonus, the Purefresh seat also cleans and deodorizes with a built in carbon air neutralizer that automatically dispenses after use. 

3. No Bath Mats, Ever. 

I know, I know, the tile can get cold at night, but I'm here to tell you that bathmats by the tub even over by the sink can soak up all kinds of liquids, and no body needs that in a little boy bathroom. We use an extra towel at bath time as a mat and to soak up splashes, and toss it in the wash with the bath towels. If you think your little boy bathroom has a bit of a smell, I'll bet it's from that poor, unsuspecting bath mat that seems to be way too far from the toilet to be the culprit! 

5 Ways to Little Boy Proof Your Bathroom

4. Elongated Bowl

I'll just go ahead and say it: an elongated toilet bowl gives little boys a larger target, ensuring we mamas and papas spend less time cleaning behind the bowl, the floor and even up the walls. The Corbelle toilet base provides more room for target practice and more comfort for our grown up guests.

Take a peek at our old toilet bowl compared to the Corbelle 
5 Ways to Little Boy Proof Your Bathroom
5. Stools and Steps

When it comes to choosing stools and steps for your little boy, be sure that the stool you are using for your potty is plastic and has a non slip base. Plastic because you'll want to be able to hose that thing off in bleach and rubbed based because when it get's liquid under it (and it will), you'll be glad that it can't slip out from under those wiggly little feet. We use a multi step, sealed wooden stool for our sink area and make sure to give it a wipe down with a bleach wipe regularly.

Now go forth and baby boy proof those bathrooms! 

P.S. The Kohler Corbelle toilet is an ease to install thanks to the patented ReadyLock installation system. You can read more about it here ContinuousClean

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12 Crazy Cheap Must-Haves to Survive Baby's First Year

12 Crazy Cheap Must-Haves to Survive Baby's First Year

Now that Georgia is officially 16 months old, it's time for me to finally sit down and write the last of my infant/baby posts - and honestly, I'm not sure if that leaves me feeling thrilled or devastated! No matter what my crazy mom hormones are dredging up, I've been keeping little lists of things I want to share now that our baby days are over - and first on that list is a round up of inexpensive, can't-live-without-them products every parent should stock in their nursery. Most of these won't show up in the baby shower gift stack but they are tried and true, un-glamorous products that will help you survive the messiness of year 1. And, if you're a second time mom, these are the products that you'll bother to restock and re-purchase for the second go 'round. 

Every single one of these products is under $15, including many that come in multi-packs, and can be snagged on Amazon (because no parent can live without Prime!). 

12 Crazy Cheap Must-Haves to Survive Baby's First Year

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12 Crazy Cheap Must-Haves to Survive Baby's First Year

Mamas, step away from that scrub brush! Toss those pacis, bottle parts and nipples into this dishwasher basket made for parts and pieces, pop it in the top rack of your dishwasher and move on to the next! I exclusively machine washed every type of bottle we used (ComoTomo, Gerber, Dr. Brown's) and never had an issue. This particular basket is designed to be egg shaped so it won't tip over in the wash process, ideal for keeping track of all of those vented bottle pieces.

Georgia is a second baby which means she mostly had to nap on the go (sorry, baby!). Nothing drowns out the noise of Mommy's Happy Place (Target) quite like white noise, so I clip this bad boy to the car seat or stroller and crank it up. Portable white noise is also amazing for travel - both of our kids sleep with it so having one that can be tossed into a carry on bag is a keeper.

Oh, these changing pad liners. I’ve used these babies religiously for diaper changes with both a boy and a girl - and trust, they are a must have. I put the liner on top of the cloth changing pad cover (you know, the cute one), and swap it out when things get messy. I say "when" instead of "if" because it will get dirty. The liners can be machine washed and come in a three pack, so I toss the dirty one in the hamper and replace with a clean one, something I can do one handed, unlike having to change out the changing pad cover. The liners can also be wiped down if they don't need a full washing, making them a huge step up from fabric.

Ok, I wouldn't have understood the importance of this little guy unless I had a baby prone to diaper rash, so if that's you, listen up! Nothing is harder to get off of your hands or from under your nails than diaper rash cream. Double that if your babe requires a special mix of diaper creams that involves you mixing and spreading - what a hot mess. Use this spatula, save yourself and your finger tips.

I love this sleep sack - it's one size fits all through 9 months (my daughter is petite and wore it much longer), has a zipper instead of snaps and is the perfect transition after the swaddle. It is a fleece material but we wore it year round, just compensating for the weather with the bottom layer. In warmer months, we just used a thin, white onesie underneath and in the winter (especially in Maine) we layered a regular sleeper underneath. They wash so well, are very sturdy (ours lasted through both babies) and are super snuggly for baby. 

Pro Tip: protect the baby mattress with a liner that repels liquid. Pro Tip, again: double layer a mattress liner with a fitted crib sheet, then another liner and fitted crib sheet (just make sure all of the edges are tight and secure for safety) that way if baby's diaper leeks in the night, you can remove one layer of wet sheet/liner and have a dry one already on the crib, ready to go. 

Speaking of wet crib sheets, go ahead and stock up on inexpensive crib sheets to have on hand for quick changes. I know you'll want a pretty one when you're creating your dream nursery, but just keep the cheap ones on hand for quick changes. Whether it be a tummy bug or baby's first bedtime blow out, you'll be glad you have sheets ready to roll. 

No, not for bottoms. Cloth diapers make the best burp cloths of all time and the price point cannot be beat. They are soft, super absorbent and don't have any dies that could irritate baby's sweet face. If one gets gross, toss it out! If you don't like the way they look, monogram them! The last forever - millions and millions of washes - and they become softer with every wash. 

Perfect for a paci that falls on the floor and rolls under the fridge, bottle parts or pump parts, steamer bags are an insanely fast way to sterilize plastics quickly. Especially useful during the newborn/infant phase or for preemie babes that need to be extra cautious of germs, we really loved these to keep big brother's germs off of baby's pacis and lovies when she came home from the hospital. 

10. Onesies
White Gerber onesies are the OG baby product. Again, probably not something that will show up in the gifts at your shower, but something you absolutely need to stock. The shoulders stretch so that neck can brought down over the body (so you don't have to drag a soiled onesie over baby's head), they're soft and, quite honestly, there will be less days that require real outfits than you think. 

No need for a fancy changing pad system, just roll this soft blanket/pad up and keep it in your diaper bag or car. It can be wiped down or machine washed, is perfect for covering the trunk of your car or public changing pad and is a great size. I keep one in the car with a pack of wipes, a few diapers and a back up outfit so that we're always prepared. 

This is our preferred baby tub through both kids - it's inexpensive, does fit in a large single bowl sink and is perfect for the tub. Our kids were in them from birth to sitting up and, as a bonus, they are very easy to clean/drain. No mold, no worries! P.S. I just saw they now make a similar seat for sitters, something I wish we'd had! 

What am I missing? What's your fave cheap baby product?? 

How To Become A "No Gifts, Please" Family

I've mentioned many times in passing that it's very important to us that our children experience intentional holidays - we want them to know that there are others in our community who do not experience the holidays in the same manner that they are blessed to, that the holidays are more about giving than receiving and to understand the value and gift that is one's time. 

While we have many traditions that help us accomplish this (including leaving Santa Sacks on Christmas Eve, helping to bake home made cinnamon buns for our friends and neighbors and making gifts for their teachers), one of our main missions is to ensure that we are a "No Gifts, Please" family. That's right, we ask that our friends and families kindly refrain from gifting our kids on holidays and their birthdays.

Before anyone gets upset, we as parents of course give them gifts on their birthday and for Christmas, but we are very thoughtful in what we gift them and how much "stuff" we allow to accumulate. I recently mentioned that we ask even the grandparents to avoid giving them gifts and instead ask that they be given experiences or the gift of time and lots of questions came my way. I know it's hard to break tradition and stray from the norm, but, to be quite honest, my children are extremely blessed and need nothing. Not a thing. They have more toys and puzzles and dress up and LEGOS and art supplies than I can keep up with - what they need from their grandparents is time and attention. What could be a better gift than the option to spend time together making memories? 

We've never lived in the same town as any of the grandparents so we use our experiences while they are visiting or, if they give our kids an annual pass, we take pictures and send them to the grandparents every time we use our passes.  

I came up with a list of ideas that you could share as an experience gift, and the best ways to actually give them, and I think everyone will find something special on the list! 

1. The Children's Museum, Zoo, Nature Museum
We ask that our parents gift our children with passes to the local Children's Museum/Zoo etc of their choice each Christmas. Even the smallest town that we've ever lived in had a small Children's Museum and my kids love getting to visit regularly. As they grow (or we move), we've asked for more specific venues (like the Science museum or Nature museum) but annual passes are by far our favorite experience to receive.  

2. Day Passes 
If an annual pass is not in the budget, I highly recommend that grandparents choose an experience local to you and plan a day-of adventure! Grandma and Grandpa can load up one or all of the grandkids and take them on a special outing to the Zoo, etc. It's all about the time spent together, and it doesn't have to take place in December. If Grandma and Grandpa aren't in to giving experiences with nothing to open on Christmas, have them wrap up a gift that represents the experience - for example, if they chose the zoo, have them purchase and gift an inexpensive zoo keeper's costume with the tickets included. They can explain that soon, they will go on an adventure to the zoo and until then, your little can play zoo keeper to prepare.

3. Cooking Lesson
How special would it be for Grandma or Grandpa (or Auntie or Uncle, etc) to teach your little the secret family cookie recipe? Or how to make Mommy's favorite dinner? My son is 4 and very into helping in the kitchen, baking and asking everyone if they loved what he made. An afternoon in the kitchen would make his day. In fact, when I was in high school, my grandmother taught me and my brother how to make our favorite Christmas cookies one year, and my brother still makes them religiously. Bonus that this experience can happen any time of year, just make sure it's special one on one time. If a gift has to happen, wrap up a pair of Mickey oven mitts and slide them under the tree. 

4. Photo Book
My children love photo books with their photos in them - and I think a Grandparent photo book would be an awesome gift. If grandparents are into taking pictures, then perfect, or mom and dad can send grandparents pictures throughout the year. We make our photo books in Chatbooks but if a true scrapbook is more your speed then go for it! This is the perfect gift that can be shipped if everyone is spread out across the country and is absolutely the gift of time. 

5. Train Ride
When I was little, we rode the train with my mom to visit her parents a few states away. I remember it very well, especially walking to the dining car. Family members can take a little on train ride, literally to the next stop, then turn around for the return trip, so your kiddo can experience a ride on a real train. This is especially perfect for little boys who are into all things automotive. 

6. Movie Theatre
When I was probably nine or ten, my grandmother took me to see Gone With The Wind in the theatre (it was running on a limited release). I remember her telling me that she saw Gone With The Wind when it was first released - something I couldn't imagine at the time. A date to the movies is something that we don't usually schedule with our kids, so I know it would be a special treat for our parents to take them. 

I encourage you to try a year of no gifts to see what happens, I bet the memories made will be worth shaking things up! 

How To Become A "No Gifts, Please" Family

The Ultimate List of Tips and Tricks to Survive Disney With a Baby and a Preschooler

The Ultimate List of Tips and Tricks to Survive Disney With a Baby and a Preschooler

Ok friends, here it is! I sat down just three days after leaving Disney World to document all of the things we learned, things we did wrong, things we wish we had known and the best hacks to enjoy Disney with little kids (even if you're not a Disney lover). For me, a trip to Disney is absolutely a trip and not a vacation but strategizing, planning and knowing some of the been-there, done-that secrets will make the process a bit more enjoyable. 

The Ultimate List of Tips and Tricks to Survive Disney With a Baby and a Preschooler 


I highly suggest packing each kiddo using the Ziploc Bag method. This is my first time packing that way and it was a life saver. It's super simple, just label a gallon sized Ziploc with the day of the week, the child's name and an outfit - everything from undies and socks to hair bows. That way, when things are crazy in the hotel each morning, you'll just grab the Ziploc of the day and already have coordinating Disney gear lined up and ready to go. I made sure to pack the bags in our suitcase in order so that we just unzipped and grabbed the next outfit. We had grandparents in Disney with us (bless them) and the Ziploc method made it super easy for someone to get the baby dressed, the preschooler to dress himself and for everyone to end up dressed in their appropriate themed gear. This is also crazy helpful if you want your kids to be dressed according to the day's activities - princess gear for Cinderella's Table, Mickey gear for Magic Kingdom and so on. 

The Ultimate List of Tips and Tricks to Survive Disney With a Baby and a Preschooler

I packed each kid a back up outfit for each day and threw those Ziplocs into the basket of our stroller. That way if someone get wet on a ride, dripped a Mickey ice cream bar from head to toe or if we had an accident, I was ready to go with an entire wardrobe change. I also used the back up outfits as second outfits if we went swimming in the afternoon - the morning's ensemble was way too sweaty to wear again so we needed fresh gear for dinner and fireworks. 

Each of my kids also had a Ziploc full of pajamas and bag full of swim suits and rash guards, all labeled and ready to go. Honestly, the Ziploc system has made it easier on me since we've been home because I know that anything still packed in a labeled Ziploc is clean and can be worn until I dig through the Space Mountain sized pile of laundry we brought home from the trip. 

Magic Band + Finger Print Combo

My 4 year old loved scanning his Magic Band at every ride but when it came to actually entering the parks, the need for him to scan his band and then place and hold his finger still on the fingerprint scanner was a disaster. And, as a heads up, if the finger scan/Magic Band combo isn't completed correctly in three tries, a supervisor has to be flagged down to help you enter the park. It turned out that it was such a supervisor who told us that we could associate an adult's finger print with the kid's bands and our lives got much, much easier. Learn from our mistake and slap an adult finger print on every and all Magic Band that you can.

You can add the adult finger print to your offspring's Magic Band at your hotel concierge or via the nice manager at the entry point that you failed to enter, thanks to said offspring's wiggly finger. 

Baby Wrap + Wear

If you have a baby or toddler in tow, be sure to bring your baby wrap of choice into the park with you. Most of the designated stroller parking areas are actually a bit away from the lines of each ride, plus, even with Fast Passes, lines can be long. My 24 pound toddler had to be toted through each line and my arms were aching by the end of Day 1. I packed our Baby Bjorn in the basket of our stroller and wore her through lines and on a ride or two. She napped in the Bjorn and I even handed off the wrap to my mom when the baby needed a snuggle or two to make it through the day. 


The Ultimate List of Tips and Tricks to Survive Disney With a Baby and a Preschooler

As a heads up, all strollers need to be broken down for monorail and bus rides to various parks so if your stroller is tough to fold, you may want to plan ahead with an easy sit and stand option. We took our full Double Stroller and had no issues but it was bulky and a little difficult to manage on crowded bus rides.

 I would suggest bringing a stroller even if your kids are a elementary school aged for a few reasons: 1. it is more walking than even bigger kids are used to and the heat makes it extra exhausting and 2. you can use the basket to carry book bags, purses, raincoats/ponchos/cups that you'll want to have with you in the park. 

As a side note, we saw quite a few people with bigger kids using foldable wagons that could be pushed to tote their older babes around. Most of them even had a top piece to keep the sun off and, of course, had room for all of the gear the family was toting around. 

You can rent strollers both inside the parks and through stroller rental companies that will deliver to your hotel room, just be sure that you have something big enough for your kids and your stuff to ride. We did not use any sort of stroller name tag because our stroller has a unique set up and is easy to spot, but if you are worried that your stroller might go home with another family, you can purchase personalized tags or tie a ribbon to the handle for easy spotting.

We did have our stroller moved by a Disney employee in one location, which of course gave us a moment of panic, but if you park in designated areas, your stroller will be a-ok. 

Fast Passes

We found that the best Fast Pass strategy for us was to make all of our Fast Pass reservations for the morning - you are allowed to schedule three Fast Pass rides per day and then, once you use those three, you are granted single Fast Passes, one at a time, until the park closes. With little kids, you're up and ready in the morning, so we took advantage and hit rides while we were all fresh and excited. If the afternoon hit and we were too hot, too tired and so over it, we didn't feel pressured to push through just because we had a ride waiting for us at a certain time. If we got a second wind after nap time, we could use our individual Fast Passes to hit rides that had longer lines. 

On Sunday afternoon, we noticed the park completely cleared out and there were absolutely no lines for the classic Dumbo and Tea Cup rides in Magic Kingdom. We actually canceled our scheduled Fast Passes for those rides and went through the stand bye lines, saving our Passes for other rides throughout the day. 

On the flip side, we had two of our scheduled Fast Pass rides canceled by Disney due to those rides needing maintenance. When that happens, Disney grants you each one Fast Pass that can be used anywhere in the park during that particular day. We couldn't wait around for the rides to open back up with littles in tow, so we made the best of it and hit other rides with our freebie pass.

The Ultimate List of Tips and Tricks to Survive Disney With a Baby and a Preschooler


Let's face it, the endless merchandise on every Disney corner is literally begging for a kiddo meltdown before you even make it to your first ride. Thankfully, we learned a souvenir trick that worked for our 4 year old and didn't cost us an extra dime: PEZ. Yep, classic PEZ dispensers can be found in every gift shop or stall with princesses, classic characters and such on top. And get this: a PEZ dispenser counts as a "snack" on the (already paid for) Disney Meal Plan. We never came close to using all of our allotted "snacks" so we were happy to use them towards our bribery of choice. We let our 4 year old choose one PEZ dispenser a day - and never once told him that they could hold candy. He has quite a little collection and he loves carrying them around in his backpack - and I love that it's not another stuffed animal and it's something super small to transport back home. 

Meal Plan

If you purchased the Disney Meal Plan, study it before you go. We thought that the Meal Plan was the least explained element of the entire Disney process, which was disappointing and complicated when you're trying to feed a crowd of family members quickly and without additional cost. When you get to Disney, if you have questions, ask the person checking you out at quick meal locations about the best way to make the plan work for you - the employees at quick meal spots have the most experience with making "snacks" into "quick meals" and such, so they are a wealth of knowledge. We ended up leaving the park with something like 6 snack credits left, even after using a ton of them for our PEZ bribery. 

Rain Gear

It will rain while you're in Disney World. Florida rain showers move in and out quickly so you'll find yourself hiding under a caricature tent waiting things out at least once, if not multiple times on your trip. 

Bring your stroller's rain shield (or an extra poncho to cover the seats) so that your babes don't end up on soggy seats for the rest of the day. Before you head to Disney, Amazon Prime ponchos for adults because they are pricey in the parks. We brought our kid's rain coats and used them to cover stroller seats while we squished our bodies under tiny spots of overhead shelter and if we did end up getting soaked, we had our back up Ziploc outfits for the kids to change into. 


Ok, I know Disney is magical and all but, to be very honest, the tap water is gross. If you aren't from Florida, you will probably notice that the tap water has a strong salt/iron/beachy smell. I personally couldn't drink it and I absolutely would not make or wash baby bottles with it. You can have bottled waters or "baby water" sent to your hotel room anywhere in the park via Amazon Prime Now and the bellman will bring it up to your room when it is delivered. 

I would suggest using Amazon Prime Now for anything that you've forgotten or might need, such as bottled waters or ponchos to avoid spending the big bucks on it inside the parks. All of the hotels accommodate deliveries and we spotted many a bellman delivering Amazon Prime Now packages to rooms while we were there. 


You can take food that does not need to be heated into Disney World, so plan accordingly. We packed snacks like fruit snacks and peanut butter crackers to keep everyone happy during lines and when we had to wait for sit-down meals and it made all of the difference in the world. You can also bring in your own cups so be sure to fill up kiddo cups with cold water before you head to the parks -it's hot in Disney, my friends.

As a heads up, many of the hotel "stores" sell wine, beer, champagne, cheese and crackers - go ahead and plan to make yourself a post bedtime cheese plate with a big 'ol glass of wine on the side. Disney is smart and has thought of everything, wine is available in full bottles, white bottles can be purchased chilled, splits are available and single glass pours are ready and waiting. Cheeses are everything from wedges of gouda to blocks of cheddar and, if paired appropriately, you can use one of your quick meals to take it all back to your room for no extra charge.

And because I know you're wondering; Starbucks holds court on Main Street in Magic Kingdom and just past the Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom. Sadly, you can't mobile order ahead of time but in Animal Kingdom, there are literally 20 baristas, so the line moves quickly. The Magic Kingdom location gets more foot traffic and is always slammed, so plan on a 30-ish minute wait in the am in a tiny establishment for your Pike's Place.

If you need a cocktail mid-park, I recommend the margaritas in Pandora, in the very back of the world, to the right of the big rock.  

Plan: AM Fresh

The Ultimate List of Tips and Tricks to Survive Disney With a Baby and a Preschooler

If you are hoping for a particularly magical experience with, say, Mickey himself, be sure to plan that experience for the morning. My kids were completely sweaty, red faced and exhausted by lunch time and had little to no patience for long meals, photo ops or magical experiences in their state of exhaustion. We found that making the very first thing of the day the activity that we were all most excited about was a solid plan that allowed us to all enjoy without being hot, sweaty, grumpy messes. 

Sit Down Meals

Ok, sit down meals. So. I am going to go ahead and say that if you have very small children (mine are 16 months and 4), you should plan those sit down meals very wisely. I would suggest Chef Mickey's Breakfast at the Contemporary and Cinderella's Table - and that's it. 


Well, we don't take our kids to sit down dinners at fancy restaurants at home because we don't want to wait any longer than we have to, don't want to waste the money on food our kids won't eat and everyone is falling apart by dinner time. None of that changes just because you're in Disney World, I promise. Chef Mickey's Breakfast at the Contemporary is the best way to see all of the classic Mickey characters (perfect for littles who watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse) and Cinderella's table is really a sweet experience where each of the Princesses spends time with each little one. But even as sweet as Cinderella and her gals were, our family was climbing the walls by the time the entire meal was over. We overstayed our welcome and we knew it. We took advantage of the "quick meal" restaurants (which is basically how we eat out at home) and were just as happy to be able to get in an get out based on our own schedule.

As a heads up, we were able to schedule a Chef Mickey and Cinderella's Table while we were in Disney by watching the app for cancelations. It's common and if you can be flexible with timing (especially for Cinderella, I believe our table was slated for 3:40pm), you can probably score a table.

Plan: Nothing

Disney is a trip that must be managed. Someone has to be in charge at all times of watching the app for ride closures (we walked all the way to Pandora to find the one ride was closed for maintenance), staying on top of Fast Pass times, keeping up with table reservations and navigating the parks. Honestly, it's exhausting for the person managing and the people being managed. Be sure to schedule/plan/block off time to do nothing. You can get caught up in the "we've got to do it all!!" mentality and forget that your kids would honestly be just as happy playing in the hotel pool. Plan to do the pool. Plan to play in the splash pads, plan to drink in a pool chair, plan to relax. You won't regret it. 

Commute Time

Depending on where you're staying, parks can be quite a haul from your hotel. We stayed at the Bay Lakes Tower behind the Contemporary which was walking distance to Magic Kingdom but a 20 minute bus ride to Animal Kingdom. On Animal Kingdom day, no one factored in the wait for the bus or the bus ride time so we ended up pushing through naps and stretching the day until the kids fell apart. We just never thought to plan around the commute time and consider how much time we would have lost heading back and forth for naps. If we had known better, I would have planned for a morning by the pool, an early nap time and then made the journey to Animal Kingdom for the remainder of the day. If naps are a must for your squad, ask your concierge how long of a ride it is to your chosen park of the upcoming day, and schedule your day with commuting in mind. 

As a heads up, you can Uber anywhere in the park so if your crew calls it quits and you know waiting for the bus just isn't a good idea, an Uber will be your fastest, most direct way home. Just like outside of the parks, you can request a vehicle to fit your group size and request car seats if needed. We scheduled our Uber as we were getting off of our last ride and he was waiting for us as we made our way out of the park. I believe the one way cost from Animal Kingdom to the Contemporary was right under $20 and it was worth every penny to be sitting down (most of us stood, holding strollers and gear on the Disney bus), in air conditioning and with Moana playing on the Uber's tv screens. 

And there you have it! Truth be told, I haven't been converted to a Disney Lover. I still don't really get the deep rooted obsession with all things Disney and, as I mentioned, this is a trip that must be managed every step of the way. There was little to no relaxing, so much sweating (and that's coming from a life long Southerner) and lots of waiting in line, even after we planned everything to the second. Our children were happy and excited, we got to spend time together as an extended family and the hotel was an ideal layout for us, but overall, I'm still just a casual fan. Sorry Disney people, don't hate me!

If I think of any more revelations from the trip, I'll update this post, but for now, this is a great starting place to make sure you have a handle on your upcoming Disney trip! 

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The Ultimate List of Tips and Tricks to Survive Disney With a Baby and a Preschooler