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Our Beginning

Love is a special thing. Love is both a noun and a verb. Love is the connection between people both romantically and platonically. It connects across cities, countries, and even the world. It can be used to describe feelings and connections between people but it can also be used to describe feelings about a brand, food, sports team, colors…the list goes on. The most special thing about love is this; God is love. If humankind is made in the image of God and God is love, then think about what that means for us. Love is what this life is about. Love is what this blog is about.

To start this love blog it may be best to introduce the couple behind this blog. We are Dustin and Stephanie McMillan. We met while attending Rochester College (umm I mean University); both majoring in ministry. We became friends while taking a lot of the same classes and attending various campus events. We were friends for several years before dating in 2017. We started spending more time together after we separately started attending a mentoring group. It was in this mentoring group where Stephanie asked for prayers for an upcoming endometriosis-related surgery. While Stephanie was recovering from this surgery, Dustin messaged her on Snapchat to see how she was doing. It was Dustin’s checking up on Stephanie that would lead to their first date. Dustin proposed to Stephanie while on a walk along the St. Clair River next to the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, Michigan.

In April of this year, we were married in Detroit, MI at the Eastern Market with a lot of our friends and family present. Stephanie looked beautiful in her dress. It was a dream come true! Since this blog is to be themed around love, we thought it might be neat to include our vows in this post. However, if you are someone who we are blessed to have in our lives and was at the wedding or if you’d rather not read our vows, just skip ahead.


Dustin’s Vows:
Everyone might think they know who my favorite superhero might be. No matter what they might guess, they’re wrong. You are my favorite superhero. The best superheroes have certain qualities. They’re strong, have a good sense of justice, put others before themselves, and are full of hope. You have all these qualities and more.
You are the strongest person I know. Everything you have experienced and endured in your life has made you so strong and I admire you so much for it.
Your passion for others is inspiring. You believe that everyone deserves justice, meaning that everyone deserves to be treated fairly and with love.
You are the kindest and happiest person I know, and that energy flows into everyone you encounter. Speaking of others, you’re always putting other people before yourself. You go out of your way to make sure other people have what they need, are happy, and comfortable before you take care of yourself, especially your students. The way you love them and care for them makes me love and admire you even more.
You are so full of hope. You and I have already encountered our fair share of sticky situations and crappy circumstances, but you have always found a way to find the good in the situation and figure out a way for us to pull through. And, I know you always will. You are my favorite superhero. I always expected to find my Lois Lane, but I found my Superwoman. Stephanie Eugene, I promise to always love you.
I promise to always lift you up and support you in all areas of life.
I promise to always look out for your needs and your desires.
I promise to always take care of you, but give you the space to take care of yourself.
I promise to always go to the fridge and get you a Dr. Pepper.
I promise to always be your partner in ministry, in life, and in every adventure we are to take.
I once asked someone how they knew they were in love. They said, “I knew because when I was pursuing God with everything I had, I looked next to me and saw my wife right next to me.”
Stephanie, I love you so much and I can’t wait to get started and do this thing with you.

Stephanie’s vows:
Dustin, I am so thankful for every moment in our lives that have brought us to where we are today. From the many classes together to you stealing all of the cookies out of the cafeteria for me. To you texting me to check up on me after surgery. You found me at a time in my life when I thought it would be impossible for someone to love me. Yet, you walked in when I was at the lowest of my lowes and reminded me that I was valuable, cherished and deserved to be respected and loved.
There are so many things I love about you, that make you the person that I am so excited to be standing here and marrying. It all started on our first date. Watching you cry and get so excited at Justice League. It amazes me that you give that emotion and dedication to everything. To your love of superheroes, most importantly, Batman (come on could I be marrying you and not mention Batman someplace in the vows). To your love for me and our relationship, to the brother and sister relationship, you have with Katie, to Dobby, to the students we mentor, your relationship with God, and the list goes on and on.
Thank you for only ever wanting what is best for me and helping me achieve that. That you have always viewed me as your equal.
I love that we view God, life, and people in such a similar matter. I never thought I would find someone who would. And all this time I was searching for you, You were searching for me too.
I love that you love me for all of my flaws and my health issues.
But most importantly you help make me a better me. You help me to love others, you, and myself in God’s love.
Dustin, with all my love, I take you to be my husband. I will love you through the good and the bad times, through joy and sorrow. When life seems easy and when it seems hard, when our love is simple, and when it is an effort.
I promise we will face life together and share and help accomplish each another’s dreams.
I promise to be your equal partner.
I promise to watch every superhero movie with you.
I promise to never take you for granted.
I promise that we will never stop seeking God’s love together and in return, sharing God’s love with everyone we meet.
I promise to not foster more the 10 children at a time.
I promise to be your best friend.
I promise to never stop loving you.
I promise I will work by your side to create a long happy life together lead by God.
Dustin, I love you!


Now for the future. We are about to move into our first home! Recently, we were blessed to have been able to buy a house! This house was not without its…well it’s faults. Stephanie’s dad, Steve, has done so much for us by getting it ready to move into. He, his friend Bill, and their crew have done so much for us by fixing up the house. It is so close to being done and we can’t wait to move in!

As referenced a few times above, we aren’t able to have our own children, but we both love children very much and want to be parents more than anything. Both of us have chosen careers involving children, Stephanie as a children’s pastor and Dustin as a student pastor. However, this isn’t enough for us. It isn’t the same as being parents. So, we hope in the not-too-distant future to be foster parents. We plan on fostering to adopt and we hope you all want to follow along with us on this journey.

Speaking of our ministries, we are hoping there are some exciting developments coming down the pipeline concerning our ministry. So, stay tuned for that.

We plan on using this blog to talk about our lives, but more specifically about the love in our lives. This includes the love between us, the love we have for others, the love we have for our students, the love we have for some of our favorite things, the love we have for our future children and foster children, and the love that God has for all of God’s creation. After all, “We love because he first loved us.”

We hope that you all follow along with this on this journey.

Parenthood: First 100 Days!

We have been parents now for 100 days. A lot of things I have learned about myself and life in the last 100 days.

First, you will get no sleep. It does not matter the age of the child. Goodbye my 8 hours of sleep, hello LOTS of coffee and bags under my eyes.

Second, you will always feel like you are not on top of things. Laundry, meal making, grocery shopping, cleaning. With fostering especially because of meetings with lawyers, social workers, court, counseling, doctor appointments, the list goes on and on.

Third, you will never feel like you are doing it right. Always second-guessing yourself, feeling unprepared.

Fourth, cars and action figures will be everywhere, they are haunting me. I find them in the couch, my bed, the shower, my laptop bag. EVERYWHERE. It doesn’t matter how much I pick them up. They will reappear.

Fourth and most importantly, the love you have almost instantly is amazing. I now have a little person walking the Earth that carries a little piece of my heart with them. I would not want it any other way. You will get attached, that’s okay, it means I’m doing it right. Night and morning cuddles are amazing. Watching their eyes light up when they understand something is amazing! After school running hugs are AMAZING. Hearing them say “I love you to the moon and back” is the best. It makes all the stress and the unplannable future worth it.

After 100 days of being a parent I don’t know how life felt complete before he entered my world, I know one day he may leave. But I’m excited to see and enjoy this time as the four of us (Woof Woof). By November 22nd we will hopefully be officially licensed and ready to take in another little boy. So now we wait to see where this journey takes us we wait for our next little one to join us making us a family of five. I love our ever-growing, ever-changing family and am so blessed and changed as each child enters our home.

WE ARE NOW OFFICIAL FOSTER PARENTS!

It is important that those in our lives or have an interest in following our story know some things about us, our children, and the system. It would mean a lot to us if you took the time to read the post. 

General Information About Foster Care

  • We are not fostering because we can not have our “own” child, this is not a fall back plan for us. We are doing this because it needs doing, we love children. Each Foster Parent has their own reasons.  Our reason is we want to love the children that come into our home. WE ARE THE LUCKY ONES. We get to have these great children in our lives.
  • We are asking for ages 6-10 as of now. Any gender, race, or religious background. Right now we will only be getting one foster child but are planning on slowly fixing up our place to be able to foster up to four. 
  • We have a few more steps in the licensing process: the main one being the home study, which is a 4-6 hour, in-home interview.  We are hoping this is done by the new year.
  • The average placement lasts about a year, but it could be any amount of time from 1 day to several years.
  • A child could be placed into foster care for a variety of reasons, but the most common reasons are: medical or food neglect, physical abuse, and/or sexual abuse.
  • The state’s goal of foster care is reunification between the child and biological parent. If the parent keeps falling through with their court-ordered action plan, then parental rights might be terminated (usually after about a year of non-compliance).
  • That does not make Foster child my “fake child,” and we are not babysitters. They are all my “REAL child.” Some of them may stay forever. Some of them may leave and we’ll never see them again.  But that’s life, isn’t it? Sometimes people in YOUR life go away too, but they don’t stop being an important part of your life or being loved and missed. How they come into my family or for how long is not the point.  While they are here they are my REAL sons and daughters. We love them entirely, treat them the way we would treat biological children, and never, ever forget them when they leave. Don’t assume that children are interchangeable – one child is not the same as the next, and just because there will be more children later doesn’t make it any easier now.
  • The state’s goal of foster care is for the child to live with kin versus an unrelated foster parent. It is NOT appropriate for you to raise the possibility of adoption just because you know they are a foster child. It is ESPECIALLY not appropriate for you to raise this issue in front of the child. 
  • No, they aren’t ours yet.  And they won’t be on Thursday or the week after. Foster care adoption TAKES A LONG TIME. For the first year MINIMUM the goal is always for children to return to their parents.  It can take even longer than that. Even if we hope to adopt, things could change, and it is just like any long journey – it isn’t helpful to ask “Are we there yet” every five minutes. 
  • We’re not making any money on fostering them. We are not getting paid. We get a portion of the child’s expenses reimbursed. Do not mention the money in front of the child. That REALLY hurts them – all of a sudden children, who are being loved and learning to trust, worry that you are only doing this because of the money.  

Anticipate the Foster Child To…

  • Likely be devastated when first placed in our home. The child is not grateful to us, and it is nuts to expect them to be, or to feel lucky that they are with us. They were taken from everything they knew and had to give up parents, siblings, pets, extended family, neighborhood, toys, everything that was normal to them. No one asked them whether they wanted to come into care. Don’t assume our child(ren) will not have those feelings, or that moving into our home is happily-ever-after for them. Don’t tell them how lucky they are or how they should feel. By the way, there is no point comparing my home to the one they grew up in.  Both homes most likely have things the children like and dislike about them.   
  • Act out (shouting, screaming, or bad language). It’s often due to trauma recovery or reactive attachment disorder. 
  • Hoard/hide food or toys (possibly steal food or toys) due to past trauma or lack of having enough food.
  • Possibly be vastly more mature or more immature than other children their age. 
  • Possibly look and act just like any other child! Please, Don’t act surprised that they are nice, smart, loving, well-behaved child.

Anticipate Us (as Parents) To…

  • Appear extremely overprotective with the foster child. Many foster children 

     need a stronger sense of stranger danger, and we also have a much higher legal 

     obligation to be more protective.

  • Be very vague and private about the child’s past and current therapy progress (due to privacy laws).  We cannot share any private information about the child unless it’s something you’d need to know to keep the child safe – this is a legal requirement, like HIPAA for doctors or FERPA for teachers.
  • Not be able to make plans for any vacations or nights out.  We are suggested to not leave the child (even for a short amount of time with a babysitter) for the first month they’re with us. Higher standards for foster care babysitting include federal/state background checks, medication training, CPR and first aid, and a foster child babysitter must be at least 18 years old, etc. However, we would love for you to become a foster-qualified babysitter! If you want more information, please let us know.
  • Need your emotional support, prayers, and words of encouragement, as this will be a very hard transition for us, but even harder for the child. Especially, need a lot of emotional support when the child goes back to the biological parents.
  • Not share pictures of the child’s face online due to privacy laws. 

Ways You Can Help Us

  • Pray for us, the child, and the biological parents! Pray for God’s will (not our own desires) regarding timeline, child placement, and our role in the child’s life.
  • Treat foster parents with a new placement the way you would a family that had a baby – it is JUST as exhausting and stressful. Know that parenting a foster child (much less an older, abused foster child) is drastically different than parenting that was likely required for your child.  Think about how your life was completely changed when you had 9 months to plan for a baby and several more months before they started walking.
    • Offer to make meals during the first week or two of a new placement. 
    • Be an extra pair of hands when foster families go somewhere challenging. Offer to come along to the amusement park or to the playground. A big family may really appreciate just an extra adult or a mother’s helper along.
  • Offer up your children’s outgrown stuff to pass on. We are only giving the children newer clothing so they don’t feel like second hand children. 
  • If you’ve got extra, someone else can probably use it.  Lots of foster families don’t have a lot of spare money for non necessary items. Second hand toys, books, games, movies and room decor is a wonderful gift.
  • If we’re struggling it isn’t helpful to say we should just “give them back” or remind us we brought it on ourselves. We have to deal with what you’ve got, just like a normal parent, no matter what. “I told you so” is never helpful.  This is especially true when the children go home. Yes, we knew that could happen. That doesn’t make it any easier.
  • When you say “I could never do that” as if we’re heartless or insensitive, because we can/have to give children back to their parents or to extended family, it stings. Letting a child go IS really hard, but someone has to do it.  Not all children in care come from irredeemable families. Not everyone in a birth family is bad – in fact, many kin and parents are heroic, making unimaginable sacrifices to get their families back together through impossible odds. Yes, it is hard to let a child we love go, and yes, we love them, and yes, it hurts, but the reality is that because something is hard doesn’t make it bad, and you aren’t heartless if you can endure pain for the greater good of your children.  You are just a regular parent when you put your children’s interests ahead of your own.
  • Ask the children about their interests and list of favorites but not questions about their past. This is be done each week with their therapist.
  • If you see the child misbehaving, and we don’t see it, please do not reprimand or punish the child in our absence. Because we can’t share the child’s specific history of abuse, current therapy recommendations, or social/behavioral action plan goals, it is important for us to know what happened but be the one to deliver the consequence. We really want to know from you if you see misbehavior or really great behavior because we need your help in knowing where our child needs support or praise. 
  • Support local anti-poverty programs with your time and money.  These are the resources that will hopefully keep my children fed and safe in their communities when they go home.
  • Most Importantly, teach your children from the beginning to be welcoming, inclusive, kind and non-judgemental, teach them the value of having friends from different neighborhoods, communities, cultures, races and levels of ability.  Make it clear that bullying, unkindness and exclusion are NEVER EVER ok.

Well-Intended People Actually Harm a Foster Child’s Progress: Please Don’t

  • Ask the children about their past.
  • Say anything bad about the biological parents. Birth parents are just people with big problems. Birth and Foster parents are working really hard to have positive relationships with each other, so please do not hurt that relationship. 
  • Ask the child about future adoption plans or give false expectations about being with us long term.  These are out of our hands, and even if an adoption looks nearly final, there is still a good chance it will fall through if the state finds a distant relative before the official adoption date.
  • Pick up/ carry the child or offer them treats without privately checking with us first.
  • Say things like “You’re so lucky to be with your new family.”  It is natural for foster children to grieve the loss of their biological family, even if there was a good reason the child was removed from the home.  Statements like this can make the child feel guilty about feeling sad or resentful that others do not understand how hard the transition is for them.

Get to know us?

If we’re going to be sharing our thoughts, struggles, triumphs, and lives with you all, we thought it’d be a cool idea to let you get to know us. So, we asked each other some questions and are letting you read the questions. Enjoy!


  1. What’s your favorite Christmas movie?
    1. Dustin: The Santa Clause
    2. Stephanie: Holiday in handcuffs! It’s not inappropriate, go watch it!
  2. If you could live in any period of history when would it be and why?
    1. Dustin: Now, every other time would be inconvenient. I would have to grow my own food and use a straight razor.
    2. Stephanie: Pre-Revolutionary War America because everything is new and exciting and you can make yourself anyone.
  3. How did you chose Rochester College?
    1. Dustin: They gave me a good scholarship!
    2. Stephanie: I wanted to go someplace close to home and my mom put RC pens all over our house because it was close and a Christian college.
  4. Who would play you in a movie about your life? Who would play me?
    1. Dustin: I would be played by Nathan Kress. Stephanie would me played by Blake Lively.  
    2. Stephanie: I would be played by Emma Watson with her crazy hair. Dustin would be played by Jake Johnson as Nick as Dustin.
  5. In a zombie apocalypse, what would be your weapon of choice?
    1. Dustin: An Iron Man suit
    2. Stephanie: A lightsaber
  6. What’s a movie you can practically quote from start to finish?
    1. Dustin: Forrest Gump
    2. Stephanie: Toy Story
  7. What’s one job you would / could you never do?
    1. Dustin: Coal Miner
    2. Stephanie: Work at a hospital (blood and vomit ew)
  8. If you could take a week off from your regular life to immerse yourself in learning something new, what would it be?
    1. Dustin: Screenwriting
    2. Stephanie: Working at Disney (Thanks Eric for making me jealous)
  9. What is something you have only recently formed an opinion about?
    1. Dustin: What color the tile in our new bathroom is. (Its Blue)
    2. Stephanie: That Alexander Hamilton is not a hero. (Dustin, its black)
  10. What’s something you wish people automatically knew about you? Name something about yourself you wish you could just put on a T-shirt so you could get it out of the way when meeting new people.
    1. Dustin: No, I don’t have a lazy eye.
    2. Stephanie: I can’t have kids. Stop asking when we’re going to start. (In the friendliest font)
  11. What is something in policitis you are passionate about?
    1. Dustin: What she said.
    2. Stephanie: Equality, nuff said.  
  12. What is your biggest  fear? Is there a story behind that?
    1. Dustin: Heights…there really isn’t a story.
    2. Stephanie: Needles, because I’m a hard to prick person.
  13. Who is someone that you miss having in your life?
    1. Dustin: My Pap.
    2. Stephanie: My Grandparents
  14. What is one thing you wish you were better at?
    1. Dustin: Math, I swear I can’t even add.
    2. Stephanie: Public Speaking.
  15. What’s the silliest thing you’ve ever done in public?
    1. Dustin: Probably chugging a can of Mountain Dew in front of an auditorium of middle schoolers during a high school play. When trying to burp, as the script called for, I said “burp” because I failed to actually burp.
    2. Stephanie: Jumping off the catwalk in my parents house. A video of which was posted to facebook.
  16. If you could only eat one food the rest of your life what would it be?
    1. Dustin: Lasagna
    2. Stephanie: Meatballs
  17. Favorite place you have traveled?
    1. Dustin: Disney World
    2. Stephanie: Can’t pick one
  18. What would be your favorite job?
    1. Dustin: Writing comic books
    2. Stephanie:  cuddling my dog all day
  19. What’s the best and worst thing about getting older?
    1. Dustin: being able to rent a car, waking up sore for no reason
    2. Stephanie: No rules, broke
  20. What social customs do you wish would just disappear?
    1. Dustin: Shaking hands. There’s too much pressure to give “a manly handshake.”  
    2. Stephanie: Thinking that women can’t do things for themselves.
  21. What fictional character do I identify with?
    1. Dustin: Dustin from Stranger Things
    2. Stephanie: Jess from New Girl
  22. What would you do if you won the lottery?
    1. Dustin: Pay off my car and student loans.
    2. Stephanie: adopt all the children
  23. What would you tell your teenage self if you could go back in time?
    1. Dustin: Don’t be so self conscious about wanting to play football. You’re going to love it. So when that kid asks you why you’re at the meeting for guys that want to play next season, don’t leave. Stay, work hard, and enjoy it. You guys will go 0-10 your senior season, but you won’t regret not playing your junior year.
    2. Stephanie: Don’t race so much to be older. Enjoy the stage you are in.

Mother’s Day Aftermath

Mother’s Day is a difficult holiday for me. I love being able to celebrate my mom and my new amazing Ohio mom. I love being able to tell all of the ladies in my life who are mom’s “Happy Mothers Day”. It’s great to let them all know that they are doing an amazing job. A job, that when growing up, I was most excited for and could not wait for. When growing up and throughout the years on Mother’s Day I would picture what my life would be like as a grown up. I would have my three little kids sitting on my lap. There hair the color of their fathers, but the bright blue eyes that matched mine. They would be giving me a card and a picture frame they made with a picture of it from the day they were born with our whole family in it at the hospital. I know now the pictures in my head during my childhood will never be how I end up celebrating it.

In fact, everything I pictured my life to be when I was older changed when my ovaries decided more and more to not have read the manual on how to function properly. After many years of pain and other problems, at 20 I was finally diagnosed with Endometriosis. Along with Endometriosis, I was diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis, Pelvic Congestion Syndrome, and Adenomyosis.

Endometriosis right now does not have a cure. I had two surgeries to remove some of the endometriosis on my organs and stop it from growing down my legs (to quickly regrow), I had my appendix removed, I had two stents put in my veins, I have been in medical menopause twice, and many other smaller ways to approach the endometriosis. Sadly none of them helping any more than last. With every new approach, my desperation and my unlikelihood to ever be able to have kids started to grow along with the Endometriosis.  

Other women with Endometriosis and similar health issues have and can get pregnant. With my bleeding, the severity, the damage already done, and not being able to control it the doctors think it will be near impossible for me to naturally ever get pregnant and successful carry a child for a healthy pregnancy.

The hope is within the next few years to get a hysterectomy (this does not cure endometriosis, but can help with some of my other problems). A major problem is many doctors will not perform a hysterectomy on someone so young. They fear I (more importantly my husband) will change our mind. But our decision does not come from my husband and I, but instead of my body that is self-sabotaging. We hope that once I have a hysterectomy I can live a more normal pain-free life.

Over the last two years, I have learned how to deal with the thought of not being able to have children that are blood-related without crying. On most days I have come to a healthy understanding, but Mother’s Day is a hard day to get through. I have to put on a brave face and go to church and respond when MANY people ask when will the newly married couple get pregnant and have kids.

I know now the picture in my head as a child will never be how I end up celebrating Mothers Day. In fact, I think most Mothers Days little girls pictured growing up in their head is not how they are celebrating it now. It is so much more complex because the world is so much more complex than our childhood minds could have ever imagined. There are step-parents and step-children involved going to different houses to celebrate multiple moms in there lives. There are mothers and children that are no longer alive and able to celebrate with each. But still, get to take this day to remember the love they have for each other. There are kids from different parents, same parents, blood-related, or not all sitting around celebrating the woman that fixes them dinner and holds them when their tummies are upset. The long-distance families who are loving their moms through a FaceTime call.

One day, hopefully on a not so distant Mothers Day, I will be sitting around with my children, fostered and adopted. Loving them, helping to rebuild the world that has fallen apart around them. This was nothing how I pictured it would be, but now I could not and would not want it to be any other way. My husband and I will get the huge responsibility of maybe for a few days, months, years or forever to love these kids. They may call me mom or they may not but I will be the one there to fix them dinner or hold them when their tummies are upset for that period of time. I will make them feel loved and that is what Mother’s Day is all about. To honor the woman who have helped the next generation feel the love of God around them. Happy Late Mothers day to all woman out there who help spread God’s love to the world around them.

Happily Ever After: A Disney Honeymoon!

By Stephanie McMillan

Every day we had a very cute couple shirt designed and made by Stephanie Connell!

What is the best way to start your happily ever after? Going to the happiest place on earth, Disney. This is not one of our normal posts. But this blog is all about love, anyone who knows me knows I love planning and organizing almost as much as I love Disney. That means every moment of our dream honeymoon was planned out. I have had many people ask about Disney planning advice so I thought it would be a great share some of our tips and plans.

Hotel

We stayed at Port Orleans: French Quarter. This hotel has a sister hotel next door Port Orleans: Riverside. You are able to easily walk between the two, giving you more restaurants, pools, and shopping at your fingertips. It also has a quick boat ride to Disney Springs. French Quarter is the smaller and more brightly colored hotel of the two. The Port Orleans hotels are priced in the middle price range for Disney Hotels. Any hotel you stay at on Disney grounds will make your vacation great, just look into them to see what one will satisfy your family and vacation needs the best.

Meals

For our honeymoon, we picked the deluxe meal plan. We had three points to spend each day on food and two snacks a day for both of us. We were also given a souvenir cup with unlimited refills at the hotel. Each meal that we sat down for, we got a fun drink (alcoholic or nonalcoholic), appetizer, entree, and dessert. You leave very stuffed. My husband and I wanted our honeymoon to have many different meals and that was a major focus for us. The nice part about the meal plan is all of the food you have is already paid for, so Disney’s expensive prices don’t put a damper on your trip. Also, depending on how you plan, you can save a lot of money. Having so many snacks and meal points might not be for everyone, there are a few different meal plans. It is important to mention, tips are not included on the meal plan. Disney suggests a tip of 18-20%. A normal two person meal is over 100, meaning tips add up quickly. Another thing to mention is to get good restaurants you have to make reservations 150 days before your first day. I made mine 149 days ahead of time and had to be put on a waiting list for one of the restaurants. Thankfully we ended up getting in still.

Disney Magic Bands

Magic Bands are a super important part of Disney. You will receive it in the mail a few weeks before your trip. WEAR OR PACK THEM IN YOUR CARRY ON! This is your everything the whole trip at Disney. It is your room key, ticket into the park, your dinner reservations, snack points, your fast pass tickets, your access to all of your photos. You can also make charges to your Magic Band and pay the charges when you check out of the hotel at the end of your vacation.

Disney App and Website

This is how you make all of your plans/agenda; it is a life saver! Everything you do on the website will show up on the app. The app is able to be used as your map, to see wait times for rides and shows to see all of your reservations, and plans you have made. On the app, you are able to check how much you have changed with your wristband. As well as how many meal and snack points you have left.

FastPasses

One major nice thing about Disney is everyone gets three fast passes a day. This helps your wait time be almost nonexistent. The first three passes you get should be the three big rides that you want to ride the most. After you use them up you can get another fastpass. This pattern continues until the park closes. So try to use your fastpass early on in the day to be able to get another one sooner.  If you are staying on Disney grounds you can do it 60 days before the first day of your trip. If you are not staying on Disney grounds you can do it 30 days out.

Extra Magic Hours:

Every day a certain park opens an hour early and with that the major rides open an hour early as well. This early admission is only for people staying on Disney grounds. This means for that first hour you have almost no wait times.

Breakfast

One way to get into the park an hour early is breakfast. Certain restaurants open an hour before the park does. Once you are done eating it will normally be about 15 minutes until the park opens. Head to one of the major rides to get in line. You will be off the ride before the park has been open for 15 minutes.

Memory Maker (PhotoPass)

I personally love it and think it is so worth it. Especially if you want to have tons of pictures that include the whole family. You even get pictures of the rides that you would not be able to get without the Memory Maker. It costs $100 for your per trip. You are able to get pictures of everyone in your party. If you choose to not pay the money you can still get all of the pictures it will just have the watermark all over the picture. To get the pictures you use your wristband. You can view them on the website or the app. At Disney springs they also have a shop set up to take professional pictures. They change the background.

Arrival Day

Arrive early in the morning. We arrived in Florida at 10 am on our first day. This gave us tons of time to explore. On certain flights, Disney takes your luggage from the plane and deliver it right to your room. Disney also provides free transportation right to yout hotel! This gave us tons of time to explore when waiting for the text that our room was ready. We had lunch reservations made and waiting for us when we arrived. I would suggest the first-day lunch and dinner reservations for a restaurant not inside the park so you do not have to pay for a park pass. This means any restaurant attached to a hotel is free game. Disney has a great park to hotel transportation system. They are lacking hotel to hotel transportation. This means pick a restaurant that is close to a park (Example: Chef Mickey’s inside the Contemporary Hotel that is right across the street from the Magic Kingdom park). Chef Mickey’s is a great way to start the trip by meeting the core Disney characters (Mickey, Minni, Goofy, and Pluto). For dinner, we headed to the Spirit of Aloha, a luau dinner and a show. It is located inside the Polynesian Resort that has access to the monorail that attaches some of the first hotels at Disney. The Monorail is connected to the Contemporary so easy access to the Magic Kingdom park busses.

Epcot

The day we went to Epcot we took advantage of its extra park hour. We started off by heading to Test Track. It’s super cool because they have updated the ride so you can design your own car when waiting in line. We then headed to Norway to ride the amazing Frozen Ever After. In line, it feels like you are actually in Arendelle. We had Breakfast at the Royal banquet hall. You can get a professional picture done with Bell and the rest of the princess walk around during the meal. We then hit the big rides at the front of the park: Soaring, Mission Space, and Spaceship Earth. We had Fastpasses for each of the rides so we were able to get in and out for lunch. We had reservations at the Garden Grill Restaurant. This was a super cool experience because it is spinning resistant to see the inside of the Living the Land ride (ride this early because it closes around 5 pm, sadly we did not get to ride). The house you will see when spinning is a replica of Walt Disney’s childhood home. It is family style food and Chip, Dale, Mickey, and Pluto walk around. After lunch, we walked around Epcot to experience all of the different locations and shops. Mexico looks small but that is because most of it, including a ride, is located inside the pyramid. Make sure you do not miss this. We finished up in Canada and had an amazing fancy steak dinner at Le Cellier Steakhouse. This was the best steak that we have ever had! We headed to the Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival and got pictures with Anna and Elsa. We went back to the hotel early to go swimming. We had done all of the rides we had wanted to do and it started to rain.  We would of, if interested, had plenty of time to do the rest of the little kid-friendly rides at the front of the park. If staying late make sure to watch the night show.

Animal Kingdom

We got to the park at normal hours and headed right to Pandora the Avatar themed part of the park. We first rode Na’vi River Journey and then used our fast pass for Avatar Flight to Passage. Both of these lines are super long all day and are the main attractions to the park. You will have to wait for now for both of them even with the fast passes. Even with the lines, we were done with Pandora within an hour and a half. We then headed to Dinosaur in Dinoland, had a quick snack of a Mickey pretzel (my favorite) and then watched Finding Nemo the Musical. Lunch was very fancy at the Tiffins. This was our least favorite restaurant of the trip. The food was not amazing, same with the decorations and atmosphere. We then went to watch It’s Tough to be a Bug (super cute but might be a little scary for younger children). Then we used our Fastpass for Kilimanjaro Safaris. Next, we watched the Festival of the Lion King and rode Expedition Everest. We had some time before dinner and sat and watched the Tree of Life and walked some of the trails. We had dinner at Yak and Yeti, a sit down restaurant. It was super yummy Chinese/ Asian food. To end the evening there are two shows one that is on the Tree of Life (it runs a few times every 20 minutes or so) and River of Lights (a light show that runs twice).

Hollywood Studios

We started the day by having breakfast at Hollywood and Vine. It is very yummy and a character breakfast of all the Disney Jr. Characters. (yes it was very kiddish but we were excited to show some of our younger students a picture with Doc McStuffins). We then road Toy Story Mania (super short line) and then the not so short line of Rockin’ Roller Coaster. We then headed to the show Frozen Sing-Along (very cute to sing along to but it’s mostly just clips from the movie on the screen) and Beauty and the Beast and had lunch at Hollywood Brown Derby. We then enjoyed The Little Mermaid show. Afterwards, we did all things Star Wars: We rode Star Tours, walked around the Star Wars Launch Bay and got pictures with some of the characters. This made my husband very excited for the new Star Wars park to open in the next few months. Sadly it started to rain so we made our way to Walt Disney Presents Museum. With the rain, our FastPass for Slinky Dog was used to ride Toy Story Mania again.! Such a fun ride! We also took some time to look around Toy Story Land IT IS SO CUTE. We both do not like rides that drop so we decided to opt out of Hollywood Tower of Terror so we headed to dinner. This was one of my favorite places we ate. The Sci-Fi Drive-In. If you make a reservation you actually sit in fake cars and watch black and white clips on the big screen. They have it decorated like you are outside and under the most beautiful night sky and stars. It ended up raining again so the night show was canceled.

Magic Kingdom

This is my favorite park! We started it off by taking a special trolly ride to Cinderella’s castle to eat breakfast at the Royal Table. The princess all walk around to greet everyone. We then headed to Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin before the lines got long. Next, we headed to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, there was a 40-minute line but super worth it and had some interactive stuff to do in line. Sadly Splash Mountain (wear a poncho if you go on it. You will get WET), Haunted Mansion, and Seven Dwarf Mine Ride were shut down for maintenance reasons and because of the weather. But I would use fast passes for these rides! Since these rides were closed we got to use the fast passes on Pirates of the Caribbean, The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and Peter Pan’s Flight! We were always going to ride them but cutting the line was super nice We walked around the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. It’s super cool if you have watched the movie, it’s one of my all time favorites. We had lunch at the Crystal Palace. Very good food and you get to get pictures with all of the Winnie the Pooh characters.  We road It’s a Small World, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, and Walt Disney Carousel of Progress. We had dinner at Be Our Guest! It was very beautifully made after the castle in the movie. Make sure to walk around the inside if you eat there. You can get a picture with Beast. Also, the desert is so cool! Sadly with the weather, everything was closed and The Happily Ever After show was canceled. We took a walk down Main Street and headed back to the hotel to swim.

Universal

We took one day to head over to Universal. Universal is set up much more for little kids and water rides. We ended the night by eating at the restaurant at our sister hotel, Boatwright’s Dining Hall. It has very cool decorations for any boat lover.

Disney Springs

We spent our last day sleeping in, chilling by the pool, and eating a grab and go lunch at the hotel. In the evening we took the boat over to Disney Springs for some shopping and had dinner at Paradiso 37. It was a nice Mexican restaurant that had dancers and music playing.

We hope some of our love for Disney has helped plan your dream vacation. Let us know if you have any more questions, we would love to help!

The McMillans