May 2017Occasionally Crafty: May 2017

May 19, 2017

Visit Universal Studios Orlando On a Budget

If you want to visit Universal Studios Orlando without breaking the bank, you'll want to check out these budget-saving tips for a fun and affordable vacation!

Check out these budget-saving tips for a fun and affordable vacation to Universal Studios Orlando!

I'm not one of those people who enjoys splurging on vacation.  It gives me hives to shell out endless amounts of money for a trip.  I know, I know-- it's all about the memories.  But sometimes you can have the fun memories without blowing your whole budget for the year.

Here are some things we did on our recent spring break (ie peak time!) trip to Universal Studios in Orlando:


1.  Buy Tickets From A Reputable Travel Agency

     I highly recommend (but am not being paid to recommend) Undercover Tourist.  Not only can you get prices discounted from the gate price, but if you subscribe to their emails, you can get a special code for even bigger savings!  Sure it's tempting to buy a package from the official website, but you can save a substantial amount of money if you book things on your own.  We also found a great hotel deal through the same site, which leads me to the next tip.

2.  You Don't Have To Stay On Site

    Yes, there are perks for staying on site, including free Express Passes at several of the hotels.  Still, if you are able to find a cheaper hotel, you can buy Express Passes on your own and come out saving money.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn Across From Universal.  It was within view of the park and an easy walk there or back.  For those times we didn't want to walk, there was a free shuttle to and from the park at convenient times.  And, we stayed there for $99 night!  For a full suite!  Over spring break!  You can't beat that.

3.  You Don't Need Express Passes

    I know this one is up for debate.  Certainly all the posts I read and all the advice from friends was that Express Passes are necessary and totally worth the money.  That might be true, depending on how long you're visiting the parks, what time of year you are going, and how many people you are paying for.
     The little secret about Express Passes is that each person needs a pass for each park, and for each day of your visit.  In off-peak times, that's $49/day per person.  Not too bad.  But at peak times, it is $100/day per person or more!  For a 5 person family visiting the parks for 3 days at spring break, as we did, that's $1500!  On top of the $1500 for regular park tickets.  No thank you.
      This is the only time I would suggest looking into staying at a resort hotel with passes included. For us, it still was too expensive. So if you're like me and don't want to pay outrageous resort prices, here's what I suggest--
  • Plan at least two and maybe three days to visit the park. 
  • Buy park-hopper tickets so you can go between parks.  
  • Be there before the official opening time so you are ready to go.  
  • Line up closest to the busiest rides (Hulk, Kong: Skull Island, Amazing Spider-Man, Harry Potter stuff, Despicable Me, and Rip Ride Rockit all get super busy pretty fast.  
  • Ride two or three first thing, then save the other big, busy rides for the next day.  
  • Use the app to check wait-times, then use the rest of your day to ride less popular rides, watch shows, and eat treats!
  • If you have older kids or just adults, use the single rider lines!  
  • Be prepared to wait in line.  Using this strategy, we only waited more than a half hour for one ride, and we rode every ride in both parks except the water rides (it was freezing when we were there!)  and Rip Ride Rockit (which kept going down the whole time we were there.  Boo.)  Anything longer than a 35 minute wait, we put off till another time when the waits were shorter.
Remember, you can always buy Express Passes at the park if you decide you hate waiting in line.

Custom Harry Potter t-shirts

4.  Consider A Shuttle Instead of a Rental Car

     If you're only visiting Universal, you don't need a car.  You'll probably just be paying to park it anyway.  Factor in tolls and gas, and you're wasting money.  Our hotel was a short walk away from several restaurants and a Walgreens, so we picked up a few groceries to keep in our room from there.  No car needed!  If you're there longer, you can get groceries delivered from local services too.  So, hire a shuttle to and from the airport, or stay in a hotel that offers one.  For us, it was cheaper to pay for a private shuttle for 5 than to rent a car, so we booked ours through Orlando Shuttle Service.  There you can compare prices and ratings. Ours was right on time and very professional.  It was worth it!


5.  Don't Buy The Dining Plan

     Every single post I read in preparation from our trip said that the Universal Dining Plan is NOT worth the money.  I can't give you more details, but I can refer you to some of the articles I read here and here.  Instead, eat outside of the parks as much as possible.

     We started off the day with breakfast in our room, using groceries we picked up at Walgreens.  We packed snacks to take with us in the parks, and we usually supplemented that with other snacks in the park, such as the famous Butterbeer, Lard's Donuts, and a few other snacks purchased along the way.
One great way to save is to buy a refillable popcorn bucket for $5.99, with refills at $1.29 each.

Lard's Donuts at Universal Orlando


  We ate dinner in Citywalk.  There is a little food court with a Burger King, Moe's Southwest Grill, and Panda Express.  There are a few other quick service restaurants as well as some larger sit-down restaurants there too.  The food court worked perfectly for our family the first two nights, and then we splurged and ate at Hard Rock Cafe our last night there.

6.  Buy a Refillable Cup

     If you're a soda drinker or your kids like Icees, then the Coke Freestyle Refillable Cup is a great deal!  It costs $11.99 the first day and $5.99 any additional days.  Then refills are free! You would have to fill it 4 times to break even the first day.  We bought one and just shared it all day long, so it was totally worth it for us.  If you don't like sharing drinks, it may not be your best bet.
     The other option is to buy a standard refillable cup for around $9, with refills for $0.99 each.  If you are buying multiple cups or aren't as much of a soda drinker, this might be a better option.  There are numerous other options for resort cups and beer mugs, but these are the two most commonly seen around the park.

I hope this helps you realize that you can afford an awesome trip to Universal Studios Orlando!  It's not going to be cheap, but it is certainly more affordable when you follow some of these budget-saving tips.

Have you been to Universal Studios?  What's your best budget-saving tip?



Check out these budget-saving tips for a fun and affordable vacation to Universal Studios Orlando!

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing products through my links, I receive a small commission. That's what helps fund this blog so I can keep bringing you fun new craft projects to try at home!
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May 16, 2017

DIY Giant Pegboard

Have an empty wall?  Try making a large pegboard to organize your stash!

Whether you have room for a small or large pegboard, follow this easy tutorial to make your own pegboard for organization!

Last week I teased up our giant pegboard in my DIY Craft Desk tutorial.  I have wanted one of these forever, and I knew I finally had the perfect space for it.  

Whether you have room for a small pegboard or a giant one like me, follow this easy tutorial to make your own pegboard for organization!


May 12, 2017

DIY Custom Craft Desk

Make your own custom craft table from stock cabinets, plywood, and peel & stick vinyl tiles!

Make your own custom craft table from stock cabinets, plywood, and peel & stick vinyl tiles!


DIY Custom Craft Desk


One of the first things I did when we moved into our home was hire someone to finish the storage room in our basement.  It was this huge empty space that needed to be something else!

What Our Basement Looked Like Before


After much debate and design, we decided to make it into a large guest bedroom suite with room for a custom craft nook for me!

Make your own custom craft table desk from stock cabinets, plywood, and peel & stick vinyl tiles!

Truth time: we finished the room in November and I still haven't really decorated the room yet!  But I did spend time making my craft nook the way I wanted it to be.

First we made this custom craft table.  We bought these stock cabinets from Lowe's.  They are actually from the closet organization section.  Our nook is deeper than the cabinets, but that gives me room to run cords down behind them and stuff, so it worked out perfectly.

Use stock cabinets to DIY your custom craft table

Next, we cut a sheet of 3/4 inch-thick plywood to fit from wall to wall for the desk.  It is supported in the front by the cabinets on each end, and to support the back, we made these heavy-duty wall braces from 1x4 pine boards.  You can see from the pictures below that we screwed some flat to the wall for the back of the table to rest on, and the braces went in the middle for support for this extra-long desk. 

How to Brace your Custom Craft Table

We drilled a circle hole in the top of the cabinet for cords, and then the top of the plywood desk and braces were painted white (mostly so the adhesive vinyl tiles would stick better) Finally we screwed the desktop into the cabinets and braces.  You could paint the bottom white but I'm lazy :)

Custom brackets for your craft table

We finished off the desk with these wood grain style adhesive vinyl tiles.  Simply cut to size if needed, peel, and stick.  We did have to use some extra glue for the small piece that line the front of the plywood.

Use adhesive vinyl for a custom craft desktop

The tile looks brownish but it is actually a lovely gray color.  Chalk it up to basement lighting :)

Want to hear about this awesome giant pegboard we made?  Tune in next week and I'll share how we made it, where I got my cute buckets and baskets, and more!  Plus someday I'll show you the finished guest suite, if I ever get around to making it cute.

Make your own custom craft table from stock cabinets, plywood, and peel & stick vinyl tiles!


Note: This post may contain affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing products through my links, I receive a small commission. That's what helps fund this blog so I can keep bringing you fun new craft projects to try at home!
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May 9, 2017

DIY Family Farmhouse Sign + Free Cut File



Surprise!  I'm back!  It's been almost a year since my last original post.  I wasn't sure I'd ever come back to blogging, and truthfully, I feel a little unsure of myself as I sit down to type today.

Bottom line:  I've missed this.  I have lots of extra time on my hands, and I need a creative outlet.

However, I've enjoyed the freedom away from blogging.  I haven't been tied to a computer and social media.  I haven't been the mom with my face to the computer and the back to her children.

I still love to make beautiful things and share them with people who have the same passion.

So, I hope you'll come by a few times a week and see what's new.  I hope you'll look out for me on social media.  I hope you'll share my posts with your friends and family.  Let's get this thing back up and running, shall we?