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Friday, August 7, 2009

Travel Tips

There is one activity I love to do on a regular basis and that is travel. I find airports exhilarating with the smells of coffee and people rushing here and there in anticipation of the next destination. I love exploring new places and seeing the vast landscapes of this country as well as those across the globe. Unfortunately travel comes at a price, and I often have to get a little creative to make my dreams a reality. There are still many limitations to my desires to travel, especially overseas, but I have found many ways to get away at least once or twice a year.
I have listened to many people talk about how they would love to get away, but the most common complaint is of course money. I have also found that with all of the resources available with the invention of the worldwide web there is still a lack of information among the general public in regards to obtaining good travel deals. On this note I decided to write a blog with some tips that I use to make travel more affordable for our family.
Tip #1 Don’t Be Scared of Priceline
I remember many years ago when priceline first came out. I love William Shatner so the commercials really stuck out to me. I’m not sure if people think this is too good to be true or if they are just worried about bidding on a hotel with little information. Let me tell you if you can be a little flexible with your wants and needs you can score big on this one. Chris and I have a policy never to pay more than $50-$60 for a hotel room. We have stayed at Hyatt’s, Marriott’s, Holiday Inn’s, etc. We usually always bid on the highest star rating available for the area, but if all you desire is a bed and a shower to rest between sightseeing than you can usually get a two star for as little as $30/night. For more tips on how to place a good bid check out this site This also can work really well for rental cars. We usually can get a standard car for about $20/day, but we have scored as low as $13/day. On this particular occasion we were actually upgraded to an SVU upon arrival.
Tip #2 Skip the High Life and Eat With the Locals
I love a good meal as much as the next guy, but when you are on a budget sometimes the gourmet restaurant mentioned in your Airline travel magazine just isn’t going to cut it. I have found that there are some great bargains and food to be had eating where the locals go. If you are downtown or close to a tourist area try to drive or catch a ride to a nearby neighborhood. Often you will find a hidden treasure tucked away in a strip mall. If you are in a big city with specific cultural areas check out a local pub or eatery. It can be a great way to get the true vibe of an area. It’s also possible to find some great specials. Chris actually experienced this while in Chicago in Greek town. He found a pub offering $1 cheeseburgers and some cheap drafts. It sure beats a $20 hotel burger.
Tip #3 Coupons are not just for Your Momma Anymore
It may sound silly, but when we go out of town I immediately start browsing for local food and attractions that have coupons or deals going on. Recently before we went to California I joined several restaurant clubs to receive e-mail deals. Of course most of these places are not even located in Texas, but just for joining I received a lot of buy one get one free deals and free desserts. is also a helpful resource. You can pick the area you will be staying and buy gift certificates that are $10-$50 for about $3.00 a piece. You may have to order a minimum amount of food, but we usually still save quite a bit.
Tip #4 Save Cash and Leave the Credit Cards at Home
This one is near and dear to our hearts since we became avid Dave Ramsey followers. A lot of people think that a vacation is out of reach if they even tried to save for it. I have found that people do what they want to do. If you want something bad enough you can save for almost anything. I have found pulling small amounts of cash out every pay day and making a vacation envelope can have you on the way to your dream destination in no time. Just think how easily you can spend $50 a week just going out for lunch every day. Skip the lunch and brown bag it. Just $50 a week over the course of a year will $2400 towards a nice little vacation. Once you have your cash leave the credit cards at home. It is easy to become tempted by silly diversions. What may seem like a good idea at the time will translate to probably hundreds maybe thousands of dollars of interest over the years. Just think about it before you by the dashboard hula girl. You’re here for the memories which are easily captured by camera, not a tacky trinket.
Tip #5 When Booking Air Travel Refer to Tip #1
I hate to admit it, but I am a little spoiled in this. With my dad working for an airline I pay for some taxes and fees, but not nearly what a full price ticket can be. This does not mean you cannot still have an affordable experience. I have heard of many people getting excellent deals through Priceline by naming their own price. Chris also signs up to receive American’s net saver fares. He has seen some excellent deals come through this.
Tip #6 Be Flexible
I believe this is first and foremost for anyone desiring to travel on a budget. I tend to be fairly low maintenance on a lot of things so this comes a little easier for me. If you really want to get out there and see the world you need to be willing to adapt. You will find that if you can relax a little on the specifics and do your homework you can experience a wonderful vacation for a deeply discounted price.

A Day As a Stay At Home Mom

I t was my first time alone with just me and the kids. I know that probably sounds weird to the modern family of the twenty first century. Call us crazy but Chris and I just like to be together. Of course we argue and get on each other’s nerves at times, but there is something comforting about having each other around. What can I say, we love each other. We eat every dinner together as a family and spend most of our weeknights at home watching movies, playing the Wii, or talking. Chris has never had to travel with his job so it took me a bit by surprise when he was asked to travel to Chicago for a trade show. I really thought it would be no big deal a few days away and time will go by quickly. I didn’t think much of it and when Sunday came we said our goodbyes and dropped him off at the airport. I made plans for the next two days to keep the kids busy and give ourselves a little routine.
I was holding up well until we came home from swimming that afternoon. The kids were well behaved, but even when they are it is still a little work when you are used to having such a great helper around. I know I am spoiled and I have so much respect for women who have husbands who travel or are in the military and especially for any single mom. My hat is off to you! Something about coming home and the kids napping and a great quiet settles over everything. Suddenly it hits me that it’s just a little too lonely without my best friend around. Of course right about that time I get a phone call and that always makes things a little better.
Finally I get to what I really wanted to blog about. That is my day as a stay at home mom. It was bittersweet because of course I missed my sweetheart, but it was also glorious in so many ways. Of course all of you stay at home moms know there is no such things as sleeping in even when you don’t have an office waiting for you at 8am. Around seven I hear a voice next to me saying,” mommy, mommy, its morning, and I had a good nap.” Kaylie makes no distinction between sleeping through the night and taking a nap so she always just tells me she had a good nap. I ask her to please give me just a few more minutes, but then five minutes later I here Micah drumming on his crib waiting for me to come greet him. At this point I’m up. There’s just too much day to waste sleeping. I actually get to make breakfast since we are not in a rush to get out the door, and we enjoyed a gourmet breakfast of biscuits and bacon while watching my personal favorite, Sesame Street. After packing bags and quick baths we head out on our first adventure, story time at the library. My mom usually takes the kids on Thursday, but we decided to catch the Monday edition. It cute and quirky and Kaylie loves it. I was pleasantly surprised to see how much she participates. She used to be a little shy, but she really gets involved now. Micah spent most of story time trying to wriggle out of my arms so he could crawl around the room. Story time just isn’t as appealing to him yet. Afterwards we had to scrap our plans for the park as the rain started to fall. We opted instead for the mall’s indoor playground. What a zoo that place is! Micah really enjoyed it despite the chaos and my constant worrying that he would be trampled. He took his first few steps on Friday so this was his big chance to display his skills to the world.
As the rain fell intermittently through the morning I decided that we should head home for a short nap. I was successful at getting the boy to sleep, but Kaylie tends to talk nonstop in an attempt to fight sleep. At last the house was quiet and a soft rain started to beat on the windows. I cannot describe how wonderful it was to take that nap as I listened to the rain fall. How often I sit at work watching the rain just wishing I could be at home in bed. It really was all it is cracked up to be. It wasn’t a long nap, but just enough to recharge for the afternoon. I loaded up the kids and picked my parents up at the airport so we could meet Melody at The Incredible Pizza Company. It was good to spend some time with them, and a great help with the kids. That place is nuts and I could not imagine going by myself with the kids. I cannot believe how loud it was even on a Monday afternoon.
I left with two happy kids and realized it was already past four, the time I would normally be coming home from work. Why must the day go by so quickly when we are having fun?
We settled in at home and I began to prepare for the following day. I wanted everything in order since I alone would be responsible for packing bags and getting them off to grandmas. It was rough knowing it would be back to the old routine. It is no easy task managing children and a home. I will never be one to say that moms who stay home have it easier than those of us who work. I will say that the time I have had to play a stay at home mom with my children is still by far more rewarding than any other job I have ever done.