5 Free Things You Should Do on Vacation

action-adventure-blur-386009

 

When on a trip, we always try to fit in several free activities.  This allows us to stick to our budget and still have fun.  This is especially important if you find your entertainment-budget funds are quickly drying up. Free and fun things can be found everywhere.  It just takes time to look for them.

  1. Visit the local park – Even if you don’t have children, the local park is a great place to go and burn off energy.  If you want to sit quietly on a bench, let your kids play on the swings, have a picnic or just burn calories, not all of your entertainment has to be purchased.
  2. Play Dominoes – I know not everyone can play dominoes, but we used to bring them on trips and let the kids build with them and knock them down.  This was fun in the hotel room when they would not sleep, or at local parks when we needed to sit!  Dominoes falling
  3. Go to the Library –   A library is not the quiet stuffy place you might think of.  Most have makerspaces (an area for crafts, technology, and building) you can look at magazines, check your email or just read a good book.  A public library will also have literature on the community
  4. Go to large open marketplaces, shops or malls – I lump these together because they are all places where you can get out.  You might see new stores, or let your kids explore any open play areas.  We have a boardwalk nearby that has fountains that kids can play in for free.  It is just good fun for them, and it is fun to watch.
  5. Family-Shared Picture Taking– This seems really self-explanatory, but in my experience, I was the picture taker.  Now when we look back at vacations I’m never in the pictures and all you see is what I think is important.  When we started sharing the picture taking things became so much more enjoyable.  Go places and have everyone take turns taking pictures.  Later organize those images by place and see your vacation from your families’ point of view! Best of all – everyone is included in the picturfree-stuffes!

In the end, you’ll find some of the free activities might be some of your favorites.

Advertisements

Road Trip Planning

roadtripLike most travelers, we’ve made a multitude of mistakes.  Our goal with this blog is to share those mistakes and help others not make them.  Here is a little insight into our first two road trips.

Our first road trip was pretty poorly planned.  Our oldest was a toddler so we decided to drive all night and arrive at our destination in the early morning.  Here is why that didn’t work.

  1. The baby didn’t sleep all night and was super cranky
  2. Adults had to go to the restroom, eat and were also tired and cranky
  3. The four days of vacation turned into four days of sleepy, cranky people who put up with each other.

Another important thing to remember is that we decided early on we would never use a credit card for a trip. (There is one exception to that which will be in another blog)  So all of our trips are paid for in cash up front.  Even if we use a rewards airline card we pay it off instantly.

You’ll read more about our road trips in other blog posts, but this was the first well planned one.

Since we could not afford to fly EVER at that stage in our lives, we decided we needed to rethink road trips.  First, we set down goals for the end of our trip.

  1. Arrive at final destination at a reasonable time
  2. Never interrupt sleep schedules
  3. Allow for a short break every 2 hours and a planned meal stop
  4. Make the road trip part of the vacation
  5. Bring plenty of food so we don’t have to eat out or skip meals and snacks

Our next road trip was to Florida.  By then our oldest son was 5, our middle son was 2 and I was pregnant with the youngest.  This trip took us from Galveston Texas to Destin, Florida.  As we started planning we looked at maps (MapQuest was not in the picture as of yet) checked for low-cost hotels and places we wanted to stay along the way.  Since we had 10 days we decided to take 2 of those days for travel each way.  That gave us 4 road trip days (to and from) and 6 days in Destin.

We left our home at 7 AM on day one.  We’d mapped out where the state parks and rest stops were between Galveston and Destin and we’d determined our halfway point to be in New Orleans.  That is where we decided to spend the night.

Leaving at 7 meant we made it to the Louisiana border right at 9AM.  That wa

la resr area

s our first planned rest stop.  The boys got out and ran around the beautiful rest area, and we pulled out our cooler with snacks.  (We prepare most meals on vacations as a way to save money)  The boys were small, so we had one of their favorite snacks, peanut butter ant logs and we spent 15 minutes hunting for bugs and frogs.  It was 20 minutes of pure joy and gave the boys and us just enough of a break to allow them to feel good about another 2-hour car ride.  We stopped once between Lafayette and Baton Rouge to let the boys run and go to the restroom.  This was a quick stop of 10 minues.

In the car, one kid slept while the other talked about our next stop in New Orleans, bugs, alligators, and pirates!!

We drove a few more hours and found our hotel.  We choose to stay out of the French Quarter because the hotels are much less expensive, but we were within walking distance.  We had booked our hotel in advance and it served breakfast.  This was 20 years ago so the cost is not something that you can compare today but it was very modest in cost and we had strollers to walk with the boys into the French Quarter.

We had a late lunch in the French Quarter under the beautiful old Oak Trees outside of St. Louis Cathedral.  I had packed my boys favorite of “Fancy bread” (bread cut with cookie cutters to make it look fun) and chicken salad, watermelon and Gold Fish crackers.

 

We had a beautiful picnic, walked around and listened to music, bought beignets at Cafe’ Du Monde and sat by the Mississippi River and watched the boats roll in.  While it was tempting to go out for the amazing food in The French Quarter for dinner, we decided to go back to the hotel and have time at the pool.  We had tons of snacks with us so we ordered a pizza and had fruit.

We got up at 6AM the next morning.  I packed up, we grabbed breakfast and took some of the fruit from the breakfast bar and headed out.  On our way out we found a grocery store to pick up a few essentials for the cooler.  Again, while we will eat out on vacation, most of our meals are not expensive.  This really helps you stay on budget and it allows you to spend more money on the experiences and not the food.

We stuck with our plan and arrived in Destin at the scheduled time, happy, well fed and not exhausted!  Coming home we planned to stay in Baton Rouge but the rest of the trip was pretty similar.

Here are the tips we learned on this trip:

  1. Bring Food to save money when eating out
  2. Plan to use the existing rest stops for a break
  3. Don’t fall into the trap of staying at the most expensive hotel.  A 10-minute walk will save you hundreds of dollars
  4. Use the hotel pool for kid fun
  5. Stay where breakfast is part of your room
  6. Plan well in advance and no everywhere you will stop for both long and short breaks

When we took the trip to Destin you could not find rest stops online.  We had to use old fashioned maps.   Use your technology to help you determine where to stay.  Below are links to the state rest stops in the states we visited before our stop in Destin.

 

Happy Travels,

J&D

 

 

Louisiana Rest Stops

Mississipi Rest Stops

Alabama Rest Stops

 

Ants on a Log – Recipes for Budget Travel

auntsEating when traveling is something you have to plan for.  If you wait until everyone is hungry you will end up with cranky people.

If you want to eat well and save money making food to travel with is a smart way to do it.  We don’t believe in borrowing money for a meal or for a vacation, so planning ahead is a way to do it.

Ants on a Log is an easy and healthy snack that my kids loved and would eat all of the time.  It is also healthy and very filling.  Now that they are grown and it is just the two of us we’ve found wa

 

ys to make this simple snack a little more elegant but sticking with the same concept of peanut butter and celery.

Here are a couple of variations of ants on a log.

Ants on a Log Easy – 

This version is easy to make and if you wrap it up in a small container you can carry it with you.  While it doesn’t need to be refrigerated it should not get hot because it will get messy.  We bring celery stalks, a small tub of peanut butter and a box of raisins on all trips.  Let the kids add the peanut butter into the celery, top with raisins and enjoy!  (You can bring all of these items on a plane, just ask someone on the plane for a knife to spread the peanut butter)

Ants on a Log Fancy – 

We were flying to Cozumel and I pulled out snacks for the boys.  The steward on the plane suggested we add cream cheese to our peanut butter!  So simple, but so yummy!  When we know we have a fridge in a hotel room or if we have a cooler we will bring a small tub of strawberry flavored cream cheese to mix with our peanut butter.  We’ve even gotten super fancy and started putting shredded coconut on top of our log!

Eating on a trip can be very expensive, so planning ahead is one way to really limit the excess spending and keep all family members happy!

One Secret to Budget Travel

We love to travel, but it was always so expensive we were limited in where and IMG_5418what we could do.  Some of our friends would go deep into debt going on fantastic trips.  Instead, we looked for ways to travel to great places for low prices.

After much research,  we found we could book a 7-day cruise for just $350 each, we realized that we needed to find more of those deals.  Tthe he secret to inexpensive travel is in the planning.

It took us years to find all of the tips to travel cheaply, but the one thing we know best is that sometimes a little legwork and planning will save you big dollars in the end.

Our first travel on a budget trip is always cruising.  First, the food and most drinks come with the cruise.  If you are willing to stay in an interior room and don’t mind skipping on the pricey drinks, then you can travel cheaply.  Just plan on not booking the cruise ’till the last minute.  Cruise lines would rather sell a room at a loss then have an empty room.

If you want to take a cruise that leaves on a Sunday, book it on Thursday.

caniing_quotes7

If you look at this screenshot from Carnival, you can see that if you wanted to cruise cheaply, you could book a four day Carribean cruise for $244!  That pays for a great cruise, all the shows, and food.

If you are a big drinker then a drink package might be in order, but I find we do well with just a cocktail at night and water or tea the rest of the trip.

If you want to take the fancy excursions trips offer, you can always find that they are offered by the vendor at the port for a lot less then the cruise offers them to you!  (That is a topic for another blog!)

Cruising is not our favorite form of travel, but it is great to see amazing places and never have to unpack!  There is also so much to do on a cruise that you can’t get bored, my favorite cruise experience is just reading by the pool!

 

Happy Traveling!

J&D