Category Archives: Vacations

How to Plan a Beach Trip

It is summer time and many of us think that summer is not complete without at least one trip to the beach.  Of course, most of us don’t have a clue about how to plan a beach trip successfully.  So we wind up getting sunburned, rained on, hungry, thirsty, spend too much… Should I go on?


So it doesn’t matter if you have rented a condo at the beach or you are more than an hour from it, planning ahead can help you have a more relaxed day so you can enjoy your time rather than spend it worrying.

Here are seven tips compiled from around the web and from personal experience.  Hope these can help you have fun on your beach day.

Check out the weather forecast
You don’t want a rain out on your beach day, and if it is too cool you could be miserable.  See what the rain chances are.  If you are going to a place like Florida then be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms, get there early.  If it looks bad all day then reschedule.

Prepare for the sun
Make sure you have sunblock and be generous with it.  Put it on before you leave the house.  Put it on again when you arrive.  Put it on when you or your kids come out of the water.  Make sure you have sunglasses to protect your eyes.  A hat is also a good idea to protect your head.  A beach umbrella can also help. A sunburn will make you tired and sore, and the long term effects are bad. So please protect yourself and don’t forget about the kids.

Be comfortable
If you are making a day of it you will need to stay as comfortable as possible.  So to avoid being miserable remember to bring along the essentials such as towels, blankets, umbrellas and beach chairs.  Make sure you have two towels per person- one to lie on and one to dry off with.  Blankets are even better to lie on as they are usually larger and thicker.  The ultimate comfort is a beach chair or even a chaise lounge (don’t forget the umbrella).  Many people bring a book to read or their own music to listen to.

Dress properly
Yes, you know you need a swimsuit but that is not all.  You can wear your swimsuit under comfortable clothing like a tee shirt and shorts, a beach coverup or a sundress.  Make sure you have something extra in case everything gets wet and and it starts getting cooler.  Flips-flops or sandals are usually the footwear of choice.  Also make sure whatever you wear into the water (swimsuit, shorts, shirt, etc.) is made of material that dries quickly.  And here is a little tip: extra clothes make a nice pillow!

Bring fun stuff
This is extra important if you have kids, but it can also help your enjoyment.  Things like Frisbees, volleyballs, footballs can keep the whole family entertained and are beach traditions.  Things like skim  boards or surfboards can also be fun.  Just remember to keep an eye on the kids as they may get too daring.  Smaller kids love just a pail and shovel to dig in the sand or to pick up shells.  Oh, and don’t forget to build a sandcastle.

Pack water and snacks
It is easy to get dehydrated in the sun so make sure you have plenty of water.  It is recommended that you have 1/2 gallon of cold water per person.  So bring a cooler with ice and keep the water in it.  Also use the cooler for pre-made sandwiches and fresh fruit, which also helps with hydration.  Carry snacks such as chips and pretzels, and avoid the candy.  Bring garbage bags for your trash and put your trash in it immediately.  You don’t want to attract the birds (seagulls can be quite a nuisance) and you certainly don’t want them hanging around..

Rest when you get home
A day in the sun can sap your energy.  Don’t plan anything big after you get home or back to you rental.  A nice calm dinner and off to bed early is the best medicine to end the day.

 

How to Save Money on a Road Trip

family road trip in car with luggage rack clipart

Road Trip!

Most of my trips these days have been through the air.  But I still like a good road trip every now and then, and I still remember the road trips we used to take when I was younger.  In fact, I did not fly until I was in my late 20’s.  So some of my fondest vacation memories were created from the back seat of a Ford.

So if you are planning on a road trip soon, maybe you are doing it for the fun of it or maybe it is because air travel can get expensive with a family.  Either way, I thought that these tips on saving money on a cross-country road trip would come in handy.  By using a little planning and common sense you can get great value for your money since this could still be a big expense.

So here are four tips that I have used to save money while traveling, check them out and let me know if you have used any of them.

  1. Plan Your Accommodations Wisely.
    Do you like to camp?  You can usually save a lot of money at campgrounds as opposed to hotels.  Still want to stay at a hotel?  Use a property that you have travel or reward points with when you book.  Even if you don’t have the points for discounts yet you will be building for that future trip.  Another way you can save on accommodations is to go through a cash back site such as Dubli.  We saved around $200 on a week stay in Las Vegas this year.
  2. Watch Your Speed.
    One of the fastest way to eat up the gasoline in your tank is to drive fast.  You would be surprised at how much difference there is between 65 mph and 75 mph.  And you don’t save that much time with the extra speed.  And we all know that gasoline is one of the major expenses on a road trip.  Also, keeping your car well-tuned can help save gas and make things run more smoothly.
  3. Have a Picnic.
    Another big expense on road trips is food.  Eating at restaurants can add up quickly, especially with a large family.  Why not bring a cooler, fill it with drinks, snacks, and sandwich fixings and stop at a roadside table  It can be fun and save money at the same time.
  4. Check Out the Discounts.
    You can almost always find discount booklets at hotels and restaurants on the road.  You should never have to pay full price for an attraction.  Another good source of discounts are sites like Best of Orlando, which offers online discounts specific to a given city.  Other discount sites include Groupon and Living Social, just make sure you sign up for the cities you will be visiting so you can receive the discounts.

So here are just a few tips on how to save money on a road trip.  While I am sure there are many more ways you can find to save while taking a road trip, these have worked well for us.

How do you save money on your road trip?

This article originally appeared on MoneyNing.com.

5 Tips for Fun Family Vacations on a Budget

Some of the fondest memories I have while growing up was of the times we took our family vacations.  It seems like in those days it didn’t cost nearly as much to travel and, even though we stayed in mostly budget hotels and ate a lot of fast food and sandwiches, we still had loads of fun.

trampoline-241899_1280So maybe today you are wanting to create these memories for your family but can’t find the funds to do so.  Everyday life gets in the way, kids expenses, house repairs, etc., and the short vacation seems out of reach.  But don’t let these things take away potential family memories that will last forever.  Here are some tips originally posted in Moneyning.com which can help you have your fun family vacations on a budget, and some of these will even become part of the memories themselves!

  1. Consider group travel.  Have you thought about vacationing with another family (that enjoy spending time with)?  You can find that splitting the cost of a cabin or vacation home can many times save over the cost of two hotel room, and you can usually find great, roomy accommodations.
  2. Don’t travel during the peak season.  Most people travel during the summer because of kids being out of school and the weather being warmer.  But if you travel during the off-season you can get much more bang for your buck.  Resorts will often give off-season discounts, cruises are much cheaper, and many time you can find travel incentives.
  3. Pack your lunch.  One of the biggest expenses when traveling is the cost of eating out, especially if you have a larger family.  If your kids are like mine they can pack away the food.  One thing we have done is to bring a cooler along.  When we got to our destination one of the first things we did was hit the local grocery store to get snacks and sandwich materials.  We found we could use this to offset at least one meal a day (sometimes two if we had a light breakfast).  This always resulted in a huge savings which can be used to do other things or help stay within the budget.
  4. Order delivery.  Our kids loved pizza and we always had pizza night at least once a week..  Why not have pizza delivered to you hotel room.  Our kids actually preferred that since they could stay around the hotel without having to stop what they were doing to get dressed to go out.
  5. Find out what the local do.  Usually the people who live in the area are glad to share where the best places are to eat and visit.  They may even be able to clue you in to specials and discounts that you could find otherwise.  So strike up a conversation with the desk clerks, waiters, bartenders, and bellhops.  Be friendly and usually people will be friendly in return.

These are just on few tip you can try if you are vacationing on a budget.  Please let me know if you have other tips or what you think of these.

The original article was posted in Moneyning and can be read here.

The Cost of Theme Parks – Florida and California

If you are going to visit any of the major theme parks in Florida or California this summer (think Disney, Universal, etc.) then you may want to count the cost before you go. Here is a quick guide to what it is going to cost you. Yes, the ticket prices continue to rise but if you check the multi-day packages you can find yourself saving money on your vacation.

Disney_Mickey_MinnieFlorida

DISNEY WORLD
Tickets to the Magic Kingdom cost $105 plus tax for a one-day adult, for children ages 3 to 9 it’s $99 plus tax.

If you are going to Epcot, Animal Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studios the price for adult admission (one day) is $97 per person, plus tax. For chisldren agese 3 to 9 the cost is $91, plus tax. Kids under age 3 can enter at no cost.

For Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach the one-day admission is $58 for ages 10 and older, and $50 for children ages 3 to 9.

If you want to take advantage of the Park Hopper options you will find that the prices begin to get more confusing as you add more dates and options. If you get additional days they will be specific for one park,. If you want to explore different parks, you’ll have to add those to the park hopper prices.
For multi-day passes the prices are the same, regardless of park.. The two-day tickets cost $192 for ages 10 and older, and $179 for ages 3 to 9. If you want a three-day ticket it will cost you $275 and $256, and if you go for the four-day ticket the prices are $305 and $285. Five-day tickets are $315 and $295. As you can see, if you go for the longer visits you will pay less per day, and if you choose the five-day option the ticket prices drop to $63 for adults per day. So the most expensive item will be a five-day hopper with water park access where you will wind up paying $765.

Now if you want to be able to hop parks you will need to add $64 to the original cost. To visit the Disney water parks along with one park, add $64. If you want to visit all parks, including the water parks, add $90.

Another expense will be parking. By staying at a Disney World Resort Hotel, you can benefit from the complimentary shuttles that operate during park hours, as well as free parking with a valid Key to the World Card or Resort Parking Permit. Not staying at the resort? The price for parking your car will be one fee of $17 for all theme parks per day. Parking at the water parks and Downtown Disney is free.

LEGOLAND
One-day tickets for just LEGOLAND are $89 for ages 13 and older, and $82 for children ages 3 to 12 and seniors 65 and older. In case you want to visit the park and the water park together the costs are $104 and $97, respectively. You can save with multi-day passes with a two-day pass for LEGOLAND costing $104 and $97, respectively, or $119 and $112 if you want to add the water park. Children under 3 are free. So the most expensive item will be a two-day pass with water park access for $119.

The cost of parking will cost $17 per day. If you want to park closer (preferred parking) the price is $22 per day.

UNIVERSAL
The Universal Orlando Resort is comprised of Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. My advice is to visit both. If you want to see both areas of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter you’ll need park-to-park admission. Hogwarts Express travels to both parks.

For a single park the admission is $102 for adults and $197 for children. To visit both parks, the price rises to $147 and $142, respectively. Fortunately, children 2 and younger are free. If you are going to add additional days you will find that two-day single-park passes are $150 for adults and $140 for children. For three days the prices are $170 and $150 and four days will cost $170 and $160. In case you want to see both parks on multiple dates, plan on paying $195 per adult for two days, with children costing $185. The three day prices go up to $205 and $195, and for four days you will find yourself paying $215 and $205.

Another feature you can purchase is an unlimited Express Pass that allows you to jump to the front of the line on participating rides and attractions throughout the day. The prices start at $50 for one-park and $60 for two parks. The parks also offer VIP Experiences. This allows guests to have front-of-the-line priority, behind the scene tours, complimentary valet parking, breakfast daily, reserved seating at shows and exclusive viewing areas for evening shows and parades. The prices start at $329 for a one-day, one-day, non-peak ticket. So the most expensive item will be a four day, two-park, Express Pass admission for $455.

The cost of parking is $17 for Universal, the preferred parking package will run you $25. For a premium, valet parking is available.

BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA
Since I have always liked Busch Gardens, I will mention their prices as well. It is easy to head west to Tampa’s Busch Gardens location. If you’re planning to visit Busch Gardens, a single-day ticket will cost $97 for ages 3 and older. For children 2 and younger there is no cost. On weekdays the ticket prices are lower. By becoming a Pass Member (especially if you live in the area) you can save money. So your maximum cost is $97 per day.

Parking costs at Busch Gardens are $17. If you want preferred the price is $22.

 

California

DISNEYLAND
In California, Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure one-day tickets will cost you $99, before taxes. Children ages 3 to 9 are $93. Children under 3 are free.

Going with the two-day tickets option the costs are $185 for ages 10 and older, and $172 for ages 3 to 9. The three-day ticket option will cost you $235 and $224; four-day tickets cost $260 and $245; and five-day ticket prices are $275 and $259. As with Disney World, you’ll save more when you purchase more days. By going with the five-day option the ticket prices drop to $55 per day. However, if you want to visit both Disneyland and California Adventure the cost is an additional $40, regardless of age or number of days. A five-day park hopper pass will cost you $475.

Parking costs at Disneyland and California Adventure are $17 per day.

LEGOLAND
One-day tickets for LEGOLAND are $89 for ages 13 and older, and $83 for children ages 3 to 12. If you want to add the Water Park or SEA LIFE attractions the price goes up to $92 and $86, respectively. To shoot the works and see all three attractions the cost will be $113 or $107, respectively. So the most expensive item will be a three-park pass that will cost you $113 for one day.

Parking is going to cost you $15 per day, with the closer, preferred parking costing an extra $10 per day.

2941551448_b3ea80442f_qUNIVERSAL
Unlike it’s Florida counterpart, Universal Studios Hollywood offers only one park with one price for kids and adults. This makes it much simpler in terms of ticket prices. A one-day ticket costs $95 per person. Kids 3 and under are free. Two-day ticket prices change with age, so you will pay $119 for ages 10 and older and $111 for children ages 3 to 9.

The park does have Front of the Line tickets where you can get just one-time priority access to each ride, show and attraction during your visit. The price for these tickets are $189. They also have VIP Experience available, where you get escorted priority access to all rides and attractions and behind-the-scenes visits to closed sets on the studio’s back lot. These are only available to guests ages 5 and older and start at $329, depending on date. So the most expensive item will be $329 for one-day, VIP access.

The cost of parking is $17, but it will go up to $25 for preferred parking and $40 for parking spots closest to the gates.

 

This article originally appeared in Family Vacation Critic and can be read here.

4 Tips on How to Make That Long Road Trip More Pleasant

If you have ever taken the family in a long road trip you know that it doesn’t take long for every to get a little cranky. Of course these days with the electronic world of music, games and movies, kids (and adults) go all go into their own little worlds. But wouldn’t it be more fun to generate a little interaction, maybe have a little family time? I mean, even at home with older kids family can rarely be all together and have social interaction.

Here are some things inspired by USA Today you can do on that long road trip to help keeps the kids entertained and even the driver can get in on the action.

family road trip in car with luggage rack clipart

family road trip in car with luggage rack clipart

1) You Can Learn as You Go

One thing you can do which we couldn’t as kid is to use audiobooks. These could be a great way to pass the time. It dowsn’t matter whether you’re driving alone or if the whole family is packed into the car. Two highly recommended series are the Harry Potter series and the Paddington Bear collection. These can help keep kids quiet and interested for long periods. If you have teens in the car let them pick some of the audiobooks they like. You can check these out from your local library and play them on several different devices, so it woon’t cost you anything. The key is finding out what everyone likes so they will stay interested.

2) Come Up With Creative Games

There are lots of games we used to play when I was a kid on a road trip. Re-introduce them to your family. The license plate game is one we used to have fun with, just make sure you have pens and plenty of paper for scoring those states that you spot. Another game was travel bingo where you would look for certain objects to complete your ‘bingo’. The old ‘I Spy’ or the similar ’20 questions’ are always good as they make everyone think. Try to make up memory games so everyone has to remember what was said or seen. There are many possibilities and time will pass before you know it.

3) How About the Smaller Kids

Since younger children have shorter attention spans, you need to find different activities for them, like coloring; or playing the easier games (like travel bingo). The bingo cards can be done in advance so the little ones can have something to do with their hands while they look for items along the highway. If they are younger make sure you help them so there is no frustration. Another trick you could try would be to print basic highway maps from the Internet and mark certain spots along the way. If they get to a spot without acting up, you can let them have a goodie or surprise. Be creative.

4) Last But Not Least, Try Talking

Nowadays, with cell phones, tablets, and portable video game consoles, families hardly ever have time to talk to one another. Use this time to see what’s happening with everone. You don’t necessarily need to have deep discussions. Just talks about likes and dislikes, what’s going on with their friends, or whatever matters to them. You may find that your teens will love to tell you about these thing. Laughing and joking are always good, and I have found that once you get the humor rolling it is contagious. I remember those times as some of the best I have had with my family.

If you try theses methods you can find that all day trip can go by quickly and pleasantly. You still need to stop frequently, especially with younger children, but they will look forward to getting back on the road if you can keep it fun!

Original article appeared in USA Today and can be read here.

More Tips for Packing Luggage for Air Travel – 10 Things NOT to Pack

luggage photo: luggage 6-05-09.jpg

One of the hardest things about packing for that big trip is knowing what to leave behind. You find yourself constantly thinking "What if I need this?" or "I just can't do without that!". Well those kind of thoughts can be your worst enemy when you are getting ready to pack.

By using some simple guidelines and a little restraint you can not only save money but also time and even trouble. When packing the rule of thumb is 'less is more'. These tips can be quite helpful in letting you not only know what not to pack for air travel, but could be helpful even if you are just taking a road trip.

These 10 things not to pack were first published on farecompare.com and are a good starting point for what to exclude from your packing list:

1. Valuables 

Never pack irreplaceable items. Things get lost, things get stolen, things get broken. Tip: Most airlines state that valuables are not allowed in checked bags, so don’t count on getting reimbursed for your good jewelry if anything happens to your bag.

 

2. Items with no ID 

Airline, airport and security lost & found rooms are filled with expensive electronics that are difficult to reunite with owners because they are difficult to identify. Make it easier to get items back by jotting down device ID numbers or attach temporary tags (even a business card). Even better, hang on to these devices so they don’t get lost; always keep them on your person.

 

3. Liquor store bottles 

Bringing a bottle of wine for your host is a lovely gesture, but security will confiscate it from a carry-on or it could break inside a checked-bag (cabernet + summer whites = disaster). Ship fragile or bulky gifts ahead and do the same for home-bound souvenirs.

 

4. Drugstore bottles 

Forget space-eaters like big bottles or tubes of sun screen or economy-size shampoo, conditioner or lotion. Many hotels already give you this stuff for free but if you prefer your own brand, shop a big box drugstore on arrival.

 

5. Hair dryer 

These are bathroom fixtures in even the cheapest motels these days (and you can always call or check the website to confirm). Visiting family? Bet they have some of these lying around. Save the space in your bag for something more important.

 

6. Books 

Yes, I do like books but I also like packing as little as possible so I always load up my electronic device. What I find amazing is how so many books can be added to a single phone or tablet. If you haven’t tried it yet, vacation is the perfect time.

 

7. Surfeit of shoes 

Shoes can be heavy, take up valuable space, and they’re not the cleanest things in your suitcase (tip: wrap them in bags you can recycle once you get home). Suggestion: wear one pair, pack one pair.

 

8. Too many clothes 

We’re all guilty of this: packing too many pants, shirts, skirts, dresses, whatever. Unless your last name is Kardashian and you must placate the paparazzi with a new outfit several times a day, don’t do this. Especially avoid ‘maybe’ outfits as in, “Maybe I’ll wear it.”

You know the drill: clothing you do pack should be in similar/matching colors so everything works with everything, and roll clothes instead of placing them flat in a bag to eke out the most space (see the video). If you don’t pack too much, you can probably use a carry-on and spend the $50 round-trip bag fee on something a lot more fun

.

 

9. Excess cash and cards 

Don’t travel with more than two credit cards (you carry one, spouse or good friend has the other). If one gets lost, it’s not the end of the world because you still have the other, but do record the card number and contact information on a piece of paper and keep it separate from the cards. Might want to make sure someone close to you back home has this info, too.

 

10. A big bag per person 

If a carry-on alone won’t cut it, trying sharing a big bag. If a family of four packs two checked-bags instead of four, that’s a savings of $100 round-trip. Plus most airlines still allow each traveler a carry-on for free

How to Save Even More Money on Your Vacation : Video

We are continuing to discuss ways to save money on vacation.  The following video from Good Morning America shows how a family saved thousands on their vacation.  All it took was a little flexibility and research.  If you ever doubted that these techniques worked then here is the proof.  There is no reason that anyone could not save money while traveling. It’s not too late to save for this year’s trip!

ABC US News | World News

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