Posts filed under ‘travel’
Almost everyone has a wish list of places they’d like to visit and things they’d like to do in their lifetime. Although my son is only eight months old I’ve already started a list for him. It includes many of the family friendly spots in and around the Washington DC area.
Not only are these activities great for the whole family they are also free. If you find cheap lodging outside of the city and venture into DC via metro (it’s a fun ride for kids) you can experience days and days of interesting activities without spending a lot of money.
Since we live just across the DC border we can reach the heart of the city in less than 20 minutes.
Here are a few places at the top of my list:
- Bureau of Engraving & Printing (Since I’m One Frugal Girl I have to take my son to the bureau of engraving and printing where he can see currency printed, stacked, cut and checked for defects.)
- National Air and Space Museum (This museum includes the largest collection of air and spacecraft in the world. You can learn about the history and technology of aviation and space flight. It’s a staple field trip for most children who grow up in this area, but it is definitely one of the coolest museums in the area.)
- Washington Monument (Travel to the top of the monument and see one of the best view’s of the city.)
- National Zoo (On quiet days I used to walk to the zoo from my old job. This is where you’ll find the famous Giant Pandas.)
- National Postal Museum (Lots of kids are fascinated and thrilled to receive mail. This museum features exhibits explaining how mail is sent, received and delivered.)
Of course there are other fun, (not so free), places we must visit. This list includes:
- Watching a Baseball Game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards or Nationals Park
- Visiting an Amusement Park (Busch Gardens, Hershey Park, Kings Dominion and Six Flags America) are all close by.
- Watching dolphins, sharks and sea turtles swim at the National Aquarium (This is an all time favorite of mine.)
- Attending a family friendly performance at Wolf Trap National Park.
And of course there are the simple pleasures like
- Picking peaches in the summer from local farms and pumpkins in the fall.
Washington, DC has thousands of activities for children. In fact, I can’t imagine a city that has more to offer young children. My son is only eight months old now, but I can’t wait to explore all that DC has to offer him.
Do you have any favorite activities in and around the Washington, DC area? If so feel free to leave me a comment below. I’ll add it to my to-do list!
My previous two posts discussed how to save money on food and supplies while on vacation. This post is one of the easiest things you can do to prepare and save money before you leave on your trip. It seems so simple it’s hard to believe anything can go wrong, but somehow or another I typically find a way to screw it up.
The trick is to very consciously and deliberately pack. Over the years I have forgotten a multitude of items while on vacation. Some of the items are relatively inexpensive like toothpaste, toothbrushes and razors. Other times the cost has been much larger. One summer I forgot to pack my swimsuit and had to shell out nearly $100 to find a replacement suit. (I may have been able to find something cheaper, but I didn’t want to waste the short time I had on vacation shopping for a new one.)
As anal as it sounds, (and yes it is quite anal), I now write down each and every item I might possibly need before packing my bags. One year I actually Googled for ‘what to bring on a beach vacation’ and made a cheat sheet of sorts that I can use to pack my bags.
I double check the list and then have my husband review it to make certain I haven’t missed anything. The list includes big things like clothing and swim suits, but it also includes the smaller often forgotten items like band aids, pain relievers, sunscreen and q-tips.
On one trip to Florida my husband and I rented a convertible and then realized we didn’t bring any hats. With the sun beating down on us we forced to drive around in search of some. We wasted two hours driving to and from shopping malls until we spotted a Walmart where we bought two that said ‘Bud Light.’ Of course, we could’ve put the cover back on the car, but we paid extra for a convertible and wanted to enjoy the wind and weather. Buying those hats was a waste of our time and money. Although looking back it was a funny story.
When I’m on vacation I want to spend my days lounging by the pool, swimming in the ocean, snowboarding down mountains, dining on fabulous food or sightseeing. I don’t want to spend it searching for malls and paying full price for something I’ll probably never use or wear again.
So now I do my best to write a list and check it twice. Every once in awhile I find myself without something, but more often than not I have everything I need right in my suitcase.
In my previous post I discussed a few simple ways my husband and I save money on food and supplies while on vacation. Well today I thought of another tip worth sharing.
Before you leave your house or after you arrive at your destination stock up on easy to eat, hand held snacks. These can be absolutely anything you enjoy. Our list includes apples, granola bars, snack mixes, pretzels and mixed nuts.
Now pack handfuls of these snacks into a small travel bag that is lightweight and easy to carry. If you plan to have your car with you at most times then you can pack a larger bag of snacks and leave them in your trunk or back seat. If you take this approach make certain to grab a handful after you arrive at your destination. The key is to have food on hand and at the ready whenever hunger strikes.
I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I have gotten into a fight on vacation, because one or the other of us is hungry. We are usually exhausted from a day of activities, we don’t want to wait until we get back to our rental house or hotel, we have no idea where to eat and we are absolutely starving. Inevitably we end up stopping at some overpriced, poorly rated restaurant because we simply can’t wait to eat.
The trick to stopping this problem was so simple I couldn’t believe it. Carrying around a few snacks ensures that we no longer find ourselves frustrated and starved. Now we can either go home and prepare food or we can take our time searching for a place to eat.
We no longer find ourselves stopping at the drive-thru to pick up greasy fast food or stopping by the nearest restaurant.
This simple trick has not only saved us money, I think it’s saved our health and our sanity while on vacation. We no longer find ourselves starving and fighting. It also means we enjoy our food more once we do finally eat. It’s a lot more enjoyable to sit and wait to be served while you are relaxed and hungry, but not starved.
If we’re not too tired from a day of activities we can even make it back home and cook dinner once we get there. In the past we would’ve been too hungry to hold out for the drive back to our house or hotel. Now, with snacks in the car, we can fulfill the need to eat immediately, but wait until we arrive home to dine on a full meal.
In a few days we’ll pack up the car and head out on a week long trip to the beach. We visit North Carolina fairly frequently, but with my husband acting as the sole provider for our family our last two trips were only two days long. We left late on a Friday night and returned by Sunday afternoon. This will be our first week long vacation since we idiotically waited out Irene last fall.
We’ve owned our beach home for nearly eight years now and over the years I’ve learned quite a bit about saving money when staying in a beach house. If you know the house you’re staying in will have a kitchen, grill, dishwasher and/or washing machine you might find these tips helpful.
The best money saving tip: Bring as much as you can from home. Stock up when things are on sale before you ever leave for vacation.
First, bring rolls of toilet paper and paper towels from home. I ALWAYS buy paper products when I can combine a coupon with a store sale and usually have a stash of them in the house. If you wait until you arrive at your destination you will inevitably pay full price for them at the grocery store. If you buy paper products on sale you can save quite a bit of money by bringing along your stash from home.
I do the same for any household supplies I know we’ll need. I make certain to bring trash bags, dish soap, dishwashing detergent and laundry detergent. I like to bring along items that can be packaged in smaller units. For example, I like to use Purex 3-in-1 laundry sheets, which act as both the detergent and the dryer sheet. I can just grab a few and don’t have to worry about lugging a heavy bottle around with me. Those little ultrapacks for the dishwasher are similar. You can put a couple in a plastic container or sandwich bag and bring them along. They don’t take up much space in the car and they aren’t heavy.
On most days we eat in while we’re on vacation, so I also bring a bunch of recipes and spices along for the ride. If you know you just need a bit you can measure the ingredients in advance. You can place them in baggies or take the more environmentally friendly solution by placing them into tiny glass containers or clean baby food jars. Everyone knows spices are extremely expensive, so it helps to menu plan a bit in advance. You’ll save a bunch of money on ingredients this way.
I also pack a stack of those marinade mixes that you can purchase by the packet. Again they are easy to transport and typically require nothing more than oil and water. You can find these on sale throughout the year and they last for a very long time. If you have a grill where you’re staying, (most places do these days), you can marinate chicken or meat and make a quick and easy supper.
If you have room to carry a cooler in your car, (we no longer have room in our Camry for one), you can also buy some dry ice or cooling bags and pack meats like ground beef or chicken. I must admit that I do this much more often for one or two day trips to the beach. If I’m going for a whole week I just purchase it at the grocery store and typically know that I’ll pay full price for it. Even at full price it’s still a whole lot cheaper to buy meat and poultry than paying for meals at restaurants.
If you are going to a beach town leave a little room in your cooler and search for fruit and veggie stands along the way. The produce is typically in better condition than you’ll find in grocery stores and the price is usually better too. It’s best to look for stands that are slightly off the beaten path. You’ll pay more for ones with prime locations right along the main roads. We almost always pick up ingredients for pool side smoothies this way.
If you are a coupon clipper bring along coupons for any items you’ll need to buy to complete your recipes. You may find better deals with sales at the store, but it never hurts to be prepared for those every day items like bread, butter, cooking oil and cheese. If you have room to transport these along in your car go for it, but I find it’s easier to just make a trip to the grocery store once I get there.
If you have time clip coupons for chain restaurants between your home and your final destination. My husband and I often stop for sandwiches at places like Subway and Quiznos and Quiznos often has printable coupons available on their website. If you want to save even more money pack sandwiches yourself and snack on them in the car. As an added bonus you may be able to drive for a longer stretch without stopping.
Once you arrive at your destination look around for coupon booklets outside of gas stations and shopping areas. You’ll often find discounts for free appetizers, buy-one-get-one free meals and/or a percentage off your breakfast, lunch or dinner. These booklets also have coupons for local stores, so if you plan to buy clothes, trinkets or souvenirs definitely pick one up before you go.
Despite the best intentions you may still blow your budget on food and supplies while on vacation. You may pass a tasty restaurant and decide to stop in for dinner, you may find a local seafood market and spend large sums of money on steamed shrimp, mussels and crabs. Remember that it’s okay to splurge every once in awhile and if you’ve budgeted for it by all means splurge on vacation! If you want to eat out every night, not pack a single thing and buy everything once you get there it’s entirely up to you. My tips are not meant to keep you confined and repressed during your vacation, they are simply meant to save you a couple of bucks if you choose to use them.
I just booked a room at a hotel where my husband and I used to spend Valentine’s Day so many moons ago. It’s a little place on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with views of the Chesapeake Bay. My dad recommended this particular spot as a possible wedding venue when we tied the knot nearly seven years ago. It was runner-up to the little inn where we were actually married.
Here are the totals for our trip to Boston:
- $10 – Tickets for the T
- $78 – Dinner on Friday
- $0 – Continental Breakfast
- $9 – Lunch at the Game on Saturday
- $1.80 – Hot Chocolate
- $6 – Turkey Wrap
- $33 – Dinner on Saturday
- $0 – Appetizers at the Hotel
- $3 – Chocolate Covered Strawberry
- $31 – Sunday Brunch
- $1.50 – Chocolate Covered Strawberry
- $2 – A Pack of Gum at the Airport
- $9 – Bottle of Water and Salad at the Airport
- $20 – Water Taxi Trip for 2 Back to the Airport
- $359 – 2 Nights at the Marriott (plus 2 Bottles of Beer)
- $208 – Airfare for 2
Total Spent: $771.30
Where we could have saved…
- The chocolate covered strawberries in Quincy Market were twice the price of the ones on the North End and only half as good. If you are ever in Boston skip Quincy Market and head straight to Mike’s Pastry. If I could have transported Mike’s strawberries I would’ve brought at least half a dozen home.
- We ate a late breakfast on Saturday, but by the time we got to the game we started to feel hungry again. The miniature pizza and flat soda were certainly not worth the $9 concession food price we paid.
- My husband purchased an inexpensive turkey wrap that we could munch on as a late night snack. (We figured this would prevent us from calling for room service.) Unfortunately we didn’t shut the door to the fridge completely and when we returned to the hotel we found a very warm and inedible wrap.
- Poor planning led to the salad at the airport. I thought about picking up something to take on the plane for dinner, but didn’t. I could have found a much tastier meal for less money.
- Lastly I spent an extra $12 choosing seats on Air Tran Airways. This wasn’t entirely necessary, but did ensure we sat in the front of the plane. I absolutely hate waiting to get off an airplane!
My husband and I are about to head to the airport and return home from our short trip to Boston. My team lost the game we flew up here to watch, but the trip was more than worth the price we paid.
Our plane landed just as the sun was setting and we stepped out of the gate and onto a shuttle to the T within a matter of minutes. The T cost just a few dollars per ride and our hotel was three stops from the airport and just outside of the station’s exit. We settled into the hotel for just a few minutes and then walked down to the North End for dinner. We chose a small Italian restaurant where I ordered the most expensive seafood dish on the menu. Just look at the amount of seafood in the picture below!
We wandered around the North End and settled back in the hotel to hang out for the remainder of the night.
Our hotel had a few extra perks we weren’t expecting including a concierge level complete with continental breakfast, hors d’oeuvres, dessert and an honor bar. We visited that spot overlooking the wharf a couple of times in between our ventures out of the hotel.
We spent $9 on concessions during the game, because we were both a little hungry and looking for something to eat that would tide us over until we ate a late lunch or early dinner. On the way back home we stopped at a local deli where I ordered a small cup of the most delicious hot chocolate I think I’ve ever tasted.
There is something so comforting about walking the streets of Boston with a warm, cup of cocoa in hand. We wandered around with no particular destination in mind. We visited Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market and walked up and down the streets before heading back to our hotel.
It was the perfect way to spend the weekend and worth every penny we spent. It’s still cold in Boston and it was nice to walk hand in hand through the streets trying to snuggle close and stay warm.
What do you do before leaving the house for a weekend away? I don’t know why, but I always feel the compulsion to sweep the floors, wash all the laundry, run the dishwasher, put away all the dishes, run water down the kitchen sink, run the disposal, take the trash, shut down all of my computers, make sure the light over the driveway is on, oh and pack.
Then I make certain we’ve packed our toothbrushes, toothpaste, shaving gel and all of the other stuff we require while we’re away. This time I also packed a few snacks, which is really nothing more than a whole bunch of random stuff we had sitting around in our kitchen. A bag full of skittles, two apples, a few granola bars and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich just in case I get hungry along the way.
I’m excited about our upcoming trip. The plane tickets cost less than $200 combined. The flight is only one hour and twenty minutes long and we scored free tickets to a basketball game while we’re away. We plan on taking public transportation everywhere we want to go, so no car rental, (hooray!), and no gas expenses either.
The hotel, as usual, is the most expensive part of our trip. I found a room at the Marriott for $150 a night before taxes and other fees. I purchased Marriott gift cards a few months ago in preparation for the trip. I earned points for purchasing the cards and I’ll earn additional points for our stay. You can’t beat that. I’m super close to earning a free room with Marriott’s point and I think this trip will put us just over the top.
I’m not going to be a frugal fanatic on this very short trip. If we want to spend money to sight see or eat while we’re there I’m going to fork over the money no questions asked. I looked at Groupon deals in Boston, but decided it was to risky to purchase anything for this trip.
My husband and I are fly-by-the-seat of your pants kind of people while we’re on vacation. We don’t adhere to any specific agenda and we stop to sight see or eat at the drop of a hat. I didn’t want to get pigeon holed into being at a particular place in the city when there are so many wonderful spots we might find along the way.
So I’m bringing some cash and a credit card and plan to let the weekend unfold in whatever form it chooses. I can’t wait!
I decided the price was right and purchased two flights for my upcoming trip to Boston. The total before taxes and other fees was $71 per person and when all was said and done I paid less than $200. I would have preferred to fly on Southwest, (I’m two points shy of a free ticket), but the tickets were nearly double the price for the dates and times I desired.
Now I need to figure out where we should stay and what we should do while we’re on travel. A couple of readers left great comments on my previous post and I’d like to take a lot of those suggestions into account before making any more decisions. We won’t fly out until February so I have plenty of time to figure things out.
I’d also like to plan another mini-vacation. Since I’m traveling to Boston during the coldest time of year I’d like to plan the next trip to an exotic location that’s warm and breezy. A few folks have recommended the Caribbean. I’ve never been, so I’m adding it to the list of places to research. Since I’m open to locations I plan to park myself in front of a computer and research as many holiday deals as possible. You never know what wonderful places I might find.
I’m considering tapping my ‘fun’ fund to pay for our upcoming trips. This fund includes proceeds from blogging, completing surveys and selling items on eBay. It hasn’t grown this large overnight. In fact, it’s taken years to reach this level. Sometimes it crawls by just a few dollars per month, other times it grows by leaps and bounds overnight, but I’m pretty proud that it’s reached nearly $2,000.
I’ve tapped it every so often to pay for random odds and ends, but for the most part I let it grow without disruption. My hope now is to spend it on a really fun and memorable vacation.
I started researching airline prices for my trip to Boston in February. A round trip flight from Washington, DC on Jet Blue is currently priced at $128 per person. That seems like a really good price, but I talked to some friends who suggested waiting a few months to see if prices drop farther.
I always thought ticket prices went up over time, but they said airlines often advertise lower prices when flying to a cold place like Boston in the middle of winter. The ticket is so cheap at this point that I’m not sure how much more I could save. This is a leisure trip and I’m not willing to board a 6 am flight to save myself $20.
So I’m not sure what to do. Should I go ahead and purchase tickets now or wait and see if the prices fall once the cold weather arrives?