Posts filed under ‘travel’
My son’s very first airplane ride is just under two months away. I recently booked our flight through a third party vendor and had to call the airline for specific seat assignments. I normally wouldn’t worry about this, but wanted to ensure the three of us could book seats next to one another.
As soon as I mentioned the reason for my call the customer service representative asked if we wanted additional legroom for our seats. I’m over 6 feet tall with a short torso and extremely long legs, so the space between two seats can actually become quite cramped for me. I was willing to consider the option and asked how much it would cost to upgrade. “It starts at $5,” she said, (a good way to lure customers into considering the pricier seats), “but your cost would be $50 per person”. $150 for all three of us on each leg of the flight for a total of $300 if we choose to upgrade each time the airplane took to the sky. It was easy to say no to that offer.
“Well you can also pay a little extra for seats at the front of the plane,” the customer service rep offered. As she was chatting I quickly clicked on seatguru and found that there may be an additional 2 inches of space for seats in the front of the plane, but the airlines representative couldn’t confirm that fact. “It only costs an additional $5″, she said.
Five extra dollars per seat, meaning we’d spend $15 for three seats that may have additional legroom near the front of the plane. If we wanted the same seating on the return flight we’d have to kick in an additional $15.
Was priority seating in the front of the plane worth an additional $5 per person per flight? If I was guaranteed an extra few inches of legroom I definitely would’ve jumped at the opportunity. My son doesn’t need the extra space, but my husband certainly wouldn’t object and it really would make travel a little more pleasant for me. Sitting in the front of the plane might also be handy since we have to lug the car seat and other toddler related items through the tiny aisle of the plane.
We pay $15 at the drop of a hat for all sorts of things: parking at events, a quick meal on the way to and from the beach, stickers, toys and craft supplies, but would I pay $15 for the possibility of a more pleasant experience?
What do you think? Would you pay more for the possibility of extra legroom and/or a seat at the front of the plane?
I am currently in the midst of planning my son’s first mid-western adventure. While we drive back and forth to North Carolina at least every two or three months we have yet to board an airplane with the little fella.
So far he is excellent travel partner and almost never complains during our long six hour haul north or south. We keep him fueled with lots of snacks and try our best to drive during his nap time, but when he wakes he usually smiles, looks out the window and asks if we are at home or the ocean, depending on which we are traveling.
I’m not particularly nervous about taking him on an airplane, but if I have learned one lesson in the first two years of his life it’s that I have to plan as much as possible to ensure easy sailing.
Here’s the advice I’ve gathered so far:
- Take the car seat on the plane. Kids won’t wiggle and ask to run around the cabin if they are strapped into a car seat. They know once they are buckled in they can’t get out until someone assists them. Plus, although it’s a pain to drag a car seat through the airport you’ll have one ready when you reach your rental car. Rental car companies cannot guarantee the availability, safety or cleanliness of car seats you rent.
- Consider purchasing a lighter car seat to make travel in and out of the airports easier. We currently own a a Britax car seat, but a friend recommended the Cosco Scenera, because it’s slim enough to fit within the confines of the airplane cushion and only weighs 11 pounds. (Not sure it’s worth buying an extra car seat when we already have one?)
- That same friend also recommended purchasing a car seat trolley to save our backs and keep one hand free to wrangle and chase after our son. (Anyone own one of these? Are they worth the $65 price tag?)
- Use a baby carrier in the airport rather than a stroller. We own an ergo baby carrier, but haven’t used it much in the last year. (Any advice on this topic? Do you check your stroller with the rest of your baggage and what type of stroller do you bring for a toddler? I am considering bringing an umbrella stroller, but I don’t know how useful that will be if it snows while we are out west. I could also bring an older stroller we used for my son’s first year. If it’s damaged while traveling I won’t be upset about it.)
- Travel with a back pack. Again so one hand is free for wrangling.
- Pack twice as many snacks as I would typically provide. Choose treats that take awhile to eat like raisins or cheerios. This will keep my son occupied longer then a drinkable snack or something that can be easily chowed down.
- Pack small toys to serve as distractions for the three and a half hour plane ride. Stickers, Crayola invisible markers and dry erase boards with crayons are just some of the examples. Pick a few favorites and include a few new toys that might keep him occupied.
- Allow my son to play with my iPhone, iPad and any other digital device he seems interested in. Give up on any rules for limited screen time. If electronics keep him happy then have no fear handing them over to him.
- Bring a change of clothes for my son and a clean shirt for both my husband and myself. This ensures we can change if we get doused in milk or God forbid vomit during our trip.
- Don’t board the plane early. This forces the little one to sit still for an even longer period of time than typically necessary. (Any advice on this topic? I’m a little worried about waiting and then trying to wrestle the car seat into place while people are waiting in line behind me.)
- Buy a book about airports or check out one from the library. Point to the details in the book that explain what an airport is, how people board, etc. This will introduce my son to the process well in advance. My son always behaves better when he knows what to expect and what is expected of him.
- Bring along a sippy cup to help ease ear pressure.
If you have any advice on the bulleted items above or any additional words of wisdom please send them my way. I really could use it.
It’s tough to blog on vacation. I want to spend my days enjoying the weather and enjoying my time away from technology. A two week trip to the beach has quickly turned into 3 1/2 weeks. That’s the nice part about owning my own beach house and not having a job. I can park myself her and not budge until I’m ready to go home.
Next year my son may very well attend a preschool in our area, so it’ll be hard to delay his start date or pull him out of class so soon after the school year begins. This year I feel like I have more free reign than I’ll ever have again. My son is also more fun than ever.
My husband bought one of those electronic picture frames and filled it with thousands of photos I’ve taken since my son was born. As I watch the images flash before my eyes I can’t believe how quickly time has passed. I also can’t believe how much I wanted to freeze those moments in time. My son seemed so sweet and cuddly back then, but with each passing stage he has gotten so much more enjoyable. When I look back I wish I knew then what I know now, that those stages represent such a short period of time. That all things, (like now sleeping through the night), will pass and that with time everything gets better.
So I’m relishing this time at the beach with my little guy. We are enjoying the pool, the beach, the water, kayak rides and just being outside for extended periods of time. The long summer days are already shortening and the cold winter months aren’t too far ahead.
I’m trying to make mental notes of this time together. I’m also trying to photograph, record videos and write in his baby journal. In a few days our vacation will come to an end and I’ll be unbelievably sad to say goodbye to the beach for awhile. No matter how much I document our time here I do wish that I could pause our time here.
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.