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Showing posts from July, 2016

First-Class Flying on the Ground

I've only flown first class once in my lifetime.  It was a glorious 13-hour international flight with comfortable seating, personal service, and all the food and drinks we could handle.

When considering taking a bus ride, I had never envisioned a first-class setting...until I met Vonlane.

Earlier this month, I was headed to Houston for a professional conference.  My hotel room was reserved and I had even planned out my stops for a road trip.  A day or two before the conference, I learned that parking would be $16-$20 per day!  That added up to $80-100 just to have my SUV sit in a dark garage for 5 days.  With my low MPG, I was also looking at a $60 gas bill.

Knowing Greyhound busses would not be my cup of tea, I decided to check out Megabus.  Reading this blog review scared me, though, and I decided not to spend $20 one-way on an iffy experience.  When the author said to "lower your expectations" and "we've never taken a Megabus that doesn't leave at least …

Using Google Maps to Plan a Road Trip

KevinAndAmanda.com already have an excellent tutorial, so I'm not going to re-create instructions.  Visit their site for all of the how-tos and I will share how I've used Google Maps to create a plan for our road trip.  The Internet is a fabulous invention! Sure, it, like anything, can be used for evil, but when it's used for good, it's SO good!

I first created the route from Austin to Orlando.  Next, I began looking along our route for rest stops and visitors' centers with restrooms and a play area.  I had the best luck finding them by searching on Google Maps, "safety rest" or "rest stop" as well as "visitors center".  Street view shows you what it looks like and often has user-submitted photos.  Stopping at safety rest stops offers us (in our experience) clean restrooms, a place to run and play, and usually a good photo opportunity with a state sign.  Stopping at rest stops also helps us avoid making pricey gas station and fast food…

Planning, Planning, and More Planning

By nature, I'm a procrastinator.  I've been one who says "I work best under pressure" and it's most often true.  It's not often than my "type A" side shows up, but when it does, it comes on strong! Numbers spreadsheets? Yes! Planning out activities months in advance? Please and thank you! Painstakingly researching and comparing prices? But of course!

Planning a trip awakens my inner geek!

After Ken and I crunched broad numbers and decided we could book a Disney Cruise, I began searching for ways to get to the port (drive for fly?), where to stay overnight (hotel or Airbnb?), and even the best rest stops along the way. That blog is coming up next.

First I created a spreadsheet in Numbers where I could plug in...numbers...and calculate things such as gas prices and compare hotel costs.  Typically, I'd go straight to Airbnb, but since we were looking for one quick overnight stay in Mobile and a possible night near Port Canaveral, hotels are our bes…

Vacation Travel Must-Haves

Other than the obvious: travel documents, sunscreen, tickets and reservation numbers, there are some things we've learned we can't live without while traveling.
Safety Tats This year, we are using these Safety Tats on our trip.  Mostly when we are inside the parks or at various ports of call, we want the boys to have an easy way to share our phone number in the event they are separated from us. When our older kids were young, my sister made ID cards with our contact information for the kids to wear on a clip, like a name tag.  These tattoos are a brilliant, less intrustive alternative! We don't have to worry that other adults won't understand the boys.  If they are upset or crying, all they have to do is hold out their arm. These are customizable, so we can add, "I sign!" or "I use ASL" in addition to a phone number. We hope these won't ever be needed, but why not be prepared when these are so easy use?  I'll give you all a thorough review …

How We Chose Our Disney Cruise

There is a huge debate out there in the Interwebs that starts with the question, "Is a Disney Cruise worth it?"  Seriously, just Google that and you'll see for yourselves.   Like I mentioned before, the answer to that question is completely subjective, depending on what's important to you.  For us, the only other cruise Ken and I have taken was on Disney Cruise Line.  The Disney "magic" cannot be denied!  It also happened to be the name of the ship we sailed back in 2008.

When we began considering a cruise, we did look at other cruise lines.  They cost significantly less. (Click here to read about ways we found to save for a vacation.) My parents cruise extensively, enjoying a few cruise lines, and had taken our older kids on a Royal Caribbean cruise, each on their 13th birthdays, so we knew Disney wasn't the only option. Mackenzie said the Royal Caribbean trip was her favorite cruise, but she wants to see how cruising Disney as a teen will compare.  Ke…

Saving for a Trip

I went in to this a bit before, but here are some small ways we save money daily. These can add up to big savings over a full year:

No cable. We've been without cable for over 10 years. It's become easier and easier with free online content. We do pay for a Netflix subscription, but otherwise watch free Hulu, YouTube, and sometimes take advantage of free 30-day trials of YouTube Red, Hulu Plus, and Amazon.  We have bunny ears we drag out if there is something we really want to watch with the rest of the world, such as Nyle DiMarco on DWTS or the Super Bowl.  Savings: $120/month or $1440/year

Haircuts.  While living in Vegas, a friend taught me some haircutting basics, then I used YouTube to help me do a halfway decent job.  I don't trust myself on the girls' haircuts, but I can use a razor.  I DO color my girls' hair.  That has saved us hundreds of dollars I won't even factor in here.  If they wanted it done professionally, they'd have to pay for it themse…

Debt, Adoption, and Dave Ramsey

My last blog sparked a discussion with a Vegas friend and I realized that before I start talking about our trip planning and budgeting, I should share our philosophy in a nutshell.

Dave Ramsey. That pretty much sums up or philosophy.

A few months ago, I had typed out our entire debt-to-debt-free story, then lost it.  I'm still not up for rewriting it, but will condense the story here.

Ken and I both had debt when we started dating. We were engaged quickly and decided, thanks to wise parental advice, that it wouldn't be good to marry with all that debt, the majority of which was consumer debt.  Ken sold some of his tech gear; I paid down a bit of my credit card, but we liked to buy stuff.

We made some unwise financial decisions early on and even decided to purchase our first home just 9 months into our marriage.  Realizing we needed guidance, we took a class called "Debt-Free and Prosperous Living," which taught what Dave calls the "debt snowball."  We foll…

How We Plan for an Expensive Trip

As mentioned previously, the Brownies have a major 2-week vacation planned for September. It's the first true vacation we've taken since our RV trek to NAD 4 years ago this very month.

I remember when we had our cruise planned back in 2010, a friend asked, "Why would you spend so much money on a Disney Cruise?! Why not buy a car or something? That money is gone in a week!"

Evidently, our friends aren't the only ones who feel that way.  I've recently seen several bloggers discuss and defend their spending on vacations. Here's a snarky one that is Disney-specific, and another post from a general travel blogger.  By the way, I enjoy a little well-placed snark now and then.

We've waited 6 years for this and it's truly a dream vacation for us. After the kids willingly gave up their trip in 2010, we promised we would go in the future. Since that time, we've taken several major hits on our income.  That's a long story, possibly for another blog, …