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Saturday, June 30, 2012

48 Fun Hours on a Budget in…Las Vegas


This is a new series showing you how easy it is to budget travel anywhere, where I also give you a quick overview of a new city each time in a brief 48-hour itinerary.

A lot of us fancy a short getaway throughout the year and need to balance a good time with smaller travel costs, because if you spend too much on your getaway, you won’t be going on that big vacation you’ve been dreaming of all year. We tend to stretch a weekend for a quick trip – 2-4 days – and then go on our 1-2 week trip in the fall. If you ask me, taking some mini vacations during the year can really keep you sane, but can also drain your bank account if you aren’t careful. Just a bit of research can go a long way to saving you big.

McCarran Airport

I love Vegas, but I can easily go overboard with my spending there. If I plan out my time, I spend more time walking and enjoying what he city has to offer and less time losing all my money at the slots. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still going to dump a few quarters in and hope for a big win, but with just two days, I’m going to make the most of my time.

Salad bar

Day 1
Breakfast Buffet! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so load up on protein and carbs to get you through your morning activities at an affordable buffet:
  • The Fantasy Market Buffet at the Palms ($7.99) 
  • Circus Buffet at Circus Circus ($10.49)
  • Studio B Buffet at M Resort ($10.99)
  • French Market Buffet at Orleans ($6.95)
  • Ports O’ Call Buffet at Gold Coast ($6.95)
  • Any of the Fremont Street casinos offer super cheap buffet prices, if you are willing to get up early enough to make it over there.

http://dailydoseofamanda.tumblr.com/post/15468205579

Wander the streets of Paris (at the Paris) and New York (New York New York).

Visit the lions at MGM Grand. This is one of my favorite things to do in Vegas, because lions are awesome, and trainers come through every so often talking about the lions and teaching starers about their habits and characteristics.

Explore Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden at The Mirage. ($19.95)

Head over to Caesar’s Palace to grab lunch – maybe at the Cypress Street Market – and then through the shops to witness the Fall of Atlantis. You could marvel at the statues and gold paneling in the casino for quite some time, too.

Play pinball and marvel at games you used to love or have never seen at Las Vegas Pinball Hall of Fame Museum. (Free admission, though it costs $.25-.50 to play each machine.)

Treat yourself to a truly unique dining experience at Dick’s Last Resort in the Excalibur Hotel and Casino. Or go to the Hard Rock Casino and get a table at Mr. Lucky’s. Ask for the “Gambler’s Special”, which is not on the menu, and receive an 8oz flatiron steak, three jumbo shrimp, salad and mashed potatoes for just $7.77. Winner!

Bellagio Hotel and Casino

Make your way to the Bellagio and wander the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Admission is free and it’s open 24 hours a day. Once you’ve had your fill of beautiful plants and flowers, wander outside to catch the free Fountains of Bellagio show. Of course if the weather is uncooperative, you can always see them well from the windows across from the shops upstairs.

Go down the street to Treasure Island and see the free Sirens of TI pirate show. If fire is more your thing, head back to the Mirage instead and watch the new Volcano show, complete with water show, flames and rockin’ music. Don’t forget to duck into the front entrance to admire the hard work of four gardeners with the atriums indoor rainforest. Wow!

Try your luck at the casino or call it a day.

Day 2
Get off the strip and head over to Ellis Island on the street behind the Paris. You can get a delicious and hearty breakfast for just $6.99.

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Put some of your hard-earned money on the tables or in the slots and cross your fingers, then ride the free tram over to the Rio and wander the colorful floor, before making your way upstairs to browse shops and wait for the Mardi Gras Show in the Sky. The best time you’ll have outside of Rio de Janiero and New Orleans.

Take your beads and get a dose of Hawaii at the Hawaiian Marketplace near Polo Towers. You can find anything you could possibly want – and a lot that you don’t – at the vendors here as well as be entertained by live music, shows and dancing. If you’re looking for a cheap lunch, you’ll find it here. Or you could:

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Linger over a Parisian lunch at JJ’s Boulangerie at the Paris Hotel and Casino. (Average $10/person) Once rested, take the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower and take in the strip and Vegas as far as the eye can see. ($10.50, which saves you $5 if you go before 7:30pm)

Ride over to Fremont Street to take in Fremont Street Experience and also engage in some ziplining. Yes! Ziplining in the middle of the city! It’s a bit spendy, but when will you ever have a chance to do something similar again? Only the next time you’re in Vegas. ($16-20)

If it’s not dark yet, splurge on a trip to The Mob Museum at the Golden Nugget. Sure, tickets cost $18, but it promises you “The story of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” If you’re into learning about the city’s seedy (and kinda glamorous) past, then you can’t miss this attraction.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/terriesparis/774053368/

Head into the Golden Gate Casino and get a $1.99 shrimp cocktail from the San Francisco Shrimp Bar & Deli, watch more cool stuff out on the streets and then find dinner at the Four Queens Hotel and Casino’s Magnolia’s Veranda and get a prime rib dinner for just $8.95 or indulge in another buffet (it’s not a trip to Las Vegas unless you’ve been to one or two) and treat yourself to the $18.99 dinner buffet at the Golden Nugget.

At this point I would head back to my room and pack up for my trip back home. Two days crammed full of unique and traditional Vegas awesomeness and not too much money left on the tables. An average of $120 would be spent per person if you hit up all attractions and recommended eateries. Use VegasHotelOffers.com to find the latest room deals, BookIt to find a solid bargain on a hotel and airfare package or shop the Expedia and Travelocity summer sales to stay on your budget. 

What are some of your must-do things in the City of Sin?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Party in "Las Vegas" 6.27.12

Giveaways that are still open: Runnur mini "backpack" | $100 in Paypal cash

If you asked anyone what my two obsessions are (not including my family, which is a given), they will tell you travel and costumes. Yes, I do love to dress up, but more specifically, my costume obsession revolves around my love of theme parties and I think costumes just help make them that much more convincing. Often, I will ask folks to dress up for a birthday party that is in December or even June. Just because we are adults and no longer trick-or-treat, doesn’t mean that we can’t still have some childish fun.


Anyway, a couple weekends ago, I teased a Vegas party that I threw for my husband. I meshed my two (THREE!) loves together and since we couldn’t fly everyone to Sin City for the weekend, I threw a Vegas Buffet theme party for our family instead. As promised, I took some candids after decorating and setting out food. Unfortunately, none of us dressed as cocktail waitresses or dealers, but maybe next time!


Here’s what was on the menu:

Hot buffet
Seasoned grilled chicken breast
Spicy meatballs (special request of the birthday boy)
Beef tips
Black & White bowtie pasta
Buttered green beans
Red-skinned mashed potatoes
Herb and cheese biscuits
Sauces: marinara, lemon piccata & mushroom

Cold buffet
Coleslaw
Green salad with veggies
Assorted fruit
Bruschetta with two cheese spreads

Dessert Station
Rhubarb pie (special request of the birthday boy)
“Money” wrapped butter mints

Bar/Beverage Station
Ice water
Mojito ice tea
Mango pineapple ice tea
Wine (white and sparkling)
Beer
Soda


Eric partaking in the cold buffet 
Yes, I do go all out when it comes to food that matches a theme. I find it’s one of the most important parts, after the décor. Generally, I can spend a few days just decorating the house, but I didn’t do as much as I could have, as we were only having about a dozen people over and also between work and other commitments, I didn’t have the time to do more. You can see how I turned the house into a mini Vegas casino and buffet. The food was plentiful, but mostly nutritious (not usually what you would expect at a traditional casino buffet) and we didn’t lose all our money at the tables. Everyone’s a winner! (If you really want to go to Las Vegas on a budget, don't forget to check out this awesome infographic.)

Craps gift table 
My next post will be the first in a new series called 48 Fun Hours on a budget in... This one will focus on Las Vegas. I hope you like it!


Do you go all out when it comes to birthdays and special occasions? Or do you create a vacation destination in your home/yard to feel like you're getting away?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

I’m Also Going to Universal Hollywood! 6.23.12

Giveaways that are still open: Runnur mini "backpack" | $400 in Paypal cash

After a long discussion about how it would make more sense, financially, to wait another year to go to London and Paris on our big vacation of the year, we have decided that this year will go to our old standby: Disneyland. Now, as much as I love Mickey and the gang and am looking forward to doing all the new things, we really can’t spend an entire week there, so we also plan on hitting up Universal and possibly Knott’s Berry Farm, which neither of us has visited in over a decade. In my last post I gave you 5 ways to save your time and money in the parks and this time I’m going to give you 5 more. Between airfare and park tickets and food and parking and souvenirs, you can rack up some serious credit card debt if you aren’t careful, so make the most of your budget and try not to splurge on too many churros. Your wallet and your waistline will thank you.


See all the shows – Parades, shows, street parties, dancing water. It’s all included in your ticket, so take advantage of them. I’ve seen better productions at Disney than I have elsewhere that I’ve paid a lot of money for. Aladdin is still, hands down, my favorite Disney production and would easily cost you $100+ for a ticket if it came to a city near you. These shows give you a chance to rest your feet, see some really great entertainment and are also short enough that you don’t have time to get bored before it’s over. 30-40 minutes is the perfect production time for little ones, too. Plus, if they can sleep through an earthquake, this might be the best thing to do while they take a nap if it coincides with their usual naptime and you don’t want to leave the park just yet.


Avoid the gift shops – They are everywhere and while they are fun to browse in, those high price tags kind of make me have heart palpitations. I once forgot to bring spare batteries and had to buy some in one of the merchants and two AA batteries cost me over $10! Why do they mark stuff up so much? Simple: People. Will. Pay. For. It. Save your pennies, or in this case, your Jacksons and Franklins, and window shop only. Look off-site for souvenirs (perfect for those with little ones who want shirts and hats and toys and stuffed animals) and anything that you can’t get elsewhere that is calling your name, you can go back for. I think you’ll find that you save a bundle this way and come home with a lot less “stuff”.


Make dining reservations – Yes, this is not really a money-saver, unless you split entrées, which I always suggest for those with small children. Your kids will eat better and you’ll save money if you share an entrée with them or between two of them. French fries are not a vegetable, nor are pasta sauce or ketchup. But I digress. Making reservations for dining is the best way to save time inside the parks, because you could wait up to 90 minutes for a table otherwise, especially during the busiest months. 

Make reservations well ahead of your trip (or as soon as you can) and try to aim for meal times just outside of normal ones, which will both lessen your chances of still waiting for others to finish and give you shorter lines when you are done eating and everyone else is in search of nourishment. What times are best? Lunch: 11-11:30am or 1-2pm. Dinner: 5-5:30pm or after 7pm. Remember, this is what you have snacks for. Some theme parks (Disney World resorts for sure) allow you to make breakfast reservations before the park officially opens. This means you can eat and be the first in line at the most popular rides. Double score! (Bonus dining hint: Some surrounding hotel restaurants, like Menage’s K’ya, and Downtown Disney restaurants, like Catal, are members of OpenTable and you can make reservations online, have a table waiting and get points toward free dining!)


Don’t buy two tickets for one day – Sometimes you’ll travel to a theme park for a special event, which will require its own admission ticket. We do this for Disney’s Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. The park closes down early for the general public and partiers can enter between 6pm and 7pm for the celebrations and special activities. If you will be spending a significant amount of time at your destination – 4 or more days – skip paying for another day’s admission and use the early part of the day to do things not theme parky, like maybe sightsee in a neighboring town, go to the movies, enjoy the pool, or just chill and do laundry while you read a book. You can save hundreds of dollars this way, depending on how big your travel party is. You’ll be refreshed and ready to hit the park again in the evening while everyone else is looking haggard and ready to fall into bed from a full day of stimulation.


Use public transportation and free shuttles – Unless you have a big travel group, paying $15+ to park is just not a reasonable use of your money. In Anaheim, you can walk or use the Rapid Transit system to get to and from the parks. The shuttles cost $4 per person per day, but less if you buy a pass for the days you’ll be staying. In Orlando, all the hotels have free shuttle service to all the parks (though they don’t run all day in the off-season, so you can get there early and come back late).

So, now you know my top 10 ways to save big at theme parks. Get the most for your money and waste less time standing in line and dealing with the “I dunno, what do you want to do” moments. Make a plan, stick to it and you’ll be happy you did, even though you think I’m planning OCD. You’ll thank me when you don’t miss out on riding California Screamin’ or the Transformers: The Ride on your trip, because you have the map memorized (maybe) and your schedule. If that’s not how you want to do things, you can always have me plan your trip for you!

What are your favorite ways to save and what do you think I must see/do on my trip in the fall? Comment away!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Super Useful Travel Links 6.22.12

Summer is officially upon us and that means ¾ of the country will be traveling somewhere. I don’t make this up – it’s an actual factual statement! That is a good portion of the American public packing up their things and vacationing for several days to several weeks. Of course, that also means that a lot of places – the beach, the mall, the pool, any theme park or water park, museums, zoos – will be overrun with tourists, and even locals. And those places aren't stupid either. They try to suck as much money out of you as possible. The hotels and airlines get in on the action, too. Actually, they might be the start of the action, and the rest follow suit because they know you will pay $22 for a bottle of sunscreen if you forgot yours at home and are already at the beach and probably won’t go back, put on pants and drive to Target to get some at a quarter of the price. Your wallet weeps, the seller cheers and so goes the sounds of summer. In case you need a more realistic description, it’s you going “Gah! $22?!” and then the happy “ching” of the cash register.

Hello, Summer

Now that you’re frantically scribbling down “sunscreen” at the top of your packing list (with three underlines and an exclamation point), lest you forget it and be an example to others, I am here to bring you some links to things I also find useful or thought-provoking this week. If you still haven’t planned a summer vacation yet, but are dying to go somewhere to spend your hard-earned dollars, here is a good breakdown of where to go this summer to save big and still have fun. (These are suggested by the good folks at HomeAway):

Sunscreen

  • June – Yes, it’s almost over, but there’s still a week to go and I know there are plenty of travelers planning road trips, so these are still feasible: Yosemite, Phoenix, Santa Monica, Oregon (woot!), Atlanta, Seattle, Santa Cruz, Connecticut, Boston and Great Lakes (Michigan). That’s a lot to choose from with completely different landscapes and things to do.
  • July – AAA estimates that cheap gas prices are going to encourage more travelers to get out on the road over Fourth of July. If you want to be among them, check out these affordable destinations: the Jersey Shore, Miami Beach, South Padre Island (Texas), Kennebunkport (Maine), Long Island, Santa Monica, Dayton Beach (Florida), Cape Cod, Hilton Head (South Carolina) and Pebble Beach.
  • August – It’s getting hot now, so it’s so much easier to pack lighter on an August trip. Here’s where to save some bucks (and lose some) this month: Carmel, Boston, Las Vegas, San Francisco, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Buffalo (New York) and Chesapeake Bay (Maryland).
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Speaking of road trips, there are a bunch of apps that can make car travel so much easier. With everyone having a smarty phone nowadays, Techlicious has rounded up their favorites to help you make the most of your time crammed in with your loved ones, from finding cheap gas to finding things to do while you’re on your asphalt adventure. Make sure to remember your car charger!

http://api.viglink.com/api/click?format=go&key=df797c6edb7c14f9b66bc241a31bf453&loc=http%3A%2F%2Fweheartit.com%2Fentry%2F12380123&v=1&libid=1340243730472&out=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.etsy.com%2Flisting%2F61516023%2Fgreen-coleman-cooler%3Futm_source%3Dbronto&ref=http%3A%2F%2Fweheartit.com%2Fsearch%3Futf8%3D%25E2%259C%2593%26query%3Dcooler%26sort%3D%26page%3D9&title=Green%20Coleman%20Cooler%20by%20OldGreenCanoe%20on%20Etsy%20on%20we%20heart%20it%20%2F%20visual%20bookmark%20%2312380123&txt=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.etsy.com%2Flisting%2F61516023%2Fgreen-coleman-cooler%3Futm_sourc...&jsonp=vglnk_jsonp_13402437307091

While you’re driving across this great country of ours, you'll want to pack some food stuffs, because stopping at greasy spoons and fast food joints not only gets old, but it also gets expensive and unhealthy. A good old fashioned road trip should include a big cooler full of eats from home. I like stopping at nice rest areas, national parks or scenic overlooks and busting out my sandwich making skillz. Citibank’s blog also suggests these things.

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Have you ever misplaced your cell phone and started freaking out that your “whole life was in there!”? You’re not alone. In fact, according to a study, more people get upset over losing their mobile than they do about losing their wedding ring. On that list are many other techie flip-out moments, like “outlet rage”. How attached are you to your gadgets when you travel? See if you are in the new norm, according to Intel Corp.

http://api.viglink.com/api/click?format=go&key=df797c6edb7c14f9b66bc241a31bf453&loc=http%3A%2F%2Fweheartit.com%2Fentry%2F30919451&v=1&libid=1340242993627&out=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.thefancy.com%2Fthings%2F292783989%2FTortola%252C-British-Virgin-Islands&ref=http%3A%2F%2Fweheartit.com%2Fsearch%3Fpage%3D2%26query%3Dvacation&title=Fancy%20-%20Tortola%2C%20British%20Virgin%20Islands%20on%20we%20heart%20it%20%2F%20visual%20bookmark%20%2330919451&txt=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.thefancy.com%2Fthings%2F292783989%2FTortola%252C-British-Virgin-...&jsonp=vglnk_jsonp_13402431961231

Sears wants you to travel more…and also make more money off you. Starting in July, they’ll be offering select vacation packages that you can purchase through their site SearsVacations.com. The catch? You can put your vacation on layaway, make payments and make it more affordable…or think it’s more affordable if you make payments and end up paying more than you can actually afford. This is where you will definitely want to price compare. It’s always better to put away funds and still save money on your trip than pay over time and spend more.

carry-on bags

Are you in need of luggage for your next trip? FareCompare wants to make sure you get the right carry-on bag for your needs. I am very picky about my bag and with good reason. I use it, a lot. If I don’t want to look at it and it’s inconvenient (not enough pockets, no compartments, wonky handle height), then I’m not going to get my money’s worth out of it before I start shopping for a new one. Make sure you learn before you buy. Rick Seaney wants to help!

So, have you found anything cool or interesting on the interwebs of late? If so, make sure you link up in the comments!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Join Ebates and Win $100

You read my blog, so I know you like saving money. Not joining and using Ebates is leaving money on the table that you could be keeping in your pocket. It’s super easy to use, too. Sign up for free and log in through Ebates anytime you even think about making a purchase.
There are hundreds of stores available, including many travel sites, that give you cash back just for letting Ebates track your order. Each store offers a set amount of cash back, ranging from 1% to 26%. I’ve gotten 52% once on a Daily Double! Your cash back accumulates in your account and every 3 months they cut you a “big fat check” or send you a “big fat payment” via Paypal. Easy, right? Plus, with your first purchase, you’ll also get $5 deposited into your account or a gift card of your choice. Who else pays you to shop?!

http://www.ebates.com/rf.do?referrerid=ogZTA9DFc0ThVkrahal71g%3D%3D

Want more incentives besides free money and discounts on your buys? Ebates shows you all promo/coupon codes available for each merchant on their page and gives you $5 for each friend you refer. I never buy anything or make travel bookings before checking to see if my preferred merchant is listed. So, what are you waiting for? Sign up now!

http://www.ebates.com/rf.do?referrerid=ogZTA9DFc0ThVkrahal71g%3D%3D

Now through Wednesday, you can get double cash back at a dozen stores during Health and Beauty Week. You can earn up to 40% back on your purchases. I like to use my big fat payments for my vacations, but what you do with yours is up to you! Get a head start by entering now to win $100 from Ebates. You only need to have a valid account and enter with your email account used to sign up at Ebates.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I’m Going to Disneyland! 6.20.12

Remember to enter our open giveaways: Runnur mini "backpack" | $400 in Paypal cash

It’s true. As a fellow budget traveler, we discovered that the newly imposed airfare taxes on flights to and from London were just too high to make the trip fit into our budget, so we went to Plan B. It’s hard to be disappointed, though, when you’re going to The Happiest Place on Earth. Looking at the numbers, we’d be paying the same thing for a week in Anaheim as we would have for just the taxes and fees on our airline tickets to London. Crazy, right? While we’ve been to Disney World twice since, we haven’t been to Disneyland since 2008. We have missed out on the return of Captain EO (in Anaheim), the brand new Star Tours story, a delicious crepe stand in Downtown Disney, World of Color and, now, Cars Land. Perhaps we waited just long enough, as it appears that renovations are done for quite some time now.




So, this fall will see us traveling back to one of our favorite places and, hopefully, taking part in Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party in a whole new location. This will be our fourth trip to a Disney park in 6 years that has taken place over their Halloween season and will be the third where we will dress up for the party. In celebration of my new travel plans, and knowing that a lot of you will be hitting the parks this summer, I have decided to bring you some of my favorite ways to save money (and time) when visiting theme parks.



Plan ahead – So, the first rule of them park trips is to always have a plan. Go online and find what’s happening on the days you will be there and what rides are open/closed and what restaurants are available to you. Make a list of everything you want to see and do and then make yourself a schedule – or at least a list for how you want to see them all – so you can make sure to hit everything that is important to you. If you can make reservations for shows or dining ahead of time, do it. This will save you time standing around that could be spent doing something else.

I like to find shows or parades I want to do and put them on the list first, with the times they run. Then I make reservations for dining and then plan everything else around those. I have been known to make a schedule so detailed that we know exactly what we are doing at any point during the day and can go from one thing to another without thinking about it first. Sure, it seems militaristic, but we get to everything on our list and usually have time to go back and do things a second, third or fourth time. When we go to California Adventure, we know both Soarin’ and Midway Mania are the “it” attractions, so we get a FastPASS for MM first thing, get on if there isn’t a line, hit Soarin’, then come back. While everyone else is queuing up for those, we are off to something a little less popular.

Another way to go, if you are doing something like Six Flags or Busch Gardens, is to start at the back of the park and work your way to the front. People want instant gratification, so they head to the nearest ride when they arrive.


Buy tickets before you leave home – Nothing is worse than going somewhere where you have to stand in line before you go in to stand in more lines. Eliminate one step of the process by purchasing tickets before you go. Many times you can get better deals this way, too, so you are saving time and money. Why would you ever by at the gate again? I see Knott’s Berry Farm has a deal through the month where you can get almost $20 off a ticket if you buy online. Universal ticket prices are always a little less on their website as well and Disney tickets can be purchased at a discount from your local AAA travel store (if you’re a member), Costco, your credit union and even on BookIt with the purchase of a travel package, which could save you even more.
Get there early – This is especially important when visiting parks during the summer, because they are super busy all day, but if you get there before the gates open, you won’t have to stand in a crazy long line to get in and you won’t have to face pushing and shoving for a little bit once inside the park. Many guests don’t show up until mid-morning or early afternoon, so make the most of the time before the big crowds show up and get up early to get there early.



Take an afternoon nap – Midday is the busiest time in any park. Use the time to go back to your hotel/house/timeshare and take an hour or two to relax. The parks are open for a really long time, especially in the summer. You and your kids can’t really be on the go for 14, 15, 16 hours. Leave the property, get something for lunch, take a nap or swim in the pool and then come back after your feet don’t curl up at the sight of putting your walking shoes back on again. If you have children with you, do this during their normal nap time, so they don’t get all cranky and start throwing things. It’s not fun at home. It’s, so much less fun everywhere else.


Bring snacks – You may hate to carry around a bag when you want to go from roller coaster to roller coaster, but you’ll think it’s way less inconvenient when you can just dig in your bag for some fruit or a granola bar instead of shelling out $15 for a soda and a soft pretzel. Walking around all day is going to make you hungry. Don’t assume that it won’t. The parks allow snacks, so bring enough for at least two snacks a day per person and not only will you laugh at the sign that says one of those Mickey ice cream bars is $6, but you’ll eat better, too. Make sure you also stock yourself with a couple bottles of water. We bring some ice tea packets, in case we want a bit of variety. You have no idea how much money this can save you until the day you don’t bring anything and have to pay for it all.


Stay tuned for my next five ways to save on Saturday. In the meantime, in the comments, tell me what I should not miss on my trip to Anaheim, even if it’s not theme park-related (though we’ll be hitting up Universal and possibly Knott’s as well). 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Vegas On The Cheap Infographic 6.16.12

We're doing it up Vegas-style this weekend for Eric's birthday. No, we aren't jetting off to Sin City to celebrate, but the family is coming over to whoop it up at our house with a theme party that is centered around a Vegas buffet. Hot buffet, cold buffet, dessert table and beverage station. Yup, we've got it all and then then some. Photos to follow, but for now, check out this awesome Infographic from HomeAway giving you ways to do Vegas on a budget, from where to eat and what to do. Have a great weekend and don't forget to honor your dads tomorrow with something special.

Travel Ideas infographic from HomeAway

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Complete Travel Planning for You 6.13.12

Do you think about planning your next vacation and go “Euch…” and go back to doing something that doesn’t require as much thought? Does making any plans past flight arrangements and hotel reservations make you cringe, because you don’t have time to deal with it? Would you like me, “the queen of traveling on a budget” (as I was referred to the other day), to do all that hard work for you so you can get back to working and cooking and cleaning and taking the kids to soccer? If I could get a master in budget travel planning, I would have already had that degree on my wall and quit my day job, but I’m not sure that’s a thing.
This week, I’m unveiling a new service of mine and that is planning you the most rockin’ trip you can take on the budget you have. Seriously, I love researching things to do at destinations, including where to eat and shop, and how to save money while experiencing as much as my money will allow. If I can spend the same amount and do more with coupon codes or purchasing from certain merchants, I will do it. In fact, I get so into it, that I go above and beyond just buying tickets and planning on seeing certain things. I make an itinerary that includes each day’s activities, complete with addresses, phone numbers and confirmation numbers and carry copies with me while I’m out and about. I always know what I’m doing when and usually have plenty of downtime in between.




I figured, why not put that OCD behavior to work for those that don’t have the time, energy or patience left over to do even half that. If you have time to answer a few emails about who is traveling, where you are going, when you’re leaving and what you like to do/eat/see, then I can find all the fun, traditional and out-of-the-way places for you and all you have to do follow my links/instructions for how to get the best deals on entrance fees, tickets or reservations. Easy! With all the money I’ll save you, it makes it an even simpler decision to pay me for my awesome talents, right? Below you’ll find a chart of what I can do for you and three different pricing options.
For more info and to actually choose a plan, you can go to my dedicated planning page. Anyone who makes a payment for my services in the month of June will also get 20% off. Just choose the plan you want and your price will automatically be reduced when you click to check out.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Enter to Win $400 in Paypal Cash

Enter to win cool travel gear! Check out the Runnur review and enter to win one of your own...also a great idea for a Father's Day gift!

I’ve partnered with yet another group (Giveaway Promote) in order to help you win cash to stretch your vacation budget! Of course, you can use it however you want, but I bet it would make your airfare or hotel costs shrink a significant amount. $400 to be exact!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Find some new fun blogs to check out and Facebook or Twitter posters to follow. This giveaway ends on June 24, so make sure you get your entries in now. The more you enter, the better you chances to win. Must have a valid Paypal email account. Good luck!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Review and Giveaway: Runnur Mini Backpack

Do you ever feel weighted down with bags just about everywhere you go? You need to carry stuff with you, but purses are for girls, fanny packs are uncool and you can only put so much in your pockets before your pants start falling off. I often carry a small purse on trips - and more often larger ones - but there are so many places we go that I just wish I were hands-free, but still had my essentials. You probably go to many of these places, too: the dog park, the airport, biking, hiking, theme parks, anywhere you have a baby with you... The list goes on and on. This is why I was so thrilled to find the Runnur.  They market it as a mini backpack, but it's way more awesome than any backpack I've ever owned. It's also more comfortable and doesn't give you nasty pre-calculus flashbacks.


Testing out this fancy new gadget was a no-brainer. I like the design for both men and women, because it's so functional and has a simple look. I, personally, wouldn't try to wear it out to a 5-star restaurant, but I can see it working for some men. I chose the Runnur in medium, so Eric and I could both try it on and give thoughts. As you can see, it works much better for me than him. I was happy with the size, but certainly could have gotten a small and had it work, too. If I planned to do a lot of activities like hiking, the small would fit more snugly and been a better choice. Eric is excited to get a Runnur in large before our next trip.


Let's get to why this product is so great and what's going to make you rush to the website to get one. Obviously, the Runnur was designed for runners, right? I suppose you could use it for running, but this convenient sling that fits like a seatbelt was designed for those on-the-go. The nylon strap makes use of every inch of space, with pockets and loops and a carabiner as well as easy velcro and zipper closure. Eric says it’s effortless to wear and thinks it’s pretty cool and manly. I think the pockets are perfect for carrying everything you need, and then some. I packed mine for an on-the-go gadget geek – like with what I would want to take on a plane. Surprisingly, I would not have been able to get the same items into a similarly sized handbag.


How did I get it all in there? It was easy with all the pockets and slots and holders. The Runnur has a great ID card holder, so you don't have to fumble around for it. It also has a built-in wallet with card slots and separate sections for money and receipts, two velcro pockets for electronics, a bigger velcro pocket with a thick front to keep glasses, or any number of other things from getting crushed, a larger zipper pocket that has room for snacks, your camera, change and makeup. This pouch has a nice reflective strip on it for being seen in the dark. You also have a carabiner to hold keys, pen holders and a mesh pouch for your water bottle. Above you can see what I stuffed in there and following you can see where I put them all.


As you can see, your money and your ID are kept right next to you in highly convenient compartments. Carry all your important things in this wallet pocket, like cash, credit cards, gift cards (for anyone who saves them for vacation), your boarding pass and your passport - or you can use the secret pocket on the inside for your passport. Sneaky! Having them right there will eliminate thievery and since you are keeping everything in the Runnur, you can save time emptying your pockets at airport security and just place it right into a bin and put it right back on when you exit. Simple!



These two pockets are great sizes and can easily fit a point and shoot digital camera and my smartphone with case that makes it even fatter than usual. I didn't even have to wrestle it out when I wanted to use it - my favorite part! The nylon fabric makes sure things don't stick and will slide easily in and out.


Like to carry keys or one of those tiny flashlights or even a reusable grocery tote that packs into itself? This carabiner is pretty handy. I will admit that walking around with keys jangling can be sort of annoying, but you certainly won't lose them and will always know where they are. If you'd rather, you can put them in the zippered pouch.

Eric loves taking his DS with him everywhere he goes, and would totally use the Runnur to carry it around. He'd also be able to carry extra games and a spare stylus, but I generally have one puzzle game that I'm playing, so I filled my larger pouch with a healthy snack, pressed powder and tinted lip balm. I don't like to be shiny, hungry or chapped. I also don't like to be thirsty, so this mesh bottle holder is a perfect addition! 



Now, as convenient as I think this would be for travel, it would also be awesome for physical activities. Fill it with a bottle of sports beverage, snacks and first aid supplies. My first thought when I saw the Runnur was that it was amazing for theme park travel. Now, I didn't jump up and down and stand on my head to test out whether or not items would fall out if I did, but the closures are so well made, I wouldn't be worried that they would fail. Leave it on while on rides or put it in the pocket in front of your seat. I like to hold on to my stuff so I don't forget it, so another option is to wear it around your waist during crazy rides and then wear it normally again once you get off. You always want to keep a bottle of water with you to stay hydrated, your camera to capture memories, sunscreen to keep from getting scorched and snacks to hold you over until mealtimes. 
The Runnur is lightweight and foam-filled, to make it comfortable to wear against your body. It also features a non-slip shoulder strap that is contoured to fit your curves. Eric can't wait to get his to wear while out bike riding. I wish I had one over Memorial Weekend when we were hiking the lava cave, because it would have been so much more comfortable than my usual cross-body bag, and I would have had somewhere to put my water bottle. Have I convinced you yet? If not, maybe this video from Runnur will help:


Additional information
Where you can buy it: On the GoRunner website
How much it costs: $39 - and they ship internationally!
Colors it comes it: Canvas, Plum, Black w/ Red Stitching, Silver (the one I have on) and Solid Black.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

I was provided with a Runnur for the purpose of this review, but all opinions are 100% mine.
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