Three Thrifty Travel Tips

Nobody likes listening to Linda talk about her travels to literally wherever she wants whenever she wants when all you can afford is to travel your ass to the couch in your living room. So let’s stick it to Linda and become world travelers if for nothing else but to have stories for Linda at the water cooler on Monday. Here are the 3 things that matter the most when considering your travel strategy.

1. Where you go matters. It also matters what time you plan to go. For example, some of my favorite trips have been to the mountains in the off season, like early Fall for hiking. Everything is reduced usually, including cheaper flights, AirBNB rates, and even those trusty Colorado souvenirs you want to pick up. So a good key is, if everyone else is going to this same place at the same time, don’t be like everyone else. Also, just because Linda is spending three weeks hiking in Rome, it doesn’t mean that your trip is less travely if you pack up the car and take a quick long weekend road trip to the next state over. Travel is travel is travel and it’s about experiencing something new, not about a competition of who can get the farthest from the zip code they reside in.

2. What you pack matters. I once made it to Jamaica for a six day trip with only a carry on. Being intentional with what you pack will help with expenses and time. (no extra bags or overweight charge, or maybe a smaller car is ok to rent without oodles of luggage) Don’t be afraid to pack one pair of jeans to wear multiple times or leave those super uncomfortable six extra pairs of shoes at home and pack that one pair you know will get you through site seeing blister free. Now that you know what to leave behind, let’s pack the essentials. A reusable water bottle is a necessity, and just make sure you empty it out before security. Now, if you are traveling, you can save a TON by packing some snacks and quick meals. If we are road tripping, we bring things we usually don’t eat, like chips and a loaf of bread and peanut butter for easy sandwiches. Grab some travel ready fruit like apples and oranges and some baby carrots and you have several meals and snacks. Yes I know Linda is posting all her gourmet meals on Insta, but remember, you can go out to one or two quality meals to experience the local cuisine and totally get the same foodporn ammo to post..just cheaper and likely a bit healthier also. (Linda leaves out the part about that 5 extra pounds she brought home as a souvenir)

3. Where you stay matters. Find a place that jives with your agenda nicely. If you are just looking for some time to chill and enjoy a nice hot tub or swim and don’t have a rental car, then maybe a hotel makes sense. If you will be out soaking up all the free local attractions, then AirBNB on the outskirts of the city will probably be a great fit. You can pick a place based on amenities and the proximity to what you want to do. Closer isn’t always better, especially on the budget. But if they have free breakfast, dinner, coffee, and tea, well then, it may in fact be a great choice. Or if you are bringing stuff like we do, then make sure you have a kitchen area to prepare those on the go meals. I know Linda only stays in 5 star all inclusive resorts, but let’s remember kids, you are paying a premium for all that inclusion, even the stuff you won’t be using. So give a no inclusion, off the beaten path, quirky little cottage a try and you may discover that it’s even more enjoyable.

What is it that you are looking to get out of your next trip? For me, traveling is always a time to unplug, explore, try new things, and spend quality carefree time with my family. So regardless of where you go, how you get there, or what you bring, don’t be like Linda. Be unique, and don’t lose site of your why. Safe Travels!

Carnival Season

It’s carnival season around here..one of my favorites for watching my kids just be kids and enjoy some screen free fun time, it’s also my favorite for people watching, and don’t forget the funnel cake.😋 🎡

The one thing I don’t like is how much it all adds up in price..parking, vendors, a ride here, a ride there, games and then of course the drinks and food. 🍕🍦🍿🥤

This year..we just picked one of the three carnivals we usually go to. I also avoided the $10 parking by finding a spot on the street for free. We ate before we left the house and brought our own water.

My best move was convincing my kids the games weren’t as much fun as the rides. Since they only care about the prizes anyway, I told them we would go to Dollar Tree after, and they could pick out any item in the store. They didn’t even ask to play any games, and we even saw another kid asking his parents to play and Caleb told him that “the games were a rip off because they were just trying to take his money to get rich” 😂

We did splurge on the $20 all you can ride wristbands for each kid, and a $5 funnel cake to share, so with my Dollar Tree promise, I was all in for $47. I was proud of this, because we usually spend at least double, if not triple this during carnival season, and we end up with meltdowns about “one more game”, and end up with a bunch of crap toys or stuffed animals we don’t need also. 🧸

To be honest, the spending less part was great, but we had more fun this year with one carnival and without all the extras. Getting used to a more simple minimalist lifestyle gives us a chance to really enjoy the best things in life that have always been free..the memories. 💕

8 ways to eat out for less

Chipotle is my weakness and I love everything about it..except that it would cost my family around $750 a month if we ate it for dinner every night. 🤑

So we try to limit it to be a once a month treat, and try to find ways to make it even more affordable than it already is. Today, we got 6 servings of food for $16.72!! I also got enough napkins for both of our car glove boxes for the next few months..lol.

But while I was ordering today, I thought about some different ways that you can save money while eating out, no matter what you’re craving.

1. Don’t eat out at all..and if you’re like me and know that not eating out at all is a recipe for disaster, then limit it to once or twice a month and budget for it. (if I don’t eat out at all, then I will fall HARD off the wagon and go on a wildly expensive and unhealthy eating out binge)

2. Eat before hand. Yes you read that right..grab a snack first so you aren’t ordering more than you need or super sizing because you’re starving. Or if you’re eating out for dinner, make sure you had a good lunch that day.

3. Does everyone really need a meal or at minimum..their OWN meal? Likely not, so do like we do and make quesadillas at home for the kids and let them eat a little guacamole and chips as a side or you can share an order of food also.

4. Much like the previous tip, the portion sizes are ridiculous these days and WAY more than one person needs in one sitting. I ask for extra rice because it’s free, and I can make 3 meals out of one bowl.

5. Find some add ins or sides from home. We usually do chips from home and add some carrots and grapes for sides. Or if you’re ordering a pizza, skip the breadsticks and make a salad at home with it instead.

6. Look for promotions! Chipotle was doing BOGO for wearing a youth soccer jersey this weekend, so I dressed my soccer star in his and got a free bowl for it. I know Chick-Fil-A does similar dress like a cow promotions. This makes it fun also, because you can dress ridiculous and get some crazy second looks from people.

7. Join the rewards program. Don’t get me wrong..don’t use the rewards program as an excuse to eat out all the time, but if you can earn a free entree down the road for when you do plan to order, then take full advantage of that. If you’re like me and get excited and forget, Chipotle has a way to upload receipts afterwards. (as long as you do it within 30 days of ordering)

8. Do carry out. If you dine in, you are more likely to get pressured into adding on drinks, appetizers, and desserts that you don’t need. Also, you will need to add a minimum of a 20% tip, and tipping is also something you have to do for delivery. So avoid it and go grab your food and take it to the park or take it home to eat. Save the fancy sit down meals for extra special occasions, like an anniversary or birthday.

Those are some of my secrets to saving money while still getting your favorite fast food fix. What are some ways you save when eating out?!

Teach Them Instead

I always hear people and have even said myself that “I want to give my kids everything I didn’t have” or “they deserve the world” and obviously that doesn’t mean buying a bunch of crap and “spoiling” them. But let’s be honest..it kind of starts to look like that no matter how much you try not to spoil them.

We make sure they have all of the latest and greatest name brand clothes, hot toys or electronics “because their friends have them” or “because we just couldn’t resist the clothes sale and went a little overboard”. We make sure they are attending all of the activities and getting them top of the line sports gear and paying a little extra for that personal pitching coach (or whatever your sport is). We’ve all been there, and even though they are persuasive, I don’t think they really care about any of those “things” they get.

I decided to change the game this year while I still have the chance. Instead of spending money on them, I’m more interested in spending time with them. My kids both still want to hang out with me, and the older one could change her mind tomorrow (she’s turning ten soon and really into herself and her friends these days, so my window is getting narrower by the day).

So why wouldn’t I use this opportunity to spend as much time with them as I can and start teaching them the things I wished I would have known instead of buying them what I didn’t have? We had both kids help with painting and cleaning up at our rental house, and we explained all the details and why we bought it. I also recently read The Latte Factor with my oldest and we talked about it as we went along, and how the little things add up financially. We’ve also been doing a lot of walks and pool time and there’s so many options that don’t cost money.

So why not save that money you were going to spend on junk, invest it in some real estate or other retirement account and instead invest your time with your kids. I have a feeling the kids will hold on to the memories with you for a lifetime and forget all about that new outfit or toy before they even outgrow it.

Spring Break on the cheap

There’s something about loading up your family in the car with all of their crap for several hours of being forced to bond..that always seems like a great idea at first 💡. Then you hit the open road and realize quickly that everyone is more interested in giving their electronics attention, or siblings arguing over the smallest things like a foot being in the others “space”, and then it quickly turns from word fights to actual physical harm against one another 🤷‍♀️.

Despite your better judgement, you load up that car year after year in hopes of that one sweet little “I love you mom and thank you for taking us on this trip. It was so much fun” that makes you forget all the fights and meltdowns, and makes it all worth it. Or getting to climb through crazy tunnels or seeing a baby elephant 🐘 up close.

St Louis did NOT disappoint and I highly recommend making the trip. It allowed for a safe amount of time together in the car and there are so many FREE things for a family to do..that well..it just makes my little frugal heart happy 😆. We only had to fill up the tank once, packed all of our own food/drinks, and stayed in a very affordable AirBNB. So total expenses for our 3 day trip was around $475 for five of us. We did have an amazing dinner out with some good friends who were sweet enough to pick up the tab, and bought some 50 cent donuts one morning, but made our own meals the rest of the time.

Here’s a breakdown of other activities and what they cost:

AirBNB-$200

Gas-$50

1) Zoo-FREE (we did get suckered into $15 parking when there was free parking right along the road we didn’t know about. Don’t be a sucker like us..park for free)

2) Arch-FREE (it costs to go up in the arch, but we didn’t want to wait the two hours and then it was sold out the other days we were in town. Sore subject in our house right now. 🙄)

3) Indoor Swimming at local community center-$41 (this was something my youngest requested and we all had a blast so well worth it)

4) City Museum-$92 and WORTH EVERY PENNY. If you haven’t been..kids or not..this place is worth a visit. There are tunnels, crafting, ten story slides and more tunnels and caves. Might want to pack some knee pads and Tylenol if you’re old rickety body isn’t used to all that. 🤣 I lost my family for a good hour and decided that painting is my new favorite thing and created a “masterpiece” that rivaled my wine and paint pictures I’ve made in the past.

5) St Louis Art Museum-FREE and not sure if it was cool or not. Caleb and I stayed in the car for a quick cat nap while Matt took the girls in…his review..it was just alright. But I’m sure if you’re into art it would be a good stop to make.

6) Science City-FREE but I did have to pay $10 to park. This place is always a great time and we loved making our own parachutes and testing them and sails. We also got to put together our own dinosaur skeleton and Matt got to geek out on old gaming systems while boring the kids with his childhood memories. 🤷‍♀️ It’s always fun walking over traffic and running radar on the speeders below.

7) IMOS-$25 and I totally would pay triple that to get that St Louis style thin crust mushroom pizza that my family has deprived me of for over ten years now. They are monsters that for some reason don’t like mushrooms or thin crust 🍕.

8) Odessa Creamery-$42 and this was for some giant ice cream cones while we stretched our legs on the way back..and we also paid for the family behind us to honor K4C day🍦.

So go and make some memories with your family while they have no choice but to spend time with you..and let’s be honest..much like childbirth..we will likely only store the good family vacation memories for the long term. 😉

What are some of your favorite road trip destinations or cheap trip ideas?