Category Archives: Budget Travels

Budget Travels: Planning Calvin’s 1st Birthday. ROAD TRIP:).

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(Calvin in his play pen)

My family is planning a road trip to CA for Calvin’s 1st Birthday. The main reason is we want to celebrate a double birthday with my Father in Law. My husband has a few vacation days left and we figure we will use them to go to him. He actually flies out to visit my brother in law’s daughter (his granddaughter) the same month. So having him fly out twice is tiring. I know most seniors don’t want to accept the fact that they are a little more worn down. He keeps telling us he doesn’t mind flying to us instead of us driving to him. Yet we reminded him we want to do this. CA  in our opinion probably has more family friendly things to do instead of NV. Plus my son is almost at that walking stage and to be honest my Father In Law’s house is big enough for his curious mind and active body to be entertained for hours.

What will cost us money is renting a car. We use to take my husband’s car but it is old. 2001 Honda Civic. We are literally trying to drive it until it falls apart and I know it is at that stage. Except we don’t have the money to buy a car. We do, but we would like to save a big down payment before we do. Unfortunately his car is only good for getting around town and not for driving state to state. My car is too small and doesn’t have cruise control for trips like that (We try to pack everything we need for Calvin instead of buying stuff there). So now we decided for every road trip that will take more than 3 hours, we will rent a car.

We rented an SUV last Christmas from Hertz through AAA.com. Our car rental experience was a so so experience so we are renting a Minivan through dollar rent a car through AAA.com. Let’s hope we have a better experience. You see Hertz knowingly rented us a recalled SUV (Hyundai Santa Fe). Driving a recalled car is no biggie because even our current cars have recalls. Except that this recall affected the gas tank. It wouldn’t let us fill the tank all the way. At first my husband just traded the car in without double checking the receipt. I noticed the charge for gas and told him to talk to the car rental place about it. They said it’s because we traded the car in. Of course after telling them” why should we pay for gas on a recalled SUV that was having that problem?” they gave us a full refund. I’m not sure if they normally give out refunds, or if it’s because we rented through AAA. Still we wanted to try other options. Let’s hope the dollar rent a car is better.

I still haven’t plan out an itinerary but I want to go to Julian CA to just walk around and enjoy their famous apple pie. We still don’t know if we want to go to the zoo. It’s a short trip and planning things to do around my son’s naps isn’t exactly fun. Going on a vacation with a baby isn’t exactly a calm vacation but we feel it’s worth it to enjoy more time with Grandpa. I can’t believe my sweet baby is turning 1 already. It makes me all teary eyed just thinking about it.

Budget Travels: Sea World Holidays

Every year we visit my Father In Law in December for the family Christmas party on my husband’s side. It’s usually thrown a couple weeks before Christmas so everyone can try to come. It’s a pretty big party and we try to help get things together. This also means we take a mini vacation. I know I said we won’t take vacations for a while but the family Christmas party doesn’t exactly count as a big vacation.

In addition to the party, we go to Sea World too. My FIL always purchases us all year tickets to Sea World so we visit it all the time. I love visiting theme parks during the holidays. The decorations they put up is always fun to see. This time my husband and I purchased all day dining. Ok he did. I pretty much mooched off him. No your not suppose to share All Day Dining but we did and it helped take the load off thinking of ways to eat cheaper. Did you want to do unethical all day dining like us?Wear long sleeves to hide your wrist bands. I wouldn’t risk All Day Dining if you are with a whole group. It was much easier to get by just sharing with my husband because it was just us two… Anyways.. Enjoy the pictures;).

My son is without his helmet. We decided to put it on only when he sleeps. So nice to snuggle without getting pounded by his helmet.

Even with the overcast the show was fun to see.

Y’all this bathroom is pretty festive. More so than some parts of the park and it’s a bathroom.

My favorite area of the parks are always the  Aquarium. So Soothing to just watch fishes and turtles swim lazily. The Christmas Village didn’t open until 3pm.

It’s always nice to see a decorated tree.

 

There ya go.  A Sea World Christmas/Holiday. Did you also notice anything else? The park is pretty empty. Media is saying it’s because of the documentary Black Fish their visitor rates have dropped I think 17%. I have never seen the documentary nor am I planning to ( Documentaries can be very biased) but I also think it’s the price of tickets is the reason why the drop. Their tickets are the same price as Disney tickets. If I was a family on a budget I would spend my money on Disney because they are more popular and a much larger park.

 

Budget Travels: Holland American Veendam Mexican Riviera

Hi everybody! Here are some pictures from my week long cruise from a few weeks ago. We didn’t take too many pictures. Probably because our brains were on vacation mode as well. This cruise was completely different from my first one. This ship is considered a mid size ship, more older clientele, and activities that was catered to their clientele as well. I personally enjoyed this cruise. I wanted this vacation to be relaxing and that is what we experienced.

We also got a great last minute deal for this cruise. With service and port charges, it was $2,000 for the two of us for an ocean view cabin. This also included dining at their restaurants ( Some started at $10+). I definitely envy people who live close to ports. Cruising is a great way to stay on a vacation budget.

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Our ship

Some towels by our cabin stewards. Love the monkey:).

This was during a van tour of Mazatlan.

Mazatlan. I forgot the name of the church. Since there was a service going on we tried not to take too many pictures. I was amazed with the details in the architecture.  Though that Jesus on the cross was a bit surprising to me. I have never seen a Jesus statue with so much blood details.

Finally arriving back to San Diego.

There was so much stuff I didn’t mention. 7 days in my opinion is a great amount of time of a cruise if you haven’t cruise before. My husband said two weeks is good too if you like cruising. He said the first week is usually when you try to do as much as you can, then the second week is more of a relaxing period. In the future I hope to go on a two week cruise. Though I have my mind set on an Alaskan cruise.

Budget Travels: Back Home From Cruise

I’m back from our week long cruise. This cruise is definitely mellow compared to my honeymoon cruise two years ago. I still enjoyed it and had fun. Ports were a bit of a bust for me. Our cruise was a Mexican Riviera cruise with Holland America.

The weather was still considered too hot for me (normally I’d be okay but my pregnancy makes me hot ) and I was a little turned off with the locals offering to drive us to where we need. Sometimes I just want to walk around to nice places and just be left alone browsing to my heart’s content.

The cruise was nice and I did enjoy the food at both the buffet and MDR ( Main Dining Room). It’s true the client base for Holland America was more senior than young couples/families but we didn’t mind. We took this cruise to relax and just enjoy the ship. The ship Veendam is considered a mid size ship. It was cozy and small compared to the first cruise I took which was Disney Fantasy. I think in the future I will stick with the larger ships due to more activities being available.

Even though we are back, it’s nice to be back home with the cats being able to roam around to their liking. Grandpa’s house is filled with furniture that they tend to scratch. We also owe them a couple of fake plants. There is a reason why I can’t grow herbs or plants in my house. My fur babies think they are salads. I will post some pictures up soon!

Budget Travels: Preparing For Vacation

Our cruise is sneaking up behind us that in a few days we will be sea bound. This will be my second cruise and I’m excited. Though since I am pregnant there are limited things I can’t do. I’m not going to let not going in hot tubs, not trying certain excursions, and not eating in ports ruin it. Still I’m a little bit  behind in preparation. I know most people just make sure that they are pack the night before but I like to do some preparation that involves the end of the vacation of coming home to a nice clean home.

Here is my general list:

  1. Pack clothing and toiletries the night before
  2. Prepare vacation folder /pregnancy folder
  3. Pay bills early
  4. Clean house. It’s always nice to come home to a nice clean home.
  5. Clean cat fountains and litter (one cat will stay home, other two will be with grandpa)
  6. Throw out food that will spoil while we are gone.
  7. Laundry has to be done. Especially husband’s uniforms.
  8. Notify boss of upcoming activities due for the person covering for me.
  9. Put eBay store on vacation with auto response.
  10. Leave Nephew note on what to do while we are gone (he’s feeding our one cat that is staying)

It seems counter intuitive to prepare for a relaxing vacation. Yet if I don’t do this, my mind will be constantly worrying what I should have done before going. I’m so excited. I love going on cruises. On my first cruise  it was a Disney Cruise to the Caribbean. I spent the first few days being sea sick but after dramamine I realized how much cruising is relaxing and much easier to stick to a budget.

Budget Travels: Universal Studios In April 2015

I have to admit I didn’t prepare as much I usually do for trips like this. The plan is 5 days in CA. 2 days in Universal Studios , and the rest in San Diego with my FIL. Still, I feel we spent prudently and we didn’t come back worried about how much we spent. Here are some ways we try to cut cost. These seem common sense but do we always have that?

Ways we save on this trip:

1. Booked a room at Best Western through AAA. Again AAA had the best price for us. Even if I booked them directly through Best Western site. So weird. We paid $188.00 for one night. This included taxes. This was a Friday night booking so it was a little pricey.

2. Our hotel had free continental breakfast. Sure the eggs were watery, and the sausage rubbery, but they had apples, bananas, muffins, toast, jellies, etc. Still satisfied with that variety.

3. My husband and I shared every meal in Universal Studios. We ate lunch 2X, snacked 2x ( Doughnut & Ice Cream), and bought one of those sippers where every refill was 99 cents ( Sippers were $15.99… pricey but loved the Homer Head Sipper).

4. We brought snacks inside, and I brought a thermos of my favorite ice tea. This not only caused us not spend less on theme park food, but it was nice to not have to line up during peak lunch hours.

Since it is just us two, we didn’t focus too much on saving on Universal Studios. Though we did took advantage of the special of buy a ticket that’s good for the year 2015 ( Except black out dates). There is a long list of black out dates on the ticket but to be honest I’d rather visit during low season. Lines were ridiculously long during the weekend. I think from now on we will visit Universal Studios on weekdays instead. It’s just less crazy. Business hours may be less but I like to spend less time in line on rides. On Friday average wait time for rides was 25 minutes or less. Saturday it was 40- 60 minutes. I would hate to find out what the average wait time on rides during peak season.

   Here are some pictures during our  2 day visit in Universal Studios Hollywood.DSC_0004Me in the middle of using a penny machine.

DSC_0008                             Springfield! I love Simpsons.

DSC_0006                                 I was here five minutes before they opened.

DSC_0032                                Shared with my husband. SOoo good fresh and hot.

DSC_0014                              My husband said Duff beer was pretty mild but good.

DSC_0033                                Not opening until 2016.

DSC_0046                                    Part of the tram tour. I love this bear.

DSC_0064                               Part of the tram tour. Flintstones vehicle.

DSC_0076                                    Tram tour.

DSC_0086                                 The flood scene is one my favorite parts of the tram tour.

DSC_0106                                 Do you see her? Yeesh!

DSC_0113                                     Tram tour. A set from War of the Worlds.

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DSC_0124                                   Cool meet and greet.

DSC_0136                                Infamous Delorean.

Hope you enjoyed the pics. Not sure when our next trip to Universal Studios will happen. Maybe August/September we will take a little weekend  ( weekday) trip

Budget Travels: Zion National Park 2015-Pictures

Hello All! It has been almost a week since we came back from our weekend getaway to Zion. We enjoyed our trip so much that we would like to make another one during Spring. Here are some pictures. All in all we probably spent $300 for our room and food (ate out once). Though we we packed most of our food we did end up buying microwavable food from costco (They had a fantastic sale on hot pockets, and breakfast sandwiches). Our room at the Cable Mountain Lodge was amazing and much better than what we thought. Definitely going with them again the next time they have a fantastic deal going on.

DSC_0006This is what the rooms look like from outside at night.

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Beautiful cat that wanders around the lodge area.

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We were so happy that this year there wasn’t too much ice so we hiked more than last year.