Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

How To Make Flying Economy Feel Like First Class

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

How to Make Flying Economy Feel Like First Class

Wouldn’t it be lovely if you could fly in first class all of the time? Unfortunately, for most of us, we often find ourselves in the back of the plane feeling a little bit jealous of those first class passengers. Lucky for you, with just a few thoughtful items tucked into your carry-on bag and a little planning before your flight, you can trick yourself into believing you are having a first class flying experience without the expensive price tag!

As a frequent flyer myself, I wanted to share with you a few quick ideas for making your economy experience feel like a first class one for your next flight!

How To Make Flying Economy Feel Like First Class

Make Flying Economy Feel Like First Class

 

Select Your Most Comfortable Flight

To begin your first class experience on your economy budget, begin by choosing the most comfortable flight you can within your budget. InsideTrip.com is a site that not only arranges your flights by price, but they also allow you to include the most important flight features for you, including the speed of the flight, the comfort level of your flight, and the ease of the flight. Using this site, you can plan the flight with the most legroom, the type of aircraft you prefer to fly on, and even arrange flights with the newest aircrafts for your next flight.

Select the Best Seat You Can 

You might not be able to afford a first class ticket for your flight, but you can certainly make the most of the economy seat you are in. Visit sites like SeatGuru.com or SeatExpert.com to select the best seat available for your trip. By using a site like one of these for selecting your seat you can avoid a seat with limited recline or reduced legroom on your next flight. With a little extra legroom and the best seat in the back of the house, you are just a little closer to that first class experience!

Make a First Class Tote 

Many of the amenities the other passengers are enjoying in first class can be enjoyed in economy with a little thoughtful planning. Inside your carry-on bag tuck in a few items that will help you feel comfortable when you are flying. I love to have an easy cardigan or wrap that can double as a blanket or to keep my arms warm when I fly, a warm pair of socks when the cold air is blowing on me, and a few delicious snacks that I can enjoy for free while I am in flight. A moist towelette for freshening up, dental floss, a toothbrush, and toothpaste can also be wonderful to keep you feeling refreshed on longer flights.

Take a First Class Nap

While you might not be blessed with as much room as the first class passengers, it certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t be comfortable. Purchase an eye mask that you can take along with you when you travel that can block out the light so you can take a really great nap and look for free white noise apps that you can download to your phone to block out the noise around you while you are flying. With the addition of your cardigan or sweater to snuggle up with, you have the makings for a perfect first class nap!

 

 

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5 Free iPhone Travel Apps That Save Time & Money

Monday, June 29th, 2015

5 free iPhone travel apps that will save you time and money

I have to admit that before I had a smart phone, I was hesitant to travel or venture anywhere without a good tour guide to help me navigate the unfamiliar terrain. Thankfully, my phone has not only helped me to be more adventurous when exploring new restaurants and sites, but in some ways, it truly helps me to feel like a local.

Of course, my favorite apps are the ones that can save me time and money, both of which are always on short supply when traveling. Today I wanted to share with you a few of the best apps that can save you both of those things when planning your next trip.

5 Free iPhone Travel Apps That Save Time & Money

Use Travel Apps to Save Time and Money

Gate Guru

Wandering around aimlessly at an airport searching for your gate, a good place to eat, or where to pick up a good book to enjoy on your layover is a thing of the past! Just as Yelp, CitySearch and foursquare are great for locating new and interesting options within a given city, GateGuru serves as the leading light to locate the best food, shopping and service options within any airport at the touch of a button. This free app covers the top 86 airports in the United States, the top 12 airports and Canada and London’s Heathrow Airport. Be sure to add this to your phone to help save you time on your next flight!

Wi-Fi Finder

There is nothing worse than arriving at a destination and discovering that there is a charge to use the Wi-Fi when you finally make it to your destination. Fortunately, with the Wi-Fi Finder, you can quickly and easily find free Wi-Fi when you need it most. This app simply uses the GPS function on your iPhone and the Wi-Fi finder will tell you exactly where the closest Wi-Fi hotspot is, and how to get there. Although the app highlights both paid and free Wi-Fi spots, a simple filter allows you to easily filter only the free spots so you can save a few bucks on your next trip.

Take Me To My Car

Is there anything more painful than taking a red eye flight and parking your car…only to forget where it is? This application solves the problem and with only one tap saves your current position wherever you might be. The next time you start the app you’ll have walking directions to your car right in front of you. Unlike many apps that offer only turn-by-turn driving directions, you can use this app to find your way back to your car with walking directions and ditch the endless wandering around the airport parking after a long day of traveling.

Flight Tracker

Any app that makes a flight easier for me is an app that is worth downloading. With Flight Tracker you can track all of your flights with zoomable maps, get real-time departure info, or delays and gate numbers at a glance. The best part, of course is that they will update you on cancellations and help you find an alternate flight. With assistance like this, you are bound to save time not only locating your gates, but also avoid being stranded at the airport the next time your flight happens to be canceled!

Cheap Gas

For those travelers that are hitting the road, Cheap Gas! is a fantastic app to add to your iPhone. Simply by using the GPS, Cheap Gas! lets you know the prices of gas near you, and then automatically maps a route to the station of your choice All gas prices are provided by the Gas Buddy network of sites and includes time stamps to let you know how long ago the gas prices were updated. When gas prices rise, you will be armed with this money-saving tool to make the most of your travel budget.

 

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Easy Summer Beauty Routines

Friday, June 26th, 2015

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

*This post is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site!

This upcoming month we will be focusing on Beauty for our m challenge! I am giving you a sneak peek on my beauty routines today as I partner up with Walmart to share about some of their great beauty essentials. In the past I have worked as a craft contributor for their team, but I get to switch gears now and share about beauty & fashion with them this year. I am sure you have seen my obsession for these two things grow as we have talked about fashion capsules (my summer capsule reveal happens next month- stay tuned!) and as we talk about our favorite beauty products in It’s the 3 Little Things each week! This switch feels like a great fit and will give me a chance to try out some new beauty routines to share with you!

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

As you can see, I try to keep things pretty neutral when it comes to beauty since this is my typical make-up job. I don’t know if that will appeal to you or not, but many of the routines I have had in place have worked for me for many years. I use many of the same facial washes and make-up brands that I have used since high school.  For summer beauty, my objectives are really simple- PROTECTION from the sun, WATERPROOF since I tend to be a sweaty mess all the time, and MULTI-USE products since our bathroom doesn’t have a ton of storage space.

Oh, and I’m lazy. 

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

Based on these factors, here are my FAVORITE summer beauty products that I truly love!

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

Neutrogena Cooldry Sport Sunscreen SPF 30 all the way up to 70! 

We hang out at the pool all summer and my kids are little fishes in the water. We look for sunscreens with staying power and fast application. This Neutrogena Cooldry Sport Sunscreen is fantastic because it is water resistant for up to 80 minutes. The best part is that it dries quickly upon application and it doesn’t leave my skin feeling greasy. I am prone to breakouts from sunscreen and this one doesn’t make me break out.  We still stick to cream application and sticks to our faces, but this is a quick one for getting everyone protected and in the pool in no time flat. I priced it out at a lot of places and Walmart really does have the best price (it was $3 cheaper than another superstore in our area). Since we live at the pool, we spend a ton on sunscreen so that savings adds up quick.

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

Aveeno BB Cream

I’ve been experimenting with lots of different BB Creams and I have to say that I love the Aveeno BB Cream the most because it isn’t drying to my skin, the sunscreen has performed really well on my fair complexion, and it seems to offer really great coverage at hiding imperfections in my skin. I had to laugh when I was at an assembly for my daughter and my friend said, “Your skin is so beautiful. I just want to touch it.” After uncontrollable laughing, I told her that THIS is my secret. It’s almost like an airbrush to your face and it keeps my skin feeling soft and smooth. I always had a hard time finding it, but it is usually over in the facial washes/moisturizer aisle and not in the makeup area. It’s my priciest investment ($11.72), but if you compare ounce for ounce on other brands, it really is a bargain. I also save a ton by using an all-in-one product instead of purchasing several bottles.

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

Burt’s Bees Lip Shine (in Pucker)

In the Fall & Winter months, I love a bold lip with heavy coverage. In the summer though, I just want a little tint to my lips and a lot of shine. I have always been a fan of the Burt’s Bees lip balms, but only recently discovered these lip shines for my summer routines. These smell so good, have good shine, and they do a great job moisturizing the lip. PS- If you haven’t watched the Burt’s Bees documentary on Netflix, you really must. He is such an interesting man and there is much to admire about someone that famous who chooses to live so simply.  You will love it!

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

Revlon Colorstay Eyeliner (in Black Brown)

You will rarely catch me without eyeliner on. I could care less about mascara, but I won’t leave the house without a swipe of eyeliner on my lids. I have tried so many brands and none of them stick except for this one. It says it holds up to sixteen hours…I am going to say it stays longer than most, but sixteen hours is pushing it.  It really stays on the longest of any I have tried though and goes on smoothly. For summer, this is the one I would recommend adding to your make-up routines! Pair this with infallible eye shadow in iced latte and your eyes are set for summer!

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

TRESemme Fresh Start Dry Shampoo

Dry shampoo is EXPENSIVE especially when it comes to the salon brands. As a brunette, it is hard to find a dry shampoo that does not leave me looking like I have a white film on my hair. When this product came out originally, I looked like a mess because the residue was so bad. They switched their formula though and I purchased a trial size to try it out for a trip and it works BEAUTIFULLY now.  In the summer, I often look like I need to wash my hair. I don’t know if you saw THIS or not, but I really hate washing my hair especially now that it has gotten so long. This stuff is a year-round essential, but really perfect after a day at the pool with the kids when I could use a little freshening up and it costs less than $5!

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs

Ladies, I am the fairest of them all and I am telling you right now to RUN to Walmart and get this stuff. It used to come only in an aerosol can and I have ruined a few shower curtains and sprayed up some walls trying to get my legs tan, but now it comes in a cream so no more mess. It’s water resistant so you can tan up your legs even when heading to the pool or beach and the only way to get this stuff off is with a lot of soap and water. If you haven’t tried it, it’s like a concealer for your legs. Bumps, bug bites, skin imperfections… all that stuff disappears. If you think you are the fairest of them all, they came out with a new color called Fairest. They even have travel size, perfect for packing for your summer trips. After you try it, send me an email to thank me for changing your life!

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

L’Oreal Visible Lift CC Eye Concealer

I have terrible circles under my eyes and never could find a concealer that could camouflage these enough for me. I also have very dry skin so these products often created more dryness and creases around my eyes contributing to my tired look. I wish I could kiss L’Oreal for making this product. It actually hides my circles and it doesn’t dry out my skin. If you have had a bad night with the kids, this stuff makes you look well-rested. I also really love the roller ball applicator on this one.

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

Mane ‘n Tail Hoofmaker Hand & Nail Therapy

Have some hooves for feet?  Me too.  This stuff costs less than $3 and works better than any fancy foot creams I have ever bought. I keep it in my nightstand and use it at night on my hands and feet. It also helps repair your nails especially if you have indulged in one too many shellacs (*ahem*)!

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

Secret Clinical Strength

Between my sweaty gym routines and and the days spent outside working on the yard or taking my kids to the pool, I can be one sweaty mess. This deodorant is amazing at keeping sweat at bay and has helped boost my confidence a lot this summer. If you are looking for a deodorant with staying power, give this one a spin! I promise it won’t disappoint!

I hope I haven’t given all my secrets away in my very first post, but I love sharing my favorites with you. Do you have any beauty products you think I should give a spin this summer? Let me know in the comments so I can try them out! I’m always looking for new products to add to my beauty routines! xo

walmart_mom_disclaimer

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Smart Strategies for Saving Time & Money When Flying

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

How to save money and time when flying

Over the years, I have been doing a lot more travel than I ever dreamed I would be doing. When you travel frequently, you quickly learn that:

  • you need a lot less than you think you do
  • proper planning will save you hours of frustration
  • and each trip is a lesson on how to do it better

I wanted to share with you a few tips to help you save time and money on your next flight. These are my tried and true strategies that I employ each time I fly and I hope they will help you on your next trip.

How To Save Money & Time When Flying

1. Check in Online

The biggest timesaver for me has always been taking the time to check in for my flights online twenty-four hours before my flight.  You can save so much time and can also avoid having to wait as long at the airport if you have checked in for your flight early. What would normally take an hour can now take twenty to thirty minutes just by using my computer at home.

While you are checking in online, print out all of the documents you might need for your trip and store them in a folder together. I keep all trip itineraries, meeting information, agendas, and check-in information for the returning flight together.  Pull this together with your freshly printed boarding passes and put this in your carry-on luggage or purse for easy access.

Pack light and smart for air travel

2. Keep Your Bags Light

Most airlines now charge for you to check in your luggage, not to mention the hassle of waiting at baggage claims for your luggage to arrive when you are anxious to start your trip.  The largest allowed size for carry-on bags is 22×14×19 inches, but you can maximize your packing by in a quality soft-sided carry-on bag, which will be roomier than a more rigid bag.  Just by packing light, you are able to shave approximately $50 on a round-trip flight!

If you are traveling as a family, divide the luggage up between each family member and consider investing in one small roller bag for each child that they will be able to maneuver themselves.  Child size luggage can be found at discount stores like Target, Walmart, TJ Maxx, and Marshall’s. Even with this investment, you can still easily save $25 on the way back because you won’t need to check a bag. The bonus is that they can use that bag for years to come, making it easy to recoup your travel investment.

The best part about keeping your bags light, though is that you can use this as an excuse to not buy so many travel souvenirs on your trip. Consider that light bag as not only a savings for not checking in, but the ultimate excuse to not indulge in those pricey gift shops.

If, in the end, you are unable to reduce your luggage to be carry-on compliant, paying for your checked bags online can sometimes save you a few dollars each way.

 

3. Pack Smart

It seems that it is always the people that do not take the time to pack wisely that become the most flustered or are asked to step aside by security. The most important thing to note is that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules require that passengers only carry liquids in three ounce containers in no more than one, clear, quart-sized bag.

Visit freebie sites like Freebies4Mom.com, DealSeekingMom.com, or MommySnacks.net and stockpile sample size toiletries and detergent for your trips that will comply with these federal guidelines. If you travel frequently, reusable travel containers can also be a fantastic investment that can be refilled with the items you already have from home. Make sure to store this bag right on top for easy access, as it will need to be removed from your bags when going through airport security.

Underneath the bag of toiletries, tightly roll your clothing to prevent wrinkling and to maximize the space within your carry-on luggage. Choose clothing that can easily be mixed and matched and make sure to prepare for what weather conditions may be awaiting you. There is nothing worse than being at an amusement park with your family during a torrential downpour and paying $15 for an umbrella or heading to a state with warmer weather and paying $35 for a junky tourist sweatshirt because you are freezing.

Last, make sure that any electronics that will need to be inspected rest on top next to your toiletries until you get through security.  The ones that will not need to be run through separately will be easier to scan if they are right on top and those that require a separate scanning will be easy to access for this procedure (remember that everything can be rearranged in the bag, once you get through security, to protect your electronics from harm during travel).

Pack dried fruit for travel

4. Thrifty Snacking

The days of meals and snacks on flights are long gone so it is important to have a thrifty snacking strategy to avoid spending $50 at the airport while waiting for flights. Pack food items that will travel well both ways to reduce your spending. Items like protein bars (avoid anything with melting chocolate), trail mixes, dried fruit, and apples are all great items to tuck away in your bag for a snack while you are waiting. If your flight is leaving during the lunch hour, spend a little time packing lunches that can be eaten in flight or while waiting at the airport. This little effort of planning can easily save you $7 per person.

While you are unable to bring any liquids through security, there is one easy strategy you can take to save on those $5 waters at the airport. Tuck an empty reusable water bottle in your bag and fill it at a drinking fountain when you get through security.

 

Travel Game Ideas

5. Frugal Entertainment

It is easy to keep everyone entertained on the flights, but it also requires a little strategy, particularly if you are bringing children. Consider packing one set of things to do on the way there and one small set of things to do on the way back to keep your children happy. Library books, magnetic travel games, coloring books, a deck of cards, puzzle books, and even your child’s portable gaming system are great ways to keep them entertained.

It is important to keep in mind that electronics do have to be turned off at the beginning and ending of each flight, so don’t just rely on that Nintendo DS, DVD player, or that iPod to hold their interest. They will be glad that you packed a coloring book or reading material when the time comes to switch them off. As an added savings, don’t forget to bring their headphones for these electronics, as the airline will happily charge you for each set you might have forgotten.

I hope that these tips will help you on your next flight and don’t forget to tuck those items away to save time for the next trip. There is nothing like having a bag of toiletries that are already packed, a special set of items that are already preset in your bags to keep the kids entertained, or  the travel pillow already packed in your bag to save you time for your next trip.

If you want more great tips on travel, be sure to visit our Organized Travel article before heading out for your next vacation!

What are some ways that you save time and money when you are flying? I would love to hear your success stories or lessons learned!

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Strategies for Packing Lighter

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Strategies for Packing Lighter

Packing lighter not only will help you save you time at the airport, but it can significantly reduce the amount of money you spend on your next trip. Unfortunately, most airlines now charge for you to check in your luggage, but it is important to be aware that the largest allowed size for carry-on bags is 22×14×19 inches. With careful planning and strategic packing though you can maximize your suitcase and shave approximately $50 off on your next round trip flight with a few smart packing strategies.

Here are a few quick tips for lightening your load on your next flight:

1. Call Your Destination First

Wherever you are headed, whether it is for business travel or leisure, call first and see what is already included in your hotel room. Some items like bathrobes, hair dryers, and toiletries are common items that are often included within your stay, but you may discover that your hotel can offer some unexpected offerings that will free up a great deal of precious space in your carry-on bag. For example, items like beach towels, toys or movies for children, and portable cribs are items that could be offered complimentary with your room. I have found that it just never hurts to call ahead and ask and you might be surprised to discover just how little you really need to bring!

2. Divide Your Luggage 

If you are traveling as a family, divide the luggage up between each family member and consider investing in one small roller bag for each child that they will be able to maneuver themselves. Child size luggage can be found at discount stores like Target, Walmart, TJ Maxx, and Marshall’s. Even with this investment, you can still easily save $25 on the way back because you won’t need to check a bag. The bonus is that they can use that bag for years to come, making it easy to recoup your travel investment.

3. Pack Smart

It seems that it is always the people that do not take the time to pack wisely that become the most flustered or are asked to step aside by security. The most important thing to note is that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules require that passengers only carry liquids in three ounce containers in no more than one, clear, quart-sized bag.

I love to visit freebie sites like Freebies4Mom.com, DealSeekingMom.com, or The Savings Lifestyle and stockpile sample size toiletries and detergent for your trips that will comply with these federal guidelines. If you travel frequently, reusable travel containers can also be a fantastic investment that can be refilled with the items you already have from home. Make sure to store this bag right on top for easy access, as it will need to be removed from your bags when going through airport security.

4. Establish Order In Your Carry-On 

Underneath your bag of toiletries, tightly roll your clothing to prevent wrinkling and to maximize the space within your carry-on luggage. Choose clothing that can easily be mixed and matched and make sure to prepare for what weather conditions may be awaiting you. There is nothing worse than being at an amusement park with your family during a torrential downpour and paying $15 for an umbrella or heading to a state with warmer weather and paying $35 for a junky tourist sweatshirt because you are freezing.

Last, make sure that any electronics that will need to be inspected rest on top next to your toiletries until you get through security. The ones that will not need to be run through separately will be easier to scan if they are right on top and those that require a separate scanning will be easy to access for this procedure. Remember that everything can be rearranged in the bag, once you get through security, to protect your electronics from harm during travel.

5. Save Even More Money

The best part about keeping your bags light though is that you can use this as an excuse to not buy so many travel souvenirs on your trip. Consider that light bag as not only a savings for not checking in, but the ultimate excuse to not indulge in those pricey gift shops. I have been known to use this excuse a time or two when coming home empty-handed after a business trip!

The important thing to remember is if, in the end, you are unable to reduce your luggage to be carry-on compliant, try paying for your baggage online first. Just by paying for your checked bags online you can sometimes save you a few dollars each way.

How to Pack Lighter for Travel

In the end, the lighter the load, the lighter the expense and the easier your life will be when getting through those security checks!

What are some of your tips for packing smarter and lighter when traveling?

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Six Easy Ways to Save on That Weekend Getaway

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

Note: I’m reposting this article in honor of our Travel M Challenge with a new header and format that highlights these great travel saving tips that we continue to use to take short trips and stay on budget.

6 Easy Ways to Save on Weekend Getaways

When my husband and I celebrated nine years of marriage, we wanted to celebrate our anniversary in a special way so we decided to take a little trip to Traverse City, Michigan and enjoy a weekend getaway for just the two of us. My husband’s family was kind of enough to take care of the kids and we were off for two days of sightseeing, window shopping, and delicious eating.

We remained true to our budget through careful planning and research and I wanted to share with you a few ways we found to save on our memorable weekend getaway!

6 Ways to Save on Weekend Getaways

1. Research Hotel Rates

There were tons of great places to stay in Traverse City and I wanted the place where we stayed to be close to downtown shopping to be a fun getaway for us. We checked Kayak for room rates and found the Grand Traverse Resort to be approximately the same price as the other hotels, but it had many amenities. The reviews on the hotel were great and we were thrilled to find a rate that saved us about $70 a night versus the hotel rates.

All of that being said, it seemed because we had booked this discount rate, we also got the discount room. Our room was the one without the view, on the ground floor, and smelled like a smoking room. We also had no idea that they would charge a resort fee of $9.95 a day for all of those amenities that we did not use.

We still did score a great rate, but realized that the amount of time we spent in our room was not worth the grandeur and we will find a less expensive place next time!

2. Request A Visitor Packet

While the visitor packet for this town lacked coupons, it did give us some ideas for good places to visit and offered great historical information on the places we planned to visit. Through this packet of information, I was able to jot down some ideas for places to eat and see while we were in the town.

3. Find the Best Places to Eat

I wanted to eat at the coolest spots in town and we were able to do that with just a little research on my part. I hopped on Chow and checked through the forums for information on the town we were visiting. People offered honest opinions on the best spots in town and we decided to eat at two of the restaurants that had been recommended.

The first restaurant we ate at was called Trattoria Stella – a fantastic Italian place in a renovated insane asylum. No, I am not joking! My husband, who watches many of those ghost-chasing shows, was thoroughly creeped out and it made for great conversation with our waiter. The food and wine choices relied heavily on local farmers and local wines which made for a fresh and delicious dinner.

The other recommendation was for Don’s Drive-In, which was absolutely everything that I adore about diner food. Greasy burgers, giant shakes, and the best fried mushrooms ever. We took our shakes to go and drove near the water for a view. It was far too cold to sit too long, but we prided ourselves on making the most of our two day getaway!

4. Talk to Locals

When someone comes to my town, I love to be a local authority. Isn’t it fun to share all of the hidden gems of your town? We talked to anyone who would chat with us and they shared their special places to eat, shop, and their favorite wineries to visit in town. People just love sharing about their home and that is how we were able to discover an out-of-the-way winery that was not listed on maps. It had closed by the time we arrived, but we were able to take some wonderful pictures of the view.


5. Put Together Your Own Tours & Packages

The Grand Traverse Resort offered a room package that included a tour of local wineries. The package included a two night stay and a tour of three wineries. The price? A whopping $224.50 per person. Since the tour wineries were listed on their website, I jotted them down and we decided to do our own tour. The price for us to do our own wine tour? Gas plus $3-5 per tasting at the wineries. With the money saved, we were able to take home a bottle of wine from each of the three wineries as a memento of our special anniversary! The two highlights for us were Shady Lane & Black Star Farms.

We saved ourselves even more time and money by trying wines at the restaurant and even picking up a bottle at the gas station. Through their wines, we discovered what wineries were not worth visiting and which ones we could not wait to enjoy at their winery.


5b. Put Your GPS/Phone Maps to Good Use for Your Tour

Using first a car GPS, and now our smartphone maps, has saved us so much money in gas and an inevitable divorce because we always get lost. It has been one of the best investments for our family- I truly could go on and on!

Program your device with all of the places that you would like to go before heading on your trip. I visited all of the sites of the restaurants, our hotel, even the downtown shops that I wanted to hit so all of the information was right at our fingertips. We enjoyed a scenic view to the town and we were able to navigate our way around without any problems to all of the places we wanted to see.

6. Stick To Window Shopping

I won’t say we didn’t make any purchases (I’ve already mentioned the wine…), but the majority of the trip was spent window shopping and picture-taking. I was able to take pictures of all the beautiful windows and antiques that we saw and that seemed to satisfy any urge I had to shop. We did enjoy oodles of free food samples downtown and shared a slice of pizza on a park bench to people watch over our lunch.

It was a happy anniversary that celebrated almost 15 years of being together! And staying on budget made it that much sweeter.

Do you have any weekend getaways planned? What is your favorite way to save on your vacation travels? Please share!

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Learning to Love Travel with Your Husband

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Learning to Love Travel with Your Husband

When I was a kid, my family took a vacation each summer. Even if we could only afford to visit the next state over, we went somewhere new. When my husband was a kid, his family spent a week at the lake each summer. Even if the traffic was horrendous, they took a road trip to spend those days swimming and sunning.

Though we knew these things about each other before getting married, we never imagined it would influence our own relationship and decisions for our family. Unlike money and communication and how to fold towels, we had no idea that our approaches to travel could result in frustration, disappointment and general disagreement.

If you think about it, though, travel is more than an interest or hobby. It’s related to how we view spend our time and money, what we determine are priorities and set as goals, and even what we think is best for our families. No wonder it can cause so much trouble between two people with completely different backgrounds!

While WHERE to go is the obvious difference of opinion when it comes to travel, that’s just the beginning. Since getting married 16 years ago, my husband and I have disagreed about…

  • When to travel – which season, which month, what part of the week? early in the morning or in the middle of the night?
  • How long to travel – a long weekend? a full week? a day’s journey away? only a few hours away?
  • How to pack – like a Boy Scout (be prepared)? roll your clothes to fit more in the bag? just the necessities? {shudder.}
  • Whether to fly or drive – spend the money? or the time? or the sanity???
  • When (and whether) to travel with kids or friends or family (speaking of sanity…)
  • How strictly we adhere to an agenda – or do we even need an agenda? {Yes. We always need an agenda!}
  • Where we splurge and where we pinch pennies
  • Whether tourist traps are fun or awful
  • How often to stop for bathroom breaks or photo opportunities

And probably more that I’ve forgotten!

Because of these differences and disagreements, many of our early trips were spent with as many frustrated signs and ill-tempered words as museums and national parks. Both of us assumed that OUR WAY to travel was THE RIGHT WAY to travel, and we felt both disappointed and disgruntled that the other one didn’t get that!

Tips for learning How to Love Traveling with Your Husband

Thankfully, after so many years of traveling together, my husband and I have figured out which details and decisions we can compromise on and which ones we need to take turns on. He knows I’m never going to go somewhere without an agenda, and I know he’s never going to be happy about multiple bathroom and photo breaks. But, for the most part, I can manage a laid back schedule designed for maximum fun and minimum stress – and he almost always humors my requests to stop {again.} for one more break.

Of course, that doesn’t mean our travel planning days are carefree, full of rainbows and giggles. {Um, no.} As a matter of fact, as we worked on plans for this summer’s vacation, we had to debate again the benefit of a larger hotel room when traveling with children versus the benefit of saving a few dollars! But for the most part, our travel dreams are more aligned than ever.

They’re so in sync {sometimes. okay? not always!} that we’ve started a Travel Wish List.

The wish list began when I read something online about how many summers we have left with our kids before they go to college. After I stopped crying my eyes out {because REALLY.}, I counted. My oldest daughter is seven and just finished the first grade. She may travel with us after going to college (and we have a handful more years before her baby sister leaves the nest), but the reality is that we only have 12 summers left before she moves out.

We immediately began brainstorming all the places we want to take her – and then realized that a) the list is way longer than 12 destinations and b) we might not want to take kids on all our trips over the next couple of decades! We came up with a list of 24 places we’d love to take our girls, but the truth is several of the destinations overlap with our couple’s travel wish list.

That may mean we visit those places twice over the years – once with kids, once without. It could also mean our daughters have to make some trips with their own families down the road. In other words…don’t tell the girls, but they might get left with the grandparents a few times, no matter what our list for them says!

These days it feels like a miracle if my husband and I can go to the grocery store together, sans kids, so even a short road trip would be a gift. But we won’t always have young kids, and we want to plan now so bigger trips are possible sooner rather than later. So we’ve made a list for ourselves – and started a savings plan to make those travel dreams come true. Here are the top 5 places we’d love to go together right now:

  • Chicago
  • Savannah/Charleston
  • Hawaii
  • San Antonio
  • Europe

Our 20-year wedding anniversary is coming up in four years, so we’ve actually started saving for a trip to Hawaii. My hope is that we have way more than five amazing trips in our future, whether they’re far away or just a couple hours’ drive from home – and that, one of these days, we can even learn to agree on the ideal playlist, best snack foods, correct number of bags and appropriate souvenir purchases!

Do you and your husband have the same approach to travel?

 

Photos by wwarby and jolevine

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Printable Travel Games

Monday, June 15th, 2015

Free Printable Travel Games from MomAdvice.com

Road trips are in the plans for our summer. How about yours? My least favorite question to hear from the back seats is the infamous, “Are we there yet?”. Busy young minds sometimes need encouragement to look up and to gaze at the changing landscape outside of the car. With three children ranging from 5-10, we have a minivan full of various interests and developmental levels.

I have happy memories of bingo travel games (remember those with the transparent sliding doors) so I decided our children needed travel games of their own. For my older set, we put together a scavenger hunt, and for my son, an emergent reader, a bingo game of symbols and sites.

Free Printable Travel Games from MomAdvice.com

DRIVE bingo follows the traditional game with graphics you might see on a day of errands or a road trip (use as needed!). We always pack a lap desk or clipboard in the car for drawing and paper activities so my son was ready to get to work when he saw this board! Some symbols like the water tower or the number sign might need explanation but they will also keep little ones spidey eyes attuned to some new discoveries.

Free Printable Travel Games from MomAdvice.com

PRINT DRIVE BINGO HERE

My two older daughters, 8 and 10, want to be challenged. The Road Trip Scavenger Hunt is right up their alley. If you’re headed out on a longer journey, you could tape this to an interior window (making sure it doesn’t obstruct the driver’s view) and work on it little by little. This works well for us since we tend not to travel light, and a single piece of paper can get easily lost in the books, ipods, stuffed animals, etc.

PRINT ROAD TRIP SCAVENGER HUNT HERE

I’ll admit that I had a lot of fun thinking of what might stump them. :) You could use these as a competition to see who can find all of these items first. For our family, competition and long drives do not go well together so we use these more as a group project!

Free Printable Travel Games from MomAdvice.com

Searching for a lost shoe on the side of the road and sparking conversations about what counts as outdoor art is a fun way to pass the time, and even get to know each other a bit better. Some of these you might even find in your own car!

MJ from Pars Caeli

Enjoy the summer travels; we’re going to do our best to do the same! Any tips on helping your children enjoy road trips?

xoxo, MJ

I hope you enjoyed our guest post today from M.J. at Pars Caeli today. MJ will be joining us this summer to share her beautiful printables and knowledge with us! I am so lucky to call her one of my personal friends and to get to share her talent with you this summer! Please visit her blog for incredible ideas this summer to entertain your kiddos- she is one fun mama!!  You won’t be disappointed! xoxo

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Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

My husband and I went for our first time out of the country this past month and it was the experience of a lifetime. In the upcoming weeks, I wanted to share with you a little bit about our experience with traveling internationally from how we saved the money to do it to packing for your vacation.  Since this is our first time out of the country, we lack the seasoned advice of travelers like Tsh from The Art of Simple (I have been just dying over their family’s incredible adventure, haven’t you?), but I hope we can bring a new voice to it about first-time international travel.

One of the keys to our success was utilizing a travel agent and going the group tour route for our first time traveling internationally. This surprised us so we wanted to share that experience with you especially if you are trying to travel internationally on a budget.

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

The savings plan (I will go over that next week) had been in place for many years so that our family would not feel the pinch when we decided to take our 15th anniversary trip. Since it was our first time out of the country we had to get our passports. We headed to the post office to get the paperwork filled out which I was pretty nervous about.  I have so many issues because I dropped my middle name when I got married and this has been the biggest headache of paperwork ever since because my license and Social Security card do not match (thank you, Indiana).

My husband’s passport showed up in our mailbox quickly and I, of course, got a letter that my name was not correct on my license. After it being put before a board to determine if I am who I say I am (Sam I AM), they sent the passport with my correct name and that is when we started moving on the booking of grandma (bless her Jesus-sized heart!) and the booking of our travel.

I asked my friend Erika Brown from Chic Shopper Chick to help us because she and her husband had taken an excursion to Italy and she is my go-to gal when it comes to travel.

Armed with her amazing advice, we reached out to Cheryl Oddo from Carefree Vacations (telephone number 800.683.4074 and her email is coddo(at)carefreevacations(dot)com) to assist us with booking our travel.

PS- She said you can reach out to her if you are interested in pricing for yourself and she is awesome. Please tell her you are my friend! 

This was our first time working with a travel agent and it definitely will not be the last. Cheryl asked what we were most interested in seeing and looking for in a trip to Italy. She then sent to us several ideas for group travel packages that we could do and the pricing for each option. The pricing was carefully spelled out and told us what would be included (transportation, breakfast at our hotel, walking tours) and what wasn’t covered (airfare, additional excursions, tipping). We noticed the rates increased during the height of tourist season and selected one right before the rate hike for Italy to make the most of our money and the timing of our incredible grandma.

Here is where I keep things real….

I did not want to do group travel for my 15th wedding anniversary.

I did not want to be social.

Mostly, I just didn’t want to share my husband with anyone and I wanted to have a really romantic vacation with just him.

We weren’t thrilled.

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

At the same time, we had NEVER been anywhere out of the states and the idea of navigating Italy was, indeed, far too daunting for the two of us. My husband didn’t feel comfortable driving and I didn’t feel comfortable planning an itinerary and finding public transportation to everything. This did seem like the best option and what unfolded was quite glorious.

Here are 7 reasons why I think group tours are a great travel option (if you are a seasoned traveler or not):

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

You Can Avoid the Lines for Important Monuments

The lines at some of the important monuments and museums had minimum wait times of an hour or more. Since we were on a group tour, our guide knew what time to take us to avoid the crowds to get the best experience, and they had a VIP line for tours where you could bypass all the people who were not on a tour and just go right in to see everything.  For us, we were only able to spend seven days in Italy and we wanted to experience as much as we could in this short amount of time. Doing the tour allowed us to see multiple attractions in a single day and beat the crowd doing it.

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

You Have a Great Ride to See Everything Up Close

Our tour offered a motorcoach that even included WiFi so that we could share our photos and update email on the trip. Not only did we have an incredible guide, but our driver got us as close to our destinations as possible which helped us waste less time walking and more on the attractions themselves. The first night, for example, we got to see the lights of Rome and the bus pulled right up so we could take a photo. A nice touch of Andrea Bocelli singing Time to Say Goodbye certainly completed the mood while gazing upon the beautiful city.

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

You Learn SO Much Through Guided Tours

Here’s a little secret, I was a terrible student and listener.

SHOCKER!

It’s hard to hold my attention so I was on the fence if a guided tour was going to be my cup of espresso, so to speak.

Here’s another shocker.

It was.

The reason?

The tour guides were phenomenal. One of our guides majored in art history the other was doing archeology in Rome. These guides just didn’t know a little about these attractions, they knew everything. Standing at the feet of David would have still been a moving experience, tour or not, but when the guide told the story of Michelangelo and his passion for art as well as helping us discover details that we would have never noticed before, it made it an entirely different experience.

 

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

You Still Have Time To Shop & Explore On Your Own

Our big worry was that we would just be on a neverending tour everywhere, but that wasn’t the case. On some of the excursions, we were given a quick walking tour and then we were told where to come back for meeting and for other tours and you always had the option to opt out of any experience and do your own thing. For us, the travel into destinations would be more to cab it and try to navigate on your own then it would have been taking the motorcoach in and having the free time.

One day we skipped a tour to visit the Uffizi. We let our travel director know where we were headed and he not only checked to see if he could get us tickets (impossibly awesome to do this), but he walked us to the cab, told us how long we might expect to wait, and where could pick a cab back up. After three hours trying to get in, we walked in the museum to see my husband’s favorite work of art and had a glass of wine on the rooftop with an incredible view. When we got back, my husband hugged our tour guide with tears in his eyes because it helped make the impossible possible.

It was the sweetest thing ever.

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

You Will Know the Lay of the Land

No matter where you go there are good parts of town, bad parts of town, appropriate etiquette and tipping guidelines, and protocols  that you will need to know when navigating somewhere new. A guide can tell you where to find a bathroom (invaluable, if you ask me!), if you should tip someone, where to watch for pickpockets (and how they operate), as well as assist you if you have special dietary needs.

I thought being gluten-free would be an issue, but it NEVER was. I let our tour director know that I couldn’t have gluten and he let every single chef know wherever we ate. When on our own, he supplied incredible recommendations for where to get a bite to eat.

Safety would have been a big concern if we would have been on our own. We were advised how to hold our purses and where we shouldn’t be going to avoid having our money stolen.

Part of me disbelieved the hype until we stood in line at a museum and a girl told us how kids were distracting her and being cute in a seat next to her while they stole all the money in her purse on the subway.

Maybe this wasn’t just hype. Maybe we were really lucky to know this after all.

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

You Will Save A LOT

Not only did the travel agent provide good advice for making the most of our money, but the group tour option saved us thousands thanks to the affordability of group travel.  Factoring in the better budget accommodations, the transportation (by boat and by car), the included meals, and the walking tours, we really saved a bundle by going through a group tour.

Were all the meals spectacular? No. Were all the hotels fantastic? No.

We shrugged it off and worked around it. Most places we were there only a night or two so it was easy to laugh off. If we wanted better food, we could cab it somewhere better than the hotel offerings.

Group travel does require flexibility and it isn’t always perfect. For the most part, it was about the destination and the people…not necessarily the accommodations!

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

You Will Make Incredible Friends

You know those two people who just wanted to be ALONE and not be social?

#lifeoftheparty

We met people from ALL OVER THE WORLD.

I even met two bloggers/photographers (check out Better Family Photos & Kellie Carter Photography)- what are the odds?

It never felt lonely or isolating when you had people to talk with.  Everyone has a story and I tried to put my listening ears on (see above why this is hard) and really listen and learn from these incredible people. My heart was so full and we had so much fun together that I was teary-eyed when it was time to go. Not to just leave this incredible country, but to leave these incredible friends. How lucky we are to have a place like Facebook where we can continue to follow one another.

There you have it.

Group tours are not only far more affordable, but they are officially the Clark jam.

We can’t wait to do another one!

Have questions? Ask me! Have a personal experience doing a group tour? Share it here! See more photos of our trip on Instagram (I’d be honored!) xo

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A Real Review of Golden Tote

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

A Real Review of Golden Tote from MomAdvice.com

 

I received a tote of clothing from Golden Tote in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions on this service. 

Last month I reached out to Golden Tote for a potential partnership highlighting their services for those who have been on the capsule wardrobe adventure with me this year.  I have been trying out different subscription services this year, but they all have been disappointing and too pricey for me to recommend as a great service on our site. The wardrobe options that I had seen of items available through Golden Tote seemed like smarter basics and better quality for a lot less than some of the other services I tried. Golden Tote agreed to send me a tote in exchange for an honest post today on my blog.

What the Heck is Golden Tote?

Golden Tote offers you the chance to create a style profile (describing your likes, dislikes, size, and styles you relate most to) and then they use this profile to create a tote bag of items for you based upon your style profile and selections. They offer two totes priced at $49 (that contains 2-3 pieces in it) or a tote priced at $149 (that contains five to six pieces). You can pick one or two items (again, this is based upon the tote size you selected) and then their team of stylists selects the additional items that are included in the tote. The price averages approximately $26 each piece, making it a more affordable option compared to a service like Stitch Fix. They also offer you a boutique option where you can purchase additional items to be shipped with your tote that can be purchased individually rather than their tote bag concept.

What is the Catch With Golden Tote?

If you don’t like something, you do not have the option to return a portion of your tote for a refund. You can return the entire tote (including the items you picked) or you can try to trade/sell the items that you don’t love by joining their Golden Tote Facebook group. The Golden Tote Facebook Group, I have found, is a warm and enthusiastic crowd where you can virtually share your tote and get supportive & honest opinions on what the company sent you. This is where you can also buy, sell, or trade your items with one another.

Sizing is always an issue for me because I am petite and it is a very rare occurrence that I can wear something off of the hanger even in an XS size.  Three of the items that I received will require alterations so I always have to factor that cost in for myself. If you are a girl who struggles with sizing too, factor the cost of alterations into your tote wardrobe.

Why Did I Want to Pursue This For My Capsule Wardrobe?

Each capsule I add a few pieces into my wardrobe that I think will be good investments and keep things fun to help me break up the habit of wanting to shop during my three-month hiatus. I love the challenge of creating many outfits from one piece and I wanted to see if there would be the same versatility and fun with my capsule wardrobe creating if I utilized a stylist service to help outfit me. I have styled all of the items with things that will be going into the next capsule to show you a few ways I plan to wear them. I think this is a great option for people who want to take the guess work out of purchases and want to stay on trend with their wardrobe.

Let’s take a peek at what was in my first Golden Tote bag!

 

A Real Review of Golden Tote from MomAdvice.com

A Real Review of Golden Tote from MomAdvice.com

A Real Review of Golden Tote from MomAdvice.com

A Real Review of Golden Tote from MomAdvice.com

A Real Review of Golden Tote from MomAdvice.com

These are the two items that I selected for myself and, as expected, these are the two items that I really loved the most.  As you can see, the Covered in Diamonds Dress (from Collective Concepts, in emerald green) can easily be dressed up or dressed down. It is fully lined and an appropriate length for a busy mom like me and it has a little clasp on the chest to keep everything ladylike without the need for a camisole underneath. It will require alterations due to the volume on top, but it is so versatile that I will be adding this to my capsule wardrobe this year.

The May Flowers top is a beautiful floral from Skies Are Blue that I will be wearing a lot in my capsule this summer and fall. Again, I will need to have this altered since the top is really boxy on me, but a belt makes it picture-perfect for right now!  This will pair perfectly with my emerald green cardigan for Fall and early Spring. Thanks to its colors, it will go perfectly with just about everything in my capsule.

Clearly, I know how to pick them- ha! Let’s see what Golden Tote put in my bag this month!

A Real Review of Golden Tote from MomAdvice.com

An embroidered peasant top has been on my wish list for summer so I was really excited to get this from Le Sample. I can wear this with my jeans or shorts this summer. I was worried this would be too boxy for me, but I love how the material drapes when I put it on. This one was a winner for me and is definitely going to get a lot of love this summer!

A Real Review of Golden Tote from MomAdvice.com

A Real Review of Golden Tote from MomAdvice.com

A Real Review of Golden Tote from MomAdvice.com

Pardon the sunburn on the neck from my project this weekend, but I had to show you the front and back of this adorable top that they sent. This top from Potter’s Pot has a print that I think will work fabulously for summer or fall. I wasn’t sold on this until I put it on and I think it is the detail on the neckline that really sold me on this one. I ended up really loving this one and am also putting this in my capsule!
A Real Review of Golden Tote from MomAdvice.com

This item is going to be altered because it is a DRESS not a shirt from Promesa. The material feels like the softest pajamas in the world and I like the way that the lines are cut on this. For a dress, for a Sir-Mix-A-Lot girl (if you know what I’m saying) it was an epic fail. I am too wide on bottom for this one and the stripes hit me in the wrong direction.

A Real Review of Golden Tote from MomAdvice.com

NO!  #sirmixalot

A Real Review of Golden Tote from MomAdvice.com

I’m taking this one in to be altered into a shirt- a little less volume on top and shortening the bottom so I can wear it with my leggings, jeans, or black slacks.  This seems like the perfect solution for something that feels like pajamas and that can easily transition into fall. Sometimes you do need to think outside the box… or the tote…you know what I mean?

A Real Review of Golden Tote from MomAdvice.com

A Real Review of Golden Tote from MomAdvice.com

This last dress will also require some alterations and it was a complete surprise how much I loved it. It’s also from Skies Are Blue and it feels like pajamas, but I could style it up or down depending on my mood.  It was another lovely surprise and home run from Golden Tote.

That is everything that was in my tote this month and I am trading/selling ZERO items! Yup, I love them all and they all are going in my capsule for this summer (reveal coming soon!!).  The care tags on most of these items require hanging dry and gentle cycle. I want my clothes to last and look great in my capsule so I do this already. It is something to keep in mind though if you are hard on your clothing.

I would love to hear if you have tried Golden Tote and what your experience has been since this is my first tote? Leave your comments below!

I received a tote of clothing from Golden Tote in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions on this service.