California Adventure – VidCon 2014

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The last 3 days of our California vacation were spent taking the kiddos to VidCon. For those who don’t know, VidCon is the year’s largest convention for artists that publish videos and entertain on YouTube.  YouTube has become a modern day phenomenon.  My kids, for example, don’t hardly even watch regular TV anymore.  They watch YouTube!  Going to VidCon for them is like one of us going to the Academy Awards and mingling with the celebrities.

We really didn’t know what to expect on the first day so we just got up early and headed out. We were lucky enough to find a parking spot not too far into the convention center parking garage.  When we walked up to the doors, the crowd was ridiculous.  A line winded around the building and curved about 1 million times.  Doors had not even opened yet and there were at least 3000 people in front of us. I got on Facebook from my phone and read tons of angry comments from fed up parents who had spent lots of time and money just to sit in line and have their kids cry because the disorganization led to them missing a signing or picture with their favorite YouTuber.

We really didn’t have a plan in place so when they opened the doors to the arena, we ran inside to watch the opening celebration.

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It was actually pretty fun and really set the tone for the rest of the convention.  Inside the convention hall, it was pure madness.  Everyone trying to figure out how the process worked to line up for signings and autographs was pure hell.  I felt as if I was in a teenage mosh pit.

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Since we did this over a year ago, my memory is a little spotty on what exactly we did our first day so here are some pictures to help me remember:

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Tyler Oakley

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That guy from HGTV

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The mobbing of a guy who does videos on Vine

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The only YouTubers that my husband and I watch are the ShayTards.  I’m amazed that one video of Shay Butler romping around like a dork in a unitard has turned his family into millionaires over the course of 5 years.  They have over a million subscribers and their company Maker Studios – was just bought out last year by Disney for over 500 million dollars.  Talk about success!  I was bummed I wasn’t able to go to their signing on the first day because of the crowds.  We did get to meet them but more on that later.

The next day my daughter wanted to meet one of her favorites, Joey Graceffa.  This kid is a beautiful boy, no wonder the line we waited in was 6 hours long.  Yes,  SIX HOURS. At least the end result was worth it:

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His was a traditional signing, so that meant no pictures.  Just a high five and a handshake.  We made up for that earlier this year when Joey came to our area to do a book signing.  My daughter finally got her picture!

While we were standing in that 6 hour line, my husband texts me this picture:

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Apparently Shay Butler was waking through the center and was nice enough to take a selfie with my husband.  Ugh, I was jealous!

My son went on his own little adventure and attended a few YouTuber panels.  During one, he was able to get a picture with Chris Hardwick aka. The Nerdist…aka…that guy who hosts the Talking Dead on AMC.  Yep, that’s me being jealous again!

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The last day we were there, I was able to get into the ShayTards family panel.  That was a ton of fun.  I was able to ask them a question over the mic – I think I asked Collette how she stays so calm, being the mother of 5 children and the wife of Shay!

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While I was at the panel, my daughter got more pictures with a few of her faves:

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Alfie from Pointless Blog

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The hilarious Tobuscus

Finally on our last afternoon the ShayTards called a pop up signing for those who didn’t get to see them on the first day due to the crowds.  We waited about 1.5 hr and had a great meet.

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Overall VidCon was certainly an experience.  It was a lot more fun than I thought it would be and I know the kids enjoyed themselves.  I’m not sure that we would do it again, but maybe….

Lazy Day Wednesday on the Island

I know it’s been a few days, I just really don’t like blogging  on the weekends (not to mention my daughter has control of the computer most of the time) and my full time job has kept me pretty busy lately.  Don’t you wish we could all live in a world where nobody had to go to work for a living?  I do!

So I think I am up to Wednesday of the trip…shopping day at International Marketplace.  That day was also my payday so a few trips to the ATM and we were set.  My mom had gotten up early and done to Lenard’s bakery for malasadas.  If you are just now tuning into my trip report and didn’t catch my rant about malasadas on day 1….go back and read it.

We spent a few hours at the International Marketplace and I’m still certain we didn’t see all of it.  My son got this weird T-Shirt that lights up when you talk, my daughter got some jewelry, we bought some hand carved tikis from the “natives” for us and my son’s BFF and did some tattoo-ing.  My mom and my son got the traditional air brush tattoos but my daughter got a henna one.  Once the guy started applying the dye to her skin he starts spewing out the rules…. Can’t go in the water for 4 hours, can’t touch it, can’t allow anything to come in contact with it, can’t let your shirt hit it etc..yada yada.  I was starting to think why the hell did I agree for her to this??  It did end up looking pretty cool tho.  Later that day the ink dried up and peeled off and left behind the actual tattoo.  Now, 2 weeks later you can still see it on her arm.  We spent the better part of the afternoon trying to avoid her arm like the plague.

“Mr. Dragon”

Attn: Wet Paint!

Mom liked it so much she wants a real one now!

My husband stopped to have a hot dog at this place called Hank’s Haute Dogs over by the tiki guys.  Seeing that it had been on Food Network and that Anthony Bourdain had eaten there, my husband and son had to try it out.  He said that it was good but that it’s more of a sausage than a hot dog. (That’s what she said….)

I luv Anthony Bourdain

Hanks Haute Dogs

My son was very impressed by the fortunes that the Great Swami were spitting out at him and I think I went through about $3 by the time he was completely satisfied with his predicted future.

The final stop of our shopping day was to the Ukelele store to buy one for my kid.  He just HAD to have one so where better to buy one than in Hawaii?  One Uke, coming right up……we’ve been home over a week and I still haven’t heard any Hawaiian music coming out of his room…….  Looks like it is soon to be MY Ukelele.

On the way back I nabbed some sushi at Sushi 2 Go (sounds scary I know but it was really good) and the kids had Subway again. We had made plans to visit the lagoon over at Hilton Hawaiian Village with my aunt and little cousin Kai.

Salmon Roll yum!

The Hilton Hawaiian Village lagoon is like a big man made swimming hole.  I much prefer the actual ocean side because the lagoon is…well, kinda nasty.  The sand is packed so hard it’s like you are walking on concrete and it’s not very clean. Even though you are not allowed to smoke in that area I saw several cigarette butts on the ground.  The positive thing about it is the reason we went – its shallow for the little ones and there are no rocks to fall on while you are learning how to paddle board.  The paddle boards cost twice as much as they do on the Oceanside but the kids enjoyed learning on them.  My son was actually able to take his out and around the lagoon a few times without having to worry about waves or rocks.  By the time we were done my daughter thought she was an expert paddle-boarder!

Rainbow Tower

Getting the hang of it!

While walking back to the ocean side, we noticed that they were setting up for fireworks later that night and invited the Hawaiian fam back over our condo later on to watch them.  My aunt and cousin left for home and it was definitely time for a beverage.  We stopped at the Hale Koa beach bar and I had the 2 most yummy drinks ever.  Both a concoction of vodka and some kind of juice.  The non-drinkers in our group — namely everyone but my mother and I —  had ice tea.  This tea must’ve been like no other iced tea known to man as it was gone within a few seconds.  Either that or they were just really thirsty.

We laughed our asses off when the kids ordered an ice cream brownie sundae (described as a chocolaty brownie topped with ice cream) and what they got was a brownie wrapped in plastic wrap and a blue bell vanilla Dixie cup sitting on top of it on a plate.  The fact that I had downed two vodka drinks in less than 30 minutes could’ve attributed to the hilarity of the moment as well…

Drink #1

Drink #2

Looking towards the Hale Koa beach bar

Another view

Off to the beach for a while until the sun started to set.  I attempted some beach yoga which was very interesting and drew some very strange looks…it could’ve been that I kept falling face first into the sand while trying to do crow.  The beach was sloped. the beach was sloped!!  I got some awesome sunset pics that evening.

After our beach time we hit the snack shack again for dinner.  Shortly after, the fam came over to watch the fireworks.  My cousin brought over some Mochi Ice Cream which I had never tried before but instantly fell in love with.  My kids loved it too and now that we are back in Texas we are on the search for how to get our hands on some here.

We were able to see the fireworks pretty good from our lanai.  There was one tree slightly in the way but overall it was really nice to be able to sit out there and watch.  I think everyone had a great time that evening.  I ended the night with yet another vodka tonic – this time I mixed some guava juice in there – and a few chapters of my book.  Alas, another day had come to a close.

Travel Tip Tuesday: Don’t Be a Douche

My travel tip this week is simple….just don’t be a douche!  I can’t tell you how many morons we encountered during our travels last week.  From the lady who barfed on my kid to the flight attendant who was yelling at my son to keep his window closed on the flight home.  It truly takes all kinds.  The rampant stupidity and complete disregard for others that is obvious everywhere makes me laugh at humanity and fuels my sense of humor.

Please, use some common courtesy and common sense when travelling — or really — ALWAYS.  Your fellow humans will thank you!

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Flight Fails

Thank goodness for WordPress for iPhone, I am able to document in real time what’s going on in this plane. If anyone knows the Dockerys, they know that nothing can be simple, easy or without some form of “excitement”. This trip is already turning out to be no different.
After boarding the plane and getting comfy (or as comfy as you can be in a sardine can) in our seats, the pilot announces that during the walk thru they discovered a hydraulic leak in the braking system. No bueno. He says that they have to get the part and replace it so the delay looked to be at least an hour. He says that all the remaining flights to LA are fil so we just have to “sit tight”. Them thar sound like fightin words….
I have to admit I’m impatient and I can have a short fuse when you are messing with my vacation…my very expensive vacation. So I had already planned out in my mind the scene I would cause in the event that we didn’t make our connection in LAX to HNL. Needless to say I had to put those thoughts aside when after about 30 minutes the pilot announced that the work was complete. They must have some Houdini’s working in AA maintenance. In fact, I know they do, my dad did that job for nearly 40 years.
Now to the “best” part….as I write this we are about an hour or so into the flight… My daughter taps my shoulder and points at her lap. I look down and see something liquid-like and chunky on her lap. I’m like wtf is that? (minus the f, insert “heck”) She points behind us and I look at her armrest, seatbelt and seat which is covered in…yup you got it…vomit.
The lady behind us apparently had a projectile moment and completely missed her barf bag target. I don’t know how I kept so calm but I went directly into mommy mode and whipped out the antibacterial Lysol wipes I had brought in my purse. Here I was cleaning up a strangers puke. All those hotel management classes about pathogens and bodily fluids suddenly came to memory.
The flight attendant, bless his heart was SO upset. He gave us towels soaked in soapy water, plastic bags to stuff in between the seats and fought with the first class flight attendant to give us a few of the highly coveted, secret blankets made of gold. Well, not quite made of gold but you’d think they were by the way he had to beg for them for his lowly coach passengers! He also gave us free snacks (not that I had much of an appetite after this escapade) and kept apologizing profusely as if he were the one that puked! I told him there was nothing I can do about it, it happens. I haven’t even had any alcohol yet. I’d say I’m doing pretty good.
LAX in about an hour or so now! Hopefully the next flight is I uneventful and vomit-free.

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Amber wrapped in plastic bags and blankets!

Travel Tip Tuesday – Reblog Money Saving Travel Tips

I’m trying so hard to get everything done before going on vacation next week and it has been extremely busy in the office to top things off.  So, I am going to do the lame blogger trick and reblog a post I wrote a while back.

I have a lot of new followers so it’s possible it will be new to some.  I promise to come back with some new interesting tips after vacay!

Dockfam’s Money Saving Travel Tips.

Travel Tip Tuesday – Airline Security..hurry it up!

Since I’ m getting ready to get on  a plane in 12 days, I lay awake most nights now thinking about packing and the easiest way to get through security at the airport.  No, really….I do lose sleep over it.  Airport security is one of the most stressful parts of flying to me(besides takeoff and landing) even though I know that it is very important for everyone’s safety.  My pet peeve is being behind a person, or even worse…a whole family, who is not prepared and takes 5 times longer than it should to get through the check.  I totally understand that there are people in this world who have never flown before but really….do your research before you fly!

So, here are a few things I think are important to know and be aware of before going through that dreaded airport security check:

  • Pack your “liquids” before you get to the airport on the TOP area of your bag – I like to have my little quart size bag full of my 2ozcontainers packed on the very top of the inside of my bag so I can pull it out quickly to be put in the bin.  Nobody enjoys waiting while you fumble through the bottemless pit you call your suitcase looking feverishly for your liquid items….be READY.  Oh, and no…that 50 oz can of hairspray is NOT allowed….even if you paid $20 bucks for it.

    $4 at Walmart…splurge a little

  • If possible, wear sandals or “easy off” shoes – What I mean by “easy off” is a pair of shoes that won’t take extraneous amounts of time or energy to remove.  Just slip them off and put them in the bin!  Yes, Marilyn Manson, I’m talking to you.  I personally remove my shoes while I’m waiting in line to have my ID checked.  If you don’t like dirty airport floors…wear socks and stop your bitchin.
Not the best idea…
  • Go visit a CoinStar before you arrive at the airport – I die a little bit each time I’m waiting in line behind the person who has $200 in pennies stashed away in his pockets.  Really…what is the point of this?  Does anyone even pay with cash anymore?
  • Check your gynormous bag– I hate to break this to you but your 60″x72″ 50 lb bag will NOT fit in the overhead compartment nor under the seat in front of you.  No matter how much you kick, stuff, push or shove it into the measuring tool – IT WILL NOT FIT.  I know the airlines charge for checking bags nowadays but damn…you are going on a 10 night caribbean cruise full of caviar and bottles of Dom.  Go crazy, splurge a little….spend the $25 and check your freakin bag. 
Don’t break it
  • Dont touch other people’s bags – This one is important.  I hate having my luggage go through before me.  I’m always afraid someone is going to pick up the wrong bag and take my suff with them to China.  So, please don’t touch my bag — if you are trying to be helpful, thank you but I can do it myself.

Yup, this is you.

  • Give me some space – This one makes me borderline violent.  I have a bubble.  That bubble forms around me in about a 2-3 foot radius.  If you are standing in that vicinity I might just “happen” to punch you in the face — which, would get me detained and I wouldn’t make my flight.  I really need a vacation so please….stand back, give me my space and don’t tempt me.  I can stand on my own 2 feet just fine, I don’t need you to stand on them too and I promise you will get through the line just as fast.

I’m sure there are more annoying things that I have dealt with while in line for airport security but these are the things I stress about.  I’m really not this much of a bitch BUT when it comes to travelling I can be.  I’m already stressed enough about flying 35,000 feet in the air over an ocean, strapped into a 400 ton “machine” , with nowhere to escape while having to breathe in other people’s germs and body odor.  Will someone just give me some wine I can wash this Xanax down with?  Thank you.

What about travelling puts you on edge?

Explore the Strip for FREE (or almost)

For today’s Travel Tip Tuesday I wanted to share some insight on the many, many things you can do in Vegas without spending too much of  your hard-earned cash — better to save that for the slot machines right?

A little background:  After much deliberation and trying to “convince” my husband that there was more to Vegas than degeneracy and debauchery, we decided to spend our 2nd wedding anniversary in Las Vegas.  I had been there once before, when I was 15 and I went with my mother, her friend and her friend’s German high school foreign exchange student.  We ate, saw the sights and went to a few shows….It was 1994 and Vegas was a totally different place then.  Our first trip as husband and wife in 2001 sparked an addiction that we would be feeding for the next 11 years and more.

I think I will save the details of our first visit for another blog post some time and today,  list a compilation of the things we have experienced over the years in Vegas for free or close to free.  A weekend in Las Vegas does not have to break the bank, wipe out your kid’s college fund or blow the family nest egg.  There is plenty to keep you entertained on a small budget.  Here’s some of our favorites as we :

Luxor & Mandalay Bay

  • Mandalay Place – Shops and restaurants
  • Free tram and indoor walkway between the two and to Excalibur
  • Shark Reef – Open daily, 10am-8pm; $16.95 adults, $10.95 children 5-12 (pricey) Mandalay Bay
  • Titanic, The Artifact Exhibition – daily, 10am-10pm; $28 (pricey) Luxor
  • Bodies… The Exhibition – daily, 10am-10pm; $32 (pricey) Luxor

Excalibur

  • Motion Rides 11am-10pm daily, from $9.95

MGM Grand Hotel and Casino

  • CBS Television City Research Center – 10am-8:30pm
  • LV Monorail Stop – Daily 7am-2am. 3 ticket types starting at $5

New York New York Hotel and Casino

  • Manhattan Express Rollercoaster – daily, 11am-11pm; $14

    Manhattan Express

Cosmopolitan

  • Art scattered all around the property
  • Live music at several bars

City Center

  • Fine Art Collection – Free, open daily 24/7
  • The Gallery – 10am-midnight, daily; free
  • Water features – at Aria’s porte-cochère

 

Mirage

  • Volcano – Daily, every hour dusk to 11pm.
  • Aquarium behind the check-in desk in hotel lobby.
  • Free tram to Treasure Island
  • Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat – Hours vary, $15 for adults, $10 for children

Treasure Island

  • Sirens of TI – Open daily, 5:30, 7, 8:30 and 10pm
  • Free Tram to Mirage

Venetian/Palazzo

  • Gondola – daily 10am-11pm, $16.
  • Grand Canal Shoppes – Shopping, restaurants, street performers and more.
  • Madame Tussauds – (702) 862-7800 times vary, $25 (a little pricey, but fun)
  • Painted ceilings, 2nd floor balcony and hotel lobby.
  • Giant waterfall and flower display, changed seasonally

    Venetian Singers

Bellagio

  • Fountains – every 30 minutes from 3pm-7pm, then every 15 minutes until 12am.
  • Gallery of Fine Art: 10am-6pm daily, Admission $15
  • Conservatory – Displays change with Seasons.
  • Fiori Di Como – Artwork by Dale Chihuly on ceiling of hotel lobby.
  • Chocolate Fountain – Jean-Philippe Patisserie
  • The Art of Richard MacDonald – 10am-11pm daily, free.
  • Free tram to Monte Carlo and CityCenter

    Bellagio Fountains

Wynn/Encore

  • Penske/Wynn Ferrari-Maserati showroom – 10am-9pm, $10 per person.
  • Lake of Dreams – nightly on the hour beginning at 8pm. Outside the Parasol Down Bar, 2 drink minimum for balcony seating.
  • Gardens near the lobby.

    Water feature outside the Wynn

Imperial Palace

  • Auto Collection – Located on the 5th floor of parking garage. Daily 10am-6pm. Admission $8.95.
  • Dealertainers – Celebrity impersonating blackjack dealers
  • LV Monorail Stop – Daily 7am-2am. 3 ticket types starting at $5.

Harrah’s

  • Carnaval Court Live Entertainment
  • Dueling Piano Bar
  • Ghiradelli Ice Cream Shoppe
  • Free shuttle to Rio, Bally’s/Paris
  • LV Monorail Stop – Daily 7am-2am. 3 ticket types starting at $5.
  • Hash House – Order one meal and share, the portions are HUGE

Flamingo

  • Wildlife Habitat – 8am-dusk, free.
  • Bugsy Segal Memorial – Plaque located in a small grotto behind the hotel.
  • LV Monorail Stop – Daily 7am-2am. 3 ticket types starting at $5.

Casino Royale

  • $1 beer specials and $1 margaritas
  • Free promotional slot play with player card sign up

Fashion Show Mall

  • Fashion Shows – Fri-Sun every hour noon-6pm

Paris

  • Indoor walkway to Bally’s with shopping and eateries
  • Eiffel Tower Experience – Open daily, 9:30-12:30am weather permitting. $10 for adults; $7 for children. From 7:30 p.m. – close: Admission is $15 for adults.

    See Vegas from the top of the Eiffel Tower

Planet Hollywood

  • Miracle Mile Shops
  • Pleasure Pit – Sexy dealers
  • Indoor rainstorm at timed intervals

Bally’s

  • Jubilee! – All Access Backstage Walking Tour: Mon, Wed, Sat at 11am. Admission is $10 purchased with Jubilee! show ticket or $15 without.
  • Indoor walkway to Paris.
  • Free shuttle to Harrahsand Rio
  • LV Monorail Stop – Daily 7am-2am. 3 ticket types starting at $5.

Bill’s Gamblin Hall and Saloon

  • Big Elvis – M, Tu, Th, F @ 3pm & 7:15pm

Caesars Palace

  • Forum Shops – Don’t miss the great statues or the spiral escalator.
  • Fall of Atlantis and Festival Fountain Shows – Forum Shops. Every hour 10am-midnight.
  • Large aquarium near Cheesecake Factory

Showcase Mall

  • Gameworks
  • M & M World
  • Movie Theater

Stratosphere

  • Tower – Tower rides Sun-Thurs 10am-1am, Fri-Sat and holidays 10am-2am. $15.95 for adults, $10 children
  • Big Shot – $13
  • Insanity the Ride – $12
  • X Scream – $12

This extensive list was put together with help from my friends at the Vegas Message Board

Travel Tip Tuesday: Road Trips

I’ve decided to make Tuesday my day to share some of my favorite travel tips with you.  Since we have driven to Florida almost every year since 2003 for vacation, my family is well versed in the world of “travel by car”.  Hopefully you find some of these tips helpful!

 

Before you leave:

 

  • Get your car serviced a week before your trip

There’s nothing worse than to have car trouble and break down halfway to your destination…believe me, it’s happened to us.  It is very important that you take your car to be serviced at least a week before your trip.  This includes getting the tires checked, oil changed, motor tuned etc… All the goodies that keep your vehicle running smooth and safely.  Remember, it’s carrying precious cargo – your family!

We have owned every updated copy of this book since our first long road trip many years ago.  It lists every exit for every single major interstate in the country along with what is at that exit.  So, no more driving around aimlessly looking for your favorite fast food joint.  With the book’s help, you know exactly which exit to take and how many more miles until you get there.  It also list shopping centers, hotels, auto service locations, banks, rest areas and more.  Its only around $18 and definitely a lifesaver.  I know that we would never go on a road trip without it!

  • Buy your vacation gift cards at Kroger and save on gas!

Gas prices are so ridiculous right now, who wouldn’t want to save at the pump?  Right now, Kroger is offering 4x points on gift card purchases.  These points translate over into $$ off per gallon at Shell gas stations.  What I did when we went to Disney last year is I purchased a few hundred dollars in Disney gift cards.  I knew I was going to use them for dining and souvenirs so it made sense.  Then, on the drive there I cashed in the points at the pump and saved on each fill up.  Even if you aren’t going to a Disney park, you can still buy Visa, Mastercard or American Express gift cards that you can use anywhere.  You can also buy Starbucks, McDonald’s, Subway etc… and use them to eat with while on the road.  Depending on how many gift cards you purchase and how many points you rack up, you can save up to $1 per gallon.  These days, that is HUGE.

  • Coupon shop to stock up on snacks a few months prior

I don’t know about your family, but mine LOVE to have snacks on a road trip!  Even though it is getting harder and harder to shop effectively with coupons, if you track sales closely you can still snag some great snack deals.  Start buying more than one paper per Sunday starting about 3-4 months before your trip (or ask friends for their unused coupon inserts).  This way you can buy several items at a rock bottom price.  Sign up on couponing sites such as Couponmom.com or TheGroceryGame.com (paid site) and keep an eye on sales with coupon matchups for snack items that you can take in the car.  I usually start a few months in advance, buying the snacks and hiding them J from everyone until the day before we leave.  If I didn’t  hide them, we wouldn’t have any snacks….  This will save you a ton of money from having to stop at gas stations to purchase snack foods.

  • If your car has space enough, pack a cooler

When the kids were younger we had a minivan.  It had removable bucket seats in the back, which was convenient so to create extra space for luggage and – a cooler!  On the morning of the trip, I would get up early and make bagel sandwiches and my family’s Italian favorite of sweet peppers and egg sandwiches.  I’d pack fruit and water bottles in the cooler as well.  This was sufficient for breakfast and lunch, saving us from having to stop and spend money on fast food.  And, much healthier! 

 

 While on the road

 

  • Take frequent “stretch” breaks

Blot clots are very dangerous, so you definitely want to take several short breaks to get out of the car, stretch and walk around.  You can also take a baby aspirin every few hours to keep your blood from clotting.  I know that by the end of a long car ride my feet get very swollen.  I like to elevate them for a few hours afterwards if possible to relieve the swelling.  Also, avoid eating too many salty foods in the car.  How about a little roadside yoga?  Hey, I’d do it!

  • Keep your windshield clean

Every time you stop for gas, clean your windshield with the scraper.  While driving, use your car windshield washer every few hours as well.  Dead bugs, dirt and debris on your windshield can be a safety hazard.  It can cause your vision to be obstructed or glare at night.

  • Use AC only when absolutely necessary

If you are on a summer road trip, use your AC only during the hottest hours of the day.  Try to keep it on the lowest setting possible to maintain a comfortable temperature in the car.  In the early mornings and late evenings, shut it off and roll down the windows.  Enjoy the breeze!  This will help your car get better gas mileage, ultimately saving you money!

  • Use a traffic app

I recently downloaded an app for my iPhone called INRIX Traffic.  I have the free version and it works just fine.  It shows traffic back-ups and accidents on your route.   I’m sure there are other apps that work good as well.  I don’t know about you but I hate being stuck in traffic.  Avoiding stop and go traffic will save you time and money!

So there you have it.  I hope that if your family is planning a road trip this summer that my tips help you stretch your dollar further.  Maybe I’ve given you some ideas that you haven’t thought of before.  In any case, enjoy the time away from the “real world” with friends and/or family and unwind for a while.  Have a great summer!

 

Disney iPhoneography

I am a fan of the Disney Tourist Blog and came accross a wonderfully informative post about taking pictures at Disney with your iPhone.  I’ve always shyed away from using my iPhone for taking pictures because they never really turn out right.  However, after reading the post and downloading some of the suggested apps, I think I’m ready to give it a go!

Read the post here:  Disney iPhoneography

I downloaded the suggested Camer+ app and was able to do this:

Do you have any tips for taking pictures while on vacation with your iPhone?

Dockfam’s Money Saving Travel Tips

When we go on vacation, everyone always wants to have a good time but with today’s economy it is always good to know how to stretch those hard earned dollars. without sacrificing the experience.  I have been called the crazy coupon lady by my friends and family because of my bargain hunting ways. We have been blessed to be able to travel as much as we do but we couldn’t do it if I didn’t utilize some of my “tricks”.  I thought I would share some of them with you!

  • DRIVE don’t fly.  While I understand that some people cannot do this due to their location and their destination location, if you are at all able to do it then it will save you money.   We have driven from Dallas to Orlando about 6 times and we would do it again.  With the outrageous prices of airfare nowadays, it’s a no brainier.  Even with the high gas prices we were looking at a comparison of $520 in gas money vs. over $1200 for 4 airline tickets.  We do not normally stop along the way but even if you stay at a low-cost hotel for the night it is still saving you over 50%.  Look for fun places around where you live that you can handle the drive to.  Try places you have never been before.  You never know, it could end up being your best vacation yet?

  • Catch deals BEFORE your trip.  Sign up on Facebook,websites and coupon blogs such as www.couponingtodisney.com , www.discountdivas.com , etc..  There are hundreds of great savings blogs out there that post the most up to date offers and deals.  For example, last time we went to Disney one of the blogs posted an offer from Kroger in which if you bought so many $$ in gift cards you got extra points to save on gas.  Because we drove, this was a win-win situation.  I bought Disney gift cards to use on our trip and racked up the gas points which saved us $$ on gas for the road trip.  If there are items that you are looking to purchase for your trip, look for sales and free shipping offers.  One of my favorite websites for online shopping (and real-world shopping too!) is www.retailmenot.com

  • Travel with other family members or friends.  Who doesn’t love a big family vacation?  Combine your trip with that of your parents, siblings, cousins etc…  Share a rental car and hotel…therefore sharing the cost too and cutting your expenses at least 50%.  Is someone in the group an airline or hotel employee…senior or member of AAA?  Take advantage of their travel discounts (if they let you!).

  • Have a garage sale!  We do this before every summer vacation.  Over the year so much junk accumulates in the house that by the time the next summer rolls around, we are in the position to have a nice profit off of a garage sale.  Go through your kids’ rooms as part of spring cleaning.  Set the items aside until you are ready for the big day. 

  • Share meals at amusement parks.  This is particularly helpful if your kids are younger.  Instead of buying 2 adult meals and 2 kids meals…buy 3 adult meals and have your kids share one of them.  If you aren’t a big eater, then buy a kids meal for yourself!  They are not that much smaller than an adult meal usually (not at Disney anyway!) and after a week in the parks, this can be a huge savings!

  • Stay at a vacation rental, not at a hotel.  If this is at all possible, research rates on vacation rentals via www.vrbo.com .  We do this when visiting anywhere other than Disney.  Because there are so many perks to staying at a Disney property, we always stay on site.  However, other places you will find that you can rent a 2-3 bedroom apartment, loft or house (!) for much less than you can stay in a small, cramped hotel room with just 2 beds and 1 bathroom.  We have rented several properties in the past through this website and they have all been in pristine condition with very friendly owners.  Also, if your rental has a kitchen you can take advantage of making your own breakfast or lunch therefore saving a few bucks there.

  • If you go to Las Vegas and gamble….even if it is just a little….get the players card before you play.  We haven’t paid for a hotel room in Vegas for over 10 years.  This is because from our first visit we have been using our players cards everywhere we go.  We get free room offers, free food, free slot play, discounted show tickets etc.. It keeps us going back because we know that all we have to pay for other than fun money is the travel getting there.

  • Sign up for credit cards or shoppers cards that offer airline miles or cash back.  If you like to fly rather than drive, this can be a huge deal for you.  See if your favorite airline is running any promotions to get extra miles.  I know that AA was doing a promotion that gave you a few thousand miles just for signing up You will save a lot of money and your kids will still have all the fun things that make a vacation special.

  • Don’t buy drinks, bring them!  My favorite thing is to buy boxes of instant drink packets (Crystal Light, Wylers etc.) when they are on sale and stock up for a few months before the trip.  Then instead of buying sodas and bottled waters that can cost anywhere from $2-$5 each…ask for ice water at any of the quick service counters (it’s free!) and make your own drink.  Carbonated drinks are dehydrating in the summer heat anyway so this is also a much healthier option!  I empty the boxes and put the packets into Ziploc bags.  Easy to carry and they don’t take up that much space.

  • Don’t book your travel on 3rd party websites such as Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline, Hotwire etc… While these sites seem to be saving you money — you will lose out int he long run.  These companies are 3rd party wholesalers.  This means that they are allowed to have so many hotel rooms or airline tickets at a deeply discounted rate per day.  Then they inflate the cost and sell to consumers on their websites.  Most of the time, you are able to find the exact same or even lower deals just by going directly to the hotel or airlines regular website or your travel agent.  Once you have booked with one of these wholesalers, consider yourself locked in completely.  No changes are allowed, no cancellations and most importantly …. no refunds.  And, if you do run into a problem and need to speak with someone be prepared to be put on infinite death hold until someone picks up — even then be expected to proficiently speak some obsolete foreign language just to get your point across.  Have I made myself perfectly clear?  Don’t do it.

  • Consult with a travel agent.  Along those same lines, I must mention how time-saving and money-saving this option is.  Of course I’m biased but I actually didn’t realize what a lifesaver a travel agent can be until I started doing it for a living.  Most of us live very busy and hectic lives.  You probably don’t have time to scour the Internet for hours each day looking for travel deals and discounts.  You definitely don’t have time to check them every single day, as deals change more than most people change their underwear.  Have a travel agent can help you with this.  We don’t charge you any fees (if  yours does…find another one!) and have all of the resources to always find the best available deals.  If something better comes up before your travel — we will find out about it and change it no problem!  Have a cancellation or change?  It’s ok, don’t panic.  Your TA will take care of it for you and inform you of all of your options.  Most importantly, we provide personalized service and peace of mind.  We get to know you and your family and are here to make your vacation the most memorable one yet.

I hope you enjoyed my tips; I have many more however I will save them for another time.  If you follow these guidelines, this will save you a ton of $$ and you can save that for other vacation experiences because memories last forever!

Do you have any $$ saving tips to share that I haven’t listed?  I’d love to hear them!  Please Comment.