Taking in the Last of Summer

Some of the beauty you will see out hiking around Pacific City.

Some of the beauty you will see out hiking around Pacific City.

Where has summer gone?  As summer starts to come to a close you have to ask yourself, Did you do it all? Did you get it all in?

If not, it’s not too late to get in a last minute trip or at least do some day trips.  Let’s look at some options.

1.  Camping.  You might find many camp sites full, but there are still quite a few that are first come first serve.  Try and take off a day early and arrive on Thursday if you can instead of Friday.  Although if you can camp in the middle of the week you might find some openings.

2.  Beach House or Hotel at the Beach. Again if weekends are booked you can try and do some midweek stuff.  Have little ones?  Wait an extra week and go once all the older kids have started school.

3. Day Hikes. The great thing about where I live is I can get to the coast, mountains, rivers within an hour in any direction and there is hiking at all those locations.  I know we are super fortunate, but take advantage of what you might have.  Pack a lunch, find a trail with a waterfall and enjoy your day vacation.

4.  Beach day.  Ok, so you don’t live near the ocean.  Do you live near a lake or river that has some sandy beaches?  Take the day and frolic in the water to cool off from the hot summer days.

5.  Go to a local pool or water park.  For some of us that might be a drive making it a full on day trip.  Others can make a vacation out of it because the location might be so far away.

6.  Hit the Amusement park.  Check out planning the perfect roller coaster vacation. In the past we have done Cedar Point because they started school a few weeks before us.  We would go after the locals start and the parks wouldn’t be as crowded.

7.  Go to the local park and play games, sit in the sun and enjoy a picnic.  Better yet, invite others as well and make a party out of it.

8.  Throw a party at your house with cocktails, friends and great food. Taking in the last of the summer nights.

9.  Visit a farmers market and plan on eating at one of the venues.  Nothing says summer like a farmers market.

10.  Take advantage of summer programs your city offers. We have Concerts on the Commons, Third Thursdays or First Thursdays (where they close off streets and have food and goods for sale).

11.  Choose another city to enjoy.  Last summer we did a few days in Seattle and a few days in Vancouver, BC.  It rains often in those cities, so the summer months are great for getting to know them on foot.  Our time in Vancouver was one of our best vacations last year.  Our whole family wants to go back.

12.  Go for a bike ride.  We have a great trail in a neighboring town, that takes you along a river and you end up in a small town.  We found a little place where you could sit down and get ice cream. We then got back on our bikes and rode the path back to our car.

13.  Hit the river.  Grab the canoe, kayak, tube if you have too, one more time and go down the river.

Whatever you choose, just choose it now.  Take in the last of summer and enjoy!!

Don’t let summer pass you by just yet, there are still summer days ahead that need some thrill, enjoyment and excitement.

Linked to Top Ten Tuesday

10 Ways to Save Money on a Cruise

Drinking a local beer in Roatan

Drinking a local beer in Roatan

Cruises are deceiving.  You pay a big price, but it’s anything but all inclusive. We love them and we have done quite a few, but you need to be ready to know what you are getting in to or they will nickel and dime you right out of your budget.

1.  Drink what’s Free – They do offer pop/soda cards, but they are expensive and the only way to get your moneys worth is to drink a lot and then it just becomes unhealthy.

2.  Don’t eat a the restaurants that charge – There are more than enough “free of charge” restaurants to choose from why would you even consider paying for a meal?  If you do want to pay for a meal do it while in port and try some of the local flavor instead.  That’s why you are on vacation right??

This was a bean dip fondue in Honduras

3.  Choose the Free activities – There are plenty of things to do on the boat.  Plenty of shows to see and game shows to watch, don’t pay for your entertainment.  Walk past the casino, you can do that anywhere.

4.  Don’t feel like you need to have an excursion at every port – Big, big money maker here.  We met up with a couple a few years back and they had booked something at all but one port.  By the time they were at the last one they were happy they could do their own thing and not have another excursion.  They almost felt like they had missed out on a few ports because they were whisked away to an activity instead of enjoying the culture.

A private island I found online before we went. We walked over to the boat ferry. We did not book it ahead of time.

5.  Book excursions through another company, not the cruise ship.  You can save up to $10-$20 a person just booking it yourself. (UPDATE: I know cruise ships are trying to crack down on this so double check that you have plenty  of time to get back to the ship. When excursions are not booked through the ship, they don’t wait for you.)

6.  Grab your drinks while in port – Ships charge lots of money for alcoholic drinks and they charge a 15% (although it could be higher now) tip right on there, and give you an additional tip line.  Really??  We like to stop at a local place and try one of the local beers or drinks.  Tons cheaper and you get to do something more authentic.

7.  If you want drinks on the ship try and bring some of your own.  It’s risky, sometimes they go through and sometimes they don’t.  But if you can get your own on the boat it will save you tons. We personally have never done this, but we saw lots of people doing it.

8.  Once off the ship, walk a little ways – If you get a block or 2 away from port the taxis start to get significantly cheaper.  Acapulco was a huge price difference.  We went to see the cliff divers. We paid  $2 and the couple next to us grabbed a taxi right at port and paid $17.

9.  Buy local – You are cruising so you can see different cities in different countries or areas.  Don’t buy the silver on the boat, instead walk the city streets and pick up something from the locals.  It will be a fraction of the price.

Some of the Many Shops in Cozumel

10.  Don’t tell your kids the card is attached to an account – They make it so easy to spend money on a cruise.  Your room key will also get you drinks.  As a matter of fact our last cruise didn’t accept cash or credit cards. It was room keys only.  Either don’t tell your kids or make sure they know they are responsible for anything charged.

There are so many more ways to save, but this is just some of the basics.  For us it becomes a game. You want my money and I try and see how little I give you.  We don’t have regrets about things we haven’t purchased, instead we love the new things we tried and the adventures we have found, at a fraction of the price.

Do You Really Need a Flashpass at Magic Mountain?

Roller-coasters

Terminator at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

We spent a total of 3 days at the park.  Well, our half day the day we arrived, full day on Tuesday, then a half day on Wednesday before we had to catch our flight.  Since we went for 3 days we purchased the season passes.  This also allowed us discounts at stores plus coupons for so much more. We could have gotten into Hurricane Harbor for FREE, but we chose to concentrate on the coasters instead.

If you are going and you want to get the most out of your day, make sure you go first thing in the morning.  We hit 6 rides in an hour and half.  The day before we had gotten there at 12pm, because of our flight, and we stayed until 6 and we rode 6 rides.  The lines were longer later in the day.  For even more tips about getting in quicker than everyone else make sure you check out yesterdays post.

Let’ s back up and remind you of my first secret.  That was checking school calendar.  I realized that California was still in school June 14-16, so therefore the park was not super full.

Everyone runs right for Tatsu and X-2.  If you are going more than one day, pick one day to go the opposite of the MOST popular rides, because very, very few people go that way.

Do you really need a Flashpass to get the roller coaster all to yourself?

We were on the very first ride of the day on Goliath and we had it all to ourselves.  By the time we made our way around to Scream, we sat and rode it 3 times in a row. These are all great coasters, they just aren’t considered the biggest and the best at this park. Tatsu and X2 are on that list. We do love Tatsu and plan one day to run straight to it and wait for the front row.

If you are a wooden roller coaster fan don’t miss The Terminator. It’s one of the best wooden roller coasters.  It is super fast and the seats are ultra cushy making the ride much more enjoyable. They completely redid it a couple of years ago and now I love it.  Don’t pass this one by.

Because we did run a lot in the morning and hit the opposite side that most people go to, we were able to get in 14 rides on the 2nd day.  We would even take breaks.  Remember that we always pack our snacks, so they are healthy and much more affordable.  We had trail mix and jerky packed in our cargo shorts.  We would stop at restaurants along the way and ask for our FREE glass of water to have with our snack. (I know other parks do this as well. Never buy water or carry a water bottle around when you can get FREE ones whenever you want)

I do also need to mention that we did something we don’t often do.  This was do to that fact, that even though I was running through park and riding coasters, I did have back surgery scheduled for the day after we got home.   We did need to take breaks on this trip.  We ended up hitting the park hard in the morning, then we left for a few hours of napping, eating and swimming, only to return to the park right before closing and hitting more rides.  Had we stayed that extra 4 hours we would have had nearly 20 rides that day.

So I guess to answer my question, “Do you really need a Flashpass for Magic Mountain?” I would have to say, if you timed it right, there is no reason.  If you HAVE to go in the middle of summer and have the money to spend I would probably get one just so you can really enjoy the park. Read for restrictions before purchasing though as they do have some limitations.

Have you ever purchased a Flashpass?

Getting Away, Yet Close to Home

columbia-gorge-hotel

Day 1 -Today I am working on our 20 year anniversary trip that we will be taking.  Most people at this point do really big trips or re new their vows.  I actually wanted to do both, but because of my surgery and the cost of it, we will try and do an amazing trip, close to home on a budget.

My hope is to stay at the Columbia River Gorge Hotel  or Bonneville Hot Springs.  Let’s see if I can pull this off with a very small price tag.  We have chose this location for 2 reasons. 1) It’s only a little over an hour away and 2)I have always wanted to spend some time in Hood River.  It’s an up and coming food, wine and beer mecca and I want to experience it, all of it.  Often times the best places for people to vacation are right in your backyard, but we all choose to fly to someplace better.  Well, not this time. [Read more…]