End of Summer Road Trip

My husband and son are taking their 2nd annual road trip to In n Out in just a few days.  Yep, that’s right they drive over 8 hours to the nearest In n Out for a burger, and a little site seeing.  This year they are adding in a Brian Regan concert.

We had to book a hotel, so I did my little trick and matched the amenities to the list that Hotwire gives and sure enough we matched it perfectly.  Now it does help when you head into an area that is not heavily populated with hotels.

The hotel was $105, on sale for $75 through Hotels.com.  We went through Hotwire.com and got it for $69, then we went through Ebates then to Hotwire and will get an additional 2% cash back THEN I put it on my Chase Freedom credit card and will get 5% cash back.

I’m making money right now!!!!  Just so you know that’s a line from Brian Regan.

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.

The Outdoorsy Side of Hood River

Triple Falls Columbia Gorge

I have easily passed through Hood River 100 times.  I kid you not, I have driven back and forth to Eastern Oregon and Portland for nearly 18 years now.  We did discover the quaint downtown and for a while our stop included the Taco del Mar.   I know, why would a foodie stop there??  It was easy and the place was so quaint, it was a fun stop, and always guaranteed fast.  Every time we drove in and back out, I would look around and just want to take my time.  But with 6 hours still ahead or 6 hours behind you, stopping to look was not an option.

Finally last summer I met up with a friend and we stopped in Hood River.  We had the the most amazing meal and I decided the next time we came through we would stop as a family and enjoy.  And we did!!  That was the stop that made me want to come back for a weekend. So here we are 3 months later enjoying Hood River again.  Before we even entered the town we enjoyed hours of hiking and [Read more…]

More Cheap San Diego

There were great discoveries we made on this trip.  I love it, because she lives there and knows all the great places and then we stumble upon something so great that neither of us knew about.  It makes it like a vacation for both of us and that’s fun.

Our first stop of the last day was not a new discovery, but when you live in Oregon you have to make a stop at least once when in California. [Read more…]

San Diego on the Cheap

torrey-pines-hike

My best friend moved to San Diego over a year ago, so I make trips down to see her on occassion.  Our trips really just end up with us eating our way through all of San Diego, but we have also found some great hikes, walks and of course EATS.

For nearly all my purchases I use my Alaska Airlines Credit Card. That way I can earn FREE miles.  I have gone down to San Diego 3 times to visit my friend and each time I have used miles, so each time it costs me $5 to fly.

We did lots of hikes

This is at Torrey Pines.  My friend has a year long parking pass, but even a day pass is not more than a couple of bucks, but it’s work it, fun hike. This is the 2nd or 3rd time we have done this hike.  I love it.  It’s also very easy.  Trust me, I would know.  I might look fine, but I am going in for back surgery soon, and I still did this hike.

torrey-pines-hike

Beach walks

del-mar

We do these hikes and walks because they are FREE or nearly free. If you are in San Diego why wouldn’t you do those things?

After all those great hikes and beach walks we need good food.  San Diego is not short on great food.  Before I got there my friend went online and ordered some gift certificates from Restaurants.com.   If you don’t know what that is go check it out HERE and look for the latest deals. We ate really good while we were there.

cody's

Our first meal there was at Cody’s.  This is such a cute place and the food was good.  Not my favorite meal, but nothing to really write home about.  We might try it again, it could be that we just ordered wrong.

lockwood-table

Check this out.  How cute is this?  This is the owner of the restaurant Lockwood Table doing a delievery.  I love this!!  The food here was so amazing.  It was a light lunch of hummus,salad and a veggie sandwich, plus we shared a dessert bar.  We shared all 4 things, used our gift cerficiate and it cost us $6 each with tip and tax.

zinc-cafe

Everyday we would head over to Zinc and get our afternoon latte.  I make my own lattes at home, so I am super picky.  This latte was so good we kept going back.  Not only that, but before I left I bought a 1lb bag to take home.  So good.

sbicca

My favorite find of the trip was this restaurant, Sbbica    The food was amazing. We each got a bowl of Lobster/shrimp bisque, we shared caramelized onion, brie, smoked salmon on toast, and an ahi tuna salad.  Again we used the Restaurant.com gift certificate and with tip and tax this meal cost us $12 each.  Oh, I almost forgot to tell you about the bread and dipping sauce they bring out before your meal.  It looks like salsa, but it’s tomatoes with basil, pureed and you add it to your bread.  My mouth is watering just thinking of it.

What we discovered after talking with the owner is that his sister lives in the same place I do and she just opened up a restaurant in Lake Oswego, Oregon, just minutes from my house.  She needs to know I will be comparing her to her brother.  His food was to die for.

So if you are ever in La Jolla, California look for this restaurant.  You won’t be disappointed.  The view is not super great, but you can see the water if you sit outside. Plus it sits next door to a great surf shop.

Ahhhh, San Diego.  It’s a beautiful place.

Eating Good around Cedar Point

Food. That always becomes the source of concern when we travel. We don’t like fast food, deep fried food or just plain unhealthy food, so we have to search, and search we do. Before I left I had spent time on the web trying to find some really good places for us. We don’t normally like chain restaurants because they lack good quality taste and they lack nutrition. The first day we were having such a good time in the park we decided to try something just outside the gates and hopefully not too heavy. Heavy never works when you are riding rides all day long. We ended up at Famous Daves, which we didn’t know at the time was a chain restaurant. I ordered a salad, which wasn’t bad, it was all ice berg lettuce (see I’m even a salad snob) and it had a BBQ dressing on it that I was not real fond of. But since it was a BBQ restaurant that is what they had. Everyone else got hamburgers and fries. The Hamburgers were greasy and the BBQ sauce was real thick. I don’t think anyone finished their meals. The kids each got pops and we had water. The meal cost us $48.00. It was a huge disappointment.

We decided for dinner that we would try a restaurant that I had found online. It’s called Red Gables and it’s just a few short miles from the park entrance. It was not a chain and the food was amazing. They have a 2 pork chop special, which my husband and I got and split. My daughter got the crab cake dinner. (We are from Oregon and I try those everywhere we go, and those are by far the best crab cakes I have ever had. Lots a crab and just a little breading.) My son got the 4 cheese pasta. Each meal came with salad and 2 sides. Which means we ended up with 3 salads and 6 side dishes. We had so much food. We even ordered scallops (amazing) as an appetizer and the kids had drinks and we had beers with our meal. I know, it’s definitely a wine meal, but I was craving a beer. My daughter said it was the best restaurant that she had ever been too. The whole meal cost us $90. We got amazing quality food and we got superb service on which we chose to leave a great tip.

Ok, I know what you are thinking. That was by no means a bargain meal. I agree 100%. But we chose to cut corners in other ways. We had a fridge in our room. We started by bringing cereal that would last us the whole time. So when we got there we bought milk, I had packed spoons and we ate out of the cups in the room. So breakfast was cheap and it’s what we all enjoy eating for breakfast. For lunch (because we didn’t want more bad expensive food from and around the park) we chose to go to the grocery store and we bought cheese, crackers, fruits, plus we already had nuts, bars and dessert that we had brought along. So everyday we would leave the park go to our room and eat a snack that would hold us until we left for a great dinner.

The second night that we ventured out we went to Lymans Harbor and ate a very good meal there too. It too was not a chain, they pride themselves in their perch, which was great. It is across the harbor from Cedar Point. So again just minutes from the entrance and plenty of places to sit, quick service, good service and out the door feeling great.

The funny thing was both nights we would go back and pass the TGIFridays and there would be a line out the door, people would be grumpy and they would end up paying just about what we paid. Only our experience was pleasant.

The last night we were there we decided to go easy on the budget and we ordered Pizza. The Red Gables has a pizza place next door so we thought we would give it a try. That meal cost us $15. HINT: You can go into the nice side of Red Gables and order a great meal and they will let the kids order a pizza from the other side if nothing on the menu is to their liking. LOVE THIS PLACE!!