How to Figure Out What Hotwire Hotel You Are Booking

Yep there is a trick to figuring out which hotel you are booking.  In my case it led us to a better deal. Here’s a few steps to help you figure out what hotel you just might be booking.

1.  Do some investigative work. If you look through all the hotels in the area you can find some matching descriptions.  The one that set mine off was 100% smoke free.  Look through the list of amenities and you can kind of figure it out.  Another time when looking only one hotel in the area had a spa, so that was easy.

2.  Book a package and it will show you what you are booking.

I did number 2 and it was the one I actually booked.  I booked a car/hotel package.  Not only did it show us the hotel, but it was the best price we had found.  Even adding the car it ended up costing us less.

You will need to do some math because it breaks it down per person.  That’s fine, it was costing us $71 per person to have the motel with no breakfast and no car.  I got motel, breakfast and a car for $80 a person.  Break that down, for $9 more a person or $36 total, we are getting a rental car for 3 days and breakfast for four for 2 days.  Sweet!!

I looked at rental cars, even through Hotwire and it was cheaper to do the package.

Are you a little curious what we are booking??

We really wanted to do Kingda Ka, but it’s so far away.  Our window is so small that we decided staying on the West Coast was our best option.

We decided to hit Six Flags Magic Mountain.  We really do love this park.  Our only hang up is that it’s kind of got a lot of gang activity, but they are watching it closely and we won’t be there during the night hours. By staying on the West Coast and having such a short flight we will be able to hit the park the day we fly in and the day we fly out.

Before we booked the trip we did what we always do and that is check the school calendar for the school districts in the area.  They all go through the week that we are there.  We might run into some bus loads of kids coming in for end of year, but nothing like it could be.

We just booked our airfare, and we had lots of miles.  Not quite enough to get it all for FREE, but the four of us are flying for $150, not too bad.

I know it’s a crazy idea, and it’s just days before my surgery, but the kids have really wanted to go.  My daughter has been asking for a vacation this summer and we just weren’t sure if it was possible and today I decided to throw caution to the wind and book it.

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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…]

Games to Play While Standing in Amusement Park Lines

Cedar Point ohio

I only bring this subject up because summer is approaching quickly and for those that can only go during the summer you must endure the lines and therefore you must have a plan.

I was reading on another blog about a Disneyworld vacation and he mentioned what they did to keep the kids occupied while in line and it made my think of our games we “invented” for a lack of better words.

So here are a few Coaster Family games to play while standing in line.

  1. Don’t stop moving. This one is funny as we sometimes get into peoples space making ourselves laugh which also is a good time waster.  The way this game works is you take the smallest steps possible and you never stop until you are at the front of the line.
  2. The Alphabet Game.  Pick a topic and go through the alphabet saying something within topic.  We usually do music, so we have done artists, bands and song tittles.  You can change things up for adults and do 70’s songs(if you need the challenge) and you can also do this with little kids naming animals. If you get stuck you might need to ask someone in line.
  3. Guess how many more coasters come buy before you get on.  This works well if you can see the coasters coming and going.  Then you count.  This is good in conjunction with the other games.  Winner chooses their seat.
  4. Risky places to bounce a super ball.  Yep, it’s exactly what you think it is. We get a super ball (or 2) and bounce it on the ground.  Sometimes the ground off to the side of a ramp leaving a ride.  It’s funny to have people watch you and they will help you rescue your ball.  We like to see how long one ball will last.  It can last up to a day or two.  Bonus:  We entertain those around us.
  5. Rock, Paper, Scissors.  It’s simple, but fun.
  6. Photo Guess.  We take a camera everywhere we go, so my husband made this game where we all had to turn our backs and close our eyes and he would take a super close up of something right there in line and we would have to figure out what it was.

Take advantage of this family time or even friend time if that is who you choose to go with. Put your phones down and enjoy each other and while you are at it, get others in line involved too.

What other games have you played while standing in line?  I know you have all gotten creative at some time or another.

Vacation Memories- Through the Years

As I have stated many times and as you can tell by my blog name we are a roller coaster family.  It is something we truly enjoy and something we have done for years.

The memories we have created are priceless.  We started when my son was in 1st grade and last year, as a 7th grader was the first year we missed a coaster vacation. It’s my fault. It’s not a money thing, it’s a back thing, like I need back surgery. I managed to get myself around the park as long as I could, but eventually I needed surgery. It was the standing in line that hurt the most, the coasters never bothered me.

Biggest bummer?  Our kids still love doing that vacation with us and our time with them is running out.  It kills me.  But in honor of Mother’s Day and my favorite vacations with my kids, I give you:

Through the Years

Great America ’03

Disneyland ’04

Great America ’05

Six Flags Valencia ’05

Magic Mountain ’06

Great America ’06

Cedar Point ’07 – Maverick

Great America ’08

Great America ’08

Cedar Point ’08 – Top Thrill Dragster

Kings Island ’08

Update ::  We didn’t make it to the park in ’09, but we did manage a trip in 2010!!!

Goliath at Six Flags Magic Mountain 2010

9 Steps to Do Cedar Point on a Budget

cedar-point-vacation

If you are looking for a frugal Cedar Point Vacation, I have the information you are looking for.

Here are 9 steps to do Cedar Point affordably and do it well.

1. Be flexible about when you can go.  If you go earlier in the season or later in the season the rooms are cheaper.  We always go late August.  The room rates go down and the park is less packed.  To get the most out of my trip I also plan around the local school schedule.  I try to go once they are back in school in hopes of having it not be as crowded.

2. Use one of their hotels first and foremost.  You get in an hour before the public if you do.  Breakers Express is the cheapest, unless you choose to camp.  Plus if you are staying for a day or two the packages save you money on the entrance fee. We have stayed at Hotel Breakers and Breakers Express and we like the benefits of both properties. Plus you get free parking.

3.  Get a room with a fridge.  Go to the grocery store and buy fruit and muffins for breakfast and  meats and veggies for lunch along with nuts and chips for snacks. This option works best if you stay on the property and it’s so much cheaper and better than the food in the park.

4. Don’t buy expensive drinks in the park.  Better yet, don’t buy any drinks at the park. They have to give you a cup of water if you ask.  This is true, our last trip we did it the whole time and paid very little for any water.  If you must buy water, buy it out of the vending machine so you don’t have to pay sales tax.

5. Buy a Season Pass.    Since we travel all the way from Oregon we make a full week of it.  Therefore we buy the season pass.(Chances are there will be a day pass to the water park with your season pass.)  It costs a lot up front, but in the end it’s cheaper than buying a ticket every day.  Plus you don’t have to go to the window to get your ticket every day before you enter the park.

6Leave the property to eat dinner.  You will probably spend the same as the restaurants on the grounds, but you will get better food if you leave the property.  We went to a great restaurant just down the road, had amazing food, great service and no wait at all.  We came back to find an hour wait at TGI Fridays.  Our food was much better than what they were going to get and we paid about the same, plus it was less stressful.  We chose a restaurant that Dan Aykroyd even ate at, so it must be good.

7No need to do anything else.  Take advantage of the beach and the boardwalk.  After you have paid so much to get there and do the park, don’t spend money on other things, enjoy it!! It’s Cedar Point!! The Roller Coaster Capital of the World!!

8. Carry your snacks in with you.  We have the guys wear cargo shorts and we pack snacks in there so no one has to carry any bag.  When you need refueling pull out some nuts or trail mix and ask for that free glass of water. We bring ziploc bags to put our snacks in after we purchase them from the grocery store.

9. When you get a season pass you should get a booklet that shows discounts you get at participating stores.  Take advantage of this when getting souvenirs and any food you choose to purchase.

Now throw your hands in the air and enjoy!!

5 Easy Hikes in the Gorge

columbia-gorge-scenic -highway

Truth is there are more than 5 easy hikes, but these are super easy to get to, and they are all very close together on the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway.  As with most hiking in Oregon you can choose to go farther at nearly every stop.  Got to love Oregon.

Our Day trip started out at Crown Point, this can be easily accessed (if leaving Portland and heading East) by taking the Corbet Exit.

Crown Point has a great view, but be warned it’s very windy up there.  We stopped for a moment just to take in the view.  Luckily the visitor center was open and we were able to look from there. We were then given this nifty map of all the Falls that were to follow. [Read more…]

Top 7 FREE Things To Do When in Portland, OR

My niece is coming to visit and she has never been to Portland  before, so we are looking for all the places we HAVE to take her while she is here.  If you do live in Portland, I most certainly hope you have been to most if not all of these places. Not from here?  Sit back and let me give you a quick tour of a few FREE sights of Portland.

Enjoy the roses, views and relaxing places to sit and take it all in.

Enjoy the roses, views and relaxing places to sit and take it all in.

Looking for something fun, yet free to do in Portland? Here’s a few things that we like to do around town.
[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.

6 Steps to Planning the Perfect Rollercoaster Vacation

The Beast Kings Island '08

The Beast Kings Island ’08

These steps can also be done with any amusement park, even Disneyland or Disneyworld (although they are open all year long).  I always like to get the most out of my trip, so here is how I go about it.

1.    What is the opening date of the park? Or When Does it Close for the Season?
One of the parks we go to in N. California opens in April.  Since summer vacations haven’t started yet it’s very very empty, thus getting the park to ourselves.  Also towards the end of the season many locals are done with the park and getting back into routines.  The end of the year strategy only backfired on us one time and that was with Kings Island.  Make sure you check days and hours, since many are only open for extended weekends at this point, not necessarily during the week days.

2.    Check the local school calendars and compare them to yours.
I like to do this because I want the park to myself or at least as much as possible to myself.  If the park does open in April and they are open for long weekends I try and go on a Friday for sure while everyone is in school, but plan a 2nd day for the Saturday so you can at least have some of the Entertainment that goes along with park.  I check our days off against theirs and usually I am able to come up with something.

3.    Check Airfare.
Again if you are going on an off time chances are even your airfare will be cheaper.  Not only that, if you have frequent flier miles they are easier to use at this time as opposed to spring break or any other Holidays.

4.    Find out the cost of a Season Pass compared to a Day Pass.
If I am flying into some place we usually plan to stay more than one day.  If that is the case often times it cheaper to buy a season pass than to purchase 2 day passes.  Although look around for coupons or discount on day passes and compare.

5.    Find out what a Season Pass gets you in to.
When you purchase a Season Pass to Six Flags you can go to any Six Flags in the nation.  Only catch is you have to activate it before going to any others.  I say this because the Park in Texas may be cheaper to buy a season pass to than the one in California.  You can purchase both online, but you have to activate it at the park you select as your main park even if it does cost more.  Once activated you can go to any of the parks.  Often times too the Six Flag season pass comes with coupons that you can use for food or even into nearby water parks.

Cedar Fairs you have to purchase a Season Pass to a specific park and then you can upgrade to other parks.  They do tend to cost more, but personally they are my favorite.

6.    Purchase Your Airfare, Buy your Passes Online and Pack Your Bags, and Enjoy!!