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Archive for July, 2015

Hotels a review so far...

July 14th, 2015 at 02:24 pm

Quick note my neighbors listed their house yesterday for $729k. Exact same layout, size, age, and condition. One difference is side by side parking instead of tandem. I'm curious if they can land a buyer quickly.

I wrote about how it can be hard to break an old habit. My DH and I were both raised on cheap places to stay. This trip though since we are staying in hotels for 28 days I've tried to minimize costs since we are eating out a meals pretty much. But of course we are camping for about a week broken up. Which will help bring the average down. But I am trying to stay below a $100 a day for food and $100 day for hotels. I also told my DH if we are below $100 on the hotel it makes the food for the day more palatable spending $100. Which isn't easy for a family of four three meals a day. If we were staying in one city a guaranteed hotel with a fridge and not packing up daily we could nake sandwiches. But the daily grind of driving makes it harder and not knowing where we are staying.

The first night for $62 was really a great deal for the red roof inn. Great location off the freeway and they took dogs and free wifi. The dog issue is a pain in the butt. With a dog when traveling you are worrying about them barking snd disturbing thneighbors. We arrived around 10 pm and left at 630 am. So literally a place to sleep that was safe and clean and convenient. It was very clean and exterior was nice. And very kind about the dog. I was not about to stay any where I'd have to sneak him in. Really a great deal.

But our hotel in Niagara Falls was cheap and terrible. It was supposed to be $48 all in buy we lwft after one night so it was $96 for a hotel that said wifi but didn't work. And was quite dirty. But niagara falls is a tourist destination so we probably should have spent
more. Our really bad mistake for a place to stay.

The econolodge in bay city michigan was great for $59.60. It had wifi, laundry, even a hot breakfast of waffles, bagels, etc. Very clean and easy to get on and off the freeway. My DH agreed it was a good pick. I'm not sure I guess a breakfast for a family of 4 at McDonalds would run $10?

The k royal inn in st igance michgian was not a bad deal for $71.6. The first room we had smell so they switched us without argument. There was a pool and laundry to use. And the breakfast while not hot was fine. A little pricey i felt but a tourist town during peak season to go to Mackinac island.

Then we were supposed to stay at America's Best inn but due a mixup we were switched to the Best Western in Sault Ste Marie. The best western was really great. It was the same price because of the mixup so we paid $63.41 for a very clean, upscale compared to what we had been staying ing. The breakfast was hot and nice. A bargain.

We then camped at picture rock national lakefront for $14. Can't be beat, but the flies nearly ate us alive. We barely got out of there.

We moved onto Green Bay where we stayed at the Radisson by the airport. It was $90.96, more than I wanted to pay but after reading reviews online of the motel 6 we decided to go with something we felt was safer and cleaner. It was way to high class. It was attached to the Oneida Casino and very nice. But no breakfast and it was a pain in the ass to park because of the casino. But it was really big, nice, and spacious. One major negative was the lack of guest laundry.

Then we headed to Minneapolis and stayed at a Holiday Inn Express by the Mall of America for $84.88. Again more than we wanted, but this was by far the best deal. They were super accomodating, brought us a fridge for the room, and just really clean and helpful. The laundry of course was super efficient taking credit cards to boot. The breakfast was hot and varied. And the location near the mall was great.

We then ended up at the Ramada Inn in Mitchell, SD. OMG it was terrible and worse because we paid $76.22. Part of it was how small the town was but we wanted a shorter drive instead of Sioux Falls to Badlands National Park. It did have a hot breakfast but the hotel was dirty, disgusting, and beetles everywhere in the room. Tons of bugs and just overall gross. Granted I know from reviews no hotel in Mitchell is very clean, so from reviews I had read I was expecting bad. But I can't imagine how much worse some of the cheaper places were. At least we got to see the Corn Palace and have a shorter drive to the badlands.

So far we'd spent $619 on hotels for 9 days and we were heading into the camping portion of our trip. I'll talk about what we saw and how we camped later.

It has been worth every penny. What we've seen and experienced has been unbelievable. Until you've driven cross country the vastness of the country doesn't hit you. It unbelievable the beauty and diversity of our country. I am so happy to have had this experience and I know my kids won't really remember it. I am having a fabulous time experiencing it with them.

Old Habits are Hard to Break

July 9th, 2015 at 04:48 am

I realized that old habits are hard to break. I find that even now traveling with our kids and getting older I'm reluctant to spend more on our hotels. I do spend more because I need a bigger room, but the the level of hotels aren't so much more expensive than when DH and I traveled solo.

The level of hotel I've come to realize is substantially lower than most of our friends. Most tell me then never spend less than $100 or $125+. They look for hotels with pools and location and name. I will admit based on our income we likely should be spending more on hotels. Our next hotel stay is $60 for America's Best Value Inn.

But at the same time where we stay makes it more palatable for us to drop extra cash on experiences. Recently because the hotels we were staying at were less than $100 we made up for it by doing a Niagara Falls boat tour, Whirlpool Aero Car Ride, and renting bikes at Mackinac Island. The bike rental was $100 for 3 hours.

But at the same time if we spent more I think I might really examine what "experiences" we want to do when we are traveling instead of just doing them.

Do you find you've changed the way you travel as you've gotten older? Or stayed the same?

I wonder if I'll ever feel comfortable just booking a hotel without considering costs? And yes I will admit to spending more but it was Manhattan and it can't be helped there. Our most recent NYC trip we spent $200/night in the financial district and it was a king size bed for all four of us.

I write this because my DH mentioned perhaaps we should consider upgrading and staying somewhere nicer. FWIW with one exception everywhere we've stayed has exceeded expectations.

Road Trip Part 1: Niagara Falls, Mackinac Island, Soo Locks

July 9th, 2015 at 04:35 am

I haven't had time to do photos but I'll tell you what happened. We left town around 3 pm. Exhausted we had dinner in Syracuse at Dinosaur BBQ and stayed overnight in Rochester at Red Roof Inn. It cost us $62 includes taxes for the night, took dogs, and very clean and comfortable.

We left early the next morning for Niagara Falls, ON. My DH drove on to Pearsons Toronto Airport to ship our dog. He went to DH's parents until the end of August. I believe it cost us $250 to ship as cargo on top of the $90 international health certificate.

We stayed at the Crystal Inn in Niagara Falls and it was terrible. We had booked 2 nights thinking we needed extra time because of the dog, but decided to move on the next day. Unfortunately I booked the hotel through Booking.com and was unable to change the reservation. So the $96 we spent for 2 night was $96 for 1 night in a really crappy hotel. Oh well say la vie.

I will say we had a great time in Niagara Falls and we did the Whirlpool Aero Car and Hornblower Cruise. The kids loved both and my DH had a blast though he's been dozens of times to Niagara Falls. He thoroughly enjoyed himself seeing the kids get soaked on the boat and loving the night scene at the Falls. We had actually gone back about 3 years ago, but our oldest didn't remember a thing. Kids make sometimes the same trip more pleasurable having experienced it through new eyes.

We drove the next day to Bay City, MI and just spent the night at the Econolodge at the rate of $59.60 night all taxes included. It was very clean and much bigger than we are used to. This was just a place to rest as we continued to St. Ignace, MI.

We stayed at St Ignace overnight so we could do Mackinac Island. We stayed at K Royal Motel for $71.60. It was fine. The real gem was going to Mackinac Island. The island has no transportation other than horse carriage or bikes or walking. So we rented 2 bikes and 2 bike carriers and did the 8 miles loop of the island. Our kids love biking and so do we and it was great. Took us 3 hours including stopping for lunch but the pictures and pleasure was amazing.

We also walked the Fort Mackinac and the town. Even the ferry ride over from St Ignace was great. We went under the "mighty mac" Mackinaw Bridge. FWIW it's a lot easier to go from St. Ignace than Mackinaw City. The ferry ride is only 15 minutes, except when they go under the Bridge.

The food along the way has been interesting an exceptional. I'll post photos later. But it's truly been a pleasure.

Next up was the Soo Locks in Sault Ste Marie. It was something cool for the kids and we enjoyed seeing a part of Canada my DH's never been too. We've actually done a boat tour of the Yangtze River which was very similar but on a much larger scale.

Then we're moving onto camping at Picture Rock National Lakefront. I can't wait.

Home Sale and Debt Free

July 9th, 2015 at 04:19 am

Our home sold on Tuesday July 7th. We officially are debt free and don't own a home. In many ways it's very freeing. Since we've been on the road I'm not sure what fees and will look over when we have a chance. But overall life is GREAT.

I can't explain the relief and lack of anxiety I now feel having finished the sale of our home. Sounds nuts but this home sale was giving me a lot of grief and ulcers.

Besides the fact that the packing moving was very slow and a lot harder than I thought. We had 80% done a week in advance of moving. But that last 20% was so difficult. We got to the point of no return honestly. We just started throwing things in boxes and loading the trailer. We ended up with 15' linear feet, a foot less than estimated.

We did hire movers for 3 hours at $60/hr and it really helped move things along. According to the tracker our trailer is in PA waiting to go to Dayton, OH. Sounds crazy fast.

Plan is still to arrive and find a place and have our trailer stored and then delivered end of August.

FWIW, it's a little weird not being a home owner for the first time in 13 years. It's also weird knowing we owe nobody NOTHING. That we have no big debt hanging over our heads. We also have a nice big cash number in our bank accounts so life is a little more rosie. Now onto our road trip.

Leaving a City

July 2nd, 2015 at 04:18 am

I think it's a weird feeling to leave a city and know that you'll never have a reason to come back. When we left southern California after nearly 10 years, I was sad. But at the same time I never felt like I was leaving permanently and it turns out I was right. We always go back to visit and since having kids we've been going annually.

But this time it's different. This time I don't feel like I have the draw to visit and I am sad. I'm sad that I won't see the great friends we've made who've become like family. I feel like a big chunk of our lives were here.

I am tearing up over everything. Friends we've known pre kids or coworkers I'm saying good bye too. To friends we made from having kids. Or even therapist we've seen for 2 years from my kiddo every week. It's been tough saying good bye.

Also trying to "cram" in the last bit of pleasure before we move. All systems are go on the sale of our home. We finalized all paperwork. Everything should go smoothly. We are set to close on July 7th. It's incredible to be so close yet still feel like we are so far from being done.

I think it'll be easier after tomorrow night and we pack up the trailer with furniture and the movers. Then it's just the road trip packing and odds and ends.

DH is throwing things in boxes and really feeling the pressure. He said the last 5% of packing is the hardest! I can't wait for this trip to start.