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vacation planning

September 6th, 2018 at 12:00 pm

I consider myself somewhat savvy with vacation planning. I typically can find good deals on flights, hotels, and just stuff in general for trips. But we've decided to go to WDW next August 2019 and I'm overwhelemed. I'm even stupid to be honest.

So I might as well write here the step wise intensive planning I'm doing. Somehow even international travel seems easier than WDW.

I'm starting with knowing I want to go the last week of August. It's still a month too early for plane tickets which will obviously influence our hotel. But right now the thought is Friday to Sunday of labor day. We may fly into ft lauderdale and then drive to disney to see friends.

I found a website that sells off the DVC timeshares that seem reasonable. 5 days at animal kingdom is $900. But it was suggested we stay at the 4 main resorts by magic kingdom. I'm not sure what to do. It's around 5 days for $1500.

So the next few weeks while waiting for my airline ticket is to figure out where we want to stay. I am realizing that going to WDW it's not the flights or hotels it's the cost of the tickets. Wow is it expensive to go to disney.

I think this will be our 1 in a lifetime trip. I'm doubtful we'll want go back. We're more likely to travel elsewhere but we want to do WDW before the kids get too old to enjoy the magic. While we might go back when they are older my older one wanted slightly better rides than the younger one this last trip.

Ugh I suspect this will be a very expensive trip comparatively. I just did 2.5 weeks in asia for probably less than 10 days will cost us at Disney. The flights while pricey compared to last year were still reasonable. Last year we went for $2800 for 4 people, this year we paid $3600 for 4 of us. Our hotels were around $150/night on average we spent around $2000 in total. Then another $1500 on tickets for activities including disney and universal and bus tours, entry fees. Then eating out probably another $2000. We did it less than $10000.

I see Disney being $2000 hotels, $2000 flights, and then tickets alone being around $1500 not including buying that line cuts. I'm forgetting rental cars and food. I'm not sure even what to budget for that since it'll likely be park food.

That being said the disneyland hong kong buffet was the nicest buffet I've ever been to. Way better than normal buffets plus it was cute for the kids. Pricey? Way more than anywhere else we ate in hong kong but we sat and relaxed for 2 hours. And since it was at the end of our trip we needed the destressor. We stay at the hotel and literally just walked upstairs and relaxed before and after the meal and then left the next day. PERFECT.

We'll see how this all plays out.

busy summer and London Trip and lots of spending

September 4th, 2018 at 12:35 pm

I've been busy all summer with the kids. We literally just go back on Sunday from Hawaii and school started today. I am a bit breathless seeing that it's the start of 3rd and 1st grade. I can't believe time is flying. I thought the years would go slower but it's not. I feel like screaming stop already I don't want them to grow up. Where is the time going? I swear I blinked and we had just moved and my DK1 was holding up her 2015 1st day of kindergarden sign. No no no. I can't imagine sending them off to college (I teared up a lot reading about Texaxhusker and CCF sending theirs off).

Anyway though we spent most of August traveling 2.5 weeks in Asia and 1 week in Hawaii. We also decided to do a week in October in London. I can't wait. I couldn't figure out a reasonable plan for adding Dublin in with my DH since he's working both places so we are doing London for a week. Now we need ideas for what to do. It was $1500 for tickets for the 3 of us and our hotel is covered staying with DH.

We also bought 5 day snowboarding tickets this year with a trip planned in March. I also plan on signing the kids up for lessons.

Also on the agenda booking our Feb Hawaii Trip and deciding next summers trips. I think we're doing Disneyworld last week of August. And my parents and in-laws have to pick what they want to do for a week each. I'd like to do a week in Singapore but I'm unsure right now. My dad turns 88 in october so I think we might do a weekend when they visit at Christmas.

credit card arbitage

April 24th, 2018 at 10:08 am

I'm interested in starting to use credit cards to get rewards and miles for traveling. I am reading a bit. But truthfully right now I'm still really busy with catching up after tax season, finishing setting up in the house after the remodel. I am actually proud to say we have been trying to be more thoughtful about putting stuff away and asking if it makes us happy and if not we are donating or selling it. (thank you to everyone in FB organized friends I have been both inspired and motivated reading stuff you purge).

That being said I really would love to have a lot of miles to travel with. So what cards do people love and use? Right now we don't really use travel cards but it's more laziness and we hadn't wanted to bring our credit down with too many inquiries.

But we have a house and car now so I'm thinking it might be okay. I have to wonder though I've found it difficult to use miles so flexibly as people who do these credit card arbitage. I've a friend whose always done it but he travels last minute on a whim. Literally he'll book a ticket the night before knowing they open seats and is willing to take the risk. Also he has a job where if he doesn't show up it's not a big deal. He can work from "home" and remotely if need be.

But it's not as easy for us. Until now we've never had jobs so flexible.

But how do people really use miles to travel so much? How does it align so easily with school vacations and breaks? I find that I end up paying a lot of the times because of our more rigid dates.

Disneyland is not for poor people

October 22nd, 2017 at 10:41 am

Our first trip to disneyland with kids is complete. It was really fun for the kids and the Halloween decorations and ambiance was fun. They were still pretty scared of most of the rides, frightened of Pirates, haunted mansion, etc. But we did a lot of the smaller toddler rides and they like looking at different things. Two days one at California Adventure and one at Disneyland was more than enough for us adults. I think our kids could have done a day more at each park and we could have taken it easier but the taste and fun was enough. Going during the week was nice especially Thursday it wasn't busy really. Friday it was a lot busier. I will say that staying across the street was well worth it. Very convenient and just easy.

But Disneyland is not for poor people. I've heard from people say going to amusement parks are where poor people go to waste money. The comments that it's a waste of a vacation. But personally DH and I have had fun at all the disneyland locations we've been and the kids had a great time.

But interestingly it's not a cheap vacation and I really doubt any poor people are going there. Actually if I had to guess it seemed more like middle to upper middle class people in terms of income were there. The tickets alone run around $90/day per person. Let's assume you have an annual pass and live locally. Then yes it could be very cheaper fun. But the annual passes from what I can tell still are around $1000 per person.

Then assuming you aren't local you have to pay for pretty pricey hotels, we spent $200/night. Which for us is a lot considering I usually consider $100 an indulgence. Then the flights and car rentals.

But then with all these people wearing paraphanelia which on average is around $20/each piece I'd say that no way does a poor or even really a middle class family afford this vacation. Not to mention the food. For the four of us I'd say skipping breakfast and eating lunch at the park and dinner outside we spent on average $50 for lunch. The kids shared or got a kids meals but with tax and tip and bringing our drinks in. We could have brought in prebought sandwiches from the stores on the way or panera but it wasn't that much of a savings actually. Panera and even mcdonalds for the 4 of us would run around $40 and we'd have to lug stuff all morning.

So I'm curious why people think Disneyland/world/amusement park vacations are so cheap? How they seem to think the average family can afford it? How do people have this stigma about it? Personally if anything after this visit I think the foreigners visiting must be upper echelons of money from their countries, and most americans did not seem local to southern california, probably are in the top 25% of income if I had to guess. We were asked if we were locals probably because we weren't dressed up and very casual about rides. But even the couple of locals we talked to, everyone had an annual pass with maxpass upgrade, and said they had to with all their friends and families they always came with.

I know my family in southern california always used to come with us to Disneyland when we would go. My first trip was at age 5. My mom scrimped for about 3 years to go but interestingly my family was known to travel on a dime and I know my aunts and uncles helped a bit financially. A single aunt traveled and stayed in our room and my uncle paid for my grandparents and we ate outside the park across the street where we stayed. Plus back then we booked huge rack room deals with connections we had and traveled en masse. All my aunts and uncles were massive savers and extremely thrifty when traveling and still are. In my family we are totally into trying to outdo each other with the best travel deal (i've been winning a lot lately!).

But I don't think people do disney the way they used to. Before talking with friends they would talk about how their parents would also do disney on the cheap. DH hadn't gone till after we met and even then it was for a day once until now.

But disneyland is not for those on a budget. I'm still astonished how much it can cost and how people can afford it. But the truth is I think most people are in the top income %.

What do you think? I'll put up some photos later.

success - last entry trip photos

September 18th, 2017 at 10:38 pm

See below entry

Trip Photos

September 17th, 2017 at 08:31 am

Okay I managed to resize some of the photos. I will start adding them probably in no reasonable order because I'm finding it difficult enough as is.

Asakusa Temple Daytime in tokyo.

Asakusa Temple Night

Asahi Brewery

Asahi Extra Cold

Tokyo Disneysea

Disney Sea Food (mochi ice cream and Gyoza dog)

Shinkansen (bullet train)

Kobe Beef

Kobe Cable Car, Port Tower, Zoo

Nara Deer park and Todaji Temple (day and night bon festival)

Osaka Castle, Kaiyuken (aquarium), Skybuilding

- one of world's largest

Hong Kong - Victoria Peak, Big Buddha, glass tram, buns

Hong Kong Disney

Quick Trip Summary

August 31st, 2017 at 11:54 am

So we just got back from our trip. I can't wait to post pictures. They were amazing.

Our entire trip was around $10,000 for 3 weeks - 2 weeks in Japan and 1 week in Hong Kong. The breakdown.

Tickets $2850
Hotels $1240 - my parents covered the hotels for the part we were were traveling with them except for 1 night. The total cost was $4500 for 14 days for both our rooms and theirs. So I covered the last night @ $179. Then we paid $745 for the week in Hong Kong and at the last minute we decided to do the last night @ Hong Kong Disney Hotel for $316. This is the most we've ever spent on a hotel by far. I mean $315 for 1 night. It was a little insane. We typically spend $100/night and Japan was expensive because it's Japan but we were spending around average there.

We spent $660 on tickets to Tokyo Disney Sea, Hong Kong Disney, and other attractions. We spent $1360 in cash on who knows what eating out, stuff, etc. Finally we spent $1724 on our credit cards on eating out, uber/lyft from airport, etc.

Our total spending on the trip was $7835 for 3 weeks. About 50% of what I budgeted and expected. I actually thought we'd spend between $15-20k. Even if I added in the $2250 for hotels my parents very generously gifted us, we've still be at $10,085. Which for 3 weeks isn't terrible for a family of 4 traveling for 3 weeks without cooking a single meal.

But to get away with under $8k for 3 weeks? That included all the transporation, we used trains and cabs (which is were most of the cash went), I have to say we did well.

I'll discuss it more in depth later. Can't wait to share photos. But disney in Tokyo and Hong Kong was ridiculously cheap the tickets. For us 1 day at each place we spent $222 for 4 tickets and $246 for 2 adults, 2 kids, and my FIL senior ticket. Crazy. That's the price of entry to Disneyworld and Disneyland for 2 adults. Strangely the food in the parks was CHEAP. I've been to enough parks to be surprised that they were charging like $5 for a meal which in the US runs around $10-$20.

What will you do?

August 8th, 2017 at 04:58 pm

DH and I were chit chatting in the car, seems like we always talk in the car. Probably because the kids are strapped in and can't distract us as much as in the house fighting. Maybe because we're trapped in two seats and not focused on our cell phones, cleaning, work, dealing with kids, cooking.

Anyway I asked him in 5 years at 45 or so would he retire if he could? I was running numbers and it's highly possible if not sooner. We could potentially do it now if we were willing to cut our lifestyle. But seriously 45 is not improbable.

His answer? "And do what? Why would I want to?" I said "follow your zen". His answer "I'm following my zen now. I spent a year finding my zen, moving with you, and finding my dream job. I don't need zen. I really like what I do. If I stop liking it I'll tell you again and we'll talk. Until then I'll work and be content."

I sat there stunned. Here i am on a savingadvice forum/blog, I read early retirement forums and blogs, and I'm not married to a spendthrift. I married a guy who wants to work.

He further goes on to say "LAL your dad is still working at 86! My dad is still consulting at 66. I am not sitting here at 45 doing nothing." I said "do something you like." DH "I am doing something I love. Who else plays video games pretty much all day everyday? Who gets to be a gamer and paid for it? If I had told 10 year old Mr LAL your job will be video games I'd have died laughing and kissed the ground." LAL says "okay when it stops being fun, quit." DH "okay deal."

So back to the drawing board. Seriously I don't know when or how I'll be dragging him away from work. We're about to embark tomorrow on a 3 week vacation, I'll try to post pictures but I won't have a computer just my phone so we'll see. First trip for DH in a year and he's not even sweating it. I'm dragging him away since he hates traveling. He'd rather stay at home and do nothing. Hence retirement is not his cup of tea in that sense. He doesn't want to travel and see the world.

Have you actually planned your retirement? And thought about what you would do?

miles to burn

April 18th, 2017 at 11:07 am

Trying to iron out the days we want to travel is stressful. I'm not sure hawaii will work out this summer because of timing and costs.

I've got $100 credit for me and the two kids. DH has $50 credit from late flights. We also have a travel companion certificate we can use as well as miles. I typically hate miles because I'm particular about not having connections and flight times.

But lately I've been talking with friends. I wonder if it would be better to focus on flights that we pay for and instead use miles to book hotel rooms and save money that way? I say that because I'm considering switching to the Marriott rewards card I think Creditcardfree and Disney Steve have. I'm just struggling to redeem airline miles with trips that work.

I mean honestly we also aren't airline loyal so we have a bunch of miles spread across whatever is the cheapest and I can get a deal on.

This whole figure out how to use miles is stressful. Do you use airline miles on flights? Have you had a lot of success? Or do you find it easier to use it on hotel rooms?

crazy good travel deal

April 9th, 2017 at 07:52 am

OMG I scored an insane, did I mention INSANELY good deal on our asia trip this summer? $762 round trip for 3 weeks and 3 cities? Yes that's per person from Stateside to asia then 2nd country then back again. Woot woot! We're going and it was $2853 for 4 of us. 8/8 to 8/29. Yeah I'll post pictures.

Now onto booking hotels and figuring out what we are going to do. I've picked cities but I'm not much of a planner type.

I'm going to guess that hotels will run us around $100-150/night depending on exchange rates. So for our 20 days I am guessing $2500 to be conservative. that means we are at $5k for basics not counting train tickets or meals. Another $1k in train tickets and meals solid $2k at $100/day for a family of 4 and treating people. I think my parents and in-laws are joining us at certain stops.

This does not include fees for any touristy things we do. I am thinking $12k for entire almost 3 week trip for a family of four. That is phenomenal deal. And I couldn't get miles to work so whatever. This deal was so cheap it'll earn us a ton of miles way below 2 cents a mile.

Now onto the planning. I'm so psyched because for the rest of the summer we have a ton of other small trips planned. Now that i've ironed out part of it i'm super excited.

Travel Savings Tips

July 1st, 2016 at 08:06 am

So a lot of my friends wonder how we travel so much. How do we afford it. Besides the fact that it's a big priority the truth is I usually score huge deals.

As usually we're doing our summer trip to hawaii. This time I scored roundtrip deals for $320/per person. Incredible, especially considering I'm flying out of one city and back into another. How'd it happen? Well I had $150 credit each for me and the two kids so our $219 one way ticket cost us $69/each. And our return ticket was $249. And that's means we're going to hawaii for $960 for 3 people for 10 days. We don't usually pay for a hotel or rental car. We tend to eat at home quite a bit and pack lunches for the zoo and beach. So my entire trip to hawaii will likely be under $1500 for 10 days for 3 people. I'm not "vacationing" like most with a hotel, car, and eating out.

February was the same thing when we went to Hawaii. I spent $209 one way and used miles coming back from hawaii. That meant we likely spent if I had to guess under $1000 for 10 days in hawaii. For those not in the same situation a lot of savings can be had. How? I always tell people the cheapest tickets to Hawaii no matter where you are is April and October. If you watch the deals they'll hit and from the east coast of the US you can go for around $600 round trip during those season. You need to fly usually on a Tuesday through Thursday.

I'd also not necessarily package a car or hotel with the flights because sometimes it's cheaper to do a "hacker" fare and cobble together as I did 2 one way tickets. A lot of times it's cheaper to check out one way tickets and buy them on different airlines or use miles on the very expensive day of travel. I have a friend whose into mileage runs and tells me to value dollars at 2 cents per mile. Truth is I can usually beat that because I've mostly saved it for Hawaii at Christmas the most expensive time to travel.

That being said I also bought DH and kids ticket to see his parents in Canada yesterday. Roundtrip the tickets were $260 per person. I paid a slight premium because he could have gone for $210 but the hours were terrible and DH refused to get in at midnight and leave at 6 am. Instead I bought tickets arriving at 12 pm and leaving at 7 pm. FWIW usually we buy the cheapest but it's the first time the kids will be without me and I decided to cut him some slack. Plus to get the $210 I would have been again using a hacker fare of alaska airlines going for $83 and coming back on air canada for $126. It pays to do some permutations of traveling by air. Searching by roundtrip usually allows the airlines to price your tickets on their highest fare. Even the $260 had come up as $279 when I checked on round trip tickets versus booking 2 one ways on the same airline.

Right now we're on a roadtrip. We spent 3 days on the road before arriving at my BIL. We did eat out but we minimized it by eating buying subway one day eating at a taco stand for dinner another night total $9. Also we arrived and knew we had two days of musuems planned so we bought groceries for the 5 days and enough food to make sandwiches for 2 days. We also tried to fill up everyday a costco a huge benefit of being a member is costco always has the cheapest gas and very cheap food if you are driving.

Anyway I'm off to enjoy my vacation. Any other tips? I just wanted to post because as I was booking tickets I realized it sounds like we spend a ton on vacations every year. But if not for the flights to canada, and if I were going we'd be driving. We really are pretty good to go to hawaii twice in 1 year for under $2000 for three people. Then to include canada for under $2800 sounds very reasonable. Most people who fly places are spending easily double or triple that.

Happy Valentine's Day

February 14th, 2016 at 07:59 pm

Happy Valentine's Day! We had a great steak dinner at home and are prepping to leave for vacation. We leave tomorrow morning and I'm almost packed.

Couple of thoughts I read that Kanye West is $53 million in personal debt. Is that even possible? I mean isn't he married to someone extremely wealthy and they make a fortune selling themselves on reality tv? Am I mistaken that I think I read they made $30 million last year alone? How can he be in debt? I mean yes they live lavishly but I thought they pretty much get everything free to "try" and sell for the merchant and they are constantly selling products? I wonder how that all ends? Bankruptcy?

RIP Justice Scalia. I hate to say it but it's a little ridiculous that the Republican party wants to wait a year to fill his position on the supreme court. They need to suck it up and accept the fact that he passed and let the nomination go through unless the person is completely horrible. If Obama is smart he'll nominate someone quickly that is already a judge that had a fast and smooth vetting previously. I wonder if he'd dare put another woman on the court? I know the front runner is the Indian judge but I wouldn't mind another woman.

Do kids understand money?

December 4th, 2015 at 03:53 pm

Reading a post about net worth on the forums made me think about time versus money. What my DH and I are doing right now is probably costing us a lot of money. How much? Well at least $45k in salary this year and another $100k next year. Then add in the fact we're going to likely burn through $75k in expenses from not working for 10 months plus tuition for DH's program. And we're out $220k without counting the lost opportunity cost of us not saving some and investing it.

Our kids are 5 and 3. So right now my DH is getting the opportunity to enjoy them in a way many parents can't. I'm fortunate to have enjoyed them immensely until now. He's getting to experience volunteering in class, doing field trips, etc.

I'm not sure our kids understand the sacrifice we are making right now. Or that our lifestyle changed moving cross country. We've actually mentioned to our older DK1 that we no longer have an income. That we are watching our pennies and we can't buy everything under the sun.

But the truth is that we lived very much like we did before. The only change is that we didn't shop as many sales/coupons for groceries. We ate out maybe 2x/week instead of 1x/week. We ate at more expensive places instead of places with deals. But otherwise we never shopped a lot, still give the girls extracurriculars, still go out and do experiences we did before like the zoo/aquarium/etc. We've curbed our weekend roadtrips, if we were working we'd likely have gone on 1-2 weekend trip.

But I honestly don't think our kids think our life is any different. They do understand we have a much nicer, bigger SFH with a garage that is warmer. But that's due to the fact we just moved somewhere cheaper that we could afford a home. Even if we were working we'd still have rented the same place.

I wonder if our kids will understand the huge financial risk we took when they were young? Or understand ever the financial repercussions we've done by quitting and moving? I don't know, but I hope they think we did something amazing to change our lives.

But I do know my Dk1 understands those less fortunate. And we are continuing to volunteer at shelters helping to host birthday parties for children who don't have homes. She understand that there are so many others who have so much less. And at this time of year we should be grateful for having so much.

I'm still excited for the season and while there isn't a shelter party we're going to help make goody bags instead this month. I hope that when they look back on holidays they remember these sort of things. I always remember and give my children money for the red salvation army buckets because more than once my grandfather told me he and his family were on the receiving end of the Thanksgiving and Christmas food baskets. He always gave me money to put in as does my mom till this day. If not for their generosity I don't know where I'd be.

Get into the spirit

November 24th, 2015 at 01:22 pm

I don't know why more people aren't excited about the holidays. I am super excited and thrilled. We are going out to buy a Christmas tree and stand. We bought our first set of holiday lights and yes we could wait to buy them on sale after Christmas but I feel like this is it. There are so many wonderful things going on and it's a very fun time of year.

I have to say that all I've heard is people complaining however. They are tired of driving somewhere for Thanksgiving. They are tired of shopping, buying, and wrapping, gifts. They are tired and don't want to decorate.

My thoughts? If you don't want to go anywhere or do anything don't. We've spent years waiting for the chance to decorate our house and have a tree and start traditions. BUT it's not cheap and I can see how it can be tiring.

We're hosting my BIL and FIL for thanksgiving. We're smoking a turkey, sweet potatoes (2 different kinds), 2 different stuffings, cranberry sauce, hot potato salad, broccoli, apple pie, and duff. I made the stuffing today, the cranberry yesterday, the sweet potatoes tomorrow and potato salad and maybe the duff.

We're hosting my parents for Christmas then seeing DH's family for New Years. I'm pretty stoked with both events and I'm thinking rib roast with bone for Christmas. Not sure what my in-laws will make for new years.

I haven't started Christmas shopping, but I did buy few things online for the kids and DH as a surprise. I can see how it can get out of control.

But if people don't want to spend a lot of money I can honestly say it can be done. Until now we've spent almost nothing on Christmas, New Years, and Thanksgiving (we used to go to a friend's house). So keep it simple and eat a regular mean and don't stress out. I wish I could say that in real life to people who seem out of their mind busy and crazy and exhausted. It's not even Thanksgiving yet.

Happy Thanksgiving. What are you doing?

Road Trip Spending

September 18th, 2015 at 10:50 am

I finally got around to tallying our road trip spending. Previously I had mentioned our road trip costs for the hotel. It was not bad for 28 days of being in hotels/camping = $1832.70. Less than $100/day and less than our mortgage and utilities.

However we spent $2257.39 on eating out and groceries for the month. And absurd amount but then we were not shopping sales, and eating out many, many meals. It would have cost more to have gotten hotel rooms with kitchens since we stayed in the cheapest places.

We also spent $696.36 on activities while traveling. Things like Niagara Falls Aerocar and Maid of the Mist. We also took a ferry to Mackinac Island and boat tour of picture rock national lakefront. We also biked Mackinac island and tubed in Leavenworth WA. All in it was a great deal I think.

Finally we spent $646.32 in gas driving cross country. We put on around 5000 miles driving from east to west coast. I think that's a pretty good deal.

All in I guess we spent $5432.77 for a 28 day vacation. Not bad around the cost of our normal monthly budget to be honest. Except we had a cool adventure and lots of memories. Could we had done it more frugally? Yes. We could have camped more and probably eaten at cheaper restaurants the whole way. But overall it was a nice vacation. We cheaped out on how we camped and hotels to indulge a bit more on eating out.

But now that we've moved I'm interested in our new budget.

The purpose of money

August 5th, 2015 at 11:02 am

I am vacationing in Hawaii with my kids and relaxing and enjoying doing nothing. The road trip was awesome and fun and amazing. But it was tiring, exhausting, and stressful in it's own way. The last week of apartment hunting and learning our way around a new city was exciting but hard with two small children. Worrying about making the right decision but knowing it's a rental.

Also I'll admit it's a bit of a hard pill to suck knowing we are "renting". Easy to say and hard to do. Realizing that we hadn't rented in over decade. It's not just the money but answering to someone else!

Anyway though as I'm in Hawaii I'm enjoying my family and my mom keeps saying "oh I'm spending so much money with everyone visiting". You LAL, your brother, his family, etc. She says I'm retired on a fixed income. I point out her income with my dad's make them ineligible to contribute to a Roth IRA. And my parents still "contribute" to a backdoor roth at 84 and 62 years old! They draw on pensions, IRAs, SS, and investments, and make $200k/year and my mom is worrying about money.

They own two homes free and clear and she's worried about not having enough. She says the bills seem more than her monthly money coming in and she doesn't want to touch a penny of investments. I want to smack her. I want her to SPEND the money on herself and do whatever the HELL she wants. I keep telling her to spend, spend, spend. Enjoy it. Bathe in it. I don't know go on every wild and crazy trip or buy a Tesla or something ridiculous. But the idea of her spending her money I think she's going to die with it.

Yeah okay readers I know perhaps that's her pleasure but I don't want to inherit that much money. I would rather have had some cool story about my mom sky diving at 85 because she's spending her money.

I have a lot of my mom's financial personality I can't help it. My DH has his parents and they are the same way. We were raised to it and it's hard for us not to be this way. But my DH is pushing me along the route to stop worrying about money. He's talked about us not having income for a year. He's talked about us not saving anymore for retirement as aggressively. That perhaps it's time for us to cutback and relax the purse strings.

I'm starting to believe him. I think the purpose of money is to enjoy your life. Whether it be working or not. My DH pointed out in a recent conversation that we've saved and I've planned as though we are stopping work in 10 years. That he'll sit around and "retire" early like Mr Money Mustache. The truth? He doesn't want to. He doesn't want to stop working at 45 or even now. He likes to work and wants to keep doing it. Being able to say FU to a company is great, and he likes having that freedom. But he isn't ready to stop working.

So I guess I have to relax and start to stop worrying if we have enough. I have to stop and smell the roses. I think we'll have enough even scaling back by age 55. Beside if I don't I might miss a moment.

I am trying to convince my mom to not miss a moment either. Here is my perfect moment recently.

It really was great trip.

Hotel Spending on our roadtrip

August 4th, 2015 at 12:22 pm

So we had basically a month without our mortgage. Not including utilities and insurance and other stuff we were going to be spending $2500 on just the mortgage and property taxes. So I figured if we spent around there or less we'd come out ahead.

Our total hotel/camping spending came out to $1832.70 for 27 days and that included two mistakes and a huge overspend the night before we left. I also did not deduct my $50 gift card from choice hotels for two nights stay.

First off I'd like to say camping is a super cheap vacation. We spent 9 days camping for a total of $268.33. That includes paying $27.13 for a campsite one night we didn't use. So we should have spent $241.20 on average $30/night. We spent 18 days in hotels for $1654.81 averaging $87/night.

However with the hotels we made two mistakes one in Niagara Falls leaving early and paying $44 for a night we didn't stay. Second the night before we left we were staying by the airport. Unfortunately the Rodeway Inn I booked only had smoking rooms which were unacceptable and which I was refunded our money. But we had to scramble literally in the Rodeway Inn's parking lot for another place to stay on a Friday night before Saturday flights. I ended up staying at a ridiculous DoubleTree Hotel for $159.20. We had made a conscious decision to leave the car at our new place and wanted to stay within shuttle distance of the airport since our flights were at 8 am.

But overall we did well for the month. I was hoping to stay under $1500 but $1800 for the month was a great deal. That leaves me with I budgeted $1500 for food for the month eating out and stuff.

I am going to guess we may have gone over $1500 for experiences and food. I was trying to stay under $100/day but we'll see. Traveling and buying as you go makes food very expensive. Somewhat like trying to sell a home and move, you are eating from the pantry but also not shopping in bulk or sales. Instead trying to cobble together meals and buy stuff to compliment what you have rather than truly meal plan.

So our budget has been pretty blown these past few months. I shudder at trying to run the numbers.

Vacation Now or Later

August 4th, 2015 at 11:16 am

Interesting question whether a person should vacation now before retirement or later after retirement. Should a person be fiscally responsible earlier in life or relax a bit and travel and spend money earlier?

We did the more prudent thing in our 20s and traveled less than if we had been spendy. With our time and income we could have easily have traveled more. But we didn't. We were financially prudent. I sort of regret it.

But doing so allowed us to do other things like stay at home, travel now, move, etc. So it was a conscious trade off. 10 years of being "frugal" and responsible for this next year of being "indulgent".

But do I regret not traveling? Yes and No. I think I once read that when you are young you have time and no money, but as you get older you have money and no time. I find that to be incredibly true.

We have the money now to travel or relax and but with kids the time is way to precious and there is less of it. Our trips now are kid oriented instead of what we would do. My big trip I wish we had done was Macchu Picchu and Galapago. But who knows.

Do you think travel when young or travel after retirement? I will say we did travel quite a bit still just not as much as we could have. We did both domestic and international travel.

Trip thoughts

August 3rd, 2015 at 03:08 pm

Lots has happened and I'm still really busy. Right now we are still on "vacation" but there is a lot to accomplish. I can't believe we did it. We traveled cross country with the kids and left everything we knew behind including a job and money. The house sold smoothly and we are in a new phase of life.

But I have to say our trip was amazing and spectacular. It was a once in a lifetime experience and something I don't know we'll ever have the opportunity to do again. I hope I can get these photos uploaded. This has been a struggle so I apologize for the non sequential order of photos.

I want to say we unfortunately missed glacier national park because of a forest fire. But we did other great things. I also have to say my perfect photo came at Bighorn National Forest (for everyone in Wyoming you live in BEAUTIFUL place). But I loved the Grand Tetons probably the most.

And once we crossed into Washington as we drove through the Rockies my DH said he felt he'd come home. He missed seeing his Rockies and felt happier. I can't explain the feeling of belonging. You can't tell me the Pacific NW has bad weather because I embrace it. It just fit us. I can't explain this feeling.

Sounds nuts but quite a few relatives live in the area and have told me they love it. They miss Hawaii but at the same time it feels like home. And I know exactly what they are saying. I felt it. I stepped into a place where I belonged. And my DH just kept pointing out stuff he'd done as a child in the area. I think we're home for better or worse. This is it for us.

Badlands national park

Badlands National Park with Car

Bighorn National Forest

Bison herd Custer State Park

Bison by our car

Corn Palace Mitchell

Coeur d'Alene

Crazy Horse Memorial

Bighorn National Forest Lake we camped at. I cried when I saw this. I actually have a picture of the family standing there in awe. It was a perfect moment. I'll consider uploading maybe later.

Grand Tetons

Mammoth Hot Springs

Mount Rushmore

Mackinac Island (Cool no vehicles)

Fort Mackinac

Soo Locks


Picture Rocks Lakefront Amazing

Old Faithful

Crystal Cave

I'll summarize what our costs were when I figure it out. I will also discuss our situation for food and arriving.

Hotels a review so far...

July 14th, 2015 at 07:24 am

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.

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

July 8th, 2015 at 09:35 pm

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.

Road trip part 4

June 12th, 2015 at 08:20 pm

Okay Ideas people. Ideas of places to eat, visit, or stay, or anything I can't miss. Here's a list of cities I've ironed out we're doing. AAA is driving me nuts trying to get me to iron out my itinerary. I'm not that sort of person honestly. I am more a "well see when we get there kind of person." And a book a hotel couple of hours before we need it depending on when we make it.

Niagara OT
Saginaw, MI
St Ignace
Picture Rock National Lakefront
Green Bay WI
Sioux Falls
Wall SD
MT Rushmore
Glacier National Park

This trip is planned on us being on the road for 3 weeks. OMG in way it's insane. And at the same time I am so psyched. I love hearing people's places to eat and see. PLEASE chime in anything. I'm debating going back to blogspot to make it easier for me to post pictures of stuff.

Be ready for a cool photo montage if you help me plan awesome stuff to see or do.

road trip part 3

June 8th, 2015 at 09:53 am

Okay another reiteration of the road trip. I am running into trouble with AAA trip tik. I went into get a plan and they want me to book hotels. Ugh. Considering that we aren't even sure of the date we are leaving (tentatively July 7th) my DH is hesitant to even book refundable hotels because what happens if we leave a day late? Or two days? Then we have to cancel everything and start from scratch.

I don't know what to do. I feel like we have to tighten everything up closer to the deadline. I'm thinking I'll just tell AAA the prospective hotels since we are just unsure.

So we've decided to not take the dog. Although we may take him to Toronto to ship him back to my in-laws. Or we may drive to NYC and ship him from there. Again we're unsure about this timing.

We've ruled out unfortunately sesame place and hershey park since this weekend. We went away this weekend to an amusement park and DK1 had a good time but DK2 was a little too small and scared. So we've decided we'll skip parks for this year and instead do other stuff.

So where are we headed?

Niagara Falls
Mackinc Island - yes we are doing Michigan Upper Peninsula
Painted Rock National Lakefront (UP)
Green Bay
Sioux Falls
Rapid City (mount rushmore)

So suggestions or thoughts? I feel like Barney from how I met your mother, saying "this is going to be legendary. High five!"

I know my kids won't recall much but I have blurbs of my first real vacation with my mom at age 5 going to disneyland. We got on a plane with our family and went to disneyland, SF, and LV for a 3 city trip on the cheap. Budget all the way, but having a great time. It was incredible. I still remember meeting my cousin and seeing disney. So I'm thinking my kiddo #1 will have so memories of this trip. This is our opportunity of a lifetime.

I have an antedote about my mom. She always says "i took out a loan from the credit union for like $500 or maybe $1k to go on the disney trip. It was supposed to be a trip of a lifetime." This is the woman who got divorced and cut up her CC so she wouldn't abuse them and take the easy way out. But she saved and planned this trip for us right before I started kindergarten. Just for us. She took amazing risks both personally and financially and I believe as we make this trip and leap I'm about to do the same thing. I wouldn't be where I am today without her. And without her teachings and guidance I certainly wouldn't be trying something so crazy. Make plans but sometimes you have to take the risk and grab the opportunity when it comes because it may never come again.

I know SA readers probably would have chastised her but sometimes you don't know the strength of the person. I tell this story because right now I am looking for the strength to go through with this huge change we are making.

Traveling with a pet

June 3rd, 2015 at 05:43 pm

So we are between a rock and a hard place. We are deciding whether to take our dog with us on our road trip. Our choices as we see it.

First he comes with us but the is left in new city upon LAL and DH parting ways for august. He'll go into a kennel. Then my DH will get him when he gets back. This we hesitate since we are unsure how he'll react to a new kennel.

Two he stays where we lived for 4 weeks in the kennel we normally board him in. 4 weeks is longer than we usually do, we usually do 3 weeks. But it could be longer if my DH doesn't get a place that's pet friendly to live. It's a long time.

Three is put him on a plane and send him to my MIL. Ideally I'd like to do this. We did this with our last dog when we moved cross country 10 years ago. And my DH would pick him up when he drives cross country again in August. Now the only issue is convincing my MIL to do it.

Of course traveling with a pet cross country means that we'll be checking into hotels and then sightseeing. I have no idea what it'll be like. Possibly influencing our decision will be whether he can go to the national parks easily.

Any ideas appreciated.

road trip part duex

May 31st, 2015 at 07:57 pm

Okay newly update road trip itinerary. We've been working on refining our plans. We agreed to cut out eastern canada. My DH has promised we'll come back and do a 1-2 week vacation out this way. So we are just heading west.

We are split now between going to Sesame Place, yes now we've potentially added PA. Then Hershey Park for a day then cleveland.

Now if we skip Sesame Place we are going to do Niagara Falls which we've done quite a few times but my DH loves the area. Then we'll cut through Sarnia and head to Lansing, MI. Lansing, MI is where we'll meet up in either case.

Because from there we are heading to Mackinaw Island and the upper peninsula. We plan on doing a day at Mackinaw and then a day at Picture Rocks national park. Then heading to Green Bay and then potentially Minneapolis.

Then Sioux falls and the rest of our journey will be to Mt Rushmore, Yellowstone, then depending on timing either Boise, ID or Missoula, MT? Give a shout about either place.

We may also detour depending on our timing and being sick of the car to Glacier National Park. Again this is all happening on the fly and I'm trying to iron it out. We'll figure it out after this weekend and then get a trip tik from AAA.

I am so excited. Looking at the map and dreaming of where we are going is almost as thrilling as doing it. Someone once said part of the thrill of traveling is the dreaming you do while traveling.

Cross Country Road Trip

May 8th, 2015 at 11:10 am

Okay people across the US give me ideas. This is a sort of list of towns I was thinking we could road trip and I've mapped out miles, driving, and times but can't format it. So instead here's the list and we start in Yarmouth Canada and drive the way the list goes downwards.

Yarmouth Canada
Saint John's
Bangor Maine
Quebec City
Ann Arbor or Detroit or Cleveland (similar distances from Toronto)
Madison WI or should we go to Des Moines IA?
La Crosse WI
Sioux Falls
MT Rushmore (3 days)
Yellowstone (3 days)

And we should be around 21-22 days on the road. I calculated 20 mpg and 4287 miles driven so we will spend at least $500 on gas and wear and tear on the car. Of course hotels and eating out will cost more.

But am I going the right route? I know it seems like a lot of cities and little driving but I was thinking no more than 4 hours a day driving for the kids.

People help and any suggestions appreciated.