Planning Meals for Your Ski Vacation

Skiing can be an incredibly pricey adventure. Living in Denver affords us the luxury of being day skiers if we are ready and willing to brave the traffic on I-70, but we try to spend a few days in the mountains when we can so that we don’t have to drive back and forth.

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Last year, we had the opportunity to stay in a timeshare for a week at Christmas. A week! That is far too many days to be eating meals out and about around the ski resorts. Even if your resort is located in a town like the one we visited, Winter Park, it can still get costly as you buy three meals a day for your entire family.

A little planning ahead can help you save a ton of money. Before we left, we wrote up an easy meal plan. It included all of our favorite quick and easy meals. We listed out the ingredients that we would need. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much room in the car for ingredients at all but we were able to take a couple of dry ingredients and condiments so we wouldn’t have to spend money on that.

Once we got unpacked in the timeshare, we headed straight to the grocery store. We did have to stop a couple of other times during the week but we plan to do better next time!

So what was on our meal plan?

Breakfast

Cereal
Cinnamon rolls
eggs
bread for toast

Lunch

For lunch we bought the makings for sandwiches but we forgot the plastic bags! Next time, we will make sure to buy or bring plastic bags so that we can make sandwiches to have on our ski days.

Dinner

Day One – Tacos
Day Two – Beef Stroganoff
Day Three – Breakfast for dinner
Day Four – Dinner out
Day Five – Chicken fajitas
Day Six – Chicken Divan Casserole

What do you need to think about when planning meals on your ski vacation?

Is someone going to be staying behind? If you have some non-skiers in your group, they might be willing to help out with the meals. Even then, your non-skiers might have plans of their own. The end of the day is not the time to try to figure out what everyone is going to eat for dinner. That is when more money and time is spent!

Will it take a lot of pots and pans? Or a crockpot? If a place has a kitchen, it typically has enough pots and pans to cook any of my quick meals. We have stayed in a few places that had a kitchenette so some of our meals wouldn’t have worked as well.

What kind of spices and condiments are you going to need?  Our place came with salt and pepper but that was about it.

What can you bring with you to help save even more money?  I would love to have a sugar cookie making extravaganza but getting all of the ingredients needed for sugar cookies and frosting just isn’t reasonable. Make the dough and the frosting ahead of time and bring it with you.

What is your go to meal when you are on a ski vacation?

Less Than $500: A Budget for 4 days in Moab, Utah

When we realized that we had a few extra dollars in the bank, we knew exactly what we wanted to do with it.  Since moving to Denver, we realized that we were only six hours from Moab, Utah.  For as long as I have known my husband, the desert and its otherworldly landscape was something that he wanted to see.

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Unfortunately, we started to do our research and the hotel prices were ridiculous.  Almost two hundred dollars a night for a Motel 6 was not in our budget.  We realized that there were a number of campsites, my husband’s first choice for accommodations.  It was supposed to be very hot so we compromised with a cabin stay at a campsite.

We stayed at the Riverside Oasis in a small cabin that had an air conditioner (thank goodness!), a small fridge, a double bed and a bunk bed.  It was about $50 a night.  We had an option to bring our own bedding and save a few dollars on the price.

Because we stayed at a campsite, we had access to a grill.  We saved a ton of money by cooking our own meals.  We ate one meal out and unfortunately it was the worst meal we had on the trip.  It pained me to pay the $40 bill.  I only spent about $60 on our meals for the entire trip.

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We knew it would be hot so we brought 3 gallons of water to fill the Camelbak bags as well as a 24 pack of bottles.  Arches National Park had several water stations so we were able to fill up there a number of times.  Even with stops at the water station, we went through all of our water in the four days.

We decided to keep our activities to a minimum.  Although I was very interested in signing the kids up for a canyoneering class, my 6 year old wasn’t big enough.  We thought about a 4×4 trip but the cost turned us away quickly.  We ended up spending most of our time exploring and hiking Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.  For a four day visit, we had plenty to keep us occupied and the cost was minimal.

I do wish that we had thought ahead and purchased a National Park pass.  We have never lived within a day’s drive of so many national parks so it was never worth spending the money.  Now, we live within a day’s drive of at least 5 national parks.  I hope to purchase an annual pass during our next park visit.

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What is the budget breakdown for us?

3 tanks of gas to drive from Denver to Moab as well as explore the expansive parks: $185

3 nights at the Riverside Oasis: $163

Food cooked at our campsite:  $60

One meal out: $43

Water (24 count from Costco, 3 gallons from Target): $7

Arches National Park Entrance Fee: $10

Canyonlands National Park Entrance Fee:  $10

Total Cost for a Four Day Trip to Moab, Utah: $478

For less than $500, we had a four day trip where we made memories as a family.  I pushed through a lengthy and strenuous hike that I didn’t think I could do and successfully finished it.  My children walked across rock bridges without any hand holding.  We spent the evenings under the stars, roasting marshmallows and talking about things that might have been left unspoken.  That was worth every penny spent.

This post is part of Travel Tips Tuesday with Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walkingon Travels.
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A Summer Visit to Estes Park (with these coupons)

We have a lengthy list of things that we want to do during our first summer in Colorado and a visit to Estes Park, Colorado is one of them.  I want to wander the town and visit the shops.  I want to keep an eye out for the wild animals that we didn’t have back in Pensacola like the elk that appear to just wander around like they own the place.  I want to hike in the Rocky Mountain National Park and ride the famous Trail Ridge Road.  I want to wander around looking for and identifying wildflowers with my daughter and her new wildflower identification book.

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Have you been to Estes Park?  What do you recommend we try?

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Rocky Mountain National Park attracts visitors from all over the world and it is right here in our own back yard.  Come for a day, the weekend or a week and experience Colorado at its finest.  Visitors can relax and let their stress melt away like the snow on the nearby peaks OR they can enjoy some of the great outdoor activities that make RMNP famous. Hike, Fish, Golf, Play, Shop, Eat.  These are just a few of the fun things to do in the Estes Park area.  Visit www.EstesParkkids.com and www.EstesPark-Colorado.com for many more great ideas and special offers.

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If you are planning a Rocky Mountain trip to Estes Park, consider some of these coupons offered to help save money on your visit.  I love a good coupon!

Covenant Heights Camp$100 OFF Camps

Estes Park Ride-A-Kart:  $2 OFF

Rocky Mountain Gateway/Trailhead Restaurant10% Off Your Meal

Estes Park Brewery: FREE BEER

National Park Gateway Stables or Cowpoke Corner Corral50% OFF

Rodeway Inn: 15% OFF

National Park Stables or Cowpoke CorralKids Ride 50% Off

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory: 10% Off

Dorothy’s Catering: 10% OFF

YMCA of the Rockies – Estes Park Center:  FREE Breakfast

Smokin Dave’s BBQ & Tap HouseFREE Beer

Murphy’s River Lodge: BOOK 6 NIGHTS 7TH FREE

Columbine Inn10% Off 

Estes Park Golf Course: Green Fee and Cart for $55 per Person

Disclosure:  I will be provided with passes to some of the mentioned Estes Park area attractions.  

Saving Money For Travel (Or Whatever) with the 52 Week Money Challenge

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At the beginning of the year, the 52 Week Money Challenge graphic went viral.  That graphic was everywhere.  If you were on social media shortly after the holidays it was hard to miss.  I tried to figure out exactly where the graphic came from to no avail.

The idea is that each on Week 1 of the year, you will put one $1 in a jar, an envelope or the bank.  On Week 2, you put $2 in the jar.  On Week 52, you put $52 in the jar.  By the end of the year, you should have saved $1378 assuming you don’t miss a week.

I liked the idea and in addition to our other savings techniques, I thought that this would be a fun way to save for travel.  I am currently dropping the money into four different accounts.  It has added up VERY quickly.  We just finished up Week 19.  In four accounts, we have saved an extra $760.  Almost $1000 in about half a year with just a dollar here and a dollar there.

We recently realized that we are only a half a day’s drive away from Utah and Arches National Park.  For as long as I have known my husband, he has wanted to see Utah and its otherworldly landscape.  We had a long weekend that we could squeeze it in but we could we squeeze it into the budget?  We decided that we could since we have the extra money set aside.  We are staying in a camping cabin for $50 a night and the cost of our activities will be minimal since we are mostly visiting national and state parks.

I love that we are putting away money without even really realizing that it is gone.  Every payday, I move the money over to each account and we forget about it.  I move it before we go out, pay for extra curricular activities or get that extra cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Do I think that I can keep it up?  I would like to but I am also going to be realistic.  During the month of December, I would need to be ready to put the following away if I was still keeping up with four accounts: Week 49 ($196) Week 50 ($200) Week 51 ($204) Week 52 ($208).  That is a grand total of $808.  That is probably not going to be possible with holiday travel, gifts, and other obligations.  That being said, I will try to keep it up with at least one of the accounts for the entire year.

How do you save for vacation?

This post is part of Travel Tips Tuesday with Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walkingon Travels.
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Five Ways to Save While at Disney World

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 A trip to Disney World is expensive no matter how you look at it but after making several trips over the past few years, we have figured out a couple of ways to save a few dollars.

Stay off site.

Depending on the time of year, staying off of the Disney grounds may help save a few dollars…or a lot of dollars.  When calculating savings, be sure to factor in the parking fees that you will have to pay for each day that you drive to the parks.  Check the Disney Value Resort prices because sometimes the prices are similar to an offsite hotel and you will get the benefits that come with staying at a Disney property.

Stop by Walmart or Target before heading to the parks.

Both Walmart and Target have large Disney souvenir sections with totes, towels, magnets, stuffed animals and more.  We always make a stop to purchase a few souvenirs so that we don’t hear the “I want that” phrase all day long.  We might still pick something up at the park if one of those stores doesn’t carry it, but we have done our research and know how much it will cost. 

Share meals.

There is nothing that irritates me more than buying a meal for each of my children when they don’t eat it.  Or they eat half of it and could have shared a meal.  When I posted on Twitter for some last minute Disney tips, one of my friends sent this one and I totally agree with her.  The food is pricey but plentiful.  Start with one order of chicken nuggets and french fries or one sandwich, split it.  If everyone is still hungry, order more but at least you know it will get eaten!

Bring your own drinks.

Visitors to Disney World are allowed to bring soft sided coolers if they wish.  If you don’t mind keeping track of a cooler bag all day, load it up with ice, waters, juice, sodas, and more to keep you hydrated all day long.  Another option is to bring a Camelbak pack or something similar.  The kids love to wear our Camelbak.  Not only is it a source of water but it can also be a source of entertainment in long lines!

Bring your own poncho.

It always rains at Disney.  I have been to Disney World at all different times of the year and it has rained everytime we go.  The first time it rained, we got stuck buying the 10-15 dollar ponchos with the giant Mickey head on the back.  Now, we bring dollar store ponchos to throw on if we need to.  An umbrella would work as well but is bulkier and a pain to carry around.  Think of the ponchos as an insurance policy.  If you have them in your bag, maybe you won’t need them!

Have you been to Disney World lately?  How did you save a few dollars on your vacation?

Trip Expenses – 5 day Road Trip to Asheville, NC

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We travel on a tight budget.  I certainly wish that I had buckets of money like that picture over there, but the truth is I had to go to Flickr (Photo courtesy of borman818) to get the picture because I don’t even have 5 bucks in my wallet to take a picture of!  There are things that we give up in our daily lives so that we can afford to travel.  There are also travels that we have to give up so that we can afford to fix a broken washing machine or some other expense that we weren’t expecting.  We have responsibilities in our own city like house and car payments, swim lessons, and the electric bill (which is ridiculous this summer!).  My husband has a full time job where he has to show up at an office from 9-5 and is given a couple of weeks of vacation a year.  We have to work around that vacation, but believe me…we take every day we possibly can.  Sometimes, we don’t get to use all the vacation for that year.  Many times, he is tethered to his laptop working on our vacations.  

There are a lot of articles out there about travel being expensive and something that you can’t do.  We are here to prove that you can travel on a budget and have a great time doing it!  I am not sharing our trip expenses from this vacation to sound braggy…I am sharing them because it is one of the first questions we get asked…”Isn’t travel with a family of four too expensive?”

We aren’t the only ones that think travel can be done with a little bit of saving and prioritizing.  Spencer at The Traveling Philosopher and Carol at New York City Mama have both written about this issue recently.  My hope is that this trip report will show you a real life breakdown of what it costs for a family of four to take a five day road trip.  Here is a rundown of our expenses from our most recent trip:

Hotel Expenses

We stayed in a Country Inn and Suites off of Tunnel Road.  I pricelined the hotel for the first time in years and years (reviews of both the hotel and our Priceline experience to come!).  After several tries, we got the hotel for $65 a night.  After taxes, the total came to $307.48.

Gas Expenses

Luckily, gas dropped several cents right before we left for our trip.  Also, we were traveling to an area where the gas was cheaper due to lower gas taxes.  I had about 1/2 of a tank of gas when we left, we filled the tank 3 times – $49.07; $56.01; $51.54.  We got home from Asheville on Sunday the 26th and I got another four days of driving around town before I had to get gas.  We drove a total of 1164 miles.  Our gas total for the road trip was $156.62

Food Expenses

One of the benefits to staying in a Country Inn and Suites is the free hot breakfast.  The breakfast included make your own waffles, cereal, breads and pastries and more.  We ate breakfast in the hotel each morning.  I ate lunches at my conference and my husband and children ate peanut butter or ham sandwiches, chips and other snacks we brought with us.  We ate at local eateries that were reasonably priced for the most part.

Day One – $12.18; $13.18

Day Two – $40.86

Day Three – $26.72

Snacks and Lunch Supplies purchase before we went – $66 (We brought home a lot of food that we will use throughout the next few weeks while we are at home!)

Our food total for the trip was $158.94.

Activity Expenses

The main reason for our trip to Asheville was so that I could attend a blogger’s conference.  My conference ticket cost $149 dollars.  While I was at the conference, my husband and children explored Asheville.  They went hiking, kayaking, and visited a few other attractions.  The attractions listed below were for one adult and two children to visit. 

Asheville Outdoors Center (kayaking) – $34.00

Western North Carolina Nature Center (admission) – $16.00

Chimney Rock (hiking) – $17.00

Asheville Tourists baseball tickets for 2 adults and 1 child (my 4yo was free) – $32 + $6 (popcorn and drink)

Our activity total for the road trip was $105.

Total Expenses for a five day road trip to Asheville, NC (from Pensacola, FL) with my family of four was $728.04.  If you add in my conference ticket $149), the total is $877.04.  I know this is no small sum but I love that a 5 day 1100 mile road trip can be done for less than $1000.  With some planning and saving, a trip costing less than $1000 is doable.  Over the next few weeks, I will be going into detail on some planning and saving techniques that worked for us. 

Do you have any tips to save for vacation?

Saving Money on Disney Souvenirs

I am headed to Orlando this month without my family for a working trip.  We head to Orlando at least once or twice a year because we live so close.  It is easy for us to book a weekend at an inexpensive hotel and spend one day at Disney.  Our Disney trips are not necessarily the week-long dream vacations but we like it that way.  Living nearby gives us the luxury of being able to visit Disney without breaking the bank.  Sometimes we travel to Orlando and skip the theme parks completely and just spend an afternoon at Downtown Disney.  It gives us a chance to see what else Orlando has to offer. 

Disney is the land of souvenirs and it is hard to get out of that place without making a purchase whether it be a stuffed animal, a princess dress, or Mickey ears.  There are some things that you can only purchase at the theme parks but if you aren’t picky, head to the local Walmarts or Targets.  Both stores carry a large amount of Disney trademarked items included bags, hats, shirts, water bottles, and so much more at a fraction of the cost!

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I will definitely be stopping by one of these stores to pick up a little treat to take home to my kids!

Four Ways to Save for Vacation

Photo Courtesy of borman818 - Flickr

In my review of 2010, I mentioned that we always try to travel on a low budget but that 2010 was no exception.  We had lots of unexpected expenses but we still made room in the budget for traveling because it is important to our family.  My latest article on Traveling Mom is about four different ways we save for vacation.  If you have a moment, drop by Traveling Mom and leave me a comment with your favorite way to save for vacation.

Throughout the next month I will be giving our tips, secrets, and things we have learned along the way to help us save for vacation and be able to travel the way we want to and as often as we want to.  I am thinking about making it a weekly post!

Photo Courtesy of borman818

Suggestions for Free/Cheap Orlando activities?

ornament6So much for the House of Mouse.  We are all geared up to make a trip to Orlando and Big S has to go break his collar bone!!!  This week, my little man fell and broke his collar bone.  We are still making the trip to Orlando for other reasons, but we have to significantly change our itinerary for this trip.  No amusement parks, no wild and crazy running around, no fun as far as he is concerned. 

So I am asking for my readers’ help.  Leave a comment in this blog with all of your free and cheap Orlando activity favorites!

Guest Post at Pit Stops For Kids

Thanks to Lucia from Dim Sum, Bagels and Crawfish for introducing me to Pit Stops for Kids.  This is a great site that is busy building up its database!  It has already helped us out!  The concept of Pit Stops for Kids is to share tried and true kid friendly pit stops.  The site is extremely informative-information on each stop includes cost, which interstate it is located, website, bathrooms, food and other tips.  We are roadtripping right now and I found one of our pit stops on the site.  We stopped at the Mayfield Dairy for a brief bathroom break and if I hadn’t read about it here, I would never have known about it!  Today, my submission about the Afred B. Maclay Gardens State Park is located here.  You can read the full post on my blog here.  Do you have a review of your own?  Submit it here!