We currently have been on vacation!! Normally, we post quite a bit on social media outlets, but we haven't much this trip. We road trip quite frequently to many states as we Illininoians are so conveniently centrally located (score Illinois: 1). However, this road trip, by far, is THEE road trip of all roadtrips. We had started 'planning' this road trip a few months back.. The primary reason we wanted to do a big road trip this year is because J turns that big old 3-0 next year!! The dirty thirty. On his bucket list was to visit all the US states before he turns 30. If there is anything to ever know about Jason is that he is a traveled man. With the help of knowing and having many friends spread throughout the states, he has made it to more than most people can say - I met my match. The area he never travels to is the west/southwest. So... Here we are. After this trip, it will leave Alaska and Hawaii for us to get to before next July (oh darn... ;-) ). In the process of this, we have been 'building' a map of states we have been to together as well! Thanks Pinterest for the idea. **note: some of the states we went to on this road trip have also been for the purpose of getting there together for this map!**
States visited together before Summer 2016 Road Trip: Oregon, Washington, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois (duh), Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Vermont (missing..oops!).
So I promised this blog would share tips and tricks on how to save money on road trips....so READY.. SET.. GO!
-->> Rental Car: The biggest decifer in whether to rent or use your own car comes down to cost. What does your car get for gas mileage? How many miles are you driving? What are the conditions like at/to get to your destination? Our road trip is going to be over 6,000 miles! So basically a no brainer for us to rent.
**tip: utilize deals. Credit card: Jason's Capital One (I think) gave 10% back on rentals through their member site. The location we were using ended up not coming up on their site so he called customer service and they simply put the points into his 'bank'. We hadn't even booked it yet either!! Talk about good faith. --> we saved $50 doing this. Plus, the amount his card gives him back normally! Next trick, play around with dates! We got ours for $100 cheaper for picking it up 3 days sooner than we actually needed it! If you are booking through a booking website, make sure to google for deals for $$$ off! Also, look at booking a couple months in advance. The rates were cheaper when we were originally planning on taking the trip. It ended up being so last minute due to me waiting on accepting a job offer and not knowing a timeline until then! :)
-->> Food: Our trip will be about 10 days once said and done. I had this idea to pack a cooler with drinks and realized why not some sandwiches too? I made basic sandwiches. Buns, meat (we had turkey), and slices of cheese (pepperjack and provolone). Think about cost associated with even stopping at McDonalds. I know on average we spend $12-$15 there. Spread that across 10 days for simply lunch that's $120-150!! For lunch. Total cost for sandwiches? Approximately $25. I also bought snacksize chips and some snacks for in the car (popped popcorn the night before and bagged!). We ended up buying 1 large bag of ice at one of our first gas stops. (We already had ice for our start up trip.) How? Hotels have ice people!! Fill a plastic bag and take it out to the cooler in the car! Easy money saved: $2/bag x 6 days = $12 saved! We also were able to grab several condiment packets for sandwiches at the same gas station (relish, mustard, and green onions)!
-->> Gas: 2 things. Credit Cards and Loyalty Cards. Jason's credit card had a deal going for gas cards and picked those up months ago! 5% back on his credit card. Well, you can also those said gift cards in addition to loyalty cards. For example, Shell offers 3¢ off with their loyalty card (and you can earn more with purchases as well). Only problem we ended up having was finding Shells and BPs along the way in the West/Southwest. Another useful trick: utilize apps like Gas Buddy and your GPS - they help you find cheapest gas or specific gas stations along your route! **if your credit card does not have that deal, find a high % back for gas credit card and use it for gas!!**
-->> Hotels: we simply priceline or orbitz along the way because we do not set a schedule. Priceline is the one we used more on this trip. They do these Express Deals© that allow you to choose location within a city and a set price in exchange for you not knowing/caring what hotel they will give you. They give descriptions of what it will be similar to (such as Econo Lodge or Marriott) and what amenities it will include (parking, breakfast, etc.). I would say we did this 90-95% of the time we were gone. I almost ALWAYS choose free breakfast. When do I not? Price differences between the stars. If you are paying $15+ for breakfast...no go. We have had some awesome hotels for these great deals and I would recommend to people.
-->> This trick may not apply to a lot of you, but I think it is worth mentioning. We bought the National Park Annual Pass at our first stop in the Badlands. This ended up saving us a TON of money and gave us so many more places to go to along the way! It is $80 for it and ours will expire next July. We plan on using it throughout the rest of the year now as well. **tip: do not buy online. They charge processing fee or transaction fee. It is so simple to buy at park. However, make sure the park you are going to sells it (list on site).
Up next: our trip!! Where we went...where we would go back to..where not so much ... And PICTURES!! I will get the pictures off the camera and onto the computer! :)
Share your thoughts below!
I hope everyone had an amazing weekend! We were fortunate enough to be able to spend it with some of J's side of the family. We have a few things going on if everyone could say a little prayer for us.
On another note! J and I will be headed onto our next adventure here very soon. We had been discussing some great deals that we ran into with some family and I rememebered that that truly is the reason that I started up this blog!! This portion of my blog with guide of 'how to' or the best ways we have found to book adventures! I'll divide up by categories. I found after typing this blog for almost a day that I cannot put all into one post so I will divide up and do a category little by little..... Up first? Cruises!
*side note: I am not going to notate prices we paid just for privacy reasons. I would be willing to give more specifics or help you with your vacation if y'all simply ask! Also I will include links at the bottom!!*
Miami Port, January 2016
San Juan Port, July 2015 (PS this port is amazing - drop off your luggage and go explore Old San Juan!!!)
We have had fairly good luck with booking cruises. Prior to us dating, J hadn't ever been on a cruise. I, however, had been on one with a group trip I went on to Europe. I couldn't tell you the cruise line it was.. I am sure I could find the paperwork in my scrap book, but, quite frankly, I am lazy and don't really want to. The other two cruises have been through Carnival.
The first one we went on was the Southern Caribbean on the Carnival Liberty. This was my absolute favorite vacation we took to the date. We flew to Puerto Rico a day before the ship was to set sail. Personally, I would never trust my flight to not have a delay and always be on time to make boarding time. That is me and my trust issues. ;-) We stayed at ESJ Towers this night and the week following the cruise (yes...2 week vacation, it was AMAZING!! Paid to fly to Puerto Rico so make the most of it!!). I talk about this vacation the most! We booked a window room on the lower level, which is more budget friendly minus paying for the window. Medium range. I enjoyed having the window for the fact it was Jason's first and we went to SO MANY PLACES.
--->>> ways to save: I booked our flight and hotel combo through Orbitz. I was able to save a certain amount due to promo codes. SEARCH PROMO CODES FOR ANYTHING BEFORE YOU BOOK. This is even a great tip for college students (I will teach my book buying ways in a different post). We base hotels strictly on if it serves breakfast or not. Also, in this scenario, we put proximity to beach way up there. Orbitz allows you to narrow down to amenities, price, location, etc. making it super easy to navigate! ESJ offered an awesome breakfast each morning. Anything we wanted practically. This saves us a lot of money! I normally do not eat breakfast whereas J does. However, I eat for us delaying until a snack later or dinner to save money that way (also take an apple or banana for later and pack in your beach tote!). Plus, I cannot resist some good bacon. When it comes to booking with cruises - find a cruise line that you love (do your research!!). Then join their club. Carnival automatically enrolled us and we get perks the more we sail with them. My biggest hint that I didn't realize: onboard credits. They have some "hidden" fees that you don't remember until you either check your account onboard halfway through or see at end when check off balance. Cleaning fees!! Oy. Worth it -- nicest crew on the boat!...but you pay for that towel animal on the bed or your sheets turned ... Like every hour! Ha! So your on board credit automatically gets deducted from your account. Once we knew, we enjoyed this bonus with some excursions we booked since our budget included the fees second time around. Bigger the on board credit the better!
The second cruise was to Exotic Western Caribbean as they called it. This was the Carnival Splendor cruise ship. Bummer that happened on this trip: canceled Cayman Island stop! Ugh. Nothing you can do about that. (Make sure you pack motion sickness medicine. Rough seas makes for rough night.)
--->>> Biggest win on this trip: FLIGHT PRICES. We went in January. Got our ROUND TRIP ticket for - yes I will say this time - $140 (taxes and fees include)!! Oh did I mention that was into Miami? Yeah. Steal. We even thought it was a glitch in the system because other prices jumped up to $250-300 after that price was listed. Cannot tell you how quickly we jumped on booking that! :)
Another note: research your airlines! We never ever fly Spirit. Basically just see what you want in airline and keep in mind that cheapest ticket does not neccessarily mean cheapest FLIGHT.
Again, happy to help anyone book or answer questions! Have your own cruise tip, trick, or story? Share with me!
ESJ Towers: Puerto Rico (site is down currently 7/12 and better to book through Orbitz or another site due to it being condos rented out)
Orbitz (not always best deals, however, they offer rewards on purchases)
I've been busy this past weekend running all over the place! I was finishing up some shoe orders to get out before we left town. We spent a beautiful weekend with lots of family and friends! J's mom lives on a lake down south. We always have such a fun time when we go down there. There was a family party with his "second" set of grandparents, doggie lovins, drinks, loads of delicious food, and AMAZING fireworks that we watched from the boat! The weather did not get us down!!
We also had an opportunity to finally get to see my brother and sister in law's new house (a year or so later... Worst sister ever!..)! We ended up going to Busch Stadium to watch the Cardinals play (#goCUBS!) and they had fireworks as well. I even got to see one of my dear friends who lives in St. Louis now!
J has got to be the luckiest man I know. And not just because he is dating me... ;-)
He ended up getting us free meet and greet tickets to meet Craig Campbell at Rib fest in Naperville on Sunday! Who even has this kind of luck? My man that's who. So we drove back for that Sunday afternoon. J had some ribs, I had a corn dog. We shared a lemon shake up. The works! Secret... I have been craving some delicious fair food.. :) However, I sure wish we would have gotten a funnel cake.. Next time! Craig opened for Lee Brice. AWESOME AWESOME show!! I'll post a video we took at the bottom of this page.
The 4th of July really has a place in my heart. We get to celebrate FREEDOM. We celebrate the birth of this amazing place we get to call our country, our home! It is important that we remember those who have fought and are fighting to maintain and uphold that freedom. THAT is what 'Merica's' birthday is about. Being patriotic. Thankful. And a huge celebration of being American! I like to spend it with my family. We went out to my uncle's and had a great time playing bags, eating, and having a bonfire. As I have gotten older, I have found those moments to be more and more important to me.
What did you all do to celebrate? How do you celebrate? I'd love to hear!
Lee Brice, Rib Fest Naperville IL 2016
An adventurous soul, a kind heart, and a sarcastic mouth. You never know which you will get.