Memorial Day

Memorial Day Flags by eddiecoyote

Photo courtesy of eddiecoyote

In the US, Memorial Day is a day set aside for us to honor and remember those in our Armed Forces who died while in service to our country.  To all those we honor, fathers, brothers, sons, mothers, sisters, daughters, we salute you.

This is also a time when we begin to see the trees greening, and the flowers blooming and the sun feeling a little warmer. It is the day we traditionally usher in the summer season.

For those who have the luck for an extra day off today, we are enjoying a long weekend.  And for our northern friends who are just now bidding farewell to snow and cold, people are hitting the roads.  Even in these tough economic times, it is expected that we will be out heading for the beach, the lakes, or just a welcomed getaway to shake off the cabin fever of long days inside.

A few posts ago, I gave a consolidation of tips on saving gas on the road.  Following that theme and keeping in mind that many families will be traveling by car, here are a few more ideas to keep you happy and sane while getting there.

When Jenn was younger and we would go on our little road trips, we always made sure that the journey was PART of the fun.  We would not push and get frantic about messed up timelines.  There is no fun in racing against the clock.  We do that everyday.  So let this Memorial Day travel be more relaxing.

It is hot.  Down here in Florida we went straight from winter to the 90’s.   So be sure you pack plenty of water.  Better yet, take refillable stainless bottles and be green.  If your little ones like sodas or that sweet stuff, just bring a jug of juice and splash some into the water for them instead. It  tastes good and it is economical too.

Plan on taking some good snacks along and let the kids pack the little snack bags. Give them dried fruits, popcorn, nuts, etc to pick from and let them go to it.

Make sure you take frequent breaks – stretch, walk a few minutes, use the bathroom, whatever, but plan on it.  It is not just good to let the kids out to burn off some energy, it is good for you too.  It may make your travel time longer, but it will be well worth it.

Be flexible.  If you see something of interest along the way, why not just do it.  Who knows if you will pass that way again and it could turn out to be a worthwhile adventure.

Don’t try to do marathon driving.  Set a reasonable time.  Then stop for the day.  Have a nice dinner, use the pool, spend the evening relaxing and get to bed early so you can be relaxed and ready to go the next morning.

Have fun!!  Relax!  Enjoy your weekend!

Money Saving Gas Tips

 

Photo courtesy of Hakan Dahlstrom

With the way the economy is now and particularly the rising gas prices as relates to travel, we are seeing increases in everything from airfares to even just taking the family on a little road trip. It used to be that driving yourself was a good option for savings. Not so much any more.

Yet, there are still a few tactics out there to help curb driving costs on a trip. I have been reading and hearing about a number of good tips on how to conserve gas when driving and in the end, all these little bits of savings can add up.

I compiled some of the ones that I thought were good and want to pass on some of this advice to you bloggers to encourage you to consider keeping those driving travel plans if you are willing to adhere to a few of these pointers. Some may just seem like common sense and they are but still bear mentioning.

  • Rapid acceleration and braking can lower gas mileage by 33% on highways.
  • Turn off or turn down the AC and drive with the windows open to save about 5-20%.
  • Travel light. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk works out to about using an extra 20 gallons a year.
  • Mileage decreases rapidly when you drive above 60 mph. For each 5 miles above 60 you pay about $.24 / gallon more for gas.
  • Use your cruise control to maintain a steady speed.
  • Keep your tires inflated properly, and check often. Look at the label on the door of the driver’s side. This alone will save you about 3% of fuel costs.
  • Keep you car in good repair. Need a tune up? Getting one can improve gas mileage on average 4%.

Get in the habit of doing these things as a matter of habit and save on your road trip and all the time.

Do you have some gas savings tips to share? Love to hear them.

Getting There is Half the Fun

“It’s better to travel well than to arrive.”   -Bhudda

You are planning your honeymoon or you and your daughter are taking a trip together to create some special memories. Do you save on the transportation to have more to spend when you get there or do you think of the journey to there as important enough to be a part of the celebration? If it is a trip of a lifetime, why not go in luxury all the way!!! Just this once!

One thing that I think makes sense is to work with a travel agent. These days agents don’t often charge for their services, but they could work with you to create the full package and give you tips and ideas of ways to get the most for the money you have to spend.

Would you rather be in first class, even if expensive, and drink champagne and be served a meal on linen or do you want to sit cramped in the back, paying for a bag of nuts? Do you want to be transported by a limo or drive yourself to the airport and hassle with luggage and satellite parking? These are choices that could make the difference in creating a truly memorable, special occasion trip.

Baggage claim by Mat Honan

Photo by Mat Honan

015ed by Mark F. Levisay

Photo by Mark F. Levisay

OR

Rolls-Royce 20-25 Gurney Nutting Saloon by Ed Callow [ torquespeak ]

Photo by Ed Callow

Arabic Mezzah by Sarah_Ackerman

Photo by Sarah_Ackerman

Be sure you both of you are part of the planning and then create a budget. Decide on the type of experience you would like to share– some exotic spot, someplace private, a glitzy city, a trip to wine county?? Describe to your agent what you would like and let her help you figure out what some good options are. If you want to get the first class treatment and can be open to suggestion, you are likely to work out a plan to include all the little luxuries to make it a dream come true trip from start to finish.

Beware – When Fare is not Fair

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by snappED_up

There is no doubt that air fares are beginning to creep up again. We all know about the airlines who have already added the fuel surcharge and, more recently, baggage charges and some who even charge for snacks. When these worked the floodgates opened and airlines looked for ways to add on some more. Due to supply and demand, the “Peak Holiday Surcharge” is a common add-on for holidays like Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.

So now, yes, there is another layer of fees or surcharges that have been added to the pot. When the holiday surcharge became commonplace, it was just a natural progression to add more days, and more and more days every few weeks, until now many airlines charge for most days – some as high as $50 one way for something like the Superbowl.

When you add all these surcharges to sales tax, airport, FAA and TSA fees, this can really add up.

Thank goodness, some of the low fare airlines are still holding out – like Southwest. I love Southwest and use them whenever and wherever possible. Then there are others like Air Trans who only adds sporadic and minimal surcharges.

To see a fee added chart with the days they are added by airlines, as well as some tips on avoiding them take a look at Rick Seaney’s article on Fare Compare under the Quick Links heading.

When you have an option to not use one of these fee happy airline,  it seems to have an impact.

Travel Tip of the Week – Order Out of Chaos

Sometimes when you are traveling, it is hard to stay organized. Everything gets jumbled up in your suitcase or seemingly bottomless purse. I think I have a few tips that could at least make a little order out of chaos. Two things – a small, tension curtain rod and a hanging shoe bag, both of which can be stuffed into your suitcase.

You can minimize the amount of clothes you need by rinsing them in the sink and then hanging them to dry on the tension rod placed in the shower. Some hotels have retractable clothes lines but most don’t.

The shoe bag can be hung on the bathroom door and can contain makeup, jewelry, hair care items like your brush, curling iron, etc, tooth brush, maybe even shoes!! Really whatever you want.

This way you can have things handy at your reach with no more packing and unpacking stuff every morning and evening when you do your grooming and at the same time keep your room nice and tidy.

Let me know what some of your packing tips are.

Tip of the Week – Cruise Tips

 

Having just come back from a little cruise, I thought I would leave you with a few tips this week so that you might benefit from my experiences.

The first deals with preparing in advance for the chance that you might experience a bout of sea sickness. If we could have spared my travel friend, Margaret, from her misery that first evening it would have made a profound difference in her enjoyment of the trip. Even if you think you would never yourself fall victim to it, it is better, as they say,to be safe than sorry. We got advice from several of the other ladies we met who had taken advance precautions. A trip to the drugstore for a patch or whatever the pharmacist had to offer would be one choice. The other was that one of the gals had bracelets special for this problem that put pressure on the inside of her wrists to avert getting sick. Next time, while I was fortunate not to be sick, I think I will be more proactive and prepare for the unexpected.

The other tip deals with watching your budget while on board. While it is true that food and SOFT beverages are included, alcohol is not. The wait staff was constantly in our face to offer Bahama Mama drinks or wine or something. And believe me, people were drinking freely at 6 or 7 or even 10 dollars a pop. I would hate to see their bills when they signed out. Fortunately, neither Margaret nor I succumbed to this so we saved a lot of money. I do enjoy a nice glass of wine or a fruity drink now and then, but we had just decided that for this trip, we would forgo the drinking, opting for iced tea, juice, milk and coffee. We are both trying to lose weight and tried to watch calories, even though I managed to gain 4 pounds!!!! Those desserts caught up with me I guess. And we really did try to monitor as best we could. But when you are out of your own kitchen, you are getting more sugar, salt, carbs, etc than you would when you prepare for yourself. But that is another topic for later perhaps.

So we are back, a little “fatter” and a little wiser. Hope you find these cruise tips helpful. If any of you have cruise experience and tips of your own, I would love for you to leave a comment and share yours too.

Travel Tip of the Week: Good Eats – Follow the Locals

Going for the fancy isn’t always the best way to go. There are a lot of little hidden gems out there where one can get the authentic flavor of a locale without falling into the tourist trap. We like to veer off the path now and then and follow the locals to see where they like to eat.

In a little town called Dunnellon, Florida, right along SR 41, we found a spot called The Front Porch. It was about as down home as you could get but I am telling you, finding a parking spot was hard to come by. Hand painted scenes on the walls and colorful rocking chairs gave it character. Even the walls in the restrooms were painted to resemble on old fashioned out house. Kind of a hoot, really.

As crowded as it was, we only had about a five minute wait to be seated. The folks who worked there were about as laid back as you could get. But friendly and courteous and downright neighborly. It was quite a diverse gang of patrons there too from a guy with a mullet and tats to two little old ladies in their Sunday going to the meeting fancy dresses with matching hats.

They had a nice little selection of menu items that I don’t often see these days- like okra and beets. But we’d had heard about the pies, and that was what we had come for. We decided to have the Cubans, not that original- I know. But then came the pies.

Roberto chose the Key Lime. It has been one of his favorites and as they were soon leaving the South, he had his last piece. He liked it.

Jenn went for the coconut cream. It was just full of fresh grated toasted coconut in the filling and the meringue and she dug right in.

Me, I went for the Lemon Meringue. Not as tart as I would have liked but very lemony and the meringue was a mile high.

It was fun exploring and we were glad we took the time out to have lunch there.

Travel Tip of the Week – “Free Trip”

 

I am always looking for a way to travel and keep to a budget. Have you ever received in the mail that you have won a free trip? We all know that that is usually never the case and there are strings attached. Right. Well, I got one for a free 3 day, 2 night cruise to the Bahamas for two, which in my case is with my ever ready travel buddy, Margaret.

Turns out, the “string attached” to this freebie is that you have to take a look at a time share in south Florida. Since I already live in Florida, there is no way I need that. But what the heck.

While this is not a way I would generally like to do it, we decided that we would do it anyway. We have to get there, but for us that is a drive in the car sharing gas, and we have to pay the port tax in the Bahamas. So if this is halfway decent, we had a few days on a cruise ship and a day of shopping at the Straw Market in Nassau. Whether this turns out to be a good idea or not we shall see. When I get back next week, I will let you know. Meanwhile, if you don’t mind the annoyance of looking, it is a free trip.

Travel Tip of the Week – Passports

I will be going into Canada this summer when I head up to Vermont to visit Jenn and Roberto and figured I should check to see if my passport was still good. It feels like a long time ago that I renewed it. Fortunately, I still have almost another year and a half on mine.

But I did a little research anyway to just see what I will need to do. It’s not that difficult to get a new passport or to renew one. It takes some time though, usually 4-6 weeks, and money, about $100 for a new one, and a little less to renew. A passport lasts for ten years. Forms can usually be gotten at the post office and pictures can be taken readily at AAA or even some drug stores. You could easily do a quick online search the the places in your local area.

As long as your current passport is in good shape, you are still using the same name, and are over 16, you could renew by mail using a DS-82 application that you can download. If some of these criteria are not the case for you, you must apply in person. To get step by step instructions, needed forms or the location of the passport agency in your area, click here.

Have passport – will travel.

Travel Tip of the Week – Share it with Family

It is always more fun to share an experience. When I find some new place to explore, it adds just that much more when I can share it with someone. And best of all are the times when I share them with Jenn and Roberto. My tip to you is that if you like to travel, save some of those moments to share with your family.

For me the last few years of monthly trips to St. Augustine to visit Jenn and Roberto have been at the top of my list. Compared to Ocala, Florida, St. Augustine has had so many more and varied things that I enjoy – the architecture, the history, the food and the beach.

The three of us have had many walks on the beach during the last nearly three years. Here we are on Easter Sunday taking another walk on the beach with Pepino and MiniP. A perfect day, a sunny 85 degrees, a cool breeze, the sound of the ocean and the sites. Wish I could tuck the sounds and smells into this post for you too.

We walked for near two hours today. It was a wonderful family moment, but a bittersweet one too. Because this occasion marks our last walk together on this St. Augustine beach before their big move!!

Till we meet again in Vermont……..

 
  Latest Articles

Latest Articles

  Latest Comments

Latest Comments

  • justin: Hmm…The article is really interesting on tipping,,These are so many tip calculator applications are...
  • Willie: Your’s is a point of view where real inetlilengce shines through.
  • Melanie: We were also serenaded at a Mexican restaurant last year :) What a cheerful experience!
  • Michelle: Mmmm….this restaurant looks yummy! Maybe one day we can try it out when I come to visit!
  • Michelle: This looks soooo fun! Have you ever heard of that crazy hotel thing down in the keys? The scuba place?...