Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Reader's Travel Tips & More

Today I'm sharing some tips from readers. This first one is from Jonell, and reminded me that we did save on drinks on the drive to and from Florida as well. My husband and I drink Diet Pepsi, and we kept two liter bottles in a small cooler between the seats, where they boys were sitting, plus ice. We refilled reusable cups with tops as we traveled instead of buying a small bottle each time we stopped. We also had granola bars, crackers and pretzels to snack on. I tried to limit my drinking while we were driving, otherwise we'd be making stops every hour or so:)

Here are the readers' tips with my comments afterwards in italics.

We are planning to take in some of the LONGEST YARD SALE the first weekend in august and I suspect this is info that will be useful for that too..We bought a lightweight cooler, on wheels with a pull out handle and extra pockets on the outside for traveling...our reason is that WE GET TIRED OF THE SAME OLD RESTAURANTS where we often end up spending more money and eating more food than we should/want to...AND THERE ARE TIME WHEN WE SEE BEAUTIFUL OUTDOOR LOCATIONS THAT WE WOULD LOVE TO HAVE A LIGHT MEAL/PICNIC OR DRINKS...

The first of July we will be making a trip to my sisters in western Kentucky and then on north to our daughters in Iowa..same options for this. I intend to buy some frozen drinks to pack/add water & planning to pack as many frozen items as possible would like to hear other suggestions both for saving money and convenience.

~Jonell, http://mershongeorgiagirl.blogspot.com

A great idea for travel sandwiches is using pita bread. It is easier to hold and eat while traveling.
I purchase mine at a Greek deli..they are the best! Often the local grocers freeze their pitas. ~Herb Princess

Herb Princess is a long time member of our message forums on OFL. She sent me this tip and I wanted to share it. I told her I actually haven't been to a Greek Deli, but I'll keep my eye out because I imagine they have a lot of yummy things I would enjoy. I wish I had thought of pita bread for our Florida trip!

When we travel in a group like that we usually bring along a crock pot and sling in a pot roast with veggies to enjoy for the evening meal one night and sandwiches the next day. Spaghetti is easy and always a hit especially if you stay at a place that has a kitchen. We are going to music fest next month just the two of us and we are already planning our meals for that. ~J. Johnson

I wish I had thought of a crock pot! Next time we travel I will definitely take mine along. I can think of some great recipes that don't need much preparation. Thanks for the tip!

Thanks for the info and I'm sure you did save a lot of money. But don't sacrifice you health. Freezing water in plastic bottles is a big NO NO as it leaches dioxins in the water. ~J. Sellers

I know there is all kinds of differing advice about this. We didn't freeze the water bottles solid, and we only used them for one day then disposed of them, and started with a new one the next day.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Feeding Your Family on Road Trips

We drove two vehicles to Florida from Michigan with a total of seven people. We didn't want to eat out every meal for a lot of reasons including money and not wanting to gain a lot of weight while on vacation. We decided to pack a cooler and bring everything we needed for two days of picnic lunches to start us off.

The Cooler:
Roasted Turkey Breast
3 kinds of cheese
Soda and Bottled Water

Tote Bags:
Paper Plates
Plastic Knives
Chips & Snacks
Sandwich Rolls
Loaf of Italian Bread
This worked pretty well on the way there. We did end up eating at Steak and Shake for a late lunch one of the days.
When we got to our hotel we tried to plan for the next week. We had a suite with a refrigerator and stove in between two rooms. I don't know how you all plan your vacation, but I really did not want to cook after spending all day at Disney. We did figure out a compromise though when we visited a Super Target near the hotel. We picked up STOUFFER'S® lasagna and two boxes of garlic toast for one dinner. We also bought the store brand of enchiladas and sauce over rice plus a bag of tortilla chips. The other nights we picked up two premade pizzas at Walmart and baked those, then splurged on KFC takeout another night. We always kept cheese and snacks like granola bars, mixed nuts and animal crackers on hand for the kids, who never seem to fill up.

Another place we ate at twice which was a big hit with the kids was CiCi's Pizza Buffet, which is a chain in the U.S. Last summer we ate at one in Pennsylvania, and I know we have them in Michigan too. For a family they are a good deal, and the employees were really nice.

Eating at Disney cost us between $53.00 and $58.00 each meal. This was the inexpensive places to eat at the park. Some of the nicer restaurants cost up to $35.00 for each person. That simply wasn't in our budget, but no one seemed to mind, and we had a good time. Let me say that ten year olds NEVER tire of chicken nuggets, and teens never get sick of cheeseburgers.

Overall, I was pretty happy with how we did, considering there were seven of us, and we had to find something everyone would enjoy. If anyone has recommendations of places they visited or meals they made away from home either email me, or leave your suggestions in the comments. I'd love to know what your family did while on the road.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Heat, Humidity & Rain, Oh My

We are back from Florida, and I have all my notes jotted down on tips I wanted to share with you all on travel and amusement parks. Today I want to share what I discovered on handling the heat, humidity and the rain.

Let's start with the rain. Umbrellas work well and the small ones can be tucked into backpacks and bags IF it's not windy. If you have any wind at all, they become pretty much useless. To be truthful, when it was sprinkling, we didn't need an umbrella because it gave us a nice break from the heat. What about rain ponchos? I learned quite a bit through trial and error. We have this lovely set of University of Michigan rain ponchos we were given for Christmas. The problem is they are meant to be used for football games in the Midwest, which take place in the fall. In 80-90 degree heat and humidity one tends to cook in a heavy rain poncho. We also learned that 7 ponchos folded and stuffed into backpacks are heavy. VERY heavy.

My advice on dealing with rain at an amusement park is this: buy the cheapest, thinnest rain ponchos you can find before you go on your trip. Everyone can stuff them in a pocket, or put them all in a backpack where they will be with you, and can be pulled out when needed. Watching the weather is always a good idea, but sometimes it's not right on the money. Lockers are also available at parks, but they do you little good when you are across the park and the downpour starts. (Yes, that one is from experience.)

I have a list of tips on handling the heat. Some are very simple, but make a big difference.

1. Find the shade when walking or sitting whenever possible.

2. Dress for comfort, rather than fashion. Loose, comfortable and light clothing is the way to go.

3. Hats are good, but can make you sweat more if they are too big or heavy. Choose light hats and put up longer hair so it's off your neck.

4. If the park you visit has inside and outside attractions, save the inside ones for the hottest part of the day or alternate between the two so you spend some of the time out of the sun.

5. Find out the hours of the park. IF you don't need to be there from opening to closing, consider going later in the day, and staying until it closes. The evening is cooler, and often things aren't quite as crowded, depending on the day of the week. If you have an option of leaving and returning, then go early in the day, take a break, and return later when it starts to cool down.

6. Mist fans are all the rage. DO NOT wait and buy these at an amusement park. They are anywhere from $15.00 to $20.00 and up. Stop at Walmart or Target and pick them up for less than ten bucks. They do take batteries, so remember to pick those up too. These are great for kids, and lessen the "whine factor" quite a bit as I discovered.

7. Keeping coolers cold is SO important. We didn't take one to the park but we used one on the way to Florida and on the way home. Don't scrimp on ice--you can buy it along the way. Keep your meat, cheese and especially mayonnaise or anything with eggs or dairy in it COLD. Food poisoning will not be a memory you want during your trip. Drain the cooler whenever the ice starts to melt.

Below is a picture of my three kids at Epcot. Isabelle, who's been a newsletter and blog reader of mine since Emily was a baby, wanted to see how grown up they were now. The kids are 10, 16 and 17, and growing up way to fast:)