Frugal Life · Travel · Uncategorized

New York City in a Weekend

I have always dreamed of visiting New York City.  There is just something about the lights, the buildings, and the hustle and bustle that appealed to me.

I’ve talked about this dream with my sister for years and one day she stopped me and said, “Let’s do it! Let’s go visit New York City this year.”  And I said, “Ok!”  We decided to try to keep the budget low and to only visit for 3 nights, one weekend.  We made our list of “must stops” and started planning.

weekend in nyc

Day 1:  Thursday

We arrived in NYC at around 6 pm and after checking into our hotel we hit the streets!

*Money Saving Tip*

–We booked our hotel Priceline.  We found that they had the best deals (this is NOT sponsored!).  We also used ebates which gave us an extra 6% off the price.  We scored a boutique midtown hotel (with a king bed) for only $200/night.

Our first stop was pizza at Uncle Pauls Pizza.  The pizza was delicious and only $4/slice.  Win, Win!

After dinner we walked around and enjoyed sight seeing.  We visited Grand Central Station, St.Patricks Cathedral, window shopped down 5th Avenue, and ended the night in Times Square.  Everything we saw Thursday night was completely free!

 

Day 2:  Friday

Breakfast Friday morning was at Home Front Deli.  This is a small little restaurant, but boy was it delicious!  They made the best bagels I tried all weekend!  I highly recommend!

After breakfast we headed to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or The Met for short.  This was one of my favorite stops of the entire trip!  It is WELL worth the money!  You could spend DAYS in this museum.  We focused on the Egyptian Room, The American Wing, and European Art.  Everything was absolutely incredible!

 

*Money Saving Tip*

–To help on costs we bought the Explorer Pass.  This was the cheapest option we found for us to be able to see our “must stop” places.  We used it for The Met, Top of the Rock and 9/11 Memorial Museum.  You can customize the Explorer Pass, enabling you to pick and choose the places you want to go.

After The Met we rode the bus down to Top of the Rock and were treated to absolutely amazing views of New York City.  Going to the top of Top of the Rock is not only cheaper than the Empire State Building, the views are also better.

 

Next, was lunch at The Halal Guys for the best Gyros I have ever had.  This is seriously a must stop.  The portions was huge and only around $8 for a platter.

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That night we had tickets to go see The Lion King on Broadway.  This was one of our big splurges for the trip and it did not disappoint!  We paid full price for our tickets to The Lion King, but there are ways to get discount Broadway Tickets.

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*Money Saving Tip*

—You can buy same day Broadway tickets at the TKTS booth located right in Times Square.  These same day tickets are heavily discounted for a select shows.

–For Hamilton tickets download the Hamilton app onto your phone.  You can enter a lottery with the winner given the option to buy two Broadway Hamilton tickets for just $10 a piece.  Warning:  I have entered this lottery numerous time with no success!

–Check out Today Tix for discounted tickets that can be bought in advance.  We used this service for a Broadway show Saturday night and were very pleased with it!

Day 3:  Saturday

Saturday breakfast was at Zuckers Bagels.  I didn’t enjoy this breakfast quite as much as Home Front Deli, but it was still really good!

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Immediately after breakfast we headed to the 9/11 museum.  We were treated to an amazing museum full of heart wrenching photos, survivor stories and gut wrenching facts.  We spent about 3 hours walking around and taking it all in.  We honestly could have spent all day there, they had so many exhibits and information to look through.

 

 

After the museum we headed Downtown to hop onto the Staten Island Ferry.  This is a completely FREE ferry that takes you right past the statue of liberty.  It was so simple to walk right on to the ferry.  I recommend going to the very back so that you can also be treated to a view of the NYC skyline.

The views of the Statue of Liberty were even better than we had expected!  Once we arrived to New Jersey, we walked off, went around the corner and walked right onto the next ferry to ride back to Manhattan.  This was really easy, and you just can’t beat FREE!

Next, we headed to Brooklyn for a walk across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.  It was a wet and stormy day, but we still enjoyed the views on the bridge. The architecture was incredible!

 

That evening we had dinner at The Melt.  They make gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches.  The food was amazing and very budget friendly!

After dinner we headed to another Broadway Show, Waitress.  To save money on this show we bought our tickets using TodaysTix.

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Day 4:  Sunday

We had half a day on Sunday before needing to catch our plane.  Breakfast was at Wafels and Dinges.  Which is absolutely delicious, and a MUST stop when in New York City.

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Following my sweet tooth we went straight from breakfast to Levain Bakery for the absolute BEST cookie I have EVER had!!!  You MUST, I repeat, MUST stop by Levain Bakery.  Their cookies were absolutely amazing!

 

We ate our cookies in Central Park and then spent the rest of the morning wandering the paths and enjoying the day.  It truly is a beautiful park with so many unique areas and sights.  I loved strolling through all of the different areas.

 

Our trip was a busy whirlwind, but I wouldn’t change anything!  We were able to see everything we wanted to see, and had a lot of fun doing it!  I can’t wait to go back again one day and visit even more of the amazing sights.

Be sure to check out my post 20 Completely Free Things to do in New York City for more budget friendly New York City ideas!

 

 

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Frugal Life · Travel

20 Completely Free Things to do in New York City

Did you see my post about our recent whirlwind of a trip to New York City?  We had so much fun in the big apple!  I fell in love with all of the beautiful buildings and delicious food.  We tried to keep costs low and were still able to find plenty of fun activities to do.  During all of my research and planning I just couldn’t believe how many completely FREE things there are to do in NYC.  I’m sharing a few of those ideas with you today!

nyc on a budget

20 Free Things to Do While in NYC

Explore a City Park

1.  Wander Around Central Park

You could literally spend DAYS in Central Park.  There is SO much to see and do!  We loved wandering around watching the performers and enjoying the beauty.  Be sure to visit The Mall, Belvedere Castle and Bethesda Fountain.

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2.  Walk the High Line

The High Line is a beautiful elevated park.  It was made from an old railroad no longer in use.  The High Line provides a miles of walking paths and gardens.

3.  Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park has over 9 acres of beauty located in Greenwich Village.  It is well known for the landmark Washington Square Arch.  This park provides many different things to see and do.

4.  Bryant Park

Bryant Park is located right in midtown, making a visit quick and easy.  We visited Bryant Park in late October and they had their Christmas Shops and ice skating rink set up.  It was so fun to walk around looking through the cute little shops.

5.  Battery Park

Located near the entrance to the free Staten Island Ferry you will find Battery Park.  It is another large city park with paths and many statues and memorials.  A visit to Battery Park will also give you a good view of the Statue of Liberty!

Famous NYC Landmarks

6.  Take the Staten Island Ferry to Statue of Liberty

You may not be able to go visit the Statue of Liberty for free, but you can get a free boat ride that will take you right past Lady Liberty.  The Staten Island Ferry is a completely free round trip ride with fantastic views!

7.  Visit Grand Central Station

It only takes a few minutes to pop in and visit Grand Central Station, but it is WORTH it!  The architecture of the building is absolutely breathtaking!  I loved ever minute we spent inside.

 

8.  Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge

We had so much fun walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.  The architecture is absolutely beautiful and it only takes about 30 minutes!  The best views are when you walk from Brooklyn into Manhattan.

 

9.  9/11 Memorial Plaza

To gain entrance into the 9/11 museum you will need to pay, but walking around the grounds and seeing the site of the beautiful memorial is completely free!  There is a special reverence on the grounds that will touched me.

10.  Times Square

There really is nothing quite like Times Square.  A true melting pot of lights, colors, people and sounds.  Times Square is completely free to visit and a great place for people watching!  It’s fun to visit at least once, but I wouldn’t recommend staying for more than 5-10 minutes.

11.  Rockefeller Plaza

Home of the famous Rockefeller Skating Rink is Rockefeller Plaza.  It’s a fun section of the city to walk around and explore for a few minutes.  We visited when the ice skating rink was set up and we loved watching the skaters for a few minutes and window shopping past the buildings.

 

12.  Flat Iron Building

The iconic Flat Iron Building is a perfect spot for an Instagram photo!  It is such a unique building and I can’t wait to visit it someday.

10.  New York Library

I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t really believe a library was a worthwhile stop on our trip, but I was SO wrong!  This building is absolutely beautiful!  We spent about 20-30 minutes to quickly walk around and view the different rooms (be sure to stop at the Rose Reading Room!).  This was one of my favorite buildings we saw.

 

11.  Charging Bull

If you are in the Wall Street area, you must stop by and see the famous Charging Bull.  It’s another picture perfect spot!

Free Museums

12.  Bronx Museum of the Arts

The Bronx Museum of the Arts is the home to many unique art exhibits.  It is large and open and rarely ever crowded.  The best part is it is completely free!

13.  Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology

If you have any interest in clothing and fashion, you would probably enjoy the free Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.  It’s exhibits showcase the history and workings of the exciting fashion world.

Visit an Old Church

14.  Trinity Church

A visit to Trinity Church on Wall Street gives you not only a visit to a beautiful old church, but it’s also has an old cemetery on the grounds.  You will be able to find a few historical figures buried there, including Alexander Hamilton and his wife.

15.  Cathedral of St. John the Divine

The Cathedral of St.John the Divine is the largest cathedral in the world.  With plenty of detail and beautiful stain glass windows, it is worth stopping at!

16.  St. Patricks Cathedral

St. Patricks Cathedral is a must see when in New York City.  I originally thought we would only stop by for a few minutes, but the cathedral was so gorgeous with lots of details to look at, we ended up staying much longer.

 

Explore a New Neighborhood

18.  Walking Tour

Google “NYC Walking Tour” and you will find countless free guides that tell you exactly where to walk and what to visit in each neighborhood.  One of my favorite parts of New York City was taking in the beauty and uniqueness of each neighborhood.

 

19.  China Town

There is really nothing like visiting China Town.  I love walking through the streets, browsing the shops and taking in all of the sights, sounds, and smells.  China Town is a place you could spend hours in, or just walk through quick, it’s completely up to you!

20.  Window Shop on 5th Avenue

We had so much fun walking down 5th Avenue and peeking in all of the different stores.  This is not shopping for the cheap!  But, it is free (and fun!) to look!

 

There really is nowhere like New York City.  You can enjoy this great city, without breaking the bank!

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Be sure to check out New York City in a Weekend for more budget friendly NYC tips and tricks!

Family · Finances · Frugal Life · Good Ideas · Money Educatioin · Money Helps · Parenting · Travel

The life lessons that taught me to budget for JOY while living in the present!

budget for joy

I’ve been asked a few times my opinion about spending money on life experiences right now, or if it’s best to keep saving and wait for the future.

The obvious answer from a frugal, budget loving blogger, who loves to encourage everyone to spend conservatively and plan for their future, would be to advise everyone to wait until later and build your wealth now…..

However……..

I actually feel very strongly about the importance of budgeting money to experience JOYFUL experiences right now.  In THIS moment….because, you know what, those golden years you are anxiously waiting for, they just might not come…..

My sweet mother was a huge saver.  I have learned ALL of my frugal ways from her.  And, the truth is……I’m still not as frugal as she was, I don’t think I’ll EVER be as frugal as she was.

I think the thing I admire most about her is the fact that she did NOT need to be frugal, she had a very comfortable income.  She CHOSE to be frugal because she understood the value of saving money.

She passed away when she was 48.  I was 22.

Losing her at such a young age has had a HUGE impact on the way I view life.  I have developed the mindset that life is temporary, short, and fragile.  It is a gift to be treasured and celebrated.

I am fairly confident in saying that my natural instincts would be to save EVERYTHING for the future and look forward to enjoying life once that comfortable retirement kicks in.

But…..my life experiences, have taught me a different lesson.  I do believe in saving for your future…..I ALSO believe in spending some money on enjoying life in the present.

I have begun to focus on BALANCE.

It MUST be a priority to pay off all debt, save aggressively for your retirement, save to send your kids to college, try to build wealth, etc…..

At the same time, you need to budget for a little bit of JOY.

This does NOT mean it’s ok to go on a luxury vacation while charging everything to your credit card.  This is NOT an excuse to blow your budget because you are “enjoying life.”

It does mean it is ok (and I would argue important) to give yourself some fun money, take a break every now and then, explore the areas around you, and LIVE life to it’s fullest.

This will look different for everyone.  For some this could be a weekend road trip, others might prefer a quiet stay cation.  It doesn’t matter what it is you do for JOY, it only matters that you are taking the time and effort to do it!  (and…you know what, it actually doesn’t need to cost a lot of money to have meaningful, joyful experiences!)

Be intentional with your spending.  Intentional with saving money.  Intentional with budgeting and building wealth.  But also, be intentional with your life experiences.  Life is to short to only enjoy it when you get older…..make sure you are experiencing it right now too!

I would love to know your opinion on this subject!  We each have had different life experiences that have shaped us into the people we are today.  Do you agree or disagree with my thoughts?  Are you trying to be intentional with budgeting AND enjoying life?  Let me know in the comments!!

 

Travel

Kauai on a Budget

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I have never seen anywhere more breathtaking than the beautiful Hawaiian Island of Kauai.  With it’s gorgeous green mountains, cascading waterfalls, and picturesque beaches, it is my idea of a perfect vacation spot.

When I was planning our trip to Kauai I spent hours and hours researching everything there is to know about the “Garden Isle.”  I wanted to enjoy every inch of the island, but without having to spend much money.

I read a lot of books about Kauai and the very very best one I found was The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook: Kauai Revealed.  This book was everything!  I consulted it about beaches, hotels, restaurants, etc.  EVERYTHING you could want to know about Kauai is in this wonderful perfect book.  My husband teases me that I have it memorized because of all the facts I kept spouting out of it.  🙂  Seriously though, if you are going to Kauai read The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook: Kauai Revealed.

After a lot of research and planning we were able to plan the perfect vacation and stayed within the budget.  Today’s post is going to be sharing what worked for us and all of the money saving tips I learned along the way.

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Where to Stay

We were able to find a condo to rent for $100 a night on VRBO.com.  It was a studio on the beach with a small kitchenette.  Having the kitchenette enabled us to make a lot of our meals right in the condo.  VRBO is seriously amazing for finding great deals on lodging while traveling.  It has a lot of options and was very easy and great to work with.  I will use them every single time I travel to Hawaii.

We decided to stay on the East Shore so that we would have easy access to both the North and South sides.  It was only ten minutes from the airport and very quick and easy to find.  The East Shore hotels were all cheaper than the other areas, which is exactly what I was looking for!  We did have a beach front property, but the waves are very strong on the East Shore and it was not a safe beach for swimming.  This didn’t bother us, but it is important to point out in case others are needing something different.

Rental Car

If you want to spend any time outside of your resort you will need a rental car in Kauai.  We reserved an economy sized vehicle on discounthawaiicarrental.com for ONLY $6 a day.  YES!  You read that right!  $6 a day!   The prices change often so you will want to check the website frequently, and when you find a low price make sure to snatch it up because the price will change.

Where to Eat

We ate most of our meals in our condo.  Immediately after arriving in Kauai we went to the local grocery store and stocked up on easy quick foods to prepare throughout the week.  We stopped at Foodland in Kapaa, but I know others who do their shopping at Walmart or Costco.  We had fruit and toast for breakfasts, packed sandwiches for lunch and stopped for quick dinners while we were out exploring.  A few of our favorite cheap eateries were Tacos Al Pastor, Da Crack, Hanalei Taro & Juice Company, and Puka Dog.

We ate Shaved Ice every day while in Hawaii.  It is so good and is a MUST try!  Our favorite shaved ice was at Hee Fat General Store in Kapaa.  We always ordered one to share to save a little extra money.  We did splurge on ordering real fruit syrup, this was definitely worth the splurge.

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What to Do

There are so many fun FREE activities to do on Kauai.  You do not need to spend a lot of money, or any money to have a great vacation.  We had a great week adventuring around the island and spent very little money on activities.

Snorkel Bobs

We rented snorkel gear for the week from Snorkel Bobs.  It was only about $15 for the entire week.  It was so nice to have the gear with us all the time so we could pull it out whenever we came across a great snorkel area.  Our two favorite snorkeling beaches are Hideaways and Turtles.  Snorkeling is very best in the morning, so get their early!

Beaches

Kauai has so many beautiful beaches.  With golden coarse sand, blue turquoise water, and large green mountains for a backdrop it is the perfect place to spend a day relaxing and playing in sun and sand.  The beaches and parking are all FREE, so take advantage of them!

Our favorite beaches on the North Shore were Kee and Hideaways.  Kee is at the end of the very end of the road.  Parking is limited and fills up quickly, so I recommend getting there first thing.  Hideaways is a little bit harder to find which makes it a perfect, quiet, and uncrowded beach.  To get there we used valet parking at the St.Regis Princeville (this is free, but it is a good idea to tip!).  There is a trail a short distance away to hike down to the beach.  The trail is steep and slippery, so wear good shoes.

Our favorite beach on the South Shore was Kiahuna Beach, also known as Sheraton Beach.  Kiahuna Beach is located directly in front of the Sheraton Kauai Resort.

Hiking

Kauai is known as the adventure island for good reason!  There are so many beautiful hikes to do and beautiful places to explore.

Our first day we hiked along the Kalalau Trail.  This is an intense 11 mile long hike along the Napali Coast.  We just hiked the first two miles of it to Hanakapiai Beach.  The views along this trail were incredible.  The majority is right alongside the ocean.  The Kalalau trail starts out extremely rocky and steep, so be prepared.  It is worth hiking the first 1/2 mile at least for a fantastic view of Kee Beach.

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Secret Falls

Secret Falls is a magestic 100 foot waterfall deep in the rainforest.  The only way to get to  Secret Falls is to kayak down the Wailua River and then hike about 30 minutes through the rainforest.  You could pay for a guided tour that will take you to Secret Falls, but we decided to go with a much cheaper option.

We rented a kayak from Kamokila Hawaiian Village in Kapaa.  It is right on the Wailua River and you launch the kayak right from the village.  It cost us $35 for a daily rental.  They give you a map showing where you need to go and will answer any questions you might have.

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We kayaked about 15 minutes up the river, docked the kayaks and hiked to the waterfall.  This trail is very muddy, so bring water shoes!  We passed MANY people hiking barefoot because it was to muddy for sneakers.  When we arrived at Secret Falls a large tour group just happened to be leaving and we were able to have the entire place to ourselves.  It was so fun swimming under the waterfall.

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Once we got back to our kayak we paddled up stream another 5 minutes to a cliff jumping spot and were able to jump off the cliff and swim in the river for a little while.

We loved this entire day and it was really so easy to rent and find where to go all by ourselves.

Sightseeing

There are so many great sight seeing stops around the island.  They are all free and fun to stop at.  I’ll list a few of our favorites.

East Shore

Wailua Falls:  These falls are very easy to get to, and a only a quick stop alongside the road.  They are absolutely breathtaking!

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Opaekaa Falls:  I’ll be honest, I was a little underwhelmed by Opaekaa Falls.  But, I do know of many others who have enjoyed seeing them.  They are very easy access right off the road and only take a few minutes to view.

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South Shore

Tree Tunnel:  While driving into Poipu on the South Shore you will pass through what’s known as the Tree Tunnel.  It is a beautiful section of road lined with Eucalyptus Trees.

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Spouting Horn:  Spouting Horn is located near Poipu Beach.  A blowhole is naturally formed when water crashes through a small hole in the lava rocks.  The water can reach up to 50 feet in the air.

Waimea Canyon:  The road to Waimea Canyon is a little long, but the views are spectacular!  It is called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.  The reds of the canyon next to the green vegetation were breathtaking!  We did not spend a lot of time here, but there are a lot of hikes in the area that all sound fun to do and explore.  Drive a little further up the road and view the Kalalau Valley Lookout.  It is another view of the beautiful Napali coast and was once home to an ancient Hawaiian village. The history buff in me enjoyed imagining what life was once like there.

North Shore

The North Shore is my FAVORITE and the next time I go to Kauai I will be spending all of my time here!  It is so green and dense with vegetation.  This is the part of the Island that gives Kauai the nickname the Garden Island.

Kilauea Lighthouse:  This picturesque lighthouse is located just a few minutes off the main  highway.  It is a beautiful sight..  We only viewed it from the parking lot, but I know that there is a bird sanctuary and other fun things to see.

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Hanalei Pier:  Hanalei Beach wasn’t my favorite, but it was a very pretty area to view and I am glad we made the visit.  It is a popular place for boogie boarding and surfing and we were able to catch a few waves and a bunch of laughs for the afternoon.  I did love walking out on the pier and watching the locals jumping off.

Hanalei Valley Lookout:  Right along the main road right, just past Princeville you will find this beautiful area of taro farms.  They look like a green patchwork quilt and is a great stopping spot for a few pictures.  When we were there we counted 8 waterfalls on the mountain right behind the field.  It was a breathtaking sight!

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Souvenirs

The best place to find souvenirs is at the ABC Store.  We stopped at the one in Kapaa on our last day in Kauai.  I was happily surprised and impressed to see how much cheaper the souvenirs were here than at the other places we looked at during the week.  They have all your typical souvenirs; shirts, trinkets, food, etc.  We bought a few things to bring back home to our kids.

 

If you do some research and planning you can visit Kauai on a budget!  We spent less than $2,000 for our entire trip.  Half of that was spent on airfare.

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Have you ever been to Kauai?  What was your favorite thing that you did?

 

Affiliate · Get Away Today · Travel

How we visited San Diego on a Budget

I am a Get Away Today partner and may receive commissions for Get Away Today vacations booked through links on my site (THANKS).  I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own.  I was recommending Get Away Today to all my friends BEFORE becoming a partner, because they are that amazing.  🙂

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A couple of weeks ago I blogged all about our trip to Southern California.  We spent a couple of days in Anaheim and a couple days in San Diego.  You can find the blog detailing the Anaheim portion of the trip here: Our Disney Savings Plan: How we paid for our Disney Vacation while on a small budget.  Refer to my Disney post to read all the details about how we saved money on food, souvenirs and transportation while on this trip.  Today’s blog is all about our couple of days in San Diego.

Once we arrived in San Diego we checked into our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express San Diego Circle.  We loved this hotel.  It was a really good value.  It had a modern layout and design.  The kids always had the pool to themselves, and the room was the perfect size for our family of five.  It had two queen size beds and a couch that could be made into a bed.  It was nice to have a little elbow room while in the room.  We found the hotel on Get Away Today.  I am so in love with Get Away Today.  They offer the best discounts on any Southern California Vacation, and they are so easy to work with.  I used them a few years ago for a trip and knew that we wanted to use them again for this trip. Get Away Today is offering my readers an additional discount, I’ll share the coupon code at the end of the post!

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We had two full days in San Diego and wanted to spend one of those days at a beach. I researched San Diego beaches and came across Coronado Beach. It looked and sounded beautiful so we decided to spend our beach day there.  The parking was FREE, which is a huge bonus to me.  The beach was beautiful with soft golden sand and a great view.  We spent a Sunday there and were expecting large crowds, we were so pleasantly surprised when we found the beach quiet and we seemed to have our own little space all to ourselves.  The waves were calm enough for my school aged kids to swim in, they spent hours laughing and swimming in the waves.  Our favorite part of the beach were the sea shells.  When the tide went out around 2 in the afternoon we were able to find dozens of perfectly round beautiful sand dollars.  We had so much fun walking up and down the beach collecting our treasured sand dollars.  We ended up finding 53 perfect sand dollars in only about an hours time.  If you are looking for a great San Diego beach and love finding great shells go to Coronado Beach.

 

Our other day in San Diego was spent at Sea World.  This was a highlight of our trip. The park was so empty, we were able to walk right onto every ride, had great seats for all the shows and loved learning more about the beautiful sea animals.  Get Away Today offers 7 day Sea World tickets for a great price.  If you are wanting to spend a few days at Sea World be sure to buy those tickets from Get Away Today.  We only had time for one day though so we bought our tickets directly from Sea World’s website.  If you are only going to spend one day there then definitely buy them from their website, you won’t find a lower price anywhere else.

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My only regret about San Diego was that we didn’t spend more time there.  I wish we had planned a few extra days and I want to go back and visit again sometime.  It is a really beautiful city with so many activities.

If you are planning a Southern California vacation through Get Away Today feel free to use the coupon code:  SweetFrugal at checkout for an extra $10 off your vacation package.  Happy Frugal Travels!

Affiliate · Disney · Frugal Life · Get Away Today · Travel

Our Disney Savings Plan: How we paid for our Disney Vacation while on a small budget

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Last fall we took our family on a vacation to Southern California.  We spent a week exploring California, bonding as a family and playing at many of the fun amusement parks.

We started planning this trip a couple of years before it actually happened (planner by nature here!).  We knew we wanted to go on a family vacation in a year or two and we knew that we wanted to save up for it slowly.   I wanted to share the steps that we went through as we planned, saved, and explored California all while on a budget.

We spent a few nights in San Diego and a few nights in Anaheim.  Today’s post will be all about our stay in Anaheim.  Be sure to check out my post How we visited San Diego on a Budget to read about our few days in San Diego.

Disney Savings Plan

First, we set our budget.  We wanted to spend less than $5,000 on the trip.  Once the budget was set we developed an aggressive 52 week savings plan.  I pinned this chart up on my wall to keep me focused and excited as I saved little by little each week and got to cross off each week as our Disney fund grew.

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Hotel

Once we had our savings plan set I began researching.  I checked daily different travel websites and reading review after review of different hotels.  We needed a hotel large enough to sleep our family of five, one that included an in room microwave and fridge, free hotel breakfast and the kids requested a pool.  🙂

We found a great deal and exactly what we wanted in Springhill Suites Anaheim Maingate.  I purchased the hotel through Get Away Today as part of a Disney Vacation package.  We had the pool to ourselves every single night.  The large breakfast was wonderful, they even had Nutella (my favorite!) for my toast.  The room felt nice and spacious with two queen beds and a small couch (turned into a bed) and desk.  I think my favorite part of the room was the large closet where we could hang up our clothes and stash our suitcases.  I will be sharing below a $10 off coupon from Get Away Today later in the post.

Tickets

Get Away Today is the absolute cheapest place to buy Disneyland tickets.  Promise.  I have searched and searched and could not find any cheaper than Get Away Today offered.

We decided to spend two days at Disneyland and bought a one day at each park pass.  This made it possible for us to spend an entire day at both Disneyland and California Adventure.  The parks are each so large, I find it not worth the extra money to buy the park hopper ticket.  We bought these tickets as part of our vacation package with the hotel.

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We added a one day pass to Universal Studios to our vacation package and had so much fun spending the day exploring Hogwarts and Hogsmeade.  If you are a Harry Potter fan, you MUST visit Universal Studios.  The attention to detail was incredible!

 

 

Transportation

Plane tickets for a family of five are pricey, so we decided to drive the 13 hours to California.  We made it a fun road trip experience for our kids, making multiple sight seeing stops and playing many many car games.

While in Anaheim we decided to use the ART shuttle to take us to and from the Disneyland resort.  The ticket prices for the shuttle was very reasonable as part of our package from Get Away Today.  It was so nice to just sit down on the shuttle and rest our tired feet after a long day playing at the park.  The shuttle was always available for us with very little wait time and the ride to and from the hotel was short.

Food

I’ll start off by saying that our family are not big foodies.  I would rather spend money on experiences then food.  We decided to only purchase one meal a day.  Before driving to California I packed up a cooler full of snacks and makings for sandwiches.  Breakfast was provided by the hotel daily.  We packed sandwiches, bagels and snacks into the amusement parks with us every day.  For dinner, we ate at budget friendly restaurants inside the parks.  It was so handy having the snacks all packed into individual serving baggies, we whipped them out while standing in long lines and it helped keep the kids happy and occupied.

Below I listed a few of our favorite budget friendly places to eat while inside the parks.

Disneyland

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Bengal Barbeque: The Bengal Barbeque has really tasty meat and vegetable skewers for under $5!

Cafe Orleans:  The Cafe Orleans is not your cheapest option, but I had heard so many great things about the Monte Cristo Sandwich I decided to include it in our food budget.  The Monte Cristo Sandwich is only served at the Blue Bayou and Cafe Orleans.  The sandwich is the exact same at both restaurants, but $7 dollars cheaper at Cafe Orleans. So, if you want to try the sandwich do it Cafe Orleans!  We also decided to split the sandwich between my husband and I and then we split a plate of kids Mac and Cheese between my three kids.  Splitting between the three kids was a little small, next time I would buy two kids orders to split.  For the five of us we spent about $30.  Which is the most we spent on a meal the entire trip, but totally worth it to me to get to taste that delicious cheesy Monte Cristo Sandwich!

Rancho Del Zocalo:  Rancho Del Zocalo offers delicious food with very generous servings.  This is another great option for splitting an entree.

California Adventure

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Cozy Cone Motel:  The Cozy Cone Motel offers different snack options that could be turned into a small meal.  We ordered a couple of chili cone quesos and they were so good and so satisfying, and under $10!  Yay!

Pacific Wharf Cafe:  The Pacific Wharf Cafe has great soup and salads each for around $11.  My favorite is Broccoli and Cheese soup served in their famous Sour Bread Bowl.  So GOOD!

Universal Studios

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We weren’t to adventurous while eating at Universal Studios.  We ate at Panda Express which is located at the bottom lot.  We had a hard time narrowing down which restaurant to try at Universal and ended up going the easy safe route.  Panda Express had good cheap options and the service was very quick.

Souveniers

A month before we left on our vacation I printed off some play money and told my kids that they will need to do chores in order to earn money to buy souvenirs while on our vacation.  They earned between $20-30 total.  We told them that this was their money to spend however they wanted, but once it was gone it was gone.  If they wanted a souvenir or a fun treat that we weren’t going to buy for them they had to make that decision if they wanted to spend their money on it or not.  This really  helped us to not impulse buy and overspending while in the park.  We all had our limit and we stuck to it.

I have also heard a great tip if you are a Target shopper.  Target has Disney Gift Cards available to buy and these can be used within the park.  If you use your Target Red Card you get an automatic 5% off all purchases, and this counts toward gift cards too!  I didn’t try it, but I think it is a really smart idea.

 

We like to use our Discover Credit Card (and pay it off IMMEDIATELY) for big purchases like traveling.  I explained all about it in my blog post titled The one idea I disagree with Dave Ramsey on.  Discover will sometimes give 5% cashback towards travel purchases.  After I have budgeted and saved enough money I then wait for this 5% cashback offer.  Once Discover offers it I then purchased the hotel package.  In this case I was given around $200 cashback.  A great deal!

We had such an amazing family vacation with lots of memories made and laughter shared.  I never feel deprived when traveling on a budget.  We plan, prepare, and spend wisely.  It makes for a guilt free vacation.

Coupon Code

If you are looking into planning a family vacation on a budget Get Away Today will give each of my readers $10 off a vacation package when you use the code SweetFrugal at checkout.  I recommend this travel website to anyone who is looking into good deals on travel!

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Do you have some favorite budget friendly travel tips?  Please share them in the comments!  I would love to learn more tips!

I am a Get Away Today partner and may receive commissions for Get Away Today vacations booked through links on my site (THANKS).  I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own.  I was recommending Get Away Today to all my friends BEFORE becoming a partner, because they are that amazing.  🙂