Aug 222012
 

My daughter and I just returned from visiting my wonderful grandmother and her side of the family on the East Coast, and we tried out a new money-saving travel strategy: we packed our breakfasts so that we never had to eat out in the morning.  It was an 8-day trip, and here’s what we packed for breakfast in our carry-on luggage:

  • 16 packets of instant oatmeal (various flavors)
  • 8 tea bags (for me)
  • 1 Ziploc baggie of Ovaltine (for my daughter)

That’s it! Every morning, we prepared the oatmeal by mixing it with hot water, and I had a cup of tea and my daughter had a cup of Ovaltine.  The only thing we bought was milk, for the Ovaltine.  Well, I did borrow sugar from my fabulous cousin we were staying with, but next time I’ll remember to bring my own.  And for full disclosure, we did end up trading breakfasts a couple times- my cousin’s kids ate the oatmeal we brought, and we had their cereal.

The breakfast food only took up a small amount of space in our luggage (about the size of one athletic shoe) and we were still able to fit all of our clothes and other items in our carry-ons so that we didn’t need to check any bags.  You might be wondering if it was insanely boring to eat the same thing over and over again, but it really wasn’t- I loved the flavor of tea I brought, the oatmeal was tasty, and most importantly, we were enjoying our vacation so much that eating out for breakfast would just have gotten in the way of our fun.   Sometimes I go on vacations that are very food-centric, and though I enjoy all of the food immensely, I finish the vacation feeling bloated and sluggish.  This vacation was the opposite- food was almost an after-thought, as it was just for fueling up- the real fun was all of the great interaction we had with our extended family, and all of the time we spent at the beach.

Even if my daughter and I had avoided restaurants for breakfast and only stopped in cafes for coffee, hot chocolate, and muffins, we still would have rung up a tab of at least $10 per day, which would have been $80 for the trip.  I was so glad to save that money and just focus on the quality time spent with our relatives.

I am absolutely going to make this a standard practice for our vacations, assuming my husband will put up with it.  I have yet to try this out when staying at a hotel- in that case we would need to pack a bowl and spoon for each person, and replace the Ovaltine, which requires milk, with instant cocoa packets that can be made with hot water- so I’ll report back when I do and let you know how it went.

How do YOU save money on food on vacation?

Jul 062012
 

A road trip packing checklist ensures that you’ll be well prepared for your next road trip.  I’ve created a free, downloadable checklist in Microsoft Word that is customizable so that you can modify it to fit your needs.  This checklist focuses exclusively on the items that are specific to a road trip- for packing checklists for clothes and other general travel items see the General Packing Checklist and the Toiletries Packing Checklist.  For kid-specific items, see the Kids Packing Checklist.

Items that are unique to a road trip packing checklist include:

  • Sporting Gear (you probably do at least one of the following on a road trip: swimming, fishing, hiking, golf, tennis, camping… and they all require extra gear beyond your regular clothes)
  • Snack Foods and Drinks that can be eaten during the ride (so that you’re not tempted to spend money on snacks at gas stations)
  • Breakfast Food and Drinks for after you reach your destination (I’ll explain the benefits of this below)

Sporting Gear

Since the downloadable checklist is customizable, you’ll be able to delete the gear I listed and add in whatever sports gear you will use (life vests, goggles, fishing poles, compass, whatever) .

Snack Foods

Packing enough snacking food and drinks for the car ride is critical to conserving money on a road trip- if you or your passengers get hungry and you don’t have something to offer, you’re going to waste money at the next gas station buying junk food.  Cheap and easy snack foods include celery sticks, carrot sticks, popcorn, and trail mix.  Pack lots of individual bottles of water, juice, and/or soda so that no one gets thirsty.  (Of course, you want to keep things as healthy as possible, but if you or your passenger will insist on buying a soda on the trip anyway, then it’s better to preempt that costly compulsion by bringing along a soda that costs a fraction of gas station/fast food prices.)

Destination Foods

We save $10-$20 per day on road trips by bringing our breakfast foods with us instead of eating out at restaurants, coffee shops, or fast food places.  We bring individual packets of instant oatmeal, or cereal (either a big box, or a bunch of those single-portion cereal boxes).  For the milk, we bring single-portion aseptic milks (you know, the little milks in rectangular boxes that don’t need to be refrigerated).  To drink, we bring Starbucks VIA instant coffee (expensive, but still not as expensive/time consuming as buying at a coffee shop).  For creamer, we either bring a powdered creamer (not that tasty), or a box of those little single-serve cuppies of aseptic half and half- sold next to the coffee and hot chocolate in the grocery store.  And for our 5-year-old daughter we bring single-portion boxes of aseptic chocolate milk, or instant hot cocoa mix.  As to fruit, we either eat the tangerines we bring with us, or we pick up fresh fruit from a grocery store in the town we’re in.

Don’t get me wrong, I love trying out a good coffee shop in a new town, and eating pancakes and eggs in a sit-down restaurant.  And we do that- we just don’t do it every day of the road trip. By bringing along our breakfast foods we save a lot of money, and we save time, too- often, we want to get right to the day’s activity (like fishing, hiking, swimming), and waiting in line at a coffee shop just gets in the way of that.

Free Downloadable Road Trip Packing Checklist:

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You might also want to check out Part I of this travel packing list series: a General Packing ChecklistPart II: a packing checklist for health and beauty items, and Part III: Kids Packing Checklist.  If you’re looking for road trip activities for kids, check out this free, downloadable packet from LivingLifeIntentionally.

Jun 052012
 

Vacations run much smoother when you haven’t forgotten to pack some of your kids’ gear.  Here is a customizable, free packing checklist for kids and parents to use so that nothing is left behind when you go on vacation.  It includes often forgotten items like a thermometer and Children’s Tylenol (which can potentially save you a trip to Urgent Care).  I also added sections for summer items and winter items.  The packing checklist is a Microsoft Words document, so you can edit it pretty easily, but I included instructions nonetheless in case you’re not familiar with that program.  The key to success when using a checklist is to actually check off each item when, and only when, it has been placed in the suitcase.  So print off one checklist for each child, and let them start packing!

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You might also want to check out Part I of this travel packing list series: a general packing list for travel, and Part II: a packing checklist for health and beauty items.  Stay tuned for Part IV, where I’ll cover road trip checklists.

May 222012
 

In Part I of this travel packing list series, I gave you a general packing list for travel so that you’d remember to pack your clothes, shoes, etc.  Here in Part II I’m providing a free downloadable “Toiletry Checklist,” which is a customizable packing checklist for all of your beauty and hygiene items (razor, tweezers, make-up, sunscreen, etc.).  The likelihood of forgetting to pack at least one beauty or hygiene item is pretty high- and that means you might end up buying replacements at the hotel gift shop at ridiculously prices.   And it never feels good to spend your traveling “fun money” on things you already own at home. So print out one of these toiletry checklists for each family member, and ask them to check off each item as they pack it.

Stay tuned for Part III, where I’ll provide a travel checklist for kids, and Part IV, where I’ll cover road trip checklists.

All downloads are free to subscribers of the free Daily Citron Weekly Newsletter. Enter your email below to confirm you are a subscriber or to be added to the subscriber list. Once you enter your email the download link will appear below in orange. Your email is never shared and you can unsubscribe from the newsletter at any time.

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May 162012
 

Using “packing checklists” to prepare for travel is a great way to prevent unnecessary purchases while on vacation.  I’ve had to buy everything from disposable razors to socks to tennis shoes because of packing amnesiaAnd it never feels good to spend your traveling “fun money” on things you already own at home.  But travel checklists are a great way to make sure nothing is forgotten- each item is checked off as it is packed. Packing checklists are especially helpful for family travel- each family member gets their own checklist printed out for them to use.  Parents can then see which items still need to be packed for each kid.

Since we’re nearing the start of travel season here in the U.S.  it seemed like a great time to do a four-part series on travel checklists, with free downloadable forms included.  Part I is the general packing checklist for adults- basically, everything except toiletries (beauty and hygiene products), which have their own checklist in Part II.  The kids’ checklist is in Part III.  And Part IV is a road trip checklist.

So, back to Part I: The General Packing Checklist.  It includes your important documents (passport, cash, etc), your electronics (laptop, camera, mobile phone, iPod…), your clothes, your jewelry, and your entertainment (books, diary, etc).  I created a customizable packing checklist that includes each item within those categories, with check boxes next to them.  When you look at the checklist you might think, “Isn’t it excessive to list “cell phone” and “cell phone charger” and “headset” separately, each with their own check box?”  My answer is, “No.”  If you just list “Cell phone, etc” with one check box, I can pretty much guaranty you that someone using the list will forget one of the accessory items.  Maybe the only “someone” to do that would be me.  But, maybe not. :)

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Apr 242012
 


Lonely Planet’s 5 of the USA’s Best Trips is free right now on Amazon.  I haven’t read this book yet but I do like Lonely Planet’s books in general, as they give very specific advice about where to find the best lodging, food, and fun at every price level.  It’s an Amazon Kindle ebook, but even if you don’t own a Kindle you can still enjoy it by downloading it for free to your computer (PC or Mac), iPhone, or iPad. The instructions for doing so are included under the “Buy Now With 1 Click” button. PLEASE BE AWARE that the price is currently $0.00 but that could change at any time, so always check the price before clicking Buy Now.

Let me know what you thought of this book!