Ways to Save Money on Vacation

We recently went on a trip to Great Wolf Lodge and it was a b l a s t!

Since we lived in Oklahoma for medical school, we kept hearing about friends who would go there every year to Dallas with their families. So 4 years later, now that we’re here in Texas for residency, we finally went and it was sooOOoo much fun!!!

Our kids were the PERFECT ages to enjoy Great Wolf Lodge (indoor water park and lodge). It was extra fun to enjoy water slides in the winter and pretend like it was summertime. My oldest could ride every slide and J could ride all but one. My wild and crazy mister P loved the kitty pool area and slides there, and was even brave enough to ride them by himself at the ripe age on 2. The mister found the perfect table right next to the kitty pool so Baby O could sleep in the stroller and I could check on him while swimming in kitty pool. They had life jackets there and it has such a great and fun set up and atmosphere. 😉 It is seriously a fun-packed family get away. BUT, let’s get real for a second, IT’S EXPENSIVE!!!! Reality:: I’m a cheapskate forever-residency with 4 kiddos-enough said. So, here is how we afforded it essentially in a series of hints and tips that work for any vacation.

  1. SHOP AROUND for prices + plan IN ADVANCED. There is NO worse feeling than on impulse buying a hotel or a family getaway only to find it significantly cheaper other places. So, I always ask friends, shop other search engines, and of course look on GROUPON also. Honestly, our family vacations are usually trips or activities from Groupon. I love Groupon. Now, I OF COURSE double check before I buy on Groupon to make sure I can’t get it cheap from website directly or from a basic online search–but, so far every time Groupon has been my best bet. I absolutely could not have come to Great Wolf Lodge had it not been 50% off on Groupon. Also, PLAN in advanced. Good places to visit and places to go often book up, but budgeting and planning even a couple months ahead can make it so you actually go somewhere everyone enjoys and that is worth every penny.
  2. GET CHEAPEST ROOM RATE. Great Wolf Lodge for example has these adorable bunk bed rooms that are around $50 more per night. I’m not going to lie, I felt guilty and sad initially not to get these rooms for my kids. But, the reality of it was we could either go 1 night in the fancy room, or we could work it out to go 2 nights in the basic room. This goes for non inclusive places too. If you’re going to a theme park or out of town and get a hotel, get the cheaper one so you can play longer. I know it goes without saying, but you don’t do much in the room but sleep. So, cheaper is better so you can play harder. That being said–KNOW the features and amenities your room has so you can utilize and plan around those. For example, the cheapest room in Great Wolf Lodge still had a microwave and mini fridge so I could plan food accordingly. {which brings me to my next point…}
  3. PACK YOUR OWN FOOD. This right here is the main reason we could go 2 nights. Food is so overpriced everywhere and that saves us a LOT of money to do that. I basically choke on my own spit at amusement parks and any public place when I see their inflated prices. $3.50 for a water-gag. I just can’t justify that in my mind. So, we brought our own food. NOW, don’t stop reading and think it’s super complicated. It wasn’t. In fact, I didn’t even do it before we had a list and dropped in Target on our way into town and I got it and put it straight into the fridge.So here is our fridge and here was what we packed for ideas if you are staying anywhere 2 nights and don’t want to have to stress about a list::
    • Dinner Day 1 of vacation:: BBQ Chicken Sandwiches- Bought the Lloyd BBQ Chicken tub at Walmart for $3.99 and hamburger buns. Packed cheese to slice also. Side:: fresh fruit-bananas, clementines
    • Breakfast Day 2 of vacation:: Bagels with cream cheese. Fruit.
    • Lunch Day 2 of vacation:: Sandwiches and chips. I brought all the “fixins”-easy peasy.
    • Snacks:: Danimals–easy, on the go-and something I don’t normally buy so they were excited about it. Fruit and cracakers+Water bottles-we just threw in more every day to take to the waterpark…because the chlorine/dehydration effect is real!
    • Dinner Day 2 of vacation:: Little Ceaser’s $5 pizzas. Before we left I googled closest Little Ceasar’s to GWL and sure enough 1.5 miles away. So after a FULL day of slides and swimming and my babes were getting tired and needed a change of pace, I left my big kids with Dad and we grabbed 2 pizzas and met them in the hotel room at the end of the night. Gave a change of pace without sacrificing expense.
    • Breakfast Day 3 of vacation:: Cereal. Leftover fruit/oatmeal.
    • Lunch Day 3 of vacation:: Sandwiches. Like I said, it doesn’t have to be stressful. Sure, I love food-but on vacation at a place like GWL the main focus is swimming and playing so quick and easy is perfect.
    • Dinner-on drive home. There’s what we did-just thought I’d give you a little sample of how non stressful and simple and yummy food can be.
    • Another pointer:: I brought my cleaning sponge in a tied grocery sack and these little plastic kid dishes for our meals. Call me a weirdo, but I just am not huge into paper plates. You could totally do that route, but my cheap mind still sees it as another thing to buy when I have plastic plates already….so I rarely have many of those on hand and prefer just bringing my little sponge and a few plates. During this vacation I thought to myself “this must be how minimilists feel.” lol! 😉 One plate per person–I will say having only 4 dishes to clean was super refreshing and easy.
  4. MIMIC EXPENSIVE ACTIVITIES. So when I was looking at GWL online I saw they had this absolutely CHARMING Mommy and Me Spa. Initially I thought it was included, but quickly realized it was extra. Sigh. So, I packed robes, nail polish, and face masks and believe it or not my daugher was STOKED {and son-I packed his robe too and let him do a facemask-because why not?}. This eliminated my mom guilt because I planned ahead and we still got to participate in the fun. Not to mention, our version of Mommy and Me Spa included Disney channel in the background {a coveted channel we don’t have at our house} in our hotel room and was FREE. The only prep it took was throwing robes, nail polish, and a face mask in my bag. So check out where you’re going and what the activities are and if some are too expensive-make it work or plan a different fun free activity for your child in house in your hotel room. And speaking of that choose ahead of time which activities you and your spouse are willing and not willing to pay extra for. It’s way easier to stick to your guns when you’ve planned on it and slept on it and aren’t just feeling the kid pressure in the minute. Since I had planned in advanced there was zero complaining as we passed the spa.
  5. PLAN TRIPS NEARBY. Sadly, I haven’t figured out a way to make flying cheap yet as a family of 6. 😉 However, the harsh reality of expensive travel has helped me embrace adventuring nearby. As in, we actually explore and come to LOVE every place we live.  I feel like so many people live somewhere and vacation far away and miss out on discovering amazing and beautiful places within 30 minutes to 4 hours of where they live. We find joy in discovering goldmines of fun and this is my husband’s specialty. I call him the “fun-finder.” So, since vacation is expensive already-save on travel and look at new places to have a fun adventure you can drive to. Groupon, google, word of mouth-you’ll find places, guaranteed. Being far isn’t what makes it fun, it’s being together and making new memories.

I hope these tips helped.

I am ALL for making memories and relieving stress on vacation. It is worth every sacrifice in my book.


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Building My Wardrobe Mental Checklist

Over the years I have been getting rid of things I don’t wear and being very very picky about the clothes I choose to buy. Mostly because I realized I wore 20% of my wardrobe 80% of the time. Isn’t that absurd, but so true? In fact, I consider myself to be building my wardrobe intentionally for the first time. Even since weeding a lot out [honestly, I don’t have that many clothes these days] that is S-T-I-L-L the case. So, I am doing my best to  build my wardrobe intentionally when I shop and get rid of things that just hang there.

Here is my personal shopping mental list when I shop for clothes that has helped me a TON;).  I have had this list in my head for a while, but haven’t officially written it down. It has worked like a charm and I have loved every purchase I’ve made since I’ve gone off of these. Seriously. It needs to meet at least most of these for me to get it or else I know it’ll be a waste {aka 3 or more}. I’ll be wearing my latest blouse from Cleo Madison that I l-o-v-e that meets ALL my criteria as an example with my list. 😉

1:: It must be COMFORTABLE! I’ve turned into such a mom, right? Nothing wrong with that. I don’t know how I wore uncomfortable clothes for so long. lol. Don’t get me wrong-I have a few exceptions I hang onto for date night, but for the most part-comfy all the way.

We know that the majority of every day will be spent picking up kids, throwing them in and out of carseats, pulling from tantrums, spit up on, climbed on-you name it. Sooo, comfortable+modest is a must.

2-LONG. This goes off of my #1, buuuuut I love LONG tops because I am 5’8″ and I have a long torso. I despise knee length dresses, I like midi-length below my knee so it isn’t crouching up when I bend to get kids, etc…and I love me a long length shirt so it doesn’t scoot up too high between all my kid chasing.

Baby throwing approved and STILL no worry of pulling up my pants or my shirt down. Winning!

3- No undershirt necessary. Now, I can’t always be a stickler on this because there are exceptions, but I found I wear clothes a TON more if I don’t need an undershirt. I live in Texas so I’m generally hot, and undershirts are just annoying, especially breastfeeding.

4-VERSATILE. This is a hard one for me because I gravitate toward patterns; however, I need solids to go with all my busy stuff. Solids are always in and I never get sick of them. So, I am starting to get more and more simple tees.

5-At least 1 detail. Since I’m building my wardrobe with clothes I love that are VERSATILE, I look for versatile shirts with simple details that step it up a notch. I love t-shirts, but I find that if it has at least 1 special detail {whether that be material, gather, style, etc} that allows me to wear it in more situations and pick it up more. And, let’s also mention this is SIMPLIFYING my laundry and allowing less clothes to get in my closet unnecessarily.

This shirt has Detail 1– cuffed sleeve and Detail 2-pleated back. Those little details take it up a notch so I CAN dress it up if I want, or down which makes it even more versatile. Dress it down with joggers or up with skinnies or a pencil skirt and heels.

Again, this is my mental checklist that helps me decide if I “really” want the blouse I am looking at or if it’s an impulse buy. Hope this helps you at least start to think about what your mental checklist may be when you are shopping so we don’t fall into the trap of giving into every sale we see. We don’t need it just because it’s on sale, promise. HOWEVER, if it meets our mental shopping criteria and it’s on sale THAT is a score for sure.

And, let me just say I ADORE this shop and what it stands for. She was on a quest to make modest clothes available, fashionable, and affordable. I love it! Check them out! My shirt is under $20 and still in her shop.


*Disclaimer:: This is a sponsored post, but that does not influence my opinion on what I wrote. I meant every word and then some. 😉 *
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The Power of Affirmations

Well, sit down a while. Here comes a Mandy ramble about something I am oh-so-passionate about. 😉 And, that is:: POSITIVE THINKING and POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS.

I am a believer in the power of our thoughts and just wanted to write this post because it has brought so much power and happiness into my life I wanted to share it with you in case it could bring that in your life…..because, it can! 🙂

Little back story here:: When I was in high school I was pretty much a straight A student in every class EXCEPT Texas History {sigh}. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t get an A on my challenging, but awesome Texas History Coach’s tests. I have a mentor and dear friend of mine who is into positive affirmations+hypnosis who had heard of my frustrations. So, him and his wife invited me over for a “positive affirmation session” which is where I was first exposed to the power of positive affirmations in my life.

Long story short, I went from bombing those tests to getting my name written on the board as the highest grade in the class on his test. Did I suddenly get smarter than before? No! I worked my tail off as I always did, but this time I ALSO came to BELIEVE in myself and rid myself of some test taking anxiety and negative thinking that was hindering me and my performance. The positive thoughts allowed me to perform better and change my entire experience in that class.

Another way I used and still use positive thinking and affirmation now is with performance anxiety with singing. If you know me you know I LOVE to sing. It makes me happy and is oh so fulfilling.

However, back in the day, I sang a solo at church at age 8 {memorized all 4 verses of course–attempted to go above and beyond} and FORGOT the words on the 4th verse. I was trau-ma-tized. My mom kept playing the chords over and over again waiting for me to remember and come in and it was as though it was slow motion. I still can remember a friend of mine, Nora,  lipping the words to me. I am a HORRIBLE lip reader and just looked at her blankly and could not make any words out. This experience made me “think” and “believe” I didn’t enjoy performing in front of people. Come to find out, I DO. I love sharing what I love with others. I just had to retrain my brain to associate those passions and feelings to performing instead of the “so-called” dramatic event. {PS-I also took a Psychology of Performance class in college-it was awesome on all this stuff and all of my classmates were musicians-isn’t that rad?}

Anyway, back to the story here–So I had labeled this event in my mind as the WORST thing ever {because that’s how I felt}. In fact I often recall and ONLY remember forgetting the words, the chords repeatedly playing, the attempted helpful lipping the words, and me walking off crying. In reality, there was a reviving part which was me singing the chorus {after the part I forgot} before I walked off the stage crying. So, I’m sure it wasn’t quite as horrible as my mind’s eye envisions. Sadly, I allowed that “story” I clung to make me believe I didn’t enjoy singing solos in front of people because of that minor…okay-possibly major “ish” slip up and I didn’t sing a solo again for 10 years. Ten!! Yes I did TMEA All State process {but they have a sheet so they can’t see you}, but I would never sing in front of people I knew solo. Duet was the closest I would get.

Now, don’t get me wrong-I still get jitters before any performance [I’m a work in progress] and make mistakes, have on/off performances but the difference is I DO IT. I volunteer actually and I enjoy it once I am up there. And, when I say performance don’t get the wrong idea here-I am not talking performance like a huge concert setting…haven’t done that yet-don’t envision a pop star-I’m a choir girl for life who loves singing hymns and ballads. 😉 Performance for me is any time I sing in front of anyone. I sing occasionally in church primarily and for friend/family events–funerals and weddings sort of a thing.

But, like anything positive affirmations, test taking, performing, developing a talent, exercise, everything take c-o-n-t-i-n-u-a-l practice. I have been so blessed by the effects of positive affirmations I had to spill the beans and ramble about it to you all in hopes it will bless you too.

So, how do you do it? How can you make your weaknesses into strengths and get better at positive thinking??

I’m going to share some quick little steps of a mini positive affirmation session so YOU CAN DO IT yourself at home. It may sound sketchy reading it or perhaps overly simplistic, but I promise that if done with realness and genuine belief in your positive thoughts, it is LIFE CHANGING!!!! And local friends who are reading this, I would love to geek out and do one with you if you want for fun. So here is my little breakdown of what I did in high school and what I do now when doing a “positive affirmation session” ::

  1. Relax in a chair or lay down and clear your thoughts.
  2. Go through your whole body relaxing each part of your body.
  3. Envision what you have to work on and incorporate as many senses as possible. For example, if I were doing a positive affirmation session for test taking I would envision the room I was going to take the test in. Envision myself walking into the room, waiting for the test, what I looked like, what I was wearing, imagine myself feeling calm and prepared waiting for the test, feel what it feels like to answer the questions and feel excited realizing you are sharing your knowledge and utilizing it, etc., etc. So you do this all the way through the experience and envision everything going the way you want it to and how that FEELS, LOOKS LIKE, TASTES LIKE, SOUNDS LIKE as much reality as you can muster and imitate in your mind with as  many senses as you can incorporate. Your mind then is able to easily associate those feelings when you are doing this in real life because you have visualized this in your mind. It recalls and is familiar.
  4. Say 2-3 affirmations throughout that you repeat. In the test taking example it could be “I LOVE taking tests” “I love utilizing my knowledge.” “I find myself getting excited as the test is being passed out.” Whatever. Repeat them throughout in a CONVINCING self talk in your mind. If you say it not believing it, it will not be powerful or effective.
  5. Slowly come out of relaxation throughout your whole body.

I usually do this around 5-8 minutes is all, and I do it multiple times before any sort of performance.

Seriously friends, this has been LIFE CHANGING for me and I’m UNDER exaggerating. Of course, outside of this formal positive affirmation process you need to also start doing it casually day to do also in every thought about yourself and to yourself. If a negative one naturally slips in, immediately stop thinking it and replace it with a positive phrase.

I thought to share this post and my thoughts on positive thinking and positive affirmations because I just had an epiphany the other day that I NEED to start using my positive affirmation sessions to better my parenting skills and general health.

I previously only had used formal positive affirmations sessions for performance anxiety only, but it totally isn’t limited to that AT ALL. It obviously can be used for ANYTHING–business, training, exercise, relationships. I normally think positively the best I can with parenting stuff or goals, but haven’t tried using my little “PA sessions” for the regular stuff and I now can’t wait. I am going to start doing them for some parenting weaknesses of mine right now and start training my mind in ways like these :: I love being patient. I enjoy using my children’s mistakes for positive learning opportunities. I cannot wait to exercise every day. I love waking up early. I love cleaning my house. I love running {maybe if I want to go there ???  😉 I love eating healthy foods.} The list could go on forever.

So, let’s start training our mind to do the things we CAN do and we CAN improve on. Our minds and thoughts can literally help us produce the results we seek. Believing in ourselves and eliminating the negative self talk allows our brain to believe something different than the “I am a horrible mom” or “I hate playing piano” or “I am impatient ” or “I don’t like my body right now” or whatever it may be that we are telling it. If we tell our brain those thoughts, it will believe them also and produce that energy. “Where our mind goes, energy flows.” [Ernst Holmes] Words have power as so do our thoughts.

And wouldn’t it be amazing if our children started imitating the way we talk to ourselves positively and started talking to themselves and about themselves positively from the get go? Yes, yes it would….

Proverbs 23:7 “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he….”

Here’s to STRIVING to be truly positive not only in our actions and in our words expressed externally, but also in the words we tell OURSELVES internally in our MINDS.

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