Saturday, June 29, 2013

Travel On A Budget

I'm often asked how we do so much on so little.

Here are a few tips:


Plan everything.  

This doesn't mean you have to do everything you plan.  But, researching your destination keeps the stress of finding things to do low.  You'll also be less tempted to make impulse decisions and spend money you shouldn't.  Doing thorough research on the place you'll visit also lends a deeper meaning to many of your destinations. If you're opposed to an itinerary, at least bring a list of options with information on cost so that you can make informed decisions.


Supplement your spending by bringing your own snacks.  

I totally understand wanting to indulge in local food and experiencing great restaurants.  But, snacks and drinks can make a big impact on your budget.  Bring these items along and you'll have more money to spend on activities or a nice meal.


Clearly define your priorities and communicate.

Our kids know that when we travel, we're going for the see the city, to bike, swim, play, etc.  Having a focus allows everyone to relax and know what to expect out of the visit.


Spend your money where it counts.

Regardless of your budget, knowing what you deem as important when it comes to spending will help you stay on task.  Discuss what you have to spend with your kids and if they're old enough, let everyone contribute to deciding where to spend money.  Giving your kids some control over the trip will allow them to feel empowered and as though they're an integral part of the experience.  They will also feel better about sacrificing because they helped decide what to do.


Go local.

Ask friends for advice if they live where you're going.  Look up the Chamber of Commerce for more information.  Consider city museums and parks as an option for activities.  We often have the most fun in unexpected places.  For example:  We met the author of The Sandlot in a used bookstore in downtown Riverside, CA while talking to the store owner. It was the highlight of our trip!


Be creative.

We're on an unusually tight budget this summer and cannot afford a big Florida trip like we have the past 2 years.  Kids are really disappointed in that, so I've re-focused them toward another goal.  We're visiting every San Diego beach we can and are keeping track of what each has to offer.  We often create a Day Trip with each of these destinations and can spend no money at all if we like.

Check out the link below for details on a simple day trip which cost us $30 total.

Ocean Beach Day Trip


Slow down and look around.

I'm the first one to fill an itinerary full of activities because I am always eager to get the most out of where we go.  I've learned over the years to slow down here and there.  Breathe.  And, be grateful for the opportunity to see something new.

Here is a post detailing expenses.  I always have a budget for our trips - even if it's a Day Trip.  But, I don't always keep notes like this.  

Hope this helps.  If you have any questions, leave a comment or email me at  

I'm off to research sunny Palm Springs for next week!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

West Coast Travel Report - Imperial Beach

We traveled (not all the far) to the southwesterly most city in the continental United States.  Left at 10:00am and drove south on the 5 to......

Well, first we visited Coronado Island.  I worked for a bit and the kids bowled with my boss's kids.

Best.  Job.  Ever.

Toured the island, saw the aircraft carriers and the new ship docked......helicopters, etc, etc.  Military life is so cool.

Then, we cruised past the Del Coronado Hotel and headed down the strand to Imperial Beach.  It hasn't been known for much over the years.....but has recently gotten a lot of improvements, including a plaza at the pier and some parks.  We enjoyed it all!

From the pier, you can see downtown San Diego and the Coronado Bridge.

We went to the very end of the pier and figured we were the most southwesterly people in the U.S.  

I so love this kind of dorky stuff.

There's Mexico!  From the pier, you can see into the country.  Lots of helicopters watching the border, I assume.

Starnes kids are sure whales and sharks are helping, too.

Back at the pier plaza, we had ice cream at Cowabunga.  Voted the top creamery in San Diego.

Time for the water.  Took a couple of shots under the pier.....not a safe place to play usually.

There's our 3.

This big jelly fish washed up on shore.  Hopefully he made it back home later on.  We were told several years ago not to touch these guys......that if the tide carries them back to the ocean, they can survive.  

Sand dollar!

Dead baby (seagull?) (pelican?) birdy.  :(

Lots of critters and shells on this beach.  Not typical of north county beaches, where we live.

Our awesome oldest.  


Jack stopped abruptly on our walk to examine this oddity.

"A mail box?  I neber seen one of dese in real life!"

Obviously, I need to get this kid out more.

Here is Dunes Park, just north of the pier.

Best purchase in a very long time.  We take these everywhere!

What's a park without a reptile?

Meet James Bond, the friendly iguana who strolled up while we were at the park.

Completely normal for SoCal.

5 miles north of downtown Tijuana.  26,000 residents.  Cool little town.

Friends arrive later this week in from Sacramento!  Can't wait.

Back soon with a post on traveling on a budget.  


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Beach Life - Two More Crossed Off Our List!

We've been non-stop at the beach lately.

First up, Grandview in Leucadia, just between Carlsbad and Encinitas.  We went in pursuit of Ponto Beach, but parking was limited, so we kept on down Coast Highway.  

We are no pretty site getting to the sand.

Carter and Daniel are a bit more pulled together.

Park for free and walk down these steps.  Beautiful, beautiful beach awaits.

Kids waxed their boards and got busy.

Jack and Lainey slide right up onto the sand.

I watched Lainey flip fully over the boogie board after a wave tossed her around.  Sweet little girl came back to the blanket crying and sat down for a while.  I walked to the water to check on Jack and returned to see her running toward the ocean again, telling me, "I Bethany Hamilton!  I am going again!"

We watch a lot of Soul Surfer in our house.  

Jack is working hard at learning how to surf.  

Big brother is working hard at teaching him.

Such a good day.  

Saturday, Laine had 3 birthday parties.  So, the girls took off together.

And, the boys rode 10 miles round trip to the beach and back on their bikes.


That night, Lainey and I made a fringe shirt out of a $3.46 Walmart tshirt.  She saw one like this at a surf shop weeks ago and has never forgotten it.  So, we made it ourselves:

Sunday took us out to Buccaneer Beach in Oceanside.

My view:

With yummy 50 calorie cucumber salad.

Recipe HERE on my Pinterest board.

We took 2 friends on this trip.  

Daniel and Meow.

I asked for a quick pic before they headed out to surf.  I turned around and found this.

My work is almost done here.  Well posed, Starnes children!

Our set up.

Foolish peeps left food on their blankets.  Seagulls indulged.

This girl is not a fan of pictures all the time.


Back at the 'burb, we loaded up for a trip to 7-11 for slurpees.  5 hours at the beach makes us thirsty!

I love life in SoCal.

Next up, Imperial Beach day trip!  

And, Caroline will be here in just over a week.  We're so excited!!!!!!  Groupons have been purchased like mad in preparation.  

What did we do before flash sale sites?!