5 Ways You Need to get Prepared for a Road Trip

5 Ways You Need to get Prepared for a Road Trip

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #EarthDayDriveAway #CollectiveBias #ad

Going on a road trip can be a lot of fun! Being able to drive to your vacation destination rather than flying can save quite a bit of money too.  But before you pull out of your driveway, there are five ways that you need to get prepared for a road trip.

5 Ways You Need to Get Prepared for a Road Trip // Money Savvy Living

Give your car an oil change and check-up

Any time that you plan on taking a road trip, you should make sure that your car is in tip-top shape.  The last thing that you want is to be hundreds of miles from home and have a breakdown.  One of the easiest ways to make sure that your car is prepared for a road trip is to take it to the Walmart Auto Care Center.

5 Things You Need to do to Prepare for a Road Trip // Money Savvy LivingRecently, our family went to Niagara Falls over spring break, and before going, I took the car to the Walmart Auto Care Center.  For only $44.88, I was able to get an oil change with Mobil 1™ synthetic oil—which is made to protect more than my car’s engine; this synthetic oil reduces the amount of oil changes needed, and reduces oil consumption leading to less waste overall.  Included with the oil change, the technicians at the Walmart Auto Care Center also check the power steering fluid, windshield washer fluid, air filter, tire pressure, battery, and tire tread (upon request).  No appointment necessary, and it only took about 25 minutes—and the car was all set for our little road trip!

I love the fact that Mobil 1 ™ has a smaller carbon footprint than conventional motor oils**  So it feels good to know that I am able to make a choice that is better for the environment…

5 Ways You Need to Get Prepared for a Road Trip // Money Savvy Living

If you want to change your oil and do the check-up on your own, you can also buy the oil off the shelf at Walmart as well.  There are several options to choose from, so if you aren’t exactly sure which type of oil your car needs, you can use this Oil Selector Tool at Walmart.com.

And now, through April 30, 2018, you can also enter the Earth Day Drive Away for a chance to win a Chevy Equinox!  There are two ways to enter for a chance to win:

  1. By purchasing 5 quarts of Mobil 1™ in the store or a Mobil 1™ oil change at the Auto Care Center
  2. By recycling any used oil at an Auto Care Center

As a bonus, if you purchase 5 quarts of Mobil 1™ synthetic oil or a Mobil 1™ synthetic oil change at the Auto Care Center, you are also eligible to receive a $10 Select Certificate valid on a future Mobil 1™ purchase at Walmart.  Obviously, it is very important to make sure the used oil is adequately disposed of. You can bring the oil to Walmart for proper recycling while getting another chance to enter to win the sweepstakes.

5 Ways You Need to Get Prepared for a Road Trip // Money Savvy Living

Once shoppers have made a qualifying Mobil 1™ purchase or recycled any used oil at Walmart, they can enter to win the Chevy Equinox and receive their $10 Walmart Select Certificate at Earth Day Drive Away.

*Limit 2 entries in the sweepstakes per customer (1 for purchasing and 1 for recycling).

*Receipt required to receive $10 Walmart Select Certificate.

 

Pack a first-aid kit

I like to keep a first aid kit in my car at all times anyways, but I always check to make sure it is fully stocked with a variety of bandage sizes, antiseptic pads, and ointment before leaving on a road trip.  As a mother, this is a must with three boys—scratches are inevitable, so I want to be ready for them.   Plus, the last thing that I want is my little guy to be crying with a cut on his finger and be in need of a bandage and I have no idea where the nearest store is to buy any.  Having these items on-hand not only is a time-saver, but makes the trip less stressful because we can easily fix the little bumps and scratches in life…

 

Map it

Even though almost everyone has access to GPS or a map app on their smartphone, it is still a good idea to have paper maps of your vacation route.  You just never know when your internet access will be limited or not available, so make sure that you are prepared by having maps printed out ahead of time so that you can still navigate to your destination if your GPS isn’t working.  Also have addresses and phone numbers of hotels and attractions written down—you can always stop and ask for directions if all else fails.

 

Snacks and Entertainment

You can save a lot of time and money by packing snacks and water, instead of stopping every time someone is thirsty or hungry.  Also make sure to bring movies, electronic devices, and music—especially to entertain your little ones.  Of course, you could try the good, old-fashioned spot the different states license plate game to help pass the time…

 

Prepare for the “what if”

Lastly, you need to bring a bag that pretty much prepares you for any circumstance that might arise while you are away from home.  Be sure to pack: rain ponchos, ibuprofen, cough drops, mosquito repellent, sunglasses, sunscreen, and even a small roadside emergency kit.  Preparing for the “what if” isn’t stuff that you will necessarily need… but might need, so you want to be prepared.  This can save you money too, because having to buy sunglasses or medicine at a convenience store or at a resort will cost you a premium.

 

Where will you go on a road trip?

5 Ways You Need to Get Prepared for a Road Trip // Money Savvy Living

 

**Estimates made based on CO2 equivalent emissions derived from Life Cycle Assessment of Mobil 1 vs. conventional motor oil. Assumes switching from a conventional motor oil of higher viscosity grade to Mobil 1 Annual Protection. Include Production, Use, Disposal, and Fuel Economy attributed to motor oil over its lifetime. Calculation based on average U.S. vehicle engine oil sump size, average MPG, average oil change interval and average annual driving distance. Assumes nominal fuel economy improvement when switching from a higher viscosity grade to lower viscosity grade. Assumes new vehicles under warranty follow OEM recommend oil change interval. Mobil 1 Annual Protection is guaranteed to protect for one full year or 20,000 miles, whichever comes first. You may or may not obtain these benefits depending on how you drive and maintain your vehicle.

20 Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls

20 Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls + ENTER the GIVEAWAY for over $300 in prizes for Clifton Hill food and attractions!

This post contains sponsored content or affiliate links.  Please know that all opinions are honestly conveyed and are mine alone.

 

You may not realize there is much else to do besides viewing the falls in Niagara Falls, but there are several activities that the whole family will enjoy— even on rainy days. Check out these must visit attractions, and enter a giveaway for over $300 in gift cards to Clifton Hill for your next trip to Niagara Falls!

 

Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara

 

When our family decided to visit Niagara Falls over spring break, I thought it’d be the perfect mini-vacation for our family.  My husband and boys have never seen the falls and I remember my parents taking my sister and I as kids, and I was absolutely mystified by the falls—especially when they were illuminated at night!  So seeing the beauty of Mother Nature was really my only expectation when I started planning, but soon after I contacted Niagara Falls Tourism, I realized that there was so much more to do in Niagara Falls than just looking at the falls!

 

We had a great time on our visit to Niagara Falls!  As a mom, I want to find activities for the whole family to enjoy, but also that won’t break my budget.  But before I share all of the great things to do with you, I want to tell you about a GIVEAWAY worth over $300 in restaurant gift cards and activities passes for Niagara Falls!  I have teamed up with Niagara Falls Tourism and some local attractions to be able to offer you a chance to win the following:

  • $200 gift certificates to Ruby Tuesday (valid at the Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls, Ontario location only)
  • 5 Fun by the Falls complimentary admission passes (over $100 value):
    • Guinness World Record Museum
    • The Haunted House
    • The Fun House
    • Bronto’s Adventure Playland
    • Mystery Maze

Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara #giveaway

**Don’t forget to ENTER the GIVEAWAY below**

 

Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara

 

Okay, now on to all the family friendly things that we did in Niagara Falls.  Obviously, many of these things can be enjoyed year-round, but a lot of what we did can also be enjoyed even when it’s a bit cold or rainy— which was good for us, because it ended up being both cold and rainy while we were there!

 

Waterpark Resort

We stayed at the Americana Conference Resort Spa & Waterpark.  One of the main things we liked about this resort was that it had a waterpark.  The kids were very excited about it!  It also had a nice spa, game room, and restaurant at the resort.  We literally could have just spent the entire day at the resort and had lots of fun.

Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #americanaresort Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #americanaresort

Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #americanaresort

It was only three miles from the falls, so it was close and convenient to everything—especially with a WEGO stop right at the resort.  The WEGO is a bussing system in Niagara Falls that connects tourist attractions with resorts in the area.  Buses run every 30 minutes (and we found that the schedule is very reliable!), so you don’t have to wait very long to catch a bus to get to your next destination.  It also is a bit of a money-saver.  Some of the attractions are a few miles apart, so unless you have your walking shoes on, you probably wouldn’t want to have to drive and pay parking at each area that you visit.  (**You can also get a WEGO ticket as part of the Wonder Pass for Niagara Parks instead of purchasing it separately to save a bit of money too… we’ll be talking about the Wonder Pass a bit later…)

Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara

 

 

Horseshoe Falls

Obviously, the falls are the main attraction—and probably what you think of when you picture Niagara Falls.  And they are definitely worth seeing!  While they are beautiful during the day, you also won’t want to miss seeing that falls when they are illuminated each night.

Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara

We were able to get a few pictures later in the day after the fog lifted!

Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara

We did get to see the falls illuminated from the SkyWheel… awesome view of the falls and the city!  It was hard to get a good picture because the SkyWheel is enclosed, so taking a picture through the window of the passenger cabin didn’t turn out so well, but the view in person is beautiful!

Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara #skywheel

Niagara Parks

Most all of the Niagara Parks attractions are along the 7 kilometer stretch of the Niagara Parkway, which runs along the Niagara River.  Make sure that you check out the Wonder Pass or Adventure Pass (depending on the time of year you visit) to save anywhere from 40-60% off attractions at Niagara Parks.  You can also buy tickets online or at the Table Rock Welcome Centre, where you can buy souvenirs, grab a bite to eat, and start visiting the attractions.

Niagara’s Fury

We started out at Niagara’s Fury, and this is where I would suggest that any visitor start.  First of all, it is an interactive attraction with a 360 degree movie screen that creatively recounts the history of the formation of Niagara Falls—trust me, even your kids will love this!  And secondly, because it is interactive, you might get a little damp, so they hand out ponchos for experiencing the attraction.  For us, these came in handy all day because it was raining outside.  If you don’t need it, you can turn it in to be recycled after the ride, or you can do like we did, and keep it so you stay dry all day.

Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara

Journey Behind the Falls

The next stop we made was Journey Behind the Falls.  If you are like me, you probably had no idea that you could actually go behind the falls!  Believe it or not, there are tunnels that go behind the falls in a couple of spots and for an up-close view at the side of Horseshoe Falls.  You won’t want to miss this experience!

Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara #journeybehindthefalls Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara

Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara

Butterfly Conservatory

There is way more to see than just the falls though.  The Butterfly Conservatory is open year-round and will delight you with all of the 45 species of butterflies floating around!

Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara

 

Bird Kingdom is also a great family-friendly activity. It is the world’s largest free-flying indoor aviary.  We were scheduled to go here on our last day, unfortunately, we had to cut our final day activities short due to a trip to the ER… not a major emergency, however, we learned some good lessons about how to deal with an emergency while on vacation…

 

Clifton Hill

The Clifton Hill area provides entertainment for the whole family.  There is so much to do, but don’t just start going through the attractions individually—you can save a lot of money by purchasing a Fun Pass, a Ripley’s Combo Ticket, or Fun at the Falls Combo Ticket.  I have listed the activities that are associated with each pass so you can get an idea of what might be of interest to your family…

ENTERTAINMENT:

Fun Pass

SkyWheel—another must-see attraction!  We rode in the SkyWheel after dark so we could see the falls while they were illuminated.  It was also a really cool view of the Skylon Tower and local casinos…

Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara #SkyWheel

Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara

View of the Skylon Tower from our ride on the SkyWheel

Zombie Attack

Movieland Wax Museum

Dinosaur Adventure Golf

Wizard’s Golf

Midway—the combo ticket includes 5 coins for the Midway, which is an arcade.  This is also where you can ride the Wild West Coaster and the Ghost Blaster Dark Ride.  This place is huge and definitely has games that the parents can enjoy too!  **Just a side note from a mother’s perspective here… this was a very nice and clean arcade (even the bathrooms were clean!).

 

Ripley’s Combo Ticket

Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks—as you can see, my kids and husband had fun posing with the wax figures…

Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara

Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara #waxmuseum

Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium—lots of fun and interesting stuff to see here!

Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara #ripleys

Ripley’s Moving Theatre 4D

 

Fun at the Falls Combo Ticket

Guinness World Records Museum

The Haunted House

The Fun House—all the fun stuff you would expect in a classic “fun house!”

Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara

Bronto’s Adventure Playland

Mystery Maze

 

 

GREAT FOOD:

Kelsey’s Original Roadhouse—Kelsey’s was casual, modern steakhouse dining.  The food was good and the service was good!  It was a great family friendly and budget friendly restaurant!

Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara #CliftonHill

Ruby Tuesday—this restaurant is located right in the middle of all the action on Clifton Hill… much like Kelsey’s, it’s great food and very family friendly and budget friendly. Don’t forget to enter the contest to win $200 of gift certificates to Ruby Tuesday on your next visit to Niagara Falls!!

 

Greg Frewin Theatre

There is really no other way to describe this other than an awesome experience!

About an hour before the show, we arrived and had plenty of time to enjoy the delicious buffet.  Normally, I am not interested in going to a buffet, but this was a private buffet that went along with the show, so it had the feel of a buffet that you get at a wedding or your company Christmas party.  The food was flavorful and high quality.  Drinks were not included, but there was an option to buy a pitcher of a beverage for the entire table, which was a nice, budget friendly option!

Now for the magic show.  You. Will. Be. AMAZED.  It really should be no surprise that a world-renowned magician would put on a mesmerizing show, nonetheless, we were absolutely impressed with how good the show actually was.  If you’ve ever seen illusions like this on TV, it is very easy to think that there must be editing or something that is “hiding” the secret.  But actually sitting there and seeing his show in person, I am still confounded at how he did many of the feats.  This is a definite must-see attraction when in Niagara Falls!

Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #magicshow

Oh, and my son Braylon actually got to be a part of the show… so it is interactive with the audience as well!

Skylon Tower

What can I say?  You definitely must visit the Skylon Tower when you are in Niagara Falls.  This is an experience that you won’t get anywhere else in the city.  First of all, the Skylon Tower has an observation deck that allows you to get a bird’s eye view of the Falls.  You can ride the elevator, which has glass so you can see the city as you ride to the top, as you go up to the observation deck or the restaurant.

Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara #SkylonTower

This is one part of our trip that we were the most disappointed about— the weather wasn’t working with us at all, it was terribly rainy and the fog was so thick, we literally couldn’t see anything on our visit to the Skylon Tower.  Super disappointing, but a great reminder that we could still have an awesome time, even when things don’t go according to plan!

Here’s a picture of our view that day from the Skylon Tower:

Mother Nature definitely wasn’t working with us, but we were able to still have an absolutely wonderful lunch in the Skylon Tower Revolving Dining Room.  I guess on the positive side, it felt like we were dining in a cloud with all of that fog surrounding the tower!  I imagine that being able to look out over the falls and the city—day or night—would have been an epic experience.  This is definitely on the list for the next time we go back—hopefully the weather will cooperate!

Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara #SkylonTower

We went for lunch, and had delicious food.  Now, this is a pretty fancy restaurant—and I have to say, we definitely felt under-dressed—but because it was during the day, other guests seemed to be dressed more casual like we were.  I imagine, people dress a bit more formal for evening.  Menu items were a bit pricey, but the food is worth it, and, I’m sure, so is the view.  It really was a one-of-a-kind dining experience.

Family Friendly Things to do in Niagara Falls // Money Savvy Living #NiagaraFalls #exploreniagara #visitniagara #SkylonTower

 

We packed a lot into the three days that we were there, and definitely could have stayed longer because there was so much to do!

 

 

 

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Fun in the Sun at Marco Island: Up and Running After Hurricane Irma

Fun in the Sun at Marco Island: Up and Running After Hurricane Irma

This post may contain affiliate links or sponsored content.  Please know that all opinions are honestly conveyed and are mine alone.

Through my husband’s work, we were able to qualify for an award trip to the JW Marriott in Marco Island. We had been once before and were excited for another stay!  Since our trip has been planned for months, we didn’t know if we’d still be able to go after Hurricane Irma recently caused damage to much of the Gulf Florida coast.  However, we were pleasantly surprised that almost everything is back up and running and we were definitely able to have fun in the sun at Marco Island!

Where to Stay

Since the only thing better than a beach vacation… is a free beach vacation, we decided to open a Marriott rewards credit card and earn enough points to extend our stay and also be able to bring our children along.  When visiting Marco Island, the JW Marriot is definitely our hotel of choice!

Our balcony room offered plenty of space for our family of fiveand stunning views of the gulf. The guestrooms were recently renovated and exceptionally appointed.

The kids were impressed that the TV had a personalized welcome message with our names on it and that there were white bath robes provided!  But I would have to say I was most impressed with the customer service. Every person we met—from the employee greeting us upon arrival, to the check-in counter, to the concierge, to housekeeping—made us feel welcome and ensured that every request we had was met. It was everything a family vacation at a luxury five-star resort should be.

Family-friendly activities

While in Marco Island we wanted to find an activity that the whole family would be able to enjoy. We stopped by the Marco Island Water Sports tiki hut that was located on the beach, right in front of our resort. They helped us pick an activity that everybody could have fun with. They offer dolphin and shelling tours, wave runner rentals, parasailing and much more. Our family decided to take the Banana Boat ride.

Our youngest was a little worried about how fast it would go, but our guide, Ryan, assured us that we could decide how adventurous we wanted the ride to be. He started off slowly for us, but it wasn’t long before we were all giving him the thumbs-up signal—which, in banana boat language, means go FAST! He was also very knowledgeable about the Marco Island Area. It was awesome to see so much of the Island on our ride and we were even lucky enough to have a couple of dolphin sightings. It was such a fun morning—definitely a highlight of our family vacation!

Our hotel also offered some fun kids activities…

And, of course, we spent most of our days on the beautiful private beach and enjoyed time at both pools…

Rebuilding after Hurricane Irma

As we were watching hurricane Irma Head toward the Florida coast my first concern was for all of the people in it’s path. I knew we had an upcoming trip to Marco Island and I really wasn’t sure if that was even something we’d still be able to do. Living in Ohio, we’ve never seen firsthand the devastation a hurricane can cause, but certainly the pictures on TV were heart-wrenching. We decided that if we got the all clear from the resort that they were open we would keep our vacation plans in place.

On the way from the airport to the resort, we decided to drive around and explore the area. It was clear that the residential areas were still recovering. There were lots of trees down, debris lining the roads, and many homes and structures were damaged. But while we were there we learned of some of the fantastic local groups that had been organizeda grassroots effort of neighbors helping neighbors. Marco Patriots is one of those groups. They’ve been able to help some of the hardest hit people in the Naples, Marco Island, and Everglade Areas. They recently were able to secure a private plane and pilot and are now starting to take aid to Puerto Rico. It’s pretty inspiring to think that people who are still rebuilding their own homes and business are looking for ways to help others who were hit so hard by the same hurricane.

 

Plan your beach vacation

Yes, we even got the tiki guy to help us spell out O-H-I-O…

And got to experience dinner at sunset on the beach…

On our flight back home we all started planning our next vacation to the JW Marriott Marco Island!  Whether you’re looking for once-in-a-lifetime vacation of luxury or a low-key family fun vacation spot Marco Island has you covered.

 

Things to Take on Your Disney Vacation + Printable Checklist

Things to Take on Your Disney Vacation + Printable Checklist

Things to take on Your Disney Vacation + Printable Checklist // Money Savvy Living

Planning your Disney vacation can be exciting and overwhelming!  There are so many resort options and restaurants to choose from, you need to figure out how those fast passes work and how to make those reservations, so it may be easy to forget some of the small things that you will want to take on your vacation.

So we are going to go over a few things that you will want to make sure that you take on your next trip to Disney:

Things to take on Your Disney Vacation + Printable Checklist // Money Savvy Living

Reservation Info

Make sure you have all your hotel, airline, car rental, and any other reservations that you have made.  You can put the reservation info into a special email folder, input it into the notes on your smartphone, or just print out the papers, but make sure that you have access to it once you are on your way!

If you have purchased your tickets or Magic Bands ahead of time, you will certainly need those.  Obviously, if you haven’t purchased your tickets ahead of time, some hotels offer concierge services and you can get your tickets there rather than waiting in line once you get to the parks.

Fast Pass info… did you know that you can actually book your Fast Passes online (or download the Disney app)?  If you are staying at a Disney resort, you can book your Fast Passes up to 60 days ahead of your scheduled arrival.  If you are staying somewhere other than Disney property, you can book your Fast Passes up to 30 days ahead of time.  Take into consideration where the rides are located in proximity to each other and decide which rides you really want to go on before you schedule your times…

Fun in the Sun Necessities

Your trip to Disney is probably going to be filled with lots of sunshine, so don’t forget too take sunglasses, sunscreen, and a spray water bottle so you can cool yourself and your kids off with a little mist of cool air… if you have the mist bottle with a little fan, that’s even better!  *You can probably pick one of these up for a few dollars at Walmart, but if you wait until you get to the parks to buy one, but you will pay quite a bit more.

But just in case it is not so sunny while you are there, you will want to pick up some cheap, disposable ponchos at the dollar store ahead of time.  Again, if you don’t have these and need to buy them at the parks, it will cost you…

Bring Your Own Disney Magic

If you kids like to dress up like their favorite Disney character, you can probably pick one up at a discount store or online for a lot less than buying it there.  I also found a great tip about buying glow-in-the dark stuff from Hannah over at Eat, Drink, and Save Money, for when the sun goes down at Disney at the dollar store instead of buying the more expensive, in-park items… because I know that when my kids see the other kids with their glow-in-the dark stuff, they are going to want some…

Snacks and Water

Since you are allowed to bring drinks and snacks into the parks, make sure to bring a nice stash- especially if you are planning to stay all day.  Even if you plan to eat meals at the parks, it doesn’t hurt to help keep your little ones satisfied in between meals without having to buy an expensive snack.  Also make sure to bring an insulated cool pack to keep those snacks and drinks nice and cold.

Disney Vacation Printable Checklist // Money Savvy Living

 

7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach that are Absolutely FREE

7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach for FREE
7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach that are Absolutely FREE | Money Savvy Living

 

Taking a family vacation is definitely an investment—one which I personally think is invaluable because you can’t put a price tag on creating memories with your kids, right?  While theoretically, money is no object when it comes to my family, the reality of the situation is that we do have to live within a budget.  So, with that in mind, I always like to look for places to go and things to do that can provide a lot of fun and entertainment for the boys, while taking it easy on our bank account…

 

7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach that are Absolutely FREE | Money Savvy Living

 

If you are looking for a fun, frugal, and family-friendly vacation, then you will love Virginia Beach!  Of course, there are several other things to do on a Virginia Beach vacation, but these seven things won’t cost you a dime!

 

The Beach                       

7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach that are Absolutely FREE | Money Savvy Living

Okay, obviously, this is the main attraction—the beach itself!  Whether you like to just lay out and soak up the sun, build a sandcastle, search for seashells, or play in the ocean, the beach will keep you and your kids busy all day.  These nice, wide beaches have plenty of room to lay out by the ocean, or spread out under your own little umbrella or tent.  Besides that, at certain spots along the beach, there are actually playgrounds that your kids can play on, still on the sand, but close to the boardwalk.  Bring a volleyball or Frisbee for the bigger kids (or the parents!) because there is plenty of room for that too!

 

Dolphin Watching

7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach that are Absolutely FREE | Money Savvy Living

You can pay to take a boat ride for dolphin watching, but you really don’t need to… because the dolphins actually swim close enough to shore that you can see them right from your spot on the beach.  While the dolphin excursion boat rides would definitely get you up-close, you can still enjoy seeing the dolphins right from shore—and that’s free!

 

Stroll along the Boardwalk

7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach that are Absolutely FREE | Money Savvy Living

Virginia Beach has a beautiful boardwalk that stretches for 3 miles of the Virginia Beach coastline—so you can literally walk up and down Virginia Beach oceanfront!  We absolutely loved strolling the boardwalk to find new restaurants or just to see what else was around… and never had to take our eyes off of the ocean.  The boardwalk also had a couple of “lanes” devoted to bicycles, multi-person carts and skateboarders.  So bring your bicycle… or you can choose to rent one if you want…

 

Neptune Statue

7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach that are Absolutely FREE | Money Savvy Living

While you are at Virginia Beach, you have to at least stop by and see the colossal statue of Neptune, the Roman god of the sea.

 

Cape Henry Lighthouses/Fort Story

7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach that are Absolutely FREE | Money Savvy Living

You will definitely want to check out the lighthouses at Cape Henry.  However, once we got there, we realized that there was so much more to Cape Henry than just the lighthouses.  There were great history lessons to be learned there.  Did you know that the original lighthouse was the very first federal building authorized by the United States government in 1789?  Did you know that construction of the lighthouse actually started in 1772, but was interrupted by the American Revolution?  Did you know that the sandstone used to build the original lighthouse came from the same Aquia Virginia Quarries that provided stone for Mount Vernon, The U.S. Capitol, and the White House?

7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach that are Absolutely FREE | Money Savvy Living

Besides the lighthouses, there were also other statues: a memorial cross, Battle of the Capes, and Francois Joseph Paul De Grasse.  The memorial cross erected in 1935, which serves as a reminder of the original oak cross built by the colonists when they arrived in 1607 and named Cape Henry for Henry, Prince of Wales, the oldest son of King James I.  The Battle of the Capes in September 1781 was a major turning point in America’s struggle for independence, and you can learn all about it here…  And a statue of De Grasse commemorates his role in the Battle of the Capes that lead to the victory of American Independence from Britain.

Who says a fun beach vacation can’t be educational too?!

 

Street Performances

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Every evening, visitors to Virginia Beach are entertained by music from individuals and small group musicians, to painters, jugglers, and so much more… all FREE!  There are signs posted that let visitors know that no tips are necessary because these live performances are actually paid for by the city of Virginia Beach.

My son, Chase, actually got to be a part of one of the shows—Up, Down, Go!  He was pretty excited!

 

Concerts

7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach that are Absolutely FREE | Money Savvy Living

The street performances are great, but in addition to the single or small group musicians that you can enjoy as you stroll, there are also actual concerts—everything from orchestra music at the small amphitheater at Neptune’s Park, to concerts at various stages along Atlantic Avenue between the street and the boardwalk.  No tickets necessary, just find a seat and enjoy!

 

When planning your next vacation to this wonderful destination, you may also find it helpful to check out VABeach.com.  This is a great resource to discover hotels, restaurants, and events in the area.  Camping in Virginia Beach is another frugal and family-friendly option.

 

 

Family Friendly Travel: A Spontaneous Trip to Washington DC

Family friendly travel to Washington DCA Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

This year, we went on a much-needed and highly-anticipated family vacation.  Why much-need and highly-anticipated, you ask?  Well, because we had not been on vacation for a couple of years.  Ok, we did take the long weekend to Chicago last year, but that was more of a get-a-feel-for-the-city-that-we-might-be-moving-to-if-my-husband-accepts-a-promotion-at-work kind of trip, so while we did have fun, we were more interested in looking at houses and schools and figuring out how long the commute to the city would be from our potential new home.  More work than fun, soooo, that brings me back to this much-needed and highly-anticipated vacation.

 

One thing that you have to keep in mind about our family as you read about our vacations is that we are typically very spontaneous vacationers.  I don’t plan every minute and map out each event or place to see, or restaurant that we will eat at.  The first vacation that we went on with the kids, we decided to go, so we packed and left that night… and somehow, the spontaneous vacations work for us!

 

This vacation definitely had some spontaneous elements, but had been planned for about a month ahead of time.  And by planned, I mean, that I had reserved hotel rooms for the nights that we would be away.  This year, we would be on vacation over the 4th of July, and I knew things would be busy and probably get booked, so we definitely didn’t want to be a situation where we were without a hotel room, or ended up spending a lot more than we should have because we didn’t plan…  We knew the general direction that we were taking: we were going to Williamsburg and then on to Virginia Beach.

 

But as spontaneity is our thing, it lead us in a different direction immediately.  As we started mapping out our drive on our map quest apps the morning that we were leaving, the most direct path took us right through Washington DC.  Well, that was an opportunity that we didn’t want to pass up… my husband and kids had never been there, and I had only been there once as a kid when I was in probably about fifth grade, and I really didn’t remember that much.

 

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

We figured we would get on the road and see how things were going, and if we made good time, maybe we could stop in DC for a few hours.  Well, as it turned out, made made really good time, so with our early start, we were to DC by lunch time… and that would give us at least 3-4 hours to explore.

 

And that’s exactly what we did, starting at the Washington Monument.

Washington Monument | Money Savvy LIving

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

The boys loved getting to walk up so close to the monument.  There were lines to go inside, but we decided to skip that and continue on with our walking tour.

 

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

Yes, the little guy is already looking less-than-thrilled. It is at this point that I realize I should have packed an umbrella stroller…

 

But, on we go… to the Lincoln Memorial.

 

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

The grandeur of this monument cannot be overstated.  Pictures will never be able to do justice to the feeling that you get from actually experiencing this monument up-close-and-personal.
A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living
A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

While in name, this is the Lincoln MEMORIAL, you don’t really grasp the magnitude of that until you go inside. There are signs to be quiet in respect, as it is a memorial. And the inscription above the statue of Lincoln that reads:

“In this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the union the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.”

 

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

This is one of those stops that really make you feel the importance of what goes on in DC, the great and awesome responsibility that our lawmakers have, and the privileges that we are afforded in this country…

 

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

While everything is somewhat close together in DC, it takes a little time to walk to all of it, and since this is pretty much an unplanned stop, we decided to make one last stop and walk to the White House. But on our way, we do pass a lot of other cool landmarks and buildings:

 

the US Capitol Building— which we wanted to see up close, but couldn’t really afford the time, so this will definitely be on the list for our next visit!

 

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

the Dwight D. Eisenhower Building— seemed to be closed to the public, but the architecture was beautiful to enjoy as we walked by anyways….

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

National Society Daughters of the American Revolution Memorial Continental Hall (I had to stop and take a picture here because I am a DAR, although not currently an active member, my grandma was always quite active with the DAR so this was a bit of nostalgia for me…),

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

the Ronald Reagan Building,

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

…and finally, we arrive at the White House.  This is the back of the White House, of course, and there were musicians, street performers, and just a lot of tourists loitering in the street.  Not sure what I expected, but that definitely wasn’t it.  But it was sort-of exciting to get to be that close to the White House…A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

You’ll notice that the view from the front of the White House is much further away…

 

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

I think we got a lot done in just four hours, however, the snack that we had earlier (instead of lunch) at the gift shop really wasn’t going to keep us going much longer. After all that walking all afternoon, we were hungry, and knowing that we had a couple more hours on the road, we didn’t want to stop for dinner, so we decided to eat at the food trucks instead of a sit-down dinner.  Not our ideal choice (or the healthiest!), but hey, our tummies were full and we were ready to get back on the road and head to Williamsburg, our planned destination that day.

 

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

This is where actual planning and research of the area would have helped us out… After our visit, a friend did recommend Old Ebbitt Grill, which is near the White House as a good place to eat.  So we will definitely have to try that next time as well.

 

This spontaneous stop in Washington DC ended up being one of the highlights of our vacation.  And day one was really only anticipated to be a “travel day,” so this little, unplanned adventure transformed an otherwise boring day into a truly fun time.  Even though there is so much that we didn’t get to see and do during our short time there, the last-minute decision to stop was soooo worth it.  The education, the history, everyone should probably visit more than once anyways!  Just the feeling of pride for country that you get to experience just being in our nation’s capital… God bless America!

 

And it was a great reminder that some of the best things in life aren’t planned.  I encourage you to allow for the spontaneous events and adventures while on vacation…you never know, it may just end up being the best part.

 

After all, life isn’t just about arriving at the destination, it’s enjoying the journey along the way!

 

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