Sunday, March 9, 2014
1. If you are flying take your own set of earphones. Some airlines give them out free of charge to access entertainment on the seat back in front of you but most charge. No sense in paying for something you likely already own, and that are far superior. Consider that even dollar store ear phones are likely better quality than the ones the airlines charge for.
2. Pack some snacks and entertainment material like books or electronic devices. Although most airlines take care of this once on-board often you will have to wait for hours well after you have cleared security before you board your aircraft. Airport food is expensive, as are books and magazines. No need to be spending your hard earned travel money before you even reach your destination. Also consider keeping chargers in your carry-on as many airports offer free charging stations.
3. Don't over-pack. Make sure there is some room in your bags for souvenirs. Some airlines charge for the first bag. Find out restrictions ahead of time and plan accordingly. Checkout my blogger friend SonyaAnn's packing for Vegas without paying for luggage at A Mom, Money and More. Very funny lady! Most International flights allow for at least one piece of free luggage, but ensure your weight is not over or you will just be paying more at the airport. This is not the time to be packing a pair of shoes for every day of your trip. Don't ever spend tons of money on suitcases. The airlines don't care and will wreck the cheap ones just as quickly as the expensive ones.
4. Research how to get to and from all the airports well before hand. If you must park there are usually discount coupons available online. Often you can get a shuttle much cheaper than a cab. Sometimes in certain destinations like New York City and Amsterdam you can take public transportation to get close to your hotel straight from the airport.
5. Know your limits with regard to accommodation. I am not a hosteler nor do I enjoy Bed and Breakfasts. Neither makes me or hubby happy or comfortable, therefore we may spend more on our accommodation than others do. I admire those that can travel that way but still prefer to stay in hotels, and I think you know by now that I am certainly not a snob. We like our own bathroom and plenty of privacy and I have a hard time eating breakfast with total strangers. I rely on Tripadvisor.com to find the top rated moderately priced hotels in each destination. A case in point - most hotels in Amsterdam are extremely expensive, as are the decent Bed and Breakfasts. By staying on a short walk from the outer canal ring we are paying approximately $30-50 CAD per night lower. Our hotel is still in the top 25 as chosen by readers of Trip Advisor based on their personal experiences. We are not getting a nondescript hotel but a small 14 room family run hotel with attached restaurant. Our included breakfast is raved about, unlike many of the high priced chain hotels. By booking several months ago directly with the hotel we locked in a low price which for our dates prices are now much higher. I have been monitoring them, as if I happened to find a better deal, we still have the option of canceling as long as we do so before their required deadline. I also regularly use Expedia.com, Hotels.com, and Bookings.com to price compare but prefer to book directly with a hotel if they offer similar or lower rates. The hotel I have booked in Lisbon reserves their best rooms for those who book directly, on the best floors. The rates were similar to those found on Expedia but I booked directly with the hotel thus guaranteeing a higher floor in the hotel, which is important to me to get away from street level noise (plus we take earplugs which any traveler should have just in case). If you are thinking of staying more than a week somewhere consider renting an apartment as it may be cheaper. Check out Air BnB for private rentals. Travel agents will never recommend accommodation that doesn't pay them commissions. This is a fact and something to keep in mind. There may be perfectly good places to stay that won't be recommended to you. Do your own research - hey, its your money!
6. If you plan to take day trips research out the options and prices in advance, even if you don't book them in advance. That way you will be armed with the appropriate price ranges and will not get ripped off. I have booked two small van tours so we can go to places in Portugal that we could not otherwise travel to. On the second tour as it is a very small group they have agreed to allow us to bring our luggage for the day and drop us off at a completely different hotel in a nearby town at the end. This would have cost an estimated 55 Euro to get between the two hotels. By the tour company agreeing to do this at no additional cost we are saving that 55 Euro (approximately $88 CAD). I found the tour company on Trip Advisor as well. Based on their sterling reputation I believe things will go smoothly as they certainly corresponded easily and quickly by email to my requests.
7. Research inexpensive eating options. Renting locations with kitchen facilities is not always the cheapest option, which in our case it is not. Our hotels all include breakfast and we will snack our way through markets for lunch but will need someplace to eat reasonably each dinner. Two of our three hotels on our upcoming trip will have small fridges which we intend to use for snacks (**and beer and wine, a corkscrew is already in the travel drawer ready to be packed). Portugal is much cheaper than Amsterdam but still, you can easily spend a lot on eating out. Through research I have found that it is common practice for restaurants in Portugal to bring things like bread, olives and cheese to your table unrequested. They may appear to be on the house but when you get the bill you will have a bad shock as everything you use will be added to the final tab. Knowing in advance these things will relieve the added stress as well as be easier on the pocketbook. You can simply refuse the items if you wish as they are brought to your table. Standard tipping in Portuguese restaurants is 10%. In some countries tips are added to the final bill before they get to your table. In Canada it is standard to tip 15%, anything less is a bit insulting unless you received poor service. Knowing these kind of things can help you budget for your holiday. In Amsterdam our more inexpensive eating options are likely in bars. We don't tend to go for really expensive meals out at home, so why would we on holiday. If fine dining out is really your thing then budget accordingly and do your research ahead of time so you don't spend big bucks in restaurants that don't have good reputations. Most local restaurants that do not cater to tourists may be cheaper options but may also not speak your language. Consider researching ahead of time translation for basic food groups and arm yourself with this information. Try local wine and beers - they are always cheapest. This may also prevent you from eating something you do not wish to eat. I was researching a bar near our hotel in Amsterdam and realized their stew featured horse meat, which is common in Europe but not in North America. I do not want to eat horse by mistake (or on purpose - ever). Google Translate is a very handy tool in this regard.
8. Research your transport options. We are choosing not to rent a vehicle as Portugal has an excellent public transportation system of buses and trains at very reasonable costs. You may not need to take any cabs on your holiday. I expect only one, on arrival in Portugal after travelling for 16 hours. This is a splurge. We could get a shuttle for only a few Euros cheaper but in this case we likely will get a cab instead, and cabs are relatively inexpensive in Portugal (half what they are in Amsterdam). I have also found out that in Portugal it is common practice to charge the fare plus a Euro or two for each bag. This does not occur in Canada. In most countries cabbies will quote a fare to you before you get in, for instance in Mexico, in fact you are a bit crazy not to lock in the price before you enter the cab. Find out if that is common in the country you are travelling to. In Canada you pay whatever the meter says as cabbies are not allowed to quote flat rates, with exception of most have a set rate to and from the airport. In Amsterdam we will be taking airport shuttles as the train station from the airport is not close to our hotel. We intend on walking a lot on this trip as wandering is often our most favorite part of the trip. Ensure to also take great walking shoes as no one wants blisters on holiday.
9. Buy things like electrical converters and travel guides well in advance as if you have to purchase them at the last minute or at the airport you will be paying through the nose. I have an older converter and we ordered another online (free using amazon.ca GCs from swagbucks) so that we can plug in our ipad and laptop. Yes, we have to travel with those items for our business. We can partially disconnect but not completely so have also ensured that good WIFI is available wherever we stay. This does not mean that I will be blogging on holiday as I hope to be too busy doing fun things.
10. Try and stay away from buying things on your holiday with the name of the place you went to. I know, this hard to avoid as you want a remembrance from somewhere you went, but a year or two down the road it will be in your next garage sale. If you buy souvenirs, try and make sure they are useful. *Hubby still insists on buying T-shirts everywhere we go, so I may be alone on this one. At least he does actually wear them when we get home. Check out this post on old souvenirs found at the thrift tore by The Non-Consumer Advocate for a good laugh.
11. Buy appropriate insurance, especially medical. Only the unprepared travel without out of country medical insurance then open themselves up to huge liabilities if something bad happens.
There are a zillion more tips but hopefully, if you are still reading you got something from this post. Cheers!
Friday, March 7, 2014
1. We had takeout Japanese food last night which fed two adults plus lunch for Hubby today. At $28 I could have bought far more groceries with that money. Frugal Fail. I am going to attempt no eating out until we go on Vacation April 5th. We shall see how that goes as I have been very low energy lately.
2. Due to low energy and lack of watching what I eat I have regained 2 pounds. Need to do something about that.
3. The snowbirds (Canadian Geese, Trumpeter Swans, and Snow Geese) seem to be acting like they are getting ready to fly back to their summer homes. They winter here with our moderate temperatures. That means SPRING IS RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER! The bunnies are busy cavorting (and pairing up) which also means Spring and we have had a sudden throng of Robins every where you look. I also noticed that the grocery store has opened up their fenced area that they put out plants for the Spring, part of the Joy of living on Vancouver Island. In Alberta this would happen in late May or early June.
4. 90% of the snow we got a week and a half ago (1.5 feet) is melted. It is supposed to be sunny and go as high as 20 degrees Celcius by the end of next week - yay!
5. We just paid an extremely high electricity bill, which hubby was grumpy about. This week he confessed he forgot to turn off the heater in the garage (*he turned it on to get rid of some condensation a few weeks ago, ahem!!!)
6. I have suddenly been reading, a lot. Nothing on TV and now I am addicted to reading again. I am now on my 6th book of the year. Last year I think I read 6 books in total. It is good for the brain!
7. I bought a great pair of pants at the thrift store yesterday for $4. No one can tell me that you cannot live a good life on the cheap (I completely agree with you Van!)
That's all I've got. Have a great weekend everyone!
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
These guys greeted me outside my part-time job Monday Morning. Let me predict the future. In a month or two there will be many bunnies running around! Vancouver Island has a lot of two things. Deer and bunnies, both due to a lack of natural predators. These bunnies who were once domestic are now wild. I have seen the black bunny many times and he lives in the briarpatch across the road in a vacant lot that has been taken over by black berry bushes. This is the first siting of his little girlfriend who was too shy for a closeup. Da Wabbit says "get that camera outa my face!"
Sunday, March 2, 2014
February's grocery budget was $450 plus $1.97 from January underage for a total $451.97. Actual Spent was $447.92. Success! $1.50 coupons used. This category includes all over the counter medications, personal grooming items, soaps, cleaners and household items for two adults who eat at home 99% of the time. $4.05 left over will be added to the March budget.
I bought another huge boneless ham and cut it up in smaller packages which will be good for casseroles, breakfast ham and toppings for pizza. It should last two months. There is still a large salmon and some tilapia left - but I am so tired of fish, officially - I don't like fish but buy and eat it because it is good for us. I am not buying any this month at all. Hubby likes fish way more than I do and the only way I really like it is on the BBQ but that has been more difficult than usual because of our recent crappy weather. Anyone have any fish ideas? Maybe encrusting it? I really don't want to deep fry it as that takes away all the benefits. Recipes would be appreciated. There are still some packages of Costco porkchops (best ever) which are individually wrapped plus boneless chicken thighs and some chicken legs. I am totally out of skinless boneless chicken breast which is a staple for us - great for soups. Fortunately I see a sale on Tuesday at our local Safeway. I will miss Safeway as there is recent news that our store is shutting in three months and a whole bunch of people will be laid off. They always had the highest prices here, and finally competition has driven them out. I only shopped there when they have the very best prices plus they offer Airmile deals which is one of the ways I get so many free air tickets. They have great loss leaders every week which I cherry picked and it is sad to see our economy can no longer support this store.
Hair Budget $250 per year
Zero spent in January, $18.23 spent in February on a cut. I plan on timing my next haircut the first week of April right before our holiday. Left in the budget for the year = $231.77. My flat iron croaked yesterday after four years so I forked out $40 for a new one but as this is an actual appliance it does not go in the hair budget, only cuts, colors and styles. I used to own a $150 salon flat iron but after dropping it on the floor and the ceramic breaking, I vowed never to pay such a ridiculous amount for them again. The cheap ones work just as good as the expensive ones FYI.
Clothing Budget $200 per year
Spent this month? Zero. $190.39 left to go in the clothing budget for the year. I have been looking but not found anything to spend my hard earned pennies on. I need to buy some good shoes before our trip as we expect to be walking a ton on our holiday, up and down the hills of Lisbon and wandering around the canals of Amsterdam.
As we will be gone half of April the April food budget will be reduced by half and the $225 will go into the travel fund for meals. Most of our breakfasts will be included with the hotels and I have been researching inexpensive places to eat dinner. You would think renting an apartment with a kitchen would be cheaper but no as I have been able to get extremely good deals on all of our accommodation and kitchens would have cost several hundred Euro more. We will have minifridges for most of the trip so will try and take advantage of that for drinks and snacks. So goodbye February, hello March. Everyone is ready for you to bring on Spring!
Thursday, February 27, 2014
It feels like Spring today as the snow from our storm last weekend has begun to melt. Fortunately, our ground is not frozen so the water is being absorbed as it melts rather than flooding. Nature is at its finest this week with lots of robins suddenly making an appearance in search of the worms under the snow. I spotted a fawn this morning on the way to work that seemed completely at ease wandering across the road. There are tons of deer here in Comox so they are not really afraid of humans. Fortunately, they seem to be a bit wiser than most deer about vehicles and rarely get hit here, or perhaps humans just expect deer on the road and are more careful. A large flock of swans few over my car in the parking lot at work and made several rather large deposits - hubby had to go wash the car when I got home. They almost got one of my co-workers who had to run to the door of the office to avoid being bombed.
So never fear, for those of you with tons of snow and cold temperatures, Spring is really right around the corner. Two sleeps until March!
Monday, February 24, 2014
Alex M suggested we use a leaf blower on the snow - it just wouldn't work on Coastal snow as it is like cement - too much water content. We also sold the leaf blower when we left Alberta. This kind of snow you either shovel out or stay home and don't leave the house. For those neighbors who chose not to shovel on Saturday or Sunday, well, - they are going nowhere fast.
I fully expect to lose power again today, and feel very grateful that the temperature does not get much below zero and that we have a natural gas fireplace for warmth and natural gas BBQ for meals if necessary. Now that Mom lives just down the road she can come to our house in case of a long outage,without even moving her car.
We have tons of old growth extremely tall trees on Vancouver Island that are currently hanging over many power lines - ready to snap. Fortunately, we have no large trees hanging over the house so I am not worried about damage to our property, just some inconvenience.
Hubby had a flight booked out this afternoon to Alberta for our business but due to the storm the incoming plane could not land so his flight was cancelled at the last minute and he will now try again on Thursday.
So, after somehow believing we were going to get off fairly easy this winter after seeing what the rest of North America has suffered, we are now seeing our stretch of winter. They are calling for plus 8 degrees Celcius sunny weather tomorrow - I will believe it when I see it!
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Is there anything cuter in the world than bird tracks in the sand? These cute little duck footprints were spotted yesterday at the beach. Our walk didn't last very long there as tears kept running down my face from the cold wind blowing. It was sunny and beautiful though. Today we woke up to - you guessed it - snow again! I should have known - and no, I haven't bought a second shovel yet. At least today I don't have to leave the house so we can wait until midday to go share the shovel.
|Goose Spit Park, Comox - click picture for larger size|
So a couple of weeks ago I won $100 at work and was trying to decide how to spend it - that post asking What Would You Do With $100 was the most commented - ever! The money has now been spent as follows:
1. New Suitcase - hubby has suitcases specifically designed for packing suits. Those are expensive and would not work for our two week trip to Europe so we needed an inexpensive option. We found one on sale at 60% off - cost $45. One less thing to buy before our trip in April.
2. February 15th Pub lunch out $47 - worth every penny for a nice afternoon lunch date with hubby
3. $8 worth of new songs for my iphone - those Europe flights are long and I want to listen to some good music.
Based on the snow it looks like I will be staying home today - the roads are crappy here when it snows as the snow is so wet and slippery and everyone forgets how to drive as it happens so rarely here.
Saturday, February 15, 2014
|Campbell River Waterfront|
Even with rainy windy weather I still find the views breathtaking, and every day am happy and grateful that we get to live here on Vancouver Island. Cheers!
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
The good news? After a day of rain and warm temperatures yesterday there is only a little bit here and there. Now the dilemma, do we go buy a 2nd shovel to have on hand now or wait until next fall?
Sunday, February 9, 2014
My last post on what to do with $100 had the most comments ever - 24 so far! The answers are quite interesting, and I recommend you have a look at all the comments if you get a chance. A quick welcome to new readers as well as I saw a few comments from those who haven't commented before. Have a great weekend everyone!