Frugal Novice

Tips for Bargain Road Trips

This is a sponsored post partnered with Elliott Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Carthage. All opinions are honest and are my own.

We love to take road trips in our family. Yes, there’s something to be said for the ease of flying, but road trips are where memories are made. The random little stops you find along the way, the silly games you play as a family to pass the time, and the crazy stories that come about after hours together in the car on the road – they’re all a part of the charm, and they’re all things your family will talk about for years to come.

If you’re taking a road trip, you already know one major benefit – it’s typically so much cheaper than flying somewhere. This is especially the case if you have multiple children. The cost of driving two people somewhere (and even staying at a hotel) is pretty much exactly the same as the cost of driving four people.

There are lots of things we’ve discovered as a result of our many road trips that help save even more money, and I thought I’d share some of the tips with you in case they can help you too:

Buy travel-sized bottles at Dollar Tree: You can actually find travel-sized toiletries here, too (and everything is a dollar, so you know you won’t be overcharged), but if you have a pricey shampoo you just adore, package your own travel-sized items instead of shelling out more money to buy small sizes of your favorite products.

While you’re at Dollar Tree… if you’ve got kids, stock up on a few fun little surprises to unveil along the way. You can use these as prizes for road trip games, or as rewards for good behavior, or even just as something to break up the monotony of sitting in the car. Buy some candy (not chocolate! You don’t want it to melt in the heat of summer) to save, too – then, when you stop at gas stations you won’t have to pay higher prices for snacks and trinkets because you’ve already got your own! If you have room for a cooler, bring your own bottled water and other drinks, too.

Check travel sites for hotel deals: Many sites like Hotwire, Priceline, and even Expedia offer mystery hotels for drastically reduced prices. If you’re not super picky about what chain you stay at, you can end up getting a really nice hotel for a truly bargain price. We’ve stayed at hotels before that would typically be way out of our price range, but are totally affordable by taking advantage of these mystery deals.

Research gas prices: There are apps galore out there that let you know what gas prices are down the road so you can plan ahead where to stop and get the best deal in the vicinity. Don’t wait until you’re out in the middle of nowhere and are forced to pay a higher price because it’s your only option.

Plan ahead for activities: Don’t just wing it when you get to your destination city. Look up what activities there are to do, and more importantly, hunt for coupons online. You can typically find discounts for places and end up saving lots of money by buying tickets ahead of time rather than at the door/gate.

Five Great Texas Cities for Summer Road Trips

This is a sponsored post partnered with Lonestar Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram San Antonio. All opinions are honest and are my own.

If you live in Texas you know it’s pretty much big enough to be its own country. Did you know if you drive from El Paso to Texarkana it’d take you about 12 hours? It’s huge! Luckily, though, if you’re in the Hill Country, there are tons of great cities all within a few hours’ drive that make great vacation destinations. Here are a few you should add to your must-visit list:

San Marcos/New Braunfels: While these are two separate cities, we usually visit both when we visit one. San Marcos is a favorite for me because it’s got amazing outlet stores perfect for stocking up on back-to-school clothes, and our whole family loves New Braunfels because of Schlitterbahn water park. Gruene is another small town nearby – just hop in the car and take a short drive to get there – that has great live music and a restaurant called the Grist Mill that is a favorite.

Fredericksburg: This is a great town for a weekend visit. It’s small, so you can see it all in a day, but there’s a laid-back vibe that’s great for relaxing and enjoying time with your family or friends. Stay at one of the many B&Bs and you’ll have a place to visit after everything closes down for the day. There are tons of restaurants, stores, and wineries to visit.

Austin: It’s the state capital, so it’s kind of a given for places to visit in Texas, but this city is more than just the heart of downtown. The surrounding cities have a ton to offer, too, and you can avoid the traffic and crowds if you hit the outskirts. Georgetown, Leander, Round Rock (catch a Round Rock Express baseball game – they’re a blast!), and Cedar Park all have great local restaurants and opportunities galore for walking, biking, canoeing, fishing, and enjoying the outdoors.

• San Antonio: This is another city that many think of when planning a Texas vacation, but it’s for good reason – there is SO much to do. Whether you’re visiting the Alamo (it’s smaller than you think it is, so be prepared!), cruising down the river along the River Walk, or enjoying some amazing TexMex, it’s just a lot of fun all around. If you visit, get a hotel along the river and you won’t even need a vehicle – you can walk (or take a boat ride) to get to all sorts of shops and restaurants.

You might live in one of the cities/areas I mentioned above, and if you do, I encourage you to view your city like a tourist and enjoy a staycation!

Family Road Trip Destination: Portland, Oregon

This is a sponsored post partnered with Legacy Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram. All opinions are honest and are my own.

I’ve traveled to many states around the country, but have never made it to any along the west coast. Portland, Oregon is one city that I’ve always wanted to go to, and it would make a great long weekend road trip from anywhere in the northwest. Here are a few great ideas for things you can do in Portland for a fun, kid-friendly visit:

Pips & Bounce: You might think it’s odd to suggest a bar as a family destination, but this one is definitely a place the whole family will enjoy – and it’ll get you moving, too. How? Ping pong! This bar boasts 10 ping pong tables and a broad menu (kids meals, too) along with craft cocktails. There’s something for everyone and it would make a unique lunch stop, for sure.

• Playdate PDX: This is a family-owned indoor playground and café meant for adults and kids to both enjoy. They boast a three-level jungle gym, ball cannon room, two interactive dance floors, and a toddler room for ages 3 & under. Their cafe serves pizza, salads, paninis, wraps, kombucha, craft beer, local Oregon wine, and espresso drinks – perfect for adults to relax while the kids burn off some energy. 

Oaks Amusement Park: This park has been running since 1905, and is located in a historic neighborhood in Portland. There are 20 rides, a roller skating rink, miniature golf, arcade games, concessions, and more.

Family Road Trip Destination: Philadelphia

This is a sponsored post partnered with Reedman Toll Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Springfield. All opinions are honest and are my own.

It’s summer, and that means vacation time for many families. Sometimes that means jetting across the country – or across the world – and sometimes it means hopping in the car for a road trip. If you’re in the northeast, Philadelphia is a great road trip destination for families. Here are a few of the best kid-friendly activities in Philadelphia to make your road trip a great one:

Please Touch Museum: This museum is just what it sounds like – a place where kids are encouraged to touch and interact with everything inside. There’s a miniature supermarket, a hedge maze that feels like you’re in a fairy tale, a STEAM-friendly water area with lots of opportunities for experimenting, a car room, a rocket room, a camping room, a garden, and much more.

• Franklin Square: This is one of Philadelphia’s five original squares, so there’s a definite historic element to it that’s very cool, but it’s also a super-fun place filled with kid-friendly options. The center of the square is the fountain, which is being updated this summer to include lights, music, and “dancing” water. There’s also a miniature golf course with 18 holes, and there are all sorts of fun nods to history like the Ben Franklin Bridge and the Liberty Bell. The classic carousel is always a hit, and SquareBurger is a place any kid would love to eat, with burgers, hot dogs and more.

• Treetop Quest Philly: This aerial adventure park lets you maneuver from tree to tree through obstacles and zip-lines. There are over 60 to choose from, and safety is a priority so you and your kids (ages 4 and up) can have a blast without worry.

Dodge Ram Truck as a Family Vehicle? Yep – Here’s Why

This is a sponsored post partnered with Three Rivers Chrysler Jeep Dodge. All opinions are honest and are my own.

When you think of a family vehicle, what’s your first thought? If you’re like me, it’s a minivan (and yep, our family has one!). Or if you have a smaller family, you might think of a sedan. Did any of you think truck? Before I learned more about the 2019 Dodge Ram 1500, I wouldn’t have – but y’all, with this truck your family can have the best of both worlds… and here’s why:

Great seats. The Ram features a rear seat fold-down center console (great for if you have two kids and need cupholders, available reclining rear seats (perfect for long drives when the kids might want to nap) and rear seat ventilation.

Plenty of leg room. The Ram has a generous 45.1 inches of rear legroom. I used to think trucks would be too cramped for a family, but this proves me wrong.

Loads of charging capability. When you’ve got multiple people traveling in a vehicle, that means you’ve also typically got lots of devices going down the road with you. The center console in the front row can charge up to FIVE phones – an especially amazing feature on road trips.

• Storage, storage, and more storage. Of course, when you think of a truck you know there’s a ton of room in the bed of the truck – but that’s exposed to the elements. If you put a tarp over items and pack things in plastic bins, you can weatherproof your luggage and take advantage of all that space. BUT the 2019 Dodge Ram 1500 also has more interior storage than you’d expect. You can fold up the rear seat to access available under-seat storage, with compartments that can store up to 40 liters with the fold out feature. There are also available in-floor storage Ram Bins, which are 5.5 inches longer than in the previous model. There is also a rear flat-load floor to provide additional passenger comfort, usability and extra cargo storage. As a mom, I’m allllll about storage, so this makes me happy – and it’s just one more way this truck makes for a perfect family vehicle.

Customized Skin Care Line That’s Totally Y’OURS

I received a custom skin care system from Y’OUR skin care with four products to facilitate this review. I was not compensated monetarily. All opinions are honest and are my own.

I’m 37 years old, and I’ve had what I’d call “trouble” skin since I was about 9 years old. When I was a kid, it didn’t bother me a bit, but I spent a lot of my teenage years feeling angsty about it, for sure. The fact that I was breaking out because of hormones and reacting to how I felt about it because of hormones felt like a double-edged sword.

Now that I’m in my 30’s my skin doesn’t break out regularly, but each month, about a week before I start, my skin goes haywire and I get 4-5 problem spots. And since I’m reaching my upper 30’s, I’m starting to see the signs of aging. This is primarily in smile lines around my eyes, so I’m honestly not too fazed by it (I mean, it just shows I’ve had a lot of reasons to smile in my life, right?) but it is a reminder to me that now’s the prime time to really pamper my skin before more wrinkles start showing up.

I’ve tried lots of different products in my quest to find better skin, and I’ve had lots of let downs along the way. I’ve never thought of myself as having sensitive skin, but so many products have caused additional breakouts – particularly the anti-aging cremes I’ve tried.

When I heard about Y’OUR skin care (y-ourskin.com), I was intrigued. The idea of a skin care system customized to my particular blend of needs was instantly appealing, but I wanted to learn a little more before I decided whether to get excited about it.

I went and took their quiz, which is what Y’OUR uses to determine the products they send. I was expecting something fairly generic, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised at how the questions got to the bottom of what’s going on with my skin. I was able to input information about my breakouts, about how they happen typically now during PMS, about how sometimes new products break me out, and about my new-ish concern about wrinkle prevention. But it didn’t stop there, and that’s when I started to realize this company was different than what I’d encountered in the past.

Y’OUR also asks questions about your environment, because they recognize that there is more than genetics at play in what happens with our skin. I loved this aspect of the quiz, because living in a dry, dusty climate certainly influences what’s happening on my face.

I received my kit about a week after taking the quiz. I love, first of all, that this is a system for my skin. Too often in the past I’ve just hodge-podged different products together, not thinking at all about how those different brands might work together – or against each other. This kit includes four different products, and told me exactly how and when to use each one.

I haven’t mentioned this yet, but I’m also an incredibly low-maintenance person. So, while I care about my skin, I also have to admit that I don’t care enough to invest an hour each day in it – which is another reason the Y’OUR skin care kit is so appealing to me. It’s easy and fast, and that’s a priority for me at this point in my life!

In the mornings I use the cleanser (just a dime-sized amount) to wash my face, and then I follow it up with the day cream. At night, I remove my makeup, then use the cleanser, serum, and night cream. All in all it takes less than 5 minutes, which I’m on board for.

Serum is used at night right after the cleanser. It goes on light and isn’t oily at all, which I was a little worried about before trying it.

Here’s what you really want to know, though – does it work? Well, I’ve been using it for about three weeks now, because I really wanted to test this out before giving any sort of opinions about it. I was honestly nervous that it was going to make me break out, despite the fact that I had told Y’OUR in the quiz that products have broken me out in the past.

Here’s my “starting night” photo. This is sans makeup, and post-nighttime routine.

You can see some remnants of my breakouts, and the redness in my skin. I also have large pores, which thankfully you can’t really see too much unless you’re right up in my face.

And here’s about a week and a half after starting using Y’OUR products:

My skin looks redder in this photo because we’d spent the day outside, but at this point I was starting to notice that my skin was a lot calmer overall. Breakouts were noticeably lessened once I started using the Y’OUR products.

Here is my most recent photo, taken three weeks after the first one:

First of all, excuse my crazy hair. It has a mind of its own sometimes. But y’all – my forehead has been smooth, and breakouts have continued to be held largely at bay.

I’m incredibly impressed with the Y’OUR products. My skin has felt smoother, softer, and like it has more of a glow to it. My foundation goes on more smoothly, too.

The photo of the products at the top of the post is a three-month supply. When the products first arrived I was incredibly skeptical that it could really last that long, but now that I’m nearly a month in I can see that it’s an accurate estimate, because you really don’t have to use much at a time. A three-month supply is $180 or it can be paid out in $65/month installments. The price made me pause for a moment when I first learned about the company, but the effectiveness of the products and their dedication to providing customized plans for consumers makes the cost make sense. You’re just not going to find a customized system like this over the counter or in drugstores.

Another note: I love that Y’OUR will re-formulate your products for free up to two times during this three-month period so that you can for sure end up with products that work great for you. And they’re really proud of the quality of their ingredients and process – clean ingredients, no fillers, paraben & toxin free, made in the USA, and no animal testing. This makes me feel good, too, that I’m not having to sacrifice my safety standards for effective results.

Be sure and pop over to y-ourskin.com to take the quiz today – it’s free and easy (and fun, honestly – I’m always a sucker for a good quiz!), and it’ll get you thinking about all the factors that come into play with regard to your skin. And check out their awesome blog post with tips for getting rid of acne (yes please!) while you’re at it. Your skin will thank you.

Why You Should Get Your Tires Rotated

This is a sponsored post partnered with Williams Brother Dundee. All opinions are honest and are my own.

When you own a car, there are many aspects of its care you have to consider. Some things may be more common sense to people, like getting the oil changed – but many people don’t think about having their tires rotated. This is an important part of car care (you should have it done every 5,000-7,500 miles), though, and here’s why:

  1. You want your car‘s tires to wear as evenly as possible. If you don’t rotate your tires, the front tires might wear more on the outside edges, and those front tires will wear down more quickly overall. If you have your tires rotated, the front tires will be switched to the back, allowing you to keep the wear from being largely on two of the tires.
  2. When your tires are rotated and are wearing evenly, your ride will be safer and you’ll have better handling of your vehicle. While your tires are being rotated the air pressure will also be checked.
  3. One other reason to have tires rotated regularly is that your tire warranty may require it. Be sure and check warranty details to make sure if this is something you should be doing!

When you have tires rotated, here are the things that should take place:

  • Tires should be examined for wear and tear, and treads should be looked at to see if they’re too low.
  • The tire’s date code should be checked. The last four digits indicate the tire’s age – safety experts recommend not using tires older than six years, so it’s good to know what you’re working with.
  • Tires will be shifted to different positions on the vehicle than where they were before.

Get your tires rotated regularly and keep your car in tip-top shape!

Keep Your Pets Safe in the Car

This is a sponsored post partnered with Charlie’s Dodge. All opinions are honest and are my own.

If you’ve got pets (dogs, especially) you’ve probably driven down the road with your furry friends in tow – at least to the vet’s office, if nothing else. You may not know it, but you might have put your pet at risk if you weren’t following proper safety protocol. Here are a few tips to make sure Fido is safe and sound:

  1. Use a restraint on your pet while in the car. If you’re in a fender bender, dogs can suffer broken bones or other injuries if they’re not properly restrained. There are easy step-in harnesses you can use on your dog – no matter what its size.
  2. One problem we have with our large lab/golden retriever is that she loves to try and get right up next to us while we’re driving. If she starts nudging us with her nose, or bumping into the steering wheel, she can create an unsafe driving situation, which isn’t good for anyone. There are products called back seat barriers to keep your pets in the back where they belong. This also makes it safer for passengers if there is a car accident of some kind.
  3. Make sure your pet is getting plenty of air conditioning pointed their way so they don’t get overheated. There’s a product called the Noggle which lets you extended the A/C from the front to the back seat – it’s meant for babies and young children, but works great for our furry babies too.
  4. Make sure your windows aren’t rolled down too far. Dogs love to stick their heads out of car windows and feel the breeze on their faces, but they could fall out – in fact, one of our dogs once jumped right out of a moving vehicle – thankfully he wasn’t injured, but it totally freaked my husband out!

Make sure to keep your furry friends safe while they’re on the road with you, and then take them out for lots of fun this summer!

Get Your Car Summer-Ready

This is a sponsored post partnered with Roberts Honda. All opinions are honest and are my own.

While summer doesn’t officially hit until mid-June, it’s basically here now temperature-wise for many states. And although we talk a lot about preparing our vehicles for the winter, summer preparation tips can get overlooked all-too-easily. It’s just as important to get your car ready for the hot months ahead. Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Check your car battery. Heat can be hard on your battery, so have it in tip-top shape ahead of summer. Clean any corrosion off terminals, and make sure that the clamps are still secure. If you can’t remember when you got your battery, it’s a good sign that it might be time to have it checked. You can have this done at your local dealership or at many car-part stores, and it’s a quick and easy process.

2. Check your fluid levels. Make sure your oil, coolant, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and more are all at appropriate quantities.

3. Make sure your filters are clean. You’ll be using the cabin air filter a lot as you blast the AC, and you want to make sure clean air is piping into your car for your family to breathe.

4. Check your tires. When the temperature changes rapidly your tire pressure can drop, and you can end up with tires that aren’t safe to drive on. Summer can often be rainy, and you want to make sure your tires are properly inflated (and that the tread isn’t too low) so you can maneuver slick roads with ease.

5. Change your windshield wipers – and put some Rain-X on your windshields, too – to be ready in case you encounter any sudden summer storms.

Now go take care of your car a bit and make sure its “beach bod” is ready to go!

Tips for Planning a Successful Family Road Trip

This is a sponsored post partnered with Miller Auto Group. All opinions are honest and are my own.

I’ll fully admit that I’m a planner, so when my family goes on road trips, I’m in my happy place getting us ready for a smooth journey. I thought I’d share some of my planning approaches that have helped us have successful trips:

  1. Plan your overnight stops ahead of time. If you’re going on a long trip that requires more than one day of driving, a hotel stay – and a break from being in the car – is inevitable (if you all want to stay happy and sane, anyway). I like to use Google Maps to plot out the estimated drive time for the whole trip, and then I break our days down into reasonable chunks of driving. I don’t like for us to drive late at night, so I keep that in mind, too. By planning which cities we’re going to stay in, I’m able to research hotels – which leads me to my next point.
  2. Research hotels! I spend a good chunk of time doing this ahead of road trips, and it is totally worth it. I look for hotels that aren’t too far off our route, but I mainly look at ratings, reviews, and amenities. If we have a little wiggle room in our schedule I like to have us stay at hotels with great pools. Free (and decent) breakfasts are another amenity I look for, because it can save us money AND time by eating down in the hotel lobby instead of having to stop somewhere once we get loaded in the car.
  3. Pack separate suitcases for hotel stops. It makes life much simpler if you just have to unload one suitcase with clothes for everyone rather than several separate bags. This also allows you to contain dirty clothes in separate containers, leaving your big suitcase uncluttered for the main part of the trip.
  4. Look up fun stops along your route. These don’t have to be afternoon-long excursions, but can be something as simple as a scenic overlook to stop and stretch at, or a fun ice cream shop the kids would enjoy. These little moments break up the monotony of being in the car, and they re-energize everyone. They can also be used as rewards for kids if you’re having a hard time with behavior in the car.

Hopefully these tips will help your road trips be smooth and a lot of fun!

Items to Keep in Your Glove Compartment (Besides Gloves!)

This is a sponsored post partnered with Cerritos Dodge. All opinions are honest and are my own.

Back in the day, the glove compartment of vehicles was actually used to house people’s gloves. Nowadays, despite the name, there are many other items that are a good idea to store in your car’s glove compartment. Of course there are the standard items: owners manual, insurance card/information, vehicle registration paperwork, etc. What else could be considered a “must have” for any car’s interior?

Here is a list of some simple household items that you always seem to need in your car, but can’t find. Storing these in your glove compartment is a perfect solution. Things you might want to include are:

Napkins, paper towels, or towels for any potential spills or messes that occur (if you’ve got kids or pets that ride in your car these are definite necessities!).

Ballpoint pen or mechanical pencil for times when you need to jot a note down, or perhaps endorse a check while waiting in line at the ATM. I like to keep several of each on hand in case the kids ever need one for homework in the car, or for drawing.

Mints or gum, in case you need to freshen your breath before a meeting, or if you might be feeling nauseous. Several members of our family get car sick easily, and having mints on hand has been really helpful.

Spare change, if you find yourself a few cents short at the drive-thru, or if you end up needing a small amount of money for some purpose while you’re out and about. If you live in an area with tolls or plan to travel through tolls soon, it’s imperative to have spare change. Some tolls will mail you a bill, but in Oklahoma you HAVE to have cash/change for the tolls.

Fingernail clippers, for that pesky hangnail or to cut tags off of new items.

Spare shopping bags, in case you need to throw something away, or hold a bunch of small items – or if someone gets sick!

But what else? How about some simple tools or electrical items for an emergency, such as:

Screwdrivers, both philips and flathead

Flashlight, with the batteries tested regularly

Wrench

Tire pressure gauge (always good to use when your vehicle’s low tire light is on)

Duct tape (it fixed everything, right?)

You might also keep a few energy bars or other nonperishable food items in the glove compartment, making sure to change them out before they expire. You never know when you get in a situation where you need that one thing that you always have, but can’t seem to find while on the road. It’s always good to be prepared!

Save Money on Vacations – by Driving!

This is a sponsored post partnered with Zeigler Chrysler Dodge Ram Kalamazoo. All opinions are honest and are my own.

How can driving on vacation save us money?

The summer holidays are fast approaching, but if the budget’s tight it can be hard to plan the perfect family vacation. Airfares are high, accommodation isn’t cheap and there’s usually activities to splash out on once you get there. Driving to your destination may not sound like your idea of a relaxing break, but it could leave you with more money in the bank and, if you play your cards right, some very happy kids! Here are some top tips for saving money on your driving holiday.

Stock up and save

One of the main advantages of driving on vacation is that you can take more with you. If you opt for a self-catered holiday, you might want to consider taking food supplies with you in your car – bring a cooler to make sure the things in your refrigerator don’t go to waste while you’re away. You can also save money by making sure you take everything the kids need to keep them entertained while you’re gone. After all, if they’ve got their favorite toys, electronics, and activities with them, they’re not going to be whining on the road about being bored, or asking to go shopping for something new.

Fuel savers

While driving may be a cheaper option compared with the cost of flights, we all know fuel isn’t free. There are, however, ways to conserve fuel and money, even on long road trips. Try to find the most economical route for your journey. Even if highways are the quickest option, they may not be the most fuel-friendly. If you have a GPS navigation system, it may have an option to help you choose the most economical route, so check yours out before setting off.

Another positive of avoiding the highways is that you’ll get a chance to actually enjoy the journey. The drive doesn’t have to be a chore, and, if you plan your route carefully, you might even have a chance to stop off and enjoy your surroundings on the way!

Explore

When you’ve got your own car to get you from A to B, you’re not restricted to staying in one place. Unlike when you fly abroad, you’ll be able to travel to different places, taking in new experiences. Consider staying in one place for a few days before moving on to another town. You’ll get a lot more for your money in local hotels and B&Bs, and you’ll be able to fit much more into your time away.

Go off the tourist trail

We all know that tourist-friendly areas are more expensive to visit. Save money by going off the tourist trail and into quieter areas. Restaurant prices, hotel rates and the cost of souvenirs are all likely to be lower if you go off the beaten track, and, thankfully, having your own car makes that a whole lot easier!

Make memories

Remember, making memories is free so all you have to do is enjoy yourself! Drive safely, take plenty of photos and enjoy your vacation!