Frugal Novice

Beach Road Trip Options for the Perfect Texas Weekend Getaway

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

If you live in Texas, you know just how huge the state is. It can take forever to get from one part to another, but the benefit of such a large area is that there are lots of options for road trip vacations. And one of the best places to vacation? The beach, of course! 

Just hop in the car and hit the road to one of these great Texas beach towns, and you can kick your feet back in the sand before you know it.

Port Aransas/Mustang Island: With 18 miles of shoreline and wide, sandy beaches, it’s no wonder it’s been ranked one of the best beaches in Texas. There are great things to do year-round, including festivals and events like the annual BeachtoberFest, the Whooping Crane Festival and Texas SandFest. 

North Padre Island/Corpus Christi: North Padre doesn’t get as much attention as South Padre Island, but it’s a great beach destination and has the benefit of being incredibly close to Corpus Christi, which provides a lot of dining and entertainment activities. The island offers abundant nature, seashore breezes, scenic views, and a relaxing, laid back community of coastal homes and vacation spots nestled in the dunes and along the water’s edge.

Matagorda Bay: This area boasts 22 miles of beach accessible by vehicle. Tent camping is also allowed on Matagorda Beach, and for the “treasure hunters” out there, you’ll find a lot more than the customary seashells – people have found driftwood, bottles, sand dollars, and even old Spanish coins.  

Tips For Buying A Used Car

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

Buying a used vehicle is a great way to get a lot of bang for your buck – you’re more likely to be able to afford vehicles with all the bells and whistles, like navigation systems, heated seats, and built-in entertainment systems. I’ve bought almost all of my vehicles used, and it’s been a great choice. For some people, buying a used vehicle can seem a little daunting, though, so here are some tips for making sure your used vehicle is a smart buy:

Buy a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle. You’ll have peace of mind knowing your vehicle has been inspected, serviced, and repaired as needed. Because of this, it’s being sold with an extended warranty, and that is really valuable. Buying certified pre-owned lets you know you haven’t bought a lemon. 

Research the vehicle. You can look up the VIN number to see if it’s been in any accidents, or if it’s been damaged by a flood or fire, for example. Small fender benders wouldn’t scare me away, but a major crash in a car’s history could spell trouble. Not only that, some damage to the car could render it undrivable legally, so its best to know before you go.

Look for a car with decent mileage. This doesn’t always mean super-low mileage, because in a used vehicle that can be very hard to find. An average of 12,000 miles per year is considered the norm, so break down the total mileage by the age of the car to figure out if the car has a low or high average. 

Get Your Car Ready for Back to School

This is a sponsored post partnered with Apple Valley Hyundai. All opinions are honest and are my own.

It’s just about a month until kids go back to school (has summer flown by for anyone else?) and it’s a great time to start thinking about how to get organized. We often focus on the home – having things ready for lunches, making it easy for the kids to pick out their clothes, and creating a space for working on homework.

One often-overlooked space for back-to-school readiness is the car. If you organize your car the right way it can make drop-offs easier and pick-ups more pleasant. Here are three tips for getting your car in A+ shape before the new school year arrives:

1. Use seat organizers. I’m sure you’ve seen these before – they hang down the back of car seats and have various-sized pockets for housing different items. This can be a great way to make sure you have all the things your kids might need. Kids forget breakfast? No problem – keep granola bars or small cereal boxes in some of the pockets! Have a four-year-old with a boo-boo that threatens to derail your morning? Have Neosporin spray and band-aids at the ready. Think about what you wish you’d had on hand this past school year and make a list to stock your car well.

2. Use shower caddies to make for neater eating. You can find these at the dollar store, and they’re an amazing way to let kids eat in the car without making a huge mess. Just place all the components of their breakfast (or dinner, if you’re out running errands – last minute school supply shopping, anyone?) and it keeps everything contained.

3. Get a cooler for your car. If you’re often carting your kids around to soccer practice a car cooler can make your life so much easier! It plugs right in to your car’s cigarette lighter and allows you to have cold drinks on hand. It’s also a great way to keep fresh fruit, carrots, or cheese sticks around for healthy snacks.

Cool Car Features for Families

This is a sponsored post partnered with Reedman Toll Chevrolet. All opinions are honest and are my own.

When you’ve got kids like we do, your priorities in picking a vehicle are a lot different than if you’re buying a car as a childless person. Flashy features don’t matter as much. Instead, it’s all about what makes life with children easier. Here are a few cool car features that every family should look for in their new vehicle:

Entertainment System. This isn’t the simple DVD player setup you might think of. Nowadays, the players can stream shows and music, which broadly expands your options when on the road. You can even add WiFi hot spots to your vehicle so devices can stay connected no matter where you are.

Vacuum Cleaners. What parent wouldn’t like to have a vacuum at the ready? You can easily say goodbye to crumbs and other messes with a feature like this in your vehicle.

Hands-Free Liftgate. How many times have you gone shopping with the kids, only to get out to the car with your hands full? Many vehicles now have a back hatch that can open with just the wave of your foot underneath the back bumper.

Remote Start. This can literally be a “cool” feature in the heat of summer, when you can have the AC running before you and the kids even get in the car. The great thing is this feature that used to be hard to come by is now much more common.

What features would be included in your dream car?

Keep Your Car Clean – Even With Kids!

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

I have three children, and we are in the car a LOT – especially during the school year. Each of my children brings items into the car as we’re out and about. They like to bring toys and books, which is all good and well until we have the equivalent of a toy store in the back of our vehicle! And that’s not even starting to address the things we accumulate while we’re out. Let’s just say it gets messy FAST.

It doesn’t always happen, but it’s a goal of mine to keep our car presentable; my standard is having it clean enough that we wouldn’t be embarrassed to offer someone a ride. Here are a few ways I’ve learned to manage the mess:

Schedule car washes. Taking the car to be washed just wasn’t on my radar, but now it’s something we do at least twice a month. When we get it washed we always follow it up with cleaning out and vacuuming the interior, so this ensures that we have an opportunity for deeper cleaning every couple of weeks. If you’re averse to spending money on a car wash, you can schedule a weekend day to do it yourself at home – or better yet, make the kids do it! It can be a fun task that they might actually enjoy, and it might help the kids think twice before they make a mess in the car since they know what all goes into keeping it clean.

Make smart car food choices. I think most parents will agree it’s pretty unrealistic to suggest a no-eating rule in the car. I have instituted this rule on occasion, and it definitely makes life harder. When we’re running late in the morning, it’s easier to let the kids eat breakfast on the drive to school. I’ve learned that we have to pick the right types of food – granola bars work well; cereal with lots of small pieces does not – and that we need to package food in the right way to help keep crumbs at bay.  When the children do bring cereal, we put it in a larger baggie, filling it only about ¼ of the way. You don’t want leftovers, because those will inevitably be spilled. I prefer to give the kids drinks in cups with lids because juice boxes often get unintentionally squeezed and make a big mess.

Always throw trash away when you get gas. You’re standing around waiting for the gas to pump anyway – why not be productive? This will help keep trash from piling up and seeming like a daunting task to tackle. You can also try to create the habit of having your kids each throw trash away when you get home each day.

Provide a basket for each child in the car.  Go to the dollar store and get each of your children a small basket. Every so often have the kids bring their basket in and purge the car of various toys and items that have made their way into the vehicle over the past week.

Keep baby wipes on hand. These are great for cleaning spills, wiping down the hard surfaces in the car, and cleaning up the kids, too. Quick wipe-ups help prevent stains from setting in and can curtail a sticky mess before it spreads.

Hyundai Palisade: The Ultimate Family-Friendly Car

This is a sponsored post partnered with Central Avenue Hyundai. All opinions are honest and are my own.

As the mom in a family of five, I’m always on the lookout for family-friendly vehicle options. When you’ve got that many people riding in your car on a daily basis, it’s got to be something that’s roomy and that functions well. I was excited to discover a new option for us to consider – the 2020 Hyundai Palisade. Here’s what makes it a great car for families:

Plenty of seating. The Palisade can be configured with either 7 or 8 seats, perfect for a family and even a few guests along for the ride. If you choose the 7-seat option, there are captain’s chairs in the second row, which makes it easy for kids to get to the back row.

Available 3rd Row Power-Folding Seats. Having plenty of cargo space is an important feature in a family vehicle, because with kids comes stuff. It’s awesome to be able to have seats that fold down with the push of a button – if you’ve got your hands full, it’s incredibly easy to make room for any large items (tuba from band, anyone?).

Available Blind View Monitoring. When you’re driving with kids in the car, it can be nearly impossible to be driving distraction-free. This feature helps you know when cars are coming up in your blind spot, helping prevent you from distractedly changing lanes into a vehicle, and making it even easier to keep your kids safe.

Smart Cruise Control. Like I mentioned above, distracted driving can be a challenge for parents when there are noisy kids in the back. Smart cruise control detects vehicles in the lane ahead of you and automatically slows the vehicle down to maintain a safe distance, preventing you from accidentally rear-ending someone.

With the beauty of the Palisade and the smart and safe features it offers, it’s a perfect family vehicle.

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.