Frugal Novice

Michigan Must-See Places for Fall

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

This is the last of my “Fall Road Trip” series, and this time we’re taking a trip through Michigan. People often think of the northeast for trips during autumn, but the midwest has lots of fun things to offer as well, and it’s definitely worth loading up your vehicle for a road trip in the coming month. Here are a few places you won’t want to miss!

• Hike on the North County Trail. This trail, which in its entirety goes through several states, passes through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the Lower Peninsula through the Manistee National Forest, and various other parts of the state. You’ll be able to view all sorts of beautiful fall colors in the vast array of trees along this trail.

• Visit Pond Hill Farm. This is an idyllic setting for family-friendly fall activities. Every year they have a fall festival where you can do fun things like hayrides, pig races, pumpkin bowling, pumpkin painting, and pumpkin smashing. They have cider and donuts for perfect fall treats, and you can even pick your own pumpkin from their pumpkin patch. They have a café, winery, and brewery, too – something for everyone!

• Check out an Apple Fest. Charlevoix is a small town that’s perfect for visiting this fall. Their annual Apple Fest celebrates harvest season. You’ll want to check out their arts and crafts shows, shop at the farmers market, and let your kids explore the Castle Farms Train Area. They also have a petting zoo, face painting, and live music.

Road Tripping in Maine – Where to Go

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

This post is another in my Fall Road Trips series. I hope you’re enjoying reading about these great activities available in different areas around the country, and that you’re inspired to hop in the car and take a road trip of your own.

When I think of traveling in the fall, Maine is the place that first comes to mind. The fall leaves are one of the things Maine is most known for, but there are many other fun family activities to do that make Maine a perfect road trip destination.

• See the waterfalls. Did you have any idea that Maine has over 100 waterfalls? I had no clue! Since Maine is a smaller state, nothing is too far apart, so you could easily take a road trip and visit many of the falls in one or two days.

• Camp on Hermit Island. Hermit Island is a family-oriented campground with rustic sites for tents and spots for pop-up trailers. The campsites include a fire pit, a picnic table, room for recreational equipment, and a parking space. There are walking trails and many other fun activities for families.

• Take cooking classes at Stonewall Kitchen’s Cooking School.Whether you do this with friends or your spouse, this would be a fun way to learn new recipes and techniques ahead of the holidays.

Hit the Road on a Fall Georgia Road Trip!

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

I absolutely love road trips. First of all, they’re way cheaper than flying someplace, and second, you have all sorts of opportunities for great memories while you’re traveling down the road in a car with your loved ones.

If you’ve been reading my latest blog posts, you’ve seen some great ideas for road trips to take – and I’m continuing that today, this time in Georgia. Georgia is a beautiful state, but we’ve never been during autumn. It’s now on my list of must-do’s, though! Check out these fun things to do in Georgia this fall:

• Tallulah Gorge State Park. This nearly 3,000-acre park surrounds the Tallulah Gorge, which is a spectacular canyon two miles long and nearly 1,000 feet deep. You’ll enjoy waterfalls, hiking trails, and beautiful vistas. There’s also a suspension bridge 80 feet above the bottom of the gorge that gives great views of the river.

• Savannah. This city has been one I’ve wanted to visit for years now. There are all sorts of boutiques and eateries I’d like to visit, but for those of you that embrace the spookiness of Halloween, you’ll love all the haunted tours available. Many believe that Savannah is full of ghosts and haunted history. There are walking tours, and you could stay inside a house or hotel that’s been reported as haunted. You can even do a Savannah Haunted Pub Crawl.

• Apple Picking in Ellijay. There are several orchards, and apple picking is a quintessential fall activity. Visit one with your family, take in the views of the orchards, snap some photos, and take some apples home for some delicious fall baking. Apple pie, anyone?

Fall Fun in Florida!

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

At this time of year, with Halloween right around the corner and Thanksgiving right behind it, fall activities are on the brain. In Texas the weather can waver anywhere from 80 degrees down to the 30s, but there are still many days mixed in that do feel like autumn.

When it comes to Florida, though, it seems like it could be hard to find fall activities. After all, it feels like spring and summer year-round!

Don’t despair, Floridians – there lots of great options for activities to get in the autumn spirit – and I’m sharing a few here. Hop in the car this weekend and hit the road for some fall fun!

• Oktoberfest: Yup, you read that right – Oktoberfest in Florida! The German-American Social Club hosts this event each year in Cape Coral. There are performances, dancing, and of course lots of music. You’ll find delicacies like sausage, potato pancakes, and schnitzel, and of course lots of brews to go along with the goodies.

• Southern Fresh Farms Fall Festival: This farm is located in Fort Meyers, and features a petting zoo, a playground, a market, and even guided tours. They also have food trucks every Friday night and usually have live entertainment on Fridays, too.

• Sandsculpting Championship & Beach Festival: This is also in Fort Meyers, and is a little more in line with what type of fall event you might expect in Florida! World-class sand sculptors compete in several contests; there are also other types of competitions, demonstrations, and lessons. Kids will love the bounce houses and slides, and families can shop at more than 50 vendors that participate in this event.

Perfect Fall Road Trip – Fall Foliage in Connecticut

This is a sponsored post partnered with Robert’s Chrysler Dodge Ram Fiat. All opinions are honest and are my own.

I live down in Texas, and while there are definitely lots of beautiful things to see in nature, I’ve always wanted to travel up to the northeast in the fall to see the foliage.

If you’re lucky enough to live up in the area, Connecticut has awesome options for seeing the beautiful colors of autumn trees, or doing fun activities with your family. I’m sharing here three perfect options in Connecticut for fall road trips. The great thing about this state is that it is just 110 miles long and 70 miles wide, so nothing is too far away! Just hop in the car, hit the road, and have an idyllic autumn getaway.

• Simsbury – home to Talcott Mountain State Park, where you’ll want to be sure and visit the Heublein Tower – a 165-foot tower that offers sweeping views of the Farmington River Valley. 

• The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat. This tour takes you on a 2.5-hour, 12-mile journey through the Connecticut River Valley through beautiful scenic views of the trees in the area.

• Storrs – the Adventure Park will let you see nature from a whole new perspective as you soar through the trees on their zip line course. They also have an adventure playground for younger kids, so there’s something for the whole family here.

Fall Car Care Tips

This is a sponsored post partnered with Grogan’s Town Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram. All opinions are honest and are my own.

A lot is written about preparing your vehicle for summer, and for winter, but it’s a great idea to do a fall checkup on your car, too. If you’re a parent, you’re probably about to put a lot more miles on your vehicle with carting kids to school and activities. Check the following items (or have them checked at your local dealership) to see if you need to make an appointment to get anything fixed or replaced, and get your car in tip-top shape for back to school.

  1. Check your battery and have it replaced if necessary. Time flies and it’s easy to forget when you last replaced your battery. We had some issues with our minivan and were shocked that our battery was over 3 years old! Thankfully replacing the battery solved our problems, but it’s good to be proactive and make sure your battery is good before you end up stalled on the side of the road somewhere. Be sure and check that the connection is clean, tight and that there’s no corrosion.
  2. Check all fluids. These include: engine oil, power steering fluid, brake and transmission fluids, antifreeze, and even your windshield wiper fluid.
  3. Check hoses and belts. You want to make sure they are not cracked or showing signs of excessive wear. This is a great time to make sure everything is secured appropriately, too.
  4. Check the brake system. Do this annually (beyond just the quick check at your vehicle inspection) and also have brakes, rotors and drums inspected at each oil change. Why not have your brakes in great condition before things start to get icy in the winter?
  5. Check the wipers. Replace worn wiper blades so you can be sure and see clearly when you’re driving in the rain.
  6. Check the tires. You want to make sure the tire pressure is at the manufacturer’s recommended amount, and that the treads aren’t too low. You also want to watch out for uneven wear (and especially for bald spots where the tread is completely worn down), which indicates that you should have your wheels realigned.

San Marcos Staycation/Vacation Ideas

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

When people think about vacationing in Texas, most will think of the coast, especially during the summer. But now that fall is almost here, it’s the perfect time of year to hop in the car and visit other places around the state. My first recommendation? San Marcos and the surrounding area. There are so many fun things to do beyond just floating the river and visiting Schlitterbahn. Here are some fun things to do on a fall getaway or staycation:

Wonder World Cave and Park. This attraction has something for everyone – a cave tour, a wildlife park, anti-gravity house, observation tower, and more. This is a great spot for families!

Three Dudes Winery. This winery has a tasting room and terrace, and is perfect to sit and relax with friends or your significant other.

Outlet Mall. If you like to shop ’til you drop, you will LOVE these outlets. There are two sections filled with tons and tons of stores, and there are great eating options in the area too. This would be perfect for a trip with your friends, and you could follow up your shopping excursion with a trip to the winery.

Meadows Center Glass-Bottom Boat Tours. Visitors on these tours will learn about the local ecosystem and will get a close look at turtles, prawns, various species of fish, and other aquatic animals. You can also add on to your boat tour and take a stroll through their floating boardwalk. This would be a fun outing for families with younger kiddos, or nature enthusiasts.

Reasons Your Check Engine Light Might Be On

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

I’ll fully admit that I’m not incredibly savvy when it comes to car care. I know to get my oil and filters changed on a regular basis, and I know to make sure our tires are properly inflated, but when the check engine light comes on, I’m always unsure as to why.

When in doubt, it’s always good to take your vehicle in to the dealership you bought it from – they’ll have a team of mechanics adept in handling your particular type of vehicle. And according to Consumer Reports, if your check engine light is blinking rather than steady in can indicate an emergency, so pull over right away if that’s the case. In the meantime, though, here are some things that might be causing your check engine light to come on:

Your gas cap is loose. Let’s all hope this is what our problem is! If your gas cap is loose or missing, the fuel system pressure isn’t maintained within the fuel tank, and that might cause the light to come on.

You need new spark plugs or coils. Worn plugs can cause a variety of issues including an engine misfire. A worn coil can create the same symptoms, and can cause the car to shut off unexpectedly.

Your oxygen sensor needs to be replaced. An oxygen sensor helps monitor how much fuel is burned. Over time this can get covered in oil ash, which reduces the sensors capabilities. Most cars have 2-4 sensors; your dealership can scan and tell which sensor needs to be replaced.

Fun Tailgating Tips for Fall

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

Fall is here, which means it won’t be long at all until we’re in the middle of prime tailgating season. If you haven’t ever tailgated before, it’s a fun fall tradition you should definitely try! You can make tailgating even more fun if you’re prepared – check out these great tips for how to ramp up your tailgating game:

1.  Pack a kit. I’m all about being prepared, and tailgating is no exception. A toolbox with all its various compartments can be the perfect vessel for housing all the things you might need: spatulas, a bottle opener, a can opener, tongs, plastic ware, trash bags, paper towels, baggies, wipes, hand cleaner, and any seasonings you might use often when grilling.

2. Use a six-pack box (like the kind for bottled sodas or beer) to house all your sauces. Keep your A-1, Tabasco and BBQ sauce from spilling out in your car by putting a bottle in each compartment. It’ll also make it easy for you to cart the sauces around!

3. Make it easy for people to find your car. Get some helium balloons and float them high up so your friends can easily find you among all the other cars around.

4. Think smart with which vehicle you bring. A compact car isn’t going to have as much room for storage. A minivan can work well (try adding plastic drawers to the back to organize all your supplies) and then of course trucks are optimal with all the surface area a truck bed provides!

5. Create a disposable cooler. Another use for your drink boxes is to line them with trash bags (use at least two layers to prevent leaks), fill them with ice, and voila! You’ve got an instant cooler that you can easily toss when you’re done with it.

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.