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Tag Archive: Family Fun

How We Simplified Our Packing for Our 14-Day Road Trip

Simplified Packing System

Welcome to my 14-day series on our East Coast Road Trip where I share our adventures along the way, how we’re doing this on a budget, honest reviews of attractions & restaurants we visit, and money-saving tips and ideas.

We had initially planned to go back to South Africa as a family this year, but we couldn’t figure out a two-week block of time when we could go (and have time to prep and recover) that also worked out with our South African friends’ schedules.

Instead of going to South Africa, we had decided we were going to go to London, but then our kids felt unsafe going because of the terrorist attacks there. So we all put our heads together and decided to go on a two-week road trip instead.

We all love to travel and our kids want to hit all 50 states before they turn 18, so we decided to plan a trip to a few of our favorite places + to hit a bunch of new states and places we’ve never visited before. We’ve never done a two-week family road trip before, but we decided it would be fun to try it and see how it goes… and maybe make this a summer tradition if it goes well!

packed clothes in bags

Since we were going to be gone for 14 days and were going to be staying in a lot of different places, I wanted to come up with a system for packing that would keep things simple, would encourage us to pack minimally, and would take up less space.

So I decided on 5 big bags that each had a ziptop bag in them with one complete outfit for each of us. Then, we’d just plan to do laundry every 5 days and then repeat the outfits.

We also have a bathroom bag (with all of our hygiene stuff, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hair stuff, makeup, deodorant, etc.) and an extras bag (with sweatshirts, PJs, and flip flops).

This way, we only have to bring in one bag + the bathroom bag + the PJ bag for our overnight stays, instead of lugging in a suitcase for each of us.

packed clothing lined upclose-up of packed clothing in bags

My Thoughts On This System So Far

1. We Should Have Gotten Smaller Bags

I ran into Target the night before we left and looked for bags that would work for this idea. They only had the Jumbo Big bags so that’s what I grabbed. They are way too big for what we need and it’s hard to get the air pressed out of them since they are twice as big as what we need.

Next time around, I would choose the Ziploc Big Bags as I think those would be the perfect size and would make this idea work much better. You could also use tubs, but I felt like those would take up too much room.

Note: Packing this way also means that you don’t have to invest in suitcases so it can be a money-saver, too. However, it would only work for road trips, not plane trips. That said, you could pack the bags into a large suitcase for a plane trip.

2. You Need to Clearly Mark the Bags

It was kind of an after thought for us to mark Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5 on the bags. Next time around, I would do this in very bold lettering or use a bright label, because it’s kind of hard to see our writing on the bags late at night when we’re unloading the car.

packed clothing ready for a road trip

3. It Does Take Up a LOT Less Space

Our car was so much less packed for a 14-day road trip than it usually is for a 5-day road trip! That made it so nice for us to travel for hours without being cramped!

4. It Has Really Simplified Things

It was so much easier to only worry about packing for 5 days. It made packing a breeze for all of us! Plus, it has meant you only have one outfit choice each day so it eliminates decision fatigue.

5. It Has Kept Our Hotel Room Cleaner

This has been one big plus! We always seem to be able to wreck a hotel room in nothing flat! 5 people in a small space with all their stuff that they brought on the trip just equals a mess very quickly!

But since we are only bringing up one bag + the extras bag + the bathroom bag, it’s meant that it’s much easier to keep our hotel rooms clean!

welcome to Virginia sign

Day 1 Travel Update:

We left around 1 p.m. and drove to Blacksburg, VA. There was a lot of rain and a few accidents that slowed us down, so we didn’t make it to our destination until around 11 p.m.

The kids did really well in the car. We had purchased a few fun surprises from Dollar Tree for them to do while we traveled, they played the license plate game, I read aloud to them, and they listened to Adventures in Odyssey.

close-up photo of God's Whisper in a Mother's Chaos book close-up photo of The Praying Pond book

I got some blogging work done (it’s so fantastic that I have a job where I can work anywhere!), read aloud to the kids, and finished two books:God’s Whispers in a Mother’s Chaos and The Praying Pond (written by a reader).

True confession: I didn’t pack minimally when it came to books because I usually read 1-2 books/day on vacation and I’m old-fashioned and don’t have a Kindle because I adore real books. So I did bring a small suitcase packed with 20+ books. Yes, I did. (And that was my pared down stack. I may have issues… or an addiction to books! The first step to recovery is admitting I have a problem, right?? ;))

To be continued…

Want to follow along with our trip in real-time? Follow my personal Instagram account here where I’ll be sharing a daily recap + videos and photos via Instagram Stories.

Keeping Frugality Fun

There is nothing that will squelch the joy in frugality faster than pinching your pennies so hard you never have any fun. And if you’re planning to practice thrift for the long haul, you need to strategically come up with ways to keep life interesting, exciting and fresh. Otherwise, you’ll likely burn out before a few months are out.

Just because you don’t have a lot of money or are trying to live on little doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to have fun and splurge a little without breaking your budget. Here are a few things we’ve done:

::Have a bookstore date. We did this often back in our law school days, when there was almost-zero wiggle room in our budget most months. We’d browse books, buy a drink to share (usually paying for it with a card I’d earned through reading emails from MyPoints!) and sit and read and talk for awhile. It made for a very relaxing evening that cost us next to nothing!

::Go out for coffee. Nowadays, we don’t often have time for leisurely bookstore dates, but we use our Starbucks gift cards earned through Swagbucks for fun (and free!) dates.

::Visit the pet store. Can’t afford to go to the zoo? A pet store is a great alternative. Our children love to peer into all the different cages and aquariums — and we’ve never had a pet store owner have a problem with us just dropping by to browse.

::Plan a nicer dinner each week. If beans and rice make up a large part of your diet, plan ahead so that one night per week, you have “feast.” You could go all out and re-create food from one of your favorite restaurants at home. Or, you could keep it simple and just try a fun new recipe or make your family’s favorite dessert. If you can’t even afford that, add a table cloth, your best dishes and candles to your normal fare to make it seem extravagant. No one will probably notice you’re eating beans and rice yet again if they are distracted by the beautiful candlelight. 🙂

::Stop by the library. The library was one of our favorite places to frequent when we were on a very limited income. When my husband was in law school, there was little else we could afford when it came to entertainment, so we spent countless hours and evenings at the library. And we checked out hundreds of books, CDs and DVDs. Best of all, that particular library had no late fees!

::Go shopping at CVS. This might seem a little crazy, but back when I was playing the drugstore game really hot and heavy, we oftentimes used extra ECBs to splurge. And some nights, we’d divvy them up and see who could get a better bang for their bucks by hitting up the clearance section of the store. It felt like a splurge, but it didn’t affect our pocketbook.

::Have a Loose Change Date. During the first few years of our marriage, any extra pennies or nickles or dimes we had, went into a change cup that we kept in our kitchen cupboard. Once a year, when we were feeling particularly like we just couldn’t keep on living like no one else and needed some sort of pick me up, we’d take the change cup to the bank and exchange it for dollar bills.

You know that money was tight, because usually after a year of putting in our extra pennies, nickels and dimes, all we’d have would be around $7-$8 collected! But that $7-$8 could meant we could rent a movie at the $0.50 movie store and get dinner at a fast food restaurant with coupons. And you know what? A little splurge like that often did the trick to re-invigorate us on our frugal journey.

How do you keep frugality fun at your house? I’d love to hear your ideas!

photo by Maddy Lou

Fifteen Favorite Children’s Read-Alouds – Part 2

Missed last week’s post with Part 1 of Fifteen Favorite Children’s Read-Alouds? Read it here.

Picking up where we left off last week, here are four more of our favorite children’s read-alouds:

5. The Story of Ferdinand — The girls never tire of this story and it always produces a plethora of questions on bull-fighting, bees and everything in-between.

6. Keep the Lights Burning Abbie— This is one of Kathrynne’s most-loved stories. It’s a beautiful tale of a girl who shows great responsibility and determination to stick to her commitments — in spite of great difficulty.

7. Caps for Sale — Despite how many times we’ve read this book, it never ceases to capture the girls’ complete attention. They find it fascinating. Plus, it offers lots of opportunities for us to discuss entrepreneurialism and how “way back when” people really had to get creative when it came to earning a living.

8. Bless the Lord: The 103rd Psalm — With absolutely gorgeous and detailed artwork, this book has the rich phrases of the 103rd Psalm contained in it. If your children are anything like mine, they will want to spend a great deal of time just studying the pictures.

Part 3 coming early next week…

This post is brought to you in part by HarperCollins and the Borders Double Dog Dare You Reading program. Kids 12 and under can join the Borders Double Dog Dare You Reading program and earn a free book when they read 10 books. Just fill out this form and bring it in to any Borders, Waldenbooks, or Borders express store by August 26, 2010 to participate in this program. Find more Summer Reading Programs here.

photo credit: Washington State Library

Your Guide to Free Summer Fun

Looking for some FREE activities to fill up all that extra FREE time your kids have over the summer? You’ve come to the right place! Here is your guide to all things fun and free (or really cheap!) for your kids this summer with thanks to Kaley from Cha-Ching on a Shoestring for compiling this list for us. Have a seat, grab a pencil and your calendar and let the planning begin!

Reading Rewards Programs:

Free or Cheap Movie Admission:

  • Regal Free Family Film Festival: Beginning in June, select Regal Theaters will offer free family friendly movies starting at 10 am each Tuesday and Wednesday during the festival. Tickets are only available the day of the show and first-come, first-served seating is limited to theatre capacity. Go here to see if there is a participating theater near you.
  • National Amusements Bookworm Wednesdays: Kids can get free admission to a select children’s film every Wednesday at 10 a.m. when they present a book report at a participating Showcase Cinemas, Multiplex Cinemas or Cinema de Lux box office. Accompanying parents or guardians and children under six also receive free admission and do not need to submit a book report. Program begins July 7 and ends August 11.
  • Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse: Participating Cinemark theaters are offering $1 family-friendly movies on select weekday mornings throughout the summer. You can opt to  purchase an advance pass for all ten movies for just $5 making them only $0.50 each! Find a list of participating locations, dates and times here.

Free Activities:

Kaley is the Wife, Mom, blogger, and free-stuff-finder behind Cha-Ching on a Shoestring where she chronicles her family’s journey of learning to live large on a limited budget and helps others do the same.  She and her husband Wes are the proud parents of two active, amazing boys and have lived to celebrate their journey through unemployment.