Tuesday, May 18, 2010

FREE photo book TODAY ONLY!!

TODAY ONLY Ritzpix is giving away a free 4 x 4 hardcover photo book (you can actually get 2 per email address)!  You have only until 10 pm EST to get this offer. Here is how to do it:
  1. Click here to get started
  2. Make your 20 page customizable 4X4 photo book  (can use 20-30 pictures)
  3. GO to check out and enter code PROMO4X4.  (Remember you can get 2 of these)
  4. You WILL ave to pay $1.99 shipping and handeling.
Go now, you only have until 10:00pm EST to get your free photo book!

Thanks Be Centsable.


Tuesdays Travels: New York City

The City that Never Sleeps! The Big Apple! One of my favorite, FAVORITE places to visit! You may or may not know that I am a bit of a drama queen. In my professional life before I stayed home with the kids, I was a drama teacher, and as long as I can remember I was going to grow up to be an actress, but not just anywhere-on BROADWAY!!! Well, Omaha is far from Broadway, but I still love a good musical and love to perform, and I still LOVE New York City!!

I will try to always use the following categories in my Tuesdays Travels series:

  • General Information
  • Getting there 
  • Accommodations 
  • Transportation 
  • Food
  • Attractions and activities
  • Shopping
General Information

New York City is made up of 5 boroughs, each of which is unique and interesting in its own way: The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island.  I have visited all the boroughs, and stayed in Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn in my various trips to New York.  In this short story, I cannot possibly tell you all about New York City.

A couple things I would get before I head out to New York for the first time. One, find a good tour book/travel book for New York. Just stop by a book store and browse until you find one you like, then either buy it or go to the library and check one out! You can also get a lot of the same information online. I always buy a travel book and search online as I feel better having an actual book in my hand in a strange place, but that;s just me.  Maybe if I had a smart phone with constant Internet access in it...anyway. I would make sure that book includes a general Map of NYC.  Second, make sure you have or at least look at a subway map (it might be easier to pick one up once you get there).

Getting There

I have both flown and driven into NYC.  When we drove, we literally parked our car on the street in front of my aunts apartment for a week (moving it every 24 hours to comply with the law). So, if you drive, you will have to know a few things, 1-most hotels WILL charge for parking (and it is usually expensive). 2-Parking is scarce, especially if you are staying in Manhattan.

Flying into New York is pretty easy as there are a number of airport options to choose from: JFK in Queens, LaGuardia also in Queens, and Newark in New Jersey. Newark is a bit further out, but I have often found cheaper tickets into there. When you are looking into tickets though, take into account HOW you will be getting from the airport to your hotel (or wherever you are staying).  For example, once I flew into Newark as it was the cheapest flight by about $20. I was staying at my aunt's apartment so there were no shuttles into there, and I was fairly young at the time and it was well after midnight that my flight arrived. So, to avoid a teenager lost on the subway, I took a cab to my aunts house. It cost about $30 to get there...so in the end I did NOT save any money on that flight.  That was kind-of an isolated incident, but I just want to help you think of all the possible costs before you start planning you trip. (Note: Please read my Tuesdays Travels: Overview post for info on how I search for best flight prices and options).


Finding a reasonably priced Hotel in New York City can be like finding a needle in a haystack.  As an FYI, I rarely if ever spend more than $60/night for a hotel anywhere.  When I look for hotels in New York, I have to readjust my thinking about what is "reasonable".  I also have to look at where I am willing to stay.  First and foremost, I would NOT stay in a hotel rated less than 2 or 2 1/2 stars in New York. Second, you need to look at where the hotels are located. Some areas in NYC are less than family friendly.  For me, I like to stay near Times Square as I plan to spend most of my time there (Broadway!). However, it is REALLY expensive to stay in most of the Times Square hotels.  So, I broaden my search, I look for a place that is near enough I could walk or easily take a subway to the attractions I am planning to see. Luckily, Subway access is pretty much everywhere!

A bit more about location. Just to show you how different the prices are depending on where you stay. I just searched for a week in October on Expedia and I can find 2 1/2 star hotels in Newark area as low as $46/night, but the cheapest "Midtown/Broadway" area hotel is $186/night (that is the average price per night-weekend nights cost more than weekday nights). You have to decide what area you are willing to stay in and then you can budget your hotel.

Now, I read on AOL travel that if you travel to NYC between June 26 & September 1, you can actually get hotels much less expensive!

An alternate is to stay at a hostel. I have never done that, but have friends that have. Not sure I would (not even sure you can ) with kids. But you can read more about that option here.

If you are lucky enough to have family or friends in NYC, this might be a place where hitting up the family for a night or 2 might be worth it-it will save some major dough.


I have only a few things to say here: pack your tennis shoes and the stroller, grab a subway map, and get ready to move! Seriously! If you are going to NYC, I would invest in a subway pass for the week (or day or however long you are there).  Plan to walk a lot and take the Subway between places or when you are really tired.  Wes is a walker and we did not even get a full week Subway pass last time we went. We walked pretty much everywhere.  It was a bit tiring, but we had fun, saved money and really got in shape!

If you are traveling with kids, I am sure you worry about getting up and down those subway stairs with your stroller and stuff. A few stations like Grand Central have elevators, but most do not. But moms and dads-worry not! Contrary to popular opinion, New Yorkers are actually quite friendly and helpful overall, and I NEVER got to a subway stair without multiple people offering to help carry the stroller down or up with me.  Trust me, it may seem overwhelming at first, but it is actually not so bad! Give it a chance!!


This one is a toughy! Remember what I said about readjusting my idea of reasonable for hotels? Do the same with food.  The first thing I find near my hotel is a grocery store. These are insanely hard to find in NYC, so ask a local where the nearest grocery store is and go get some groceries to save some dough.  Also, check out the local delis which tend to offer reasonable prices for deli fare. They also happen to be one of my favorite parts about NYC. The delis are the best. You will find sandwiches you have eaten all your life, and you will find things you have never heard of or tried. I ate my first brie and apple sandwich in a NYC deli. Mmmm...I am hungry just thinking about it!

There are also a number of famous (and expensive) places to eat in NYC. If you want to eat at one, start looking for deals online-join the restaurant's online club if they have one, start checking City Deal Tracker everyday to see what the daily Groupon-type deals are in NYC.  FYI-the only food splurge I make in NYC is Lindy's cheesecake!

Another eating tip in New York, ask locals (ones that do not work in tourism) where they eat.  My aunt and her friends took us to places we did not know existed that were excellent, and half the price of the touristy places. 

Oh, and for an inexpensive, purely New York eating experience, find yourself a Gray's Papaya.  Or eat a hot dog or a taco or a Souvloki from a street vendor (they have to follow rules or health and are generally good). And we always eat at least once in Chinatown as that tends to cost less as well.

Attractions and Activities

There are literally thousands to choose from. Since I have no clue what you will be interested in, can I recommend that you take the travel guide I recommended you get, go through it and pick the things you really want to do. You cannot so it all! Pick your favorites, then start looking for discounts online, in the travel books, from City Deal Tracker. Ask at the hotel for discounted deals-they often have discounts available if you ask. Here are a few lists from me.

Choose from these "Must see/do" for first timers
  • Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
  • Times Square
  • Grand Central Station
  • Empire State Building
  • a Broadway Show
  • Soho
  • Chinatown
  • Greenwich Village
  • Wall Street
  • At least one of the Museums-I would choose the Met, but it could take days to see it all!!! (there are "Pay as you wish" times and days at the museums-check those out)
  • Central Park
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • Battery Park
  • Rockefeller Center
  • Sporting event (Baseball: Yankees, Mets Football: Jets, Giants  Basketball: Knicks, Nets Hockey: Rangers, Islanders, Devils Soccer: Red Bulls.)
*Note that I came up with most of these on my own, but supplemented the list with ideas from this Trip Advisor article about must sees for first time visitors to NYC.
How to get discounts on some on the attractions that cost:

  • Broadway: You can get inexpensive tickets the day of through TKTS or Rush. Please read what NYC Tourist says about TKTS here and what NY Tix says about Rush (which is usually by far the cheapest) here. I also found an excellent website that offers discounts if there is a particular show you are dying to see.  It is run my NY Tix and it is here.
  • Museum Deals from Go NYC here.
Free Attractions (My FAVORITE!!)

  • Central Park  ( According to Manhattan.about.com, on Friday Mornings this summer, Good Morning America will have free concerts in Rumsey Playfield in Central Park [near the park entrance at Fifth Avenue and East 69th Street] see the schedule here.
  • According to AOL Travel, taking a ride on the Staten Island Ferry will provide you with the chance to take in the eye-pleasing sights of the Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor and Ellis Island for free!
  • Rockefeller Plaza (And an added bonus The Today Show has Friday Morning concerts for FREE at 7 am during the summer, Check out this summer's schedule on Manhattan.about.com here.
  • Times Square
  • St Patrick's Cathedral
  • Grand Central Station Terminal  And, according to Go NYC, "Every Friday at 12:30, visitors gather to experience Justin Ferate's free walking tour through Grand Central and the surrounding neighborhood. Domestic and international visitors, as well as local New Yorkers looking to learn about the neighborhood, will enjoy this walking tour." See details here.
  • New York Public Library
  • Federal Reserve Bank of New York
  • Chrysler Building
  • The mile-long walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.
  • Fulton Street

Oh man do I love shopping in NYC!! I love going into the fancy stores like Tiffany's and Sax 5th Avenue and just browsing! I never buy there, but it is a joy to look!!! I went wedding dress shopping in boutiques and high end stores in NYC and felt like a princess! Some stores I would not miss with kids are the Times Square Toys R Us and FAO Schwartz! Those are a fun adventure!

But let's be honest, I am about as cheap as they come, so I never buy stuff at high end expensive stores, but I do like to buy knock offs and cheaper stuff. In New York, I always check out the stands on the streets for good knockoffs, and I never leave without checking out the merchandise in Chinatown. Seriously, it is great and cheap!


These are just the things I have learned in my NYC travels and my opinions on traveling to NYC. I am not the definitive NYC expert by any means. Please feel free to add your own tips and tricks to this and feel free to ask me any questions you might have.


Tuesdays Travels: Overview

As I mentioned before, I will be starting a Tuesdays Travels Series tomorrow. I told you that I love to travel, but I hate to spend the money to do so, so I try to travel as cheaply as I can. I want to preface this by saying that I am NOT a travel expert, and I am simply sharing travel tips and tricks I have figured out through my own experiences or through my research. I hope that you will help me out by sending me your travel tips and tricks as well. I WILL miss things that you know about so make sure to help me out! :)

That being said, I wanted to just start out with some general travel tips and tricks I have learned along the way in my life before I start focusing on the specific destinations.

First and foremost to save money when traveling, plan ahead and do your homework! By that I mean get to know your destination before you go. The Internet is a great tool we have these days to find out just about anything we need to know at our fingertips. Do not rely solely on it though. I ALWAYS ask friends, or friends of friends about a destination before I go. You never know what great tips others have up their sleeves!

When I plan a trip I consider the following categories:
  • Getting there 
  • Accommodations 
  • Transportation 
  • Food
  • Attractions and activities
  • Shopping
Let me take this a category at a time. 

Getting There

To drive or to Fly? For me this is what getting there  usually consists of: deciding whether to fly or drive. We have in the past considered taking a train, boat or bus but these options have not worked for us in the past, and I think drive or fly is the most likely in most cases of travel.  Of course on the East Coast you will have more train options between cities, and on islands you will want to look at boat options.

When we drive, I first get out my trusty Rand McNally Road Altas (yes I actually own a paper copy).  I bought it at Walmart for like $10 and it was the best investment ever! I check out the different possible routes, then I get online and double check the routes I found using Google Maps and/or Mapquest.  I plan out my route, including where we will stop to sleep if it is a long drive.  There are sites where you can find the cheapest gas along your route as well, but I have not done that in the past (I should).  What we DO thought is watch for certain gas stations along the way that tend to be less expensive overall (in our experience). The 2 we watch for are Flying J and Pilot.

When we fly, I start looking early for the best deal, and I try to have somewhat flexible dates. Usually Tuesdays and Wednesdays have cheaper flights that weekends.  I always check a few sites I trust first like Expedia, Hotwire and Travelocity.  And I just talked to my mom who said to also check Cheap Tickets. I used to use another popular site always but their changes in policy have made it so I won't use them.  Once, I  have checked 2 or 3 of the above mentioned sites, I have a good idea of what airline has the best deal for my travel plans. Then I go to that airlines website to see if they have a better deal. A lot of the airlines will have the best deals on their flights if you go through them directly so it is always worth checking!

A note about flying. With all the new baggage fees and restrictions, you want to pack fairly light to fly.  I was worried that car seats and strollers would cost extra just like extra bags do which for me traveling with 4 kids would really rack up a lot of additional cost. My friend Merrilyn who also has 4 kids recently when on a vacation with her family and she let me know that strollers and car seats are actually considered special equipment and to not cost extra! Phew! Merrilyn also had a good tip when you are traveling with kids and have to pack limited baggage, it is cheaper to buy things like diapers and wipes at your destination than it is to pack and pay for an extra bag. Good tip! Thanks Merrilyn!!


Wow-this one is always hard-where will you stay? Again, do homework. Find the location you want (be flexible if you can). Look on the sites listed above for their best hotel deals, and check the hotels to see what accommodations they have.  My husband is ALWAYS upset if I get a 3 star hotel versus a 2 1/2 star hotel! Want to know why?! In our experience, 2 1/2 star hotels often have fridges in rooms, free breakfasts, pools, exercise rooms and laundry facilities on site. 3 star hotels might have some of the same accommodations, but they will be less likely to be included in the price. And we found the higher the star rating, the more EVERYTHING cost! We stayed in one of the fanciest 5 star hotels in Vancouver last year and we had to tip for everything, pay extra for just about everything, and the food available was 3-4 times more expensive than it was to walk down the street.  If you want a fancy hotel, go for it, but know that you will be paying for the "luxury".  For us, we were not impressed and are happy with our 2 1/2 star hotels.

Just decide for yourself what accommodations are absolutely necessary for you (it will differ for all of us and for each trip). When I go to Disneyland for example, it is absolutely necessary that my hotel is either within walking distance or it has a shuttle to Disneyland (Even if I did rent a car, I am NOT paying to park).  I always want a pool, a fridge in the room and I hope for free breakfast.  The location matters as well. Those are my must haves-you figure out what yours are and look for those things in a hotel.

When we can, we stay with family when we travel, but with 4 kids we tend to be overwhelming. So, we try to make sure we balance it out so if we do stay with family we are not in their hair all the time, and we do not stay too long.  We try to be good house guests. If staying with family or friends is possible-go so but with caution-by that I mean be grateful, be clean, be helpful, and just be the kind of house guest you would want to have! Just some advice!  :)


This is a tricky one to write as a general topic.  If you drive to your location, you have a car and are set. If you need to rent a car, once again, check out prices on the sites listed in the "Getting There" section for the best deal! Then check with the cheapest car rental place to see if they offer a better deal directly from them. Also if you have an Entertainment book there are a lot of car rental coupons in there!

If you are going to a destination where you will be walking mostly, you should asses whether you truly need to rent a car. You can generally get from the airport to your hotel by hotel shuttle, Super Shuttle or public transportation.  Look into all your options for that before you spend the money to rent a car. Assess how much you will really be driving. Maybe you only really need a rental car one day-why pay for a full week?!  Maybe the place you are visiting has great public transportation. When we drove to New York City to visit my aunt, our van sat parked on the street for the week (well we had to move it once a day to abide by the parking/street rules). We used the subway or walked everywhere there and it would be a waste of money to rent a car.


As I mentioned above, Wes likes to stay in 2 1/2 star hotels with fridges. This becomes really useful for us when we are trying to save money on food.  One of the first things I do after deciding on our hotel is to find a Super Walmart, Super Target, or grocery store near by.  Often the hotels will also have a microwave as well. So, we will get some east microwave meals and fresh fruits and veggies and crackers and have those around to eat.

Some of you are thinking that you do not go on vacation to have to still prepare meals, and let me tell you, I hear you! I like to have a break too, so we generally plan to go out at least a couple times while we are on our vacation.  So, ow do we save money on that? Again-plan ahead. When you are doing your research, go online and find out what restaurants are near your hotel or near attractions you plan to visit. See if there are online coupons available for places you might want to try.  Check websites like Groupon to see if they have Groupons in that city and start watching them every day for restaurant or attraction deals in that city! 

When you check in at your hotel, ask your desk clerk or concierge for recommendations and ask if there are any discounts available-often they have discount books at the hotel.  And if you have a chance, ask locals to tell you where they eat-you can avoid the tourist traps and get advice for real local gems!

Attractions and Activities and Shopping are pretty localized and I will address these two topics in the location by location travels to come!

  • Overall: Plan ahead, research/do your homework, ASK friends and family about location
  • Getting There: Fly or Drive? Plan ahead and research your route/flight options. 
  • Accommodations: Decide what your Must Have's are, find hotels that have them, then look for the best deal! If you can stay with friends or family-go for it (be a great house guest)
  • Transportation: Assess whether you need a rental car and look into public transportation options!
  • Food: Grocery stores and eating in hotel room, find coupons before you go for restaurants, ask at hotel for recommendations or better yet, ask locals!

I hope this is some help to someone, and I look forward to writing about New York City tomorrow!


Tuesday Travels: Disneyland COMING SOON

As we are about to pack up the kids and head back over to the doctor for antibiotic shots, and as Ihave not had more than 10 hours of sleep in the past 3 nights, I am going to put off my Disneyland post until next Tuesday. Today I will repost my general Tuesdays Travels post and my New York one since people have asked abotu and like those ones.

FREE scoop at Haagen Dazs tonight from 4-8pm

From 4-8 PM tonight, Haagen Dazs stpres are giving free scoops of either chocolate, coffee or vanilla ice cream.

Find your local store here, and please make sure to check with them to make sure they are participating in this promotion before you head over to the store this afternoon!

Thanks The Freebie Blogger.


SLC: 50% off at Este Pizzeria

Today's Salt Lake City Groupon $10 for $20 Worth of Pizza and More at Este Pizzeria.

As with all the deals, make sure you check out the fine print before purchasing. To sign up for Groupons, click on my referral link here (this does NOT commit you to buying any deal-you choose what you buy) and to see the Salt Lake City page, including today's deal, click here.

Not sure what Groupons is? Then click here to read all about it!

Omaha: $6 sight seeing cruise from River City Star

Today's Omaha Groupon is $6 for a Sightseeing Cruise from River City Star. I have never gone on one of these-looks fun!!

As with all the deals, make sure you check out the fine print before purchasing. To sign up for Groupons, click on my referral link here (this does NOT commit you to buying any deal-you choose what you buy) and to see the Omaha page, including today's deal, click here.

Not sure what Groupons is? Then click here to read all about it!

FREE Lanacane Anti-Chafing gel.

Click here to request a free sample of Lanacane anti Chafing gel.

Thanks Penny Pinchin Mom.