Budget Friendly Family Vacation Tips. Book the trip!

budget friendly family vacation tips

This guest post is authored by Becky Drake Conser, Master Trainer for Beachbody LIVE, a National Fitness Presenter, a Mother, and a UNICORN.  After her European vacation, she realized “I spend way less money on three weeks of vacation than one unsupervised Monday at Target!”


I wanted to share a couple (well, more than a couple due to being verbose) lessons I have learned on our “Family Vacation!”

1) All you need in your suitcase is lots of socks(hand washing those babies does not get out the stinky feet days of walking), a handful of pairs of undies (women, thongs!! Trust me), and comfy shoes.

2) You never need as much as you think. And you can always find shops that sell what you left behind.

3) Hand wash the clothes the night you wear them so they do not stink up the suitcase. Jeans need 36+ hours to wash so wear them first and hang dry in the shower.

4) The people you meet shape your opinion of the Country and make you fall in love with the location. Talk to everyone.

5) Set no expectations for the day as you never know how it will turn out and being open minded will free up bandwidth and allow JOY to be the emotion.

6) The best time of the year to visit somewhere is whenever you can get there. Don’t over complicate the planning!

7) You do not need to be an expert of the Country before going. Make sure you set up that 1 tour that is “important” to the World but then just google/yelp the things you like when you are there and GET LOST!!!

😎 Nothing tastes as good as the first local meal and beer once you finish a day of travel.

9) Take the train!! It’s way less stressful than the airport and they rarely want you to arrive more than one hour before you leave. In Italy, they laugh if you get there more than 30 minutes prior to leaving the station as the track is not assigned until 5 Minutes before you are set to leave.

10) On trains – upgrade to the business economy so you have the leg room and storage space appropriate for travelers.

11) Sometimes, doing something different in a NEW location is all you need.

12) Trying new foods can change your life and make your kids more adventurous.

13) Kids also love their favorite foods so finding a restaurant that specializes in that is a win. You do not have to eat local everyday.

14) Vacationing abroad can be cheaper than vacationing in the States!

15) Find the locals!! The local beach, the local restaurant, the local gym, the local hangout are always the better choice.

16) Blue badge tour guides are the cream of the crop! You do not skimp on doctors and professionals in the states, so don’t do it when traveling. And hire the private tour with skip the line passes. (You can afford it! Just find a local sandwich shop for lunch and don’t drink alcohol for a couple dinners to save up.)

17) Kids love fancy hotels more than you. Book a couple and enjoy the customer service and that extra bedroom!!

18) Find the swimming pools or beaches in every location and “burn” a day or night letting the kids get out the crazy.

19) Travel days are hard! Nothing goes as planned so breathe and laugh, a lot.

20) Being scared to visit a place because someone told you they did not like it is a big mistake!

21) You have to pay to pee in most countries so be prepared and if you are in a pinch, have the cute kid ask to use the potty.

22) Don’t drink the water from the street vendors. They “recycle” those bottles from the trash cans and the water is from unknown places.

23) Rent the car!!! Our favorite days (minus the learning curve of driving local) were the days we got in a car and drove the countryside!

24) If you find your favorite food, your favorite restaurant, GO back and eat the same thing a second time.

25) If you try to speak the language and very politely ask every person “do you speak English” then EVERY person you meet is super friendly.

26) Uber is available in most countries.

27) Apple Pay is such a convenience!! You always have your phone, and lots of countries are more advanced on their banking.

28) Always have the cash because there is always that one place or one cab driver that does not take anything but cash.

29) Look like a tourist. Do not be ashamed to stand out and have the fanny pack. And carry that paper map with pride.

30) WiFi is sketchy so have one phone that is going to roam and be your point of contact.

31) Take ALL the pictures, but understand that you should not hand your phone to just anybody. That private guide will take the family pictures for you and family selfies can turn out amazing.

32) Cliche to say but sunrises and sunsets are the most amazing times to be out and about.

33) Kids absorb more than you expect so do not concentrate on them looking at the guide or standing in the group. They will surprise you with the things they heard.

34) Walk the city Centre because you will always find the best parks and cool statues and just the things that are missed when others blink.

35) Drink the coffee, everywhere!

36) Your Kids will survive for multiple weeks without electronics. Let them sit on silence.

37) Learn the queuing rules for each country.

38) Don’t be afraid to take a nap in the middle of the day. It’s hot and very few place have AC so take a break and then see the city at night.

39) Eat the gelato. Drink the local drinks. Spend money on eating the food and tipping the waiters. Seriously, a 10 Euro tip makes the biggest difference and the wait staff and manager will spend time talking to you are your children.

40) Booking that vacation is the best money you will ever spend!!


As a mom myself of 40 year olds and Gigi to 4 grand kids, the best money spent is on family vacation!  Don’t hold back if your finances are scarce. Be creative and pack your bags!


More ideas on organized travel here!


How to take a Real Vacation


How to take a real vacation

Remember when summer vacation meant long breaks with little to do. It was a simpler time with no email and less paperwork.  At work and at home, we feel overwhelmed by all there is to do. It’s hard to prioritize a real vacation and even harder to make that happen. More than just getting organized to take your trip, here’s now to take a real vacation.


Why make sure you take your vacation

Knowing why to take your vacation is the push to do so because it has the most compelling reasons. There’s the benefit of creativity.  (Did you know Hamilton was written during a vacation?) Daily stress can take a physical toll and vacations give us the time to relax our body and our brains.  Taking a vacation is a complete reset.


How to time off from digital distractions

We all fear that avalanche of email when we return to work.  It’s what stalls our best attempts at relaxing.   However, you can set boundaries with this.  Checking email once a day, using your out of office response and coming back a day early to work on email are all ways to combat the need to check in.

  • Check email each evening to prevent hourly email check ins. You can add a line to your signature line or your out of office response to alert who to contact and response times.
  • To get the full benefit of time away, think about returning earlier. This can be earlier in the day or a day early.  Knowing you are setting aside time to get back into the groove can make a big difference during your vacation.
  • Take your time on social media seriously.  If you are checking in mindlessly, it’s time to put down your device and get back to enjoying your vacation and the people you are with.   We tend to gravitate to social media when there is a lull in action.  Spring back into vacation instead.

Add in your tech tools for fun

There’s a few tools to use that make vacationing more fun! There’s online tools you will love.

  • Device chargers to keep you up and running.
  • Great headphones to listen to your music or a movie.
  • Portable speaker to play your music
  • Apps for meditation, relaxation or promote sleeping
  • Apps for sightseeing

Be sure you don’t stray into dangerous email territory while having fun.

Get your planner out today to set a date for your vacation and take a real vacation this year.

Easy, Organized Summer Travel

easy organized summer travel


It’s travel season! It starts right after the end of school and trickles down in mid- August.  There’s lot to prepare.   If you are like most families, nothing slows down before or after your trip.  So how to get ready on a moment’s notice?  Here’s 3 tips to getting organized for summer travel super easy!


Travel checklists

No reason to reinvent the wheel!  Keep a travel check list for you and your family.  It’s the best secret to ensure that all that you need it with you.  A list makes sure you include everything you want for your trip without having to remember it all.  Here are some of my favorite


Travel apps

Most destinations have their own apps now too!  It’s easy to log on and learn what’s to offer at that location.  There are offer schedules,coupons, maps and other information too. It’s like an insider’s guide to your destination.  It’s best to log on to the specific location you are headed to but there are general ones as well that make it easy to make the most of your time away.


When You  Return

It’s hard after vacation to get back into the groove. There’s lots competing for your time and energy.Plus you are travel weary.

  • Start with clothes. Grab all laundry and get a load started.
  • Pile up all the papers and go through it ruthlessly keeping just bills and most important papers.
  • Try to bring home as few extra papers or odds and ends from your trip as possible.  For articles you pulled during your trip or paper keepsakes,  take a picture with your smart phone or save the article to Evernote.   Leave the free stuff like toiletries, extra sundries or other goodies for another traveler to enjoy.
  • For email do a quick triage and delete as much as you can.  Categorize what remains by the date or day of the week you can work on it.

Have a travel tip that works for you? Share here!


Join my newsletter here!

Favorite Travel Organizing Products

travel organizing



Travel  today is a bit more like stage coach travel in the wild west.  You have to be prepared for anything and everything.  You may not leave or arrive on time and there’s always weather to work around.  Being organized makes travel easier.


More of us are trying to be well prepared and hassle free by carrying on our luggage  With all the regulations on what we can carry on, it’s great to have organizing products that make it easy to consolidate what you need.    Here are my favorites for my carry on bags.


travel organizing

My Travel Tubes


Toiletries organizer

With TSA requirements, liquids need a great leak proof container.   These refillable bottles travel pack  has a zipper case to keep it together in my carry on.  This makes it easy to pull out for going through the security line.  I include my hair products, face wash and other liquids I use when I travel.




Hanging Make Up Bag

Hanging Make Up Bag


Make up and Medicine organizer

For make  up and medicines, this organizing product helps you consolidate and categorize.  Two clear zipper pockets hold my make up and the zipper case holds my medicine.  A top hook helps you hang it at your destination.  It folds into a small clutch size in your carry on.




Cocoon Grid It for Electronics

Cocoon Grid It for Electronics


Electronics organizer

With all our cords and chargers for multiple devices, we need an a travel organizing product.  The Cocoon Grid It has rubberized straps to hold cords, flash drives and other accessories in place.   It zips up for easy storage.



travel organizing products

Ebags 3 Medium Packing Cubes

Clothes, lingerie and swim organizer

Think of your carry on luggage as a big open slot.  Things slide around in there!  Packing cubes consolidate and categorize your clothes, lingerie and swim wear.  Cubes keep clothes neatly folded and ready to go when you arrive.



travel organizing

Mini charger


Communication organizer

Travel plans seldom follow Plan A.  We want to stay in touch when Plan B happens.  Having a mini charger for your devices ensures that you are always connected by your devices.  Be sure to charge this ahead of time so it’s ready to use.


Travel organizing product tips

  • These travel organizing products are available at local big box stores, online at Amazon.com or ContainerStore.com.  Purchase these well ahead of your travel date to be sure they arrive on time.
  • Spend a few minutes the week before you travel setting up your travel products so you are ready to go. Pack your bag to be sure they are fit properly in your current carry on.
  • When you return home, reset with all products needed.  Store these in your carry on and you are ready for your next trip.



 Wishing you a fabulous and organized time on holiday!




More tips and tools here! Join my newsletter!

Travel Time Organized

travel time organized


Summer is when we hit the road by air, land and even sea! When you are organized and ready for your travel, it’s less stressful and more memorable.

Your destination information

  • Keep up with your travel papers with clear pocket folder.  Place information in the pocket folder asap so it you always have access to it. 
  • Set your sights on apps that help you with destination information.  Kayak.com and Hipmonk.com can help you get flights, hotels and more.
  • Get started with your packing with a list! Whether its a paper one from Container Store or online with TravelSmith.com, lists are the best way to be sure you have all you need.

Get packing

  • As busy as we are, we often leave packing to the last minute. Start well in advance of your trip just with the suitcase out. Drop in items throughout the week. A day before you travel, assess what you are taking and eliminate a little.  
  • Packing cubes make travel organizing easy. Place floppy bathing suits and cover ups in one, underwear in another, and even pants or dresses in a large one. Having your suitcase divided into units makes finding something much easier.
  • Create a travel medication kit for your holiday.  Include every day items like band aids, creams, aloe and other over the counter meds just in case.
  • Pack your kids clothes in Ziploc bags, set up by day.  It’s easy for them to get ready on the trip.
  • My favorite pre-packed item is my toiletry case. It has all my every day face and hair products in small size containers, always ready to go.

Hit the road

  • Healthy snacks are a must for travel.  Make it fun with small size containers or individually wrapped snacks for you and your family.   If you are travelling by car be sure to include a cooler with water and plenty of ice. 
  • Small crazy Dollar Store items keep everyone entertained.  Add to the fun with these on the trip.
  • My favorite souvenir is a photo at the destination with my family.  Help your kids make good souvenir choices by allowing a dollar amount or a single souvenir.
  • Double check that you have all electronic devices, cords and other accessories needed for everyone’s happiness. A Grid-It case makes it easy to keep it all together.

Getting back in the groove

  • Sadly all vacations end! Give yourself a extra time to sort mail, buy groceries and do laundry before getting back to work. You will be glad you did!


Join my newsletter for more organizing and productivity tips!



10 Ways to Get Organized for Summer


10 tips for summer organizing


It’s that time of year when the weather turns our thoughts to summer. Our last day of cooler weather is officially over, so let’s bring on the fun and sun! This list of will help you start your summer organizing!

1. Time to move out the winter wardrobe. Review what you have worn or not worn this year and decide to donate.  Pack away the winter sweaters in a tote, ready to store in the back of your closet or under your bed. Review your coats in the coat closet, and decide if any of them are ready to donate. Then move them to the back of a less accessible closet. Shine up your winter boots and store these away too.

2. Check out the expiration dates of medicines, sunscreen and bug spray. Be prepared with medicines for allergies and bug bites, as well as sunscreen for your lips too.

3. Get your swim bags together for you and your kids. Pack the essentials, like sunscreen, but also some change, tissues, sun hat, and fun fan to keep cool.  Load up your kindle, nook or tablet with a great book you have wanted to read.

4. Go through all the precious artwork and papers from your kids this school year. Keep only the most special, like the first 100 on a spelling test or a hand print turkey, to save in a box marked with that grade.  Place the boxes in the top of your children’s closets.

5. Rinse out your coolers. Handprints and other dirt come off with a Clorox wipe or Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Dry completely before storing in an easy to access spot in the garage.

6. Evenings are great time for outdoor fun, even in the heat. Pick up inexpensive outdoor fun, like bubbles, kick balls, sidewalk chalk, croquet or horseshoes for family fun.

7. Its enticing to drop all routines during the summer.  Being well rested is important all year long!  Be sure to set a bedtime for you and your kids this summer, turning off all electronics 30 minutes before slumber to ensure a great night’s rest.

8. Schedule some pampering with a cool summer haircut and pedicure for you and your kids.

9. Air up your bike tires and plan for summer picnics in the shade. Pick up some fresh new BPA-free waters bottles in different fun colors for everyone in the family and donate your used water bottles.

10. Host a family meeting and ask your kids and spouse about their summer wish list. What is the one most important thing for each person this summer? Be sure to mark your calendar to include everyone’s special activity during summer vacation, as well as block out your vacation, dates for summer camps, and July 4th holiday plans.  Gather up ideas for summer fun from local papers, online or other moms. A little extra planning makes all the difference.

Take Back Your Life… by the Sea (Houston, Galveston, and Southeast Texas)

A Weekend of Happiness and Positivity

January 27 – 29, 2012

Empower Women to Lead Healthy, Balanced and Organized Lives

Presented by Deborah Olson, M.A., LPC, Kingwood Counseling and

Ellen Delap, CPO, Professional-Organizer.com

•Discover your unique strengths and how these contribute to your happiness and resilience

•Learn your organizing style

•Enjoy sessions on wellness, photography, and fashion

•Relax and rejuvenate at the spa, walking the beach and reflecting

•Share and bond with engaging and energized women

Location: San Luis Resort, 5222 Seawall Blvd, Galveston


Workshop fees $295.00 including materials as well as breakfast and lunch Saturday, and breakfast Sunday.

Hotel fees $139 per night, single or double occupancy

Register early by email or call 281-358-2030

Registration deadline January 10, 2012

Travel Organized with the Smead Travel Organizer

Getting organized for your upcoming travels is the best way to ensure happy holidays!  Keeping all your documents, coupons, and papers together is important, especially when away from home.

Keep these papers together for your upcoming trip.

  • Hotel
  • Airlines/transportation
  • Sightseeing
  • Itineraries

In addition, you may need these personal items.

  • Prescriptions
  • Medical instructions or allergy information
  • Contact information for emergency
  • Contact information to meet friends while on vacation
  • Copy of your credit cards, passport and driver’s license

Using the Smead Travel Organizer, you can divide up your documents by category for easy access.  The clear exterior with pockets makes it very visual, so you always know where items are. A small front pocket is a great spot to keep your receipts! 

Keep your credit card, passport and driver’s license separate to prevent theft of both, just in case. 

For more information on this product, visit www.smead.com.  For reviewing this product, I was given one was a gift by Smead.

Enjoy this printable travel checklist, free from Smead!  http://www.smead.com/hot-topics/printable-travel-checklist-1792.asp

Get ready for summer travel, camps and more!

get ready for summer



Now is the perfect time to be planning your summer holidays.  Many families are choosing a stay-cation for spring break, taking time to catch up, do projects, and get in a little fun locally.  Get ready for the summer by choosing camps or other activities for your kids, planning an extended summer vacation or even preparing for local summer fun.


Start by corralling all those important summer dates and ideas.

When does school end? What events like family reunions or weddings are already planned? When is Vacation Bible School or Swim Team? When does school gear back up with activities like sports or dance?

Host a family meeting focusing on summer fun. What do your kids enjoy the most? What new adventures or activities would they like to try?  Where would you and your kids like to travel? Is there time for you and your spouse to have your own get-away?


Your approach gives you time to investigate some great online resources.

Check these out!




If you are planning a summer stay-cation, check out this site.  http://www.visithoustontexas.com/

Our most beloved family vacation was at Yellowstone National Park.  http://www.us-national-parks.net/


Think about alternating busy weeks with low key weeks.

You and your family will feel less pressured in preparing and enjoy the vacation more.   It gives you time to prepare for each event and travel.  Kids need down time too!


Making early decisions on your summer plans can save you a bundle.

Once you have committed and paid, remember to keep a folder in your command center specifically for summer.  Move this into your filing cabinet at the end of the summer to keep a record for future trips.   As your summer plans get near, check online for coupons for activities and recreation in your vacation area.  There are lots of ways to save with internet resources.


What is your summer plan?  Need ideas?  Check out my Summer Fun pinterest board for great free ideas!

Weekend Warriors: Taking Care of your Car: My Vehicle’s Glove Box is Full of Paper! Help!

This is the fourth in a series about “Weekend Warrior: Organizing and Taking Care of your Home and Car.”  This guest post is by  Lynn Beckwith, owner of Beckwith’s Car Care, sharing ideas on what papers to keep in your glove box.  

Our glove boxes become miniature filing cabinets over the years as we continue to add copies of vehicle registration, inspection forms, maintenance receipts, repair receipts, and miscellaneous purchases.  Just like any filing cabinet, they frequently need to be purged.

So, what should be kept?

Keep your owner’s manual.  It is a handy guide to understanding everything from the type of oil you should use to what that crazy little light on your dash means. 

Keep only the current vehicle registration and insurance card.  Many of us tend to put the new one in and leave the old copy too, just in case we ever need it, loose the new one, or some other reason.  Guess what, they are expired, no good . .  . chunk them!

When it comes to your maintenance receipts, you have two choices.  The first option is to keep all of them. When it comes time to sell your vehicle this proof of maintenance goes a long way towards comforting the buyer that they are making a good decision.  Proving that proper maintenance has been performed can also be important when dealing with factory and extended warranties.  Of course, I am assuming that you have maintained your vehicle on schedule.  If you have not maintained your car properly, then toss them.  Proof of lax maintenance is not going to help you out.  If you are keeping your car forever, these records can help you stay on top of your scheduled maintenance.

The second and best option is to utilize a repair facility that will keep all of these records for you, even better if you can access them on-line when needed.  Whether you have a fleet of one vehicle or many, a quality independent automotive repair shop should keep your records and help remind you when maintenance is due. 

The repair receipts should be kept at least until the warranty on the repair runs out.  This applies to everything from alternators and batteries to tires and water pumps. Even if your repair shop keeps these on file for you it is a great idea to keep them in your glove box in case you are traveling.  High quality independent repair shops offer a nationwide warranty and your receipt should have the contact information listed on it.   Theses receipts can also be helpful when selling your vehicle because some components tend to fail in cycles. A recently replaced part could help assure that it will not be needed for a while. 

So, whether you are selling your car or keeping it forever it is a great idea to keep your paperwork in order.  If nothing else you won’t have to fumble for your registration the next time you are pulled over.

In general:

  1. Look for a shop that will help you develop a customized maintenance plan that takes into account your vehicle specifications, your driving style and your budget.  Find one that will help you stay on schedule with reminders and maintain your records for both warranty and re-sale purposes.


The staff at Beckwith’s Car Care specializes in developing customized maintenance plans that have kept their customer’s vehicles safe and dependable for over 20 years.  The Better Business Bureau has selected Beckwith’s as not only the best repair facility in the Houston metropolitan area, but also as the recipient of their Ethics award.  The award winning staff includes one of the 2011 Top 20 automotive technicians in the nation.

 Lynn Beckwith is committed to the automotive industry.  Watch for her features on Fox 26 and visit the archived videos on-line.  She can be reached at 281-540-2000 or you can email your automotive questions to help@thatcarlady.com. Please visit her blog at www.thatcarlady.com or on facebook at www.facebook.com/thatcarlady.