How to See California on a Budget

Want to visit the Golden State, but not sure it is within your means? Check out these tips for seeing California on a budget!

Beaches are a great free activity to see California on a budget!

California is an incredible place to visit, but it isn’t exactly easy on the old pocketbook. Here, we share seven of our favorite tips to explore California for cheap!

1. Consider boondocking

If you are interested in RVing at all, you have probably heard of boondocking. Boondocking is camping off-grid for free, without the traditional amenities offered in campgrounds. You can stay in the same place for days or weeks at a time without paying a cent. Boondocking is completely legal in California on any Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. As everything is more expensive in California, camping for free is a great way to see California on a budget. On our honeymoon, we stayed at a hotel on Shelter Island. It was beautiful, with a views of the water on each side. The entirety of our stay there, there was an RV parked in a park across the street (presumably boondocking). They enjoyed the same view we did, without spending a cent! Check out the Bureau of Land Management website to find out where to camp in California for free.

Boondocking is a great way to see California on a budget!
Boondocking is a great way to save on your lodging costs.


Camping and boondocking not your style? No worries! It is still possible to see California on a budget while staying in hotels. I love using for scoring great deals on hotels. They not only offer rooms at a discount, but you can usually find an additional discount code through Additionally, when you stay 10 nights with them, you get one free. Looking for other tips to save on your hotel stay? Check out our six best tips for hoteling it on a budget here!

3. Consider a National Parks Pass

Yosemite National Park is one site included with the National Parks Pass--allowing you to see this and other amazing California sights for cheap!
Yosemite National Park

California is full of national parks, monuments, and trails! There are 33 of them to be exact. For only $80, you can get a National Parks pass that is good for a full year. Note: it is actually good through the end of the month purchased the previous year, so try to purchase towards the beginning of the month to get the most bang for your buck! Some of the more well-known sights included with the pass are Alcatraz Island, Death Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Redwood National Park. With so much to do, this pass will really stretch your vacation budget and allow you to view some of the most beautiful sights in California for cheap. Read about how we made the most of our National Parks pass on our honeymoon here!

4. CityPASS

CityPASS is a program that helps you save on activities in large cities. The pass pays for itself in two or three activities. Any more that you complete above and beyond that will save you even more money. CityPASS offers different deals in different cities. For example, the Southern California CityPASS sites offer discounted tickets on Disney and Universal theme parks. Please note that there are limits on how many attractions you can visit in certain cities. CityPASS is available in San Francisco and Southern California, in addition to other cities outside the state.

Save up to 50% on combined prices for admission to must-see attractions! Shop Now at!

5. Take advantage of free outdoor activities

One of my favorite activities while we were in San Diego was biking along Pacific Beach. It was completely free (except we kept stopping for food and drinks!). The people-watching and views right along the beach made it a fun and interesting experience. People at the beach were having campfires and surfing, which was costing them nothing!

Another fun and free experience was visiting La Jolla. Here, the seals come right up on the rocks in large numbers. It was cool to see wildlife so close and still be in their natural habitat. Be sure to check out California’s beautiful beaches to see the state without breaking your budget.

Viewing the seals in La Jolla is a great way to have fun and see California on a budget!
Viewing the seals in La Jolla is a great way to have fun and see California on a budget!

6. Use gift cards to save on dining out

I get it–eating at local restaurants is part of the fun when traveling! However, consider throwing a few chain restaurants into the mix to save on your dining costs. Starting a couple of months before Christmas, many franchise chains start offering gift card discounts, such as “get a free $10 gift card when you purchase $50 in gift cards”. Double score if you can purchase the cards while restaurants are an extra 5% back on your credit card (both Chase Freedom and Discover offer this on a rotating basis). Last year, Olive Garden had 35% back when you paid with your Chase Freedom card. Pair a deal like this with a gift card bonus, and enjoy saving on your meals out during vacation! Be sure to checkout the deals at, Groupon, and Living Social too to find deals on local eateries.

10/31: Save Up to 75% Off Activities, Beauty, Tech & More

Rather cook your own meals while traveling? Check out our post on healthy road trip meals here!

7. Save on your rental car and gas

Like everything else in California, gas is expensive! Help negate this cost by getting a rental car that is fuel efficient. By renting a car that gets good gas mileage and using sites/apps such as Gasbuddy to determine the cheapest places to find gas, you can make your California trip more affordable. If you know what franchise of gas stations will be available along your route, try using the gift card trick above to save even more on your gas.

Be sure to get your rental from a reputable company that still offers good prices. We tend to use Fox, Thrifty, and Dollar rental car since they usually have the best deals.

What are some of your favorite things to do in California? What are some ways you lower the costs of your trips? Feel free to share below!

If it wouldn’t be a trip to California without visiting Disneyland, be sure to checkout our article on the best ways to save on your Disney vacation here!


The Best Ways to Save on Your Disney Vacation

Disney World can be an expensive place. Make your Disney vacation more affordable for you and your family by using these eight tips!

Save on your Disney vacation and see Cinderella's Castle on the cheap!
Disney’s Cinderella Castle

I love Disney World! So much so that I have been there over 10 times–I lost track of the exact number of visits. I may have a problem….

Disney World is an amazing place to visit, and in my opinion, it really is the happiest place on Earth! It is not a cheap place to visit. However, using these eight tips CAN help you make your Disney vacation more affordable.

1. Plan your visit for the off season

Choosing the right time of year can save you a bundle, especially when you are talking about a Disney vacation. For example, a room at Disney’s Pop Century Resort will cost $146 a night if you visit mid-week towards the end of January. The same rooms costs $213 a night over the Fourth of July weekend. That is a hotel savings of $469 over the course of a week! Another perk of visiting in the off season is that the crowds are much smaller, allowing you to experience more of the park for your vacation dollar. Read more about saving on hotels here.

2. Utilize Disney Gift Cards

Disney gift cards are another way to save on your Disney vacation. Disney gift cards are available at Target, where you can get 5% off by using your Target Red Card. These gift cards can be used for pretty much all things Disney, including park tickets, souvenirs, and food inside the parks. Disney tickets can be purchased online, in Disney stores, or at the park. The gift cards have no fees and they never expire. Don’t forget to ask for Disney gift cards for birthday and Christmas presents before your trip as well!

Disney gift cards help save money on your Disney vacation!
Disney gift cards are a great way to save on your Disney vacation.

3. Undercover Tourist

Undercover Tourist is a website that offers discounts on tickets and deals on hotels in the Orlando/Tampa, FL and San Diego/Anaheim, CA area. I have used them many times to save on my Disney and Universal Studios vacations. They usually offer a deal where you buy so many days and get one or two days for free. For a little price comparison, a four day theme park base ticket with an extra day free from Undercover Tourist is $445.31 for an adult. Conversely, a five day theme park base ticket purchased directly from Disney costs $455.15 for an adult.

Note: If you purchase the ticket we are discussing directly from Disney using a Disney gift card purchased with your Red Card, it will cost you approximately $432.40 when you consider the 5% off from the Red Card, so pick whichever one works best for you to help save on your Disney vacation.

Save on your Disney vacation with these tips!

4. Bring Your Own Food

If you have ever been to a theme park, you know that the food prices are outrageous. One way to circumvent this and make your Disney vacation more affordable is to bring your own food. When I go to Disney, I pack as much food as I can in my carry-on. A lot of this consists of breakfast foods and snacks. I try to eat a large breakfast before heading into the park, then bring snacks and a lunch into the park in my backpack. Disney’s official policy is that there are no carry-ins. However, I have had my bag checked every time at the entrance and have never been asked to remove any food or beverage items.

If you would like to save even more on your trip, you can have groceries shipped directly to your hotel room. Your Disney hotel will save your package until you arrive. If you follow a special diet, I highly recommend using Thrive Market to deliver special items that are difficult to find at some grocers, such as gluten and dairy-free products. They offer a one month risk-free trial with a free gift.

If you plan on cooking dinner in your hotel room, be sure to check out this article for some meal inspiration.

5. Don’t Pay for Water!

The staff at Disney World don’t want you passing out from heat stroke during those hot Florida days! Because of this, all quick service restaurants at Disney offer free cups of ice water. Most will give you a large sized cup with a lid. I usually get one and dump it into my stainless steel water bottle to keep it cold for hours. Use this trick instead of paying $2-$3 a bottle for water.

6. Book Your Disney Hotel Through

A great way to save on your Disney vacation is to book your hotel room through In the past, I have been able to book rooms at the Disney All-Star Resorts for 20-25% off using a discount code. Check out to find a current discount code. also has great deals on hotels in the Disney Springs area which still provide free shuttles to the parks.

Extra 7% Off Hotels with Free Cancellation on Most Hotels When you Book Now and Stay Later. Use code 7SAVEOCT20. Book by 11/1, travel by 3/31/2021.

7. Check out Disney Vacation Club Rentals

If you are looking to stay somewhere a little swankier, check out Disney Vacation Club rentals. With these rentals, you are buying unused points from those who belong to the Disney Vacation Club. These points can be used to book rooms at a variety of high-end Disney Resorts. Booking these rooms through the vacation club rentals will help you save a significant chunk of change versus booking through Disney. To rental a studio room at the Animal Kingdom Villas for five nights in September is $1,056 vacation points, or $2,016 for a one bedroom. I could not find any available studios on the Disney website, but the one bedroom was $3,483, which is a big savings! Check out if you are interested in a vacation club rental.

8. Use a Marriott Bonvoy Card to Save at the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel

If you are a credit card churner, look into the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card if you are planning on visiting Disney World in the next year or two. The reason for this is that the Walt Disney World Swan hotel is part of the Marriott franchise, meaning you can use your rewards and free nights to save on your Disney trip! With this card, you earn five free nights when you spend $5,000 in the first three months of having your card. Your significant other can open one as well during the following three months, and you can then combine points for up to a 10 day trip! There is a $95 annual fee, however, you receive a free night of stay each year on the anniversary of opening your card. Please note that the free nights expire one year after they are earned.

Curious about credit card churning, check out how to get started here!

Save on the Walt Disney World Swan Resort using a Marriott Bonvoy card.
Save on the Walt Disney World Swan Resort using a Marriott Bonvoy card.

What are some of your favorite tips for saving at Disney World? Please share below!

Why Road Trips are the Best Form of Travel

Road trips are the best way to travel! Find out why below.

Road trips are the best way to travel and see great sights, such as historic Route 66!

We looooove road trips! Not only are they more affordable than flying, but they offer far more flexibility and spontaneity. Here, we share seven reasons why you should consider a hitting the road for your next vacation.

1. Save on Airfare

Obviously, one of the biggest perks of road trips is that you save on airfare. While it is possible to get deals on airfare, it is unlikely your trip will be cheaper than driving, especially if you have a family. It is easy to squeeze more people in car without adding too much expense to your trip, but each individual airline ticket you buy will increase the cost of your trip significantly. By using a car that gets good gas mileage and sites/apps such as Gasbuddy to determine the cheapest places to find gas, you can make your trip even more affordable. Read about how we took a 6-night/7-day road trip for less than $300 here!

2. No Rental Car Hassle

Rental cars are great when flying is a necessity. We especially like Fox, Thrifty, and Dollar rental car since they usually have the best deals. However, any rental car can be an extra hassle. The shuttles to the depot, the long lines, the checking for dings…ugh, no thank you. Taking your own car on your road trip ensures that the maintenance has been kept up to date and everything is in good shape. Your own car will be more comfortable to drive for long stretches, and you will have all your necessary belongings along for the ride. You also know that you are covered in the case of an accident. I also appreciate not having the added stress of calculating how much extra time you will need to drop off the rental car and make sure you arrive to your gate on time.

Dollar Rent-a-Car, Inc.

3. Allows for Spontaneity

Another perk of road trips is that they allow for more spontaneity! A perfect example of this is our honeymoon. We had originally planned on two days at Joshua Tree National Park, but that plan quickly changed once we arrived at it was 106 degrees! Since we were road tripping, it was easy to move things around and plan instead for a day in Flagstaff, AZ, where it was much cooler and amendable to outdoor activities. Had we flown in and flown out of the same location, this would have not been a convenient option. Read more about our honeymoon road trip here.

Road trip spontaneity allowed us to see all that Flagstaff had to offer!
Road trip spontaneity allowed us to see all that Flagstaff had to offer!

4. No Worrying About Missed Flights/ Late Arrivals/Layovers, Etc.

One thing I love about the process of taking off for a road trip is how relaxed it is compared to when we are flying. When we fly somewhere, it almost always consists of waking up at the a**-crack of dawn, getting ready in a hurry, stressing out about getting through security, then finding our gate and sitting for over an hour waiting for it to take off. Then, there are always those times when your first flight is running late, causing you to to stress about missing your connecting flight. Even if everything runs smoothly, no one appreciates those two to three hour layovers, which are typical if you are a frugal flier like we are! With road trips, you can forget about all that. You get there when you get there. Alarm didn’t go off? No problem! Traffic? Oh well! It really makes for a much more relaxed travel experience.

5. Cooking Your Own Food

Another perk of road tripping is that you can cook your own food. This is especially important if you have to follow a special diet, or just don’t want to dine out for the duration of your trip. This helps to save money on the road and be in control of what you are putting in your body. If do you plan on doing your own cooking, I recommend staying in a condo with a kitchen, or an Extended Stay Resort that has a kitchenette. It takes a lot less equipment to cook on the road than you probably think. You only need an Instant Pot, spatula, can opener, disposable dishware and silverware, and some Ziploc bags. For ideas on great road trip meals, check out our post here!

Spacious suites and amazing amenities at Extended Stay America

6. Allows Room for Purchases/Ability to Pick-Up Things You Forgot

If you are anything like me, it kills you to pay to check a bag. This leads to a lot of those awkward sitting-on-your-carry-on struggling to close it moments. As much as I would love to take advantage of outlet malls and other deals on vacations, I never have any room to spare for the flight home. This is not a problem when it come to road trips. Even though we aren’t exactly the minimalists we would like to be when it comes to packing, there is always some extra room to bring home some special finds.

Another great perk of road tripping is having the ability to pick up any forgotten essentials. This is a little embarrassing, but on our honeymoon I don’t think there was a day that we didn’t stop at a Wal-Mart, Walgreens, or Target to pick up some forgotten necessity (we are minimalists for sure 😉 ). It relives a lot of stress knowing that you will have that option and it isn’t essential to make sure you have every little thing crammed in your suitcase.

7. So. Many. Toiletries.

The first time I flew and learned about the one quart-sized bag of liquids rule, I thought it was a joke. As someone who isn’t exactly low-maintenance, getting all of my liquids for a two-week trip in one quart-size baggie is nearly impossible. With a road trip, I can bring everything I need to feel pulled together on our trips and not worry about hunting down travel-sized versions of my favorite products. It is also a money saver as we can bring our full sized sunscreen, bug spray, etc. (purchased on sale of course) and not be stuck paying premium price in a tourist trap.

No need to limit your toiletries on road trips!
No need to limit your toiletries on road trips!

Looking for ways to save on your hotel stay and activities during your road trips? Check out the articles below!

Six Ways to Maximize Your Hotel Savings that You Need to Know

The Best Ways to Save on Activities

The Best Ways to Save on Activities

The cost of entertainment on your trip can add up quickly if you aren’t careful. Learn how to save on activities with these eight tips!

Entertainment costs can be one of the larger expenses on a vacation. Learning some tricks to help save on activities can help to mitigate this expense. Below, we share eight ways to help cut your entertainment expenses so you can have more fun for your dollar!

1. State Travel Guides

Whenever I begin planning a trip, I request the travel guides from the states we are planning on visiting. Each state has a tourism site that you can easily find by Googling the name of the state and “travel guide” or “tourism”. From there, you can either download the information from the website, or order a travel guide sent to your home. The guides contain a lot of great information on their state’s activities.

I love that they include free as well as paid activities. For example, in our state of Wisconsin, I was able to order a general travel guide, a guide of bike trails, a Wisconsin State Parks system guide, a wineries of Wisconsin guide, and an arts and crafts fair guide. Most of these activities, such as biking, wine tasting, hiking, and arts and crafts fairs are free or cost a small fee. Be sure to order a guide to see what cheap activities are available in the states you are visiting!

2. CityPASS

CityPASS is a great way to save on activities in Chicago and other large cities.

CityPASS is a program that helps you save on activities in large cities.

For example, you can purchase a CityPASS for the city of Chicago for $109 for an adult and $89 for a child. This pass will then give you access to the following activities for 9 consecutive days:

Shedd Aquarium ($44.90 adult/$34.90 child)

Skydeck Chicago ($49 adult/$49 child)

Field Museum ($40 adult/$29 child)

Adler Planetarium (Closed through 2020) ($35 adult/$24 child)

Art Institute of Chicago ($35 adult/$0 child)

Museum of Science and Industry ($33.95 adult/$21.95 child)

360 CHICAGO Observation Deck ($44 adult/$44 child)

As you can see, the pass will pay for itself in two to three activities. Any more that you complete above and beyond that will save you even more money. CityPASS offers different deals in different cities. For example, the Southern California and Orlando CityPASS sites offer discounted tickets on Disney and Universal theme parks. Please note that there are limits on how many attractions you can visit in certain cities. CityPASS is available in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, New York City, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Southern California, Tampa Bay, and Toronto.

Save up to 50% on combined prices for admission to must-see attractions! Shop Now at!

3. Entertainment Book

An Entertainment book is a great way to save on activities.

Head to to grab an entertainment book and save up to 50% on activities during your trip! This is essentially a coupon book that offers a lot of 2 for 1 and 50% off coupons for local activities and eateries. The book membership is $35 for one year, but you can sign up for 25% off plus free shipping. The first month of the digital membership is free, and it is $2.99 a month after that. Purchasing a book may be worth it if you live in or plan on spending a significant amount of time in one of the participating cities.

4. Trusted Tours and Attractions

Trusted Tours and Attractions is a website that offers discounts on over 500 different attractions in a wide variety of cities. For example, the Key West Aquarium and Shipwreck Museum package is $33.30 on site, but only $28.80 on the Trusted Tours and Attractions website. Tickets for Gatorland in Orlando are $29.99 on the Gatorland website, but only $26.95 on the Trusted Tours and Attractions website. The savings aren’t huge, but they add up over the course of a vacation, especially if you are purchasing tickets for a family. Use the link below to see what attractions are available.

San Diego Tour and Attraction Discount Tickets

5. Sightseeing Pass

Sightseeing Pass logo

Sightseeing Pass is somewhat similar to the CityPASS. There are two kinds of passes available–the Day Pass and the Flex Pass. With the Day Pass, you choose the number of days you want to visit, then pay a flat rate and visit an unlimited number of included attractions. For example, a one-day pass for an adult in New Orleans is $80; a five-day pass is $250. You can see a lot of attractions in five days! Many of the attractions are $20-$50 for tickets, so if you like to stay busy on your vacations, this pass is a good way to save on your attractions.

The Flex Pass works by choosing two to seven attractions you want to visit. You then purchase and download the mobile pass to scan at an attraction to enter. If you prefer a physical pass, you can print one at home and bring it to the attraction. It can be purchased up to 24 months in advance and is activated when you visit your first attraction. A pass for two attractions costs $62.10 for adults and $42.48 for children. A pass for seven attractions costs $199 for adults, and $151.20 for children. If you have your eye on higher priced activities, this pass could be the way to go.

6. Best of Vegas

KA - Cirque du Soleil Special Offer: Save $30!

Love to visit Sin City? Check out the Best of Vegas website for great deals on Las Vegas shows, tours, attractions, and hotels. We visited the Mob Museum on our honeymoon and highly recommend it. Read more about that trip here. General admission tickets to the museum on site are $29.95 for adults, but only $26.95 on the Best of Vegas web site. Those little savings can really add up over the course of a Vegas vacation!

Visit the Best of Vegas website to increase your savings on attractions!

7. Ticket City

Ticket City is a website offering discounted tickets for sports, concerts, and theater performances. What is great about the site is that if your chosen event is cancelled or rescheduled, you will receive a refund. This is especially important given the recent impact of Covid-19. To browse tickets for available events and save $5 off orders of $100 or more, use the link below.

$5 Off Orders $100+

8. Groupon/Living Social

Groupon and Living Social are two other great ways to save on activities during your vacation. Change the search location to see deals on local activities in the city you will be visiting. There are discounts for everything from winery tours to mini-golf to improv shows. Be sure to check under “notifications”, as there is usually some kind of discount code for an additional 20%. Once you place your order, you will receive a voucher with a code under “My Groupons” to show at the attraction.

What are some of your favorite ways to save on activities? Feel free to share below!

Six Ways to Maximize Your Hotel Savings that You Need to Know

Looking for ways to save on your next long weekend or vacation? Check out these easy ways to maximize your hotel savings!

Lodging is often one of the biggest travel expenses. Fortunately, there are ways to maximize your hotel savings, and they take minimal effort on your part! Here, we describe six tricks to help spend less on your lodging and keep more money in your pocket where it belongs.

1. Choose a cheap location and/or date

You are probably aware that the same hotel in one city will not cost you the same price as a similar room in a more expensive city. For example, a room at the Extended Stay will cost you $100 a night in San Diego. A similar room at the Extended Stay in Louisville, KY costs $71 a night. That is a trip savings of almost $30 a night (or $210 a week!) by choosing a cheaper location to visit.

Similarly, week nights and off-season rooms will cost you quite a bit less than weekend and prime season rooms. A perfect example of this is rooms on the Disney World resort in Florida. A room at Disney’s Pop Century Resort will cost $146 a night if you visit mid-week towards the end of January. The same rooms costs $213 a night over the Fourth of July weekend. That is a hotel savings of $469 over the course of a week! You can see how your trip becomes much more affordable by having flexible dates and touring during a certain location’s off-season.

Save $469 on your Disney trip by staying at the Pop Century Resort in January instead of July. A sure-fire way to maxinimze your hotel savings!
Disney’s Pop Century Resort

2. Rakuten

Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates) is a website and app that partners with other companies to offer you a certain percentage back on your purchases when you access the merchant through the Rakuten website or app. Use this link to sign up and get an extra $30 back!

Once you sign up with Rakuten, you can do a search for a travel site, such as Orbitz or Expedia. Right now, Rakuten is offering 5% back on Orbitz purchases. That is $100 back on a $2,000 trip–not too bad for a minimal amount of work! There are plenty of other travel booking options on the site as well, such as Expedia, Priceline, Vbro, and Whichever booking site you prefer, be sure to go through first in order to maximize your hotel savings.

3. Ibotta

Ibotta is another cash back website and app that is very similar to Rakuten. Use this link to get signed up. After signing up, open the app and select the “travel” category. From there, you can select your preferred booking site from options such as Orbitz, Expedia, and Hotwire. Orbitz currently has 5% back on all travel purchases. I will usually compare the current cash back offers on both Rakuten and Ibotta before choosing which one to book through. Ibotta has saved us up to 8% on trips in the past, simply by going to their site before connecting to a travel search engine. Once you reach $20 in cash back, you can transfer the money right back to your bank account. Ibotta also offers cash back when you book directly with the hotel through the Ibotta portal, but the savings is not usually as good as when a travel search engine is used.

4. Travel Search Engines

As brushed on earlier, travel search engines such as, Orbitz, Expedia, Priceline, etc., are a great way to maximize your hotel savings. saved me a nice chunk of change on a past Disney trip by offering an additional 20% off code, which included my onsite Disney resort hotel! It is a great way to save additional money on rooms such as these that rarely go on sale.

I also frequently use Expedia, which offers special “member savings” on certain hotels, which provides a little discount. The best part of using these booking sites is that you earn points for each trip you book through them. These points add up and convert to cash that you can use on a future booking. When combine the member savings and earned points with the cash back from Rakuten or Ibotta, you can save a decent amount on your hotel stay. The only downside to booking sites is that it can make it more difficult to receive refunds or reschedule your room, so be certain about your vacation plans before booking.

5. Hotel Rewards

Program rewards are another great way to increase your hotel savings. For example, Redi Rewards is the rewards program for the Red Roof Inn. It is free to sign up, and it allows you to save up to 25% on your room. Extended Stay America has a similar program called Extended Perks. This program is also free and allows you to save 20% off a one to six night stay. Another free rewards program to check into is the IHG Rewards Club, which includes the Holiday Inn franchise. Their program offers up to 20% off as well. Be sure to compare the price of your room using rewards programs to the cost of using Rakuten/Ibotta and Expedia/Orbitz to receive the best deal.

Be sure to sign up for the Extended Perks program to maximize your hotel savings.
Extended Stay America

6. Hotel Credit Card Offers

If you are into credit card churning, you may have taken advantage of some of the great hotel credit card intro offers. If you haven’t heard of credit card churning, check out this article to get started!

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card is one worth checking out, especially if you are planning on visiting Disney World in the next year or two. The reason for this is that the Walt Disney World Swan hotel is part of the Marriott franchise, meaning you can use your rewards and free nights to save on your Disney trip! With this card, you earn five free nights when you spend $5,000 in the first three months of having your card. Your significant other can open one as well during the following three months, and you can then combine points for up to a 10 day trip! There is a $95 annual fee, however, you receive a free night of stay each year on the anniversary of opening your card. Please note that the free nights expire one year after they are earned.

The World of Hyatt credit card is one you may want to consider as well. With this card, you receive 25,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first three month of opening the card. You also receive an additional 25,000 bonus points when you spend $6,000 total in the first six months of opening the card. This equals about four nights at very high-end Hyatt locations, or more nights in less-expensive destinations.

Looking for other ways to save on your vacation? Check out these articles on the most affordable U.S. vacation destinations and road trip meals!

What are some of your tricks for saving on your hotel? Please share the wealth below!

Visit These Affordable Travel Destinations in the U.S.!

You don’t have to have a lot of money to have fun! Visit these affordable U.S. travel destinations that won’t break the bank.

The United States is filled with affordable travel destinations. Below, we share five vacation locations to please your inner penny-pincher.

1. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN

Tennessee is one of my all-time favorite travel destinations. We had an amazing and thrifty vacation there a couple of years back that you can read about here. The Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area has a ton of free and cheap activities, with the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains as a backdrop.

There are many wineries in the Gatlinburg area with free wine tasting. There are also distilleries with free moonshine tasting if that is more your style. Many of these are within walking distance of each other, so you can park your car and save on gas as well! Not to mention walking is a much safer idea is you are planning on doing lots of tasting ;).

Taking in the Great Smokey Mountains is one of the free activities Gatlinburg has to offer, making it a great affordable travel destination!
The Great Smoky Mountains

Other cheap activities at this affordable travel destination include the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum ($3 a person), and touring/hiking the Great Smoky Mountain National Park (no entrance fee!).

Hotels in the area run pretty cheap, depending on the time of year. We went in March, and were able to get a great hotel for less than $40 a night! Current prices on Orbitz for the Howard Johnson and similar hotels are around $48 a night. There are not many areas where you can find a decent hotel room for that price!

2. Flagstaff, AZ

Flagstaff, AZ is one of the more affordable travel destinations with a lot to offer. We originally visited the area to escape the southern California heat, and were pleasantly surprised to find out how many national monuments were in the area!

Sunset Crater National Monument is a great affordable travel destination.
Sunset Crater National Monument

During our short stay, we visited Walnut Canyon National Monument, which has a fun hiking trail that takes you right up to cliff dwellings. Nearby, is the Sunset Crater National Monument. This is the site of a former volcanic eruption. You can see where the lava covered everything, and actually hike on it! If you have never hiked on cooled lava, it is definitely something to experience. Wupatki National Monument is in the area as well. This park boasts two large pueblo homes, and one has over 100 rooms! If you live near any national parks, be sure to get the annual America the Beautiful National Parks pass for $80 to see these monuments and more the cheapest way possible.

Hotels are very affordable in the Flagstaff area. For example, right now on Orbitz, a room at the Days Inn is $48 a night; the Baymont by Wyndham is only $49. With the cheap hotel rooms and wealth of activities, you may want to plan for a few days in Flagstaff! We wish we had had more time to spend in the area on our road trip.

If you need a rental car for your vacation (like we did for this trip), check out Fox, Dollar, and Thrifty car rental as they usually have the best deals.

3. The Rio GranValley, TX

As mentioned in a recent post, the Rio Grande Valley in Texas offers a wealth of cheap activities, making it a top affordable travel destination. Some of our favorites include the Dolphin Docks dolphin tour ($13 a person), the Gladys Porter Zoo during enrichment activities ($14 a person), and visiting Nuevo Progresso (free minus fee to cross border). If you are there around the holidays, be sure to check out the Hidalgo Festival of Lights ($5 a person for the train, free to walk), and the Holiday Village in Brownsville (free).

Nuevo Progresso in the Rio Grande Valley is a very affordable travel destination!
Visiting Nuevo Progresso

There are many affordable restaurants in the area as well. The Gulf coast is a great place to get a good deal on some huge Gulf shrimp! A plate of large shrimp and fries will run you about $10.

A decent hotel on South Padre Island can be had for as low as $55 a night. Prices are similar on the main land around the Harlingen area.

4. South Dakota

If you are looking for a family-friendly affordable travel destination, take a serious look at South Dakota. With Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, Wall Drug, and the Corn Palace, there is a lot to keep your family busy. Some of my favorite vacations growing up were to South Dakota. A visit to Mount Rushmore will only cost you $10 in parking fees for your whole car. Entrance to the monument itself is free.

Badlands National Park is pretty awe-inspiring if you haven’t seen it before. If you have an America the Beautiful pass, your visit will be free. Otherwise, it is $30 per private vehicle. The park offers two campgrounds, and your stay will be 50% off if you have a National Parks pass! Full price tent camping for two people is $23 a night, and RV sites are $38 a night without the discount.

Badlands National Park

The Wall Drug Store was started in 1931 and attracted visitors by offering free ice water. Today, this roadside attraction draws up to 20,000 people on a summer day. There is no admission fee, but there is plenty of shopping to do, so don’t forget your wallet!

The Corn Palace in Mitchell is free except for featured events. The building is made of corn and filled with corn murals. It sounds strange and it is, but it’s definitely worth checking out, especially given the entrance fee!

The cost of hotels in the area are very reasonable as well. For example, Orbitz lists a room at the Baymont by Wyndham at $51 a night for a mid-week room. Many other hotels in the area are similarly priced.

5. Kentucky

Kentucky is ranked in the top 20 states with the lowest cost of living, making it an affordable travel destination. We briefly traveled through Kentucky on our spring break trip a couple of years ago. Our hotel was in Louisville, which made it convenient for us to tour Churchill Downs. We were only there a day, but there were plenty of other activities if we had more time. Churchill Downs is located outside of South Louisville. A hotel room at the Red Roof in is $56 to $70 a night, which is pretty reasonable, especially for a bigger city. Join RediRewards to save up to 25% on your hotel stays at Red Roof Inns.

Our Churchill Downs tour included our museum visit and a walking historic tour of the track. It was $16 a person and took around four hours or so. It is worth the money for the tour if you are interested in seeing the track, but don’t want to shell out for the Kentucky Derby.

Mammoth Cave

An hour and a half outside of Louisville is Mammoth Cave National Park. Entrance to the park is free, and cave tours start at only $4 a person for the Discovery tour. Camping is available for $20 a night, or only $10 a night with a National Parks pass.

Less than an hour down the road, you can tour the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln…for free! There is no entrance or touring fees at this park, making it a great activity to help you stick to your vacation budget. Here you can tour the birthplace of President Lincoln, as well as his boyhood home. There are hiking trails that range from 0.3 miles to 1.5 miles surrounding these sights.

What are some of your favorite affordable travel destinations? Please share below! 🙂

The Homemade Soap Recipe You Need in Your Shower RIGHT NOW

Learn how to make scented, homemade soap the stupid-easy way.

Pumpkin spice homemade soap bars
Pumpkin spice homemade soap bars

I don’t know what it is about the scent of pumpkin spice, but it gets me in the mood for fall! (PSLs, anyone???) I recently made pumpkin spice scented soap and it turned out great. What’s great about this recipe is that is it soooooo simple and easy–it literally takes less than five minutes to make five bars of soap. The recipe is also extremely cost effective compared to buying natural, homemade soap bars in the store or online. One of the store bought bars will cost around $5. I made five bars for about $6, so just over $1 a piece.

What Do I Need to Make My Own Lathery Goodness?

Everything to make the soap minus the vanilla and spices came from Amazon. You will need to purchase a soap mold if you do not already own one. The good news is that this is a one time, upfront purchase that you can use over and over again. I have this one. It is silicone, which means it is easy to just flip it over and pop out your homemade soap. It is easy to clean as well. Next, you will need to purchase a soap base. I use this one from Amazon. It has a shea butter base, which makes your skin super soft. They have other options as well, such as mango butter or goat’s milk. Two pounds of the base run about $10-$15 depending on sales, and makes 10-11 bars of homemade soap.

Ingredients for homemade soap

The great thing about making your own soap is that you can create your own scents! I went with a pumpkin spice scent to get in the fall spirit. I made this by using a combination of one tbsp of vanilla and one tbsp of pumpkin spice seasoning. You can make pretty much any scent you want using essential oils and spices. Follow the directions below to get your suds on!


1 silicone soap mold (6 bar)

1 lb. of soap base

Kitchen knife

2 cup Pyrex measuring cup


Scents–1 used 1 tbsp vanilla and 1 tbsp pumpkin spice seasoning

Directions for Homemade Soap

  1. Use kitchen knife to cut soap base into 1 inch cubes and place in microwavable glass cup

2. Microwave 30 seconds at a time until base is melted

3. Add your scents of choice

4. Pout liquid into soap mold and let set until hardened

5. Turn over soap mold and pop out soap.

That’s it! Pretty easy, huh?

Don’t have five spare minutes to make soap? Pick up some cheap but quality body wash at your local Dollar Tree. Read about this and other good finds at Dollar Tree here.

What kind of scents do you use in your homemade soap? Feel free to share below!

10 Items Even Frugal People Should Buy

There are certain items even frugal people should buy. Find out what they are here.

There is a myth out there that frugal people never spend money. That’s simply not true. Frugal people DO spend money. However, when we splurge on an item, it needs to be of good quality and last a long time. Items worth spending money on include things that save time or money, or greatly increase comfort or happiness for a single, upfront cost. Here are ten items that we believe even frugal people should buy:

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How to Get Started Churning Credit Cards

How to Get Started Churning Credit Cards

Want to get started churning credit cards, but not sure where to begin? Learn how here!

What is Credit Card Churning?

Before I even knew what churning credit cards was, I was doing it. Credit card offers such as “$300 cash back when you spend $3,000 in the first three months” would arrive in the mail, and I would take advantage of them. If there were any big bills or purchases coming up, I’d start looking for another credit card to churn.

Essentially, credit card churning means opening a credit card you don’t plan on keeping in order to take advantage of the rewards. The key is to keep track of how much you have on the card, then cancel once you have redeemed the rewards. I have done this multiple times without any change in my credit score.

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