Las Vegas…with a toddler?

The hubby and I went to Las Vegas for our honeymoon a few years ago, so when his company said they would fly us out there for a weekend, and pay for our hotel room, we jumped at the opportunity. But what about our Cookie Girl? Well, she doesn’t turn 2 until July, so her flight would be free, so we decided to take her along.

I researched a ton about where we should take her and what we should do, before our trip, trying to be as budget conscious as I could–we budgeted $600 for food and activities, if you were curious. (After all, I’m in my second trimester, and we’re saving for our second child.) I also researched a lot about traveling by plane with a toddler, since this would be our first experience flying.

So, what worked for us on the plane? Honestly, I think because our flight was so early, it worked in our favor, and Cookie Girl slept on the plane. We loaded the iPad with shows and movies, but she wasn’t really interested in them since there was so much to see on the plane. The only thing that did interest her was a drawing app my hubby had on there. We also brought lots of snacks. And when she started getting fussy we’d sing with her, but overall, she did really well on the plane.

As far as Vegas went, Cookie Girl stayed on east coast time, which was fine, since it was such a short trip. But that meant we were getting up before most places opened (and in our hotel room before the craziness began on the strip). Thankfully, our first day we’d grabbed some snacks for our hotel room–string cheese, yogurt, peanuts, beef jerky, etc.–and I’d filled my suitcase up with stuff like popcorn, cheerios, yogies, and fruit snacks, so we had some things to snack on before breakfast and in between meals.

Let’s be honest, to a 20 month-old everything is new, exciting, and entertaining. Even the flashing lights in the Vegas airport had Cookie Girl saying “wow.” But there were a few places we wanted to make sure we took her during our visit:

  1. The Flamingo Habitat (free) at the Flamingo Hotel. It’s not huge, but it entertained her. She loved seeing the “mingos,” koi fish, ducks, and turtles.20190329_113058
  2. The Bellagio Conservatory (free). They had a Japanese Cherry Blossom theme this spring and the flowers were beautiful.
  3. The Bellagio Fountain (free). As we left the Bellagio we stopped to watch the fountain show. The funny thing was, Cookie Girl was more excited about a rainbow that shone through the glistening water. She kept yelling, “rainbow, rainbow!”
  4. The Shark Reef Aquarium at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. The other times we’d taken Cookie Girl to the aquarium she was too young to appreciate it, but this time she loved it. She kept saying “hi” to the fish and the shark.20190330_155850

We wanted to take Cookie Girl on the High Roller (Ferris Wheel), and let her see the fountain show (free) at the Cesar’s Palace but we just didn’t get a chance. All-in-all it was a great weekend; long, but we enjoyed the time spent with each other.

If you’ve traveled to Vegas with a toddler, what’s been your experience? What places did you enjoy taking your little one?

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Spending Less this Summer: 2015

Since I’ve been trying to pay down my debt as quickly as possible and no longer have a credit card, this summer I’ve been forced to be a little more frugal when making my summer plans. Last summer my boyfriend and I purchased season passes for Kings Dominion and we spent many a weekend there. We weren’t sure if we were going to do the same this year, but we have, although, we’ve only been once, so far. If you have an amusement park nearby with reasonably priced season tickets this is a great option. Pack a cooler with some food and forgo the amusement park prices of food and remember your season ticket often provides discounts in some park eateries, as well.

Another thing we’ve done this summer is attend an outdoor movie event. Once a month this summer a local winery has been playing outdoor movies. Advanced tickets cost $10 per person and we brought a picnic basket/cooler, blanket, and a beach chair. The winery also provided, at additional cost, wine (of course), popcorn, and chocolate covered pretzels. Check your area for low-budget or free opportunities such as this and bring a sweater if you get the chills at night, like me!

I work Monday through Friday, but for those of you who have a more flexible schedule don’t forget to check out the weekday promotions at your local bowling alley or Movie Theater. For instance, AMF Bowling in my area has $2 Tuesdays; and Paragon theater shows free movies Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for children at 10 a.m. Check out the web sites! I just found out that for $40 I could purchase a summer pass (for a family of 4) for AMF Bowling and bowl up to 3 games every day if I wanted to. (I’ll keep that in mind for next year!)

My boyfriend had a birthday a few weeks ago. Rather than go out to eat, I’d planned to cook him a little birthday dinner and bought a couple cupcakes from our favorite dessert shop. He ended up inviting three other couples to join us and we spent the night eating, talking, and playing Apples to Apples. It was a great, yet inexpensive way to celebrate a birthday and spend the evening with our closest friends.

National Postal Museum, 2015

National Postal Museum, 2015

I don’t know about you, but I love a good museum and living about 45 minutes south of Washington, D.C. means that we have a slew of free museums associated with the Smithsonian Institute for our choosing. We haven’t gone to D.C. yet this summer but earlier in the summer we did spend a day in old town Alexandria, VA. We arrived a little late, so the Old Town Farmers Market was closing up as we arrived, but that didn’t prevent my boyfriend from picking up some fresh bread. We did, however, end up spending hours at the Torpedo Factory Art Center, where we found a collection of working artist studios open to the public for viewing and purchase. There were even artists available to discuss their work! You may not be as close to D.C. as we are but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any free museums or art centers in your area.

Well, I hope this short list gave you some fun ideas for your summer endeavors. It’s not all inclusive and even now I can still think of a few others that I’ve yet had the opportunity to do. Being on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have fun! There are free and low-budget opportunities everywhere! Be sure to take advantage of them.

Holiday Blues

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…If you’re anything like me you probably sang that verse, lol. I love this time of the year. Actually, as soon as the leaves begin changing into their bright red, orange, yellow, and purple hues I want to take out my camera and take pictures of everything. God’s handiwork is so beautiful and makes my heart feel so incredibly full; I love the colors, the smells, the twinkling lights, and getting the opportunity to spend time with my faPumpkin Patchmily. However, as much as love all of these things, there have been recent years when I greeted these days much less than enthusiastic.

While this season can bring about great joy and gladness, it can also produce pronounced sadness for some. Why? You may ask. For one, there are those who may not have the opportunity to spend holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve with their family, due to various circumstances. There are those who celebrate while serving overseas, or at sea, as members of the military; those who are simply separated by great distances of land and don’t have the means to travel; or those estranged from their family. The second category of people who struggle during this season, are those who are single.

Personally, I’ve experienced the sadness of celebrating a holiday alone, and away from my family; and even single, while with my family. I encourage you, if you’re reading this and know someone who doesn’t have family nearby, invite them to celebrate with you. Nobody deserves to be alone during this time of the year. Let them know they are not forgotten, and that they are loved.

This time of the year can also be incredibly difficult for those who are single, whether or not they are able to join their family; particularly, if their siblings are married or dating. I’ve spent a number of Christmases celebrating with my dating or married younger siblings. There are always those dreaded questions regarding your relationship status, and having to internally suffer while watching couples be affectionate with each another. It’s those times I usually returned home feeling more alone than ever.

Some words of advice for those of you who are single or celebrating away from your families during this time of year? Don’t allow your loneliness to isolate you during this time of the year (or ever, for that matter). Surround yourself with friends. Below are a list of activities you can do during this time of the year with your friends:

  • Host/attend a holiday party.
  • Get together for dinner at your favorite restaurant.
  • Bake cookies for the elderly.
  • Check out Christmas decorations/lights in your area.
  • Participate in a gift exchange.
  • Send Christmas cards to military service members, veterans, or inmates.
  • Go window shopping (if you’re on a budget) or Christmas shopping.
  • Host a Christmas movie marathon with popcorn, peppermint bark, and hot chocolate or apple cider.
  • Help provide/serve a holiday meal at a homeless shelter.
  • Exchange gift ideas—sometimes we could use a little help!
  • Host a game night.
  • Pack a box for Operation Christmas Child.
  • Host a gingerbread house decorating party.
  • Sponsor a family or elderly person and purchase Christmas gifts for them through Families First or the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree.
  • Create your own Christmas decorations or gifts.
  • Host a “Christmas From Around the World” potluck.

I know this list is far from complete. Let me know how you and your friends enjoy spending these times of the year by commenting below….and have a Happy Thanksgiving!