Cheap Cruise Vacations

Cheap Cruise Vacations

One of the cheapest vacations you can take is a cheap cruise. Cheap cruise vacations from places like Galveston, Texas, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Miami, Florida are dependent upon several factors.

One of our favorite memories as a family is our cruise vacation just a couple of years ago. It is such a blessing to be in the middle of the ocean where the kids can’t connect to the Internet and have no reason to be on their telephones 24/7. We opted to not buy the WIFI plans, so that we would have their undivided attention.

Why is a cruise such a cheap vacation? One thing that helps is that all your food and your sleeping arrangements are included as well as most of your entertainment. Be frugal about what you spend while on board, though. You can quickly rack up costs buying soft drinks, souvenirs, playing bingo, etc. Here are Mom’s top tips to save money on your next cheap cruise vacation:

  • Travel in the off season. Everyone wants to go on a cruise during holiday breaks for their kids. If you can manage to go during an off-peak time, you’ll pay as much as 1/3rd less.
  • Carry on your own drinks. You can take on board with you a cooler and 12-packs of sodas. Your room steward will bring you ice if you ask. Just be sure to tip him a little extra for his amazing service.
  • Book when there is a special going on. You may get extra onboard credits to use for drinks and other goodies, for example.
  • Book the cheap rooms. Yes, they are cramped and not as nice as a suite. However, you won’t spend much time in your room and you’ll save a fortune.
  • Join their rewards program. The more you cruise, the more perks you’ll get.
  • Go ahead and pay the few dollars extra to book your excursions through the cruise line. Why? If something happens while you’re off the ship, say your bus breaks down, and you don’t make it back before sailing time, then the ship will not wait on your group if you did not book through them. On the other hand, if you did book through them, they typically wait until your group returns.
  • Buy travel insurance, but not from the cruise line. You can buy it much cheaper on your own from any number of insurance companies.
  • Choose just one photo you love and buy that one only. Don’t spend a fortune on cheesy cruise photos.

Have fun! A cruise vacation is one of the least expensive vacations you can take, but you’ll make many rich memories that will last you a lifetime.


Go Ski! Skiing Terms for Beginners

Go Ski! Skiing Terms for Beginners

Learn the most common skiing terms, so you´ll know what your ski instructor means when he says to carve or pitch. This article covers the basic terms that will help a newbie hit the slopes and look like a almost like a pro.

Are you thinking about giving skiing a try this winter? It´s important to know a few skiing terms, so you can show your family and friends that you know a thing or two, whether you really do or not. You might even impress your ski instructor.

Ski Terms


Bindings are the fasteners that attach the skis to your boots.

Black Diamond

Black Diamonds are advanced skiing trails for experienced skiers. They are also marked with a symbol that is a black diamond.


Carving means to cut into the snow on the mountain with the edge of your skis. Extreme carving, means to cut a deep edge into the snow.


This term means what it sounds like it means, but it applies to the condition of the snow. Crud is a snow with a lot of bumps, lumps and uneven patches. It is difficult to ski on and not ideal, particularly for a beginner.


Each ski has a certain amount of bend to it. Some bend more than others, or have more “flex”.


Gapers take their sweet time skiing down a hill, pausing to look at their surroundings. Skiing slowly down a hill is also called “cruising” and gapers truly enjoy taking things at a slower pace.


The person who runs the ski lift is often called the “liftie”.

Matching Skis

If your ski instructor tells you to “match” your skis, he simply means that the skis should be parallel and both point in the same direction, a task that is easier said than done when you are just starting out in this sport.

Milk Run

This is the first run down a slope that day. The person making a milk runs breaks through the fresh, untouched snow.

Pow Pow

This is a term used to describe fresh, powdery snow. It is a slang term for the word “powder”, which is also used to describe new snow.


If you change the direction in which your skis are pointed, you are steering your skis. This will also change your direction down the slope.


Why You Should Learn a Few Terms Before Going Skiing

These are just a few of the most common terms used by skiers. There are additional terms you’ll want to learn as you grow more advanced in your skills. The best way to pick up new ski words is by hanging out in the lobby of the lodge, talking to ski instructors and learn from more experienced ski enthusiasts.


Taking a Vacation with Our Dog

Taking a Vacation with Our Dog

Hello dear readers,

I took a short hiatus the last couple of weeks as we went on a vacation to Florida. We decided to take our little dog, Maya, with us. Maya is a 10-pound, black and tan miniature dachshund. She is very sweet, but has anxiety. This was an experiment for us to see how well she would travel and if we could find places to stay that were decent that allowed a dog along.

More and more people are starting to travel with their dogs. In an annual survey conducted by TripAdvisor of pet parents, about 53% said they travel with their pets. Businesses should take note 65% of households in the United States own at least one pet (usually a dog or a cat), this is an untapped market that savvy businesses will tap into.

So, how did our adventure go?

The Hotels

Fortunately, I am a planner and always line things up ahead of time, because finding a dog-friendly hotel for the drive down to Florida and back was a challenge. We stayed with my parents while in Florida, which allowed us to have a nice visit with them and also they were happy to have our dog there. If you don’t have family to stay with, you’ll also need to line up a dog-friendly place to stay once you arrive at your destination.

To get to Florida, we had to drive down I-65 and onto I-75. I knew we wanted to stay on the other side of Atlanta each time because of the traffic in that area. If you can get through Atlanta, the second day is less grueling.

I started by checking the pet policy on the two hotels I normally stay at, which are Hampton Inns. Neither allowed pets (only service animals are allowed). This was a huge disappointment to me as I love staying at Hampton Inn as I find them very consistent. However, their no pets policy has me rethinking if I want to frequent them any longer. I truly hope they reconsider this policy.

When that was a no go, I went over to This site is a treasure trove for anyone wanting to travel with a dog. It lists not only dog-friendly hotels and restaurants, but rates them. You’ll also find articles and tips about traveling with your dog.

Thanks to BringFido, I was able to narrow down my search to about six dog-friendly hotels. I read the reviews on that site and then cross-checked them with reviews on TripAdvisor. This allowed me to rule out one hotel that visitors said they’d seen bed bugs at (eww), and another that people said was extremely run down. My next decision was simply based on which ones offered free breakfast and/or had the best rates.

Since rates in an area are often very comparable, I try to look at what extra features I might get to allow me to get the most bang for my buck. Free breakfast saves us around $10, I figure, if not more. So, that is a consideration. I also looked at which ones were easiest for getting off and back on the highway.

My Final Hotel Choices

Trip Down: Best Western Plus in Valdosta, Georgia

I chose this hotel because it had great reviews about customer service and cleanliness. There was a $20 charge for my dog, but I felt it was worth it to stay in a room that would be a bit cleaner and where people had given the location good reviews. My total cost after taxes and discounts was around $116.00, which was on target for the area for a decent hotel. After all, you want to be able to rest and know you’re safe and bed bugs won’t crawl on you.

I enjoyed this hotel for the same reason that others said they did. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful. I had to get up a couple of times during the night to take my dog outside to the bathroom. The front desk clerk was pleasant and friendly. When checking out, the girl engaged me in conversation and said how cute our dog was.

I thought the room was very pet friendly. There was a small kitchen area with a mini fridge, sink, and microwave. It was tiled, so I could put Maya’s food and water there for her. She also figured out to go to the door when she wanted to go outside to the bathroom.

The room was very clean and had no weird pet smell odors, which was something I had initially been concerned about when booking dog-friendly hotel rooms. It was the same as any other room we’ve stayed in, but was on the first floor next to other pet owners (this was fine as they were all friendly and fairly quiet). The room was large as it was a handicap accessible room.

The bed was pretty comfortable and you didn’t hear a lot of noise while in your room. I think the walls were fairly well insulated. The area was nice and there was a good pizza place down the street called Marco’s that we enjoyed trying.

The free breakfast was wonderful. Lots of hot, fresh food such as scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy, etc. I would definitely recommend this hotel. While it wasn’t fancy, it was a nice place to rest before heading out the next day.

Trip Home: La Quinta in Dalton, Georgia

maya at La Quinta
We were all exhausted after battling Atlanta rush hour traffic on a Friday. Maya is ready to go to sleep.

I had been really reluctant to book at a La Quinta. Even though I think more hotels should allow dogs, the fact that they can stay for free worried me a little. I wasn’t sure if owners would pick up after their dogs or the rooms would be clean if they weren’t paying anything. I also had read a really bad review about a different one for the trip down.

However, the Dalton La Quinta had excellent reviews on multiple sites, so I decided to book the room and give it a try. I want to say that this La Quinta was even nicer than the Best Western Plus we stayed at. The room had no signs any other pets had ever stayed there.

The staff was friendly and nice and one thing I truly loved was that there were other pet owners there and they were friendly and nice. There was a nice area at either end of the hotel where you could walk your dog for the potty. However, it was clean as people had cleaned up after their dogs (us included).

The bed was very comfortable according to Maya (see picture to the right). We slept fairly well, but the walls are a bit thinner at this hotel. We always take earplugs, but even with that the people next to us came in about 11 p.m. and woke me up because the woman was talking so loud. I said something about it being pretty bad that someone was so loud you could hear them over your earplugs, which I’m sure they heard since I could hear them. They quieted down after that and we rested better.

Maya did bark once in the night as she heard some other dogs barking, but then she settled back down and I didn’t hear any other noise. We didn’t get a chance to try their breakfast. We had a family meeting about a serious issue and had to rush back home, so we left the hotel at 5 a.m. before the breakfast started.

The total cost was around $134. There wasn’t an extra charge for Maya, but the rates in that area are higher because it is closer to Atlanta.

Yes, we would stay here again. It was very nice and a good stopping point between Indiana and Florida.

As a side note, when we got the call from family to come home for an important meeting about a family member who is ill, we thought we might just drive straight through, so we called and cancelled our reservation.

However, after sitting in Atlanta Friday afternoon rush hour traffic for about four hours, we decided we had better go ahead and stop and just get up very early the next morning for the final push home. We called back and they were so nice and easily got our reservation rescheduled so we would have  place to stay. GREAT customer service.

Sanibel Island, Florida

maya with water
I don’t know if you can tell from this fuzzy picture, but she was actually smiling. She loved this place. The hamburger patty I fed her likely helped.

While reading on, I found an article about Sanibel Island and that there was a dog-friendly beach there where dogs must be leashed. I liked this because I have a tiny dog. I don’t want her on a beach with dogs that are very large running loose. I like big dogs, too, but she thinks she is larger than she is and I worry she would just be like a little toy they would rip apart. Every dog being on a leash makes sense to me.

It is about a two hour drive from the center of Florida out to Sanibel. This was a great find, not because of the beach so much (it was awful as there had just been a red tide), but because of an eatery we found and LOVED.

The place we had lunch was The Island Cow. Honestly, even if you don’t have a dog with you, go eat here. The food was amazing and the atmosphere was laid back, island style. Tons of funny sayings graced the walls.

maya at island cow
No shirt, no shoes, no problem

When we sat down, they brought out a bowl of water for Maya. Other people were dining with their dogs as well, but they were all well behaved and not barking at each other.

Even though it wasn’t, the place had a definite Jimmy Buffet feel. One of the signs even said you might see Jimmy Buffet performing there (but likely not). That is the sense of humor of the place with the “likely not”.

I can’t recommend this restaurant highly enough, to be honest. Rarely does this foodie find a restaurant with excellent food, excellent atmosphere, and excellent service.

Helpful Grandparents

My mom often refers to Maya as her granddog. Maya loves my parents. Since we wanted to go to Disney one day, it was a real blessing to be able to leave Maya with my mom and know she’d be loved and safe and wouldn’t be as stressed as in a kennel. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have gone with my dad and my husband and left her in a kennel. Disney does have one, but yeah.

If you are going to visit family, this might be an option for you. Or if your dog doesn’t suffer from the anxiety Maya does, then you might be able to hire a dog sitter or leave your dog in the kennel for the day (be sure dog is vaccinated for kennel cough).

Alternately, you could plan activities where your dog can go along, such as to national parks and the beach.

Dealing with a Dog that is Anxious While Traveling

Maya has some pretty extreme anxiety. I have no idea why. We’ve had her since she was a puppy and she has never had a bad travel experience. She suffers from separation anxiety when we leave her (one reason we chose to take her with us). She will refuse to eat even. Last year, when all four of us went on a cruise, she lost about two pounds because she refused to eat barely anything while we were away.

She also hyperventilates and pants when in a car. And, I don’t mean that she does that and then settles down after a bit. I mean that we drove seven hours with her panting and hyperventilating and whining.

It was at that point that I used the anti-anxiety pills my vet had given me. They made her drowsy and out of it and I hate giving them to her, but they did calm her. We gave her one only on days we were traveling from and to Indiana, though.

If your dog has anxiety, I recommend talking to your vet about what you can do in extreme cases. Hopefully your dog doesn’t have the anxiety that Maya has.

Would I Travel with my Dog Again?

Absolutely. It was a lot of fun having her along. I miss her when we are away. However, I would probably plan for a few more dog friendly activities next time. I would plan in a day at a park and another beach day. I would also seek out more dog-friendly restaurants.

In fact, The Island Cow has inspired me to visit dog friendly eateries in the Louisville area. When the weather warms, we plan to take her to Comfy Cow down in Jeffersonville, Indiana. They even have frozen dog treats there.

It only makes sense that dogs get bored with the same old thing every day, just like we do. A short trip to get ice cream or even going on vacation with family  is a nice break for them. Have you traveled with your dog? I’d love to hear your stories and tips.


Top Ways to Save Money on Road Trips

Top Ways to Save Money on Road Trips

Family vacations… They are a rite of passage and a way to build lifelong memories while showing your children the bigger world around them. Unfortunately, they can also be very expensive. One way to save a lot of money on vacation is to take a road trip there and back.

Road trips offer a lot of flexibility for families. You can make stops along the way, stay with family as you pass through various states (saving even more money because of not having to pay for a hotel) and it is almost always cheaper to drive than to fly, especially if you have three, four, or more people in your family.

Have a family dog? Good news. A road trip allows you to easily take your dog along. You can also camp out, which may save you more on hotel costs, although you’ll still have camping site fees. Keep in mind that national parks tend to be a bit less expensive than commercial campgrounds, but also tend to have less amenities to keep the kids entertained.

If you start planning now, you’ll be able to shop sales and save even more. Use coupons, stock up on snacks, etc.

Save on Gas

The first thing you should do is pull up a mapping service, such as MapQuest and plan out your route, including stops. The shortest route isn’t always the best choice for saving money, because you may be driving through towns versus driving on the interstate. Take all of this into consideration.

Download a gas saving app such as Gas Buddy. Every time you hit half a tank of gas, start looking ahead for the cheapest place to refill. The difference from town to town can be as much as 20 or 30 cents a gallon. Although this might only translate to a couple of dollars a fill up, it can really start to add up over the course of the trip.

Where to Stay

Hotels can be one of the biggest costs of vacation. Here are some ways to save:

  • Stay with family and friends. As long as you change your location every few days, you shouldn’t outstay your welcome in any one place.
  • Camp out. The best way to do this is to borrow a camper, but you can also camp in tents. Look for campgrounds that have shower facilities and grilling areas but are still inexpensive.
  • If you have a camper, you can stay at some Walmarts for free across the country. You will definitely need to plan ahead for this as not all Walmarts allow people to park RVs and campers in their parking lots. However, the ones that do generally offer this service for free. You will be able to plug into electricity at some of them as well. The drawback here is shower facilities. If you have them available in your RV, then you’re good to go.
  • If you must pay for a hotel, look for ones that offer a free breakfast the next morning. This can save you as much as $5-$10 a person, after all. Also, if you are staying in a hotel versus camping out, you’ll want to choose a hotel that gives you the ability to cook for your family. A small stove, microwave and fridge is essential for this. Look for business hotels for this.
  • Rent a house. If you are going with a big group, it might be far cheaper to rent a place for the week. You’ll have a kitchen and dining area this way.

Save on Food

One of the biggest advantages of road trips is the huge savings you can wrack up when it comes to food. Avoid eating out and buying gas station snacks at all costs. This is another area where planning ahead comes into play. Use coupons to buy the food ahead of time. You’ll need a large cooler. You can refill it with ice from Walmart or if you stay in a hotel see if their ice machines make enough ice to supply your cooler.

You’ll want to take:

  • Sandwich fixings: Don’t make ahead as the bread will get soggy. However, you can put lunch meat and cheeses in the cooler and keep the bread separate.
  • Bagged salad
  • Precooked diced chicken (refrigerated)
  • Yogurt
  • Fruit
  • String cheese
  • Hot dogs (you’ll be grilling out)
  • Hot dog buns
  • Chips
  • Breakfast bars
  • Candy for treats
  • Homemade trail mix
  • Bottled water and sodas
  • Donuts (unless you are staying at a hotel that offers breakfast)
  • Individual cereal boxes
  • Half gallon of milk
  • Paper bowls, plates, napkins, spoons
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Crackers (great snack when combined with cheese
  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly
  • Baby carrots
  • Little cups of ranch dip (save money by taking a larger bottle and pouring the dip into a small cup)
  • Food and treats for your four-legged friend, if he is coming along

Set a Budget and Stick to It

First, plan for the unexpected. What will you do if you have a tire blowout and have to buy a new one? You should have an emergency fund whenever you take a road trip of at least $500 to cover unexpected emergencies. This money can go right back into savings if you don’t use it.

Don’t get derailed when stopping at gas stations. It is so tempting to buy candy or chips, but remember that you already have plenty of snacks in your car and those at the gas station are likely twice as much as what you paid for those.

Allow some room in your budget to eat out a couple of times. It is a vacation and you’re going to get tired of cooking every meal without a break. Also, ask others in the family to take turns cooking so one person isn’t the only one doing all the work.

By planning ahead and setting a budget, you’ll wind up saving a lot of money. Your vacation will not only be enjoyable but affordable.


Found: Top of Ural Mountains – Fossils, Minerals And Ores

Found: Top of Ural Mountains – Fossils, Minerals And Ores

This article was previously posted and is being republished.

The Ural Mountains are rich in fossils and minerals. Find out what ones are in this western portion of Russia.

Minerals, fossils and ores found in the Ural mountains point to the area once being under water.

Located in the western portion of Russia, near the Arctic Ocean, the Ural Mountains have offered a source of mystery and fascination for locals and visitors. Marine fossils have been found high up in the Ural Mountains, nowhere near sea level. There are two schools of thought on how the fossils, minerals and ores got there.

Some scientists believe that the earth was once made up of supercontinents, which collided, pushing tectonic plates up and creating the mountains. Creation scientists, like Ken Hamm, believe marine life deposits were left on the mountains during the great flood described in the Bible.

With one theory, fossils were formed over billions of years with a little water. With the other theory, fossils were formed over a shorter period of time with a lot of water. The science behind both theories is pretty amazing and worth further study. No matter which theory you subscribe to, there have been several types of fossils and minerals discovered in the Ural Mountains.

Types of Fossils

Microbial boundstones make up a large part of the fossils found in the Ural Mountains. These are sponges and other creatures that typically make up a barrier reef that you would see on the sea floor rather than on top of a mountain. Other fossils include fish and shelled creatures.

Limestone, Standstone, Dolomite

The actual rock on the west side of the Ural Mountains are believed to be from deposits from an ancient sea dated around the Paleozoic period. For a decade, Dr. Soja of Colgate University has studied the unusual terrain and preserved and collected fossils, categorizing them in an attempt to explain the unique findings. While the limestone, sandstone and dolomite are thought to hail from a shallow ocean (coral reef), the east side is made of rocks similar to rocks found deep in the ocean.

Ores and Minerals

Sediments from the sea also helped to form some of the numerous minerals and ores located in the Ural Mountains. A few of the natural resources that can be found are gabbro, quartzite and schist.

More Study Needed

To fully understand the different fossils that have been found and to discover more, researchers like the team led by Dr. Soja continue to study the Ural Mountains and to find new specimens to classify. There’s no telling what might be discovered next in this exciting branch of geology.

Image Credits: Irina Kazanskaya via Creative Commons