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Priceline bidding tip…

Retail Price

Tanya and I are taking a trip to Las Vegas at the beginning of March, 2011. We are flying out of Great Falls, Montana on Allegiant Air.

Our flight leaves at 11am, so we decided to stay in Great Falls the night before. I started trying to bid on hotel rooms using Priceline.com and was unable to get a price accepted much below retail, so I gave up and reserved a room for $87 per night and forgot about it until today.

I logged into priceline and searched rooms in Great Falls. The usual results showed up with most of the rooms being around $95 per night. I put a bid in for a room at $51 for a 2 1/2 star hotel. To my surprise my bid was accepted for a 3 start hotel (Holiday Inn). This just shows how prices change from day to day. Three days ago, none of my bids were successful and today my much lower bid was accepted. I am sure I could have gotten an even lower price, but at the time I wasn’t expecting $51 to be accepted.

Holiday Inn Great Falls

When booking a hotel room it is a good idea to reserve a room at retail price, making sure it can be cancelled if need be. Since you now have a backup plan you can be patient and bid on Priceline to get the rate you want without worrying about beings stuck sleeping in your car. Many times you get the best deals the week before you need the room as hotels will sometimes lower their prices to fill the rooms at the last minute.

Cheap car rentals…

Family travel can get expensive with hotel, meals and car rentals, so it makes sense to save money where ever you can.  Here is a money saving tip anyone can take advantage of to save a few dollars when renting a car.

I tend to use Priceline for most of my travel bookings, but I have found that often you can get a better deal on car rentals using Hotwire.com.  I usually check the price listed on Hotwire and then go to Priceline and bid a few dollars lower and see what happens.  If my bid is rejected on Priceline I will book the car using Hotwire.

Click the link below for a quick video demonstrating how it’s done.

Video too small? Click Here

Christmas in Las Vegas Baby!

My husband’s family consists of 4 brothers, their wives and 10 kids.  His Mom passed away in May of 2000 and his Dad passed away in September of 2004.  Christmas always meant alot to our families, but after both his parents passed away, we wanted to make sure that we were always close.  People are amazed when they hear that we have monthly get togethers with Richard’s family…it is important.  Always remember that family is what is most important and they won’t always be around.  Richard may have been 34 by the time both his parents were gone, but I know that there are many times when he wishes he could call up his mom to tell her something great…or ask his Dad how to build something…or give his Mom one more pair of earrings for her birthday cause he couldn’t think of one single thing she needed.  And she loved it…every year…Beth didn’t care what she got because it meant the world to her coming from one of her boys!  They both loved hosting, they loved travel and they loved Christmas…so we thought we would do them proud and head out of town for Christmas…all 18 of us together!

Since 2004, we have been alternating between his family and in-laws.  It seems to be working great so far.  Right after Christmas of 2008, we started making plans to go somewhere warm for Christmas of 2009.  I like to be on the computer…in case you hadn’t noticed…so I took over finding us somewhere to stay!    Being the adventerous sort I am, I set out to find ONE house that would fit us all.  Who wants to spend Christmas Day all bunched up in a couple of hotel rooms…boring!

Why Las Vegas?  Why not Florida or Hawaii?  Well, two of my brother-in-laws run a business together and it is hard for them to get away for a long time together, so Vegas seemed perfect.  Close to fly to, stay and play for a few days and then come home.  I used vrbo.com to look for a house and because Richard and I had been there a few times already, we somewhat knew what areas we liked.  You guys are probably thinking it was hard to find a house that fit 18 people….but it wasn’t.  There are a ton of rental homes on vrbo.com that allow for up to 25 people.  And alot of those people own two houses side by side so you could rent enough space for 50 people!  It is amazing!!  I emailed a ton of houses, found availability for the dates we wanted and waited.  After receiving a ton of emails back, I sorted through them, found the perfect house and booked it.  The great thing was we had all this square footage, our own pool and hottub and we would all be together.  The cost was approximately $450 per family for the house plus any groceries which we split 4 ways.  And using Allegiant airlines we paid a fraction of the costs for the flight. 

Ok, so what did we do when we got there??  Well we kind of all did our own special things, one family went to see the Blue Man Group (very loud…but good) others went outlet shopping (they were very happy).  Let me stop there….let me tell you about my sister-in-law.  We gave her a hard time….she mapped out the malls.  I am not joking…she literally had maps, a pen and a highlighter to map her route and what stores she had to hit.  You know who you are…and we love you!!  Anyway, Christmas Eve we wanted to do something special as a family so we rented a huge limo and had them take us around and down to Freemont Street.  The kids loved it!!  Of course they had a live band, big Christmas tree and the popular light show.  It was wonderful!

Christmas Day we spent at the house eating big meals and….swimming!!  That’s right…swimming in our own private outdoor pool! 

I think I can speak for all of us when I say we all had a super time!  It was nice to get away from the snow and just enjoy each others company!  Hoping to get away Christmas of 2011 with my side of the family!  Keep you posted on that one!

Sedona, Arizona

 

Last May, my sister and I decided to plan a trip to Sedona, Arizona.  We wanted to get our parents to actually get themselves on a plane and experience some travel.  The reason we picked Arizona is that we have an uncle that lives in Winslow and we hadn’t seen him in over 19 years.  We wanted my Dad to see his brother while he was still young!  So we convinced them to come and started planning. 

We flew into Phoenix and rented a car to drive to Sedona where we stayed.  We were looking to do the trip for the most affordable we could.  We got rooms at Kokopelli Suites in Sedona.  The front desk staff was very accomadating and friendly, making sure to suggest great places to eat and tourist attractions to see.  The rooms were nice, very clean.  We were only down for 3 nights so we had to act quickly to get all our sight seeing in!  There are so many more things we could have done there.

Our first day…we flew down this day and had the afternoon to wander around, find our hotel, pick out somewhere nice to eat.  It was kind of a relaxed day which was nice. 

The second day…this is the day we planned to meet up with my Aunt and Uncle in Flagstaff.  They chose a restaurant that was one of their favorites and we met them there.  After 19 years, there was no mistaking who he was when he got out of his Dodge truck (same as my Dad drives) and walked (the same as my Dad) over to us.  Seriously people, the similarities were endless.  The walk, the cowboy boots, the same jeans, the voice, the laugh…we all just sat back and watched my Dad and his brother.  We had a wonderful lunch and with pictures taken and goodbyes said, we headed on our way.  Richard and I had seen the Grand Canyon before, and I am so glad that my sister was anxious to see it and we convinced everyone else to go.  We headed out of Flagstaff and headed to the south rim of the Grand Canyon.  After about 1.5 hours we were there and it truly is majestic.

Day 3….definitely our busiest day.  Gwenn went with one goal…to see the McDonalds in Sedona.  The reason?  It is the only McDonalds ever that does not have the signature yellow colored M.  The town told McDonalds that they could build as long as the arches were Desert Teal as to not clash with the surrounding red rock of the area.  So we went, we took pictures, and now she can say she has been there!! 

We then travelled just outside of town to see a church.  Not just any old church…this church was beautiful and built into the side of a wall of red rock!  It was called the Chapel of the Holy Cross.  The idea of the church came from a lady named Marguerite Bruswig Staude who was from New York.  While travelling in the Sedona area she loved it and decided a chapel would be perfect there.  It was finished in 1956 and has been there ever since.

We managed to fit in some souvenir shopping as well and then that night…the sushi restaurant.  So nice to check out things the adults like when the kids do not come on the trip!  If the kids would have been there, no sushi restaurant!  So we went and ate way too much.  But it was delicious!!

Day 4…the day we pack up and head for home.  We left lots of time to drive back to Phoenix to catch our flights home.  On the way, we stopped to photograph everyone with the Seguaro cactus.  I say, if you are going to be a tourist…act like a tourist!!  Pictures of everything!

We all had such a great time.  I hope that it will be easier next time to convince my parents that it is a good idea!

Crazy or Adventurous??

Back in the day when C was 4 and the girls were 12 and 13, we got a crazy idea to go to Vegas.  Richard and I had been before and we were excited to show the kids.  But we just didn’t want to fly in.  We had 2 weeks for holidays that spring and we decided to drive.  For 21 hours.  I had so much fun using google to map out our route, trying to find fun and interesting things to see on the way.  One of the places we stopped was St. George, Utah.  It was beautiful!  We actually liked it so much that we stayed an extra night there just so we could look around.  One of the main attractions close to St. Goerge is Zion National Park.  We spent almost an entire day there, driving through and stopping for short hikes and picture breaks.  I highly recommend to anyone to do road trips like these with your kids.  We made sure to take 3 days to do the drive and stoppped plenty of times to find playgrounds and park areas.  At the time we went, C was still trached and on nighttime oxygen, so we had the back of the truck packed full!  Along with an emergency tracheostomy kit, an oxygen concentrator, a night time humidty machine and all the tubing that goes with these machines, we had a bit of a stop at the border.  Then suitcases for us, C, and two teenage girls!!  The border patrol guard wasn’t sure if he should unload everything and search or not!!  Thank goodness he didn’t! 

Onto Vegas, the kids loved it!  All the lights and action….even C who was only 4 at the time, loved everything.  I imagine the Hoover Dam was probably the most boring part of the trip for all of them…Richard loved it.  So to reward the kids for putting up with one “boring” afternoon, we took them to Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Botanical Gardens.  The tour of the factory and the gardens is free and on weekdays you can be pleasantly surprised to get free samples!  And they were really really good.   They also have a store where you can purchase chocolates as well.  The kids definitely loved this one! 

Many people think that taking kids to Las Vegas is crazy, but there are so many things to do!  We never had a dull moment while we were there, there is always something to do in Vegas! 

I have found lots of links about road trip planning.  Do a little research, there are tons of resources!  Here are just a few I have found…

http://www.planning-fun-road-trips.com/

http://www.tripwiser.com/

Kid Friendly Travel

When we travel we are always looking for great deals and kids friendly places.  Last May we travelled to Austin, Texas so Richard could attend a conference.  We stayed in downtown Austin at the Omni. 

 I figured since it was downtown and fancy that it would mostly be a hotel for business men and women.  When we checked in, I was completely surprised.  A man came out from behind the desk carrying a small backpack which he proceeded to give to C.  A gift from the hotel just for him…he was ecstatic!!  When he opened it up and got digging, there was crayons, a coloring book, a small canteen, flashlight and many others things.  I even found out that they had suitcases full of games for kids and night lights!!

And while we were there, C spent the majority of his time here….

The rooftop pool!!  He loves the water and because we were in Texas…and warm, that is where we spent our time!  It was a wonderful stay and I would highly recommend the Downtown Austin Omni hotel!

Sunday Suggestions….

Here is something we use often.  A lot of you might know about it…hopefully you do.  But I know that a lot of our Canadian friends don’t realize that this option is available.  It is Allegiant air.  http://allegiantair.com

Allegiant air is an airline that is only in the United States.  Luckily for some of us Southern Canadians, we can hop in our cars, go over the border and arrange a flight for a substantially lower dollar amount.  The trick is that certain airports, such as Great Falls, Montana, only have Allegiant flights to Las Vegas and Phoenix.  We just happen to like going those places and on occasion have arranged flights for as low as $59 + taxes each direction.  A very big difference to the $200 plus out of the nearest Canadian airport!  For us this means more trips.  Not just couples trips either, with those prices we are able to take all 5 of us more often.  There is nothing quite like renting a house in Phoenix for a week and knowing you will still be able to afford groceries when you get home 🙂

Meet the man…

Now it’s time to meet my amazing husband.  We met when I was only 19 and he was divorced and had full custody of his two beautiful girls.  People thought I was crazy to even consider it but I knew he was the one for me.  We got married in Jamaica when I turned 21 and we’ve never looked back….well at least I haven’t!!  ha ha 

Here’s where we got married…

This is a Sandals resort in Dunns River, Jamaica and it was beautiful.  We spent  7 days in this paradise, swimming, cruising, laying on the beach.  From the minute we got there, the service was amazing.  We sipped champagne while we were checked in and met with the wedding planner when we were settled.  We had to be in Jamaica for 48 hours before we could be married, so we picked where we wanted to get married, the flowers and met the photographer.  It was a busy afternoon, but we never felt rushed at all.  The day of our wedding everything went perfect!  The Sandals resorts are beautiful and the service was incredible.

So what can I say about Richard??  Well, he is an amazing father, incredible husband and hard worker…and he just turned 40! 

For his 40th birthday weekend, we jetted off to Los Angeles for a little alone time.  It was great…we relaxed, slept in, and did some touristy things we may not have done with the kids.  I know a lot of you out there don’t like to travel with your kids, or never leave home without them.  I appreciate each and every one of you and entitle you to your opinions.  I like a mixture of both…I love to take the kids.  I like to show them things they normally wouldn’t see.  But I also love to go on vacations without the kids.  The beginning of our lives together showed me I was meant to be a wife and mother, but when C was born, it was very stressful.  Anyone who has had a child with life threatening medical issues knows that.  I learned to appreciate the time that Richard and I had alone together too…it is how our marriage works.  I have an amazing family.

Sunday Suggestions…

Every Sunday I am going to post a suggestion…just different websites and links that Richard and I use when we are trying to find the best prices for travel.

I am a researcher…ask anyone. If I want to know something I will research until I am satisfied that I have found all the answers. My sister-in-law calls me the master “googler”! Richard figures I have reached the end of the internet! When we are taking the kids on a holiday, I find that it does require more time and energy to plan. A bigger place to stay or two hotel rooms, activities for the kids and more substantial meal planning! Depending on where we are going, we love to rent houses. We have rented houses in Orlando, Maricopa and Las Vegas. My favorite site to go to is www.vrbo.com.

Last Christmas we rented a 3500 sq foot house in Las Vegas for all of Richard’s family…all 18 of us! It was excellent and we were all in the pool on Christmas day! Doing it this way, it was way cheaper than hotel rooms for everyone! Granted, we are very lucky that our family gets along very well. Even renting in Orlando with just our 5 was great…everyone gets their own room and you have a private pool for the duration of your stay! Go check it out for your next holiday!

Tanya

Good Stuff!

Underwear for travellers!

There is an article on usatoday.com that I found something very travel related!!  There is a man in the States who has started a clothing line for travellers.  The shirts have stars over where the breasts are and there are designs over any “private” area.  The object is to blur your private parts when you go through the full body scanners!  Very interesting…and I am very interested to know if it would work or not.  And I also wonder if the person behind the computer doing the scanning really cares or not what is under your underwear!  Does he/she really have time to worry about it?  Maybe I am just different in not really caring what goes on in security as long as I am headed to a beach!!  If you want to know more…head over to usatoday.com and check it out!!