Thursday, December 5, 2013

Vacation Planning, Phase 1

      So it's almost time for our annual Christmas Vacation. I know that for me this immediately brings to mind images like this one: 
But I assure you, our trips are at least a little more subdued than this...a little. Last year's Boston trip was a huge success. This year we really wanted to go somewhere warm. OK, it was me. I wanted to go somewhere warm! You got me!
     Anyway we decided warm was the way to go, and that we would alternate warm and cold climates each year from here on out. I feel like that gives me a whole year to talk them back into a warm trip, but we'll save that for later. This year we are headed to Florida.
     We are all super excited. Don't forget this is a Simple City Sam style trip so we won't just be doing the standard Florida resort trip. In  true "use your resources" fashion, I was able to score a condo on the cheap. I've got an uncle who's got a friend....If I had a nickel for every story that started this way (c'mon, I'm Italian, it's how it works) who gave us his deal on the time share condo. It sleeps 8, has a two suite set up and an adjoining kitchen and great room. This is ideal for us. This year we're bringing mom again, and we talked my aunt into coming too. It's going to be a full house and a little room to spread out is very nice!
     Well, that got the ball rolling. Family members have been very supportive of this new concept and have been taking it upon themselves to help out. One family member paid for the girls to get US Passports. This is huge as it will make traveling, even domestically, infinitely easier. No longer will I have to carry birth certificates and the like. Another family member purchased Sea World tickets for the family as a family gift. Score! Yet another member put together a travel pack full of easy travel activities, snacks, and cute luggage tags. It has been wonderful to not only be supported by our family, but to also have them helping out!
     I'll talk more about all this good stuff. But for now, I was at a place where I needed to do one of my most favorite things in the whole world. It was time to plan and make lists.
     Ok, first things are first. I knew we would be in the condo and that we'd have a kitchen. This is really super crucial. In honesty, if this amenity were not available, the trip could easily have become too cost prohibitive. Eating out every meal and/or paying for meal plans is ridiculously expensive and frankly, wasteful. Those scenarios grossly overcharge for things that you often aren't truly satisfied with. We love cooking and eating home-cooked meals anyway, so for us it's just a bonus.
     After we get checked in hubby and I will head to the grocery store first off. We will do a weeks worth of grocery shopping and stock up for the entire trip. Even without knowing the market and the area very well, we will be able to accomplish this in a couple of hours. Thus, saving an enormous amount of time by not waiting to go out to eat every night and sending someone "out" in the morning for coffee and bagels.
     We also save hundreds of dollars this way. As you know, I can feed a family on a heck of a budget. So, even with "splurges" we will be able to feed the 6 people going for the week for less than the cost of two days of eating out. I'll post the grocery bill after we shop, you'll see!
     I still need to be organized though, and here comes the list. I sat down with the hubby, or maybe more like I cornered him one morning while he thought I was being nice- sucker!- and planned out the meals for a week. We picked meals that we knew EVERYBODY liked, that are easy to make, and are inexpensive. It's important to consider the equipment you'll need to make the meals too. Most rentals or condos are not super well stocked. Expect a couple pots and pans and maybe a bottle opener, anything else is gravy (as they say).
     We also focused on the nutritional aspect too. Vacations are all about playing hard so we planned high protein meals. We also planned healthy, natural snacks like fruits, veggies, and our energy bites. We thought about lunches and kept them protein based as well and tried to take into account the fact that they'll have to travel, probably, in a back pack for a bit.
      After we planned the meals I made shopping lists, yep plural. (You can see they also make great coloring pages too.) I made a list of items we would need to buy there and a list of items we could buy here and bring with us. Some of the meals need something in small quantity and it's impractical to buy an entire jar of bouillon cubes because you'll need two. Some items are less expensive closer to home, and sometimes you know tricks on finding things cheap where you're comfortable shopping. Over the last few weeks I've been purchasing one or two of the items on the "buy here" list as part of the weekly shopping. It's only a couple bucks extra here and there and by the time we're ready to go I'll have everything we need.
     So far so good. We are a little over a week out from take off and I have almost everything on my list. I'll toss them in my suitcase and we'll be good to go.
     Now, off to pre-pack. Yay! Another list.
Stay tuned!
Simple City Sam