Browsing posts in: Holidays & Vacations

A Blessing in Disguise

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One of my biggest dreads this past fall was living in the camper for the winter.  Going outside and up and down slippery stairs to go to the bathroom, inadequate heat and just being cooped up in the tiny space, literally on top of each other.  If I let my mind go there, the darkness would overwhelm me.

We were all so excited to escape for the holidays to my grandmothers home and our short jaunt to Texas, as Christmas got closer and our return date got closer, I could feel my stomach tightening with dread.  Then I go the text. And we were homeless.

And as grateful as I was for the housing and the experiences we had…it was kind of a relief to know that we wouldn’t be spending the winter in the camper.

The housing we have been provided for these next weeks is beautiful! It’s newly remodeled and barely lived in (empty nesters.)  It’s like living in a dream.  I even got to soak in a bathtub for the first time in I don’t know how many years.  After the last two years so scrimping by, tiny living and shared space, this has been such a blessing.  And we’ve only been here a week.

We are not being charged any rent or utilities, but I am buying all the food and cooking and cleaning.  I imagine this is what most people live like every day…but for us, this is totally new.  Each of us has our own bedroom, our own bathroom (Princess and I have a jack and jill set up,) there is a pool table, washer and dryer, and we even have a dedicated school room.  I admit it, we feel a bit spoiled.

But I am so grateful, overwhelmed, by thankfulness in fact.  All I can say is that God heard my cries and he answered me, in a big, giant way.

It’s just temporary, but the respite from the daily struggle and stress has already worked wonders on my soul.  And I know, that whatever comes next will be okay.

Continuing the job hunt, preparing to pack and move everything to GA and make it our homebase until work allows us to settle somewhere, and completely open to whatever comes next.  And this weekend, we go to the Naval Academy in Annapolis where Gymnast will compete in the Navy Challenge.  Wish us luck as we will be fighting the inauguration traffic both ways…ugh!


Teacher Christmas Gifts

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Hi all!

I hope you’re having a happy Thursday! The girls and I are headed to Texas on Christmas Day. We are flying (on Christmas because its much cheaper) instead of driving because hubs has to stay back and work. He’s still planning to quit and go back to school in the Spring (he’s all registered and ready to go), but he has a couple big jobs in the meantime that need to be wrapped up by the first of the year. It’s great, too, because it will give him a final big payday before that source of income dries up. I need to write a post on our 2017 budget soon, because it will be looking pretty different given all of the major income/outflow changes coming soon (e.g., hubs quitting work, some job changes with me in the works, etc.).

This is my first time to ever fly alone with the girls (we haven’t flown with them at all since they were 4 months old – we flew back for a wedding I was in). In general, I think traveling is much easier with young children versus infants, but I’m still a little nervous. Send your best tips and happy travel prayers my way (I’m planning to pack backpacks for the girls with things to keep them occupied, etc.)

In the meantime, today is the girls’ last day of preschool. They have their class party and gift exchange with the classmates (everyone was instructed to wrap a book to exchange). I also wanted to share our teacher gifts this year!

For the gift, itself, we took the easy-way-out by getting a gift package thing from Costco. Our store was selling two-packs of Starbucks gift sets for $20 each ($10 per gift). I got the green paper bags from our local Walmart for 33 cents each (it was 3 for $1). The rest of the gift bag items (craft stuff, construction paper, glue, and tissue paper) was stuff we already had on-hand.

I drew a Christmas tree shape on construction paper and let the girls cut it out themselves (we actually did a ton of Christmas trees so we could also put some in cards to family members – I think we did 10 total?)

After cutting out the trees, the girls decorated them using craft materials we already had on-hand. I then glued them in place on the green bags (and wished I’d bought red bags instead) and outlined them with thick black sharpie. Put the Starbucks gift set inside, stuffed tissue paper around it, and called it a day!

 

Teacher gifts for about $10 a piece, complete with a personalized custom-made kid craft : )

IMG_4542This was actually a little more expensive than our typical teacher Christmas gift. In past years we’ve done $5 gift cards, a kid-drawn picture, and Christmas card (as an example, see here). Even so, I was happy with the price-point. We still stuck within our budget and bought a thrifty gift that I hope the teachers will enjoy.

What do you do for holiday teacher gifts? What is your Christmas budget typically like for teachers, neighbors, etc?

 


Christmas on a Shoestring Budget

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Today we leave to stay at my grandmother’s in Georgia for a month.  I cannot wait! I get to sleep in a bed, have heat day and night and have indoor plumbing (have to go over to the trailer to use the bathroom where we are at now.)  It is going to be joyous.  These are things I will never take for granted again!

I have less income now than I’ve had all year with the cut in the twins’ adoption assistance and being informed yesterday that there would be no work hours until Dec. 14th and I didn’t have any the last two weeks either.  Needless to say, Christmas is going to be almost non-existent.  Almost…

Princess and I learned to knit in the last month.  This is something I have wanted to do for YEARS!  A new store opened up here locally and offered $10 beginning classes along with 10% off the supplies.  We’ve taken off like gang-busters.  She has become a whiz at making hats, teaching herself after learning the two basic stitches, and I’m quite adept at knitting straight lines now.  We’ve both been working on making presents for anyone we could think of who would enjoy them.

A couple of the hats Princess has knitted as presents.

A couple of the hats Princess has knitted as presents.

The little ones dad sent them both $50 at the end of September for the state fair, and both of them managed to save some of it.  Gymnast cleaned my car for another $10 this week, so I took him shopping last night.  He managed to buy thoughtful, practical gifts that I think everyone will enjoy staying within his budget.  (He shopped at $5 and Below and got some really great presents if I do say so myself.)  He has also gotten creative with reusing some canvases he had previously painted.  Painting over them and creating new masterpieces to give as gifts.

Original paintings that have now been repurposed to Christmas presents.

Original paintings that have now been re-purposed to Christmas presents.

I have not had quite as much luck in figuring out what to do for gifts for the kids, but at this point am planning to try and fill their stockings with goodies and that will be it. I’ve been collecting free samples of soaps (not hotel kinds, but more homemade stuff,) notebooks and anything else I can find. This is the first year that we will not be in our own space for Christmas. No Christmas decorations, no menu planning, no traditions from the past. I did dig out the stockings and will be taking them with us (the kids don’t know.) I think it will be nice to have something from our old life with this new Christmas. I have been thinking that I could create a certificate for a “mom and child” date so when I do have some money I could take each child out to eat at a favorite restaurant. Thought that might be kind of special and something to look forward to.

I’m not going to pretend and say it’s been easy to be so broke especially with the holidays here, but we have more than enough and in the end, it truly is being together that counts the most, not the material things. We are blessed that we don’t have needs, just wants. There are many who truly need.

Updated to add Amazon Wishlist…http://a.co/el2mc7W

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Ashley’s June Budget + 2016 Goals Update

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As a reminder, we have 3 concrete financial goals that we’re working on in 2016:

  • Save $10,000 for a down payment
  • Save $5,000 for an emergency fund
  • Put $30,000 toward debt.

Even amidst some obstacles that have caused us to have to withdraw money from our EF (for expenses related to the death of our beloved dog and a plane ticket home for my Nana’s funeral), we’ve still managed to make some progress for each of our savings goals.

In total we have now saved up: $6,000 for a house down payment, and $2,100 in our emergency fund.  In May we weren’t able to contribute to any savings at all, but in June we were able to save a good chunk and July should be good in this regard (and for debt payments), too.

Originally, we were hoping to start house-hunting in mid-summer but we decided to push our timeframe back just a tad so we can save up more money. We’re now hoping to have both of these savings goals met by August or September, and plan to start the house-hunting process in early September. I’m itching hard on this!

What about the $30,000 debt goal?

After last month’s $3500 debt payment, we’re almost exactly half-way to our overall 2016 goal of paying $30,000 toward debt! In full transparency, it’s going to be tough to hit our goal since we’re still working on stocking our savings accounts, too (we’d hoped to be done with the savings goals by mid-year). Even so, we’re currently on track and making good progress. For reference, here’s the table I made of goal debt-payments compared to actual payments for 2016:

Month 2016 GOALS 2016
January Goal: $3500 $4013
February Goal: $1000 $1261
March Goal:  $1000 $2134
April Goal:  $2000 $1521
May Goal: $2000 $1325
June Goal:  $4000 $3500
July Goal: $4000
August Goal: $2500
September Goal: $2500
October Goal: $2500
November Goal: $2500
December Goal: $2500
Total Goal: $30,000 Actual: $15770.00

 

Currently, we’ve paid $15,770 toward debt out of the total $30,000 we have planned (though it’d be great to beat our goal, too!) Right on track!

And here’s how our household budget looked for June 2016:

 

Place Amount Spent
Rent 1200
Down Payment Savings 2000
Electricity 128
Water 65
Natural gas 36
Cell Phones (2 lines) 105
Cable/Internet 100
Trash 35
Preschool (babysitting) 880
Gift-Giving 9
Restaurants 334
Kids Activities 136
Groceries 505
Gasoline 159
Household Goods 41
Clothing 74
Work Expenses 105
Rainy Day Savings 2023 (minus deductions, see below)
Savings Goals 500
Debt Payments 3500

 

Comments:

Electricity: Our electric bill from June was moderate, but I already received the July bill and it’s shooting sky-high. This is to be expected given that the temperatures are in the one-teens (as in 115 degrees!!!) and the girls have a babysitter at home all summer so we need to keep the A/C running since kids are at the house all day.

Restaurants + Groceries: I feel like you can’t consider one without knowledge of the other. Our overall food spending this month wasn’t too terrible when you consider that these figures include some of the food for the girls’ birthday party, along with the food we had to buy on our multiple trips this month (remember, I went to Austin for a funeral the first week of June + the whole family went to Utah the third week of June. Particularly during the Utah trip, we had to eat out basically the entire time since we were clearing out my Dad’s house and didn’t have the ability to cook).

Babysitting: The only perk about our travels is that we had less childcare. During the regular preschool year we have to pay a set price regardless of whether we travel or not (for instance, we still had to pay the full week of childcare when we were on cruise 2016). But with a babysitter, we don’t have to pay if we aren’t utilizing her services. So our childcare costs were pretty low in June.

Kids’ Activities ($136): I had cancelled swim lessons for about a month while we were busy traveling, but I started back up again in late June. I think I’ll carry it through the duration of summer and in early September I’ll probably cancel again and start them in a new activity. For new readers, swim lessons is the only paid activity we’ve ever done with the girls. But now that they’re 4 years old, I really want to let them start trying some new activities. We have lots in our area to choose from:  dance, soccer, martial arts, gymnastics, music lessons, etc. etc. etc. I’m committed to only having them in a single activity at a time (at least for the time being). They’ve made great progress in swim lessons so far and I’m really proud of how far they’ve come. But I also can’t wait to get to watch them in little tutus or soccer cleats or whatever the “uniform” is for the next activity we decide to do!

Clothing: This includes a mix of clothes for all 4 of us. I got a new cardigan for work, hubs got some new basketball shorts, and I got some darling outfits for the girls from my favorite app, Wish (side note: I’m still loving how cheap and easy it is to order through Wish, but I’ve seriously reduced the frequency of use. I can see how people could get addicted and overspend on crap).

Work Expenses:  This month I had several work-related expenses:  a new ink cartridge for our home printer, reordering checks and address labels, and $30 worth of gift cards for people who helped participate in a huge project I’m working on (that amounts to 3- $10 gift cards). Even though I had to pay for it personally (the department said “no”), I feel like it was warranted because these people have invested a HUGE amount of time into a project I’m spearheading.

Rainy Day Savings: I’d deposited $2023 into my various rainy day funds (though some money was also withdrawn from these accounts.) See below:

  • 3-6 Month EF: $1,000. The goal is to get to $5,000 and we currently have $2100 (note, this is down from my last budget update because we had to use emergency funds to cover my $$$ last-minute flight to Texas for my Nana’s funeral; we also had to withdraw some money for end-of-life expenses for our dog, who died last month. We withdrew money for an ultrasound, lab tests, and his final cremation and disposal. http://www.bloggingawaydebt.com/2015/12/2016-tentative-financial-goals/
  • Car Repairs: $50. I also withdrew $10 to wash it. Our overall account balance is at $113, but I know we need to add more because my breaks have been squeaky and there are a couple routine maintenance issues we need to get done soon. Why are car repairs always so $$$???
  • Birthdays: $523. I also withdrew the full $523 for kid birthday expenses. I lumped some expenses here that would otherwise have gone into different budget categories, but I included them here due to their nature. For instance, both of our moms came to town for the birthday, but we only have one guest bed. So this number includes money for a new air mattress. It also includes all of the food costs associated with the party AND a dinner out when we treated our moms to Italian food while they were in town. In addition to that, this covers the bounce house, a pop-up tent we got to shade the yard, and all kinds of party odds-and-ends (decorations, goody bag treats, piñata & candy, etc.). I’d guesstimated our party costs to be about $600, so I wasn’t too terribly far off.
  • Travel/Christmas: $100. The full account balance for this category is at $150. It always helps when Christmas time rolls around to have some of our travel and gift expenses subsidized a bit!
  • Health/Dental/Vision: $0. Generally, this gets auto-deducted from my paychecks so we can pay for healthcare out of pre-tax money (it sits in a flexible spending account earmarked for health-care related expenses.) However, I pre-pay healthcare expenses in the spring semester to cover the summer (this is normal at my university), so I didn’t add anything to the account this month since its summer time. Instead, I get a higher paycheck since this money isn’t withdrawn. : ) I did have to make a deduction this month, though. I deducted $25 from our FSA to pay for a prescription. Current account balance sits right at $2300.
  • Annual Fees: $300. Deducted $68 for vehicle registration. The total current balance is $482. I like to have it around $500ish, so we’re almost fully funded here.
  • Girls’ College Savings: $50. We save $25/each (x 2 girls) for college that’s automatically transferred monthly to designated 529 accounts.

Savings Goals ($500): This is all money that was saved for our 2016 Roth IRA. As a reminder, I have 10% of my paycheck auto-deposited into pre-tax retirement accounts, but I also like to put a little bit of post-tax money into a Roth each year. It’s never a big priority (especially since I’m already saving 10% of my income), but every little bit helps.

 

Debt:  I gave a full debt update here.

 

Overall, June was a good month! Here’s hoping July is just as fruitful!

 


Happy Independence Day!!!

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Happy 4th of July to all our U.S. readers and friends!

I wrote up a full budget update, but since my normal blogging day (Monday) happened to fall on a national holiday, I decided to push it back so it’s scheduled to go live tomorrow morning. Check back for that content post.

In the meantime, I want to wish all our American friends a happy 3 day weekend that is hopefully full of the 3 F’s:  family, friends, & food! : ) Have a safe and happy holiday!

For non-U.S. friends, have a great Monday! I’ll be back tomorrow morning with our budget update from the month of June!


4th Birthday Extravaganza!!!

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This weekend we celebrated the girls’ 4th birthday! This was the first “real” birthday party we’ve ever had for them. In the past, we’ve only ever done small at-home things with our family. It’s been very small (as in, me, hubs, and the girls with a 4-pack of grocery store cupcakes; no decorations and minimal gifts). But this past year changed things. They started attending other kids’ birthdays at all these fancy places (gymnastics world, indoor trampoline place, etc.) and now that they totally “get” the concept of a birthday party, they really wanted one of their own.

We started off wanting to go low key – a simple backyard birthday party. But things kept getting bigger and bigger. As they do. It’s hard to keep things in check!

Things can be tricky with a twin birthday, too. The party is basically “shared”, but I wanted a couple little touches that made them feel special as an individual, too. So, for example, we got 2 cakes:  one for each girl. One was chocolate and one was vanilla, so it was kind of nice to have those different flavor options, too. We ended up ordering the cakes from a local bakery so it was a bit more costly than our typical go-to (a homemade cake or a Costco half sheet cake), but still under $80, tasted incredible, and with gorgeous decorations so not too bad.

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Because of the terrible Tucson heat, we knew we needed to incorporate WATER into the party. Our theme was actually an “Under the Sea” theme (side-note: it worked out really well that Finding Dory just came out in theaters because decorations were super easy to find in mainstream stores like Target and Walmart without having to order more $$$ Etsy options). I bought this inflatable pool from Amazon for $30 and it was a HUGE hit! It was much larger than you’d think and had 2 little water features (not pictured below because it was just being filled up at the time). Plus, it was still shallow enough that I wasn’t nervous about kiddos drowning.

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But probably the star of the party was our backyard inflatable. It ended up taking up WAY more space than we’d thought. So much so, that we ended up having to push the seating area (we borrowed some folding tables and chairs from a friend) to the side of the house. Kind of unconventional, but it was literally the only space! The kids freaked out (in a good way) over the bounce house! It also had water attached to it – it was designed to drip down the slide, so it became a water slide.  We did have one child slide down too fast and hit her nose, causing a nose bleed (no good party is immune to drama, right?), but it wasn’t bad and she recovered quickly.

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Overall, we (obviously) spent more than any other birthday, being that we’ve never done a party before. But it wasn’t too bad, either. I still did a lot of homemade things to try to cut costs where I could.

I made a “seashell” pasta salad and a homemade fruit salad instead of buying a more costly fruit tray; I purchased a 5′ party sub for party guests, but I also home-made a ton of PB&J sandwiches for the kids that I used a cookie-cutter to cut into fish shapes (the homemade sign said “peanut butter and jellyfish sandwiches”).

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In that empty space I put out little jello cups I’d made for the kids. It was super cute – blue jello, one gummy Swedish fish (sunk in the “water”), and a gummy lifesaver ring (on top of the “water”). I can’t steal the credit – it was a Pinterest idea.

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I also stole a few other ideas from Pinterest for super cheap homemade decorations made from crepe paper and blue scrapbook paper.

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I haven’t calculated final costs of everything, but there were really only two “big” costs:

  • Bounce house rental, $150
  • Cakes, $75

Everything else was pretty inexpensive (at least on a per-item cost basis). However, we sure did have water running for a solid 2 hours, so it will be interesting to get our next water bill.

Once I reconcile the budget I’ll update on overall costs (in my next budget update post). I’d guesstimate that everything together was in the $600ish range, but I know those last minute grocery trips all add up, so we’ll see.

What do you usually do for kids’ birthday parties? How do you keep costs down for kids’ parties?


Cruising With Kids: Must Haves (and Do Withouts)

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This post is long overdue, as we returned from our Cruise 2016 in early May! But life happened, as it always does, and this got away from me for a bit.

Luckily, I’d jotted down some notes while we were still on the cruise so I wouldn’t forget. And I now present to you a list of “Must Haves” and “Do Withouts” for cruising with young children. Note, this is only from our own experience so I can’t necessarily comment on cruising with older children/adolescents. For reference, our kids (twins) were almost four years old at the time of our cruise.

Cruising With Kids:  Must Haves

  • Nightlight:  The cabins get pretty dark when the lights are out, so unless you want to sleep with lights on (or the kids in your bed, if they’re afraid of the dark), a nightlight is a great idea. Honestly, this is one I would recommend even just for adults because if you ever wake in the night and need to use the restroom, a nightlight will prevent you from tripping over unfamiliar terrain!
  • Multi-Outlet Power Strip:  This was absolutely invaluable for us, as outlets are at an absolute premium in the staterooms! We only had a single outlet and TONS of electronics to juggle (laptop charger, cell phone charger, tablet charger for the kids, hair straightener, hair dryer, curling iron, etc. etc. etc.) I do not know what we would have done without the power strip!
  • Beach Toys and Puddle Jumpers:  If you have young kids, it’s highly likely that most of your excursions will be beach-based (since many of the high adventure options have minimum age requirements). The problem is that the beach gets boring quickly for kiddos without entertainment, and anything sold by the port or on the beach is crazy-overpriced! We picked up a $5 bucket from Walmart that included lots of sand toys (shapers, scrapers, shovels, etc.) and it worked like a charm. The puddle jumpers were also clutch because it allowed the kids to safely wade into the water with a bit of a “safety net” (for those unfamiliar, puddle jumpers are similar to life vests, but designed for young children. Safety note: you absolutely still need to supervise, of course!!!).
  • Bottled Water and (Non-Alcoholic) Drinks: So, we cruised on Royal Caribbean. Every cruise line has its own rules so ask your cruise line to be sure. Royal Caribbean’s website states that they do NOT allow beverages to be brought on board. That being said, I read lots of blogs/websites/chat rooms where people said they brought on non-alcoholic beverages with no problem. We decided to chance it and see what would happen. We brought a full case of water and a 6-pack of soda. We had absolutely no problem going through security – no need to hide it or anything, we just set it right on the scanner and had no issues. This was fantastic because the waters on the ship are crazy pricey (like $4/bottle), and we didn’t buy a soda package so it was nice to have a couple sodas on the trip. You can also bring one bottle of wine per stateroom (again, see your cruise line’s policies). To me, the water was the biggest thing because it wasn’t always easy to get to water otherwise, especially on our excursions and exploring the different ports. We went through the entire case of water in the week we were on our cruise.
  • Snacks:  This would be nice even for adults, but with young children it was practically a requirement! Our kids wake up hungry IMMEDIATELY! It was nice to throw them a granola bar as we got dressed and made our way to the dining hall. Same is true around dinner time and even later in the evening before bedtime. We brought a variety of snacks (granola bars, cheddar bunnies, fruit leather, etc. etc.) and went through everything while on the cruise, having to re-stock on some snacks while in Mexico! Another tip is to grab some snacks from the dining hall. For instance, I’d always take an extra mini box of cereal in the morning and give it to the girls during the day as a snack (they eat it dry, without milk). Soo thankful for those Cheerios (and the girls loved their first experience with fruit loops!)
  • Cash: We had saved up all this money for our trip, but ended up bringing a pretty small amount of actual cash on the ship and we wished we’d brought more because we ended up having to use an ATM for additional cash. Not only is cash nice for tips (and I’d suggest bringing lots of $1’s for tipping porters, shuttle drivers, and really anyone handling your bags), but you also have to have cash if you want to gamble. We’re not huge on gambling, but we like a little Black Jack and the one night we hit up the casino we succumbed to the pricey ATM fees so we could pull out the cash to play. You’ll also want cash to tip the waitstaff and room attendant at the end of the trip. Note that a standard 18% gratuity is automatically added to your bill (which goes on whatever card you have on file), but having worked for many years in the service industry, I wanted to tip a couple specific people over and above the 18% minimum. For that, you need cash.
  • Backpack:  To carry all your money, IDs, snacks, waters, etc. I much prefer a backpack over a big beach bag or diaper bag because I like that it requires no hands and doesn’t have to be juggled with a lot of other things. Just slip it on and you’re ready to go!

 

Perhaps equally as important as the “Must Have” list is the list of items that you should not bother bringing!!! Save the space in your suitcase for something more important!

Cruising With Kids: Do Withouts

  • Binoculars:  We actually bought a new pair of binoculars just for our trip after reading several sites that suggested them. Total waste of money and space, we didn’t use them a single time! This might be different for adults traveling without kids who are able to attend all the evening events. We only went to a single night-time show and really didn’t feel the need for the binoculars. Plus, it’s enough just trying to keep the kids quiet and in their seats. No time or space to deal with binoculars.
  • Empty Re-usable Water Bottle: I brought this thinking it would be valuable for our excursions. Turns out, since we were able to bring our case of waters, I never once used the reusable bottle. Plus, all the water stations on the ship had big signs prohibiting the filling of re-usable water bottles for health reasons. You’d be limited to filling it in your bathroom sink, which I never wanted to do because I swear the water tasted funny.
  • Sunhat: Another thing I bought specifically for this trip that was a total waste. With all the wind on the upper decks, I couldn’t keep a big sunhat on my head! And it was large and bulky and challenging to get around (especially considering all the kid toys, snacks, towels, etc. that I was also toting around). I ended up taking it to the beach at our first port and the wind just basically destroyed the thing. Stick to using sunscreen as your form of sun protection and leave the big floppy hat at home.
  • Walkie Talkies: Again, I bought this after seeing other reviews that recommended them. The problem is that the cruise limits the strength of the walkie talkies you can use and, in our experience, we were not able to hear each other unless we were already in very close proximity. Plus, we kept picking up other peoples’ conversations no matter what channel we tried to use. They also woke the kids up from a nap one day when they started crackling with someone else’s conversation. Cell phones don’t work either, so you just have to resort to the good old days pre-cell-phone when you would plan out in advance meeting times and places, etc. Note that room-to-room calling is free, so that helps!
  • Lots of Shoes: I really limited the number of shoes I took, but I still had 5 pair (tennis shoes, 2 pairs of fancy shoes, and 2 pairs of sandals/flip-flips). Even though I thought I’d been space conscious with shoes, I ended up basically living in a single pair of sandals the entire trip. I never once put on my tennis shoes, and only wore 1 of my fancy pairs of shoes. The other 99% of the time I stayed in my comfy sandals.
  • Ice Chest:  I brought a small ice chest for our drinks, again, based on recommendations of fellow travelers. However, in our experience it was totally unnecessary. We had a mini-fridge in our stateroom so we just put our drinks in it to keep cold. The ice chest ended up being used by our kids as a stepping stool to reach the toilet (so I guess it wasn’t entirely pointless….just not used for its intended purpose).

 

Those were our experiences, but I’d love to hear from others too!

What item was a “must have” on your cruise and what item do you think you could have done without?


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