*Travel Week* Apps to Save Time and Money on Holiday Travel!

Thursday, October 17, 2013
Heather

Easy

Holiday travel can put a dent in your wallet – especially for families. Value-conscious travelers looking for more value for their money this holiday season can save time and money by downloading these free intelligent travel apps.

This is your guide to save big on time, airfare, rental cars, attraction tickets, local activities, hotel reservations, and more.

Wi-Fi Finder

Hotels are charging $15-$20 per day for Internet access. In many cases, this is an optional service, but it can sometimes be built into your daily rate as a “resort fee.” Isn’t Internet access a necessity? U.S. Consumers seem to think it is, so why pay more?

As an alternative, try Wi-Fi Finder. This is a free app available to iPhone and Android users. It determines your location using your phone’s GPS and feeds back a list of places for paid and public Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi Finder permits you to browse for hotspots both online and off, and its search results are visible by list or map view. Your search returns detailed information about the location, including a brief descriptive overview, contact information and directions.

CarRentals.com

For your car rental needs, download CarRentals.com. It gives you instant access to 15,000 rental car locations worldwide and the ability to reserve a car from the palm of your hand. Unfortunately, it’s currently only available to iPhone users.

Simply enter your city, zip, or airport code and the rate you wish to pay, and the app’s price comparison tool feeds back a list of rental car companies based on that criteria. You can select and reserve a rental car from the palm of your hand.

iFindHotels 

The iFindHotels app by HotelsCombined.com finds bargain rates at hotels worldwide. It connects to the HotelsCombined.com directory giving you instant access to price comparison tools, hotel images, descriptions, guest ratings, reviews and maps. You can browse, research and book your hotel stay directly from your smart device.

Tripit

Now that you’re online, and have your rental car and hotel reservations, try Tripit. The Tripit app saves you valuable time by managing all of your itineraries and reservations. Simply forward existing email confirmations to Tripit and have your entire trip organized into a single master itinerary.

Keep the details of your trips current by taking advantage of Auto Import. Auto Import performs a daily scan of your inbox and automatically updates your master itinerary.

This app can be synchronized with Outlook, Google, Lotus, Blackberry and iPhone and iCal calendars and shared with your social networks. It displays local maps, directions and weather forecasts, enables flight check-in, and aids in booking dinner reservations to purchasing movie tickets. It’s like having a virtual travel agent.

Get added features with Tripit Pro, from storing frequent flyer accounts to trip rerouting options, and a complementary 1-year Regus Gold (access to 1,200 worldwide business lounges) and rental car partner membership.

Tripit is available on most smart devices, including Apple’s iPhone and iPad, Samsung’s Tablet, Android, Blackberry and Windows 7 phones.

Foursquare

If you really want to save big, try Foursquare to find great deals on local shopping, dinning, activities — just about anything. A unique money-saving feature of this app is the ability to “check-in” from merchant locations. Check-ins accumulate points and badges and can be redeemed for instant discounts or free merchandise.

Foursquare is interactive and fun. You can save places you’ve visited, write reviews, track merchant specials and have recommendations sent to your smart device. There are currently over 750,000 merchants offering Foursquare specials.

Groupon and Living Social

Finally, be sure to also check out other amazing deals and offers on travel, hotels, entertainment and local promotions by downloading the Groupon and Living Social apps.

Disclaimer

Guest Post: LEGOLAND on a Budget!

Thursday, October 17, 2013
Heather

Easy

Our travel post today is brought to you by Jenn from Annelily Design.

She recently took her kids to LEGOLAND to celebrate her oldest sons 9th birthday check out this post below for her tips of how she did it on a budget! 


Our kids love legos!  Especially our oldest.  For his 9th birthday we decided to include a visit to Legoland on our family vacation to California.  We already had planned to go to Disneyland later in the week so we didn't want to spend too much money at Legoland.  Many destinations in Southern California including Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, Legoland and the Legoland hotel have a deal in October where kids are free with a paying adult.  Legoland is open Thursday-Monday's during the fall months.  Even if you don't visit during the fall I have found kids are free with a paying adult coupons on cereal boxes and online.

Legoland also offers a shopping pass that allows customers to enter the park for one hour for shopping and you can go on rides during that time too.  They charge you the amount of a regular ticket per person and return the amount on your account when you leave within the hour.  Since we were staying at the Legoland hotel it was a free hour for us.  If you aren't staying at the hotel you will just have to pay for parking at Legoland to do this.  We did the shopping pass one day and were able to go on a ride, see the model Lego cities, all the new Star Wars models, and purchase a Lego our 9 year old had saved up for. 


 We stayed at the new Legoland hotel that was just finished in the spring during our visit.  Since it was the off season the rooms were much less expensive than busier times of the year.  The Legoland hotel also offers kids stay free with a paying adult during October.

 At night in the main lobby they offer three hours of free activities for kids.  One of the hours was a lego building contest.  With Halloween being so close the kids were asked to build something scary out of Legos. This was our kids favorite!  I had read the food is pretty expensive at the hotel.  Our room came with some complimentary drinks, but for our meals we brought Pizza in from Sammy's down the road or ate nearby.

Staying at the hotel is a little crazy with all the kids everywhere, but perfect if you have Lego obsessed kids for a night or two.  There are three different themed rooms.  We stayed in the adventure room.  Our room had a bunk bed with trundle underneath in the kids area and a king bed in the other section.

Be sure to head over to Annelily Design to check out the whole post! Want more LEGOLAND? Check out our trip here!

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*Mamas Spot's Travel Week* Camping With KOA: Not What You Would Expect!

Monday, October 14, 2013
Heather

Easy

We realized at the end of August that we wanted to end the summer on a bang! We decided to head to Yellowstone and we stayed with KOA.

We went in September which was great to miss all the crowds that would normally be there mid summer, but it also meant we missed some of the events that the KOA has before Labor Day. I would highly recommend getting there around late August, so you don't miss out on their pancake breakfast every morning and their BBQ dinner every night! You can't beat being fed 2 meals a day! They also have a Coffee Cabin so you can get your morning fix!

My husband thought KOA was just a well managed campground, so he was surprised to see that they are so much more!

We found ourselves building a fire most nights, and our clothes would reek of smoke. Here is where KOA swoops in and saves the day. I would take all our clothes and wash them with the washer and dryers they have on-site! No more smelling like campfire smoke or going through a ton of clothes. You can pack much lighter when you camp with KOA because you can wash all you clothes just like you would if you were at home.

Kiddos make a mess on their clothes? No problem just toss them in the wash! We had a couple of "s'mores drippings" all over shirts that would have ruined clothes if I hadn't been able to wash them right away. Just for that alone I will always choose KOA! If you are not a mom with kiddos, and aren't obsessed with needing to wash clothes, don't worry KOA West Yellowstone has so much more to offer!

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A Glimpse At My Day: Looking Back At 8/21 Planes, Universal Studios, Getting Sick and More! Plus a surprise for you!

Monday, August 26, 2013
Heather

Easy

As most of you probably know we took a little (ok maybe not so little Laughing) trip to Orlando last week. I decided that this was going to be a "no work" trip.

This is both hard and easy for me, I want to stay online and keep up to date with guys, but at the same time I just want to "un-plug" and give my family 100% of my attention, so that is what I did!

So now I will be going back and showing you what we did each day! Here is our first day:

(we took a lot of pictures with our phone, so I apologize for the bad quality photos Tongue out)

We flew this time (thanks to Southwest Airlines) and it was so nice to get to Florida on the same day instead of driving 2300 miles one way and having it take 2 days.

It was the first plane ride for my kiddos. Unfortunately I am not good with flying and I get really nervous.

I decided to grab some Dramamine for myself figuring since my kiddos love to ride rides that they would probably be ok.

Once we were on the plane my little girl was so happy and she just loved it! She kept starring out the window and asking about everything she could see.

The vibration of the plane put my little boy to sleep and I was happy that all was going well.

I felt like my head was spinning the whole time, but I was trying to suck it up and just get through it. I just kept telling myself "only 3 more hours" and I kept counting down until we got there.

We had a connection in Denver and had to get off our first plane and switch to a new plane, so I woke my little boy up and he got out of his seat and stood there while we grabbed our bags,

At about that time I heard a passenger loudly say "OH DEAR" as I turned around I saw my little boy throwing up all his food that he ate that morning.

Needless to say I was freaking out trying to figure out what to do, we were being told that we needed to get off the plane so I apologized to pretty much every passenger that was staying on the plane and all of the flight attendants as well. Embarassed I was so embarrassed and felt really bad for the passengers that had to witness it.

Luckily Southwest is very understanding and I doubt he was the first kid to lose it on a plane.

A quick run through the Denver terminal to the restroom, a new set of clothes, and a $10 (that's right $10!!) package of kids Dramamine later, we were ready to continue onto Orlando!

(Not sure what she was looking at in this pic. my hubby took it, but I absolutely love how beautiful the hotel was!)

We arrived to the Loews Pacific Hotel (which I will tell you about in another post) in our KIA Rio (which I will also tell you about later Smile)

It was so nice to be there and have so much of the day still left to do all sorts of fun activities!!

The whole reason we were in Florida was for the Family Forward Conference, so we headed over to register and to see what fun things were in store for us!

I will touch on this a little more in tomorrow's post, but I just want to say that I was absolutely blown away by this conference!

If you have thought abo0ut going to a conference I would really suggest Family Forward, it is amazing!

It was cute because all the little girls realized that they were all 4 years old! They were so excited to make new friends that were the same age.

We headed out to Universal's City Walk, can you guess where we ate? The first person to comment with the right answer I will give $10 Paypal cash too!

(Once again I apologize for the crappy photo quality)

To top off the night Universal pulled out all the stops for us and we had the Wizarding World of Harry Potter all to ourselves for a VIP dessert party!

How AWESOME is that!! After we ate our YUMMY custard tarts and other desserts we headed off to ride the rides without any lines!! (are you jealous yet?Laughing)

It was so amazing to have the park to ourselves for the conference.

You can probably guess what we did after that... that's right we crashed! What an awesome and exhausting day!

Disclaimer

A Second Honeymoon - Hotel Icon Houston

Thursday, July 18, 2013
Joseph

Easy

Hotel Lobby

Recently I did a press trip to Houston sponsored through the GoHouston! Travel Campaign hosted by New Creative Writing and Social Media Marketing. As always all opinions are my own.

Here is a rare one! A post written by my hubby! Check it out!

As many of you know my wife and I have been married for over 11 years now and we have 2 amazing kids. Our marriage has its usual ups and downs. And as we both work at home you can imagine some friction and tension exists now and then. Ever since we've been married we've had the good fortune to spend so much time together because I've always worked from home. Once we had kids this was both a challenge and a blessing. Some days I love that I don't miss out on anything and some days I wish I could escape. But this is life after 11+ years.

Our first honeymoon, if you could call it that, was 1 night at a B&B close to home. We came home as newlyweds to our first apartment which wasn't ready yet and from that point on we've been on a constant bearing headed toward the future. We always thought about travelling more and taking that "real" honeymoon we never had. Life always gets in the way, the car breaks down, rent is due, medical bills and then comes kids. All couples have been there.

When I got the "memo" that we were headed to Houston and we weren't taking the kids, the first thing I thought was, "this is what we had been waiting for..." It was finally time to have that second honeymoon, after over 11 years it's not the same as when you are young, it's more important. It's a time to recharge, to become closer, become a better husband, wife, and parent.

(View from our hotel window)

Where you stay has a profound effect on how you feel, enter Hotel Icon Houston. It's a fantastic contemporary luxury hotel right in downtown Houston. As soon as I drove up, I knew this would be an integral part of our whole trip. The valet service is fantastic. They are very friendly, prompt and take excellent care of your vehicle. I'm a bit of a control freak and perfectionist, as my wife will tell you, so it's hard for me to hand over any of that to someone I don't know, but these guys are the best. They even have a shuttle service to anywhere in the downtown area within a certain radius for free! You just tell them where you want to go and you'll be there. My wife even left our camera in the shuttle and the excellent staff made sure we got it back. This is how you recharge.

The hotel itself was once a bank, and I loved the architecture. Great 1911 influences you can really feel they tried to maintain as much of that look and feel as possible. The lobby was a massive spacious area with sitting area, bar and the Line & Lariat restaurant. Heather dealt with the great check-in staff while I just sat in an amazingly comfortable chair and soaked it all in. All the while in my head, "Finally, it took all these years, but we are here. And this is an awesome place to be." They had fresh iced tea right there waiting for you at the front desk, and in the heat of that day it was the perfect drink.

Her experience at check-in was what you always want. Friendly engaging staff. We have a difficult last name and they kept practicing it until they could pronounce it correctly. And every time we passed through the lobby they greeted us with it. Other staff was friendly and upbeat, they really loved their job. In the evening before we went out, I sat in the lobby waiting for Heather and watched the bartender. He was great, there were people around the bar, couples, business men and women all enjoying each other's company and he was the glue making it all happen. This is the kind of atmosphere you just can't describe, but you know it when you are there.

The rooms themselves are a rich and inviting combination of classical early 20th century architecture and modern touches. WiFi, mini fridge, large flat screen TV, and coffee maker are just a few of the modern conveniences that greeted us combined with the colors and spectacular views of a building that is in a prime location. Their bedding was plush and the mattress was comfortable. Large separate shower, large tub, long bathroom counter (very important for couples as we all know since women always unpack everything onto it) made this room perfect.

 

At night you want to be in downtown, nuff said. There are so many clubs and hotspots in downtown Houston, the Hotel Icon is in the perfect place to take advantage of all of it. Right on Main Street, you can hop on the rail or just do what we did and walk down the street holding hand soaking it all in.

I'm an avid cyclist, I usually ride 20+ miles a day if I can, so even on vacation for me riding is important. Their exercise facilities were excellent. State of the art machines, nicely air conditioned, and locker rooms with showers. For those like my wife, a spa, by appointment. Relaxation and recreation is something they definitely have.

As our time was nearing an end, we reflected on everything, our lives, our future, the kids, family and friends. We also thought about our wedding, the reception was in a nice venue, but the staff was terrible. If we had our wedding here, it would have taken so much of the time and hassle out of the experience. From my experience the staff would make sure of it. It would have been elegant, maybe one day, for my daughter.

Our last farewell present was the breakfast at the Line & Lariat. Once again, unbelievably friendly and helpful staff. Great food, and an ambiance you don't get anywhere else. They have daily specials for dinner and the bar so always be sure to check those out even if you don't stay at the hotel it's a great place to come to eat. Best breakfast I've ever had before setting out on a 24 hour road trip back home.

As we left Hotel Icon Houston and the city itself both of us felt we got just what we needed from this trip. We had become closer, remembered what it was like to be young, carefree, and more importantly in love.

For all those out there who were like us, remember, this is a great place with great people to start your own journey together.

Disclaimer

About Mamas Spot

We are a family of four that left it all behind to go travel the world. No, literally we left it all. We sold all of our possessions, packed what we could into four suitcases and said goodbye to suburban life. All we own is now pulled behind us as we travel to new and exciting destinations. Showing our kids the world and teaching them about new cultures, food, and ways of life is now our 9-5.

We love watching our kids learn, and learning along side them. Together we have now explored many new countries, visited family on the other side of the world, and made memories that will last a lifetime.

Welcome to our journey!