My family loves to go to different theme parks every summer.  They have so much to offer with shows, food, rides and the like.  But they can also cost a small fortune.  Fear not!  I’m going to provide you with some helpful tips and links in order to make the most of your trip.  This is the stuff that my family does on trips and it makes such a difference, especially with young kids.

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  • Pack a lunch!  Food costs are outrageous at theme parks.  Most will let you leave the park and eat your lunch in a pavilion, near the parking lot.  Check in advance and pack a LOT of drinks!  Do I even need to tell you how great an ice cold drink will taste once you hit the car?!?! We pack a lunch and then we choose one special snack while we are in the park.  That way, it not only saves money but it teaches everyone how to use money wisely.  You only get one and it’s a big decision! (this works with souvenirs too!)
  • Bring a loaded backpack.  We always take a backpack loaded with essentials like sunscreen, water bottles (if allowed), money, a change of clothes (this one almost ALWAYS comes in handy), napkins, camera, etc.  Take what your family might need.  Be sure to check the rules before packing your backpack.  You don’t want to have to trudge back to the car after they search it and find unintended contraband.
  • Buy your souvenirs before you go to the park.  This one sounds weird but it is a wonderful money saver!  Find out the types of souvenirs they sell at the park by checking the website.  Then, go to the dollar store, or other mass merchandisers and buy several small, fun things for your trip.  You can even wrap them if you want to make it extra special.  Then take them with you & keep it a surprise.  You can keep some in your backpack to prevent a meltdown while in the park.  That way, you are getting them for WAY lower than theme park price plus you can bypass the gift shop if you want!  Everybody wins!
  • Put a couple ponchos in your backpack.  You never know when an unexpected shower (or water ride) might occur.  The gift shop costs are ridiculous and nobody wants to walk around with wet shorts for the rest of the day.  Trust me.  This is a gem.
  • Use a note app on your phone to remember where you parked.  I use Evernote.  I just have a note called “parking’ and I use it every time I park in a crowded place.  I just make a clear description, add a photo and voila, no more lost time at the end of the night.
  • Buy the souvenir cup.  We drink a lot when we’re hot, as do most people.  They always offer a cup, where every future refill is at a reduced cost.  Do this right away or even buy it in advance and then have everyone share it.  By the time you really think about it, it will be too late and you’ve already bought four regular drinks.
  • Check the price of a season pass.  Are you planning on hitting up the park a few times? Calculate how many visits it would take in order to pay for itself.  It just might be better that way.  An added bonus? Sometimes you park free with season passes and get other special privileges.
  • Try to travel at odd times.  If you go a little early or a little late in the season, tickets are MUCH cheaper.  If your trip dates are flexible, this might be your best bet.

Looking for discount codes for your tickets?  Here are some links to get money off each ticket.  Please keep in mind that I found these using a Google search so I’m not endorsing or guaranteeing any of them to work.  Just trying to be helpful, folks!  Be sure to check fast food restaurants and grocery stores for coupons too. Different places have different coupons.  If you know someone living near the park, ask them to send some coupons to you!

Stacy Hook

 

Click the links to find discounts:

Hershey Park

Six Flags

Walt Disney World

Busch Gardens

Kings Dominion

Dorney Park

We are taking the clan to Busch Gardens this year. We are all excited and I can’t wait to try and see how much money I can try to save while there.  I’m doing some research and we’ve already purchased our tickets.  Good luck and I hope you can use some of this information. It really comes in handy when we go on vacation.

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How about you?  Are you going to a theme park this year and if so, which one?  Any tips I missed?

 

If there’s one thing I love in life, it’s a quick getaway.  So when CrowdTap recently hosted a sampling trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey,  I naturally did everything in my power to be invited.  The way CrowdTap works is you answer survey questions, take photos, participate in challenges and other various activities for different companies in exchange for samples, gift cards, and prizes!  This is the first time they ever had a sampling that included a free trip!  My sister and I decided to live it up in style for one night.  CrowdTap sent an itinerary that included a cocktail hour and a night on the town, complete with a gift bag. Upon arrival, I checked into Caesars and was told that my room was upgraded to a suite!  Sweet, it was too.  The view was beautiful and the room was so luxurious.  I wish I was able to spend more time there!

 

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The cocktail hour was at H2O, a pool bar in the Golden Nugget.  I like the Golden Nugget since it still has that old Atlantic City atmosphere.  Though dated, it was so charming.  Although, I heard that they plan on doing a lot of renovations.  H2O is a beautiful pool bar with great views of the city.  They even offered a free yoga class on Thursdays to hotel guests!

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After the cocktail party, we were taken by the jitney to the boardwalk to experience the Sand Sculpting World Cup.  If you ever get a chance to go to this event, take it!  It’s FREE and the pieces are so amazing.  You’ll wonder how someone could do this with sand!  I took a photo of the rules just so you could see how structured and professional the competition is too.  I honestly couldn’t pick a favorite. My sister and I spent a good hour here just checking out everyone’s work.  Plus, one dollar gets you a vote in the people’s choice award.

 

 

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The other thing I love about the boardwalk is all the beautiful architecture.  The casinos are so extravagant and since I’m not a gambler, I just love taking in the sites.  You see all types of people on the boardwalk too so it’s a people-watching paradise!  My sister and I just sat for awhile and watched everyone.  There is also a small skate park that is interesting to sit near.  At night, there is also a pretty light show right across from the Miss America statue.  It runs pretty frequently so you will always be able to catch it.  Of course, I had to take my picture with the Miss America statue.  No trip is complete without it.  Next time, I’ll get one during the day so you can really see it!  The boardwalk offers a great variety of food, shopping and fun.  There’s something for everyone, even on a budget.

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My sister and I ended our night by getting desserts from the hotel. It’s kind of a tradition with our family.  We have to test out the desserts everywhere we go.  They were delicious, of course.  We had a hard time choosing.

In the morning, I had enough time to visit the breakfast buffet.  However, I wasn’t too impressed with that.  It was the only thing open in the hotel and it wasn’t worth the money.  I wish I had more time and I would’ve went to another hotel on the boardwalk for breakfast.

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If you live in the area, Atlantic City is a great place, full of fun, culture and excitement for all ages.  I spent less than $100 on my entire trip, including gas and tolls!

Here are some tips:

-Plan ahead.  I know I’m beating a dead horse with this one, but 9 times out of 10, if you want a good deal you HAVE to do this.

-Use Groupon, Living Social, Deal Chicken, etc for great deals when traveling.  Not only can you get great rates on hotels, plug in the zip code and find deals to restaurants too!  My husband and I recently stayed in AC at the Borgata and got 2 tickets to the Burlesque show all for $75!  It was fantastic!

-Read the fine print but don’t just settle for anything.  Online deals sometimes make you stay on ‘off days’ or follow specific rules in order to get the discount.  Be sure to know ALL details before making a purchase.  Call them up and ask questions.  Also, if you are unhappy, tell someone while you’re there!

-Get feedback.  I met a lovely lady at the breakfast buffet that had a terrible stay in the hotel and I’m glad I heard her story.  It makes me think twice about using my own money to stay at Caesars, even though I personally had a great experience.  Read online reviews and/or ask your friends on social media too!

-Set a budget.  Just like most things, be realistic and take a pre-determined amount of money.  Keep in mind, emergencies happen so always have a back-up, but losing $25 in a slot machine isn’t an emergency.

-Live like a local.  Go to the restaurants off the beaten path.  Experience the different, odd museums.  Chances are, they are really awesome and not too expensive.  Check out Lucy the Elephant in Margate.  She won’t let you down!

-Have fun!  Just remember to let loose and enjoy the time you spend there.  Here are some fun photos from our trip!

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I love Atlantic City and I would definitely return!  You can follow them on social media to plan your trip and keep up with all things AC:

http://www.atlanticcitynj.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DoAtlanticCity?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VisitAC  #DoAC

Instagram: http://instagram.com/doac

Pinteresthttp://www.pinterest.com/doatlanticcity/

 

I received a complimentary trip to Atlantic City from CrowdTap in exchange for my opinions.  I did not receive any other compensation.  All comments and/or viewpoints are my own.  Photos are my own as well.

This one is a good one.  This was about two week’s worth of mail and it kept piling up so I decided that it was time to post!

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There are tons of samples from Swaggable, a sample reviewing website.  I won the Luna bar from Facebook and the Luzianne tea stuff came from Facebook too (thanks to Kelsey at Chicnsavvy!)  The Peppa Pig book was from a giveaway on Little Island Studios blog.  I won the Scholastic prize pack (the bag, book and stickers, etc) from a twitter contest.  The Guacamole chips were from monthly The Live better America newsletter.  The Jockey slipshorts were from a facebook giveway.  There is a PinchMe box in there too.  The free crackers and Listerine were from Walmart.com.  The key chain, Truvia,  and the feminine products came from Crowdtap!  I won the lip tattoos in a Twitter contest.

I hope you have a full mailbox and a great week!

Disclaimer: On Mail Call posts, I only post things that I’ve received 100% free in the mail.  They come from samples, giveaways, contests, etc.  I haven’t put any money out to receive anything pictured.

It’s time I come clean and admit it:  I’m addicted to freebies and sweepstakes.  I’m what’s known as a ‘sweeper.’  Yes, there is a name for it.  I enter tons of contests, sweepstakes, and giveaways and you would be surprised at how much I win!  I’ve won tons of free products, t-shirts, toys, gift cards, books, a little of everything.  “You’re so lucky!”, people tell me.  In my opinion, luck has little to do with it…

Here is a typical day for me.  I wake up when my kids wake up.  They watch about an hour of tv in the mornings while eating breakfast.  I use this time to my advantage and scour my email, twitter and facebook for new giveaways and sweeps.  Once I find out about a contest, I have a very specific routine, which I’m not going to divulge since you really need to develop your own methods.  I get newsletters specifically devoted to sweeps and freebies.  I have friends on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest that I met due to our love of all things free.  After that hour is up, we go about our day and I periodically check my emails.  When the kids are napping, I use that time to my advantage as well.  I write a blog, fill out sweeps entries, etc.  Then when they wake up, I make dinner and go to work.  See, I might be addicted but I don’t spend ALL my time on it either.  I love checking my mailbox.  It feels like pulling the lever on a slot machine.  I love looking on our porch to see if there’s a package out there.  It makes me happy.

I look at it this way.  Sweeps and freebies are what I do during my spare time.  Some people read or craft.  Some watch tv or whatever.  Sweepers treat giveaways like a part time job and I am no exception.  I get a rush when I win something, much like a shoplifter, only my addiction is legal.  I keep a running list of everything I win on Evernote so that I can keep track of it all.

My family wouldn’t be able to afford even half of the stuff I win.  We’ve gotten so many nice things and experiences due to me winning them.  It all began after I had my daughter and I was on maternity leave from my full time job.  I really liked being at home with her, taking care of her and also maintaining the household.  So I began to work the numbers to see if it would be possible to quit my job and become a stay at home mom.  The rest is a different blog for a different day, considering that I was able to cut a substantial amount off of our budget by utilizing social media, giveaways and coupons.  The rest is history!  My favorite win to date is a free trip to Atlantic City for two!  Look for it soon as a blog post!

Here are older photos of some things that I’ve gotten totally free and/or won.
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So now you know.  Here is a good article about people like me,but who have won even larger prizes.  In it to Win It.

Here are some things I have been entering lately:

Love the City of Light? @potterybarn is giving away a trip to Paris, complete with a luxury hotel stay and $1,000 http://bit.ly/1mFly2M

Win a getaway for two to Kauai, Hawaii + 500 winners will receive travel-sized skincare essentials from Yes To! http://r29.co/1kAhKwL

Win 2 free nights at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside!  http://woobox.com/7mutgh/88sj40

 

So the next time, you ask me how I get so much free stuff, remember that there is a method to my madness.  You can’t win if you don’t enter!

 

 

 

Summer is quickly approaching and it’s time to make our family ‘To Do’ List.  Not to worry, this isn’t a list of projects that need attention.  This is a list of fun things that we want to accomplish this summer.  We make a list for every season because if it’s one thing the Lane Family does well, it’s working towards a goal!  The temperature is rising and my patience is dropping so I figured that I should start keeping a list of ideas to keep us entertained.  My sister and I used to do this every summer on the last day of school.  It was also part of the tradition that we watch ‘A Goofy Movie,’ a tradition that we kept until we graduated high school!  As I’ve said before, I’m a dork and I’ve never tried to hide it.

In addition to said list, we have also decided to take my daughter’s doll (Tay Tay) around with us and take photos of her on all of our adventures.  A lot of people do something similar with a stuffed animal or a paper doll.  Tay Tay has been on the move lately with trips to Stay & Play, the library, and a behind the scenes tour at Chickfila!  One great thing about the list is that we can incorporate a photo of Tay Tay into a lot of the ideas.

Here are some photos from previous years:

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Now, as I’ve said before, I try to keep my list as inexpensive as possible while still adding some fun stuff that we already had planned.  Without further adieu,

The Lane Family Summer of 2014!

  • Pick berries
  • Go to a new flea market or group of yard sales
  • Walk in a charity walk
  • Go to the beach
  • Attend our family reunion
  • Go to a farmer’s market
  • Donate Blood (This is mine. The kids are too little)
  • Take a trip to the lavender farm
  • Visit the State Fair
  • Host a party
  • Join the summer reading program at the library
  • Go to a library event
  • Plan a mall day
  • Go to a baseball game
  • Visit Port Discovery
  • Get a Delaware State Parks Pass
  • Plant a vegetable garden
  • See a movie
  • Try a new recipe
  • Go to Busch Gardens
  • Do 5 new things on Pinterest
  • Swim in a pool
  • Test out our new sprinkler
  • Go to the Salisbury Zoo (a local free zoo)
  • Host a huge yard sale
  • Go to a local festival
  • See a band play
  • Pack a lunch and spend the day at the playground
  • Walk the entire Ocean City boardwalk
  • Take advantage of a free yoga class

I love adding things to the list as we do them too!  (It’s not cheating!)   What fun things do you have planned this summer?  Do you make a list with your family?

I have decided to change Mailbox Monday to Mail Call.  It’s starting to get hard to keep track of all the mail from that week and post it by a certain day.   This way, I can just post recent pictures of the things that I’ve received and I don’t make a deadline for myself.  I enjoy posting the mail I receive and I’ve added a recent challenge to my Facebook page.  When I get to 165 followers, I will host my first giveaway!  It’s going to be a fun one and coincide with the freebie theme.  So if you love samples and getting mail, recommend your friends to like my page!  Here’s a few of the things that were in my mailbox recently:

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The oats and recipe pack was a surprise from @quaker on Twitter!  It was such a nice gift!  Thanks!

The Control Corrective skincare set was from the BirchBloggers program.  I am currently using it and will write a review soon.  I wanted to use it for a few weeks to see about the results first!

The V05 products were in a prize package from my friend, @modernisticmom.  She writes a blog and I won a giveaway!  Her blog is great and you can read it here: http://www.modernisticmama.com.

The coupons and the food scale was a giveaway from Hungry Girl.  When you preordered her book, you could enter for all that good stuff for free!  Bonus is that I bought the book with an amazon gift card that I also won!  🙂

The formula samples are from the Enfamil  Family Beginnings. They send stuff out every now and again.  It’s a great program and they always send good coupons.  They send out an awesome package when you first have your baby too!  Sign up here: Enfamil Family Beginnings

I won the Violent Lips tattoos in a twitter contest and the little shampoo and oil samples were from facebook and walmart.com. The pizza and soda coupon came from a contest from a local radio station.  The Blender Girl book was free from a focus group that I participated in.  If you’ve never done one, you should think about it!  I love giving feedback and it’s fun to see the finished product!  The Tide came from a P& G sample pack. I wrote about that site awhile back, in a Freebie Friday post.

The aromatherapy goods came from a pinterest contest.  I love this prize.  I put the mattress cover on our bed right away and same with the pillow protectors.  It is so nice falling asleep to the smell of lavender!  Thanks to @PureCare_Kayla on twitter!

As you can see, I’ve been a busy bee.  Have a great weekend and look out for my post about making a Summer List!

Disclaimer: On Mail Call posts, I only post things that I’ve received 100% free in the mail.  They come from samples, giveaways, contests, etc.  I haven’t put any money out to receive anything pictured.