Thursday, August 27, 2009

Airfare to Italy

As I mentioned in a previous post, my husband and I took our children to Italy last summer for a summer vacation. I have decided to document the frugal steps I took to make that vacation affordable, while being fun. I can't think of a better place to start with this blog, than the beginning, which is airfare.

We knew that we were going to take that vacation for about 18 months before we left. It is not possible to buy tickets that far in advance. Knowing that, I had several months to save the cash that we would need for airfare. You can buy tickets about a year before departure, so we knew that we had 6 months to accumulate what we would need in savings. When we hit the year mark before departure, my husband started to stalk the fares. He also did a lot of research about what time of year is cheapest, how far before departure, what cities have cheaper departures, would it be cheaper to fly into one city versus another. The list went on and on. He knew that it was cheaper to take the train from Florence to Venice and fly out of Venice than it would be to fly directly out of Florence. This knowledge helped us make informed choices about our flights. We finally decided to fly out of Chicago (MUCH cheaper than flying out of Milwaukee) into Zurich Switzerland with a connection into Rome Italy. Our flight home was a bit different. We flew out of Venice, into Zurich, back to Chicago. We saved a lot of money taking this route, plus, we were able to see the Italian countryside by taking the train to Venice.

We decided to fly Swiss Air. It was OK. To be honest, I am being very generous with that OK rating. The food was inedible, the seats were the worst international seats I have ever sat it and there was a mix up with our passports in Switzerland with the airline. I think I would need to use that airline again to get a better idea of the service. Of course we chose Swiss Air because it provided the most affordable fares.

When we bought our tickets we used a credit card that gives a rebate and than paid it off right away. The rebate was applied to that credit card while we were on vacation. We had accumulated $120 cash from the tickets which we turned around and used in Italy. We were able to buy a very nice dinner in Florence, in fact my parents were able to stay with the kids the night we had that dinner. It was a memorable date for us in Italy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Day at the zoo!

Today we went to the zoo. Milwaukee has a really nice zoo that we have always enjoyed visiting. In the past, we always had a zoo membership so that entry would be free. But, since the kids have gotten older, I have not renewed that membership. It seemed like such a waste of money. My husband's company gave us tickets, which we used today. We went against our normal routine and bought lunch today, usually we bring a picnic. I think we all agreed that we wanted to have a fun day, not worry about saving a dollar and having the luxury of walking through the zoo without a cooler and backpack.

This year the zoo has an interactive bird exhibit. It was really cool. Visitors are able to feed the birds while the sit on your shoulder, arm, even your head. The kids loved it! I was so impressed with it. Every year I am shocked by how nice the Milwaukee Public Zoo is.

Last night I took my son to middle school orientation. I can't believe that he is going to be in middle school. He is ready, I think I am too. Our family life will likely change, for the better I hope. He is planning on joining some after school clubs and activities. Those commitments in addition to my increased work schedule, his sister's activities and my husband's work schedule will really test our ability to stay organized. I think I am up for the challenge, but, of course only time will tell.

Postcard update: 1 card came this week from Chile. We are 5 away from 100. So anybody who might be reading this blog. PLEASE send a postcard. We are so close to 100, I would hate to see us not make it.

Tonight's dinner was Tilapia, potatoes (from our garden) and green beans (from our CSA). It was another frugal dinner, which of course was necessary after the $34.00, really terrible lunch at the zoo.

Looking for ideas on how to save at the grocery store. Coupons always get lost in this house. I am guessing that I already use the better known tricks to save, but wonder if I am missing out on something. I am open to any suggestions.

Well, off to bed, very early in fact. I had a busy day.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Summer's End

One week left of summer. It is time. My kids are tired of summer, me and each other. It makes me sad to think that they are growing up so fast and that I have only a few more summers with all 3 of them together. We are going to make the most of this last week. My husband is taking 2 days off of work so that we can do a couple of things together as a family. I look forward to it.

The weekend was uneventful. Saturday was spent at home, laying on the couch, watching movies. Normally, we would never spend a summer day doing such a lazy activity. But, fall seems to have arrived early this year. It was a cold, wet and dreary day. Perfect for the 80's movie marathon that we watched. Thanks to Netflix on demand, free with our monthly membership.

My blogs have been short and sweet this summer. I am hoping that when the kids return to school next week, I can get back into my blogging routine. I am planning on talking about my trip to Italy in detail. I have lots of frugal tips from that trip alone.

Good night