Sunday, June 29, 2014

5 Vacation Travel Tips

Well, the yoga sessions have increased in frequency and intensity, the fruits and vegetables have come out and the cupcakes have been put away (just kidding on that last one – I can’t banish cupcakes from our house for ANY reason), which can mean only one thing…SUMMER VACATION IS ONLY A FEW DAYS AWAY!
Our destination again this year is the Wisconsin Dells...where we'll be staying at not just one, but TWO different resorts.  Two nights at the Great Wolf Lodge and then two nights at The Wilderness.
This is the one big thing we look forward to all year long, so it would make sense that we spend lots of time preparing for it.  Here are some of the Kruse's vacation tips:

#1  Set a Vacation Budget
Booorrrriinnngggg – I can already hear your whispers.  Look, vacations are expensive, whether it’s just a little out of town weekend trip or a 2 week hike through Europe.  I’ve found that if I come to grips with how much the WHOLE thing is going to cost in advance, we can adequately save for it all year and then not feel guilty or overwhelmed when the vacay expenses start adding up.  Not even kidding here, I actually figure out on paper how much all of our expenses will cost.
We don’t make enough money throughout the year to throw caution to the wind and enjoy a $10,000 vacation, so for us, to make a summer vacation work, we still have to manage our dolla’s.  My list includes hotel, gasoline, food and fun money.  Before our trip, I fill 2 envelopes with cash – a food envelope and a fun money envelope and throughout our vacation, it’s easy to see how much we’ve spent and how much we’ve got left to blow.  There’s nothing worse than coming home from a relaxing vacation and feeling terrified to pull up your online banking account to assess the damage.  Just thinking about it makes me a little lightheaded!

#2  Pack Healthy Snacks 
Vacations are meant for splurges – so for each family this is going to be different.  Eating out at restaurants is not a splurge for us but riding go-carts, going to the movies, and walking to the ice-cream store for a treat are.  Spending $50 for a meal we could have prepared at home isn’t worth it to us.  Plus, let’s be honest – if we do go out to a restaurant, the kids just order chicken strips.  Not exactly gourmet fare.  So to save our bucks for entertainment, we pack most of our meals and snacks.  Here are some samples of our vacation stash: String cheese, individual yogurts, trail mixes, sliced cheeses, peanut butter, fruit, veggies, homemade hummus, greek yogurt dip & bottled water.
If it isn't obvious...we REALLY like nuts.  
This granola is incredible - plus no high fructose corn syrup!  It's great mixed into trail mix, sprinkled onto yogurt or as a breakfast cereal.
Overall, our main goal is to give the kids high protein snacks to hold them over between meals, since the waterparks require so much energy.  When we do eat at a restaurant, Emma and Owen will share a meal and Brent and I share a meal – that way we aren’t trying to bring left-overs back to the hotel where they are most likely not going to get eaten.  Plus, if you don’t stuff yourself like a turkey at dinner, there’s room for ice cream or some other dessert afterwords!

#3  Get in Shape! 
Since our vacation revolves around waterparks, the thought of spending 7 solid days in a bikini (no, not Brent) is a huge motivator to undo the damage that was done over the winter.  Our weight doesn’t fluctuate much, but its easy to get a little, shall we say, softer, over the winter.  During football season, cream cheese and sausage make up the bulk of our diet, which doesn’t exactly make for a svelte physique.  And so enters our Summer Slimdown in late March to shape up for swimsuit season.  No, it’s not a diet, we just try to increase the amount of fruits, veggies, lean protein, nuts & water while cutting back on the desserts and starches.
Nothing crazy, but we found if we consistently do this for about 2 months before summer, we can slowly but surely squeeze back into our Speedos.

Incorporating some serious yoga has been our other secret weapon.  Brent started hearing rumblings about a yoga program with a nod towards the gentleman in the household.  Commonly referred to “Bro-Yoga”, “YRG – Yoga for Regular Guys” and the official tag line – “This ain’t yo mama’s yoga!”  I would describe it as yoga on steroids.
Totally for women as well as men, but I’ve found that Brent really relates to it since it’s former wrestler Diamond Dallas Page that created the program.

#4  Check In With the Chamber of Commerce
Before your trip, check out the websites for the Chamber of Commerce and the Visitor & Convention Bureau.  They will mail you a vacation guide full of area attractions and coupons to use when you visit.  Last year, we were mailed 4 free passes to a waterpark that would have cost us $120 to purchase - that was an amazing value that we definitely weren't expecting!

#5  Enjoy the Drive 
Luckily, we only have a 4.5 – 5 hour drive, which is incredibly manageable.  Even for someone like me that doesn’t enjoy long car rides.  Our best tip here is to take advantage of REDBOX!  As a treat, we check out a few new movies for the kids at the REDBOX kiosk near our house and as we’re chugging along the interstate, we’ll stop and return them at another kiosk when they’re done watching them.  Sometimes we pick up another one, sometimes they are sick of watching tv so we’ll give them other activities.
***Important Irrelevant Side Note - the kids didn't even flinch when we marched them up to Wal-Greens to have their photo taken next to the REDBOX machines.  All of these odd picture requests are becoming a normal part of their childhood.  Fail or Win?

These Elephant and Piggie books are the best for our family right now because Owen thinks they are super funny and Emma enjoys reading to her brother in the backseat.
Brent and I pass the time by listening to podcasts.  Some of our favorites are Dave Ramsey, Jillian Michaels, Dan Miller & Andy Stanley - I guess they sort of cover every aspect of our lives...Finances, Health, Career & Faith/Family.

So we'll be checking back in next weekend with some preliminary vacation photos.  Where are you going on vacation this year?

Before we visited the Dells last year, we exposed the true cost of our vacation after we returned.  If you're curious...check this out!

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Junkstock - Summer 2014

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Brent and I just returned from what I would consider, the 8th Wonder of the World.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I'm referring to JUNKSTOCK - a feast for the eyes and the senses.  An old dairy farm on the west side of Omaha hosts the event each year and features vendors from 8 states.  Everywhere you look you'll find old mason jars, reclaimed wood furniture, refinished furniture, old bicycles and Pyrex.  It's sort of like an antique show/estate sale/craft fair/artisan market all rolled into one.  And a lot of this stuff is farm fresh, meaning it looks like it literally came directly to Junkstock straight from the farm.  They've also got live music, kids activities and food vendors.  If you purchase something large and aren't sure how you're gonna get it to your fear...they provide "junk hunks" to help you carry it.  Luckily, Brent tagged along with us this time, so he got to be our personal junk hunk.
In case you're looking for a one arm, cowboy hat wearing mannequin in a green bathtub, Junkstock's got it!
And my absolute favorite part of the day was meeting Robin Nielsen of Robin's Nest out of Springfield, NE.  As we stepped into her booth, my eyes caught her display of General Finishes paint, as I've been researching their Van Dyke brown glaze for awhile and she happened to have some for sale!  Robin also told me about the milk paint, which I've been dying to try and even spent time explaining her process and tips for applying it.  Brent and I are just finishing up a project that we'll be sharing on the 4th of July, so I bought some milk paint in a light gray to try out.  Here are some of her finished pieces and if you love them as much as I do, pay her a visit in Springfield or visit her Facebook page to see what she's up to!  
Getting to visit Junkstock was great, but spending an afternoon with my girl, Amber, was even better.  Since she lives 3 hours away, we only get to see each other a couple times per year but we always pick up right where we left off.  She's that kind of friend that you can 100% trust in their opinion and decisions.  The friendship I have with Amber is the kind where your shoulders relax when you're with her, there isn't any of that underlying insecurity that some people bring out in you.  After just an afternoon, my heart and my spirit feel full from being with her.  And don't even get me started on her adorable family!  Her husband, Mike, and I used to work together - and probably did more laughing than working.  Seriously, one of the funniest guys I know.  Then they have these two adorable daughters that will melt your heart - I tried to convince them to move to Sioux Falls but they got all technical with their excuse of "we just built a new house."  Amber is the kind of woman that helps you believe in yourself, and when you can't find the strength to believe, she'll help you get there.  I can think of a few other friends that I'm lucky enough to have that possess these same qualities.  Surround yourself with these people and be there for them.  Everyone needs a cheerleader.

The next Junkstock is coming up on October 10th, 11th, and 12th 2014...see you there!