Menu Monday: Crepes

To start this off:  I am not a very amazing cook. But I am learning, and trying new things.

A few years ago, I decided to teach myself how to make crepes, thinking it would be a huge challenge. Over that time I have adapted the recipe a bit, and the strategy, and I have a pretty fool-proof method for making tasty, tasty crepes. They aren’t “perfect” in shape or in strategy, but they taste so delish!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/8 cup sugar

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The Process:

  1.  In the large bowl put eggs and flour, mix together (either with an electric mixer or with a whisk). Some people are snobby about this part, but ain’t nobody got time for that.
  2. Slowly add in milk and water, stir well.
  3. Add sugar, salt, vanilla, and butter. Mix well. Your mixture should look something like this:2013-01-26 11.04.27
  4. Now, in a non-stick pan, put a small amount of olive oil or vegetable oil. You can also spray the pan with pam or another non-stick spray. This is an example of too much oil:2013-01-26 11.09.00
  5. For each crepe you will use about 1/4 cup of batter. Pour the batter in the pan and roll the pan to spread it out.
  6. When the center is bubbling, it is ready to flip.2013-01-26 11.16.28
  7. After you flip you only need to cook it for maybe 30 more seconds, and it is done.
  8. Ta Da!2013-01-26 11.15.29
  9. Continue until you have the desired number of crepes. This recipe makes about 10 small crepes.
  10. Roll, and coat in your desired topping. This is a banana sauce. I’ve also done cinnamon apples, and the basic powdered sugar or maple syrup.2013-01-26 11.41.42

Crepes are pretty easy, and pretty delicious to make. They are one of our favorite Sunday hangover foods.

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Tips For Student Travellers

One of the reasons I love traveling so much is that I used to get to do a whole lot of it. I went to school for the first two years of my undergrad in Vermont, and was fortunate to get to travel up and down the East coast, as well as back and forth across the country. While I was traveling, I was able to pick up some great tips for low, low, low budget travel for young adults.

I got to go to Long Island for Thanksgiving with my girl Brianna and her family. <3

I got to go to Long Island for Thanksgiving with my girl Brianna and her family. ❤

  1. Invest in a mid-sized pack. Spend some money on a comfortable mid-sized pack, around 3500 cubic inches. These are great for a variety of reasons. It’s a lot easier to carry around a backpack when you are traveling on foot, for one. In addition, this pack will be sturdy, durable, and is usually within carry-on compliance. You can also stuff enough into it for two weeks of travel, easy.
  2. Pack Light. A no-brainer, I know. But seriously. This will make or break you. I’ve been on quite a few trips where I was burdened with heavy luggage.
  3. Travel Within Your Means. If you can’t afford it, don’t do it. Running out of cash when you’re traveling is so, so, stressful. It’s always good to have a little bit aside for an emergency fund, so make sure you’re not partying too hard.
  4. Be friendly. Some of the best experiences I’ve had have been from being invited home with friends and classmates. Make friends, and be courteous. You’ll get to see the world from a local’s eye, and get to stay in a new place for free.
  5. Eat Healthy. If you’re on a budget, it’s cheaper to go to the grocery store than get McDonald’s, and you won’t burn out/hate yourself as quickly. Take care of yourself when you’re traveling. Drink lots of water.
  6. Take Pictures. These are stories you’ll want to tell your kids someday.

Disneyland on a REAL Budget, Part Three

Part Three: Other Tips for Disney Magic Moments Without Breaking the Bank

One big mistake I hear from people over and over again is that they spent so much on their Disney vacation because they didn’t want to ruin the “magic” and they wanted to have a glorious vacation. You can still have a great Disney vacation, a magical time, without spending a fortune.

1) Create Family Traditions:

One of my favorite things about going to the Land is up-keeping family traditions. We have a few very special traditions. These traditions cost no EXTRA money, and are things we look forward to on each trip. Your family can make their own too.

Here are a few of ours:

  • The first thing we do every time we get to Disneyland is get on the train at Main Street U.S.A and ride it all the way around. Then we can go do other things. The train is one of our favorite things at the park, even now that we are all grown.
  • When it’s time to watch Fantasmic!  we get dinner at the Royal Street Veranda in New Orleans Square. They have tasty bread bowls full of all kinds of things, all delicious. This is a great little counter service restaurant.
  • Every time we go to the park, since my first trip, my parents have taken a picture of me at the White Rabbit’s Door (by The Mad Tea Party). It’s such a fun way for our family to keep track of our trips, and it’s fun to look back.

1991, 2001, 2004

  • We also take a family photo in front of the Mickey Ears at the Maingate. It’s amazing to watch our family grow and change!
parent cd

Clockwise from bottom left: 1991, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2004

2) Make Your Own Magic!

  • Instead of spending a fortune to take your daughter to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, buy her a few princess dresses on amazon and do her hair up yourself. She’ll feel so special to have extra attention from mom.
  • Go to the dollar store before your trip and get a ton of glow sticks. It’ll be a lot cheaper than buying glow toys at Disneyland, and your kids will still be able to have a blast.
  • Play games in the park! Find hidden mickeys or download scavenger hunts online. Your family will get to do something special that no one else will be doing!

At the end of the day, it’s all about knowing your own family and creating your own Disney adventures! Make your own magic!

For the rest of the series:

Disneyland on a REAL Budget 

Part 1

Part 2

Disneyland on a REAL Budget, Part 2

Our Budget and How We Save!

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[Note: This post was edited 1/31/13 to show our actual costs once I booked our hotel and rental car! We got great deals considering it’s a busy season!]

When you’re planning a trip, it’s very important to plan a budget and stick to it! We don’t have kids, and I just got a new job, so we had a little bit of expendable income…hence…DISNEY! Once we decided on a budget, that determined the length of our trip. While I love spending 5 days at Disneyland, you really CAN spend two days there and see everything essential, if you don’t have kiddos with you. I’ve also learned on my favorite podcast Moustalgia how to “manage my expectations”. We are only spending 3 days, so we aren’t going to get to do EVERYTHING. We are going to skip some of the rides V didn’t enjoy last time (his long legs don’t fit on Winnie the Pooh, for example), and we won’t be riding a lot of rides twice.

Here Was Our Initial Budget:

  • Hotel, Airfare, and Disney: $500 each
  • Food/Ground Transportation/Miscellaneous: $400
  • Total: $1400

Now, I had a few thinking errors with our trip, because I foolishly planned off of our calendar, instead of the Disney calendar! We decided we needed to go over spring break because we are both taking classes right now, and V is in his last term. This meant that our airfare was WAY more expensive than I was planning. Which led to a little bit of a slippery slope. Remember to travel in the “cheap” seasons. Between New Years and Spring Break, and the month of September are the cheapest months.

  • Airfare total cost: $477 for both of us, flying JetBlue into Long Beach

Now, here is where the thinking error was. EVERYPLACE advertised that Long Beach was a close airport, and it was easy to get to Disney  However, they did not mention it cost twice as much for the airport shuttle than LAX or SNA. I’ve learned my lesson now…never again. Because of this, we are probably going to rent a car. If we can save up a little, its worth it for the convenience  In my last post, I had estimated the cost difference based off flying into John Wayne.

  • Rental Car: $118 for 3 days (parking is included in our ticket cost…more later)…plus the convenience. We were able to get this great rate through priceline.
  • Ground Transit: 90 for the shuttle+ 24 for the resort transit= $124 dollars.

Hotel Cost

  • $150 for 3 nights, booking through The CHP group corporate discount! Thanks Mom! This is for a 2 star hotel in Anaheim, with free parking and a continental breakfast!

Disneyland Tickets

  • $225 each for a 3 day park hopper tickets. Booked through the CHP Group. For about $5 more we could have went through AAA and gotten free Disneyland Parking, but our Hotel is accross from the parking lot, so there was really no point.

Food

  • $150 total. We have Costco gift cards we’ll be using to buy lunch fixins and snacks, continental breakfasts at the hotel, and two counter-service dinners in the park. We are also planning on Splurging on a dinner at the Blue Bayou! I’ve never eaten there before, but as this is a “romantic” trip…:)

Total: $1345!

This gives us a little extra for treats and souvenirs! As we are planning on packing meals, we should do less on food too!

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How We Save:

  • I make an expense spreadsheet on excel. Any purchases outside of our monthly “necessities” (food, gas, bills) go on that spreadsheet. The catch is, I put that “budget” amount at the top of the page. Every time I make a purchase, I watch that money go out of the disney budget. It’s a pretty good motivator to cut out the “extras”. Starbucks, snacks, and fast food REALLY adds up!
  • Any money we get from returns (i.e. Christmas returns, etc) goes into the Disney budget.
  • Same for gift cards (to Costco, Disney, etc).
  • If you know you are planning a trip, tell your friends and family! Sometimes they will give you money or a Disney giftcard in lieu of another gift. On our trip last Christmas V’s parents gave us cash, and my grandparents gave us gift cards and it paid for ALL our food for the trip!
  • $5 savings: Every time you get a $5 it goes in the jar. At the end of the week I put all my change in the jar too.
  • Can Returns! We save our cans and take them in once a month. It’s only a few dollars…but guess what? That’s an extra churro!!!
  • Be smart with your money. In other words, the same way you save for anything else! We cut back on other fun things, because we know that Disney is worth it.

How does your family save at Disneyland on a Budget?

Any tips for me?

Did you miss: Disneyland on a REAL Budget Part 1?

Tune in Next Sunday for Part Three: Other Tips for Disney Magic Moments Without Breaking the Bank

Disneyland on a REAL Budget Part 1

Disneyland on a REAL Budget

Part One

christmas 2011 140

Hi All,

So I’m writing this post because I love all things Disneyland, and we are planning a spring break trip to the Happiest Place on Earth. As I’ve been searching for some tips around the internet, I’m seeing a lot of great posts, but many of them have a really LARGE budget. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some of my Disney tips, things that are worth “splurging” on,  budget savers, and share our budget with you as we actually book our trip. Keep in mind that we don’t have children, but these tips should work well for everyone, because V can be a big baby when we’re travelling.

Without Further Ado:

What Can You Cut Out Altogether?

  1. Rental Car & Parking Fees Unless you have a special circumstance (such as a special-needs family member or possibly a newborn), or a very large family, there is really no need for a rental car. For around $15 a person you can get a shuttle to the airport (shop around, I’ve found cheaper), and the Anaheim Resort Transit (which picks up at the hotel and drops off at the maingate of Disneyland) is $12 for a 3 day pass for adults (cheaper for kids). 3 days of a rental car ($100 on a good day) + gas ($20) + Disneyland parking fees ($60)= $180. For the two of us we’ll pay a total of $54 the other way, and we don’t have to stress about parking or trams. (EDIT: unless you are planning on flying into Long Beach as the shuttles are ridiculously expensive).
  2. Expensive Souvenirs We are adults, so we don’t need toys and things. We usually pick one item for our house and one treat to bring back. They have great matted art prints for $30, and treats in the $5-$10 range. When I was a kid my mom let us each get a t-shirt, which we used as an “autograph book” for all the characters to sign. She could have easily got these shirts outside of the park for cheaper. Another great option is saying “x amount is what you get” and allowing each family member to spend that amount as they wish. $20 a person is very reasonable for a child to pick a shirt or a small stuffed animal on the trip.
  3. Staying On Resort Property Don’t. There are a few perks (magic mornings, proximity to parks), but unless you are getting a killer deal you are paying about 4 times as much for a standard room. I had friends stay at the Disneyland Hotel Once while I was staying across the street. She paid $100 a night more than me, and the only difference was that my hotel had a continental breakfast. 🙂

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Disney Tickets

  1. Be smart when you buy your tickets to the park. If you have at least 6 months to plan, then keep your eye on the internet and buy tickets from an authorized retailer. Buying off ebay or craigslist is too risky for my liking, as Disney tickets are non-transferrable, and I would hate to get turned away at the gate.
  2.  Disney itself often has discounted tickets on their website, but many other places have discounts as well. If you or a friend have AAA, you can get substantially discounted tickets there. Kaiser Permanente customers can also get a discount.  In addition, if you are a member of the Armed Forces there are great discounts available for your family. Many colleges and employers have them as well, so ask around. I’d say your best bet is to buy your tickets about a month in advance.

Splurge

  • In our family, a few things are worth the “splurge” when it comes to Disney tickets. Especially if you have young kids or cranky teenagers, having an extra day in the park is worth it. If you are going to pay for a hotel for 5 nights anyways, you may as well pay the extra for a longer pass. If you are like us and are travelling from a distance (Oregon), it’s a better deal. We maximize our tickets by being at the park when it opens, and then heading back to the hotel mid-day for a nap when the park gets busy. We go back in the evening, when other families are going out of the park for dinner.
  • I’d also splurge the extra $30 for the park-hopper passes. Again, while we are on a budget, you still want to enjoy your vacation. There is nothing worse than missing out on something awesome because you can’t hop to the other park. One time we were at Disneyland and there was an event going on at DCA and we couldn’t go. NEVER AGAIN.

Food

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Food is one topic I often hear people complaining about the expense at Disneyland, but really…If you plan ahead this can be a really cheap item.

  1. Bring Snacks seriously. When you’re feeling peckish all those tasty Mickey Shaped treats get tempting. But $5.00 for an ice cream sandwich??? No way. If you are going to have a rental car or you are driving there are a Costco and a Target pretty close to the Resort, where you can pick up cheap snacks, that are a lot more filling. Think Granola Bars, Chopped veggies and fruit, etc.  We will be going to Costco before we leave town and putting it in our checked luggage. If you are going to buy a snack or two, buy things that go a little farther like the Mickey Beignets in New Orleans Square (3.99 for three!), Popcorn, or A skewer at the Bengal Barbeque in Adventureland. My weakness is the Chili Corn on the Cob which is $4.00, but so filling that I don’t need to eat for another few hours.
  2. Consider Packing a Lunch or Eating At the Hotel We saved a lot our past two trips by packing our lunches in a soft-sided lunchbox and taking it into the park. Disneyland has no problem with this as long as you don’t use any glass containers. We were able to spend an average of $2.00 per person for lunches this way. We have never had any problem bringing food into the park, this includes sodas or juices. We also ate a few meals at the hotel because we had a kitchenette. We make spaghetti one night, and burritos another. Think college student food, it’s easy and cheap to make in cramped spaces.
  3. Bring A Water Bottle. No brainer, do you want to spend $3.00 for a bottle of water?
  4. Plan Smart for Meals in The Park Over the past few years meals in the park have gotten a lot healthier and higher quality. As a vegetarian/pescatarian, I have no problem eating at Disneyland. It is FUN to eat in the park, and if you plan smart you don’t have to break the bank. There is no reason to spend over $10 a plate. If you do you are eating at the wrong places!  AllEars.net has Menus updated with prices for Disneyland restaurants. One of our traditions is to get Vegetarian Gumbo in a Bread Bowl (or Clam Chowder in a Bread Bowl) from the Royal Street Veranda while we wait for Fantasmic. It’s 9.50 and very filling. Some other suggestions are the Hungry Bear, Rancho Del Zocalo, and The Village Haus Restaurant (personal pizzas for around $8!). This isn’t “cheap food” but it’s higher quality than standard fast-food fare, and for an occasional meal it’s worth it.
  5. Coupon and save gift cards!  Outside the park there are a ton of restaurants. They are all on the Anaheim Resort Transit Routes too! Keep your eye out for coupons and save giftcards you get throughout the year. We were able to eat dinner for free a couple nights because we had coupons & gift cards to the California Pizza Kitchen and Tortilla Joes! Again, this requires smart shopping- We didn’t buy the most expensive things on the menu, but we were able to have filling and tasty meals using gift cards and some coupons we found on the Anaheim Tourism website.

Splurge

  1. If you are being “good”, don’t forget to enjoy yourself too. Part of Disney fun is the food, so if you haven’t eaten anything in the park, make sure you eat SOMETHING Mickey Shaped on your trip.
  2. If you are packing lunches and snacks for a large family, rent a locker. It’s only $7 a day for a large locker that fit our lunchbox (for 6 people last christmas) and all of our jackets. This is STILL cheaper than buying lunch in the park, and you have a place to store things while you are on the rides. This is nice for two reasons. 1. You don’t have to lug around the cooler all day. 2. The lockers open with a code so if your group splits up (we had my parents, two teenagers, and V & I on our last trip), people can access their stuff at any time. We probably won’t do this on this trip (it’s only the two of us), but with a big group it’s the best.

Hotel and Airfare

  1. Do The Math: If you have a big family and live within 15 hours of the land, it is SUBSTANTIALLY cheaper to drive than to fly. We live in Oregon and if we went with 2 friends…it would be cheaper for us to drive.
  2. Try All the Local Airports. When pricing airlines check out LAX, Ontario, SNA, and Long Beach. Sometimes you can get cheaper rates at a different airport, and the commute isn’t really significant from any of these airports (EDIT: Do NOT fly into Long Beach unless you are planning on renting a car, as the shuttles are ridiculously expensive).
  3. Book a discount package on Priceline, Expedia, or Travelocity. I’ve been seeing rates around $300 per person for the two of us for a  5 day trip. This includes airfare and a hotel! The package prices also get cheaper if you have more people, as most hotel rooms have room for 4 people, and we will only have 2.
  4. Try to bid using Priceline’s “Name Your Price” option. I’ll be trying this on our trip this season. You essentially pick a hotel class, and neighbordhood, and how much you are willing to pay. I’ve found 4 star hotels in NYC, Chicago, and Seattle for $50 a night before, so I’m hoping I have success in Anaheim!
  5. Think it through! We found that mid-week travel rates are much cheaper and the parks are less crowded, but we would have to take more time off work. While I get some Paid Vacation Days, V has to flex his hours, so for us the slightly cheaper rates were “more expensive”.
  6. If you can, travel in the off-season. This means not at the holidays, or in the summer! Early fall, the first two weeks of December, and early spring.
  7. Consider all your options. If you are travelling with a large familyor with friends, there are always Vacation Rentals by Owner, usually small houses or condos that are outfitted to sleep lots of people. You rent out the whole thing. While these are usually not “Cheap” if you were going to rent 3 hotel rooms, it’s pretty close, and they’ll have full kitchens so you can cook a lot more.

Splurge

  1. If it’s close, spend a little extra to stay closer to the Resort. We have paid $5 more a night for a hotel that was across the street. It made it a lot easier for us to come back to the hotel and eat/nap/whatever. And we didn’t have to use the ART transit!
  2. If it’s close, stay at a nicer hotel. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but there are some GROSS hotels in Anaheim. If there’s a small price difference stay at a branded hotel, and always check reviews.
  3. Plan Ahead With Amenities If you are planning on packing lunches, does your hotel have fridges and microwaves in room? Do you have Continental Breakfast? If a hotel costs a little more but has these kinds of features it’s worth it. That includes free wifi or a fitness area if that is important to your family.
  4. When picking a flight, if there is a small difference that gives you “more time”, take it. I paid an extra $5 dollars to take a night flight home instead of a morning flight. It made getting out of Anaheim a lot less stressful.

Hope these tips helped, more coming soon!

Coming Up….

Part Two: Our Budget & How We Save

Part Three: Other Tips for Disney Magic Moments Without Breaking the Bank