Where’d You Go, OHO/PCS Prepper?

Dear Fans,

There are still over a thousand of you on my Facebook page and I’m still amazed that every few days, another message comes in with new “likes”.  That means that people are still finding me and finding my dusty old content useful!

I know that PCS is stressful and confusing and if you’ve never done it before, my “How to PCS” checklist from 2016 is still a pretty good checklist.  Some parts of a PCS never change.  Some do–and that is Reason #1 that I don’t want to post too much about PCS:  the fact that although some things don’t change, a lot of things do.

Military regulations change all the time and the last thing I want to do is pretend that I know what I’m talking about when I don’t (and frankly, don’t care–but more on that in a minute).  The last thing any spouse needs during PCS is faulty information.  I know y’all get plenty of that through various base/duty station Facebook sites, am I right?  I don’t want to contribute to the problem.

Reason #2 is that we haven’t PCS’ed now for almost four years and I am 98% sure that we won’t be PCSing again.  If my husband gets another job past the one he’s currently in, we are at the phase where geo-baching is the most realistic answer to everyone’s circumstances with kids in high/middle school, me working and the fact that we purchased a home and dammit, I’m just not doing it anymore.  I think 10+ times in 14 years is good enough!

This means that my overall interest in PCS is pretty much nil.  Does that mean I won’t help you out by answering organizing questions?  No.  I’m still happy to help a spouse out, so please hit me up.  I’m still interested in helping you declutter and get ready, but I have to work around Reason #3.

Reason #3 being my full-time job…I can really only organize on the weekends and that’s perfect for some people and not so perfect for others.  It’s tough for me–I try to squeeze people in when I can, but after a full week of work/kids/life, I don’t have a whole lot of time or energy left for organizing.  Please hit me up, though, because on occasion, if the planets are all aligning and I’m feeling the itch, I will still come out.  And I’m always 100% happy to give advice via Facebook or e-mail.

This last year has been a little tough, military-wise.  I don’t really want to go too deep into why, but there have been some major and (in my opinion) unwarranted disappointments with the organization in general.  I have gone from being a very gung-ho spouse to one that has decided to distance myself from events, clubs, Facebook pages, etc.   I am very proud of my husband and his service, but I refuse to give an iota more of myself.  Not. One. Iota.

But all of you out there still fighting the good fight and making the moves, go on with your bad selves and enjoy the ride while you can!  Just because my ride is nearly over doesn’t mean I don’t have a deep appreciation for all that we experienced.  It is WORTH IT!

Happy PCS Season!

Let’s Wrap Up, Shall We?

Hey Preppers/Orderly Home Organizer Fans,

I see you over there, “liking” my Facebook page and I want to apologize–even though I am a highly organized person, I am in the middle of my own move (self-chosen DITY) and haven’t had time to post on Facebook for quite some time.  I know that you are a bunch of smart, tough, strong women and that you’re managing well without me.

I left off somewhere around “using items on the DO NOT PACK list”.  Instead of doing a bunch of Facebook posts, I’m going to do one big blog post detailing the remainder of the steps on my PCS Checklist.

As I always say:  PCSes are like snowflakes–no two are exactly the same.  They share a lot of the same characteristics, but there’s always something a little different than the last one and certainly Jane’s PCS experience is vastly different than Jim’s than Karen’s…well, you get the picture, right?

Here we go:

  • It’s time to collect school records and let the school know that your kids won’t be back.  If possible, check in with the new school–you may be able to get all the paperwork ready to register them ASAP at the new location.
  • School physicals–I’ve never had an issue having the MTF at our current duty station sign off on school physicals for other states, so if you can get that school physical out of the way with a PCM that is familiar, do it.  It will save you time and energy on the other end.
  • Speaking of the MTF–you will need to let Tricare know that you are PCSing–but don’t call until after you’ve moved.  Change your location in DEERS after your PCS.
  • MTF–get medical records forwarded to next MTF or hand carry.
  • Dental and other specialty records–if you can get a copy, save yourself the trouble and expense of having to pay for things like new x-rays if they just did a set.
  • Hand carry all of these records–in the car or in your carry-on suitcase.
  • Last appointments–before you go, make one last appointment to get your hair done, your eyes checked, dental checks, ortho checks–anything that requires an appointment–try to get one in as close to the edge as possible.  It gives you a nice cushion of time to find a new salon, orthodontist, dentist, nail salon, etc. on the other end.  You’re going to be busy unpacking and getting oriented, you do not need to be frantically driving around in an unfamiliar city to get Junior’s braces adjusted.
  • Don’t forget to pick up your pet’s records and make sure their shots are up-to-date!
  • If you have been assigned a carrier, check in with them to make sure your dates are on the calendar.
  • Is your travel arranged?  Are you flying?  Driving?
  • Your carrier should send a rep out to go through your house prior to the move–please be sure to take time to show that person anything that might need special crating or treatment.  Be sure to get that person’s info–he/she is going to be your point of contact if the crap hits the fan on packout/load day(s).
  • Designate a “do not pack” room and put a tripwire on it hooked up to dynamite.  No, but seriously, a VERY LARGE sign on the door or better yet, a door you could maybe lock, would be great.  Into this room, place everything that you do not want the movers to pack.  I highly recommend setting aside valuables, your purse, hand-carry documents, etc. and locking them in your car or giving them to a trusted friend to keep aside during packout/load days.  Keep those items well out of reach of unscrupulous movers!
    • Wear comfy shoes.
    • Send the kids to daycare, a sitter, camp, somewhere fun AWAY from the house.  The dogs/cats too.  The less distractions, the better and it’s just stressful for kids and animals.  It’s inhumane, man…they can’t have wine at the end of the day like you can!
    • Should you feed your movers?  Yes, but don’t break the bank.  Think outside the box and try not to get pizza.  Have a lot of water on hand and maybe a 12-pack of Coke, Dt. Coke and Sprite in the fridge.  If you plan ahead a little, you can usually put out a pretty nice little meal for cheap–sandwich tray and some chips, whatever.  THEY ARE TOUCHING YOUR STUFF.  Treat them well.
    • IF you have a dispute with one of the movers or all of the movers, DO NOT ARGUE WITH THEM.  Collect yourself and call your rep at the carrier or the PPO and tell them what’s going on.  Remember:  these people are TOUCHING YOUR STUFF.
    • Have eyes on the movers…be covert and nice about it, don’t hover and again, don’t argue.  If they’re not packing to your satisfaction, you have the right to ask them to stop, take a break and call the rep/PPO.
    • If you have items that are special to you and you feel they require special packing (not crated items), please set them aside and point them out to the movers–they have no idea what is valuable to you, but if you show them specifically (try to have them grouped together so they remember) and ask nicely, maybe they’ll take extra care to add wrapping paper to Great-Grandma Bertha’s china.  BE NICE.
    • Have a bathroom available to them and make sure it’s stocked.  Let them know.
    • Tipping/not tipping?  I’m in the not tipping category.  I’ve never tipped government movers.  I will feed them and give them things to drink all day.  The government is paying them.  I know it’s a hot topic, but I don’t tip.  If you’re feeling generous and they’ve been fantastic, then by all means, tip.
    • MOST IMPORTANT:  keep your sense of humor.  Something is going to go wrong…it’s just a given.  Take a deep breath.  You will get through this!
  • All of your stuff is on the truck/crated on the ship heading overseas…I have a Pinterest board for long-term hotel stays and how to survive them.  Check it out.
  • Unpacking–
    • Yay, you are there, all of your stuff is there and now what do you do?  This is my methodology:
      • Make beds first.  Even if the rest of the room is a disaster, you will all have somewhere to sleep.
      • TV/set up wireless.  I know, this shouldn’t be this high on the list, but let’s face it, you are in a new place and the kids need to stay out of your hair for awhile so you can get the house put together.
      • Kitchen/Dining–get back to cooking and eating together ASAP
      • Bathrooms
      • Clothing/closets
      • After that, it’s up to you!
      • Take breaks, get out of the house, check out your neighborhood, take a breather.  Your stuff is not going anywhere…Rome wasn’t built in a day.  If you’re not completely unpacked and organized right away, don’t beat yourself up.  It takes time and everyone is in a new place, going through the PCS Emotions…take it easy on yourself.
    • My last word of advice:  make your home YOURS…even if it’s a rental, even if you’re there for a short tour.  Hang up the pictures, plant a few flowers, make it a place you love, not merely tolerate.

And that, my friends, is the end of the list…did you remember to request your DLA?  I hope so.  I truly hope that you have a safe, peaceful and happy PCS.  I’ll be over at my new house (which is OURS, so I’m very excited to really pour my heart into it!) unpacking my boxes, getting organized and overseeing some home-improvement projects.

I’ll be back on Facebook soon.  Thank you, friends!


PCS Grief

Hey Friends,

It’s been quite awhile since I last posted and I humbly beg your forgiveness…the full-time job thing has been very eye-opening.  I think, no–I know–that I am gaining a newfound respect for those of you out there who do it all.  I’m also learning how central being organized is to keeping all the plates spinning at once (and how easily one plate can get knocked down by something unforeseen).

Enough about work, but it does affect life and how often I’m able to get over here to post.

Recently, I read a book that many of you have probably heard of:  Brene Brown’s Rising Strong.  The subtitle of the book interested me:

If we are brave enough, often enough, we will fall.  This is a book about what it takes to get back up.  

The chapters deal with different painful pitfalls we all deal with at one time or another and how to “rumble” with the uncomfortable feelings and move past them.  The chapter that most struck a chord with me though was the chapter called “The Brave and the Brokenhearted”.  It’s about grief and the grieving process.

Most of us think about grief only in terms of losing someone.  Death.  Grief is about more than death, though.  We can feel grief and go through the stages of grief for any loss that affects our life–even the loss of something we can’t quite define.

In Rising Strong, Brene Brown categorizes grief in this way:

  • Loss
  • Longing
  • Feeling Lost

As I read her descriptions of loss, longing and feeling lost, I had a lightbulb moment.  Maybe you’ve all realized that what we experience after a PCS is grief, but I have never thought of it in that way, and I was taken aback.  As a spouse, I feel like we aren’t allowed time or space to grieve–we are expected to pack our house out, move across the country or around the world, adapt to a new environment and do it all with an “I’ve got this!” smile on our face.  One day our life is in Stuttgart, Germany and the next day, it’s in Norfolk, Virginia.  And we don’t miss a step.  Very possibly, there is no time to grieve between finding a new house, signing the kids up for school, moving in, finding Starbucks and a new salon and a new job and the perfect park.

When is there time to properly process grief in the middle of all that?

Here a few quotes from this chapter of Rising Strong that made me think of military spouses and grief.

On loss: “Grief seems to create losses within us that reach beyond our awareness–we feel as if we’re missing something that was invisible and unknown to us while we had it, but is now painfully gone”.

On longing:  “Longing…is an involuntary yearning for wholeness, for understanding, for meaning, for the opportunity to regain or even simply touch what we’ve lost.  Longing is…an important part of grief, yet many of us feel we need to keep our longings to ourselves for fear we will be misunderstood…or lacking in fortitude and resilience”.

Feeling lost:  “Grief requires us to reorient ourselves to every part of our physical, emotional, and social worlds”.

Wow.  Maybe that didn’t quite capture your attention as it did mine…but I was left nodding.  That is exactly what moving feels like:  losing something that was unknown to us while we had it (it doesn’t matter whether you love or loathe that duty station–I promise you’ll still grieve “normal” life).  Cue the longing:  it’s where you lived when you were first married, you had a child/children there, you bought a house there, it was your “favorite” duty station–whatever transpired, life is encapsulated between a set of dates on a certain point on the globe.  Feeling lost:  literally, feeling lost–having to adjust to a new home, new neighborhood, new schools, new culture, new time zone, everything NEW.

Grief can crop up at the oddest of times, when you least expect it.  Just this week, I was missing Japan.  There are times when I’m homesick for Germany or wish I could be in Newport, Rhode Island on a sunny summer afternoon.  I miss homes that we’ve made, friends that we’ve made, everyday life in various places.

Everyone’s lives change…it doesn’t matter if you never move or move every two years, but I think that as military spouses, PCS carries a special kind of grief and that we need to be open to the truth that it really IS grief and that it needs to be processed and not ignored.

What do you think?








Why I’m Breaking Up With Facebook

Hi Friends,

Last Friday, I decided to break up with Facebook.  For good this time.  Trust me, there have been many, many instances of me almost pushing that “deactivate account” button before.  Most of the time, I was making that almost decision in the heat of the moment, feeling stung, hurt, indignant, left out or not good enough.

This time, though, I feel as though I had a valid reason to leave Facebook behind.  And just to be clear–I suspended my account, I didn’t deactivate it, so it’s still there, whenever I feel like I could have enough self-control to log in for just a few minutes and check in with everyone.

The decision to let go of Facebook this time occurred because I just decided to take on a full-time job.  Yes, FULL…as in, 40 hours (plus) per week.  I haven’t worked a full-time job for almost 15 years, since before I met my husband and jumped onboard the rollercoaster of military life.

Once I (gulp) made the decision to accept the job offer, my mind immediately went into full-on organizer/planner mode.  I made 14 freezer suppers.  I printed an elaborate calendar detailing what we’d be having for supper every evening.  I designed a list of chores per child that were just right for having all their homework done, dinner started and the table set by the time I walk through the door.

Of course, I know there are going to be days when that schedule just gets shot to heck…but so far, it’s working.

Anyway, in terms of my own personal time, I knew I had to let go of some clutter.  I started by cleaning out my closet and getting a ThredUP bag (OK, two) of discarded clothes ready to go, then switching over to fall things.  As I used to do, I put together several work outfits and put them at the front of my closet rod along with necessary accessories–so easy to grab one in the morning and not stand around in a towel, wondering what to wear!

I bought a bunch of freezer meals and healthy snacks to stash in my desk at work.  I cleaned the house so I could start from fresh and scheduled areas to concentrate on in my precious free hour at the beginning of the day.

And I broke up with Facebook.  For years, Facebook has been sucking my time and energy.  There were moments on Facebook that were glorious and reconnecting with friends from the past (and staying connected with friends/family around the world) is great.  I just spent SO. MUCH. TIME. looking.  Scrolling.

I need to be more present in the time I have with my family in the evenings.  I need to focus on learning the ropes at work right now.  And I need to dump some clutter–Facebook might not seem like clutter, but it is.

I would like to say I’ll come back and start sharing posts for Orderly Home Organizer at some point, but I’m not sure what the future holds.  It’s one day at a time right now, baby!

I’ll still write here for now and share articles from time to time, so keep visiting me.

Oh, and I am still organizing, boots on ground–it will just have to be weekends, so if you are in the greater DC area and need some organizing help (and see, even the organizer needed a little organizing help!), give me a shout!



That Clutter in Your Home Used to be Money

Please take a moment and read this excellent article from Retire Before Dad…I could not have said it better myself, therefore, I’m linking to his words and sharing them with you!


I recently decluttered my daughter’s room.  She’s a bit of a packrat…I’m not sure where that tendency comes from (maybe from a having a mother who spirits your “treasures” away while you’re in school?  Or maybe because she’s very artistic and naturally accumulates more?)…but she loves “stuff”.  She keeps things like empty candy containers and plastic cups from restaurants and every.single. McDonald’s Happy Meal toy (even though I always tell the staff that we do NOT want the toy, thank you very much).

I broke one of my cardinal rules as an organizer and decluttered without her…I don’t generally recommend it, as obviously, it can lead to issues.  However.  My daughter has a level of junk in which items can be decluttered by me without her even being aware that the Force has been disrupted.  I’m talking candy wrappers, lone socks, dusty objects under her bed.  I wouldn’t dream of touching any of her artwork or special items, but all the stuff residing in the dark, dusty corners and crevices or her room are fair game.

I love this article from Retire Before Dad for any number of reasons:  because it’s so damn spot-on true, because it’s a little sad how much money, time and space we waste housing things that have little to no value in our lives or anyone else’s–and it’s usually a shock to find out that those items we thought were valuable or “might” be valuable really aren’t.

But the lines I loved the most were the ones about the adrenaline high of the furtive throw-away of a toy…we’ve all felt it, right?

Go on–read it and see for yourself!

Recovery After Relocation–Elizabeth Claire Wood Nails PCS Emotion

This article from Elizabeth Claire Wood is probably the most accurate portrayal of the emotions and stress surrounding a PCS that I’ve ever read.  I wanted to make sure that I didn’t lose these amazing words, so I’m storing them here on the blog.   Please visit Ms. Wood at http://www.elizabethclairewood.com or pick up this article at the amazing Military Wife & Mom.  

The longer we are active duty military, the more quickly and aptly I’m able to self-diagnose and articulate the funk I’m in. What it is this time, is something I have recently described as the Post-PCS Crash, also known as Complete Depletion. There is a process to arriving at this state of being, so I’ll explain.

For the few weeks leading up to the move, you find yourself in “get it done” mode. You’re working at break-neck speed to offload unwanted home items; you’re purging, and organizing. Physically, it is tiring.

You are saying goodbyes to friends and Army family; you are trying to protect your heart; you are making sure the kids are doing okay with the weight of the move. It is summer and you will be darned if you let the move eat up all of the fun, so you try to plan for some adventure and enjoyment to mark the time; but not too much fun because you don’t have the energy for it. Emotionally it is tiring.

Then, you have the “move week” where you are truly functioning on high-surging adrenaline. The packers and movers are in and out of your house; you are feeding them, overseeing their progress, trying to estimate whether or not your belongings will arrive at the next place safely. You clean and empty your way out of your house; wiping away dust, memories and…tears.

You make the physical move, for some this takes hours and for some this takes days. You and your spouse drive both loaded down vehicles to the next state; they are heavy with cleaning supplies, air mattresses, suitcases, duffle bags, Crock-pots, emotions.
You try to reframe the whole thing as an adventure…a road trip of sorts…are we having fun yet?

You arrive and you inquire about your next house. Is there one available? How long until we can move in? How long until we receive our household goods?

Mentally, you assess how your things may or may not fit into the house. You will deal with various housing issues like urgent repairs and financial matters— deposits, turning on utilities while you are still paying last bills at your old address, pro-rated rent, long-term temporary housing until your real estate closing.

You store or donate what you don’t need— d***it we just sold our mower and weed eater and they *don’t* mow your back yard on post!

It’s like a drain plug has been pulled from your checking account. You’ve just paid to have your house and carpets cleaned, the grocery budget is a joke that mocks you after weeks of eating out; and now you are buying and replacing what you do need to make your new house functional— rugs, doormats, a new broom, extension cords, a lawn mower, and bedding because you’ll be reconfiguring your kids’ bedroom furniture yet again.

You are in desperate need of a good night of sleep or maybe some alone time, maybe both. You are hotel weary. That continental breakfast was sufficient on day one or two, but by day twelve if you ever see another stale pastry, it will be too soon.

Or maybe you are so tired of sitting in your empty house on nothing but camping chairs. You are like a turtle carrying your home on your back as you trek laundry for a family of five down the hall, across the street, or in and out of your car at the laundromat. You are starting to sorely miss your creature comforts. Literally.

Household goods arrive and you compulsively begin unpacking and arranging your house to make it a home. These are the days where that adrenaline is surging the hardest. You are already worn out from the previous few weeks. And now, it’s go time. Slow down, pace yourself, some may say…but you just want to unpack and settle as quickly as possible.

Yes, the movers bring your things inside the house. Yes, they do most of the heavy lifting. But these few days are truly back-breaking. You are ripping off tape, unwrapping packing paper like mad. You are squatting, lifting, arranging…dishes, books, closets, keepsakes. You’re moving things from room to room, exhausted, sweating, and sore.
Just one more box. Just one more hour. Just one more room. Then you can rest. You think the finish line is in sight, but those big brown boxes with packing tape and stickers loom over you.

Rest? Not anytime soon.

When your kids are a little older, the unpacking can be a family affair, thankfully. Many hands make light work, and the faster things are unpacked and settled, the faster, you hope, everyone can begin meeting neighbors, making connections, and enjoying the new place. There is a temporary, albeit false, sense of ahhhhhhhhh— the house is unpacked and looks a little like home, it’s starting to feel like we live here.

There are a few days or weeks when you’re floating on the adrenaline high of the move. This is the period where I’m wearing my rose-colored glasses and my Pollyanna-cheerful-we-are-gonna-love-it-here-and-golly-gee-this-is-super attitude carries me along.
You check out some cool attractions in your area—eat at the local spots, enjoy the amenities on post, visit a church, ask strangers where they have their hair done, orient yourself to the nearest Target, revel in the glory of having a Trader Joes (if only temporarily), and begin having conversations with your neighbors.

These are the activities that follow after your boxes are unpacked. These are the activities that help you acclimate to a new place and new people. These are the activities that temporarily trick you into thinking you have arrived and you are settled.
As much as you fight to maintain a positive attitude and optimistic outlook about the new place and the fresh opportunities…what goes up must come down. The universal law of gravity is also the universal law of a PCS. It’s the let-down effect or what I’m calling the PCS Crash. A prolonged period of stress is finally coming to a close or at least tapering off and your body is telling you it is time to rest and chill-the-heck-out.
Another way the sudden decrease in pressure can set you up to crash and burn: “Emotional stress and physical stress kick up the same inflammatory response, which opens the door for illness or the let-down effect…” After either type of stress dies down, there’s “a down-regulation of the immune system, a suppression of the immune response, [as a reaction] to the easing of stress.” In addition, the surge-and-fall of stress hormones could knock down dopamine levels in the brain, which can trigger overeating and substance abuse as people (unconsciously) try to raise their dopamine levels so they can feel reward and pleasure again…” (U.S. News and World Report)
Over the past few days I’ve begun feeling the crash. I have been irritable, snippy, more anxious than usual, and flat worn-out. I actually succumbed to the exhaustion two days ago and took a nap at 10 am; I’ll probably do it again today as I woke up at 5:00 am with my mind racing.

A few years ago, I would have tried to outrun the tired and choke it out with more busyness and activity. And as the blurb from the article above suggests, some use food or drugs to feel reward and pleasure again. I’m a busy-junkie, but I’ve learned that’s not the way to solve or remedy the Post-PCS Crash.

You remedy it with as much rest as possible. You go to bed early, you nap often, and you relax. You don’t put pressure on yourself or your family to do anything other than replenish your physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional reserves.

You stay still. You breathe deeply. You pray and meditate. You exercise. You take long walks. You look out around you and up to the sky. You eat healthful foods. You read or watch television or journal. Busyness does not eradicate exhaustion…rest does.

Those of us who are military spouses know that this rest-chasing is difficult to master. We want to maximize our time on station; see the sights, meet the people, do the things. And in time, we will, but we cannot pour from an empty or broken cup. It’s easy to allow a PCS to take center stage of our lives when it comes.

There is so much to do and most of it feels urgent and necessary. There comes a point though that you have to let the urgent and necessary die down and fizzle out. There comes a point when you have to set aside the hustle and embrace chill mode. I don’t like the image of crashing and burning. I prefer the image of my body (and mind) telling me it’s time to slow down, stop if necessary, wait, rest, and to enjoy an interlude of tranquility.

Won’t you join me?

Prepping for Travel

A big component of being an organized person is being prepared for whatever comes your way. If you’re dealing with a chaotic house on a regular basis, then it’s likely that along with disorganization, you don’t have a lot of systems in place to help you ease through everyday life and handle the curve balls life throws from day-to-day.

This topic has been on my mind lately as I have had occasion to travel a couple of times in July.

Along with being an organized person, I consider myself to be a frugal person—and part of being both is being prepared. Always looking ahead, always planning, having a good calendar, doing the research, taking advantage of amenities/discounts/points/miles.

So, our first vacation was up to a great resort in Vermont on Lake Champlain. Message me if you’d like the name of a beautiful, historic, fun, Dirty Dancing-esque resort. It is a dream! This was our second time staying at the resort, so I had an idea of what to expect: breakfast was included, but lunch and supper weren’t. Rooms have mini-fridges, but not microwaves.  I was aware of the dining options, from ties and jackets to informal, along with the other amenities this resort has to offer.

Last year when we stayed at said resort, we had just been on a Space-A adventure that was meant to end up in Germany.  Our plans fell through (someone–ahem–not me, was not prepped) and we just continued north to Vermont and booked this place on a whim.

It turned out to be great, but I was not prepped and the biggest sticker shock was not even the cabin prices. It was the FOOD. Meals were crazy expensive. Breakfast was included in our package, so I made sure we timed breakfast to tide us over until lunch. We drove into town and purchased a few snack items and stocked the fridge with drinks for the adults and the kids (they did provide a corkscrew—I mean, I can’t resist that temptation!).  That helped our food bill a bit, but we just weren’t prepared for how much food would cost and although we had a great time, I felt a little ill over the final bill.

We left knowing that we would likely be back again, but this time, with a little better planning. This year, I packed my cooler (thanks, Amazon Fresh!) with lunchmeat, cheese, yogurt, applesauce, drinks and bread. Oh, and ubiquitous peanut butter…peanut butter and bread have traveled the world with me and my fussy eaters, and in the process has saved me probably hundreds of dollars.

So, there I was, enjoying myself on the shore of beautiful Lake Champlain, sunning and reading while my kids splashed. When it was time for lunch, I got up and called the kids in, saying “Let’s go get our sandwiches!”.

Other mom sitting nearby: “Oh, where are you going for your sandwich?”
Me: “Oh, back to our room, I packed everything for lunch!”.
Her: “Smart.”

We had four or five meals that way, so I figure I saved between $150-200 just on lunch, if not more.

We ate supper at the cheapest place on the resort, and whatever was leftover came back to our room fridge and became part of lunch. We also took advantage of the resort’s very liberal policy on removal of breakfast food from the buffet to supplement our snacks/lunch (I mean, they brought me the takeaway box and told me to help myself—I’m not going to turn that down!). We ate really well on a strict budget and I didn’t feel guilty having a glass of wine (though I packed some of that in too—I mean, even a “cheap” glass at $9 is killer to me!).

Next up—last-minute travel home to attend my grandmother’s funeral. I flew American. Do your research folks, because some airlines are now charging for CARRY-ON bags. As in, you are not allowed to bring a carry-on and put it in the overhead bin or you will be charged $25 or more. You are allowed ONE personal item.

Well, I already felt like I’d donated a damn kidney for my ticket in steerage, so I wasn’t about to give American another dime of my hard-earned money. So—I packed in a backpack, rolling my clothes and wearing layers:  tank top, T-shirt, cardigan and jacket. Yeah, it was a little hot in DC, but at my destination, I just stripped off a few layers and put them in a shopping bag. I carried just a small purse that fit on top of my clothes and I even managed to get my laptop and Kindle into the bag.

My point is this: we pay a lot to travel. And we should strive to travel. There is nothing more wonderful than leaving everyday life behind and trying something new. There is nothing more wonderful than making memories and starting traditions. BUT—do your planning in advance. Try to find that hotel with a kitchenette. If you can’t pack in the food, meal plan and do a quick grocery shop. Don’t deny yourself the pleasure of trying new/local foods, but cut it to one meal a day—it will be looked forward to and remembered even more if you make it a once a day event, anyway.

Check on your hotel to find out about any hidden fees—do they have a fee to park? Fee for Wi-Fi? Fee to use their spa facilities or gym? What kind of amenities does the hotel offer? Make friends with the concierge and he/she can direct you on fantastic, sometimes free adventures wherever you are. Check on airline fees and baggage policies—the last thing you want to find out after you’ve packed and arrived at the airport is that you’re going to wind up coughing up $25 or more per bag or paying for bags that over the airline’s weight limit.  Don’t overpack–travel is the best time to try out a capsule wardrobe.  Think about it–on vacation, isn’t it always easier to get dressed?  Yep, it’s because you have limited choices!

A ounce of prep is worth a pound of…money? I don’t know, but I guarantee you’ll have a happier vacation feeling great that you saved some money!