Sunday, 1 May 2016
When people ask my husband and I how our cruise was or make any comment about us cruising, I can “hear” them wanting to ask the question, “ Soooo…..how do you afford to cruise every year?”…..but they usually don’t ask unless it’s someone who knows us well or they have no inhibitions about asking personal questions!
In 2007, it was our 25th wedding anniversary and we decided that we would go on a cruise. We saved, scrimped and re-worked the yearly budget until we came up with the moolah. It was going to be a once-in-a-life-time trip and that would be the end of it…..or so we thought.
When we were de-embarking the ship in ’07, I looked at my husband and said, “Guess what we’re going to do next year for our vacation?” Naturally, he is a good husband and just said, “What?” to which I replied, “ The same thing we just finished doing…..cruise!” He said, “OK” but that’s not where the dialog ended.
We started talking about how on earth we were going to be able to go every year on a true vacation that got us both away (far away) from work & home. We came up with some ideas and they’ve worked great for us since that first cruise.
For starters, we have a separate bank account for just our vacation. It’s a high interest (not that it makes that much but…..free is free) and there’s no charge for this account. Talk to your bank and see what they have. We’re in Canada and there are lots of freebie options for accounts.
We talked about our special days of the year and discovered that it was really stressful buying each other gifts sometimes!!! Sooooo…….ALL our birthday, anniversary, Christmas & Valentine’s money goes into the cruise pot! Now think about how much you spend on your spouse for presents….surprised? I know of people who spend the amount of a cruise for one person on just their spouse’s birthday but then say they can’t afford to cruise. We also put some of our birthday and Christmas money that family gives us towards our cruise.
We also look for extra income. My husband works elections, has an on-line business (it’s in American dollars so we use that as our cash flow while travelling) and he also gets a generous bonus at Christmas that always goes into the cruise pot.
We’ve cut back on certain things that we are now more careful in buying. If it can be purchased used rather than new, that’s a huge savings. We’ve down-graded our cars instead of upgrading to a higher-end model and we’ve not purchased any new furniture for a few years unless it was necessary. I keep a sharp look-out for bargains and we use coupons like crazy!
Lastly, if you’re like us, you have to fly to your cruise port and this can be costly unless you are handy to an airport that you can get super flight deals on. We’re in Nova Scotia, so not near the US border which means no cheap American flights for us. We fly from our local international airport but use air points with our credit card. This card allows us to make all our business & personal purchases which add up quickly for those air points. We have a card that pays for itself because of our flights and we pay it off before it comes due so they don’t make any money off of us! And with this card our flight is free AND we choose our flights instead of them choosing them for us.
You can choose to cruise “off season” during the less expensive months but take into consideration that they are less expensive during those times because of hurricane season (Autumn) etc.
Book a cabin you can afford. If you want a Jr. Suite, then you may have to save your pennies a little longer. We’ve had outside, balcony, extended balcony and inside cabins and as of 2017 we’ll just be doing and inside cabin for more affordability.
I know there can be other costs too but they can be done without if you really are serious about cruising. (rental car, expensive hotel the night before, meals out during that time etc.)
Saturday, 16 January 2016
First of all, cruising is lots of fun and one of the last things you need to worry about is stressing over what to take and how much.
MAKE A LIST! This little chore will take you a few minutes and will save you time and money. A list will keep you accountable of what to take but also what you really don’t need to take. I make my list up and tweak it every year with a few changes. I have my “Cruise” list for February and my “Vacation” list for July and August as I take different things on those different trips.
Each category has its sections so it’s easy to read and glance at as you’re packing. You can make up your own categories as it’s easier to do things in the order that you’re used to.
I start with my medications/vitamins/suppliments etc, then I list all undergarments. Next on the list are pants/capris/good clothes (usually two changes)/tops/evening wear (I just take one outfit for this and change-up the jewelry), purses (s), shawl etc.
Next is footwear: I wear my sneakers to the airport, pack my flip flops in my carry-on and the rest goes in my checked luggage. All my footwear has its own bag which then goes into my checked and carry-on luggage. I limit my footwear to: sneakers, flip flops, dress sandals and a pair of Crocs.
If you have a medical devic, don’t forget write down ALL that it entails. I use a CPAP so all those items have their own section on the list.
Other clothing and miscellaneous items have they’re own section: bathing suits, hats, sun glasses, cover-ups, snorkel, fins, mask, PJ’s , jewelry etc.
You may need a section just for “other” as you think of things like: camera/batteries/notebook/pen/novels/e-reader/ etc.
Basically my list is as follows: Meds/ undergarments/ toilettes/ clothes/ footwear/ outerwear/medical device and gear/books and electronics/ miscellaneous & a special list of what goes into my purse.
We take at least a five day change of clothes with us with a few changes in tops and accessories.
Check out some of the “how to pack a suitcase” on youtube. I do the roll & fold methods & use my clothes to buffer my checked liquids. Check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17smmlESBls. There are a lot more vids out there on packing as well
Check with your airline carrier for how to pack liquids and gels etc and what you can take on board with you and what has to be checked. Ziplock bags are your friends with these items!!!
ALL my jewelry is packed in a special fold up case that I have in my carry-on so it is with me throughout the journey. I also take my computer, e-reader and any electronics as carry-on as well.
ALL our documentation is also with us for our flights, hotels, car rentals and cruise so we have it at our fingertips quickly if called upon.
There are lots of on-line lists that you can just print off and use but eventually you’ll have your own that you’ll practically have memorized by cruise 8….or so :-)
Oh, and don't forget to check to see if the cat is out of the suitcase!!!!
Sunday, 15 March 2015
GLUTEN-FREE BANANA CHOCOLATE CAKE
1 Teaspoon baking soda
¼ Teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons of maple syrup
¼ cup pure GF cocoa
540 mls can chick peas (or black beans but use less cocoa then if you do). Rinse well.
¼ cup vegan/GF chocolate chips (optional but why would you?)
I use my Cuisinart food processor and add the eggs, banana, baking soda, maple syrup and salt, then process until smooth.
Add cocoa and process until well blended.
Add the beans next and process until smooth again
Stir in chocolate chips.
Lightly grease a micro-wave bundt pan with olive oil. Pour batter in and stir around pan with a spatula to evenly distribute the chocolate chips.
Microwave on high for 7-10 minutes depending on your mic wattage. Mine is 1200W. I mic mine for 7 minutes. Cake should be springy to the touch and will rise up almost double the size of the batter.
Cool in pan on wire rack for about 5 minutes, then turn onto cake plate. This cake is REALLY good still warm!!! I know as I HAD to test it and is the BEST flourless/GF cake I’ve EVER had!!! I’m going to serve it with warmed up maple syrup drizzled over it . ENJOY!!!