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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Cash for Christmas Giveaway!

Are you getting geared up for the shopping season? Do you need extra cash for Christmas?? Don't we all!?

We are so excited to be giving away $330 (US) in prizes for you to use starting the US Thanksgiving weekend.

 Here are the prizes (all in US funds): 
1 - $100 Amazon Gift Card 
1 - $75 Target Gift Card 
2 - $50 Walmart Gift Card 
1 - $25 Kohls Gift Card 
3- $10 Starbucks Gift Card 

There will be 8 winners in this giveaway. Each winner will receive a gift card code to use on the online store or in the actual store. Now its time to meet our wonderful co-hosts who have made this giveaway possible. Cash for Christmas
Starting at the top row we have:
Terri - Christmas Tree Lane, Melissa - The Farm Girl Gabs, Christine - Your Strong Tower, Audrey - That Recipe & Munofore, Dana - Goods Giving Back, Tammy - Creative K Kids, Trish - Creative Simplicity by Trish Sutton, Kim - Shopping Kim and Enter Online Sweeps, Ali - Home Crafts by Ali and Ali's Book Nook, Kelly - Typically Simple, Kim - The Resourceful Mom, Katie - The Ramblings of an Overtired Mama, Angie - God's Growing Garden, Sarah - Devastate Boredom, Karen - Raising Little Superheroes, Gina - Money Savvy Living, Beverly - Eclectic Red Barn, Melissa - Deliciously Savvy, Beth - Our Pretty Little Girls, Meredith - The Mom of the Year, Laura - Michigan Saving and More, Debbie - Heartbeats ~Soul Stains, Carol - The Red Painted Cottage, Tiffany - A Wandering Vine, Monica - Mommy & Love, Holly - Keeping Life Sane, Sinea - Ducks 'n a Row, Cindy - Simple Steps for Living Life, Tammy - My Life Abundant, Kari - Keep It Simple DIY, Danielle - Dancing with My Daughter

Please stop by and say hi to these wonderful ladies and their blogs.

You can enter the giveaway beginning at 12:00 AM on November 11th, until 12:00 AM November 24th.

The giveaway will end midnight on Wednesday, November 24th, the night before US Thanksgiving. You will have 48 hours to respond to the email claiming the prize. If you respond right away, we will get you the gift card code promptly so that you can shop with it on Black Friday! If we don't hear in 48 hours, we will choose another winner. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Vacation in Los Angeles and Las Vegas

My husband and I will have been married 10 years at the end of this month.  We decided to take our first extended vacation as a couple, since before our daughter was born.

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I am totally addicted to travel, and I love searching for a good travel deal.  That's how this vacation came to be.

I found a fantastic deal on a flight to Los Angeles from Chicago ($49 Canadian - taxes included!!), so we decided to add that piece to our already booked Vegas vacation.  We found a fabulous property on Airbnb.

 

I've written many posts about my love for vacation rental properties.  This particular place had a pool, barbecue, hot tub, TV, and more.  We also had more space than a typical hotel room, and paid less than the price of a hotel in the area.  ( Check out my vacation rental post for more tips: http://www.overtiredmama.com/2016/08/tips-for-booking-rental-property.html )


Thursday, September 15, 2016

I'm Going Sugar-Free!

Many of you who read this blog know how passionate I am about the Canadian Cancer Society.  As I witness more family and friends have their own experience with cancer, it just heightens my resolve to do what I can for this cause.

This month, the Canadian Cancer Society launched its "Sugar-Free September" campaign.  I had a quick read about the campaign, and decided to sign up.  Now, let me begin by saying, I am a true sugar addict.  I would eat and drink copious amounts of sugar every day.  It was even bad enough that I would hide some of my sugary treats from my family.  I knew this wasn't good for me, but I did it anyway.

Sugar-Free September has some basic rules - no items with added sugar, fruits and veggies are permitted.

Me and my favourite sugar-free smoothie!


Now, don't get me wrong, I won't say I'm "completely" sugar free.  I'm still eating pasta and bread, but in reduced amounts.

The first week of any change in your habits is typically the hardest, or at least it is in my experience, and this challenge was no exception.   In the first week, not only did I give up sugar, but, without intending to, I gave up coffee.  Why?  I am a "sugar in my coffee" kind of girl.  I've never been keen on sweeteners (I just don't like the taste), and I was never able to drink black.  So, 3 days in to the challenge, I started having headaches.  My head and body were sore for the entire first weekend of the challenge.  I felt tired as well.   It was like having a bad cold.

Once I made it through the first weekend, I started to notice several changes in how I felt.  I'm someone who always had trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, and I sleep much better now.  As someone who relied on caffeine to get me through the day, energy wise, I was surprised at how much more energy I felt throughout the day.  And I've also experienced some weight loss.

This is not about total deprivation.  There are plenty of yummy things to eat without sugar (or at least reduced sugar), so I have found this totally doable!  My breakfast smoothies are my favourite part of the day!  And so much better than having no breakfast.

I now have very few cravings, and hope to continue beyond September.

Have you ever gone sugar-free?  Would you consider it?  Feel free to share in the comments!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Why Do You Love Disney?

I get asked this question regularly.  I didn't take my first trip to Disney until I was 31 years old.  I used to think I wouldn't enjoy it - children's characters everywhere, so many people, etc.  I had visions of our local yearly carnival, but on a bigger scale.



Boy was I wrong.

We have traveled to Disney for each of the last 4 years.   I put a lot of work in to saving and bargain hunting.  Some people may think that sounds like a nightmare, but I actually love travel bargain shopping.

From the first time I stepped in to a Disney Park, I knew I loved it.  Cheesy, right?  But it's true.

Why do I love Disney?  I love the excitement leading up to the trip.  I love seeing all of my favourite childhood characters.  I love seeing the look on my daughter's face when she meets the princesses.  If I can be cheesy again for a moment, I would describe it as a truly magical experience.

A few of my favourite things:

1 - Breakfast with Winnie the Pooh and Friends at Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom) - A delicious breakfast, as well as meeting your favourite characters.  They come to each table, sign autographs, and you can take pictures with them.


2 - Princess Fairytale Hall (Magic Kingdom) - I am a princess at heart, so I love meeting all of the Disney princesses, and this is a great place to meet some of them.

3 - Splash Mountain (Magic Kingdom) - I have ridden this ride in the cold and on a drizzly day, and I've waited on a hot day over an hour.  That's how much I love this ride.  It's a good long ride too.

4 - Tower of Terror (Hollywood Studios) - A good jolt to the heart in this ride.  But the queue is equally as cool.  Lots to see.

5 - Expedition Everest - Such an awesome coaster.  You get some pretty good views from the top of the coaster too!



I'm going to cut my list off there, but believe me, I could go on and on.

Check out some of my previous posts for tips on how to save money on your Disney trip.

What are your favourite things about Disney?  Feel free to share in the comments!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Tips for Booking a Rental Property

Anyone who has followed by Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/overtiredmama/) or Twitter (https://twitter.com/Overtired_Katie) know that I've spoken a lot about sites like VRBO or AirBnB.  Sometimes when I rent properties I have people people ask me how I do it.  People are nervous about renting an awful property, and I had all those same fears, but here are some tips on how to score a great property.

The first property we ever rented in Orlando, Florida


1. Check out average hotel prices for the area first.   Although I have rarely come across a place where rental properties are more expensive than hotels, there are some exceptions.  Always best to do your research so you don't end up paying more than you have to.

2. Make sure you check out the rules in the area around rental properties.   There are some areas that have regulatory authorities that don't allow short term rentals.  It could be specific to a building, or it could be specific to a geographic area.  A simple google search should bring up linked to a specific geographic location.  As for buildings, that's a little trickier.  Check the listing and see if the person listing is asking you not to interact with security in the building, or if they ask you to say you are a "friend of the owner".  Chances are, they aren't supposed to be renting their place.

3.  Read reviews.  This one is a big one.  If a property has no reviews and there is very little information about the property owner/manager, that's a big red flag.  Sometimes new properties offer some great deals, but without reviews, there isn't a lot of information about what you could be getting.

4. Not all reviews are created equal, so read between the lines.  If a property only has 3 reviews, but they all appear to say almost the exact same thing, red flag.  We're all different, so they should all appear to be written by different people in style, not just name.
If there are negative reviews, be sure to pay attention to what they are complaining about.  Are the complaints about paint colour?  The cable package?  Are those things that will ruin a trip for you?  However, if the complaints are about things like mold, or other safety concerns, you may want to rethink renting it.

5. Consider whether rental properties are right for you.  While rental properties can have a lot of positives, it depends what you like.  Hotels have staff.  Perhaps a concierge to help you make reservations.  They may have a steady stream of cabs available to take you where you want to go.  Airport shuttles. Security guards.  These are some examples of things you may be giving up by going with a rental property.  So it's important to outline what you need in your rental.  If you can't find a rental property that has what you want, then maybe a hotel is better for what you need.

My rental in August 2016 in Quebec City

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

My Favourite Travel Tips

Can you tell I love travel?  It is seriously one of my favourite things in life.  I love to travel, and I love to plan travel.



I've mentioned before that I frequently search travel deals, even when I'm not planning a trip.  It's kind of like people who like finding a good bargain at a store, I like seeing how good a deal I can find, even if I can't take advantage of it.

I decided to post some of my favourite "go to" travel tips.  These are tips anyone can take advantage of, regardless of the destination.

1. Shop early (but not too early) and frequently for deals.  I typically start looking at airfare prices about 6 months out.  Traditionally I have found the best deals to be 8 to 10 weeks before your intended travel.  There are a few exceptions - if you are travelling during a holiday period or March break, it's pretty challenging to find a good deal.  You also get a better deal if you are flexible with your dates.  If you are looking for specific dates, and if those dates fall during a holiday period or the month of March, it's better to book earlier than it is to book late.

2. The best airfare deals typically come directly from the airline's website.  I use travel sites often, but if I find a good deal, I usually check the airline's website first, just to be sure I am, in fact, getting the best deal.  Also be sure to check on cancellation policies, baggage fees, and whether the site or airline you are booking with offers a "best price guarantee".  For example, some guarantees indicate that if you find a better price for the same route/times/airline within 24 hours of booking, they will refund the difference and give you a little extra.  Just be aware that sometimes the process to claim the refund is lengthy, so don't expect an immediate return.  And make sure you have screen shots, etc, that show what you have found.

3. Join mailing list/membership clubs/points clubs for popular travel sites and hotel chains.  This is not always a popular option because it usually means you get a ton of emails, but, these emails can alert you to flash sales or specials.  I have an email address that I set up for myself that I use specifically for these mailing lists, and any other time I need to provide an email when I sign up for something, then I log in periodically to browse the deals.

4. Car rental - always check for the "additional charges": Will you be sharing the driving responsibilities with your spouse or another person in your party?  Check the additional driver charges.  The charge varies from company to company.  Budget car rental waives the fee for spouses.  Some companies charge as much as $15 a day, so it can be significant.

5. Car rental insurance - Check your current car insurance policy to see if you have coverage on rental cars.  Some credit cards as well will offer coverage for car rentals.

6. Hotels. While it is possible to get discounts through travel websites, always double check the hotel's website directly first.  And published rates are not always what they appear.  When a site advertises that a price they are offering is "50% off", it can be 50% off the price that was listed at a particular time, not necessarily the regular price.  As an example, I saw a price listed of $119/night, and the site indicated it was 48% off, but that was 48% off a price listed during a music festival, but regular price was $120 a night.

7. AirBNB.  I cannot say enough about about renting through AirBNB.  You often get a larger space for less than the price of a hotel room.  I will be posting a separate post with my best tips for AirBNB booking.

Those are a few of my favourite tips.  Do you have your own tips and tricks for travel?  Share in the comments!


Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Day at the Park

We are very fortunate, we live close to a couple parks, but that often means frequent requests to go to the park.  I'm not always able to accommodate these requests, other responsibilities get in the way, but an experience I had recently changed my perspective on these trips to the park.

Author's Note:  This is not a picture from this particular trip to the park.  Yes, I live in Canada, but it is not cold enough here to wear a hat and have snow on the ground... at least not in July.  


With my husband working, it was just my daughter and I all weekend, so I promised her we could do some fun things, just her and I, but at the same time, my usual weekend routine, and some work responsibilities needed my time as well.  I accommodated most of her requests, but I had been putting off her request to go to the park, until she drew a picture of her favourite things in her life, she drew her family, a picture of herself dancing, and playing at the park.  How could I say no after such a heartfelt drawing?

So we started off to the park, all the time I had running through my mind all the things that had to get done at home.   Once we got there, I instinctively reached for my phone to check work emails, but then I decided to watch my daughter for a bit instead.  As she ran around the park, jumping on rocks, climbing the play structure, I saw the pure joy on her face.  I remembered what it was like to feel that way.  I felt guilty for not wanting to be there initially, and was really happy we decided to go.

The way I felt when I watched her made me feel happy and calm, unlike the stress I had felt a few minutes earlier thinking about all of the responsibilities at home.

When it was time to head back home, we decided to race home. She laughed so hard while we ran she fell down.  That is pure happiness.

When we got home, I felt rejuvenated and refreshed.  Like I had just meditated.  I'm not saying there won't be times that I will turn down her requests to go to the park in the future, but I will keep this experience in my mind, and I hope it will compel me to take a few minutes, and enjoy her happiness.

Now I know this was a pretty serious post for me... even more serious than I had intended to write when I began, but I think it's good to share these little reminders every once in a while.

Have you had a similar experience?  Feel free to share in the comments below, or on my Facebook page (CLICK HERE).