Christmas Gifts …. only a month late

Did you all have a great Christmas and a fantastic New Year?  Ours was wonderful.  We had a house full of family….like so many people my brother-in-law literally had to sleep in the garage. Isn’t that what the holidays are about?! Family, food, and more family? With that many people, you can imagine what it looked like under the tree Christmas morning!  My wife and I have four kids and they all love writing big, long lists of everything their adorable little hearts desire…and we love giving them presents.  However, the past few years we’ve come to realize that we have too much stuff.  When you can find stuff on such great deals, it’s hard to not buy it, right?!?  (I just have to remind myself that if I don’t buy it, I’m saving even more money and if I don’t really need it, that might just be the smarter way to go.)  So this year we decided that even though the kids wanted some really fun things (like a hover board!  I totally want one of those things so badly!), we would much rather spend our money on making wonderful memories as a family.  So while cousins and aunts and uncles were all opening present after present, our kids patiently (and so graciously…way to go kids!) opened socks and underwear and then waited. Then we surprised them with tickets to Universal Studios Hollywood.  Let’s be honest, no one does theme parks like Disney, but our kids are getting big enough that we thought they would really enjoy some of the older things they have there.  Especially The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Oh.My.Heck.  We are total Potterhead at this house.  A few months ago, we finished listening to all the books on cd (we just put it on every time we were in the car) and we love Harry Potter.  So you can imagine that they were pretty ecstatic for this trip.

One of the biggest reasons we chose Universal Studios for Christmas was because it was such a fantastic deal. Seriously.  Go check it out.  We got a season’s pass for only $110 each. (And general admission for one day is $105….so you go more than once and you’ve paid for it!) (***Note, I just looked it up and passes are now $129 per person, but it’s still a great deal overall.)  Granted, there are lots of black out dates, and a season is only 9 months long, and they don’t do fast passes….you have to wait in really long lines or buy front of the line tickets that are a fortune. But we still loved the idea!  We decided to go for two days the first week of January.  Again, paying for itself…without the higher cost of traveling over the holiday.  And we learned a few tips for the next time we go to Universal. (Like the single rider line is the way to go!! It saves tons of time.) There are lots of little ways to save money when vacationing.

  • When booking a hotel, look for freebies like parking and breakfast.  (I also always read reviews. I’m out for a deal, but I don’t want to stay in a dive.)
  • I like because I can earn free hotel stays.  After this trip, we actually earned a free night next time we travel!

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  • We actually found an awesome little house in Burbank (only 10-15 minutes from Universal) that was in a nice neighborhood and had it’s own kitchen.  So, you guessed it, we took our own food.  We made our own breakfast, packed lunches, and then ate out in the park for dinner (gotta enjoy that park food too…The Three Broomsticks was delicious).
  • Taking your own water and snacks (and sandwiches!) is smart.  We even stopped at parks on our drive down to run around and get some energy out and eat lunches we brought in the cooler.
  • They have lots of gear for sale at the park…maybe it’s important to you to buy that stuff.  (Our kids each had a little spending money they got for Christmas too, and were able to find a few things they had to have.) But maybe if you want to wear their gear, you could take your own from home.  It’s way cheaper.

Those are a few of the things I do.  What about you??? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. And tell me, what kinds of deals did you find for Christmas?

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