Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Where to look for Labor Day deals in the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area

Labor Day weekend is upon us. My family and I are probably going to take a day trip to Pigeon Forge at some point. Right now, Groupon has a great deal on the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge attractions and things to do in Chattanooga or Atlanta. (Plus an extra 15% off right now).

I don't know about other areas but discounts for Pigeon Forge area attractions can be sparse. In addition to Groupon, here are some other places to check for discounts:

Love my membership! Several places at the Tanger Outlet mall in Sevierville offer discounts. Restaurants such as Applewood Farmhouse also honor the discount. I've saved anywhere from 10% at Applewood Farmhouse to 20% at Reebok.

You can also pick up coupon books all over the city. Check in hotels and display racks at restaurants. 

Credit Union
Gatlinburg is close enough to Pigeon Forge to add to the list. My local credit union offers discounted tickets to Gatlinburg Aquarium to members. It may be worth checking with your credit union to see what deals are offered.

There are several coupon sites online where you can print free coupons. Click this link to find out about some of the more reputable sites that offer coupons for the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area.

Gatlinburg Roaring Fork Mug Smokies Smoky Mountain


Now available in our Zazzle store!
Gatlinburg Roaring Fork Nature Trail
mug, cards and tote bags. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Visiting the National Bison Range in Montana

I gotta say that visiting the National Bison Range in Montana is a cool experience. The range is in western Montana about 80 miles from Kalispell. For those who like to know, the National Bison Range is under the auspices of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

We stopped in at the visitor center for the National Bison Range. The ranger told us that the Red Sleep Mountain Drive offered the best chance of seeing bison and antelope. It was a 19 mile travel experience that lives up to its promise. The photos that you see were taken near the terminus of the road.

Don't kid yourself about the length of the drive. I was told that it would take about an 1 1/2  to maybe two hours. Not! Allow at least three hours if you want to watch for wildlife. Don't rush.

Stop at the park visitor center to pay the fee and see exhibits. Staff will be glad to turn on the video if you ask. It's also the place to get your National Parks Passport stamped.

Red Sleep Mountain Drive had curves and steep grades but no restrooms. Be sure to stop at the visitor center.

Driving slowly isn't optional. The 10+ plus grade required our Chevy Express Van to use the lowest gear, tap our brakes and utilize pull-offs. Adding to the excitement is that there are no guard rails.

Fees are collected at the Visitor Center at the National Bison Range. National park passes are accepted. At the time of this writing the fees began at $5.00 for a private vehicle. Prices could change at any time. Check the website link above before traveling for current fees.

St. Ignatius is the closest town for lodging and restaurants. Take food or eat before you go. We tried the little store outside of the entrance gate but only snacks were available. I think there may have been a sandwich shop but it was closed. The restroom was a portable unit.

Travel hint:
The town of St. Ignatius takes it's name from the 1890's St. Ignatius Mission. It's right on Highway 93. Stop in if you can. The murals are incredible.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

What is a van camper

What is a van camper is a question that I'm getting lately. It's reasonable. We purchased the van back in May with plans for a camper conversion. I need a small RV that's easy to drive instead of a big motorhome. If you say that the step is unusual for our area, then you are right. A van camper isn't something that sitting in every driveway. But soon it will be sitting in ours.

Our van camper to be.
So what is a van camper? (They're also called camper van or campervan.)

They are essentially a Class B RV. There is space up front for a driver and passenger. The cavernous space inside is being converted to a living space. We have temporarily added a futon and a seat belt for an extra passenger. A more permanent bed is to come later.

Right now the van camper has hanging bags for storage instead of cabinets. Permanent ones will be installed later. Our concentration up to this point has been to add the insulation, paneling, air conditioner vent and lighting.

Our dog snoozing in the van camper.
When complete, the van camper will be a livable RV with most of the comforts of home. It will have a small bathroom, kitchen and living space. Hubby and I will be able to relax and see the world from the comfort of our home on wheels.

What the van camper won't have is an ironing board and iron. The keyword here is relax. Who wants to iron when they can see the country? Not me.

Besides, that clunking ironing board might interrupt the Tomlin's nap.We can't let that happen now can we?

Friday, August 1, 2014

How I budget for a trip or family vacation

Trip planning is more than estimating gas and lodging costs. This article on how to budget for a trip helps you with overlooked details. It is written by an experienced traveler who can help you budget effectively for your vacation.

Because I travel extensively, people often ask me how to budget for a trip. Budgeting for expenses includes more than gas, food and lodging. Allowing for everything from car maintenance to batteries in a budget for a trip will alleviate stress. This article outlines how I develop a travel spending plan for a road trip vacation so I can focus on fun instead of funds.

Set a total cost
The first thing that I always do is decide how we have to spend for the entire trip including related expenses. People will often use a tax refund or bonus for the trip budget. If so, then you already have a fixed spending idea and can move onto the next step. Otherwise, it may take some brainstorming to come up with a figure.

Destination and activities
These are major factors in how much you need to budget.