Do You Have Frugal Tips For Your City?

If you’ve been keeping up on things then you know the Money Life Network has just finished our series “Frugal Things To Do In…” where we listed out great things to do in each of the cities we live in.  Check out the great map showing all of our locations!

Things is though, there’s only seven of us in the Money Life Network and that barely puts a dent in the map.  We need your help to fill the map up!  If you have a blog then write about frugal things to do in your city , link back to us and contact us and we’ll add you to our map.

Check out the Money Life Network cities:

Now let’s fill up that map!

Frugal And Free Things To Do And See In New York City

NYC+Taxi

New York City.  The city so nice they named it twice!

Before I show you frugal, cheap, and free things to do and see in New York City let’s look at the first paragraph from Wikipedia:

New York City (officially The City of New York) is the largest city in the United States, with its metropolitan area ranking among the largest urban areas in the world. Founded as a commercial trading post by the Dutch in 1625, it served as the capital of the United States from 1785 until 1790, and has been the nation’s largest city since 1790. Located on one of the world’s finest natural harbors, New York is one of the world’s major centers of commerce and finance. New York also exerts global influence in media, education, entertainment, arts, fashion and advertising.  The city is also a major center for international affairs, hosting the headquarters of the United Nations.

Pretty cool, huh?

NYC is made up of five boroughs – Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island – though many people mean Manhattan when they say NYC.  All but the Bronx are islands.  I tried to spread the love around the entire city as much as I could but don’t be offended if I don’t give every borough equal weight.

So here are Frugal And Free Things To Do And See In New York City (in no particular order):

Statue of Liberty

Statue of LibertyDedicated to the US by the people of France in 1886 to commemorate the centennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Statue of Liberty stands on Liberty Island to greet visitors to the US and NYC (immigrants to the US would first pass through nearby Ellis Island before entering the US).  The ferry fee to visit is $12 and $10 for kids under 13.  Nowadays you can only enter the statue up to the pedestal (You used to be able to visit up the statue itself and I remember a time when you could go all the way up to the torch!).  If you ask me $12 is a lot!  A frugal way to get up close is to take the Staten Island Ferry from the Whitehall Terminal in lower Manhattan near Battery Park City.  Fare for the SI ferry – FREE! The SI ferry runs between Manhattan and Staten Island and passes close to the Statue of Liberty.  It’s a beautiful ride across the New York harbor with additional views of Ellis Island, NYC skyscrapers, and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (One time the longest suspension bridge in the world and also the start of the NYC marathon).

Wall Street/Financial District

This area, located in lower Manhattan, is home to the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange, City Hall Park, Federal Hall National Memorial (where George Washington was sworn in) and is close to Battery Park and the South Street Seaport.  To walk around this area is to truly take in the early history and continuing legacy of NYC!

Brooklyn Bridge

NYC is home to well over thirty bridges!  But in my opinion the Brooklyn Bridge, connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn, is the most beautiful.  Warm Having just celebrated it’s 125th birthday, the bridge was the largest suspension bridge in the world and the first steel wire suspension bridge when it opened in 1883.  What makes this bridge truly special is the pedestrian/bike pathway in the center of the bridge above the vehicle lanes.  The Manhattan entrance to the bridge is located close to City Hall.  Walk across and see the bridge up close as well as see an amazing view of the East River and NYC!  Feeling adventurous?  Sign up for the NYC Century Bike Tour which crosses the Brooklyn Bridge as part of the 100 mile ride (I’ve done three of them and they are a great way to see NYC!).

Empire State Building

It’s hard to think of NYC without imagining the 102 story Empire State Empire State Building HDR Building (located at Fifth Ave and 34th st).  Completed in 1931,  it was the world’s tallest building for more than forty years until the completion of the World Trade Center’s North tower.  The building can be seen from all around, from New Jersey to Queens!  The building has an observatory on the 82nd floor ($17.61 fro adults) you can visit as well as one on the 102nd floor (an additional $15).  I can’t say it’s cheap but the panoramic views of NYC are spectacular (even King Kong had to see the top)!  Other notable buildings to see: Chrysler Building, Flatiron Building, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity Church, Woolworth Building

The High Line

So what do you do with an old train freight line that sits above-ground in Manhattan’s west side?

That’s right, you turn it into an awesome walkway and garden!

The High Line runs from West 30th street down along the old line to Ganesvoort Street in the Meatpacking District.  It runs through Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton through West Chelsea, and into the Meatpacking District (don’t worry, those neighborhoods aren’t as scary as they sound!).

Along the way expect to see wonderful gardens, included big lawns to hang out on, art installations, as well as incredible views of NYC, its architecture,  and the areas around it (you can see the Statue of Liberty from one spot).  There is a water spot for the kids to run in barefoot as well as a picture window that hangs over the street to look eastward over the city.

The High Line truly a remarkable place to see when you consider it was all train tracks in the past!

Zoos, Gardens, and Aquarium

NYC is home to the world famous Bronx Zoo, Brooklyn Botanic Garden (Free; check out the cherry trees from late March to mid-May), Central Park Zoo ($8 for adults), Prospect Park Zoo ($6/adult), Queens Zoo ($6/adult), New York Aquarium ($13/adult), Staten Island Zoo ($7/adults), New York Botanical Garden ($6/adults, extra for special events), Queens Botanical Garden (Free), and Staten Island Botanical Garden (Free).

Museums

Are you a museum person?  Do you like American history or do you prefer modern art?  Whatever your tastes there’s a museum for you in NYC!  Check out the admission rates if you plan to go to one of the following.  Many are private museums and may be pricier while others may have suggested donations. There also may be free or discounted days at many of the museums. American Museum of Natural History (you remember Night At The Museum, right?, American Museum of the Moving Image, Anne Frank Center, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Center For Jewish History, El Museo Del BarrioGuggenheim Museum (the building itself is art), Louis Armstrong House & Archives, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York Hall of Science (fun for the kids), Skyscaper Museum, Transit Museum.  There are so many museums in NYC that it’s hard to list them all!  Personally I love the dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History.  The New York Hall of Science is fun too (and it’s not far from the Queens zoo and also a great park for the kids)!

Transportation

How do you get around to all of these places in NYCSubwayDriving is an option but you have to listen to the traffic reports and know the parking situation where you’re going.  You can find taxi cabs all over Manhattan, and that could be good for a short trip, but they can get expensive quickly and they aren’t as easy to find in the outer boroughs (not Manhattan).  Another option is to use the city’s own transit system, the MTA.  There are tons of buses and trains that can bring you all over NYC.  The out the MTA Trip Planner site.  You put in where you want to go and where you’re coming from and it will suggest ways to get there via bus and train!  Oh, the bus or train is only $2.50 (more if you take an express bus)!

Parks

With the millions of people that are in NYC you might think there’s no room for parks.  Unisphere That would be a wrong assumption!  There are tons of parks in NYC!!  Here are some you might want to check out: Central Park – A biggie, located in Manhattan and home to the Central Park Zoo, Museum of Natural History, Metropolitan Museum of Art and much more; Bryant Park – another Manhattan park, much smaller than Central Park but home to the HBO Summer Film Festival (free movies on the lawn) and Good Morning America Summer Concert Series (free concerts); Flushing Meadows Corona Park – a huge park in Queens which is home to the New York Hall of Science, the US Open, the Mets (Citi Field), Queens Museum of Art, 1,255 acres of athletic fields, and includes many sculptures and building (such as the Unisphere) built for two World’s Fairs; Jamaica Bay Wildlife Reserve; Prospect Park; and many smaller neighborhood parks!

Biking/Walking

NYC has built over 100 miles of greenway trails for walking, running, skating and bicycling across the five boroughs.  These are great trails to get out and exercise on!  As well as the greenways NYC also has two mountain bike trails, one each in Highbridge Park, Manhattan and Cunningham Park, Queens.

Sports

NYC is home the the Mets, Yankees, Knicks, Rangers, US Open, NYC Marathon, Brooklyn Cyclones, Giants and Jets (though they play in New Jersey, go figure), Liberty, and the Staten Island Yankees.

For more frugal tickets in a smaller stadium check out the Cyclones and the SI Yankees which are minor league baseball teams.  You can find less expensive tickets for the other teams, just watch out for expenses like food and souvenirs at the stadiums!

We went to a Cyclones game and had a blast!  We started off with a walk along the boardwalk in Coney Island before we went to the game.  That day’s game was bat giveaway day.  My son was quite happy to get a full sized Cyclones bat as a souvenir (they have a lot of souvenir nights).  At the game we got to meet two of the Cyclones mascots.  Our littlest even got a autograph on her hat!  Something goes on in between every inning to get the crowd involved, be it a silly race, food eating contest, or launching shirts into the stands.  Really, minor league game is a lot of fun for the family and it costs a fraction of a major league game.

Food and Shopping

Seriously, if you can’t find the food or shopping you want in NYC then you really aren’t trying at all!  You can find virtually anything you want here!  To dine we have everything from five star restaurants to hot dog carts on the corner.  You can shop for the top designers or check out neighborhood flea markets.

Groupon: Get the Best Deal in New York Today!

NYC Neighborhoods

NYC has many great areas that you should check out.  Among them: Times Square, Coney Island, Little Italy, Chinatown, Greenwich Village, Park Slope, SoHo, Flushing, and many, many more!

Other Events

There’s always something happening somewhere in NYC, it’s hard to keep up with it all!  The NYC.gov site lists a good number of events going on. Resources – Here are a few places to further investigate frugal things to see and do in New York City: Time Out New York, NYC.gov, NYC Dept of Parks and Recreation, Village Voice, NY Times, nycgo.com.

If you are traveling to NYC, having a great travel rewards credit card can help you maximize what spending you need to make and potentially give you benefits like free hotels and more.  The key, or course, is to make sure your card is paid off in full every month, otherwise your benefits probably won’t exceed the interest you will be paying.

This has got to easily be one of the longest articles I’ve written. I thought it would be easy since there’s so much to do in NYCbut it’s really tough trying to pick out the best stuff for you!  To say I left out a lot would be a major understatement.  Truth is there is just too much going on to put it all down in one article.  You can easily spend thousands, if not more, in this city but there’s also plenty to do for free!

Enjoy!  Let me know what I left out in the comments!

This article is part of the “Frugal Things To Do In…” series by the Money Life Network.  Check out the rest of the cities featured!

photo credit: wwarby Statue of Liberty, photo credit: lohit Wall Street Bull, photo credit: racreations Brooklyn Bridge, photo credit: ajagendorf25 Empire State Building, photo credit: Stig Nygaard Subway, photo credit: upabreak.com Flushing Meadow Park, photo credit: pwbaker NYC Skyline.

Money Life Network Summer Saving Series Articles

Real Joy

The Summer Saving Series has come to an end.  In all there were 15 articles from the Money Life Network.  We also had about 15 articles from other writers who wrote about Summer savings on their sites!  Check the Money Life Network site for the contest winner announcement.

I hope we were able to provide a lot of info on how to save in the Summer!  We’re thinking up some new contests/series so let us know what you thought of this one.

Here are the great articles written by the Money Life Network:

Monday 6/9: Summer Savings Series #1: Food is a big expense. How can you save?

Tuesday 6/10: Summer Savings Series #2: 9 Money Saving Ways to Prepare For a Vacation

Wednesday 6/11: Summer Savings Series #3: Everyone Can Save Money This Way In The Heat!

Thursday 6/12: Summer Savings Series #4: Fun Frugal Ices With Your Child

Friday 6/13: Summer Savings Series #5: Make Summer Activities Affordable

Monday 6/16: Summer Savings Series #6: Save like you’re paying off a high interest debt

Tuesday 6/17: Summer Savings Series #7 – Send Your Kid to Summer Camp Without Blowing the Budget

Wednesday 6/18: Summer Savings Series Tip #8 – Watch Movies And Play Video Games For Free!

Thursday 6/19: Summer Savings Series #9 – Our Disney World Vacation

Friday 6/20: Summer Savings Series #10 – What is a staycation?

Monday 6/23: Summer Savings Series #11 – Saving at the movies this summer

Tuesday 6/24: Summer Savings Series #12: Save Money and Get Fit with These Summertime Activities and Programs

Wednesday 6/25: Summer Savings Series #13 – Don’t Drive 10 Miles Out Of Your Way To Save $0.20 On Gas! Use GasBuddy!

Thursday 6/26: Summer Saving Series #14: New York State Empire Passport

Friday 6/27: Summer Savings Series #15: The art of Hypermiling

And these amazing articles were submitted to us from other sites:

8 cheap summer fun ideas @ Broke Grad Student

Military Discounts @ Military Finance Network

Summer Savings – What I did @ OneGirlsQuest

You Know What I Did This Summer – Save Money! @ Are You Going To Be This Way The Rest of The Time I Know You?

7 Ways to save money this summer @ Dreamline Savings

10 Money Saving Vacation Tips @ Think your way to wealth

Summer Savings Series: My Game Plan @ Kingdom First Mom

Freeze Your Air Conditioning Costs @ CashMoneyLife.com

How I Plan to Save Money This Summer @ Amelia’s Healthy Life

How I Will Save Money on My Summer Vacation @ The Dangling Conversation

Saving Money This Summer @ Keep it Simple

Here are some of the comment tips:

The Happy Rock “Get your air conditioning unit checked and tuned up to help save on energy costs.”

otherdeb (Deb Wunder)“Know that bicycle that’s been moldering against your back porch/in your attic/in your garage, etc? Get it out, get it checked over, and start using it for local errands!

If you are anything like me, as you build up a bit of endurance, you will also want to start using it to do some local sightseeing!”

Rachel“Summer Money Saving Tip: For a cheap sun burn treatment that won’t require an extra trip to the pharmacy, freeze some of the lotion you already have on hand on a piece of tin foil. Once it’s frozen, it cools and soothes the burn and also moisturizers to ease peeling and blistering. Works great too for those who are allergic to Aloe Vera like me! :-)

Sam”Turn you thermostat up to 80 and use your ceiling fans or box fans.

We also turn off the AC at night and just use our ceiling fans.”

That One Caveman “Vacation in or near your hometown. There are often a lot of cheap or free ways to entertain yourself – you just have to look for them. We’ll be visiting a few local museums (free entrance + free air conditioning), the zoo, the lake, and a few parks this summer – all for free!”

Mercedes”This summer I have decided to quit driving my kids around for activities and stay local. I have been lucky to have found things to do in the small town that I live. So far I love this simple summer life. I am kicking back and enjoying the nice weather without a hectic lifestyle.”

There are a bunch of other great tips as well.  Make sure to check out the comments section of the original article!

Without you, the reader, the Summer Saving Series would not be possible.  It’s great to see all of the articles and comments that were submitted!

photo credit: Todd Baker << technowannabe

New York State Empire Passport – Summer Saving

Beach Chair

Summer’s here!  How are you going to spend your time? Will you go to the beach?  Maybe a pool or a lake is more your speed?  Maybe go to the park for a picnic?  How about camping?  Perhaps you’ll go for a bike ride or maybe a nice hike through the woods on a historic trail?

If you live in or near New York State then you have access to all of these activities and more in New York’s State Parks!

A great way to take advantage of all that NY State Parks have to offer is to purchase the NYS Empire Passport. For $65 you get access to most of NY State’s parks and facilities.  Consider this: parking is easily $8 for Jones beach.  That means the pass pays for itself with about 7 visits to the beach!  But what’s great is the pass can be used for so much more.  In fact it’s good from April 1st until March 30th of next year.  Using it 7 times over the year is easy!

My wife has the summer off as she works in education.  This gives her all summer to go to beaches such as Jones Beach or Robert Moses State Park.  We worked it out a couple of years ago and the Empire Passport easily saves us money!  You can also use the passport to pay for parking for concerts at the Jones Beach Theater (park in an adjacent lot and walk over, it will also be easier to leave after the concert)

Outside of summer beaches we’ve also gone to Harriman State Park, Bear Mountain State Park, Fahnestock State Park, and Valley Stream State Park.  Harriman and Bear Mountain aren’t too far from the Woodbury Commons shopping center where you can find some frugal deals.

I’ve gotta say, in putting this article together I’m seeing how much we can do and what we’ve been missing out on!  I can’t wait to get out with the family again!

You can order an Empire Passport online.  The site says it could arrive in 3-4 weeks but we got ours in a week.  You can also visit a state park office and buy it direct.  Check online to see which parks sell the pass directly.  The quicker you get yous the sooner you can enjoy all that NYS Parks have to offer!

How will you use your NYS Empire Passport?

This article is #14 of the Summer Savings Series from the Money Life Network. Check out the article on the MLN site to see how you can participate in the Summer Savings Series and possibly win a $100 Amazon gift certificate! You can see tip #13 at My Investing Blog. Article #10 will be at Milk Your Money tomorrow!

 

One Hundred Pushups For A Healthy Fit Frugal Summer

One Hundred Pushups

Ok, I’m in! I’ve been seeing a lot about the site One Hundred Pushups around the blogosphere lately.  I first heard about it from Pete at Bible Money Matters via Twitter.  Then Pete posted about starting on the program.  Then I saw Pinyo at Moolanomy mentioned it.  And also JD at Get Rich/Fit Slowly fame.  And Wazzy on Twitter.  And I’m sure many others I don’t know about yet…

So what is One Hundred Pushups? It’s a site that lists out a six week program for increasing your strength to the point where, in the final test, you do one hundred pushups!

Why Pushups? From the site:

Push ups are one of the basic and most common exercises for the human body. Push ups are not only great for your chest, but do a tremendous job of defining your abs, triceps, shoulders and torso.

Push ups can be performed no matter where you are, and best of all, they are completely free – no expensive equipment or annual gym fees required! If you’re looking to develop a great chest and shoulders, you could do much worse than follow along with the hundred push ups plan. Your core strength will also go through the roof too!

Check out that second paragraph…”they are completely free.”  How much is the average gym membership? I would guess you’re paying anywhere from $250 a year to $1200 a year.  Free is a whole lot better.

And a pushup is a great measure of your overall fitness.

I’ve been looking for a good workout program for a couple of months now.  I have some free weights but I haven’t been able to commit to a consistent plan.  I’ll workout for two weeks then stop for two weeks; I don’t keep up with it.  I even almost joined a gym about a month ago.  That would have cost me about $500 for the year.  I didn’t join since I wasn’t sure I’d use it enough to justify the cost.

But with all of the bloggers already on the One Hundred Pushup band-wagon I thought I’d give it a try.  Not only is there a framework to follow for the plan (which I need) but by putting it out here on Free From Broke I’m making myself accountable for following the plan (I hope).

I’ve already done the initial test and the first day of week one (already feeling it in my chest).  I set up a spreadsheet on Google Docs so I can track my performance.  You can follow my One Hundred Pushup progress here.  I hope you check it out and help root me on!  If fact join in and we can go through this together!

Make sure you have clearance from your doctor before you start any fitness program.

So are you up to the one hundred push up training program?

Disney World Vacation Tips and How We Saved Money

Disney Bucks

Last Summer we needed to figure out where we wanted to go on vacation.

It would be my wife, our 7-year-old daughter, our 7-month-old son, and myself.  Since our son was so young we wanted to keep the flights short.

We decided now would be a great time to go to Disney world!

Why Disney World?

Our daughter grew up on everything Disney.  There was a point a few years back when there would always be some Disney princess on the TV.  We knew she would have a great time and she was old enough to truly appreciate Disney World.

With our son we figured he was old enough to take on vacation but young enough still that he would spend most of his time in the stroller and not want to run around on his own.  Maybe that sounds strange but toddlers have varying moods of staying quietly in a stroller and being fiercely independent.  No, he wouldn’t really remember the trip but we didn’t think he’d appreciate it until he was older anyway.  The Summer of ’07 was our best window of opportunity to go to Disney World (at least until the little guy was older).

We knew Disney World could be expensive so we needed to do some research. 

Ok, a LOT of research.  I spent many hours checking various sites for info on where was good to stay and what was the best deal.

We started off with a recommendation from a friend: The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids.

I checked it out on Amazon as well as at the local bookstore.  The book gives a nice detailed review of each park and their rides in DW and provides itineraries that you can use based on your children’s age.  It also gives suggestions on what rides to go on, when to see attractions, and general tips for having a good time in Orlando.

What I also liked was the reviews of all the local hotels, Disney and otherwise. (There are a lot of hotels in the area to choose from!)  We compared the guide to similar books and liked this one the best (they also have The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World that doesn’t focus on kids).

We bought the book and I went into devouring all of the information. 

A big decision to make for a Disney World trip is whether to stay in a Disney resort or stay off site. I had an idea of a couple of places where I wanted to stay.  Now to find rates!

I have to jump in for a second and tell you about a great resource site I found: Mousesavers.com

This site really gave us great info for Disney.  They tell you all about the different parks, hotels, vacation packages, various discount codes, freebies, specials, ride closings, etc…

If you plan on going on a Disney trip you should check out the site and sign up for their newsletter which has exclusive discounts.  The site really helped me get my head around all of the choices in a Disney World vacation.

We used three main sources for our flight and hotel. 

First we went to Liberty Travel agency to see what deals they have.  I like starting with them since some of their sales people are real knowledgeable on different vacations and occasionally they get really good packages.

Unfortunately the person we dealt with didn’t know a lot about Disney and couldn’t really tell us much.  Too bad for them.  (And travel agents wonder why their services are dying.)

Next was to look online.  We flipped back and forth between Expedia, the official Walt Disney World site, and Jet Blue.

Would the official Disney site be more expensive?

Not always.  And at least you can get an idea of what they are charging versus what other travel sites charge.

Originally we planned on Expedia for the hotel and Jet Blue for the flight (we heard so many good things about them, we wanted to try them).  I actually found a good deal for one of the Disney resort hotels on Expedia.  We were trying to book it but there was a computer glitch that wouldn’t let the reservation book.  Disappointed I poked around the Jet Blue site looking at flights.

I noticed that Jet Blue also had vacation packages!

I never knew that before (we never even flew them previously).  I started looking up the hotel I found on Expedia.  They had a similar deal but I actually found one that was better!  I found a great deal for the Hyatt Regency Grand Cyprus.  This is a four star hotel with a ridiculous amount of things to do including a giant pool with two waterslides (this will be important later on).  We jumped on the package which was 6 nights at the hotel and flights for the four of us on Jet Blue.  (When I checked into the hotel the clerk was actually surprised at the price we got the room for).

The hotel was in the Lake Buena Vista area.  They had some transportation to Disney parks but our best bet would be to rent a car.  Believe it or not the four main Disney parks aren’t all connected and next to each other.  A car would help us get around as well as give us more choices for eating. The area we stayed had a number of other hotels and lots of food choices not Disney.  We actually went to Dunkin Donuts a few times to cut down on breakfast costs.  A car would also give us the opportunity to go to Target or Wal-Mart a few times to buy water and snacks (rather than buy them at the parks for much more).

So where to get a car?

We actually found some great discount codes on the Mousesavers site.  The one we ended up using was a flat fee for a mini-van at Dollar car rental for American Express card holders.  We paid less for a mini-van than we would have for many smaller cars.  Now we wouldn’t have to worry about installing our car seat (no climbing into a compact to figure it out) and we knew we would have enough room for our luggage and stroller.

This was really the best deal for us out there.

If you ever use Dollar I would suggest signing up for their Dollar Express program.  It can save you time at the rental counter as you get your own line (very important with two kids in tow)!

Let’s recap: Hotel – check; Flights – check; Car – check…what’s missing? 

Disney tickets!

Disney World is made up of four major theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom), two water parks, and a lot of other stuff!  We wanted to see the four main parks and we were considering the water parks.  Since our hotel had such a great pool with water slides we decided we could do without the water parks (wise decision since we would have seen less of the main parks if we went to the water parks).

So we needed tickets for the main parks.

There’s a lot of ticket options that I won’t go through here.  The option we did pick was the Park Hopper option which allowed us to go to more than one park a day (definite plus for us).  Again Mousesavers was a great help for ticket advice and discounts.  Through their newsletter you can get a code for a discount on the site Undercover Tourist which sells tickets to many diffferent attractions.  We saved a lot through Undercover Tourist.  Their great price included taxes and were shipped free.

Did we have fun at Disney World?

Growing up I was never a Disney person.  I always preferred Bugs Bunny to Mickey Mouse.  I figured we were going to Disney World mostly for our princess.

But you know what?  It was a blast!

Our daughter wants to go back there this year (maybe in a few years honey) and I wouldn’t mind going back either.  We went on roller coasters, rides, attractions, ate, swam…we really had a great time!

If I were going back I would cut out Epcot (was kind of boring; the international food was interesting but not enough to carry the park) and Animal Kingdom (if you have a good zoo in your area, like the Bronx Zoo, then you aren’t going to see too much new).

We would have spent more time at Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios (maybe my favorite – Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Muppets, stunt show).  We would have also spent more time at the hotel.  We didn’t even get a chance to take advantage of all of the activities in our hotel.

Was it the most frugal vacation we could have gone on?

No.  But it was well worth the money for the experiences we had (like my daughter saying “I lived!” after coming off of Space Mountain) and we found ways to save along the way.

Things to consider/to do if you’re planning a Disney World trip:

  • Check hotel/flight/car prices in a number of different places for the best price/package.
  • Check out Mousesavers.com – They really helped save money and they have great advice.
  • Get yourself a guide for the parks – There’s so much to do you really want to make sure you spend your time in the right places.
  • Consider renting a car and staying off the Disnet resorts – You can get some great hotel deals and having a car gives you a lot of flexibility on food and supplies.  You can even add in attractions like Sea World and Universal if you have a car.
  • If your child still uses a stroller bring along one that folds and rolls easily We borrowed one from a neighbor).  Even with a car you’re still going to have to use Disney transportation to get from the parking lot to the park.  If your child is old enough for an umbrella stroller consider buying one in Orlando at Target or Wal-Mart.  You can rent a stroller in the Disney parks but I think it’s better to have your own.
  • Buy water and snacks at Target or Wal-Mart and bring it with you to the parks.  It gets hot fast in Orlando and you need to keep hydrated.
  • Plan your day ahead/build an itinerary – Know where you want to go and what rides you want to go on for each day.  Some shows only play at certain times and some parks have later hours on different days.
  • With a Park Hopper pass you can split your day up and see one park in the morning, go back to your hotel and rest a bit, then see another park in the evening.

Do you have any Disney World tips?

photo by idogcow

Customer Service Done Right 1800Contacts.com

Contact lenses in eyes

I needed to order new disposable contacts.

I realized I was on my last couple of pairs.  I didn’t want to go to my previous eye care provider since their salespeople, what’s the eloquent word?, oh yeah SUCK!  The past few times they have been pushy and do what they can to get you to commit to a purchase.  They speak all sorts of double speak when you ask about prices which just leaves you confused and fed up.  I’d like to think it was just me but my wife has experienced this as well.  I wasn’t going to give them my money again!

That brings me to 1800CONTACTS.com.

I heard all of the commercials and saw the ads online as well as heard great things about them from friends.  I had to at least look into them, right?

Right off the bat I saw two things that interested me: Free shipping on online orders over $50 and they price match against other sites and take off an additional 2%.

Now, I usually check out a price in a few locations but this gave me a real incentive!  Lo and behold I found my contacts on another site for much less.  I was now armed with a price to see if they would match it.

One option the 1800Contacts.com site gives you is to have one of their people call you.  You enter your phone number on the site and they call back.  I did it and immediately got a call with very little waiting.  A real person with little wait?  Another plus!  Ends up this person was located in Utah.

So I tell the woman that I was interested in ordering contacts and I saw a lower price on another site.  I waited a few moments while she looked it up.  (She apologized for the wait too, which wasn’t much.  Another plus).  She found the price and told me they would match it and take off an additional 2%.  We were now looking at a price for 8 boxes of contacts that was less than what 1800Contacts and my previous provider offered!  I’m real close to sold.

Remember that free shipping on online orders over $50?  So I’m on the phone, right?  Not online.  I mention the offer to the woman and she said that because they were price matching they could give me the free shipping too.  Nice!

The next step was to give her the prescription information on my contacts box and give the location of my previous provider who have my eye prescription on file (in New York your prescription is good for a year).  She looked up the location and told me they would contact them for verification.  Once that was done my contacts would ship out.

I felt really good doing business with them at this point.

The salesperson I spoke with was very clear and polite and did everything she could to help me out.  This was how customer service should be handled.  She even informed me that if my prescription should change I could return any unused contact to exchange with a new prescription.  Now I didn’t have to worry that I might get stuck with contacts if my eyes changed (my eye prescription has leveled out so I wasn’t too concerned about my prescription but I have had to change brands).  Now other places will take back an unopened box.  1800Contacts will take back any unopened contacts!  This could save some money if my prescription changed mid-box.

This was last night.  Today I received an email saying they contacted my old eye-care provider and were told that my prescription expired so they had to put my order on hold.

Remember how bad I told you the old provider was?  They just didn’t want to give up my business.  I knew my prescription was still good so I called up 1800Contacts to see what could be done.  The new person I spoke to looked at my account and explained the situation.  She then asked if I would mind being put on hold while she called my old provider.  ”Sure,” I said.  I could always hang up and call back if it took too long.  A couple of minutes later the woman came back on and said that my old provider had made a “mistake” (the mistake was bad service to begin with) and my prescription was indeed still good!  They were giving 1800Contacts a hard time but the salesperson would follow up and get the prescription.  For the trouble, she was going to upgrade my shipping, which was already free, to next-day shipping!  Now I’m getting my contacts faster!

This, my friends, is customer service done right!

Let’s recap the positives here:

  • They price-matched and took off an additional 2%
  • They gave me free standard shipping
  • They were pleasant and helpful at all times
  • They took care of obtaining my prescription for me
  • When there was a problem they let me know about it then resolved it
  • I was upgraded to next-day shipping for my trouble (which wasn’t really trouble at all)
  • Both customer service salespeople spoke excellent English and I didn’t have to repeat myself once! I’m all for cost-cutting but some call centers outside of the US have people that are very hard to communicate with. It may be cheaper for the company that uses them but it makes for a frustrating customer experience!

There are always options these days.  We don’t have to settle for bad customer service!

What companies do you know have great customer service?

photo by Baston

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