It’s all about vacation! At least this Lifestyle Design Report is.
Read on to see how I saved more than $650 on my last vacation and still did everything that I wanted to do, plus an embarrassing failure…
There are a lot of life hack websites out there with interesting hacks, tricks, good-to-knows and this-may-come-in-handys but many of them fail to bring it all together under one cohesive theme with an end purpose in mind.
The real theme of this site isn’t about random hacks, regardless of how cool they may seem, but rather hacking your health, wealth, tech, and wisdom to design the lifestyle you want. Health, entrepreneurship, technology, and wisdom are tools that can get you there.
So, the real purpose of it all is to help you (and myself) design the lifestyle of your dreams.
So far, I’m not 100% of the way there in achieving the lifestyle I want, but it’s the journey that often makes us appreciate the destination even more. We’ll see what works, what doesn’t and what I learn along the way. And I’ll share that journey with you in hopes that you achieve your goals and dreams.
On to The Report…
July was another busy, yet fun month with a holiday, a pig roast, and another birthday party.
And of course, there was a vacation, which was fun, relaxing, and full of hacks (one of them saved me $670!) – which I’ll talk about below.
Hacking My Vacation
While growing up, my family would often get together with a group of other families and take a week’s vacation in Ocean City, MD.
This was great for a few reasons. While the other parties involved lived in a different state, we lived in MD at the time so the trip was a lot shorter. But, even better, was the fact that the other families also had children that were close to my age.
Then came pesky adulthood and responsibility. The last time I vacationed in that area (before 2016) was in 2002, right before I started college, at the age of 22.
While in college I took classes during the summer every year, so that meant no vacation. Plus, being broke makes it hard to vacation anyway.
But late last year the other “kids” (I use that term loosely as we’re now in our 30’s and early 40’s) who used to join us invited the wife and I to vacation in the area once again. Unfortunately, the older adults couldn’t make our time slot to join us (they went two weeks before), so this time it would just be us youngsters.
There would also be a few new faces at the OC get-away, as many of the original clan had married and had children of their own since the last trip, plus two new families who were friends of friends would be joining us.
We jumped on the idea and put down a deposit in January to rent a condo on the beach in Fenwick Island DE for a week (for those who don’t know, Fenwick Island is located about 5 minutes north of the MD/Ocean City line).
But there were a few hurdles…
Baby Seat Blues
First, neither the wife or I own a truck, van, or SUV; and with a baby seat in the back there was no way we were going to safely fit everything we needed in one of our cars.
We didn’t really want to spend the extra money to rent a vehicle but luckily my in-laws were kind enough to trade vehicles with us for a while. They would take one of the cars and we would take their truck with extended cab and tonneau cover (this is NOT how we saved $670 – more on that below).
The issue was that my in-laws were going on their own trip for a few days before we were to leave and weren’t coming back until the day before we left.
Those that have children probably know that the seat actually consists of two parts: a base (this is the part that gets strapped to the car) and the seat itself, which can easily be attached and detached from the base. This way, bases can be installed in multiple cars and the seat easily moved from vehicle to vehicle.
It’s important that the car seat is installed properly and I’m a virgin in this area. The police in my area do install seats, however. Since we only have so many bases for the seat we had to carefully coordinate the installer’s schedule with the in-law’s schedule.
To do this, we had the car seat installed in their truck before they went on their trip on a day the officer and the in-laws were available. They then dropped the truck off the day before we left (with seat base installed) and took one of the cars home.
How We Saved $670
To get to the vacation spot from our area, we must either go way out of the way or cross the Chesapeake Bay bridge, a large suspension bridge.
Because the bridge is large and expensive to maintain, there is a toll to cross it.
The problem is that traffic on Saturday (the day we were to arrive in Fenwick, our final destination) backs up at the toll booths during vacation season.
To avoid this, the group decided to cross the bridge on Friday and then stay the night at a hotel about 2 hours away from our destination, sort of like a “bonus” day or pre-vacation.
The Holiday Inn Express they chose wanted about $170 for the night.
But I decided that $0 was a better price.
To do this, I used some of my credit card rewards to book the room free of charge.
I also knew that we’d be spending a lot of money on food, drinks and other fun so I used more of my credit card reward points to get $500 in Visa gift cards that I could use anywhere.
Total savings: $670.00.
Earning free stuff may not be a new revelation to those familiar with credit card rewards, but to those who aren’t, cards with rewards can open up a new world of freebies.
Here’s how we do it…
Everything that costs $10 or more goes on our credit card.
This includes gas, groceries, meals eaten out, housewares and more. We also have our utilities and cell phones billed to the card every month.
The kicker is the rewards we get from the business card.
Every month, we pay our vendors thousands of dollars for the cost of goods that we sell in one of our businesses. For a while, we were paying them with a credit card to rack up the points quickly.
The trick to this method is of course to pay the bill(s) in full every month.
All together we have 3 rewards cards from the same bank. One personal and one for each of the two businesses we have. Points from individual cards can be combined for redemption if need be.
If you want to take it a step further and rack up rewards even quicker, just charge everything — regardless of cost — to your card.
Just remember to pay it off every month!
If you can’t do this for some reason, this may not be a good hack for you to try.
An Epic Fail
This blog is all about transparency and sharing successes along with failures, so in that spirit I’ll share with you an embarrassing mistake.
During our stay, we noticed that people were driving their pickup trucks on the beach. They’d park somewhat close to the water, cast their lines and fish.
This was not something that was allowed in Ocean City (and still isn’t as far as I know) nor was it something I’d done before, but this time we were in a different area.
One day we were at the beach with all our stuff when we decided we’d had enough sand and wanted to hit the pool instead.
I then got the bright idea to drive my in-laws’ truck onto the beach so we could pick up all our stuff and drive away. I told my wife the plan and walked off to get the truck.
Upon entering through one of the access points along the coastal highway, I noticed a sign stating that a permit was required to drive on the beach.
“I’ll only be a few minutes…” I thought to myself as I drove from the shoulder of the highway onto the beach, only to get the truck stuck as soon as all 4 wheels hit the sand.
I had literally only gotten a few feet before I got stuck! Trying to get out proved futile, even with the 4-wheel drive.
There were other people exiting the beach, waiting in line to get air in their tires (more on this in a minute) staring at me with funny looks. I felt so stupid!
One of the people there asked me if I had let the air out of my tires to drop the pressure to about 20 lbs as he was refilling his tires with the air hose near the beach/highway border.
Of course I hadn’t because I didn’t know any better!
Now, I enjoyed a few cold ones earlier while relaxing at the beach and figured it would only be a matter of time before a patrol car drove by.
Drinking and driving is not something I condone and I was nowhere near being drunk, but in some states blowing anything above zero can lead to a charge if you’re driving, even if the BAC is really low.
It wasn’t hard to imagine a scenario where a cop would stop and ask me for my permit (given that I stuck out like a sore thumb!) and then proceed to inquire about why I was there and if I had been drinking.
A DUI was not a souvenir I wished to acquire on vacation. Time to lock the truck up, walk back to beach and grab the wife (who was not drinking)! Another member of our group was kind enough to offer help and the three of us walked back to truck.
I proceeded to let air out of the tires as our third helper started to dig us out.
A kind bystander let me use a special tool which makes removing air from tires faster and easier.
Eventually we got all 4 down to about 20 lbs and we were able to move the truck.
The plan was to now pull back out of the sand onto the highway shoulder, then back the truck up to the air machine to refill the tires and hopefully get out of there.
However, the air pump resides in a sandy area and she was unable to back the truck up to it without the risk of getting stuck again, plus the other people using it made it even more difficult.
After several attempts to reach the air hose we decided that we’d be better off driving to a gas station to get air.
Since the tires were low, we didn’t want to drive too fast or too far.
The first stop was a convenience store. No luck here, air machine out of order.
The second place had an operable air machine. The only problem was that it cost $1.50 and neither my wife nor I had any cash or credit cards on us. Crap.
I invoked my gift of gab and went inside to see if I could talk the cashier into turning on the machine, if possible.
I got into line and instantly decided to ask the guy right next to me for the money.
Success! He was kind enough to give me the $1.50.
But our trouble didn’t end there…
After inserting all the coins into the machine I noticed that one of the quarters had not been counted!
Back to the cashier. She gave me the quarter back, but when I got to the machine it had already reset and I needed another $1.25! I felt like I was going to go insane. How could I have such terrible luck with this?!? Had the planets aligned to screw me??
I went in the store for a third time and told the cashier what had happened. Lucky for me, she was kind enough to open the register and give me the money I needed.
Success! All quarters accounted for! I had 5 minutes to fill 4 truck tires so I got busy right away, finishing about 5 seconds before the machine stopped.
Whew! What a predicament! Needless to say, we did not make it to the pool that day.
Lesson learned. When stuck in sand (or conceivably any type of loose, particulate material), let some air out of the tires!
That wraps it up for July’s Lifestyle Design Report.
Until next time, keep hacking your way to the life you want!