Take a Look at What We’re Giving People in France!

In just over one week, we will be in France with our family and a few young people from our church!

We have begun the process of packing, and we are actually almost finished! For those who are interested, we will share some blog posts showing what we are packing, how we are doing it, and how we plan for trips like this for a family of four.

Handing out Booklets at the OlympicsFor right now, we wanted to show you the amazing booklets that we are going to hand out in France! If you have a few moments, take a look to read them and then pray for those strangers who we will meet that God would give them receptive hearts to the Gospel.

Some have asked about obtaining these booklets for themselves. We’re not sure if we can get some for you, but we are looking into that possibility because it is one of the most thorough gospel booklets we have ever seen, especially for people who have no understanding of biblical concepts. If you’re interested, please let us know!

Partner with Us

If you would like to partner with us financially as we take the Gospel to the 2024 Olympics, our expenses are going to be about $6,600. This includes our flights, our lodging, our meals, and our travel insurance. Thank you so much to those who have already donated generously to this ministry!

Instructions on how to donate to our summer ministry can be found at the following link: Donate to Huangs’ Summer 2024 Missions Trip

Praises and Prayer Requests


  • God has opened the door for our whole family to participate in this ministry together
  • All the details have come together smoothly for our trip

Prayer Requests

  • All of the funds to cover our expenses as this is not part of our regular church ministry
  • Ease of travel for our kids, especially when they miss naps
  • Preparation of the hearts of those in France who we will meet and share the Gospel with

We’re Going to France!

2024 Summer Missions Trip TeamWe have some exciting news!

Our family is partnering with S.E.E. (Sports Event Evangelism) to bring the Gospel to the world at the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Joining us on our trip are three young people from our church’s youth group, Joyanna, Abigail, and Chayden.

Joshua was part of the S.E.E. team at the 2016 Summer Olympics, so we have been looking forward to this opportunity for several years, especially after the cancellation of the 2020 Olympics.

Our responsibilities will be two-fold. First, we will help the group distribute Gospel booklets in multiple languages and talk to anyone who has the time to stop and go deeper. Second, we will capture photos and videos of the outreach to show what God is doing there.

Please pray for our family and for the rest of our church’s group as we prepare for this ministry later this summer. We will post updates via email and social media. If you would like to subscribe to our family’s email updates, you can do so on the sidebar here on our website.

We will also post details of our trip here on our website, including how we were able to book business class flights for our return trip for less than the cost of economy tickets! You can subscribe to our blog updates on the sidebar as well.

Partner with Us

If you would like to partner with us financially as we take the Gospel to the 2024 Olympics, our expenses will be about $6,600. This includes our flights, our lodging, our meals, and our travel insurance.

Instructions on how to donate to our summer ministry can be found at the following link: Donate to Huangs’ Summer 2024 Missions Trip

Praises and Prayer Requests


  • God has opened the door for our whole family to participate in this ministry together
  • We have three young people from our church going with us on this missions trip
  • Everyone’s passports have been secured!

Prayer Requests

  • All of the funds to cover our expenses as this is not part of our regular church ministry
  • Preparation of our hearts as we anticipate this ministry
  • Preparation of the hearts of those in France who we will meet and share the Gospel with

How To Earn Multiple Free Flights on Southwest Right Now

Disclosures: This article includes links to credit cards. If you choose to apply for a credit card through our links, we may or may not receive a referral bonus. Credit cards are not suitable for everyone, however. If you have credit card debt of any kind, are irresponsible with your past or current use of credit cards, are unaware of the risks of using credit cards, or are conscientiously opposed to the use of credit cards, please do not apply for the credit cards mentioned in this article. You are 100% responsible for your own choices regarding the use of any credit cards mentioned here.

We love to fly, and we love to get the most value possible out of our flights. Sometimes this means getting the cheapest flight possible, but not at the expense of comfort and taking our belongings with us (which is why we avoid Spirit, Frontier, and other airlines that have really cheap tickets).

Southwest Plane on the TarmacOne of the ways we do this is by using credit cards offered by airlines. When it comes to travel rewards and benefits, few airline credit cards compare to the Southwest consumer credit cards.

With three distinct options tailored to different travel needs, Southwest offers some of the best credit cards for anyone looking to maximize their travel experiences. For a limited time, these cards are even better because of the incredible sign-up bonuses that are available.

Right now, each of the three Southwest consumer credit cards has an offer for 85,000 bonus points if you spend $3,000 on the card within three months of being approved. This offer is good until June 26, 2024.

With 85,000 points, you can typically book between 2-4 roundtrip award flights within the US. The taxes and fees on award flights are $5.60 per one-way flight ($11.20 for a roundtrip). This does not make award flights 100% free, but that is pretty close!

So why would you want a Southwest credit card?  Let’s take a look at the three consumer cards and why we think these cards are excellent choices for travelers seeking value, flexibility, and exclusive perks.

1. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Annual Fee: $69

Key Benefits:

  • Sign-Up Bonus (until June 26, 2024): Earn 85,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • 2X Points: Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases, Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases.
  • 1X Points: Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • 3,000 Anniversary Points: Receive 3,000 points each year on your cardmember anniversary (worth approximately $42).
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees: Travel abroad without worrying about extra fees.

Why It’s Great for Travel: The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card offers a solid sign-up bonus and ongoing rewards that make earning points easy and straightforward. With no foreign transaction fees, this card is ideal for international travelers. The anniversary points add extra value, helping offset some of the annual fee. Good option if you book one or two roundtrip tickets on Southwest every year.

2. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Annual Fee: $99

Key Benefits:

  • Sign-Up Bonus (until June 26, 2024): Earn 85,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • 6,000 Anniversary Points: Receive 6,000 points each year on your cardmember anniversary (worth approximately $84).
  • 2X Points: Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases, Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases.
  • 1X Points: Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees: Enjoy fee-free spending abroad.
  • Tier Qualifying Points: Earn 1,500 tier qualifying points (TQPs) for every $10,000 spent on the card, up to 15,000 TQPs annually.

Why It’s Great for Travel: The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card provides more anniversary points than the Plus version, helping offset most of the annual fee. The ability to earn tier qualifying points makes this card an excellent choice for frequent flyers looking to achieve A-List status with Southwest. This is another good option if you book one or two roundtrip tickets on Southwest every year.

3. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Annual Fee: $149

Key Benefits:

  • Sign-Up Bonus (until June 26, 2024): Earn 85,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • 7,500 Anniversary Points: Receive 7,500 points each year on your cardmember anniversary (worth approximately $105).
  • 2X Points: Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases, Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases.
  • 1X Points: Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • $75 Southwest Travel Credit: Get an annual $75 credit for Southwest travel purchases.
  • Four Upgraded Boardings: Enjoy four upgraded boardings per year, when available.
  • 20% Back on In-Flight Purchases: Get 20% back on in-flight drinks, Wi-Fi, messaging, and movies.

Why It’s Great for Travel: The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card offers the most comprehensive set of benefits among the three cards. The anniversary points, travel credit, and upgraded boarding passes provide significant value for frequent travelers and more than offset the annual fee. This is a great option if you fly with Southwest at least twice a year. Both of us have this card because we fly Southwest so often.

Why Southwest Credit Cards Stand Out for Travel

1. Companion Pass Eligibility: All three Southwest credit cards offer points that count toward earning the coveted Southwest Companion Pass, which allows you to choose one person to fly with you for free (excluding taxes and fees) every time you purchase or redeem points for a flight.

If you can get one of Southwest’s business cards and get the signup bonus this year in addition to the 85,000-point offer on one of these consumer cards, you will automatically qualify for the Companion Pass. You can read more about the Companion Pass in this article: The One Travel Deal That Has Saved Us Thousands of Dollars

2. Generous Rewards and Sign-Up Bonuses: As already mentioned, the sign-up bonuses alone can cover multiple flights, providing immediate value.

3. Flexible Redemption Options: Southwest points can be redeemed for flights with no blackout dates, giving you the flexibility to travel when it suits you best. Furthermore, Southwest points never expire, so you don’t have to worry about losing them.

4. No Foreign Transaction Fees: All three cards allow for fee-free spending abroad, making them ideal for international travelers.

5. Annual Benefits: The anniversary points, travel credits, and upgraded boardings provide ongoing value that can easily offset the annual fees.

If you have ever had a Southwest card before, one thing you should remember is that you cannot hold more than one Southwest consumer credit card at a time in your Chase account, and you cannot get a signup bonus on a card if you received a signup bonus on that same card within the last 24 months (even if you have closed the account since then).


The Southwest consumer credit cards offer a range of benefits that cater to different travel needs and preferences. Whether you choose the Plus, Premier, or Priority card, you can enjoy valuable rewards, exclusive perks, and flexibility that enhance your travel experience.

Right now with the 85,000-point signup bonus, this makes the card a no-brainer for people like us who love to fly. I wish we could take advantage of this offer, but we cannot since we both already have the Priority card. But if you are interested in flying with Southwest and normally spend about $1,000 a month already on a debit card or another credit card, this might be the perfect offer for you!

IHG Premier: How We Get an Annual Hotel Night for Only $99

Disclosures: This article includes links to credit cards. If you choose to apply for a credit card through our links, we may or may not receive a referral bonus. Credit cards are not suitable for everyone, however. If you have credit card debt of any kind, are irresponsible with your past or current use of credit cards, are unaware of the risks of using credit cards, or are conscientiously opposed to the use of credit cards, please do not apply for the credit cards mentioned in this article. You are 100% responsible for your own choices regarding the use of any credit cards mentioned here.

Noah Surf House in PortugalAs frequent travelers, finding ways to maximize the value of our travel budget is essential for us. A few times a year, we have to stay in hotels, but hotel stays are some of the most significant expenses while traveling.

Fortunately, over the last few years, we have been able to stay in some really nice places for the cost of staying in a budget hotel.

How do we do it? By owning a credit card that we don’t even use!

The IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card provides us immense value just by sitting and doing nothing. The card has many benefits, but the annual free hotel night offered by this card for only a $99 annual fee has become a game-changer in how we plan and enjoy our travels.

If you need a hotel night at least once a year, we believe the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card is a must-have for any savvy traveler who wants a comfortable (and sometimes luxurious) room at an affordable cost.

About the Anniversary Night Certificate

Here is a quick rundown of this specific credit card benefit:

$99 Annual Fee
Each year, upon renewal of the card, we receive a complimentary night at any eligible IHG® hotel worldwide. This benefit alone more than offsets the $99 annual fee because most hotels exceed this cost per night.

Flexibility and Choice
The beauty of the annual free hotel night certificate is its flexibility and choice. With thousands of IHG® properties around the globe spanning various brands such as InterContinental, Kimpton, Holiday Inn, and Crowne Plaza, we have the ability to redeem our certificate at a destination of my choice on any room that has an award rate of 40,000 points or less.

Atlantic Ocean Bungalow in PortugalUnlocking Luxury Experiences
The IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card allows us to indulge in luxury experiences that would otherwise be out of reach. From iconic city center hotels to beachfront resorts and boutique properties, the annual free hotel night certificate opens the door to unforgettable stays at some of the world’s most renowned destinations.

We have used this certificate to stay in downtown Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, a beachfront bungalow overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Portugal, and a hotel in downtown Seattle. The stay in Portugal was absolutely amazing and definitely nothing that I could have paid cash for.

Maximizing Value and Savings
By taking advantage of the annual free hotel night benefit, I’m able to maximize the value of my IHG® Rewards points and stretch my travel budget further. Whether I’m traveling solo, with family, or for a special occasion, the savings from the complimentary night enhance my overall travel experience and allow me to explore new destinations with peace of mind.

Potential Complimentary Upgrade
In addition to the annual free hotel night benefit, the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card offers a range of other valuable perks, including IHG® Rewards Platinum Elite status. With Platinum Status we are often able to get complimentary upgrades on our free room. For example, when we stayed at a hotel during a layover in Miami last year, we were upgraded to a 2-bedroom suite at no charge! This perk is especially nice for families.

As mentioned, this credit card has an annual $99 fee, and you receive your first free hotel night certificate upon the first anniversary of holding the card. But there is usually a nice signup bonus with this credit card, so the points that you receive from that bonus can also be used for free nights at IHG® hotels during your first year.

Another unspoken benefit of this anniversary hotel night perk is that it can save you money in case of an emergency. If you’re traveling somewhere and your other lodging plan falls through, or if you need to book a last-minute trip, this hotel night can potentially save you a lot of money in those situations. We have had to do this a couple times!


For anyone who travels on a fairly regular basis, the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card is a game-changer.  Its annual free hotel night benefit offers unmatched value for a modest $99 annual fee. The rewards for spending on the card itself are not spectacular, so we only keep the card for the annual free night certificate that it provides.

We get so much value from this card that we own two of them!

Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or a dream vacation, this credit card can help you make the most of your travel adventures and perhaps even unlock unforgettable stays around the US or around the world.

Do you have a credit card with an annual fee that you don’t even use but you keep simply because of its benefits?

Google Flights: The Best Way to Start Your Airfare Search

Google Flights MapUntil you get into the points and miles game as we have been for several years, booking airfare can be one of the most significant expenses when planning a trip. Once in a while we still have to book flights with cash, and we have several tools and strategies for finding great deals and making the best use of our money.

Along with the Southwest website, Google Flights is always my first stop when searching for flights, and it should be yours too. Whenever people ask me to look for flights for them, we start here.

Harnessing their internet search expertise, Google Flights is a powerful search engine that helps users find and compare airfare prices from various airlines.

So we want to show you how to use this platform effectively to score the best deals on airfare and why you should use it as you plan your next trip.

Using Google Flights

To begin your airfare search, go to the Google Flights website. You can also download the Google Flights app on your mobile device, but I wouldn’t recommend doing this unless you fly often. The website is simple and works great on your phone.

Once you are there, you can enter your departure city, destination, travel dates, and other preferences to customize your search.

Google Flights DatesFlexible Date and Destination Options
One of the key features of Google Flights is its flexibility in searching for airfare deals. You can view prices for specific dates or use the flexible dates option to see prices for a range of dates, allowing you to find the cheapest travel options. Additionally, you can explore “Explore Destinations” to discover flight prices to various destinations based on your budget and interests.

One of my favourite features is its live pricing as you select your dates. When you open the calendar view, it gives you a general idea of the lowest price you can expect to pay on any given day of departure. Then, as you select your return date, it gives you the lowest price you can expect to pay for your entire trip, depending on the date you choose. So handy!

Price Tracking and Alerts
Google Flights offers price tracking and alerts to help you monitor airfare changes and receive notifications when prices drop or increase for your desired flights. After you select the airports, the dates, and the airline that you want to fly, simply enable price tracking for that specific flights or route, and Google Flights will notify you via email or push notification when prices change significantly.

Filter and Sort Options
To narrow down your search results, Google Flights provides various filter and sort options. You can filter by airline, number of stops, departure/arrival times, and more to find flights that meet your preferences and requirements. Sorting options allow you to prioritize results based on price, duration, departure time, or other factors.

Explore Map View
The map view feature in Google Flights allows users to visualize flight prices on a map, making it easier to compare prices for different destinations and airports. This feature is especially useful for travelers with flexible travel plans who are open to exploring new destinations based on price.

We don’t use this feature very often, but I have found it helpful a few times when we are going to a place that is somewhat central to two or more larger airports. This is especially true for destinations east of the Mississippi where large airports are not as spread out as they are out west. Also useful for international destinations in Europe.

Book Directly or through Partners
Once you’ve found a flight that meets your criteria and budget, you can choose to book directly through the airline’s website or through a third-party booking platform. Google Flights provides direct links and shows the prices to book flights with airlines or travel partners, streamlining the booking process and ensuring a seamless experience.

Google Flights Vs. Other Travel Portals

So why would we use Google Flights instead of other travel portals like Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Kayak, etc.?

The main reason is just that Google Flights is a platform dedicated to flights, whereas the others are designed to help you also find hotels, rental cars, and even experiences. The other ones also help you find travel packages. But Google Flights is strictly flights, so it is free of the distractions of other platforms.

Google Flights is also extremely fast and doesn’t have all the ads that you find on the other web portals.

As mentioned above, when you are ready to book, Google Flights will give you links so that you can book with those other travel portals if you would like, but it’s much easier to find those flights on Google Flights first.

Google Flights also does a better job of providing the most comprehensive selection of flights. Sometimes other travel portals don’t provide all of the options available.

One thing to note is that Southwest does not allow Google Flights to display its flights. So we always still go to Southwest.com to compare their options to the results that we find on Google Flights. You should do the same because Southwest has an extensive flight network, they allow free checked bags, and their prices rival the other airlines (not to mention Southwest’s amazing Companion Pass which allows two people to fly for the price of one).


Google Flights is a valuable tool for travelers seeking to find the best deals on airfare and save money on their next trip. If you are not already using it, we suggest that you make it your new primary airfare search tool

By utilizing its flexible search options, price tracking features, and comprehensive filter and sort options, you can streamline the booking process and ensure you are finding the best prices.

But someday you will want to start booking more flights with points and miles because that is way more fun!

Do you have any airfare search tools that you like better than Google Flights? If so, why?

How to Save Up to 20% on Southwest Flights

Southwest AirplaneMost of our domestic travel is done with Southwest Airlines.

Living 18 minutes from Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, we have access to dozens of Southwest flights on a daily basis. The fares are really competitive with Delta (our favourite airline), but they also offer two free checked bags per person and open seating (you choose your seat when you board). Now that we travel as a family of four, these benefits of Southwest make it our top choice for most of our flights here in the US.

Thankfully, most of our travel on Southwest is booked with points. Someday I will explain more about how we do that, and you are welcome to send us a private message if you would like to find out sooner.

But for those of you who usually have to pay cash for flights, I wanted to write a quick post about how to do that at a discounted rate.

About the Deal

If you have a membership with Sam’s Club or Costco, you can periodically buy $500 Southwest gift cards from them for only $450.

If you don’t have a membership with either of these wholesale clubs, maybe you can ask a friend to get you a gift card with their membership 🙂

In fact, at the time of this posting (April 5, 2024), Sam’s Club is offering this exact deal: https://www.samsclub.com/p/southwest-airlines-egift-card/prod26712432?xid=plp_product_1

That represents a 20% savings on a great airline!

We don’t have a Costco membership, so I don’t know how many of those gift cards you can buy at a time from them, but right now Sam’s Club has a maximum of 5 (which is a lot of travel).

Southwest also offers fare deals about once a month, so if you create a Rapid Rewards account with them and subscribe to their emails, you can find out when they happen.

These wholesale clubs might also offer discounts on other airline gift cards from time to time, but I have never seen them discounted as much as the Southwest gift cards.


Obviously, you need to do a little planning ahead to know whether or not you plan to fly Southwest for a specific trip, but when comparing airfare, we usually find Southwest to be one of the most inexpensive options, especially if you plan to bring checked bags with you.

Unless you are deep into the points and miles game like we are, this is a great way to save 20% on Southwest airfare when paying cash.

Did you know about this deal, and do you plan to take advantage of it sometime?

The #1 Way to Save Money on Food When Traveling

We love food.

We especially love food that has variety and unique flavours.

But more than food, we love to save money. Food, unfortunately, is a great way to waste a lot of money if you aren’t careful.

According to a conglomeration of sources, the average monthly food expenses for a family of four in the US can range from $600-1,000.

Honestly, we don’t know how they do it.

DR Hotel BreakfastWe live in the Minneapolis, MN, area, have one toddler and one infant, and average about $220 or less per month between groceries and restaurants. Sadly, we even have food go bad because we cannot keep up with all the food that we have. We truly are blessed beyond measure.

When we travel, our eating habits don’t change too much as we bring along our own food with us whenever we can to avoid paying for food at restaurants. If we are on longer trips where we stay in hotels or Airbnbs and cannot bring enough of our own food with us, we will buy food locally and prepare our own meals.

Yes, from time to time we might miss out on local cuisine, especially when traveling overseas. But we would argue that we don’t miss out on too much.

Benefits of Skipping the Restaurants

Here are several reasons we would rather eat our own food than go to restaurants:

  1. Cost-Effectiveness: Dining out at restaurants, especially in touristy areas, can quickly add up and strain your travel budget. By bringing or making your own food, you can significantly reduce your daily expenses and allocate your funds towards other travel experiences. With proper planning and smart shopping, homemade meals can be a fraction of the cost of restaurant dining.
  2. Flexibility and Convenience: When you bring your own food, you have the flexibility to eat whenever and wherever you please. Whether you’re on a road trip, exploring a new city, or spending a day at the beach, having your meals readily available allows you to focus on your itinerary without the need to search for restaurants or wait for table service (especially if you have squirmy little kids). Additionally, homemade meals can be customized to accommodate dietary restrictions or preferences, ensuring a satisfying and stress-free dining experience.
  3. Healthier Options: Dining out is enjoyable for many reasons. But by preparing your own food, you have the opportunity to choose nutritious and wholesome ingredients, control portion sizes, and avoid excess sodium, sugar, and unhealthy fats commonly found in restaurant dishes. This not only promotes better health and well-being but also saves you from potential post-meal regrets.
  4. Cultural Immersion: Bringing or making your own food while traveling allows you to visit local markets, grocery stores, and specialty shops, providing insight into the region’s culinary culture and ingredients. Shopping for fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, and homemade breads can be a delightful adventure in itself, offering a deeper connection to the destination and its food traditions. We absolutely love exploring local markets, experiencing the smells and sights, and haggling with the locals over their goods. In our opinion, this is a great alternative for those who like to try the food at their destination.

Examples from Our Travels

When traveling to neighboring states, we typically drive, so it’s easy to pack some snacks and a few meals in our bags. Snacks also help us stay awake and occupied while we drive.

When flying domestically, we take advantage of any airport lounges along the way because they usually have plenty of complimentary food options. Our home airport of Minneapolis-St. Paul has several amazing lounges that we love to frequent!

Packing food when flying is a little more difficult, but we do it. The key here is that you have to be willing to fly with checked bags, and you don’t want to pay for those checked bags. We usually fly Southwest in the US because they allow two free checked bags per person, and we also get a lot of value from our Southwest Companion Pass. But we also fly Delta and United once in awhile, and we have credit cards that give us free checked bags on those flights.

Whenever possible, we stay in Airbnbs or hotels that have full kitchens available. If that is not possible, we at least try to get places that have mini-fridges and microwaves.

Flying internationally is the trickiest when it comes to bringing and preparing our own food, especially because of border restrictions when traveling with fresh food. So for overseas travel, we tend to rely more on local markets and grocery stores.

Grocery Store in PortugalIn 2022 when we went to Portugal, the first thing we did after leaving the airport was go to a grocery store. For less than $10 we got yogurt, drinkable yogurt, juice, crackers, cheese, and a jug of water. Paired with the breakfast that we got at our oceanside bungalow, we were set for a few days!

After leaving Portugal and going to Greece, we went to a grocery store for bread, hazelnut spread, sausage, potatoes, and pasta for less than $20, and that provided us with meals for several days.

Last year in the Dominican Republic, we got rice, milk, sausage, eggs, bananas, and avocadoes from the store and an open-air market. For a little less than $29 total, we had healthy, energy-packed meals for a whole week while we traveled around the country. In fact, we actually had too much food!

When staying in hotels, we also like to book the ones that offer complimentary breakfast, and they will usually provide food that is local to the area. We have had some amazing breakfasts at hotels in the Philippines, Malta, Slovenia, Portugal, Greece, Egypt, Italy, and the Dominican Republic. No need to go to a restaurant for lunch or supper when we had a huge meal of international food for breakfast!


Bringing or making your own food while traveling offers a myriad of benefits, from saving money and promoting healthier eating habits to enhancing cultural immersion and outdoor dining experiences.

Someday when we are in a better position financially, we would love to eat out more at restaurants when traveling. But for now, saving our money for other things is a higher priority, and we are content!

You can stretch your travel budget further, savor delicious flavors, and create unforgettable moments on your journey. Before you head out on your next adventure across the state or across the world, consider packing a few homemade snacks or meals to enjoy along the way – your wallet will thank you!

Do you have your own tips for saving money on food when traveling?

How We Save a Lot of Money on Parking with SpotHero

The #1 way to save money on parking when traveling is to park where it’s free.

Now that we have established the obvious, I want to tell you about the primary way that we save money on parking when it’s not free.

Parked CarWe can usually park for free on the side of a street when we’re in a small town, but that’s not always the case in the big cities, especially around the big tourist sites. Sometimes special events also cause nearby parking facilities to raise their rates (or transform from free lots into paid lots).

Whenever we have to pay for parking while traveling, the first place we go to look for discounted parking is SpotHero.

SpotHero is a leading parking reservation app that has gained popularity for its convenience, reliability, and cost-saving features. Here’s why we consider it one of the best parking apps:

1. Extensive Coverage:
SpotHero operates in numerous cities across the United States, providing users with access to a vast network of parking facilities. Whether you’re in a bustling metropolis or a smaller urban area, chances are SpotHero has parking options available nearby.

2. Easy-to-Use Interface:
The SpotHero app features a user-friendly interface that makes finding and booking parking a breeze. Users can search for parking by entering their destination address or exploring a map view to see nearby parking options. The app provides detailed information about each parking facility, including pricing, availability, and amenities, allowing users to make informed decisions.

SpotHero Parking3. Advanced Booking Options:
One of SpotHero’s standout features is its ability to allow users to reserve parking in advance. This is particularly useful for busy city areas or events where parking may be in high demand. By booking ahead of time, users can secure their parking spot and avoid the stress of searching for parking upon arrival.

4. Cost Savings:
SpotHero often offers discounted parking rates compared to on-site or street parking prices. Users can take advantage of special deals, promotions, and exclusive offers to save money on parking fees. Additionally, the app allows users to compare prices and choose the most affordable parking option for their needs.

5. Variety of Parking Options:
SpotHero offers a wide range of parking options to suit different preferences and budgets. Whether you’re looking for valet parking, covered parking, or long-term parking, SpotHero has you covered. Users can filter their search results based on criteria such as price, location, and amenities to find the perfect parking spot for their needs.

6. Secure and Reliable:
With SpotHero, users can rest assured that their parking reservations are secure and reliable. The app partners with reputable parking facilities and employs strict security measures to safeguard users’ personal and payment information. Additionally, SpotHero provides customer support to assist users with any issues or concerns they may encounter during the parking process.

7. App-less Availability
You don’t need a smartphone to use SpotHero! You can book your parking online, print your parking pass, and scan the QR code on your paper to park. This is useful if you don’t have a smartphone, can’t install the app on your phone, or tend to run out of battery life on your device and want a hard copy backup.

SpotHero App

How We Use SpotHero

We have used SpotHero for several years, and we usually use it on trips when we are in big cities like Chicago, Seattle, Washington D.C., Boston, etc. Most of the time we are booking a spot for a few hours, but we have also used it for overnight parking. We often know how much money we are saving because the parking garages will have their prices posted at the entrance, but we booked our spot for less than those prices. Parking meters on the street also tend to cost much more and have time limits of 2-4 hours.

Back home here in Minneapolis/St. Paul, we have used SpotHero to find discounted parking for baseball games, other sporting events, and concerts. When we fly during the warmer months, we discovered that we can find nice outdoor parking at hotels near the airport.

Sometimes the parking locations can be difficult to find after you book them, but SpotHero does a decent job of helping you navigate to the right places. They provide not only the street address but also a picture of the entrance to the lot and some good old-fashioned directions on how to find the entrance.

We have also been able to cancel our bookings for a refund and extend our current reservations when needed.


Overall, SpotHero stands out as one of the best parking apps due to its extensive coverage, easy-to-use interface, advanced booking options, cost-saving features, variety of parking options, commitment to security and reliability, and ability to use it without a phone.

Whether you are commuting to work, running errands, or attending an event, SpotHero makes parking hassle-free and affordable. If you travel a lot or spend a lot of time in big cities, we highly recommend this service!

Have you used SpotHero? Do you have another parking service that you like?

Save Money on Your Next Gas Stop with This Free App

When I was a kid, my dream car was a glow-in-the-dark ambulance. A decommissioned one of course, but how cool would it be to drive one of those around?

As I got closer to driving age, and despite my disinterest in actually getting a license and driving, I wanted a Toyota Prius. As fuel prices rose from the sub-$1 prices that I remembered as a child, it just made sense to drive something that would use less gas.

Four years ago, Alyssa and I needed a second vehicle since we both had full-time jobs, and we test-drove some Priuses. After running the numbers, we ultimately decided that we would do better with an older Camry like the one that we already owned.

Twin Cars

Today, our dream car is a Tesla.

Some of you understand, and some of you are curious. Some of you think it’s an awful idea and want to convince me why we should never get one. Chances are, if you fall into either of the last two categories, you probably have never driven one, or you lean too far to the right in your political convictions to appreciate what Elon Musk and his team have built.

But until we have the privilege of realizing our dream someday, we continue to drive our faithful Toyota internal combustion engines.

When we travel, fuel is always one of our most significant expenses. Perhaps it is for you too. So how do we cope with gas prices that seem high to us (but are relatively cheap compared to the rest of the world)?

Introducing the Upside App

The Upside app is a game-changer in the world of savvy travel savings. This isn’t our only way of saving money on fuel, but it’s one of the easiest.

Of course, if you don’t have a smartphone, you can stop reading here because this money-saving method requires a smartphone app.

Using Upside, we routinely save 5-12 cents off each gallon of gas that we purchase. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it sure adds up over time, especially if you drive a larger vehicle or travel a lot for work (or vacations!).

How Upside Works

Cashback on Gas Purchases
The main feature of the Upside app is its ability to help you save money on every gallon of gas you purchase. The process is simple: before heading to the pump, open the app and browse through a list of participating gas stations in your area. Once you have selected the gas station that you want to use, you go there and complete the transaction.

Back in the app, you specify the debit/credit card that you used, and Upside takes care of the rest, matching your transaction with the gas station’s records and crediting your account with the appropriate cashback. It’s like getting a discount every time you fill up your tank!

Smart Refueling Choices
The Upside app doesn’t just provide cashback – it also helps you make informed decisions about where to refuel. The app displays real-time gas prices at nearby stations, allowing you to choose the most cost-effective option and avoid overpaying for fuel.

Upside App Rewards

Real Money and Gift Cards

One of my favourite features of Upside is its cashback options. You can literally transfer the money directly to your bank so that it’s truly a discount on your fuel purchases! You also have the option of buying gift cards with your cashback, but I don’t recommend going that route. Buy the gift cards later if you decide that you want them!

Passive Income
If you refer your family and friends to Upside, you will receive 1 cent per gallon of gas that they purchase while using the app. Again, not much, but most of you have a lot of friends, and it all adds up! You also get an additional 15 cents off per gallon on one fill-up for each friend that you refer.

Beyond the Pump: Cashback on Everyday Purchases

We don’t do this often, but you can also earn cashback at retail stores and restaurants with Upside. We used to get 20% back at our nearby grocery store before they stopped participating in the program.

I do not encourage people to go and spend money just so they can take advantage of discounts and cashback, but if you can get money back for purchases that you already intend to make, why not?

Upside App RetailersRetail Stores
Many retail stores partner with Upside to offer cashback on your purchases. From clothing stores to grocery stores to electronics retailers, you can earn money back on items you were planning to buy anyway. As mentioned above, we really benefited from this when our nearby grocery store was still on Upside.

You can enjoy cashback rewards when dining at participating restaurants, and the locations nearby you may include nationwide chains or even local independent eateries. Open the app, browse the map to find what you like, and enjoy your meal knowing that you are earning money back. I would not recommend spending more money though just because you know you’re getting a discount.

Get Started with Upside Today

It’s easy to use Upside, and you can always change your mind and delete it if you decide that it’s not worth the space that it uses on your phone. If you would like to use our referral code, you will receive an additional 15 cents back per gallon on your first fill-up, and you’ll be gifting us the same favour. But you can sign up without our referral if you would prefer to do that. Our promo code is 4VKBC, and you enter it when you register your account.

  1. Download the Upside app from your app store. It’s available for both iOS and Android devices: https://upside.app.link/65vTVqtpLGb
  2. Create your account in the app. You need to provide some basic information like your name, email, etc. You also need to link your preferred payment method to receive cashback. If you would like to use our referral code and claim your extra 15 cents back per gallon the first time you buy gas, enter the code 4VKBC when prompted. You can also skip this step if you wish.
  3. Browse offers in the app to discover gas stations, restaurants, and retail stores offering cashback. Upsidee’s map makes it easy to find the best deals near you.
  4. After you have made a few purchases at participating locations, simply redeem your cashback within the app by transferring the money to your bank or purchasing an online gift card.

When Upside Doesn’t Work

Upside App MapThere are times when Upside doesn’t work or cannot be used. Hopefully this list answers any questions that you might have.

  1. It does not work at all gas stations. Each gas station has to agree to participate in Upside’s program, and some choose not to. We have found gas stations all over the US that participate, and typically the larger chains do (BP, Shell, Circle K, Holiday, Speedway, Casey’s, Kwik Trip, etc.). We have even found small towns that have multiple gas stations that participate. You just have to open the app and check the map to see which ones do and which ones don’t.
  2. Sam’s Club, Costco, Hy-Vee, Walmart, Fleet Farm, and other gas stations attached to larger retail stores do not participate. After all, some of these places already give you better discounts than the standalone gas stations. Unfortunately, you can’t double up on the savings at these places.
  3. Not all restaurants and stores participate, but I have seen some common ones like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Chick-fil-A on Upside. So you don’t know what you can save until you check the app!
  4. If you don’t claim an offer in the app before you make your purchase, you won’t get cashback. Think of it like a coupon book and “clip the coupon” in the app before you make the transaction.
  5. If you have multiple payment methods loaded into the app, be sure to specify the correct form of payment that you used to make the transaction. If you paid with a card ending in 4124 but the app is showing a card ending in 1762, Upside will not identify your transaction with the merchant and will not give you cashback.


The Upside app is a must-have for any road trip enthusiast looking to maximize savings on their trips. But it can also help you save money right in your neighborhood as you make your daily purchases.

From earning cashback on gas purchases to enjoying discounts at restaurants and retail stores, the savings add up over time. Combined with our other money-saving habits while living life and traveling, it really makes a difference!

Someday if we get our Tesla, we won’t use this app quite as often as we do, but that won’t be for a while.

Perhaps that glow-in-the-dark ambulance will also show up along the way.

Have you heard of Upside before, and do you plan to try it if you haven’t?

“Do You Have Any Upcoming Trips?”

The questions that people ask about you often reveal what they know about you. Either they don’t know much about you and they want to get to know you, or they know you already and want to hear updates on various aspects of your life.

There is one question that we probably hear more than any other: “Do you have any upcoming trips?”

Coliseum FamilyIt’s an interesting question because the answer is always yes. If you define a trip as going somewhere, we always have plans to go somewhere, whether that’s a few hours away to see family and friends or out-of-state for a photo/video project.

But if you define a trip as a vacation, a long journey across the country, or an overseas missions trip, we really don’t have a lot of those trips over the course of a year. In fact, the large majority of our trips are less than 60 hours in duration from the time we leave home until we return.

We have noticed, however, that the average person just does not travel much at all, so we tend to be an exception even though we don’t come close to matching the mileage of a select few.

The two of us definitely traveled much more in our single days before God led us together. So now we have that lingering desire to travel more but simply do not have the availability and the resources to do it as often as we would like.

As a result of these various factors, one thing that people know about us is that we love to travel, and we have discovered ways to do it without going broke. In fact, we have even found some ways to travel in luxury for less than the average person might spend on a basic, no-frills trip.

Some people do not like traveling because all of the stress and expense involved. But when you’re walking through airport security in less than 5 minutes, eating and showering in cozy airport lounges, sleeping business class on an airplane, driving Mustangs and Teslas, and staying in hotel rooms that feature two bedrooms and full kitchens, suddenly the trip to get somewhere is just as enjoyable if not more enjoyable than the actual destination.

Of course, sometimes our trips look like us simply driving our 2000 Toyota Camry down to Iowa and staying overnight with family and friends. You don’t put 20,000 miles on your car in a year just by driving to work and back every day!

But whether our trips find us in our little car or in the front seats of a Boeing 777, we have found scores of ways to save money and upgrade our travel, thus enabling us to travel even more and help others do the same.

Experience is our primary teacher, and we have learned so much from trying new things and making mistakes (sometimes costly ones). But we are also deeply indebted to hundreds of strangers and a few good friends who have traveled this road before us, teaching us the “tricks of the trip” and keeping us updated on the latest travel trends and deals.

So now we embark on a new trip, sharing our trips, travel tips, and money advice on our family blog for the benefit of others. If you want to follow along, we invite you to subscribe to our blog so that you are notified anytime we post. Also, if you are interested in receiving  a few emails a year that are dedicated specifically to family updates, you can also subscribe to those (this is separate from our blog updates).

Here is a short list of the travel-related things we plan to cover:

  • Travel experiences
  • Saving money and budgeting for travel
  • Places to visit in the US
  • Places to visit internationally
  • Traveling with kids
  • Planning missions trips
  • Travel products
  • Tips for flying
  • Tips for packing

Comment below to tell us what you want us to write about! The more feedback we receive, the better, because we want this to serve our readers.

Hopefully we can help you learn some new things and explore more of this amazing world that God has given us!