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

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 Luggage Set That We Use

Some people have asked about the suitcases that we use when we travel, so here is a quick description of our luggage set.

Luggage at the AirportWe have a Coolife 3-Piece Luggage Set that we purchased with money from our wedding almost five years ago. Prior to these suitcases, we already owned a few older pieces of baggage, but we wanted something with the spinner wheels so that we could roll them around more easily.

Since buying this set, we have taken it all over the US and to several countries overseas. To say that these suitcases are well-used and well-loved would be an understatement.

Here are some key features and benefits of this luggage set.

  1. Durable Construction: The luggage is made of 1680D Oxford cloth, which is known for its durability and resistance to wear and tear. The material provides better protection for your belongings compared to traditional polyester luggage. As mentioned earlier, this luggage has been through a lot, and each piece is still in great condition. Coolife also includes a 2-year warranty with the set in case something unexpectedly breaks.
  2. Optimal Organization: The set includes a variety of sizes to suit different travel needs, including a 20-inch carry-on, 24-inch medium luggage, and a 28-inch large luggage. The set also has a nice 15-inch tote bag, something that was not included when we purchased the set in 2019. This nice variety of sizes makes it possible to pack efficiently either for short trips or extended vacations.
  3. Easy Mobility: Each piece of luggage is equipped with four multi-directional spinner wheels and a telescopic handle, allowing for smooth and effortless maneuverability through airports, train stations, and other travel environments. This is one of the main reasons we bought them.
  4. TSA-Approved Lock: This is something else new that was not available on our luggage when we bought it. For added security and peace of mind, each piece of luggage in the set has a built-in TSA-approved lock. This allows TSA agents to open and inspect your luggage without damaging the lock, keeping your belongings safe during travel. If you’re someone who likes to lock your luggage, you might find this handy. Perhaps this would also keep your zippers from gettting caught and damaged by other luggage.
  5. Compliance with Airline Standards: The carry-on luggage in the set is suitable for US airline cabin luggage according to IATA standards. This means you can confidently bring it on board with you as a carry-on item, avoiding the need to check luggage and potentially saving time and hassle at the airport. Even when fully loaded and bulging, the 20-inch carry-on still fits nicely in the overhead bins.
  6. Ergonomic Design: The luggage features a sturdy ergonomic aluminum telescoping handle, providing comfortable handling for travelers of all heights. Whether you’re pulling the luggage behind you or pushing it alongside you, the handle ensures a comfortable grip and easy navigation.

One downsides of the suitcases is that they sometimes get wet when it’s raining. If you suspect that you will be in that situation often, maybe you would cosider a hard case luggage set instead of a soft case like these.

The reason we opted for soft cases is two-fold. First, we assumed (whether rightly or wrongly) that hard cases would be more susceptible to scratching and looking worn. Second, we tend to pack our suitcases as tightly as possible, and it’s easier to stuff a soft case suitcase than a hard case one. As far as protection of belongings is concerned, we think that has more to do with how you pack things inside. Even a hard case won’t protect fragile items if they were poorly packed.

One final note about appearance. We recommend choosing a colour other than black if you want to make it easier for yourself to find your bags at the luggage carousel when you fly. Because we chose a pleasant blue colour, we can locate our bags easily most of the time, and Baby Jadon even recognizes our bags now. If you want your bags to blend in with the others though, yeah, go with black!


Overall, the Coolife Luggage Set offers a combination of durability, functionality, and convenience at a great price, making it our personal #1 choice of luggage for traveling. If we had to buy them all over again, we definitely would!

What do you prefer for bags or suitcases when you travel?

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?

The 3 Things We Use to Help Our Toddler Sleep Almost Anywhere

There are three things that we never leave home without when we are traveling because they help our little guy sleep almost anywhere we go.

These items have saved us more stress than we know because we all know that kids need their sleep (just like us adults).

But what do you do when you are in a place that doesn’t have a bed for your kid?

What do you do when you can’t find a quiet spot or a dark spot for them to sleep?

How do you create ideal sleeping conditions without hauling along a collapsible playpen everywhere you go?

Thanks to Alyssa’s keen research and savvy money habits, we found our solution, and we love it.

These are the 3 items that we have used to help Baby Jadon sleep at home, at the homes of other people, in our church building, in hotel rooms, in airport lounges, and in airport hallways.

KidCo Peapod Travel Tent

The KidCo Peapod is a popular travel bed and play tent designed specifically for children, offering a safe and comfortable sleeping environment while on the go. Here’s why we consider the Peapod a must-have for parents traveling with kids:

  1. Baby Jadon Sleeping in KidCo PeapodCompact and Lightweight Design: The KidCo Peapod features a compact and lightweight design, making it easy to transport and set up wherever your travels take you. It folds down into a small, portable carrying case, making it convenient to pack in a suitcase, car trunk, or carry-on bag. When we fly, one of us packs this in our carry-on roller bag so that we can use it in the airport. It’s SO small when it’s folded and stowed!
  2. Versatile Use: The Peapod serves multiple purposes, functioning as both a travel bed and a play tent. Whether your child needs a cozy spot to sleep or a safe place to play, the Peapod has you covered. It’s perfect for hotel stays, camping trips, beach outings, picnics, and visits to friends and family. When Baby Jadon was smaller, he would play in it, but now that he’s older and more active, we only use it for sleeping.
  3. Built-in Mattress and Sleeping Pad: Unlike traditional travel cribs or playpens that require separate bedding, the KidCo Peapod comes with a built-in, removable sleeping pad. This provides a comfortable and supportive sleeping surface for your child, ensuring a restful sleep wherever you are. As you can see in the picture above, we don’t need to add any additional padding even when using the Peapod on a hard surface.
  4. Mesh Panels for Ventilation: The Peapod features mesh panels on all sides, allowing for optimal airflow and ventilation. This helps regulate temperature and prevents your child from feeling hot or stuffy while inside the tent.
  5. UV Protection and Bug Shield: Some models of the KidCo Peapod come with UV protection and a bug shield, making it suitable for outdoor use. The UV protection helps shield your child from the sun’s harmful rays, while the bug shield keeps insects and bugs at bay, providing added peace of mind during outdoor adventures. We keep our Peapod for indoor use, so these specific features are not as important for us, but they might be for you!
  6. Easy Setup and Takedown: Setting up the KidCo Peapod is quick and straightforward, requiring no assembly or tools. Simply unzip the carrying case and allow the pop-up tent to unfold itself. Takedown can be tricky at first, but once you know how to do it, it collapses just as easily. Put it back into the carrying case, and you’re ready to go to the next place!
  7. Safety Features: KidCo prioritizes safety in their products, and the Peapod is no exception. It is designed with sturdy construction, reinforced seams, and flame-retardant fabric to ensure durability and compliance with safety standards.

The price for the KidCo Peapod Travel Tent is somewhat steep at around $80, but Alyssa was able to buy it used from someone on Facebook Marketplace at a discounted price. Having now used it all over the world and in so many different environments, I can say that it’s definitely worth its full retail price. If you like the concept and want to go with a similar product, Amazon also sells some options for about a third of the price like this one and this one.

Crib Blackout Cover

Crib blackout covers for playpens are specialized accessories designed to create a dark and cozy sleeping environment for infants and toddlers, similar to blackout curtains used in bedrooms. We use one in conjunction with our KidCo Peapod Travel Tent, and we also use it at home on our playpen.

  1. Material and Design: Our crib blackout cover is made from a lightweight and breathable fabric that attaches securely to a playpen or can be draped over our Peapod. The cover has ties to ensure a snug and secure fit, effectively covering the entire playpen to block out light from all sides. When we use it with our Peapod, we just tuck the excess underneath the tent.
  2. Benefits: Using a blackout cover can offer several benefits for our little guy. It creates a dark sleeping environment that helps him fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer. The cover is lightweight and easy to transport; in fact, we stuff it into the Peapod carrying bag when traveling! When used at home, it can be quickly installed and removed as needed on our playpen.

This is a much better option than just a regular blanket because it is breathable and lightweight. It also insulates the bed moderately well, holding in the body heat that is emitted by our child. So he often sleeps just fine without a blanket when we use this!

You can get a crib blackout cover for about $20 or less on Amazon. Once again, Alyssa got it at a discounted price from someone else on Facebook Marketplace, but, once again, we have found it to be worth the full retail price if that’s what you have to pay to get it.

Amazon Alexa Sleep Sounds

The third thing that we use to help our little guy sleep almost anywhere is Sleep Sounds on Amazon’s Alexa. If you have an Amazon Echo device or the Alexa app on your phone, you probably already have a general idea of what this is and how to use it.

If that last sentence was a foreign language to you, let me summarize.

Alexa is Amazon’s personal voice assistant, and you can enable her to perform various functions and skills. We have her do half of the work at our house, but you can have her do something as simple as play ambient noise for you when you are sleeping.

But Alexa is better than the noise machines that you might buy online or at the store because she’s free and can reside on your personal digital device that you already bring with you when you travel.

Furthermore, if you enable the free Sleep Sounds skill by Voice Apps, LLC, in your Alexa account, you can access over 125 different sounds like Heartbeat, Fireplace, Airplane, Frogs, Wind Chimes, Washing Machine, Box Fan, and our personal favourite, Thunderstorm.

You can download the Alexa app on your phone and have it play the sounds without having to bring along an additional device. Of course, if you prefer to have your phone accessible, you could always just purchase an Amazon Fire Tablet that already has Alexa built-in and bring it along with you. It would even fit in the Peapod carrying bag along with the blackout cover!

KidCo Peapod at the AirportSummary

When we combine these three things together, we can assemble an unstoppable sleeping environment in less than 2 minutes.

That’s not an exaggeration either since the Peapod opens itself as soon as we remove it from its bag.

The first picture in this post is from one of the concourses at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, and the second picture here is from one of the concourses at Nashville International Airport. The KidCo Peapod Travel Tent takes up so little space, the crib blackout cover blocks out the light, and the Sleep Sounds by Alexa drown out the extraneous noise.

We have found that the closets in many hotels are even large enough to fit the Peapod, giving Baby Jadon his own little room.

(Of course, as much as possible, we stay inexpensively in nicer hotels and then get free upgrades to suites with an extra bedroom for our kids.)

I owe many hours of sleep and relaxation and happiness to Alyssa for finding these items and insisting that we needed to buy them.

Have you ever heard of these things or used any of them?


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?

The One Travel Deal That Has Saved Us Thousands of Dollars

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.

As the price of airfare continues to rise because of increased travel demand, I have more and more people asking me how to book inexpensive flights.

Unfortunately, there is not an easy answer or one perfect solution for everyone. But for people flying in the US, there is one specific deal that has transformed our travel experience and saved us thousands of dollars.

Ever heard of the Southwest Companion Pass? This game-changing perk has revolutionized the way we travel, and right now, there’s an incredible offer available that makes earning the Companion Pass easier than ever before.

Southwest AirplaneBrief Overview of the Southwest Companion Pass

With the Southwest Companion Pass, you essentially get to bring a designated companion with you on all your Southwest flights for just the cost of taxes and fees (normally only $5.60 per one-way trip). It’s like getting a 2-for-1 deal every time you fly, which can lead to significant savings, especially for those who travel often or with a partner.

Here are some of the top reasons why we love the Southwest Companion Pass:

1. Double the Value: With the Companion Pass, you’re essentially doubling the value of your money. When you buy a ticket for yourself, you can add your designated companion for almost free, thus getting two tickets for the price of one. But it also applies to award flights booked with Southwest Rapid Rewards points! Instead of just redeeming points for yourself, you can use them to book flights for both you and your companion, effectively getting twice as much out of your rewards.

2. Flexible Travel: Unlike other airline perks that restrict you to certain flights or blackout dates, the Southwest Companion Pass is incredibly flexible. As long as there’s a seat available on a flight, you can book it for your companion, even if you’ve booked your own ticket using points or a promotional fare.

3. Maximize Savings: For couples or families like us who frequently travel together, the savings can add up quickly. Whether you’re jetting off on a weekend getaway or taking a longer vacation, having a companion fly with you for almost nothing can make travel much more affordable.

Overall, the Southwest Companion Pass is a game-changer for anyone who typically travels with someone else. It’s a valuable perk that can help you stretch your travel budget further and make exploring the world even more enjoyable. If you’re a frequent Southwest flyer, or even if you just fly once or twice a year and live near an airport serviced by Southwest, earning the Companion Pass should definitely be on your radar as a goal worth pursuing.

Limited-Time Offer: Earn Companion Pass through 2/28/25 + 30,000 Points

Southwest Airlines is currently offering an unbeatable promotion across all three of their personal credit cards – the Rapid Rewards Plus, Rapid Rewards Premier, and Rapid Rewards Priority cards.

With this offer, new cardholders can earn the Companion Pass and 30,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Under the terms of this promotion, the Companion Pass would be valid through February 28, 2025.

Understanding the Southwest Credit Cards

Typically, the personal Southwest credit cards offer a signup bonus of 50,000 Rapid Rewards points, but they do not include the Companion Pass as part of the offer. In fact, you normally have to earn 135,000 Rapid Rewards Points within the same calendar year in order to qualify for the Companion Pass, making it a little more difficult to earn.

With the current promotion, however, new cardholders can enjoy the best of both worlds – almost a full year of Companion Pass privileges plus a nice points bonus. Now, you obviously have to complete the minimum spend requirement before you receive those perks, but if you’re looking to travel anytime this summer and into next winter, the timing could be perfect for you.

Here’s a brief overview of the three Southwest personal credit cards:

1. Rapid Rewards Plus: Ideal for occasional Southwest flyers with basic perks ($69 annual fee).
2. Rapid Rewards Premier: Perfect for moderate Southwest travelers seeking additional benefits and rewards ($99 annual fee).
3. Rapid Rewards Priority: Tailored for frequent Southwest flyers who want premium benefits and perks ($149 annual fee).

Our personal favourite is the third option, the Rapid Rewards Priority card, but that’s because we travel frequently enough to justify the annual fee. But each of these options has the same offer right now.

Our Companion Pass Experience

For the past seven years, we have been fortunate enough to enjoy the countless benefits of the Southwest Companion Pass. From weekend getaways to cross-country adventures, the Companion Pass has been our ticket to unlimited travel experiences at a fraction of the cost

Whether booking flights with cash or redeeming Rapid Rewards points, the Companion Pass has consistently provided us with unparalleled savings and flexibility. Because we have also earned so many Southwest points and booked award flights with them, about half of our flights have only cost us $22.40 total for the family ($11.20 in taxes and fees per adult on award tickets), making travel more accessible and affordable than ever before.

With the current offer available across Southwest’s personal credit cards, there has never been a better time to earn the Companion Pass and unlock unlimited adventures.

Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to save some money on your upcoming flights!

Does this offer appeal to you or someone you know?