San Diego On A Budget


Our kids had several days out of school for President’s Day.  It seems like the opportunities to take family vacations are few and far between without having to miss school, so we felt like it would be a shame to not do something fun over this break.  However; this was not in our plan and we hadn’t budgeted to do a large vacation.  We have spring break coming up and didn’t want to break the bank, but also wanted to get away for a few days.  One of the benefits of living in Las Vegas is that the beach is only a few short hours away.  So we loaded up our vehicle and we were on our way!

Here are a few tips and tricks that allowed us to save money and enjoy San Diego on a budget.

  1. Plan Ahead
  2. Hotel with Free Breakfast
  3. Enjoy the Beach
  4. Season Passes at Sea World
  5. Dining Passes at Sea World

Plan Ahead

I knew that in order to make this trip economical, that a little planning ahead would go a long way.  I made a trip to Walmart ahead of time and stocked up on all of the snacks and drinks that we normally grab at the gas stations when we travel.  I also got bags of chips and the bulk candy at Sam’s club.  I bought peanut butter and jelly and fruit.  I also grabbed some beach toys for $10 and one of those cute velcro catch games for $3.88.  I snagged bubbles for $.97.  We purchased Boogie Boards at Sam’s Club for $25.  They were good quality and much better than the cheap ones they sell by the beach.  I spent a few hundred dollars but I felt like we saved so much by being prepared and thinking ahead.  It eliminated all purchases on our drive and saved us quite a bit once we arrived in San Diego.

Get a Hotel with a Free Breakfast

We are big proponents of The Holiday Inn Express.  We have the IHG Credit Card and are always happy with the service that we get at their hotel line.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Chula Vista.  It was right off I-5 and convenient to lots of things.  The front desk staff was extremely friendly and the pool and hot tub were not crowded and provided a nice start and end to our day.   We have stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Sea World Area in the past and we would probably stay there the next time we go because it is SO convenient to the beach we like and to Sea World.  Either way; not having to buy breakfast for our family of 5 saved us a good chunk of change!  That is a win for me!

 Enjoy the Beach

With this not being a planned vacation; we didn’t have a huge agenda.  It was really nice not having a set schedule and not feeling like we to had to cram 50 things into each day.  We got up in the morning and enjoyed the pool, then headed to Mission Beach for the day.  My friend who grew up in San Diego recommended this beach and it has become one of our favorite spots.  There is free parking close by.  I packed a little tote filled with all of our beach toys, towels, and snacks.  It was a quick walk to the beach.  The waves are perfect for boogie boarding and there are local shops and food places close by if you decide you need something.  One local place called Hamel’s has rentals of just about anything you need and they have all kinds of things for purchase as well.  Abigail rented a surf board for $20 for the day to give surfing a shot.  I checked on Amazon for a cute game called Smash Ball.  It was $13.99 so I expected to pay twice that at this shop.  They had it for $10!  I was so surprised!  If you are looking for a new fun game, you should totally check it out!  You can get it on Amazon for $13.99 or drive to San Diego and you can get if for the bargain price of $10!

The kids had a blast just playing in the waves, making sand castles, playing catch, and playing Smash Ball.   We enjoyed having our beach blanket to lay on and soaked up the sun as much as we could! It was so relaxing and such an affordable way to spend the day!  We had our PB&J sandwiches and Capri suns for lunch and everyone was happy! I may or may not have spent $5 on a box of Samoa Girlscout Cookies that some little girl drug dealer forced on me!

 Season Passes at Sea World

I always search online to see what deals I can find.  I am also getting great at finding Groupon’s when we travel and even in our own city.  I try and find the best deal and my hubby has a love hate relationship with it.  He likes the saving money part, but I also think it drives him crazy sometimes!  I noticed that Sea World San Diego was having a sale on their 2018 Fun Card.  Essentially you pay the price of a single day admission and you can go unlimited time for the rest of 2018.  If you buy their Sea World Annual Pass for $20 more you get all of these great benefits!

Get unlimited admission to SeaWorld San Diego during the initial 12 month commitment and any renewal period, with no blockout dates plus free parking, discounts and more.

  • FREE general parking (save $20 per visit).
  • 2 FREE guest tickets during specified event dates only.
  • Discounts on in-park food & merchandise and select park upgrades including tours, interactions and more.
  • Exclusive Member events and rewards.
  • Your visit helps support SeaWorld’s animal rescue and conservation efforts.

We purchased two of the annual passes to take advantage of the dining discounts, free tickets, and the free parking!   We got the Fun Cards for the kiddos since we are planning another trip here with the grandparents over Spring Break.

Having the season pass was so nice because we went for a few hours each day we were in San Diego.  That way no one was super tired and cranky, we avoided the crazy busy hours, and we were able to enjoy the beach each day as well.

I also think that we will take advantage of only being 5 hours away when the Las Vegas heat hits us this summer.  We may have a few more trips coming up if we can figure out this San Diego On a Budget thing!!

 Dining Pass at Sea World

One of the best ways that we saved money on this trip was taking advantage of the Sea World All Day Dining Pass.  Here are the deets!

Eat all you want at SeaWorld San Diego all day long for one low price. Pass Members save 10%.

  • Get 1 entrée, 1 side or dessert, and 1 non-alcohol beverage as often as once every hour during 1 day’s visit.
  • Participating restaurants include Shipwreck Reef Café®, Calypso Bay Smokehouse, Mama Stella’s® Pizza Kitchen, Explorer’s Café, Pineapple Pete’s Island Eats and Flatbreads & Fry Cones. Restrictions may apply.

We decided to just purchase one dining pass for the whole crew.  San Diego on a budget was the goal! Cory would take the kids and go and get in line for the next ride or attraction.  I would go and grab food and then bring in to the group.  You can get one drink, entree, and dessert or side once every hour, so this kept us quite full and allowed us to just snack throughout the day.  I priced things out as I went and it was over $100 worth of food that we got for the bargain price of $32.  Since we had eaten breakfast at the hotel and had some snacks at the beach that we had brought with us; we essentially fed our entire family for one full day of vacation for $32.  Not bad!!


Overall, this was a fantastic spur of the moment trip.  We got some sun, enjoyed family time, relaxed, got in a few thrills, and we all still love each other.  Our kiddos are at THE BEST ages for travel.  Everyone can dress themselves, no one is in diapers, we don’t have to have a stroller, and they get along quite well.  You can check out some of my tips for packing with kiddos here.

I got a little over confident in my children’t ability to pack for themselves.  We travel enough that I kind of felt like they could do it themselves with no problem.  This was such a spur of the moment trip; we literally grabbed stuff the night before and we loaded into the car the next morning.  I rattled off a list to the kids and asked them each about 3 times if they had a jacket.  Other than that; I just ASSUMED they were good to go.  Word to the wise…….7 YEAR OLDS SHOULD NOT PACK 100% ON THEIR OWN.  Brady didn’t bring underwear, socks, a toothbrush, or jacket!  He essentially got a swimming suit and a few pairs of shorts and a few shirts.  In his mind; that is really all he needed.  We survived!!  We learned a few lessons and overall I think we nailed visiting San Diego on a Budget!  Until next time So Cal…….


3 ways to take your life back..

Do you ever feel like you need a page 1 rewrite?  Sometimes it is a day that you just want to start over, maybe you were sick and the week has been going wrong since Monday, maybe you have been in a slump since Christmas, or maybe you said goodbye to 2017 and wanted to give it a swift kick on the way out the door.  The latter was me!  I don’t want to be one that doesn’t recognize how blessed I am, but 2017 was a HARD year.  Trials hit our family that I never could have imagined and I needed a clean slate.  We needed a page one rewrite!

I felt like my priorities had gotten knocked off course.   I had been working tirelessly on my real estate career for two plus years and somehow I lost sight of what was truly important.  I wasn’t enjoying my family and wasn’t enjoying real estate anymore either!  I remember thinking to myself and confiding in a friend, “I feel like I’m failing at everything and not truly succeeding in any aspect of my life!”  I felt like I was mediocrely doing everything.  I wasn’t being an excellent wife.  We would still go on date nights and we weren’t fighting or anything, but we had become complacent.  I wasn’t being a good mom.  My kids were getting fed, sometimes it was takeout and sometimes it was a thrown together semi healthy meal, but they weren’t starving.  Their clothes were clean, but not always folded.  The house was clean some of the time and I was home for morning prayers and we did our best at Family Night, but I wasn’t THERE all the time.  I wasn’t PRESENT.  I had my phone with 500 text messages and 40 phones calls to return; and my stress level was through the roof.  I wasn’t being an amazing Realtor.  While trying to still be a wife and a mother and being pulled in 50 different directions, I wasn’t nailing the business side of things either!  There was always one more facebook post to do, one more client to call back, one more search to do, or one more open house to schedule.  IT WAS TOO MUCH!!

I can’t even tell you how many people have said to me “I don’t know how you do it!”  I feel like the only speed I know is FAST.  Cory and I have always taken on a lot at one time and we seemed to thrive by taking on new projects and always having a new and exciting venture.  I know how to work well in high stress environments and I felt like our kids were learning valuable lessons of hard work and entrepreneurial skills.  While I still feel like this may be true….something had to give.  Something needed to change.  I was running faster than my short little legs could handle and I was about at the end of my rope.

Henry Ford failure

Henry Ford said, “Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently”.  I felt like I was at a point where I had failed.   I wanted to a new beginning, a fresh start.  Here are a few of the steps I took to get a fresh outlook and to begin again more intelligently.

1.) Don’t Look Back

I feel like it to SO easy to look back at things that didn’t go as planned and to want to change how things happened.  You want a do over.  You want to be able to CHANGE decisions you made or a reaction you had.  I know as 2017 closed; I looked back and didn’t have any idea how it was ending the way it was.  It was almost surreal to me.  I did not get to this point in a day….or a week….or really even in a month.  However; I finally made the decision to NOT LOOK BACK.  You can’t change the choices that you made, but you can learn from your mistakes and take one small baby step at a time and MOVE FORWARD.  The first step is the hardest.  I promise.

2.) Don’t be afraid to say NO

I feel like you have to be FIERCE with what we say YES to.  When we are saying YES to something; we are saying NO to something else.  It reminds me of a talk by Elder Dallin H Oaks titled Good, Better, Best.  Here we are counseled and warned that there are SO many GOOD things in this world.  It is good to volunteer at your child’s school.  It is good to go out to lunch with your friend, it is good to help with the bake sale, it is good to allow your children to have extra curricular activities.  But we must remember that every time we say YES to something good, we may be saying No to something better or even best.  I don’t know what the answer is for YOU.  I actually am slowly realizing that my social life is one of the GOOD things that I need to take a step back from.  I LOVE to entertain.  I am a very social person and I enjoy throwing parties, having people over for dinner, playing games, and filling our schedule with good things.  However; I am learning that our little family gets stronger and relationships are cultivated when we spend quiet evenings hot tubbing together and talking about our day.  We are creating memories as just the 5 of us snuggle on our king size bed and watch football.  This one has been hard for me.  I also came to realize a few years ago that more than likely my children weren’t going to become olympic athletes or prodigy pianists.  I want them to be well rounded kiddos that are allowed to cultivate talents and learn and grow into amazing adults, but they also don’t have to be in 50 different activities and have every minute of every day planned.  When you have three kiddos, or more….(bless all of your souls) even one activity each week can leave you running ragged.  It is ok to tell your children NO when they want to sign up for ONE MORE THING!  It is also ok to say NO when you are asked to volunteer for one more thing or FILL IN THE BLANK.  Be FIERCE with your time.  Know your limits and remember that you are only one person.

3.) Find what makes YOU happy

You cannot take care of your family and help fill their cups when your cup is empty.  I was  running on empty and didn’t think I had the time to refill my cup.  I know that I was not giving my best self to my husband, my friends, or my children when I was beyond stressed, not eating right, not sleeping well, and running full steam ahead at all times.  I felt like I had to be available to my real estate clients 24/7 and felt like they would go and find someone else if I didn’t answer the random text at midnight or didn’t stop in the middle of dinner to answer that phone call.  I wasn’t taking time for myself to refuel in order to be better for everyone!  Read a book, go get a drink at Starbucks and surf on Pinterest alone, take a warm bath, invite a friend to lunch to catch up, get your nails done, or go try a new yoga class.  Whatever floats your boat….find what makes you happy and MAKE TIME for it.  The time will NEVER just magically show up.  You have to make yourself a priority.  For me; I love to be able to play volleyball one night a week.  I told my hubby that this was important to me.  It was time for JUST me.  It was without kiddos and it helped relieve stress and it was fun!  Find what that is for you, and are it happen!

I am only one month into 2018, but I feel like there are good things to come!  I read an article the other day about the power of a positive attitude.   It was excellent and made some very good points.  Take the next step forward, get out of your slump, turn to the next page in your story.  Life is a beautiful journey.  Our trials, scars, mistakes, challenges, and worries make us beautiful and unique.  Don’t let one bad day, week, or year define you and your journey.  Here’s to a fresh start!


What are we teaching our kids?

I just saw this on Facebook. I Love Love Love this!! It’s SO true! I feel like this generation is being coddled and ruined by technology and parents that are afraid to make their children “unhappy”!
We all want what is best for our kids. Does that mean they have to have every new toy, device, or random crap that fills the check out isles at the grocery store?  The answer is clearly NO! It doesn’t seem that simple. There is the constant pressure of keeping of with the Joneses. I feel like the adults are worse than the kids in this realm. Why do kindergarteners have cell phones? 😩
The social pressure continues as people discuss how many extra curricular activities your kids are doing? Do they take piano lessons, speak a foreign language, and are they on the all star traveling sports team that takes EVERY single weekend and every ounce of family time you may have??
What happened to family dinners? What happened to chores on Saturday that everyone pitched in with because if they didn’t they got their buts beat?
I feel like I am failing so many times when I get a snotty response from one of my kids and another adult says….”if I talked to my mom like that when I was young; she would have knocked me into next week!”
I KNOW that I don’t have the answers to these questions. I KNOW I can make big changes that would result in more self reliant, hardworking kiddos that respect their elders. We were doing yard work with our kids last night and they acted like I was asking them to move a mountain! For the LOVE! Please just grow up to be good humans that grow up to move out of the house and contribute to society!!
I do know that we have taken a step back the last few months. We paired down our schedules. We made the kiddos make HARD choices and do a little less. We are trying to eat dinner together even if it’s one of those one pot frozen meals that I heat up in 12 minutes with no side dishes! 😆 Dinner is served! 😋. It’s not perfect, but we are together. Our evenings are a little less hectic and we are focusing on giving our kids experiences rather than THINGS.
We plan to travel more and use the funds that we were spending on the extra classes and activities and put it towards a family trip. The kids gave us a little backlash at first, but quickly jumped on board.
I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on how you instill these values in your family. Is something in particular working well for you right now? Take a look at this video. Stephen Covey is one of my FAVORITE authors. He was a wise man and I love his principle based teachings. Take a look!
Green and Clean by Stephen Covey

Are you a mess?

The last few months have been pretty rough in the Smith household.  We have been dealing with some pretty crappy stuff and it has been a trial of my faith.  There have been days when I was at the end of my rope.  I think when you are dealing with loss and you feel like your world is falling down around you, it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.
I am by nature, NOT a patient person.  This seems to get magnified when life isn’t going exactly as planned.  I was losing my temper with my kiddos, I was beyond stressed at work, and I wasn’t enjoying the time I was spending with my husband.  Not to mention my horrible diet and lack of exercise. I was a MESS!!!

Have you ever felt that way?  Like no matter what you did, life wasn’t going the way you had planned and you kind of want to give up and crawl in a hole and hide?  Where do you turn when you feel that way?  I know that I have been talking God’s ear off and for some reason I don’t think I have been in the right place to be getting much inspiration and direction.   My husband is probably sick of talking to me!  One place I found comfort and peace is with my bestie Janelle!  She is amazing.  She loves me for who I am.  She doesn’t expect me to pretend that life is all roses and a Facebook Highlight Reel.  I can cry on her shoulder, ask her for advice, or go out for a lunch date to get my mind off of things.  I am truly grateful for her friendship.

I think I have often taken my friendships for granted. I just read the book Of Mess and Moxie and it made me realize how important friendships are! It is the most AMAZING book!  Jen Hatmaker from is seriously hilarious.  I fell in love with her years ago when her Worst End of School Year Mom blog post went VIRAL.  I loved her voice and her sense of humor was real and refreshing.  Somehow the magic facebook wizards or pinterest gurus out there put her newest book in my newsfeed because I swear THEY KNOW US BETTER THAN WE KNOW OURSEVLES!  It’s creepy!  Anyhow, you can get it on Amazon but I HIGHLY recommend listening to it on Audible.

The way she tells the story is SO much better than it would have been reading it.  I listened to it in a matter of days and I am tempted to start it over again because I feel like we became friends.  I miss my friend!  This book made me grateful for my tribe.  It is a rather small tribe and I wish that there weren’t so many miles between me and some of my close friends, but at the end of the day I know they are there.  I know that I have someone to lean on when chatting with your hubby doesn’t feel like the answer.  If you are dealing with tough stuff, if you want to laugh and cry, or are just looking for some good entertainment, I highly recommend you check out Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker.