Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Home-Sweet-Tent: Luxury-Centered Camping Tips

For a more relaxing and comfortable camping experience, you need not invest in a costly travel-trailer, pop-up camper or mobile home. A few inexpensive items that are easy to come by can make your tent a more enjoyable home away from home.

*Maximize Sleeping Accommodations:
Either before you leave home or as soon as you arrive at your destination, purchase an inflatable air mat at the nearest superstore, convenience store or trading post for each person in your group. The 20 to 30 minutes it takes to blow it up will be well spent as you reap countless hours of peaceful sleep without noticing the bumpy roots, pinecones, stones and twigs below you.

Furthermore, these air mats double as a raft (their true purpose), but in the sense that if some unexpected water seeps into your tent during the night, you remain dry! Use as many blankets and sleeping bags as you like, and when the vacation is over, your couple-dollars’ investment will have been well worth it. Dispose of the air mat prior to returning home or keep it with your camping gear for next time.

*Maximize Cooking and Meal Choices:
Tired of the traditional hotdogs and s’mores over a campfire? With the right tools and food selections, you can cook just about anything your heart desires, from french fries to macaroni and cheese or Ramen noodles. Just follow this quick, easy and inexpensive checklist:

To diversify cooking, bring these items:
- Mini Charcoal Grill
- Charcoal
- Lighter Fluid
- Matches
- An Old Pot or Pan
- Tinfoil

Small charcoal grills can be purchased for as little as $10 or sometimes even less. With the grate that comes with the grill, you can make hamburgers, chicken, fish, baked potatoes and much more. Grill a muffin toast a bagel for breakfast.

Having a pot or pan in your inventory allows you to boil water for coffee, tea or hot chocolate, make soup, cook noodles and so forth. Place the pot directly on top of the grill, but realize that the flames may discolor its original shine and may also leave an ashy residue. Be sure to bring a spoon and potholders or an oven mitt to avoid burning yourself.

Though it is great for storing leftovers, tinfoil can help you cook smaller items, such as french fries, chicken nuggets or roasted veggies. Cover your grill top with it to reduce the mess made when cooking meats and other meals directly on top of the grill.

Be creative and all of your cravings can be satisfied with the right cooking tools and equipment.

Other items to bring:
- Skewers (or gather sticks once you reach your campsite)
- Paper plates
- Insulated mugs to keep hot drinks warm and cold ones chilled
- Utensils
- Grill tools, such as tongs, large fork, flipper, etc.
- Paper towels
- Trash bags

*Maximize Your Living Space:
- Staying Dry: Put a tarp below your tent prior to pitching it to help prevent water on the ground from seeping into your living quarters.
o Also, try to rig a tarp above your tent by suspending it from the trees with rope so that rainfall is diverted away from your tent. Those inflatable air mats you use for better sleeping will also keep you dry in case of a leak (unless it is right on top of you!).

- Keep all open food items sealed inside a cooler to avoid encounters with wildlife.
- Also, hang your trash bags from a tree branch to keep it away from wildlife.

*Make Your Tent a Home:
- Put up indoor/outdoor lights/lanterns to help you and others quickly identify and locate your tent in the dark. A string of small, fun-shaped lanterns would work well—especially when they stand out from those anyone else might use.
- Bring a CD player or radio so you and your tentmates can enjoy some music.

Don’t forget to bring your own creative additions to make the most of your camping vacation!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Keep Your Campsite Clean, Compact – And Pest-Proof!

So you have heard not to keep open containers or bags of food about your tent for fear of unexpected visits from bears and other hungry critters. Hopefully you also know to suspend your garbage bags from a tree branch in order to prevent the wildlife from visiting your campsite and helping themselves to your refuse.

To maximize space-efficiency and minimize clutter both in your tent and in your vehicle when commuting, invest in inexpensive paper goods – plates, cups, disposable silverware, paper towels and napkins as opposed to rags and towels, tinfoil as opposed to plastic containers, and so forth. (Note: Tinfoil is great both for saving leftovers and for cooking almost anything over the campfire. French fries and chicken tenders have definitely passed the test of campfire cooking!)

Also, an all-purpose insulated mug or jug will help to keep hot beverages steamy and cold ones chilled while also eliminating additional items you may have otherwise packed.

Citronella candles serve an invaluable purpose by keeping the mosquito population around your tent to a minimum. Also, avoid wearing perfume and cologne or using scented body lotions or sprays if possible.

By consolidating the number of items you bring on vacation, you create more livable space and fewer places for insects to hide. A clean, uncluttered campsite (without too many food smells) will help reduce your chances of ant infestation, bear, raccoon or other scavenger encounters, and most importantly, cranky tent mates!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

GREAT American Road Trip Soundtrack...

Ramble on - Led Zeppelin
American Girl - Tom Petty
Life is a Highway - Tom Cochrane
Free Bird - Lynyrd Skynyrd
Here I Go Again - White Snake
Free Fallin' - Tom Petty
Slow Ride - Foghat
Magic Carpet Ride - Steppenwolf
Livin on the Edge - Aerosmith
Flat Tire - Athenaeum
Take a Picture - Filter
Float On - Modest Mouse
Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd
Livin on a Prayer - Bon Jovi
Paradise City - GNR
Everlong - Foo Fighters
One Week - Bare Naked Ladies
Say It Ain't So - Weezer
Anything by OAR
Great songs anyway, even if not all related to driving..

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Time for Some Homework…

Research is for bookworms! What’s the point of going on a road trip if you can’t be spontaneous about it?!

The answer is very simple. While road trips provide an escape from the monotony of school, work and everyday life, they usually require a certain amount of planning to get you on your way. Research a few attractions, plot out a few destinations, schedule a few sleeping accommodations and let the rest of your trip be as spontaneous as can be! As you plan your long-awaited road trip, keep these tips in mind!

1. You should at the very least know where you are going – have at least one destination or turn-around point – and a few places to stay along the way. Sleeping in your car will only allow you to reenergize to a certain extent until the comforts of sleeping in a bed, or at least stretching out, are missed.

2. Check out campgrounds for cheaper accommodations. Typically you can luck out and find one that has electricity and running water at each campsite. Just be sure to bring a flashlight or a lantern for late night strolls to the bathhouse!

3. For affordable modern comforts, book a room at a lower-end motel or hotel when you feel the need for privacy, endless hot showering and continental breakfast! You should see about making some tentative reservations when you are en route to each destination, if not sooner. Just make sure a cancellation fee doesn’t apply if you get sidetracked at some amazing location along the way!

4. Compile an itinerary with all your vitals – estimated number of days away from home, major destinations and estimated days/times of arrival, cell phone numbers of everyone in your group, type of car you’ll be driving (year, make and model, license plate, etc.). Give this itinerary to someone in your immediate family, your significant other or someone else that you trust. Be sure to check in from time to time with a phone call so everyone knows you’re all right.

5. Look into weather conditions before you embark on your adventure. Know something about each of your major destinations and if you’ll have to watch out for any troublesome conditions or creatures. (Hey, who knows where those pesky rattlesnakes might be lurking?)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Tent Sweet Tent: Upgrade Your Sleeping Accommodations

Prickly pinecones, jutting rocks and stubborn roots…Ahh, Mother Nature’s own offerings for your sleeping enjoyment—But how does one go about getting any shuteye when the ground below makes for quite the uncomfortable snooze?

Easy! Slumber soundly all vacation long with a negligible investment. Go to the nearest superstore, drugstore or trading post and pick up one of those inflatable air mats.

Sure it doubles as a raft in the water, but you will enjoy the cushioning it provides far beyond the waves it allows you to ride. And when its role is to keep you comfortably slumbering, it also keeps you out of the water if your tent should spring a leak during an unexpected thunderstorm. The water may collect on your tent’s floor, but you are elevated just enough to escape the dampness seeping into your living quarters.

The ten or twenty minutes required to inflate the air mat are well worth the hours of peaceful repose you secure for you and your tent mates. Dry, comfortable sleeping for the vacation’s duration—trust me, it will be the best ten dollars (or less!) you’ve ever spent!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

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Great Adventures Begin with Great Inspiration!

How to Save Money for Your ROAD TRIP

Ask anyone. I’m sure just about everybody you know is saving up for something. Us, we want to go on a cross-country road trip this summer (which mean’s we’ll probably need AT LEAST $1,000) and I want to get a new lens for my camera to capture the memories (Tack on another $300-$400).

We’re hoping to save up enough money for our road trip so that we really can do all the things we want to do without saying, “Let’s not. That’s too expensive.” I don’t know about you, but I’d hate to utter those words even ONCE on a road trip. But considering the – all of about $161.23 (or so) that I have saved up to date, I’ll be lucky if I can even leave the state!

Starting today, we are going to do whatever we can (within reason) to save for our trip. Personally, I’m going to stash away the $10 I won on a scratch-off lottery ticket. I know, I know, but hey, at least it’s a start!

I know we are not the only people who want to take a road trip this year. I also realize that we’re surely not the only ones in this kind of a financial bind. Some people may have ridiculous mortgage payments or rent bills, years’ worth of credit card debt, extensive car repairs and oodles of other dependencies.

Overall, I’m hoping to reduce my expenses and curb my impulsive spending to set aside more money for our road trip. Here are some tips to help us all save money in 2006.


Cut fast food out of your diet. Not only will you feel healthier, but also you’ll save anywhere from $5 a month on up, depending on how often you rely on that greasy convenience!

Shop with coupons. If you can procure coupons for something you buy regularly, or even as a treat – especially when it’s on sale in the store – you can really save a lot of money each month. My mom shops for a family of six and saves anywhere from $60 to $150 a MONTH just by using coupons and shopping especially when items she wants are on sale. Just think, that is anywhere from $720 to $1800 a YEAR!

Cook at home more, eat out less. By reducing the number of times you eat out at a restaurant, you’re not only saving on the higher prices of food, but also the amounts spent on tips, overpriced beverages and gasoline to get there.


Try brewing coffee at home at least part of the week. By saving gourmet coffee for special occasions and either Fridays or Mondays, you can really cut down your unnecessary expenses.

Drink filtered tap water instead of bottled spring water. Or, if your office has a spring water cooler, fill up a water bottle and drink from that throughout the day. Consider eliminating soda from your diet and drink more water! It’s very healthier for you.

Roof over our heads:

Wear warmer clothes instead of cranking the heat.

Take shorter showers.

Turn off lights you don’t need.

x`ewd cIf you live by yourself in an apartment with a spare room, consider getting a roommate. This will help to reduce overhead tremendously!


Limit your shopping sprees to:

Shopping for only those items you desperately need – pantyhose, new shoes, business attire. Shop for items only when you must and save money by taking advantage of storewide sales. Just don’t go overboard!

Lifestyle Needs:

Start doing your own manicures and get your nails professionally done only for special occasions. Invest in a few bottles of nail polish, a nail file, nail polish remover and nail trimmers. You’ll save yourself a considerable amount over the course of a year.

Limit your trips to the spa. Learn how to do pedicures and facials at home, and have a girls’-night-in!

Tired of paying between $50 and $80 a month to work out at the gym? Do it the old fashioned way and run, bike and exercise on your own time. Get a group of friends together to workout with you and do exercise tapes, form a running club or play some sports!


Before running out to the movies, check the TV page for any specials or made-for-TV movies that might appeal to you. Going to the movies costs close to $20 just for two people to enjoy a single show! Why not rent a movie or set up a movie-swap with some friends or neighbors. Every weekend, meet at one friend’s house, each with a small selection of DVDs or movies, and create your own mini-movie rental system that costs you only time!

Instead of giving up things in your life, take advantage of dozens of things you can do differently. These minor modifications in your life could contribute to you saving thousands of dollars over the course of a year. Now there’s that vacation you’re too strapped to take, a new laptop, digital camera or a down payment for a new car. You can achieve a number of your financial dreams - Just make a commitment and stick with it!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Top 10 signs it’s time to take a road trip

10. Your dog didn’t just eat your homework. He also ate your cell phone, your address book, your wallet and various other things he found while you were sleeping. Thankfully, your driver’s license is still intact, except for a few bite marks here and there. Hey, if you drive really carefully, maybe you won’t have to explain the random holes on your main form of identification to the police officer!

9. What is this real-world nonsense? College didn’t prepare you for jack! Why not go on a road trip and learn some REAL life lessons?

8. You need a change. You’ve been working the same job for days, weeks, months, years. You can't stand another moment of normality. If one more bird chirps, if one more car honks, if one more stupid telemarketer calls you at home, so help them...!

7. Your friendships and hobbies all seem stale. You are unemployed, unmarried, underpaid or all of the above. Maybe your current relationship needs some new zest. Maybe you want to meet some new people in a wild and crazy way. Maybe you just can't bear to go home to your lonely apartment or your crazy parents' house one more day. At any rate, one thing is for certain. You need an adventure!

6. You can’t seem to find yourself. You don’t know who you are, what you want to do with your life or what you want to be when you grow up. Your parents are breathing down your neck to get a life and do something with it. Maybe you should just hit the roads and get lost. Seriously. We’re sure you’d eventually find yourself...and your way back.

5. Your boss sent you out of the office to run some errands in town. He let you take the company car and just as you’re finishing up, you look down and see it’s half past five. Knowing your colleagues, everyone is long-gone and halfway home for dinner. You’ve got a full tank of gas and your only limitations are rush-hour traffic and the meager hours till nine o’clock tomorrow morning…

4. You’re sick and tired of the same song and dance. And you’re not talking about life in general. You find members of the opposite sex in your general geographic area to be thoroughly undesirable for one reason or another, or find that your romance isn’t exactly going the greatest. You’re either suffocating or wilting from lack of attention. What better way to spice up your life a little bit?! And if you’re single, what a great time it is to rev up your love life. So many states, so many boys (or girls), so little time!

3. When life looks, smells and just plain IS dull, what other options do you have? Next to taking up a random hobby like underwater rugby or nude bungee jumping, a cross-country road trip is a pretty attractive idea!

2. You recently got to thinking and realized the farthest you’ve been from your house in the past month is when you’re out checking your mailbox. You know what we have to say about that? You are the absolute laziest anti-travel equivalent of a couch potato. Get off your butt, get out there and SEE THE WORLD!

1. Big cities are for making a name for yourself. Small towns are for settling down. Road trips are for living life everywhere in between. What are you waiting for?!