It was a busy, short month of February. We went on some play date in a trampoline playground. It’s basically one giant place for kids to jump around. It was packed and a bit intimidating for our kids. We also had a snow day during valentines day and it has been colder than usual here in the Pacific Northwest. I’m ready for Spring, but Winter never seems to end.
AHP also turned 3 this February. He was so excited for his birthday! He had school on the actual day and we brought mini cupcakes for the class. He also had a family celebration for the weekend and even had 2 cakes!
February was an expensive short month. In total we spent, $4,294.9.
Food & Dining
Bills & Utilities
Health & Fitness
Auto & Transport
Travel – $2,112.4
We spent $1,996 for our upcoming 7 nights Alaskan Cruise this May. It will be our first ever cruise and I’m excited. Even the kids are excited. The cruise will tour Glacier Bay National Park. National Park Rangers will board the ship to give us a “tour” of the glacier. I read really good things about it. Since the tour will go to Canada, we decided to get passports for the kids. We paid $94 to the county for processing and kids passport photos. The actual application fees were cashed in March. I also paid $22.4 for 4 one way ticket to Florida this December during the winter break. I’m still unsure if the trip will happen, but I found a non-stop tickets to FLL, using Ultimate Rewards on Virgin Atlantic (via Delta). The ticket is refundable, so I have some time to plan.
Food and Dining – $738.33
Well, I thought this would be lower, given that we were using our Visa Gift Card to shop at Winco for groceries. We spent $585.88 on groceries. We also ate out twice and spent $107.45 on restaurants. I also spent $45 on Starbucks. Yes, I’m spending money on lattes!
Pets – $410.03
We took our furbaby to the vet again for some skin issues. It is getting a bit expensive but she is also getting old and these expenses are probably normal for her age. We’re hoping that it clears up and we can get to the bottom of it.
Kids – $300
We decided to stop contributing to the kids 529 plan. $200 is for one kid. We also spent $93.11 for the trampoline playground. Not worth it, in my opinion. The kids are just too young for it and it was expensive. The rest are for supplies for AHP’s coop that I donated.
Utilities – $265.52
These are for water, sewer, garbage, cell phone and last month’s subscription to HBO Max. It looks like we’ve been using 2gbs of data on average and our cell phone bill is now normally $29.29.
Home – $116.4
This is for one month of HOA. We paid for a late fees because it was on an auto pay from a bank account that we closed.
Auto and Transport – $106.37
3 trips to Costco for gas and $40 for my carpool for the month of January and March. I prepare taxes for VITA and carpool with my neighbor three times a week. It’s a fun retirement job and I get to do it with my retired, 74 year old neighbor.
Shopping – $18.10
Subscription fees for Amazon, which we mainly use for music. I also bought some sunnys for the kiddos, for one week when the sun came out!
I’ve been using H&R block software for the last 3 years. I used the downloadable software which allows me to e-file 5 federal returns. I used the software to file ours (1), my 3 siblings (3) and my parents (1). I used the premium version which cost $54.95 at Amazon.
What is a Backdoor Roth IRA?
According to Mootley Fool, “A backdoor Roth IRA is a retirement savings strategy whereby you make a contribution to a traditional IRA, which anyone is allowed to do, and then immediately convert the account to a Roth IRA.”
In layman’s term, a backdoor Roth IRA is a way to contribute to Roth IRA if you are above the income threshold that the IRS allows. You can find the threshold on IRS website.
Ideally, your traditional IRA balance is 0 before contributing to backdoor Roth IRA. You can do this by rolling your traditional IRA balance to your 401k, before doing this conversion.
For this scenario, Taxpayer (TP) has 0 dollar balance in traditional IRA. This is done by moving the balance to the TP’s current 401k. In January 3, 2022, TP contributed $6,000 to a traditional IRA. In January 5, 2022, TP convert the traditional IRA to Roth IRA. By December 30, 2022, TP has 0 balance in traditional IRA.
TP receives the following IRS document from the brokerage account:
Form 5498 IRA Contribution for Traditional IRA
Form 1099-R: Distributions from Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit Sharing Plans
Form 5498 IRA Contribution for Roth IRA
Add all your income from W2s and other incomes.
Add the IRA contribution. You will see this under the Federal Section –> Adjustment Tab
This will trigger the software to create a form 8606, Non Deductible IRAs and it will look like this:
Add the 1099-R. This is the distribution made from Traditional IRA because you converted the contribution to Roth IRA.
You now have conversion documented in Form 8606, step 2 and it will like below:
Congrats! You now completed the form 8606 for 2022 tax year.
We started the New Year visiting the Happiest Place on Earth at Disneyland. This is our second year at Mickeyland. The visit is more relaxed despite the rain on our first day. The kids were also able to appreciate the rides more and have quite a bit more opinion about it. They were able to interact with the characters as well. For me, a vacation in Disneyland is an easy family vacation in terms of logistics. Everything is catered for family and there are services for everything we needed, like a car service with 2 car seats on and a stroller that is delivered right to our hotel and picked up in our hotel. Unlike our visit to Chicago, we didn’t have to lug our 2 heavy car seats and our stroller. Transportation is just easier. The visit also doesn’t need to be expensive. In fact, I think we spent the same amount of money on a per day basis when we visited Chicago.
Most of the expenses for Disney were paid last year, so you will not see it in this report. Similar to last year, our flight and 8 nights hotel stay were paid by points. This year, we stayed at Hyatt Place. It’s a little bit longer walk to Disneyland, but our room is bigger with a separate “living room” and breakfast were included in our stay. We used Southwest to fly from Seattle to Santa Ana and Alaska Airlines to fly from Santa Ana to Seattle.
This month, we spent $4,387.76.
Food & Dining
Health & Fitness
Bills & Utilities
Fees & Charges
Auto & Transport
Food and Dining – $1,465.19
This is inflated this month. I purchased $400 Visa fee free gift cards at Staples. We exclusively uses this to shop at WINCO. WINCO only accept debit card and by using the gift cards, we can maximize the points that we use for travel. We haven’t used this all and will probably last us until February. We ate out 3 times at Disneyland but the kids got a gift card from my brother and we used that to eat out. Restaurants are actually reasonably price at Disneyland. I bought a $200 GC from Instacart, using raise.com. I got a little less than $20 back, so the GC only cost $182.88. I used this to buy some groceries delivered to our hotel. We used this for our lunches and Dinner for the 8 nights of vacation. We brought our rice cooker to make some simple dinners (e.g. mac and cheese with hotdogs). It’s actually a hit for the kids, though not the healthiest. I did try to add some steam vegetables, for dinners and tons of fruits for breakfast and lunch. We also visited In and Out when we got off the plane. Our car service allowed a 30 minute stop to a groceries or in and out. Since our flight arrived around noon, we were ready for lunch at that time.
We visited our local diner back home and visited McDonalds once. I also started going to Starbucks. I canceled our YMCA membership and I needed a place to hang out while my the kids are in school. A and I go here before he goes to school. I bring his breakfast while I have coffee and hang out with a parent from his class. So far the cost of coffee is less than or Y membership and I enjoy hanging out with other parents, so I think it is worth it.
Kids – $1,076.39
This also inflated since the M’s tuition hit in 2 months, one for Jan and one for Feb. Speaking of tuition, it looks like the preschool’s tuition will increase next year. Good thing, M will start Kindergarten, but A will go to preschool for 2 more years. This still includes the $200 contribution per kid to their respective 529 college funds. The kids also got a haircut!
Travel – $508.33
I booked 7 night Alaskan Cruise through Princess cruise. Princess was having a sale with kids free (or 3rd and 4th passenger free), so we booked it. My sister and my mom is also coming with us. I’m excited to try cruising and definitely excited to see Glacier Bay National Park. I bought a $400 Princess Cruise Gift Card at raise.com and received 6% discount. I used it for the deposit. The rest is payable in February. The rest of the items were souvenirs from Disneyland, and housekeeping tips during our stay.
Health and Fitness – $336.3
I paid $200 from previous Mr. MMD’s Dr’s visit and ultra sound. I also paid 2 months worth of dental insurance for January and February, so that totaled to $82.8. I bought some medication as well and Mr. MMD paid for a pick up hockey game.
Utilities – $328.31
Utilities are normal for the winter season. Sewer and internet are flat. Our mobile phone range from $16.64 for 1 gb- $28.78 for 2gbs. We have been using 2gbs for the most part now, especially when we travel. We still uses Xfinity mobile and have been happy with the service.
Business Services – $238.51
My CPA certification is due. It is valid 3 years and I intend to keep this forever! About $10 bucks are shipping items and office supplies.
Home – $163.67
AHP moved to a twin bed (that we got from our local buy nothing group). We got him a duvet and a couple of other items for the kitchen. We still have our crib, that we are looking to get rid off. For some reason, our local buy nothing group doesn’t want it.
Fees and Charges – $95
I open a Chase Sapphire Preferred. I was finally eligible to open one with a sign up bonus of 60,000 points. This card allows me to transfer points to different airlines and hotel partners which we uses when traveling. My favorite transfer partner for hotels is Hyatt, which we used in Disneyland. We still have a big chunk and I’m looking for inspiration of places to travel — probably Key West?
Pets – $78.25
We got our furbaby some collar and toys from Petco and some medication from Amazon.
Auto and Transport – $77.36
3 gas filled up from Costco. We were out most of January so this is slightly lower.
Shopping – $18.32
I got a little carried away with the after Christmas sale at the Dollar store and got quite a bit of craft items for the kids.
Entertainment – $2.18
Last month subscription of HBO Max. Technically this is free since I got the cashback as a lump sum from Rakuten.
We wrapped up 2022 with more travel as a family of four and a dog. We visited Disneyland in the beginning of the year. We went camping last summer and visited the midwest last fall. We visited friends in the city with the boys. I was also able to see my friends in person this year.
There were also some not so fun days like spending our spring break dealing with a car accident and spending the next month finding a car when car supply were basically zero. I spent 3-4 months dealing with the car accident aftermath with some PT sessions and chiropractor visits. We also had COVID last summer. MBP and AHP went to school this fall and spend the first 3 months, coughing. Viruses came back full forced, but luckily the boys were able to handle it.
Travel and car accidents require spending and this year we spent $77,048.33
We spent $24,987.12 more this year compared to last year – a 48% increase. Looks like we lived it up, right? Let’s see where our money went this year.
Taxes – $27,224.42
We sold our rental property in 2021 and took a tax hit of $20,686.00. The other $6,538.42 was our property tax from owning our home. We no longer own any rental property and expect our tax to be immaterial for 2022.
Food and Dining – $10,483.75
Surprisingly enough, our food and dining only increased by $293.96 from $10.189.79 in 2021 to $10,483.75 in 2022. Despite of inflation, spending 5 days in Disneyland, 2 days in Chicago and various camping trip, we manage to keep our food cost mostly consistent. I am impressed myself! We are still eating mostly plant food base diet with loads of fruits for snacks. The boys can’t get enough of cosmic crisp apple.
It looks like we ate out on restaurants more and drink more. I want to say we ate less junk food, but that is probably not true. I just neglected to categorized it as junk.
Groceries went down?
But we ate out more
Alcohol & Bars
And drink more
This was a credit from Instacart
Kids – $7,517.24
This category increased by $2,219.93 from $5,297.31 in 2021 to $7,517.24 in 2022. I expected this. MBP and AHP have a 529 plan. We contribute $200 per month in the plan in total of $400 per month. This is an automatic deduction from our checking account, total $4,800 annually. The boys tuition also increased since AHP started attending his 2’s class and MBP started attending preschool 5 days a week. Next year, MBP will be in kindergarten. If it works out in our local public school, the tuition should decrease. Kids gadgets, supplies, activities and toys are all combination of items specific for the kids. This can really be more in line with shopping and entertainment for adults.
529 College Fund
Normal and will continue on the upcoming year
This should decrease next year
You think that this should go down since it's mainly diaper
Gifts and Donations – $6,114.8
We spent $213.47 more on gifts this year, increasing from $5,901.33 last year. The charity portion was the fundraising for the boy’s preschool. The holiday card included a photo session from JC Penney with 3 digital images and one print for $27. A shipping fee for the said print and 3 more complementary prints because the photographer was late was $10.45. I printed 50 copies of the Holiday card at Canva for $38.50 and I bought stamps for $12. I enjoyed sending and receiving holiday cards. I make my own design using Canva and find that the prints from them was the cheapest and I’m happy with the quality of the prints.
Donation for the boys preschool
Health and Fitness – $4,743.79
This category decreased by $1,162.1 from $5,905.89 in 2021 to $4,743.79. I thought that this will decrease more, since we received significant health care insurance subsidy in 2022 vs 2021, but our family also visited doctors more in 2022. We switched our health plan from bronze to gold this year based on this data. In 2022, we spent $1,526.86 for copayment of doctor visits.
We also pay for a gym membership at our local YMCA. MBP and AHP were enrolled in swim classes, gym and soccer and those were included as part of the membership. I also visited the Y significantly in the beginning of the year, before the car accident.
Our dental visit total $460. These were for 3 visits in total, 2 for Mr. MMD and 1 for me. This year, we signed up for dental insurance, which will pay for itself with our bi-annual dental visits and a little coverage for other care.
Others were new bench for our home gym, some meds, and my new eye glasses that I ordered online from eyebuydirect.com that cost me $44.88.
Gym Membership for our family at our local YMCA
Various doctor visit
This should include the first month of our 2023 health insurance
Bills and Utilities – $4,333.6
This category increased by $419.3 from $3,914.3 in 2021 to $4,333.6. Electric and gas increased the most. I’m pretty sure that the reason for the increase were timing of the payment. I paid December 2021 bill in January 2022 and I just paid the December 2022 bill once I got the bill in December. So in theory, this was probably consistent from last year. Sewer decreased? It’s on autopay so I don’t even look at it. Water increase not necessarily because of the usage but the rate increased as well. Our internet rate increase this year. Garbage decreased, again probably because of the billing cycle. We are still using Xfinity mobile for our cell phone. It increased a bit this year because we used more data when we travel. It is still very affordable at $24.75 per month for 2 lines.
Electric and Gas
Auto and Transport – $3,527.41
This category increased by $810.5 from $2,716.91 in 2021 to $3,527.41. Gas increased. We travelled more this year and gas prices were also at the highest last summer. Auto insurance increased because we added another car. My old sister gave us her car, which she got from me because she bought a new (new to her) car. Service and parts also increased because we added another car. The public transportation included our bus tickets when we were in Chicago. It also included the car service that I booked in 2022 for our upcoming Disney trip in January of 2023. The car service was the big portion of it. Rideshare was for our Chicago trip. Parking increased because we visited the city more frequently this year.
I talked about our car accident that occurred in March 2022. Our 2015 Toyota Prius 4 was totaled. We attempted to get another 2015 Prius with less mileage or a totally brand new car, but there was no inventory in the entire country!! At that time, we only had one car, so we definitely needed to buy a car. We ended up buying a 2011 Toyota Prius 2 with about 103k miles that I found on Craigslist. I didn’t add that purchased here because we used the insurance proceed to buy the car. We think that our Prius 2 will last at least another 5 years and at that time, we should be ready to buy an electric car (or an electric van?).
Gas & Fuel
Service & Parts
Auto & Transport
Shopping – $3,102.42
This category increased by $55.62 from $3,046.8 in 2021 to $3,102.42 in 2022. This category is a catch all from our household supplies like toilet paper to electronics to clothing and appliances. Mr. MMD bought a new computer and we bought a new modem. AHP “accidentally” spilled his water to our modem and we were not able to resurrect it. We figured that it was time to say goodbye to this modem, after 7 long hard years of service. In tech world, I’m pretty sure she was considered ancient. We are also now an owner of a pressure washer, which we will probably used once a year.
We also bought some shoes. Actually, I bought 3 pair of shoes while Mr. MMD bought one pair. I have a hard time finding comfortable shoes for my wide flat feet with bunions. I stumbled on this brand, Altra while searching for some camping gear at steepandcheap.com. I won a $200 gift card from steepandcheap and I decided to use it to try out a pair of shoes. These shoes aren’t cheap, but I tend to buy a shoe every 2 years or once the soles were worn out. I like the shoes so much that when it went on sale at REI, I bought 2 more pairs. I went to Rakuten and bought $191 e-gift card from REI and used it to purchased the shoes. Mr. MMD went to Fleet Feet and purchased his shoes. Fleet Feet analyze your feet and take a picture of it before recommending the type of shoes. It was pretty cool. I didn’t buy my shoes there but Mr. MMD did. I did buy toe socks. Alright, enough about shoes. The rest were stuff.
And you will not see the 2021 expenses below. There are tons of category changes and I don’t want to manually add it up.
Electronics & Software
Computer and Modem
Home – $3,046.01
This year, I separated the property taxes and include that as part of taxes. Overall it is consistent from last year. Home insurance and HOA Dues increased. We had our HVAC cleaned. We also have to hire a plumber because our pipe freeze. Our built ins can get some repair, but I’m really waiting until the kids no longer have the need to draw on our walls before making some changes in the house. Hopefully in a couple of years. We didn’t buy any furniture this year but at some point we will most likely buy a new couch and a dining table.
Travel – $2,405.73
This is low, considering we spent 8 days in Anaheim, with 5 days in Disneyland, 2 days in Chicago and about 11 nights camping this summer. The biggest expense was our 5 day tickets to Disneyland for January 2023. Our camping site was for 11 nights of camping last summer. Our rental car was for the “extra insurance” that we purchased for the rental car when we had a car accident. The insurance company didn’t reimburse us for it.
Hotels were for 2 nights in Fairfield Inn in Chicago, 1 night in Sheraton in Seattle to celebrate Mr. MMD’s 40th and a $20 tip at Howard Johnson for our 2022 Disney trip. We get an employee rate through Marriott and the rate was really low. We paid $52/night in Chicago including breakfast for 4. The Sheraton hotel was about $81.
Our air travel were all book with points and these were for taxes and fees for 4 round trip tickets to Santa Ana for our Disney trip. Our tickets to Chicago were reimbursed by family so we didn’t include it here. The rest of travel were train tickets and probably other little things.
Most are 3 5-day tickets to Disneyland
Includes 4 nights at YMCA camp which includes food
Rental Car & Taxi
The insurance that was not covered after the accident
3 hotels and tips
taxes and fees
Our corgi visited the vet twice this year in addition to her annual exam. We also needed to pay for some antibiotics for her. We paid for boarding when we went to Chicago. My parents typically take care of her, but they were out of town as those weeks.
Entertainment – $1,464.66
A thousand was for our ticket to CampMustache this year. Mr. MMD and I went for memorial day weekend. The rest were for tickets to museums and subscriptions to music and videos.
Fees and Charges – $954.74
These are bank fees. We opened credit cards and used it to pay our taxes (with credit card fees) to meet the sign up bonus. This will continue and I’m ok with that because we get more for free airline tickets and free hotels. Our 8 day hotel stay in Disneyland in 2022 and our upcoming trip in January 2023 were all paid by points. Our tickets were also all paid by points. It already saved us at least $4k, just for our Disney trip. It’s a great hobby that pays for itself.
Personal Care – $468.92
Stuff like toiletries and hair cut.
Business Services – $40.56
Some supplies like markers, stamps and the registration of the domain name.
After documenting all our expenditures, the main contributor of the 48% increase was the federal tax paid for the sale of our rental income. Without the $20,686 federal tax liability our spending goes down to $56,362. This represents an 8% increase from our 2021 spending of $52,061.21
Overall, 2022 was a mixed year. I wished it could be better, health wise, but I am thankful that we were finally traveling again. I’m excited for 2023. We are off to Disneyland this month. I’m looking forward to seeing some sun again and escaping the gloomy PNW weather.
Last year, we went to Bellevue to watch the Snowflake Lane Parade. It became a tradition and we went again this year. Bellevue is about an hour north from of us and like last year, we made a trip out of it.
Our first stop was KidQuest Museum. The museum was not crowded when we went on a Thursday afternoon. My 5 year old enjoys the “packing” room. It’s a room with tons of boxes, where kids can put it on a conveyer belt, or scan the items or deliver the packages. He stayed there majority of the time and made some friends around his age. My 2.5 yr old played all over the museum – in the toddler room, the market, the train and the treehouse. We were there for almost 3 hours until around dinner time.
For dinner, we arrived just before 5 at Cheesecake Factory. We chose this because it is the closest restaurant by the parade. We were lucky and got seated right away. We had dinner at normal time, around 5:30. We went to Bellevue Square Mall to kill time before the parade. The mall has a kids playground for kids under 6 on the third floor. It was very crowded. We masked up and luckily both kids didn’t complain.
We started our way out around 6:45 and that is where everyone seems to be going to. We got a good spot and both kids were able to seat on the sidewalk so they can see the show. The parade was 20 minutes long, with floats, characters and marching band. There’s also snow before and on the grand finale of the show. My kids got some high fives from Rudolph and Polar Panda. They also got some candy canes from a nutcracker character. Overall, it was a great 20 minute Christmas show.
We visited family this October in the midwest. They live 3 hours from Chicago. Instead of flying to the regional airport, we decided to stay a couple of nights in Chicago and spent a full day in the city before taking the train to Bloomington.
Flying to O’Hare
The flight to Chicago was the longest flight that AHP has taken so far. We took our 2 very heavy car seats and gate checked a stroller for this flight. The boys were very cooperative most of the flight with no heavy tantrums. We even got some compliments from the passengers saying that they were so good. The initial flight was to take the Blue line to the city, but for some reason we got lost in the airport and ended up in a wrong terminal. It was getting late, so we decided to take a cab (that is a minivan) to get to the hotel. I can tell that our cab driver wasn’t very pleased that it was taking us so long to put in the car seats. After 20 minutes and $68.15 later, we were in our hotel.
We checked in at Fairfield Marriott in Magnificent Mile and stayed there for 2 nights. Checked in was a breeze and they brought up a pack and play as I requested. It was already late and at this point, we were all hungry for dinner. I was surprised that most of the fast food restaurants were closed, so my husband have to research door dash for open restaurants that can deliver / can be picked up. We were somewhat on a desperation mode that I suggested getting some food from the convenience store. I was about to microwave a mac and cheese when my husband called me and told me that he got some food from TGIF. The restaurant is only a couple of blocks from our hotel and he was able to pick it up. The adults were hungry but the kids were basically snacking the whole day and only ate their fries.
I met up with my high school friend and his boyfriend in the lobby once we are all settled. The initial plan was to meet up with him the next day but he and his mom had an urgent flight that needs to happen the next day back to the Philippines. He saw the kids for a bit and we chatted until midnight. Once I got back to the room, MBP was asleep but AHP was awake, overtired. I took him in our bed and he finally slept.
I let AHP slept in while MBP and my husband had breakfast. They joined us again for a second breakfast before we took off to take a bus to the field museum. We were happily surprised that the city bus takes a regular credit card that can be tapped to use as payment. Kids are also free. The kids were hauled in our Uppababy to the bus stop and off we go. The city bus was an experience for the kids, though it was probably less time efficient.
The stop is across the Field Museum. I got our tickets from Groupon and purchase an Explorer City pass for 2 adults and 1 kid. Kids under 3 are free and AHP was still free. The museum is huge and one can easily spend a full day in the museum. They have a space that are more hands on and catered to toddler and preschoolers. Our kids love it, but their favorite is probably the underground tour. It is one of the two exhibits in the museum and our tickets allowed us to go to one. The place mimics the underground where all the insects and plants that grew underground becomes giant — or they shrink us to say that the living creatures were giants. I thought AHP will be scared but it was his favorite part.
My favorite part was Sue the T-rex. The museum presented her so well, not just on display. The room darkens every 20 minutes or so and will lit up every part of her bone, while a voice over talks about. I really thought it was cool and captured the attention of both the kids and adults.
We had lunch in the cafe and explore the first floor later on. There were a ton of taxidermy animals. They feature a story about a lion who ate the people and MBP found it interesting. Our last stop is at the gift shop and we let the kids pick a toy as long as it fits our luggage.
Chicago Architecture River Cruise
We got back to our hotel and rested for an hour before walking to the river, where we would take the 5PM Chicago River Cruise. We took the elevator down from the Apple Store. I didn’t even realize that it was an Apple store because it looks like a lecture hall in a glass building. The tour lasted for 90 minutes and gave us a great history and architectural details of the building. I enjoyed it, but the kids were probably too young for it. They just thought of it as a boat ride. As for me, this is probably the reason I love Chicago. The city just give a very feminine/artistic vibe without being snobby — I don’t even really know how to explain it. I would love to do this tour again at night – perhaps when the kids are older.
We wrap up our day with a dinner at good old Chick’ Fil’ A. We just want something quick since we know that the kids were tired from the day. They definitely had a good sleep this night.
The next day we took a LyftXl from our hotel tot he Union Station to board our train to Bloomington. The driver was very nice to us. I basically double the fare since because he was so patient with us when we have to load our car seats in.
Our day trip to Chicago is not the most frugal way to see the city. It is probably more typical of a normal tourist for a family of 4. We saved quite a bit on our hotel because of an employee discount from a family member. Our hotel was $51 per night including breakfast. Regular price for this hotel was over $200 when I checked it. I also purchased our tickets through Groupon and basically got our ticket to the Field Museum for free. Transportation was pretty expensive with a cab and Lyft XL but still cheaper than renting a car and paying for parking in the city.
Tickets for the Field Museum and Architecture Cruise
Includes Lunch and Dinner for the day
Cab from the aiport, bus fare and Lyft from the hotel to the train station
Souvenir from the Field Museum
This is not going to be our last trip in Chicago. I really like this city even from my previous visits back in the days sans kids. I’m glad that I was able to go back there with them this time.
Our family started tent camping, Summer of 2021. At that time, MBP was 4 and AHP was 17 months. Just like the rest of the world, I was eager to start traveling, but still cautious. Adults in the household were vaccinated at the time, but our kids were not. Camping was a great option, being outdoors 100% of the time.
Camping with kids is very different from camping without kids. Actually camping with a toddler and a preschooler is entirely different itself. After two years of camping we are still learning and accumulating gears that works best for us. This year was better than last year, mainly because we started with nothing.
Our First Year Camping
I’m not really sure what I was thinking when I booked our first camping trip. I’m pretty sure I saw a lot of pictures of the beach or the mountains, with kids as young as mine and thought, hey we could do it too. I read some articles about camping with kids and decided that a State Park with flushed toilet and running water is the best way to start. Plus points if there is a playground. I then remember that I really enjoyed Lake Chelan the last time I went. It didn’t matter that I went there sans kids and stayed in a 2 bedroom air-conditioned airbnb condo. I found an availability for two nights at Lake Chelan State Park and felt that I won a lottery. Apparently, this state park is booked way in advance and it is hard to get a reservation during the summer. I told my husband my plan after booking the site. There were some questions about the location, but ultimately he tagged along.
Once we have our reservation, I decided to rent our gear. I’m not entirely sure if we will like camping, so I went to Arrive Outdoor and reserved everything I thought I would need. It included a top of the line tent that sleeps 6, 3 sleeping pads, 1 men’s sleeping bag, 4 headlamps, a lantern, a power bank, a grill kit, Jetboil basecamp stove and pan and an MSR Alpine 4 pot set. The total cost for 2 nights was $178, but I have a great discount code and I only have to pay $87. Score!! The problem is that the gear never arrived on time. Instead of arriving the day before we leave, it arrived on the day we were leaving. Arrive Outdoor was nice enough to refund me the money.
Since I was tracking the rental order, I knew that the gear will not arrive on time. So how did we do this? Well, we purchased the “necessary” gear from Costco and Walmart. I bought a 6 person Core Block Out tent from Costco and purchased Campstove, Twin Air Mattress and Propane from Walmart. We brought our pack and play. I have a sleeping bag and my husband’s old Air Mattress and some really thin sheets which we used as blankets. For cooking, we borrowed a cooler from my parents and used our pots and pans at home. Our sleeping set up had some issues. First, the old air mattress didn’t inflate, so my husband and I were basically on the ground. The sheets didn’t work as a blanket, and it got cold at night, so we are sharing one sleeping bag. Our cooking set up was fine and we didn’t starve.
Despite some initial problems, we enjoyed the trip and followed it with 4 more camping trips for 6 nights in total.
Our Second Year Camping
After the camping season in 2021, I kept an eye on some camping gears on facebook marketplace and sales at REI. So far our total cost is $583.98. There are some items that are not necessary. There are some items that are optional and very specific to our family.
We purchased a Core 6 Person Block Out Tent from Costco. It was originally priced for $99.99. After we got back camping, it was on sale for $69.99. Costco refunded me the difference. I was actually really glad that I purchased this tent. It works for us because we are a good weather camper. This is not a 3 season tent, it is basically just a summer tent. The only good thing about it is that it is block out – and for us that is enough benefit that we are still using it. AHP still naps and it is easier for him to nap in this tent. He napped more last year and once this year. At night, we can go to bed at 8PM even when the sun is out and the kids can sleep until 7AM without the sun waking them up at 5 or 6AM.
Now, that is the only benefit of this tent. As I said, this is not a 3 season tent. We had a rainy day this year, and there were puddles inside the tent. I was diligent and made sure there were towels in the corner. This tent also doesn’t have a good ventilation. If the rainfly is on, expect to have condensation in your tent. If the rainfly is not on and you have a dog, there will still be condensation even if you open all the “windows”. I figure out that I can open the roof window and door window once the kids are in bed and it’s already dark to get more airflow. I will usually wake up when the sun is out and at that time, I’ll close it again to keep the tent “dark”. Once, AHP woke up at 6AM before I was able to close the windows and he insisted that it is day time. Also, one of the pole broke this year and I have to purchase a replacement. The pole is only $10, but there is a flat shipping rate of $7 so bought 2, for a total of $27.
Anyway, if you like dark, do not have a dog and will only camp during the summer, then buy this tent.
Sleeping Pad and Sleeping Bags
I know that we will need a sleep system that will work for me. I already have a hard time sleeping in a hotel, so I know that I will have a hard time sleeping in a tent without a bed. I’m also a side sleeper so I need a sleeping pad that will feel like an actual bed. It took trying out some sleeping pads. First we bought 3 Klymit Static V Luxe Sleeping Pads. Costco was selling it for $69.99 and the sales guy was able to convince us to buy it. Well, it’s better than sleeping on the ground, but it was loud. I was not comfortable. Then I found 2 Large Therm-a-rest Luxury Sleeping Pad in Facebook Market Place. The seller was selling it for $30 each. I bought 2 for $50. It was advertised as used and have some stains, but was always stored correctly. I purchased it the day before our camping trip. Once I got home, I tested it and made sure it inflated. I wiped it and did some sniff test and we were good to go. The cost of this pad, if I buy new is $189.95 each. Yup I got it for a bargain. We were now using 2 Klymits and 2 Therm-a-Rest and I was more comfortable. Fast forward to June 2022 and one of my neighbor posted 2 Therm-a-Rest XXL MondoKing mattress. It was not the latest edition, but she was only selling it for $75 each. I offered to pay $100 for both and she accepted. The new version of this mattress sells for $259.95 each. It will cost just as much as a real mattress if I buy this new. So , I got another bargain. I tested it at home and realize that one of the mattress have a tear. I searched the internet and was able to repair it using the Permanent Home Repair Kit from Therm-a-Rest. I ordered it on Amazon for $16.36. I used an existing gift card, received from my sister, so my cost is $0. My husband and MBP now uses the MondoKing. AHP uses the LuxuryMat and I sleep between MBP and AHP so I used both the MondoKing and Luxury Mat. What happened to our Klymit’s mattress? Well, I kept the receipt and returned it to Costco just under a year after we purchased it. Thank you, Costco!
Sleeping bags are also necessary for us. We live and camp here in the Pacific Northwest and it gets cold at night. I have a Northface Cat Meows Sleeping Bag. I got this back in 2010 when I went backpacking and can’t recall the price. I also bought MBP a Teton toddler sleeping bag from my neighborhood page for $5. MBP used it last year and outgrown it. AHP is now using the Teton and we bought MBP a REI Co-op Kindercone 25 Sleeping Bag. It was on sale for $48.49 and currently listed at $69.95. I bought it with a gift card I got from my birthday 3 years ago and paid $26.38 for the remaining balance. For my husband, we got him a CORE Sleeping Bag from Costco for $27.99.
For cooking, we kept it very basic. The Coleman Classic Propane Gas Camping Stove is still working for us. We got it from Walmart for $43.88. It is still being sold from Walmart at $48. We still uses our pots and pans and silverware from our kitchen. I try to minimize the time washing the dishes. We uses disposable as much as we can. Sometimes, we book a campsite that has an outdoor kitchen. My husband uses this and most of our food are grilled.
For lights, we bought 3 headlamps for $14.99 and 3 lanterns for $12.99 from Costco. I also purchased camping chairs for $20.58, tarp for $14.99 and an air mattress for $16.97 from Walmart. We uses the tarp as a footprint for our tent. We rarely use our camping chairs because with kids, we are really rarely in our campsite. The air mattress was used once for our first camping trip. Sadly, Walmart do not have a good return policy and the air mattress is just in our garage. I also got a solar charger for our phones from Amazon during Prime Day for $39.99.
Other Other Gears
Our “new to us” car came with a hitch and a bike carrier. We haven’t had a chance to use the bike carrier, but we decided to purchase a Cargo Rack. We drive a 2010 Toyota Prius. Storage is ok when our dog doesn’t come with us, but there were several camping trips where she joined us and we needed a way to store our gear. Since our car already have a hitch, it is cheaper to buy a cargo rack than a rooftop box. It is also better for fuel efficiency and we didn’t notice any difference on our gas consumption when using the cargo carrier. We purchased a Curt Tray Hitch Cargo Carrier for $117.99. We used partial points and paid $103.19. We also bought a cargo bag for the carrier for $43.41
Tips on Getting Your Gear on a Budget
Try Rental or Borrow Things
Even though renting didn’t worked for us, I still recommend going this route if you are a beginner, or starting from scratch. This will give you an idea of items that are a must have for you vs items that are just good to have. For us, we don’t use the camp chairs much, so there’s no point of buying a good one. I used (or at least tried) to used Arrive Outdoor, but I also used REI in the past when I was just starting backpacking many many years ago. When renting, look for discount codes. My first rental only cost $87. On our second camping trip, my parents and my sister came with us. We lent my sister our 2 person tent (that we got as a wedding present) and my parents borrowed my brother’s 3 person tent.
There are also some non-profit organization that lends gear. In Washington State, the Washington Trail Association (WTA) have a lending library. The Mountaineers also lends gear for a fee.
Don’t forget your local buy nothing group or local neighborhood page. You can ask your neighbor to borrow some of the gear, and folks usually lend it. Just make sure to take care of the items you borrowed and return it on time.
Get Used Gear
Things will inevitably get dirty when you are camping, so there’s really no need to buy items that are new. Also, a lot of people try camping and will either realize that they don’t like it or they like it so much that they are upgrading their gears. This is how I found our sleeping pads. I highly doubt that the MondoKing Pad got a lot of used. It was so clean when I got it. The previous owner of the LuxuryMat is upgrading their gear.
Speaking of used gear, don’t be afraid to buy a gear that has some flaw. Most items can be repaired and reputable brands will even repair it for you for a small fee. I opted to repair my MondoKing by myself, but I could have also send it to Therm-a-Rest and they will repair the pad for a fee. I know that Nemo will also repair your gear for a fee.
I used my neighborhood FB page quite a bit, but I still see items on Craigslist.
Don’t but more than what you need
If you will only camp during the summer, there is no need to buy a 4 season tent. Really, there is no need to buy a tent that will cost over $500. REI is my go to store for outdoor things, but buying a $500 tent will not make sense if you will only camp once or twice during the summer. Same with sleeping bags or really any gear. Costco usually sells tents and camping gear during the camping season and most of their items are good enough. This is where we got our lantern and headlamps. Bonus point is that Costco have a really good return policy!
Shop on Sale or Outlet Store and don’t forget to use coupons/ coupon code
If you can’t find used gear and really need to get something new, wait to shop on sales. REI has a big memorial day sale or usually have member only sale. This is where I got MBP’s sleeping bag. I bought some items on steepandcheap.com. I subscribed to the site and won $200 gift card. I didn’t buy any camping gear, but I bought an Altra running shoes.
We have already camped 18 nights for 2 years and have put the gears to test. We may add more items like a Thermacell for mosquito repellant or a Camping Grill, but so far we are pretty happy with our gear. The more you packed in, the more you will need to pack out, so I try to minimize our gears as much as I can.
Per my calculation the total cost of our gear if I bought everything new is $1,464.4. We paid $583.93 and saved $880.47, by buying items pre-loved, buying from Costco and waiting for discounts.
Nick's Sleeping Bag
Adam Sleeping Bag
Thermarest LuxuryMap Sleeping Bag
Max Sleeping Bag
Hitch Cargo Rack
Thermarest MondoKing Sleeping Bag (x2)
Thermarest Camping Mattress Repair Kit
Tent Pole Replacement
Thanks for reading! What’s your must have’s camping gear?
Our last camping trip for 2022 was spent at YMCA Lake Wenatchee Campgrounds for the Labor Day Family Camp. We spent 3 nights and 4 days in the campground. We booked a tent site for the long weekend which cost $175. We also added an all inclusive meal, which includes 8 meals for 2 adults for $170. Kids under 5 gets free meals with paying adults and our boys, age 5 and 2 got the free meals.
It takes just under 3 hours for us to get to the Campground. We always break our drive halfway to have lunch in a playground and let the boys get their wiggles out. This time, we spent about an hour in Osperay Park, in Sultan WA, just off highway 2. The playground seems fairly new and have a zip line. We had our packed lunch and let the kids burn off their energy before another hour on the road.
We got to the campground fairly early. The folks were still preparing for our arrival and don’t have our names on the site yet. We met Erin, the camp director and she checked us in. She was also super nice to the boys. After checking in, one of the camp counselor lead us to our camp site. I really liked our campsite. It was huge and have a long driveway, so the kids can run around. We set up our tent on the flattest spot that we could find. Once all settled, we checked out the campgrounds. I always like to visit the nearest bathroom and was nicely surprised to see that it was spotless, has a couple of showers and have A/C on.
We checked out the lodge, the basketball courts and the tennis court. There wasn’t any plan activities for the day and I was hoping that we could swim. Unfortunately, we can’t swim on the lake unless it is designated swim time because it requires a lifeguard. We could go and walk to the state park if we really want to. It’s a bummer because our first day was the hottest part of the day.
Dinner was served at 5 PM with an ice cream social at 7PM. It was spaghetti with a choice between red or white sauce and a garlic bread. There weren’t a lot of campers at this time yet. After dinner we spent some time in first floor of the lodge and found some toy building straws that the kids played with. We went back for the ice cream social, which wasn’t really social and then signed up for some activities for the weekend.
I woke up a few times at night because I heard some howling/barking. Thoughts came to mind and let’s just say that I wasn’t able to sleep.
Activities in the morning included boating and archery. Boating was cancelled due to wind. It was ok since we didn’t signed up for it. MBP was signed up for archery and we spent the morning there. I also found out that I wasn’t the only one who heard howling. Apparently it was wolves. Or at least some campers thought it was wolves. AHP got bored and just want to walk back and forth on the trails.
After archery, I found a bite on my right hand that got super swollen. At lunch I started to get dizzy and I took some children’s Benadryl. After lunch, we drove to the closest emergency room in Leavenworth. At this point the swelling seems to stop. The nurse saw me in the reception and look at my hand. She told me that she had the same reaction and that it should go away in a week. I signed a note to not be treated (thank goodness) and off we went to Safeway to got a Benadryl Ointment. We also got some sneakers for the boys.
We went back onsite and at this point the kids made some arts and crafts and made some friends with other kids. Dinner was pizza. I was hungry since I missed lunch, so I ate a ton. Good thing is there were enough pizza for everyone.
There was a campfire for the night (though there wasn’t any “fire” because of the burn ban). We can hear it from our tent and MBP and AHP just won’t sleep. I let MBP go in the last 10 minutes just so he can see it.
After pancake breakfast, we went boating. I wasn’t really sure what we signed up for. I thought it was electric boat, but it was a good old fashion canoe. I didn’t seat properly and my husband ended up paddling a lot. It got windy and one of the campers boat tipped over. We heard “help” and my husband tried to paddle there as fast as he can. Good thing another camper were already there and the kids in the tipped boat were “rescued” and were in another boat. At this point, the wind really started to picked up and I was even scared that our boat might tip as well. MBP though was having a lot of fun singing row row row your boat. AHP was sitting on my lap and I tried to position him so that I can also paddle. It took a while but we finally ended back on the shore. Whew – not sure what we’re thinking there. Next time we will definitely stay close.
We had lunch of mac and cheese and chicken nuggets. The kids played with their friends after lunch and then it was swim time. At swimming, AHP was just so so tired. He already missed 2 days of naps and wasn’t really sleeping well at night. He went back with my husband in the tent and finally napped! MBP and I stayed in the lake. It was rocky and I was glad that we have our crocs on. We really just played on the water since it was cold. MBP made some friend and I was very entertained watching the wind surfer. The lifeguards (Erin) told us that swim time is over. Back in the tent, AHP and my husband were napping. MBP and I took a shower and I gave him 15 minutes of iPad at the lodge. After that, he made some crafts – turtle from a paper plate. He then met his friends again who gave him ice cream. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who visited the ER. A 4 year old kid got bitten by a bee under her eyes and it got swollen. It looks bad, but it doesn’t seem to bother her. MBP didn’t really finish the ice cream. The kids went to the lodge and they all played. I was actually able to sit for a bit. AHP arrived, refreshed from his nap. The happy boy played until dinner time. For dinner they had some beef roast and mashed potatoes. They ran out of beef roast that they started bringing left over food. Yikes. The kids played after dinner and then we got ready for bed before the camp fire. The campfire was a big hit for the kids. MBP sang “Luna” while AHP sang the “chocolate” man. Before this, their friends visit our site and they were singing the song. The kids were loud and I can hear them from the bathroom.
We had our usual routine to pack up before breakfast. I took care of all the sleeping pads and sleeping bags while my husband took care of the things outside and ready the car. Once things are packed up, we headed for breakfast. We had bacon and potatoes for breakfast which was a hit. After breakfast, our kids said goodbyes to their friends and we head back home.
What I like and don’t like about the camp
The campground is nice, specifically our campsite is huge. I also liked the activities. Archery, boating and the arts and crafts were hit for the kids. The camp is definitely built with kids in mind and most (if not all) families have kids. Our boys had a lot of fun making friends.
The camp can do better on meals, though. To do this, they probably need to charge more. I do feel bad because there were times that they ran out of food. I think they should charge for kids. I mean, even my 2 years old is eating just as much as me and I’m more than happy to pay. That said, if we do this again, we will definitely bring more snack or might even opt out to have our meals included and just eat in our campsite.
Overall, it was a great weekend to wrap our Summer!
We visited Long Beach, WA to see the Annual Kite Festival. We didn’t have any plans in August and when I saw that the Annual Kite Festival is going to happen this year, I figure that it is a good camping trip for the family.
We stayed 3 nights at The Lamp Camp, about 4 miles from the main town. It is a private camp site and has some amenities, including an outdoor kitchen, sink, shower and a clubhouse. The trail leading to the beach is wonderful. We also spent quite a bit of time inside the clubhouse. The kids love the board games and we were able to complete a 300 puzzle pieces. The hosts were wonderful. My kid broke one of the jar inside the clubhouse. I called the host and she was there right away. I offered to pay or replace it but they refuse.
For our first day, we just stayed in the campsite and went to the beach. There were very few people at the beach and we let Leela off leash. She was very popular and made some friends. We saw a lot of birds diving for food and some dead crabs on the shore. MBP also flew a kite. It was windy and I was afraid that it will break, but it made it. When we got back, we stayed in the clubhouse while my husband grilled some brats for dinner. We then just stayed in the clubhouse and played some board games. MBP learned to play Uno.
The next day, we went to town for the actual festival. The festival has some programs for kids but it was definitely weather dependent. They gave away 200 handmade kites for the kids, but they were not able to fly it. It was so windy. The sand was getting into AHP’s eye and he doesn’t like. The kids still got kites. I asked for a direction to the kite museum and one of the guys giving away the kites suggested to walk the boardwalk all the way to the kite museum. MBP walked all the way and I only have to carry AHP on a small section of the walk.
The kite museum cost $6 per adult and $4 for kids 3 and up. It was only one level. It was ok. I mean there were good kites, but there were very few of them. The kids did well on not touching anything, or perhaps we just told them not to touch anything 1000 times. Well, we took some pictures and my husband walked back to get our car. We just went back to the campsite for lunch and had a little bit of quiet time, before dinner. My husband grilled some burgers for dinner. We went to town after and the kids played some arcades. The boys had a lot of fun. It was basically bed time once we got back to our campsite. The kids had an “easier” time sleeping.
The next day, the kids were able to fly their kites. It was actually really cool to see all different kites up in the air. There were some big ones too. We had our picnic lunch in town and got some ice cream for the kids. The ice cream was delicious and I’m a big fan. We went back to the campsite for some down time and went back to town for dinner.
It drizzled a bit at night, so we put up the rainfly for our tent. Once the kids settled in, I put all our camp chairs, shoes and everything outside inside the car so it won’t get wet.
It was wet on our last day, so we decided to pack up and have breakfast at McDonalds.
Another successful camping trip and I was glad to see the Kite Festival!
We spent 3 nights, camping at KOA in Astoria/Warrenton/Seaside, OR. KOA stands for Kamp of America (KOA) Campgrounds and have numerous locations in the US and Canada. This is our second year camping here. Last year we stayed at the tent site. This year, we booked a rustic “camping cabin”. The cabin has 2 bunk beds. The cabin has no kitchen and no bathroom and we brought our own linens. There’s a cute rocking chair in the porch and a table and a fire pit outside. The campsites have two camping kitchens with grills and stove available to use. It also has a full size sink so it was easy to wash the dishes.
The campsites is across Fort Stevens State Park and about 20 minute drive to Seaside, OR and a 15 minute drive to Astoria.
Of all the campsites we visited last year, this one stand out to MBP and he was excited to go back. This is definitely glamping for us, having electric and a “kitchen” available. MBP remembers the area and know the “fun zone” in general. We got there in the afternoon and spent the rest of the day exploring the campsites. The fun zone has a mini golf, a jump pillow, basketball and volleyball courts and the lifesize chess and checker sets.
MBP’s favorite, however are the video games, which in all honesty is falling apart. Regardless, he likes playing his pac man. There were also movie nights every night and the kids even get to watch an entire movie, AHP included.
On our second day, the kids enjoyed the campgrounds until it got too hot for me. I was able to convince the kids to leave the campsite and go to the beach, at Fort Stevens. We’ve been here before. The breeze was a nice reprieve. Once we were beached out, we went back to the campsites. My husband grill some brats for dinner and we head out to watch the movie – “How to train a dragon”.
This year, we also drove a bit south to visit Seaside. It has a great small beach town vibe. We spent some time in the arcade, and had lunch at Mo’s. We hang out at the beach a bit, but it was so windy. We went ahead and walk around the town. The kids rode the carousel and had ice cream before we head back to the campsites. AHP was tired and slept on the ride back. For dinner, we ordered Pizza from Fultano’s and they delivered. Yes, we are definitely glamping. We had dinner inside the game room since it was drizzling outside. After dinner, the kids tried to watch Jumanji. AHP wasn’t able to seat still so we left and just hanged out in the fun zone.
Overall, it was a good trip. The kids definitely enjoyed the amenities. I prefer camping that has more nature activities like hiking or swimming. It is something that we could have done as well, but it’s hard to convince the kids to leave the campsite.