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Pilot Flying J Celebrates National Hot Dog Day for Entire Week with Free Item from the Roller Grill (July 19-26)

In honor of the holiday, Pilot Flying J  is giving guests one free hot dog or roller grill menu item of their choice for a full week from July 19 through July 26. This offer can be redeemed by displaying the online coupon available at NationalHotDogDay.PilotFlyingJ.com or at Pilot Flying J’s Facebook page at the time of purchase in-store.

The National Hot Dog Day promotion at participating Pilot and Flying J Travel Centers is valid for customers in the U.S. and Canada from 12:01 a.m. on July 19 to 11:59 p.m. EDT on July 26.

Pilot Flying J features all-beef Oscar Mayer hot dogs at more than 500 locations, and the roller grill menu includes a variety of other crave-able options at select locations, including:

  • Jalapeno Cheese HotDogs
  • Cheese Smokies
  • Cheeseburger Links
  • Tornados
  • Chicken Rollerbites
  • Tamales
  • Eggrolls

Synchronous Fireflies in Great Smoky Mountains 2017- Applications Open Now!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials  have announced  the dates for the annual synchronous firefly viewing in Elkmont!!

The eight-day viewing period runs from Tuesday, May 30 through Tuesday, June 6. There will be a lottery system used again for viewing passes.

The lottery will be open for applications from today , Friday, April 28 at 12:00 noon until Monday, May 1 at 8:00 p.m. Results of the lottery will be available on Wednesday, May 10. A total of 1,800 vehicle passes will be available for the event which includes: 1768 regular-parking passes (225 per day) which admit one passenger vehicle up to 19’ in length with a maximum of six occupants, and 32 large-vehicle parking passes (four per day) which admit one large vehicle (RV, mini-bus, etc.) from 19’ to 30’ in length, with a maximum of 24 occupants. Lottery applicants must apply for either a regular-parking pass or large-vehicle parking pass and then may choose two possible dates to attend the event over the eight-day viewing period.

The lottery system uses a randomized computer drawing to select applications. There is no fee to enter the lottery this year. If selected, the lottery winner will be charged a $2.75 reservation fee and awarded a parking pass. The parking pass permits visitors to park at Sugarlands Visitor Center and allows occupants to access the shuttle service to Elkmont.

Parking passes are non-refundable, non-transferable, and good only for the date issued. There is a limit of one lottery application per household per season. All lottery applicants will be notified by e-mail on May 10 that they were “successful” and awarded a parking pass or “unsuccessful” and not able to secure a parking pass.

The number of passes issued each day is based primarily on the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking lot capacity and the ability to accommodate a large number of viewers on site. Arrival times will be assigned in order to relieve traffic congestion in the parking lot and also for boarding the shuttles, which are provided in partnership with the City of Gatlinburg. The shuttle buses will begin picking up visitors from the Sugarlands Visitor Center RV/bus parking area at 7:00 p.m. The cost will be $1.00 round trip per person, as in previous years, and collected when boarding the shuttle. Cash will be the only form of payment accepted.

The shuttle service is the only transportation mode for visitor access during this period, except for registered campers staying at the Elkmont Campground. Visitors are not allowed to walk the Elkmont entrance road due to safety concerns.

Visitors may visit the website www.recreation.gov and search for “Firefly Event” for more information and to enter the lottery. Parking passes may also be obtained by calling 1-877-444-6777, but park officials encourage the use of the online process. The $2.75 reservation fee covers the cost of awarding the passes.

For more information about the synchronous fireflies, please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/fireflies.htm.

 

The National Park Service said 20,010 people entered the firefly lottery last year.

Visitors are asked to visit Recreation.gov or call 1(877)444-6777 to enter the lottery.

National Parks Lifetime Pass Just $10 for Senior Citizens

Post may contain affiliate links, read Coupon Katie disclosure policy here

Photo by: M. Slattery

Right now, senior citizens can get a lifetime National Parks pass for just $10.   Get yours  soon because the price is supposed to go up to $80 sometime this year.

A $10 lifetime pass that provides access to more than 2,000 recreation sites managed by five Federal agencies, including all of the National Parks, for life. Up to 100% of the proceeds being used to improve and enhance visitor recreation services.

Note: you’ll need to pay an additional $10 processing fee. You’ll need to have proof of U.S. citizenship, or permanent residency, and must be age 62 or older.

The date for when the price will change has not been released.

Museum of Appalachia Tennessee Fall Homecoming: 50% off Tickets Today from Groupon

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A fun East Tennessee tradition,  Tennessee Fall Homecoming at the Museum of Appalachia.  Today only, Groupon has a 50% off adult tickets deal, that means  $30 for two adult tickets to the 2016 Tennessee Fall Homecoming on Sunday, October 9th .

During this year’s Tennessee Fall Homecoming, visitors will enjoy bluegrass, folk, and Americana music from Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Mountain Faith and dozens more across five outdoor stages. They’ll also browse crafts and watch demonstrations from artisans who specialize in pioneer skills, all while snacking on traditional Southern fare.

Scouring the back roads of Southern Appalachia, John Rice Irwin amassed thousands of historic artifacts before opening the Museum of Appalachia in 1969. A Smithsonian Institute affiliate since 2007, the 501-(c)3 museum now consists of more than 30 historic structures that recreate an Appalachian village, complete with farm animals and gardens flanked by split-rail fences. Along with two large exhibition halls, the museum’s pioneer buildings house an extensive collection, which ranges from Appalachian baskets and quilts to folk art and toys.

Elsewhere, rustic paths wind through pastoral sites, a Hall of Fame honors Appalachian notables, and live musicians play old-time Appalachian tunes.

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Promotional value expires Oct 9, 2016. Amount paid never expires. Limit 2 per person, may buy 2 additional as gifts. Valid only for option purchased. Valid rain or shine. Valid only for adults 19 or older.

Camping Out West Part 4: Spontaneity Time

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You’ve arrived safely, the groceries are bought, and you are set up at your first campsite. Now, it’s playtime. First, stop at the visitor center. A few minutes through their exhibits and talking with a ranger will help you zero in on what makes that park special and what activities are realistic for your family.

They have maps, program guides, and Junior Ranger books. Some JR books are free; some cost a few bucks each. They are great summaries from a kids’ perspective of what you should be looking for and doing in each park. And at the end, your kid earns a cool badge to keep. Our friends picked up one in Muir Woods made of reclaimed redwood. The ones in Zion and Yosemite are laser printed wood; some are plastic, but they’re good reminders of previous trips to pin on camelbacks for years to come.

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As for family suitable hikes, I recommend:

Grand Canyon (north rim): The Rim Trail from the campgrounds to the lodge and back

Zion: The Narrows (full day’s hike through a river canyon—so cool!) and Lower Emerald Pool Trail (one hour)

Bryce Canyon: The Navajo Loop trail: from Wall Street to Queens Garden Trail, Sunset to Sunrise Points

Sequoia: Moro Rock, Crescent Meadow Trail to Thorp’s Log, General Sherman Tree (the largest tree in the world)

Kings Canyon: General Grant Grove, Zumwalt Meadow, horseback riding near Cedar Grove

Yosemite: Lower Yosemite Falls, Mirror Lake, rafting along the Merced, the top of Vernal Falls via Mist Trail, Half Dome for those seeking a challenge (must get a permit– competitive).

Death Valley: Drive to Badwater (the lowest point in the US and a giant salt flat) and Artist’s Drive (beautiful). The visitor center at Furnace Creek has a temperature gage outside. Our high was 133, yes 133!!!!!

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The unpredictable surprises that come from just being present in a national park are what make your trip memorable: a herd of bison as you’re driving into Grand Canyon, the refreshing river rushing by your ankles as you maneuver through breath-taking canyons in Zion, a mother and her fawns traipsing by any given campsite at dusk, the falling stars you witness from the meadows in Yosemite. Getting in touch with the earth enlivens you and your kids. Use all five senses. Look out the window. Take time to play. You’re making memories worth every penny.

If you missed Part 1- The Budget you can read it here or Part 2- Planning you can read it here, and Camping Out West Part 3- Buying Food here.

Margaret is a freelance writer in Knoxville, TN. She writes and produces for HGTV and has been couponing since 2009.

Camping Out West Part 3- Buying Food

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The big planning is out of the way, you arrive in Las Vegas, and now you’re ready to relax. Not so fast. Camping still requires you get the right amount of food: not too much, not too little, just right, Goldilocks. As I often buy in volume to save $, this was a tough one for me initially. But you have to keep telling yourself: only buy what you need. The rest is wasted. Find the smallest containers for ketchup, mayo, mustard, maple syrup, etc. Check your recipes. If you only need 5 potatoes, don’t buy 3 pounds. I say this to save you money AND space in your already cramped rental car. Only buy what you need for one week and then restock.

When you arrive at the store, find the produce guy and pick up three banana boxes with the lids. They’re good sizes, are sturdy, and stack well. They also enable you to separate food into breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For breakfast you’ll want cereal and oatmeal for the days you pack up, coffee and hot cocoa, and pancakes for the more relaxed mornings. The lunch box is often filled with breads, peanut butter, chips,
apples & oranges, and trail mix. The dinner box has pasta, potatoes, corn, canned goods, etc. Then the cooler is your fridge: milk, butter, meats, chocolate, cheese, etc.

Here are our favorite dinners:

Night 1: fresh rotisserie chicken, wild rice, steamed broccoli

Night 2: fresh tortellini in alfredo sauce, frozen peas, French bread

Night 3: leftover chicken in quesadillas, canned corn and black beans

Night 4: foil packets of already cooked sausage, fresh corn, potatoes, onions, and bell peppers. Add a little butter and olive oil to help steam. Splurge for “heavy duty foil” to prevent disaster.

Night 5: hotdogs, baked beans, corn chips

Bring coupons if you want, but you’ll save more by buying less. Stick with stores that don’t require cards for savings or ask them to give you a card. Yes, that saved me $15. In Nevada and California, be prepared for higher prices than in Knoxville; I estimated 30-40% higher across the board except for alcohol. Avoid glass while camping; good wine can come in boxes these days and is sold in grocery stores. Your biggest savings will be sticking to your meal plans: eating breakfast at the campsite or for free in your hotel, packing lunches for hikes, and keeping snacks handy in the car for long drives. It adds up quickly.

And since some campsites don’t have showers, pick up a pack of baby wipes. They’ll get you through a few days. Also buy small Kleenex packs and a small bottle of hand sanitizer that you keep with you at all times. Hey, you never know!

If you missed Part 1- The Budget you can read it here or Part 2- Planning you can read it here.

Margaret is a freelance writer in Knoxville, TN. She writes and produces for HGTV and has been couponing since 2009.

Camping Out West Part 2 : The Planning

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The key to a successful national park adventure is proper planning. With the centennial celebration of the National Park Service this year, they are more popular than ever. Every campsite we visited was full, and some filled up within seconds of booking windows being open; not exaggerating!

We started with mapping out what we wanted to see and how long we needed at each location. Our favorites made a nice loop starting and ending in Las Vegas. Since Allegiant only flies from Knoxville to Vegas on select days, we picked ideal flights and worked from there. Sign up for their emails so that you can be first to know when they run specials like we got.

Allegiant is super cheap, but the add-ons can add up quickly. I suggest you pay for your checked bags when you book because it’s cheaper. We checked five, but we could have used one more. Allegiant limits the weight to 40 pounds a bag vs the 50 pounds on most airlines. Weigh your bags ahead of time to avoid more fees! And make one of them a cooler. We all carried small backpacks that fit under the seat to avoid the “carry-on baggage” fees. Pack your own snacks and water bottles to avoid pricey in-flight snack charges. Unfortunately, even on a direct flight, Allegiant lost one of our bags—the cooler. Make a list of everything in each bag. We were able to replace its contents at Wal-mart and REI, but it did cost us time.

For rental cars, it pays to book well in advance. We reserved a car right after booking airfares in January. SUVs are almost always cheaper than mini-vans, but get what you need for your family. Just make sure you read the fine print to get “unlimited miles within the states you plan to visit.”

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Since setting up campsites can be time and energy consuming, I suggest staying at least two nights at every location. You’ll thank me later. We stayed two nights at Grand Canyon, three in Zion (with a day trip to Bryce), two in Kings Canyon (with a day trip through Sequoia), and four nights in Yosemite. Note: each site is limited to six people, but if you book with friends who have five in their family, you can space out a family of seven. Hint, hint: Coupon Katie.

Most national park campsites book six months in advance; Yosemite is four months. Check Recreation.gov for details of parks that interest you. All reservations are done online, often at 10am EST on the 15 th of the month. And when I say 10am, you better be Johnny on the spot, ready to hit that button at 10am. As three families planning a reunion in Yosemite, we had six adults with individual accounts trying to nab 12 specific sites (one each on computers and one on mobile). Out of 12 attempts, only three were successful in the first two seconds. Thankfully that’s all we needed, but if you want Yosemite during peak summer times, you have to be a shark! Check here for more tips

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Your last step before you go is packing clothes. Lay out what you think you need and then put half away. Not kidding. You’re camping without showers for possibly days. What difference does it make if you wear clothes more than once?! We packed one weeks’ worth and then washed them at a hotel before week two. We fit almost all our clothes in one suitcase and then separated them into mesh bags so that everyone could find their clothes easily in the tent.

I suggest two sets of pants that can zip off as shorts, leggings for girls, 5 t-shirts, 1 extra layer for cooler mornings, 1 bathing suit, 3 good hiking socks you can wash at the campsite, clean undies every day, a hat and sunglasses, and only 3 pairs of shoes per person: hiking boots, close toed water shoes, and flip flops / Chacos / Tevas.

If you’ve managed to get your flights, rental car, and campsites, the rest is cake. Relax and look forward to spontaneity when you arrive.

If you missed Part 1- The Budget you can read it here.

Margaret is a freelance writer in Knoxville, TN. She writes and produces for HGTV and has been couponing since 2009.