Category Archives: Road Trip

The Upper Midwest & Pacific Northwest – Part 1

This is the first in the New Adventures series.  In this series, I will be outlining plans for future trips. I expect this series will cover most of 2019 and perhaps spill into 2020.

These posts will contain a variety of information based on location, modes of transportation, budgets, etc.  I plan to have a Stats section at the top of each post to provide a snapshot of what’s to come.  Each trip will come in a set of posts. There will typically be an itinerary post like this one, followed by one or more posts about what to do in each location, and, when needed, a packing post. 

I’m starting with the Upper Midwest and Pacific Northwest for two reasons:
1. It is close by, relatively speaking.
2. There seem to be a few states that I haven’t seen, as in nearly all of them.

Where I've Been

Let’s head out, shall we?

Stats

Mode of transportation: Personal vehicle, road trip!
Miles: roughly 5,100 + 500 for extra excursions further off of the highway.
Hours in the car: roughly 83
Days:  22
States: 11 (I am not counting our home state.)
Travelers: 2 adults, 1 teenager, 1 tiny dog
Visas/paperwork: None. All of the humans are US citizens and our dog is not a restricted breed anywhere.
Overnights: 21
Airbnbs: 6
Hotels: 6
Campgrounds (tent camping): 2
Estimated Cost of Transportation: $560 (5,600 miles at 35 mpg and $3.50 per gallon. We drive a hybrid sedan and usually get 37-40 mpg so this is a conservative estimate,)
Estimated Cost of Lodging
:  $2,700  (I pad the costs a bit to help with budgeting but it comes out to about $130 per night for private, pet-friendly spaces with kitchens, real beds for everyone, wi-fi, usually a washing machine, and parking included.)
Estimated food costs: $1,000 (This assumes that we will mostly buy prepared food.  With included breakfast and cooking for ourselves, we can bring this way down.) 
Running Total Cost: $4,260
Major Points of Interest for Our Family: Chicago, University of Wisconsin- Madison, Minneapolis, Glacier National Park, Seattle, Portland, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore

The Route:

We live near Indianapolis so we will start there.
1. Chicago, IL – 3-hour drive – we’ll leave home early and the time change will work in our favor – overnight – Airbnb ($200).  BTW, options include a Harry Potter themed apartment!

2. Madison, WI – 2-hour drive – stop for lunch and wander around Univ. of Wisconsin campus to stretch our legs. 
This is a point of interest for us since a dear friend attended this school.  Since it is on the way, we want to stop. 

3. Minneapolis, MN – 4-hour drive – 2 overnights – Airbnb ($300)
We have friends who live here now so we’d love to visit with them. Besides, it’s a pretty cool city.

4. Bismarck, ND – 6-hour drive – overnight – Hotel ($100) Country Inn & Suites

5. Minot, ND – 2-hour drive – overnight – Hotel ($80) Microtel by Wyndham

6. Havre, MT – 6.5-hour drive – overnight – Hotel ($120) AmericInn by Wyndham * Time Zone Change to Mountain Time Zone

7. Glacier National Park – 4.5-hour drive – 2 overnights – camp in the park ($46 – $23/night at Many Glacier Campground.  We can make reservations ahead of time and though there are no showers at the campground, it is a short walk to a motel that has coin-operated showers. Not luxury travel by any means but adventures come in many forms!)

8. Spokane, WA – 5-hour drive – overnight – Airbnb ($100)  *Time Zone Change to Pacific Time Zone

9. Seattle, WA –  4-hour drive  – 3 overnights – Airbnb ($500)

10. Portland, OR – 3-hour drive – 2 overnights – Airbnb ($400)

11. Wallace, ID – 6.5-hour drive – overnight – Airbnb ($100)

12. Yellowstone National Park – 5.5-hour drive – 2 overnights – camp in the park  ($47  – $23.50 per night.  Reservations required for Bridge Bay Campground.)  *Time Zone Change to Mountain Time Zone

13. Gillette, WY – 5.5-hour drive – overnight – Airbnb ($150)

14. Mount Rushmore – 2.5-hour drive – overnight – Hotel ($250).  This is a bit high for us for one night. We might actually keep going after our stop at the monument.  This is a gamble though, South Dakota has wide stretches between population centers. 

15. Jackson, MN – 6.5-hour drive – overnight  – Hotel ($160) AmericInn by Wyndham   *Time Zone Change to Central Time Zone

16. Davenport, IA – 5.5-hour drive – overnight – Hotel ($130) My Place.  This is a chain I haven’t heard of and this is a newly built facility but it comes highly rated.  

17. Indianapolis – 4.5-hour drive – home (We already pay the mortgage so it costs us nothing extra.) *Time Zone Change to Eastern Time Zone

Photo by Peter Fazekas on Pexels.com

This is, admittedly, an ambitious trip.  Driving 5,100 miles in 21 days is quite a bit.  This breaks down to about 4 hours of driving per day.  Since we will not be changing location every day, some days will require more driving than just 4 hours.  Luckily, my husband likes to drive, my daughter and I are excellent passengers, and my dog settles down within 30 minutes. 

Why Airbnb vs. Hotels?
(Please note that I did not list individual homes for Airbnbs above. I did extensive research and that is what we would pay but since they are people’s private homes and that seems wrong.)
We like Airbnb for several reasons.
-We get to live like locals so we have a more authentic experience of what life is like there. We do like points of interest now and then but we really just want to get a feel for the place. 
-We’ve always had good luck though we do expect that our luck will eventually run out.
-If we have a whole place there are fewer people to annoy if our dog barks for a few minutes when we need to leave him for a few hours if we are headed somewhere we can’t take him.  He is crated though so we don’t worry that he destroy anything.**
– We can cook for ourselves to keep costs down.
-We can get a washing machine pretty regularly.
**It is very important that when you initially contact hosts you tell them you have a dog with you. I usually describe ours as a “house-trained, crate-trained, 14-pound cutie pie who is in his crate at night and whenever we can’t be with him.” It is best to be upfront with people, so much trouble can ensue if you are not. 
Lest you think we are big meanies, we’ve tried for years to get him to sleep out of his crate or to be able to wander around the house while we are not home but he REALLY likes his crate.  Therefore, we respect his den animal ways. 

Airbnb filters used for this trip:
-Entire Place
-3 adults (Our teenager is over the age of 12 and counts as an adult.)
-Pet-Friendly
-2 actual beds (This is a long trip and our child is taller than me so we do not ask her to sleep on a pull-out, futon, or air mattress  unless it is absolutely necessary.)
-WiFi
-Washing machine at least every 3 or 4 days though most places I found did have one. (We bring 5-7 days of clothes and wash as we go.)
-Superhost
I also scour the reviews looking for the words clean, kind, and awesome as well as dirty, not what I expected, and difficult.  We have excellent guest ratings because we work hard to leave homes in great shape. We are usually able to give excellent ratings to the hosts as well but we have to be honest.  It is best to be prepared for what you may encounter rather than ding someone for something you could/should have known before you booked. 

So why are you staying in hotels instead of Airbnb sometimes?
This is usually for one of two reasons. 
1. There are no viable Airbnbs available in that location. This is almost always the reason on this trip.
2. We will be a bit unpredictable in our arrival making it hard to meet a host.
When booking hotels, I like to Booking.com because I can filter much the same way as on Airbnb. A word of warning though, I had to click “pet-friendly” for each new search in each new city. 

Why do you sometimes camp?
In some of the National Parks, we have little choice but to do so if we want to stay in the park.  Also, our daughter enjoys camping and all family members have a say on what we do and where we go when we plan trips. My husband and I have done lots of camping and don’t mind doing so now and then. Besides, you can get some AMAZING views from campsites in National Parks. The fresh air makes for great sleeping too just be smart about where you book. For tent camping, you will want shade and a generator free zone. No one sleeps well in a hot tent surrounded by exhaust and noise.

Should you rent an RV instead?
Well, let’s see.
I checked that out at a few places around Indianapolis. I found that the cost of renting an RV would be:
$3200 for the smallest vehicle (there are only 3 of us plus a small dog)
$2,000 for the mileage. I eastimate 5,600 miles and they usually charge 35 to 40 cents per mile.
$1,650 for the gas (5,600 miles at 12 mpg and $3.50 per gallon – here’s hoping the gas mileage would be that good)
$735 for campground fees averaging around $35/night (The actual average range for campsites fees is $30 to $50 but there are some ways around that including being able to park at a Cabela’s or a Wal-Mart for free overnight. You have to run climate control/fridge/etc. off your battery though and you have no water or sewer hook ups.  If you plan to stay at either of these stores overnight, you need to ask the manager’s permission.  There are a few that do not allow it for one reason or another.)
$500 for food (we’d be able to cook a lot more)
Comparable RV total: $8,085*

*This does not include transportation into the cities and/or wasted time looking for city parking that would accommodate even a small RV. 

 

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Our Airbnb Road Trip Through New England and Canada

From time to time I will be sharing the lost posts of Dream Depart Explore. This is one such post as we took this trip in July and August of 2016. We did then enjoy time away in Scotland as mentioned and it went just as well.  Stay tuned for lost Scotland posts as well. Now, without further ado, our thoughts on a road trip that relied heavily on Airbnb to provide places to lay our heads as we dreamed happy vacation dreams.


We ADORE our immediate family, our extended family, and our friends who live in the Northeast and that is why we travel there so often.  This past summer though we decided to get our munchkin (I need a new nickname, she and I literally see eye-to-eye these days) to the parts of the Northeast she hadn’t seen yet.  Until this year she had been to New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts many times but that was it. So off we went.

This was the longest family vacation we have taken to date and we brought the dog. (Yes, some of my animal issues have subsided, who couldn’t love this face?)

We were gone for 16 days and drove over 3500 miles. My hubby is a champ!!

Our itinerary was a bit strange in that it wasn’t all that efficient. Though one of the main goals of this trip was to give small-fry (nope, that’s not better) a chance to explore the New England states she had yet to visit, we also wanted to be respectful of our family members. We stayed with each of my brothers for 3 nights and wanted those to be mostly on the weekends. We may have been on vacation but they weren’t and still had jobs to get to as did the rest of our friends and family we were hoping to see.

In 15 nights on the road, we stayed in 9 different places.  Two were siblings’ homes, 1 hotel, 1 traditional bed & breakfast, and 5 Airbnbs.  Before this trip we had stayed in just one Airbnb in Wisconsin.  Did I mention I LOVE Door County?  We had such a great experience and saved so much money, we decided to really test our luck on this trip.  It was an excellent decision!

We were able to stay much closer to the action than we could have in traditional hotels so we saved a lot of time. We also saved quite a bit of money even with paying for parking in Boston.  It is tricky to find hotels that will allow dogs, even house trained, crate trained, non-shedding, hypoallergenic, 12 pound cutie pies. When you do find them, there is usually a $35-ish charge per night and there is not much in the way of a safe place to walk the puppy.  By staying in Airbnbs (use that pet filter well my friends) we had lots of options, nearly all of them cheaper than hotels in the same area. We had neighborhoods and parks to explore and we got to meet lots of nice neighbors walking their own dogs.

During this trip we stayed in entire homes or apartments. When we travel with kiddo (yes!) we tend to do this.  It is much easier to have our own space. However, when my husband and I travel by ourselves or as a couple we are just as likely to stay in private rooms within family homes.

So, where did we stay?

Let me open my handy app and check it out!

  • In Boston we stayed in a fun and funky lofted apartment in a brownstone in Beacon Hill not far from Boston Public Gardens and Boston Common.  We parked our car and forgot about it for 3 days as we walked everywhere.  Thanks to our apartment in Back Bay, we were close enough to everything to do so.  This all went so well that my daughter now has her eyes on Boston/Cambridge for college. She’s thinking MIT.  We’ll see!
  • In Portland, Maine we stayed in a house that I’d guess was about 100 years old and had been converted to apartments. It was right down the street from a large park and a donut shop. Apparently they are the best donuts in Maine so we dutifully checked them out. They did NOT disappoint! We also visited the Portland Museum of Art and enjoyed time in the cafe and gift shop. Not far away was the Spring Point Ledge Light.  Before we left the state we did make sure to stop at the LLBean outlets in Freeport.  We spent nearly all day there, actually.  It did my New England heart good!
  • In Vermont we stayed on a farm that came with goats and chickens and my daughter saw more stars than she has ever seen growing up in suburbia. (On our upcoming trip out west she insists that we camp a few nights so she can see more!) We were within a mile of the Ben & Jerry’s Factory.  Bonus: Our host pointed us to The Reservoir restaurant in town.  We enjoyed the wine at dinner so much that the next day we took off for the vineyard.
  • In Montreal we stayed in a converted cigarette factory that had the most gorgeous pool and patio on the roof.  Once again it was walking distance to what we needed.  There is a very eclectic set of restaurants and shops about 2 blocks away. Three blocks or so away and we found the Metro which we used well.  Among other places, we hopped a ride as we headed to the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal. They had the coolest Pompeii exhibit while we were there.  The permanent collection is well worth the trip too.
  • In London, Ontario we stayed in the most spectacular basement apartment I’ve ever seen. It was so clean and modern, and extremely well appointed. This was a stopover point for us but the hosts (who live upstairs) were extremely kind and hospitable. There wasn’t anything we needed that they didn’t provide for us.

The best part? We had our own local guides to ask for activity and restaurant suggestions. We even had people who located dog parks for us and drove us over to them!

We met the nicest people and have memories to last a lifetime. We did so well that when hubby and I head over the pond to Scotland in May we will be staying exclusively in Airbnbs.  Some are entire homes and some are private rooms, one even has a dog.  Wish us luck!  Check back here to see how it went.

If you are interested in trying Airbnb for yourself, feel free to use my link here to get $40 off your first home booking of $75 or more.

**This is not a paid post, I am simply an enthusiastic Airbnb community member who loves to share my experiences with others.

Border Patrol – Puppy Edition

Yes, I have issues with animals.  Yes, I now have a dog. Yes, I’m a sucker for  a cute face. I mean come on…

The Most Popular Pup In Boston

Our little guy is small on purpose, we knew we wanted a dog that was small enough to travel because we have no intention of slowing down!  He’s even small enough to fly in the cabin of the plane if needed, though we’ve not done so yet.

Now, we’ve traveled with our child every year of her life, and some years it was every month. We are, therefore, aware that babies travel with a ridiculous amount of gear and it appears puppies aren’t much different. On our 16 day trip to the northeast each human had a carry-on size bag of clothes (laundry is our friend), a pillow, a book or 2, and an electronic device of some kind.  We shared a toiletry bag.  However, the dog had a crate, a backpack in which he could ride both in the car and out in the world, a sleeping pad, 2 towels, 2 blankets, a lifejacket (you can rent lifejackets for humans but not for puppies), a bag of food and treats, and a bag of toys. He is so lucky he’s cute.  His stuff outweighed his cute, 12 pound self at least 2 times over!

The most important thing we had for the dog was paperwork. Humans need passports to cross the Canadian border and dogs need rabies vaccination records.* They are not kidding and there is no substitute. Even if you have the tag on the dog’s collar, you need the paperwork or your entire family can be turned around at the border. I was taking no chances. I Googled, I quizzed my friends, and I quizzed the vet who then consulted some magic vet portal to be sure we had what we needed. NOTE paperwork for driving to Canada is different than flying to Canada, ask your vet.

Border stop one, from Vermont into Quebec.  An un-amused guard did not appreciate us butchering her native French (high school Spanish for me and Russian for hubby, but at least we tried) and checked all the paperwork and faces extremely carefully, including the dog’s.  It was a good thing I got that updated rabies vaccination record, the original one said he was dark brown, which he was at the time of the shot, but his is now mostly cream colored. I’m positive we would not have passed had the paperwork not been updated. She did NOT like us but I’m pretty sure she didn’t like anyone. We forgave her though, that must not be an easy job.

Border stop two, out of Ontario and into Michigan.  The guard briefly checked passports, waved off the the paperwork for the dog that we had out and ready for him and asked us why we were in Canada so long, “You couldn’t get out any faster?!” Funny guy, the first we’ve encountered actually.

The moral of the story, have ALL the paperwork for anything that breathes when crossing borders.  Have it out and ready and be serious when approaching the border guards. Some will make you feel almost like a criminal and some will welcome you in with a smile and a joke.

The last bit of advice, pack very well.  Keep like items together and be extremely organized. If ever your car is searched, it will be so much easier and quicker if you look like you have your sh.., err stuff together. Even if your trunk is usually a wreck, make sure it is pristine before you hit a border, this goes for all bags and compartments inside the car too. It will be easy to search and easy to put back together so you can get on your way. Yup, we’ve had the car searched too. Trust me, this is the way to go.

There yet are we?

*Also note that PIT BULLS, dogs with pit bull lineage, and any dog that may be mistaken for one, are NOT allowed into Ontario and many other places in Canada. They will turn you around at the border no matter your paperwork. Please read up on this before you go! I’m refraining from adding links to this post as this is an ongoing discussion and I want you to research it for yourself instead of relying on what might be an outdated link that I have posted here.

Road Trip Passenger 101

It’s like this folks, on road trips my husband loves to drive and hates to be a passenger.  I, on the other hand, prefer not to drive and rather enjoy being a passenger. A match made in heaven I tell you. In our more than 18 years together and 70,000+ miles of road trips I have driven for exactly 3 hours.  Yes, a scant 200 miles or so.  Wanna know why I drove those?  For 2 hours my husband was still recovering from food poisoning and if it weren’t for the lake-effect snow we were trying to stay ahead of, we would have camped out at the hotel for another day.  The other hour was because he was so tired he couldn’t keep his eyes open.  Kansas is kind of boring to drive through folks, even if the reward at the end is Colorado. I swear I-70 is basically just 450 miles of grain.  Many thanks for feeding the country though, we genuinely appreciate your hard work!

Therefore I am the best darn road trip passenger you have ever seen. It works out for us.  I essentially wait on him hand and foot which he loves because I never do so at home, unless he is just this side of hospital sick.  In return he drives me all over the place to visit friends and family and go on adventures.

I don't like traffic, particularly in cities but places like Chicago are between me and vacations sometimes.
I don’t like traffic, particularly in cities. However, places like Chicago are between me and my vacation sometimes. Thanks for driving hubby!

While he drives I navigate, reroute us around traffic jams, get snacks, open water and soda, manage the music, manage our munchkin (though she is pretty self sufficient now and almost as tall as me at 11 years old), answer the phone, text responses for him, call for reservations or with travel updates to our family members or Airbnb hosts.  I’ve even listened to audiobooks (reading in the car makes me ill) and worked on craft projects to occupy myself in city traffic so he can concentrate and I can keep from looking for the brake on my side of the car every 30 seconds.  (I never said I didn’t have control issues, people, just that I am better at being a passenger than my partner in crime.) At least once during each trip I sing loudly and purposefully off-key which he doesn’t like to admit he finds funny. Lately our munchkin does too.  It’s hysterical. (In case you are wondering, we sing “On the Road Again.”)

Sock knitting in the car
Sock knitting in Chicago traffic. Sanity for all of us!

Mainly we talk, a lot.  We plan for the trip, for life after the trip and we catch up on all of the funny little things that have happened over the last few months that our over-scheduled lives have kept us from mentioning to each other.  My goal is to keep him well-fed, entertained and awake. Such people are better and safer drivers. That’s good for me, him, our daughter and anyone who happens to be on the road with us.

Happy travels!

I LOVE Door County

 

Just what we needed!

As you know, I have a very scientific way of choosing vacation spots. 😉 Even so, we happened upon a perfect spot for our family to unwind and enjoy time together, Door County, WI.

It took a little longer to get there than we planned as we hit some VERY strong storms on our way up but we made it in one piece.  Our cottage was just south of the town of Sturgeon Bay and was on Green Bay itself. The views were gorgeous.

We happened to visit the first week of June when the weather was perfect by my standards – sunny and mild. Also, everything was open but there were very few other vacationers as most schools in the state were still in session.

We had a wonderful time meeting new people in the area. Some places not to be missed:

Cave Point County Park

Peninsula State Park

At Peninsula State Park, the only time in my life I’ve ever taken a picture timed this well. I caught the boat!

Patawatomi State Park

View from the top of the Patatowami State Park Observation over the water. Great view was worth climbing the open wooden tower!

Downtown Sturgeon Bay
Hands On Art
Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant

Yup, those are goats on the roof at Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant!

Sunset Grill
Sunsets over Green Bay in general – chase them people!

Our first sunset in Wisconsin. This is the view from our cottage for the week!

Gaining Wisconsin

My view for the week.
My view for the week.

As you may have noticed, you haven’t heard much from me lately. The last 6 months were, hands down, the busiest in recent memory. There was barely time to do laundry, never mind keep up with my writing.  I’ve missed you though and I’m glad to be back!

In my continuing effort to collect states and countries, I am pleased to announce that I have finally been to Wisconsin!  Growing up in the northeast, Wisconsin was pretty far away and not easy to drive through on the way back from most states (notice which ones I’m still missing).  Living now in the midwest, it is a lot closer. So off we go!

Newsflash – Wisconsin is LOVELY!  Perhaps we happened upon a particularly nice area of the state when we vacationed in Door County but I’m giving the whole state credit.  Here is the very scientific method I used for deciding on this vacation spot:

  1. Pick a state I haven’t been to yet – the closest one will do.
  2. Decide what type of vacation we as a family want to take – in this case a lake vacation.
  3. Google my parameters, e.g. “best lake vacation in Wisconsin”.
  4. Stumble upon a place that apparently many people I know have been to but I have never heard of.
  5. Rent cabin on Airbnb – It was perfect!

    The Big E mug that was in the cabinet. It was a touch of home all the way out in Wisconsin. I claimed as my own for the week.
    The Big E mug that was in the cabinet. It was a touch of home all the way out in Wisconsin. I claimed as my own for the week.
  6. Do a little more internet research on what is available nearby. Lots of parks!
  7. Wait anxiously for the week to arrive and hope for good weather.
  8. Pack light, strap bikes to the back of the car and go!

Bikes on the Back
Traveling with bikes is not for the faint of heart.

Packing List For A Tent Camping Trip

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You’ve decided to go tent camping and made a reservation at a campground.  Now you need to go about acquiring the items needed to make this trip work.  Remember that camping trips like these are driving trips, it is not practical to fly with all of this stuff.

I cannot stress this enough, BORROW as much as you can the first time or two you go camping. Once you know you will camp regularly, then buy your own supplies. If you think you don’t know anyone who has any equipment, ask around and find a Boy Scout, particularly a Boy Scout leader. You would not believe the amount of camping equipment that resides in these homes.

What you need, in no particular order:
  • A tent with a rainfly (make sure that all of the seams have been sealed and the sealant has dried before packing it up, get the instructions on how to put it together too)
  • A ground cloth (a piece of thick plastic that is the size of the bottom of the tent, bigger is better as you can tuck in the edges)
  • A hammer to drive in the tent stakes
  • A sleeping bag for each person
  • An air mattress or thick pad for each person
  • A lantern of some kind to light the inside of the tent and the picnic table area (your site with usually have one)
  • S’mores makings – marshmallows, chocolate bars, graham crackers, roasting sticks
  • Cups, Plates, bowls, utensils (try to bring reusable ones, you are in nature after all)
  • Kitchen towels and paper towels
  • Dish soap and sponge for cleaning dishes
  • Garbage bags – leave the site as you found it or better
  • Food for meals you plan to eat at the campsite – SIMPLE is better. Your first time out it may be best to make sandwiches and things that don’t require cooking.  Cooking over a fire or camp stove can be tricky and will usually take longer than you think.  Delayed meals make for cranky campers.
  • Water bottles
  • Cooler – large, hard-sided with a drain near the bottom is best.  You can buy ice at the camp store. (usually $1-$3 per bag)
  • Cooking pots, pans, & utensils if you plan to cook
  • Camp stove – try it out in your backyard ahead of time!
  • Extra fuel for camp stove
  • Matches or starter for camp stove as needed
  • Flashlights (1 per person)
  • Extra batteries for flashlights
  • Deck of cards – everyone plays cards while camping, I don’t know why
  • Flip flops for shower
  • Plastic container for shower supplies (1 per person)
  • Toiletries
  • Towels (shower and beach/pool)
  • Clothesline
  • Pillows
  • Clothes appropriate for your activities.  Long pants and hiking boots are best for hiking in the woods in most parts of the U.S. due to deer ticks and the threat of Lyme Disease.
  • Extra pair of shoes per person. Shoes, especially kids’ shoes, always get wet while camping.
  • Day packs especially if you plan to hike.
  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Hats – wide-brimmed or baseball hats are best
  • Rain jackets or ponchos
  • Flexibility – this is a new experience, roll with it.
  • It is best to pack cooking items and food in plastic tubs (think rubbermaid products or similar)
  • Clothes are usually best packed in duffle bags but if you are worried about more than one day of rain, plastic tubs are best here too.
  • Newspaper and matches to start a fire
  • You generally don’t need to bring firewood (and in many places aren’t allowed to due to the risk of transporting bugs).  Wood is generally available at the camp store, usually about $5 per bundle.  Note, if it is a particularly dry season/summer you may find you ARE NOT ALLOWED to have an open fire even in the fire ring at your site due to the risk of wildfires.
  • Quarters and laundry soap – there are usually laundry facilities

tent Sierra_Designs_Antares_(118511632)

Happy camping!

 

 

Photo credits:
Title picture – By Eeekster (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons, text added by Dream Depart Explore

2nd picture – By Josh Larios from Seattle, US (DSC00163.JPG) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

So You Want to Try Tent Camping

So You Want To Try Tent Camping

You’ve decided to get out into the world and you want to try tent camping, that’s great! There are lots of reasons to do so; to get back to nature, to save money on accommodations, to have a little more flexibility, etc.  This time of year, just the thought of warm weather activities brings happiness so let’s get planning.

This is what you need to know:

  1. People who camp are almost universally wonderful people. I think it is all of the fresh air and s’mores.
  2. Campground owners are wonderful too, though every once in a while it takes them a little while to warm up.
  3. Bicycles, scooters and skateboards are frequently welcome at campgrounds.
  4. Many campgrounds have pools and laundry facilities.
  5. You are going to need bug spray!  Seriously, bring it.
  6. Some National Parks DO NOT have showers but they are available in the nearby town. (Rocky Mountain National Park is one such place but the views are worth the extra effort.) Get the details before you book.
  7. Bring shower shoes (flip flops) and a plastic container for your shower supplies (the kind that college kids use is best) regardless of where the showers are located.
  8. Your first time out, BORROW most of the supplies from friends (with full instructions on how to set up the tent). Please don’t spend money on new things when your friends have them for you to borrow.  Save the purchasing until you know you love it, then buy what you love and use the heck out of it.
  9. You need a ground cloth (a large sheet of thick plastic about the size of the bottom of your tent) under your tent no matter what anyone tells you.  It also must be completely under the tent, if it sticks out even a little it will collect rain which will run under your tent. Disregard this if you like but I don’t wake up in puddles, even if it rains.
  10. You MUST stake down your tent.  This is to keep the shape so it is comfortable for you and to keep it where you put it.
  11. Assess your site carefully. Do NOT put your tent at the bottom of a hill or near a body of water if it is likely to rain, rivers rise when it rains folks.  If you are concerned, ask for a new site.  See #2.
  12. Many campgrounds offer some kind of community activity in the evening, usually around a fire. It is a great way to meet people.  See #1.
  13. When borrowing or eventually buying a tent, you need to know that they generally sleep fewer people than the box says. Ours says it sleeps 5 but we can only get 3 in it.  The number on the box for ours is accurate if a group were to all sleep side by side, without air mattresses,  didn’t have any gear/clothes in there with them and no one was over 5’6″. Did I mention that my husband is 6’3″?  You will almost always need to sleep perpendicular to the suggested direction.  Don’t get frustrated by the discrepancy in capacity, just know this going in.
  14. If there is severe weather, GET OUT OF THE TENT!  Find a secure building. The camp office is usually your best bet.  We were camping one night in Nebraska (we were in a camper this time) and a thunderstorm came up with some noticeable winds, nothing to bother the camper but the tent in the site next to us ended up in the lake.  See #10.  Please note that had the winds been any higher we would have had to vacate the camper too.  If you are camping out in the open in an area of the country where high winds and tornadoes occur, talk to the camp office about emergency procedures. They have them, I promise.
  15. Tent camping usually means that you are further out into nature than you may normally be.  Be careful with your food.  If you leave food out, you will likely have visitors.  The other humans will leave it alone but the raccoons, bears and their friends can actually smell it from a mile away.  There are quick and easy ways to contain your food and prevent an unplanned run-ins with your woodland neighbors. Check with the camp office for their recommendations.  Call or email them before you arrive so you can bring the supplies you need.  I’m purposefully not giving specifics here as many campgrounds have their own regulations based on their facilities and local wildlife.

Next time: A detailed packing list for a tent camping trip.

 

Original photograph by: ByBy Kbh3rd (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Text added by DreamDepartExplore

Our Adventure With Border Patrol

There is no photo for this story. Security the world over does not care for photography!
There is no photo for this story. Security the world over does not care for photography!

I’ve mentioned this interaction at least twice on this website so I might as well tell the story.

First things first, don’t mess with border patrol. They have power you cannot fathom. Regardless of how cool these people may be in real life (and I do have the pleasure of knowing one) you may not joke with them on the job.  This is hard for my husband and I since we tend to joke with everyone.

We have had many interactions with border patrol agents but this is the most memorable.  Let me walk you through it.

When they stop your car at the border and run your plates like they do for everyone, you think nothing of it.

When they size you up through the window and ask if you own the car and then ask if you always have, you get a little nervous.

When they insist you produce the car’s registration to prove it, you start to get a bit more nervous.

When they tell you to get out of the car and go into the building to wait while they investigate, you begin to sweat.

When they tell you your license plates have been reported stolen and you can’t leave until they get it figured out, you start to wish you had brought a blanket for your 4 year old because the air conditioning in those offices is really well used!

When you spend the LONGEST 90 minutes of your life waiting for your state Bureau of Motor Vehicles to open and hoping they can confirm that you are in fact the owner of your vehicle (which you have owned and licensed for 8 years), you try to keep yourself and your child calm so as not to cause an international incident.

When the agents come back to you and explain that the people who set up your state’s license plate system think that it is OK to issue the same plate number for different classes of vehicles (in this case a truck plate – ours and a trailer plate – stolen) you wonder where exactly your tax dollars go… and so do the agents.

When you are released with your car, your cold child and (finally) your car keys, YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN SO HAPPY TO SEE THE “WELCOME TO BUFFALO” SIGN IN YOUR LIFE!

When 1 year later the licensing rules are changed as your entire state gets new license plates, you think your little run in at the Canadian border might have had something to do with it.

When you start a travel website, you tell the story.  It’s funny at dinner parties too.  Weird stuff happens on vacation folks.

Car-Tripping With Little Ones

car tripping

It is time, your sisters-in-law are pregnant and it is time for baby showers!  Your darling sisters-in-law have been very kind about your vacation time and money.  Even though they are due about 3 months apart, they scheduled their baby showers on back to back days so you only have to make one 30 hour roundtrip car trip instead of 2.  Did I mention that you ADORE your sisters-in-law?  (If you don’t actually like yours, I’m sad for you because mine are awesome!)

You decide to make a family vacation out of it by planning several overnight stops in a few states with lots of fun along the way, the whole trip takes 12 days. You pack up the car and help your 4 year old settle in. Now you face 30 hours in the car over the course of 5 days or driving.  This is doable people, planning is key!

After 25,000+ miles of car trips with a child these are my tips on how to arrive the same happy family you were when you left home:
  • Snacks – You’ll be spending hours in the car each time you get in and if you have to stop every time someone is hungry you will never get out of your own state.  Apples, carrots, trail mix, granola bars, nuts, cheese sticks, etc. in a cooler will be plenty, oh and water too.  Have a SMALL amount of something sweet as an occasional treat if you like.  However, think about how your little one reacts to sugar and imagine the whole reaction strapped to a carseat 2 feet behind you.  Like I said, planning is important.
  • Toys/surprises – there are lots of versions of this.  The basic principle is this, have something new to hand to your child every hour or so.  The novelty of a new toy will help pass the time and keep them active when you need them to be awake instead of sleeping and messing up their schedule.  Some people wrap the toys up or put them in a mystery bag each time.  Borrow toys from friends instead of buying if you like.  Do what works for you.
  • Bring a blanket.  If the driver likes the car cool, like my husband does, kiddo is going to get cold.  Cold kid=cranky kid=LOOOONG drive.
  • Movies – 30 hours of movies when you are home? Uh, no, head outside little ball of energy.  On the road? You bet!  Again, this is novel and since your little one can’t move that much let them watch their favorites so they are entertained and you can maybe talk to your spouse.  Load up the iPad or bring along DVDs (and a DVD player if your car is old like mine.  I still have a tape deck people! No tapes though, curious…)

car-tripping movies

  • STOP THE CAR! – Even if you are worried about “making good time” like my husband you have to stop the car every couple of hours.  Despite all of that entertainment your little one is going to get antsy, cranky and need to use the bathroom.  So stop the car at a rest area, stretch your legs and use the facilities. However, if your child is happy, well fed and otherwise enjoying the drive don’t feel the need to stop exactly every couple of hours. Keep going and stop when they start to fade.
  • Run! – This little tactic has gotten me more strange looks than anything else.  While at the rest area, find a nice grassy area that is NOT the dog run area, ew. Take your munchkin over there and ask her to run between this tree and that one and then between those two.  Run with her if you can. People WILL look at you strangely. This is what to do, look them straight in the eye and with your kindest look and most pleasant voice say, “We are going to be in the car for 6 hours (or 8 or 10) today and we are burning off some energy.” Then take your child by the hand and stroll back to your car. Wait for it…..then listen.  The person who just looked at you like you were completely out of your mind will say something to the effect of “Honey, go get Jimmy!”  As you drive past the grassy area where you burned your energy, Jimmy will be running between the trees.  If this ever happened to you along I-90, particularly on the New York State Thruway, my name is Cheryl and you’re welcome.
  • Plan stops for fun things – My brother and sister-in-law are particularly adept at this trick. They like to find somewhere fun about half way through a day’s drive and then stop for 2-4 hours. Zoos are a popular choice for them but parks, playgrounds, and lakes are great choices too.
  • Know your limits – Figure out how many hours your family can realistically spend in the car in one day and stick to it.  After all these years of travel, our family limit is about 15 hours (up from 8 hours when my child was 4), after that we start to get cranky. OK, I start to get cranky. If you can’t make it to your destination under your threshold, you need to get creative.
  • Sleep –  Sleep in this case means hotels.  If you have a very long drive that exceeds your threshold, break it up.  Our favorite trick is to leave after school, drive about 3 hours and then stay at a hotel.  I always pre-book these hotels and I look for ones with pools and near areas we’d like to explore or at least near restaurants we like.  We wake up the next day and try to get out by 8 a.m. at the latest.
  • No-go Day – Once we reach our destination we find it is best if we keep the munchkin out of the car completely the following day. This was especially important when she was little.  These days though she is just as eager to get going as Mom and Dad.  She is stronger and more resilient now.  More trips for all!
Well that is all great dear, but my child gets carsick, any suggestions there?

Actually yes, and they come courtesy of one of my fantastic sisters-in-law mentioned above.  Lest you think that the carsickness gets in the way of traveling for her family, let me assure you that she travels as much, if not more, than we do. It just takes planning, some knowhow and watching your kids closely to figure out what works for them.

  • Accept that your child who is prone to being carsick will likely get sick at least once or twice and (over)prepare with supplies.  My SIL went to a medical supply store and bought bags similar to these.  They aren’t the most exiting purchase ever but they will help keep your child and your car clean.  They may make getting sick almost a non-event. According to my SIL, a single adult who is driving can hold this for a child when needed. She’s got skills people!
  • Be especially careful in how you dress your child.  Dress for the car ride itself and dress for comfort!  PJs, yoga pants and t-shirts, etc. You want nothing to be pressing too hard on their bellies.  Hmm, comfy travel clothes, see a theme in my family?  In this instance though, socks and shoes are optional.
  • When dressing your child, consider adding one extra layer on top, a hoodie is a good option.  This way when they start to get hot and queasy, they can take off the layer and the change in temperature may be enough to settle the stomach.  If not, open the window a little bit if you can, the cool air frequently helps too.
  • This is the only time I’ll give this advice since I love books. Don’t let your child read.  This is one that I know very well myself.  I can’t read in the car.  The shadows constantly remind my brain that I am moving but the stationary page insists otherwise, hence the motion sickness.  Some people can watch movies in the car with no trouble since the picture is moving, my daughter and I fit into this category.  Others can only watch for 10-15 minutes before they need to stop and look out the window, this would be my niece’s realm.
  • Play “I Spy” instead.  You get to learn more about how your child sees the world, literally, and she won’t get sick.
  • Sing songs or talk.  Again entertainment that doesn’t require focusing on something that is stationary.
  • My SIL swears by this cooler that you can plug into the car (or the wall later on).  For her, having the kids’ favorite things to eat on hand works wonders for mood and motion sickness. The variety this cooler affords helps as well and she always travels with ginger ale. The nice thing is that you can bring this into a hotel for an overnight or into your cabin, etc. when you arrive and skip the grocery store for a day or so.
  • Drive at night.  The kids will be sleeping anyway so you may as well be moving. The issues that cause motion sickness are severely lessened at night and pretty well eliminated while sleeping.  Make sure the driver is well rested and switch drivers throughout the night to stay safe.

Ok, pack the car and the kiddos and head out for some fun!