Category Archives: Explore

How To Travel When Your Spouse Prefers Not To

Since I love to travel so much I talk about it A LOT.  This leads to learning other people’s philosophies on travel; why they go, where they go, when they go and why they don’t go.  I come from a traveling family and happen to have married someone who likes to travel as much as I do (OK so it was a requirement for me).  For a long time I had my blinders on, I assumed that everyone liked to travel just to differing degrees when it is simply not true. Sometimes those who don’t care to travel are married to those who do. What do you do if you are bitten by the travel bug but your spouse is not?

Options abound for travel when your spouse or significant other doesn’t like to travel or if you don’t currently have, or want, a spouse or significant other.

1. Vacation with family or friends who live in the same town as you do.  This makes planning easy and you can share a car or ride to the airport.

2. If you don’t have people who live in town who like to travel, then travel to see people who do and then continue your adventure together. Bonus: you’ll get to spend significant time with people you don’t get to see often.

3. Join a travel group or club – many cities have groups of like minded people who meet and travel together.  These groups offer everything from day trips to those lasting a month or more.

4. Go on a group tour – there are scores of companies that offer wonderful tours domestically and all over the world. Head out with one of these groups and you’ll come back with friends from all over the country, maybe the world.

5. Travel by yourself – there is nothing like the flexibility that comes with having to answer to no one but yourself.  If you want to get up at 5 a.m. and see the sun come up, no one whines.   If you want to sleep in until 11 a.m., no one will bounce on the bed because they are bored. It is much easier to pop into a hotel or hostel and find room for 1 as opposed to 2 or more.

Get out and see the world!

 

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Wherein Mama Doesn’t Think We Are Funny

Have you ever been to Rocky Mountain National Park?  If not, go there soon and bring your sense of adventure!  Fourth of July is fantastic as are the hiking options.  I’m headed back at some point but a little wiser this time.

So, you know how you go camping in a national park and have large animals walking through your campsite whenever they please?  Of course you do. They even join in you the town park for fireworks.   After several days of this you notice that you have seen more elk than you knew existed but you haven’t seen a moose.  They live in the park too and you’ve never seen one. Naturally you insist one morning that you and your husband drive around the park to find a moose, like people do. Your husband is a nice guy and agrees. After about 30 minutes of driving slowly and looking around, you pull into a picnic area.  In the distance, through the trees, you see elk by the hundreds, as usual.  Out of the corner of your eye you catch a glimpse of something moving in the trees near you. A large, brown animal emerges, it is a moose!  Yay, mission accomplished!

You raise your camera and as you look through the viewfinder (because it it 2003 and you still use film) you notice the moose looks closer and it appears there are two.  You also notice that your very even-keeled husband has thrown your new car into reverse and is kicking up gravel as he hits the gas.  Your camera leaves your face and you see a mother and a calf moving towards you, QUICKLY! You have visions of hoof marks on the hood of your car, through your windshield, and probably on the humans inside.  You are ever so grateful that your husband is a steady and confident driver.  He peels out of the picnic area and you both breathe a sigh of relief.

Then you see it.

In the passenger side mirror, mama is not happy and both she and the calf are now chasing your car down the road …and gaining on you! Mama leaves the road and runs along side your car until she is even with the front of the car and proceeds keep up!  Before she decides to dart into the road and your car, your husband gives it a bit more gas and you finally leave the moose in your mirror for good.  You are grateful that you do not yet have a child because there might be some interesting language escaping your mouth.

You decide not to look for any more large game. Lesson learned folks, when the animals in the park come near you on their own, they know you are there and they don’t care.  When you happen upon them and startle them, you better have skills and luck on your side.  It certainly does not help that moose are the least social members of the deer family and prefer to be without the company of other moose never mind humans. (Thank you internet, I learned something today.)

Did I mention I have issues with animals?  My issues precede this event by a couple of decades but this encounter didn’t help.

 

Moose photo credit:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:User:Wojsyl
Poland Kampinos Alces alces 1
Caption added by DreamDepartExplore

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.

Fun Mom, How Traveling Brings Out The Best In Me

fun mom badge

When I go on vacation, I am kind of like Superman.  I just need to get into a car or a plane and quick as a blink Everyday Mom turns into Fun Mom like Clark Kent turns into Superman in a phone booth.  (Where does Superman change these days?) Everyday Mom is concerned about homework, deadlines, schedules and clean dishes, you know the sexy stuff.  Fun Mom says “I wonder what’s over there”, “Let’s try that out” and “Let’s go adventuring” far more often than “Where are your shoes?”

This transformation is clearly one of the reasons that my child LOVES vacations. She gets to see lots of things and have lots of new adventures even if it means walking 11 miles in a day on her 9 year old legs.  Nary a complaint on vacation!  Everyday kiddo would be quite upset with that mileage.  We as a family are far more open to new experiences while we are on a trip.  Do you want to meet a penguin? Yes!  Do you want to ride a horse? Sure!  How about a hike up that mountain? Why not! Do you want to climb to the top of the tallest thing in this city and look all the way down? Absolutely!  Do you want to order that thing that all the locals are eating but you can’t quite identify? Yup!  Do you want to go to a country where you don’t speak the language at all? Oui! Do you want to go into the monkey infested jungle and explore ancient ruins? You bet! Do you want to drive a tiny car, on the wrong side of the road, down narrow lanes?  Of course!

My ride, Martha.  The saddle was higher than my head!
My ride, Martha. The saddle was higher than my head!

Everyday Family contains a person who has issues with animals (ME!  Seriously, I’m terrified.), someone who doesn’t care for heights (hubby) and a very picky eater (kiddo).  Vacation Fun Family will try just about anything we come across.  If we, among the most straight laced, rule following, over-scheduled families you will ever meet can get out of our shell on a trip, you can too!  Try it, you’ll like it.  After all, you got time off from work, saved your money, got on a plane (or in a car) and came all this way.  I’m sure your hotel room, cabin, tent or camper is lovely but you need to GET OUTSIDE and DO STUFF!

Do you want to know the secret of Fun Mom?  She gets off the couch and out of her comfort zone, embraces her sense of adventure and dreams big!  When deciding if I should try something I always think about what 80 year old me will say.   Usually I hear her saying, “Do it now because you may never have the chance again and I don’t want to miss out!”  Eighty year old me likes to tell her stories of her adventures, it is my job to collect them.

Why I Fly Carry-On Only and You Should Too

Why I Fly Carry-On Only And You Should Too

There are lots of theories on packing for a trip, this is mine.

Plan very carefully, pack only what you need and then you can fly with just a carry-on anywhere you go.  When you fly carry-on only you get to skip the ticket counter and the quibbles and problems of other people trying to check items in line ahead of you, you get to skip the baggage fees, you get to skip baggage claim, the airline can’t lose your luggage and once you reach your destination you move with ease through transit. All of this leaves you with more money, more time, more flexibility and less stress. Yay!

London Underground

Despite every single person I know telling me I was crazy, last October my family of 3 traveled for 11 days in Europe with just 3 carry-on sized backpacks. This made our lives so much easier. We had no trouble getting our luggage in our tiny rental car while we had it, we had lots of floor/table space in our friend’s home and hotel rooms, we moved with ease through Tube, train and Metro stations not to mention the streets of London and Paris. The friend who took us to the airport even commented, “It looks like I’m taking 3 kids to school not a family to the airport for a European vacation.”

How did we do it?

  1. We used 2 carry-on size convertible backpacks and 1 smaller one for our daughter.  We also rolled our clothes and used packing cubes. 
  2. We packed small toiletries and shared the space in our 3 allowed (1 per person) 3-1-1 bags.
  3. We used technology to our advantage with phones, iPods and eReaders serving as our entertainment.An eReader is your friend
  4. We made sure everything we brought could be used at least 2 ways.
  5. Each person packed a limited amount of color coordinated clothes;
    • 4 long sleeve shirts
    • 3 short sleeve shirts
    • 2 sweaters or hoodies
    • 3 pairs of pants
    • 2 pairs of shoes
    • 1 semi-formal outfit for the wedding (did I mention we attended a wedding too?)
    • 1 warm jacket
    • 5 pairs of socks
    • 5 sets of undergarments
    • No more than 3 accessories (my daughter and I took scarves and my husband chose not to take anything).
    • 1 pair of small gloves
    • 1 warm hat
    • 1 small umbrella (we were headed to England after all)

Some simple math would indicate that we didn’t have 11 of anything. My friends, laundry is YOUR friend on a trip like this.  We stayed with a friend the first 2 nights and made use of her washer before we left her home. From there on out, we did laundry as needed at the hotel either in machines or in our room.  I do a lot of hand-wash laundry at home managing my daughter’s dance clothes so it took no time at all. (To be perfectly honest, we pack this same way regardless of where we are flying not just on international trips.)

If you end up doing laundry in your room, I have two suggestions;
  • Do it as soon as you arrive, it will have a much longer time to dry,
  • Consider bringing a clothesline to string in the shower, though the lovely European heated towel racks will do in a pinch and are actually much faster what with being heated and all.  As a rule hotels don’t love you doing your laundry in the room because they worry you will string it up everywhere or leave it draped over all of the furniture and ruin the finishes.  If you keep it in the bathroom, especially in the shower, you will have no problems at all.

Trust me on this, 20 minutes of managing your laundry will certainly be worth the aggravation and space you save.

When picking out clothes, choose 1 color palette so all of your clothes will go together.  Be sure to bring pieces that layer well so that you will be warm enough if it gets colder than you are expecting. We only had one day that was really cold, of course it was the day we went to the top of the Eiffel Tower and later experience the tail of a hurricane sliding through Europe.   Nevertheless we had fun and got some great pictures.

Eiffel Tower - 22 October 2014

Happy Travels!

*Note: I have no affiliation with eBags, I just happen to like their stuff and have had good luck with everything have I purchased thus far.