Category Archives: Explore

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.

I’m your mother, not your valet

I'm Your Mother, Not Your ValetMy child hears this one a lot.  I believe in teaching her to do for herself; as much as possible and as soon as she is able.  I’m not lazy, I’m trying to teach self-reliance, life skills and a good work ethic. This is especially important when we travel.  There are so many things to learn and when we are traveling or getting ready for a trip it all seems FUN!

When my daughter was teeny tiny, we did everything for her of course.  However, since she was about 4, she has been responsible for carrying her own carry-on or managing her own bag in the back seat on a road trip. She could bring whatever toys or games she wanted but it had to fit in the little rolling backpack we got her.  Her clothes fit in a carry-on suitcase with mine and her father and I managed those. As she has gotten older, she has gotten incrementally more responsibility. Just this last fall when she was 9, she packed her own convertible backpack and small purse/entertainment bag and jetted off to Europe with us for a wedding.  Since we all had backpacks and flew carry-on only to Europe for 11 days, we were all REALLY careful about what we brought knowing it would be on our backs through airports and train stations aplenty. I was so impressed by her ability to cull her choices to those she knew she would need and those that she would use often enough to justify carrying.  She was even very careful about her purchases knowing she had to carry them.  She came home with postcards, pictures, a couple of books, bookmarks and candy.  She’s 9, of course there was candy.  She saved her money all year and we converted it to pounds and euros.  She got to spend it on whatever she wanted but if she ran out, that was it. Thus continuing our lessons on budgeting.  She was really careful with her money and even had some left when we came home so she could show her class what it looked like during her presentation.  She made a scrapbook full of the pictures, postcards and her travel journal entries. (Whereas my scrapbook is still in pieces in a bag waiting for this weekend’s crop!)

Since she started reading, my child has been responsible for getting us to our gates for our flights and helping us find exits on road trips. Have we ended up heading down terminals we didn’t need to be in? Sure, but that little girl can now navigate an airport with the best of them, even in French if she has to.  With family all over the country, she will be allowed to fly on her own at some point and I will know she has the skills she needs to get from point A to point B managing her paperwork, money, etc. as she goes.

LondonHeathrowAirport

All this planning and self-reliance has earned her the ability to help plan our trips.  When we went to Florida a couple of years ago, we met Winter the dolphin for Dolphin Tale at her request. When we went to Europe this last fall, she got to choose museums and other locations to visit.

Our adventures encompass everything from science, math and literature to architecture, history and art of all kinds.  There is no major structure, just listening and talking. I always do some research before we go, usually with my child, and for everything else there is Google.

So please, give yourself a break, don’t be your child’s valet at home or on vacation.  Have your kids pack and carry their own bags, manage their own money, lead the charge through airports, do their own laundry, keep their stuff organized. Teach them the difference between credit cards and debit cards, what it takes to earn money, and to manage every day expenses.  Teach them to deal with disappointment when things don’t go their way. Teach them to travel and to see the great big world around us, to enjoy what others have created, to celebrate differences and understand that this place would be really, really boring if everyone was the same. Encourage them collect states and countries along with you. The memories and the stories will last a lifetime.

This is all very easy for me to say, it is how I was raised so I don’t know any differently. My parents made sure we had all the necessary life skills to survive in the world.  They also made sure we saw as much of this great big country as possible and taught us both how to travel and how to it love every minute of it – even if it doesn’t always go as planned.  The missteps and surprises make the best stories anyway.

Airport photo credit:
By Jnpet (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Want to figure out who you are? Take a trip!

Well that’s a tall order for a vacation, isn’t it?

Hear me out.  Travel is one of the best ways to figure out what you’re made of.  It is life, concentrated.  Lots of activity, locations, emotions all in a short period of time. No matter how much planning goes into your trip, something will go wrong. When things go wrong you figure out how to make the best of it and just how resilient you are. When things go right, you find great joy in unexpected places.

You Are Stronger

  • Your missed flight turns into a 7 hour layover, so you learn to find fun in the airport. You play silly games with your kids or treat yourself to that bestseller everyone has been talking about and enjoy the peace and solitude you never get at home.
  • Your hotel overbooks or loses your reservation. You learn how to find another quickly and how to get a refund.
  • You get stuck in a cab in a monster traffic jam. You learn to use the subway system.
  • You’re super hungry and can’t find an English menu, you learn to guess at the local language and enjoy the pulse of life in a new place.
  • The attraction you have traveled so far to see is closed.  You learn to laugh at your misfortune and go looking for other adventures.  At the very least, you learn not to swear in public.

Next comes the things that go right.

  • You visit museums and realize there are a few artists or schools of thought you just adore!  Yay, a new hobby.
  • You score tickets to a play, concert or ballet and find a new passion.
  • You climb to the top of the tallest thing in the city and you are grateful for your health. Maybe you find out you aren’t so scared of heights after all.
  • You happen upon a warm local restaurant on a cold night and find a brand new cuisine that you didn’t know you enjoyed.
  • You sit next to a stranger on a plane and meet your soulmateNight Sky with Stars by Juskteez Vu - unsplash
  • You go camping for the first time and learn that you sleep deeply and fully outside. You find that you love to hike and that everything tastes better when cooked over a fire.  You realize just how MANY stars there are and stare at the heavens for hours each night.
  • You keep up with a packed itinerary and you find that your legs are much stronger than you thought.
  • You test out your new camera and find out that you have a knack for photography.
  • You say yes to new experiences and learn that you are still young and fun after all.

No matter what happens you will come back changed.  You will be stronger, wiser, and more self-reliant.  You’ll have victories to remember for the rest of your life.  Share them if you can, you will change other lives too!

Text Added Road to sea by Gerard Moonen - unsplash

What’s In A Name?

Well that is in an interesting name for a blog, why’d you pick that?

I’m glad you asked. First of all, I had help, and lots of it!  I racked my brain for weeks trying to find the right name and couldn’t come up with it.  I decided to turn to some of my craftiest friends and ask for help, sometimes others see us more clearly than we do ourselves.  In 2 hours I had more than 50 suggestions and Dream. Depart. Explore. was born!

This feels like the perfect name as it encompasses the way I see travel and what I plan to share with you.

Dream is the largest part of it.  It is the planning; deciding on a place to visit, finding a good place to stay, learning some of the language, reading some guidebooks and travel stories, oh and Pinterest, lots and LOTS of Pinterest!  I am a planner by nature and planning a trip is so much fun for me!  I really savor this time since it gives me a taste of the trip before I ever leave my house.

Depart is the travel part itself on the way to your destination.  I have lots of tips and tricks because this may as well be fun too!  We have so many ways to travel and so many things to see and do along the way that the vacation starts as soon as you leave the house with your bags packed.

Explore is the new sights and experiences when you reach your well researched destination, where you spend some hard-earned money and where you learn who you are and what you love!  Take lots of pictures, talk to lots of people, find little hole in the wall restaurants and shops and try to become a local for a bit.  Your travel will be much richer and you will be better for it.

“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life.” – Michael Palin

Welcome to Dream. Depart. Explore.

Travel is important. This is the very reason why I started this blog, why I have a calendar full of future posts and why many of them are already written.   I love to travel and would rather do so than just about anything else.

I believe that everyone should travel as much as they are able.  Travel broadens your world view and changes you to your very core and I believe that it makes you a better person.  Perhaps it is that you have to step outside of your comfort zone in order to travel.  You actually have to leave everything you know about your daily life and go somewhere else to figure out the way they do it; how they eat, what they do for fun, and which awesome thinkers have left their mark in this new place.

Most of my favorite trips have been overseas.  Does all travel need to be international?  Absolutely not, but some should be. At least once in your life leave your beloved homeland even just for a few days.  When you are a stranger in a strange land  it changes you even more profoundly.  You develop compassion and curiosity. You find out if you really have a taste for adventure or just wish you did.  No matter what happens, you will get a story out of it.  Even run-ins with border patrol agents are funny stories later, as long as they let you back into the country that is. More on that later. 😉

“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” -Dalai Lama

 

photo credit: Sigismund von Dobschütz
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Seeteufel