Travel Tips and Tricks for Your Next Trip!

15 Travel Tips and Tricks for Your Next Trip!

I discovered these travel tips and tricks while traveling a ton last year. Say that three times fast. I thought I’d share my favorites. Oh, man, now I’m rhyming. These tips save time, help with packing, and have made traveling so much more enjoyable. Travel season is almost upon us!

I hope to travel again soon if Danny can get out of jury duty. *crosses all body parts*

Travel accessories - purse, dinky wallet and carabiner

Carabiners and Pint-sized Wallets

You’ve seen carabiners hanging on backpacks, maybe even on purses. I hang one on mine. They are so important for keeping things together. I’ve spent hours looking for my car keys. What a waste!

  • Clip a carabiner to Airbnb apartment and rental car keys to keep them together. I can easily find them in the great abyss of my purse or backpack since my carabiner is gargantuan.
  • I pared down to a tiny wallet. My driver’s license can be seen through the plastic making it super easy to use. It also holds my credit cards, cash and important stuff including business cards for my Wild Ride. You never know who I might meet along the way.
  • Since my pint-sized wallet has a ring attached, I clip it to my keys to keep from freaking out while going through airport security. I can clip it to a belt loop too.
  • THE OBVIOUS – I snap my headphones, hat, and water/coffee bottle to my backpack.

A Carryon Pack

I’m done with carryon bags. I’ve used almost every kind out there, but they are unwieldy to navigate down the narrow airplane’s aisle. Once stashed away in the overhead compartment, I always think of something I forgot to take out. Since I can still stuff something under the seat, I tend to take too much along on the plane.

Now I use a backpack! It carries all my important stuff: The crown jewels and my crown, of course, headphones, laptop, phone, book, camera, cords, and chargers. If I’m not wearing a jacket or sweater, I throw one in. I carry a protein bar, just in case we sit on the tarmac for a few hours. It happens.

Phone charger for the rental car.

I’ve “donated” a few phone chargers to Hertz, but they come in so handy when needing a charge while on the road so I always bring one along.

The Best Tip and Trick? Social Media!

socialmediaiconcollage

Twitter

I’ve used Twitter several times to contact people in the area I’m visiting. One time, I tweeted that I was heading to #Scotland and a young woman tweeted that her cousin Adhamh O Broin ran tours. We didn’t connect in Scotland, but ironically met in Boulder a few months later!

A selfie with Adhamh O Broin

I also check to see what’s trending to stay on top of the news. I found out about the London Bridge stabbings right before traveling there a few days later. Then I found out in person how they deal with terrorism.

Instagram:

When deciding where to go or what to bring, I always check out the city’s hashtag on Instagram. It’s been amazing to find out what locals wear and what they do to have fun. Plus the most Instagramable locations will trend. It’s an insider’s view!

If everyone is dressed to the nines, I bring my evening gown. If jeans are de rigueur, I pack accordingly but still bring a nice outfit for going out at night.

Same with outerwear. I paid close attention to how locals dressed for outdoor activities when heading to Europe for a month last summer. I planned for rain when I discovered several soggy Instagrammers.

Blogs

Sometimes when Googling an area, I want a personal viewpoint. I’ll Google the village, town or city with the word blog afterward. It’s a great way to find a new perspective before traveling.

Pinterest

I’ve pinned loads of travel information to boards on Pinterest. I always check to make sure the pretty photograph is linked to an informative blog post. This is a great way to make a list of things to do while visiting a new location. I especially love the unusual ones. Sometimes getting off the beaten path is the road to amazing discovery!

Culloden House view from the gate

The standing stones of Scotland

Waze 

This driving app will get you from point A to B no matter if you’re in Boulder or on a winding road in Belgium.

Weather

This can be a nightmare and very unpredictable as you know. I don’t ever check until two days before since no one really knows beyond three days. I hope for the best and plan for the worst. The last thing I want to do is sit inside while waiting for sunshine. I throw on a hat and jacket and go!

When we were in Scotland, we were shocked by how many slogged through the downpours while visiting castles. I bring a ball cap to keep the rain off my face.

Sterling Castle on a rainy day

What not to wear!

Layering, layering, layering. Whenever I bring some super thick sweater, it always sits all lonely-like in my suitcase unless it’s snowing and we’re heading out for dinner. Coming from the most unpredictable weather in Colorado where nights can be cool during our most scorching summers, I’ve learned to prepare for everything. Except for rain. We’re always on the lookout for those little black rainclouds.

Athletic wear. Even if I don’t plan on going to the gym while on vacation, there are days when I want to protect a clean shirt or stay warm so I wear a lightweight poly T-shirt underneath.

Thick Socks. I bought the most wonderful pair of super soft plush socks. They are great slippers when on vacation.

Loungewear. Because lounging.

Bring a scarf. Wear it on the plane to keep from inhaling every sneeze. Not a scarf wearer? Wear a hoodie and hide inside it. You don’t want to come down with the sniffles.

I could go on and on but I have to start packing. I’m an Aries optimist!

Do you like to travel? Are you a last minute person or do you have to plan everything?

Click for more adventure on the Wild Ride!

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The Best of Paris on Foot, Boat, and Bike!

Each time I travel to Paris, I fall in love all over again. It’s an easy city to navigate by foot, but there are other ways too. My “best of” list always changes when I find new perspectives of this amazing city not only on foot but by boat and bike. Enjoy your photo journey through the Best of Paris!

A Paris Guide on Foot, Bike and Boat! The best of Paris!

On my first night in Paris in 2013, I heard a thumping sound and knew there was a party going on somewhere. As I drew closer, I could see flashing lights. It was an outdoor concert in front of the Hotel de Ville!

The French clapped their hands in time to the EDM music played by a DJ. A nice surprise and free!

DJ in Paris

Museums are located throughout the city. I love The Louvre for its amazing art collections and architecture.

Inside the Louvre

I had to fight the crowds to make eye contact with the Mona Lisa.

The Mona Lisa on a busy day

The Louvre’s outdoor architecture is very photogenic too!

The Louvre dramatic lighting

The Louvre lit up at night, Paris architecture

The Musee d’Orsay is a must-see. A shot from inside looking out through its famous clock.

Musee d'Orsay clock

Notre Dame is an imposing structure and attracts big crowds.

Notre Dame in Paris, France

An artist at work in Montmartre outside the Sacré Coeur.

portrait artist drawing boy

Tuileries Gardens is a great place to chill-out on a hot summer day.

park in Paris

Three words – The Luxembourg Gardens.

A fountain at the Luxembourg Gardens

And the extraordinary Versailles.

The formal gardens at Versailles

A panoramic of a room in Versailles

We took a Fat Tire Bike Tour in Paris and stopped to take pictures after sunset.

lock bridge

biking in paris fat tire

Last summer, a demon washing machine forced us out of the house for the month of June. When we landed in Paris, we took a boat ride on the Bateaux Mouches down the Seine. These photos were taken from the river.

Statue of Liberty and Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower from boat

A most enjoyable Wild Ride!

Inside the Bateaux Mouches, Paris, France

I’d go back to Paris again in a heartbeat!

 

Is Paris on your bucket list? Where would you like to travel next?

Click for more adventure on the Wild Ride!

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What to do in Reno when you have four hours to spare!

When some of our bags didn’t make the flight from Denver to Reno, Nevada, the six of us hit the road in a mega-vehicle to entertain ourselves for four hours.

First on the agenda? Lunch! We found Midtown Eats and enjoyed a filling meal complete with industrial surroundings and a lively atmosphere.

Enjoying lunch in Reno!

In a town known for its quickie divorces, we found a unique advertisement for another way to deal with regret – Tattoo removal.

Tattoo removal in Reno

From the residential area, we drove downtown and were greeted quite stupendously.

Downtown Reno sign

When we noticed “striking architecture” up ahead, we decided to take a closer look.

The International Bowling Museum

The International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame was free and very quiet. In fact, we were the only people there. The only sound came from a loop explaining the history of bowling shoes.

Entrance to the International Bowling Museum.

Huge bowling ball and pin sculpture

As we drove down the street, I noticed a peculiar park where children played called Playa Art Park. It looked as if Tim Burton had been its creative consultant. A child climbed out of the eye socket before I snapped the picture.

Skull sculpture in a Reno Nevada park

Only in Nevada!

Nukes license plate

My son, Kelly, discovered a most unique way to travel in Reno. A TARDIS!

Reno Tardis

Since Nevada is home to lots of weird phenomena and alien sightings, it wasn’t that surprising to discover an INFINITY RAINBOW.

infinity rainbow

Weird phenomena

We collected our luggage and the six of us headed to Lake Tahoe.

More of my wild adventure to come!

Have you been to Reno? Do you have plans to take a vacation this spring? Have you ever seen an infinity rainbow around the sun?

Click for more adventure on the Wild Ride!

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What to do in Reno if you have four hours to spare

Escape to the Stunning Chinese Garden in Vancouver!

It will be months before I work in my gardens in Colorado. Decimated by deck construction, tough winters, and dry summer months, mine are looking a little more than gnarly. While yearning to escape winter, I found my photos of the stunning Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. We flew to that amazing city on our way to Whistler’s Wanderlust Yoga Festival in 2016.

Sun Chinese Garden Entry

Struck by the integration of architecture and gardens, I was swept away by one zen space after another.

Escape Chinese Garden Vancouver

A bonsai pine tree over the pond.

Gorgeous pine over the Chinese Garden pond Vancouver.

A pagoda at the top of a hill overlooks the grounds. Dr. Sun built a place in the garden for meditation. Several of those unusual rocks graced the space.

Under the Pagoda Vancouver

This stunning Chinese gem is located in the middle of Vancouver.

The Sun Chinese Gardens surrounded by Vancouver.

My husband, Danny, and our daughter, Courtney, gazed at the pond before we left the peaceful oasis and entered the bustling city.

Vancouver Chinese Garden screen

The gardens inspired me to carve out a space of my own for contemplation and meditation.

I held that position just long enough for Courtney to snap the photo. Ha! 

Wanderlust adventure ahead

Are you into gardening? Have you been to Vancouver?

Click for more adventure on the Wild Ride.

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Night Skiing at Keystone!

My great plan a few weeks ago:

I thought it would be fun to go out for brunch with the family, ski a couple of runs before Breckenridge closed for the day, and then relax at night. A complete shutdown at Breck and skiing Keystone didn’t come close to niggling my wild imagination.

The day started out sunny and warm with a light breeze. After waiting an hour for a table, we enjoyed a leisurely meal and then headed for the gondola. As we were about to board, it ground to a halt. We were forced into waiting mode again. What now?

The lift operators talked amongst themselves. Then one of them turned to face the growing crowd. “The mountain has closed due to high winds!”

I looked at her with raised eyebrows. Dang! It was too late to drive to another mountain. All kinds of woulda- coulda-shouldas came to mind.

Then I remembered Keystone is open until 8:00 PM for night skiing!

I hadn’t skied at night for a long time but recalled the excitement of it. While looming shadows swallowed the landscape, the crisp air and contrast of dark and light made an otherwise easy slope, a decent challenge.

It came as no surprise that so many lined up at the base. Some of them must have driven over in the afternoon when Breckenridge closed. I took this photo around 5:00 PM. It looks like the middle of the night!

Night skiing in Colorado

I’ve always enjoyed the lighting while night skiing. Sometimes it’s easier to see the shadows pop from the snow.

Chairlift at night

It’s important to see where you’re going!

That said, after an almost blind run while wearing goggles, I took them off. The lenses were too dark. Then the wind howled and my sight blurred.

Night snowboarding

It didn’t take long until my eyes adjusted, but my camera didn’t. Ha!

Night skiing at Keystone

Even in the chilly wind, we found time to relax with my son, Kelly, and his girlfriend, Leksy…

Kelly and Leksy

And to take the obligatory selfie!

Susie and Danny night skiing

We had a blast!

It’s always fun to try something different when plans change. It forces you to step out of your routine and experience something new. It became a very memorable day!

How do you handle change? Are you up for experiencing something new? Have you ever skied at night?

Click for more adventure on the Wild Ride!

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Haunted Ghost Tours – Why You Should Go!

Haunted ghost tours have sprung up all over the country.

You may have seen haunted ghost tours in your town or when on vacation. My first tour was in Richmond, Virginia. A woman with a long black cape advertised outside the Edgar Allen Poe house. Two hours later, she led our group through the most historical parts of downtown Richmond. She told stories about the community while pointing out the most historic of buildings. Among the many tales, I remember hearing about the Opera House fire and how a horse and carriage, carrying the Governer’s wife, slid down the icy pavement from the Governer’s Mansion and crashed. After that, I was hooked!

7 top reasons why I love ghost tours:

To become acquainted with a new place.

Many tourists take buses to get their bearings when traveling. I love haunted tours since we stop at each location to hear a story. Boston’s Ghosts and Gravestones combined both walking and busing since there was a lot of ground to cover. It’s a big city!

Haunted ghost tours and why you should go

We went to several historic locations including graveyards where we discovered Paul Revere’s grave; the small one with the flags.

Boston graveyard

To learn about the town’s history.

In New Orleans, we learned a lot about the sinking city, how it burned to the ground and was rebuilt. I enjoyed hearing about its unique culture including a hint of voodoo. Woven throughout were tales of surviving ghosts who still lurk at night.

angel shadow projected on church

See the string of lights on the balcony? They only showed up on film. I have three more pictures like this one!

New Orleans unexplainable lights

To learn about heinous crimes and the infamous evil-doers responsible.

Towns come to life when ghost tour guides spin yarns about perpetrators or the more colorful characters of a town. Suddenly, we’re no longer walking past a historic home from the 1800’s, but are glimpsing a part of the past that shaped history.

Bar Harbor Ghost Tour

To tour historic buildings.

In New Orleans, we toured a restaurant and bar notorious for ghostly visits.

New Orleans spooky speakeasy

In Breckenridge, we toured an old hotel and a home. There is a lot of activity in Breck since graves were dug next to the poor soul who died. Nearly every time they excavate for a new building’s foundation, they find human remains. Creepy or what?

the brown hotel

My first haunted indoor tour took place at the Stanley Hotel. You have to read about my experience to believe it. Or maybe you won’t…

To make discoveries.

While in Bar Harbor, our guide took us to a dark street. A man had written several notes and tossed them into the wind on the street, then went home and hung himself.

One man from the tour peered into a hollow in a tree and discovered this! Could the mason jar contain a note? No one was brave enough to find out…

mysterious jar in a tree stump

To exercise.

Whether you fly or drive to a location, it feels good to get outside and stretch your legs. Most tours take around two hours so you cover a lot of ground.

To get your heart pumping.

There’s nothing better than a good ghost story to tingle your spine. I especially love when I’m familiar with the history, but haven’t heard the paranormal and unexplainable details.

Back in 2008, they moved a little girl’s body from a backyard grave in Breckenridge to the Valley Brook Cemetery. That night, a wind shear tore down trees in a swath all the way to the cemetery and blew down the Victorian iron fence. Right before her grave, the wind changed direction and continued to knock down other gravestones and trees. I remembered reading about the damage in our local newspaper!

What to bring:

Whether it’s autumn, winter, spring or summer, tours are generally at night. Bring a jacket, a water bottle, and wear comfortable walking shoes. Pack a camera to take photos along the way. Most important, bring an open mind.

This photo gave me a heart attack when I got home from a ghost tour in Bar Harbor, Maine. Then I realized it was taken while the group was still in the theater. Ha!

Spooky Theater Bar Harbor

Have you been on a haunted ghost tour? Would you consider going?

Related Posts:

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Click for more Wild Adventures!

 

Inspired by Stephen King Country – Maine

Stephen King and Maine inspired me when visiting two weeks ago, but probably not the way that you think. It’s the perfect state for King to live in and produce books. A certain kind of books. Horror. Sometimes vacations aren’t at all what we expect.

Our first stop on the tour of Maine.

After flying into Bangor for our 30th wedding anniversary, Danny and I rented a car and drove right to his house. Okay. That sounds super creepy and stalkerish, but it’s a town landmark. Go ahead. Google, Bangor Landmarks. It’s on the list along with Paul Bunyan’s statue, (Dang, missed that one), and the Bangor Historical Society, with Chipotle Mexican Grill at the top of the list. Bangor has a population of 32,000.

As I drove up West Broadway, there were several cars parked along the wide avenue. Some voyeurs took pictures through the glass of their vehicles. Not us. We walked up to King’s gate. The wrought iron contained a spider and web, a dragon, and a capital K, just in case you weren’t sure if you had the right address. Exposed to the street, the home seemed to invite onlookers, as opposed to the house next door which hid behind a thicket of bushes and trees. The weather was perfect. Drizzling with a touch of fog.

Stephen King's House

Then we ate lunch in downtown Bangor. An advertisement for a play at the Penobscot Theater hung in the window. My favorite of all of Stephen King’s work, MISERY would open on Thursday night! We bought tickets for a mere twenty-seven dollars. I wondered if The Man himself would be in the audience.

In the meantime, we explored Bar Harbor, Bucksport, Camden, and Rockland and found a few bookstores. Each had a section set aside for Stephen King’s books. Some were like shrines.

A storefront in Bangor advertising Stephen King Tours.

IT displayed in Bangor store window

“He’s prolific,” said a young waiter. “He writes every day and sticks to a routine.”

Curious, I looked it up. According to an article written for Open Culture, King ritualizes writing time like some prepare for bedtime.

He’s quoted as saying in Lisa Rogak’s Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King:

“I have a glass of water or a cup of tea. There’s a certain time I sit down, from 8:00 to 8:30, somewhere within that half hour every morning,” he explained. “I have my vitamin pill and my music, sit in the same seat, and the papers are all arranged in the same places. The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon.”

Maine is a summer vacation destination.

We arrived in October! Somehow, we didn’t get the memo.

Some shops and restaurants had already shuttered. We stayed at the gorgeous West Street Hotel in Bar Harbor and discovered nearly the entire island including the hotel would close in another week or two.

Until then, cruise ships deposited eight to ten thousand people on shore EVERY DAY! Older people filled the sidewalks, gift shops and restaurants in the quaint downtown. Sometimes I led Danny into the street to pass them.

Because of the older median age of the tourists, warning signs lined the trail in Acadia National Park.

What steep grade and sharp curve?

Quaint meaning super dinky.

After leaving Acadia, I looked up towns to visit. A blog post with Prettiest Towns in Maine came up at the top of the feed. I perused the list. Portland was too far away and so was Kennebunkport. Blue Hill was sort of on our way back to Bangor. We arrived and drove past a gas station, a co-op, a gift shop, cafe, and beautiful harbor surrounded by nicely tended homes and yards. We drove back and asked a customer coming out of the store with a bag of groceries. “Where’s the downtown?” I asked.

“This is it,” he said.

Most of the towns were like that. We rarely saw fishermen on the lakes or active boats in the harbor. I had always dreamed of going to Maine to embody Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote and ride my bike. We only saw one biker since the hills were killer.

Every town seemed to hold its collective breath.

I thought fall color would be at its peak.

Because of warm and dry weather, most leaves were still green and many had already dropped. That happened in the Colorado mountains last fall. We arrived on their first rainy day.

We found colorful landscapes in Acadia.

Fall in Acadia

We encountered more cemeteries than people.

We could drive for miles and never see another vehicle or police car. The entire population of the state is around 1.3 million.

One of many cemeteries in Maine

Between the ghostly quiet towns and the huge expanse of undeveloped forested areas, goosebumps rose on my arms more than once.

I described the isolation to my son who said, “Maybe it will inspire you to write a book. It sounds like a great place for serial killers.” Right after his comment, I noticed Patterson’s new book, HAUNTED, about this particular variety of killer set in Maine. He must have traveled there in October.

 

Winters are tough. The state depends on summer tourism. We ran into an enthusiastic local in Acadia National Park who raved about wintering among the shuttered towns. “We sled and cross country ski. It’s beautiful in the winter.” The Mainers were very friendly, positive people reminiscent of the Midwesterners I grew up with. We really enjoyed meeting them.

MISERY in Bangor.

On Thursday night, the Penobscot Theater filled and the lights dimmed. After the first few lines, the words, “I’m your biggest fan,” were uttered by the character, Annie Wilkes played by AJ Moonie while grateful and drugged out Paul Sheldon, played by James Konicek, groaned in pain. Moonie nailed Kathy Bates’ portrayal of the deranged nurse and I could almost see James Caan in Konicek’s pained expressions as the crippled victim.

Here’s what surprised me.

In the super intense parts of the play where Annie became brutally violent, the crowd tittered, giggled, and a couple guffawed. Every time someone made a bodily sound it woke me from MISERY’s spell.

When I mentioned it to my son, he remarked that sometimes people react inappropriately when fearful. The scenes were super realistic. I cringed several times, so that could be true.

I’ve been to children’s productions where the audience showed more respect to a cast by not talking. Maybe Mainers don’t get to the theaters very often where we are all instructed to sit quietly. I’ve never witnessed anything like it.

It didn’t throw off the actors. They never missed a beat. Maybe they’ve witnessed this many times before. The small ensemble cast of three would make Stephen King proud.

We scanned the audience but King didn’t make it to that night’s performance. I’m sure he will take a stroll to the theater sometime between now and November 5th. I bet he’ll love it. We did!

Inspired by vacationing.

The irony of the setting hit me afterward. King chose Colorado for MISERY, even though I found Maine a better location in many ways. I could imagine super fan, Annie Wilkes, lurking in a clapboard house under the canopy of gnarled oaks just waiting for her chance. Both places endure winters with lots of snow.

Stephen King and I almost physically ran into each other many years ago in a fitness club. We both said, “Oops, sorry,” and kept walking. At the time, he consulted on the mini-series, THE SHINING which took place at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. THE STAND took place in Boulder. He must have been inspired by his trips to Colorado. His latest release, SLEEPING BEAUTIES, co-written with his son, Owen, takes place in a poor Appalachian town. Perfect.

Danny and I almost left Maine a day early. Instead, we drove to Camden, one of the highlights of our trip. I took this photo as we headed out of town.

The harbor in Camden, Maine

Life being ironic, as usual, we got stuck at the airport due to thunderstorms in Chicago and a stubborn baggage door. We had to stay an extra day!

Instead of flying through Chicago that Sunday, we traveled through New York. I remembered my son’s words when starting the four-hour trip home from JFK. “Maybe Maine will inspire you…”

I pulled out my cell phone and began to write.

Maine highway

~~~

Have you ever gone on vacation with completely different expectations? What’s your favorite King novel? Have you seen IT in the theater?

Related posts:

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Haunted at the Stanley Hotel