Monthly Archives: May 2016

Tips to Pack on a Road Trip

Ready to take a road trip? This packing guide will help you prepare and double-check so you can hit the road with confidence.

BAGS

Use duffle bags for most of your luggage—it’s easier to stack and squeeze soft bags into any car arrangement that you need. If you’re stopping overnight, pack one bag with sleep essentials and next-day clothes so it’s compact and ready to go. You can use a soft, wheeled suitcase for this if you have a lot of people. Finally, each person can keep a small bag — like a tote or backpack  next to their own seats for easily-accessible snacks and activities.

  • We use this duffle bag on our road trips–it’s compact, has several pockets for easy organization, and it’s even slash-proof. This slightly larger duffle bag is great for longer trips or two people who like to keep it simple and share one bag.
  • This insulated tote bag doubles as an ice chest and it folds up nicely when not in use.
  • Daypacks are a must if you want to get out and hike during your journey. We usethis small daypack which has an internal padded sleeve for a 3L hydration bladder.

CLOTHING

Wear clothes that are loose and breathable, and that you’re comfortable being seen in at stops. Dark colors hide dirt, stains, and wrinkles better. Even for long trips, you only need two bottoms and a few tops, especially if you can do laundry at hotels or your destination.

  • A drawstring laundry bag works if you do need to store dirty garments.
  • This portable laundry system wash bag is perfect for doing laundry on the road!
  • Make sure to take weather into account—if it’s often rainy, keep some waterproof items — like travel umbrellas and backpack rain covers — in easy reach, and light layers if it might get cold. (In Norway, be prepared for anything–even snow in the summer!!)

SNACKS

It’s cheaper to bring snacks from home than buying them at a gas station, and you have healthier options. Freeze-dried fruit and veggies are nicely crunchy and lightweight, while nuts and seeds can satisfy you with salts and protein.

Mix your items together in ziplock bags to create your own trail mix if you want (add a handful of chocolate chips for something sweet), and keep personal portions on-hand with bulk bags in the trunk so you can refill at stops. Less individually-wrapped items cut down on trash, but if you have favorite snack bars, bring a few anyway.

  • Stock up on nature bars for a quick snack on the road or throw in your daypack for hiking.
  • Bulk bags of trail mix will save time with less trash to pick up, plus it’s better for the environment.
  • Wet wipes make for convenient cleanup. These wipes are even biodegradable!
  • If you have food items that you absolutely need to keep cool and you don’t want to deal with melting ice, this iceless cooler plugs into your cigarette lighter!
  • These stainless steel tupperware containers are awesome for road trips because they are completely leak proof — plus they are non toxic and eco friendly!

GAMES

Handheld devices are nice diversions, but it can also be fun to get everyone in the car in on a game. Consider bringing creative games like Mad Libs to keep things lively. Mad Libs prompts you to make up funny stories together, and they even have a road trip themed book. Plus, non-electronic games are great backup if your gadgets run out of juice.

MUSIC

A playlist with catchy, upbeat tunes that the whole car can sing to keeps things fun (and keeps you awake!), while a separate playlist for mellower songs gives your brain and body a breather. Just don’t pick anything too soft and repetitive so the driver doesn’t get sleepy.

NAVIGATION

Investing in a GPS unit will help you navigate in unfamiliar territory. Don’t count on Google Maps or Waze on your phone because you might not always have service. Get one that plugs into your cigarette lighter and make sure it works with your device beforehand. Some of these chargers even come with multiple USB ports if you’re bringing more electronics.

  • The Garmin Nuvi is affordable and has all the features you’ll need on a road trip including Smartphone Link, Bluetooth, and lifetime maps.
  • Since electronics can fail, though, bring some directions printed out ahead of time, and even get as “old-fashioned” as a thorough road map (this one is perfect for USA road trips).

SAFETY

Bring a first aid kit and an emergency road assistance kit–and have a portable charger on hand in case you need to make an emergency call on low batteries.

  • This emergency road assistance kit by AAA is only $25 and it comes with a compact storage bag with handles.
  • This portable charger doubles as a lantern and a portable charger for all of your devices that connect with a USB. We’ve been using this on all of our camping and road trip adventures and it’s held up extremely well!

Packing for a road trip doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Don’t forget to bookmark this checklist to make sure your next road adventure is a breeze.

Guide to Survive a Long-Haul Flight

Traveling is exciting, but for many travelers, the flying part of the journey can be brutal. With tiny seats and limited legroom, flying is no longer something I look forward to — instead, it’s something I know I have to endure in order to visit my next travel destination.

Audible asked us to share some of our best tips and tricks to make long-haul flights more comfortable, including incorporating the use of audiobooks to help pass the time.

ENTERTAINMENT

The trick to long-haul flights is finding a balance between packing light and bringing all the essential survival tools. You want to keep your mind occupied to attempt to forget about the fact that your seat barely reclines and you will have zero personal space for the next several hours. You can easily pack a Kindle or paperback book, but if you want to keep things light, I recommend downloading some audiobooks from Audible to your phone before you depart. Most of us always travel with our phones, so it’s a great way to save space and still be able to pass the time with a book.

With my busy schedule, it’s tough to find the time to read books, so flying is a great time to catch up on that ever-growing reading list. I’ve never been a fan of Kindles merely because I already feel like I spend too much time staring at a screen and a paperback book doesn’t always fit in my carry-on bag. Before I was introduced to Audible, I was often forced to choose between watching movies or reading the in-flight magazine.

Audiobooks have a way of drawing me in and it keeps me from constantly looking at the clock. Another benefit I find to audiobooks is that it allows me to drown out the noise of crying babies or chatty neighbors while enjoying my book — something I find tough to do with a paperback or Kindle. I suggest investing in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones, which you can also use for movies and music.

For a limited time, you can receive a 30-day free trial of Audible. The best part is that once you download your books, there’s no internet required. You can choose from over 250,000 audiobooks including the best-selling novel, Jane Eyre.

Jane Eyre is an autobiography by Charlotte Brontë that was originally published in 1847 and tells the story of a nineteenth-century penniless orphan who is trying to find her way in the world. It’s an incredibly inspiring story and one that you can easily get lost in and forget about the long flight ahead of you. Thandie Newton’s audio interpretation of this novel is engrossing. The story will leave you wanting more.

HEALTH & HYDRATION

Hydration is your friend on a long flight. With the exception of the occasional alcoholic beverage to help put you to sleep, it’s best to stick with water while you’re in the air. Plane air is dry like the desert and it’s extremely easy to get dehydrated. I always bring acollapsible water bottle and ask the flight attendants to fill it up. Keeping your nostrils hydrated with saline nasal spray is another trick I’ve learned after catching a few too many colds after long flights.

I always bring a vitamin pack with (Vitamin C, Zinc, and a daily vitamin) and take it before and after my flight to keep my immune system boosted. Don’t forget to pack plenty of moisturizer for the flight (I love Aquaphor’s travel size tubes and this all-natural lotion/lip balm travel pack) and try to moisturize your entire body before you get dressed so you’re not dealing with dry, itchy skin during your long flight.

SLEEP

Sometimes it’s easier said than done, but boarding the plane relatively rested is key. Don’t plan on using the flight as a way to catch up on your sleep (unless you are one of the lucky few who has no problem sleeping in an upright position).

For red-eye flights, consider a sleep aid like Melatonin. It’s one of the few sleep aids that won’t make you groggy if you don’t catch a full 8-hours of sleep on the plane — and let’s face it, sleeping that much on a flight is rare. Eye masks and neck pillows are a must on overnight flights as well. If a neck pillow feels like too much to carry, you can blow up an inflatable beach ball and place it on top of your tray table.

Try to get up and walk around every couple of hours to stretch your legs. This is where an aisle seat comes in handy. If you are in a window seat and you don’t want to bother your seat mates every couple of hours, do some neck and ankle stretches while sitting down.

If you have some long-haul flight tips to add, please mention them in the comments section and let us know which Audiobooks you would choose from Audible to help pass the time on your next flight. We’re always looking for book recommendations!

How to Travel Safety

With more young, inexperienced wanderlusters traveling now than ever before, general safety precautions are in order. Here’s how to stay safe on your travels:

GET TRAVEL INSURANCE

I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by how many people get too caught up in their trip itinerary plans to think of travel insurance. If you don’t already have it, you most definitely need it; safeguard against lost luggage or canceled flights can save you big bucks in the long run and give you peace of mind.

KEEP ELECTRONICS TO A MINIMUM

For tech-savvy millennials it’s tempting to tote around every camera accessory possible, but in the case of electronics less is more. You don’t need your huge digital camera on every excursion, and who are you kidding – you won’t be working from your laptop in your free time.

Your phone can take awesome quality photos and send emails if need be. Lugging around bulky electronics not only slows you down but also makes you an obvious target for those looking to snatch them up. With the exception of your phone (obviously), keep your electronics locked up in your hotel room’s valuables safe – or better yet, don’t bring any on your trip to begin with!

KEEP YOUR HEAD UP

Walk like you know where you’re going; it’s widely known that your less likely to be approached if you are quick and alert. As an alternative to staring down at your phone’s Google maps while navigating around a new city, plug in an earbud and listen to the voice guide you! You’ll take in more sights and be more aware of your surroundings.

BE CAUTIOUS AT BARS

No one’s telling you NOT to go on Tinder dates when traveling, just be careful. Advertising that you’re in town on vacation makes you a bit more susceptible to being targeted than the next person. Watch your drink (that goes without saying), but watch your bartender make your drink too; not everyone is trustworthy.

DOWNLOAD SAFETY APPS

With solo travel trending right now, it’s likely that at some point you’ll end up wandering around an unfamiliar city alone. Family and friends can keep tabs on you even from a distance, thanks to some of the free apps on the market. Must-haves include:

  • Uber: Most 20- or 30- somethings already have Uber downloaded, but don’t forget that it spans beyond just your local barhopping scene! If public transportation intimidates or confuses you, don’t be afraid to call for an Uber during your travels.
  • bSafe: Although your friends or family members must download it as well, it is definitely worth it if traveling alone. If you are in a situation that feels unsafe, the app can give your friends your location, have them “follow” you as you walk to your destination, or send them an SOS if you are panicked. Although they may not be able to come to your rescue, they can notify police who can.
  • Drunk Mode: Another app that’s probably already downloaded on your phone, but (amazingly enough) can be put to use when sober. Turn it on before setting out on your day’s activities, and if you decide to separate from the group at some point to take your own detour it’s easy to find your friends’ location. Plus, it’s fun to look back and see where you went at the end of the day!

BE AWARE OF YOUR MONEY

Keep always keep small amounts of cash on hand, and keep copies of the fronts and backs of all of your credit cards (as well as passports or IDs). Also, don’t forget to notify your bank that you are traveling because they will freeze your cards at the most inconvenient times if you don’t.

DRESS INCONSPICUOUSLY

Try not to stand out; do some basic research as to what the locals generally wear. What may be standard summer clothing in the U.S. may be much too revealing in other countries and can even be considered inappropriate. Men and women alike, though, should try to be as inconspicuous as possible when in an unfamiliar place. Blend in! You’re less likely to be targeted by pickpockets and potentially dangerous predators. Which leads me to my next point…

DON’T LET PEOPLE DISTRACT YOU

Pickpocketing is a thing; it really happens, especially in tourist hotspots. The innocent-looking woman or child shoving a sign or paper in your face is often an attempt to catch you off guard and grab your wallet. Don’t be vulnerable – if anyone suddenly approaches you, be mindful that it may be a ploy to quickly divert your attention. Keep valuables secure on your body at all times!

BE HEALTH-CONSCIOUS

If you happen to get a few bug bites or a scratch while traveling – especially internationally – make sure to clean and treat them carefully and quickly! Neglect to care for even the most minimal of flesh wounds could lead to serious discomfort and health issues. Keep in mind that most travel and health insurers do not cover medical fees internationally; although your insurance may reimburse you in the future, be prepared to front the cost of any potential hospital bills.

KNOW YOUR COUNTRY’S EMBASSY INFORMATION

Your country’s embassy or consulate in foreign countries can be helpful in so many unexpected situations. Know their contact information and location! Or better yet, if you live in the U.S. you can sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program – a free service provided by the government that keeps you updated on safety and security information, and can help you stay in contact with your family in case of emergency.

How to Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks

Utah’s National Parks feature some of the most stunning and surreal landscapes in the world. Zion, Canyonlands, Arches, Capitol Reef, and Bryce Canyon have put Utah high up on many adventurers’ bucket lists and we’re no exception!

Earlier this month, Visit Utah invited me to try one of their Mighty 5 National Park itineraries. They’ve put together these in-depth itineraries to give travelers an easy way to plan their next Utah road trip. I chose their “Roughing it” itinerary which covers Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands and everything in between.

If you want to visit all five parks on your road trip, you can easily add Bryce Canyon and Zion to this itinerary. Here are my recommendations for planning the ultimate Mighty 5 road trip!

SALT LAKE CITY TO FISHLAKE & ZION

On your way to Zion from Salt Lake City airport, I highly recommend taking all or a portion of the 40-mile Fishlake loop. Towering aspen trees line much of this drive, which is quite a change of scenery from the national parks in this state. If you want to stay overnight here, you can camp along the lake, rent a cabin or stay in nearby Richfield (I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express here and it was very comfortable!).

Zion is just three hours away from Fishlake. This national park is the most visited out of the five parks, so make sure to head out early to explore for the day. Check out our Zion travel and hiking guide for must-do hikes and suggestions on where to stay.

ZION TO BRYCE CANYON

Bryce Canyon is an easy 1.5 hour drive from Zion. You’ll probably want to spend a day here exploring this park. Bryce Canyon has the largest collection of hoodoos in the world and photographs really do not do this place justice!

There are numerous accommodation options near Bryce Canyon — in addition to camping — including Bryce Valley Lodging, the Best Western Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel, and Bryce Canyon Log Cabins.

BRYCE CANYON TO BOULDER MOUNTAIN, BURR TRAIL, & CAPITOL REEF

From Bryce Canyon you can head through Boulder Mountain on to Capitol Reef National Park — or take a detour along the Burr Trail scenic backway with stops at Singing Canyon and Lower Muley Twist Canyon.

I recommend staying overnight near Capitol Reef National Park. I stayed at the Capitol Reef Resort in a luxury teepee with a king size bed and flatscreen TV! They also offer luxury cabins and basic guest rooms. The town of Torrey has other accommodation options or, if you book in advance, you can camp at one of Capitol Reef National Park’s campgrounds.

Popular and easy hikes at Capitol Reef National Park include: Grand Wash, Cassidy Arch Trail, and Hickman Bridge.

CAPITOL REEF TO SAN RAFAEL SWELL

This portion of the road trip covers some of my favorite areas of Utah. After Hanksville, continue on UT 24 E for about 20 miles until you see Temple Mt Road on your left.

Follow signs for Goblin Valley State Park (which is also worth a stop if you have time!) and just before the visitor’s center, take a right onto Wild Horse Road. This will take you to Little Wild Horse Canyon, a perfect hike for those interested in a little slot canyon exploration. The hike is fairly well marked and usually reasonably busy. I hiked about 2 miles in before heading back, but you have the option to do the full 8-mile loop — just make sure to bring PLENTY of water!

Ding & Dang is another slot canyon hike just up the road from Little Wild Horse Canyon, which is a slightly more difficult hike and should only be attempted by experienced hikers. From here, I recommend heading to the Wedge Overlook and hiking one of the trails in the Little Grand Canyon.

SAN RAFAEL SWELL TO ARCHES & CANYONLANDS

Arches and Canyonlands are within about 30 minutes from each other, so both of these parks can be easily explored using Moab as your base. The brand new Aarchway Inn is only 2-miles away from the Arches National Park entrance. Staying here means you will be very close to Arches, which makes things really nice for sunrise and sunset exploration in the park, but you’ll need to drive a couple of minutes into downtown for meals (or order delivery!).

In town, there are plenty of options for accommodation; Comfort Suites Moab is right in town and gets excellent reviews. For food in Moab, I highly recommend the Village Market for huge sandwiches to take on your excursions, Bangkok House for Thai food and delivery, and MOYO for an enormous selection of frozen yogurt — perfect on a hot day.

Popular hikes in Arches National Park include: Windows, Double Arch, Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch and Balanced Rock. Canyonlands is a great park to explore by car, but if you want to get out to stretch your legs, try Mesa Arch, White Rim Overlook, and Grand View Point.

I will let you in on a little secret. You absolutely must visit Fisher Towers, which is about a 25-minute drive from downtown Moab. It’s a hidden gem and great for those travelers looking to get away from the crowds. The photo below shows the lookout from just above the parking lot.

FLYING INTO LAS VEGAS?

If Las Vegas is your preferred airport, it’s easy to experience this same itinerary from that location. However, I have found Salt Lake City to be a much easier airport to get in and out of — especially with the constant Las Vegas construction. Also, keep in mind: the drive from Moab to Las Vegas is almost 7 hours, versus the 3.5-hour drive to/from Salt Lake City.

PACKING ESSENTIALS FOR UTAH

Checklist-IconPhoto Equipment – Utah is a photographer’s dream destination — do not forget your camera! To find out what camera I used for all of the above photos, see my full Sony a7II review and visit our complete travel camera buying guide.

Checklist-IconClothing and Hiking Gear – Plan on bringing comfortable clothes for hiking. The weather can be fickle in some areas — even in the summer. I drove through rainstorms where the temperature dropped 30 degrees within minutes. For extra sun protection, I recommend a long-sleeve synthetic top that wicks away sweat.

Good hiking shoes and socks will make or break your trip. I wear these women’s hiking shoes and I cannot live without these smartwool hiking socks — which provide cushion and keep my feet dry.

Checklist-IconSunscreen – Bring plenty of sunblock or make sure to buy it when you arrive. I never leave home without this travel-size face lotion with SPF. Some of the locations mentioned above sit at almost 7,000 feet, so do not forget to apply sunscreen!

Checklist-IconDaypack for Hiking – I use this backpack on all of my hiking adventures. It has everything I need — including two large side pockets for water, an internal padded sleeve for a 3L hydration bladder, lots of internal and external compartments, and an attached rainfly.

Checklist-IconReusable Water Bottle – Refilling your water bottle not only saves money, but it’s so much better for the environment! We use this CamelBak water bottle at home, but if you want something more compact, this collapsible water bottle is perfect for travel days and hiking.

Checklist-IconNavigation – Don’t count on your phone for navigation because you will rarely have service. The Garmin Nuvi is affordable and has all the features you’ll need on a road trip including Smartphone Link, Bluetooth, and lifetime maps.