Travel Tip #24: Pretend You’re a Turtle

I’m headed to a birthday party and I’m going like a turtle surrounded by house. I just realized I haven’t shared any travel tips since 2019. I guess, given the circumstances, that isn’t surprising. But it seems like it may be time for one since I’m about to travel to see my grandkids.

Two of my grandchildren live 24 hours away by car. Most people might advise me to fly. The last time I flew, it took more than 24 hours to get back home. It was miserable. I could have rented a car and driven the last leg a third of the time it took by plane. The time before, I had eaten a romaine salad one day, then got up and flew with the beginnings of what I believe was an E.coli infection. Also miserable – that day and for two weeks afterward.

While it wasn’t specifically because of those awful flying experiences, I’m sure they were a factor in me deciding on a whim to purchase an RV. Last year, I happened upon one that countered any objection I might have otherwise had.

This one wasn’t too big for me to step into with one step. It didn’t use too much gas. It had both an indoor and outdoor shower. The visibility out the back window was incredible. It had two beds. a large closet, large enough refrigerator, two burner propane cooktop, and a microwave (plus 2 TVs and DirectTV). I could park it in a regular parking space and it handled like a van. So, 48 hours after I first looked at it, a 2004 Winnebago Rialta was mine.

If you’re not an RVer (I am not.), traveling in an RV may sound crazy. It kinda did to me. And thinking about it logically, it still does. And yet, I love my little home, or baby house, as one of the grandkids calls it.

For someone like me who must carry food no matter the mode of transportation, traveling like a turtle is a dream! I have plenty of room for a variety of pre-frozen homecooked meals, shelf-stable and fresh ingredients, plus snacks, snacks, and more snacks. There’s a way to keep food cool and multiple ways to cook it. An RV solves a lot of problems or at least makes traveling less cumbersome and worrisome for me.

I can have fresh coffee in the morning before I get dressed just like I do at home. I love to ease into the day with a game of Wordle and some browsing. I bought a study pillow and lapboard so I can sit on the bed, drink coffee, and surf the web or watch the news without having to turn the bed back into a dining area.

I have a flip-up countertop for extra prep space or to sit on the edge of the bed and dine. But I can also eat outside. Many RV parks have picnic tables. Some have fire pits or grills. And many offer a convenience store for any item I may have forgotten.

My closet is large enough to hang some clothes and also store some in a 3-drawer unit I purchased. My first trip was 2 ½ months. I did laundry once a week and always had clean clothes available.

I worked on the road using the two passenger seats as an office – one for paperwork organization and one as a seat to write or attend Zoom meetings. Under one of the seats was room for a still camera, video camera, and tripod along with a first aid kit and folding camp chair.

While I don’t have to drive slowly, I plan shorter driving days in the RV than I would in my car or truck. Once I arrive at a destination, I have to get out the water filters and surge protector and hook everything up. I prefer to do that before dark when possible.

One thing I’ve learned making long drives is that no matter how many hours I plan to drive per day, at least one day of the trip will end up longer than anticipated. And I learned the hard way it’s a good idea to carry a car phone charger or an emergency charger if you’ll be relying on your phone for directions (or any information, really).

I can also deliberately slow down a journey to take side trips or get out and hike. When you fly, you can’t jump out of the plane if you happen to see something interesting. But traveling like a turtle, you can divert and enjoy anything that strikes your fancy. You can change your route or take one route to and a different one from.

If you get tired, you can pull over and have a comfortable nap. If you need a pit stop, you have your own facilities on board.

And if you happen to slowly meander into Los Angeles, I can’t say enough good things about the owner and long-term RVers at Hollywood RV Park. What a great community! It’s one of the best neighborhoods I’ve ever lived in.

I grew up spending weekends at the lake. We had a cabover camper with no bathroom. I suppose RVing feels a bit the same, but more upscale given the toilet and shower. I tend to call the RV a camper if that tells you anything.

Traveling like a turtle can also mean a chance to see someone who lives between you and your destination. I’ll add an hour or so to my trip to spend a couple of days with my sister. It’s 6 hours round trip from my house to hers, so adding an hour seems like a no-brainer.

Some RVers spend most of their time on the road, but others spend months or years in one location. When you travel like a turtle, it’s really up to you.

There’s no question that you’ll have something unexpected happen here or there. It comes with the territory. But the benefits of traveling like a turtle often outweigh the difficulties, especially for those of us who can only tolerate a minimum number of commercially produced foods.

If you don’t want to jump in without giving it a try, rent a rig first. While you’re pondering this option, I’ll keep pretending I’m a turtle.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Travel Tip #23 – BnB, AirBnB, Managed Condo, or Hotel–What’s the Difference?

BnB, AirBnB, VRBO, managed condo/home rental, or hotel/motel–what’s the difference? If you’re planning a trip it’s helpful to know. Sometimes it’s fun to get out of town to watch the Super Bowl. In a new location, the snacks seem more exotic and it’s easier to imagine a Cinderella outcome! As the coronavirus spreads its influence, it seems like traveling sooner rather than later could be a good idea.

If you’re getting out of town this weekend or later in the year, here are some accommodation differences worth noting:

Hotels are predictable.

Most of us are familiar with a variety of hotel and motel brands and styles. You may have a favorite that you choose on a regular basis. Each will vary slightly in layout, decor, and amenities, but many things are predictable.

The typical hotel or motel has everyday maid service. The rooms are stocked each day with enough towels for at least two showers per person and a day’s worth of hand and bath soap, shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion. You’ll consistently find a hairdryer, an iron and ironing board. Some hotels also automatically provide mouthwash, makeup remover wipes, shower caps, shoe polishing cloths, and vanity kits containing Q-tips, cotton balls, and a fingernail file. You can always expect to find ice machines and vending machines around the facility.

It’s been at least four years since I’ve stayed in a hotel that did not have a coffee maker, microwave, and refrigerator in a standard room, but some high-rise convention or small boutique hotels may not. Breakfast is usually served at hotels even when there’s not a restaurant on site. Some hotels and motels offer a self-service laundry as well as a traditional laundry service. Most can provide you with complimentary forgotten items like a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and a comb.

Other hotel amenities may include room service, a pool, spa, beauty salon, shopping, bicycle rental, ballrooms, meeting rooms, exhibit spaces, a golf course, croquet courts, concierge, restaurants, bars, casinos, dance clubs, music venues, and art galleries. Resort hotels will specialize in an even wider range of activities and services from which to choose. If you love hiking, skiing, fishing, boating, or sailing, you can easily find a place that caters to your activity. You can also soak in luxury at a resort with a pillow menu.

Hotels reservations are easily canceled at no charge up to 24-hours prior to check-in. Keys or key cards are distributed from a front desk even if you book and pay in advance online.

Parking policies vary widely. In small towns and cities, parking is usually free and in an open air lot. In larger cities, parking may be in a deck where you must pay. Some facilities offer valet parking only for which they charge a fee. In metropolitan areas, there is often a complimentary shuttle to and from the airport.

Bed and breakfasts may lack privacy.

When my kids were young, bed and breakfasts were all the rage. I stayed at several in several states. Most were located in large, old homes where you rented a bedroom with named for a theme – Benjamin Franklin Suite, Roosevelt Room, Emily Dickinson Lounge, etc. Some rooms came with a private bathroom, but many required me to share with other guests.

Breakfasts in BnBs were prepared and served by the hosts who usually wanted to chat. Other guests also wanted to chat. I know everyone was just being friendly, but I’m more of a drink my coffee in silence person so I have never felt very comfortable in the traditional BnB environment.

For me, BnBs work best when traveling with family or close friends. Everyone can stay in the same place and I’m staying with people I know. If I choose to keep quiet during breakfast, no one thinks I’m being unfriendly. They already know I like to ease into the morning.

If you’re traveling with unreliable friends or family, be sure to review the cancellation policies before booking a bed and breakfast. Some require cancellation days or weeks before check-in and may charge a cancellation fee.

I think this model may have evolved into more of a self-serve situation in some BnBs. There’s a lovely one in Santa Barbara where you help yourself to snacks and breakfast. The breakfast is less elaborate than the BnBs I’m used to, but more flexible and private.

My most recent experience with a bedroom in a shared home was a HomeAway rental in Brooklyn. The owners lived downstairs and rented out the upstairs bedrooms. There was one shared bathroom located down the hall from my room. The owners provided towels and hand soap, but toiletries were up to me. That has been my experience with most BnBs.

The mornings at the HomeAway felt very much like a BnB. The owners served breakfast and expected everyone to show up at the table around the same time. It was not my favorite accommodation, but the location was perfect. I was in Park Slope across from Prospect Park and around the corner from the friends I was visiting.

AirBnB and VRBO units are everywhere and all of them are different!

When location is important, AirBnB and VRBO have made it possible to find accommodations convenient to almost anything. On my last three trips to LA, this has allowed me to forego car rental and ride sharing. I’ve been close enough to walk to my primary destinations and a variety of restaurants.

The maps on AirBnB give a reasonable idea of location, but can sometimes be inaccurate enough to put you on the other side of a major highway. Once you book and receive the specific address, it’s a good idea to review the location so that you can cancel within 48 hours of booking to guarantee a full refund if the address is not suitable.

Cancellation policies vary by host from flexible to moderate to strict. All policies are clearly stated on the site. This can still mean there are some inaccuracies if the host enters incorrect information. AirBnB has a resolution center to help resolve any conflict that may result. I sometimes choose a more expensive option in order to have the flexibility to cancel closer to my departure time, especially when I’m booking well in advance.

I use AirBnb, but my sister uses VRBO. There is some overlap, but it’s easy to search either service without creating an account. I use the filters to make sure I have completely private quarters with enough bedrooms and bathrooms for my travel group to be comfortable.

When it’s just me, I don’t care about a separate bedroom, but I do want a real bed. The site icons make it easy to determine whether the sleeping spaces are appropriate.

In addition to cancellation policies, bedrooms, and bathrooms, I review the photos, list of amenities, and house rules. This means that the flexibility of size, configuration, and location requires more time and research than booking a hotel. If you prefer to keep things simple and predictable, a hotel or motel may work better.

There are also other things that vary. Hosts rarely update their original list of amenities or general check-in instructions. That has meant I carried a hairdryer only to find there was now one provided. Most recently, it meant that the red lantern identifying the appropriate gate to my facility was missing.

Unlike a hotel, you may need to provide your own shampoo, bath wash, and lotion. If shampoo is provided, it may be in a large container like you use at home. There is not a maid or cleaning service to do your laundry or dishes. Those are up to you.

I’ve never stayed for more than a week in a single AirBnb. I’m guessing that towels would be restocked and sheets changed during an extended stay, but I don’t know what interval is considered average.

Just like visiting a friend’s home, you may encounter a broken shower handle, hot water that takes forever, and occasionally a few clothes in a closet. These are a few examples from my experience, but I’ve never had a problem large enough to ruin my trip or even my day. If this kind of thing creates undue stress for you, it may not be worth taking the risk.

A coffee maker and coffee may or may not be provided. On a trip a couple of years ago, I had to borrow a French press from my son and purchase coffee from a nearby grocery.

Your facility may not have a TV, or if it does, it may only be broadcast TV rather than cable or satellite. This is not a big deal for me, but if you’re expecting to watch a game on ESPN you may be disappointed.

My most recent stay provided Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and antenna TV. That meant having two remotes and needing to know how to change the input on the TV, but that’s what I do at home so it felt perfectly normal.

Some hosts provide extras like a variety of snacks, bottled water, and cooking basics like pots, pans, knives, salt, pepper, and cooking oil. Others may have dishes and a microwave, but no food or water.

With AirBnB and VRBO, you simply can’t expect consistency. Read the reviews. Read the lists. Read the rules. You’ll still occasionally be surprised.

Host personalities vary greatly and there is no standard for customer service. Some prefer to communicate only through an app. Others will provide their phone number and meet you at the door. I prefer hosts who are responsive, but not overly involved and I’m perfectly happy if I never meet them in person.

Having the ability to cook if I want to, value for the money, and the wide range of locations and sizes makes AirBnB my preference in spite of the inconsistencies. I just look at those as part of the adventure.

Managed condo and house rentals can be the perfect in-between.

Houses and condo rentals handled by management companies fall somewhere between hotels and AirBnB. While the units are owned by individuals, they are managed under a set of consistent policies administered by the management company. I sometimes choose these when traveling to the beach with a group or to Asheville, North Carolina by myself.

When I stayed in a studio condo at The Residences at Biltmore, I had everyday maid service just like a hotel. I also had a full kitchen sans dishwasher and a stackable washer & dryer. I did my own laundry, but the maids washed the dishes, restocked the towels, and made my bed.

I don’t think any shampoo or soap was provided other than dishwashing liquid, but I really don’t remember specifically. What I do remember is feeling as though I had everything I needed. There was an outdoor elevator to take me to the third floor. I had a lovely balcony with a view where I could sit or dine.

In addition to the bed, there was a chest of drawers, chair, twin sofa bed, fireplace, and small dining table. The closet was large and all of the finishes were high end. Outside, the pool was huge and the pool area included a fire pit for cold weather. Parking was ample and free. Spa treatments were available.

I’ve been tempted to purchase one of these condos. They’re on the edge of Kenilworth, a neighborhood I love. They seem well managed and they stay full. I’d have to be willing to give up some income in order to spend time there myself and I’m just not sure a purchase makes sense at $300,000 and up. Nonetheless, the pull is strong. I loved being there.

Most of us are comfortable in our own homes. When we travel, we hope to be equally as comfortable if not more so. The requirements for an accommodation to provide that feeling will vary from person to person. Your best choice may be guided by budget, convenience, amenities, or level of service. Whatever the criteria, knowing the difference makes the choice more clear.

So, what’s the difference? Here’s a quick recap:

  • Hotels are the most predictable, consistent, and easy to cancel last minute.
  • Bed and breakfasts may lack privacy, but can provide a homelike feel.
  • AirBnB and VRBO offer great locations, the most flexibility, and are often a great value for the money. They are not consistent and require effort to research amenities and policies.
  • Managed homes and condos have straightforward policies, fewer personal touches, and don’t require communication with the owners.

Even if you stay home for the Super Bowl, you may want to travel for Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or just a regular old day. That’s what I’m doing next–traveling on a regular old Friday to a regular hotel. Whenever and wherever you go, I wish you comfortable conditions and safe travels!

trivago.com

http://airbnb.com

https://www.vrbo.com/

https://www.homeaway.com/

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Travel Tip #22 – What to Do When You’re Feeling Peckish

When you’re feeling peckish, use this travel tip. A few years ago, my youngest son often announced he was feeling peckish. No one he knew used that word, but he’s a big reader with a huge vocabulary and it’s not uncommon for him to interject new words into the family lexicon. Once we determined that meant he was a little hungry, we asked him what he wanted to eat. After awhile, his use of the word diminished and my use disappeared…until yesterday when I was walking through the grocery store looking for suitable airplane/airport snacks.

Today, I’m flying to LA to visit my newest grandson. As I’ve mentioned before, I always carry gluten-free food when I fly. That way I’m prepared if I can’t locate something suitable in the airport or there’s a delay that means I must eat on the plane. Perusing the deli case, I suddenly saw boxes labeled PECKISH. Of course that got my attention.
peckish
The contents of these boxes turned out to be a protein pack with two “perfectly boiled” organic, free-range eggs and a cup of crunchy dip. The flavor profile of this snack is determined by the crunchy dip. “Fried Rice” dip contains organic quinoa crispies, dried tamari, carrots, toasted sesame oil, sea salt, green onions, garlic, and ginger.
egg
Other flavor options include “Salt & Pepitas”, “Rancheros, “Maple Waffles”, and “Everything”. All flavors are gluten-free, diary-free, and sugar-free. Some are keto and paleo-friendly. Each flavor varies slightly in protein, fiber, and sodium content, but each box is filled with protein because of the eggs.

Once you peel open an individually packed egg and open the dip, you just stick the egg in the dip and take a bite. The inside of my dip’s foil lid is instructing me to double dip!

The already peeled, “perfectly boiled” eggs fall on the soft end of hard boiled. The yolk is not runny, but it is not dry and crumbly. The very center is orange and a tiny bit gooey.

This snack appealed to me not only because of its name, but because I often take hard boiled eggs as an airplane snack. I pre-peel the eggs and drop them into a zip top bag into which I’ve sprinkled a little salt and pepper. I was curious whether the flavored dips would be enough of an upgrade to justify the larger price tag or whether they would inspire me to create some dips of my own.

The “Everything” dip reminds me of the Everything But the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend from Trader Joe’s without the bitter aftertaste. Okay, I realize most people put that seasoning blend on something like a bagel and may not know there’s an aftertaste. I’m in the habit of testing recipes which requires tasting things repeatedly–when they’re hot, when they’re cold, a day later–and without embellishment.

Having been known to put strawberry jelly on scrambled eggs, I would expect to like the “Maple Waffles” dip. It does have a subtle sweetness and its lid tells me it’s so dippin’ good! I like the “Fried Rice” dip. It has a pleasing and less subtle blend of savory flavors. The “Salt & Pepitas” serves the purpose, but fails to make a statement. I’ll have to leave you in suspense regarding the “Rancheros”. I haven’t tried it yet.

I like the idea of using crisped quinoa to hold flavors like maple syrup and toasted sesame oil to blend with tamari, but I’m not likely to whisk up a batch of egg dip for one trip for one person. If I want something besides salt & pepper or a seasoning blend I keep on hand, it makes sense to purchase a PECKISH protein pack.

Of course these are also great snacks for road trips, the office, or a kid’s lunch box. If they’re not sold in your area, perfectlypeckish.com offers a subscription box feature. You build a home box by choosing 10 protein packs in any combination of flavors and have it delivered to your home at regular intervals.

If your office is into clean eating, keto, or paleo, you can also order weekly, biweekly, or monthly shipments to stock the break room. The office packs are single flavor boxes containing 30 eggs each or a box of 30 eggs without a flavored dip.

It’s good to know that when I anticipate feeling peckish on a trip, I can pack a high protein, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free snack that’s full of flavor without taking the time to cook. All I need to do is follow this travel tip–purchase a PECKISH protein pack.

That’s it for travel tip #22. Happy traveling and happy holidays!

https://www.dictionary.com/browse/peckish?s=t

https://perfectlypeckish.com/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/travel-tip-21-be-prepared-to-evacuate/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/travel-tip-19-pack-light/


Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Travel Tip #20: Use a Travel Agent

Travel Tip #20: If you’re ready to book a much needed vacation, use a travel agent. No, I don’t mean a web based travel search engine, I mean a real person. I know it’s tempting to book everything online. I do it all the time, but if you’re truly needing a break, there are benefits to having a knowledgable professional with good connections handle your travel plans.
travel agent
Planning a trip can be time consuming. If you’re already taxed from long hours, illness, or caregiving, that time can be better used for restorative activities like sleep, walking in the park or on the beach, yoga, or visits with friends. Using a professional will give you access to options you may never have considered. And if you run into a problem during your trip, a travel agent can find a solution while you relax. And that’s the key — relaxing.

Believe it or not, there are still thousands of travel agents in the US. The Bureau of Labor & Statistics listed 81,700 in 2016. Some agencies are available 24 hours per day (just like the internet) and many offer agents who speak foreign languages. A well-matched professional will offer a level of service technology just can’t duplicate.

I’m pretty independent and I don’t enjoy hiring a company that I have to beg to be responsive or do a good job. Because of that, I’m often tempted to just do things myself. I’m not kidding. I’ve cut my own hair, repaired my toilet, sold my house, repaired my washing machine, and other things I don’t know how to do. I suppose my get-it-done determination has some advantages, but it has some drawbacks as well.

Doing it myself can sometimes be the one thing that puts me past the point of exhaustion. It can be the thing that interrupts a project that’s more important. It can be the thing that keeps me from feeling that great feeling of being taken care of. I was recently reminded of that feeling when I hired a childhood friend to sell my cousin’s farm.

I thought it would take months to move that thing. The top part of the 109 acres was rocky and unusable. There’s no road through the property, no fences, and scrub trees have been running amok for a few years. I was very, very wrong. My friend sold it in a week for the price we wanted. Then, she gave me a gift certificate to my favorite store in that town. The whole thing felt great!

Last summer, I wanted to take a week off. I freed up the time, but ended up staying home. Planning a trip was more than I could muster. Did I know I could use a travel agent? Yes, I’ve had wonderful experiences using them before. The thing is, I sometimes make things harder than they could be. It’s not my best habit.

In the past two days, I’ve hired 3 new people to help me while I split my time between work, landlord, and caregiving duties. Next up, a vacation — time to call a travel agent!

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/06/travel-agent/488282/

https://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/travel-agents.htm

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/travel-tip-19-pack-light/