4 Easy Ways to Keep the Travel Bug At Bay

I’ve been home for about two weeks since my last trip, a whirlwind tour of the Pacific Northwest. And per usual, the travel bug has come back to bite me already. But let’s be honest – I don’t have the vacation time or the cash handy to drop what I’m doing and hop another plane.

Instead, I’ll be employing these 4 Easy Ways to Keep the Travel Bug at Bay while I save up for my next adventure.

 

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View from Carew Tower in downtown Cincinnati

Be a tourist in your own city. I live just outside a mid-sized Midwest city, but there’s so much to see and do. It may not be NYC or LA, but new restaurants are opening downtown every week, art exhibits, ballets and broadway shows are plentiful, and the outdoor adventure scene isn’t too shabby, either. In my down time from travel, I find that getting out and about in my city is a great way to do a lot of the things I love, like hiking and trying new restaurants and breweries, without forking over the money for a plane ticket or hotel room.

 

 

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Red River Gorge in Daniel Boone National Forest is just a two-hour drive from my city

Plan a day trip. Where can you drive to in under three hours from your hometown? I can get to three other mid-sized cities, a National Forest, and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, to name a few. Sure, it can be a lot of driving in a day. But with the right travel partner(s), it’s the perfect way to get that quick fix you’ve been craving.

 

 

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Looking Glass Rock is in Pisgah National Forest, just one hour outside of Ashville, NC

Find your go-to weekend getaway. Not everyone is into the idea of repeat trips, but for me, after awhile you know what you like and what you don’t like. And if you can find a place you like within a reasonable distance for a weekend getaway, make it yours. I love, love, love Asheville, North Carolina. Not only is it a quirky city with INCREDIBLE beer, but it’s within an hour’s drive to multiple National Forests and Parks. Hello, mountains! I’ve been in the area three times now, and am planning a fourth trip near Thanksgiving this year. Each time I visit, I find something new and incredible, and until that stops, I’ll keep visiting. It’s under five hours’ drive time, and the perfect weekend getaway for me.

 

travel-planning-tipsResearch and plan for your next big trip. What better way to get excited than to research your next big trip? Sure, it might not happen for six months or a year, but you can use that time to discover destinations you never knew existed, add to your itinerary, or brush up on some useful language skills (if you plan to travel internationally). If you’re planning a particularly large trip that’s more than a year out, researching and budgeting can help you stay focused on your travel savings plan, and you’ll have plenty of time to find the best deals on transportation, lodging and attractions. Traveling and experiencing new things is the best – but planning for them is a close second, in my book.

What’s your best tip for keeping the travel bug at bay? Let me know in the comments!

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Hiking Oregon’s Oneonta Gorge

If you’ve ever visited Portland, or thought of visiting Portland,  you’ve probably come across more than a few opportunities for nearby outdoor activities. Just 35 minutes from downtown Portland is a well-known area called Multnomah Falls. It’s gorgeous – waterfalls, greenery, the opportunity to hike up to the top or down to the bottom.

gorge1Keep going – five more minutes and you’ll arrive at Oneonta Gorge. Where Multnomah has multiple parking lots and shuttles that drop you off at the falls, Oneonta has parking along the roadway. And though it’s by no means deserted, you’re looking at sharing the gorge with 50 people vs. hundreds at the falls.

gorge2Let me tell you what’s incredible about this hike.

To start, it’s stunning. Even better, you can get right into the middle of it, rather than snap a far-away photo. Here’s how:

gorge4You hike through the water. No dry paths here! This is the best thing about hiking for me – that feeling when you see something so beautiful, but you don’t have to just look from far away. You can get into the thick of it. This hike goes to the extreme, dropping you into chest-deep water (only for a moment) and leading you straight to the heart of the gorge.

Oneonta Gorge in Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

But first, you have to scramble over these rocks and logs. It’s a bit tricky, considering there could be as many as 20 people trying to go in opposite directions – some are just finishing, while others are just beginning, and there’s only one way in and out. Go slow and be cautious, because the rocks and logs are wet and slippery. And if you can, wear a pair of water shoes with good grips on the bottom. It makes a world of difference. Bare feet on the stones in this river bed? Not a good idea.

gorgeb1Real talk: that water is cooooollllddd. The worst part is the first few steps into ankle deep water. Ever had to ice your foot after running or playing sports? It’s a little painful. But once you go deeper – it’s a gradual decline, from ankles to knees to waist, and then eventually chest deep – it just becomes thrilling, honestly. Look at the smile on my face! I was exhilarated.

gorge3Just after you emerge from the deepest water, you’re in the middle of this gorgeousness. It’s not more than 15 minutes to get there, but by the time you see this waterfall you know you’ve worked for it.

A few tips: I bought cheap water shoes on Amazon that I didn’t feel bad about throwing out – nobody wants to bring wet, smelly shoes home on the plane! I wore quick-dry clothes, and brought a towel and  a change of clothes for directly after. I brought a small backpack (that I had to carry over my head) with very few items. The camera went into a gallon-sized plastic bag, inside the backpack – just in case.

Have you hiked Oneonta Gorge? What other unique hikes have you done? Tell me in the comments!

 

California Dreaming on Pacific Coast Highway

When I was young, my family didn’t go on many vacations. I was introduced to the absolute wonders of traveling by my husband, who insisted that we take an “epic road trip” for our honeymoon. Oh, and it should be done in a convertible, he said.

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For a girl with little to no travel experience other than lazy beach vacations, I was nervous, to say the least. Where should I even begin to plan a trip like we envisioned? How would we get around? Would we be able to eat good, local food, or would we end up in tourist traps?

It was my first try at planning a trip sight-unseen, and I only had a few days of vacation to work with, so we decided to drive the coast of California. My husband and I each picked our “top priority” city – for me it was San Diego, for him it was San Francisco – and we planned the trip between the two cities.

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When planning a trip with limited time, it’s easy to convince yourself you can do 100 things if you simply maximize your time. The problem is, you really can’t – and you shouldn’t try to. If you’re a planner like me, you’ve written down all of the sites you want to see and the restaurants you want to try. But if you plan too much in too tight of a time frame, you lose the option to just enjoy the sites, linger over wine, spend an extra hour walking the beach hand in hand, or take the scenic route home. And by scenic route, I don’t mean jumping on the bus in the wrong direction and losing two hours on your way back to Coronado from La Jolla Cove. Although, that could happen, too.

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Now on to the good stuff – the highlights of our trip. We began in San Diego and spent two nights at a resort on Coronado, which was beautiful. Despite a few detours we did make it to La Jolla cove (pictured above), which I HIGHLY recommend to anyone visiting San Diego. We swam in the 70-degree Pacific Ocean alongside a few other brave swimmers while dozens of seals sunbathed nearby. We roamed the Gaslight district and laid on the beach. We strolled through residential neighborhoods and took a water taxi across the beautiful Coronado Bay. I could have spent another three days exploring the city, but the next leg of the trip was calling.

 

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Central Wine Country in Paso Robles, CA

 

Quick tip: if you’re renting a car one-way it can be much more expensive than dropping off and picking up at the same location. Consider picking up your rental car from the airport lot, and find out if your hotel offers a free shuttle service to the airport – ours did and it saved us a $45 cab fare.

We drove 570 miles in two days, and stopped in several cities. One of my favorite things we did was to stop in Paso Robles to do a few wine tastings. It was 10 am, and the only place we found open at that hour for tastings was a small vineyard called Castoro Wine Cellars. My husband and I sat down at the bar and were greeted by a friendly woman who figured out we had no idea what we were doing within 30 seconds. She laughed along with us as she taught us the ins and outs of tasting wine, offering us food samples that paired well with the wines. It was an incredible experience in a beautiful part of the country, and I would go back in a heartbeat.

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During the drive in Big Sur – the views are INCREDIBLE, in case you haven’t heard – we found a few absolute gems thanks to recommendations from a friend who’d done the trip years earlier. First, we hopped out of the car in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and hiked down for this view.

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Next we pulled into a small roadside restaurant called Nepenthe. Coffee, cheese, fruit, and this gorgeous scene were laid out in front of us as we indulged ourselves for an hour at their outdoor tables.

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When we made it San Francisco, we spent our days walking miles and miles through the city. We did take a trolley tour, which I loved, and spent a morning at Alcatraz. Touristy? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.

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At the end of the trip, my husband (a graphic designer by trade) put together a video with the song that had become the anthem of our road trip. We took photos and video on our Canon Rebel T2i and mixed in a few shots from our iPhones. It was an incredible keepsake from our trip, and puts me right back into that California state of mind. You can view it here.

Have you driven the California coast? What were your favorite activities? Let me know in the comments!