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.

 

view-from-carew-tower-in-cincinnati-ohio

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.

 

 

red-river-gorge-in-daniel-boone-national-forest

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.

 

 

looking-glass-rock-in-pisgah-national-forest

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!

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!

 

Tips For Planning Your Own European Tour

First-time European traveler? Trying to save some cash by not working with a travel agent to plan your next trip to Europe? From one planner to another, here are a few tips from my own experiences that may help you along the way.

Choosing your destinations may be the hardest part of the entire trip. My advice is to begin with a broad, general idea of what you’d like to see, and explore the surrounding areas. Have you always dreamed of seeing Paris, but haven’t thought much further? London is a few hour’s Chunnel ride away, and the French countryside is gorgeous, too. Switzerland is stunning, and the public transportation is one of the absolute best – tour Zurich, Lucerne, Bern and Montreux and do it all by train. Did you realize that Italy is bordered by France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia? The most incredible thing about Europe is that you can experience so many cultures in so little time. With such well-connected public transportation systems and roadways, you’ll be amazed at the adventures you can pack into a 10- to 15-day tour.

Globe

From there, honestly, what’s worked for me is to start a Pinterest board dedicated to the trip. Do some research online, visit travel blogs, look at other travel-themed pin boards, and just start gathering those can’t-miss locations and experiences. You can pare down later on – for now, go all out!

Use a Pinterest Board to collect travel ideas

After you’ve figured out a loose list of locations, one of the next things you’ll need to tackle is, when? Well, it depends on what you’re looking for. In many European countries, August is the busiest month for tourists. Attractions and museums will be crowded, hotels will be booked full, and your price for lodging, travel and dining can end up through the roof. If you’re not visiting for the weather, consider an off-season month. Or, look at late May, early June, September and early October for the best of both worlds – you can expect less rain in most areas, as well as fewer tourists than in peak months.

What season should you travel in?

Next up, it’s time to buy a plane ticket. Where should you fly into and out of? If you plan to visit many cities and countries during your tour, consider flying into one airport and out of another. As I planned an upcoming trip to Switzerland, France and Italy, I knew it would eat away at my days if I backtracked to be able to fly round-trip. To find the best prices on airfare, I tried multiple combinations and eventually found that flying into Zurich and out of Rome was the most cost-effective combination. I didn’t initially intend to visit Rome, although it’s always been on my list, so it was a nice way to justify adding one extra day on the tail end. Because, it’s Rome.

Planning Your Own European Tour

Quick tip: plane tickets overseas, to Europe in particular, generally don’t drop in price the closer you get to your travel dates. I’ve found that the lowest prices were available 10-11 months before my travel dates, and my research after the fact backed that up. By six months out (when I finally accepted that prices weren’t going back down), my ticket was an additional $350.

A few other tips for planning your European Tour:

  • Pay special attention to Sundays and holidays. Train travel can be affected, as many will run on a restricted schedule on those days. Plus, many restaurants and attractions may be closed or have limited hours.
  • Prioritize expenses. What’s most important to you – food, souvenirs, museums, luxury accommodations? You can save on some to splurge on others. But just remember, this is vacation. I’m a firm believer in choosing a few key experiences to indulge in.
  • Plan for delays. They’ll happen, whether it’s missing your train or lingering over a delicious meal longer than expected, and that’s okay. If you’ve budgeted more time than you think you’ll need for a particular attraction or section of the city, your itinerary will remain intact.
  • Relax and enjoy. The best advice I can give for planning your very own tour of Europe is to embrace the unexpected. If planning makes you more comfortable, then plan as much as you can. But allow yourself to enjoy the little moments and small discoveries you make along the way.