A Page from Arizona

“Take only memories, leave only footprints” – Chief Seattle

Arizona – a state of diversity

When I say that Arizona is a state of diversity, I’m not talking about skin color or cultural diversity, but geographical diversity.  On our family’s first trip to Arizona, I was amazed by the variety of topography to be found in the Grand Canyon state.  For example, in the Tucson area, you are likely to see cacti, front yards filled with rocks, rolling hills, heat, and desert terrain.  When you drive into the high elevation of the Flagstaff area, you are greeted with Ponderosa Pine, mountainous terrain, and much cooler temperatures.  Sedona, on the other hand, will greet you with towering red rock structures that jut out of the mostly flat landscape.  It is a wonder to behold.

That brings us to the Grand Canyon.  You can’t really think about Arizona without the Grand Canyon coming to mind.  It is a one-of-a-kind experience to gaze upon the vast and many-hued geologic wonder.  But, the Grand Canyon is not the only canyon in Arizona.  The state is also home to quite a few slot canyons.  While the majestic Grand Canyon is massive, experiencing it is a big endeavor.  If you want to explore down into the belly of the canyon, you either undertake a huge hike (much easier on the way down, a killer on the way up), or you can pay a lot to ride a mule in and out, or take an expensive helicopter ride.  In contrast, Arizona’s slot canyons are quite a bit easier to access.

When planning our family trip to Utah, my daughter-in-law mentioned wanting to visit one of those Arizona slot canyons – Antelope Canyon, and said that it was just over the border from Utah.  So we added Page, Arizona to our vacation agenda.  During the course of our planning, we also realized that Horseshoe Bend was located a mere few miles away.  So there you go – two fantastic destinations in one place – making the 2+ hour trek from our vacation rental very worth the drive.

In the past, I had seen some amazing slot canyon photos, although at the time I didn’t realize exactly what they were or where they were taken.  I really didn’t understand exactly what we were planning to see.  But as I did some investigating, I realized that this was going to be one of the highlights of our trip.


So, with plans made and adventure on our minds, we set out from Utah and road-tripped it to Page.  Here I must note that Lower Antelope Canyon and Upper Antelope Canyon are both located on the Navajo tribal grounds and all tours are run by Navajo.  We visited the Lower instead of the Upper due to the lesser amount of visitors and the lower cost.  If we get the chance to return to the area, I would love to visit Upper Antelope Canyon.  But, back to the Lower – there are two different tour groups that you can use – Ken’s Tours, which is the original, and Dixie Ellis’ Lower Antelope Canyon Tours, which I think is run by Ken’s sister.  We took the Dixie Ellis tour, but I really don’t see how one can be much different from the other.

When we reached the Lower Antelope Canyon tour area, the two different tour companies were side by side.  Upon entering the parking lot of the tour company, there was a little building with a walk-up window and a long line of people waiting to check in.  I thought that by buying our tickets in advance, we would have an easy time at check-in, but it was pretty busy.  Upon arrival, each person in our group had to sign on a list of names as a release.  There were many other people doing the same thing and the tour company was not organized in their little office.  This is the part of the experience that I did not like at all!  Additionally, in the parking area there were two different very long rows of stinky port-a-pottys.  If you decide to visit, you may want to hit a restroom before you get there.  When buying our tickets online ahead of time, it seemed that there was a limit to the amount of people touring in each time slot.  This was not the case.  When our time group was called, we were surprised to see a bus group of about 50 tourists from Asia who were given priority over the rest of our time group.  And the last disappointing thing was that once our group was called, we walked down to the entrance of the canyon, surprised to find a huge line of people waiting ahead of us.  So despite buying a ticket for a specific time, we waited for about an hour in this last line until we entered the canyon.  I am relating all of this to you so when and if you go, you will be informed ahead of time, and not be too frustrated with the situation.

Now let’s talk about the good stuff.  As we waited in line to get into Lower Antelope Canyon, most of our wait was under a recently constructed shelter.  It was a big help to have that shade, otherwise we would have waited for an hour in the desert sun.  And our guide was great!

When it was our time to enter the canyon, we descended down some metal stairs where no pictures were allowed.  I guess cameras have been dropped on tourist’s heads in the past!  Yikes!  Then we entered the first big room of the canyon, and our guide was able to move us around the huge bus group of 50 tourists, which was awesome.  That gave us the liberty to explore some of the areas without dealing with a big crowd, and that made the whole experience much more pleasant.

I have to say, once we entered the cool of the canyon and began to explore and take in the beauty around us, the long lines and heat from the wait just evaporated.  It really was worth the hassle to be able to experience Lower Antelope Canyon.  And pictures!  I took more pictures in that canyon than I did in any other place we visited that week.  Around every corner we experienced something new that begged for a picture.  I am including a few below, a mere fraction of the total on my camera!  And our guide helped us so much by suggesting things to shoot, pointing out famous rock formations, and telling us how we could set our iPhones or Androids to capture the best colors of the canyon.

My daughter-in-law captured some great images with her new camera.



When you see all the variations of light and hues of color it almost doesn’t seem real.  I enjoyed snapping some pictures along the way.

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Our guide was so helpful!

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He knew the best places to take some great pictures!  Of course, I think that just about anywhere in the canyon would look great in a picture.

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Then, he turned my camera side-ways and took an up-and-down panoramic.  I didn’t even realize you could do that!  I’ve taken all my panos from side to side.  Actually, now that I think about it, my DIL took a picture like that earlier in the week.  And it’s a great effect!

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And, the next picture I would like to share is my favorite.  The rock formation is called “Lady in the Wind.”  Can you see her?

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When we reached the end, we climbed out of the canyon on a series of small metal ladders.

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When we climbed out and walked a few feet away, I turned around and could hardly tell where we came out of the earth.  The canyon was almost hidden from the surface.

Next up was lunch and then on to Horseshoe Bend!

When we drove up to the Horseshoe Bend parking area, it didn’t look like it was going to be that exciting.  And from the reviews I read ahead of time, I was thinking that it was a really short walk from the parking lot, but I obviously had the wrong idea.  The walk was about 3/4 mile one-way and hot!  A sign at the beginning of the trail notified hikers to carry water.


Thankfully there was some cloud cover, which helped a bit with the heat.  As we approached Horseshoe Bend, we could see people standing near the edge of a rock.

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What we didn’t realize is that at that edge was a HUGE drop-off down to the river below. This picture doesn’t really do justice to how scary it was!  My husband wouldn’t watch when I got close enough to get this selfie.

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Unfortunately, anyone who wants to get a really good shot of Horseshoe Bend has to get right up next to the edge.  Phew!  It was scary!  I would have felt much better if i had a rope tied around my waist, just in case.  Also, it helps to have a wide lens on your iPhone, because it’s hard to get the whole thing in one picture without it.  I think this one was without the wide lens:


And this one definitely had a wide lens:

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After a long day of breathtaking scenery and lots of photos, we headed back to our rental house in Utah.  We had enjoyed two of the diverse attractions of Arizona and the experiences of the day were definitely worth the lengthy drive.  Thankfully, we had a crock pot full of soup waiting for us at the house, so after dragging our weary bodies in the door, we ate dinner and relaxed until we hit the sack.  It had been a full and rewarding day.

I hope you have enjoyed a Page from Arizona.  Until next time – happy traveling!


Bryce is Nice!

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer” – Anonymous

In a previous post, Beautiful Utah, I mentioned different places in southern Utah that my family and I visited in May of 2017.  Part of our epic journey included a day trip from our rental house near Alton, Utah to Bryce Canyon National Park.

But first, after a much needed morning of rest and relaxation, we stopped for lunch along the way to Bryce at a restaurant called Bryce Canyon Pines.  We, of course, picked this restaurant after reading all the restaurant reviews on TripAdvisor.  There are slim pickin’s around Bryce, and we wanted to pause for a somewhat quick and basic meal that wouldn’t break the bank.  I had also read that Bryce Canyon Pines was supposed to have really good soup and pies!  The food was much as we expected – pretty basic but good, not too expensive, and we split meals so we could all eat pie!  The chocolate pie was my favorite, by the way.


When we got to the gate of Bryce Canyon National Park, we stopped to pay the entrance fee of $30 for our vehicle.  The entrance fee here is the same as it was for Zion National Park, even though Zion was much bigger and had so much more to see and so many more trails.  Another note on the differences – Zion’s bathrooms were kept up very nicely and there were quite a few of them.  I noticed that the bathrooms in Bryce were not in very good shape.  There were overflowing trash cans and there was toilet paper all over the floor.  I was surprised.


So back to the trip.  I had seen pictures of the park and its hoodoos, and I had done some research about what trails were best for a relatively short and pleasant hike.  My daughter-in-law also had Bryce Canyon high on her list and we pretty much had the same ideas for which paths to tackle.

There are several hikes to choose from in the park, but since we didn’t want to hike for the entire day and wanted to see as much of the hoodoos and beautiful scenery as possible, we settled on the Navajo Loop/Queen’s Garden combo.  The two trails together are just short of 3 miles and are supposed to take around 2 to 3 hours, depending on how many times you stop to enjoy the view, take pictures, or just stop to catch your breath!


When we got to the viewing area over the main “canyon” we suddenly didn’t know which way to go.  We had two choices – we could go to the left, to Sunrise Point and head down the Queen’s Garden trail and come up the Wall Street side of the Navajo Loop, or we could do it in reverse and start at Sunset Point to our right.  I remembered that I had previously read that one way was supposed to be a better option, but could not, for the life of me, remember what to do!

As we were pondering and looking at a map, a fellow traveler told us that Wall Street was closed, and it was much prettier to the left, so we should enjoy the view going down.  She said that when they were walking up, all they could think about was catching their breath and they didn’t enjoy looking around as much.  So we took their advice and set off.

And she was right!  The view as we walked down the Queen’s Garden trail was magnificent.  Absolutely stunning.  What strange figures these hoodoos were – unlike anything I had ever seen.  And so many of them!  And so many variations!


While we are on the subject of hoodoos – let’s talk a little bit about them.  Where does the name hoodoo come from?  Well, I remember from our trip that someone said the word is similar to a Native American word that evolved into hoodoo.  But, going back and searching the internet isn’t turning up that same answer, so . . . . I’m not sure but I’ll stick with my vague memory here.

How are hoodoos formed?  This I remember for sure – they are formed from the freeze/thaw cycle.  Snow melts and gets into the cracks, then the water freezes again which causes it to expand and cracks get bigger and bits of rock fall away.  Eventually bigger parts of the rocks topple over.  In fact, this very thing had happened at Bryce before we got there, and unfortunately was the reason that Wall Street was closed.  Sad face.

So let’s get back to the trail.  As we were descending the Queen’s Garden trail, we were merrily hiking and looking around at the beauty and stopping to take lots of pictures along the way.  The people hiking up, on the other hand, were stopping to catch their breath.  And then they would look at us like, “Yeah, you just wait!”  They looked harried and red-of-face, with their tousled hair and lack of oxygen.  But we were determined.  We will not be dissuaded, we thought, as we marched down, our ankles creaking along the way.


Speaking of lack of oxygen – at this altitude you must not push yourself too hard or you can get altitude sickness.  Thankfully, we had been experiencing the higher altitude for a few days before tackling Bryce, so none of us got sick.  But we could definitely feel the reduced oxygen as we eventually hiked back up.

When we reached the lower part of the trail, the topography began to change a bit – we started to see some trees along with the hoodoos.


After a little while hiking through the bottom of the trail, it began to gradually slope upwards.  Then we came to a crossroads.  If we went one way, it led to Wall Street, part of Navajo Loop that would eventually be blocked.  If we went to the right, we would follow the other part of Navajo Loop back up to the same end point.  Since we didn’t want to tack on a dead end meander, we went to the right.


As we began our steep ascent, I came to understand the harried looks of the hikers we had come across earlier.  Now we were those people.  We were the ones that had to stop and catch our breath (especially me).  This part of the trail consisted of multiple steep switchbacks and an elevation gain of 580 feet.  When I look at the number 580, it doesn’t seem that bad.  But when I experienced 580, it was bad.  Now, I am not the most fit person in the world.  I am probably a pretty average 48 year old, needing to lose some weight, but I walk for exercise regularly.  But not 580 feet upwards in an hour or less, or in a day even.  Phew!

Every few minutes, I had to stop to catch my breath and give my pounding heart a chance to slow down.  Our kids had gone way ahead of us, so it was just us “old fogies” dragging up the trail.  But eventually we made it.

I will say that despite the challenge of the upward part of the trail, it was an experience that was definitely worth the effort.  The sights that are seen in Bryce National Park are unlike anything else that can be viewed anywhere else in the world.  The hoodoos are fascinating and pictures are not the same as the experience.

If you’ve never considered putting Bryce Canyon on your vacation, reconsider!  It’s a sight to see!

Until next time – happy traveling!




4-Wheelin’ in Utah

“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind” – Seneca

When you travel with a lot of guys, you try to plan things that will make guys happy.  I have three sons and no daughters, so shopping or spa days have not been part of our family vacation experience.  And as our kids were growing up, our budget was somewhat slim, so each trip usually came with one “big event” that went along with our free adventures such as swimming in the ocean or hiking.  For example, when we went to Arizona one year, I planned a Pink Jeep tour.  The time we went to Cancun (we had free airfare and free hotel), our big-budget item was swimming with dolphins.

Now that our kids are grown and they are helping to pay for all the fun, we can plan more non-free experiences.  So, this year, when we were in Utah, we decided to do a couple of guided activities.  First, we went canyoneering, which I detailed in my previous post – A Catch in my Throat.  Our other big adventure was 4-wheeling.  This particular activity was of genuine interest to my youngest son, and probably my oldest as well.

Months before our trip, I had done some research through TripAdvisor, and found that  Mild to Wild Rhino Tours had high ratings in the Things to Do category.  So, after reading through several reviews, I decided (with consensus from my family) to book a tour.  Buddy, the owner, recommended we take a morning tour because it would be cooler and more pleasant.

I’d like to mention that a few years ago when our family went on the Pink Jeep tour in Sedona, I was the only family member that couldn’t go, thanks to a nasty bug I had picked up the day before.  So, for this year’s vacation I was bound and determined that I was going to have some fun along with everyone else.  I might have been a little crazy with the hand washing for several weeks leading up to our adventure.  And it worked.  Yay for soap and hand sanitizer!

Back to my story – We had gotten an email with instructions on how to find the office.  But I was surprised to find it in a construction zone and even more surprised that it seemed to be a one man show!  But Buddy, the owner and also our guide for the day, was very friendly and easy to talk to.  He took our money and then gave us bandanas and sunglasses to use and keep.  And we were very thankful for them!  It was undoubtedly a dusty experience.

When we left the office, we followed Buddy in our vehicle to another location near Gooseberry Mesa and the five of us loaded up into two ATVs while Buddy drove his own.  He guided us up a messed-up, washed-out road until we reached a parking area with bathrooms and a sign letting us know we had reached the mesa.


The ATVs we had seemed to be pretty new and were fun to drive.




We had some beautiful scenery all around us!


There had actually been some rain, so the dust wasn’t horrible in most places, but the scarves and sunglasses that Buddy gave us really helped.


Buddy was a very knowledgeable guide and took us to scenic locations and pointed out all of the land forms and landmarks in the distance.  He also pointed out plants and gave a history of what native Americans had used some of them for in the past.  He told us that the cactus flower called prickly pear developed into a fruit that is used to flavor some locally-made ice cream.  I really wanted to try that but didn’t find it before we left.



We loved all of the picture opportunities we had!  The sky seemed to go on forever up here!


Buddy took us over some rocky terrain that made me very nervous!  I felt like we could tip over at any minute!  But after we survived the first one, I relaxed and even enjoyed the ride.  It was a hoot!


All in all, it was a great day!  The guys got to have their adrenaline rush and everyone had a wonderful time.  Another family memory in the books!

After our tour, Buddy told us we should check out Grafton ghost town, an old Mormon settlement, and told us exactly how to get there.  So we took his advice and headed over.  It was an interesting place to visit, but there wasn’t very much there.  And it was hot! Whew!  May 22nd in the afternoon.  I can’t imagine what July would feel like!  We read the signs, took a few pictures and we went on our way.


So, if you’re ever visiting this part of Utah, I would definitely recommend Mild to Wild Rhino Tours.  It was entertaining and let us see a part of the countryside we probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise.  4-Wheelin’ is fun!

Until next time – happy traveling!



Zealous for Zion

“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before” – Anonymous

Hey y’all! Can you tell that I had to break out the dictionary for that title? I needed something that started with Z that would adequately convey my emotion for Zion National Park. Oh, there are plenty of adjectives to describe the appeal of that bewitching, resplendent locale, but how many start with Z?

Anyhow, on our recent jaunt to southern Utah, Zion National Park was at the top of my list. As I mentioned in a previous post, even though I didn’t really know exactly what to expect, I knew by reputation that it is supposed to be beautiful. As I prepared for our trip, I started searching Google images for some ideas of what we would be seeing and I was amazed. I called my husband over to the computer while he was watching a basketball game or something, and I was actually able to grab his attention away from the tube while we oohed and ahhed at all of the lovely pictures.

But, let me tell you, pictures never do a place as majestic as Zion any justice. And, even though I just said that, I am compelled to share pictures with you. Below are a few pictures from the Canyon Overlook Trail.


By the way, there are hanging gardens in quite a few places in the park. They are formed when water drips down through the rock and creates a wet environment for plants to grow.  You can see some of that in the picture above, left.

My favorite views in Zion National Park were seen as we departed the long tunnel and entered the canyon in the eastern part of the park. The cliffs were massive and soared above our heads in beautiful hues of red and cream with the contrasting green of the vegetation.







I found it interesting that the views east of the long tunnel were somewhat different from the main canyon.

And, part of those views were big horn sheep!  We were all so excited to see them, although they only showed themselves to us once.  Tip – look around the east side of the long tunnel close to dusk.


And while I will be sharing more pictures of individual hikes inside Zion in future posts, the last thing I would like to highlight today is the amazing petroglyphs that we found inside Zion National Park. It’s actually really amazing that we found these ancient creations at all. There’s no sign on the road letting you know that they exist (that I could see, anyway), and no parking area for them. The tour guide from Mild to Wild Rhino Tours is the one who told us about them and how to see them. Even with his directions, we were pretty unsure as we picked our way through a wash and under a road.

Seeing the petroglyphs was one of the items on my own personal “bucket list” for our vacation, and even though we were at the end of a long day that had been full of activity, and even though it was starting to get a little dark, my family humored me and went along for the journey. I am so thankful!


While I am talking about Zion, I would like to point out that May is a fabulous month to visit the park. Unless, that is, you want to hike the Narrows. Usually, during the month of May, the Virgin River runs too high due to snow melt, and the park closes the Narrows hike. But the temperatures are really nice for hiking most of the month – not too cold, not too hot, and you don’t have to worry much about flash flooding in the slot canyons because it is not the rainy season. Of course, you always have to watch the weather, because with mother nature, anything can happen, but the odds are in your favor in May. We were there May 20th – 27th and had absolutely gorgeous weather, although it was getting pretty warm at the end of our trip. Also, the kids aren’t out of school yet, so it’s less crowded than the summer months. If you can get there in May, it’s a great time to go!


So, if Zion National Park isn’t on your list, then get your pencil out right now and write it down! Make plans to visit. You won’t regret it!

Until next time – happy traveling!





Why Take a Pricey Tour When You Can Make Your Own Agenda?

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag

On each vacation we take, I like to build out a plan ahead of time that serves as a guideline for our adventures. Creating an agenda can seem like a buzz kill if you like to live spontaneously, but I see it as something that gives us freedom to see and do without getting a last-minute disappointment. Like when something is closed on the day we drove an hour each way to experience or see it. This doesn’t happen if you plan a little ahead of time.

I am a planner. I obsessively plan before we go on vacation. Sometimes I drive myself crazy planning. I buy guidebooks of the area we are visiting. I visit TripAdvisor.com and:

  • I read the top 10 things to do in “insert destination name here”
  • I read the forum pages for the place or places we are visiting
  • I find the top restaurants in the area

I also Google the places I am going and find blogs that give advice about what to see and what to do. I look at Google images. And I like to get input from my family members as to what they would most like to do or see.

After gleaning information from all these sources, and taking notes, and highlighting, and noting the things that are most appealing to me (or what my family would like), I start paring it all down into a workable schedule.


First, I write out all the days we are traveling, from the day we leave the house until the day we return. I include the details for getting there, including flight information, if we are flying, and rental car info, including reservation numbers and expected times of pick-up, etc. If we are driving, I include drive times and expected arrival times.

Second, I include all lodging information, including reservation numbers, addresses of any places we are staying, and phone numbers. And, if we are going to be purchasing food to prepare during the week, I make sure to schedule in time to hit a grocery story on the way to our accommodations.


Third, I look at all of my travel research and begin writing down activities we want to experience, including the costs, grouping them together geographically for each day and noting the drive times between each thing. This is when it is good to look back at your travel research, or do a quick Google search to double-check the hours and days that an activity or destination is open.

Fourth, after deciding what area we are going to be in on a particular day, I then move on to figuring out our meals. If we are staying in a place that has a kitchen handy, or in a hotel that offers breakfast, the first meal of the day will usually be there. Vacations can be expensive if you eat out all the time, so I am definitely a fan of saving money where we can.

Also, can we pack a lunch for several of the days we are out and about? Even when we stay in hotels, I will usually bring a soft cooler in my luggage and pick up grocery items so that we can make sandwiches and have fruit, snacks, and drinks in our hotel room. Just about every hotel has free ice! A picnic lunch can be a nice, restful part of a trip, especially if a cool, shady park to enjoy it in can be found. Dinner is usually out, although if we are staying in a house with a kitchen, we will try to prepare and eat dinner there a couple of times.

So, where will we eat when we do eat out? This is where TripAdvisor.com comes in handy once again. And Yelp. And for me, this is one of the best parts of any vacation! I love trying new places and great regional specialties. Mexican food in the southwest is a little different from Mexican food in the southeast, and I want to experience it! And I would much rather have a meal at a hole-in-the-wall diner that is highly recommended by other travelers than a $50-a-plate ritzy restaurant that has good, but pricey food. But that’s just me. You may like spending all that money – to each his own! That’s the beauty of planning and doing your own thing.


After I’ve got it all down on paper – travel arrangements, lodging info, daily activity schedule, meals info, etc, then I usually go back with a critical eye and start slashing some things. Because I generally want to do way more things than we actually have time for. And if we did every single thing that was written down on my very first draft, we would be exhausted and vacation would not be fun, and we would probably want to kill each other at the end of each day because we would all be very grumpy.

When I am finally happy with the final draft that is typed on my computer, I send out copies to my family members for their approval and ask for input. Is it too much? Are we doing stuff you will like?  Once everything is approved by everyone else, I take a picture of each page of the agenda with my phone, so I can easily refer to all the details while we are adventuring.

The Final Word

The most important thing about making all of these plans for a vacation that includes other people is flexibility! You have to be flexible! Things are never going to go exactly as you have planned them. That is just a fact of life. And you can’t treat an agenda like it must be followed. The goal of an agenda is to have a guideline, something that will help you see amazing sights and do a lot of fun things. People get tired. So go with the flow. And please, enjoy the experience!

I hope this has been somewhat helpful and informative for you.  I have more to share, so please stop by again soon!

Until next time – happy traveling!

Deciding Where to Go and Using TripAdvisor

“Oh the places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

Where do you want to go?  This is the question at the beginning of every adventure.  To answer this question, you have to decide:

  •  Who is going?  Is this trip going to be for adults?  For families with grown children?  For families with small children?  A group of friends?  Solo?  Answering this question is the most important for deciding what type of trip you want to take.

If you are a family with young children, and you are taking them on your adventure, then that obviously can limit what type of vacation you take.  Now, I know that some people will say that you can take your young’ns anywhere you want to go with no problem, but I, for one, believe in keeping my sanity.  I would not, for example, take small children on a hike up to Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park because I would probably die of anxiety in the process.  With drops of over 1000 feet on either side of a narrow path, I wouldn’t even want to take a teenager on that hike.  Heck, I wouldn’t even want to take myself on that hike.  But, you get the picture here, right?  In my opinion, if you are taking small children on your vacation, you want to choose a place where small children can have a good time, and mom and dad don’t pull their hair out.

  •  What type of vacation are you interested in?  Do you like adventure?  Do you like to be physically active?  Do you need to relax and unwind?  Do you want to explore unknown lands?  Do you want to float in the water for a week?  Are you a foodie?  Do you want to discover different restaurants and cuisines?  Do you want to go someplace where everything is planned for you – like an all-inclusive resort?  Do you love roller coasters?  Are you sick of the heat and want to go somewhere chilly, or are you “over” the winter cold and want somewhere tropical?

Unfortunately, my husband and I don’t usually totally agree on the type of vacation.  He is in a high stress job with lots of work hours, so his ideal vacation consists of floating in calm blue waters and having drinks with little umbrellas delivered to his float.

I, on the other hand, having my adventurous spirit fed by great books that take you to unknown lands, love to explore new places.  I also like to make sure that the other members of our family are entertained and have hands-on activities.  I also really enjoy finding great restaurants in the area we are visiting, and sampling regional specialties.  For example, on our recent trip to Utah and Nevada, we tried some local Mexican restaurants, which were a pretty different experience than Mexican food in Virginia.

Anyhoo, after deciding who is going, and what kind of adventure you desire, the next step is to decide where.

  • Where do you want to go?  Is there someplace that you read about in a novel that piqued your interest in that country?  Have you always wanted to visit the land of your ancestors?  Have you heard about an amazing national park?  If you are heading for a beach, do you want to be domestic or international?  Somewhere in the Caribbean?  British or American Virgin Islands?  If you have young kids, is there a city with hands-on science or children’s museums?  A beach resort with playgrounds and lazy rivers?

If you have an idea of the who, what and where, then that info is your springboard to start your research on the web.  If you know you want to visit a national park, use Google to find out which one works the best for you and your particular situation.  If you know you want a beach resort somewhere in South Carolina, put some key words in the search bar and look for “best family-friendly hotels South Carolina” and see what you find.

While we are on this subject, I have to mention TripAdvisor.  I have used TripAdvisor for every single trip that I have taken in the last several years.  It is a phenomenal source of information.  You can find info on just about anything that is travel-related.

For example, if you are traveling to a particular city, and want to find a nice hotel, you just go to TripAdvisor.com, select Hotels from the very top of the page, and then type the name of the city you will be visiting in the search bar and click “Find hotels” or hit enter.
One note – TripAdvisor, in the past, was purely an advisory website.  Now, when searching for the most recommended hotels, the website sort of pushes you to use their booking system.  I totally understand why, but you DO NOT have to use their booking system to take advantage of all the traveler advice that is available.  They do have some cost-savings if you use their booking, but you can choose to use it or book directly with the hotel.  Anyway, once you get the hotels list, look up near the top where it says “Sort by:” and click on “Traveler Ranked” and you will see the hotels listed by the highest rankings.  Usually there will be one “sponsored” hotel (which means a paid ad), followed by the list.  On the far right of the listing it will have the rank, for example, “#1 of 263 hotels in Las Vegas.”

You can also use TripAdvisor to find top-rated restaurants in a particular city.  They have an over-all list, but you can also find something in a particular category.  For example, when we were in Las Vegas, I searched in the “Cheap Eats” category to find a really good restaurant that was easy on the wallet.  You can also search based on the type of food, like Mexican or Italian.  So, go to TripAdvisor.com, select Restaurants from the options at the very top of the page, then type in the city you are visiting (example – San Francisco, California), then click “Find restaurants” and the list will come up on the next page.

Once you have decided on a destination for your next adventure, you can also find out a lot of information about the area by once again using TripAdvisor and going to a forums page.  This one is a little more tricky.  As much as I have used this website, I usually can’t navigate through the pages to find the forums very easily.

But first let me explain.  Just about any place you want to go, you can find a forums page for that destination on TripAdvisor.  When we traveled to Ireland last year, I visited the forums page for Ireland many, many times, and I found out so much excellent information there that helped me with my trip.  There will usually be posts on the right hand side of the screen that are answers to frequently asked questions.  Those posts will be there all the time.  There’s also a list of posts in the center of the page that are always changing, as new ones are always being posted at the top and moving the older ones down.  You can also ask questions and some fantastic people will answer them for you!  These are people that are so nice and they take time out of their day to share their expertise with you.  It really is amazing.

So, the easiest way to get to the forum pages is to just go to good old Google and type into the search bar “forums Ireland” or “forums Las Vegas” or “forums (insert your destination).”  This really is much easier than trying to go to TripAdvisor and trying to navigate around to the forums page you are looking for.

Well, I hope that the information that I have shared is helpful to you.  Some of it is pretty basic, and you might be thinking, “I already knew all this stuff!”  If so, please come back around!  And if you learned something new, please come back and visit again.  I have a lot more to share and will be adding much more in the days ahead.

Until the next time – Happy Traveling!