Ok, it's January 1st and I'm already dreaming about escaping the city for long hikes and campfire-cooked grub when the temperatures get warmer and the days get longer...
Planning ahead for camping during the summer months is essential, especially if you're thinking about visiting a national park or popular campground. Here are a few websites that can help you find and reserve campgrounds:
Recreation.gov: This is a one-stop resource for reserving campsites across various federal lands, including national parks, forests, and more. You can search for campgrounds by location, amenities, and availability.
ReserveAmerica.com: This site specializes in campground reservations, including for state parks. ReserveAmerica.com allows users to search for campgrounds by state, park, or site type, and you can also check availability for specific dates.
Campspot.com: Campspot is designed to make finding and booking private campgrounds and RV parks easy. The site offers a wide range of filters to help you find exactly what you're looking for, whether that's a pet-friendly site or campsites with Wi-Fi.
Hipcamp.com: Hipcamp is great for finding unique and less crowded camping spots, including on private land, vineyards, and in national forests. Hipcamp allows users to filter search results by various camping options such as tent camping, RV parks, cabins, and even treehouses.
For inspiration, here are 10 amazing campgrounds for groups of friends and family:
Yosemite National Park, California - Upper Pines Campground: Located in the heart of Yosemite Valley, this campground offers easy access to famous landmarks like Half Dome and Yosemite Falls. It's perfect for families looking for breathtaking scenery and a range of hiking trails from easy to challenging. Activities: Hiking, rock climbing, wildlife viewing, and photography.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina - Cades Cove Campground: Cades Cove is known for its rich wildlife (including black bears and deer), and an 11-mile loop road that's great for biking. It's ideal for groups interested in both nature and the history of the Appalachian area. Activities: Biking, hiking, wildlife spotting, and historical tours.
Acadia National Park, Maine - Blackwoods Campground: Nestled close to the rugged coastline, this campground provides easy access to the park's dense forests and rocky beaches. Families can enjoy the park's carriage roads and trails, as well as the stunning views from Cadillac Mountain. Activities: Hiking, tidepooling, kayaking, and stargazing.
Glacier National Park, Montana - Apgar Campground: Located near Lake McDonald, Apgar is the largest campground in the park and offers services like a visitor center, shuttle services, and boat rentals. It's a great basecamp for exploring Glacier's pristine forests, alpine meadows, and rugged mountains. Activities: Boating, hiking, wildlife viewing, and guided tours.
Olympic National Park, Washington - Kalaloch Campground: Perched on a high bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Kalaloch is perfect for families who love the beach and ocean activities. The campground provides access to several nearby trails and the famous Tree of Life. Activities: Beachcombing, tidepooling, hiking, and ranger-led programs.
Joshua Tree National Park, California - Jumbo Rocks Campground: With its unique landscape filled with iconic Joshua trees and massive boulders, Jumbo Rocks offers an otherworldly experience. It's perfect for groups looking for challenging rock climbing and surreal desert landscapes to explore. Activities: Rock climbing, hiking, stargazing, and photography.
Zion National Park, Utah - Watchman Campground: Situated near the park's South Entrance, this campground provides easy access to the park’s shuttle system and the scenic Virgin River. It's a prime spot for friends looking to tackle the famous hikes like Angels Landing and The Narrows. Activities: Hiking, canyoneering, river trips, and biking.
Arches National Park, Utah - Devils Garden Campground: Located deep within the park, this campground offers direct access to several arches and rock formations. The stargazing here is phenomenal, making it a great choice for friends interested in astronomy or simply enjoying the night sky. Activities: Hiking, photography, and guided night sky programs.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado - Moraine Park Campground: Set in a beautiful mountain valley, Moraine Park offers spectacular views and is a gateway to the park’s extensive trail system. It's ideal for friends seeking a mountain adventure with opportunities for both relaxation and exploration. Activities: Hiking, wildlife viewing, fishing, and horseback riding.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming - Madison Campground: Centrally located with access to the park’s main attractions, including Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This site is perfect for groups wanting to experience the full range of Yellowstone's geothermal wonders and abundant wildlife. Activities: Wildlife watching, geyser viewing, hiking, and fishing.
Wherever you're planning to camp and enjoy the wonders of nature in 2024, here's to a year of adventure and exploration!
January 1, 2024
In recent years, it's become increasingly popular for pet owners to bring their furry companions along on their journeys. The American Pet Products Association reports that over 37% of pet owners traveled with their pets in 2022, marking a notable increase from previous years. This surge in pet-inclusive travel has prompted airlines, hotels and others travel providers to reevaluate and expand their pet-friendly policies.
From in-cabin flight options for small animals to pet-friendly rooms and amenities at hotels, the industry is adapting to meet the needs of this growing segment of travelers. Below is a summary of some key elements of pet travel policies across major airlines and hotel brands including the fees for bringing pets along with you.
Personally, I'm a bit surprised at this phenomenon. Perhaps that's because of my No Pets Allowed lifestyle and homestead. I adore visiting my parents' dog and treat her as if she's my own kin, but not sure I love the idea a flight or hotel full of pets. Sounds too much like a Gary Larsen cartoon in living, panting, barking color. Please don't hold that against me. And, while it may not be popular opinion, there are several reasons why you shouldn't fly with pets that are worth considering.
Pet policies at hotels can vary widely, each brand and property having specific guidelines and fees:
Marriott Hotels: Marriott offers over 1,500 pet-friendly hotels across the U.S., but the policies, including pet fees and weight limits, vary from property to property. Most of their pet-friendly hotels allow domesticated dogs, cats, and, yes, birds, and fish. Notably pets are welcome at all Residence Inns, TownePlace Suites, and Element by Westin locations. Marriott makes it easy to search specifically for pet-friendly hotels and resorts.
Hilton Hotels: Hilton welcomes four-legged guests at over 5,000 hotels across the U.S. and Canada including at Hampton Inn, Home2Suites, Embassy Suites, and Hilton Garden Inn. While the exact policies vary, guests can generally expect to pay a $50-75 non-refundable fee per pet, per stay.
Wyndham Hotels: Wyndham's pet policy also varies by location. The standard policy at Days Inn by Wyndham welcomes one or two pets of any size, with fees ranging from $0 to $50 per night. Similarly, Super 8 by Wyndham generally allows two pets up to 50 lbs for a fee of up to $50 per pet, per night.
InterContinental Hotels (IHG): Not all IHG properties are pet-friendly, and their policies, including pet fees and weight limits, differ by location. However, pets are welcome at all Candlewood Suites, Staybridge Suites, and Kimpton Hotels. Candlewood Suites typically charges a non-refundable fee based on the length of stay, with fees up to $75 for 6 nights and $150 for longer stays.
Choice Hotels: Generally, Choice Hotels allows two dogs per room, subject to specific weight restrictions and fees (ranging from $10 to $75 per pet, per night). For instance, Comfort Inn & Suites and Quality Inn's pet policies welcome up to two pets, with weight and breed restrictions, and charge a nightly fee per pet.
Hyatt Hotels: Hyatt allows a maximum of two pets per room, with weight restrictions typically at 50 pounds. The pet policy and fees vary across different properties. For example, Hyatt Place locations welcome two dogs with a combined weight up to 75 lbs for a fee of $75 for stays up to six nights and $175 for longer stays.
Pet policies and fees of the 5 largest U.S. airlines:
Alaska Airlines: Alaska offers a couple options for what they call "Fur-st Class Care". Pets can travel in the passenger cabin for a fee of $100 each way. This is subject to space availability, plane size, and restrictions specific to travel to Hawaii and international destinations. For those preferring to have their pets in the climate-controlled baggage and cargo compartments, Alaska charges a fee of $150, or $100 for specific categories like travel within Alaska, active duty U.S. Military, or U.S. Military dependents on travel orders. In terms of cabin accommodation, Alaska can accommodate one pet in first class and five in the main cabin, with the requirement that pets must remain inside their carriers at all times during the journey.
American Airlines: American's pet policies restrict in-cabin pet travel to cats and dogs only. Each passenger is allowed to bring up to two pets that are at least 8 weeks old and do not exceed 100 lbs including the carrier. The in-cabin/carry-on pet fee is $125 one-way, and the pet plus container must weigh no more than 20 lbs combined. For pets traveling in the cargo area or as checked baggage, the fees vary and are confirmed at the time of booking.
Delta Airlines: Delta's pet policies permit small dogs, cats, and household birds in the cabin for select destinations. All pets must fit into a pet carrier and meet age requirements depending on the type of travel: at least 10 weeks old for domestic travel, 16 weeks old if traveling to the U.S. from another country, and 15 weeks old for travel to the EU. The carry-on pet fee is $95 per kennel for travel to or from the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands, and $200 for international flights. However, for certain destinations, pets must travel as cargo and cannot be brought into the cabin.
Southwest Airlines: Southwest's pet policies allows small domestic cats and dogs that are at least 8 weeks old to travel in-cabin under the seat in front of you. The pet fare on Southwest Airlines is $95 per one-way per pet carrier. It’s important to note that pets must remain inside their carriers throughout the flight.
United Airlines: United offers detailed rules and recommendations for traveling with pets. The fee for this service is $125 each way for domestic flights and $200 for international flights. To travel with United, pets must be at least 2 months old for domestic flights and 4 months old for international flights. Unfortunately, United does not allow pets to travel in the cargo hold.
In summary, while all the leading hotels and airlines offer pet-friendly options, the fees, weight limits, and the types of pets allowed vary significantly. To avoid any confusion or issues while traveling, it's important to confirm the specific pet policy of your planned hotel and airline well in advance.
Renting a car? Leading car rental companies, including Hertz and Avis, typically have pet-friendly policies that allow customers to travel with their pets. These policies usually permit pets in vehicles without additional fees, but they place the responsibility for any damage caused by the pet on the renter. For instance, Hertz welcomes pets in their cars and allows them to be added to the reservation in advance. Most car rental companies require that vehicles be returned clean and free of pet hair and odors to avoid cleaning fees, which can be substantial (up to $450 in the case of Avis). It's important to note that while these policies are generally consistent across company locations, there have been instances of individual locations not fully complying with the corporate policies.
Staying at a vacation rental home? If you're renting a vacation home on Airbnb, VRBO or similar, the pet policies are typically at the hosts' discretion. Airbnb permits hosts to detail their pet policies in the “house rules” section of their listing and allows them to charge a one-time cleaning fee for pets. Service animals are an exception, as they must be accepted by hosts in most circumstances. Similarly, VRBO mandates the acceptance of service animals in all properties in the U.S., regardless of the host's pet policy. For non-service animals, guests can filter for pet-friendly properties on VRBO, but they should be aware of any additional fees or specific rules set by the host. In both platforms, the flexibility in pet policies means that guests traveling with pets need to review individual listing details to ensure compliance with the host's requirements. For example, our friend Dave R. shared his experience traveling with their dog: "We took our dog (mid-sized black lab) with us for extended family vacation on Oregon coast. It was fun being able to play with the dog on the beach and not to have to pay for putting her in the kennel. The downside is that when we went out for meals, we had to leave her in her crate for long periods of time as required by the landlords which didn't make her very happy."
Looking for pet-friendly destinations and activities? BringFido maintains a directory of 10s of thousands of pet-friendly activities, events and restaurants around the world.
Shopping for pet-travel gear and accessories? Finally, as it's holiday season, if you're looking for a gift for your pooch, check out Rover's Travel Store which is full of great products for your next trip.
December 3, 2023
Tailgate parties conjure up images of football fans gathering near stadiums, camped out for the pre-game hours and sometimes well-into the game to celebrate their alma mater or favorite team. The tailgate party may be as American as applie pie, bringing college friends together for weekend reunions or regular reconnections.
While there are many great tailgating spots, here are five of the top places for college tailgating, known for their festive atmosphere, passionate fans, and great food:
1. University of Mississippi ("Ole Miss") - Oxford, Mississippi
The Grove, a 10-acre green space in the center of the Ole Miss campus, is one of the most famous tailgating spots in the country. Fans arrive days in advance to set up their tents and prepare for the game. The atmosphere is festive and welcoming, with fans dressed in their best outfits and enjoying Southern hospitality at its finest.
The New York Times describes the Grove as the social event in Oxford, Mississippi, not just for the students or alumni, but for the whole town:
"Ole Miss's stadium accommodates 60,580 people, and devotees of the Grove argue that the Grove accommodates more. It is every kind of party you can describe, at once: cocktail party, dinner party, tailgate picnic party, fraternity and sorority rush, family reunion, political handgrab, gala and networking party-hearty — what might have inspired Willie Morris, one of Mississippi's favorite sons, to declare Mississippi not a state, but a club... The party is technically a picnic. Originally an informal tailgating get-together when most serious pregame socializing took place at Ole Miss's fraternity and sorority houses, by the 50’s the Grove started to become its own pregame tradition.
2. Louisiana State University (LSU) - Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Tailgating at LSU is a unique experience, with fans setting up grills and cooking delicious Cajun and Creole dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, and crawfish boils. The air is filled with the sounds of live music and the smell of delicious food, creating a festive atmosphere that is unmatched.
3. University of Wisconsin - Madison, Wisconsin
Tailgating at the University of Wisconsin is a great experience, with fans gathering on State Street and Regent Street to celebrate before the game. The atmosphere is fun and lively, with fans enjoying brats, cheese curds, and other Wisconsin favorites.
4. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, Michigan
The Big House, as the University of Michigan stadium is known, is one of the largest stadiums in the country and provides an amazing backdrop for tailgating. Fans gather in the parking lots and green spaces around the stadium to enjoy barbecue, play games, and celebrate their team.
5. University of South Carolina - Columbia, South Carolina
Tailgating at the University of South Carolina is a true Southern tradition, with fans gathering at the State Fairgrounds and other locations around the stadium to enjoy barbecue, play cornhole, and celebrate with friends and family. The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming, with fans from both teams often mingling and enjoying the festivities together.
October 2, 2023
For a trip with a little adrenaline and other worldly experience, try an underwater poker tournament. Merging the excitement of scuba diving with the cerebral challenge of poker, underwater poker offers a novel way to enjoy these two popular pastimes.
To participate in underwater poker, you will need a full scuba set, including a tank, regulator and, depending whether indoors and on climate, a wetsuit. Communication underwater is key, so an underwater writing slate and/or establishing hand signals in advance is a good idea. And, as this underwater poker player explains, "if you’re thinking of setting up an underwater game, make sure to have enough weights on hand for the table, chairs, players, and cards. Most plastic poker cards are waterproof, but it may be worth it to double check and invest in some that are especially heavy." Managing buoyancy and strategizing in poker simultaneously offers a distinctive challenge and twist. Note: You must either be scuba certified or willing to be trained how to dive.
We haven't found a site that maintains a list of places you can play underwater poker but here are a few examples of past tournaments to inspire your search!
Whether you're a seasoned poker player seeking a new challenge or a diving enthusiast looking for a novel experience, underwater poker offers a unique experience that will test your skills in a completely different world.
Image source: DiveAdvisor.com.
The New York Times ran a story on a new trend for millionaire vacations: why travel alone when you can afford to take your friends and family and pay for them? Group travel doesn't discriminate against cash in pocket, banks, investments, etc. Everyone travels for the same reason when planning a group trip: to stay connected to close friends and family.
This new luxury travel trend - dubbed as a result of the rich in America getting richer and not being shy to foot the bill to spend quality time with people - presents interesting opportunities for group travel, along with dilemmas.
- Opportunities: Free time at no to little cost to enjoy a vacation, opportunity to see a new place or try out a new style of living potentially out of bounds otherwise, take the attitude of "carpe diem" and just go for it.
- Dilemmas: The guilt of feeling obligated to somehow return the enormous favor, the feelings of inequity among friends, not feeling "right" about accepting such a gift. And the giftor must decide who's in and who's not invited, which can get uncomfortable with those uninvited. Ugh.
On my boating trip this summer (split the costs evenly), one of our stops was Roche Harbor, San Juan Island. We happened to arrive during a mega yacht meet-up and our 33-foot wooden boat was dwarfed by many pristine, fiberglass ships. For the size of little quaint Roche Harbor (at least that's how I remember it from my childhood) it seemed ridiculous. But after reading this NYT article (which is intriguing, and a must read) now I wonder how many people on yachts were on gift vacations.
If you have the means to plan a luxury trip with friends and family (whether you gift it or not), you can use TripHub to coordinate and share trip details.
OK, let's keep this civilized. No snickering. It's a serious question. With all the whoopla about "mancations" and guys traveling together for fun (groups of buddies/pals/friends/comrades have traveled together for getaway/bachelor/etc. trips for a while, but the travel industry just clued in) I decided to investigate.
When childhood pals, college friends, frat boys, ski club members, or just friends from life decide to get together to reconnect or bond, how do they pass the time? Whether road tripping or flying somewhere, bachelor parties, casual reunions, and sporting (golf, ski) get togethers are all part of the rituals of reconnecting.
Guy getaways can include anything from golfing, skiing, boating, fishing, hunting, club-hopping, lady-gawking, cigar-smoking, beer-chugging, gambling, or even metro activities such as meeting up in a city of choice and relaxing together at clubs.
Outside magazine recently emphasized how important the buddy system is (traveling with at least one other for safety) and listed great articles on various ways men bond, using famous figures such as Eddie Vedder, Jack Handey, and others for how to play on vacation. Plus, a few lessons for athletes who get too competitive.
Gadling's Neil Woodburn blogged about his 24-hour experience in Las Vegas to see The Pogues which got me thinking. Not only was I jealous of his having gone to see one of Ireland's best, modern, and eclectic bands (in my humble opinion), but there are so many other bands worthy of traveling (road trips included) to a destination to see them with a good group of friends.
This is my quick hit list:
- Grateful Dead (oh wait, not an option anymore)
- Bob Dylan
- Pearl Jam
- Rusted Root
- Sheryl Crow
- Simon & Garfunkel revival concert
- The Shins
- Belle & Sebastian
- Pink Martini
- Kelly Joe Phelps
Music Festival Wizard provides comprehensive information about music festivals across the U.S. and is a great resource for music lovers.
What bands or musicians would inspire you to travel with friends for a concert?
Exploring the diverse wine regions of the United States with friends is a perfect blend of adventure, relaxation, and culinary delight. From the rolling hills of California to the hidden gems of Oregon and beyond, America's vineyards offer an array of wine-tasting experiences.
Whether you're planning a girls getaways, birthday celebration, wedding, or simple getaway with friends here are some great destinations for wine tasting across the U.S.:
1. Napa Valley, California:
Napa Valley is a world-renowned wine region, offering an array of prestigious vineyards. Visit the famous Robert Mondavi Winery or discover smaller, intimate vineyards in the Stags Leap District.
Stay: Auberge du Soleil provides luxury accommodation with stunning views of the valley.
2. Sonoma County, California:
Known for its diverse wine offerings, Sonoma County is home to over 400 wineries. Don't miss a visit to Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens, and for a quieter experience, try the boutique wineries in Russian River Valley.
Stay: The Farmhouse Inn offers a charming and luxurious stay in the heart of wine country.
3. Willamette Valley, Oregon:
Celebrated for its exquisite Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley is home to over 500 wineries. Domaine Drouhin Oregon is renowned, while smaller vineyards like Bergström Wines offer a more intimate tasting experience.
Stay: The Allison Inn & Spa, nestled in the valley, is a perfect luxury retreat.
4. Finger Lakes, New York:
This region is known for its superb Rieslings and scenic lake views. Visit the well-known Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery or explore smaller vineyards like Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard for a more secluded experience.
Stay: The Inns of Aurora provide a picturesque lakeside stay with historic charm.
5. Paso Robles, California:
Paso Robles is gaining recognition for its diverse and high-quality wines. Justin Vineyards & Winery is a must-visit, and boutique wineries like Tablas Creek Vineyard offer unique tasting experiences.
Stay: Hotel Cheval offers elegant accommodations in the heart of Paso Robles.
6. Walla Walla, Washington:
This region is known for its friendly wine community and excellent Syrahs and Merlots. L'Ecole No 41 and Woodward Canyon are iconic, while smaller wineries like Dunham Cellars provide a cozy atmosphere.
Stay: The Marcus Whitman Hotel combines historic elegance with modern comforts.
7. Santa Barbara, California:
The Santa Barbara Wine Country, with its cool-climate varietals like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, is a must-visit. Explore the renowned Sunstone Vineyards & Winery or discover hidden gems in the Santa Rita Hills.
Stay: The Bacara Resort & Spa offers luxurious beachside accommodations.
8. Texas Hill Country, Texas:
This region has emerged as a wine destination with its unique Texas-style wines. Becker Vineyards is a standout, and smaller vineyards like Grape Creek Vineyards offer a more personal experience.
Stay: The Fredericksburg Herb Farm provides quaint cottages in a serene setting.
9. Virginia Wine Country, Virginia:
Virginia's wine country is rich in history and diverse in its wine offerings. Visit Barboursville Vineyards for a taste of history, and explore smaller vineyards like RdV Vineyards for an exclusive experience.
Stay: The Inn at Little Washington offers luxurious accommodations with acclaimed dining.
10. Michigan Wine Trails, Michigan:
Michigan's wine trails offer a delightful array of vineyards, especially known for their Rieslings. Black Star Farms is a standout, and exploring the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail leads to smaller, charming vineyards.
Stay: The Grand Traverse Resort and Spa provides a scenic and luxurious base for exploring the area.
While the U.S. boasts a remarkable variety of wine regions, the allure of international wine tasting destinations cannot be overstated. Globally, several regions stand out for their exceptional wines and breathtaking landscapes, drawing enthusiasts from around the world.
In Europe, France’s Bordeaux region is legendary, offering a chance to taste some of the world's most prestigious wines amidst historic vineyards. Similarly, Italy's Tuscany, with its picturesque landscapes and renowned Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino, is a dream destination for wine lovers. Spain's La Rioja region is another European gem, celebrated for its rich and full-bodied red wines.
Beyond Europe, the Southern Hemisphere presents its own wine havens. Australia’s Barossa Valley is famed for its bold Shiraz, while New Zealand’s Marlborough region offers world-class Sauvignon Blanc amidst stunning scenery. In South America, Argentina’s Mendoza region captivates visitors with its high-altitude vineyards and excellent Malbec, and Chile’s Central Valley is known for its diverse and high-quality wines.
Each of these international destinations provides a unique wine tasting experience, steeped in local culture and history. From the rolling vineyards of France to the dramatic landscapes of New Zealand, these global wine regions are not just about tasting exceptional wines; they're about immersing oneself in the world's diverse and rich tapestry of viticulture and enology. A visit to these renowned wine regions is a journey through history, culture, and the art of winemaking, promising an unforgettable experience for wine enthusiasts.
Wine tasting with friends is not just about the wine; it's about the shared experiences and memories created in some of the world's most beautiful locales. From the lush valleys of Napa and Tuscany to the unique landscapes of Central Otago and Mendoza, each destination offers a unique blend of scenic beauty, cultural richness, and exceptional wines. These destinations promise an unforgettable group getaway filled with the joys of discovery and the pleasures of the palate.
So raise a glass of chardonney or merlot and bring back new bottles of wine to dazzle your friends (or yourself) when you return from vacation.
I recently wrote about culinary tours and just read a CNN article about the trend in culinary tours and cooking classes, shedding light on why we travel for food. Here are some excerpts about the growing popular movement to experience culinary delights up close and personal while on vacation.
"I think that the foodie market is related more or less to the baby boomer demographic," said Dr. Rich Harrill, director of the International Tourism Research Institute at the University of South Carolina. "You have people who are retiring, people with lots of discretionary time and income, some level of sophistication. They're educated, they're interested in wine, they're interested in food."
The article goes on to suggest that while countries like Italy, France, and Spain are "hot spots for culinary tourism," you don't have to travel too far off the beaten path or make a major time commitment to participate.
One culinary class pupil reminisces fondly, "When you travel through the world exploring food, you get this interesting window about the culture and the environment because food is the bridge between the land and the culture."
Courses are limited to Arizona, Las Vegas, Hawaii, California, Carolinas, Florida, and Mexico but those are golf hot spots anyway. The descriptions, photos, par stats, player ratings all come in handy. But the fact that you can actually book a tee time is highly convenient. Now all you need to do is practice your putt.
Mancations. (Men, are you cool with this term? Sounds a little goofy to me...) The term emerged in the 2000s and since then hotels and resorts have been adding male centric vacation packages that include a range of activities, from poker and off-roading to spa treatments and culinary instruction.
Here are some of the most popular mancation activities:
Golfing: Renowned golf destinations include Pebble Beach in California, St. Andrews in Scotland, and Bandon Dunes in Oregon, offering world-class courses and beautiful landscapes.
Fishing: Top fishing destinations include Alaska for salmon, the Florida Keys for tarpon and bonefish, and Costa Rica for deep-sea fishing adventures.
Adventure Sports: For adrenaline-pumping activities like mountain biking, rock climbing, and whitewater rafting, consider Moab in Utah, Colorado's rivers, and Yosemite National Park.
Skiing/Snowboarding: Whistler in Canada, Chamonix in France, and Aspen in Colorado are top choices for their excellent slopes and après-ski experiences.
Gambling: Las Vegas in Nevada is iconic for its casinos, but other great destinations include Macau, China, and Monte Carlo, Monaco, for those looking to combine luxury travel with gambling.
Brewery and Distillery Tours: Destinations like Portland, Oregon, and Asheville, North Carolina in the USA are known for their craft beer scenes. For whiskey enthusiasts, Kentucky's Bourbon Trail and Scotland's Speyside region are must-visit locations.
Camping and Hiking: For nature lovers, the Grand Canyon, the Appalachian Trail, Yellowstone National Park, and Banff National Park offer stunning landscapes and numerous hiking trails.
The Urban Dictionary defines a mancation as: "The most ultimate man-only vacation. Usually this trip involves heavy drinking, getting kicked out of something, and nearly dying. At camp sites, everybody who is not a mancationer hates the mancationers, likely because they can not understand the sheer awesomeness that is mancation."
That said, mancations are not just about indulging in stereotypical male activities. Rather they are about the opportunity to bond with the guys. And spending quality time with friends can mean different things to different people.
Food and wine touring is one of the best methods of travel, and a growing trend. You meet locals, often take the road less traveled, taste exquisite regional cuisine, sample rare wines, and try a culture on for size. These scrumptious tours come in all flavors and cater to groups.
Cooking classes abroad
My mom and I participated in a group cooking class while in Florence for a destination wedding. 20 guests from the wedding bonded, made new friends, and spread the spirit of the wedding through the days leading up to the ceremony. With the chef supervising, ingredients prepped, and kitchen utensils at hand, we broke into smaller groups and worked on our respective culinary assignments. Mom and I were with the tort table following a simple recipe for a lemon tort while others prepared a beef entrée, appetizers, and salads. After baking and cooking, we all feasted on our homemade Italian food and drank vino at a big banquet table. Bonus: We all got to take home the recipes and aprons. To this day, it's still one of my most memorable meals. Thanks to Apicius, the Culinary Institute of Florence.
The same destination wedding trip to Italy also gave me the opportunity to take a small group wine-tasting tour. We visited quaint, lesser-known wineries and stopped for lunch at a local restaurant in a rural village just outside of Florence. Chianti's 300 acres between Florence and Siena are filled with hills and various wine-growing conditions, producing a range of bouquets. We sampled soft wines, dry wines, and robust wines not marketed in the U.S. Apparently, the American market demands certain grapes and types of wine, but often the local vintners shake their heads in wonder because they know the superior bottles don't sell well on the mass market. Reason alone to do a wine-tasting tour: rare finds. These tours are a great way to meld with the rural areas, sample the fruits of its earth, and pass the time with a little culture.
Pick and choose your favorite culinary tour. Your body, mind, and gut will thank you for it, and it's ideal for group trips. A few suggestions to whet your appetite:
Bordeaux wine tours
Napa Valley wineries
South Australia wine-tasting tours
Guinness tours in Dublin
Anheuser-Busch Brewery tours
Redhook Brewery tours in Washington state (near Seattle) or New Hampshire
Samuel Adams Brewery tours in Boston
Food & culinary tours and classes
Cooking classes in France, Spain, and Italy
Food & music tours (eat 'til you ache, dance 'til you drop)
Chateau St. Michelle Winery concerts in Woodinville (near Seattle)
Celtic music and food tours in Ireland and Scotland
Taking a culinary or wine tour with family or friends is a priceless experience, great for girls getaways, bachelorette parties, wedding guest activities, and so on.
Are you a last-minute traveler? Spontaneous to the core? If so, you're probably too busy enjoying summer to think about early fall. But you may to keep a few festivals on your radar. September is a golden time of year for cooler weather, for warm, gentle breezes, for parents who get to usher their kids onto school buses or into schools, for the buzz of summer to wind down, and for people to plan those last days of summer vacations.
There are several September festivals for all spectrums of life: families, music lovers, art adorers, food fanatics, and more. Here's a snippet of what's on the horizon for late summer, early fall.
Sausalito Art Festival, Labor Day Weekend (early September)
The Mediterranean-style seaside town of Sausalito, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, has hosted the world-famous art festival annually since 1952. "The best local, American, and International Artists bring their combined perspectives, virtuoso skills, and more than 20,000 original works of art — including paintings, sculpture, ceramics, jewelry, fiber art, fine glass, woodwork, mixed media, and photography."
Telluride Blues & Brews Festival, September
"...three days of world-renowned musicians performing live on the famous Telluride Town Park stage, late night jams in the local juke joints, 50 choice microbreweries serving up their handcrafted "cream of the barrel" during Saturday's Grand Tasting, the Rainbow Kids area, free Acoustic Artist Series, Blues For Breakfast, and the Telluride Acoustic Blues Camp."
La Tamale Festival, in Los Angeles, September
This red hot event is in its second year, drawing 60,000 visitors. You can enjoy a kids pavilion, world record-eating contests, tamale-making classes, and as much spicy Latin sauce as you can dish up.
Russian Mosaic Festival in Philadelphia, September
This free festival will be a day packed with music, dance, and entertainment. This year's seven-hour concert program is set to showcase the Russian community's original folk, classical, and ballroom dancing performers.
Plano Balloon Festival in Plano/Dallas/Fort Worth, late September
A "something-for-everyone" event, this festival is filled with plenty of hot air. Cow-shaped balloons awe the crowds from above, hot air balloons offer rides, a team of expert sky divers do stunts out of planes. All this with entertainment, food, and plenty to keep the kiddies occupies.
Visit Festivals.com to find a wide range of other arts, cultural, music, and family festivals in the U.S. and around world.
We all get by with a little help from our friends. Traveling is no exception. Vacations are more enjoyable with buddies from college, girlfriends from home, friends from life (soccer or baseball teams), and any other groups.
Reconnect with old friends, reminisce about the good old days, and make new memories that make you laugh 'til you cry with these getaway tips.
Ladies, start your engines. The games, the energy, the synergy, and the drinks are about to begin. Take a wild or relaxing vacation with your gal pals on a spa getaway, wine-tasting soiree, birthday celebration, or anything goes. Can't go far? Try a mini girls getaway?
Hit the beach year-round (and more heavily in the summer) at your favorite beach. Try a nude beach, join your friends at your most memorable beach, or find a new beach while on a weekend away. Here are TripAdvisor's top 10 U.S. beaches.
Road trip planning guide
Zoom, zoom. Friends, families, and other vacationers are hitting the highways and dusty roads for campgrounds, national parks, family reunions, and zero obligations. Along with sunblock, prepare for a stress-free road trip with these tips. 10 gas and money-saving tips should help as well.
Swing and putt your way down the fairways, slugging beer and making bets against your comrades the whole time. Golf is a great way to relax and visit with friends while working on your game. Also, here are quick tips for planning a group golf getaway.
Bachelor and bachelorette parties
Are you the best man with no clue how to honor your pal with a party? If the only thing that comes to mind is a stripper, see these bachelor party tips first. Ladies, looking to make the bride smile and proud to call you her friends? Here are helpful hints for bachelorette party planning.
Just say ahhhh. Spa vactions are on the rise and spas are increasingly catering to groups (girls getaways in particular). Before you go, brush up on some basic group etiquette (so the spa invites you back!). Try vinotherapy at a wine spa, chocolate massages, or any other spa treatments for you and the gang.
More Tips for Group Getaways with Friends
Family life is full of major and minor crises -- the ups and downs of health, success and failure in career, marriage, and divorce -- and all kinds of characters. It is tied to places and events and histories. With all of these felt details, life etches itself into memory and personality. It's difficult to imagine anything more nourishing to the soul.--Thomas Moore
Even sad events such as illness or funerals can bring families closer together. I was recently reminded of this while attending a relative's funeral and visiting with extended family this past weekend. It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Truly.
Once we all got the news, one family passed around itinerary info in one big email string so they all knew flight arrival info for coordination. My family used about 5 phone calls to coordinate. ("Are you going? Which flight? How much did it cost?") Who knows how many other families and friends did the same thing. I got to thinking that group travel coordination tools would save time for families gathering under these circumstances. Maybe next time. Wait. I hope there isn't a next time... sigh.
Losing a loved one or going through any rough patch together makes us acutely aware of what's important in life and strengthens relationships.
Over the last several days, I carefully observed how extended family and friends kicked into high gear to help those most in need, ordering food, grocery shopping, playing waiter(ess), coordinating transportation, organizing church services, catering, telling story after story and listening intently as others shared theirs. Laughter and tears blended to reveal kindred spirits and compassion.
New bonds were created among old family connections. Cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, moms, dads, grandparents. Despite the circumstances, we were able to catch up, play a few games, distract people who needed distracting, hug those who needed more hugs than usual, and in general express what we forget to so often. I came away feeling uplifted.
I think the late French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin summed it up best when he said (or wrote): We are not humans having a spiritual experience. We are spirits, having a human experience.
By guest blogger Andrea Turk
It's official, you're old. You just received an email from a former classmate that it is time to start planning your next high school reunion. Once the shock wears off, the next question settles in. Where do we begin? Fortunately, I have assembled a to-do list that will help you organize a successful reunion (sorry, I can't do anything about your age).
Don't panic. Planning a high school reunion is a lot of work, but if you follow these simple steps, the process can be a lot of fun and virtually painless.
- Plan early for your reunion. Begin at least 9 months or more in advance. (Trust me, you will wish you had started a year ago!) Planning a reunion is a big production; make sure that you have ample time to complete all the important tasks.
- Enlist classmates to help. The more help you have, the less stressed you will be. Make sure that the committee is a diverse group from your class. You don't want the reunion to be focused on one group of people with one set of interests. Delegate, delegate, delegate.
- Budget wisely. When setting your ticket price include all the costs of the reunion, not just the meal. This includes the cost of entertainment, venue rental, tax, gratuity, postage, printing, decorations, Web site hosting, long-distance phone calls, etc. Be conservative when estimating attendance. You don't want to be stuck footing the bill because an item was omitted from your budget or fewer classmates attended than expected. Set up a bank account to deposit payments and pay bills.
- Pick a location and date early. Weekends fill up quickly with weddings and social events, so availability can be hard to find if you wait to book the event. Make sure to ask about deposits, caterers' food and beverage minimums and extra costs. Pick a menu with variety.
- Assemble and manage the guest list. Put a complete list of your classmates together using your commencement program, senior annual and information from previous reunions. This list should be in a database or spreadsheet that is easy to update and manage throughout the process. Include a method to track RSVPs, orders, payments, meal choice, etc.
- Start locating your classmates now. I cannot stress this enough. This is a huge, time-consuming process. You may have to call parents, siblings, old roommates, etc. to track them down. Use the Internet. Online phone books, alumni Web sites, and community Web sites are all beneficial.
- Create a fun, simple, and easy-to-read invitation. Make sure to list all the essential information (date/time, location, ticket price and attire). Also, include contact information of the committee member in charge of answering questions and responding to complaints. Don't forget to let your classmates know where to return the reservations and make their checks payable to. Include payment deadlines to encourage early registration.
- Get the word out early. People are busy during the summer months, so make sure your event is number one on their calendar and get the invitation out at least 4-6 months in advance.
- Make time for the "extras." The memorabilia displays, event program, name tags, memory books and table decorations are the things that people will remember years down the road. This will help make your reunion special, giving it character or charm (depending on theme, setting, decorations).
- Collect personal information on your classmates. You can compile it into a memory book for each alum to take home as a memento of the reunion.
- Remember, this is your reunion. Don't get so caught up in the details that you lose sight of what is really important. Reunions are about reconnecting with old friends, reminiscing about the good ol' days and looking forward to the future.
If all this prep work isn't up your alley, consider the alternative of hiring a professional reunion planner. Many companies provide reunion management services, handling all the behind-the-scenes details such as coordinating with vendors, locating your classmates and managing the database, paying bills, covering liability insurance for the event, staffing the event, and more. You can find a professional reunion planner at the National Association of Reunion Managers. Happy reunion planning!
Andrea Turk works with Reunions with Class, Inc., has been in reunion planning since 2001, and has helped more than 400 reunion committees organize successful reunions.
This weekend I volunteered at Seattle's Wooden Boat Festival on Lake Union. While there are countless festivities taking place across the country to celebrate America's birthday, the goal is the same: take time to play with family and/or friends. One big party from sea to shining sea.
Seattle's Wooden Boat Festival is unique to this city, but the energy, sentiment, food booths, kids activities, and arts and crafts show nature could be found in any other city or small town.
Celebrating 30 years, the Center for Wooden Boats has been involved in preserving maritime history and a maritime lifestyle with sailing lessons, rentals, an outdoor museum where you can walk the docks to view the boats, and an annual festival that culminates on the 4th of July. Classic wooden boats from around the Pacific Northwest anchor into about 10 to 12 different docks with shiny varnish, impeccable interiors (well, most of the boats, at least), and designs as varied as the owners.
After cruising on the 1922 Virginia V steamboat (one of two remaining steamboats of its kind in the U.S.) and going from upper tier deck to middle deck to lower deck (about 5 times each) I finally stood still, leaned against the railing, and took it all in. 30-ish feet above the water I peered down at houseboats and across the lake at the skyline, Space Needle and all. Complete peace.
Gliding into the dock, the hubub of a festival full of families, friends, boat-lovers, water-lovers all greeted us as we stepped off the boat back onto shore.
Holidays are great. We need more in this country. Until then, I'll be back at the festival tomorrow enjoying recess as long as I can.
With Las Vegas dubbed the Entertainment Capital of the World, it's no wonder that our research at TripHub shows more groups planning trips to Las Vegas than any other destination.
Surprised? Don't be. Las Vegas has long been popular for bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, weekend gambling getaways (and gawking) for guys, easy-bake wedding ceremonies or full-blown weddings, and a launch pad for visiting the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and other area attractions. And when conventioneers converge there, attendees often extend their stay and invite family or friends to join them.
Vegas continues to evolve, offering world-class shows (think Cirque du Soleil's Mystere, O, Zumanity, plus a bevy of Broadway, magic, and variety shows that thrill 'til dawn), concerts by renowned music artists, and more high-rolling resort casinos than anywhere else on Earth.
Even the anti-glitz travelers (ahem, like myself) who prefer tamer, more au naturale vacations, often admit that Las Vegas is good for entertaining and best enjoyed with a group of friends when you can double dare them to keep betting on the roulette table or give them a dollar bill to tip the dancer (that would be for the guys). The sweeping view from the top of Mandalay Bay is worth seeing, the Bellagio waterworks display dazzling, a massage at any of the luxury hotel spas relaxing, and other activities can fill your every waking moment. Sleep when you return home.
Planning a trip to Las Vegas with family or friends? Here are ideas to get you started:
Plan a weekend getaway with friends, bachelor(ette) party, family vacation, or wedding using TripHub by setting up a home page for your group, inviting guests, discussing hotels, sharing itinerary information, and more
Photos provided by Las Vegas News Bureau
Ah, cities with water. Whether its lakefront, oceanfront, bayfront, or riverfront, living in or visiting a city with water access can be bliss in the sultry summer months.
Dangling my toes from the bow, I went on a boat ride this past weekend with a few others. A potpourri group of friends and family. This activity is highly group-oriented, especially in a city known for having the highest number of boats per capita. Seattle waterways were jam-packed on Sunday with kayakers, power boaters, wooden boaters, canoers, rowers, floaters, pedalers, sailors, wake-boarders, water skiers, and the list goes on.
Watching other boats pass our boat, I noticed that regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic status (believe me, you can tell a lot by someone's boat), everyone had a perma-grin. Water can be the great equalizer. People on boats of all shapes and sizes (passengers to match) waved and smiled as they floated by each other.
With so many people crowding the waterways, I felt privileged to help the skipper navigate by yelling, "Canoers on the port side!" and other super official-sounding lingo. I was luckiest girl in the world, for the day. Warm breeze, water splashing, scrumptious food and drinks, all in good company.
I highly recommend some form of a boating this summer, kicking your feet up, and letting the wake be your guide. Even within city limits, you can be miles away.
Here are some fun and accessible ways to enjoy time on the water without requiring any prior boating skills:
Chicago, Illinois: Chicago offers diverse water trails, from Lake Michigan to the Chicago River, making it a haven for paddlers. Kayak Chicago is a notable outfitter providing tours on both the lake and river, including a unique fireworks paddle to view the light show at Navy Pier.
Miami, Florida: Surrounded largely by water, Miami is a hotspot for various water sports, including kayaking. Paddlers can explore places like Biscayne Bay, the Oleta River within a state park, or the Coral Gables Waterway. Outfitters like South Beach Kayak are known for their excellent services, especially for beginners.
Portland, Oregon: Yacht Tubs rents 6-person hot tub boats. These boats are also powered by a quiet electric motor and controlled with an easy joystick, requiring no previous boating experience or license. The service, starting from around $360 to $399 for two hours, launches from Riverplace Marina, providing a splendid opportunity to explore the Willamette River and enjoy the city skyline.
Seattle, Washington: Hot Tub Boats offers a unique and leisurely boating experience. Their boats are also equipped with easy-to-use joystick navigation and can accommodate up to 6 people. Rental prices range from approximately $350 to $450 for a two-hour slot, and the service is available year round. Enjoy Seattle's scenic views from the comfort of a hot tub!
Updated November 2023.
I'm not sure if it's the thrill of traveling, alcohol shared among friends, a romantic new setting, or the free feeling of being away from home and responsibilities. My guess is it's a combination of all that can convert travelers to accidental romantics, leading to travel trysts and even some long-lasting relationships.
But be careful. Traveling can also raise toxic levels of flirtation. Enough to make any travel companion gag.
How can group trips increase your chances of meeting that Mr. or Ms. Right Now (or, better yet, that special someone for longer)?
- Meeting up for drinks or activities with other like-minded travelers is a great benefit of traveling when you're still single. When traveling solo (especially as a woman), it's not necessarily as easy to meet someone (or safe). However, when with a group of family or friends, you can meet other travelers, knowing you're in the safe comfort of traveling with those you trust.
- Destination weddings are naturally themed with romance. Attending a destination wedding as a singleton is a sure fire way to meet at least one eligible bachelor or bachelorette. Be proactive or non-chalant. Ask your friends to introduce you to anyone "special" they know who's attending. Or casually scan the ceremony for singles, and then find yourself next to them in the buffet line at the reception.
True story: A bride groom and groomsman at a destination wedding of a friend of mine met at the wedding and struck up a long-distance relationship for over a year. They also toured around the destination immediately after the wedding day with other wedding guests. Last I'd heard, after taking a 6-month break, they are back together and may try to live in the same city.
3. Vacationing with friends opens doors to meeting someone. Whether camping, skiing, road tripping, gambling in Las Vegas, or just doing a weekend getaway, friends of friends usually come well-recommended or at least well-researched.
True story: A good friend met a woman who was equally as crazy about skiing as he was. Shortly after they met through friends, a big group of them planned a European ski trip in January, where they got closer and have been dating seriously ever since.
4. Friends serve as "wing men." If you're single and traveling with a group of friends and you meet someone intriguing, chances are your friends will be encouraging. And they'll have your back in case things go awry. This makes it all the more fun to flirt and get to know someone at a bar in a different destination than when at home, you may be more likely to play it safe and stay in your comfort zone of just visiting with friends. If nothing else, you can come home and brag about the best kiss you've ever had while on the London Eye with a saucy Brit you and your friends met while on vacation.
True story: Being as vague as I possibly can be to protect a friend of mine, let's just say I've heard the Italian Riviera is a great aphrodisiac. Limoncello helps.
5. Travel where singles travel. Club Med caters to groups such as golf pals, sewing cirlce (many singles, too). Hedonism resorts in the Caribbean have singles activities and welcome groups. And we all know that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Beaches around the world are also laden with possibilities. Plus, ski resorts and towns during the winter months are group gathering meccas and ideal for warming up with a cozy kiss.
In general, when traveling with friends or families, have fun, be yourself, and get into the groove of the trip. Play it safe. And be cool. In no time, the natural relaxation of the destination and comfortable group could lead to a romance of a lifetime.
Any other ways group trips can add a little romantic spice to a trip?
Need your space when traveling en masse? Extroverts and introverts alike all need a little solo time to recharge. Here are easy ways to politely find your own space while still enjoying the group parties, meals, events, activities, and hoopla.
A family reunion, bachelor party, or weekend getaway group agenda doesn't always have to be your agenda. There can be a lot of hanging out time or slower pace in doing things to accommodate for the slowest group member and herding the troops. After a couple of days, finding ways to get some personal space is just fine. Good friends or family should understand. Many will likely copy your actions (or have already scheduled solo time for themselves). It's quite natural.
So, take that leap. Get the most out of any group vacation by returning relaxed using these tips, ideas, and resources:
1. Listen to Music: Put on your headphones or earbuds, close your eyes and tune out others and into yourself. In today's always connected world, streaming music is the norm, but seasoned travelers know the frustration of spotty or non-existent WiFi and mobile connectivity. To ensure your melodies keep flowing, download your playlists ahead of time. This simple step not only guarantees access to your favorite tunes but can also save battery life.
2. Enjoy Podcasts: Podcasts tours can be an invaluable companion, transforming mundane journeys into enriching experiences. Imagine strolling through the vibrant streets of Barcelona, earbuds in, as a local historian narrates the tales behind Gaudi's architectural marvels, or hiking through the lush trails of the Pacific Northwest while an ecologist explains the unique flora and fauna around you. These podcasts blend storytelling with practical travel tips. These auditory journeys can provide a rich understanding of places (cultural, culinary, historical...) and often feature interviews with locals, expats, and fellow travelers. Learn how to get personalized podcast recommendations for your next trip.
3. Journal: Who wouldn't respect your request for a little alone time to jot down memories, thoughts, rants, raves of the trip? In a world dominated by snapshots and social media updates, the timeless tradition of travel journaling offers a more intimate and reflective way to preserve your thoughts. Travel journals often become cherished keepsakes, brimming with vivid descriptions, doodles, ticket stubs, etc. This practice also encourages mindfulness and observation and long after the journey ends, flipping through these pages can reignite the senses and emotions of your trip.
4. Read: Many people bring books for plane rides, down time between transfers, and down time in general. A basic for down time which can double as nap time if you read with sunglasses (no one will be the wiser if you position your book and head on a pillow just so). How about books with Sudoko, crossword puzzles, and other mind games? Or are you the trashy romance novel type? John Grisham or Michael Crichton fanatic? Likewise offers many great book lists for travelers including this list of "books to inspire you to explore the world."
5. Take Walks: Walk the city, beach, destination and let your thoughts and imagination be your guide. One of the most relaxing elements of travel can be finding quiet place to ponder your current situation (career, lifestyle, health, relationships) or simply letting go of it all and fully immersing yourself in the now to contemplate lapping waves, patterns in the sand, or perhaps the origins of Pina Coladas.
6. Exercise: In the whirlwind of travel, where every moment can be filled with activities, exercise creates space for a precious oasis of 'me time.' Imagine the tranquility of an early morning jog or a sunset yoga session. Solitary exercise time is an opportunity to disconnect from the demands of travel companions, reflect and recharge. Whether it's a hotel gym workout or a leisurely bike ride through a historic city, these moments of physical activity become sanctuaries of self-care. They remind us that taking time to focus on our well-being and individual needs is not just beneficial, but essential.
7. Just say NO. While the main objective of any group trip is to be together, taking time for yourself shouldn't catapult feelings of guilt into your conscience. Learn the delicate art of politely declining for certain activities.
Any other ways to step aside from group gatherings to recharge with solo time?
Will wonders ever cease? I discovered a caretakers organization that prides itself on being the leading property caretaking source. Caretaking in this context doesn't mean changing baby's diapers or live-in help for aging seniors; that's caregiving. Think travel, think vacation, think free. Can this be an actual industry?
If you've ever dreamed of playing host(ess) at a quaint inn, housesitting at a beachfront home, watching the condo and cat for someone who lives in a swanky loft with a cityscape vista, or being innkeeper for a small retreat center, take note.
The Caretaker Gazette has been operating since 1983. It is a unique newsletter that provides information and opportunities for property caretaking and house sitting jobs. The service caters to those interested in caretaking positions as well as property owners looking for caretakers or house sitters. According to their website, The Gazette provides subscribers with thousands of house sitting and property caretaking jobs each year.
Families, couples, and individuals are all caretakers who travel for various lengths of time to plant themselves in a new locale and temporarily try on a new lifestyle. Free accommodations to boot. But if you apply for one of the caretaking "jobs" and time it with a family reunion in the same destination, or in an area where friends can easily visit for a weekend getaway, you just might have found nomadic nirvana.
If I find a European castle in need an innkeeper for a month, I might reconsider my current situation and start packing. Alternative travel. Gotta love it.
Or does this sound like pure hell? Anyone ever done a trip like this? Would you recommend it to others? Are there other sites or resources to find this type of opportunity?
D. Rose sent us a note to share, "I've used the Caretaker Gazette to find housesitting and caretaking positions in places I wanted to visit... I don't like big hotels or resorts so I prefer to live where I can get to know the local people. The people that run the Gazette are very helpful and friendly so I am sure they would be happy to answer any questions you might have. Good luck!"
Nothing is worse than going on a group trip and discovering an incompatibility with your roomie. Traveling can become a bit of a petrie dish for issues, psychology, life... You never really know someone until you've traveled with them (or shared a room on a trip).
How do you survive an escorted group tour or trip with close traveling companions without throttling each other? For starters, it goes both ways. You may be a perfect travel companion in your own mind, but not in someone else's. Your passion for shopping might bore or exhaust others. Their passion for fragrant perfume may give your gag reflexes a work-out. What to do?
- Communication is key.
- Honesty imperative.
- Listening skills are a must.
- Compromise when you can.
A quick way to ruin an otherwise fabulous trip is to find resentment building as you throw pillows, socks, apples at a roomie who snores, or roll your eyes each time your travel "buddy" wants to settle in late... showering and/or loudly fumbling through luggage and bags to find some long lost earring at 2 a.m. while you are jet-lagged as hell trying to nap.
Here are some helpful hints for common problems faced when sharing rooms and space:
Snoring -- Solution: Ask if this is an issue. Caveat: if your friend lives alone he/she might not know or agree on what to do if either of you snores. Consider ear plugs, white noise, or seeing if you can take a new room. Proper etiquette is for the person who wants to change to pay for their new room.
Scents -- Solution: Strong cologne or perfumes can be intrusive to others; best left at home. Go through routine personal products to make sure you are both happy with the steam wafting from the shower or the acetone from the nails.
Smoking -- Sharing with a smoker means a smoking room, a smoking floor and smoking tables at meals. Smokers will also be handicapped even isolated on tours as buses do not allow smoking. Solution: Take separate rooms and talk about the consequences; there is no other way out.
Stamina -- Solution: Compare walking, step climbing, ability to carry luggage, deal with lack of sleep or dietary changes. Compare how long you like to linger over meals, need to get organized each day etc. Toleration works to a point, but if you are a marathon walker and she is taxi-er, this trip will not end in friendship. Spend a long day together to see where you differ and work out compromises. Example: if only one of you is taxi dependent, she should pay that expense. Same with porterage, excess baggage on tour, etc.
Spending -- Solution: Be honest about the budget. Do you use porters? Always tip? Expect to take taxis instead of public transportation? Order expensive drinks? Each choose 2 splurges that add up to the same money and time. And compromise on those. Put all your joint expense money in a zip lock bag and pay from the bag. When the bag is empty, refill it together. Do not keep a ledger and settle up later on complicated overseas trips, either both use frequent flyer tickets or neither use them; if a flight is changed, you will at least be in the same situation.
Seeing vs. shopping -- Solution: Every one hopes for different things from a trip. What you expect should be agreed on before you book. "Walk" through the trip, decide how you will use the free time. You each get to choose two options. If shopping annoys either of you, make a specific time to reconnect and part ways for a bit. Do not ask your room share to help you with your additional cumbersome packages. You bought it, you carry it.
Scared or feared -- Solution: Make a list of your fears and absolutely 'will not do's'. You really don't want to find out your friend will not use elevators when you arrive at a high rise hotel!
I read a poem on Guy Kawasaki's blog that caught my attention. The theme was our dispensible nature in life. Sad, but often true, when it comes to the functions/roles we play in a companies, organizations, and the like.
But it got me thinking. Thank God for friends and family. Without them, would we all be dispensible? True, for every job there is likely at least one other person who could do it as well if not better. True, the world will still spin without us. Life does go on.
However, with friends and family, we are an indispensible part of their lives, and vice versa. While the poem was meant to stymie swelled egos and praise humility (a good lesson), there is no better way (in my humble opinion) to foster a healthy ego, build a balanced sense of self, and have fun while at it, than by spending quality time with family or friends.
Today, while walking to lunch, I saw a TV crew interviewing folks and filming their "life lessons" on camera. I didn't stop to give mine; but if I did, I'd likely say something about stopping to smell the proverbial roses and hugging those you love more often.
Whatever does this have to do with group travel? Family. Friends. Spending quality time with each other. You connect the dots.
I worked at a national park one summer during college. It was the only travel-related "offline" job I've ever held, but it gave me insights into who visits national parks and why these American treasures remain so popular.
National parks are a magnet for group trips, be it for friends seeking adventure or families longing for a bonding experience. These vast expanses of wilderness offer an escape from the hustle of daily life and a plethora of activities suited for all ages and interests. From leisurely nature walks to exhilarating hikes, wildlife viewing, and historical tours, our national parks offer a blend of adventure, serenity and educational opportunities.
At many parks there is a range of lodging choices, from comfortable in-park hotels and historic lodges to rustic cabins and cozy bed-and-breakfasts nearby. For those seeking a more immersive outdoor experience, camping is a popular choice. Most parks provide well-equipped campgrounds, some of which can (must) be reserved in advance, while others are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Whether you prefer the comfort of a lodge or the adventure of sleeping under the stars, national parks cater to a variety of preferences and budgets, ensuring a memorable stay in the heart of nature.
The most popular times to visit national parks are typically during the summer months and holiday weekends, coinciding with school vacations and favorable weather. However, this popularity often leads to crowded trails, congested roads, and fully booked accommodations. To avoid these crowds, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons – late spring and early fall – when the weather is still pleasant, and the parks are less crowded. Another strategy is to start the day early or explore less popular trails and areas of the park.
Visiting national parks is also generally an affordable vacation option. The cost of entry varies from park to park, with many offering family passes and annual passes that provide significant savings. Seniors can avail of the Lifetime Senior Pass, which offers access to all national parks at a nominal fee.
Additionally, the National Park Service offers several free entrance days throughout the year, making it even more accessible for families, students, and others on a budget. Keep in mind, though, that this waiver doesn't cover other fees like camping or special tours.
Whether it’s marveling at the geysers of Yellowstone, exploring the depths of the Grand Canyon, or trekking through the lush forests of the Great Smoky Mountains, national parks are a testament to the splendor of the natural world and a reminder of its importance in our lives. And, by planning around peak seasons, considering various cost-saving measures, and embracing the diverse range of activities available, these parks can offer unforgettable experiences that are both enriching and budget-friendly.
When growing up, I can remember driving through a national park with my family and (at a very young age) asking my parents, "Why are there so many trees? Where are all the buildings?" Silly me. As an adult, I find myself increasingly posing the opposite question, "Why are so many trees being replaced with buildings?" At least national parks are protected and still offer respite from the urban jungles and sprawling suburbs that many of us live in.
Article updated December 2023.
Summer's approaching and thousands of families will go on road trips or fly to visit national parks. Groups of friends will do adventure weekends filled with hiking and backcountry camping to rejuvenate and breathe in raw earthly beauty.
Here's a sampling of national parks to whet your appetite for summer exploring:
Acadia National Park, Maine
A rugged, rocky island replete with wildlife and stunning views all around and plenty to keep the kids (or the kid in you) busy.
Arches National Park, Utah
Here, over two thousand sandstone rock formations stand proudly, boasting the world record for greatest density of natural land arches... great for planning a group hiking vacation.
Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Badlands is really a misnomer for "bad-ass lands." With 244,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires set against a backdrop of the largest, protected mixed grass prairie in the U.S., this is prime terrain for family or friend road trips (or motorcycling).
Biscayne National Park, Florida
The family or group of college pals can explore this Florida Keys underwater gem of ship wrecks (some listed as National Historic Sites) and wiggly, colorful marine life.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
This park has wide open desert-esque spaces with stunning geological formations; ideal for hiking, backpacking, and contemplating life. Perfect for an adventure group trip.
Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Featuring North America's highest mountain, 20,320-foot tall Mount McKinley (reason enough to go), this park is chock-full of glaciers, wildlife, and mountaineers.
Everglades National Park, Florida
Alligators and crocodiles and flamingoes - all reasons for families to travel to Florida, take a side trip at a family reunion or others to visit the area. While much of this park suffered damage during hurricanes Katrina and Wilma, repair efforts are underway and most of the park is open.
Glacier National Park, Montana
Big sky yields big smiles with mountain peaks and ranges, glistening rivers and lakes and miles of forests. Glacier preserves over 1,000,000 acres of forests, alpine meadows, and lakes - clearly great for group hikes.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
On the Big Island of Hawaii, this park offers numerous hiking trails and campsites in its wilderness and a rare chance to get up close to some of the world's most mysterious and active volcanoes. Great day trip for destination wedding guests or spring or summer breaks.
Clearly, this is the front end of the national park ABCs, but the remaining parks are equally as enticing. Explore for yourself and find the national park that best matches your group's need or desire for activities, adventure, sights, places to stay, and budget considerations.
p.s., An alert reader pointed out the search by activity feature of the National Park Service site. This is a great way to quickly find national parks that suit your get-away plans for things like camping, boating and wildlife watching.
Ladies, how about a weekend getaway filled with massages and wine-tasting with your girlfriends? And guys, ever dreamed of playing unlimited golf with your college buddies, guilt-free, on vacation?
Even in a committed relationship, finding some space for yourself, to do your own thing, can be important. But how comfortable are you with the idea of vacationing without your significant other? And what types of vacations are best suited for friends versus with your partner?
Traveling with friends offers a number of benefits, including the chance to strengthen those relationships. Friends often bring different perspectives and can challenge you to try new things that you might not consider with your partner, leading to personal growth and self-discovery. Traveling with friends can also be safer than traveling alone. Additionally, it can provide a level of independence and personal space that is harder to find when traveling with your partner.
“What a lot of people expect from their partner is perfection. But that’s not possible. Your partner can be your best friend and your companion, but it’s unfair to then suggest they have to like everything you like and to do everything you do,” says relationship experts Dr. Patrick Wanis.
Similarly, Hannah Guy, a licensed clinical social worker, shares “there is a misconception that once you are in a relationship, you need to do all the big things with them, but I would actually argue the importance of doing some of the big things on your own or with people outside of your relationship. Our relationships are at their best when we as individuals are at our best.”
Of course, spending time away from a significant other, can be stressful too. It's essential that trust and a sense of security are well-established. Ensuring that both parties are at ease is important, particularly if the journey involves destinations where cell coverage and Wi-Fi are scarce.
Finally, if you do decide to travel with friends without your mate, we hope you return home feeling refreshed and eager to share your experiences with your partner. Afterall, as they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Here are a couple of the great comments we’ve received:
Erik S. wrote, “Travel with groups is great, but make sure that they are people who don't mind if you decide to do your own thing here and there. Being attached at the hip can get old. Oh, and if you have a feeling that something is not right with the group, work it out beforehand. It's your trip.”
John G. wrote, ”I'm heading off to the World Cup next month, and I'm leaving my gal behind. Frankly, she doesn't know the obsessive, soccer fanatic side of me, and I'm just as happy she's not going to witness 30 days of it! Instead, I'm going with one of my soccer buddies, and meeting another old friend in Geneva where she lives. Yup, she. The trip isn't so much gender-specific as it is activity specific. But so often in this culture the method we choose to relax varies by gender.”
Article updated November 2023.
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