Sisters’ Trip Update – Planning our Trip to New England

Camden, Maine
Planning for our trip to New England is moving along at a fast pace. 
Once you helped us select the amazing destination two weeks ago, Wendy and I began our research. Our excitement level is high and we’ve discovered that there is simply too much to see in such a short time. It’s been difficult to narrow our choices. I anticipate this is the first of many trips to the area. All of you have great taste!!

The budget for our five day trip is $500 each, not including airfare. I’ve run the numbers for either three or four travelers since we may have one additional family friend (adopted sister) traveling with us. The travel dates have been modified to better fit our collective schedules, so we will be traveling in late September, a perfect time for the area.

Airfare:

We are flying from Denver to Boston on Southwest Airlines at $314 each roundtrip, including the early check-in fee.

Car Rental:

The rental car (full size) from Advantage is $275, including taxes.

Lodging:

After spending an hour or two on HomeAway, we were delighted to find a mother-in-law style apartment near Camden, Maine. It sleeps four people and is a real bargain at $425 for four nights. The ratings are exceptional and the owners are very friendly. We debated staying in two different places during our travel, but after reviewing the options, decided to find one location more central to all the places we are planning to visit. We’ve never used Homeaway before or stayed in a home style rental, so this will be a new experience.

Attractions:

So far, it looks like we will be seeing parts of Acadia National Park, the White Mountains in New Hampshire and the coastline between Bar Harbor, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough time for the Ben and Jerry’s tour in Vermont, so I’ll just be buying a pint or three of Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream and eating along the way.

Preparing our own breakfast and packing lunches and other snacks will help us stay within budget. However, dinner will be out on the town at fabulous restaurants. We plan to take advantage of all the amazing seafood options. I’m not sure how we are going to decide where to eat. Any suggestions?

At this point, it looks like we’re on track and have a little extra money to spare for park entrance fees and unexpected costs.  It has really helped to split the expenses between more than two people. Here is our budget so far.

DRAFT BUDGET

  Three Travelers Four Travelers
Airfare $942 $1,256
Budget $1,500 $2,000
Rental Car $275 $275
Lodging $425 $425
Gas $150 $150
Meals Out $300 $400
Meals In $150 $200
Balance $200 $550

It’s amazing that we can visit so many states in five days. I love planning a trip, don’t you?

Can We Be Truly Objective – Travel Writing

Travel WritingWe had an interesting discussion in my new writing class yesterday. The instructor is a travel writer, previously working for Outside Magazine and then as an independent with articles appearing in the New York Times and National Geographic, among other major publications. So, he’s a pro.

“What is the future of travel writing?”

The question he asked hung in the air for a moment before he began talking about how the internet has changed writing. In the past, writers proposed stories to editors and, if interested, they would be sent out to complete the piece. Travel costs were covered and the writer would be paid for his/her time. Articles may have paid a writer up to $10,000. At that time, writers could get by with 6-8 published articles a year, depending upon their lifestyle.

With the advent of the internet, magazines and newspapers have shrunk in size, some even going out of business. Online reporting is at an all time high. Frankly, that’s where I get my news. Where writers were paid for content before, many bloggers submit articles or posts for free for the “exposure”. The Huffington Post comes to mind, but I’m sure there are others.

Then the discussion moved specifically to travel blogging. There are successful travel bloggers who earn a good living, not many, but there are some. Our instructor believes that blogging may be the future of travel writing, with bloggers earning money from ads on their sites. That brought up another questions to ponder.

“Can you truly be objective if you receive free accommodations, access to activities, meals, flights or other subsidies for your travel?”

In order to be “objective”, magazine publishers would not allow writers to accept “gifts” from businesses they were going to be reporting on. In comparison, travel bloggers may receive free “gifts” that essentially discount their travel in exchange for those businesses being included in the final review.

Most bloggers disclose receiving discounts and free products or services to their readers and mention that their opinions are their own. What happens, however, if the accommodations are horrible and that information is reported in a post? Would other businesses still want that same blogger to write about their product knowing that the writer is brutally honest? And, if you enjoyed your time, could it be because you were treated differently than a regular traveler because the business knew they were being evaluated?

I certainly don’t have the answers to these tough questions. If you are a travel blogger, how else do you get “paid” for your work? It’s definitely a dilemma. As someone who wants to include travel reporting in my blog, I’d love to be as objective as possible, but does that mean I can never be paid for my time?

What do you think?

New Mexico Road Trip Part 3 – Sunrise at the White Sands National Monument

The alarm went off early and in that last daze of sleep, we packed our gear into the truck. It was still dark when we pulled up to the entrance of White Sands National Monument. This was the moment we’d all been waiting for, the sunrise photo shoot.

The ranger reviewed our permit and opened the gate, allowing nine of us full access to the park without another person in sight. I was excited, quickly going over the list in my head. Tripod…memory cards…lenses…and the location I had picked out the night before when we’d made our first visit. I wished I had remembered a head lamp or flashlight. But, it was a bit late for that, so I planned to make do with what I had.

I stepped out of the truck to unload my gear. It was COLD! What was I thinking wearing capri pants for a sunrise shoot? BRRRR! We climbed back in and waited for the blue light to come. Now I was worried. How long could I stay out in the frigid weather?

Then things slowly began to come into focus. The early light that comes before the sun peeks over the horizon had arrived. It was as if the starting gun went off. Everyone was quickly out of the cars and moving in different directions. I grabbed my gear and walked out beyond the first dune. I left the world behind as I forged on alone. The footprints in the sand from the previous day had been wiped away by the overnight winds and the new canvas was just asking to be painted by the morning light.

 

Yucca Moon
For a brief moment I tensed up and wondered, “Are there snakes?” Then I thought about how cool it was and decided that if there were, they wouldn’t be out yet, so I relaxed and moved on.

Planning my route carefully, I walked in areas that wouldn’t show up in the pictures that were forming in my head. I sat down in the sand as I positioned my tripod. I was surprised by how soft and fine the sand was. I scooped a handful and let it run through my fingers. It was quiet and peaceful. I took a deep breath, letting it out slowly as I looked around at the incredible scenery of sand, grasses and yuccas. There was no sound, but a light breeze ruffled my hair. Saying a quick “thank you” out loud, I started trying to capture on my camera, the beauty I was seeing with my own eyes.

 

Sunrise Yucca
The cold didn’t exist as I quickly worked, moving to seek different perspectives. I would stop every few minutes to look around. In the past, I have been known to view my world through a camera lens and to miss the bigger picture. Making it a priority on my travels, I now stop to see, listen and appreciate my surroundings. It’s not all about capturing the “shot” but being aware and experiencing special moments. There is always a second when I can’t believe I’m here and then a feeling of gratitude for the opportunities I have to visit amazing places.

 

dawn grasses
Getting up to reposition my shot, I looked back and saw the imprint of the back of my jeans in the sand. It was so perfect that I’m sure if I looked closely, I would have seen the brand name on the impression left by the snaps on my back pockets. I wondered if visitors later in the day would notice the print of my backside. The thought made me laugh out loud.

 

dawn grass shadows

 

Then the sun made it’s appearance, slowly climbing over the edge of the horizon casting long shadows across the waves of sand. Yucca plants creating shadows five times their length. After a few minutes I removed my camera from the tripod and composed more shots, clicking the shutter until my memory card was full, quickly changing it out so I could begin again.

 

yucca shadows
Before I knew it, my friend Janet was calling my name and the trance I’d been in from the moment I’d stepped out of the truck was broken. Sunrise was over and the group was headed to another area of the park. I stretched, picked up my tripod and walked back to where the vehicles were parked, taking a few last pictures along the way.

 

Sand Dune Shadows
Staying around for a few more hours, this time in more of a group, we wandered around with our cameras. The scenery was still spectacular and it was fun to be with my fellow photographers. We laughed and experimented with different shots, this time adding people into the landscapes.

 

Photographers White Sands
Then, satisfied with a job well done, we climbed back into the vehicles and returned to town for breakfast. It was a magical morning on the white sands.

Related Posts:

New Mexico Road Trip Part 1 – White Sands National Monument

New Mexico Road Trip Part 2- Found Treasures 

New Mexico Road Trip Part 2 – Found Treasures

Road trips bring me up close and personal with the many treasures that I would  otherwise miss looking down from an airplane at 35,000 feet, like…

local wildlife.

Deer

stepping over the state line.
Welcome to New Mexico

unusual art that makes me smile.

Metal Giraffes

places with a lot to say.

Hollywood Rejects

a sight for sore eyes.

Eyes Graffiti

“moo”ving moments.

Lone Cow

We even saw a road runner, but it was too quick to capture on camera. What’s better than a road trip? A road trip with plenty of time to stop to appreciate those magical moments.

Enjoy!

New Mexico Road Trip Part 1 – White Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument

It was still dark on Saturday morning when I picked up my friend Emelyn and all her photography equipment and started the long drive. We were meeting a small group of photographers down in Alamogordo, New Mexico to visit White Sands National Monument.

I love road trips.

We started in Denver, which is a large and very busy city. The metropolitan area stretches almost twenty miles and after that there are very few sections of Interstate 25 where you won’t see at least one house or in the distance for the next hour and a half drive. It’s a beautiful area of the country and we have the Rocky Mountains that stand as sentinels overlooking the front range.

After the almost constant presence of people in Colorado along I-25, it was fascinating drive for hours without seeing any indication of people except for fences on the long stretch of roadway. The countryside is arid and filled with the shorter piñon pines, yucca plants and grasses moving in the wind. New Mexico has its own unique beauty of simplicity and shadow.

After a brief stop in Sante Fe, we finished the long drive and checked into the White Sands Motel. Sunset was still more than an hour away and we didn’t waste time headed to the White Sands National Monument. One word…INCREDIBLE!

I’ll be adding more updates and photos over the next week.

Sisters’ Trip Update – New England It Is

New England  Lighthouse
The results are in!

Thank you for all of your input and votes. My sisters and I are headed to the New England area for our sisters’ trip. Now we just need to decide on our itinerary and what areas we will be traveling.

The initial plan is to fly into Boston or Bangor, rent a car and then drive through a number of states. Each one of us is going to pick two places we want to see and then we’ll set up the schedule. From lighthouses, to specific towns, covered bridges and a Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory Tour, we’ve already received some great suggestions from those who recommended New England.

Being landlocked in Colorado, the a visit to the Atlantic Ocean is a definite. The rest will develop as we select our must sees. We are still intending to try to keep to our budget of $500 each, not including airfare. I’m finding that renting a car at one airport and dropping it off at another adds to the expense, so we’ll see what discounts are available.

Travel Budget Plan

  1. Do our research on places to stay and book in advance
  2. Select B&B’s, motels or hotels that serve breakfast and are not in the costly city centers
  3. Buy a cheap cooler when we arrive and fill it with snacks so we can limit our eating out
  4. Select and budget in the key places we want to see and then fill in with low cost or free places to visit
  5. Rent a small car that gets better gas mileage, but is still comfortable enough for three people and luggage
  6. Utilize discounts that may be available to us: senior discounts, AAA, online booking

If there is anyone who can spot a discount, it’s Wendy. I know she is already on the hunt. Do you have any tips that you use to stay on a travel budget?

In Other Travel News:

I’m headed to White Sands National Monument  in New Mexico this weekend with a small group of my photographer friends. When they say “white sands” they mean it. What a beautiful place. I can’t wait to share the pictures.

With my trip to Namibia less than two months away, I visited the Global Travel Clinic and recieved one shot in each arm yesterday afternoon. One to prevent Typhoid and the other Hepatitis A. Ouch! I have a couple prescriptions to fill, including anti-malaria pills, Cipro and motion sickness prevention patches. Planning continues…

Sisters’ Trip Update – Submit Your Vote

Travel Destination copyHere’s your chance to vote on the destination for our sisters’ trip!

First, all the suggestions were submitted.

Help Two Sisters Looking for Adventure
Get Your Travel Agent Hat On – Sisters’ Vacation Update

Then, we narrowed the choices to three destinations.

Sisters’ Trip Update – The Destination Finalists

And now, we’re eagerly awaiting your vote.

[yop_poll id=”2″]

The poll is only open for one week, so vote early.

Sisters’ Travel Update – The Destination Finalists

Many of you suggested destinations for our sisters’ trip scheduled later this year. We received an incredible list of proposed destinations. Curious as to the results? My sister, Wendy and I, have recorded our very first video in order to provide an update.

Listen closely to discover the three destinations we have chosen as finalists.

So what’s next? Your vote!

Later this week I’ll be adding a poll so everyone can vote on one of our top three final destinations and everyone who participates will help decide where we’ll be traveling. Once the selection is complete, we’ll start the process of planning and report back on the journey every step of the way. Remember, all of you are making the final decision. We will not be voting.

Thank you for playing. We’re looking forward to our trip.

Related Posts:

Help Two Sisters Looking for Adventure
Get Your Travel Agent Hat On -Sisters’ Vacation Update

Sharing Incredible Moments

Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take,
but by the moments that take your breath away.  

Unknown Author

We were up early and after a quick snack at Little Vumbura, we took a short boat ride and then climbed into our vehicle for an early morning safari. Just a few miles down the road, our guide gestured toward the ground and pointed out lion tracks. My heart began to beat a little faster. I checked my camera once again just to make sure everything was in order.

AfricaChief

A few hours later, we were still looking. We had seen so many incredible things, but none of the elusive cats. Chief, our guide, looked at his watch and suggested it was time to go back to camp for brunch.

AfricaImpala

 “Can we try a little longer, please? We didn’t come here to eat, we came to see wildlife.”

I’m not quite sure who said it, but everyone nodded their agreement. Chief just smiled and kept driving. Around the next curve was a herd of Cape Buffalo, one of them with a fresh wound on its’ hindquarters. We were close. Let me just say, Cape Buffalo are huge and incredibly intimidating. I could have watched them for hours, but we had lions waiting for us.

Cape Buffalo

A few turns later, and there they were. A pride of nine lions sleeping in the road. One of the females lifted her head briefly as we came around the corner, looked at us and went back to sleep. Talk about a moment that took my breath away…they were magnificent and we were within twenty feet of them.  It’s a moment I will never forget.

Lions

That was ten years ago and I still clearly remember the feeling of disbelief and gratitude that I was in Botswana, on a warm African morning, watching lions sleep.

AfricaLion

I have plenty of pictures and I have described that moment to people in my life. It doesn’t matter how detailed I am with my words or how many photos I share, none of them can imagine the magic of that moment. Someday soon, I’m going to take my sisters and my son to Africa. Instead of trying to describe the indescribable, I’ll going to enjoy watching them experience the moment for themselves. It’s something so special that I need to share it with them.

What moment in your life has taken your breath away? If you could, who would you share it with?

Travel Trippin’

travel to Namibia
I’m infected. It began in 2000, when my neighbors pulled out a brochure on the World’s Fair in Hanover, Germany and invited me to go along. I applied for my first passport and packed my bags. It didn’t take long to be bitten by the travel bug and…you know what happens when that occurs. The only way to keep it under control is to feed it. So each year, I’m planning a big trip and several small ones.

The BIG Trip:

The Fed Ex package packed full of all the final details came earlier this week. I completed the remaining forms, made the final payment and mailed everything back to the Africa Adventure Company. My trip to Namibia is PAID IN FULL.

Why Namibia? I knew I wanted to go back to the African continent. I traveled to the southern part of South Africa and the area around the Okavanga Delta in Botswana ten years ago. It was incredible and someday I’ll visit again. But this trip, I want to see other parts of Africa. Namibia offers such diverse environments and a chance to see white rhinos, desert adapted elephants and other fascinating wildlife.

Here’s the sample itinerary:

Great Namibian Journey Group Safari

I’ll be taking about my planning process as the trip gets closer. Check back for updates.

The SISTERS Trip:

Planning for the trip with my sister, Wendy, is ongoing with all of your great suggestions. We are so excited. We have decided to move the trip to September so we miss some of the crowds.

Here are the original options:

  • Find an event we want to attend, like a concert, and make a trip out of it.
  • Several locations in North Carolina, including the outer banks and South Port
  • Hawaii
  • Puerta Vallarta
  • Tahiti or other Caribbean Cruise
  • Alaska Cruise
  • New England road trip, possibly including Maine
  • Guatemala

We’re adding a few new destinations from your comments last week.

  • One of my favorite nieces suggested the area around Eureka Springs, Arkansas
  • Kirstin from KidsAreATrip: Flagstaff or the Sedona area of Arizona or Puerto Rico
  • Carol Cassara: A road trip in southern Florida down through the Keys

I’ve begun preliminary reviews of some of the locations. It may be difficult to stay within our $1,000 budget (not including airfare), but we’re going to give it a shot. Next week, we’ll narrow down our choices a little and then put the numbers and options together.

So that’s how my travel plans are lining up. What’s on your vacation agenda?

Previous posts:

Help Two Sisters Looking for Adventure

Get Your Travel Agent Hat on- Sister’s Vacation Update