We’re off today for an epic road trip and eventually Yellowstone National Park! We’ll start out of Portland, head to Eastern Washington and the Palouse, which we’ve been wanting to get to forever. Then we’ll head North into Montana with a few days at Glacier National Park, then go South to Yellowstone to see the sites. Then we’ll circle back through Sun Valley, Idaho and finally back through Eastern Oregon and the Wallowa Mountains and make it back to Portland. I’m so excited for this trip and to see so much scenery in my own area of the US! Be sure to follow along on Instagram while we explore the USA in our own backyard!
We are headed off tomorrow for an epic road trip eventually leading us to Yellowstone National Park! Though we’re also making a number of stops before getting there, like finally seeing the Palouse in Eastern Washington and spending a couple days in Glacier National Park and Kalispell, Montana. This is a much different type of trip for us and I found it difficult to begin packing for it. There are a number of things for this trip that are required that I’m not used to packing or bringing with us and when I started searching online for a packing list for this type of trip, I found it hard to find. So, here is my own list for packing for a road trip to Yellowstone and what you might need!
Outdoor Clothes + Layers
When packing for this trip, the weather was sort of all over the place from place to place. Some were going to be hot in the upper 80’s, some were going to be rainy and in the lower 60’s, so figuring out what clothes to take was tricky. The key? Layers. Even the places that would be warm during the day are cold at night and in the early morning, so layers are the answer. Vests and light coats with hoods were essential in my packing to be sure to meet the requirements for each location.
Be sure to pack clothes that can get dirty as well as hiking boots or shoes that you’re comfortable walking in outdoors. I also made sure to pack a couple hats to keep the sun out of my face when out and about.
Since we’re driving, it’s easier to take a ton of camera gear with us for this trip. Nick is packing specific lenses for what type of trip this is, but he is also renting lenses that he doesn’t have from lensrentals.com. We do this frequently and it’s great to be able to rent anything that might be specific to a trip. Be sure though to handle your equipment carefully and pack it well to travel with.
One thing that kept popping in my research for Yellowstone specifically were to bring binoculars. Apparently to see wildlife, it’s a great thing to have!
Food storage / Cooler
A lot of the stops on this trip might not necessarily have a ton of restaurants or we might be out exploring all day and not near towns or cities, so a cooler or some sort of food storage was necessary for us to bring. We figured out in our itinerary the places where we would stop and buy food for specific things like breakfast or snacks while out and about through the day. While we didn’t have a cooler, we found a great collapsible one on Amazon for only $30 which will be easy to pack up and carry around with us.
Again, since we’ll be out and about most days, it’s good to take a reusable water bottle to fill up and have with you throughout your time on the road.
Hat + Sunscreen
As I mentioned above in the clothes section, a good hat (or two) is important to block sun out of your face while out and about exploring. Sunscreen is also vital since we might be out hiking for hours on end and you want to protect your skin from the elements.
Blanket to Sit On
I spend a lot of time when traveling waiting for Nick to take photos. And since this trip will be no different and we might not always be near the car or have somewhere to sit, I bought a $15 outdoor blanket that rolls up into a pack with a handle so that I have something to sit on while I wait.
As a travel blogger, it feels like everywhere I look people are quitting their jobs to travel the world, leaving behind their homes, their material stuff and selling everything for a grand adventure to travel and see the world. And if you want to do that, that’s totally fine. The problem is, that only really works for a very small percentage of people. The problem is, that often in the travel and blogging industries, that’s offered as a “one size fits all” option and it’s just not. I would also argue, it’s not the answer to your longing to travel the world either or a great long term solution and here’s why.
If you’re already in a professional career, you can’t always take a year or however long off.
I often see people giving everything up and moving overseas or traveling the world for a year and that’s wonderful, if you’re in a position to do it. Most of us in professional careers can’t just do that without major set backs in our careers. For me personally, I would lose a lot of clients if I did that which would hurt me down the road. It’s not always feasible if you’ve already started building your career to take a year or however long off.
Not all businesses, even small businesses that you own yourself, can move anywhere.
I own a small business myself and I work on my own time from home, but I’m not in a position to move or go anywhere at the present time. I still need to be based somewhere to be able to get my work done and need to be traveling to clients’ locations to do my work. So while yes, some small businesses can be packed up and the work done anywhere, others are more stationary and that’s ok. Owning your own business is wonderful but there are drawbacks too, something that I don’t often see shown on some of these people that preach your own business can go anywhere mantras.
Having a home and routine life are worthwhile too.
For me, I really enjoy having the balance of traveling and coming home to my townhouse and my daily routine. And while sometimes the daily grind can become wearing, it’s still really important in life to have a life set up somewhere, wherever that might be. All the things that come with a life, a house, a job, errands, those things are important too… just as important as seeing the world and often just as worthwhile to know you’ve built a home and a life somewhere fairly stationary.
Not everyone is meant for long term travel or living overseas.
As much as bloggers can say you must live overseas or you must sell everything and go travel… in truth that’s just not meant for everyone. I’m a huge proponent of living overseas and did as a child and it changed my life. I would love to live overseas again. But right now in my life isn’t the time and I can truthfully acknowledge it’s not for everyone. Nor is long term travel. I wouldn’t give up everything to travel long term, it’s just not for me. So if those are for you, great. If not, you don’t have to feel bad if that isn’t the path for you. You can still travel and see the world without having to do it long term or living overseas.
Travel is wonderful, but so are other things.
I’m a huge proponent for travel, but if you want other things out of your life, that doesn’t make you any less of a person. Travel is amazing and I could go on and on about what it’s meant to me in my life to be able to travel, but other things are great too whatever that means for you. For some people it means starting a family, for some it means focusing on your career. Whatever that means for you, do what works for you and don’t worry about trying to keep up with everyone else!
With so much lately coming out in the news about horrific situations on airlines, like people being bloodied and forcibly removed from planes, brawls starting over seats reclining… sometimes I wonder what the heck happens to people when we get in the air. But the way most airlines treat their customers, it’s not hard to see how all of this starts. One airline though, in my experience, totally sets itself apart from the pack and raise the bar for everyone else. I’ve long been a fan of Alaska Airlines for a number of reasons, but a couple weeks ago when we headed to Reno, the airline topped even their own standards and I felt like it was high time here on Land of Marvels that my favorite airline got their own post. I’ve been flying Alaska Airlines as my main airline loyalty for years now and earn their MVP Gold status each year due to how much I fly with them and their partners around the world. I’ve flown a lot of airlines over the years and I find, consistently, Alaska blows them all out of the water and so while there are a ton of ways they are fantastic, here’s my top 5 reasons why Alaska Airlines is the best out there and why you should start flying them…. now!
1. Their customer service blows every other airline out of the water.
When I need to call Alaska Airlines, I’ve never waited longer than 30 seconds to speak to a person. Literally, never. Someone always answers, is kind and helpful and always thanks me for a being an MVP gold elite with the airline. And at airports, we’ve had major travel fiascos in the past (like when our Alaska airlines flight was going to be late to LA, which was going to make us miss our flight to Europe) and the gate agents are almost always amazing to work with and help us get where we need to be, waiving fees immediately if changes are needed. Over all my experiences with Alaska Airlines customer service agents, on the phone or at the airport, 98% of the time they are amazing.
2. They are almost always on time.
I’ve had very few delays on my Alaska flights and with the amount I fly them, that’s pretty amazing. Like I think I can count on one hand the times I’ve been majorly delayed flying Alaska…. and considering I’m on at least 2 flights per months usually, that’s pretty amazing. Alaska wins awards every year for being so on time compared to other airlines and it really is true that they do an amazing job and minimizing delays and making sure everything gets out on time.
3. And when they’re not… they make up for it.
And the times when they haven’t been on time….they have more than made up for it. Take for example, a couple weekends ago heading to Reno which is the story that made me want to write this post in the first place. Our flight to Reno was delayed when we arrived at the gate by about an hour. We thought, ok, not ideal but fine. Then it got delayed again, but another hour and then again and so on. It ended up taking off about 2.5 hours late due to an aircraft issue. The gate staff was apologetic as was the staff on the plane and we finally got on the plane and headed off toward Reno. This kind of delay is super rare for Alaska so while it was annoying, I wrote it off as “these things happen.” Now, by the time we had landed I think everyone had kind of moved on so when we all turned on our phones upon landing, everyone’s text message beeps were going off. I looked at mine and saw that Alaska had texted me and apologized for the delay and said that we’d be getting an email shortly with a discount code for our next flight. As I looked around, everyone got that text and were talking about how nice that was. I was expecting like $25 off of something…. but when the email came later that night, they gave everyone on that flight $75 of their next flight! I mean, what other airline does that without anyone complaining or throwing a temper tantrum! Yet one of the many reasons I’ll continue flying Alaska!
4. They really value their elites.
I make Alaska’s MVP Gold status each year as I fly so much and one thing I love about Alaska is how they value their elite members. I’m always called by name in the gate area when boarding and on the plane. On almost every flight, a flight attendant comes by at some point in the flight and tells me thank you for being an elite member with Alaska and offers me a free chocolate. I also get upgraded a ton to first class on flights, which makes me feel like they really value me for flying with them. Being elite with Alaska, is always a pleasure and they do a great job really valuing those of use that fly with them a lot.
5. Their planes are comfortable and the food is good.
While Alaska is in the midst of a big fleet update for their planes, they already have some of the most modern and comfortable airplanes out there in my opinion. Their seats are comfortable and the cabins are clean and modern. I never see frayed seats or tray tables falling off the hinges like I have on other US airlines. And the food is surprisingly good on Alaska! In economy cabins, we love their fruit and cheese plate and their hot item is usually good to. In truth, I actually find the food in economy better than the first class food most of the time, but both are really good for most airplane food.
So if that hasn’t convinced you to fly Alaska on your next adventure, I don’t know what will!
Charleston and Savannah have been on my travel list for years! And over the years, we’ve always looked at it but for whatever reason, it’s never worked out. It’s also usually pretty expensive for us to fly directly there, so we usually brush over it and say we’ll come back to it. So when I was looking at our travel schedule for early in 2018, I penciled it in for January or February, thinking maybe that time of year wouldn’t be as hot and maybe prices would be lower. Then one day a couple weeks ago I was just randomly searching flights to see what prices were in mid-February and I saw the cheapest flights I’d seen in a long time from Seattle, directly to Charleston. On top of that, I had a $99 companion fare ticket from our Alaska Air credit cards that was expiring soon so I jumped at the change of using that along with a cheap fare!
It’s not super easy to get to Charleston from the Pacific North West, but with the direct flight from Seattle to Charleston on Alaska Airlines, we’re headed there in February for a long weekend for less than $500 for 2 people, which is often what it costs for 1 person to fly that route most of the year! On a side note, I’ve written about it before, but the Alaska Airlines visa is really an amazing travel credit card. If you’re in the market for a new travel credit card, one of the amazing perks of this card is the $99 companion fare every year you have the card. You can fly anywhere where Alaska flies with it and your companion costs just $99 + taxes and fees, which usually comes to around $120 total! We use the companion ticket a lot when Nick and I go to Hawaii together and it saves us a ton of money. The other amazing thing about it is that the companion still gets full mileage for the flights. So it’s a win, win!
For our trip to the South in February, we’ll be staying in Charleston for a couple days and then driving to Savannah, Georgia for a couple days. Both cities have been ones I’ve wanted to experience for a long time coming and I’m super excited we were able to make this work. If you have any recommendations for either city, let me know!
Earlier this year, talk of a surprise birthday party for Nick’s great aunt in Reno came up. She turns 90 this year and we knew we wanted to be there and be part of it, so we booked a weekend trip down to celebrate with the family. We spent our first night in Reno and then drove the next day to the Carson City area. When I was looking a hotel in Reno, Nick’s parents were staying at the casinos downtown so we wanted to be close to that, but also be able to get out of the smoky casinos and have a normal hotel. This spot ended up being perfect!
Courtyard Reno Downtown/Riverfront
When we stayed: May 2017 | Website: Courtyard Reno Downtown/Riverfront
What I Loved
Location – When booking this hotel, we wanted something close to the casinos in downtown Reno but also a little removed. This hotel checked both of those boxes being just a quick 7-8 minute walk to the casinos like the El Dorado but was far enough away that we could get out of the smoke and machines. It’s right on the river and across the street from the baseball stadium, so the location couldn’t be better!
The Design – I’ve found Marriott’s, overall, to be really up on remodeling their properties in a modern and fun way. This hotel was no different. The design was great, fun and modern without being too much.
What I Didn’t Love
Nothing! – We found nothing we didn’t like about this Marriott property!
Notes to Keep in Mind
Parking is in the garage next door – when you arrive at the hotel, the parking garage is directly next door and free to park.
Nick and I have done a couple trips recently with family as we’ve traveled to Washington DC and most recently to Reno, Nevada for family events. And while we’ve done larger family trips in the past like when we traveled to Europe with Nick’s parents and grandma, these smaller quick trips with family are different in their own way. Traveling with family is a lot different than traveling on your own, and while it’s nice to spend time with family on the road, there are still some things that come in handy to know beforehand. So here’s a few of my best tips for quick trips with family for your next adventure as a group!
Make your Own Bookings
My tastes in travel accommodations and airfare are quite different than family members of mine, so when booking a trip with family, it’s good to make your own bookings. I am very specific when it comes to hotels, so that I always make sure and book myself. For airfare, I like to make sure I’m getting the miles and I’m choosing the seat I want and the airport I’m flying in to, so it’s important to make sure you’re doing that booking as well. Your whole trip will go smoother if you make your own bookings and be comfortable along the way.
Keep Time for Yourself
Trips with family can be stressful when you have so many different people involved, so be sure to keep time for yourself and your partner/spouse as well. There will be times when you want a little break, so work that time into the itinerary if possible.
Don’t Feel Like You Have to Do What Everyone Else Is
Often when traveling with family, you might feel like you have to stay where everyone else is or carpool with everyone else or be on their schedule – the truth of the matter is, you don’t. Do what feel comfortable for you. The whole trip will be easier if you don’t feel like you’re trying to make everyone else happy.
I’ve seen a lot of posts lately from bloggers I’ve followed for a long time talking about how much blogging has changed in the last 5 years. And it’s completely true. When I first started blogging it was an entirely different world. It was more personal. It was more sharing. It wasn’t as “professional” if you will. And while I’m not sure whether it’s good or bad about all the changes in the blogging world, I think it’s a little bit of both at the end of the day. And while the whole blogging atmosphere has changed a ton, maybe people are still just getting into the industry and blogging community as a whole. So if you’re one of those people that are just starting out and you’re not sure what to do in this crazy, “make your own rules” part of the internet, here’s my best advice for new bloggers just starting out!
1. Your design matters.
This is something that matters a lot more now than it used to, but nonetheless the look and design of your blog really matters. Even if you do it yourself and keep it super simple, just make sure the design of your site feels modern and up to date. I’ve looked a ton of blogs over the years that I don’t return to because no matter how great your content, the site design and layout sometimes matters even more. No one wants to spend hours trying to figure out how to get around your site or looking at a horrible amateur design… that’s just the way of the world.
2. Don’t worry about the numbers.
While this might go against everything else out there, at the beginning, don’t worry about the numbers. And unless your going for the blog to be your whole income and profession, I would suggest not worrying about the numbers at all. Readers will come and go, but the most important thing about blogging is the community you grow around your site. Whether that’s 12 readers a day or 12,000, who cares? As long as you enjoy it, that’s all that matters.
3. Write for you.
This is perhaps the most important of all the advice I could give you. Write for you, and only you. A lot of of bloggers start to fade over time and you can tell that their heart just isn’t in it anymore. It’s easy to tell that and it’s such a hard thing to overcome as a reader. Every post I write, all these years later, I still love to write every word here on Land of Marvels.
4. Give it time.
In this era of the internet, truthfully some blogs explode overnight and some take years and years to gain a following. In the end, you just have to give it time and be patient.
5. Don’t drive people crazy.
One thing that’s a huge turn off for me is getting five million emails a day from blog newsletters or tweets about old posts from 10 years ago… we all have so much going on that for me, I’ll unfollow blogs that drive me crazy! Keep it simple and don’t bog everyone down with a ton of blog related spam.
As a travel blogger and someone who travels frequently, I hear the term “dream trip” thrown around a lot. And while this may mean different things to different people, when I hear that term I think of trips that you’ve been waiting years to take or a destination that scares you a little bit, but you just take the leap and book it. A dream trip for me is that trip that takes extra planning, that takes you to a place you’ve dreamt of for a long time. And as someone who has a few dream trips under my belt at this point, here’s my best advice for 5 steps to make your dream trip a reality!
1. Start saving.
Travel costs money no matter how you look at it and dream trips are often bigger and more expensive than an average getaway. So start saving money, now! What you often don’t see here on Land of Marvels were all the years of working really hard and living in a tiny apartment to save money to start our travels all those years ago. Even now, we work really hard (and multiple jobs) to save our money to afford to travel as much as we do. Start saving on the little things and then see how much you can set aside for however long down the road you intend to travel.
2. Plan ahead.
We book our travels way out, like sometimes 6-8+ months in advance… the reason? Actually it’s a number of reasons, a) you get better airfare deals way out, b) it gives us a ton of time to pay off the trip before we even leave, and c) it gives us a lot of time to plan for time off of work and get our life situated for when we’ll be gone. Planning ahead is smart on a lot of levels but the thing I love about it, is that when we end up leaving all those months later, the trip is paid off and we don’t come home with a huge credit card bill!
3. Keep saving.
So you’ve booked your dream trip months ahead of time and you don’t know what to do next? Keep saving money. You’ll need money for while you’re there, so don’t stop saving once you’ve booked and paid off your flights and hotels. Keep putting money aside and then use that as your spending money on your trip!
4. Embrace the unknown.
Sometimes the hardest part of planning and taking your dream trip is embracing the unknown that will for sure come. But for me, that’s one of my favorite parts of travel! Embrace everything that comes your way and just take it in stride. Travel won’t always be easy but it will always be fulfilling no matter the circumstances!
5. Travel + Repeat.
So you made it on your dream trip to a fantastic destination and now you’re home and you’re hooked! Start at #1 and do it all over again!
Europe is full of amazing cities: London, Paris, Rome, Vienna… but sometimes you just want to get off the beaten path a bit and experience something a bit more hidden. And while Europe is pretty well traveled and millions of people visit every year, there are still some smaller places that still feel like you are transported to a different time and will blow you away. So if you’re looking to get off the beaten path a little more in Europe this years, here are some of the best (somewhat) hidden gems in Europe.
On our way out of Rome headed to Tuscany, our taxi driver taking us to get our rental car asked us where we were headed. I said Montepulciano. He oo000hed and awwwed in true Italian fashion and told me that Montepulciano was the most beautiful town in all of Tuscany. Turns out he was right. Montepulciano is a true gem in the Tuscany region of Italy and if you go in the shoulder seasons, it’s quiet and straight out of story book.
Belgium in general seems like it was created out of another world and another time, but little Bruges takes that ideal a step further. Set on little canals with buildings dating back centuries, you’ll feel catapulted to another time wandering through beautiful little Bruges. Grab a Belgian waffle from the open market and wander for a few hours – you can thank me later!
Iceland is becoming more and more touristy and while the Golden Circle and Reykjavik seem to be tourist central these days, we’ve opted on our last few trips to explore more of the other areas of the country that are still a little far for the tourism flood to follow. One such place where you can still find the quietness that Iceland used to have is in the North, which takes hours to get to and spans a decent distance to explore. But it’s here in the North that you’ll find the landscapes that take your breath away, where you might be the only human for miles around and where Iceland is still raw in its purest form.
Bushmills, Northern Ireland
Just 10 minutes from the Giant’s Causway in Northern Ireland lies the little town of Bushmills. If you’re a whiskey drinker, you’ll recognize the name and yes, this is where it’s made. And while many might recognize the name, the little town of Bushmills is a far cry from the cosmopolitan Belfast just a little over an hour away. Bushmills transports you back to old Ireland years and years ago and you’ll love the quaint charm of this little Irish town.
Hallstatt is one of those places that seems to flood every bloggers photo feeds in the last couple years. It’s been on my list for a while and when we finally made the trek to this tiny little Austrian town beside a lake at the base of giant mountains, I was so glad we did. The location of Hallstatt is in itself pretty magical, as fog hangs along the mountains and the lakes shimmers around you, you’ll be in awe of the landscape around you. And then the town, with no cars and tiny little roads and tiny little houses, is so cute that you feel like it can’t be real. Hallstatt is well worth the visit, if only for a couple hours to wander – it’s so tiny, that’s all you’ll need!