Month: June 2016

A Modern-Day Icelandic Saga

A Modern-Day Icelandic Saga

This post about Iceland is written by our friend and fellow traveler, C. Enjoy! A year and a half ago, B, R and I went to Iceland for a long weekend. We spent a couple of days in Reykjavik and one day touring the Golden 

Getting sick while on the road

Getting sick while on the road

When I was in my 20s, I visited a back specialist and was told that I have the back of an 80-year-old. (Lovely, right?) What this means is that once or twice a year, I tweak it just right and go down for the count 

Choosing your next travel destination…part 2

Choosing your next travel destination…part 2

Comparison Venice, Italy Blue Boats Old Buildings
Venice during Carnival was an extra special experience.

At my day job, we talk a lot about travel and the comparison of different locations. It comes up naturally due to the nature of our business. I work for an engineering consulting firm and we design projects all over the world (not me personally, I am not an engineer). Our engineers are on the road a lot and they get to visit some pretty cool places. To be fair, they also have to travel to some pretty crummy places as well. Regardless, travel is a common topic around the water cooler. Added to that, I have a close group of coworker-friends that all enjoy a good vacation. So we talk destinations and vacation hours and generally get ourselves worked up on a regular basis. It is both wonderful and frustrating all at the same time.

Just last week, I had a conversation with a coworker about her next vacation (we will call her L). She is in the very initial stages of planning her next trip and is trying to decide where to go. Choosing just one place can be a very difficult task. As we discussed the pros and cons of various countries, I remembered the post I recently wrote about choosing your next travel destination. I thought it might be fun to test out my questions on a real-life example (other than my own). L was more than happy to be my guinea pig.

To recap, here is the list of questions I posed when choosing your next travel destination:

  • How much time do you have?
  • How much money can you spend?
  • What time of year is it?
  • What is your risk threshold?
  • Do you have any special requirements?
  • Is there an alternative option?

Country Comparison

Luckily, L had answers for most of the questions. She also had a handful of destinations she was considering choosing (e.g. Amsterdam, Thailand, Spain, Guatemala and Slovenia). I just had to decide how I wanted to compare and contrast the information I was given. After several false starts, I settled on an Excel document. I am not a big fan of Excel (I’m more of an InDesign girl), but since I wanted to try and quantify the results, it seemed the best option.

Research, Research, Research

After setting up my document, I started researching. Since I have not been to all of the destinations L is considering, it seemed best to research all of them equally (stay tuned for a future post on what websites I like to use for researching trips). For each question, I would research a destination and then give it a number between zero and three—three points being the highest and zero being…well, zero. After I finished with the last question, Excel added up the total number of points for each destination. Of course, numbers do not tell the whole story. But it was interesting to see how her destinations added up.

Curious what the results were? Given L’s particular set of circumstances, Guatemala came out on top with Amsterdam coming in a close second. You can see all of the numbers as well as my notes in the photo of the Excel document below. The best part was seeing L’s reaction and I cannot wait to hear which destination she ends up choosing—even if it is not one of the destinations I did the research for!

Excel Country Comparison Document
A comparison of different travel destinations.

Remain Objective…If Possible

For me, it was fascinating to research various destinations and not be emotionally invested. Since I will not be going on this particular vacation, it was easy for me to be objective. And having that objectivity helped tremendously in rating each country. I am not sure it would have been so easy if I was planning this trip for myself. (Although I did make notes for future trips.)

It was also fun. Like really fun. I knew I enjoyed planning my own adventures. But I had no idea I would enjoy planning someone else’s adventure just as much. I guess the next best thing to actually traveling really is planning a trip—whether it’s your own or not!

Speaking of which, do you want some help planning your next vacation? I had so much fun helping L plan hers that I would love to hear from you if you’d like a little assistance. Just send us a comment if you are having a hard time deciding between Venice and Bali and we can do a comparison for you.

Comparison Ornate Doorway Bali Indonesia
If you have the time, Bali is a wonderful destination.


Asking some basic questions and comparing the answers side-by-side can help you narrow down your choices and focus your plans. If nothing else, it can help set realistic expectations for your destination.

UPDATE: L chose Amsterdam and her and husband had a wonderful time exploring that great city.

Weekend camping in the Sawtooths

Weekend camping in the Sawtooths

Ahhhhh summer. While not my favorite season, summer weather does mean some pretty great things like rodeos, drive-ins and camping, to name a few. This post will discuss that last one, camping, since C and I recently camped out in just about my favorite place 

New to Airbnb? Top 10 Reasons to Give it a Try.

New to Airbnb? Top 10 Reasons to Give it a Try.

Are you new to Airbnb? Maybe wondering what all of the fuss is about? That was me about a year ago. I was as green as they get and had never tried any home rental service before. Oh boy, was I missing out. Airbnb was 

Yellowstone: America’s first national park

Yellowstone: America’s first national park

2016 is the National Park Service’s (NPS) one hundred year anniversary. And anyone who knows me knows I love me some National Parks. As Yellowstone was the first of America’s National Parks, it seemed apropos that we added it to the ol’ list of things to do this year. We did some research, talked to some quasi-locals (my brother in Montana) and made a plan. The following describes what we learned beforehand and along the way.

Old Faithful geyser eruption
Old Faithful showing off.

When to go to Yellowstone

Yellowstone is located in parts of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. It is high in the Rocky Mountains (think 6,000+ feet above sea level), which means it very, very cold for a lot of the year. Most of the roads are closed in the winter because they are covered with snow. And since they only open when the snow has melted, that date changes every year depending on spring temperatures.

This year the roads opened around the beginning of May, so we decided to go mid-May. Also influencing this decision is the fact that Yellowstone is the one of the most visited parks in the nation. In 2015, over four million people went there, mainly in the summer months. B and I struggle with crowds of tourists, so we wanted to beat the rush. There were still plenty of people when we were there, so I can only imagine what high season looks like (shudder).

Grand Prismatic, Yellowstone
Grand Prismatic being Grand

How to go to Yellowstone

Grand Teton National Park is just south of Yellowstone in Wyoming. Being as this park has stunning views of the Teton Mountain Range, it just makes sense to drive up from the south. You might as well take US-89 North and take in the beauty. Connecting the two parks is land that was donated by Mr. John D. Rockefeller who thought this area was so beautiful he bought it up after visiting. Lucky for us, he gave it back to the NPS. The road will take you right into Yellowstone where you will have to pay the entrance fee.


A seven-day pass to Yellowstone will set you back $30 for a single car. If you want to explore Teton, it will cost you another $30. They do offer a combo pass for $50, but if you really want to save some money and love national parks as much as I do, I suggest you just buy an annual pass. An annual pass will get you into any National Park, Monument, Historic Site and Landmark for a whole year–all for the bargain price of $80. I got mine last December at Olympic National Park and I’ve already paid it off.

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone
Mammoth Hot Springs–lots of yellow travertine.

What to see at Yellowstone

Neither B nor I had visited Yellowstone for several years so we wanted to check out the main attraction: Old Faithful. We arrived at Old Faithful and walked around the different geysers, amusing ourselves by guessing their names before looking at the placards. B picked the best name when she came up with Double Trouble.

Not so Secret Hike

There is a hike right above Old Faithful called the Observation Point Trail that offers a really nice view of the area. When we got to the top of the trail we noticed a few people waiting around with their tripods and wondered when Old Faithful was going to do its thing. There are a few websites that track eruptions and we miraculously had cell phone service up at that observation point. We learned that the average time between eruptions was 92 minutes and luckily for us, we got to the top 80 minutes after the last eruption. So we only had to wait five minutes before she blew. It was a really nice viewpoint to see the eruption and we didn’t have to share it with all of the other tourists. We learned in a ‘Hidden Secrets of National Parks’ book that the Observation Point Trail is a secret gem that not many know about. This would be especially satisfying in the middle of summer when it is packed next to the geyser.

Mud pots. But you probably shouldn’t soak in it.

What to know about Yellowstone

Yellowstone has had a rough anniversary year thus far. Right before we left, a well-meaning-but-not-very-smart-man decided a baby bison looked cold. So he put the thing inside his car and drove it to a ranger’s station. They had to euthanize the poor thing and the man was fined. Also fined were a group of not-well-meaning-and-not-very-smart men who thought their Instagram photo would be even more impressive if they left the designated boardwalk and romped all over the sensitive geological features. They got a warrant for their arrests. Sadly, a man just lost his life after going into one of the hottest geysers in the park. If trends hold, by the end of summer, several people will have also been injured because they got too close to the wild animals. Yellowstone is 3,500 square miles of WILDerness and should to be respected as such.

Baby Bison in a snowstorm
Baby Bison!!!! Awwww!!!


Yellowstone is gorgeous and full of interesting animals and geological features that make it one of a kind. You should definitely go (especially during the non-peak season) and explore the park that inspired national parks to be created around the nation and world. But for the love, don’t touch the baby bison!

To cruise or not to cruise?

To cruise or not to cruise?

Cruise ship travel is not for everyone. So “to cruise or not to cruise?” is the question I will try to answer today. Cruise ship travel may be perfect for you. Or it may be the worst idea ever for your travel style. Or maybe, 

Tips for surviving those awful international flights

Tips for surviving those awful international flights

Back in February, B and I headed off to Hawaii so I could join her in the Fifty States Club.  (Meaning  we had visited all 50 states.) We caught a quick hop to Seattle and then flew to Kona on the Big Island. I knew