Go See Do Photography

A Lot of Travel, A Little Bit of History, and a Whole Bunch of Photos

Category: Travel Tips (Page 1 of 2)

Wineries of the Hill Country

Wine Glass

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One of the things the Texas Hill Country is known for is wineries. There are over 50 tasting rooms to visit all around the Hill Country but Fredericksburg is kind of the epicenter of the action. If you don’t have a car or aren’t planning on heading out of town, there are more than ten winery tasting rooms right on Main Street. That being said, I highly recommend taking the drive out of town to see the vineyards if you have the time.

Winery on the Gruene

While I frequently tout TripAdvisor for trip planning, it’s not my go-to when planning a wine trip. I find that people’s differing opinions on wine have left me disappointed by their recommendations. Instead, I turn to the professionals at Wine Traveler. They have pointed me in the direction of some spectacular wine I wouldn’t have found otherwise. Another source I used to plan this trip is a Lonely Planet guidebook, Wine Trails of the United States and Canada. All of the wineries they recommended were wonderful as well.

One thing we learned on this trip is that there is a little bit of political drama involved in Texas wine right now. Currently, a wine can be labeled a Texas Wine if at least 75% of grapes were grown in Texas. I’ve been told this is not uncommon in a new wine region. A few of the wineries are trying to change this now that Texas is growing more and more grapes. The wineries that use 100% Texas grapes are very proud of that fact and will point you to other wineries that do the same.

Because of COVID, most of the wineries were requiring reservations if you want to do a tasting. Some of them allowed you to just sit outside with a glass or bottle without a reservation, but it is important to do some research before you arrive. It would be a bummer to drive all the way out to a winery and be turned away because there’s not space for you!

Portrait in front of Wine Barrels

In the barrel room at Kuhlman Cellars

One of the most unique experiences we had was doing what they call the “Estate Experience” at Kuhlman Cellars.  We got a private tour where we got to go into the barrel room and taste wine right out of the barrel. At Lewis Wines, we had a private tasting with the winemaker. At Newsom Vineyards, we got to talk to the owner and winemaker who everyone in the Texas wine industry seems to know. We had some wonderful wines at Becker Vineyards served by some of the most attentive and friendly staff.  William Chris had some of the best wines we tasted on this trip and they had a beautiful lawn with live music that I would’ve loved to hang out in if we had a little more time. If you’re planning a wine trip the Hill Country, these are my top picks!

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to come back next week to read about our time exploring LBJ’s ranch. To read more about this trip, check out the Texas Hill Country Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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In Defense of Paper Guide Books

My Growing Travel Bookshelf

In the age of the internet containing the answer to every question you could ever think to ask, I have been turning back to good old fashioned paper guidebooks. While being stuck at home, I have been searching Amazon for cheap, used travel guides to inspire me and fuel my wanderlust. Books like 100 Countries 5,000 Ideas, Food Journeys of a Lifetime, 50 States 500 State Parks, and Complete National Parks of the United States have me reading up on places I had never before considered visiting and adding to my travel bucket list.

Libraries can be great places to check out travel books for free

Do you ever begin researching a destination on the internet and get overwhelmed with conflicting information? Whereas anyone can leave a TripAdvisor review or write a blog post, guidebooks are typically written by experts, whether they are locals or frequent visitors. They recommend places where they have had consistently good experiences and can suggest off-the-beaten-path locations to get you away from the crowds. I love Pinterest with its eye-catching pictures, but I can’t be the only one to pin something and then go back later and not be able to find it. When you have a book sitting on the shelf, you know exactly where it is.

In 2019, print books made up 93% of publisher’s revenue meaning that physical books are still popular. A screen doesn’t give the same feeling as holding a book and turning its pages. I do have a few travel guides in ebook form but they are harder to reference and in general more difficult to use.  When you’re on your trip you don’t have to rely on the internet to be able to access information about your location, just toss the guidebook in your bag and be on your way.

From the picture at the top of this post, you can tell that one of the reasons I enjoy guidebooks is because you can show them off. Just like I enjoy decorating my house with my travel photos, the travel bookshelf in my living room gives a little insight into the places I love. Yes, some of these large books full of full-color photos can be pricey. You can often get great deals on used books on Amazon if you aren’t in a hurry. My love of travel books may cause me to have to buy another bookshelf, though.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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Turo: A Modern Car Rental Option

When planning our Austin trip, we decided to save money and not rent a car.  Austin is a very walkable city and I never felt the least bit unsafe walking around. Uber and Lyft are prevalent in Austin as well. If you’re looking for something a little cheaper and more exciting, Revel mopeds are all over the place as well as the slightly more dangerous Lime Scooters. If you’re looking to go a little further without going through the traditional rental car companies, I highly recommend Turo.

We now have crowd sourced taxi services through uber and Lyft, grocery delivery from Shipt and Instacart, and food delivery from Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Grubhub. Now, rental cars have become crowd sourced through Turo, which allows you to rent cars directly from people. If you’re interested in unusual cars, Turo has more options than the rental car agencies. You can find a showy sports car, a camper van, or a rugged truck.

Barton Springs Pool

Where traditional rental companies encourage longer rentals, Turo allows you to even rent for a single day, which is what we did to get out of downtown Austin and head to Mount Bonnell. We rented a tiny, electric, Fiat 500, which is the exact opposite of the massive Nissan Armada we got tricked into renting to drive to the Grand Canyon last year (there are only two of us. Why would we need a third row of seats? We didn’t really even need the second row). It was the first time we had ever driven an electric car and that was an experience, but it wasn’t difficult to find free electric charging stations in Austin which made it much cheaper than renting a typical gas powered vehicle. And with a ridiculously low $20/day rate, it was hard to go wrong with that tiny car.

With Turo being so new, they’re not as common outside of the big cities. There were plenty of cars to choose from in Austin but there’s only a few available where I live. Of course, since you are renting someone’s personal vehicle there are mileage limits that the traditional rental car agencies have done away with. So, Turo may not be the best option for your next road trip, but its a great choice if you are traveling to a city and would like to be able to explore it with your own wheels.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

Turo did not pay me to write this, but if they offer, I wouldn’t decline. 😉

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6 Ways to Beat Post Vacation Blues

Coming back from vacation is hard! On vacation you’re relaxing, seeing new places, and sleeping in. Now, you’re home, you’re back to your regular schedule, and it feels like you never left. Here are some tips to get over that post-vacation slump!

    Edit your photos – Even if you don’t have professional editing software, it is a lot of fun to improve your vacation photos before sharing them online! A few minor tweaks can make a lot of difference in your pictures.
  1. Create a photo book – I do this for every trip we take! It is so much fun to put your pictures into print and tell the story of your trip! I’m not loyal to any photo book company. I just try to get the best deal. You can often find good deals on Groupon!
  2. Recreate a great meal from your trip – Food and memory are closely related so recreating your favorite meal will jog your memory and allow you to share your trip with friends and family at home in a way that’s less annoying than the stereotypical slideshow.
  3. Take a day trip – Can’t take another vacation this year? Don’t fret! Find someplace new nearby to explore. Be a tourist in your own town! Sometimes we spend so much time thinking about getting away, we miss the experiences that are close to us.
  4. Keep your eye on travel deals – You never know when the next airline sale will pop up with a deal that you just can’t beat! Airfarewatchdog is a great service that will let you know when a specific flight goes on sale.
  5. Start planning your next trip – Think about where you want to go next? Do you want to return to a favorite destination or find someplace new? Check out Pinterest for inspiration for your next getaway and follow blogs like this one for travel ideas!

Thanks for stopping by! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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Cruise Planning Tips

Ship at Sunset

Sunset on Norwegian Gem

It is quite possible that I enjoy planning a trip as much as the trip itself. Planning and research makes the anticipation of a trip so exciting! Alright, you used my tips from last week to book your cruise. Now, what?

Gem in Nassau 19/100

Norwegian Gem in Nassau, Bahamas

1. Buy trip insurance. Trip insurance is something I never really thought about before, but for a cruise it is incredibly important. If you get sick and have to be evacuated off of the ship, your health insurance will not usually cover it. You don’t want to end up with thousands of dollars of medical bills that could’ve been prevented with a $100 insurance policy. I really like the options on insuremytrip.com.

2. Find out what travel documents you need. Are visas required for any of your ports? Do you need to renew your passport? It can take weeks to get a new passport so you don’t want to put that off.

3. Set a flight alert on Hopper. I love that Hopper searches for flight deals for me and lets me know when is the best time to book. It frees me up to think about other parts of the trip that are much more fun!

4. Research the ship. Read about it on the Cruise Line’s website. Cruise Critic also has lots of ship reviews to help give you an idea about what your cruise  is going to be like. Figure out what needs to be booked in advance. Can you book dining or shows before boarding? Is it necessary to book it in advance?

5. Research the ports. Cruise Critic has great port guides that tell you everything you need to know about your ports. What are the most popular things to do in each port? What currency do they use? What language do they speak? How safe are they? This will give you an idea about if you want to explore the port on your own or if you should take an organized excursion.

Evening on Deck

Evening on Carnival Valor

6. Start looking for a hotel or pre-cruise stay. I think by now, you know I’m a huge fan of AirBNB. If you are driving to the cruise port, look for a hotel that offers free parking for cruise passengers. That could save you a lot of money!

7. Book your excursions. Finding the perfect excursion can be a little overwhelming. Do you want to book through the cruise line or do you want to use an outside company and save some money? For our upcoming cruise, we got a $50 shore excursion credit through NCL, but even with that, they were significantly more expensive than Shore Excursioneer on the cave tubing in Belize City. For our Costa Maya day, we booked through NCL because we have a limited time in port and I was worried that an outside company won’t get us back to the ship in time. If you book a shore excursion through an outside company, make sure you let them know what time you have to be back on the ship. Most of them have a guarantee that they will get you back to the ship in time, just like the cruise lines. This is how they make money so they will do everything they can to make sure you don’t miss the ship.

Skyline Sailaway 14/100

Sailing out of New York Harbor

8. Book onboard activities. NCL opens up their dining reservations 60 days before sailing. If you are not planning on doing any specialty dining you probably don’t have to book anything in advance. They do reserve some times to be booked onboard, but to get a table at the busy times, it doesn’t hurt to book in advance. For the larger ships, you can even book your shows online ahead of time. This is my first time on a mega ship, so I will let you know how that goes!

9. Pack. Ok, you don’t want to do this too far in advance, but you can start planning what you want to bring before you actually start to pack. Maybe you have to go shopping. That’s always fun! Space is limited in cruise ship cabins, so you do not want to overpack. Think about how many formal nights there will be. How many swim suits will you need? What will you wear on sea days or in port? I’ve been trying to find a good Caribbean Cruise packing list and I haven’t been able to find one I like. I may have to post mine after this cruise!

Thanks for stopping by! Did I forget anything? Let me know in the comments! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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Choose Your Cruise

Carnival Valor in Ocho Rios, Jamaica

It’s the time of year where it’s hard to get the motivation to get outside and take pictures. It doesn’t help that this has been such a weird winter with its temperature fluctuations and winter storm after winter storm. Planning for our upcoming cruise is the only thing keeping me going right now.

Our cruise is getting close and I think we have everything booked. We have booked our flights and our pre-cruise stay. We’ve made our specialty dining reservations and booked our shore excursions. I think all that’s left is packing our bags but it may be a little early for that.

In all of my planning, I think I’ve learned a thing or two about picking and planning for a cruise and I thought it would be a good idea to share! Here are the steps I use to pick my next cruise!

Atrium on Carnival Valor

1. Think about when you’d like to cruise. As a teacher, my travel times are limited to times when it is busier and more expensive to travel. If you have more flexibility, you can get great deals and avoid the crowds. Hurricane season tends to be the cheapest time to travel, but be prepared for itineraries to change to avoid storms.

2. Think about where you want to go. The Caribbean is one of the most popular cruise destinations and because of three availability of cruise ships in the Caribbean, it tends to be cheaper than other destinations. Cruises to Alaska are big in the summer months, as well as Mediterranean cruises. My absolute dream cruise is a Hawaiian islands cruise.

3. Think about what kind of atmosphere you’d like on your cruise. Are you looking for something formal? You may want to look at Princess or Celebrity lines. Are you looking for something more high energy? Check out Carnival. Do you want something more laid back? Check out Norwegian.

4. Think about the size of the ship. Smaller ships tend to be more intimate while bigger ships have more options in dining and entertainment.

5. Think about your stateroom. How much time are you planning on staying in your stateroom? If you’re only going to use it for sleeping, you can save money and go with an inside or oceanview cabin. If you plan on spending more time in your room, you should splurge for a balcony cabin or a suite.

Towel animal on Carnival Valor

6. Book your cruise. Typically, the best deals are found booking way in advance or waiting until the last minute. Of course, if you don’t live near a cruise port, booking last minute means higher flight costs, so keep that in mind. Cruise fares are typically the same no matter if you book them through a travel agent or straight from the cruise line. So, once you find your cruise, unlike airfare, shopping around is not really going to save you money.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week when I give more cruise planning tips! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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Lets Talk About Food

Wings at Duff’s in Buffalo, NY

“Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonald’s? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head?” -Anthony Bordain

Hot Brown from Ramsey’s in Lexington, KY

If you fly across the world, see the sites, but then eat at a restaurant that you have by your house, did you truly experience the culture of the place you visited? I have to say you did not. I don’t think you can truly experience a place and a culture without trying their food. James Beard said “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”

In all of our travels we try to find unique dining experiences, foods we can’t get at home. Do we typically dine at 5 star restaurants, of course not. Sometimes it’s as basic as finding a local fast food chain that we don’t have at home. If it’s something I can get at home, I try to avoid it while traveling. There was a time a few years ago that we were in Chicago and I was getting hangry. I really wanted to try to find a cool, local place to eat, but my hunger was getting in the way of making decisions. We ended up eating at Panera and I was so upset that I wasted one of our few meals in Chicago on something that is 5 minutes from my house.

Bento Box from Wild Ginger in Corning, NY

With all the technology we have it is so easy to find good and authentic food wherever you go. I talk about it all the time, but TripAdvisor is a great way to get travelers’ honest opinions on restaurants and find places that are under the radar. When we were in Boston we found this very trendy Mexican restaurant called Lolita Cantina. The food was unique and the dining experience is one I will never forget. The meal started with a granita with a splash of tequila and it ended with cotton candy and temporary tattoos.

If you’re looking for something less fancy, go to the dining tab on TripAdvisor and there should be a section labeled cheap eats. We tried all kinds of good restaurants that were unbelievably inexpensive. My favorite was a tiny Italian restaurant in Concord, Massachusetts that served huge portions of pasta. It was not a place I would’ve found just walking around. We also had really good gyros near the campus of Southern New Hampshire State University.

Thin Mint Latte at Higher Grounds in Traverse City, MI

When you travel, branch out of your comfort zone. Try some foods you wouldn’t try at home. It will expand your horizons and transform you. Talk to the people where you’re staying. Find out where they like to eat. Of course check out TripAdvisor. You won’t be disappointed.

Do you have any tips for finding authentic places to eat when you travel? Let me know in the comments.

Thank you for stopping by! Do you have any trip planning tips that I missed? Let me know in the comments! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

National Plan for Vacation Day

The last Tuesday in January is designated as National Plan for Vacation Day. Why? I have no idea, but I have been doing a lot of planning lately and thought I could talk about it here. As I mentioned in my annual New Years post, I have two trips coming up in the next few months and I have been busy planning for all the little details for those trips.

Since it had been a few years since we had flown, the search for the perfect flights took a lot of searching and waiting, and searching some more. One thing I learned from this search is that nowadays, most of the best deals will actually be found booking directly through the airline, instead of Expedia or a company like that. I used both Kayak and Skyscanner to search with Hopper to tell when the was the best time to book. For both of our trips, we got better deals on one-way flights than on a round trip tickets. Those sites helped us pick through all of the flights find the best deals.

For both of our upcoming trips, we are staying in AirBNBs. AirBNB is great because it allows you to find inexpensive vacation rentals for every need. You just want to crash on a couch, you can probably find it on AirBNB. You need a house for 10? They have that too. AirBNB was a saving grace for our pre-cruise stay in New Orleans because hotels near the port are $300+ per night.

There aren’t many AirBNBs near the Grand Canyon that still have availability a month out, so we went the hotel route for that night. My trick for finding hotel deals is to look at both TripAdvisor and Priceline. TripAdvisor has the reviews and Priceline has the best deals. We ended up getting a great price on the #1 hotel in Grand Canyon, Arizona by checking Priceline before booking TripAdvisor’s deal.

I have been scouring Pinterest for how to handle one day at the Grand Canyon as well as must dos for a short trip to New Orleans. TripAdvisor is great for finding the heart of an area, but it can be overwhelming, especially with a limited amount of time. I’ve been enjoying reading what Bloggers enjoyed during their trips and what they would recommend skipping.

Thank you for stopping by! Do you have any trip planning tips that I missed? Let me know in the comments! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

East Coast Adventure

Cadillac Mountain Panorama

Looking back on this trip, and I have to think that this was one of the best trips in my recent memory. We visited three places that I have wanted to visit for years. We visited three places that I want to return to. There is so much history in Boston. There is no way to see it all in a day. Acadia National Park is giant and I feel like we only scratched the surface. Watkins Glen is one of the most breathtaking places I have ever seen. I would love to see it in the fall. All three of the stops on this trip will have to be revisited later.

Soldiers & Sailors Monument

Boston Highlights: Honestly, the best thing about our time in Boston was dinner at a trendy, Mexican restaurant called Lolita Cantina that was unlike anything we have at home. The meal started with a complimentary granita with a splash of tequila and ended with cotton candy and temporary tattoos. I often wondered if I was cool enough to eat there. I was worried they were going to throw me out. For me the biggest thing about Boston was just being in this historic city. Boston played a huge part in the early part of our country and there are many sites to see. Walking the freedom trail and knowing all that happened there was unreal.

Acadia Highlights: My favorite part of Acadia was probably the sweeping vistas along the Park Loop Road. I’ve thought about that a lot since I’ve been back home. When work gets tough, I can go back to Cadillac Mountain and hear the rush of the water and smell the salt air. Its not a matter of if I will get back there but a when. And it needs to be for longer. And maybe not in August. Lunch at The Jordan Pond House was good too. Eating a lobster roll and looking out over Jordan Pond is not something you can do anywhere else.

Watkins Glen Gorge Trail

Watkins Glen Highlights: Obviously, Corning Museum of Glass was great and I want to go back and create some more glass. But, the gorge trail at Watkins Glen State Park was unlike anything I had seen before. As beautiful as Acadia was, Watkins Glen was more photogenic. The beauty was more compact. Every turn was more beautiful than the one before. I had expected beauty and was blown away.

As I kind of mentioned about Boston, one of the best things about this trip was the food. We utilized TripAdvisor’s Cheap Eats a lot and got to try off the beaten path places that were surprisingly good! We had Asian Fusion is Corning, Gyros in New Hampshire, and poutine in Boston. Probably one of the best was a little Italian Place in Lexington (Massachusetts) called Marios that had unlimited bread and ridiculous portions of very good pasta. We were able to get out of there for less than $25 for two people. It was insane. We wouldn’t have found it without TripAdvisor.

Thank you for stopping by and for following along with this trip! To read more about our East Coast Adventure, click the link to get to our itinerary. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

Planning a Road Trip

Carnegie Library

Its that time of the year where school is out and vacation planning and weekend getaways are in full swing. This summer, we are planning a road trip out to Acadia National Park in Maine. I was super excited to see that my library (pictured above – See how I made that photo fit this post? Clever, right?) has several tour books for Acadia so I didn’t have to shell out the money for them right now. I have seen some gorgeous photos from Acadia so I am super excited to be able to capture some of the iconic views myself!

Since this is a road trip, we are also stopping in Boston and Watkins Glen, New York. Chris wants to make a stop in Salem as well. I am looking forward to getting immersed in some early American history like on last year’s vacation. What’s in Watkin’s Glen? A beautiful state park I have seen many pictures of and I have wanted to visit for years. Its a park that is full of picturesque waterfalls and stunning gorges! I hope that it lives up to my expectations. I’m also hoping to be able to stop at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art which has been on my list since I first heard about it.

As always, when planning road trips, I love Furkot. It helps me space out my stops and makes it so I am not too ambitious with my daily mileage (which happened on our first road trip). Be sure to stay tuned to the blog for recaps of the trip when I return!

Thanks for stopping by! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com and sign up for our newsletter!

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