Go See Do Photography

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

Tag: Trip Planning

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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How to Feed Your Wanderlust in Quarantine

New York Skyline from the Norwegian Gem

I don’t know about you, but being stuck at home day in and day out is really starting to get to me. We had a trip planned a few weeks ago that we had to cancel and that really stung. When the highlight of your week is going to the grocery store or catching some sun on your deck, you know you’re going stir crazy!

  • Reminisce over past trips: Edit photos, get out your travel souvenirs, make a photo book, write about your adventures, create a photo gallery wall with your travel photos. I just got a photo travel map to add pictures to.
  • Read travel books: Libraries are closed but many have resources available to check out electronically. Visit your library’s website for more information. While it takes longer and does cost some money, pick a dream destination and order a book from Amazon. I got a National Parks book and Northern California book to read while stuck at home. Not into reading travel guides? There are great memoirs and novels out there to feed your travel bug too.
  • Binge travel shows: With so many streaming services out there these days, you can always find something to watch! To fuel your wanderlust, I recommend checking out National Parks: America’s Best Idea (Amazon Prime), Travel Man (Hulu), Expedition: Unknown (Hulu),  Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations (Hulu), Somebody Feed Phil (Netflix), and Samantha Brown’s Places to Love (free on PBS.com and the PBS app).

The view from the top of South Bubble Mountain

  • Create your travel bucket list: Where do you dream to visit? Make a list. Chris and I did this a few years ago and without even realizing it, when I found the list again last summer, we had already crossed a few places off of it. Organizing our thoughts helped us to make decisions about future trips.
  • Plan your dream trip: While you have extra time, research a bucket list trip. Figure out where you would stay, eat, what you would like to see. Start at trip on TripAdvisor or make a vacation Pinterest board. A Cornell study shows that planning a trip can make you as happy, if not happier, than actually taking it. If you, like me have a flight credit from a cancelled trip, pick a place and book it. We booked flights to California for this summer. I know there is a possibility that it won’t be safe to travel when that date comes, but right now it feels good to have something to look forward to and plan for. And if we have to cancel it, I have already saved a lot of places on TripAdvisor for when we can actually get out there.
  • Research places to go near your home: Eventually this virus will go away and you will probably not be able to hop on a plane right then. Find places nearby that you can escape to for a little bit. There may be some places close to your house that you never even knew about before. Check out Google Maps, TripAdvisor, Yelp, ask your friends on Facebook for inspiration. Check out onlyinyourstate.com for unique ideas!

Grand Canyon South Rim

Travel show host Samantha Brown posted something a few weeks ago that really stuck me and I wanted to share it with you. She writes on her blog: “I had to go back to work [hosting travel shows] a week after 9-11. There was the financial crisis of 2007, H1N1, floods, fires and volcanic eruptions. All of these events abruptly changed my immediate course of travel..But one thing I’ve learned in two decades? Travel comes back.” Travel always comes back.

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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2020 Travel Goals

Chris photographing the Grand Canyon

In 2019 we went on a cruise that we had initially booked back on our last cruise in 2015. I had literally been looking forward to that trip for 4 years. Before we took that trip, we booked our Maine trip. Shortly after that trip, we booked our winter Finger Lakes escape (more on that trip to come). Now, we are home with no travel plans for 2020 and with nothing planned, I go stir crazy.

Last year, our Phoenix trip really helped break up the cold, Michigan winter. So, on New Years Eve we began searching for flight deals in February. We found a ridiculous deal on a flight to Austin, Texas so we will be spending a few days there next month! I have never spent any time in Texas, unless you count our 3 hour layover in Dallas early last year. So, I’m excited to explore a new place and I hope it will be warm (unlike Phoenix). We will only be there for a couple of days, but if you have any Austin must-dos, please let me know!

We are also planning to visit Chris’ family in the Tampa area for Spring Break. I haven’t spent much time in that part of Florida. I’m hoping to spend some time on the beach, but to also see the sites. It looks like there are a few interesting museums over there as well as some natural sites to explore.

We don’t have any plans yet for a summer trip, but I’m kind of hoping for something epic. It has been 15 years since I’ve been to Europe and I would love to explore more places over there. But, honestly, I would be happy with more time to see the Upper Peninsula, especially the Western UP. Of course, we feel the pull to return to Maine as well. Who knows where we will end up, but I’m sure I will update you when we have something booked!

Of course, I’m also hoping to do some more Michigan camping trips this summer. Spending time in the Great Outdoors really helps to center me and give me perspective. I would love to revisit some of our favorite campground, whether it be Wilderness State Park, Straits, or D.H. Day. There is also talk of re-visiting the Finger Lakes area next fall, which I can’t get enough of that place so I am definitely up for it! You’ll have to come back here to find out where we end up!

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.

Mainley Acadia Recap

Wow! The trip was at the end of June and its the middle of October and I have finally finished my recap. As you can tell, it was a very busy trip that covered a lot of Mt. Desert Island. We were able to do all of the things that we weren’t able to do on our short visit last year. We hiked South Bubble Mountain and explored the carriage roads. Chris did several other solo hikes that I still need to get him to write about for you.

We watched the sunset over Cadillac Mountain from the water and explored waterfalls I didn’t even know were in the park. We saw several lighthouses and explored the Schoodic side of the park. We visited both the winery and brewery on the Island and spent time exploring Bar Harbor. We stayed in both Southwest and Northeast Harbor and spent time in both towns.

The Terrace Grill in Bar Harbor

We also got to do some shopping and enjoyed a lot of good meals. We picked up some fresh Maine lobster and cooked it at home, which Chris did not enjoy killing. Our first meal in Maine was at a place called The Liberal Cup in Hallowell, Maine. We enjoyed the views at Jordan Pond House and The Terrace Grill in Bar Harbor. We found a breakfast place we enjoyed within walking distance of our house in Southwest Harbor called Sips. We dined for a cause at the Common Good Cafe. Our final Maine meal was at a local hangout in Portland called Becky’s. In all of these places, TripAdvisor helped up find delicious, memorable meals that would otherwise fly under the radar!

After a week in Maine, have I seen it all? Absolutely not. I think I got my Mount Desert Island fix, though and I now I want to spend more time in Portland and I want to go back to Hallowell. I would like to see Castine, as well. Bar Harbor is the biggest tourist area in Maine and I would like to see places where most people don’t go. So, I will definitely have to return to Maine!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, visit the Mainely Acadia Trip Report page. 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.

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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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.

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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Spring is in the Air!

Big Pink Flower

I think it may finally be spring here in Michigan, although there is snow in the 10 day forecast, but I’m just going to pretend I don’t see that and hope it goes away. The longer days and warmer weather mean its time to start planning our summer trips! So far, I have a cruise on the calendar towards the end of summer. In July, I’ve booked a weekend camping trip at Straits State Park in St. Ignace. I am so excited to sit around the campfire under the lights of the Mackinac Bridge again!

We are also talking about heading down to the Hocking Hills in June. I have seen beautiful photos of the scenery there and I would really like to capture it! The park in southern Ohio is full of stunning waterfalls, unique rock formations, and miles of hiking trails.

The final trip of the summer that I am planning is a camping trip in the Porcupine Mountains in the western Upper Peninsula. I have heard so much about the area but the seven hour plus drive is a real deterrent. I am hoping this summer to finally overcome that obstacle and experience Lake of the Clouds and Bond Falls myself.

Where are you planning to visit this summer? Let me know in the comments! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

Vacation Planning

Bodie Island Lighthouse I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I LOVE planning trips. Its possible that I enjoy the planning as much as I enjoy the trip itself. As we are getting closer to our summer road trip, I am really buckling down on the planning. Furkot has been very helpful in planning this trip and where to stop along the way.

Here’s our plan: 2 nights in Williamburg, Virginia; 2 nights in Frisco, North Carolina; 2 Night in Ocracoke, North Carolina; 1 night in Nags Head North Carolina; and 1 night in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.

One thing that is tough about planning this kind of trip is that there are not a lot of resources out there for camping road trips. A lot of the recipes I’ve found online are campfire recipes, which are fun, but when you’re not camping to relax around the campsite all day, you don’t have time for that kind of cooking. I’m having a hard time finding quick and simple recipes that we won’t get sick of on a 10 day trip.

The photo is from my last visit to the Outer Banks, back in 2009. That was before my DSRL days. This photo was taken with my old Samsung point and shoot.  I did pull it into Lightroom to do some basic edits. I think it turned out OK for a mid-day shot with a low level camera.

Thanks for stopping by! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

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