Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Travel Resources for This Year's Adventures


        You’ve booked flights on Expedia.  You’ve relied on Tripadvisor. As you look ahead to what fun and excitement you can cook up this year, take some some tips from my toolbox.         

        Just have time for a daytrip or short weekend?  Check out www.skiway.netGo “on an astonishing journey into the past, where historic figures appear on stage…you question them... the audiences are always a part of the show...and the shows are FREE!” at Greenville’s Chautauqua.  Kick up your heels Myrtle Beach’s “Square and Round Dancers’ Fun in the Sun”.  At “iMagine Upstate Festival” in Greenville six stages “include a maker-space, robotics battle, live science demonstration, drone flight experience and an augmented reality experience.”  At Florence’s Pecan Festival you can “Run Like a Nut”. There’s ice skating in town squares, steeplechases in Camden, championship rodeos in Blythewood and festivals and runs galore.  All at our doorstep.

       Scenic drives are a wonderful way to spend a vacation and each state has routes designed to appeal to traveler’s interests.  Among the several listed at www.visitflorida.com is the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail. To the tune of Stephen Foster’s “Old Folks at Home”, you can drive to “a collection of springs, fishing villages and Class III rapids” over the 207 miles from northern Florida to the Gulf of Mexico. Georgia does a particularly good job of marketing driving tours that are arranged to highlight presidential, civil war or plantation history. They’re at www.ExploreGeorgia.com.   

        Photos from a gigantic twig sculpture, Coral Castle, the world’s biggest cherry pie, a ten-acre whirligig farm, a house-size chest of drawers and other oddities fill our family albums.  Find these crazy pit stops on one of my favorite websites:  www.roadsideamerica.com.  It will remind you that the journey is the destination.

Let a soundtrack guide you to your next trip.   Start at www.musicfestivaljunkies.com where you’ll see hundreds of worldwide music festivals listed.  How about Serbia’s Exit Festival that takes place in a17th century Petrovaradin fortress? Or the Jam Cruise out of Miami: a “one of a kind music and vacation experience featuring 5 days of music aboard a luxurious cruise ship”?
Eschew the chain hotel for a more authentic experience. www.vrbo.com has been a great resource for us. On a girl’s trip to Chicago we stayed in a huge loft with a gourmet kitchen. In Amsterdam, friends joined us in a two bedroom apartment overlooking a canal. The friendly owners in Puerto Rico recommended restaurants near their lovely pied-รก-terre. Often the cost is less than multiple hotel rooms if you’re with a group or if you’re staying a week or more. With Charleston being such a popular destination, it would be easy to take part in house swapping. Check out www.lovehomeswap.com and consider trading for a 3-bedroom apartment with a view of the Eiffel Tower or penthouse on the sea in Tuscany. Annie and her family had a “fantastic experience” trading their Sullivan’s Island house for a rural farm in Tuscany. “He even let us drink his wine and olive oil” as they toured the countryside from Pisa to Cinque Terre. Here’s a website I’ll be exploring this year: www.glampinghub.com. It offers unique properties worldwide including barns, treehouses, caves and cabins ranging from rustic to luxurious. How does a vineyard yurt in Barcelona sound? It’s only $88 per night. Or a treehouse near Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii. You can even stay for free if you’re willing to couch surf which involves staying with locals in their homes (or hosting travelers in yours) Sign up at www.couchsurfing.com, a network of 10 million interesting locals in over 230 countries. 

    Travelling has joined the emerging sharing economy.  On
www.vayable.com locals in cities around the world share authentic experiences with travelers.  A photography walking tour in Paris, a food crawl in Rome, a tour of Cuenca, Ecuador for those considering retirement there are all examples on their extensive website. On www.eatwith.com and www.travelingspoon.com vetted chefs host small pop-up dinners in their homes.  While in Bali, Meryl and her family spent 3 hours in a family compound preparing multiple dishes from scratch with their Indonesian hosts, using only ingredients grown nearby.  “We shredded coconut with a little bark grater while two little ladies cooked over a fire all night.  We ground spices into pastes for the sauces.”  It was one of their most memorable experiences, especially the delicious corn fritters.

      For active vacations, check out bicycling trips at www.backroads.com, or horseback riding at www.hiddentrails.com. The independent travel sites www.bootsnall.com or www.gonomad.com and www.travelsignposts.com have extensive compilations of first-hand experiences that stray from the beaten path.
      Armchair travelling, I love it. I can spend hours reading reviews and imagining trips. If you’re like me and enjoy the planning almost as much as the going, these resources will launch you on your next adventure.