Where would you go to make an anniversary holiday more like a second honeymoon?

My wife and I had our 13th anniversary a few days ago. Every August we begin thinking about a second honeymoon – not just a trip but an another honeymoon. This year, resorts were the main topic of discussion because friends recently told us about their honeymoon holiday in Mauritius. This was their second honeymoon and their 15th anniversary. Their first honeymoon was at Woodstock 1999 – more on that later but let’s just say that Woodstock 99 was not great honeymoon material.

Mauritius, our friends say, is perfect honeymoon material. Mauritius has mountain views, turquoise seas, palm trees, and white sandy beaches. Our friends spent 4 of 6 days in their resort. They relaxed on the beach, played in the pool, ate and drank whenever they felt like it, napped on the beach, snorkeled and swam in the ocean, practiced archery (good for a possible future zombie apocalypse), rose horses, and played golf. Other days, they would take day trips. They had a guide for Les 7 Cascades. Hiking at the Seven Cascades, means great scenery as long as you have hiking boots. It also means playing underneath a waterfall as long as you bring your bathing suit. You may also want to bring a light raincoat. Another day they rented a scooter from their hotel and toured the island, noting that Port Louis waterfront and market and Grand Bay are especially worthwhile.

So let me interrupt our friends’ story with my own thought for my second honeymoon. The second honeymoon has to be low-stress. Our first honeymoon involved me taking a language teaching course in Rome for the first month. I didn’t get to pay much attention to my beautiful new bride because of school. Then we went to Assisi, which was much better because we spent all our time together. But Assisi was still not stress-free. We still had to find accommodation and find our way around the (thankfully small) city. I think getting lost was a stressor and the expenses of eating out maybe stressed us out some too. We were simply too poor for a 9 week honeymoon, but we did it anyway.

So to make the second honeymoon low stress, you want to budget the trip – make it a week instead of a couple months so you don’t have to try to honeymoon on the cheap. Take our friends for example. When they arrived, friendly tour operators met them. The tour operators took care of the luggage and took them to the resort. There they received a welcome drink and an ice towel to help cool off. Hotel staff delivered their luggage to the room. The room had a great view of the bay, “Just Married” sandals, and letter from the Hotel. They didn’t have any of that stuff at Woodstock 99 and we didn’t have any of that stuff when we did Italy on a shoestring budget. I guess it’s those luxury things that make you feel pampered, like you’re honeymooning. Of course I still need to test that theory.

Our friends option included breakfast and dinners. They received a complimentary foot massage at the hotel’s spa. They had a romantic dinner at Chateau Mon Desir (a five star restaurant). They certainly didn’t have gourmet meals at Woodstock 99 (although the prices were gourmet-like) and I don’t think anyone there was touching anyone else’s feet. We had it a little better in Assisi – there was one restaurant, Il Duomo, that we loved and visited probably 20 times during our stay. No massages for us either though.

So what do you think makes a holiday a second honeymoon? Is it relaxing on the beach? Getting pampered at the spa? Luxury vs. budget travel? Would you recommend Mauritius for a second honeymoon?

Travel Ideas: Camping Adventures Out West (preferably with your dog)

Another month or so and fall arrives in many parts of the U.S., another school year begins, and summer vacations come to an end. Fortunately, there is still time for the family and the family pet to enjoy a camping adventure at a dog friendly national park somewhere out West. The weather is ideal for being outdoors in the exhilarating air of the high elevations (5,000′ to 11,000′ at Eagle Peak) at Yellowstone National Park. Average daytime temperatures are in the 70′s and much cooler in the 40′s at night.

Established in 1872, Yellowstone is one of the largest national parks in the U.S., covering more than 2,000,000 acres in Wyoming and into Idaho and Montana. Famous for geysers (Old Faithful), mountain herds of bison and elk, forests, petrified trees, and waterfalls, the scenery and diversity of plant and animal life are simply breathtaking.

Campers can choose from 12 different campgrounds located throughout the park; five have more conveniences and require reservations. The other seven have more than 400 campsites which require no reservations. Although there are five different entrances to Yellowstone, this article will focus on campgrounds with tent sites near the South Entrance. Campsites are limited to six people, and your dog or dogs (usually limited to 2), for a maximum of 14 days in July – Labor Day. Drinking water is available and wood and charcoal campfires are allowed, subject to wildfire restrictions, quite common in Yellowstone. Your dog must not be left unattended and kept in a carrier or on a leash, 6′ or less, at all times. Owners are responsible for their pet’s behavior on the trails and in the campground. Be aware of wolves, grizzly bears, mountain lions, and other wildlife which roam freely through the park and can be a threat to yourself and your dog(s).

Grant Village campground at Yellowstone Lake is about 22 miles north of the South Entrance of the park. The campground offers 430 campsites with flush toilets, dump station, pay showers, and laundry. Visitor Center (open 8am-7pm), post office, gas station, campground store, and other facilities nearby.
Campsite cost – $26/night (two showers a night included). Reservations required (307-344-7311).

Bridge Bay is another popular campground with 432 beautiful sites by the lake, about 30 miles from the East Entrance. Dump station & flush toilets; pay showers and laundry about 4 miles away. Boat launch and store at the marina. Campsite cost – $21.50/night.

Lewis Lake campground, only 8 miles from the South Entrance, is a good, inexpensive choice, especially if fishing is part of your travel plans. This is a very basic campground with vault toilets, but you will enjoy the peaceful setting and still have the facilities of Grant Village, a short distance away. Campsite cost – $15/night, reservations not required. There are only 85 campsites, so arrive early. Fishing permits – $18/3 days, $25/7 days.
(Notes: There are eight visitor centers and a museum located within the park. See nps.gov/yell for detailed information on Yellowstone.)
Park Entrance fee – $25/vehicle (for seven days)

Grand Teton National Park, about 10 miles from the South Entrance of Yellowstone on the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway, can be easily included in your camping adventure. The 310,000 acres of the park are much less than Yellowstone, but just as beautiful on a smaller scale. Known for stunning views of the Teton Range in the Rocky Mountains, more than 100 lakes, and wildlife, the high elevations provide wonderful camping weather during the summer. Grand Teton is a dog friendly park, but they are not allowed in certain areas such as on pathways or inside park facilities. The basic rule is they can go wherever a car can go. Be aware this is bear country, and always carefully store food, cosmetics, and any items carrying a scent to avoid attracting them. Be sure and Include bear spray in your camping gear.

The seven campgrounds, Colter Bay, Gros Ventre, Jenny Lake, Headwaters, Lizard Creek, and Signal Mountain, charge $22/night per campsite for a maximum of 14 days. Jenny Lake campground is the one exception with a 7-day maximum stay. Reservations are not required for campsites, but they fill up quickly. The same rules apply for your dog(s) in Grand Teton as in other national parks. Primarily, dogs must not be left unattended and kept on a leash or in a carrier, with their owners responsible for the cleanup and behavior of their pet.

Colter Bay, 25 miles north of Moose, has 350 large, wooded sites with dump station, laundry, and showers nearby. Gros Ventre, just south of Moose, also has 350 campsites by the river. Jenny Lake, only 8 miles north of Moose, has 49 campsites for tents only. This is a very popular campground, so arrive before 10am.

Headwaters campground at the Flagg Ranch on the John D. Rockefeller Parkway is an ideal choice and the most convenient for campers visiting both Yellowstone and Grand Teton. There are 36 tent campsites with flush toilets, laundry, and 24-hour showers on the campground. Fishing is great at the Snake River, 1/4 mile away. Store, restaurant, and gift shop nearby. Rates: $35/night for 1-2 adults, $5 more for each additional adult. Call 1-800-443-2311 for reservations.

The 60 sites in the forest at Lizard Creek, further north from Moose, are not as well developed as the other campgrounds and not as popular. Campsites are usually available even in late afternoon. Signal Mountain, not far from Jenny Lake, is probably the more scenic campground with views of the mountains, lake, and forest. The 81 campsites are somewhat smaller than at other campgrounds, and there are no showers or laundry on the campground. Store, gas station, two restaurants, and gift shop nearby.

Entrance to Grand Teton – included in the $25 Yellowstone fee. Pathway permits – $12/pp (7days)
(Note: Five visitor centers – Craig Thomas (Moose), open 8am-7pm; Colter Bay, 25 miles north of Moose, 8am-7pm; Jenny Lake, 8am-5pm; Lawrence S. Rockefeller, 9am-5pm, and Flagg Ranch, 9am-3:30pm.)
(Note: See nps.gov/grte for more information.)

The popularity of camping has grown rapidly in America since the early 1900′s with more families discovering the freedom and enjoyment it provides. We live in a hectic world where many of us feel “the hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” Camping is educational and healthy family recreation where everyone, and your dog(s), can share the adventure and excitement of being close to nature. Forget the hassle of airline travel, avoid the traffic and the crowds, and have fun for less money on a camping trip.

Sharon L Slayton

5 day Seychelles travel plan

Seychelles boasts many beautiful islands, 16 with accommodation. Planes and ferries get you around reliably but I vote for ferries whenever possible. Seychelles islands luxury holidays has good information on weather, accommodations, cruises around the islands (some are uninhabited!), and more.

Days 1 & 2: Mahe

On day 1, you hit one of the best beaches in the world. Anse Intendance may feel like a lost world with jungle, boulders, and a beautiful white sand beach. On your way in, look for the rum shack near the entrance from the parking lot. You can have your Rum cocktails in the shade or in the sun. On weekends they may have BBQ burgers. There are waves and strong currents from June to September, but usually calmer spots where you can play in the surf. After September the water calms down quite a bit.

On day 2 we start with a hike. Climb Morne Blanc (30-60 minutes depending on your pace). The hike is not too strenuous but there are a few places where you could step into a little crevice so do be careful. The path is easy to follow, and at the top is a wooden platform with awesome views of southwestern Mahe
Since the hike won’t take all day, we visit another amazing beach later in the day. To get to Petite Anse, on west coast of Mahe, you need to head to the Four Seasons Resort. You have to show identification on the way into the Four Seasons, but Petite Anse is a public beach. It’s a 15 minute walk to the beach, but you can ask hotel employees for a lift in one of their club cars. Don’t wait for them to offer, but they are friendly when you ask. While at the beach, you’ll be near a restaurant and bar. The water is usually calm and clear.

Days 3 & 4: Praslin

Seychelles’ second largest island features Vallée de Mai, once thought to be the original site of the Garden of Eden. The forest features huge ancient palm trees including the Coco-de-Mer palm (famous for fruit shaped like a female pelvis) and the Seychelles Black Parrot, a very rare and beautiful bird.

You’ll want a full day at Anse Lazio. Get there early to find a nice spot on the white sand. You can climb over some of the granite rocks to look for smaller sections of beach. The swimming is usually good (waves sometimes get big but even then you are usually fine if you stay close to shore) and there is excellent snorkeling. Between walking, swimming, and snorkeling you might think one day is not enough.

Day 5: Grand Soeur

If you like to haggle, this is where you have a chance to shine. At La Passe Jetty you will find some agencies offering a Grand Soeur day tour with with snorkeling at nearby islands Coco and Felicite. Prices range from 75-100 euro per person depending on season, party size, and how well you haggle. Strong currents May through October do make swimming difficult.

If you’re a diver, you will probably need more time – lots of great diving to be done around Seychelles’ islands and the industry is safe and well-established here with several excellent operators.

You can find more itinerary ideas at http://www.seychelles.travel/en/plan_your_visit/

Travel idea: Camping at Dog Friendly National Parks

More than 40 million people in the U.S. go camping each year, and about the same number have at least one dog, as much a part of the family as the kids. When summer arrives, schools are out, and it’s vacation time for many families across America. Camping, a tradition since the late 1800′s and even before, became more popular by the 1930′s as Americans found the pleasure in exploring nature and spending time in the great outdoors. Visiting a national park sounds like a great idea, always educational and fun for the whole family, but dogs love a camping adventure and want to go too. Fortunately, most national parks permit dogs on a leash, 6′ or less, at all times, subject to Federal regulations and individual park rules and restrictions

Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine was the first national park established east of the Mississippi. There is a wide diversity of the environment from mountains and forests to lakes and shore within the group of islands which form the 45,000 acres of the park. Dogs will love camping at Acadia where they are allowed on more than 100 miles of trails, as well as on the 45 miles of historic carriage roads. They are restricted, however, from beaches, lakes, steep hiking trails, and trails where peregrine falcons are nesting.

You can camp with your dog at Blackwoods, open 1 May – 31 Oct, or Seawall, late May-Sep. There are approximately 300 campsites, restrooms, running water, a dump station, and shuttle bus service, but no hookups at Blackwoods. One vehicle, two tents, and up to six people are permitted at each campsite. Entrance fee – $20/night for 7-day maximum.

The Seawall campground on the western side of Mount Desert Island, the largest part of Acadia, is about a 10-minute walk to the ocean. Each of the 122 campsites allows tents and RVs up to 35′ long. Seawall has drinking water, flush toilets, campfire rings, and a dump station, with free showers and camping stores about a mile from the campground. Shuttle bus service is also available. Entrance fee – $14-$20/night, 14-day maximum.

Duck Harbor (Isle au Haut) is a one-hour ride on the ferry from the mainland. Although dogs are not allowed to stay in the Duck Harbor campground, it might be fun to take him along for a day trip of exploring. A $25 special permit is required to go to Duck Harbor.

(Note: Campsites are specifically marked.) Campground reservations – 877-444-6777

Visitor Centers:

Hulls Cove – 15 Apr – 30 Jun, 8:30am to 4:30pm; Jul & Aug, 8am to 6pm.
Park HQ – Open year round, 8am to 4:30pm; Apr – Oct, Mon thru Fri. (Winter camping hours vary.)
(Note: See nps.gov/acad for more information.)

Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona is simply awesome. With a spectacular panorama of color at sunrise and sunset, an amazing variety of plant and animal life, and incredible scenery, it is truly one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The South Rim is open year round, subject to fire danger restrictions, weather conditions, and road closures. You and your dog are welcome to check out the view along the two ½ mile Greenway trail along the Rim. A well-behaved pet can go along with you on the 3/4 mile guided Geology Tour. Dogs are restricted, however, from park buses, lodging areas, and trails along the North Rim.

One of the most popular campgrounds that allows pets is Mather, located within Grand Canyon Village. Mather, about a mile from the South Rim, offers 327 camping sites among the Ponderosa pines for tents and Rvs. Mather can be crowded and is usually full by noon. Each campsite has room for up to three tents, a fire grate, and picnic table, with drinking water, dump station, and restrooms on the campgrounds. Laundry, showers, bank, pay phone, and other amenities available at the Visitor Center, a short distance away. Summer hours 8am-5pm. Campsites – $18/night, 7-day maximum. Reservations Required: 877-444-6777, or online at recreation.gov/

Desert View has 50 campsites for tents, small Rvs, and travel trailers, for a 7-day camping limit. Each campsite permits up to six people, two tents, and two vehicles or 1 RV/trailer, and your dog. Be sure and include water with your camping equipment and wood or charcoal for cooking on campsite grills only. Only certain types of firewood can be used, “certified” wood is sold at the Visitor Center. There are only two water faucets, no hot water, and no hookups. Showers are available for a fee at Mather campground, 25 miles away. Overall, you can consider Desert View offers very basic camping.

Camping fee – $12/night/7-day maximum. ATM machines are conveniently located near the campground restrooms. Reservations not required, so come early.
Entrance fee – $25/vehicle for seven days. Visitor Center – 8am-8pm (summer hours)
(Note: See nps.gov/grca.)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited and one of the largest in the U.S., encompasses more than 522,000 acres of forest, mountain trails, and an amazing variety of plant and animal life in this part of the Southern Appalachians. Free entrance to the park.

Located on both sides of the North Carolina and Tennessee state lines, the main entrances are at Gatlinburg, TN and Cherokee, NC. There are nine designated campgrounds including Abrams Creek, Balsam Mountain, Big Creek, Cades Cove, Cataloochee, Cosby, Deep Creek, Elkmont, and Smokemont. Campsites have individual fire grates, picnic tables, and restrooms on the campgrounds, but no showers, hot water, or hookups. Fees vary from $14-$23/night at each campground. We will look at two of the largest, Cades Cove and Elkmont, with individual campsites for up to six people, two vehicles, and tents. Both require reservations for a maximum of 14 days and permit motor homes up to 40′ and trailers up to 35′. Both have food storage lockers and dump stations onsite or nearby. There are specific restrictions on firewood, but bundles of “certified” firewood can be bought at Cades Cove and Elkmont. Keep in mind this is bear country, and all food must be stored in your vehicle or storage lockers.

Cades Cove, in eastern Tennessee, is an ideal choice for viewing wildlife with more open areas in this part of the park. You can find everything you need at Cades Cove Campground Store from groceries, souvenirs, and camping supplies to a variety of express food and beverages. Hours – May-Jul, 9am-7:30pm. Aug, 9am-7pm. Sep-Oct, 9am-6:30pm.

Elkmont campgrounds, 8 miles from Gatlinburg, date back to the early 1900′s as a summer resort in the Appalachians. The 220 campsites range in price from $17-$23/night, 7-day maximum, and reservations should be made in advance for this popular campground open until 29 Nov. Limited selection of camping essentials available at the campground concession.

Your dog cannot be left unattended at the campsite, and he is allowed on only two trails in the park, the Gatlinburg and the Oconaluftee River Trail. The first trail follows the Little Pigeon River about 2 miles through the forest from Sugarlands Visitor Center to the edge of the town of Gatlinburg. Sugarlands is an interesting part of history, which you may want to explore further. Check at the Sugarlands Visitor Center if your dog can go along, or if any kennels is available. Visitor Center Hours – Jun-Aug, 8am-7:30pm. Sep & Oct, 8am-6:30pm. The Oconoluftee trail through the forest is about a mile and a half walk beside the river to the town of Cherokee. Visitor Center Hours – Jun-Aug, 8am-7:30pm. Sep-Oct, 8am-6:30pm.
(Note: Detailed information at nps.gov/grsm.)

Surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature, camping is healthy, inexpensive recreation. Whether it’s the shore, the forest, or the mountains, you’ll escape those hectic travel arrangements and the stress of everyday life. Leave behind the modern conveniences, and inconveniences; your dog will enjoy it as much as you!

Sharon L Slayton

What would be the focus of your Chinese holiday?

I was taking a look at a couple of cruise itineraries and I thought it was pretty interesting that one revolves around the cruise while the other itinerary involves a lot of flying and driving in addition to the cruising. So when planning a China holiday with a Yangtze River cruise, would you want the cruise to be the main focus of the holiday?

For an example itinerary, I’ve summarized one called “Grand Yangtze” – this is one that involves a little more cruising than some of the other tour itineraries.

Day 1: Shanghai

Visit Yu Gardens and the Old Town. Then head to the Shanghai Museum. Walk along the Bund and admire the colonial architecture. Check out the 1920′s style Shikumen buildings in the Xintiandi area. In the evening there is a cruise, this one on the Huangpu River.

Days 2-10: Yangtze River Cruise

The cruise and shore excursions include the ancient capital of Nanjing to visit the Dr Sun Yat Sen Mausoleum and the memorial to Nanjing’s Second World War victims. Also, Mt Jiuhua, a sacred Buddhist mountain with great natural scenery. Then there’s Wuhan for the Hubei Provincial Museum. Next comes the largest dam in the world, Three Gorges Dam. Then cruise through Wu Gorge & Qutang Gorge to reach the temples and statues of Fengdu Ghost City.

Days 11-12: Giant Pandas

Drive to Chengdu. Visit the famous Panda Conservation Centre. The pandas are active at 9:00 am (gotta have a healthy breakfast) so try to arrive early. Then fly to Xian, China’s former ancient capital.

Day 13: Terracotta Warriors

Visit one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the 20th century – the Terracotta Warriors. Brush up on your history of the Qin Dynasty before going in order to really appreciate these guys.

Day 15 : Explore Xian

Stroll through Xian’s Muslim Quarter to explore the Islamic food market. Here you’ll find countless shops and food stalls. Plan on a slow walk through the area as shop owners work to persuade you that you want what they have. Later, fly to Beijing.

Day 16 : Beijing

Stroll through Tienanmen Square, past Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum to the treasure-filled Forbidden City. Beijing (also Peking) boasts three millennia worth of history and has been the political center of China for about eight centuries. Beijing has lots of culture (it’s the last of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China) and people (over 21 million) so you won’t run out of things to do or people to see.

Day 17 : Great Wall of China

Walk on the Great Wall and tour the Summer Palace. The Great Wall is probably best-loved by hikers – it’s a very scenic hike and you won’t get lost.

If you check out the itinerary for “Magnificent China” – I won’t summarize that one here – you’ll see a few of the same stops including the Terracotta Warriors, Panda Conservation Centre, Beijing, and Shanghai. But you’ll also see some differences because you spend less time cruising the Yantze. This allows you to see some different but also very cool attractions like the world’s largest stone-carved Buddhist statue, the Grand Buddha of Leshan. So which itinerary do you like?

Shame on Delta using a giraffe for Ghana

I would not call this racist, but I would call it ignorant. Pretty sad day when an airline that’s supposed to take you places you’ve never been so you can learn new things about the world does something like this. This meaning use a giraffe to represent Ghana when giraffes are not native to Ghana. Considering all the great zoos in America, I bet we have more giraffes in the USA than there are in Ghana.

Ghana is one of the recent economic success stories in Africa and one of Africa’s cultural hubs. I know people who have visited or lived there – even 10 years ago – they love Ghana. Representing the country with a giraffe perpetuates the false stereotype that Africa has nothing really redeeming except its wildlife.

I’m all for celebrating the US soccer victory – it’s always unclear just how many victories we will get to enjoy – but I suggest we replace this:

Delta airlines gets it all wrong about Gahana

Click the thumbnail to enlarge

with this:

Now I want to go to Ghana!

Cross Country National Park Trip: towing and route advice

Question: Have some time off from work, planning a cross country road trip. 25 years old and not sure when else I would have this kind of opportunity. Plan on hitting a few of the big national parks over a 6 week period (Glacier, Tetons, Rushmore, Yellowstone, Arches, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains, etc.)

I will be towing my friends 17′ travel trailer. It has a weight of 2850 lbs dry, about 3500 gross weight. I have RV/camping experience. Unfortunately my CRV will not tow that (its also brand new not trying to destroy the transmission). I am looking at buying a used suv/truck putting a transmission cooler and brake controller on it (maybe a V8 Explorer) then selling when I get back. I looked into renting but most rental companies do not allow towing and it would be cheaper to buy and then sell a couple months alter than to pay the $45 a day for a car.

Any recommendations on reliable tow vehicles with decent mileage (all things considered)? What advice would you have for towing, and towing long distance. Any other advice regarding the trip route would be greatly appreciated!

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Click to enlarge

As always, reader comments are most welcome. I actually got some good towing advice from someone who just went through a similar scenario. Sadly he said there is no good answer currently available.

The first thing that you need to know is that tow ratings are usually given for an empty tow vehicle with a 150-pound driver. The weight of all optional equipment and any other payload (other people, luggage, tool box, etc.) must be subtracted from the tow rating. So that will lower your effective tow rating from the opening number.

Also travel trailers are boxy and have a lot more wind resistance than something like a boat trailer or a even a streamlined snowmobile trailer. And you also want a good margin of reserve over the minimum tow rating to make up for loss of performance at altitude (3% loss of engine power for every 1,000-feet above sea level), to give you some extra margin for passing situations, and to keep you from outright abusing the tow vehicle by overworking it.

Although you can tow with a front wheel drive vehicle, it isn’t the best thing to do because the hitch weight (should be 8 to 13% of the trailer load rating) will be pushing down on the back end of the tow vehicle with takes weight off the front end. So rear wheel drive vehicles with a full frame are the preferred tow vehicles, although really solid unibody models like the Jeep Grand Cherokee can get the job done pretty well, too.

So, you probably need to look at vehicles with at least a 5,000-pound tow rating. That eliminates virtually all the 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder cross overs that are so popular now.

The Chevy Traverse is right there at 5,000-pounds tow rating, but it’s a Chevy and a front-wheel drive one at that. Don’t know how you feel about them but personally I wouldn’t touch one with a ten foot pole. Ditto its butt-ugly GMC cousin. An old style Nissan Pathfinder would work, but they are pretty crude vehicles in some ways and new ones are fast disappearing. The new Pathfinder is only rated to tow 3,500-pounds, which is par for the course for most of the cross overs. Same for the mid-sized Toyotas, and towing reports on the big Nissans and Toyotas (Armada and Sierra) are not very good.

There isn’t anything that will handle your trailer properly that will give you gas mileage like you are accustomed to. But the full sized GM SUVs (Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon) seem to do a little better on gas than most of the others. The Durangos are not as good, although the new ones should be better than the old ones. The ’99 Durango that I had was optimized for towing in winter was bad on gas. On one multi-day, multi-state trip I noted that my buddy’s Tahoe got a mile or two per gallon better than I got despite the fact that his truck was a bit bigger. My ’06 Explorer rear wheel drive V-8 does somewhat better, but this vehicle is no longer available new. Current Explorers are front wheel drive on what is essentially a Taurus chassis.

The Ford Ecoboost twin-turbo does get around the altitude problem, and they get very good gas mileage when running light without a trailer, but suck gas like crazy when towing because they are working hard. And I think the only rear wheel drive choice for this engine is a pickup truck although it might be available in an Excursion.

But a 4-door pickup might be your best solution, if you can live with it. GM, Ford, and Ram all offer diesels now, too, and the mileage with gas engines from all of them is better than it used to be.

Good luck with the towing business. Personally, I’m not sure towing a trailer is the way to go. You get to take your home with you and don’t have to pack/unpack, but you’ll spend on gas and camping fees, and the trailer will be a major pain when you’re navigating the switchbacks (and there will be a lot of them in your trek)

Let’s talk about your route. It’s awesome but here are some ideas:

1) Drive back on a different route – no use seeing the same thing twice. Consider coming through KC, St. Louis across KY and WV, and then up through Shenandoah NP.

2) Buy a National Parks Permit for the year.

3) Check out the Navaho Nation Parks, namely Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley when in Arizona/Utah. Two of my favorite experiences from the trip.

4) After Rushmore go to Devil’s Tower, it’s not too far out of your planned route and it’s cool. Also, Rushmore on July 3rd is Fireworks – totally worth it.

5) Glacier is amazing, and I thought it was worth it to go into Canada to Wateron Lakes park too. Depends on your time. Also, I don’t know when you are going, but make sure the Going to the Sun rd is open. They are usually plowing snow off until late june.

6) If driving across Iowa, and you are a baseball fan – Field of dreams is pretty cool.

7) Invest in a good camera and learn how to use it.

8) When driving across Minnesota on I-90, if you see a sign for a 55 ft tall Jolly Green Giant, get off that exit and see the darn thing. Biggest regret was missing that.

9) The Michell Corn Palace however wasn’t really worth the stop.

10) Looking back I’m upset we didn’t do more of the Utah national parks, so I’m jeaolous of that.

11) I would strongly suggest the Henry Ford Museum and/or Greenfield Village. Very family oriented and a historical gem. Located in Dearborn and it seems you are passing it anayway.

12) Although it’s slightly West of your current route, Death Valley is amazing and may be worth a few extra miles.

St Mawes travel ideas

St Mawes on the Roseland Peninsula in Cornwall has many things going for it. St Mawes has the third largest natural harbor in the world and is best known for sailing and other nautical entertainment. The small fishing town turned holiday destination is also well-known for beaches and hikes. It is not so well-known for movie tourism, but that is another possibility. I will try to share what I would do on vacation in St Mawes in this post.

First, I would find a dog-friendly cottage. Since St Mawes is on the south coast of Cornwall, England, it makes sense to check out South Cornwall coastal holiday cottages if you are planning a trip. This website has a number of choices so I would choose a less expensive one near a dog friendly beach.

I don’t plan to do everything with my dogs while on vacation. Sometimes it’s best to leave your furkids in the cottage (to make sure they don’t get too much sun for starters), but when a tourist destination has at least one dog-friendly beach, they move up my list of places to visit.

Boats in St Mawes

Regarding beaches, Summers Beach gets the most sun, but no dogs allowed during the summer. Tavern Beach has a nice view of the boats and good ice cream. I have read that the beach is ideal for kids, which makes it possibly less ideal for me since my dogs do not love children. I suppose I would visit Summers Beach during the day when it may be too hot for dogs anyway.

I am a sucker for castles. Built in the 1500s, St Mawes (and its larger sister castle, Pendennis) are part of a chain of fortresses known as Henrician Castles or Device Forts. I would visit the closest ones for sure and think it would be fun to visit a few that may be within driving distance. The castles are also features of many walking trails in the area.

St Mawes castle
St Mawes castle is on the River Fal or Dowr Fala in Cornish.

Next I would like to talk about hiking. I’m not familiar enough with the area to plan my own walk, but there are plenty of options. Here is one walk around St Mawes that seems really great:

It should also be possible to do some movie tourism. The Agatha Christie film Murder Ahoy was filmed here, as was the 1964 film Crooks in Cloisters. Neither of these films excites me too much, so I probably would not go out my way to visit places they filmed. However, it may be worth looking into for some travelers.

Finally, I should mention at least one place to eat. The Rising Sun is a dog-friendly pub that opens at 8:30 (till 10:00) for breakfast and then serves from the main menu from noon to 9:30. They have great views of the water and a bunch of food I want to try: homemade scones, traditional Cornish Cream Tea, and homemade cakes (available between 2:30 pm and 5.30 pm daily).

Traveling to Turks and Caicos – international calling plan advice needed

Traveler’s question: Anyone have any advice on how to stay connected to the mainland. Normally I don’t worry about ataying connected on vacation, but I need to keep in touch. We are going to be laying people off so i need to touch base once a day with my foreman and be ready to deal with whatever pops up.

So I need to be able to conduct business via voice, text, and email. I can add an international package with AT& T but it does not seem very affordable. Any help is appreciated. We are apple users and will have wifi but not everyone we will be in need of contacting will be apple users.

Answer: Skype may be your answer. I don’t use it personally, but Skype can work for mac users and I’m sure the plan to allow calls to a landline is cheaper than an international calling plan.

If anyone can add some tips for international calling plans and the like, please comment below.

A few of the top places on my travel wishlist

Vienna and Bratislava have been at or near the top of my travel wishlist for a really long time. So when I noticed a cruise that hit both of those cities, I started thinking about a possible vacation. I’d see two cities at the top of my list and see a few more that are probably amazing even if I had not yet heard of them. The nice thing about cruises is that you get to see a few places (and you don’t have to worry about trains, luggage, and hotels).

The itinerary according to picturesque Danube river cruises does in fact include a few places that I had not heard of, but that are now going on my list:

Regensburg: An awesome German medieval city, featuring one of the oldest bridges crossing the Danube, an old merchants’ quarter, the 14th centur Old Town Hall, and more. I’m pretty happy at Florida State, but check out Regensburg University (Universitat Regensburg) and tell me you wouldn’t want to go to school there. It’s a thumbnail so click for a better view.

Universitat Regensburg

Weltenburg Abbey: Instead of Regensburg, you could book a boat cruise along the Danube Gorge and a tour of Weltenburg Abbey. This is the oldest monastery in Bavaria and boasts a courtyard surrounded by Baroque buildings. Click out the thumbnail below for a larger picture. I wouldn’t say no.

weltenburg-abbey

So the challenge on that cruise would be choosing one or the other. I think I’d have to choose Regensburg. Chances are I’d love and add it to my list of places to return to. Then when I did return, I’d stay a while and make the day trip to Weltenburg Abbey.

Then the cruise goes to Passau, the Three Rivers City where the Danube, Inn, and Ilz meet up. The fort and the cathedral are highlights here. You can skip Passau and go to Salzburg instead. I enjoyed my day in Salzburg but I never did put it on my list of places tor return to. Now that I think about it (and the oldest restaurant in Europe if I remember correctly), that could change.

Then the cruise goes to Vienna and Bratislava, the cities I was thinking about at the beginning. And finally Budapest, another place that I have never seen.