Entries in ‘Travel’ Journal

Empty Nest Travel Tips

Friday September 12, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 4 Comments

empty nest

Empty nest travel

As our daughter graduated from college this summer and our son traveled to Oxford, Mississippi to begin college, it has occurred to me that my husband and I are now empty nest. Our young adult children have flown the coop and we are free to travel at our leisure. No more worries about teenagers hosting house parties while the parents are away or having to pay outrageous prices for airline tickets and hotel stays when everyone with children is on vacation from school. We are looking forward to empty nest travel! Here are 5 travel tips for empty nest baby boomers!

 

 

Tips for empty nest travel

1. Take advantage of off peak pricing.

Airlines, hotels, resorts and cruise ships are all looking to capture the baby boomer traveler who is no longer tied to travel during school holidays.

2. Financial freedom

Depending on the amount of children in your family, empty nesters no longer need to worry about reserving multiple hotel rooms, family-friendly villas, requesting adjoining hotel rooms or renting houses large enough to accommodate kids and friends.
 

traveling with teens

Dining with teens

 

3. Dining decisions

I don’t know about you, but often times our dining decisions during travel were based on where the kids wanted to eat. Traveling with teens often boiled down to fast food drive-ins or chain restaurants. Dining out as empty nest travelers gives us flexibility to choose where we spend our dining dollars.

4. Travel discounts

When it comes to travel tips, I’m all about discovering the discount. I’m not entitled to senior citizen discounts yet, but there are organizations such as AARP (a non-profit organization that helps people over 50 improve the quality of their lives) and AAA ( a North American based not-for-profit motor club that offers emergency road service, insurance & travel assistance)  that offer travel discounts for hotels, tours, cruises and such.

 

"empty nest travel tips" mini cooper

Travel tips: downsize the car


 

5. Automotive downsize

Ditch the mini van or sport utility vehicle that carries children and a dog. Instead, downsize to a sporty Mini Cooper or electric car. You’ll get better gas mileage driving a two-seater coupe and a smaller vehicle forces you to pack more efficiently.

Are you an empty nest parent or getting ready to enter this stage of life? What empty nest travel tips do you have to share?

Article and photos by empty nest baby boomer Nancy D. Brown.

Tips for Traveling with Teens

Friday September 5, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 0 Comments

While my young adult children may call me a fire breathing dragon behind my back, they have thanked me for teaching them how to pack a suitcase and instilling a sense of confidence in them when they travel solo. I’m the first to admit that I don’t know what to do in many travel situations, but I do know how to handle drunk teenagers or wayward explorers. Be warned, this isn’t a blog post on tips for traveling with children; instead I give you my best tips for traveling with teens and surviving!

I knew I had an independent traveler on my hands when I got a call from the third grade counselor at summer camp. My daughter’s friend was homesick and had left camp after the first night. The counselor felt the need to notify me of this situation. Here’s how the phone conversation with my daughter played out. “How do you like camp?” I asked. “It’s great, but Robyn didn’t like it that much. Please tell me that I don’t have to come home?”

dragon

Tips for traveling with a dragon, aka Mom

Pack snacks

Picture yourself traveling in a Honda minivan for 10 hours with six teenagers. I know, not a pretty sight now, is it? If you want a car load of happy campers remember to pack the snacks for your road trip. While choosy mothers chose jif, I chose a balance of healthy snacks and snacks that taste good – if they happen to be on sale at the grocery store, that’s even better!

Don’t forget to pack water bottles for everyone. I have a boat load of branded water bottles in my cupboards because I’m a travel writer who specializes in equine travel – in other words, I review a lot of dude ranches and cowgirls need their own water bottle. I come off like a hero when I give every kid in the car their own water bottle to keep. It’s also helpful that each water bottle is unique so each teen is able to remember what their bottle looks like.

 

cardboard car, trailer

How to travel with teenagers & survive

 

Medical waivers

If you are traveling with other people’s children, make sure to have a copy of their insurance card and have the parent’s sign a medical waiver giving you permission to treat their child at a doctor’s office or hospital if necessary. If you’ll be staying in one location, look up the nearest hospital, urgent care center and dental office in the area. Silly me, I had to call my California dentist to get a recommendation for an Oregon dentist when my kids collided with one another on their bikes – one broke her collar bone, the other had a concussion and chipped a front tooth! Ya, sh!t happens when you are on vacation. Be prepared.

Weed Welcome500x375

 

Pack your sense of humor

Kids keep us young, teenagers give us gray hair. Always keep your guard up when chaperoning a group of teenagers. Keep your mouth shut and your ears open when you have teenagers trapped in a cabin, car, hotel room or on a houseboat. Eventually, these self-centered young adults will forget that you are in the room – they might be discussing members of the opposite sex, how to purchase alcohol while on vacation or the benefits of vaping over bong hits. For you parents sleeping with blindfolds, electronic cigarettes are the two-to-one favorite of teenagers because the room doesn’t smell like marijuana when they blaze, that’s code for “light up” for us old folks.

Now don’t go crazy in the comments section telling me what a bad parent I am. I don’t support underage drinking or drug use, but I do recommend that some parent’s pull their head out of the sand and get real about teenagers and their recreational choices. Let’s be honest, my husband and I went to college where Animal House was filmed. Nuff said.

luggage, travel,

Have passport, will travel

 

Have passport, will travel

If you can afford it, get your kid a passport. Even if you have no intention of international travel, your teenager may be presented with an opportunity to participate in a mission trip, join a friend on vacation, sail with Semester at Sea, or travel abroad for school or summer employment. Once teenagers reach the age of 16 and older, passports are valid for 10 years. A passport is a gift you give your child, setting them on a path with no boundaries. What a trip!

What are your insider tips for traveling with teens? Please leave a comment below.

Article and photos by travel writer, empty nester and baby boomer Nancy D. Brown. No teenagers were harmed in the writing of this blog post.

Mammoth Cave National Park: History, Mystery and Wonder

Wednesday August 27, 2014 at 8:08 AM | 0 Comments

Historic entrance of Mammoth Cave, the longest cave in the world.

Historic entrance of Mammoth Cave, the longest cave in the world.

When I first headed down the stairs to the historic entrance of Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, I was a child fascinated by walking through passages deep underground. On recent visit with my kids and husband, I found my fascination still intact. The world’s longest cave—more than 400 miles discovered so far, is one of the most unusual places I’ve been.

Memories from my first trip blended with this latest experience. Happily, Mammoth Cave in Mammoth Cave National Park is as wonderfully weird and mysterious as it was years ago. Its weird mysterious is what has attracted people since long before the Civil War.

Today, a tour led by a national park ranger is filled with tales of history, geology, biology and the human experience.

Remnants of the saltpeter mine operation during the War of 1812

Remnants of the saltpeter mine operation during the War of 1812

Our tour, the Historic Tour included: the saltpeter mine used during the War of 1812 when miners’ efforts helped make gun powder; the story of how Floyd Collins, one of Mammoth Cave’s most ambitious explorers was trapped and perished in 1925 when a boulder fell on his ankle; and of Stephen Bishop, a slave and expert guide who was able to purchase his freedom by saving up the tip money from the wealthy people Bishop took into the cave. Bishop would write the name of his clients with smoke from a torch for money.  Evidence of Bishop’s work, and the other guides who worked with him, still remain on Mammoth Cave’s ceiling.

Along with the human history details, our two-hour tour was a moderate work out as we passed through formations that required us to bend over a bit while we walked down stairs sideways and sometimes backwards. Fat Man’s Misery was the most fun. The narrowest part was below hip level, but it involved a series of quick switch backs, a tricky endeavor for those with big feet.

Writing on the ceiling from more than a century ago.

Writing on the ceiling from more than a century ago.

What wasn’t included from what I remember from the tour that I took as a child were: Lost John, the remains of a Native American trapped years and years ago; the eyeless fish in the river that flows deep in the cave; and the rooms of the former TB hospital.

Lost John used to be behind glass tucked in a recess of the cave’s wall until the mid-70s when the U.S. government decided that displaying human remains is not seemly. The boat trip on the underground river where the eyeless fish are also doesn’t happen anymore for environmental reasons.

The TB hospital, a failed experiment to try to cure tuberculosis by keeping people at a constant temperature in the mid 50s, the year round temperature of a cave, is not part of the Historic Tour. To see the remains of the TB hospital that operated (and failed) in 1841, take the Violet Passage Tour.

Park rangers entertain and inform during each tour.

Park rangers entertain and inform during each tour.

About tours: I signed up for the Historic Tour the day before we arrived at Mammoth Cave because we weren’t sure which tour would fit our schedule. If you can nail down your vacation plans earlier than we could, that gives you more options. Although there were several times for the Historic Tour left, some other tours were sold out.

Although the Historic Tour is listed as “moderate” in terms of difficulty and effort, if you are in okay shape, you’ll do fine. Even though the tour has Fat Man’s Misery on its menu, people of a larger size should not be dissuaded. You can check with a ranger if you’re not sure.

We paired our tour with an overnight at the Mammoth Cave Hotel across from the Visitors Center near the Historic Entrance. The hotel has three lodging options: Heritage Rooms, connected to the main hotel building, Sunset Terrace, a one story separate building, or historic or Woodland Cottages.

Heritage Trail near the Mammoth Cave Hotel

Heritage Trail near the Mammoth Cave Hotel

Our room was in Sunset Terrace, a comfy, clean, two queen bed room that had a 1960s period feel with modern amenities. Our room included a microwave, refrigerator, a clock radio and cable TV. Ironing boards, irons and hair dryers are available. Just ask the staff at the front desk.

Mammoth Cave National Park also has an RV and tent camping campground.

As with any national park, Mammoth Cave has several hiking trails to explore and a variety of activities. In the morning, I walked down the Heritage Trail leading down from the hotel to the Green River where a deer family crossed from one shore to another without giving me a glance.

Mammoth Cave is a visit with bats

Mammoth Cave is a Visit with Bats

In the evening, we went to the campfire talk led by a park ranger. Campfire talks, in my opinion, are a must at any national park visit. This particular talk was about bats. You can’t go to Mammoth Cave without finding out about bats–several kinds of bats.  Bats in this part of Kentucky need the cave for survival. At the talk, we were able to hear them as they flew overhead thanks to the bat listening device the ranger had.

Whether you stay overnight or go as a day guest, eat at one of the hotel’s restaurants. Order the soup beans with cornbread. This is a southern Kentucky favorite food. The soup beans I had for lunch were delicious.

Friends down by the river

Friends down by the river

Insider Tip: Mammoth Cave National Park is open year round, however, the hotel does not operate in full swing after September 30 and before March 1. Also, cave tours are scaled back.

If you go to this part of Kentucky, about an hour south of Louisville, you can easily pair the trip with a Bardstown visit. Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace and the site of one of his boyhood homes is also close by.

If You Go:

Mammoth Cave National Park
1 Mammoth Cave Parkway
Mammoth Cave, Kentucky 42259

phone: 270/758-2180

Post and photos courtesy of Jamie Rhein, member of Midwest Travel Writers Association.