Wanderlust! Planning Your Next Travel Adventure!

Wanderlust!  Planning Your Next Travel Adventure!

My father was definitely bitten by the wanderlust bug…he and my mom traveled extensively throughout their lives and broadened their view of the world and the eclectic mix of people in it!  While I may not be driven to travel to the extent that my parents did, I want the adventures I do go on to be as fun and meaningful as possible!!

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Travel Planning Tips:

While it may sound a little starry-eyed and somewhat dreamy to grab a back pack and head out to roam the world with wild abandon, most of us only have a certain amount of time and money for traveling, so making a few key plans ahead of time is essential to making our travel dreams come true!  Lucky for me, my daughter-in-law, Whitney, has become very proficient in knowing how to plan vacations that allow for a good mix of touristy experiences combined with activities that follow the unbeaten path, so to speak!  Here are some of her travel tips to help make planning your next adventures a lot easier!

Wanderlust! Planning Your Next Travel Adventure!

“And then I realized…adventures are the best way to learn!”  The Traveler’s Chant

♦  Tech Savvy

While Whitney may claim that she isn’t the most tech savvy travel guide, (I have seen her work travel magic using her iPhone, however) she has found that a recent article in the New York Times, see it here, to be a helpful resource in suggesting Smartphone apps that will guide you around a new city.  There are some fun travel Instagram accounts to follow that showcase unusual places explore as well, @passionpassport and @kirstenalana are a couple of favorites!  Also, since finding good food is synonymous to a successful adventure for most people, Whitney suggests using the Yelp app as a main “go to” for finding great local eats for wherever you may find yourself…it does broad searches for highly recommended restaurants in any particular area you are visiting.  Whitney says there are great user reviews on this app and has rarely served her wrong.

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Since Jake and Whitney have had to privilege of traveling extensively while he serves as a dentist for the Army, they’ll be the first to tell you that your travel ventures should include exploring all the hidden gems right where you live!

Bratwurst in Bamburg, Germany! www.mytributejournal.com

(Bratwurst in Bamburg, Germany)

Finding a good place to eat when you’re traveling can be a little tricky, but food reviews on a reliable phone app can lead you to some amazing local cuisine!  

♦  Travel Books

Since I have given Whitney and my son some as gifts, I can vouch for the fact that one of the first things they like to do when planning a trip is check out a good guidebook by a veteran traveler; some of their favorites are the various editions of Lonely Planet and the Rick Steves travel books.  These can be found on their respective websites or of course, Amazon.  Whitney says that once you’ve decided on your travel destination, a guidebook is integral in helping you get a quick overview of the area so you can decide on the things you’re really interested in doing while you’re there.  Once those decisions are made, you can do a more in-depth study and make reservations for lodging and activities for a less stressful travel experience.

Travel tips.

Rick Steves also has free downloads via iTunes of his self-guided tours that give detailed information on about any vacation spot you’d ever want to explore!

Neuschwanstein Castle in Gorgeous Germany! www.mytributejournal.com

(Neuschwanstein Castle in Fussen, Germany)

Travel books about Germany will recommend that you visit the Neuschwanstein Castle, better known as the Cinderella Castle.  We read about the history of the castle beforehand, but were glad we went on a guided tour where we learned more about King Louis II, (Mad King Ludwig) who had the castle built!

♦  Websites

Because of its prolific collection of information, Whitney most often turns to Pinterest when planning a trip; she searches by location which proves to be a great source of first-hand experiences by bloggers and other ordinary travelers who often share unique things to do at your chosen vacation site that you might not find elsewhere.  Whitney has also found two reliable websites for reserving a place to stay when they travel.  Booking.com gives you a number of hotels in your designated vacation area with honest reviews.  After a few years of using this website, Whitney advises looking for places with customer ratings of 8 or higher.  Another valuable online resource for reliable room accommodations is AirBnB.  Whitney and Jake have grown to really love staying in the types of places offered by this reliable travel website.  It allows you a variety of rental options from homes to single rooms that often give you a unique flavor of the local charm of an area when you’re traveling.

Travel quote.

Whitney recommends AirBnB accommodations if you are traveling with a young family or big group, because of the availability of a variety of rental places that allow you the chance to enjoy a home-type setting with room to spread out, as well as space for fixing meals, then you don’t always have to go out to eat!

The Sound of Music bike tour, Salzburg, Austria! www.mytributejournal.com

(Sound of Music Bike Tour in Salzburg, Austria.)

Whitney was able to book tickets online for the amazing bike tour for the 50th anniversary celebration of “The Sound of Music” movie a few years ago.  By doing so, we avoided the risk of the event being sold out when we got there.

♦  Word Of Mouth (And Other Miscellaneous Travel Tips) 

Military life naturally lends itself to rubbing shoulders, so to speak, with other fellow travelers, so most often, Whitney has found that nothing beats word of mouth recommendations from those who have already experienced some fun adventures in the places she and Jake are wanting to visit!  While living in Europe, Whitney joined a Facebook group page of other families stationed in Germany that became a wonderful resource to rely on for fun travel ideas; it was also a great forum to be able to ask questions and get specific instructions on things they needed to do to prepare for any upcoming trips.  Depending on what your plans are, you’ll need a checklist to pack accordingly, ie. backpacks and camping gear for hiking and other outdoor activities, etc.  Knowing what kind of weather to expect also helps you know what clothes to take.  Having a current passport and knowing money exchange rates is essential for travel to foreign countries.  I’ve outlined that in more detail in a previous post here.

Confuscious travel quote.

Whitney can’t stress enough the benefit of doing a little research about the places you are going to visit beforehand.  She has found that a basic travel plan with room for flexibility is a must; doing this helps her appreciate the culture and history of travel destinations much more.  Often, it requires little more than hopping on Wikipedia to learn about the special places they’ll be touring.

Cooking class in Florenece, Italy!

(Walkabout Tuscany cooking class in Florence, Italy.)

Word of mouth proved to provide us with one of our most memorable experiences in Italy.  Whitney heard from some friends about an outdoor farmhouse cooking class overlooking the hills of Tuscany–it fulfilled every expectation and more!

  A Bird’s Eye View

Despite the fact that it’s hard sometimes to have some of our family members scattered about from New York City to Germany over the last several years, my husband and I have had the good fortune of being able to take advantage of having the best tour guides while visiting our children in their assorted adopted hometowns; there is nothing quite like a bird’s eye view of a special destination from someone who actually lives there and knows all the unique things to experience in these wonderful places.

Ernest Hemingway "Moveable Feast" quote.

Since Jake enjoys traveling as much as his grandfather did, it has been so much fun to see how he and Whitney collaborate to create lovely travel adventures…and now their sweet, little boy, Elliot, is all too happy to be able to join them. 

Tips For Planning Your Next Travel Adventure!

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us!”  Traveler’s Creed

I hope these tips help as you look forward to planning your summer adventures!

Wanderlust! Planning Your Next Adventure!

“Never stop exploring…you become a better person when you’re curious about the people and the world around you!  Life is an adventure!”  Jake Wilding 

What travel tips do you swear by when you go on vacation? 

–Safe travels!  Mary

Gorgeous Germany…And International Travel Tips!

Gorgeous Germany!

Gorgeous Germany…And International Travel Tips!

My husband and I recently had the marvelous opportunity of traveling abroad to visit my son and his wife in gorgeous Germany!

Neuschwanstein Castle in Gorgeous Germany! www.mytributejournal.com

 Neuschwanstein Castle in southern Bavaria by the town of Fussen, Germany.

Germany is truly a land of lush, green country sides, eclectic story book cities and fairytale castles!    

My son, Jake, is a dentist for the army in the quaint, lovely city of Grafenwoehr, Germany, and he and his wife, Whitney, have taken advantage of their chance to travel all across Europe during their stay in Germany.  As you can imagine, when we found out Jake and Whitney would be living in Germany for three years, plans were soon made to visit them there.

Gorgeous Germany! www.mytributejournal.com

European towns like Grafenwoehr, Germany are as beautiful and quaint as you would imagine.

Gorgeous Germany...And International Travel Tips! www.mytributejournal.com

Since Grafenwoehr is an army town, you can’t help but notice the dichotomy of the military presence set against the beauty of the serene countryside.     

My father traveled extensively during his lifetime, and he always used to tell me that half the fun of going on vacation was in the planning and anticipation of the upcoming travels!  As my husband and I have planned and prepared for various trips, we can certainly vouch for the fact that a little preparation beforehand will help the ventures planned on our itinerary go more smoothly, then we can better enjoy ourselves when we finally reach our destination.

International Travel Tips:

Secretly, I’d love to be that carefree person you hear about who throws caution to the wind, grabs a backpack and a few changes of clothing and sets out to explore the world!  But with a limited time off of work and my husband’s desire to plan a quality travel experience without being too exorbitant, we opted to heed common sense and make more detailed plans.

International Travel Tips! www.mytributejournal.com

Passports and other pre-trip paperwork .

If there is anything that will keep a hippie-like travel abandon in check, it’s the mere fact that you can’t go anywhere without a current passport.  It’s the recommendation of  U.S. Customs that specific travel guidelines be checked thoroughly for the various countries you’re planning to visit, since most now require that your passport doesn’t expire within six months of your planned vacation, and believe me, my daughter-in-law’s sister wouldn’t hesitate to tell you that the authorities are very strict about following the border rules and regulations.  (Unfortunately, her vacation to go see Jake and Whitney was delayed while she expedited a more current passport.)  It is a good idea to make copies of your passport and other travel paperwork to leave at home with a family member.  Take a copy of the documents with you and send a download of them to your email address, just in case, heaven forbid, your originals should get lost.  (My husband designates a place in his carry-on luggage where we place our passports, boarding passes, etc. when they’re not needed–less chance of misplacing them by doing this.)  I love to go on vacation, but eventually, I do want to come home!

Sound of Music bike tour, Salzburg, Germany. www.mytributejournal.com

The Sound of Music Bike Tour in Salzburg, Austria…a dream come true for me!  

Jake pre-booked some fun day excursions for us and had the tickets and vouchers printed off beforehand.  By doing this we avoided long lines and any possibility of the events being sold out or not available at the times we could go.  Doing a little pre-trip planning helps make your vacation be a lot more fun and less stressful.

♦ Plan your travel goals…but be flexible!

Although we wanted to see some of the amazing German countryside, and a few of the other surrounding areas, our main travel goals for this trip were focused on spending some quality time with Jake and Whitney, so we geared our travel to places that were within a few hours driving distance from their home, including some quaint country villages along with a few big cities, like Munich and Salzburg, Austria.  Also, since rainy weather was in the forecast for one of the days we were going to be sightseeing, Jake rearranged our itinerary so that that day we’d be mostly driving.  Another important part of planning a trip is deciding on how may “touristy” activities you want to do, versus leisurely browsing around with no real sightseeing agenda in mind.   (It is obviously a tremendous advantage to be able to travel with someone who is familiar with the country you are traveling to, but since that isn’t always possible, I would highly recommend researching a travel guide or talking with a travel agent.)

Lonely Planet travel book. www.mytributejournal.com

 Lucky for us, Jake and Whitney love to devour travel books…the Lonely Planet series is one of their favorites.  There are many vacation websites (ie. Fodor, Frommers, Travel Zoo, Yelp etc.) that also offer good insights and advice.

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Being somewhat flexible with our itinerary meant that the skies were clear as we wandered around the delightful town of Bamburg, Germany, one of the few German towns that wasn’t attacked during World War II, where time seems to have stood still in some respects…

Bratwurst in Bamburg, Germany! www.mytributejournal.com

… and the bratwurst and sauerkraut are piled high.  The weather actually ended up cooperating our entire trip, but it’s good to to be prepared and plan for changes as needed.  

Money and shopping!

Money and shopping–two words that are music to my ears no matter where I find myself, but your shopping experience abroad will be less than wonderful if you don’t calculate the exchange rate or know where the best places are to get your foreign currency.  Jake told us that the safest places to exchange our money was at their local banks and ATM’s because their conversion rate is exact and fees aren’t charged.  Be aware that many banks and stores abroad have switched to the more secure “chip” credit card and PIN technology.  We also found out that not all restaurants and stores take credit cards, so always have cash on hand.  It is important that you don’t forget to call your bank or credit card provider to inform them of the dates you’ll be out of the country so they don’t inadvertently freeze your accounts thinking that fraudulent use of your card is occurring while you’re abroad.

Countryside shopping in Fussen, Germany! www.mytributejournal.com

Countryside shopping in Fussen, Germany!  Even if you don’t buy a thing, the European shopping experience is something to be embraced–even my husband took it to heart!

Gorgeous Germany...And International Travel Tips! www.mytributejournal.com

“Let’s do lunch!” takes on a whole new meaning in many of the quaint towns of Germany!  Did you know that waiters in many European countries are salaried and large tips will simply go to the eating establishment.  A gratuity of one Euro per person served is the accepted protocol in many places abroad.   

Other miscellaneous tips to consider.

If you’re planning on using your phone for anything other than a camera, you’d do well to activate the global capabilities with your provider to avoid any expensive roaming charges.  My husband bought a limited number of minutes on his phone, but since the hotels we stayed at had free internet, I just waited to use my phone when we were in our room.  You will also find that your phone’s GPS tool comes in handy when trying to figure your way around unfamiliar territory!

Take a few electrical adaptors since foreign countries have different sizes of plugs and voltage and you’ll want to be able to charge your phones and other electronic devices and more importantly, dry and curl your hair!

Download a language translation app on your phone–that way if there’s no one who speaks English, you can at least interpret common terminology for the area you’re visiting, (we mostly used this app when we were trying to interpret menu items when ordering our food) but don’t hesitate to make inquiries from the local townspeople, since many speak some English and were very accommodating.

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I miss the simple beauty of gorgeous Germany, but I guess all great trips have to end so you can plan, save and diet for the next one!  

Gorgeous Germany...And International Travel Tips! www.mytributejournal.com

I also want to give a heartfelt thanks to Jake and Whitney for planning such an amazing intinerary…you live in a beautiful part of the world!!

I hope your travel dreams come true and that these few tips will help in some small way! 

Any traveling tips that you swear by?  I’d love to know some of your most favorite travel destinations!

–Mary

My Hometown!

My Hometown!

Centerville, Utah! My Hometown! www.mytributejournal.com

The fun town that I’ve had the privilege of calling home for a number of years is celebrating its 100th birthday this year!  Centerville, Utah and the surrounding areas have provided a great place to raise my family and all the blessings that go hand in hand with a wonderful community!  As exciting as it can be to plan a fun summer vacation away from home, anticipating the arrival of my daughter and her husband from New York City in the next few weeks, allows me the chance to rediscover so many of the great things I love about my hometown!

Centerville, Utah on map www.mytributejournal.com

I love that Centerville has seemingly maintained its small town feel, but has all the amenities of a big city just a short drive down the freeway in Salt Lake City.

Things I Love To Do In And Around My Hometown!     

     Good Eats:

I’m going to start with some great places to eat since food is often the centerpiece of so many memorable activities!  Although Centerville can now boast an “In and Out” burger joint, among other popular restaurant chains, it’s a couple of locally owned food establishments that make eating in my hometown so unique!

♦The Mandarin♦ 

Tucked away on a corner lot of a residential neighborhood is one of our favorite places to eat!  Not only do we enjoy the food and the atmosphere of this quaint, Chinese restaurant, we love the owner Greg Skedros, who you’ll find most nights wandering around the tables visiting with his patrons.  Mr. Skedros is also active in the community and offers a full scholarship to a qualifying student each year when they graduate from high school.

Mandarin Restaurant in Bountiful, Utah www.mytributejournal.com

The Mandarin is also the first place of employment for many local teenagers where one of the most important things they learn is a great work ethic.  My son and youngest daughter were both employed at the Mandarin as they worked to save money for college.       

Mandarin Restaurant's cashew chicken. www.mytributtejournal.com

(via Urban Spoon)

The Mandarin serves a variety of great Chinese dishes including some that are more spicy Szechuan style…their cashew chicken is one of our favorites!

Mandarin Restaurant's Chocolate Fallen Angel Cake www.mytributejournal.com

(via Urban Spoon)

The desserts at the Mandarin are not only delicious, but beautiful works of art too–my granddaughters absolutely love the Chocolate Fallen Angel Cake with orange cream ice cream!

♦Dairy Queen♦

I found out not too long ago that most Dairy Queen hamburger joints are owned and managed locally, and while I won’t even pretend to know the exact formula for success that is recommended to help a small business thrive, I do know that they seem to have found the winning combination at Centerville’s Dairy Queen; so much so that my son-in-law will often joke that the steady stream of cars that are always lined up at the drive-thru window must be due to the fact that money or another coveted item is being handed out to customers!

Dairy Queen's Chocolate Mint Blizzard www.mytributejournal.com

One of the things my daughter, Mandi, seems to crave the most when she comes home to visit from NYC is a Dairy Queen Blizzard.  (She says there’s just nothing quite like it in New York–imagine that!)  One of my favorite flavors is Mint Chocolate Chip, but seriously, anything from their corn dogs to their fries and fry sauce to any of their delectable ice cream concoctions is worth the splurge once in a while!     

     Fun Times:

♦Bountiful Bowl♦

While there is plenty to do in my hometown that is worthy entertainment for most everyone in your family no matter their age, going bowling is definitely one of our family favorites.  I just love the happy, party vibes of a fun bowling alley!

Bountiful Bowling! www.mytributejournal.com

      There are also arcades, pool tables, yummy hamburgers and glow-in-the-dark, neon bowling on weekends at Bountiful Bowl!  (My husband recently told me that this neighborhood staple is up for sale and if new owners aren’t found, Bountiful Bowl may be closing its doors for good.  It makes me so sad to hear this news!)  

♦Lagoon♦

It’s no big secret that my granddaughters and I would gladly take up residency at Disneyland…but since that’s not really a possibility, it’s nice to be able to enjoy a bit of hometown magic of our own at Lagoon Amusement Park just down the road from Centerville!

Lagoon Amusement Park! www.mytributejournal.com

Although Lagoon gets a thrilling new ride every few years, the iconic, white wooden roller coaster is the ride that park attendees flock to the most.  Built in 1921, this roller coaster is the seventh oldest roller coaster in the world and the fourth oldest in the United States!  (My oldest granddaughter, Makena, is just happy that she is finally tall enough that she is eligible to ride on it!)

     Outdoor Recreation:

♦Mueller Park♦

Utah is well-known for its many beautiful outdoor recreation spots, but it’s safe to assume that I’m definitely bias in saying that some of the most amazing ones are nearby where I live!  Mueller Park Picnic Area is one of those special places where along with my family, I look forward to spending some time each summer, hiking and cooking dinner over a camp fire.

Mueller Park in Bountiful, Utah! www.mytributejournal.com

Mueller Park has a total of 18 picnic areas available for day use only, (no overnight camping) where tables, campfire pits, grills, horse shoe ring toss, bike trails and other assorted amenities (including flushing toilets) are available for your use, all surrounded by mother nature’s scenic backdrop, making way for some of the most memorable times you’ll ever spend with family and friends! 

Mueller Park picnic area www.mytributejournal.com

Like many who visit Mueller Park Picnic Area, my granddaughters have come to love this little piece of heaven on earth and look forward to our time spent there each year!  (Check out our fun variation of making smores over a camp fire on this post.) 

♦Pineview Reservoir♦

Pineview Reservoir is a popular boating destination very close to my hometown, about 15 miles up Ogden Canyon.   My parents had a boat when I was growing up and my husband and I bought one when our children were still quite young, so Pineview has been a place where many eventful boating excursions have taken place!

Pineview Reservoir in Ogden, Utah www.mytributejournal.com

For those years where a “staycation” is in order, we load up the boat and head out to Pineview Reservoir for some much needed playtime! 

Boating on Pineview Reservoir www.mytributejournal.com

For me, Pineview will always hold a special place in my heart because it’s where my kids and so many of their friends learned to waterski and where we all just enjoyed being together, out on the water, on a gorgeous summer day!

From all the beautiful parks to the eclectic mix of new and old architecture and everything in between, no doubt it’s family and friends and the strong sense of community spirit that always makes our hometowns so near and dear to us!

Founders Park in Centerville, Utah. www.mytributejournal.com

Happy Birthday, Centerville, Utah!  100 years looks good on you!

I’d love to know what unique things or traditions make your hometown special to you!

–Mary