Well good evening!!
I can't believe it's been so long since I last posted. Ok, truth be told, I can. I completely missed my last trip update. Make that two.
We took a wonderful 8 night cruise on Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas in November 2011. Shortly after we returned home I found out that by November 2012 (August actually...) there would be Baby B taking over our house. My new hobby was spending tons of time on BabyCenter because I wasn't exactly the most kid friendly. We took a baby moon up to Niagara Falls and Toronto in May 2012. I was still glued to BabyCenter so no updates then either.
It's 2013 and I will keep up with this blog better...I hope.
I want to do three trips this year. So far, I've only got buy in for one.
I'd like to donate more money to Royal Caribbean! (Already over ruled on that one so far...) I figured that we should do the Bahamas weekend cruise since Baby B needs to have her first out of womb cruise experience. Mommy needs a beach. :)
I know this will come as a huge surprise to you all. I want to go to the Yellowstone area. Baby B needs to learn to appreciate it from a young age. There is a canin near Island Park, Idaho calling my name. Plus, we need some practice flights as a family.
And, finally, the only thing with buy in...London!!!! Baby B will be joining us for a trip across the pond for the wedding of a lovely friend we made on our European cruise a few summers ago. I. Can't. Wait!! We will be visiting in November. I have already started on my must see list. My most recent addition - the Harry Potter studio!!!! I didn't even know it existed until a week or so ago. So what else would you guys recommend? Baby B will turn 15 months while we are there so please keep her in mind.
As I had posted previously, we decided to go back out to the Yellowstone National Park area for latest vacation.
September 3, 2011 - Driving and Flying...then driving some more.
A 9 am flight from Atlanta meant a 4:30 am wake up. We should have just booked a hotel in Atlanta the night before, but we procrastinated too long to get the Park, Sleep, Fly deals at a reasonable price. The drive to Atlanta was uneventful (thankfully), and we parked the car at The Parking Spot 2 since I had printed a $5.99/day coupon earlier in the week. We hopscotched across the country from Atlanta to Chicago to Denver to Jackson. The flight to Jackson was delayed a little so we arrived around 5 pm. I was not expecting that airport to be so small!! But it did make getting the bag and the rental car a breeze. We arrived at the cabin we rented in Idaho about 9 pm and called it a night.
September 4, 2011 - YELLOWSTONE!!!!!!!!
We finally got out of the cabin about 9:30 am and headed straight towards the West Entrance. Our plan was to hit Norris then work our way back down through all the geyser basins. We passed a VERY crowded Gibbon Falls, then attempted to visit the Artist's Paintpots...got quite lucky at Norris and actually found a parking spot. Made the decision that the geyser basins should be avoided, but since we were parked at Norris may as well wander the Porcelain Basin since we were too tired to walk it on our 2010 trip. We opted to visit the Back Basin later in the week (which we never got around to visiting...). After Norris, we decided to adjust our day by heading to Tower, out of the North East Entrance for some lunch, down to Canyon in order to cut back to Norris to call it a day. It was a pretty fun drive through the park. We saw lots of waterfalls, beautiful vistas, a petrified tree, and a LOT of bison. We stopped for lunch in Cooke City, MT at a place called The Bistro. The food was pretty good, but not quite what we were expecting since the word "Bistro" was in the name. (Perhaps we have worked in Greenville too long...) For the record, we were able to stop at the Artist's Paintpots and Gibbon Falls with no crowds on the way back towards the West Entrance.
September 5, 2011 - Operation Avoid Yellowstone: Virginia City and 1959 Earthquake Area, Montana
The crowds at Yellowstone were awful due to the holiday weekend so we were off to visit the old gold mining town of Virginia City. We thought it was slightly creepy there...interesting and creepy at the same time, actually. The city is pretty much a museum. There are lots of old items, furnishings, and displays from the city throughout its history. My favorite part of the day was visiting the earthquake area. In August 1959, there was a 7.5 earthquake that struck Hebgen Lake. It was nearly midnight when the earthquake occured. The quake caused a large portion of a mountain to give way sending the debris to the canyon below. The debris dammed up the Madison River creating Earthquake Lake. There was a campground at the base of the slide area. Twenty-eight people died from the landslide or from other injuries caused by the quake. We stopped by another campground to see a huge fault scarp. It was amazing how "fresh" it looked after fifty-two years! We visited Hebgen lake to see the destroyed highway and houses that had fallen into the lake. We hiked at Refuge Point to see the Ghost Village. Ghost village is a collection of cabins that were lifted off of foundations when the dammed Madison River formed Quake Lake and settled in the valley once the spillway was made by the Army Corps of Engineers.
September 6, 2011 - Geysers, Hostprings, and Animals...oh my!
We started our day by driving Firehole Canyon Drive. The falls were so beautiful! We tried to visit many of the "side streets" off of the Grand Loop as many of the roads were closed during our first trip to Yellowstone. Our next stop was the Lower Geyser Basin. We were most intrigued by Red Spouter. It was a huge, hissing fumarole this time of year. Since we visited it early spring last year, the Red Spouter was spouting boiling, muddy water. Firehole Lake Drive was incredible. There were many hotsprings right beside the street. We happened to be in the right place at the right time when White Dome Geyser erupted. There was only one other person at the geyser with us (and several others closer to their vehicles). It is incredibly nice how few pepole there were nearby compared to the "main" geyser basins. The Firehole Lake and Hot Lake area was our first favorite experience of the day. The size and heat were pretty amazing. (I am completely amazed by the thermal areas anyway, by far my favorite part of the park.) We headed to Gardiner, Montana in hopes of having lunch at Rosie's. Rosie's was closed!!!! We ended up eating at the Town Cafe...wow. I'll leave it at that...We missed Rosie's! We changed into our swimsuits after lunch for a dip in the Boiling River. YNP allows swimming where the icy Gardiner River and the hot Boiling River mix. It is such an odd feeling to have one leg FREEZING and the other in really hot water. When we arrived in Mammoth after our soak in the river, there were Elk just hanging out by the road. A park ranger was out to make sure no one got too close to the Elk. September is their mating season and the males can be quite aggresive. While at Mammoth we wandered around the terrace areas for a little bit before heading out of the park. On the way out we stopped by one of the springs right near Madison junction and saw a wolf and a dead bison...I think Kevin liked the bison the best...He took lots of pictures of it.
September 7, 2011 - More Geyser Basins!
First stop...the Midway Basin to wander the boardwalks. The Midway Basin is home to Excelsior Geyser and Grand Prismatic Spring. They are both beautiful and large. There were many people on a rock behind Grand Prismatic getting an amazing view. We were jealous! We knew of the rock, but did not know where to find the trail. We left Midway Basin enroute to Biscuit Basin and approached the trail (Fairy Falls) to get to the rock! DETOUR!!! We only went far enough down the trail to reach the trail up the rock overlook. The view was absolutely stunning!!! After our detour we headed to the Biscuit Basin. We saw both Mustard Spring and Jewel Geyser erupt while there. The West Thumb Basin was our next stop. The West Thumb Basin is at the edge of Yellowstone Lake. Yellowstone Lake is an alpine lake. It is so cool how the cold lake water and the hot thermal water are in the same area. It was getting kind of late in the day so we decided to make our way back towards Idaho. On the way we stopped at the Upper Geyser Basin to see Old Faithful erupt. There was a storm in the area so it was amazing to see the white plume from Old Faithful in front of the dark storm clouds! The temperature dropped dramatically because of the storm. We had to pull out the fleece pullovers when we stopped at the Black Sand Basin before leaving the park for the day.
September 8, 2011 - Canyon and Cody!
We started our day by headed straight to canyon area. Canyon is Kevin's favorite area of the park. We took the trail to the brink of the lower falls. The view was incredible! Our next stop was to the Mud Volcano area. The area is highly acidic (and stinky!) and there are spots in the parking area where the asphalt has been eaten away. Our first Yellowstone traffic jam came after we left the Mud Volcano area. It probably took us over an hour to get through it. The bison that were in the fields beside the roads were funny to watch. The were grunting loudly and rolling around in the dirt. We ended up having our picnic in the car since the bison kept playing in the road for so long. We stopped by the Fishing Bridge for a few pictures before heading towards the East Entrance. We saw lots of thermal areas along the lake shore. It seemed like it took forever but we finally reached the East Entrance and headed towards Cody. Cody was not what we had pictured!! Not in a bad way or anything, but it was just way smaller than we thought it would be. We got out and looked around at the Buffalo Bill Dam. We ate dinner in Cody, and then headed back towards Idaho. It was a LONG drive! The bison were STILL in the road when we got back to that area in Yellowstone. There was much less traffic so no huge traffic jam this time. We finally got back to the cabin around 10 pm.
September 9, 2011 - Just taking a drive...
We got up and decided we wanted to drive into Montana for the day. Helena or Bozeman were our choices. We ended up choosing Bozeman just because it was closer. Bozeman was bigger than we had anticipated. We had an AMAZING pizza at a place called Buffalo Bump Pizza Deli. We ordered the Big Sky Bird which had buffalo chicken, grilled chicken, bacon, fontina, and mozzerella! YUM! We wanted to call it a day early since we needed to pack. We stopped in West Yellowstone to mill around before heading to pack. West Yellowstone has bunches of those shops like Myrtle Beach and Gatlinburg. Nothing too interesting to us so we headed back to the cabin about 4 or so.
September 10, 2011 - Is it really time to go home??
We left the cabin bright and early to head back to Jackson. It was a nice scenic drive. Maybe we just noticed more of the scenery since we were not as tired as the first time driving through. There was some sort of festival at the square when we got to Jackson. We wished we would have had a little time to check it out. We got to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Well, until we encountered the large group of people that could not figure out the self check in kiosks at the ticket counter!!!! Security was a breeze, ate a quick lunch, and then boarded the flight for Denver. Vacation was over. :( It was as if someone had pushed fast forward once we arrived. We got to Atlanta around 9 pm, picked up the car at The Parking Spot (only $50 for the week!), and headed back to Anderson.
It was so nice that more of YNP was open this time than our last visit. We managed to see almost completely different things than our first trip. We could probably visit there every year and still find new things to visit.
Now...where should we visit next?
My mind is on Yellowstone!!
It seems vacations are always planned just when you need them the most. I actually think this one is probably a little delayed past the "I need it" point! It also seems that once vacation time arrives it suddenly vanishes. As the days left until departure are dwindling, I still have a few things that I need to finalize before our departure.
So who is an obsessive planner when it comes to vacations? Not me! Friends would probably say that I do have everything planned, but I don't plan everything. Vacations are supposed to be relaxing right?? Is it really relaxing to have every minute of the day planned? I would have to say no. We go into our vacations knowing what we would like to do but without a rigid schedule.
For example, I have to nail down flights, lodging, and rental car. I just need ideas for other aspects of the vacation. I want to spend time in Yellowstone. I would like to visit Virginia City and Quake Lake. For the life of me I cannot commit to whitewater rafting.
ADD Moment - I forgot to call the cabin rental company again!!!!! I said almost every day this week that I need to call them. Maybe next week...
Ok - back to whitewater rafting.
I need to make a decision. To be honest, I am a little nervous about it. I have never been, and I know the water will be cold. What if I fall out of the raft? I am not the most athletic. Am I going to have to paddle the raft? What if...what if...what if... I could be over analyzing everything. (I would never do that, right??) My cheapness, errr...budget minded thought process has me questioning how much is an acceptable price to pay for a 2-3 hour trip. (For the record, the cost is not that high about $40 per person.)
I am also extremely excited about the cooler temperatures and low humidity! It has been a miserable summer in Upstate South Carolina. We had many days of 100 degree temperatures. I think the temperatures should be in the 70s when we visit Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.
We are not flying from our home airport on this trip because of the drastic difference in airfare. Wow!! I cannot believe how expensive it is to park at the Atlanta airport now!!!! Luckily, I found out one of the offsite parking lots is selling spaces for $5.99 per day. I think that will be our best bet since our trip is 8 days. The cost will be about half of what we would pay at the airport.
Sorry for all the rambling, but I am just a wee bit excited about the upcoming vacation. Hope that everyone has a fantastic weekend!
First of all...Happy 4th of July everyone!! (So, I'm a day early.)
This may seem like an odd post coming from a travel agent, but my financial background runs long and deep. Traveling (and traveling nicely) does not have to be as expensive as one may think.
Using Hotwire, Priceline, or Last Minute Travel can really pay off once one can "figure out" how it all works. I have been known to cross reference other websites such as Trip Advisor or Better Bidding. I would say that I find Trip Advisor works best for Hotwire and that Better Bidding works best for Priceline. Last Minute Travel can sometimes be extremely easy as they sometimes post photos of the interior of the hotels. It is easy to cross reference between any of the other travel websites as they usually post the same stock photos. The majority of the time when booking on any of the three websites I am 99% sure what hotel will be revealed.
The first time that I recall making a purchase when I was 99% certain of where I would be staying was in July 2005. We were heading to Fort Lauderdale for a week. I really wish I remembered what we paid (as nothing shows up in the history on the LMT website). The hotel was the Sheraton Yankee Trader. The hotel was beachfront, we could even see the ocean from our room!
Now on to more specific examples from Hotwire (Thank you, Hotwire, for having the winning history!)...
July 2004 - Miami Beach, FL
Sixty Sixty Resort and Hotel (at the time was a Holiday Inn), 3 Stars, $50 per night.
According to TA - Awful reviews, would not recommend!! In 2004, it was nice.
May 2005 - Salt Lake City, UT
Marriott City Center, 4 Stars, $49 per night. Retail is over $200 per night.
I loved it there! Actually wanted to stay there the last time I was in town. Priceline did not agree.
June 2008 - Myrtle Beach, SC
Sheraton Convention Center, 4 Stars, $89 per night. Retail is over $200 per night.
$89 is not a bad deal for booking a same day, Friday night, summer time stay in Myrtle Beach.
May 2009 - Honolulu, Hawai'i
Hilton Hawaiian Village, 4 Stars, $102 per night. Retail starts around $200 per night.
Again, another favorite!! Great location, we could walk pretty much anywhere. Plus, there was a bus stop right out front.
May 2010 - West Yellowstone, MT
Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort, 3 Stars, $89 per night. Retail is over $200 per night.
The hotel was ok. No real complaints, my guess is that the high retail is due to the proximity of the hotel to the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park. I would be willing to stay there again.
May 2010 - Teton Village, WY
Snake River Lodge and Spa, 4 Stars, $49 per night. Retail is around $300 per night.
Probably my absolute favorite! I already want to visit again, but prefer the $49 price tag.
May 2011 - Myrtle Beach, SC
Embassy Suites, 3.5 Star, $111. Retail is over $200 per night.
Not bad for a holiday weekend. I would definitely stay there again.
Now on to booking with Priceline. We have had decent luck using them as well.
May 2010 - Salt Lake City, UT
Little America Salt Lake City, 3.5 Star, $56 per night. Retail for tower rooms is near $200 per night.
Honestly, the hotel was older but extremely clean. I would stay there again. Our room was huge, and well, really pink! Very easy walk to Temple Square.
March 2011 - San Juan, Puerto Rico
Intercontinental San Juan Resort and Casino, 4 Star, $115 per night. Retail starts at just over $200 per night.
We were upgraded to the club level which required a key card in order to even enter the wing. The room was nice. The pool and beach were great! I would not ever pay retail to stay here, but we would definitely be willing to stay here again. Our sitting area overlooked the pool.
March 2011 - San Juan, Puerto Rico
Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel, 3.5 Stars, $83 per night. Retail is around $150, but much higher the night before cruise ship turn around.
Convenient!!! We had terrible neighbors (LOUD!). The hotel was clean, the walls were paper thin. Location, location, location would bring us back. Our room overlooked the cruise ship docks.
Now, the real reason I decided to write this entire post took place last night. Our only "missing piece" for our upcoming Yellowstone trip was a rental car. Rental cars in Jackson, WY are expensive. I decided to play around for a few minutes not really expecting any results. I looked on Hotwire, and the economy cars were running about $35 per day. I pulled up the Priceline website and selected that I would like a standard car. $15 per day...Rejected! (Again, as I expected.) The next page brought up where I could try for a different size car or just increase my bid. Standard, please, for $20. No high hopes, I am just seeing the limits. What?? Accepted!!! I blurted out that we now had a rental car, and off we went for our evening walk around the neighborhood. Upon returning home, I glanced at my email in order to foward the confirmation to My Trips on Kayak. (If you have not used My Trips before, it is great! It creates an intinerary with all the flight, hotel, and rental car information in one place.) Our total price for the week long rental came to just under $200. Retail for the exact same rental is around $705--a savings of 72%! I am especially glad that I do not have to explain to my husband why we must spend $700 to rent a car for a week.
Savings with Priceline and Hotwire can be paired with getting paid to shop online from Ebates. Cash back for Priceline ranges from 1% to 4.5% depending on what services are purchased. Hotwire's cash back rate is 2%. I am not a huge online shopper, but I have earned $51 since I joined in August 2010.
It's true, we finally made a decision. We're headed back to Yellowstone for our next vacation.
Our last vacation was in March. We took an amazing Southern Caribbean cruise with Royal Caribbean out of San Juan. Now typically, it's not unusual for me to have my vacations planned out a year or so in advance. (Planned out can be read destination picked with a pretty good idea of exactly what I would like to do.) This year was different. January had arrived. My friends and co-workers knew that I was headed to the Caribbean in March, but then what? I was clueless. I had ideas...my top three at the beginning of the year were Australia, Moorea, and Eduador. My husband shot down Ecuador right off the bat. (Though I would still LOVE to go at some point.) Ecuador got replaced with a Mediterranean cruise out of Venice with our friends from London. Moorea fell off the radar. My husband suggested the Grand Canyon. He was a small child the last time he visited, and I've only seen it from 30,000 feet several times. What about coastal Oregon? I checked airfare to Venice. Wow, what happened to airfare to Europe since we went to Rome last summer? The cost for one ticket was what we paid for two last year. Ok, that's out.
I decided in April to take a step towards something people have been saying I should do for years. I selected a host agency and became a travel agent. While looking through the thousands upon thousands of pictures we have taken over the past seven years, it hit me. Yellowstone would be perfect!
I asked my husband for his thoughts, and we locked in on pricing the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. We knew we wanted to stay in a vacation rental for the week instead of a hotel. The general area around Yellowstone had much more to choose from though getting there was going to be a little more expensive. We started thinking of how rushed our three days in the park last year were. A whole week? SOLD!
We found a great rental on Henry's Lake in Idaho (about 15 minutes from Yellowstone's West Entrance). It's also not very far from sites like Quake Lake or Virginia City in Montana. Earthquake Lake was formed by a landslide that occured from the 1959 Hegben Lake Earthquake. Virginia City was a gold mining town in the 1860s.
Now the wait begins...(and yes, we are counting the days...)
Looking for a good deal for a last minute 4th of July vacation? My mom just booked the Hilton Daytona Beach Resort/Ocean Walk Village for around $100 a night on Priceline. If you're looking for a cruise, check out our Last Minute Cruises website.
For as long as I can remember I have been obsessed with maps, globes, and wanting to see the world. Now I'm trying to make all of those childhood dreams into a reality.