Travel tips from a bad traveler

Oh, hello! Yes: I am, in fact, still alive (and well)! And we just got back from our trip to Cape Cod.

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It was wonderful, but I’ve realized something over the past couple of years: we’re (the Raums: Jeff & I) not good travelers. Despite exhaustive planning (on my end) and good intentions (on both of our ends), we generally don’t know what the hell we’re doing when we vacation. It seems easy – relax. Do whatever you want. Eat all the delicious food. Swim. Repeat. But, for whatever reason, I always feel a bit…lost. And end up worn out and exhausted, instead of refreshed.

So, in interest of making myself a better traveler and helping those who may feel the same way (hopefully you don’t, but you never know), here are some tips that I’ve learned the hard way – a kind of “what not to do” travel guide.

1. Don’t overestimate how much you can eat.

This one is really as simple as this: for the love of god, remember you’re a human! Listen. As Jeff solemnly stated the other night while dining at the Lobster Pot – not as an insult – “You [I] can EAT.” He speaks the truth – I really CAN put it away. But I tend to plan my trips almost SOLELY based on food, and end up committing myself to eat more food than is humanly possible to consume in a day. And that’s without factoring in drinks, and we all know that liquid FILLS YOU UP. This ends up making me feel bloated and sluggish, which makes walking around less than pleasant. Definitely do some research and figure out your must-haves, but if you’re used to eating three meals a day and maybe one or two snacks (which is the case with me recently), remember that you’re going to feel like garbage if you attempt to eat literally NON-STOP every single day. Don’t feel bad if you can’t get to every single restaurant you’ve read about. You can always go back another time if you want.

2. Maybe eat a vegetable; DEFINITELY drink some (lots of) water.

On a related note, if you typically eat relatively healthfully in real life, your body’s going to be peeved if you attempt to eat nothing but butter, cheese, bread and ice cream on vacation. I’m all for indulging on vacation and would never dream of trying to follow any sort of healthy eating plan while traveling for pleasure, but maybe eat a salad here and there, or maybe a piece of broccoli. And DO NOT forget to drink water, especially if you’re drinking a lot (of alcohol). Dehydration will ruin a vacation faster than you can say “Ugh, why do I feel like a bucket of discarded fingernails and fish heads?” I tried to get ahead of this this time by buying some yogurt to keep in our mini-fridge and eat for breakfast, but mostly failed. Oh well…next time!

3. Don’t feel guilty about downtime.

I know that it’s easy to feel like you should fill every minute of vacation time with fun and out-of-the-norm experiences, but some of our favorite vacation memories have been watching garbage TV in our hotel room (we are who we are). If you’re constantly going going going, you’re GOING to end up completely exhausted by the third day of vacation. If your vacation is three days long, fine…but if you’re going somewhere for, say, a week, you’re going to need to relax at some point. Whether that’s lounging with a good book or sleeping through dinner and waking up at 10:30 PM to watch Craig Ferguson on the “American Channel” in Mexico while eating room service cheeseburgers (true story, and one of my most treasured memories), enjoy your downtime and don’t feel like you’re “wasting your vacation.” We spent more late evenings than not this past trip watching Shark Tank in bed, and frankly, it was glorious.

4. Don’t try to be a sun goddess if you’re not one.

I’m constantly torn between wanting to bask in the sun (the amount of sun exposure I get DRASTICALLY affects my mood and general disposition) and protect my poor, mid-thirties skin from sun exposure. And I DO slather on high-octane sunscreen before hitting the pool or beach (or anywhere else I’ll be getting more than a couple minutes of sun), I wear SPF on my face every single day without fail, and I try to remember to bring a few hats when I travel somewhere warm. But then I get there, and I forget just how BRUTAL the sun can be. I’ll lay on the beach or by the pool for 10 minutes and start thinking “Holy shit, the sun is ACTIVELY TRYING TO HURT ME!! This actually HURTS MY BODY!!” I don’t know how people lounge on the beach ALL DAY, but if I spend more than a few hours in the sun, I’m BEAT for the rest of the day – even if I’ve been in the shade.

5. Don’t force yourself (or your partner) to do things you don’t enjoy “for the gram.”

On a related note – don’t do things you don’t enjoy because it feels like you “should.” For example: Jeff and I aren’t really beach people. Jeff doesn’t like sitting in the sun, and doesn’t really enjoy the ocean (unless it’s SUPER CLEAR, bath-like, tropical water). I really don’t enjoy sand, and lugging everything onto and off of the beach just isn’t my idea of a good time (the juice is NOT worth the squeeze for me, generally). I can get into the beach for a while with a big group of friends, or if I’m at a resort or hotel with private beach access with chairs and umbrellas, but if it’s just me and Jeff and we’re schlepping all of our stuff to just sit there for a few hours and then drag a ton of sand into our car when we’re done, I’m not really into it – I’d rather hang by the pool or elsewhere and read or whatever else I’d being doing at the beach. This has been hard for me to admit to myself because I was a MAJOR beach baby growing up (but on Lake Erie, which is much more low key than the ocean), and people in Delaware are ALL ABOUT salt life. I’m definitely in the minority around here, but it’s just how it is. I like the beach ATMOSPHERE – I love an ocean view, and I’m all for a trip down south to wander the boardwalk or eat some seafood, but the beach itself just doesn’t do much for me. That said, I always feel pressure to do at least one “beach day” when vacationing somewhere beachy – we did it in Cape Cod, and we did it in Spain. While I can’t say I necessarily regret it, the beach experiences definitely weren’t my highlights of either trip (not counting the untouched beach we boated to in Spain – that sort of thing is a definite exception to this rule). In the future, I’ll definitely prioritize a hotel or rental with a sweet pool setup over beach access, because it’s what we prefer and that’s okay.

6. Don’t buy crap you don’t want just because you “need a souvenir.”

I mean, this is pretty obvious. I personally haven’t done this in years, but I definitely fell victim to the “souvenir trap” before I started traveling more regularly. Pretty much anywhere with any tourist population is going to have 15 million crappy souvenir stores…and I’m not going to lie, I have always and will always go into them and look around, because it’s fun. But the stuff in those stores is usually poorly made, overpriced, and garish looking, and it’s not something you’d ever buy anywhere else. If you want to bring something home, try going off the beaten path to a locally owned store selling things that are genuinely cool and unique – stuff you’ll actually use and/or display when you get home. We typically still buy some kind of ridiculous souvenir because our parents genuinely like those kinds of things (and our friends get a kick out of them), and I decided a while back that I was going to start collecting magnets when traveling (after noticing that I didn’t have enough magnets for my fridge, and the ones I did have were a random assortment of local advertisements and other ugly crap), but other than that I try to find more unique shops and support them instead if I feel like shopping.

7. Be good to your body.

I’ve kind of already covered this, but for me, this means exercise. I’ve never once successfully exercised while on vacation despite ALWAYS packing running shoes and a sports bra, but I honestly think it would make me feel better to go on a short run before starting my day. Not only would it make me feel slightly better about eating all the everything for the rest of the day, but it would provide some peaceful alone time and a chance to see a different side of our travel destination. I’m always a little worried I’ll inadvertently overdo it and end up sore, and have used it as an excuse to skip working out altogether, but a 1 mile run (or even a brisk walk or short hike) isn’t going to hurt me in reality. I’m committed to giving it a go on our next trip.

8. Research rainy day activities in advance (and be realistic about it!).

Almost every trip I’ve been on has included at least one rainy day, and I almost always end up stumped as to what to do. When we went to Savannah, it rained almost the whole time we were there. I knew it was going to in advance (I’m an obsessive weather checker), and I had researched a bunch of things to do, but the things I “decided on” were mostly things we definitely weren’t actually going to do: visit museums (we’re not museum people), travel out of town to do a brewery tour (we weren’t renting a car), shopping (I’m not going to drag Jeff around various shops all day, and I’m not realistically going to spend an entire afternoon on vacation shopping). It rained all day one of the days when we were in Cape Cod, and we ended up spending most of the day chilling in our hotel room reading, then driving to the next town to get Duff Goldman’s favorite lobster rolls. It was actually a pretty great day, and I’m glad we saved our mini-excursion for a day when walking wasn’t in the cards.

The last thing is less advice and more of a crowdsourcing attempt: how do you guys ward off spending guilt when you’re traveling? Is this just a me thing? These days I always budget for travel and even have a separate “Vacation” savings account, so I have plenty of money set aside to spend while traveling. It’s not like I’m using credit cards and going into debt, or spending money that was earmarked for something else, but I always feel cringe-y about the amount of money we spend on vacation. Is this just how I am as a result of being broke for so many years? The only way I can think of to prevent this is to only to all-inclusive resorts…don’t get me wrong, I love an all-inclusive vacation, but they’re pretty limiting and I definitely want to travel to places other than the Caribbean. Christ, that sounded gross…this is absolutely a “check your privilege” situation, but nonetheless – I guess it is what it is. Any tips would be much appreciated (or, y’know…feel free to tell me to kick rocks). Cape Cod recap to follow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Summer Getaway

I’ve been trying to plan our summer vacation(s), and I’m having a bit of trouble deciding where to go.

My original plan was to do a quick Jersey shore trip (probably a long weekend) in early summer, and then a longer trip for our 2nd wedding anniversary in late August. I was thinking Maine for our August trip – it’s beautiful, we’d have city (Portland) and beach (Kennebunkport or Boothbay) options, plus lobster rolls! But when I started planning, I found that it was next to impossible to find a rental or hotel in coastal Maine in late August that was both available and didn’t cost $500/night. I thought about switching the trips – Jersey in August and Maine in June – but Maine isn’t very warm in June.

So, I’ve pretty much scrapped the Maine idea. I’m trying to keep things on the budget-friendly side, so I’d like to go somewhere within driving distance (plus we love a road trip, and haven’t taken a real one in a while). I’ve considered a bunch of options (Hilton Head, the Outer Banks, etc.), but I keep coming back to New England – while southern beach towns are relatively similar to our beaches around here, New England has such a unique feel. Right now, I’m thinking Cape Cod in late June – it’ll be right before the main season so we’ll hopefully dodge the crowds a bit, but by the end of June it should be warm enough to swim. I’m thinking we’ll do Monday – Thursday in Provincetown, check out on Friday and take a quick detour to overnight in Boston, then head home Saturday. I’m waiting for Jeff’s approval, but I’m already dreaming of lobster rolls, clam chowdah, lazy afternoons on the beach, and evenings by the fire pit. (And maybe a drag show or two – when in Rome!)

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Provincetown sits at the very tip of the cape.

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Race Point Beach

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Retro Harbor Hotel on the bay

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Lobster rolls on the deck of The Canteen

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Biking through town

Universal Studios & Our Florida Escape

Oh, hey! I’ve been neglecting this blog a bit since I update The Good Food daily, but I miss having more personal chats! Let’s catch up, starting with our Wizarding World of Harry Potter Trip.

You guys…WE HAD THE BEST TIME. Universal Studios was great of course, but if I’m being honest, my favorite part of the trip was our hotel (which was a resort property) and the time we spent just hanging out.

Since our trip was so short (Friday evening through Sunday morning), we really didn’t think we’d have much time to spend doing anything other Universal Studios, let alone swim or hang out at the hotel. We somehow ended up making the best possible use of our time, though – starting immediately after we checked in to the hotel, at which point we headed directly to the bar, luggage and all, and ordered cocktails. We took our drinks to go and briefly explored the hotel, which included a bowling alley, several bars, multiple restaurants, two huge pools (one of which had a water slide, and I didn’t even see it until right before we left), a lazy river, a huge outdoor jacuzzi, and an arcade. We went up to our rooms to finish our drinks and change, and then headed out to explore City Walk and grab some dinner.

Saturday was (obviously) our Universal Studios Day, and since we were staying at a resort property, we were allowed to enter the park an hour early. Much to Jeff’s distress, we ended up losing about 15 minutes of that time due to a miscommunication about breakfast (he figured we’d eat at the park, whereas I refused to leave the resort on an empty stomach – typical me), but we still ended up easily beating the crowds. It was a chilly day in the low 60s, but coming from frigid Delaware, it felt pretty comfortable by comparison and we were both fine in t-shirts without jackets in the sun.

Upon entering the park we discovered that Jeff had accidentally bought Fast Passes in place of actual tickets – at Universal Studios, fast passes are extra (they actually cost the same amount as the ticket itself, so it’s a pretty steep add-on), but you literally get to skip the line (or rather, you get to walk past the line into a separate queue towards the entrance of the ride). The ticket taker told us we could either keep the fast passes and buy tickets from the ticket sales kiosk, or we could exchange them for actual tickets at the customer service desk. We originally intended to exchange them since this was an over $300 mistake, but the line for the service desk ended up being too long and we decided to suck it up and just buy tickets and keep the fast passes.

Welp…this ended up being the BEST DECISION EVER. Seriously. By the time the crowds arrived at the park, lines for some of the more popular rides were 3+ hours, but with our fast passes, we were on them within 10 minutes. We decided that from here on out, we’d be building fast passes into our budget any time we visit Universal Studios. Highly, highly recommended – especially if you only have one day. We ended up being able to enjoy every attraction we had interest in, with time left over.

The park was pretty much everything we imagined – both Harry Potter worlds were perfect, like walking right into the movies. The rides were great – much more intense than I had predicted, but very thrilling and full of incredible affects. My favorite rides were the virtual reality rides – the indoor ones where you’re strapped in and the drops and spins are simulated. We ate lunch at one of the Harry Potter restaurants (the food was fine, but the standout of the day was the hot butterbeer – I’m still dreaming about it), and ended up leaving the park completely exhausted an hour before close (I think the park closed at 8, so we left around 7).

According to my iPhone, we had walked over 10 miles over the course of the day, so our feet and legs were killing us…but we were determined to make the most of our trip, and rested in our hotel room only briefly before heading back out for dinner. Our original intention was to go back to City Walk for a sit-down meal, but we noticed that despite being pretty chilly, the pools were all open and there were quite a few people in each of them, so we decided to take a quick dip before eating. Well…one thing led to another, and we ended up at the pool bar, talking to some other guests. The pool cocktails came in souvenir plastic tumblers, and we found out that not only could you bring your drinks into the pools/lazy river, but there was a huge hot tub (we hadn’t discovered this yet). Obviously we couldn’t pass up a huge hot tub with cocktails on a chilly night, so we ended up spending several hours in the hot tub, and deciding to order room service for dinner. After retiring from the hot tub (several cocktails in and trying to avoid the hangover of a lifetime for our 6 AM flight), we went up to our room and Jeff ordered pizza while I ventured out into the hotel in search of additional junk food (which I found at the bowling alley snack bar in the form of soft pretzels and mozzarella sticks). We feasted in our room and immediately passed out.

As silly as it may sound, that evening was the most fun I can remember having on vacation in a long time – just being spontaneous and not feeling like we had to follow an itinerary, and relaxing and enjoying each others’ company and chatting with fellow resort-goers. I almost want our next trip to be to another theme park, just so we can stay at a resort property (haha). All in all, it was a trip for the books and I’m itching to plan our next getaway.

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And we’re off!

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View from our room (pardon the glare)

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City Walk at night

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