Road Trip to Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur Escapade in the Philippines

A road trip to Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur: Rich in Culture, Traditions and Lifestyle.

Our trip began at Quezon City, one of the cities that make up the Metro Manila.

We decided to travel on our own with our private vehicle and to use information about the places we were planning to visit through the web. We even used Google maps on how to reach our destination and it was actually accurate.

It’s not that hard getting to those provinces since we traveled on main highways, except for some dangerous curves on the mountain road.

Drive Safely!

Next Stop: The City of Vigan

Vigan is the capital of the Province of Ilocos Sur, a World Heritage Site since it is one of the few Hispanic towns left in the Philippines. There are hotels and other accommodations in and around the area; contemporary and traditional restaurants. Of course, go for the traditional! 

So our plan was to look for a good accommodation since we were planning to stay the night in Vigan. The travel time took 8 hours including stops to have a rest and to eat our packed lunch. We left Quezon City at around 6:00 am and arrived to Vigan at around 2:00 pm.

We searched in advanced for good places to stay the night in Vigan and decided to stay in Villa Angela, since it had positive reviews and reasonable rates. Unfortunately it has very few rooms and there were no vacant rooms when we got there. Don’t worry you can make reservations! We just overlooked. 🙁

So we decided to look for other hotels and found Casa Rica Hotel, a boutique hotel not far from Villa Angela. A really good place! You could feel the traditional life style! Surprisingly we were the only guests to check in the hotel, no worries! Was actually fun because we felt like it was our rest house! 🙂 They were very accommodating, informative and included breakfast. Good service and located less than five minutes drive from the Heritage Village.

It is not hard to find the tourist spots in Vigan. Just around the Heritage Village (which is the main attraction) are plazas, old cathedrals, churches, and museums (donation fee: any amount, others costing only from 20 to 50 pesos).

You can walk or ride the kalesa, it will take you to 7 to 8 different places, but you can request not to go to some of them if you have visited already. Of course it will take you more than one hour to make the complete tour since during that time you’ll take pictures inside museums, climb up a bell tower and other stuff. So be ready! 🙂 

We ate at Cafe Leona for dinner, there’s a wide variety of local to modern dishes. Again, LOCAL! 🙂 In the menu are their must try local dishes. We ordered llocos longganisa, Pinakbet Pizza, Chopseuy, and Plain Rice. Good good good! Good service too! Then back to our hotel for a good night sleep. 🙂 

Then we took off to Laoag, Ilocos Norte at around 11:00 am

Vigan to Laoag will take 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Vigan is the capital of the Province of Ilocos Sur
The City of Vigan is a Unesco World Heritage Site in that it is one of the few Hispanic towns left in the Philippines where its structures remained intact, and is well known for its cobblestone streets, and a unique architecture that fuses Philippine and Oriental building designs and construction, with colonial European architecture. Because of this, Vigan City was officially recognised as one of the New7 Wonders Cities of The World.

Laoag, Ilocos Norte

We arrived to Laoag at around 12:30 pm and headed to the Marcos Museum and Mausoleum (Open daily, 9:00 am to 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm) We waited for 30 mins for the registration. It’s a place to learn a lot about Ferdinand E. Marcos, president of the Philippines for 20 long years, his power, success, riches and…more riches…..and more riches….and more and more and more…. riches. His embalmed body in the mausoleum looked like a wax replica to us. 

From there we headed to Malacañang of the North and Paoay Lake which took us 30 minutes to arrive (Tuesday – Sunday 9:00 am to 11:30 am and 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm). Also called the Malacanang ti Amianan, was the place where the former President Marcos resided with his whole family, had a golf course and the Paoay Lake at the back of the house where they played water sports. 

Wow! Lifestyle of rich and famous!

Since we were out of time, we decided not to go to La Paz Sand Dunes but we really recommend going check it out! We couldn’t make it to our planned lunch out since we were going to the Bangui Windmills and to the beaches in Pagudpud, where we didn’t know where we would stay the night. The original plan was to eat lunch at Saramsam YlocanoRestaurant or La Preciosa RestaurantTry them out! They are located in the city and are near each other. Very Convenient!

We headed off to Pagudpud, which took us another hour and 30 minutes.

Laoag, Ilocos Norte
Laoag, Ilocos Norte Jeepney is a most popular public transport on Philippines. – Depositphotos.com

Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte  

Before reaching Pagudpud, we went to the Bangui Windmills. You can go down those sharp curves of the mountain roads for a closer look. They are actually gigantic windmills that generate electricity.  It is not hard looking for a Beach Resort or any accommodation in Pagudpud, there are plenty of choices from hotels to lodges.

We decided to stay in Terra Rika Beach Hotel, which is an “okay” hotel. I suggest you try out Hannah’s Beach Resort, which has lot of activities. You will have to drive another 20 kilometers, which is why we decided not to go to since we were tired. 🙂  

ENJOY THE BEACH! Good food everywhere! Very nice people!

Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
Aerial view of Windmills for electric power production on the coast. Bangui Windmills in Ilocos Norte, Philippines. Ecological landscape: Windmills, sea, mountains. Pagudpud


Visit Kazakhstan – Where Old Meets New on the Ancient Silk Road

Until twenty years ago Kazakhstan was one of the great unknowns, a relatively undiscovered region of the former USSR. But today, many travelers are excited to visit Kazakhstan.

Located along the ancient Silk Road, this land of vast plains, beautiful mountains, clear lakes and clean rivers was considered basic, unwelcoming and remote to all but a few of the hardiest adventure travelers.

Today, Kazakhstan is an ethnically diverse republic with a unique culture mix on the border between Europe and Asia.

It is prosperous, modern, and chic in places, unspoiled, cultural, and quiet in others. It borders the Caspian Sea, the only inland sea in the world and is famous for its caviar; it is also the nation which gave the world tulips, apples and domesticated horses.

Bol'shoye Almatinskoye Ozero, Almaty in Kazakhstan
Bol’shoye Almatinskoye Ozero, Almaty

History of Kazakhstan

In the past Kazakhstan was broadly divided in two – the area of the settled Silk Road in the south, and communities of nomadic horseback herders who covered the rest of the country.

This situation continued until the early 20th century when the Kazakh people, under Soviet rule, suffered serious hardships.

An estimated 1.5-2 million died of hunger, some people fled to China, whilst others, mainly intellectuals, were repressed by the regime; this is undoubtedly where the image of an unwelcoming and cold land originated. However, in December 1991 Kazakhstan was proclaimed an independent state, and circumstances started to change.

Places to visit in Kazakhstan – Its Towns, Cities & Countryside 

As large as Western Europe and four times the size of Texas, Kazakhstan is totally diverse. North, south east and west, there are opportunities to enjoy everything from five star hotels to traditional Kazakh tent homes – yurts, where guests can learn about local customs, lifestyle and traditions.

There are mountain trekking and wildlife reserves, extreme touring adventures and chances to try out the ancient tradition of hunting with birds of prey. There are also opportunities for those interested in history and culture.

Kazakhstan is eager to attract foreign visitors, so those that take time to visit, are treated with enormous respect and genuine hospitality.

Visit the south of Kazakhstan

The south is rich with ancient history and culture. It is renowned for its medieval architecture, mausoleums and ancient burial mounds, it also the location of Kazakhstan’s equivalent of Cape Canavera — the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

  • Almaty, the city of the apple tree, was the nation’s capital between 1929 and 1998, and is the largest financial and cultural centre in the south. It is one of Kazakhstan’s most beautiful cities situated at the foot of the Zailisky Alatau Mountains, a base for exploring and winter sports. 
  • The Shymbulak ski resort offers exhilarating runs on deep snow between November and April, and during the spring, summer and autumn, there are walking and hiking opportunities through the gorges and foothills as well as chances to relax by crystal clear lakes.
  • The vast steppe of Baikonur is the location of the Baikonur cosmodrome, the largest of its kind in the world. This was where cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was blasted into space in April 1961 to become the first man to orbit the earth; it is also where the first satellite ‘Sputnik I’ was launched into obit. Until a few years ago tours of the site were not available to foreign visitors, but today everyone can view the launch complex, space shuttle ‘Buran’, Gagarin’s launch site, as well as a small museum which houses photographs of every expedition launched. There are also pieces of Gagarin related memorabilia, including his uniforms and a keepsake of soil from his landing site.

The site is located in a semi arid and unpopulated area with links by road and rail. It is advisable to arrange visits through a specialist tour company such as Country of Tourism Ltd or Kendala Adventures, as permits are in high demand, especially leading up to launches.

Visit Kazakhstan, Almaty
Almaty, Kazakhstan

Places of the Silk Route in Kazakhstan

The most highly populated region of Kazakhstan, Shymkent, is the third most populated city in the country. The city was founded during the 12th century as protection for the town of Sayram, an important stop on the Silk Route 10km to the east, but the town soon grew to become a central market town for trade between the settled people and the nomads.

Two other fine examples of an important towns on the Silk Route are Turkestan (Yassay) and Taraz.

Taraz is more than 2,000 years old and known as the city of merchants. It has ancient archeological monuments such as the fretwork covered 12th century mausoleum of Aishai-Bibi, a UNESCO protected monument, and the unique 16 rib umbrella dome of the 11th century Babadja-Khatun mausoleum, the only one of its kind in Central Asia. Finally is the city of Turkestan, 1500 years old, and the final resting place of the Muslim poet and humanitarian, Hodzha Ahmed Yassavi

Sayram, Kazakhstan
Sayram, Kazakhstan

Visit Western Kazakhstan

Western Kazakhstan is the crossroads between Europe and Asia. The Caspian Sea, the Volga, and the Ural Rivers make it a prime area for hunting, angling, and water sports. Here, it is also possible to witness the second lowest land level on the earth, the Karaghiye Depression; 132 meters below sea level. There are clear springs, beach resorts and canyons where extreme travelers will appreciate rock climbing on striking cliffs.

It is not just southern Kazakhstan that was influential in the Silk Route, the west and the Caspian Sea were also hugely significant. Small settlements – Caravanserais, survived here at Sartash, Ketyk, and Alta. There is also the legendary sacred mountain of Sherkala, where ruins of a fortress belonging to Jochi, eldest son of Genghis Khan, can still be seen.

As well as a thriving beach resort, the area around Aktau is the home to galleries of rock carvings attributed to nomads dating back between the 10th and 2nd centuries BC, and an underground necropolis created by Beket-Ata, the Muslim prophet to whom all creation was open. 

Ustyurt National Biosphere Reserve is a land of desert landscapes, lowlands, plateaus and a haven for rare animals. Ustyurt moufflon, cheetah, jackal, fox, saiga, gazelle, and long spined hedgehog are all found here. As well as the reserve, Ustyurt also features the ruins of ancient settlements and cemeteries on the banks of the Dead Kultuk, which are thought to belong to nomadic tribes from the 4th century BC.

Visit Northern Kazakhstan

Northern Kazakhstan is another region which provides excellent outdoor opportunities such as cycling, boating, and off-roading, as well nature reserves and health resorts.

One of the most popular resorts for both locals and visitors is Borovoye. Known as the Switzerland of Kazakhstan, and just like its namesake, it has a rich variety of restaurants, bars, shops and nightlife. It is a natural oasis with lakes, and unspoiled green forests, camping sites and spa resorts on the lakeside. Visitors looking for a remote experience can cross the small mountainous isthmus to reach Big Chebach Lake, which is a perfect, unhurried wild experience.

The capital of Kazakhstan, Astana, is a cosmopolitan and architectural city. Set on the banks of the Ishim River, the city has everything from opera and ballet to modern architecture such as the Baiterek Tower, the symbol of the city. At the top of the 97 meter tower there is an observation deck with a bird’s eye view for miles around. There is also a restaurant, art gallery, and a large aquarium lower down.

Astana, Kazakhstan
Astana, Kazakhstan

Visit Central Kazakhstan

Central Kazakhstan is a huge and relatively undiscovered region of the country, and location of the unique Blakhash Lake; one of the largest lakes in the world.

Balkhash Lake is the largest undrained reservoir after the Aral and Caspian seas. It is unique because of the different mineral composition of its water in the eastern and western parts, and it’s also a phenomenon because of its fish. There are an incredible amount of fish in the lake; trout, marinka fish, carp, white amur, barb fish, bream, barbel fish, catfish and many others. Every year between 8 and 10 thousand tons of fish are caught here.

The central region is also home to Bektauata Mountain Massif which comprises of bizarrely shaped rocks. In clear weather the massif can be seen for hundreds of kilometers, giving it the nickname ‘the lighthouse of Balkhash’. Daylight penetrates deep into its caves, where cavers explore grottoes and crystal cellars. Over thousands of years the pounding elements have eroded the granite to create fantastic rock formations with names like the Mushroom, the Chest, and the Turtle.

Visit Eastern Kazakhstan

Eastern Kazakhstan is distinguished by the Altai and its wooded foothills, the Irtysh River and lakes; this is the border with China, Mongolia and Russia. The mountain ranges of Rudnyi, Southern Altai, Kalby, and Saur-Tarbagatai play a considerable part of the region’s landscape.

Snow capped Belukha Mountain is the highest mountain in Altai and Siberia. It is the kingdom of ice and snow, with incredible thundering avalanches and clear, sparkling waterfalls. Berkutaul, meaning home of an eagle, is the neighboring mountain and another of the of the Southern Altai’s popular peaks. At 3,373 meters, this area is also home to the endangered Snow Leopard, some of the most illusive animals on the planet.

Markakol Reserve is another land of animals. Siberian stags, ermine, brown bears, elk, foxes, lynx, sable, the rare red wolf and birds such as falcon, grouse, black stork, and herring gull can all be found in the woods. There are attractive rocky mountains covered with greenwoods, fir forests, and sub alpine meadows, rich in flowers and rare medicinal plants.

Kiin-Kerish, which literally translated means proud beauty is a natural city made from tertiary clay; an incredibly beautiful and unique place with distinctive orange, white and red structures. The main feature of Kiin-Kerish is small layers of sand and clay with imprints of plants from its ancient tropical past and the fossils of rhino, crocodile, turtle and salamanders.

Visit Kazakhstan, Belukha Mountain
Belukha Mountain


3 Day Self-Guided Michigan Brewery Road Trip

Craft brewing has never been bigger in the United States, and there are a few states which really stand out as masters of the microbrew.

Surrounded by Great Lakes and beautiful Midwest landscapes, Michigan boasts over 120 craft brewers, including several national and world beer competition winners.

Making it a great idea to do a Michigan brewery road trip!

Read on to get the perfect itinerary for exploring the many great breweries in Michigan.

Michigan brewery road trip
Michigan brewery road trip

How to plan a Michigan brewery road trip

For a road trip to remember, start out at Michigan’s southwest corner, and be prepared for frequent pit stops at the many micro and craft breweries along the way. Of course, you’ll need a designated driver – but be good sports and chip in for some bottles to go, so they can at least enjoy them later!

Day 1: Three Floyds

If you can, start your journey a bit west of Michigan (less than 1 hour) in Munster, Indiana – home of the esteemed Three Floyds Brewpub, one of the country’s most talented brewers.

As their 96% “world class” rating on Beer Advocate indicates, Three Floyds is famous for their hoppy brews, but they can seemingly do no wrong with whatever style they take on. Be sure to try some fan favorites like Dreadnaught, Gumballhead, and Zombie Dust, and fill up on some great bar food too, including top drawer burgers and deliciously crazy scotch eggs.

Day 1: Greenbush Brewing & The Livery

Continue your quest north into Michigan, stopping by Greenbush Brewing (Sawyer, MI) and The Livery (Benton Harbor, MI) for some samples on your way to one of the best breweries on the route – New Holland Brewing (Holland, MI).

Day 1: New Holland Brewing

New Holland has a well-established, big and well-lit brewpub (a contrast from dimly lit 3 Floyds) with a wide variety of craft brews on draft. Fortunately, you’ll be able to try nearly all of them by creating your own flights – a sampling of (usually 4 to 6) smaller sized beers.

Holland is a nice small town on the coast, great for walking, and with beautiful sandy beaches, so it makes a good place to stay for the night. If you’re travelling in group, opt for a Two Bedroom Suite at the Residence Inn in Holland, complete with indoor pool, barbecue grills, and complimentary breakfast.

Day 2: Founders Brewing Company

The next day, head east to Grand Rapids, MI and make your first stop at Founders Brewing Company.

Grab a full pint of one of their phenomenal breakfast stouts and sample a few others. Even the designated driver can have a taste, because you’ll be walking to the next must-visit brewery…

Day 2: HopCat

HopCat, the #3 brewpub in the world according to BeerAdvocate magazine. Hopefully you arrive around lunch time, because in addition to some awesome beer, HopCat has some great food (don’t miss the crack fries).

Day 2: Jolly Pumpkin Artisanal Ales

There are three more important breweries to visit before the trek is complete. Continue east a couple hours to lovely Ann Arbor, Michigan, which has become even lovelier now that Jolly Pumpkin Artisanal Ales has a brewpub here.

Jolly Pumpkin specializes in interesting, complex beer styles that many brewers don’t even attempt. Their Oro de Calabaza ale has won several awards and has been lauded as the best non-Belgian Belgian beer you can find. Enjoy a night of food and drink, and shack up in Ann Arbor for the night.

Day 3: Dark Horse Brewing Company & Bell’s Brewery

Finally, on the last day of the Michigan brewery road trip, head back west, stopping by two very prestigious midwest craft brewers – Dark Horse Brewing Company (Marshall, MI) and Bell’s Brewery (Kalamazoo, MI).

Both of these breweries have a wide range of beers to sample – Bell’s has succeeded to perfect many of the standard American styles, while Dark Horse tends to be more experimental, often incorporating fruit into their process.

Alternatively, if you don’t have a dedicated driver, you can always book a Michigan brewery tour. Here’s a few options.

Looking for more things to do in Michigan? Check out this post:


The Ultimate Collection of Road Trip Tips

There is nothing fun like piling everyone in a vehicle and going for an old-fashioned road trip.

The allure of the adventure and the fact that it is such an economical option as compared to a vacation. As the miles start to increase and the weariness sets in, everyone starts to feel tired and bored. 

But, don’t worry. We’ve got the ultimate collection of road trip tips to make sure that you have an epic, memorable road trip with your friends or family.

Let’s dive straight in…

Planning a Round-The-World Trip
Planning a road trip

The Ultimate Collection of Road Trip Tips

Top tricks to make your road trip safe and memorable for the whole family.

Before you leave

Make sure you take your driving license. It’s so obvious, yet so forgettable.

Take your specs too, if you wear them for driving, and some sunglasses.

If you’re old or have a disability that affects your ability to drive, check with the hire company if they have any restrictions on people like you.

Compare quotes from different hire companies. There are a number of recognized stores in the US and they’re pretty similar in terms of cars and service, so try to get a good deal.

If you can, get your map or GPS before you leave. At least try to get directions from the car hire place to the main road!

Carry a First Aid Kit 

Before you get into the driver’s seat and drive off, make sure you have a complete first aid kit with you. Make sure you have a variety of items in the kit to cover a wide range of emergencies.

With trips being so unpredictable, you need to make sure the kit is extensive enough. If you had a kit before and used some items on a previous trip, you need to find out what items are missing and you replace them.   

Travel as a Group 

A road trip will be very boring if you decide to go on your own. At first it may seem fun due to the freedom you feel, but with time, you start getting bored. Having a group will be more ideal because you will be able to interact and have fun. 

One other thing about travelling in a group is that you will feel safer when you have other people around you. In case your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, you are less likely to be at risk of getting burgled as compared to when you are travelling alone.

Therefore, when planning a road trip, ask your friends and colleagues and plan on travelling together.   

Find Something Unusual 

There are many places along the road that you can make a stopover to turn your trip into an interesting one – all you need to do is find the places. Use the billboards on the roadside or use a search engine to find any attractions along your route.

Find a way to incorporate the site into your trip so that you have something to talk about many years to come. Additionally, most of these attractions are normally near the highway and inexpensive. These locations may also serve as educational stopovers for the children especially when they represent landmarks that are a part of history.   

Add an Element of Safari to the Trip 

Major highways have one or more wildlife attractions located near the highway. It would be a nice experience to see animals you have not seen before in your life. It will also be a lovely surprise for the kids to see some wild animals for the first time in their life. After a long and tedious journey, it is usually nice to just glide through a park so that you and the rest of the group can have a welcome distraction.   

Leave Details Behind 

Most of the time you find that the apprehension of going on a long road trip makes you forget the most important thing about any journey – safety. One way that you can be sure of help when something happens is by telling someone else about your travel plans. If you are not at a specific place after a given period of time, the person will let the authorities know. It is also good to let someone know by calling every time you reach a given place.   

Learn Some Road Trip Games 

There are several games that have been invented both for the adults and the young. These road games are not only for entertaining the travellers but also to keep everyone alert. Some of these games include “I Spy” which involves clues and guesses. Such games will keep everyone engaged and entertained for a long period of time.   

Road trip tips
Road trip tips

Carry Some Snacks 

If the journey is long, getting cranky is easy especially for the young ones. This usually happens due to hunger. Well, you can tackle this problem by carrying snacks of various types for the children as well as adults. Make sure these snacks are appropriate, fun and delicious for everyone that is on the trip.

Also have snacks that are specific for a particular type of condition suffered by any member of the group. This applies for people suffering from conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and ulcers.   

Choose Quiet Rest Stops 

Along the way, you need to stop time and again to rest. When choosing ideal places for stopovers, consider quiet rest stops especially if you have children in the group. Such stops will offer you a more relaxed environment to sit and cool off the hassle of the journey.

Additionally, the children will have enough space to run around before getting into the car for the second stretch of the trip.   

Bring Great Music or Audio Books with You 

Every road trip needs some music. You need to sit down and find out what every member of the group likes in terms of music and collect enough last the whole trip. Many people who have been on road trips can remember what happened on the trip when a particular song plays on the stereo.

It is also advisable for you to get sing-along music that all of you can join in and sing. You can also get some audio books especially for the little ones.   

Double Check Your Vehicle 

The vehicle is what will make or break the trip. Make sure the vehicle is spacious enough to hold all the travellers and in a condition to move long distances. You can have a mechanic to double check everything just to be on the safe side. If you have any doubts about the car, you can go ahead and rent one for the trip. When it comes to such a situation, you need to work with a reliable car rental service.   

Here are the top features to consider in a vehicle when taking a road trip:

Exterior

Whether a fan of driving an SUV or wanting to ride in a sedan, there are a few features that are important when driving through different climates and various environments. Depending on individual preference, these features to be helpful during a road trip.

  • Privacy Windows Featured in Rear Sides and Back of Vehicle

Interior

The most important thing I am looking for when on a road trip is to be comfortable for consecutive hours at a time. This means I need room to store all my gadgets, maps and snacks within close proximity to reach when needed. Also, breathing in fresh air, singing to the top of my lungs and knowing which direction I’m headed tops my list.

So while most of these popular features are optional, they sure do make the road trip more enjoyable.

  • Dual Zone Automatic Climate Control with AC and Heat
  • Sterio System with USB port and iPod Connectivity
  • Sunroof or Moonroof
  • Bluetooth
  • Dashboard Navigation System
  • Power door locks and Power Windows
  • Auxillary Power Outlets
  • Cruise Control
  • Cup Holders, Cargo Space and Overhead-and-Center Consoles

Related Read: Tips for Sleeping in Your Car

Performance

As long as you can get from point A to point B shouldn’t be your only worry, having a high-performing and safe vehicle is very important to consider before going on a road trip. Make sure the vehicle’s breaks work, engine is tuned-up and any other mechanical specs are up to par before hitting the open road.

But besides the standard performance of the vehicle, these features make the road trip more conveniant and safe.

  • Rear Parking Assist Sonar
  • Daytime Running Lights
  • Advance Airbag System
  • Tire Pressure Monitor System
Road trip tips
Road trip tips

The do’s and don’ts of road trip safety

Aside from choosing the right tunes to play on the radio, staying safe on your road trip is vital to having a trip that will make the memory books.

Follow these road trip tips for safety do’s and don’ts before your wheels hit the pavement!

  • DO try to blend in. There’s nothing wrong with being a tourist, but being confident is one of the top theft deterrents, so trying to blend in like a local allows you to exude just that. Don’t leave maps out in plain sight, and if you need to consult one while walking around town, do it discreetly. Follow up our guidelines of how to avoid pickpockets.
  • DON’T try to reach the next gas station when you’re at a quarter tank. If you’re not familiar with the route, don’t risk it! Being stalled out on the side of the road with no gas and maybe even a lack of cell phone reception is certainly a safety risk.
  • DO look at your backseat when you get into your car. We hope your road trip will only be a happy one, but crimes do happen. Take a look in your backseat to make sure no one has stowed themselves inside, ready to take control of your car when you put the key in the ignition.
  • DON’T keep washer fluid or hard objects in your backseat. If you’re going 45 mph and need to stop suddenly, you can imagine how any fluids, toys, or books are going to fly around your car. Harmful fluids can even open and spill. Keep it neat and trim for you and your passengers’ safety.
  • DO stash an emergency kit in your car. The old adage about being safe than sorry always rings true. Keep a box in your car filled with water, snacks, a flashlight, a warm blanket, flares, a first-aid kit, and jumper cables if your battery dies.
  • DON’T stay on the first floor of a motel. It may be easier to carry your luggage in to a room on the first floor after a long day of driving, but it’s also easier for thieves to break into your room. Even better – get a room facing the parking lot so you can keep an eye on your vehicle. Read all about the difference between a motel and a hotel.

Road trips are a rite of passage and are often unforgettable adventures, but it’s important to keep an eye on your personal safety and security while traveling on the open road. Use your common sense, and if a situation or area doesn’t feel right, go with your gut and get out of it!

Travelling is not easy especially when you have children in tow. You need to make sure you meet the demands of both the young and the mature so that you can make the trip amazing. Use the above road trip tips to make your road trip safe and memorable.


Scottish highlands

Road Trip Through the Scottish Highlands

 

Scotland, UK is a breathtakingly beautiful country that can make you feel like you’ve taken a step back in time with the vastness of its untouched lands and the old style buildings you’ll see in the towns.

The best way I think in which to see it all is a road trip to the Highlands.

So, grab your snacks and buckle your seats for the ultimate road trip adventure.

The Ultimate Scottish Road Trip

Preparing Your Road Trip

Route: Edinburgh to Inverness
Distance: 318 km
Driving Time: Around 5 hours
Length for Trip: 2-3 Days

Road Trip Highlights:

  • Fun, windy roads, in great condition most of the way
  • Epic views on every corner with plenty of designated places to park and take some great shots
  • Fresh seafood if you’re feeling hungry
  • The friendliest locals around to help you if you get lost

Renting a Vehicle

After years of collecting Aeroplan points, I was able to cash mine in with a one week car rental at Avis for 25,500 points. Yippee! For those of you who are still struggling to get those points, you can find cheap options on Skyscanner. Often if you want to rent for 3-6 days, it’s cheaper to just ask for a one week rental. My favorite rental companies are Avis and Enterprise.

Tips:

  • Many credit cards often offer car insurance for rentals so check if your’s provides this option to avoid insurance fees at the rental office which can often cost you more then the rental itself!
  • You will need an international drivers permit to rent vehicles abroad. Getting a permit is very easy in most places. In Canada you can visit your local CAA and apply for $25.
  • If you are a Canadian renting a vehicle in the UK, you do not need to get an international driver’s permit and will only need to show your local driver’s license.

Tunes for the Road

To make your road trip even better, make a Scottish playlist. Some great tunes for driving include:
•    Highlander’s Farewell by Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas
•    Johnny Tarr by Gaelic Storm
•    Hug air a’Bhonaid Mhois by Julie Fowlis
•    Hinba by Lau
•    The Cruel Sister by Old Blind Dogs
•    Celtic Pipes & Drums by Peatbog Faeries & Folk Police
•    Lough Erne’s Shore by Old Blind Dogs
•    Shooglenifty by McConnells Rant

The Route

Road Trip – Scottish Highlands – Day 1

Start in Edinburgh and spend at least a day there before hitting the road.

Fishers Leith

As soon as we arrived in Edinburgh, we headed straight to Fishers for a seafood lunch. Scotland’s seafood is so good, a large majority of it is actually shipped to Spain. We ordered some oysters, mussels, calamari which were all fresh and delicious. If you go Monday-Friday between 12:00-6:00 PM you can get a great deal with their set menu of 2 courses for £15 or 3 courses for £18.

Old Town

Next on our stop was to head into old town to walk off our great meal. Old town is an architecture enthusiast’s dream with every building having its own unique look and dates back to the medieval times. Make sure to look out for the Castle of Edinburgh and the Royal Mile.

Beer Sampling

As we strolled through old town, we popped into a few pubs to sample the local beers. Try the Fraoch which is a Heather Ale (Leann Fraoch) that’s been brewed in Scotland since 2000 B.C. Also try the Tennent’s Lager which is the local’s choice in pubs.

Ghost Tour

When it got to the evening, we booked a free ghost tour with CityExplorers. Our guide was Max who somehow managed to turn stories of murderers, dungeons and witch hunts into a walking comedy skit which was a lot of fun.

Road Trip – Scottish Highlands – Day 2

A Scottish Breakfast

The next day we started our morning at The Abbey, which is a proper Scottish pub offering a great breakfast starting at £4.95 and an unimaginable selection of whiskey (if you’re up for some early drinking). I went with the Scottish breakfast which includes egg, haggis, sausage, bacon, black pudding, white pudding, hash brown, tomato beans and toast. It was my first time trying haggis, and it  wasn’t’t bad at all!

In case you don’t know, haggis is made from sheep’s stomach and is stuffed with liver, heart and lungs of the sheep. Despite the name and what it’s made of, I would eat haggis again.

Arthur’s Seat

After breakfast we headed to Arthur’s seat which is around a 30 minute hike to the top of a hill,and over looks the entire city for some fantastic views.

Unfortunately, as soon as we started hike it started raining…hard. On the positive side, there were very few tourists and those we did encounter were retreating down because the rain was making it difficult to hike up.

By that point we saw it more of a challenge against mother nature to make it up to the top and pressed on. By the time we reached the top, not a single person was there and we had the entire spot all to ourselves.

After hearing stories from the ghost tour the night before about people hiking to the top of Arthur’s seat and then falling off, it felt very eery to be there on our own. Not to mention being surrounded by fog, mist, and then getting hailed on (in the middle of summer) which is when we decided it was time to go!

Tips

  • Arthur’s seat is located in Holyrood Park which is a great place to cycle in or have a walk around.
  • It’s also close to Holyrood Palace, which was the home for Mary Queen of Scott’s and is the official residence for the royal family when visiting Scotland.
  • Tickets for admission into the palace cost £12.50/adult.
  • If you don’t have much time, it might be worth just taking a drive around the road that circles the entire park and hill. The ride is no longer than 10-15 minutes and you can get some great views and spots for scenic pictures.

After conquering the hike up Arthur’s seat, it was time to hit the road to Inverness.

The Cairngorms National Park

Our first stop on the road was to the Cairngorms National Park which is the largest national park in the UK. The park itself contains the ancient Caledonian forest which has almost been wiped out from all of Scotland.

You can find many species of animals there including red squirrels and even wildcats. There are many different paths to go on for hikes, a couple estates to visit, Balmoral Castle and a steam train ride around the park.

Tips

  • We were short on time to catch a train ride but the Strathspey Railway runs a return trip from Aviemore through the heart of the Scottish Highlands which costs £14.25 for a 90 minute adventure.
  • If you are feeling like getting in touch with your nature side, you can find some great wild camping spots in the park.

A Hidden Beach

Just as you exit the Cairngorms National Park on the A86, there is a beautiful sandy beach where you can stop for a picnic lunch, do some fishing or even spend the night camping if you can brave the midges! The beach is located on Loch Laggan in between Quad Bike Tours and  Ardverikie Estate, you’ll be able to see the beach through the trees as your drive by with a designated parking spot to stop at.

Tip

Every encounter we had with Scottish locals they would always bring up “the midges”. They are similar to mosquitos but much smaller and will drive you crazy in the wild if you don’t have repellent on.

Apparently, the best form of repellent recommended by the locals is wearing Avon Skin So Soft. In truth we were fairly lucky considering the horror stories we heard about them, but we came prepared with repellant just in case, and you probably should too.

Road Trip – Scottish Highlands – Day 3

Glengarry Viewpoint

All along the road to Inverness you will find parking spots which are great to catch some epic views. As soon as you pass the sandy beach you will encounter three castle like buildings. Stop at Glengarry Viewpoint (about 1 hour after passing the hidden sandy beach) where you can stand on a rock and catch views of the entire landscape. Funny enough, one of the lochs is actually shaped like Scotland.

Invermoriston Waterfalls

Next, head to the tiny town of Invermoriston and leave your car at the local parking lot. Cross the street and follow the sounds of running water. This will take you to a waterfall for some great shots.

Searching for Nessie and Urquhart Castle

Head back to your car and make your way to Urquhart Castle which overlooks Loch ness for your chance to find Nessie. This is the site of an ancient ruined castle, one of the largest in Scotland which was built in the 13th and 16th centuries. Tickets to visit cost £9 per adult. Although we didn’t’t find the mythical sea monster we were able to catch the sun setting from the castle.

Inverness

This is the final destination for the road trip and is about a 30 minute drive from the Urquhart castle. For the best views of the city, head up to Inverness castle.

Exploring More in The Highlands

Your trip doesn’t need to end once you’ve reached Inverness. In the Highlands there are many things to see and do.

Dolphin Watching

Unfortunately, we didn’t’t get the chance to personally catch views of the dolphins ourselves but if you head to Chancery Point along the loch of Moray Firth you will have a good chance of seeing them there.

Glen Ord Distillery

You can’t visit Scotland without some Scotch tasting. Take a visit to Glen Ord Distillery which offers tours and tastings. We went on the most basic tour which cost £6 and includes a tasting of a 12 year old whiskey.  Interesting enough, this distillery only sells their scotch in South East Asia and is not available anywhere else, including the UK.

Golf

Did you know that the modern game of golf was invented by the Scotts? There are a few courses around including Torvean Golf Club, Inverness Golf Club and Fairways Loch ness Golf Course.

Watching the Indigenous Scottish Game of Shinty

An ancient game said to predate Christianity, shinty is a team sport that Highlanders play and was previously used to help train boys for warfare. Catch a game with local Highland teams.

Continuing Your Road Trip

If you feel up for seeing more of Scotland, I recommend continuing your road trip through to the Isle of Skye. Skye is well known for its beautiful, unique landscape and best explored on a wild camping road trip.

Travel tip shared by Jenn
amapforkandcork.com

 

Road Trip amazing landscape

Road Trip Necessities: What You Need to Keep Your Family Sane and Happy

 

When you’re taking a road trip with the family, there might be times when you want to consider a vacation by yourself because no one seems to get along in tight quarters. With a little imagination, there are some ways that you can keep the sanity alive in the car until you reach your destination.

However, it might require a few miracles when it comes to communication between your children.

Road Trip Necessities: What You Need to Keep Your Family Sane & Happy

Feed the Crowd

Food can often keep everyone quiet, at least for a short time. Keep snacks in the car that are healthy and that won’t make a mess. Cheese sticks or granola bars are ideal to enjoy in the car instead of chips or crackers as these things don’t make such a big mess with crumbs and such. Make sure that you have a trash bag so that items don’t get tossed on the floor of the car.

Have Electronic Devices

Don’t forget to grab the electronics and portable chargers before leaving home. Children can play games while traveling so that they have something to keep their minds occupied. Another option is to install a portable DVD player for children to watch movies. Audio books are also an idea if you want to enjoy the quiet solitude of a car trip while catching up on a bit of reading that you’ve missed out on lately.

Turn the Seats Into Sleep Spots

Make the back seat a cozy spot for sleeping or reading. Put blankets on the seat and a few pillows so that it looks and feels more like a bed than a car. Kids can have stuffed animals so that they have something to snuggle up to while on the road. After stopping at the library for a few books, this is a perfect area for your children to read a book. A benefit of turning the back seat into what appears to be a bed on wheels is that children can go to sleep if you leave home in the early morning hours.

Use Fun Bags

To keep everyone from fighting over what to do in the car, each person can pack a fun bag. It includes items to stay busy, such as a book, favorite toy or even yarn to crochet for someone older. The bags can also include a few snacks. A disposable camera can be included as a treat to give everyone a way to take pictures.

Traveling as a family can be fun, but it can also be a challenge as you might not always see eye to eye. Keep plenty of items in the car to stay busy.

If needed, pull over to stretch the legs before continuing on the journey.