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.


Great Tips for Planning a Round-The-World Trip

The RTW traveler: a breed of road veteran surpassed in experience perhaps only by the steely-eyed, scarf-wearing newspaper foreign correspondent.

The idea of round-the-world travel has been gaining traction in recent years, with more and more people, from a widening variety of age ranges and backgrounds, deciding it’s possible to add a big trip to their life-plan. Especially as more businesses and workers have taken up remote working – meaning that you can travel the world, while keeping up with your day job!

But, what goes into planning a round-the-world trip?

I’m going give you a few tips (seven to be exact) to help you better arrange your planning, to you show you how to kickstart your round-the-world trip with an ease you may not have recognized.

To more easily break it down, I’ll put the process into chronological steps you can tick off one by one.

Planning a Round-The-World Trip
Planning a Round-The-World Trip

7 Tips for Planning a Round-The-World Trip

Step 1: Finalize where you’re going

Before you start planning your round-the-world trip, you need to have an idea of where you’d like to go.

This process of deciding where to go may have started when you first discovered there was a world out there to travel to, when you first saw images of places like the Great Pyramids and Machu Picchu, when words like Burma, Bali and Buenos Aires only just began to capture your imagination.

The final decisions about destinations should take place about six to eight months before you want to leave. This way you’ll still have a couple months before you lock down your route by buying plane tickets. 

If you need to, hang a world map on your wall, put some pins or stickers on it, and reinforce the idea that you’ll actually be in these places soon. Adjust them if your itinerary strategy or motivation changes. If anything, this process will serve to coalesce your vision, not to mention sharpen you geography skills – which is great since you’ll be needing them later on.

For some inspiration, check out these posts:

Step 2: Create your round-the-world trip budget (and stick to it)

The financial aspect of round-the-world travel planning may be the most challenging and least fun part but someone’s going to have to pay for the trip, and if it’s you, set a budget. It could be the one thing that keeps you on the road when others are running out of money.

There are ways to determine how much things are going to cost; the Internet is rife with information about the costs associated with round-the-world trips, so use the resource to formally assign some costs to your budget plan.

Make yourself comfortable and physically write down your numbers based on your personal traveling style. Use a spreadsheet if necessary, some expensive budgeting software, an abacus, whatever works best for you because you’ll want to be able get a complete overview as you work your way through the process.

Here are some categories to get you started:

  • Plane tickets – see step 4.
  • Accommodations – you’ll need a place to stay every night, but this doesn’t have to be expensive. If this is a concern, extend your stay in countries where the cost of living is cheaper, and lower your room standards in countries that are more expensive. Look to homestays, couchsurfing, long-term rentals to keep costs down.
  • Food – if you’re a self-proclaimed epicurean, budget for lots of restaurants, otherwise set you food budget lower by vowing to eat cheaply.
  • Entertainment – i.e. tours, shows, activities. Things like white water rafting, ziplinging, Zorbing come up via circumstance and you might not want to miss out. Keep money in this category so you can actually thrill yourself once in a while, perhaps with a jetboat ride around the fjords of New Zealand.
  • Transportation – trains, cars, taxis, ferries, tuk-tuks, bike rickshaws. This is absolutely essential to have in the budget; you’re going to be covering a lot of ground outside the plane, make sure you have money to get places.
  • Purchases – things like souvenirs, specialty items. Keep this small since you’ll quickly grow weary of carrying things around or else shipping them home.
  • Minor incidentals – give yourself a big buffer on this because things come up, many things and you don’t know quite how things will be on the road. You can adjust it a few weeks after your trip starts to see how you’re doing resisting overspending.

Step 3: Plan what you’ll be doing when abroad

Even at this point you should have a pretty good idea about how you’ll be spending your time while you’re on the road. This helps dramatically when alloting how much time to spend in each place. Take it from me, a place can get pretty dull when idly passing each day by.

Will you be:

Each of these requires different time commitments. You’ll also need to know how long for reasons such as visa stays, setting dates for departing flights, aligning dates for planned events down the road.

Revisit your budget to include these details.

Step 4: Pick up your tickets

There are a variety of places to purchase round-the-world plane tickets. I won’t go into them here suffice it to say some are better than others. But certainly don’t stop at the first place you see.

Also know that the airlines are not the only game in town. As a matter of fact, my recommendation is unless you’re using airline miles, look elsewhere. The Alliances’ websites may be slick and easy on the eyes but it doesn’t mean you’re doing yourself a favor by using them to buy your tickets. There are numerous rules, restrictions and pigeonholes that aren’t immediately clear but that force into traveling a certain way, and quite unnecessarily. Perhaps get a price from the airlines to set the bar and buy the trip elsewhere.

It’s actually possible to have the ticket purchasing process be fun, not riddled with frustrations, headaches and uncertainties.

Choose your patronage based on the following:

  • Value
  • Service
  • Pleasure of experience
  • Gut instinct

Do-it-yourselfers, remember: a couple hundred dollars more spent to have someone else book your tickets may be the difference between unsolveable logistical road snafu and an effortless journey around the world. The choice is up to you and how you want to go about planning a round-the-world trip.

If you’re doing it all yourself though, remember to tick that ‘flexible’ tickets box – you never know!

The best time to buy plane tickets is 4 – 6 months before your departure.

Step 5: Organize your life

You’re taking the trip, you’ve already decided that. In order to keep everything on track, you’ll need to make sure the time leading up to your departure is spent making smooth transition into your traveling life. I’ll call this your “exit strategy”.

Think of this strategy as a straight line to your departure day, and then think of a puppy trying to walk that line. Every time the puppy strays off the line (due to sparkly objects, the smell of cooking steak, someone trying to make him do tricks) pick him up and put him back on. Always remember, at the end of the line is you getting on the plane!

Your exit strategy will function best if you write down a timeline of when you need to do things to get done by the time you leave. A written timeline will make it 100% easier to remember what you’ve forgotten. If you need help putting a timeline together, there are options online.

Some major parts:

  • Set up your job sabbatical or organise your remote working schedule.
  • Deal with your pets, house and car.
  • Get passports/visas.
  • Buy plane tickets.
  • Get travel insurance.
Planning a Round-The-World Trip
Planning a Round-The-World Trip

Step 6: Book a couple nights of accommodation in the first few cities you’ll be traveling too

Give yourself smooth arrivals in foreign cities by knowing where you’ll be going when you get off the plane. Book a couple nights accommodations before you leave for the first few cities (you can always extend the stay if the location and price were right) then book accommodations further along as you get better at predicting your needs.

It’s probably not a good idea to book stays more than a month or two ahead since things may change dramatically on your itinerary and canceling or changing reservations is often trickier than booking them.

Step 7: Get ready to leave for your round-the-world trip

This may arguably be the most angst-ridden time you’ve ever known. There are a million things left to do, and that’s okay. You can’t change that. What you can change is your approach to them. If you’ve been using a planning timeline, you should be perfectly set up to slide right into traveling. You’ll have purchased all the items you need to buy, you’ll have set up your vitals for your absence, you’ll have kissed the dog goodbye.

Organization is key, make it a habit and it will help you dramatically once you’re on the road.

That should do it. Seven steps to get you juiced to start achieving your travel dreams!


Top Costa Rica Travel Tips to Make the Most of your Trip

A popular destination for bird-watching, surfing and adventure sports, from white-water rafting to zip-liningCosta Rica is undeniably touristy, so unless you stay in the middle of nowhere, don’t expect to escape other visitors completely.

However, if you choose your time (don’t go over the Christmas holidays) and destination carefully, you can escape the crowds.

If you’re going to be heading to Costa Rica anytime soon, we’ve got the top Costa Rica travel tips to make the most of your trip to this adventurous country.

Related Read: Costa Rica 7 Day Itinerary

Costa Rica travel tips
Costa Rica travel tips

Top Costa Rica Travel Tips

Follow these top tips for Costa Rica travel to make sure that you have the most enjoyable and memorable trip to Costa Rica.

1. Make Manuel Antonio your home

The small southern Pacific Coast community of Manuel Antonio and the adjoining town of Quepos have an interesting population mix of expats, tourists and locals, making it a fascinating place to spend some time. It’s also very attractive, set amongst lush jungle and boasting alluring beaches.

2. Book a beach/tree house

We did both. We spent one week in a jaw-dropping villa without walls overlooking the jungle and another week at a house just steps from the sand. They were both wonderful, and aside from the luxuries of space and privacy, and the opportunity to cook our own food (we made local dish gallo pinto!), what we loved most were the friendly visits by locals who dropped in unannounced each day. Yes, I’m talking about the monkeys!

We love this Tree House Lodge in Puerto Viejo.

3. Use public transport

There’s no need to hire a 4WD, which is what many guidebooks tell you to do. After heavy rains some of the roads are impassable, so trust me, you don’t want to be behind the wheel – it’s best to be in the back seat of a vehicle driven by an experienced local.

Organize a transfer to your holiday rental, and then use the affordable local buses that frequently run between Quepos and Manuel Antonio National Park.

4. Shop the local markets

An excellent farmers market is held in Quepos, running parallel to the waterfront, where you’ll find plenty of fresh local produce for about the same price you’ll pay in the supermarket, only the quality is better. You’ll also find free-range eggs and baked breads and cakes.

5. Do as the locals do

There are all sorts of regular local events happening in Manuel Antonio and Quepos, from yoga classes and football matches to chess tournaments and movie nights, and the friendly locals are more than happy to welcome newcomers.

How much more authentic can travel get?

6. Hit the national parks

Costa Rica has 32 national parks and Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the most popular, with plenty of wildlife to see. On the morning we visited, we spotted sloths, agouti, tent-making bats, blue morpho butterflies, purple and orange tropical land crabs, red and black scarlet tanagers, a laughing falcon, vibrant toucans, glorious iguanas, cute raccoons, and a boa constrictor.

The locals love the wildlife as much as the tourists do, so go with a local, such as the excellent licensed guide we used.

Check out these tours to Manuel Antonio National Park.

Costa Rica travel tips
Visit the sloths in the Costa Rica National Parks

7. Spend time on the sand

The locals seem to live on the beach. It doesn’t matter where they come from but they all have deep dark tans. When we were here we would bump into people we met everyday at the beach – taking their daily walks, collecting seashells, reading a book, riding a horse, throwing a Frisbee, just watching the sunset, or enjoying a surf.

8. Learn to surf

Costa Rica is a popular surfing destination, for locals and visitors alike, so if you don’t surf and you want to do as the locals do, then you need to learn how. There are a couple of surfing schools, but individual instructors came more highly recommended to us by locals, such as long-time surfing teacher Ivan Castillo (batiquepos@hotmail.com) who can be found renting his boards out under a shady tree not far from the lifesavers’ stand.

9. Volunteer

The locals and expats are an active and altruistic bunch, devoting time to all sorts of causes, so why not volunteer a day or at the very least a few hours of your time while you’re there? We participated in a tree-planting event with local schools organized by the Titi Conservation Alliance, aimed at re-establishing a biological corridor for the endangered red backed squirrel monkeys.

When we visited they’d already planted 35,000 trees and planted 650 the day we joined them.

Related Read: Cultural greetings while volunteering in South America

10. Do very little

There’s no denying that it’s hot and humid here, so how do the locals always look as cool as cucumbers? By doing very little, that’s how. The locals have ‘the art of doing nothing’ down to a very fine art. How many destinations can you go to where you can live like locals and take a good old-fashioned lie-on-the-beach holiday at the same time? Manual Antonio, for one, Costa Rica for another.

Costa Rica beaches
The perfect spot to do nothing in Costa Rica

Here’s a few more Costa Rica travel tips


Milford Sound Day Trip: The Queenstown Conundrum

“Milford Sound day trip… if you’re debating it at all, you just gotta do it.”

This is the advice that we received from friends and family countless times before our recent trip to New Zealand.

At first, the phrasing of the statement didn’t make sense to me.  I had known for years that Milford Sound was regarded as one of the top tourist destinations in the world, and that several organizations and individuals, including Rudyard Kipling, had even proclaimed it to be the unofficial Eighth Wonder of the World.

Why would we be debating it? I thought.

Then, after getting to New Zealand and looking into ways to visit Milford Sound for myself, the question became a little more understandable.

Milford Sound day trip, New Zealand
Milford Sound cruise

How to get to Milford Sound

Milford Sound is a fjord – a steep, narrow inlet that has been carved into the earth through glacial activity – situated in the south west of New Zealand’s South Island. Though it is only 44 miles to the north west of New Zealand’s most popular tourist hub, Queenstown (as the crow flies), the steep canyon walls cause it to be accessible by only one road, the Milford Sound Highway, which runs 73 miles due North from the small town of Te Anau.

To access Milford Sound from Queenstown, it is a 178 mile drive, each way. Given the winding and undulating terrain, it is a drive that requires a full 5 hours to complete.

Some visitors to New Zealand are fortunate to have enough time that they can take a few extra days to stay in the small towns in and around Fjordland National Park, to enjoy Milford Sound and the surrounding area at a much more leisurely pace.

I have found that many more visitors are like me, however, having only enough time in their itinerary for them to get to Queenstown. It is in this situation that the debate surrounding a visit to Milford Sound comes to life.

Is a Milford Sound day trip worth it?

Is Milford Sound worth experiencing as a day trip, requiring a 5-hour drive in each direction, allowing only a couple short hours to spend on the Sound?

In my experience and opinion, it is.

When facing the question for myself, I chose to heed the advice of everyone I knew who had experienced a Milford Sound tour before me, and I made a commitment to visiting it, one way or another.  Since we were traveling around New Zealand via mass transit, with Magic Bus, we did not have our own car available to make the trip, so I had to look into options for day-trip Milford Sound tours.

How to tour Milford Sound

After doing some research, I chose to make the trip with Kiwi Discovery.  It would be 5-hour bus ride in each direction, with a 90-minute boat cruise through and around Milford Sound when we arrived.

Here’s a few other options to book a Milford Sound tour:

The drive out to the Sound was spectacularly beautiful, and the bus ride itself really could not have been more comfortable.  It was a relatively new bus that had a glass ceiling, so all the passengers could look up and better appreciate the towering cliffs that line Milford Sound Highway.

We stopped at several viewpoints along the way, to take in the sights of various rivers, waterfalls and canyons.  We arrived at Milford Sound right around 2:00pm, and immediately boarded a large vessel for our Milford Sound cruise.

Our cruise around Milford Sound was 90 minutes in total. We starting at the inward most part of the Sound and proceeded all the way out to the Tasman Sea, pulling into bays and glancing up against waterfalls as we went.

Because the scenery in the Sound was so spectacular, the 90 minutes that we spent on the boat really went by fast.  Still, it was such a unique and magnificent experience that I felt it was very worth the 10+ hours of travel it required to make it possible, and…

I’d suggest to the same to anyone else who may be debating it.


How to Take a Day Trip to Yosemite Valley

After a family trip to Lake Tahoe, I had an open weekend and managed to convince my family that we needed to take a day trip to Yosemite Valley.

I knew I wanted to have a full day in Yosemite and not just plan to drive through.  This was smart.  You really do need to plan to spend a full day to take advantage of what is there.  

Imagine Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon… it’s one of those type of places. You’re essentially 3-4 hours from civilization in any direction. The good news is, there are options. 

We stayed at the West Entrance to the park at Yosemite Riverside Inn. It met our needs, and even included breakfast.  We were most happy with the distance to the park and being able to wake up and begin our journey into the park. The first sight of Yosemite valley was incredible. 

Day Trip to Yosemite Valley
Day Trip to Yosemite Valley

A day trip to Yosemite Valley 

We started off with seeing Half Dome Yosemite Valley in the distance… My first view of it. Inspiring! 

Personally it only took this one view, to know that I had found what I was looking for. Yosemite was a natural wonder. This was an ancient canyon with God’s fingerprints on it. This place has serious earth history and a magical valley that would attract earths inhabitants all over it.

This special valley would awe and inspire and enchant anyone who sets their eyes on it. In many ways simply traveling through this valley can bring one closer to God, because it makes man feel small. In so many ways the pride of man can be stilled by standing on one of these rocks. 

El Capitan – What a Serious Megalith.  

While I didn’t really take the opportunity to climb these mega stones carved out of the valley, I did spend hours driving around them and went on a couple of easy hikes up to the falls, and one to a lake (read about more hikes in Yosemite National Park). I spent most of the day in the valley with a bunch of other people I was trying to ignore.

Ignore the crowds, it’s still worth it. There are times of the day when you can get there ahead of the crowds, but still you have to do it anyway… It’s amazing and it does bring one closer to ones creator. 

El Capitan in Yosemite Valley National Park, USA
El Capitan in Yosemite Valley National Park

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls is 2,425 ft.  

The highest waterfall in North America and in the top 10 in the world.

Had I known how amazing this was and how many of the top waterfalls in the world are in this park I would have given it more priority.  When I think of falls in the US, I think of Niagara Falls, but that’s a volume thing. Here you can plan to go when the run off is at it’s highest in the spring and get a real show.

Remember this park reminds man, that he is insignificant. Some people get hurt or worse, trying to prove they can conquer these things.  With over a dozen falls, and hikes to nearly all of them, there are tons of things that people will do.

Things to do on a day trip to Yosemite Valley

While I got a couple of hikes in, I would have liked to have tubed the river, or rode horses… lots of great activities in the park.

  • Horseback riding
  • Rafting
  • Hiking (Falls, Trails, Loops)
  • Rock Climbing
  • Biking
  • Tours
  • Loops Drive
  • Walking 

Check out the organised hikes in Yosemite valley below:

If anything Yosemite reminds us that there are things bigger than us in life. Anytime you want to feel small. Visit the Yosemite Valley and it’s 1000 square miles of National park. While you may feel like you weren’t alone while you were there. You won’t regret it.


Travel in Covid-19 Times – My Trip to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, Spain

I’ve just returned from a trip to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands of Spain.

After self-isolation in Llandudno, North Wales for three months due to coronavirus, COVID-19, I was ready to travel again once it was safe to do so.

On Monday 6th of July, the Welsh Government lifted the 5-mile stay local rule, and I could finally travel outside of my local community again.

At this point, I would like to highlight that everything mentioned within this blog post is based on my personal experience, and you should seek government advice from the correct sources.

The reason why I mention this is because the rules are changing all the time and I wanted to share how my trip went to help paint a picture of what your trip could be like so you can make an informed opinion on if you should travel at the moment.

Why did I choose Lanzarote in the Canary Islands?

At my time of flying, Spain was on the list of countries you could fly to from the UK without the need to isolate for two weeks after returning from your trip.

Of course, this could change, but this was one of the reasons why I choose Spain.

I didn’t fancy flying to a Spanish city due to crowds, but Lanzarote in the the Canary Islands has direct flights from the UK and felt like a better option due to the current situation.

Plus the sound of the stunning volcanic landscape, hiking trails, sunny sandy beaches and locally sourced food all tempted me to visit the island of Lanzarote. It was just what I was looking for after being at home for so long.

With my bags packed and passport in hand (don’t forget your passport, it’s been a while!) I was ready to travel and explore the Canary Islands.

Around Lanzarote, not all businesses were open for tourism as visitor numbers are still operating on low capacity.

However, businesses are slowly opening up again for tourism, and many restaurants, visitor attractions, rental cars and a select number of resorts were open for visitors on the island.

You should book travel insurance

Please make sure you arrange suitable travel insurance for your trip before you depart. Some travel insurance providers have changed their policy to adapt to coronavirus COVID-19 so please read the small print and make sure that you have a cover.

Proper guidance is to check the FCO website for up to date travel advice for UK travellers, and typically your travel insurance will follow along the lines of the FCO. So, if the FCO says not to travel, then your travel insurance usually is not valid, so please check the FCO website frequently for the latest travel advice.

Also, for those within the EU, make sure that your E111 card is up to date before you depart. For those within the UK, you can still travel and use your E111 card until the end of December. Remember that the E111 doesn’t replace travel insurance, but it’s good to have it with you at all times when travelling around the EU, especially at the moment.

Get a travel insurance quote from WorldNomads below:

Do you have to wear a mask in Spain at all times?

Do you have to wear a mask all the time? This was a question I had before travelling to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.

Of course, this advice will differ from other countries in Europe. But in Spain and on the Canary Islands, the simple answer is yes. You do have to wear your mask at all times.

After gathering some local advice, wearing a mask is not only to protect yourself from spreading germs but as a courtesy to protecting others.

Any situation where you’re unable to keep your social distance is when you should wear your mask in Spain.

This would be any place where social distancing is challenging, such as within shops, restaurants and public transport.

You can remove your mask when you sit down to eat or have a drink. You can withdraw your face cover while on the beach or when going for a swim in Spain, as long as you can keep your social distance.

Within your hotel room or rental car, you can remove your mask. If you’re going to the hotel breakfast buffet, you should wear your face mask.

I hope the above information clears up some questions you might have.

What is it like to fly at the moment?

It was a bizarre feeling only seeing five flights on the departure board of Heathrow terminal 5, usually the busiest airport in Europe. It did come as a shock.

Heathrow felt like a ghost town with limited passenger numbers flying on the day.

Throughout Heathrow, you will have to wear a facemask at all times from the entrance until you’ve exited at your arrival destination. It’s advised to swap your face mask every few hours, so you should pack a selection to use throughout your travels.

My temperature was checked as I entered Heathrow airport and I found hand sanitizer located all around the airport.

Check-in was rather swift, and many airlines are allowing free baggage check-in to free up space in the cabin, which is worth taking advantage of.

Security has never felt so fast; it was a swift experience and didn’t take much time at all.

Once airside, in regard to places to eat, I could only find one Pret open, which was enough to grab a coffee and a bite to eat before the flight.

Most airlines are not allowing food and drink service at the moment.

I did notice that a passenger requested a cup of water which was allowed but generally, nothing will be served on the flight unless you’re travelling business.

At the boarding gate, passengers were boarding individually based on row numbers, starting from the back of the aircraft towards the front.

At the check-in desk, the staff said to allow an extra hour due to additional boarding time. Be patient as it will take more time to board the flight, but you could always book your seat at the back if you wish to board sooner.

Once on the flight, cabin crew informed us that the aircraft used an advanced air flow filtration system that kills most germs. This, combined with a face mask and limited contact, helps to reduce the risk.

Once I was at my seat, I noticed that the airline had used empty seats to keep travellers at a safe distance from each other as best as they could.

They also blocked off and limited access to the number of toilets you could use. You can still use them but not as many so you might have to wait.

Generally, I found the flying experience rather relaxing and pleasant, indeed longer than usual, but the additional steps gave me reassurance rather than worry.

I wouldn’t want to take a flight with a connection due to the extra time it takes to board and go through the airport, but one direct flight wouldn’t be an issue.

What was your resort like in Lanzarote?

I stayed at the Sands Beach resort located in Costa Teguise on the island of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.

They had self-catering options for families with a large selection of swimming pools to choose from, which was great for social distance swimming.

Swimming is one of the things I missed the most, so it was a much-welcomed joy to have a few laps in the pool each morning.

The breakfast buffet was open, and you had to order each item individually. This will take some additional time, so be sure to arrive early to allow your choices to be accommodated.

I would visit the local supermarket and stock up on breakfast items to make in your room so you can relax in the morning and take the stress out of breakfast.

Not all resorts are open yet in Lanzarote, and some have chosen to stay closed until September so your choices will be limited.

The Sands Beach Resort chose to open early to learn about the extra steps needed to open up. The Spanish government have issued rules that resorts must follow to remain open to meet the health guidelines and create a safe environment for guests.

Another issue is staff. The resort is running at low capacity and it’s been tough getting the team back to work as some have chosen to wait until it’s safer to return to work while others are happy to get back to work again.

Rooms are required to undergo additional cleaning after each guest which is why I would recommend staying for 1-2 weeks.

Also, the stock has been an issue as the supply chain for resorts has not been open on the island since lockdown and resorts are having to use supermarkets to purchase items they need to operate.

It will take some time for resorts to open up again but those that have chosen to open up as soon as possible will learn from the experience and adapt to the guidelines, which will take time for some resorts to adjust to.

What is it like going to a restaurant?

After cooking for myself for three months, I’ve simply run out of hot pot recipes and I’m also getting a bit bored of baking banana bread.

Being allowed to visit restaurants again and not have to do the washing up was one of the most enjoyable moments from the trip.

Getting to taste the local flavours again was an absolute pleasure. Enjoying fresh seafood and a glass of white wine that’s made on the island was pure joy.

If you wish to dine out, it’s best to call in advance to book a table as space within the premise is limited due to schedules and social distance.

I noticed that temperature checks took place before entering the restaurant, and hand sanitizer was always found at the entrance.

You must wear a facemask until you have taken a seat at your table, then you can take it off to enjoy your food and drink.

Also, I noticed that the menu could typically be found by using a QR code to access on your smartphone. Make sure you have your Roam Like at Home data turned on while travelling around the EU as it will come in handy.

If you can pay for your meal by using contactless payment, this would be the best method rather than using cash.

Do you need to fill out forms before you travel?

Spain requires you to fill in a health form before you arrive. Once the form is completed online, you will get a QR code which will be scanned on arrival. You must be checked into your flight and have your seat number before you fill out the form. This information helps with track and trace, and you will be contacted if needed.

Also, when returning to the UK, you must fill in a form explaining where you’ve been and where you will be going to in the UK.

After filling in the UK form and placing my address in Wales where I will be, I instantly got an email from the Welsh government asking me to quarantine and stay at home for two weeks. I was not aware that the rules in Wales required two weeks quarantine, but not a problem as I have been home for the past two weeks and will follow the guidelines as instructed. Something to think about as I was also aware that those from Scotland had been advised not to travel to Spain altogether. So, the rules are different depending on where you live.

Did I enjoy my trip to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands?

The most important question. Did I have a great time going to Lanzarote? Were all the extra steps worth it?

My answer is for the most part yes. I do have mixed opinions about it though, as I enjoyed the trip, but travel is no longer normal like it used to be and some fun has been sucked out the experience.

But I do understand that this is for my own and others’ safety to allow tourism to open up again so I would say that it was worth it.

My issue was the length of the trip; I wish I could have stayed longer to justify the extra time you need to go through all the additional safety steps.

So, If I were staying in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands for two weeks, I would have said that it was worth it.

My advice at the moment to make travel safer during COVID-19

  • I would recommend only taking one direct flight to reach your destination. Avoid having to take connection flights as this increases your risk of a possible infection.
  • Stay in one resort and try to find a self-catering option so you can prepare breakfast and lunch from your room as buffets are not a safe environment at the moment.
  • Book ahead to reserve your table if you wish to dine out at a local restaurant.
  • Book a rental car to explore your surroundings and avoid public transport.
  • Use contactless payment and avoid cash when possible.
  • Stay for 1-2 weeks. Travel to your destination will take more time so you should allocate this time into your holiday to make it more rewarding.
  • Don’t forget to relax and enjoy your holiday. You will have to go through many additional steps to make your holiday safe so please have patience, remain calm and take your time.

For this reason, a weekend city escape might not be ideal at the moment as you won’t have enough time to enjoy the actual holiday.

Thank you for reading my blog post about my trip to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands

I hope all the above information helps you understand what travel and tourism are currently like in Europe at this moment in time, and I wish you a pleasant future trip! 

This blog post was put together in collaboration with the UNWTO and the Canary Islands as part of the #RestartTourism campaign to help tourism recovery on the islands. I hope you’ve found this blog post informative.

Here’s a few other posts about the Canary Islands


My Trip to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, Spain – Travel in Covid-19 Times

I’ve just returned from a trip to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands of Spain.

After self-isolation in Llandudno, North Wales for three months due to coronavirus, COVID-19, I was ready to travel again once it was safe to do so.

On Monday 6th of July, the Welsh Government lifted the 5-mile stay local rule, and I could finally travel outside of my local community again.

At this point, I would like to highlight that everything mentioned within this blog post is based on my personal experience, and you should seek government advice from the correct sources.

The reason why I mention this is because the rules are changing all the time and I wanted to share how my trip went to help paint a picture of what your trip could be like so you can make an informed opinion on if you should travel at the moment.

Why did I choose Lanzarote in the Canary Islands?

At my time of flying, Spain was on the list of countries you could fly to from the UK without the need to isolate for two weeks after returning from your trip.

Of course, this could change, but this was one of the reasons why I choose Spain.

I didn’t fancy flying to a Spanish city due to crowds, but Lanzarote in the the Canary Islands has direct flights from the UK and felt like a better option due to the current situation.

Plus the sound of the stunning volcanic landscape, hiking trails, sunny sandy beaches and locally sourced food all tempted me to visit the island of Lanzarote. It was just what I was looking for after being at home for so long.

With my bags packed and passport in hand (don’t forget your passport, it’s been a while!) I was ready to travel and explore the Canary Islands.

Around Lanzarote, not all businesses were open for tourism as visitor numbers are still operating on low capacity.

However, businesses are slowly opening up again for tourism, and many restaurants, visitor attractions, rental cars and a select number of resorts were open for visitors on the island.

You should book travel insurance

Please make sure you arrange suitable travel insurance for your trip before you depart. Some travel insurance providers have changed their policy to adapt to coronavirus COVID-19 so please read the small print and make sure that you have a cover.

Proper guidance is to check the FCO website for up to date travel advice for UK travellers, and typically your travel insurance will follow along the lines of the FCO. So, if the FCO says not to travel, then your travel insurance usually is not valid, so please check the FCO website frequently for the latest travel advice.

Also, for those within the EU, make sure that your E111 card is up to date before you depart. For those within the UK, you can still travel and use your E111 card until the end of December. Remember that the E111 doesn’t replace travel insurance, but it’s good to have it with you at all times when travelling around the EU, especially at the moment.

Get a travel insurance quote from WorldNomads below:

Do you have to wear a mask in Spain at all times?

Do you have to wear a mask all the time? This was a question I had before travelling to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.

Of course, this advice will differ from other countries in Europe. But in Spain and on the Canary Islands, the simple answer is yes. You do have to wear your mask at all times.

After gathering some local advice, wearing a mask is not only to protect yourself from spreading germs but as a courtesy to protecting others.

Any situation where you’re unable to keep your social distance is when you should wear your mask in Spain.

This would be any place where social distancing is challenging, such as within shops, restaurants and public transport.

You can remove your mask when you sit down to eat or have a drink. You can withdraw your face cover while on the beach or when going for a swim in Spain, as long as you can keep your social distance.

Within your hotel room or rental car, you can remove your mask. If you’re going to the hotel breakfast buffet, you should wear your face mask.

I hope the above information clears up some questions you might have.

What is it like to fly at the moment?

It was a bizarre feeling only seeing five flights on the departure board of Heathrow terminal 5, usually the busiest airport in Europe. It did come as a shock.

Heathrow felt like a ghost town with limited passenger numbers flying on the day.

Throughout Heathrow, you will have to wear a facemask at all times from the entrance until you’ve exited at your arrival destination. It’s advised to swap your face mask every few hours, so you should pack a selection to use throughout your travels.

My temperature was checked as I entered Heathrow airport and I found hand sanitizer located all around the airport.

Check-in was rather swift, and many airlines are allowing free baggage check-in to free up space in the cabin, which is worth taking advantage of.

Security has never felt so fast; it was a swift experience and didn’t take much time at all.

Once airside, in regard to places to eat, I could only find one Pret open, which was enough to grab a coffee and a bite to eat before the flight.

Most airlines are not allowing food and drink service at the moment.

I did notice that a passenger requested a cup of water which was allowed but generally, nothing will be served on the flight unless you’re travelling business.

At the boarding gate, passengers were boarding individually based on row numbers, starting from the back of the aircraft towards the front.

At the check-in desk, the staff said to allow an extra hour due to additional boarding time. Be patient as it will take more time to board the flight, but you could always book your seat at the back if you wish to board sooner.

Once on the flight, cabin crew informed us that the aircraft used an advanced air flow filtration system that kills most germs. This, combined with a face mask and limited contact, helps to reduce the risk.

Once I was at my seat, I noticed that the airline had used empty seats to keep travellers at a safe distance from each other as best as they could.

They also blocked off and limited access to the number of toilets you could use. You can still use them but not as many so you might have to wait.

Generally, I found the flying experience rather relaxing and pleasant, indeed longer than usual, but the additional steps gave me reassurance rather than worry.

I wouldn’t want to take a flight with a connection due to the extra time it takes to board and go through the airport, but one direct flight wouldn’t be an issue.

What was your resort like in Lanzarote?

I stayed at the Sands Beach resort located in Costa Teguise on the island of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.

They had self-catering options for families with a large selection of swimming pools to choose from, which was great for social distance swimming.

Swimming is one of the things I missed the most, so it was a much-welcomed joy to have a few laps in the pool each morning.

The breakfast buffet was open, and you had to order each item individually. This will take some additional time, so be sure to arrive early to allow your choices to be accommodated.

I would visit the local supermarket and stock up on breakfast items to make in your room so you can relax in the morning and take the stress out of breakfast.

Not all resorts are open yet in Lanzarote, and some have chosen to stay closed until September so your choices will be limited.

The Sands Beach Resort chose to open early to learn about the extra steps needed to open up. The Spanish government have issued rules that resorts must follow to remain open to meet the health guidelines and create a safe environment for guests.

Another issue is staff. The resort is running at low capacity and it’s been tough getting the team back to work as some have chosen to wait until it’s safer to return to work while others are happy to get back to work again.

Rooms are required to undergo additional cleaning after each guest which is why I would recommend staying for 1-2 weeks.

Also, the stock has been an issue as the supply chain for resorts has not been open on the island since lockdown and resorts are having to use supermarkets to purchase items they need to operate.

It will take some time for resorts to open up again but those that have chosen to open up as soon as possible will learn from the experience and adapt to the guidelines, which will take time for some resorts to adjust to.

What is it like going to a restaurant?

After cooking for myself for three months, I’ve simply run out of hot pot recipes and I’m also getting a bit bored of baking banana bread.

Being allowed to visit restaurants again and not have to do the washing up was one of the most enjoyable moments from the trip.

Getting to taste the local flavours again was an absolute pleasure. Enjoying fresh seafood and a glass of white wine that’s made on the island was pure joy.

If you wish to dine out, it’s best to call in advance to book a table as space within the premise is limited due to schedules and social distance.

I noticed that temperature checks took place before entering the restaurant, and hand sanitizer was always found at the entrance.

You must wear a facemask until you have taken a seat at your table, then you can take it off to enjoy your food and drink.

Also, I noticed that the menu could typically be found by using a QR code to access on your smartphone. Make sure you have your Roam Like at Home data turned on while travelling around the EU as it will come in handy.

If you can pay for your meal by using contactless payment, this would be the best method rather than using cash.

Do you need to fill out forms before you travel?

Spain requires you to fill in a health form before you arrive. Once the form is completed online, you will get a QR code which will be scanned on arrival. You must be checked into your flight and have your seat number before you fill out the form. This information helps with track and trace, and you will be contacted if needed.

Also, when returning to the UK, you must fill in a form explaining where you’ve been and where you will be going to in the UK.

After filling in the UK form and placing my address in Wales where I will be, I instantly got an email from the Welsh government asking me to quarantine and stay at home for two weeks. I was not aware that the rules in Wales required two weeks quarantine, but not a problem as I have been home for the past two weeks and will follow the guidelines as instructed. Something to think about as I was also aware that those from Scotland had been advised not to travel to Spain altogether. So, the rules are different depending on where you live.

Did I enjoy my trip to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands?

The most important question. Did I have a great time going to Lanzarote? Were all the extra steps worth it?

My answer is for the most part yes. I do have mixed opinions about it though, as I enjoyed the trip, but travel is no longer normal like it used to be and some fun has been sucked out the experience.

But I do understand that this is for my own and others’ safety to allow tourism to open up again so I would say that it was worth it.

My issue was the length of the trip; I wish I could have stayed longer to justify the extra time you need to go through all the additional safety steps.

So, If I were staying in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands for two weeks, I would have said that it was worth it.

My advice at the moment to make travel safer during COVID-19

  • I would recommend only taking one direct flight to reach your destination. Avoid having to take connection flights as this increases your risk of a possible infection.
  • Stay in one resort and try to find a self-catering option so you can prepare breakfast and lunch from your room as buffets are not a safe environment at the moment.
  • Book ahead to reserve your table if you wish to dine out at a local restaurant.
  • Book a rental car to explore your surroundings and avoid public transport.
  • Use contactless payment and avoid cash when possible.
  • Stay for 1-2 weeks. Travel to your destination will take more time so you should allocate this time into your holiday to make it more rewarding.
  • Don’t forget to relax and enjoy your holiday. You will have to go through many additional steps to make your holiday safe so please have patience, remain calm and take your time.

For this reason, a weekend city escape might not be ideal at the moment as you won’t have enough time to enjoy the actual holiday.

Thank you for reading my blog post about my trip to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands

I hope all the above information helps you understand what travel and tourism are currently like in Europe at this moment in time, and I wish you a pleasant future trip! 

This blog post was put together in collaboration with the UNWTO and the Canary Islands as part of the #RestartTourism campaign to help tourism recovery on the islands. I hope you’ve found this blog post informative.

Here’s a few other posts about the Canary Islands


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.

 

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