The summer Holiday
2 weeks, 3 days, 21 hours, 56 minutes and 38 seconds to go; the travels crawl closer.
Working in a school means I am privileged to take time during the long breaks to soak up the splendours of the world. When the winter frosts subside and the winter months slip away, I feel it inch closer. When the daffodils rise in spring and the blue bells paint the fields blue, I know it steps closer. When we exchange scarves for sun cream and when the sun lights the world until 2 hours to midnight, then I know it is imminent.
My colleagues decide to spend their holiday time in different fashions—some people travel to one sunny place with a pool and sunbeds and all inclusive everything. They roll from side to side like a grilled sausage turning various shades of maroon and finally returning brown. Some people lounge around their houses all day, every day, and remain very white indeed. They spend all their energy growing—sideways.
Me, I live for the holidays, it’s the time I can spread my wings, stretch my legs, and T.R.A.VE.L. It is the most important thing to me bar my husband, family and good friends. It is the sober ecstasy of living. Me, my husband, a rucksack filled with the small necessities and I am absolutely in my element.
It is the adult’s version of the night before Christmas—but the anticipation never outweighs the moment, and the memories are cast in amber. This yummy little fizz of exhilaration is very predictable this way; if I wait too long I will burst like grape too full of nectar.
Let me introduce you to our travels this summer:
For our July/ August 2016 adventure we are visiting the USA again. Our last USA trip was a road trip with a camper through 7 states in Western USA to see Vegas, LA, Yellowstone and canyon country. This year we are staying more to the south and East and are doing it using AirBnB. This is roughly our route (thanks Google maps):
Where are we staying?
Over the month that we are travelling, we’ll be staying in some pretty quirky places including a tree house in the middle of the Smokies, an old RV in the middle of Amish country, someone’s garage, and a tiny ‘chalet’ that looks suspiciously like a garden shed!
AirBnB has been a very positive experience so far; planning has been easy, with most hosts replying within 24 hours and providing us with plenty of information. I can’t wait to meet them and put a person to our conversations.
What will take the mileage?
We are looking to hire a small car—something Focus-sized. Last time in America we hired a gas-guzzling camper and fuel was expensive, not to mention having to fill up several times with every journey. Despite this, the camper was ideal for the last trip because we were able to kip in some pretty epic places in Canyonlands and thereabouts. We also chose a quirky company who spray-painted their vans with vibrant designs called Escape Campervans; this worked as a great ice-breaker with people. This time we are seeing more cities so a camper isn’t ideal, plus it was six times the price and campsites still had to be paid for despite having living accommodation on wheels. Another thing the camper did not have is air conditioning. It was sweatily missed.
So, how much does a small car set you back? If you are doing our journey, then we found ours for just over £400 for 30 days with Alamo.
You are probably wondering how we found it so cheaply? Firstly, check EVERY car rental and secondly, check a few variations of your route; we found travelling south to north was half the price of travelling north to south. Presumably this is because everyone wants to start cooler and gradually get warmer, so cars travelling the other way are cheaper because you are saving them the bother of getting the cars back to point A.
How are we packing?
Backpack is the preferred choice. Why? Because they are easy to carry between places where suitcases are awkward and cumbersome. They also have the added advantage of segregated storage so it is easier to find the little things that always get lost in the vast expanse of suitcase-dom. Only disadvantage; they often have to be checked in to over-sized baggage which is a separate kiosk in the airport and I always worry they might get lost—has not happened yet!
Rookies’ first lesson—if there are two or more of you, make sure you pack a few essentials into another person’s bag. These essentials should be enough to last you a few days, making sure you include any important meds. Why? Sometimes, just sometimes, a bag will get lost in transit. If you are unfortunate enough and this happens to you then at least you will have some panties to tide you by until they can send your luggage to you.
What do we pack?
This depends very much on what you are doing. I have about six different packing lists depending where in the world I am travelling and what I am doing. For America a few essentials, as far as I am concerned, include good old English tea and powdered milk (because it’s impossible to find a good brew over there and creamer is not the same as milk). A copy of all paperwork electronically on a phone or cloud, plus a paper copy in each person’s backpack. Paperwork is one of the most important parts of the trip, without it you won’t get far. On the note of paperwork, English travelers will need to purchase an ESTA to travel to the states, which are fairy easy to obtain and I recall costing about £14.
I always like to have independent cooking facilities so we have a one ring travel hob and kettle we take with us and we buy pots and pans there to save space. These items are slightly heavier and bulky but if you travel light then it isn’t a problem. The stodgy American burgers and things don’t digest so well with me so at least I have the freedom to whip up something else. You may ask why when we are renting apartments – because many of the apartments class ‘cooking facilities’ as a microwave and a small fridge; check the small print.
Sewing kit and string—you wouldn’t believe the uses.
Head torches are also great because they leave your hands free—just be careful not to blind your partner by looking them in the eyes!
Cool bag and mini freezer blocks are essential if travelling long days without a fridge and you want to keep some refrigerated items.
For all trips where the climate is warm I take antihistamines; these stop me blowing up like a puffer fish whenever I get bitten. I also take a small pipette bottle of virgin olive oil to soften ear wax applied every night for a week before flight; it only takes one bad flight to realise why that is essential.
Medicines can become easily mixed up, especially if you have quite a few for a long trip. To remedy this I use zip-up freezer bags. Each one I label according to their contents; too much in or out (anti-sickness, diarrhoea, constipation meds), travel meds (including disposable toothbrush for long flights and travel sickness meds and face wipes, making sure everything is below the ml limit for commercial flights) etc.You can see how that goes…
My best advice is to pack light and wash more when it comes to clothes. Washing can be done pretty easily in most places and doesn’t take too long. Always leave at least enough space to take some memorabilia home, or take old clothes that you don’t mind dumping to replace with new ones (this also doubles up as memorabilia).
So where exactly did you say you were going?
As I say, this is our second trip to the USA; at the end of it we will have ticked off 16 states. We have a flight from Manchester, England to New York return (returns are always cheaper, sometimes even if you don’t need the return leg). Then we are taking a plane from NY to Florida, Miami. We are staying on South Beach; what looks to be the beachy peninsula from Miami. It is a little way to the main city, but we have always preferred a bit less of the city anyway. We are renting a typical Miami apartment for two days. Highlights include jet skiing around the mansions of the Miami islands, tandem cycling around the city and a boat tour.
We drive to Everlades where we squeeze a lot into 24 hours including a mangrove tour and a 10,000 island tour. I am also hoping there will be time to rent a bike and cycle some of the local boardwalks, as our motel (no AirBnBs in the area) has a free cycle service. We will also drop in on a gator reserve and take a few snaps (hopefully not receive them!)
Kennedy Space Center
We will then take off to the Kennedy space center where we have found a charming man nearby who we can join watching the rockets launch from his back porch. We have also pre-booked (recommended) a day trip to the center itself to get completely spaced out.
From here we travel west, a long way west, to the deep south. We will adventure by segway soaking up the mood in the city of New Orleans. Following this we turn north to Memphis ; former home of the king of rock and roll, I believe, where we are a staying with another wonderful person near the city center who has a beautifully quirky residence with themed rooms.
Amish Country (Tennessee)
We then head onward to the Smoky Mountains, casually heading north Washington-wise. There’s a brief stop in Amish country where we’ve hired an old RV on a river; we’ll hike and fish and kayak and explore our wilderness-y roots after visiting the Amish markets and learning about their way of life.
Once in the Smokies we will see the Dixie Stampede dinner show in Pigeon Forge and feed some goats—who are said to reside on a roof! We will visit a ghost town and climb the highest point in the Smokies: Clingmans Dome. In the evening we’ll kick back in a tree house and watch the starry firmament unravel and catch it all on our new GoPro. On our way out of the Smokies is when we will be staying in the ‘Chalet’ which is clearly a garden shed. Needs must and all that, none of this five star absurdity for us British folk; we like to pee in in wilderness and sleep under the stars—well, at least two of us will put up with it for a good time.
Washington and New York City
We head to Washington and the Capitol for a whirlwind tour guided by yours truly before spinning up to the city that never sleeps where we have a private tour to peak at the off-limits exhibits in the Natural History Museum (which was very kindly organised by a friend enthusiast and collector- thank you Andy!). Of course, we will see all the tourist sites and are staying in a room smaller than a ferry cabin because everywhere is very expensive.
Not our usual style as there are so many cities involved. I am an English country lass after all and cities always make me feel claustrophobic, but you can’t see a country without seeing its cities—it is all part and parcel.
50 hours driving, over 3000 miles, and I think I counted 9 states. Apologies America, here come the English! 🙂
Only 2 weeks, 3 days, 20 hours, 30 minutes and 48 seconds to go… closer again!
(Many thanks to www.pixabay.com for the images- I will put up some of my own after I have them!)