There are a lot of things you do or even learn while you’re on a two-week road trip. Of course, a lot of what I did or learned can be applied to trips in general. But I thought it would be nice to share some these things here for you today in hopes that it might help you some day. And please don’t worry, I was not standing that close to the trolley to take the photo. Zoom lenses are awesome like that. :)
01 | GPS.
This is by far one of the most valuable tools we had–in both driving and walking…or even knowing what trolley stop you need. I seriously don’t know what we did before GPS. And I think that I said that probably a hundred times on our trip.
And I don’t have ‘unlimited data’ in the sense that I only have 1G free data because I just don’t use it much on a regular basis. I can go over the 1G, but it becomes slower (T-Mobile). I was worried and careful on our trip to not use up all the data. But we were on the road for two weeks and not only did I check Facebook, Instagram and information on the web, but I used the Maps app frequently–both walking and driving and including times of letting it talk to me, and I still only used 650M of data. Not bad. I would monitor my data usage just to make sure I wasn’t using too much within each leg of the trip and would try to hold off on looking at more time-consuming things until we had wi-fi, like at the hotel. Wanted to make sure it lasted through the entire two weeks. :)
We do have a GPS in our car, but we haven’t updated it since we bought it eight years ago. So needless to say, the phone is always more up-to-date. I also loved being able to see just how far it was from Point A to Point B. Believe it or not, there are many places where the road signs don’t tell you the miles to the major city you’re going to, only the smaller ones that come first. Also, it shows it in real time when there are slowdowns going on. That’s pretty sweet.
02 | Go off the beaten path.
Whether you are driving or walking, take the path less traveled. I have said this before here on the blog and it is one of my favorite tips. We took many highways–more out of necessity in the south–and they were delightful. You get the small town feel and often a much more scenic route. Also, if you’re walking around, don’t hang out in the crowded areas. Take walks around scenic neighborhoods. Be sure to take in all that you see and look at the details.
03 | Talk to others.
Don’t be afraid to talk to others–including tourists or locals–to find out if there’s something else cool to see. The ‘popular’ places are easy to find. Most hotels may direct you here or there for good food. And that’s cool. But if you want to go for the good stuff, ask the people that live there. Also, ask other tourists what’s been the favorite part of their trip.
04 | Keep notes.
Keep a notebook handy to write down what you’ve done for the day or a thought that comes to mind about where you are or what you are experiencing. You will forget!
05 | Know before you go, but be open to spontaneity.
This is kind of a bigger story. We’d planned to see St. Louis Cemetery #1 while in New Orleans. It’s near the French Quarter and so we walked from Jackson Square over to it. It was somewhat hot and humid for mid-March and when we got to the cemetery we were told that as of March 1 (just two weeks prior) you could only go into the cemetery with a tour guide due to increasing vandalism. Not only that, tickets were $26 per person! We were rather disappointed. So instead, we went to the visitor’s center across the street and caught the ‘hop on / hop off’ bus tour. We got to enjoy the city from the comfort of a seat and hear the history. During the tour we went down Magazine Street, which I hadn’t heard much about, but we thought it would be a fun place to go look at some shops later.
Later, while we were taking a trolley, I struck up a conversation with the mom of a family there on vacation. We talked about the cemetery thing and she mentioned she was going to Lafayette Cemetery, which was still free. She also helped us make sure which trolleys we should be catching. ;) Along our way back to the hotel, the trolley driver mentioned one of the stops was for a cemetery. What? I checked the GPS and low and behold, the Lafayette Cemetery happened to be just a few blocks away from the hotel we stayed at in the Garden District. I would have figured that out when I looked at the map later, but we were shocked that it was so close. It opened at 8 a.m. We were there shortly after. And we pretty much had the place to ourselves. It was shady, cool and amazing. Granted, we didn’t hear historic stories like we would have with a tour guide at a place where famous people are buried, but I enjoyed it just as much, if not more.
Additionally on this subject, it didn’t occur to us that the shops on Magazine Street would close at 5 or 6. That whole ‘know before you go’ would have been a good idea. However, our GPS had shown us that we could take the trolley a few blocks (after dinner), hop off and then we could walk to Magazine Street, which happened to be through a beautiful neighborhood. When we discovered that most of the shops had closed, we opted to take the trolley back to the hotel. But I don’t like going down the same road, so we walked along Magazine Street to go to another road that would take us up to a trolley stop. Because we made this spontaneous choice, we were introduced to District. It’s a cafe, diner, bar, donut shop, etc. Dan, knowing that I wanted something sweet after dinner, says, ‘They have donuts there.’ I was like, ‘I don’t want a donut.’ And the people sitting outside said, ‘Oh. They aren’t donuts. They are something completely different. I don’t know what you’d call them, but they have so much more in the than what you’d see in a donut.’
Okay then. I’m in. We went in and it did not disappoint.
Then, the roads we chose to walk back towards the trolley–and ultimately to look at the closed cemetery–were absolutely amazing. Beautiful homes. Gardens. The whole works. I just soaked it all in. That evening was the highlight of being in New Orleans for me.
06 | Look.
Take the time to appreciate the beauty of where you are. So many people diss Kansas, but I found it to beautiful and could only imagine would it would be like if the farms were all abundant. It had flat lands in the west, but rolling hills in the middle and east sides. Beautiful sunrise in the flatlands. I also enjoyed looking down the little pathways between homes for gardens in both Savannah and New Orleans. Little secrets that most people may not pay attention to. I also loved all the staircases in Savannah–covered in moss or vines. Beautiful. And don’t even get me started on the trees.
07 | Pay attention to time and time changes and plan accordingly.
This we weren’t so good at. I don’t know how we managed to hit some metropolitan areas right at rush hour for morning or night. Nashville and Atlanta. Ugh. Additionally, when plotting out the day to drive to Savannah from Montgomery, Alabama, I forgot about the time change. When you lose that valuable hour, it can make all the difference–especially if you hit some construction along the way.
08 | Take photos from your car.
I took several photos from the car along the drive to remember the landscape. When you are driving everywhere, it all starts to blur together. The photos are meant more for me than anything. I don’t necessarily intend to use them, but in time, I may forget one state from the next, but the photos will help me remember which one was which. Also, be sure to have your camera handy. One of my favorite photos was of the sunrise after leaving Albuquerque, New Mexico. Stunning. And I took it using my dSLR out the front window while hubby was driving.
09 | Take photos of menus + food.
I know this may sound so cliche or hipster or whatever you want to call it, but I actually do it to remember where + what I ate. I think Dan kind of makes fun of me for doing it, but when he asked what he ate or where we ate at because he couldn’t remember, I said, ‘See? Now you know why I take the photos.’ :)
10 | Don’t be afraid to take photos.
Sometimes I feel shy about taking photos, particularly if I’m with others that aren’t photo-takers. I sometimes feel awkward. But then I tell my self, ‘Get over it!’ Who cares if people are looking at you? If you want that photo, by golly, go and take it. And always take extra, because sometimes the first one may not turn out.