Beat the Summer Travel Heat
We’re well into the summer travel season. Unfortunately, that also means we’re in the thick of the hot and, depending on what part of the country you travel to, sticky season as well. There are few things worse than planning your dream vacation only to get hammered by miserable weather, especially if you’re unprepared for it. Today’s Road Warrior tips are all about beating the summer heat. Best of all, you won’t have to break the bank in order to be comfortable; all of our tips are easy and affordable.
- Stay hydrated. This is, of course, the number one tip anyone can give you to stay cool, but it is often overlooked despite being the most important. Improper hydration can lead to all manner of problems and discomfort. Buy a quality container to carry your water. We like the Kleen Kanteen for its design and environmental/health benefits. If you’re going to be doing some active excursions, check out a Camelbak hydration pack.
- Drink hot or warm beverages/food if you can bear it. Sounds counterintuitive, but drinking beverages like hot herbal tea will make it easier for your body to cool itself down naturally. When you ingest anything very cold, like ice water or Popsicles, your body must actually expend energy to heat itself back up and compensate for the drop in stomach temperature, which makes you feel hot all over again.
- Eat spicy foods. Another seemingly counterintuitive tip, but this one also has a scientific basis. Spicy foods make you perspire, and perspiration is the body’s natural cooling system.
- Wear sunscreen even when you are not going to be in the sun all day. While it won’t exactly give you a magical force field, sunscreen will still provide a cooling barrier that keeps your body from absorbing the full brunt of the sun’s force. Additionally, some sunscreens are now specifically formulated to make your skin feel cooler. Don’t ask us how they did it, but check it out for yourself.
- Do you ever remember seeing your grandmother fanning herself profusely with one of those folding accordion paper numbers? Forget those. Get your own personal chilling unit. The Handy Cooler is a battery-operated device that lasts for hours on 4 AA batteries. Additionally, you can power it via a USB port. Genius! The reviews on Amazon are nothing less than stellar, so tell Grandma to stop flapping her arms around and, ahem, chill out.
- Spending the night somewhere without air conditioning (camping, outside deck, your starving artist brother-in-law’s studio) but still need something to keep your noggin cool while you sleep? Check out the Chillow! This amazing device does not require any battery or refrigeration to work. It might not exactly be a sports ice pack, but it is easy and convenient to fold up and take with you wherever you go.
No matter where you travel this summer, remember to take precautions to keep you and your loved ones cool. You’ll have a much more enjoyable vacation as a result. No matter where you go though, you can bet that an Extended Stay Hotel will be close by, providing you with crisp air conditioning and all the amenities to keep both your temperature and your attitude nice and cool.
Road Warrior Tips for Traveling with Pets
Many of us are animal lovers; specifically we’re fond of cats and dogs. And while we might typically leave Fido and Fluffy at home (or in the care of trusted others) when we travel, many pet owners face the inevitability of traveling with beloved pooches and felines at some point or another. Car transit is often the travel mode of choice for those bringing a pet. And, if a hotel stay is in order during your road trip, Extended Stay Hotels' comfy, pet friendly rooms are a terrific option. Flying with a dog or cat, on the other hand, is the most intimidating of all pet traveling experiences, and though some of us have done it before, most of us probably don't have the nerve. Don’t worry; Road Warrior is going to give you the tips to make flying with a pet as manageable as possible.
It goes without saying, of course, that you should only travel with pets on an airplane if you absolutely must. Dogs, and especially cats, are creatures of habit, and they do not like to go outside of their comfort zones.
- First, check all rules and regulations for the airline on which you are flying. It’s always a good idea to call and speak to an airline representative directly. Though just about all airlines allow certain pets under a specific size to ride in the cabin, they have different criteria and not all publish their full rules and regulations online. United, for example, is very specific about their pet policies, breed restrictions, etc., but AirTran’s Web site reflects a more lax attitude, though there are certainly hurdles you’ll need to check into before your travel date arrives. Be sure to check the Airline Consumer Report for information about airlines that may have mishandled traveling pets.
- Book a nonstop flight whenever possible. The last thing you want is to miss a connecting flight when you have your pet with you. Getting stuck for ten hours waiting for the next flight is never fun, especially with the extra challenge of caring for your pet. If this does happen, though, be prepared: have extra water and food available for your pet and a leash to walk them around if the airport has an appropriate area. (We don’t advise letting your pet walk around in the airport, as you’ll most likely be asked to put it back in the carrier.)
- Some states require a health certificate for your pet. Obtain a health certificate from your veterinarian ten to thirty days prior to your flight. Also, some airlines require proof of rabies vaccinations (mainly for dogs), so it’s a good idea to have copies of your pet’s medical history in hand when you are checking in.
- Have a good airline approved pet carrier. If your animal is going to ride in the cabin, the general rule is that the carrier must fit underneath the seat. We recommend the Pet Roll Around, which can be worn as a backpack or wheeled conveniently.
- Give your animal a little less food than normal prior to the flight. They will be less prone to upset stomachs and won’t need to relieve themselves as often.
- It is inevitable that your cat or dog is going to need to “use the facilities” at some point or another. For cats, this handy folding litter tray along with a few Ziploc bags of kitty litter will do the trick. For dogs, gulp, get a cargo crate pad and hope for the best. Consider keeping a small package of baking soda for odor issues and some doggie cleanup bags.
- Lastly, if you are considering sedating your pet, check with your veterinarian about your pet’s overall health and the necessary safety precautions prior to medicating. Several non-narcotic calming aids are available for pet travel, including Bach’s Rescue Remedy, Sprinks Relax, and Happy Traveler.
Visiting Historic Virginia
Though almost every state in the Union has played some role in shaping the nation, some are inextricably tied to our heritage. Virginia, the land for lovers, site of the first permanent English settlement, capital of the Confederacy and a gateway to Washington DC, may be small in size but is bursting with fascinating historical venues.
Maybe you are a casual history buff, or into watching actors in period attire reenact the Civil War, or perhaps you are eager to learn the finer points of medieval blacksmithing. Whatever old time activity piques your interest, there are many opportunities to explore the country’s rich colonial history. Here are a few of the top destinations in Virginia for those interested in experiencing a taste of American history.
- Williamsburg is one of the top colonial tourist destinations in the country and for good reason. Many areas of the town remain preserved in the same manner that they have existed since the 1700s. Consider staying at Extended Stay Hotels' Newport News, VA hotel at great rates, just 18 miles from Williamsburg and Yorktown.
- Yorktown Battlefield. This is the site of the British surrender to George Washington and a very important locale in both American and world history. In addition to the battlefield, the settlement of York is also part of the attraction. Guided tours are available, as well as artillery demonstrations and programs for children.
- Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, VA. Even if you’re a Yank, you can still appreciate the sacrifices made by both sides in the Civil War, and here is a great place to find out more about them. Also on the grounds of the museum is the Confederate White House where Jefferson Davis lived from 1861 to 1865.
- Fredericksburg is another charming colonial town and only an hour away from Washington, DC, which is itself a grand destination. Fredericksburg is just across the river from George Washington’s boyhood home (of cherry tree orchard fame). Apparently, the city is also “the most haunted town in America,” with walking tours and attractions geared to those who like to get their spook on.
- Monticello is the architectural masterpiece built by Thomas Jefferson and based on his study of Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio’s work. Jefferson’s intelligence and vision is forever enshrined by the estate.
- Mount Vernon. The home of the Father of our Country has been sometimes accused of being a tourist trap and on the hokey side, but it is nevertheless an important part of American history, and if you are in the area, it is almost a civic duty to visit. During the summer months, numerous activities and events take place on the grounds. Just take care to prepare for the sweltering VA heat and humidity.
With so many exceptional attractions which highlight this nation’s heritage, Virginia truly is a state for lovers… history lovers, that is!
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How to Beat Jet Lag
Jet lag: no matter how often you fly, you’ll probably have to deal with it. And no matter how many people you ask, they’ll all give you different opinions about how to handle it. Airlines are now even going the distance to provide their customers with the things they need to beat jet lag, but these amenities usually come at a premium, so for most of us, we’ll have to look elsewhere. Road Warrior certainly isn’t the first or last to throw a hat into the mix of jet lag tips, but hopefully we can give you a bit of perspective on beating this quintessential travel stress.
The first step in dealing with jet lag is to understand what exactly it is and how it biologically acts on your body. In medical terms, jet lag is referred to as “desynchronosis,” which is a disruption in the circadian rhythm of your body. Basically what that means is that your body (all living things, in fact) adheres to a natural cycle of activity and inactivity in tune with its physical surroundings (light and darkness, temperature, etc). This cycle affects how you think, your energy levels, your tolerance for irritation and so on. When you travel a lengthy distance in a short amount of time (thus mismatching the physical environment with your internal rhythm), desynchronosis occurs. Though international flights usually create the worst cases of jet lag, just traveling from one side of the country to the next can set your rhythm back a few days.
The first thing to remember in trying to avoid jet lag is that it is a physical/medical condition, and not something that can be duped with an easy trick or pill. The best you can hope for is to minimize the effects by taking all the necessary precautions. Stay positive, and remember that it will pass. Though these tips will be helpful, the most important tool in beating jet lag is your own positive attitude.
- First, plan ahead. If you know you can’t sleep on airplanes, don’t take a late flight. Similarly, if you get anxious before your travel dates and have trouble sleeping, don’t plan for an early morning flight. The disruption to your body rhythm can occur hours before you even get on the plane, compounded later by the distance traveled.
- On the plane: drink lots of water. There are two reasons for this. One is that the pressurized cabin causes dehydration to set in quicker (which is why you should also avoid alcohol and greasy foods when flying). In addition to fending off dehydration, keeping hydrated well-hydrated usually has the effect of making you get up to use the restroom every so often. This is a good thing. During long flights, you want to get up and move as much as possible. Additionally, try some inflight exercises to keep your circulation flowing.
- Once you reach your destination, go to sleep at your normal bedtime. You’ll feel the overpowering urge to sleep at either an earlier or later time, but try to resist. If you simply must take a nap, do not take a long one.
- Lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling, waiting for sleep to come is perhaps the worst effect of jet lag. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t indulge it. Get up and go for a short walk around the hotel or block. If you’re traveling with a partner, and they are feeling the same way, engage them in a short conversation, or play a game together until sleepiness settles back in.
Extended Stay Hotels offer all the comfort and amenities of home to help you kick back and relax even after a lengthy flight.
Exploring the Natchez Trace
Now that you’re up to speed on road tripping tips, you’re probably psyched to hit the road. But, where to go? Here’s a fantastic suggestion that won’t break the bank. Beginning at the bottom of Mississippi, the Natchez Trace Parkway stretches an amazing 440 miles through the Mississippi River valley to Nashville, Tennessee. Countless attractions, camping and historic points of interest dot the route, and you’ll never be short of opportunities to get out and stretch your legs. The trace has always had an important place in American history. From prehistoric travelers to farmers and boatmen, the Natchez Trace has served as a traveler’s route for thousands of years. It is now one of the crown jewels of the National Park Service, and we think you should put this on your list of top road trip travel destinations.
Now, some disclosure up front: this drive is in an entirely rural setting, so forget about a grandiose tour of modern civilization. Second, the maximum speed on the parkway is 50 miles per hour (strictly enforced), which is, well, slow. But, if a nice, idyllic drive through breathtaking countryside sounds like your cup of tea, this is the ultimate trip for you. And don’t worry: there are over 55 entrances/exits to the parkway, which runs adjacent to countless urban centers, both large and small. So, if you tire of the slow pace, you can always abort the mission at your convenience.
The parkway officially starts in Natchez, which is itself a worthwhile point of interest with the Melrose Estate and William “The Barber” Johnson’s house, among others. Before heading out, though, pick up this handy and highly recommended guidebook to the parkway. This book is extensive and will be an invaluable resource to any potential “tracer.”
Feel more adventurous (and have more stamina)? Travel by bicycle. The trace’s flat topography and easy traffic make this the ideal road for an extended biking trip. Be sure to pick up this guidebook to the trace, written specifically with the cyclist in mind.
Because it is so long, and there are numerous stops along the way, everyone will give you a different list of “must see” stopovers for the trace, but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to mention a few of our favorites
- Merriweather Lewis’ gravesite. Of Lewis & Clark fame, the Natchez Trace holds the remains of one of America’s greatest explorers, who died under mysterious circumstances (foul play expected) in 1809.
- The King’s Birthplace. We mean Elvis, of course, and his birthplace is less crowded than Graceland.
- Pharr Mounds. There’s just something eerie about this place, in a good way.
- Natchez Trace Visitor Center at milepost 266, where you can get all the information you need, and then some.
If you make it all the way to Nashville, you can look forward to starting a whole new adventure in Music City, USA. If you’ve been taking your time on this trip, you may find that you’re a bit tired of camping or sleeping in an RV, so check yourself into one of the three Nashville Extended Stay hotels; kick off your shoes, and relax as you recount your journey along one of America’s great travel routes.
Road Warrior's Guide to Road Trips
For a long time, road tripping was the go-to summer activity for college students, people in between jobs and otherwise low-on-funds travelers. But with gas creeping back up to three dollars a gallon, road trips are not the same carefree, inexpensive jaunts that they used to be. By no means should you forgo that tour of the best barbecue competitions you’ve always wanted to take, but you might want to do a little planning first.
Here are a few of Road Warrior’s best tips for making sure you have a memorable road trip that is worth the price.
- First, do some planning. Yes, one reason we love a road trip is because of the potential for spontaneity, but that doesn’t mean you should just get in the car without any clue and drive for miles; create a theme for your trip. Road Warrior loves to use food as an anchoring idea: clam chowder tour of New England or wine and cheese extravaganza up the California coast. Any way you go, food is a great motivation and something to look forward to at every destination.
- Pick your company wisely (if you’re not traveling alone). Make sure everyone is on the same page about the road trip. Find your ideal traveling companions using the Road Warrior’s travel personality guide.
- Check the car. Even if your car is brand new, the last thing you want is to break down halfway between Tucson and Phoenix. Make sure your oil is fresh, tires are inflated close to max (saves you gas) and maybe dump a bottle of fuel injector cleaner into the tank if it’s been a while.
- Bring trash bags and a roll of duct tape. You’ll need them. Trust us.
- Internet access. Make sure someone in the group has a data plan and a phone or laptop that can utilize it. You’re going to need it to check routes, weather, Yelp recommendations and just about everything else. This is a must.
- Stop for gas often. When the tank reaches halfway, plan to pull over at the next opportunity. There are a couple of reasons for this: one, you don’t want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere on empty just because you wanted to “save time.” Two, it will give you more opportunities to get out and stretch your legs and use the bathroom.
- Don’t speed! Relax; one of the joys of roadtripping is the ride. Speeding underscores a desire to get the trip over with and can put everyone in an anxious or bad mood. Additionally, if you get a speeding ticket, you’ve just upped the cost of your vacation considerably.
- If you want to stay connected to the rest of the world, keep track of your trip, and make all your friends jealous by posting your GPS locations and more to Facebook and flickr, using a Wi-Fi spot or your smart phone capabilities. Alternatively, you can opt to hunt for unique postcards and send them along the way. Who wouldn’t want a postcard from North Pole, Alaska or Smackover, Arkansas?
- Pack a cooler and bring along your own snacks. Of course you’ll sampling the local fare along the way, but you’re going to get hungry en route. Snacks at gas stations and convenience stores are pricey and not very healthy. For some good tips on what to bring, see our list of airplane food recommendations. It works great for road tripping as well!
More Outdoor Summer Fun
Road Warrior’s last post discussed tips for the timeless American outdoor activity of hiking. Today’s entry is similarly linked to the great outdoors, but it is an altogether different activity… Hot springs! Just follow these tips, and before you know it, you’ll be headed to the nearest bubbling pools and relaxing the way mother nature intended.
Contrary to what some people might think, hot springs can be found all across the United States, with one of the most popular sites in Arkansas at Hot Springs National Park.
What exactly are hot springs? Well, there are numerous scientific explanations for these wonders, having to do with geothermal activity, water pressure, etc, but we like to think of them as Earth’s natural hot tubs.
Why seek hot springs? Aside from the relaxation and general awesome factor involved, mineral hot springs are renowned for their therapeutic properties.
Some hot springs are in remote locations, often on private property, and generally not accessible to the weekend road warrior. But that’s okay, because there are many, many hot springs located on public lands and in state and national parks. And, some privately owned hot springs are open to the public for a fee. Usually these commercial facilities are part of a larger resort built around the natural hot spring activity. There are both advantages and disadvantages to commercial and wilderness springs.
- Commercial hot springs are regulated and usually use concrete pools and bathhouses to trap the natural water. They must follow health codes and test the water regularly for impurities and bacteria. Unfortunately, they are often crowded, and sometimes they are expensive.
- Wilderness hot springs are often in settings of intense natural beauty, and the “au naturelle” feeling is just incomparable. But wilderness springs are usually un-monitored and unattended, which sometimes brings potential problems.
Luckily there are a few online resources for finding hot springs, both of the commercial and wilderness varieties. Soak.net and the International Hot Springs Portal have great compilations of hot springs that use coordinates to identify the locations. You’ll need to prime yourself on how to find locations based on coordinates, or use a handy GPS device. Several guidebooks give detailed instructions for finding renowned hot spring locations across the country. Because there are so many hot springs, these books are usually organized by region. The seminal hot springs guides are Jayson Loam’s guide to Northwest and Southwest hot springs.
When you go to any hot springs, observe proper etiquette, and always remember: safety first. Even at commercial hot springs, the temperatures can reach unhealthy levels if you stay in them for too long. Always be on the lookout for signs of hyperthermia. And last but not least, be sure to avoid precarious locations and mind private property rights. If you can’t reach a hot springs without crossing someone’s land, you probably shouldn’t go to it.
Let a hot spring experience be your reason for travelling to a destination, or check out hot springs in the area where you plan to travel. You might be surprised at how relaxed and rejuvenated you feel during the rest of your trip!
Summer Hiking Tips
Warm weather and abundant flora and fauna make summer the perfect season for hiking. No matter where you are or where you plan to go, you’re probably not far from some terrific trails. To make your hike one worth remembering, follow these basic tips.
- First, put together a list of essential hiking items. This excellent guide will give you a comprehensive rationale for all the mandatory hiking gear. Of course, we’d like to elaborate on some and add a few of our own, which is why we bothered writing this in the first place.
- Know where you are going! There are so many resources on the Web for hikers that you have absolutely no excuse for not finding the perfect spot near you. Some useful sites are The American Hiking Society and Backpacker Magazine Web sites. And if you plan to travel to another city, a convenient room at any of the nearly 700 Extended Stay Hotels provides a home base for your outdoor adventures. Remember: if you’re traveling solo, let someone know where you plan to hike.
- Good footwear is absolutely essential when hiking. You don’t need $140 technical boots (but if you did, we’d recommend these), but you do need something appropriate for the ground you will be walking on. Know the terrain ahead of time; relatively flat, smooth trails require nothing more than a good pair of walkers or running shoes. Going uphill and rocky? Get yourself something with lots of support and thick soles. Companies such as Hi-Tek, LL Bean and Merrell all manufacture high quality hiking footwear.
- A pocketknife is mandatory, but we recommend taking it a step further and bringing a full-fledged multi-tool. The classic Swiss Army Knife is always reliable, but other favorites include the products manufactured by Leatherman, made in the USA. You never know when you’ll need more than just a knife, and these tools are so handy and well made, you will use them year-round, indoors or out.
- If you are hiking with a group, call a huddle before setting off on the trail. Agree as a group about when you will stop for rest, how much time you want to spend on the trails and what time and where everyone will meet up if people plan to go off on their own. Be respectful of each other’s physical capacity for hiking. Nobody likes having to wait for a slowpoke, but it’s rude to leave people on the trail. To avoid this, consider splitting groups up into equally capable hikers using the buddy system. Or, just don’t ask or agree to hike with people if they or you will be a burden.
- And, finally, don’t forget to bring along your camera or at least your camera phone so that you can capture the great scenery and wildlife to share with your loved ones when you return.