Up the East Coast with "Open Hearts and Minds" and a Baby in a TESLA!

A GoSeeItPeople Interview with Jayson and Grace Caissie

Wherever you go, leave your heart and mind open to new experiences and endless wonder.
— Jayson and Grace's Travel Philosophy
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We were all a bit skeptical when my cousin Jayson and his wife Grace announced they would be heading on an epic east coast road trip from Florida to Montreal, Canada and back with a 9 month old baby, while traveling in a fully electric vehicle!  I wasn't sure that there would be enough infrastructure to charge their Tesla in the rural northern states, and wondered how traveling with such a young child would work.   We had no reason to worry! Armed with excellent planning tools, a car with GPS to direct them to the nearest TESLA Superchargers, a very easy going baby and their own open hearts and minds, Jayson and Grace and their young daughter had an amazing adventure with very few bumps in the road!  I asked them to share their story with us, and they generously agreed to share their photos and experiences! - Editor, Kathy Klofft

ALL PHOTOS BY JAYSON AND GRACE CAISSIE

 

Charging in Vermont

Charging in Vermont

GSIT: How did you decide on this destination? Why did you want to go? 

J & G : We decided on this destination because my husband has family in Maine and his family heritage is part French/Canadian, so we also wanted to travel to Canada and revisit the city of Montreal to explore what feels like a small version of Europe. On the previous trip (summer of 2014) we drove a 2012 Kia Soul with three adults and the remaining space filled to the brim with luggage to be on the road for a month. This time around we decided to purchase a 2012 Tesla Model S 85 with an ideal range of 280 miles per charge. This allowed us to travel without a cost for fuel as we were using the Tesla Supercharging network throughout our path up the East Coast. 

GSIT: How did you plan your trip? Did you use any websites or special apps? 

J & G:  On all of our trips, we outlined the dates and times of stays and travel time in Outlook. We create meetings in Outlook that are labeled as the following: location, travel time and distance. This sort of planning allows us an opportunity to view an outline of our entire trip. It also gives us a chance to look up points of interests along the way. All of this planning we did, we did before knowing we were going to have a Tesla. On previous trips we used a TomTom to navigate from one location to the next. With the Tesla’s built-in GPS, we were able to put in our destination and the GPS located all of the charging stations along our path, and it also provided an estimated time that we needed to charge to help us reach our next charging station or destination. For this trip we wanted to rely on “modern” travel stays vs. hotel stays. For example, we used airbnb to stay in people’s homes or apartments to allow ourselves the experience. We also found that most airbnb’s were cleaner than some hotels. At locations that we could not find a good airbnb, we relied on Hotels.com which is a subsidiary of Expedia.com.  

 

New technology meets old in Vermont

New technology meets old in Vermont

GSIT: What did you do while you were on this trip? 

J & G: When we were planning the trip with a gas car we thought about the cost of gas and hotels to get from Florida to Virginia and compared it to the cost of the nation’s only Auto Train that travels between Sanford, FL and Lorton, VA. We booked it assuming it would save us money and time. While it did save us time it did not save us much money as we ended up getting to charge for free the remainder of the trip. The train required us to have the car loaded on at 2:30 PM and hang out at the station until 4 PM when it departed. They provided Dinner and Breakfast as part of the train ride and we got off the train at 9 AM. We reserved a Roomette that had a bunk bed in it allowing us to lay down and attempt to sleep during that portion of the trip. 

Once we arrived in Lorton we traveled to Maryland to visit some of Jayson’s friends from college and allow Atlantis to meet their children. Then next stop was Burlington, VT where we got to visit Church Street, the Cabot Annex store, Magic Hat Brewery and the Ben & Jerry’s factory. Those were the main stops but we fit in about 5 smaller local breweries in there too. 

An art installation in Montreal, Canada

An art installation in Montreal, Canada

After Burlington we went to Montreal, Canada. Some people may wonder how it was crossing the border with a 10 month old, it was surprisingly very easy. When our daughter was first born we knew some day soon we would take her out of the country, so it only made sense to get her a passport while doing all the other paperwork that comes along with a newborn. When we got to the border they just looked at the passport and looked at her through the car window and sent us on our way. Montreal was a real treat, as it was fun place to visit other people who spoke another language, stay in our first airbnb, and experience all of what attracts people to this glorious country. I’d also like to add, after many visits to Canada, it was my first time eating the local Quebecois dish, Poutine. 

The Montreal Biosphere was a fascinating place to explore the environment for a couple dedicated to preserving it as owners of a two electric vehicles! Designed by Buckminster Fuller for the 1967 Expo, it's a popular museum dedicated to the environment today.

The Montreal Biosphere was a fascinating place to explore the environment for a couple dedicated to preserving it as owners of a two electric vehicles! Designed by Buckminster Fuller for the 1967 Expo, it's a popular museum dedicated to the environment today.

 

 

GSIT: What surprised you about the places you visited ? Is there a "don't miss it" attraction? 

J & G: Out of all of the places we visited, Helen Georgia was the one stop where you’d want to go to visit a place unlike any other in the United States. It’s no Disney...World or Land, BUT it is worth visiting it at least once in your lifetime. The town of Helen, GA is a made to look like a German town that was built and transformed in the 1960’s.

That’s not even the best part! What made this a fun and memorable stop was the cheap ($5) attraction to go tubing for 2 hours down the river that cuts through the town of Helen. Once you’re done with a day of tubing, it’s nice to grab a bite to eat at Paul’s Margarita Deck, overlooking other tubers as they travel down the river. Every place to stay in the town is also walking distance from anything you’d want to do while you are there. Helen even had ONE public charging station for any (EV) electric vehicle.

Helen GA with it's colorful German Town.

Helen GA with it's colorful German Town.

In addition to visiting Helen, GA my husband and I would also recommend to anyone and at any age, to go visit downtown Asheville in North Carolina. Downtown Asheville was one of those places we just wanted to check out and then we both just fell IN LOVE with it! To sum it up in a nutshell it’s an eclectic and artsy town that has over two dozen breweries, fun shops, and great places to eat.

The Sierra Nevada Brewery, in Asheville, NC with front row parking for EV and hybrid vehicles

The Sierra Nevada Brewery, in Asheville, NC with front row parking for EV and hybrid vehicles

GSIT: What tips would you give for someone who wants to visit? Anything special you should pack? 

J & G: A good rule of thumb when it comes to traveling, at least this is what we found helpful is to remain flexible during your trip because you never know when a hiccup might occur. Always plan out what you want to do before you leave, unless you like to travel with spontaneity in mind then by all means, but, when planning a head it really did help us when pre-booking hotel rooms and airbnb’s. Also it’s crucial to check your finances and expenditures, and to check your bank account daily or every other day.

When it came down to packing for a long road trip, we brought with us a few essential items; a collapsible tote bag for dirty laundry, laundry detergent, and coins for doing laundry and paying tolls. It’s also a good idea to pack an emergency card for all passengers traveling. My husband and I didn’t do this, but after thinking back about our trip, it would have been safe thinking to have if the emergency cards on our phones weren’t able to be activated in the event of a dead or lost cell phone. Other items we packed were a first aid kit, a car safety kit, an all purpose car tool that can shatter windows, cut seat belts, and pop airbags in the event of an emergency if necessary, and we also made sure to pack umbrellas, and rain jackets (which did come in handy during the summer rain). Furthermore, besides packing all of the important essentials, we definitely had to pack car snacks for us and the baby, and just for fun, I had to pack the selfie stick for those tricky family shots when nobody was around. 

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GSIT: You took this trip with a baby in an electric car, in what ways was that challenging, rewarding, what would you do differently, what would you do again and suggest to others doing the same trip? 

J & G: Taking a baby in an electric car was really no different than taking a baby in a gas car. Actually, driving in an electric vehicle was somewhat less challenging and more convenient than a gas vehicle as my husband and I were able stop at regular intervals due to charging. Now, some may think this might be more of a nuisance, but when it came to driving long distances, it was quite the relief to get out of the car and stretch and have a break more often. Gas cars may be able to go longer distances without stopping as frequently compared to EV’s, but when having a young baby in the car and you knew it was time to charge soon, it felt great to have those much needed breaks.

At the same time, those frequent breaks sometimes did make it challenging when it came to the baby falling asleep for naps. As most people know, driving is a great way to put a little one to sleep, but with charging times sometimes taking longer than one would want with a baby, it would also wake her up due to the car no longer moving. However, one of the really nice things about having a Tesla is being able to charge at all of the superchargers, because the superchargers were mostly all located in great locations where you could grab a bite to eat, find a Starbucks or even walk around in a few department stores. By having the Tesla it made us experience more of the places we were stopping at than we normally would have on a trip.

If you are wanting to do a similar trip, whether you’re in a gas car or an EV, I would suggest one parent to ride in the back with the baby and have one parent be the navigator, or take turns with the roles of driver and entertainer. Also having a basket of your child’s favorite books and toys is a huge help! We even scored some awesome Fraggle Rock puppets that were super helpful and fun. But most of all, take lots of pictures and video and enjoy the time creating memories with your family. 

The Caissie Family visiting me on the beach in Maine, where they got engaged at a Fourth of July family cookout three years earlier,  with their new baby daughter!

The Caissie Family visiting me on the beach in Maine, where they got engaged at a Fourth of July family cookout three years earlier,  with their new baby daughter!

Jay and Grace did take and post loads of photos!  All of their family and friends enjoyed seeing their adventures and those of us along the route, especially enjoyed visiting with them and meeting their beautiful baby girl!  I thank them for sharing their adventures!- Kathy

Jayson and Grace

Grace Caissie- I’m 28 years old, and I am a Teacher of students with visual impairments and blindness, also known to some as a TVI. A few of my interests are being a mommy, Japanese culture, eating good food, cosplaying, and going to Disney World often. I was born and raised in Florida where I met my husband who has encouraged me to take on more journeys and adventures with my life. 

Jayson Caissie-I’m 30 years old and I was born in Massachusetts. I moved to Florida when I turned 3, and it’s also where I met my wife. I am a High School technology Teacher and I work with kids in getting them certified in CompTIA A+ certifications in computer hardware and software, for example: Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, and SharePoint). Currently I just received my Master’s Degree in Educational Technology, and I plan to further my education by working towards getting my Doctorate. Some of my hobbies and interests include, technology, movies & film, going to breweries, and alternate forms of creating energy, like solar, wind, and electric energy. Right now I’m very passionate about electric vehicles and cutting down on our carbon footprint. For anyone who may read this and is interested in learning more and connecting with other electric vehicle owners, I created a Facebook page called SWFL EV Owners

Cuba Travel, What's New(s)?

By: Kathy Klofft

Photo Essay: People of Cuba by Jeff Klofft

Two gentlemen read the news on the stoop on the outskirts of Old Havana

Two gentlemen read the news on the stoop on the outskirts of Old Havana

Cuba travel has been in the news again.  The President of the United States recently announced some changes in the policy of rapprochement that had been set by his predecessor in December 2014.  I'm not going to get political, because I've never been one to determine whether a place I travel to is "right" or wrong" (or even "Right" or "Left", for that matter)  We travel to experience the people and the place as it is and hope that our connection to other people helps bridge the gaps of our differences.  If we refuse to visit places where we disagree with the way they are governed, we'd probably not even be able to leave our own back yard!   Since the announcement about changes to Cuban American relations, I've had many readers and friends ask about how to go about seeing Cuba now.  They wonder if they should go before things change again, and what is the best way to do it.  So I'm revisiting our experiences and giving advice based on what I've heard and read in the last week. If you don't plan to go, you may enjoy Jeff's photos of the people we met in Cuba!

A young man shares his art and a smile with visitors

A young man shares his art and a smile with visitors

We decided to visit in June 2016, shortly after the announcement and posted about it here:

Cuba Posts

As for the latest news, no one can predict what will happen next, but the President has asked the Treasury Department to revisit the current rules.  It appears from emails travelers I know have received from their cruise lines with itineraries to Cuba, that they have been assured they can still make Cuba ports of call.  As i understand it, individual travel that is not part of a cruise or People to People program will be examined in a different way and possibly restricted.  So with this scanty information and not knowing what the Treasury Department rules will eventually look like, here is what I'm telling my friends.

 A couple entertains during a visit to a state run restaurant in Old Habana

 A couple entertains during a visit to a state run restaurant in Old Habana

1- Nothing appears to be happening immediately.

It seems it will be some time before new rules are made and implemented.  If Cuba is on your list, I would definitely not hesitate to go as soon as possible.  The issue with Cuban travel is not safety, we felt Cuba was very safe, safer than most major cities we have visited anywhere in the world.  The problem seems to be the change in the political approach to the island nation by the United States, and Americans ability to visit freely or do business there.

Dancers perform during the cabaret at the Hotel Nacionale in Havana

Dancers perform during the cabaret at the Hotel Nacionale in Havana

2-I would not go to Cuba "illegally" right now.

While many Americans have gone to South or Central America and simply visited Cuba from there without getting any approvals or passport stamps.  I would not do that now. There is no way to predict how immigration officials will react upon return to the United States. Also, there is no predicting that over the next 4 to 8, or more years how an "illegal" visit to Cuba might affect your ability to receive government clearances, or government benefits of any kind. We simply don't know.

Children from an arts school in Matanzas pose just before leaving for summer break

Children from an arts school in Matanzas pose just before leaving for summer break

3-I would take a cruise that has Cuba on the itinerary

.Cuba is likely just one of the places you'll visit on a cruise, and the whole vacation wouldn't be canceled if things change rapidly.  Also, I've read that the uptick in tourism since rapprochement has lead to some food shortages for people in Cuba.  Cruises, which carry their own food on board, are a good way to lessen any of those effects. Our experience with Cuban food was that it is not very varied or spiced; most of the food we ate in both paladares (privately owned home restaurants) and state run restaurants was fairly bland, but filling.

A man on the beach expresses his enthusiasm for Americans with his shirt and his gestures!

A man on the beach expresses his enthusiasm for Americans with his shirt and his gestures!

4-I would take a well established People to People Trip

If I wanted to take a trip to Cuba now, and didn't want to cruise or had a special interest, I would go with one of the outfitters that have offered People To People tour for years.  These trips usually revolve around meaningful connections between people with similar interests. Our trip was focused on Jazz and Art, which was of interest to our family.  Other trips involve bird watching and nature. With rapprochement, many new travel companies applied for and were approved to travel to Cuba with less developed programs.  However, the ones that were doing it first have the best connections and resources in Cuba.  If things are changing rapidly, a well established outfitter will have a better handle on how to adapt to changes than a newcomer.

Three men struggle to maneuver a fruit cart in the streets.

Three men struggle to maneuver a fruit cart in the streets.

5-Check the rules frequently.  

What is allowed in and out of Cuba could change at any time.  Another reason to travel with an experienced outfitter is that they stay on top of these rule changes for you.  If the limits of cigars, art or rum change, they can let you know before you invest in something that could just be confiscated. They will also stay ahead of any itinerary changes required by either government. 

A local musician who connects young jazz acts with Americans coming to learn about Cuban Jazz reacts with joy to his protegees set.

A local musician who connects young jazz acts with Americans coming to learn about Cuban Jazz reacts with joy to his protegees set.

6-If you do travel to Cuba with a cruise or tour company, be sure to keep the paperwork

The tour outfitter or cruise line will provide official paperwork that explains the legal reason for your trip to Cuba. You will need this when you return home and for future travel.   I keep mine with my passport, but remove it when passing through immigration in any country, including my own until someone asks to see it.  No one has asked to see it yet, but we never know when they might ask, so I have it ready to show that I traveled to Cuba on a legal, Treasury Department approved People to People trip.

A young couple enjoys the sunset on the malecon in Havana

A young couple enjoys the sunset on the malecon in Havana

One of the reasons we travel is to see places that are different from where we live, to connect with people in a way that emphasizes our similarities, and seeks to understand our differences. We found the people of Cuba to be open to meeting Americans, and excited for the future. Hopefully, all your travels will be the same!

 

What To Do with Two Gammy's and a Graduate on an Epic Road Trip?

Day Trip in the Finger Lakes

Story and Photos by Kathy Klofft

Ok, maybe not THAT epic, but when you pack your septuagenarian mother and octogenarian mother in law into a van along with a 20 year old college student and a newly minted college graduate for a day trip in the Finger Lakes District of upstate NY, you have the what sounds like the trailer of bad buddy movie!  Fortunately for us, it had a happy ending, and we were treated to a beautiful May day in the Finger Lakes! Here's our itinerary and some ideas for things to do in this "gorges" area!

The Finger Lakes are actually a series of 11 lakes in narrow, deep gorges created by the glaciers, and they are also "gorgeous"!  (That's the end of my geology puns, I promise!) With vineyards along the steep slopes of the pristine lakes, the views are breathtaking at every turn. Because my family was in town for a busy weekend of graduation activities, we had only one day to explore the area, so we stayed close to the college, and visited the western shore of Canandaigua Lake.  Even just visiting a small area and during the quiet spring season, it was easy to see why this region is popular with tourists! 

A boat launch near Naples NY

A boat launch near Naples NY

We started our day early with a visit to the Sonnenburg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park.  The park is located in Canandaigua, NY, not far from the NY Throughway, and makes a nice start to a day exploring the Finger Lakes.   One could easily spend a whole day here. There are 50 acres of gardens and green houses on the property, in addition to the beautifully restored mansion built in 1887 for Frederick Ferris and Mary Clark Thompson. 

At the admission booth, you'll get a map of the property and can plan your visit.  We decided to start in the Green House Conservatory Complex with the orchid house.  The Nectarine House was filled with orchids, succulents and cactus.  Incredible statuary is mixed in among the plants, and there is a fun scavenger hunt for the children, to look for "faces" among the artwrok in both the gardens and in the mansion!

The Nectarine House with Sonnenburg Garden's collection of prizewinning orchids

The Nectarine House with Sonnenburg Garden's collection of prizewinning orchids

Garden statues are tucked among the lush foliage in the orchid green house.

Garden statues are tucked among the lush foliage in the orchid green house.

If you are visiting with anyone mobility challenges, or just want to save some energy, with you can take a complimentary golf cart shuttle from place to place. I recommend taking the shuttle to the mansion at the top of the hill and then meandering downhill through all the gardens. If you start in the green houses at the beginning, cooler part of the day, you'll enjoy them more!

A view of the Gardens from the mansion

A view of the Gardens from the mansion

The mansion is very well preserved. Docents offer tours or you can wander around on your own.  In addition to the spectacular distant views to the lakes , the Victorian era furnishings and antiques are beautiful.  Unlike some historic homes open to the public, you truly feel as though you have stepped inside the Thompson's home as a guest and that they still live there and might step out to great you at any moment!

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Be sure to ask your docent to explain the significance of this poster...it seems the homeowners caught a lucky break when they canceled their passage on the Titanic to tend their gardens!!

We left behind the Sonnenburg mansion and gardens long before we could explore everything they had to offer, including an enticing outdoor cafe, and a gift shop.  We will need to return to see more of the gardens, and one could visit several times in a single summer and see different things blooming!

The lake views beckoned so we skipped visiting the town of Canandaigua, which has plenty of shops, and lake front restaurants to offer. We took a drive along Route 16 and enjoyed views of Canandaigua Lake to the east.  The lake banks in many places were terraced with grape arbors and we saw lots of places offering wine tastings and tours! 

Canandaigua Lake

Canandaigua Lake

It was too cold for a swim, so we decided to take in some of the recommendations we had crowd sourced from the parent Face Book page at our daughters university. Our first stop was Roots Cafe.  A popular farm to table restaurant set in a roadside home hard by the Inspire Moore vineyard.  

Roots cafe in Naples NY

Roots cafe in Naples NY

We chose a table on the porch, and perused the menu of locally sourced specialties, including three unique daily salad, mac and cheese and soup specials offered.  Not being able to narrow our choices we ordered nearly one of everything offered on the menu and shared!

Bright colors, real flowers and a real vineyard next door add ambiance to the excellent food.

Bright colors, real flowers and a real vineyard next door add ambiance to the excellent food.

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Despite the tempting offerings, we skipped dessert because we had been advised to check out Monica's Pies for dessert.  Beginning our trip back north from Naples to Canandaigua we stopped at Monica's Pies, which came highly recommended by everyone we spoke to about the area. This famous pie shop doesn't offer a spot to dine, but you can pick up pies and other yummies for the road!

In addition to delicious pies, and other sweet treats, Monica's offers some grape related gifts.

In addition to delicious pies, and other sweet treats, Monica's offers some grape related gifts.

While Monica's grape pie is the claim to fame, I can attest that the strawberry rhubarb and caramel apple pies were also delicious.  I should have taken a photo of the pies, but they simply didn't last long enough for photography!

After a wonderful lunch at Roots Cafe and some goodies from Monica's Pies, we made our way back to campus via route 64, which gave us some lovely distant views above the lake and offered more tempting wineries to visit. Additionally, had our group been more fleet of foot and less tempted by all the foodie delights the area had to offer, we could have hiked several of the lovely trails and parks in this area. Next time we will plan to stop at Honeoye Wildlife Management Area.  We would also have liked to see the beautiful falls at Grimes Glen.  And we visited New York's Wine Country and never even got to do any wine tasting!

Whoever is in the cast of your road tripping buddy movie in upstate NY, there is something fun for everyone to do along the shores of Canandaigua Lake!

Beach, Off Season and Here's Why!

The beach...ah, the sun, the surf, ...the crowds!?!  No crowds with a late spring beach trip. This time in late April and early May is one of the best times for the beach. Just about everywhere in North America, this is beach shoulder season! Here's why you should be sampling beaches anywhere in the country and Caribbean, right now!!

South Beach Miami, was pretty quiet in early June compared to mid February! And did I mention my boutique hotle room was half the high season price?

South Beach Miami, was pretty quiet in early June compared to mid February! And did I mention my boutique hotle room was half the high season price?

Up north, beaches are still shrugging off their winter coats of snow.  Early season pricing specials can be found for places that will be unaffordable to mere mortals in July. You'll need a polar fleece, but you'll have the beach to yourself!  In the south, the snowbirds have returned north, and the summer family vacationers haven't arrived yet. In the Caribbean the spring breakers have returned for their final exams, and the Europeans don't have their month-long "holidays" till July or August, leaving rooms open at resorts where the weather really never changes much from season to season, but the prices and crowds do! So start searching for specials at that resort where you've always wanted to stay, or bundle up and pick a beach hotel room up north with it's own roaring fireplace.

For more click why to go to the beach off season here

What's Your Travel Style and What Kind of Trip to Take

Like this Dahl’s sheep in Denali National Park, my adventurous brother likes to hit the trail with his “kids”, and on and off the mountain, he will do all the leg work himself!

Over the last two years, I've talked with a lot people about planning travel, and almost every person tells me that planning travel can be a bit overwhelming because there is just SO MUCH information out there!!  I've noticed that people have distinct styles of how to research (and how much they want to research) and how they book a trip that works for them and their style.  These different styles are exhibited by some of my friends and family...my apologies for calling them out, but I have such admiration for all my friends and how they get out there to GoSeeIt!  So I've named the styles after them! See which style you are, and then see my suggestions for what kind of trip and the best way to book a trip based on that style!

Like this Dahl sheep in Denali National Park, my adventurous brothers likes to hit the trail wit his "kids", and on and off the mountain, he will do all the leg work himself!

Like this Dahl sheep in Denali National Park, my adventurous brothers likes to hit the trail wit his "kids", and on and off the mountain, he will do all the leg work himself!

Bill

Are You a Bill?: My brother Bill will climb Mt Washington- solo.  He will travel to Belize and stay in a shack on the beach to find the best dive spot. He travels on a tight budget and doesn't see the need to pay for guides, fancy hotel rooms, or escorting when you can do it yourself!

What and How To Book: Anywhere you want! Nothing is off limits when nothing is out of your comfort zone.  Some good resources for independent travelers are Lonely Planet or Rick Steeves guide books. I like Airtreks site for point to point air routing for "round the world" type trips, and Hipmunk for comparing airfares, comfort levels and routes. Check out Independent Traveler and Trip Advisor for researching destinations and rock bottom deals. 

 

Dennis

Local markets, like this one in Ecuador appeal to "foodies" who like to shop and cook locally!

Local markets, like this one in Ecuador appeal to "foodies" who like to shop and cook locally!

Are You A Dennis?: Our friend Dennis is a proud  "Foodie".  He likes to scour the markets and check out the local food scene.  He will spend a lot of time researching, and he enjoys spending part of his vacations in a home or apartment with a real kitchen so he can source local ingredients and relax while making meals for his family.  He's been known to bring along cooking equipment on his trips!  

What and How To Book: Look for destinations with a great food scene, and consider spending part of the time in a rental home or apartment.  Consider taking mass market mid size or luxury cruises that offer cooking classes and are well known for their food. Some to try: Celebrity Cruises, River Cruise lines offer beer, wine or food specialty departures, and Air BNB, Homeaway or VRBO for villa rentals in France or Italy where the food scene is renowned (or anywhere else in the world!)

 

 

Judy

Visiting major tourist attractions can be more fun when someone else does the leg work, but you can still tour independently!

Visiting major tourist attractions can be more fun when someone else does the leg work, but you can still tour independently!

Are you A Judy: Judy enjoys active adult adventures, she travels with her husband and likes to explore the culture of a place, but doesn't love bus tours or group tours. She enjoys traveling independently, but doesn't want the expense of a private guide.  

What and How To Book: For a recent trip she planned to Italy, I suggested she try one of the companies that offers booking services to arrange hotel, tickets and tours, and in country transportation, but the touring is all done independently, with a concierge or pre-arranged itinerary. I suggested Judy try Monograms a division of Globus brands. She promises to give me a full report on how that works out after her trip! A good travel agent can also do a similar itinerary, and make all the arrangements, but allow you to travel independently. Be sure to look for a specialist in the destination, who has been there, and works planning trips in that area frequently! 

 

 

Marrianne

Thrilling family adventures, with all the details arranged, are what Marianne's family is looking for! (photo Courtesy of Marianne)

Thrilling family adventures, with all the details arranged, are what Marianne's family is looking for! (photo Courtesy of Marianne)

Are You A Marianne?: Marianne likes to plan trips for her immediate family that are active, but like most families they are busy!!  She doesn't mind spending some time researching the right trip for her family, but she wants all the details handled for her, so she can relax and enjoy her family! Her family wants incredible experiences and destinations, where they can have active adventures together. They don't want to spend a lot of time planning what to pack and traveling to get places, so a comprehensive itinerary and packing list for their destination is a big help. 

What and How To Book: Look for full service luxury tours, where the itinerary is curated for your family.  Lots of pre trip information is provided and all the highlights are covered in the destination, along with special one of a kind access, and superior guiding throughout.  Busy families need short trips that fit their vacation periods and are willing to pay expenses like internal airfares to expedite travel in a short time. Some we've tried or friends have had great experiences with: Adventures By Disney (for younger families or multi generational) Tauck Tours, Natural Habitat (Natural history and wildlife focused) and Backroads (Active adventures)

 

 

Beverly

A comfy coach where someone else does the driving, a guide to handle all the logistics and interpret what you'll see...whether on a mass market cruise, river cruise or escorted land tour. Lots of retirees enjoy camaraderie, budget options and carefree travel with group tours.

A comfy coach where someone else does the driving, a guide to handle all the logistics and interpret what you'll see...whether on a mass market cruise, river cruise or escorted land tour. Lots of retirees enjoy camaraderie, budget options and carefree travel with group tours.

Are you a Beverly?: My Aunt Beverly likes the social aspects of group tours with other retired travelers. She enjoys having all the logistics taken care of on her trips, and she likes to stick to her budget. 

What and How To Book: Beverly enjoys mass market cruises, such as Holland America and fully escorted coach or river cruises with companies like Grand Circle, Viking or Cosmos. These tours cater to retired travelers with budgets that pack a lot of value into longer trips

Don

Travel companies that arrange for travelers to use local transportation options like this public ferry option to Drake Bay, Costa Rica (versus a private charter flight) make small group guided touring more affordable, and works well for retirees who have lots of time!

Travel companies that arrange for travelers to use local transportation options like this public ferry option to Drake Bay, Costa Rica (versus a private charter flight) make small group guided touring more affordable, and works well for retirees who have lots of time!

 

Are you a Don?: Our neighbor Don is retired and travels for weeks at a time.  He wants culturally authentic, small group travel with all the details managed, but lots of time for independent exploration.  He likes connecting with a small group and expert guides, but he wants to stick to a good budget by using local transportation and staying in comfy, but not fancy places. 

What and How To Book: Don and his wife have taken dozens of Overseas Adventures Trips (OAT), a division of Grand Circle.  These trips usually run 3 weeks or longer and are geared for active retirees. Fully guided with accommodations and some meals included, the total prices can be steep, but broken down by cost per day, they are a very reasonable way to travel if you have the time and want a very authentic experience with the safety of a guide and small group.

 

 

Lisa

Small group, expertly guided adventures like this trip to the Galapagos appeal to the solo traveler where they will be integrated and included in all the activities and meals.

Small group, expertly guided adventures like this trip to the Galapagos appeal to the solo traveler where they will be integrated and included in all the activities and meals.

Are You A Lisa?: Lisa is a solo traveler, but it never stops her from taking trips, and having made new friends on her many adventures, she sometimes travels with a small group. Lisa likes active adventures with excellent guiding and good cultural experiences.   

What and How To Book: Small group tours are excellent choices since you'll have a dedicated guide who will work to include you in activities and ensure you have dining companions. And like Lisa, eventually, you may meet new best friends to travel with! Lisa has had great luck with Backroads for land adventures. Midsize cruise lines can be good choices because they sometimes have singles meet ups and so many activities that it's easy to get involved as a solo, and offer more opportunities to meet people since there are fewer passengers. Unfortunately, cruises often count on double occupancy in cabins, and can charge singles as much as twice to book the cabin.  Norwegian Cruise Lines is well known for having many singles cabins on board (although it's a larger line, they make more effort to plan single events) River Cruising is another excellent choice for solo travelers. Most river cruise vessels have small single cabins available for a fraction of the cost of the double occupancy cabins, and with a small passenger load of less than 200 people, it's easy mingle and make friends. Solo cabins go quickly, so plan ahead!  

 

 

Randy

Randy (with his wife above)  is so good at planning fun stuff to do on cruises for his friends, like this private sailing charter in St Thomas, that he and his wife's biennial cruise trip over a dozen friends cruising with them each year!

Randy (with his wife above)  is so good at planning fun stuff to do on cruises for his friends, like this private sailing charter in St Thomas, that he and his wife's biennial cruise trip over a dozen friends cruising with them each year!

Are You A  Randy?: You have a big group to travel with, maybe a big family, or are the trip planner for your company or group, or maybe when you start planning a trip, and all your friends want to go because you are so good at it!  In any case, everyone is counting on YOU to deliver a great trip!!

What and How to Book:  Cruises and all inclusive resorts are popular choices since everyone knows where their meals are coming from, and there is no debating where to eat or trying to accommodate a large group at restaurants.  With a group, you have some leverage, find a specialist travel agent in the destination who will throw in perks and discounts for your group!  You can also contact the groups department of cruise lines or resorts. It's usually best to plan a trip that offers a variety of activities that will appeal to the many different interests of your group or family. Sometimes if your group is big enough, you can score deep discounts or free rooms for your own travel. After all all that hard work herding cats deserves a little pay off for the travel planner! 

Are You a You? 

Whatever your travel style, there is a trip to meet your style, try not to get overwhelmed by the info overload on the web! The trick is finding the right one...that's what we help with...keep reading our blog for inspiration and recommendations of trips and tour companies, and great travel agents that worked for our family and friends. And share with us if you have different travel style and great trips that worked for you!! 

By Kathy Klofft

Photos By: Jeff Klofft (except where noted)

Opinions are independent, no compensation was given for mentions of any products or services

Get Off My Ship!

What to do at the end of a cruise!

The end of a mass market cruise can be pretty rough! The day before you go, paperwork is arrayed on your bed explaining how you'll be processed off the ship, and the Cruise directors will make jokes about leaving your luggage outside your cabin by midnight. It's possible it may all feel a bit ungracious! The crew needs to get passengers off quickly to welcome new guests, usually by midday, so you'll feel the urgency to get you off the ship quickly. But that doesn't mean your vacation has to be over! Read our Disembarkation Tips to make a smooth transition from a cruising vacation to home.

To read more about Rhapsody of the Seas Cruise, click here

By Kathy Klofft 

Photos Jeff Klofft

Disembarkation Tips: 

Of course, it really depends on the port where your cruise ends, but here are some ideas for ending your cruise on a high note, possibly enjoying another day of vacation, or at least making the most of the hours before your flight home!

1- Check your itinerary before booking flights.

Check to make sure your flight is scheduled well after the time your ship arrives in port. Be sure you know how long that transfer will take and build in the time you need before your flight. Usually, the documents you receive from the cruise line will suggest the earliest time you can expect to fly based on needing to collect your luggage and pass through customs and immigration after leaving the ship. 

Be sure that the airport you choose to fly out of is really closest to your port. Sometimes, there is a smaller regional airport closer to your cruise port than the major airport. Or you might find you need to pre arrange transportation over some distance to get to the main airport because cabs are unwilling to take such a long trip. (This is true especially in Europe)  Most cruise lines offer transfers to the airport and that can be a good option. But be sure to research your options. Sometimes a taxi or ride hailing app can be cheaper than the ships transfer for 2 or more people!  

Where is the port in relation to the airport, can you get a cab, does the port allow ride hailing app services? What time do arrive in port?  Be sure to arrange your flight well after this time!

Where is the port in relation to the airport, can you get a cab, does the port allow ride hailing app services? What time do arrive in port?  Be sure to arrange your flight well after this time!

 

2- Take the pressure off rushing to the airport by staying overnight in the disembarkation  

You might find that the disembarkation port has plenty to do, we found that to be true in Tampa.  We were able to extend our vacation by booking a hotel room on Saturday and by booking an early flight on Sunday, we enjoyed Saturday night out on the town!  Some ports are destinations themselves and we plan to extend our vacation with a few days in ports like Old San Juan, PR or Rome, Italy.   With so many people arriving in town the same day, sometimes hotel rooms can be expensive, I like to check online to see if there are any specials offered for cruisers at local hotels. If hotels are too pricey, see our next tip...

We enjoyed a long walk along the Tampa Riverwalk the day we disembarked and stayed in town overnight for a Broadway style show and dinner. It's a short cab ride or ride hailing service ride from the port

We enjoyed a long walk along the Tampa Riverwalk the day we disembarked and stayed in town overnight for a Broadway style show and dinner. It's a short cab ride or ride hailing service ride from the port

 

3- Lots of connections to make?

When a cruise ship gets in too late make all the connections you need to get home, you don't have to stay in the expensive port city with all the people you just sailed with! You can start your flights, arrive in one of your less expensive connection cities and book an inexpensive airport hotel for the night there.  After one cruise, I needed to transfer from the port to the main city in Costa Rica, and then fly to Florida. Without a direct flight to the city I needed to get to, rather than stay overnight in a pricey Costa Rica hotel during the high season, I flew to Atlanta, stayed in an inexpensive airport hotel and made my way to my Florida city early the following morning!

When a small plane was the first of 3 flights to leave Drake Bay and end up in South Florida, it was cheaper to stay in Atlanta overnight than in Costa Rica during the high winter season. 

When a small plane was the first of 3 flights to leave Drake Bay and end up in South Florida, it was cheaper to stay in Atlanta overnight than in Costa Rica during the high winter season. 

 

4- Late flight?

Look for luggage storage services. Sometimes, the time the ship pulls into port is too late to plan the early flights, and the flights available leave you with a lot of time to kill in port.  While that can give you time to explore, it also means dragging your luggage around with you!  Here are some ideas for what to do with your luggage. These days, most airports will not allow you to "store" luggage, and the trip to and from the airport to check it can eat up a lot of your touring time before the flight, as well as be expensive with multiple transfers.

The good news is that in many ports, there are businesses that will stash your luggage in exchange for your dining or visiting there.  In Tampa, I saw advertisements that a ticket to the Florida Aquarium includes free luggage storage. With the aquarium withing walking distance of the port and the Channelside Bay Plaza, this is an excellent choice for leaving luggage if you want to explore Channelside near the port. A quick google search or reading forums on the ports you plan to visit will usually yield a few options for luggage storage, whether a restaurant or tour, that you can take advantage of during the day. 

While waiting for your flight, you can watch the next set of passengers embarking the ship from the Channelside Plaza in Tampa. 

While waiting for your flight, you can watch the next set of passengers embarking the ship from the Channelside Plaza in Tampa. 

 

5- Late Flight? Book a cruise line excursion that includes an airport transfer.

The cruise lines know that passengers have late flights and will offer excursions that allow you to store your luggage (often right under the bus) and enjoy a tour or activity in the port city and then transfer you to the airport.  The disadvantage is that these will still usually require you to be at the airport well in advance of your flight, since they need to get everyone back for a variety of flight times. 

I often recommend adding a ships excursion to the Everglades National Park and airport transfer for foreign visitors with late flights from southern FL. 

I often recommend adding a ships excursion to the Everglades National Park and airport transfer for foreign visitors with late flights from southern FL. 

Lastly, most people who enjoy cruising will tell you the best way to end a great cruise, is to book another one to look forward too! Happy sailing!

To read more about Rhapsody of the Seas Cruise, click here