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A Guide to Backpacking: What’s Essential

Advance Planning Is Key to Backpacking SuccessPlanning a backpacking trip requires more than a determination to travel light. A lot of the planning will revolve around specific destinations and the kind of trip. Time on the trail is a major factor, as well as terrain, fitness level, weather, and individual goals.

That being said, there are many ways to backpack, and those who do it regularly offer sage planning advice:

Planning for All Needs

Whether trekking through the wilderness or backpacking across a continent, this type of travel involves, essentially, carrying—on your back—all that is necessary for health and wellness, no matter if the journey is for a few days or for more than a few months. For anyone used to stuffing as much as possible into a suitcase, the “freedom” of traveling with only a pack can be almost incomprehensible.

Veteran backpackers insist that the quality of the pack itself is vital. A good internal frame backpack offers a traveler between 2,000 and 5,000 square inches of space. Packed properly, that can be a lot of gear. Lightweight packs are preferable, even though they are more expensive, and how things are stowed matters every bit as much as what is brought along, in terms of comfort and safety.

After that, planning for the specifics of each trip should be the primary consideration. Choosing a spot will depend on the season, the type of trail, the distance and the trip’s duration. Study up on local regulations and possible hazards, including wildlife. Obtain up-to-date trail maps and site data.

A Backpacker’s Four Essentials

Clothing: No one would list style as an important ingredient of a backpacking trip. What is important is comfort, serviceability, seasonal appropriateness, and layers that can be added or subtracted based on the weather. As important as socks and hiking boots are, it is equally important to include flip-flops or slip-ons for off-trail comfort. Gloves, head-covering and rain gear are a must, and it is not unusual to find long underwear along with shorts in a pack!

Food: Hiking—especially with a pack—is hard work. It burns up a lot of energy; backpackers always carry snacks and water, and wilderness camping requires making plans for cooking and eating, as well as for washing and clean up. A light backpacking stove and fuel, water purification tablets, a pot, a bowl and a cup are minimal needs. Menu planning comes with experience, but simplicity rules. Plan ahead, consult with hiking buddies, and pack wisely.

Rest: Being comfortable camping out means having a foam or inflatable pad, a comfortable sleeping bag, and some sort of tent, windbreak or shelter. Each individual must find the combination of comfort and austerity that will work. A word to the wise: Always try out new gear in the backyard before setting off on a trip!

Niceties & Emergencies: While many things are nice to have, in an emergency those nice things can become essential. A good pocket knife, a whistle, a compass (if not a GPS), first aid supplies, matches or a working lighter, flashlight or headlamp, camera, journal or miniature recorder are just some of the items to have. Some of them take up space, but leaving them at home could spell disaster. The others will help to preserve the memories of good times.

A backpacking excursion to Europe is in no way equivalent to a back-country hike or a wilderness trek. And setting out with a group will most likely require more detailed plans than a weekend getaway with a spouse. So, even though backpacking can be done in many places and in many different ways, goal-setting and advance planning should always come first.

The only other important thing is to enjoy it!

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Road Trip Basics: What to Know Before You Go

5 Things to Do Before Setting a Road TripGoing on a road trip can be an awesome adventure, for the well-prepared. These tips help would-be trekkers ensure they have everything they need.

1. Create an Itinerary

Some people love to set off on a road trip without much planning done in advance. Others need to have a fairly tight schedule in order to feel like the traveling will be worthwhile. Wherever interested travelers fall on this spectrum, they should create some sort of road trip itinerary to guide them. Identifying a few central locations where they will want to stop is a good way to start. They should look at the common roads and highways in every region they plan to drive through, with some alternate routes in case of accidents or heavy construction. A paper map can be an invaluable asset along the road, especially in areas with spotty coverage for GPS.

2. Find Agreement With Fellow Travelers

There is a reason that family road trips and holidays have become such fodder for entertainment over the years. People who stick themselves into a vehicle together for hours at a time, day after day, often discover exactly how much they do not have in common. It is funny to watch on the screen, but not so much in person. Before people finalize any plans for the road trip, they should confirm that they are on the same page with their fellow trippers on places to stop, types of accommodations, and even how to take periodic breaks from each other.

3. Plan Accommodations

While the scenery of the open road is often the biggest draw of the road trip, finding a great place to sleep off the sights is really important for travel success. If people are going through a region they do not know well, they should consider the following:

  • What is available at regular intervals?
  • What kind of accommodation is necessary?
  • How much do hotels, motels, and campgrounds cost?

Some people prefer to schedule lodging once they arrive at their destination for the night, but this can be somewhat risky. Anyone who does not have something booked in advance should have a few backup options, in case the one they want is full.

4. How to Pack

Packing to drive somewhere feels much less inhibiting than packing to fly, but it is still somewhat limiting. People are bound by the space available in the vehicle they choose to take, and must also plan to bring a few items for the car itself. If shopping is on the itinerary, travelers should be sure to leave extra space in their bags and extra room in the trunk, for souvenirs they pick up along the way. Getting the car serviced will help to flush out any unknown problems. Keeping a small gas can, a quart of oil, and the manual for the car readily available will minimize the likelihood of disaster.

5. Prepare for the Unexpected

Every trip includes at least a moment of the completely unexpected. Travelers will arrive at a location they thought would be empty, only to discover that it is chock full of tourists there for a yearly event. Savvy road trippers build some flexibility into the itinerary so that they can change plans quickly if they need to. Making a list with relevant emergency contact information and health insurance coverage for each passenger could keep a minor problem from spiraling out of control.

Road trip planning takes some time, but it is well worth the effort. A little preparation for the likely and the predictable could ensure a happier time had by all.

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Minimize Baggage with These Travel Essentials

Traveling for the Weekend? Check Out These Easy Tips for Traveling LightOver packing is common for trips of any time span, but those weekend excursions can be extra tricky when it comes to taking only what is actually necessary. It’s essential to keep the purpose of the trip, location, weather and expected outings in mind when choosing what to take. So, when packing for that next quick getaway here are some tips for traveling light to help prevent those nagging ‘what if’s and maybe I need it’ mentality that keeps weighing down that luggage.

Keeping Clothing, Shoes and Accessories in Check

When it comes to smart clothing choices the purpose and intention of each outing comes into play. Is the ultimate destination a business meeting, a major sporting event, a conference, an outdoor adventure, a wedding, or a girl/guy getaway for pleasure? Whatever the occasion—or lack thereof—plan wardrobe choices accordingly while keeping seasonal weather conditions in mind. Today’s weather is more unpredictable than ever, but minimize the temptation to over pack by checking with the National Weather Service to see what’s forecasted for travel destinations prior to packing.

Casual trips allow most weekend travelers to get by with one or two pairs of jeans, slacks skirts or shorts along with a couple of tees. However, for nights on the town, business affairs or formal social gatherings, one simply must include a suit or evening-appropriate attire into the mix. Don’t forget socks, hosiery and shoes, as there’s no greater inconvenience than having an outfit on only to discover you have no foot gear at the last minute. Underwear, bras, hats and pajamas are often overlooked for short trips, and don’t forget to pack a few key accessories to complement your style on the go.

Gadgets, Toiletries and Other Extras for Traveling Comfort

Create or purchase small travel size containers of any hygiene products needed, such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, contact solution hair supplies, lotion, etc. If staying with friends or in a hotel, these items may not be needed at all, which is awesome if flying to the destination as these items tend to rupture at high altitude. (Secure them in a ziplock bag if traveling with such supplies.)

Naturally, access to entertainment and information is great during a trip, so consider carefully which tech items are needed. For a two day trip, a smartphone may offer all the tech one might need. However, if having a laptop or iPad is necessary to handle business needs or communications during travel, by all means take what you need—just be sure to pack any necessary power supplies or chargers and a pair of earbuds. A first aid kit for small boo-boos along the journey is wise as are inclusions such as sunscreen and sunglasses, because even cloudy days still expose eyes and skin to harmful ultraviolet rays.

Need More Tips for Traveling Light But Inclusively?

Contact a local travel and tourism professional near you to discover more travel savvy tips, and make every trip successful without the burden of lugging excessive luggage.

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Unique Travel Options for Vacations in America

Best Travel Locations in the United StatesFrom the Atlantic to the Pacific, the United States has so many worthwhile destinations that planning a vacation can be overwhelming. But if you want to forget the beaches, forego theme parks and skirt the big cities, here are some suggestions that will yield lots of memories and whet your appetite for future off-the-beaten path travel. Guaranteed!

Ride the Rails

A century ago, elegant trains crisscrossed the North American continent. Today, most U.S. luxury trains have disappeared, but Canadian trains still travel a distinctive and breathtaking route through the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia and Alberta, with deluxe accommodations, food, drink and sights the entire way. The Rocky Mountaineer is not inexpensive, but it’s an unforgettable way to see glorious sights in total comfort. Even an Amtrak journey, however, can be fun for a family and is a relaxing alternative to a road trip

Visit a Working Farm or Ranch

Agritourism is a trend, not only in Europe and Australia, but also in the United States, where it is possible to experience a rural lifestyle on farms and ranches as diverse as a Florida alpaca ranch, a permaculture farmstead in western Montana, a Vermont dairy farm or a southern California orchard. Choose the type of accommodation you prefer—from bunkhouse to private cabin, and choose a farm when you participate in daily chores—or not. “Farmstay” opportunities can be tailored to the kind of vacation you have in mind.

Head for Outer Space

Family Camp at One Tranquility Base in Huntsville, Alabama, allows adults and children to participate in virtual missions, and even train with real astronauts. Three-day programs introduce children aged seven and up to the exciting world of science and space travel. Activities include simulated missions, rocket building, and lessons about the past, present, and future of the American space program.

Youth programs are also available throughout the year at NASA’s Space Center U in Houston for age groups 11–14 and 14–18. If there’s a space enthusiast in the family, the day camp format might be just the ticket for fun in conjunction with a family trip to Houston or Galveston Island. Cosmosphere, a flight and space museum in Hutchinson, Kan., has space-oriented family programs and educational exhibits.

Lend a Hand as a Volunteer

Help care for animals, build trails, plant gardens, repaint buildings or use your skills at a nursing home or shelter at locations throughout the country that accept volunteers. You’ll pay for the experience, but the benefit is the “feel good” feeling that comes from helping others. Like ecotourism and agritourism, voluntouring is the new way to plan an enriching vacation as a single or with the entire family. Find your match in budget and philosophy; be gone for few as three days or as long as 12 weeks.

Truly Unusual Options

There are some vacation destinations that defy description, but they’re certainly not for the faint of heart. There’s a “human nest” in California that offers a bare bones (or twigs) experience for those who want a one-of-a-kind night in nature.

There’s an undersea hotel in Florida where your only neighbors are fish, and you can order a room service pizza delivered via waterproof container. Or check out the Hobbit Huts in Tennessee that can be reserved for groups of up to eight people with a separate cooking and dining hut included.

Anyone looking for an unusual experience can also book Yurts and Teepees for upscale “glamping” vacations. They’re available on secluded mountaintops in Colorado or in the sunny Southwest.

For an unusual winter vacation in Alaska, head to the Aurora Ice Museum and Chena Hot Springs Resort north of Fairbanks. Visitors enjoy the “warm” and friendly atmosphere, although everything is carved from ice. The bonus is a chance to see the Northern Lights during a stay there.

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Space-Saving Packing Techniques for Travel

Space-Saving Suitcase Packing TipsHopping on a plane these days often calls for a great deal of attention to the space taken by a person’s luggage. With these tips, travelers can maximize the space and possibly have the ability to use smaller suitcases.

1. Try Different Clothing Packing Approaches

There are many different ways to pack clothing, and it all depends on the goals of the traveler. People could:

  • roll individual items for minimum surface area
  • bundle clothing types together, to minimize wrinkling
  • stack clothing as they would in a typical drawer

Each approach has its own benefits and disadvantages, and may make packing easier or more complicated.

2. Go Wrinkle-Free

Clothing that must be kept completely straight to avoid wrinkling may well take up the most space at all. Travel experts recommend avoiding clothing that wrinkles very easily. As an alternative, it may make sense to save the money paid to check an extra suitcase in exchange for dry cleaning or pressing services at the destination. People can also simply hang wrinkled clothing in a humid bathroom, as this approach will usually remove most minor wrinkles.

3. Consider Compression Bags

Sometimes, people pack items that are lightweight but bulky and could take up a lot of space in a suitcase. For these items, such as a heavy sweater, down jacket, or blanket, compression bags can save a great deal of space. These bags can often be rolled closed and will keep a vacuum-tight seal until they are opened. Although the bags that are designed especially for travel are often thicker and less likely to break, people may be able to use regular Ziploc-type bags for this purpose.

4. Pack Consumables for Travel

Anyone who has to take a lot of medications, or who uses many different lotions and serums while they travel, understands that even several small bottles could cut a suitcase’s space by a quarter or third. People can minimize medication confusion by bringing daily medication organizers and pictures of their current prescription bottles. Travel-size bottles for lotions and creams come in the smallest of sizes, making organization simple and efficient.

5. Stuff Solid but Bulky Items

Some bulky items, like shoes, take up space and cannot be compressed in any way. These things are ideal to stuff full in the empty spaces. People may be able to keep all their travel socks in an extra pair of shoes. Hard suitcases with a lining may have an opening in which soft, small items may be placed, ensuring that no inch of the suitcase is wasted. People might even fill these gaps with spare bags or snacks that they can use on the trip.

6. Pack for Organization

Ultimately, the goal of a space-saving suitcase packing technique is repetition. Any approach that requires a person to use tools they will keep at home in order to pack the suitcase full will be difficult to repeat for the trip home. In these instances, it might be more practical to consider a larger suitcase or simply pack fewer items, so that it is easy to pack the suitcase efficiently from anywhere.

Getting started on a trip demands a consideration of the suitcase that one might use. By trying out these space-saving packing approaches, people can cut down on the luggage they need without compromising on convenience they need while they are on holiday.

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