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Strategic packing for the casual traveler.

pack_lightI have realized, as I have traveled more and more, that I had to develop a strategy for packing. A strategy that allows me to have only what I need, but most of what I want while I am away from home.

The key to cheap holidays is always packing light, but not too light. The last thing we want is to lug extra stuff through airports, shuttle buses, and hotels. And now with airlines charging for checked luggage, we want to carry on as much as possible to save money and keep your holiday as affordable and low cost as you can. Plus, when you pack light, you tend to save more money since you don’t have as much room to buy tons of expensive souvenirs.

While we want to prepared for anything, we don’t want to carry items we are not going to use. Look at the items you are packing. Is there anything you are packing “just in case”? Could you run out to a local store and replace that item cheaply if you actually did in fact need it? If yes, don’t bring it.

Most hotels have complimentary combs, razors, shaving cream, and other toiletry items in the event that you forget or loose yours.

When it comes to clothes, this is where some of us have a hard time choosing what to bring. Firstly, don’t bring anything that you don’t feel comfortable wearing at home. Chances are, you won’t feel comfortable wearing it on vacation either.

Choose clothes that match each other. Make sure each shirt or blouse that you bring match at least three of the shorts, skirts, or pants. You can change the outfits by accessorizing. Accessories take up a lot less space than clothing.

I also choose clothing that doesn’t wrinkle, that can possibly be worn more than one time, that has pockets. I want to enjoy my time away without thinking about my clothes. I also bring a few pieces that I could rinse out in my hotel room sink just in case and it would be dry the next day.

By strategic packing, we carry less, have less worries and enjoy our vacation more!

Purgatoire River Canyon—an Overlooked Gem

2858350_f260One of the most impressive, and unexpected, places I have had the pleasure of working is the Purgatoire River Canyon in southeastern Colorado, south of the town of La Junta. If you are looking for a memorable vacation and fun family holidays, give this place a look.

My experiences with the canyon go back many years when I explored it for its fossil resources for the United States Forest Service. The canyon has seen a lot of history, too, as you can see petroglyphs from ancient Native Americans, ruins of Spanish settlement, and more recent American homesteads. It was its prehistoric resources that drew me back to the place over and over.

You might be confused by the various names that get applied to the region. The French word for the river, Purgatoire, was along the way corrupted by the locals into the far less euphonic phrase Picket Wire, so it is also called the Picket Wire Canyon.

At the bottom of the canyon in the river is an amazing exposure if you like dinosaurs. In this out-of-the-way place is the largest continuous dinosaur trackway in North America, with over 1,400 individual dinosaur footprints. Both the large sauropod dinosaurs like “Brontosaurus” and their meat-eating contemporaries like Allosaurus left their distinctive prints.

The canyon also has an extensive outcrop of the Morrison Formation. The Morrison is perhaps the most famous of the rock formations that contain dinosaurs, and skeletal remains of every Jurassic dinosaur you ever heard of comes from this unit. It was this fact that led me to the canyon, to explore for fossil resources and advise the Forest Service about what they had.

Turns out that the sections on Forest Service lands are fossil-rich, just as you would expect. In the last decade the Forest Service has been leading Passport in Time (PIT) programs there, exploring for fossils and digging out the dinosaurs they find.

If you are interested in this wild place know a couple of things in advance. You cannot drive into the canyon without prior authorization. You can hike into the track site and through the canyon, but it is several miles in and out from the trailhead. During the summers, the heat of the canyon can be brutal, so take plenty of water and be prepared. Your entire family will love a holiday to the river, and dinosaur hunting is something your children will never forget! This is one family holiday vacation idea that everybody simply must try!

Fun and Affordable Honeymoon Ideas

images-1These days many newlywed couples who are just starting out want to have some kind of fun and romantic honeymoon, but may not have the money, or the time to take an all inclusive los cabos vacation. Maybe they are trying to save for that first home, or are planning to have a baby soon. There are still many different and unique honeymoon ideas that are fun, romantic, and relatively inexpensive.

One budget honeymoon idea is to stay in the area or within driving distance, rent a nice, yet affordable hotel for a few days, and act like a tourist in your own or nearby city. Go to all the places you may not have had the chance to while dealing with day to day life. Go to the museum, go to the place you had your first date, or to an unusual spot. If there are carriage rides, take one, you may be surprised by the interesting facts or information that your guide can tell you that you may not have ever known.

Another suggestion for fun honeymoon ideas is to find an all inclusive resort or vacation package that includes air travel and food, or a nice cruise. Usually a cruise can be booked for short term trips, usually three to five days. The nice thing about these ideas is that for the most part, everything is included. The food is provided, as well as ample entertainment. With cruises there are guided tours available, activities on the boat as well as at your destination. For resorts, there are an abundance of different activities to choose from, and this really depends on the resort. There are many water sports, skiing, and other free things to do. Best of all, you don’t have to worry about kids being around, and you have the choice to go out, or stay at the bungalow or suite.

Whichever honeymoon idea you choose and regardless of how much money you have in your pocket, the real gift of it all resides in being together with one another for the first time as husband and wife and the memories that the honeymoon will bring will last an eternity, so don’t stress about cost or location, just enjoy your time together and your honeymoon will be perfect.

The fun of geocaching

geocachingIf you enjoy exploring the outdoors and having a bit of adventure in the process, you might enjoy geocaching.

Geocaching (pronounced geo-cashing) has become a popular activity for young and old alike. The basic idea is that it is a grownup game of hide and seek. Someone places a treasure, or cache, in a secret place and provides its latitude and longitude coordinates for other to locate it again. If you are exploring the outdoors anyway this is a way to have a bit of an adventure, like Indiana Jones looking for lost treasure.

The cache is usually stored in some sort of water-proof container. It often has a pencil (not a pen in case it freezes) and paper inside for those who find it to leave a bit about themselves to share with the owner and other geocachers. Also, there may be a note explaining that the cache is left there intentionally in case a casual visitor comes upon it.

Caches can be placed in far away and exotic, hard to get to locations (way off the beaten path, or in the middle of a lake, for example), or they can be near a popular street corner and you only have to adventure as hard as walking to get a cup of coffee.

There are some rules of etiquette for geocaching. If you find a cache, there are often little trinkets left behind. You are allowed to take something but only if you leave something in return. Obviously, don’t leave anything that can spoil like food, and don’t leave anything dangerous or illegal.

Also, respect the land. The owner of the cache should have cleared the cache location with the land owner or manager, so they have agreed to let people on the land for the fun.  Make sure that you respect their good will in letting you be there.

There are a number of groups that distribute the coordinates of geocaches, the largest likely being A basic membership is free and you can get locations of geocaches near you, or near where you want to explore. Don’t forget that a quality handheld GPS unit is essential for this game. You can find reviews of some of the best models, and other stories about science, nature, and being in the outdoors at Boneblogger.

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