Live Blogging: 4 Trips, 5 Months 10/31/17

Backstory, for those of you new to this series: In August I began a new job that provided me with a lot of vacation time for the rest of the year but very minimal vacation time for next year. In an effort to make the most of it, I'm planning four trips in five months (now, three) with updates weekly on how the planning process is going.

With trip #1 out of the way, I am left with:

Trip #2 – New York City, Trip #3 – New Orleans, and Trip #4 – ?!?!

Here's what I accomplished this week…

Trip #2

We got tickets to The Late Show!!! Woot! Woot! :)

And that's about it.

For Trip #3

I've researched jazz clubs. (There are a lot.) And ticket prices for the Celebration in the Oaks lights. Is it worth it? I don't know.

I really need to start focusing on booking hotels otherwise we may end up sleeping in our rental car!

Trip #4

Got into an argument with the husband, so now maybe we are going to Vegas? Maybe? And driving to the Grand Canyon? Or Los Angeles? *shrugs* Is California particularly interesting during the holiday season? Will there be ice on the drive to the Grand Canyon if we go that route? Are we simply choosing the wrong time of year to do these things?

By the way, I also played around with the idea of the Bahamas, Oregon, and Mexico.

Travel decisions are complicated.

And I'm still sick.

Maybe one day I'll get everything figured out.

Anyway, happy Halloween! Will any of you be dressing up or doing anything particularly special tonight?

Live Blogging: 4 Trips, 5 Months 10/24/17

America is such a large country with many potential travel options. It's hard to pick just one favorite vacation spot!

Three months in, one trip down; three trips in two months to go.

Backstory, for those of you new to this series: In August I began a new job that provided me with a lot of vacation time for the rest of the year but very minimal vacation time for next year. In an effort to make the most of it, I'm planning four trips in five months (now, three) with updates weekly on how the planning process is going.

With trip #1 out of the way, I am left with:

Trip #2 – New York City, Trip #3 – New Orleans, and Trip #4 – ?!?!

Here's what I accomplished this week…

Trip #2

I booked a hotel. One, single, solitary hotel.

I already had two hotels booked, so I'm down to only needing one more night I think?

Anyway, I also looked at tickets to see Billy Joel at Madison Square Gardens (throwback to my childhood), tickets to see the Daily Show with Trevor Noah (saw him in Atlanta and he was AMAZING!), tickets to attend The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and tickets to see Saturday Night Live. Apparently, it's complicated to get tickets to many of these shows and the Billy Joel concert is sold out. *sigh* I might still buy tickets from StubHub or from a third party, but we will see.

I also made my way through Lonely Planet's 2017 guide to New York City. In that, they recommended things like seeing the opera at the Lincoln Center (Madam Butterfly) or taking advantage of a free night at the Guggenheim (currently offering an exhibit on Jackson Pollack).

Point being, there are a lot of options in NYC and I just have to make up my mind as to what I want to do.

Of course, while I'm looking at all of that, my husband mentioned spending each day of our trip exploring all five bureaus of New York City. But what is there to do in Queens? Brooklyn? the Bronx? And with three out of four nights booked in Manhattan, wouldn't it be hard to explore so much of New York City?

I looked at traveling out of the city to the Hamptons (a six-hour drive) and to Brighton Beach (apparently, heavily Russian). I even looked at exploring Coney Island in the off-season. And as far as car rentals? From what I've seen, it's approximately $100 a day! But at least you get a luxury car in that deal? It's just a shockingly high sticker price compared to the $40 car rental I had from EWR for four days driving to Atlanta just a few a weeks ago. (Enterprise ended up charging us $200 which I'm currently having to fight. ARGHH!!)

Anyway, so Trip #3

has been a pain in the neck.

Complications from booking my NYC flight meant that I moved a Saturday night stay in New Orleans to a Thursday night stay. On Thanksgiving night. Meaning my husband and I have a 6.5-hour drive on Thanksgiving night to New Orleans after visiting family. ARGH. And it's all because I misread a date. (I thought a Saturday night was actually a Sunday night on a nonrefundable hotel room and freaked about how I didn't have any extra holiday time, so I called to ask the hotel to move it. And they did. Point being: you shouldn't try to plan trips at 5am in the morning. You will make a mistake.)

Aside from that screw-up, I haven't really done much planning. I have two more hotel nights that need booking, I need to find a good place to hear jazz, and I just need to start putting the whole itinerary into Visit A City, so that I can get a better idea of times. (How big is New Orleans, really? How much of it will we be able to explore in a weekend? Is parking a problem?)

Now, for Trip #4

London prices are sneaking up on me and my stress limit is hitting its max. Now I'm considering Hawai'i instead. I've been there. I kind of know what I'm doing – Airbnb, sit on the beach and relax, eat banana bread and pineapple. I mean it's an easy peasy trip. Aside from the flights, I think we could do it rather cheaply. And I just got credit card offers from Hawaiian airlines for 50,000 points. Can we travel to Hawaii for 50,000 points? Apparently not from Atlanta. So is it worth it? I'm still working that part out.

I want to go to London, but I also want to have the time to plan a successful trip to London. Half of the so-very-helpful can-I-hug-you-all-right-now comments I've read from you all have me desperately wanting to go to London and do it right. If I start planning now for next year, maybe I would be able to do it right.

Anyway, hope everyone is doing well. I've been sick, so I've gotten behind on responding to comments (again), but I will catch up one day, I hope. In fact, I think being tired (and sick) is what has led to so many of my recent complications with planning as well as my consideration of choosing a relaxing beach vacation over a city one for December. I haven't booked plane tickets yet, though so I may change my mind again. Who knows?

When making big decisions, do you spend a lot of time planning out every aspect (perhaps months, days, or hours in advance)? Or do you live by the seat of your pants? Would you rather sit on the beach or explore a big city during the Christmas holidays?

Wordless Wednesday #25

Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina (10/2016)

A few weeks ago, I remember reading a quote about how fall leaves are the spring flowers of autumn. It fits, don't you think?

Justin and I attempted to finish driving the Blue Ridge Parkway this year and failed. So far we've driven from just north of the Great Smoky Mountains all the way to Virginia and then through the Shenandoah Park skipping most of what Virginia has to offer. Maybe next time?

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469 mile roadway or driveable "park" connecting the Great Smoky Mountains in the west to the Shenandoah National Park in the east. Granted a lot more thought was put into the design of this road than I'm covering in this post, but the general idea is that this is one of the most scenic roads in the US and is particularly beautiful in the fall.

While the Blue Ridge Parkway can be a lot of fun to drive, just be aware that it is no easy feat completing the drive. Apparently, in my experience, four solid days (or two weekends) is not quite enough time, even stopping only infrequently at the various overlooks. Also, I recommend getting a book like The Photographer's Guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway if you attempt the drive.

Are you seeing beautiful fall leaves yet where you are?

Live Blogging: 4 Trips, 5 Months 10/15/17

Three months and one trip down, three trips and two months to go.

So, here's what is going on:

In August I began a new job that provided me with a lot of vacation time for the rest of the year but very minimal vacation time for next year. In an effort to make the most of it, I'm planning four trips in five months (now, three) with updates weekly on how the planning process is going. I've also included the planning I'm doing for a trip to California that will take place in the spring of next year. I invite you to follow along, offer suggestions, and learn from both my experiences and mistakes.

For Trip #1 (October leaf looking):

Last week at this time, my husband and I were headed home after spending the long holiday weekend leaf looking. We flew up to Boston beginning our adventures in Massachusetts and worked our way down to North Carolina. Of course, before the exploring could get started, we needed to stock up on meat, bread, and cheese from Little Italy in downtown Boston. (We may have grabbed a slice of Boston cream pie and some bolognese sauce as well, but who can resist?) After that, we headed to National at the Boston-Logan airport to pick up our fancy premier car, a Chrysler 300C. It was really a beauty of a car – heated seats, leather seats, remote start, back up camera, Yes, it's fair to say we liked it. :)

I won't share our whole trip (because then what would I blog about later?), but our first major stop was in NYC. Yes, we did a bit of hiking and leaf-looking between Boston and NYC, but NYC was where we chose to overnight ourselves. Rather than call it an early night, despite my feeling sick, we opted to check out a local jazz lounge, Mezzrow. We had second row seats and enough liquid to gain a few pounds (not all alcohol). Then, we collapsed in bed, exhausted at around 2am.

Totals for day one –

350+ miles driven
4 states (NJ, NY, CT, MA) down
4 hours behind us
more bread, cheese, and salami consumed than is acceptable
Also, the luggage somehow managed to get heavier?

Day two was the most confusing of all of the days. We began in NYC, again shopping at the bodegas to get stocked up on food, and taking advantage of our proximity to Chinatown for a delicious breakfast. Then, we were off. This time, the only planned stop between us and DC was in Philadelphia where I checked "try a philly cheesesteak in Philly" off my bucket list. Personal opinion? Not worth it. But to each his (or her) own.

The drive felt long and I slept through most of it. The leaves I was hoping to see? They were still green. But DC made up for it.

Our hotel was the Willard Intercontinental. We had $100 to spend on drinks and food + free breakfast. To say we splurged is an understatement. I felt very presidential sleeping in a classy room dressed up in red, white, and blue. And incredibly opinionated at the bar where I was forced to hold my tongue as my husband and I listened to others politic. ARG. I guess now you know how we were able to drink so much? ;)

Totals for day two –

a late start
300+ miles
5 hours in the car
4 states (NY, NJ, PA, MD), 1 territory (DC)
SICK of bread, cheese, and salami
tired of being in the car
surprisingly little gas consumed by our newest rental, a 2018 Hybrid Ford Fusion

By day three, we were exhausted and we were about to begin the longest trek of the four day roadtrip – DC to Little Switzerland (or just north of Asheville, NC). Being just over nine hours end-to-end, without considering the Blue Ridge Parkway in between, we knew the day would be rough. We began our travels in Shenandoah National Park traveling along Skyland Drive. What we expected to be about a two hour drive ended up filling our day. By the time we reached sundown, we still had another six hours of driving to do to get to our hotel. As tired as we were, that was a rough drive from 7pm until 1am. Unsurprisingly, we collapsed into our bed again, for the final night.

Totals for day three –

exhausted (Is this drive worth it any more?)
BEAUTIFUL FOLIAGE! Seriously, we saw none better. Who would have thought?
approx. 14 hours in the car
at least 700 miles (I quit keeping track)
1 territory (DC), 2 states (VA, NC)
SO DONE with bread, cheese, and salami (When can we have Boston bolognese sauce from Little Italy?)
sad we missed so much of the Blue Ridge Parkway
also sad I lost the earrings I wore during my wedding and a few of my favorite hair accessories :(

Day four was another completely unplanned day. My husband declared we were NOT driving back up to Virginia to see the pieces of Blue Ridge Parkway that we had missed. So, we opted instead to drive south on the Blue Ridge Parkway all the way to the Great Smoky Mountains, the goal being to actually see the GSM. Except no. We didn't make it. Who knew the south end of the Blue Ridge Parkway was so long? Before the end of the day, we had seen an elk, though, so that's something! I was so not looking forward to returning to work the next day. (More sleep please?)

Totals for day four –

at least 7 hours drive time
500 miles or more
THRILLED to eat at a restaurant!
not so thrilled to miss sunset

Here's what we learned –

• National is awesome! I loved being able to wander in, pick out my car, and leave. No checking in at the counter, nothing. It was so nice. :)
• DO NOT spread out. I didn't, really, but somehow I still managed to lose a (small) bag. If I had put it back into my luggage after using it, maybe I wouldn't have forgotten it?
• Also, checking into multiple hotels with early mornings and late nights will make you more prone to forgetting something. Keep your stuff together.
• No matter how well you plan, nature will throw a surprise or two at you. Or your husband will decide he randomly wants to hike. Just go with it.
• Picnics are only fun for so long. It helps to have a variety of food, but don't deprive yourself of the occasional restaurant while traveling.
• The absolute most I would recommend driving in one day is approx. 4 hours or 350-ish miles. Road trips can become overwhelming and stressful quickly especially if you have places you want to sightsee along the way.

As for the rest of the trips, I haven't accomplished much, since I've been getting caught up on sleep. I asked for my final vacation day for the year and booked flights to NYC (for trip #2). I'm currently working on hotels for New Orleans (trip #3), and watching flights for trip #4. And in the meantime, I find myself thinking "Do I really have the time and energy to plan for a big trip in December?". I have no choice but to take the time and use it for travel, if that's what I want to do, but I might choose to go somewhere I've been before instead of figuring out the logistics of somewhere new. We will see, though. It probably also depends on flight prices.

So, I guess I should get caught up on comments now, right? Hope you all had a lovely week last week, and I look forward to hearing all about it as soon as I get a nap. ;)

Have you ever been in a similar situation as me where you are stressing yourself out trying to take full advantage of something (in this case, vacation time) that you won't be able to take advantage of at a later date? Do you think my husband and I are crazy for having crammed so much driving into four days? (You are allowed to think so.) Are you shocked to learn that the trees in the south were more colorful than the trees further north?

Let's talk! One day I'll get around to responding to comments! I promise! :) <3.

Wordless Wednesday #24

Pali Lookout in Oahu, Hawai'i (February 2017)

They say that for every good image you take, you have 100 bad ones. I experienced this today as I looked for a shot to edit for Wordless Wednesday. At least the end result was a gorgeous overlook of a beautiful place. :)

Do you ever have that problem? Where you shoot a million images, but when you return home your pictures don't look like anything you saw while you were there?

Live Blogging: 4 Trips/5 Months 10/10/17 Update

Synopsis: In August I began a new job that provided me with a lot of vacation time for the rest of the year but very minimal vacation time for next year. In an effort to make the most of it, I'm planning four trips in five months (now, three) with updates weekly on how the planning process is going. I've also included the planning I'm doing for a trip to California that will take place in the spring of next year. I invite you to follow along, offer suggestions, and learn from both my experiences and mistakes.

For Trip #1 (October leaf looking):

• Putting all of my plans into Visit A City revealed I had much more on my plate than I could successfully fit into my trip. We ended up just having to go make the drive and see what we could fit in along the way, making changes and adjustments last minute.
• I'll probably add more details on what worked for us and what didn't when we get back. I'll be sure to fill you all in.

Our trip started on October 6 in Boston and we are headed home today. (Yay for post scheduling!)

For Trip #2 (November in NYC):
• Discovered Birdland Jazz Club through Groupon. I've never been to a jazz club, so why not? Love that so many famous jazz musicians were once headliners there!
• Speaking of music, I forgot to mention in any of my other posts that Billy Joel will be holding a concert while we are there at Madison Square Gardens. If I can get tickets, we are going.
• Flight prices keep rising and I'm kicking myself for not booking sooner. Is this trip really worth the price tag? Of course, I'm looking at other places (Las Vegas –> Grand Canyon, Oregon), but all flights are going up in price, so it's not just NYC. Of course, I'm also looking at weird routing. So, like DC to NYC instead of a direct flight; whatever I can do to save money. In the end, every weird route I've looked at doesn't save that much money, so I end up holding off booking. Vicious cycle.

For Trip #3 (November in New Orleans):
• You all had lots of suggestions for New Orleans. I've gotta work my way through them. Thank you!!!

For Trip #4 (December in ??):
• Just watching flights…

For Trip #5 (April? 2018 in California):
• Learned that there are day trips you can take to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas via bus (so you don't have to drive), but most people recommend at least having a night there.
• So, then, I discovered there are bus/tour trips you can take that includes a one night stay with a bus right to and from Las Vegas.
• While I realize it was not recommended that I include the Grand Canyon in with the trip down the coast of California, I decided to research it anyway. Because why not? When I start planning the details of the trip, it will become more clear what will fit into my trip and what won't.

Did any of you have Columbus Day off? … Did you do anything for it? Have you ever mass planned like this before? (Maybe not trips, but anything?) What worked for you and what didn't?

Jeremy Camp The Answer Giveaway and Review

Growing up in a small town in the south, the local church was always the main hub of the community. Not being from a particularly Christian family, this wasn't something I really knew or understood until high school. And then, all of a sudden, if you weren't a Christian or "born again", it was suddenly a big deal! All kinds of high school events took place at the church … and, likewise, church events took place at the high school. Of course, these were cool church events. High schoolers didn't listen to their parents' gospel music of old. No, we all listened to contemporary Christian music (as well as alternative rock, but that's a different story). And on that contemporary Christian menu? Jeremy Camp.

So, hearing this new album from an old familiar was a trip down memory lane. In particular, I really enjoyed "The Answer", but all of the music was good. There was not one song I felt the need to skip over, and, that my friends, says something. The album was upbeat and offered a positive message which is nice to hear when the world feels so dark.

Now, a little background on Jeremy Camp:

Born in 1978 in Fayetteville, Indiana, Jeremy Camp has released eleven albums throughout his time in the Christian music industry. While I wasn't able to find much information on Camp's background, I feel like his dad had a huge influence on Jeremy Camp's life, not only teaching Jeremy to play the guitar but also involving his son heavily in church since he was the pastor of a local community church. Jeremy Camp released his first album in 2000 and has achieved 32 number one hits on Christian radio in the time since.

The newest album by Camp was written after sharing deep conversations with a plethora of well-respected songwriters, from Ed Cash and Scott Cash, Colby Wedgeworth and Ethan Hulse, as well as Josh Silverberg and Jess Cates. Camp says, with regards to the album, that “My first record (Stay) came from things I’d been through and I just wrote it out. Now 15 years with The Answer,
it’s the same. I just wrote about this season of life.”

While I can't say whether or not The Answer is the answer for you, I can say that if you like Christian contemporary music, and if you've liked Jeremy Camp's music in the past, you will like this album.

1. Word of Life.  
2. My Defender 
3. The Answer
4. Storm
5. My Father's Arms
6. Never Stopped Loving
7. Tell the Whole World
8. Heaven's Shore 
9. Carriers
10. Love So Great 
11. Awake O Sleeper


Are you a fan of Christian music artist Jeremy Camp? Are you interested in owning his newest album The Answer? If so, you've come to the right place! Leave a comment + your email address for a chance to win! Giveaway ends October 19 at midnight.

To learn more about Jeremy Camp, visit his website here. Alternatively, if entering giveaways just isn't your thing, you can click here to buy his newest album directly.

Best of luck to all who enter!

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win. Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.


At the beginning of every month, as part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, I take a look at my successes (not just in writing), share the ways I hope to improve in the next month, answer the IWSG question of the month, and provide inspiration (if I have any).

September Goals –
– Plan travel for October, November, and December.

✗ Talk to dent guy about getting my car fixed.
– Get back into blogging.
✓ Contact Chase about a double charge.

Additional Successes –
Facebook follower count went up!

✓ Made appointment to get a safety recall on my car fixed.

✓ Adjusted plans last minute due to Hurricane Irma.
✓ Did not lose any food during the 24 hours we were without power!! (Thanks to quick thinking on my husband's part!)
✓ Worked extra hours and, thus, made more money when I really wanted to stay at home and sleep.
✓ Planned our trip around the panhandle as we were driving it…
✓ Contacted Schwab about a fee.
✓ Car maintenance: Oil changed, car waxed, car cleaned, leather conditioned.
✓ Found cheaper prices for car rentals coming up in October!

October Goals –
• Finish planning for Boston road trip (October)
• Work on travel plans for NYC in November
• Plan for New Orleans road trip
• Decide and work on travel plans for Christmas trip (London?)
• Talk to dent guy about getting my car fixed
• Get safety recall problem fixed.
• Apply for Hilton credit card.

IWSG Question: Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

This question doesn't really apply to me since I don't write fiction. In elementary school, I definitely did. How else do you write except from personal experience? I mean, even if you are writing fiction and the character is completely different from you, you still need some background knowledge about what they like to do, how people will respond to them, what their job is, etc… I really don't see how you can write without using personal information and experience?

The biggest problem I have is writing in a way that others can relate to. I tend to incorporate too much personal experience or information into my writing. I believe you definitely have to keep a balance between using too much personal information and too little.

Your Turn

What is your opinion on incorporating personal information into writing (whether we are talking about an email to your boss, an article for a newspaper or blog, or a novel meant to be published)? Do you think it's possible to write without including a bit of yourself into a piece? And if it is possible, do you think doing that is wise? I'd love to hear others' opinions on this!

I'd also love any suggestions you all can give me for New Orleans, NYC, and London travel. Any must-dos you can think of? I've been to NYC many, many times by now, but I never run out of things to do there. As for New Orleans and London, I've never been, so any suggestions you can share are helpful! … Do you have any travel plans coming up before the end of the year?

Click here to learn more and
link up with IWSG!

Live Blogging: 4 Trips/5 Months 10/3/17 Update

I've been quite busy handling life this past week, but I did manage to get a few things done. (Both for life and for trips.) Anyway, here's what is new this week. I apologize that it is all in list form, but even still maybe you will find a few useful tidbits here and there.

For Trip #1 (October leaf looking):
• decided on a NYC hotel. The one I ended up with was far from my first choice, but my first choices were disappearing like hot cakes. Turns out my husband and I will be in NYC during a big travel weekend. (Or so the hotels seem to think.) Every time I'd research, the prices would sneak up on me. $200s … which ouch, but okay. Then $300s … then $400s. At some point, I was starting to wonder if I could even afford to go. (I probably can't at that price, but what other option do I have?) So, lesson learned. Book as far in advance as possible for hotels.
• Ordered and received Lonely Planet New York & the Mid-Atlantic's Best Trips (Travel Guide) and National Geographic's Four Seasons of Travel: 400 of the World's Best Destinations in Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall for research purposes. I'm getting quite the collection of travel books for someone who never wanted to purchase any since they go out of date so quickly!
• I pulled out my copy of Moon's Road Trip USA to see if any of our drives line up with any of their recommendations. For our drive down from Boston, we will be hitting both the Atlantic Coast drive and the Appalachian Trail. I wish I had seen this before I started booking hotels. While most of the hotels we have booked are cancelable, I'm afraid to start over in research since we only have about a week and a half left to work out our itinerary.
• I considered buying tickets for the Chihuly exhibit at the New York Botanical Gardens, but because I'm not sure how long a meandering drive down from Boston to NYC will take, the $56 price tag has me a bit worried. I did get Taste of DC tickets, though. They were free.
• I tried the Seated app, so that I would know how it worked before using it to potentially book restaurants in any of the cities we will be visiting during this road trip. The idea is that you get $15 to use toward Starbucks/Amazon/Uber just for trying out a restaurant and booking reservations in advance. Everything went well, got my giftcard, so now I will just need to figure out how to take advantage of this app.
• Moved all of my images onto a USB drive that plugs into my cell phone. Can't wait to blog about it!
• Used pruvo to track my hotels, so that I will be notified if the price goes down.

For Trip #2 (November in NYC):
• Tried to book a top of the crown Statue of Liberty visit. Turns out they are fully booked until December. :(

For Trip #3 (November in New Orleans):
• umm … nothing?

For Trip #4 (December in ??):
• received an update from Google Flights that my (potential) London flight dropped in price to the $900s. Painful compared to the $500s I was looking at, but better than the $1,100s before the drop. Is it a go?

For Trip #5 (April? 2018 in California):
• figured out which parts of the Pacific Coast Highway were blocked.
• Also learned more about California from someone who actually lives there. #WIN!

Anyway, until next week!

Let me know if you learned anything new in this post or if you have any suggestions (both regarding travel as a general topic as well as for individual places, like New Orleans, for example) for me. I always enjoy learning something new!

Alternatively, if you are interested in hearing more about something I've mentioned in this post and would like to see a longer blog post on the topic, let me know that as well. I love sharing the tips and tricks I've discovered for booking travel.