"Soft Adventure" travelers
Like most VT members, we are inflicted with the travel itch that can only be scratched by planning, and taking the next trip. As a matter of fact, our favorite trip is always the next one we're going to take. By personal preference, physical limitations and general interests we have determined that we are "soft adventure" travelers. No hiking, biking, boots, saddles, or paddles of any kind. We do not backpack. We are tourists! We choose to go where tourists go and do what tourists do. We also go out on our own and take local transportation and talk with the locals wherever we go and whenever there's free time on a tour. Although we've traveled without a tour a few times we prefer having someone else take care of the airlines, transfers, and hotels, and leave us the pleasure of visiting the sights we came to see. We usually go with a small-group company that limits tours to 12-16 people. Our stratagy is to try to travel 2 or 3 times a year and vary our destination by culture and climate. Almost without exception, the highlight of every trip is the kindness of local people. From the couple in Poland who gave us their (extra) bus tickets because the kiosk was closed and a bus was coming, to a young man in Shanghai who did the nearly impossible feat and snagged a taxi for us, to a student who stayed on the bus with us in Rome so she could walk us through her city. Our favorite topic of conversations with experienced travellers is always the exchange of these truly exotic situations. It really does make the world a smaller, and better place.
In Sept - Oct 2009 we drove cross-country and visited almost every part of the USA which we have never previously seen. We did this with no reservations, and no time-table. Thanks to the tips and suggestions from our VT friends, the trip exceeded our wildest dreams. We came home with a greater love and appreciation for this absolutely hugh, and beautiful country. If America the Beautiful hadn't already been written, I would have had to write it myself.
In Sept. 2010 we finally took our long delayed west coast trip. Flying into Seattle and taking a 3 week drive down the coast to LA. Again, it's been with the help of the VT forums and VTmail.
In 2011 we took a beautiful river on the Rhine & Mosel. Germany & France are always interesting. We also took a land/cruise trip to Alaska. This leaves only Hawaii as our dream USA trip. We never rule out the 6 or 7 states we haven't visited yet. The more we travel, and the more we keep up with our friends on VT, the more anxious we are to take our next trip. Our never emptying bucket list has us scheduled in 2012 for Australia & NZ in April and whatever last minute travel deals we can find after that.
My favorite tips for pre-trip planning (besides VT):
1. Weather - www.wunderground.com this site gives you a detailed chart of all weather conditions for the past 5-9 years for the exact dates and cities you provide. It's much better than average hi-low & precip.
2. Electricity - www.voltagevalet.com gives details on the current and the type of adaptor ( if any) that you'll need.
3. Currency cheat sheet -- www.oanda.com/cgi/convert/cheatsheet I always print a wallet size cheat sheet of USD to other, and other to USD. This makes it so much easier to figure out how much local currency to withdraw from an ATM, and is really terrific if you're in a place where "bargaining" is part of the excitement.
4. Cruise critic