The Good and Bad of Traveling Over the Holidays

Whether traveling to see family or traveling just to see a new place, there is good and bad about being on the road during the holidays. We are definitely the type of people who love being surrounded by holiday decorations, cooking special meals, and spending time with people that are important to us, but we tend to travel more often than not during the holidays. Since Thanksgiving is not something celebrated outside of North America, it is a great time to travel, but we also tend to travel over the week between Christmas and New Years. It is fascinating to see how other cultures celebrate the holidays and it gives us a different perspective that can influence our own holiday traditions.

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Christmastime in Strasbourg, France
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Fountain and Christmas Decorations in Punta Cana
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Decorations and Market in Prague, Czech Republic
Skating at the Market in Vienna, Austria

Lets get the bad out of the way first. Travel over the holidays is often expensive because so many other people are traveling during the same time. That also means that airports are busier, lines at the counters, security, and customs are all longer and slower. Another reason for the longer lines is that people travel during the holidays that don’t normally travel. They aren’t prepared and don’t know what they are supposed to do, which causes problems and delays. We have often told each other that we wish they would create separate lines for those people who travel all of the time and those that don’t travel at all. Restaurants fill up quickly, often need reservations, and sometimes have fixed menus as opposed to a la carte. Depending upon where you are, weather can also be an issue causing flight delays, icy roads, and just generally cold conditions. Traveling over the holidays takes extra planning and most importantly an extra dose of patience.

Christmas Tree in Brasov, Romania
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Christmas Decorations in Las Vegas
Holiday Decorations in France
Holiday Decorations Around the Altar of St. Lorenz Church in Nuremberg

There are definitely a lot of good things about travel during the holidays as well. First of all, seeing all of the decorations in different places can be amazing. Many cities have special holiday markets, events, plays, concerts, and parades that can create very special memories. Depending upon where you decide to go, you can actually avoid crowds by traveling to places where other people do not typically go at that time of year. Seeing how other cultures celebrate the season and trying unique holiday foods is something truly special. Once you reach your destination, people seem to be genuinely friendly and happy to share their traditions. You can also find unique gifts for friends and family, especially things that are hand-crafted.

Christmas Tree in Frankfurt, Germany
The Second of Four Christmas Markets in Vienna
Restaurant Decorated for the Holidays
Building a Nativity Scene in Hanoi, Vietnam

Regardless of your reason for traveling over the holidays, it can be frustrating as well as rewarding. The biggest keys to being successful when traveling during the holidays is to plan ahead, make reservations where necessary, and most of all, give yourself extra time to get to your destination. Also, remember it is the holidays, smile and be nice to people, especially everyone who is there to help or serve you. If you are traveling over this coming holiday, we hope that you have a wonderful trip and there are many more good moments than bad.

5 Travel Destinations for Self-Care Seekers

Today we are featuring a guest post from Healthy Fit who offer workout routines and fitness advise that can be used in your everyday life or when you are traveling.

The meaning of self-care varies slightly depending on who you ask, but for those of us who love to travel, there’s no better way to reset the mind and body than by exploring somewhere new. When we stimulate our senses with new sights, sounds, and smells, we nurture ourselves emotionally, physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually — which in turn reduces stress and anxiety and makes us healthier and happier overall.

Below are five travel destinations for every type of self-care seeker. Whether you’re looking to relax on a sandy beach, hike a mountain, or observe wildlife, there are so many self-care destinations to nourish the mind, body, and soul.

Image via Unsplash

1. Paris

According to the Self-Care Capitals Report from Money.co.uk, Paris is the ultimate travel destination for those of us looking to reset the mind, body, and spirit. The city offers more than 936 spas, 332 museums, and 267 parks! A few notable attractions include the L’Institut du Luxembourg, Studio Rituel, Jardin des Tuileries, and Louvre Museum.

What’s more, Parisians are experts at maintaining a healthy work-life balance. It’s against the law for employers to contact their employees over the weekend, and a 35-hour workweek policy was passed in 2000.

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2. London

For those of us who prioritize physical health and wellness while vacationing, London is the perfect self-care destination. With more than 103 gyms, fitness centers, and yoga studios located within London’s City Centre, we can spend time caring for our physical, mental, and emotional health between visiting attractions such as the Tower Bridge, British Museum, and Hyde Park. Plus, those of us who identify as plant-based or health-conscious eaters can visit one of the many vegan-friendly restaurants in England’s capital city.

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3. Ubud

If you’ve read or watched Eat, Pray, Love, you — like many others — may have already fallen in love with the town of Ubud in Bali, Indonesia. You can observe the monkeys at the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary as you make your way toward the Pura Dalem Agung temple, take a stroll along the Campuhan Ridge Walk, or treat your body and mind to a relaxing Balinese massage. Between nature, spirituality, and holistic body treatments, can you think of a better self-care destination?

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4. Venice

For those of us who use art as a form of self-care, there’s no better travel destination than Venice, Italy. From the Palazzo Ducale and Museo Storico Navale to the Gallerie Dell’Accademia, there’s no shortage of galleries and museums in this northeast Italian city. Self-care seekers can also tour the city by kayak, climb aboard a peaceful gondola ride, or tap into their spiritual side at one of the more than 100 Venetian churches.

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5. Yellowstone National Park

Located in parts of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho (USA), Yellowstone National Park is the ultimate self-care destination for those experiencing digital burnout. Cell phone coverage is limited throughout the park, making it an ideal location for a digital detox. Travelers can also enjoy self-guided tours throughout the park, observe grizzly bears, bison, and moose in their natural habitats, and enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, biking, fishing, rafting, and camping.

In Conclusion

While everyone could use a bit more self-care in their daily lives, you don’t always have to travel to a new city, state, or country in order to care for your mind, body, and spirit. If traveling somewhere new isn’t in the cards, try camping in your backyard, planning a self-care staycation, or spending the day at a spa. The important thing is that you’re exposing yourself to new experiences while keeping your individual self-care needs in mind.

How to See Wildlife When Hiking

We’ve been hiking in the mountains for years and have been fortunate to see our share of wildlife. Even better, we haven’t seen any bears or mountain lions, but we’ve come across fresh tracks and have been pretty certain that they’ve seen us. They say that if you hike in the mountains of Colorado, on about one out of ten hikes, a mountain lion has seen you, even though you don’t see them. With that in mind, we thought we’d share some tips to help you see wildlife when you hike, but always put safety first.  Seasoned hikers will likely notice that most of these tips are in complete contrast to the tips for avoiding bears when hiking.  If you’re hiking in bear country, always talk to the rangers and find out where there have been recent sightings and where the bears are most likely to be active.  Never intentionally put yourself in harm’s way.

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Black Bear in Yellowstone
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Mule Deer next to Trail

1. Be extremely observant – This is probably the most obvious, but if you’re not constantly scanning the area around, you’re likely walking by animals without even knowing it.  It is always best if you see the animals before they see you, especially if there is even a remote chance that the animal could harm you, which is almost always the case.  Almost any animal when startled or threatened has the potential to attack, so seeing them first allows you to control the situation.

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Elk
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Wild Turkeys

2. Don’t make a lot of noise, talking in quieter voices – You don’t have to be completely silent, in fact we’d recommend that you make some noise and talk, just a normal pitch. If you’re making some noise, you’re less likely to startle an animal that perhaps you didn’t see, but still be quiet enough not to spook an animal that is farther away. There was one time when we were hiking near Beaver Creek, Colorado, when we ended up startling a young doe, even though we were talking and not being overly quiet. The deer literally ran into us as she made here escape, scaring us as much as we scared her.

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Blending in with the Trees
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Deer Checking Us Out

3. Hike in smaller groups, usually three or less – Pretty much for the same reason as number two, the larger the group, the more noise that you make. Also, the more people in the group, the more motion that you make, the more reflective surfaces to catch the sun, the more noticeable that you are. Remember, the animals are watching for you as much as you might be searching for them. Just as you are more likely to notice a herd of deer versus as single deer, so is it true of them seeing you.

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Warning Sign
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Mom with Baby Ducks

4. Watch for anything that moves – Being observant and scanning the horizon isn’t always enough, you need to pay attention to any motion that see. Sure, more often than not, it will be caused by the wind, but the animals are camouflaged, making them hard to see. What at first seems like the rustling of a leaf, might just turn out to be the wiggling of an ear. And if you see one animal, be extra careful, there are probably several more just out of sight.

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Laying in the Grass
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Trying to Hide

5. Hike more remote, less frequented, trails – It doesn’t do any good to do everything possible to see wildlife if there are a hundred hikers in front of you doing the exact opposite. Getting away from roads, towns, and most importantly other hikers, will definitely increase your chances of seeing wildlife. Be smart, though, carry bear spray, phone, flashlight, compass, and extra food if you’re heading into remote areas. We always stay on well-marked trails and don’t go venturing off into the woods. The national forest system in Colorado is huge and you could easily get yourself lost for days if decide to go trailblazing.

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Big Horn Sheep Up Close
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Majestic Moose in Yellowstone

6. Hike near dawn or dusk – Animals are always most active around these times, so be extra alert when hiking at these times of day. Light can be an issue as the shadows are longer and it isn’t as easy to see off into the distance. Take your time when hiking during these times so that you don’t startle an animal that you didn’t see as well as to give yourself time to truly see what is all around you.

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Birds are Wildlife Too
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Hard to See

7. Carry binoculars or camera with a telephoto lens – Obviously it makes it easier to see animals in the distance if you can zoom in and focus closer on them. It is also the safest way to observe animals without putting yourself at risk. We’re not professional photographers, but we did invest in a telephoto lens a few years ago and it was one of the best investments that we’ve made.

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Grizzly Bear Shot with Telephoto Lens
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Adorable Chipmunk

8. Spend time in locations that are likely to draw animals – Sources of water and food are the most likely places to find animals, so spending time near those locations, especially at dusk or dawn, will increase your chances of seeing them. Animals also use the trails to get through the forest as much as hikers do, simply because it is easier for them to walk on the trails, so staying on the trails will increase your chances of seeing them. Sometimes the most likely place to see animals isn’t where you might expect it. One of our funniest stories about seeing animals in the wild was when we were in Estes Park, Colorado, many years ago. We had gone hiking at dusk and waited by an open field with a stream running through it and, after much waiting, a herd of elk finally appeared. It was autumn, so the temperatures quickly dropped and we were frozen by the time we got back to the car, but we were happy to have seen the elk. We drove back to our hotel and lo and behold there were hundreds of elk walking around the property nibbling on the fresh grass. It hadn’t crossed our minds that they would be drawn to the green grass of the hotel versus foraging for food in the wild.

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Elk in the River
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Eating Grass in Town

Hopefully you will have as much luck as we’ve had seeing wildlife by using these tips.  We can’t say it enough, though, be smart about it and don’t do anything too risky.  Always respect wildlife, some animals may look cute, but they are wild animals and therefore can be unpredictable.