Travel Advice & Tips

05/25/2012

Driving Solo Across the U.S. - Expect the Unexpected

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TrucksOur cross-country tour for women traveling alone has gone remarkably well so far sans a few bumps and bruises, which are to be expected. First of all, the weather has been perfect every mile of the way with clear blue sky's every day in every state. That in itself has been a surprise although I've always found May to be a good month to do road trips. Traffic, especially considering we're running into Memorial Day Weekend, has been very light, very few delays, which has been a welcomed surprise.

Our U-Haul Truck has been performing flawlessly and very easy to handle. It's funny to see the looks on people's faces when I jump out at gas stations... at 5'1" tall, it's clear they don't expect someone of my size and stature to be driving such a large vehicle but I believe I'm living proof that size doesn't matter. I don't have to carry the truck... I just have to drive it.

My journey from Indiania to Missouri this week had some pretty rough roads. I would have to day that both Missouri and Oklahoma (so far) had the worst roads as far as poor construction in need of a lot of work. Sure, there was plenty of road work going on but it sure did seem like they were far behind, perhaps budgetary issues. It made for driving the U-Haul a little rough around the edges forcing me to drive very slowly as not to break every last thing in the back of the truck.

These are some of the unexpected things you'll run into on the road for which you just cannot plan. Yes, you can allow extra time each day for unexpected things such as delays or road work, perhaps an extra hour or two just in case, but there's no telling just how bad each freeway in each state will be until you get there. While the truck handled each bump and bruise quite well the bad roads did cause a slow down, which cost time, so it's important to allow extra time for the unexpected. And there will be many... this is just one of them.

Another issue bad roads cost is gas which reduces your miles per gallon. With bad roads and having to stop and go frequently, it puts more demand on your fuel, which ultimately uses more gas forcing you to fill up more often than expected and costing more money. Gas prices do fluctuate throughout the country starting north of $4.30 in eastern states then slowly lowering as you enter midwestern states. Some places were as low as $3.30 per gallon, a whole dollar difference. When you consider your truck takes 30 gallons of gas to fill up, that's a big difference in savings. My point is, choose your gas stations wisely... most service area stops along the Interstates are fairly reasonable but when you get into the southern midwest part of the US there are tiny drive-through towns that offer gas stations at one end at $4.60 per gallon, as they try to hook you as you enter their tiny town, but if you drive a little further into town, you'll find other stations mid-town at $3.60 per gallon. Funny, as I left this little town of Holbrook, the last station out was also expensive. Don't wait until your tank is near empty or 1/4 full because it leaves you with a sense of urgency which may cause you to jump at the first gas station you find, which could be the most expensive. Leave plenty of wiggle room in your tank to find a reasonably priced station as there are many across our great land.

I leave you today with this caution however... choose your stops wisely. Do not stop at truck stops. There are many service areas along the Interstates that look like huge country homes, easy on and easy off the freeway, populated with many families and plenty of stores and restaurants. These are the stops you want to make, one stop for everything. They're clean, safe, and keep you on the move by making fewer stops down the road.

People tell me all the time how courageous it is to make such a long journey alone and while those are kind words, it's not about courage, it's about knowledge. And knowledge is power. When you do your research and homework on your road trip, you arm yourself with all the necessary tools to keep yourself safe on the road. Tomorrow we'll talk about how to achieve the best MPG for your vehicle. 

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Our deepest thanks to U-Haul (@Uhaul on Twitter and @UHaulCompany)and Bridgestone for making this journey possible. My goal is to help educate women on the tips and tricks of staying safe and sane on the road especially for those who don't do road trips very often. There's no need to be afraid... especially once you have a plan of action in the works.

To read more tips on Women Traveling Alone, click here.

05/23/2012

Women Traveling Solo - Safety Tips for Trip

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Driving Solo: First Weekend of Road Trip to LA

U-Haul - A better way to moveThe stars must have been aligned the first weekend of our "Women Traveling Alone" Safety Tour as every tree that lined the freeways was in full bloom with rich and radiant hues of green abundant against a pure blue sky. Norman Rockwell couldn't have painted a much more scenic backdrop himself.

Making it from Rhode Island via Canada to Detroit in my 17' U-Haul Truck (@Uhaul on Twitter and @UHaulCompany)over the weekend, which was loaded to the gills, took 2 days allowing only 300 miles on day one and 400 miles on day two. For some reason, the truck didn't like either Canada or Sonoco gas as it gave a few hiccups and burps throughout the country. Fortunately, it got over its little cold the next day. Not sure what that was all about but delighted it ended. Lessons learned, the earlier you start your road trip, the better all around. And here are a few reasons why.

1. If you are going through Canada or Mexico, make sure you have an up-to-date valid license and passport. Nowadays, you can get just a passport card instead of a full passport for crossing these borders however you cannot fly with a card. You must have a full passport to fly. The passport card looks just like a license only with different info on it plus it's less expensive than a full passport. Allow at least 8 weeks before your trip to apply, which you can do online. If you're driving a moving truck, RV, big van or anything of the like, be prepared to be pulled over for an inspection if the border agents feel there's anything suspicious going on with you or your vehicle. I thought for sure driving a big moving van they'd pull me over, especially after 911, but they didn't entering Canada or the USA but I did see them pull over a few ahead of me. So, make sure your dirty laundry is not the first thing they see should they open the back of your truck.

2. As a woman driving alone, you want to drive during daylight hours, allowing for unexpected stops or delays. While traffic was unusally clear over the weekend, it took some time to get used to handling the loaded U-Haul and how even the slightest breeze affected the steering of such a high profile vehicle. The difference between driving an empty truck home from the U-Haul lot to driving a truck fully loaded with thousands of pounds of furniture is considerably different. It definitely required 2 hands on the wheel at all times.

3. There a hundreds of 18-wheelers on the freeway and while most are professionally trained drivers, and you are not, it can be daunting to have so many pass at high speeds causing wind gusts in their wake, which can make your moving truck a little swirly, so plenty to get used to which takes a little time but after awhile you get your groove on and get in the zone and learn the ways of the road.

4. When you leave early, you also leave plenty of time for gas stops or traffic delays, without getting your knickers in a knot about arriving late or after dark. At the end of each day, assuming it's still light out, I like to fill up with gas to quicken the morning start. I use the evenings and mornings in my room to reorganize notes, call ahead to the next hotel to confirm ETA, and prepare my food for the next day's drive so there's no fiddling around inside the cabin of the truck trying to find something to eat. All that I need is within eye and arm reach, allowing for a safe drive and less stop time. Less stop time means less time outside the cabin of the truck and more miles on the road.

So far, so good, however I do have to say how surprising I find it to see so many young women at some of these roadside travel service areas barely dressed, taking photos of each other, posing and giggling, just having harmless fun, yet from where I sit in the high profile U-Haul as I pull in, I also see men sitting in their cars, backed into a remote shaded spot, watching, staring, glaring... and the young women haven't a clue. One guy in an old Pontiac Firebird saw me pull up as he watched two girls taking photos of each other and for whatever reason, drove away in a hurry when I pointed at him. That's all it took. Whether he felt busted or was just on his way out we'll never know but his departure was unusual and behavior suspicious.

The goal of this journey is to help educate women of all ages, pay attention to your surroundings! There's always someone watching!

Bridgestone TiresOur sincere thanks to Bridgestone Tire and U-Haul (@Uhaul on Twitter and @UHaulCompany) for sponsoring this 'Women Driving Solo" safety tour. Through their support, we're able to help educate more women about personal safety on the road.

To read our opening story on this journey, 'Women Traveling Alone' please visit us at Road & Travel Magazine, and read about the journey of Sacajawea, the young Indian woman (teen) who helped lead the 1804 Lewis & Clark Expedition to a safe conclusion.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for more tips of how to stay safe and sane on the road. I'll also share gas saving tips and how to better your MPG... leaving a lighter footprint.

05/17/2012

U-Haul & Bridgestone Sponsor Women Traveling Alone Safety Tour

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Women Traveling Alone - Focusing on Your Personal Safety

Traveling Alone – What Women Need to Know Before They Go!

Sponsored by U-Haul & Bridgestone Tires

by Courtney Caldwell

Driving around town is an everyday occurrence for most of us. Errands, going to and from work, picking up kids at school or soccer, grocery shopping, visiting family and friends, a girls’ night out… you know your area like the back of your hand.

But, what about driving into territory beyond your borders? Do you have a fear of driving outside your comfort zone? Do you worry about getting lost or even worse, followed?

The number one reason women stick close to home is fear of the unknown, what to do, what not to do, how to keep yourself safe on the road in unknown territory, never ming where to begin in the planning process of a big road trip. Whether you’re planning an across-country or across-town move, the very first place to begin your journey is with your homework and advanced planning.

I’m about to embark on a 3200-mile cross-country journey, driving a 17' U-Haul truck, and yes, all by myself. When I tell people of the road trip, they look at me dazed and confused, and then after a short pause ask, ‘you’re driving alone?’ That one question in itself speaks volumes to how much education is needed for women, and many men, on how to plan a road trip with fun, not fear.

Doing your homework and pre-planning are essential in making your journey safe and sane… whether across town or across country. It doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 80, as long as you carefully plan out every detail of your trip's route, hotel stays, gas stops, navigation, and every detail of your trip, you'll arrive at your destination safely.

U-Haul Moving TrucksIt is such an honor to have U-Haul as our ‘Women Traveling Alone’ road trip safety sponsor for a variety of reasons one of which is their connection and support to a young Shoshone Indian girl named Sacajawea, who served as an interpreter and guide on the famed Lewis & Clark Expedition in 1804. Her heroism in numerous life-saving contributions helped lead their two-year journey to a safe and successful conclusion.

Sacajawea, just a young teen at the time, not only provided guidance for hundreds of miles through the tough terrain of the northwest Rockies, then known as the Louisiana Purchase territory, she also demonstrated extraordinary courage and strength during numerous life-threatening events, often emerging as the hero who saving lives and supplies from devastating weather, potential enemy threats, and from capsized canoes. Sacajawea became known as the first woman to be included in a democratic vote on the all-male crew, sharing her knowledge and experience as to which route to take for most access to hunting for food and safe shelter in the wild.

In honor of Sacajawea, U-Haul has painted her mural on both sides of our moving truck to celebrate her accomplishments and help shed light on her exceptional contributions to the beginning of what shaped the U.S. today. Her story is one of bravery and the true meaning of persistence.

Her contributions were chronicled by Lewis & Clark in their personal diaries naming Sacajawea as the only person on the expedition who never complained or panicked when confronted with dangerous or devastating circumstances. Level-headed and fierce, she faced each event as it came, contributing significantly to a successful and safe outcome.

Sacajawea was married to a Frenchman twice her age, who had traded her for goods and supplies with a tribe who had kidnapped her at 12 (away from her Shoshone family and friends). While little is known about her husband’s contributions to the Lewis & Clark Expedition, Sacajawea’s accomplishments earned her a place in American history. Add to that, her journey included a pregnancy, childbirth in the wild, and then carrying her infant on her back during the expedition. The baby boy nicknamed Pompey, spent the first two years of his life living right along side his brave mother.

Sacajawea’s story is one of true courage and inspiration. It is with great pride that I have the opportunity to share her story as I traverse the U.S. in my 17’ U-Haul truck with her mural painted on each side, sharing her tale with everyone I meet along the way.

Bridgestone Tire Sponsors 2011 International Car and Truck of the Year Awards - Presented by Road & Travel MagazineWe'd also like to extend our deepest thanks and gratitude to long-time partner and sponsor, Bridgestone Tires, for their support of tire safety and helping people understand how to choose the right tires for their vehicle. As one of the leading tire companies in the world, Bridgestone is committed to not only helping women stay safe on the road but also to keeping our environment clean with their One Team One Planet message. Bridgestone Americas is dedicated to achieving a positive environmental impact in all of the communities it calls home. This commitment includes efforts such as developing tires with improved fuel economy, manufacturing products and providing services in an environmentally responsible way, and establishing wildlife habitat and education programs.

Reduce environmental footprint - Save gas: When driving long distances or larger vehicles it's important to remember that the faster you go the more gas you'll use. So keep in mind as you plan your route and how many miles you'll drive each day, also plan to stay within the speed limit and stay to the right on 2-or more lane roads to allow cars to pass on your left. By reducing your speed, starting and stopping slower, you'll not only achieve better gas mileage and save money, you'll also be reducing your environmental footprint. This issue is important to all of us but our sponsors, Bridgestone and U-Haul, are international companies contributing significantly to help this cause. 

For more information to keep yourself safe on the road, click here.

 

05/03/2012

Safety Tips for Traveling with Your Pets

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RTM's Annual Traveling with Your Pet Issue : How to Keep Your Furry Friends from Freaking Out on the Road

Road & Travel Magazine - 2012 Traveling with Pets Issue

Traveling with Your Pets - How to Keep Them Safe

Camping with Canines & Cats
6000 campgrounds pamper your pets

Hot Cars Cause Heat Stroke in Pets
Pets suffer same demise as kids

Gnawing at Numbers - Pet Travel Stats
America has more pets than people

B&B's Welcome Pets with Perks
Bed & Breakfast Bits for Bowser

Air Travel Tips for Cats & Dogs
Onboard or in the belly?

Transporting Your Vehicle
How to ship your car across country

Pet Travel Hotel Directory
Posh places to park your pooch

Pet Travel Insurance
Protect your pet on the road

Restraining Order for Pets
Protect pet from becoming projectile

Which Cars are Best for Pet Travel?
Choosing the right ride for Fido

Pet Petters Ploy for Stolen Purse
What to do if stolen when traveling?

Common Courtesy - Rules of the Road
8 Tips for common driving courtesy

For more information on Pet Travel Tips, click here.

07/11/2011

Organic Eats Across the USA

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Cafe More often than not, summer road trips lead to hidden treasure - hole-in-the-wall finds that we stumble upon and immediately fall in love with. As July and August stretch out in front of you, consider hitting the open road and discovering your own new favorite spots, or check out some of these fun, organic dining finds that have us licking our lips:

Mighty-O Donut  - This delectable bakery in Seattle, Wash. serves up a dizzying array of donuts daily, using certified organic ingredients in small batches. Pick your poison (Cuckoo for Coconut, perhaps, or Cocoloco?) from behind the glass case.

Tara's Organic Ice Cream - With locations sprinkled throughout California, Tara's offers a pallate of pleasure no matter your taste. From flavors like Black Sesame to plain, old Pecan, the list is long and the end treat is always delicious!

Orlando Brewery - These "Fresh from Florida" craft beers are the best in the south and free tours of the brewery are offered Monday through Saturday at 6:00 p.m. Check out the taproom and sip on a sample of organic Red Ale or Blackwater Porter. 

Candle Cafe - This organic and vegan cafe fittingly calls the Big Apple home and focuses on delivering farm-to-table dining with a menu featuring specials like the Paradise Casserole and Minty Melon Cooler smoothie. Homecooked goodness with local appeal - and all available in the middle of NYC!

07/08/2011

Keep Your Garden Green Even While Away

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While you're enjoying that well deserved summer vacation, don't forget your garden will be home working hard - and hopefully offer up a bouty of fresh veggies upon your return! Here are some simple tips to keep your garden going strong while you're on the go this summer season.

A Good Soak – Give flower and vegetable gardens a good final soak before flying the coop. This is especially important if rainfall has been inadequate, or sparse precipitation is predicted. The good news is that further watering may not be a worry no matter what the weather. Established annuals can last for ten days without supplemental water. Most perennials can weather two weeks of dry conditions. Trees and shrubs won't feel the pinch for about a month. Lawns are the camels of the garden. A healthy lawn can go six weeks without extra water.  

Don't Feed and Leave – Don't fertilize plants before leaving. Slower growth is what you want while you are away.

Protect Containers – Container plants need water more often than border plants. If you ask a friend for a watering favor, group containers in a protected area with indirect sun, but access to rainfall.  This makes it easier to water and harder to miss a pot.  This lessens stress on plants and your watering chum.

Harvest Produce – Harvest produce before you leave. If you can't take it with you, or just have too much, donate to a food pantry or share with friends or family. If you'll be gone for more than two weeks, ask a friend to harvest produce. If you stop harvesting vegetables some stop producing.

Apply a Pre-emergent Garden Weed Preventer – Most people associate pre-emergent garden weed preventers with early spring, but mid-summer is another smart time to apply it. A second application atop mulch or soil stops weed seeds from sprouting while you're away and well into the fall. Remember that mulch and and a garden weed preventer prevent new weeds from happening, they don't kill the existing ones!

Source: www.preen.com

07/05/2011

Road-Trip-Ready Vehicles for Summer 2011

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Cruze

American drivers love to spend their vacations hitting the open road. For those in the market for a new vehicle that they hope to log plenty of miles in while traveling, we've got your top vehicle picks for road trips.

"Since the invention of the automobile, Americans have enjoyed taking road trips. From wood-paneled station wagons to oversized conversion vans, most Americans have grown up taking road trips with their family and friends," said John Nielsen, AAA National Director of Auto Repair, Buying Services and Consumer Information. "Today's American road trips come in many different forms: family vacations, mancations, girlfriend getaways, romantic excursions and more. And the ideal vehicle for a road trip can come in as many different forms depending on where you want the road to take you and who will be joining you for the ride."

If you're about to embark on a cross-country trip, you'll want a set of wheels that's both economical and eco-friendly. Take a peek at the front-runners below, which offer plenty of cargo space, great mileage and most importantly, a fun driving experience:

Chevrolet Cruze Eco – From the Cavalier to the Cobalt to the Cruze, each generation of compact Chevrolet vehicles has been an improvement from the previous, and the Cruze is no exception. AAA Auto Buying experts tested the "Eco" version with a six-speed manual transmission, which is the non-hybrid gasoline fuel economy leader in its size category. It also received a five-star overall rating in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA's) more stringent new crash test program. AAA found the Cruze Eco to be a good value with impressive fuel economy, making it a smart pick for road trip lovers on a budget. For those looking to take more than two on their road trip, the Cruze lacks rear cup holders and a center armrest, and the rear seat may be cramped for tall passengers. 

Ford Focus – A definite improvement over the previous version, the new 2012 Ford Focus drives very nicely with above average ride and handling. Fuel economy and engine performance also are very good and highway cruising is impressively quiet for the small car field, making it a top pick for road trips. As with other cars in the category, it's ideal for two travelers as the backseat can be a bit cramped. 

Toyota Prius – The Toyota Prius is a road trip top pick because it's roomy, comfortable and economical. The hatchback design makes for exceptional flexibility, as well. The hybrid drivetrain sips fuel, and with careful driving, it can push fuel economy well past 50 mpg. However, for those who love engaging and sporty vehicles for their road trips, the Prius may not be the right choice. It's a secure and predictable ride, but not engaging to drive. 

Ford Escape Hybrid - For families with a bit more to tow, we can't leave the Escape Hybrid off this list. It's roomy cabin is perfect for a long ride and its expanded sun roof lets in lots of light. Driving in either pure electric mode, or with the gasoline-powered engine, fuel economy evens out to be great bang for the buck, and let's not forget the ability to tow a trailer or camper if needed. (Hey, sometimes a tent just isn't enough.)

Source: AAA, Road & Travel

 

06/29/2011

Staycation: Picnic at the Park

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It's a beautiful, summer day and luckily, you have the entire day to yourself. What to do? Why not turn your one-off holiday into a staycation by packing up and heading to a local state park you've never visited. Better yet, pack a picnic - a sustainable picnic, naturally - and plan for a day-long event. 


If you're not a categorical picnicer, we'll help you out with some of the basics. To begin, you'll need a basket (like this cool, red option from ReUseIt) or big bag for toting all of your goodies, and a blanket big enough for however many people you'll invite (I dig this PVC-free blanket with carry strap). Yes, many parks have picnic tables, but I'm of the mindset that it's simply not a picnic if a blanket isn't involved. Once you have these two items, gather up some reusable or corn-based and biodegradable plates and utensils like those made by Trellis (most grocery stores now carry paper alternative options).

You won't want to make any stressful grocery store stops on the way, if you can avoid it, so use what you have in  your home already to pack up a nutritious variety of foods and snacks. Some of the staples include: fresh fruit salad; raw, organic vegetables; crackers and cheese; and simple sandwiches.

Top it all of with a bottle of specialty organic juice or hey, why not indulge in a bottle of biodyamic wine if the day calls for relaxing? For dessert, bring along some healthy granola or all-natural cookies - finger foods are always appreciated outdoors! 

Lastly, kick back and soak up some sun. A lazy day at the park truly is one of life's greatest pleasures and surely makes for an awesome staycation. 

06/27/2011

Planning a Safe and Sustainable Safari

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As summer approaches, thousands of people will plan vacations to Africa, with a majority of them hoping to see jaw-dropping creatures like lions, elephants, and gazelles in their natural habitat. However, an increase in tourism means that the welfare of these animals may actually be compromised.


To help ensure that you're planning a safe - and sustainable - safari, heed the following tips:

  • Research a safari company’s background: Some tourism outfitters cater specifically to guests seeking a photo safari, while others specialize in hunting trips. Make sure an outfitter employs trained guides or naturalists who know the local rules. Many companies offer tours led by inexperienced individuals who lack the necessary knowledge to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience which doesn’t harm animals.
  • Find a safari outfitter that supports locals: Some companies use a portion of profits to support local programs like wildlife protection in community-owned conservancies, animal conservation outreach and education development, while also providing employment opportunities to community members. Opt for a philanthropic company, if possible.
  • Follow all park rules: Safaris provide a rare chance for tourists to get up-close-and-personal with wild animals. However, with this opportunity comes a great amount of responsibility. Off-road and reckless driving, herding, speeding or noise pollution from safari vehicles could disturb or even spook the wildlife, putting everyone in the vicinity in danger.
  • Don’t be a part of the problem: In the wild, even the smallest piece of litter could negatively impact the entire ecosystem of a region, so visitors must be extremely diligent throughout their trip. It's also important that when tourists buy local souvenirs, they confirm that trinkets aren't made from animal parts or indigenous wood.
  • Don’t turn a blind eye: Report any violation to the relevant wildlife authorities. Remember, animal mistreatment is bad for tourism and reflects poorly on the community, so it is important to voice concerns to the appropriate authorities. 

Source: International Fund for Animal Welfare

06/15/2011

Getting Your Daily Dose of Fruits & Veggies

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What's on your plate for dinner? If it's not half-full of fruits and veggies, you're not following the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) newest dietary recommendations, which suggest devoting at least 50 percent of every meal - or your daily food intake - to nature's produce. 

"This science-based government recommendation to make half your plate fruits and vegetables is a significant and positive step in the battle to fight obesity and related health issues in America. [It's] a simple, memorable way to show Americans the proportion of fruits and vegetables they should be eating at every meal occasion," says Dr. Elizabeth Pivonka, president and CEO of Produce for Better Health Foundation.

How can you add fruits and veggies in ways that won't make you feel 100 percent vegetarian (if you aren't already, that is):

 Source: Fruits & Veggies - More Matters

  • Start your morning with a glass of 100 percent fruit juice
  • Stock up on frozen and canned fruits and vegetables for those times when fresh varieties aren't handy
  • Mix dried plums, mango and banana chips with almonds for a healthy mid-day snack
  • Keep pre-cut veggies at eye-level in your refrigerator for grab-and-go snacking
  • Pack celery sticks topped with peanut butter for a healthy, but filling, lunch time treat