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Travel Tips I Wish I Had Known 20 Years Ago!

Travel Tips I Wish I Had Known 20 Years Ago!

We travel and love to experience new cultures, new areas of the country & world.  Since we retired almost 15 years ago and travel at least six months a year, we’ve learned a thing or two.  Here are some travel tips we’ve learned along the way.


Machu Picchu from hiking up Waynu Picchu

Travel as if you won’t be back! Don’t leave something out thinking you’ll do it next time. Assume you’ll never return!  It seems like everywhere we travel, there’s never enough time and there are always two more trails that we should have hiked.

I was never going white water rafting … until I tried it!

Just say YES!  As opportunities present themselves, GO, “Just Do It” to borrow a phrase.  Our most vivid memories are made by pushing the danger edge a bit … hiking to Waynu Picchu high above Macho Picchu or sucking it up and getting on that whitewater raft.

Beffalo after the storm along WIldlife Loop, Custer State Park about 6 PM

Stop by the visitor center. Talk to the rangers. Our new rule is to visit the visitor center/ranger station FIRST when we arrive in a new location. Find out as much as we can about the area and then decide the priorities if time is a limiting factor.

Just before sunset at White Sands National Monument

Keep a travel journal & take lots of photos! … as I get older, the most vivid memories are still intense, but the details fade into the blur of traveling… jotting down even a few words reminds me of the good times had that day.   And of course, take LOTS of photos – make sure some of them have YOU in them!  Because photos are digital these days, consider getting a BIG (not 5 X 7) digital frame that can run on a loop somewhere in the house or trailer.  It’s amazing how many times we glance at a photo and it takes us back to how excited we were at that particular moment – watching dolphins in our bow wake or seeing the owl fly through our campsite. Some of the best moments are not photographs (too quick) so be sure to jot down a few words in a travel journal – the owl was not a photo, but a great memory.

Grinnell was a typical hike in the mountains of Glacier National Park

Now is the time... not to be morbid, but it seems like many people who retire die in the following few years.  Others may have waited so long to retire that they’re not in good enough physical shape to enjoy some items that were formerly on the bucket list – a perfect example is me!  I used to want to backpack the Appalachian Trail and skydive but these days maybe I couldn’t carry a heavy pack and skydiving sounds too scary. Should have done both when I had the chance.

Amazing sunsets over Mobile Bay from the boardwalk.

Find the FREE Stuff.  Many say “nothing is free” – NOT TRUE!  Watching a sunset or sunrise over a beach or canyon, discovering and enjoying free (or very low cost) activities wherever you are is a disproportionate part of travel.   Plus, we find that often enjoying the free activities leads us to discover more about the area.

The Wave — off House Rock Road — 8.3 miles of rutted washboard dirt.

Talk to everyone – strike up a conversation with the people on the viewing platform at the wildlife sanctuary, talk to future friends as you cool off at the swimming pool or wherever, whenever.  It’s amazing how much information you can add to your list of ideas to expand your travel and make it even more exciting.  Along this same line….

Lower Calf Creek Falls – Trailhead off Scenic Byway 12. The hike and the falls are amazing.

Ask the locals.   They’ll know the best restaurants, the hiking trail along the Colorado River to find moose (thanks to Outdoor Beginner & their REI friend!), the best sunset photo spots & everything that you might not find on your own!

Carved in Stone … had to visit the iconic statue!

Minimize the Don’t Miss Stuff …. unless it’s the Eiffel Tower, Old Faithful or Mt Rushmore — those really deserve an exception but often the stuff that’s written up in the tourist brochures is NOT the stuff you really want to spend your time seeing & doing.

Hiking in the North Cascades … can’t wait to return, need to stay in shape to get up this high!

Take time for nature. Even a trip to Disney can include some time for nature – take a day and go to the beach, or go hiking at a nearby state park.  Research shows that spending time in nature is healthy, enhancing anyone’s well-being.  And it just might provide a relaxing break from an over-planned trip!

Manatee Springs is one of several First Order springs in Florida, which means it gushes around 50 – 100 million gallons of crystal clear 72 degree water every day year round.

Be flexible & leave time for spontaneity.  Expect delays – weather, airlines, whatever. Patience is always important when traveling. And if you learn of something unexpected during a conversation with a ranger or someone at a coffee shop, be sure to be flexible enough to include it, even if it means changing the priorities.  One of the things I love about travel is I rarely know what amazing experiences I’ll have when I wake up that morning.

The mighty Colorado River carves the thickness of a sheet of paper deeper every year.

Splurge a bit!  We are big fans of finding free or inexpensive opportunities, but every now and then it’s important to splurge on something.  Maybe it’s a helicopter tour into the Grand Canyon or a glider or balloon ride outside of Albuquerque.  If you’ve always been fascinated by a particular adventure, but haven’t indulged because of the expense, maybe it’s time.  Revert to Tip #1 — you may never be back!  Do it NOW!!!

Do you have travel tips that should be on the list?  Please leave a comment and share!  Cheers!  Jan


  1. I’ve just discovered your blog,and it’s excellent! I see we are on the same page when it comes to shower reviews. We’re heading out in one week in our small RV, from PA to Fla. Thanks for the tips!

  2. I love your page set up! The pictures are amazing.

  3. And remember to turn the music up and sing along while traveling. And lots of smiles. They are contagous

    • So true! Thanks Robert!

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