Souvenirs are a wonderful way to remember past vacations and also the fun you had finding that souvenir. Sometimes finding that perfect memento becomes part of your vacation adventure and sometimes you might just happen upon the perfect thing accidentally. I have noticed there tends to be a few different types of souvenir shoppers. Which one are you?
#1 - The collector. If you have a specific item you like to bring back from every vacation then you are a collector. Your shopping is a little easier because you know what you are looking already. Although I guess sometimes being a collector can get tricky if you just cannot seem to find the item you collect at your destination. Collections can be a good way to easily look back at all the many places you have traveled but does it become more about the collection than the memories of the places you went?
#2 - The tacky tourist. Sorry to say it but if you love those cheap souvenir shops where everything sold in that store is plastered with the name of the city or country everywhere then you are tacky. Sure the cheap junk makes it easy to bring back lots of stuff but does any of that really have meaning and will it make you remember anything from your vacation? Will the people you bring it back for even keep it for long? All that being said I will admit I still go on those stores too.
#3 - The it has to be authentic shopper. If you only want to bring back authentic, locally made, responsibly sourced items you are this type. You do your research before your trip to find out what your destination is most known for and you plan to track that down. While I do think these type of souvenirs have the most meaning they do also take a bit more work to find and they will cost you more. I do try to be this type of shopper but I am not set on only buying this type of stuff.
When in Camargue, France last year I loved that the Camargue Cross was very similar to my logo. While we were shopping that day we came across a shop selling porcelain art, including some in the shape of the Camargue Cross. The shop owner explained the meaning of the symbol - the anchor means hope, the heart means charity, and the cross means faith. She also explained that a local artist makes all the porcelain right in town and mentioned a little on the history of French porcelain. I hadn't sought out to buy something porcelain in France because it is authentic to the region but was glad I ended up with something very local. It is hanging in my office and it a great reminder of a really fun trip.
#4 - The I will know it when I see it shopper. If you tend to just happen upon something while traveling that you just think oh that is it, then you are this type. Your souvenirs might seem totally random to anyone else but to you they have meaning. I tend to be this type of shopper and sometimes it stinks when you just don't find anything that really speaks to you. I really want to find something I love and will remind me of the vacation even if it might not totally be something that has any connection to the area.
I have this keychain I bought on my first visit to Holland. We were shopping in a little local shop and they had one of those displays with keychains that have names. All the names were Dutch so it wasn't like I was looking for one but for some reason one just popped out at me. It seemed kind of silly to buy a keychain with a girl's name that wasn't mine or even in my language but it spoke to me so I bought it. After we came out of that store a group of school age girls came up to us asking if we spoke English. When we said yes they asked if we could help them with a school assignment to practice English. We of course were happy to take part. 5 years later I still have that keychain on my keys and it always reminds me of the group of girls we helped with their English.
No matter which type of shopper you are it is just nice to have some reminders of your past vacations around especially right now.
If you think you might be all of the above and just really love shopping of any kind let me know and I might be able to suggest some shopping tours for your next vacation.
I think breakfast might be my favorite meal, well that is unless you count dessert as a meal. I am the type of person that really needs at least a little something to eat before I can really start my day. I always love when a hotel that has breakfast buffet. I was worried that Covid might have killed the hotel breakfast but I am happy to say that from my past 3 hotel stays it is not dead yet!
Part of my job is staying on top of everything travel related and right now a big part of that is knowing how things in the travel world are changing to deal with Covid19.
Most of the big Hotel chains have been advertising what steps they are taking to keep guests safe during their stay. While it all sounds great I wondered how it would be in person and how they are making sure each individual hotel is doing the same things. In the past 90 days I have stayed in 3 hotels in 3 states that were all all part of the same big chain. I can say even though I felt safe staying in them, all 3 were doing things a little differently. The interesting part is that the breakfast area was the one that had least uniformity among the 3 hotels I stayed in.
The first hotel I stayed in was in Colorado and this was back in May so things probably have changed a bit since then. Back in mid May Colorado was not yet allowing any indoor dining so the hotel had closed the seating area but they were still offering some of the breakfast options. Everything was pre-packaged and ready to just take back to your room. If you wanted coffee you did have to wait for an employee to serve that for you. My guess is that once indoor dining was allowed to resume in the state the hotel probably returned to allowing guests to sit and eat in the dining area but have spaced the tables out.
Our second hotel stay was in North Carolina in June. Funny thing here was that North Carolina was not yet allowing indoor dining but the hotel did have the seating area open for you eat your breakfast or any other food and drink you might have brought in during your stay. The breakfast offerings here were also very surprising to me as it looked almost as if nothing had really changed here. They still had out the hot dishes for self serve like the eggs, bacon, and oatmeal. The cereal was also still the large canisters where you turn the handle to dispense the amount you want. I have to admit this was the one time of all the hotel stays where I felt like it was more up to the guest to use their judgement as to what they felt was safe or not.
Third stay was in upstate New York and this one was probably most like what the hotel chain is aiming for. Tables in the dining area were very well spaced apart and it was obvious that they had removed some tables. Breakfast was limited to just pre-packaged options where even the cereal was the type that was already sealed in a bowl. Coffee was self serve which I think makes more sense than having to talk to someone to explain how you want your coffee. While we were having breakfast we did see someone come out and clean everything multiple times.
I am very happy to see how the hotels are adapting to the changes and doing everything they can to keep guests feeling safe while still being able to provide something similar to what we are used to getting.
I don't know about you but when I hear road trip I always think of National Lampoon's Vacation (the original with Chevy Chase of course). As a kid we packed up the good old Dodge Van and headed south from Philly to Florida many times. It was always an adventure and I fondly remember those South of the Border billboards. Luckily for us we never had to worry about the theme park being closed when we got there back then but now is a whole different story, There actually is a pretty good chance that your favorite summer destination might have some closures or new rules. While up in Lake George recently we noticed that Six Flags park there was not open yet and from what it sounded like it might not open at all this summer.
Now with everything going on, driving to your summer vacation destination is a bit easier and less stressful for most people than flying. Having done both recently I will say the drive was better. Sure flying was faster but having to deal with all the new rules and worries about who might be too close to you and getting stuck somewhere just isn't fun.
Recently we packed up the car and headed north from Florida all the way up to Lake George, NY for my mother in law's 80th birthday. We did make a few pit stops along the way to break things up though. You might not be planning to go 1500 miles for your road trip but either way here are some tips to help you navigate the new rules of the road this summer.
#1 - Be sure to check and recheck the current rules for the states you plan to visit and also just drive through. Google maps can help with this. When we left Florida we checked all of the states we would be going through just to see what the polices were for dining and things like that. When we left Florida New York didn't have any rules about visitors from Florida but as we got closer to NY we started hearing about the possibility of requiring a self quarantine for visitors from Florida. Luckily we got there before that rule went into effect but that is why you need to always check again.
#2 - Plan out your rest stops as best you can in advance. Yes there is an app for that - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.insofttech.reststops&hl=en_US We did a quick search just to know if any along our route might be closed so we could plan ahead. Gas stations might also be a good place to combine your rest stop with a fill up for the car as well but not all gas station bathrooms are created equal. Here is a link to a 2018 article on best gas station bathrooms by state. Personally I have found Wawa, Racetrac, and Cumberland Farms to have nice bathrooms.
#3 - Don't count on being able to dine inside everywhere. Not all states have opened indoor dining yet so you might have to plan to eat either at an outside table or in the car while eating on the road. This also goes back to your rest stop planning as well since you might not even be able to enter some dining locations so that also means no bathroom break at those. We ran into this in North Carolina on our way through and we really hadn't thought of that in advance.
#4 - Book your place to stay in advance. In the past you might have been able to just pull off and find a hotel when you got tried but that isn't a good idea this year. Not all hotels have reopened and others might be limiting the rooms they have available to allow for new cleaning procedures and social distancing. If you are used to camping in the summer be sure to check on that as well as some parks are only open to guests traveling in an RV that has its own bathroom because they are not opening facilities. Some campgrounds might not be opening at all this summer.
#5 - Pack more than what you think you might need. If you want to try and avoid your chances of coming into contact with people while on the road, plan to pack more than you might usually, this way you lessen your chances of needing to stop for something. For example if you don't want to worry about needing to stop for something to eat along the way, plan ahead and pack some sandwiches and drinks to have in the car. The nice part about traveling by car is there are no restrictions on what you can't travel with, well except for maybe the size of your trunk.
#6 - Don't forget to pack the new items that were not on your list previous years like face masks and hand sanitizer. It is a good idea to pack extra masks in case you lose one or get caught out in the rain.
#7 - As always it is best to have your car checked out by a mechanic before hitting the road to be sure your car's health is good as well.
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