Tag Archives: Road trip

A One Week Road Trip through Portugal

Portugal is relatively small in a world of huge countries like Australia, China, Russia and the United States. However, what it lacks in square miles it makes up for with cuisine, coastline, historic architectural details and scenic roadways.

We traversed those scenic byways and highways for in a week in December and explored hidden coastal towns with a relaxed atmosphere as well as international metropolises that buzzed with Christmas energy. Here is an overview of our week in Portugal.

Day 1 Like most flights from the US to Europe, we flew over night and landed in Lisbon first thing in the morning. We took care of the usual post flight business of getting our rental car, checking in to the hotel and then started exploring Lisbon’s squares, parks and cobblestone streets and ate dinner at the Time Out Market. However, the magic really began when the sun set and the Christmas lights came on!

Day 2 Our road trip began by driving south to Portimao. The highway to these southern coastal towns was wide and paved. The towns themselves were sleepy little towns that experience their crowds during the summers. After checking in to our 5-star, waterfront room (yes!) that was the price of a 2 or 3 star hotel because we were staying during the off season, we hiked through Praia da Marinha and then ate our weight in seafood and fresh bread at a quite corner table overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Day 3 Back on the road and this time we headed north, way north. We ended up in Porto for the night, but not before walking through Aveiro and snapping photos of more Christmas lights and cute little homes and businesses on the canal lined streets. Dinner at Traça, the first taste of how much we would love Porto’s food scene and vibes.

Day 4 A morning walking the hills of Porto was rewarded with an indescribably delicious breakfast. Seriously, I won’t even try. But, when you are in town you just have to eat at Dama Pe de Cabra for strong coffee, perfectly fluffy eggs, fresh baked goods and friendly service that rivals your grandma’s house! We walked the clean streets of Porto and even got a birds eye view of the tile rooftops from the top of Clerigos Tower before driving to the Douro River Valley wine region. The drive was along curvy mountain roads, but the roads were well-paved and very modern. We arrived in the town of Barrios expecting tasting rooms and wine! We were met with one open restaurant, fog so thick it was scary to drive and a B&B that had exactly one guest room filled, ours! Looking back now it was comical, but we had two nights here and we just were not having it!

Day 5 Instead of wine tastings and vineyard tours, we adjusted our plans and headed back to Porto in the morning. We like sleepy little towns, but Barrios was beyond sleepy. Besides, we loved Porto so much the first night, we anticipated more great adventures there. We learned a great lesson on this trip and that is, not all wine regions have tasting rooms. Douro River Valley, at least in the winter, is one of those regions. Instead, we sipped port and ate chocolate overlooking the Douro River in Porto, where we began!

Day 6 We drove south, back to Lisbon for our last night in the country. On our way we stopped along the coast again, but this time in Aveiro. Aveiro boats of beaches and the cutest candy striped houses and business known to man. Literally, the cutest. You can’t persuade me otherwise! When we finally arrived in Lisbon we had our heart set on eating at Sala de Corte – the restaurant that we couldn’t get in to when we first arrived a week prior. We are so happy we were a) persistent and went back and b) lined up to get a table about 15 minutes before the restaurant opened. Yes, there was line! It’s that good!

Day 7 After driving and eating until our heart’s content, we boarded a plane bound for Miami. As always, I am happy to come home, but Portugal certainly made an impact on us. Going during their slow season, winter, was a success and highly recommended.

A Beginner’s Guide to Planning a Road Trip

Hitting the road to explore a new, or familiar, area is our favorite way to travel. We might fly to a region, but then we are back in a car to explore. We’ve investigated Iceland, navigated Namibia, searched Switzerland and plowed down the Pacific Coast Highway in California. We loved renting a car, or using our own, to see, do, taste and experience the world around us.

How to plan a road trip

If you are leery about driving around while on vacation, or driving as a vacation, here are tips for planning a road trip. This is your guide, as a beginner or seasoned traveler, to making it an easy planning process and a wonderful vacation.

This is first, because it is the most important to any road trip: Pick your car wisely. This car will be your home away from home, your constant and your home base for the duration of your road trip. Here are some guidelines:

  • Pick a car that has room for you and your luggage.
  • Pick a car that you are comfortable driving. Can’t drive a manual? Do not think saving a few bucks will make ii worth it, pay for the automatic.
  • Pick a car with decent gas mileage.
  • Make sure to go with a reputable rental car company.
  • Splurge when and if you can. For example, you HAVE to rent a convertible when driving the PCH, it’s a non-negotiable.

Tahoe Rental Car

Budget your MONEY for a few more details than you typically would when staying in a small area. Road trips tend to be a little more spontaneous. Gas stops turn in to snack stops. Random signs that point to a waterfall require 20 mile detours and muddy back roads might warrant a car wash.

  • Gas
  • On the road snacks
  • Car washes
  • Spontaneous stops at random road side attractions

Budget your TIME with more flexibility. As mentioned above, road trips are about spontaneity.

  • Spontaneous stops are a given. You will stop more than you expect. You will drive less than you expect. Plan accordingly.
  • Hotels can be a factor too. If you book your hotels ahead of time, make sure that they are not entirely too far apart. The last thing you want is to miss a great coffee shop, hike or town square because you have to make it to your bed and breakfast that is 100 miles away before they close.

PCH Road Trip in a Convertible

Navigating the trip can be fun, but also stressful. Having a rough idea of your route will help in picking hotels, stopping points and points of interest.

  • Map apps are great for road trips.
  • Good ol’ paper maps still work and can be fun to use for navigating.
  • Use road signs more than maps. There were more times than I can count when we’ve gotten out of sticky situations just by following the highway signs instead of the map.
  • If you are a party of two, the “co-captain” should use clear language. I can’t tell you how many arguments I have had with Mr. Wife with Baggage because I say things like “turn here.” I am learning to say “you will turn right in 1 mile.” Then, “turn right at this stop sign.” “Now we are looking for Saltwater Lagoon Road.” Seriously! I am like Google Maps navigating us through foreign roads … I was not always this thorough, but 27 fights later, I am learning! 🙂
{Note: Mike and I turn off cell service when traveling abroad and rely on paper maps to navigate. It is sometimes scary, but hugely beneficial to our overall communication and connection throughout the vacation. You should try it too; but that is just my two cents!}

Plan for physical activity throughout your day. Sitting in a car all day can cause lower back pain, stiffness and lethargy. Plan to move around at a few points each day.

  • Whether it is a stroll down to the beach, around a park, down city sidewalks or even at a rest stop, make sure you move around a little bit each day.
  • Stretch, walk, even get in some push ups. Keep your blood pumping and muscles relaxed.

Stay comfortable. Road trips do require sitting, a lot of sitting. 

  • Wear comfy clothes; nothing too tight or restrictive.
  • Wear shoes that you can slip on and off for quick exits at the random places you pull off to see.
  • Consider packing an ice pack if you know you will experience pain.
  • Consider packing nausea remedies if you get motion sickness.

Beautiful Deserts in Namibia

Stay fueled – you and your car.

  • Consider packing a cooler in your car with water and healthy snacks.
  • If your route takes you through desolate areas, buy a gasoline can that  you can fill with gain case the worst happens and you run out of gas during your road trip.
  • Use apps to locate the closest gas stations in your areas.
  • Fill up before leaving a populated area, even if you are not close to being empty.

Stay entertained.

  • Create playlists for when the radio signals fade
  • Download audio books.
  • Write a list of 10 questions or conversation starters to use throughout the road trip.
  • Play games such as the license plate game, I spy or others to pass the time.
  • Look out the window, not at your phone. (This one is hard for me! But what is the point if you aren’t looking at what you’re passing?)

Stay safe by asking yourself these questions:

  • What side of the road do people drive on?
  • Can I drive on the opposite side of the road?
  • Does the car have a spare tire, and tire changing tools?
  • Do I need to have an international drivers license to rent a car here?
  • Is this a safe place to drive?
  • Can I drive in city traffic? snow? mountainous areas?
  • Can I parallel park?
  • Do I know this country’s driving laws? Can I read their road signs?

Budgeting Help for People Planning a Wedding and Honeymoon – Part 2

The date is set, the flowers picked and the dress bought. Have you started planning the honeymoon? If not, start now! Start with this post. I gave suggestions on how to save money on your wedding in Part 1 of this series, but this post is all about how to save money on your actual honeymoon. Part two is meant to offer planning ideas on how to plan a honeymoon on a budget.

A honeymoon does not have to be an over the top, lavish, once in a lifetime trip; you just need to go. The purpose of a honeymoon is to be alone with your new spouse, not to drain your savings account. In light of that, I put together a list of ideas. These ideas might be the dream honeymoon you’ve always wanted, for others, they might be a fun idea to try. Either way, your honeymoon with your new spouse will be fun – it is YOUR honeymoon after all!

1. Take a Road Trip – Road trips are a fun and inexpensive honeymoon idea because you do not have purchase airfare to two. Use a map and choose a destination that interests you. There might be a beach to relax at nearby, a big city to explore or an idyllic bed and breakfast you have been dying to stay at. Your drive to and from will be a great time to relive all of the best moments from your wedding the day before and your R&R together will jump start your marriage for sure!

Road Trip Honeymoons

2. Go Camping – OK, while this option is not for everyone (for example – me!), I can totally see how camping is an ideal honeymoon for some. I mean, there is something very romantic about a campfire, listening to nature and being alone with your new spouse. Camping at a state park can start for as little as $10/night. I have never stayed in a hotel that was that inexpensive. Load your vehicle before your wedding night so that you can get up and get outta town the next day. Let the fun begin!

3. House Sitting Who wouldn’t love free accommodations? Yep, that’s right; there are people who will let you stay in their home for free while they’re gone. Here are some sites that will help you get started: Trusted House Sitters and Suitcase Stories. (*Note: We’ve never used any of these companies/services. This is not an endorsement. I am not claiming the legitimacy, efficacy or quality of any of these sites or services.) So, pick a destination, find a house and go!

House Sitting Honeymoon

4. Beg and Borrow – Do you know anyone (even a friend or a friend) who owns a vacation home or second home somewhere great? If so, ask to use the property. The hope here is that you can borrow this property at a drastically discounted price (or maybe even for free) because you know the owner and they (hopefully) trust you. Unlike house sitting, your honeymoon destination is a bit more confined to the location of this particular residence, but still! Finding cheap accommodations means you have more money for dinners out, excursions and tours!

Tim Cahill once said “A journey is measured by friends, rather than miles.” This wisdom applies perfectly to your honeymoon. If you can afford a faraway destination, by all means go! But, the number of miles you fly or drive is certainly NOT important. Stay close to home or go far, but just go! A honeymoon is about exploring, learning and investigating – both your destination and your new best friend – your spouse.

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