Wednesday, January 23, 2013

travel tips

I've had a few people email me & ask for travel tips & I'm honored to think that people want my tips.  I do have some from all these trips & figured I would write a blog to share with everyone.  Some are just general tips & others are for handicapped travelers.

When planning a trip, especially a road trip I find it important to make a "lose schedule"to stick to while allowing time for things to "pop up."  You may find something else you enjoy along the way that you want to stop at & it's important to allow time for those things as that's the beauty of any vacation is finding new things to explore & learn from.  Also, allow time for unexpected problems that could come up: car problems, sickness, etc.  The lose schedule will help you keep on track with the things you want to see and time and trust me---without my schedule on our past trips I would have ended up staying at several places longer and missed out on other things on my list I wanted to see.

Again if you are taking a road trip always set aside money for gas that you will not touch or spend on anything else.  There are a few websites that will help you calculate how much money you need but this here is my favorite I found & was the most accurate.  Trust me just because you see that awesome souvenir you have to have if it is spending your gas money---don't do it.  Last thing you want is to be stranded somewhere if you have an emergency but spent all your spending money.

If you are like me & like to speed there are 2 options to help decrease your risk in getting that buzz kill speeding ticket.  1 is bring a radar detector or know the hot spots for cops & always be on the alert.  There are a few places you can count on seeing a cop: toll booths, state parks, construction, state lines, & most major cities.  Now you will have the other cops along the way in other places but if you follow traffic flow you will typically see everyone slow down when people spot a cop.  Of course there is always the option to not speed.  :)  

Eating:  I've learned that a lot of the fun in a road trip is getting to eat the new exciting food in different cities, however for those who are on a budget & maybe only want to eat 1 meal out it is possible to eat in your car or hotel.  If you are staying in a hotel most have continental breakfast where you can not only eat breakfast until you are satisfied but also snag some snacks.  If you are driving brink a cooler & you can go to any local grocery store to get whatever snacks you must have.  Granola bars are easy as well as sandwiches.  My favorite way of saving money (& the environment) is instead of spending money on bottle waters was to invest in a Britta water bottle where you can fill up at any fountain or sink and count on the water being fresh.  

Packing: Now everyone who travels have different needs but these are some general tips.  Weather no matter how many times you check it is unpredictable; always be prepared for all temperatures.  Even in the tropics they have cold days.  You also never know the temperature of restaurants, hotels, etc.  It's always better to be over prepared. With Steve & all of his medical stuff our #1 thing I make sure we have is all of his medications, medical equipment, & I also pack any extra in case of emergency medications (antibiotics, anti-nausea, extra prescribed medications just in case, extra vitamins & natural supplements, etc).  If flying I make sure to always have room for these first & am willing to pay the extra check bag fee if I need to, to assure we have all medical needs taken care of.  I can't stress this enough---can't imagine anything worse then to go on a vacation without all medications needed. Along with medications I also bring a first aid kit---for the accident prone, like me, this will be used I include :neosporin, band aids, peroxide, alcohol, & gauze pads. Oh and lots of hand sanitizer. Lots & lots....Aside from my engagement & wedding ring I tend to not bring valuable jewelery with me on trips.  If you leave your valuable stuff home you can assure you won't risk losing it or getting it stolen.  Unless it is something that is needed it is always recommended to leave it home.  I found this site & loved their packing list.  Of course each persons list is unique but if you write it out you will lower your chances of forgetting important things.  

Other miscellaneous tips:
---Always have some cash on you for tolls, parking, & entry fees
---Have a GPS & map, you never know when your GPS will lose satellite signal & at least you will have a map as backup in case.  
---Take lots of pictures & even take duplicates.  You will never regret taking too many photos.  
---If you want to remember something from your trip write it down.  I do a travel journal & I value them to be able to read back on them when I'm not traveling as well as to jog my memory on things I absolutely want to remember. 
---If you want to buy things on your trip; especially a road trip chose one "souvenir item" to get at each place you visit.  This will help keep the cost down as well as assure you have the keep sakes you want for your trip.  You can do a scrap book of post cards, magnets, etc.  This helps keep down the buying of things that you will eventually throw away or throw in a drawer (we are all guilty of this).  
---Make sure you take time to just look around & enjoy what you see.  It's easy when traveling to get caught up in the driving/flying/traveling/stress & to forget to enjoy the moment.  I tend to take at least 5 minutes at each spot to put my phone away, journal away, etc & just enjoy what I'm seeing.  
---This is a big one for those who are traveling for extended periods---take care of yourself.  Get the rest your body needs, eat right, drink plenty of water, take extra vitamins (you are coming across a lot of new germs your body isn't used to), wash your hands, etc.  If you don't take adequate care of yourself you could end up getting sick during your trip & missing out on travel days.  
---Don't be too afraid to talk to people you meet while being smart.  You can meet some of the most incredible people while you are traveling but be smart.  People don't need to know where you are staying or your intimate details of your life.  If you don't feel comfortable go somewhere else where you will, but don't let fear ruin your chance of meeting some great people.  
---I know it sounds stupid, but if you are sleeping in your car lock your doors at night, lock your hotel room, don't leave valuable things in your car when you leave it.  Travel smart so you don't have any regrets.  
---If you are traveling alone advice I once received is to have a check in friend.  A friend you check in with daily to let them know where you are, your plans, etc.  It's always important to protect yourself just in case you come across anything out of the ordinary.  
---If you get lost instead of stressing about it---enjoy it you never know what you will stumble across while being "lost". 
---In general if you find a hotel that has vacancy that night (happens often on a road trip when you get a hotel last minute) you can negotiate your price.  

Handicap traveling.  This is something I've learned a lot about the past year and a half & will always continue to learn.  Travel is still possible even with the most difficult handicap situation, do not let circumstances stop you from living your life.  Traveling with handicap needs may require more planning because unfortunately not everything is handicapped accessible BUT when there is a will there is a way.  We bring both a push wheel chair & the power wheel chair, as some places do better with the push as opposed the power.  When going to the beach no matter which it is if you do some research you will learn of some handicap beaches where access is easier as well as some public beaches also provide beach wheel chairs.  Most state parks have at least some accessibility so do not avoid places that seem too out doorsy because most will have a paved pathway to enjoy.  If you are flying with a handicap person it is great to call the airlines ahead of time to assure that you will have seats near the front of the plane & hey sometimes if the plane isn't booked you could always get a free upgrade :). Same with hotels---always ask for the handicap room when booking your room, not only to assure you save the room but also helps alert the hotel that you will probably need some extra assistance to get checked in.  If your loved one has any special eating requirements don't rule out going out to eat at all, most restaurants with enough preparation are able to accommodate.  Always allow extra time with traveling when traveling with a handicap person.  It's better to allow you the time needed rather than be rushed with any possible delays.  Know that especially with someone in Steve's condition with ALS to always be prepared for the unexpected (sometimes ALS patients or others with disabilities may not feel "up for" doing anything on certain days) & if you plan time for this it helps eliminate some possible disappointment.  Also, don't expect (again unfortunately) for everyone to be 100% knowledgeable about their handicap amenities again research ahead of time.  This helps avoid any unnecessary aggravations.   I mentioned earlier about medications & the importance of remembering them but something additional would be if the medicine needs to be refrigerated.  This is something that you will need to request a fridge in hotel room---which at most they are available upon request & as well as transportation if you need a cooler etc.  

Travel is such a remarkable growing experience & should never be feared.  I hope this helps people to go out & see the world more.  Remember there is a big amazing world ready to be explored. 

Just like everyone has their own taste & style everyone travels their own way.  Go get your feet wet & find out what you like & don't like & once you find what you love---do it often! 

Lots of love! 

Monday, January 7, 2013

2012 in review

7 days late---but I want to write a quick review of 2012.  The word of the year was adventure.  A special thank you to so many people who helped us take many adventures.  It started with several trips to Florida, then to a surprise honey moon from our dear friends Raymond & Erica rallying people to chip in to donate for us to take a trip to Coco Plum Island in Belize, more trips to Florida, music festivals, concerts, a summer trip to PA to visit my family, Athens for some GA games, a trip to Gulf shores for stem cell for Steve, an unreal road trip to California & back, then to close out the year with a trip to PA for Christmas with my family & New York City for New Years Eve again thanks to Raymond & Erica.  Unreal.

So many people to thank for allowing these trips to happen; and not just those who gave financially but those who prayed for us, watched our dogs (Grant, Jen, Danny, in laws, Rachelle, Christina, Justin), took care of our house, helped paint the van (Jen, Danny, & Dave), & all of those who supported us to take these trips, understanding how important they are for us.  I will touch on that in a minute.

So many other thank yous I need to say for 2012:

  • To everyone who sent us some sort of message of love.  We received so much love & support from everyone around us & it is that support that honestly helps us to continue this fight.  Every kind word gives us hope & strength & is appreciated.  
  • For every meal.  So many people this year blessed us with food----between bringing Steve lunches when I was working to the dinners & yummy deserts.  So helpful & so appreciated.
  • For those who spent a lot of energy on putting together amazing fundraisers.  We had several successful fundraisers in 2012---that allowed me to be able to leave work to stay home & take care of Steve.  That is an incredible gift that I am grateful for each day.  
  • For those that participated in buying our bracelets & t-shirts & helped spread the word, this has helped us with all bills, medical expenses, medicine, etc.  
  • To everyone that helped us come up with the money for stem cell---the fact that we were able to do this is a blessing beyond words.  It's hard to say unless you are faced with this situation what you will try & not try---but our attitude has been since day 1 that we will try EVERYTHING we can.  progressions may continue but stem cell at least gave us a few months of a break & to an ALS patient that is like giving an extra 15 years.  
  • To everyone that stopped by to visit us, drink wine with me ;), help me clean, etc.  
  • For every prayer & good thought sent our way.  These help A great deal :) keep them coming! 
I have to say that I learned more in 2012 than probably my whole life (I think I may have said something similar about 2011, but 2012 wins).  I have 2 favorite quotes that sum up my lessons learned.  

ALS teaches a lot of lessons on life but the main one really is to take every good day & enjoy it & be thankful for it & take the bad days with stride & strength & learn to not be discouraged by the bumps in the road.  There will always be bumps but ALS makes those bumps that may occur to some on a yearly basis, happen on a weekly basis.  So, it's so important to learn to take the bad days with stride & not to let it ruin the good days to come & when you do have a good day don't waste it.  Another important thing I learned this year is that everyone is going to have an opinion.  People's opinions however should never determine how I feel about myself.  The only approval I need (other than God's) is myself.  God will put the people you need in your life when you need them.  Those people may not be meant to be in your life forever but may be there to teach a lesson.  If we focus too much on the "drama" then it's easy to miss the lesson. I've learned to appreciate each person in my life no matter how the relationship ended up.  

My main goal for the new year is to focus more on the positive & less on the negative.  I am a very positive person already but I do get distracted & focus energy on the negative too.  I don't want to waste any more time or energy on the negative.  So that is my main goal.

I hope deeply for some new advancements in treatment for ALS comes and also that we can continue to find natural ways to help continue to increase the value of Steve's life.  We've implemented so many vitamins/enzymes/creams/medicines/natural foods/etc into Steve's life & I'm so grateful for each discovery we made in 2012 that proved helpful & hope for more & more in 2013.  

I will be working on some special projects this year.  After we discovered this year how therapeutic traveling is for us---I hope for lots of more fun adventures & trips.  The memories we have of these trips help us on every difficult day.  Each trip we take Steve & I grow closer, learn so much, & have our spirits restored.  That is why we do them so often.  It keeps us going & positive & helps us to remember that life is to be enjoyed & not get stuck in the easy trap of negativity.  

Okay closing note:  Our last trip was incredible & wanted to share a link to our photos from PA, NYC, Virgina Beach, & Charleston.  Loved spending time with my family & soaking up all the love from them since I don't get to see them often, then NYC---doesn't matter how cold it was, I LOVE that city & it was such an incredible experience to be there for New Years eve.  I had so much fun & will NEVER ever forget the experience as long as I live. I want to go back & explore more for sure!  & Of course our stops at the beaches on the way back were awesome & I fell in love with Charleston in the short time we were there & am already saving money for us to plan a longer trip there.  photos from this adventure

Lots of hope & love for the new year & remember to make every day count.