Taking the great American road trip

landscape rock mountain desert valley vacation cliff arch park landmark canyon terrain national park world road trip west american geology badlands plateau western wadi westworld butte mountainous landforms

Credit To

Whether you live in America or halfway across the world, just about every self-proclaimed traveller has dreamt about driving across the country as part of a great American road trip. After all, the U.S. is an absolutely huge place, and the fact that you can reach every inch of it by car, without any sort of roadblock, is incredibly appealing. Road trips are the perfect option for those looking for an affordable and adventurous holiday, but only if you plan them really well. Keeping that in mind, here are four things you should do to make your great American road trip truly great.

35102535_10156308396004976_8538634282845863936_o

  1. Plan A Rough Itinerary

Whether you like it or not, most road trips do come with a time limit, so it’s vital that you have a route and rough schedule planned before you hit the road. There are a number of incredible American road trips you could consider, but, if none of those appeals to you, then you could always use a road trip planner to create one of your very own. Just make sure that you’re not driving too much each day, as this is dangerous and could also ruin the experience for you.

IMG_1397

  1. Look After Your Car

When you’re travelling long distances in your car, it’s more important than ever that you take proper care of it. With that in mind, you should make sure that you have your car inspected by a mechanic at least a week before you set off. You should also pack your car with tools, a spare tire, a brake bleeding kit, a tire pump, and more, and learn how to complete basic repairs and maintenance. This way, you will be able to help yourself if and when there’s an issue on the road.

IMG_1537

  1. Choose The Right Companions

Although you could head off on your own, road trips tend to be a lot more fun when you take friends or family with you. That being said, this is only true when you choose the right companions. You’re going to be stuck together in a car for hours at a time, so it’s vital that you bring people that you really get along with. Unless you really love driving, you should also make sure that whoever you bring is willing to share the wheel time with you.

  1. Budget Your Money Wisely

Road trips can be incredibly affordable and budget-friendly, but this is only true when you spend time planning your budget and manage your money wisely. With gas, toll costs, food, souvenirs, attractions, and more, road trips can get incredibly costly very quickly. To avoid this, you need to consider all possible road trip costs and decide how much money you’re going to spend on each one. You should also have an emergency stash of cash for any unexpected expenses.

IMG_1214

Heading off on a great American road trip is a dream for most avid travellers, but this dream can quickly turn nightmarish if you’re not prepared. To ensure you have an amazing time, make sure you remember the advice above.

The Cloisters

IMG_3190

The MET Cloisters

The Cloisters are a treasure of New York City. A medieval castle, with the most beautiful grounds, stunning architecture,  and glorious artifacts in the galleries and chapel. The Cloisters are an extension of the MET – the Metropolitan museum of art. The location is in the charming and peaceful Fort Tyron park, in the Washington Heights neighborhood of upper Manhattan.

IMG_3223

IMG_3226

A mini getaway

A  visit to the Cloisters, almost seems like a mini getaway from the chaos of Manhattan. You don’t even feel like you are in New York City! The peace and quiet makes a visit to this unique museum so calming and relaxing.  You feel as though you have stepped back in time, and the location makes it so much more charming. As the scenery is stunning.

IMG_3181

IMG_3182

IMG_3184

IMG_3185

IMG_3186

What to see

The grounds of the Cloisters are so charming, and a favorite of mine is to visit the gardens. With multiple gardens on offer no trip would be complete without exploring at least one.

Cloister gardens

  • The Cuxa Cloister
  • Saint Guilhem
  • Boonefont
  • Trie

The Cloisters contains an impressive selection of chapels and halls, all with stunning architecture and art work.

Halls and Chapels

  • Gothic chapel
  • Fuentiduena chapel
  • Langon chapel
  • Romanesquet hall

15267587_10154641440939976_100959737058867614_n

Views of the Hudson

A highlight of the Cloisters is the view of the gorgeous Hudson river. After exploring the exhibits and gardens, head to the balcony to take in these sights. These sights will also include the George Washington bridge and views of New Jersey. I have visited the Cloisters multiple times and the prettiest time to visit is during the fall to see the gorgeous fall colors along the Hudson.

Hudson river

IMG_3202

IMG_3203

IMG_3206

Fort Tyron park

Before or after exploring the cloisters, I would recommend walking through the absolutely beautiful Fort Tyron park. Considered to be one of the city’s most beautiful outdoor pieces of art.

18077295_10155106703144976_6236852229216154460_o

15181610_10154641440984976_856806814669134319_n

15253372_10154641440864976_7062336894116156144_n

IMG_3225

IMG_3227

IMG_3228

Getting to the Cloisters

Located in Northern Manhattan, you can take the A subway (Blue express line) uptown to the 190th street subway station. From the station you can either follow the signs to the museum, by walking through the stunning Fort Tyron park. Or take the M4 bus to Margaret Corbin Dr/Cloisters museum.

IMG_3194

IMG_3192

IMG_3191

 

 

Acadia National Park

IMG_7382

Maine

The breathtaking treasure of the north Atlantic coast, Acadia National Park is located in the state of Maine. Maine is the northeastern most U.S state, and is a part of the “New England” region. The state of Maine, is boarded by the state of New Hampshire to the west, the dramatic Atlantic ocean to the southeast and the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec to the northeast and northwest. From its natural beauty, stunning views and friendly and welcoming locals, a trip to Maine is well worth it. And the magical Acadia National Park is the true gem of this charming state.

IMG_7391

IMG_7394

IMG_7395

IMG_7396

Acadia National Park

Acadia National park is one of the oldest U.S National Parks, east of the Mississippi river! It was first established as a National Monument in July 1916, and was then changed to a National Park in 1919. The majority of the 49,052 acres of the park is located on Mount Desert Island, which is the largest Island of the coast of Maine, and is also the 6th largest island in contiguous U.S.

Acadia is the highest rocky headlands along of the Atlantic coastline of the U.S, and has a large abundance of biodiversity. Here you can explore a range of landscapes, from the rocky coastlines, to forests, ponds, marshlands, fields and mountains! A true nature lovers playground.

IMG_7562

IMG_7563

IMG_7577

IMG_7581

IMG_7600

IMG_7617

IMG_7627

Highlights and must sees

Bass Harbor head lighthouse

Visit the charming lighthouse, with views of the rocky coastline, and stay to watch a breathtaking sunset. There are also hiking options from here.

IMG_9697

IMG_9700

IMG_9710

IMG_9714

 

Sand beach

A gorgeous beach that is nestled between granite mountains and rocky shores.

IMG_7409

IMG_7410

IMG_7413

IMG_7419

IMG_7424

IMG_7427

Ocean trail

Walk from sand beach to otter cliff. An easy walk, with the most breathing views of the Atlantic ocean.

IMG_7438

IMG_7448

IMG_7466

IMG_7493

IMG_7495

IMG_7497

IMG_7531

IMG_7544

IMG_7550

IMG_7567

IMG_7568

IMG_7575

IMG_7595

Thunder hole

A natural rock inlet where you can see and hear the waves crash with a thunderous boom and high flying foam.

IMG_7639

IMG_7640

IMG_7641

IMG_7655

Park loop road

27 miles long, this route connects the parks lakes, mountains, forests and rocky shores with many observation points along the way. A great introduction to seeing the beauty of Acadia.

IMG_7352

IMG_7405

IMG_7500

Cadillac mountain

Drive or hike the impressive Cadillac mountain. This gorgeous mountain sits at 1,5350 ft above sea level and provides stunning views of Acadia. The perfect place to watch the sunrise.

Bar harbor

A charming sea side town on Mount desert island, and is known as the gateway to Acadia. With charming boutiques and restaurants this is a popular town to visit when exploring Acadia.

IMG_7051.jpg

 

IMG_7663

IMG_7665

 

Acadia National park is a truly magnificent place. There is so much natural beauty and diversity to explore.  It is one of my favorite U.S national parks and a highlight from our travels in the United States. A true gem of the east coast.

 

Venice

amazing

Venetian lagoon

Dreamy vibes, magical views and spectacular architecture, Venice is a poetic location.

Venice is the capital city of the veneto region in Italy’s north. The city is built on more than 118 islands, in a lagoon located in the Adriatic sea. This enclosed bay lies between the mouths of the Po and Piave rivers.  These islands are separated by canal’s and are linked via bridges. Venice looks like a city out of a fairytale. It is no wonder that the lagoon and part of the city is listed as a world heritage site.

From the romantic canals, the renaissance,  gothic palaces and dreamy vibes Venice is a very unique and breathtaking place to visit.

beautybeauty

An island city

We had just spent a week exploring the charming Rome and found a cheap domestic flight to Venice. This was my second visit to this magical city (I came here once before, as a teenager on a school tour). The second time around was just as charming. We stayed at a hotel in the San Marco neighborhood. The central and the most popular district on the Venice island.

buildings

Highlights and must sees

  • Saint Mark’s Basilica: A beautiful church, with a mixture of eastern and western architecture. It sits on the very popular pizza San Marco.
  • Torre dell’ Orologio – The gorgeous clock tower that was built between 1496 and 1506! Which also sits on the popular piazza San Marco.
  • Doge’s palace: With stunning gothic architecture, this place was once the political and judicial hub of Venice.
  • Grand canal: This 2 mile long canal is considered to be the main ‘street’ of venice.
  • Rialto bridge: Described as the heart of Venice, this beautiful bridge was once the only way to cross the grand canal!
  • Campanile di San Marco: The tallest structure in venice. Note this is the reconstructed version, as the original collapsed in 1902.
  • Bridge of Sighs: An iconic bridge connecting the Prigioni to Doge’s palace.
  • Basilica di Santa Maria: Another beautiful church, with stunning architecture.
  • Murano Island: Take a trip to the Murano island to view an impressive glass-blowing demonstration!
  • Rialto Market: This one is for the foodies! A market rich in culture and food.

 

canal-viewcanal-views

Get lost

My favorite thing to do in any location that I visit is to get lost, by just wandering around and taking in all the sights. I find this the best way to absorb the place! And venice, is one of my favorites cities to get lost in, wandering the beautiful streets and viewing the canals is so beautiful. For a couple of days on our trip, the city was covered in dense fog, this added an extra charm to the city!

canaldusklightslion

Two day trip from Venice

While we were in Venice, we took the opportunity to explore a small village located in a mountain region located 70 km northwest of Venice. You can read about our adventures to Seren del Grappa  here.

night-marketsold-photo

Wanderlust

With it’s charming atmosphere, gothic architecture and dreamy canals Venice is one of the most beautiful cities that I have explored. It is definitely wanderlust material.

peopleshoppingsquaresunsetvenicewaterwater-frontwinterx

Brunei

Brunei Darussalam

Brunei is a tiny country located on the northern shore of the Island of Borneo. This small nation is surrounded by Malaysia’s Sarawak state and the south China sea. Brunei is one of the smallest nations on earth! It is also one of the richest, due to the countries natural gas and petroleum resources.

water

24 hours in Bandar Seri Begawan

We had two months off from University. We made a rough plan to visit Bangkok and then to travel from the North to the South of Vietnam, first arriving in Hanoi. There were four of us going on this backpacking adventure in South East Asia. Next step, we needed flights. Trying to find a good deal with stumbled upon Royal Brunei airways – who were offering a great deal from Melbourne to Bangkok! Perfect. This flight deal came with the option of a stop over in Brunei….I had never heard of this country until this moment. We quickly looked it up and saw that we could also visit other parts of the magical island of Borneo, so we decided to book with this airline, and add Borneo to our travel plans.

We departed Melbourne and flew about six hours to arrive in Brunei. Flying with Royal Brunei airlines was a great experience overall. When we fist arrived, we took a connecting flight to Kota Kinabalu located in the Malaysian part of Borneo. We spent four days in Kota Kinabalu, before heading to Bandar Seri Begawan. We had 24 hours to explore the capital of Brunei before flying to Bangkok.

pier

We spent the day wandering around the capital of Brunei. We found the Royal Regalia Museum and looked around the museum for a good portion of the morning. A nice relief from the heat. The museum is a tribute to the Sultan, it was an interesting museum to explore.

The afternoon was spent exploring the markets and the pretty water front. The Tamu Kianggeh market was a highlight, so vibrant and filled with energy.  Strolling the promenade was nice,  I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere. Late afternoon, we were all quite hot and bothered…due to carrying our luggage around all day, and from being hangover. So we tried to find accommodation for the night. Being so late in the afternoon and having no internet access. This didn’t work out so well. In the end we decided to have dinner and then visit the impressive Sultan Abdul Samad building. This is a must see and looks so spectacular during the night with the city lights. After this we heading to the airport and spent the night there before flying to Bangkok early the next morning.

water-frontwater-viewparkmarketroyal

Kota Kinabalu

Gateway to Borneo

Kota Kinabalu also referred to as KK is located on the northwest coast of Borneo, in the Malaysian state of Sabah. Kota Kinabalu, which was once formally known as Jesselton is the state capital of Sabah. The location is an ideal base to explore the northern region of Borneo.

Borneo

Borneo is the third largest (non continental) island in the world. Located in South East Asia, and surrounded by the south China sea to the north and northwest. The Island is divided by three separate countries. Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia. Brunei has the smallest portion of the Island. The Malaysian part of the Borneo is split between two different states, Sabah and Sarawak. The Indonesian state of Kalimantan controls the largest portion of Borneo.

Borneo is a nature lovers playground. The majority of the island is covered by dense rainforest, with a great richness of species diversity. This rainforest is one of the oldest rainforests in the world! Estimated to be 140 million years old. Home to a range of unique fauna and flora, and the center of evolution and distribution of many species. It is understandable that a lot of ecological research is conducted here. With this, Borneo is also home to a number of sustainable, conservation and responsible travel projects. The Island of Borneo is a really unique and magical place.

flower-and-leaf

Four days in Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu was our first introduction to this amazingly unique island. Spending four days in this city was truly wonderful, the only negative was that it was not enough time! We stayed at a backpackers hostel, close to the center of the city. As we arrived in the afternoon, our first day was spent walking around and taking in the atmosphere of the city. Our first evening was spent at the night market, then on to an all you can eat buffet – and buckets of beers, the price was ridiculously cheap. The next morning, we woke up and started to explore more of the city. In addition to visiting the  sights and attractions of KK, the majority of our stay was spent island hopping, which included snorkeling and hiking adventures.

City highlights and attractions

KK water font and times square

With crystal clear waters and sunny skies the waterfront is gorgeous to walk along. Times square represents the commercial downtown area of Kota Kinabalu.

Sabah state mosque

Located close to the city center, the mosque is worth a viewing. The architectural design is very impressive.

Signal hill observatory tower

Provides gorgeous views of the city at the highest point.

Atkinson clock tower

This is the oldest standing structure in Kota Kinabalu. The towers sits on a hill overlooking the city.

Central market

A vibrant and busy market located on the waterfront. A great place to explore and take in the atmosphere of the city.

street-viewroadmarketsdock

Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

The Tunku Abdul Rahman park is a marine park with a cluster of five islands (Gaya, Manukan, Sapi, Sulug and Mamutik) located off the coast of Kota Kinabalu. These islands are easily accessible. The distance ranges from three to eight kilometers off the coast, and you can take a 15-20 minute speedboat ride from the Jesselton point ferry terminal.  Plus, all of the islands are a short boat ride from each other. Island hopping was the highlight of our time in Kota Kinabalu.  We were able to visit many stunning beaches, go snorkeling, hike through jungle trails and see some pretty impressive animal and plant species.

Kota Kinabalu, with its tropical islands and stunning landscape is a nature lovers playground, and is rapidly becoming a more popular tourist destination, due to the city being a cultural hub with natural beauty. Kota Kinabalu was the perfect introduction to the island of Borneo. I am so eager to return and explore even more of the Island. I would love to experience a wilderness trip, absorbing the true remoteness and adventure that Borneo can offer.

beachboatcoloursflowerisolationisolation-2lizardout-at-seatouristtreestropical-island

SaPa

mountains

SaPa

With the extreme beauty and dramatic landscape, it is easy to see why SaPa is said to be the tourism center of the northwest of Vietnam. Our visit to this gorgeous place, left me in awe. SaPa is an absolute dream to explore.

SaPa is 380km (236miles) northwest of Hanoi, located in the Lao Cai district and close to the border of China. The town of SaPa is described as a quiet mountain town and home to a diverse range of ethnic minority groups. There is a great connection between the people of SaPa and their surrounding land.  The town of SaPa sits at an elevation of 1500 meters. The region is dominated by the Hoang Lien Son range of mountains. Within this range, the highest mountain of Vietnam, Fan Si Pan is located here, at 3143m above sea level! Very impressive. The Hoang Lien Son mountain range, is the eastern extremity of the Himalayas, so amazing.

SaPa is home to a unique place of biological diversity, as the geological location and climate is able to support a great range of fauna and flora. Some of which is only found in the north west of Vietnam! Due to the high biological importance, the Hoang Lien nature reserve was made into a national park, the park includes the majority of the mountain range to the immediate south of SaPa. The beautiful souls of the people in SaPa and the natural beauty of SaPa made this travel experience so special. SaPa is a highlight of my travel adventures.

beauty

Overnight train

As we were based in Hanoi, we took a two night, three day tour of this magical location.  Plus, two nights traveling to and from Hanoi. We were picked up from our guest house in Hanoi and transferred to the Hanoi rail station, where we boarded the overnight train to SaPa. Now, I have to admit this train journey was terrifying! Our cabin was fine, as we were traveling in a group of four, we were placed in a four bed (two bunkbeds) wooden cabin with air conditioning. We had brought some snacks and drinks to enjoy the train journey, however I had to stop drinking due to the constant violent rocking and loud screeching of the train, which made me afraid and the fact that I couldn’t see where we were going made this even worse. This fear was irrational, no one else in the group was scared (there was no need to be) the train was perfectly safe! Anyway, I did not get much sleep and was so happy when we arrived at the Lao Cai train station.

IMG_6012IMG_6015

Trekking the rice terraces

From the Lao Cai train station we were taken by mini bus to SaPa ( a 5o minute drive). Once we arrived at the town we were able to take showers before sitting down to breakfast. After breakfast, we began our trek from SaPa town. The views at the beginning of our trek was already so incredible, but continued to become more breathtaking the further we went into the mountains.

Our local guide, took us south east of SaPa, along the side of the Munong valley to the Y Linh Ho village of the black H’Mong. This section of the trek took us to lunch time, here we enjoyed a lunch with a local family, made by them. After lunch, we continued on our trekking adventure through the terraced rice fields. The sights during our trek were spectacular. Late afternoon we arrived at the Ta Van village of the Dzay people.

bullflower-gifthike

Homestay

For night two, we were warmly welcomed by a family of the Dzay people in the Ta Van village for an overnight stay at their place. For the night we stayed at their traditional wooden house and we all shared stories about our lives, learning from each other.  We learnt from them about the daily life in this pretty village, and their family traditions. We shared a great meal with the family, there was a lot of talking and laughter. After dinner, their children were put to bed and  we all stayed up  playing board games and drinking rice liquor, the laughter continued well into the night. This was a really enjoyable experience! This was my first homestay and I would do one again.

Waking up the next day  to mountains views was so dreamy. The Ta Van village is absolutely stunning.

window-view

Waterfalls and bamboo forests

We left the Ta Van village and continued on, trekking down to the south-west of SaPa to visit two more villages. The first part of this journey, was trekking through some gorgeous bamboo forests. After the bamboo forests we reached the Thac Bac- silver waterfall, the view was so majestic. The water falls down from a height of more than 100 meters. Next, we walked over the suspension ratten bridge! We then reached the Giang Ta Chai village where we met some of the red Dzao people.

After the Ta Chai village we crossed the Muong river up the mountain to visit our last village. This was the Supan village of the H’Mong. We connected with more local people before finishing our amazing two day trekking journey! From here, a mini bus took us back to the main village of SaPa.

in-the-clouds

SaPa town

When we arrived in SaPa we were able to check into our hotel, and have the night to explore this charming place. The architecture of the buildings is so stunning and exploring the local stores and markets is a treat.

The next morning, we met up with another local guide who took us for a short walk downhill to visit the beautiful orchid gardens and pine forests. Next, we stopped by the small village of Suoi Ho. We continued our journey, trekking through rice paddy fields looking out to spectacular mountain scenery on our way to Ma Tra.  Another great day of exploring before taking the bus to the Lao Cai train station to take the dreaded overnight train back to Hanoi!

Trekking through SaPa is a must do, if visiting Vietnam.

sapa-city

IMG_6019IMG_6050IMG_6053IMG_6054IMG_6063IMG_6085IMG_6086IMG_6106IMG_6152IMG_6154