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10 Tips for a Long Weekend Road Trip

 

Most young couples each have roughly 2 weeks’ vacation time per year and while this never seems like enough, there are some ways to maximize your vacation time. One of our favourite ways is taking short road trips which we either take on a long weekend or add a vacation day to one to make it a full four days. Wherever you are in the world, these mini vacations are a great way to maximize the limited vacation days you have available, while still exploring and spending quality time with your significant other. We’ve learned a few things over our travels that help us get the most out of our shorter trips and prevent us from experiencing cabin fever by the end of the drive:

1. Always check your vehicle. Even if you make plans last minute, checking windshield washer fluid, oil and gas levels are essential for a safe and incident free drive. Even with a thorough check, make sure you have a roadside assistance plan, whether it be a CAA/AAA card or the numbers of towing companies in the areas you are travelling through, preparing for car trouble is important. Taking a look at the air in your tires is also a good idea and can sometimes be overlooked in the excitement of impending vacation time. Ensuring the right tire pressure will also help you save gas, which leads us to our second tip.

2. Think of saving money on gas. The lighter you pack your car, the less gas it will need to lug you around, so pack as light as possible.  Other gas saving tips include driving relaxed (accelerating quickly and driving faster both eat at your fuel levels) and using open windows rather than the AC when driving at speeds under 80km/hr (50miles/hr) and rolling up those windows and turning on the AC when going over 80km, if possible (studies have shown that while A/C reduces fuel efficiency, driving over 80km/hr with the windows down increases resistance and fuel efficiency is reduced to a greater extent than having the AC on).  Not only is it good to think of saving on gas but using gas stations that accept points cards are key and it may mean fueling up sooner than you plan if you happen to see the right station.

3. Your vehicle is your living space, start with clean quarters. Make sure your car is clean of unnecessary items and garbage and organize your belongings for efficiency and safety.  Make sure emergency and first aid items, including water and blankets, are present and accessible and keep garbage bags nearby for any waste that accumulates. It may seem silly but keeping organized allows for a more relaxed few days on the road.  You don’t have much time to travel and you don’t want to be wasting it looking for items or cleaning up from stop to stop.

4. Be flexible! As you can tell by our spontaneous road trip to Key West (see 5 Things You Must Do When Travelling to the Keys), we tend not to overthink our travel plans. General plans are good to have. They allow you to stick to your shortened timeline and have a general route of getting to the main places you want to see. But planning too much can cause stress if there are any deviations or obstacles.  Being tied to a rigid schedule does not allow for the amazing unplanned adventures that a road trip often leads us on. In this day and age, cell phones allow us to access a wide range of information, including GPS, but if you are going somewhere where you will not have access to data, or you just want to do some good ol’ fashioned mapping, a CAA/AAA membership gets you free trip ticks showing you maps, restaurants, accommodations and key attractions from your home to your destination, and all the places in between.

5. Relax, road trips are about adventure. On road trips, we always like to just take things as they come. For spontaneous road trips, we have no choice. Either way, expect the unexpected and try to maintain excitement for new experiences. We’ve decided to camp for the night after a long day of driving and all the camp grounds were booked. We’ve even experienced an entire city’s worth of hotels being booked on the same night. Whether it’s your accommodations for the night, an attraction you were looking to see, or a detour you must take, try and maintain a positive outlook and enjoy it for what it is  – and adventure.

Short Road Trips

6. Music! You will be spending a significant amount of time driving and even if you think you’ll be able to chat endlessly with your partner, there will be times when silence will prevail. Whether it’s because you’ve run out of things to talk about, you’re enjoying the scenery, or you are switching off driving duty and it’s someone’s turn to nap, there will be times when some background music would be appreciated. Load up whatever media source you are able to play through your car stereo with music as radio reception is not guaranteed. We decided to get satellite radio to ensure we would have something to listen to no matter where we drive. What we did find was that, just like radio stations, satellite stations can begin to get repetitive when you drive for hours on end and having the option of turning to a talk radio station like a comedy channel was a great break.  This also helps to keep the driver awake and aware if you are taking turns napping.

7. Practice those relationship skills. This is a great time to practice working as a couple. It’s a time where you must work together to plan a general route and decide on stops, random or planned.  Staying cooperative, communicative and patient can be challenging during long periods together in closed quarters but it can definitely be a time that brings you closer together as a couple. And a word to the wise, this would probably not be a great time to bring up each others’ flaws as drivers.

8. Understand your budget and make the most of it. With short road trips it can be easier to budget your trip. If you want to save money, you can bring food and drinks in a cooler and top up the ice whenever needed. If you are looking to spend more on restaurants and the dining experience, you may want to reduce accommodation costs by finding camp sites or sleeping in the car rather than a hotel. Another aspect of your budget to take into account is whether you are looking to spend money on paid-for attractions or enjoy nature and the scenery for free. Whatever your budget is, there are ways to ensure you are getting exactly what you want out of the trip without breaking it.

9. Be realistic. Since you are only going for a short period of time, plan for your final destination to be at the midway point of the trip with plenty of time to return.  If you are the type of people who like to detour and/or make random stops when you see something interesting, set a mid-way date and time when you know you need to turn around, regardless of whether you have made your final destination or not.  It’s okay if you don’t get to see everything you had planned. You can use those missed places as inspiration for your next trip.

10. Be creative. Even though it is a short trip, there are always ways to get more out of it. Go somewhere close but with many different possible stops along the way. Or,  you can plan different routes to and from your destination so you can stop and see different things. You can also make rules for the trip to create more fun, such as always stopping whenever either of you see something in which you are interested. Just because you are taking a short road trip, doesn’t mean you can’t fill it with just as much excitement and adventure as a long one.

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Date Night Ideas – Cooking Together Builds A Stronger Relationship

 

Many times we find ourselves craving some quality time together. (Yes, even though we spend 24/7 together while travelling and working). Sure, we love to explore, try new restaurants or check out different festivals but we also enjoy having nights to ourselves (see our post on summertime date ideas).

When we aren’t out together it’s common for us to fall into the comfort of our house, having quality alone time while sitting on the couch watching TV and doing work on our respective computers. And while we are still spending time together and still engaging in conversation, our focus is not completely on one another.

It’s because of this that we like to occasionally switch things up and  sometimes and find an intimate date-night activity we can do without having to get social. The following is just one of the date nights we enjoy together.

The Couple Who Cooks Together…

While couples’ cooking classes are a fun and unique way of spending time together, they don’t exactly offer much intimacy, with fellow classmates nearby and conversation often being led by the instructor. They also often have a higher price tag.  If you are looking to spend some quality, romantic time with your significant other and are also hoping to stick to budget, cooking together at home can be one of the most fun and intimate of activities.

Not only are you taking what is often times considered a chore and making it something fun and engaging, but cooking together builds teamwork and a sense of accomplishment as a couple.   It is often found that couples that share common goals and work together to achieve them, are more successful long-term and building the teamwork skills as a couple necessary for larger goal accomplishment, often takes time and practice.

It doesn’t matter what you are cooking or how long it takes. Whether it is making your favourite recipe or trying something new, it’s about putting in the effort to spend time together.

One quick meal that we often make together when we only have a short amount of time is pita pizzas:

OMC’s Pita Pizza Recipe

Simply:

1. Buy whole wheat or white pita bread from the store (these come in various sizes and we usually buy the smaller ones for personal size pizzas). We know, we know, making your own dough is much better but this is a great way to spend more time focused on each other, work together and pop out a quick and simple meal that’ll get you to the table, enjoying a romantic dinner and conversation.

2, Add pizza sauce (store bought or homemade – either way we often sprinkle some basil for added flavour), and

3. Whatever kind of grated cheese and toppings you each desire (go crazy with the veggies and meats! We often cook up some chicken with our favourite seasoning and throw on a bunch of different vegetables).

The preparation of cheese and veggies will have the two of you working together and it’s fun to create your own pizza.

4. Cook the pizzas in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes (or until the crust is golden) and enjoy!

Pita Pizza recipe for couples

Enhance the Romance

A few details we like to include during our date nights are:

1. No cell phones – make this time about just the two of you

2. Add some music to the mix – create the atmosphere you are looking for by playing some music that both of you enjoy

3. Make it romantic – even if it sounds cheesy, creating the right ambiance is key. In addition to music, set the table with nice dishes and cutlery and even a candle, or depending on the weather, take the dinner to the patio and enjoy some fresh air.

Whatever meal you make, and however you decide to spend the evening enjoying it, there is one crucial team-building exercise you mustn’t forget to do together – clean the dishes!

great date night ideas

 

Do you and your significant other enjoy cooking together? Comment below and let us know your favourite recipes to make while dining in.

Update: Since starting full-time travel, it isn’t always easy to find time to cook together. We try to make time for these kind of date-nights when we are staying through Airbnb or housesitting. Otherwise, we find ways to make time for each other while on the road – such as our private island picnic.

 

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5 Things You Must Do When Travelling to the Keys

 

On a recent trip to Florida we managed to get a car rental with unlimited mileage.  We were staying on the West Coast but couldn’t help but find a way to use those unlimited miles to our advantage.  We decided to venture to the Keys, even though it was off-season, to see what we could find. We ended up finding a lot.

Our initial plan was to make it to Key Largo, the first of the keys, and decide if we wanted to go any farther. We found ourselves travelling the entire length of the keys and staying three days and two nights in Key West.

It took us some time to narrow it down but here is what we chose as our top 5 “must-dos” of the Keys, counting down to our number 1, must-do!

5. Make the Drive Down the Keys

Islamorada

While flights can be taken directly to Key West or to Marathon (located in the middle of the keys), it is well worth it to drive the entire length of the chain of keys.  Flying into Miami International or West Palm Beach gets you on the right coast and offers a not-too-distant route.

Driving down the Keys is truly an amazing experience and each key has its own charms. Whether it’s to scuba dive in Key Largo or to try your luck at spotting the endangered Key deer of Marathon, you’ll find something different to see each stop you make.

Our most memorable stop was in Islamorada where we ate outside by the water at Islamorada Fish Company. We felt adventurous and ordered gator as our appetizer. They came out like chicken nuggets and were absolutely delicious! It was definitely worth it.

If you’re driving down from Miami, you may want to stop into 11th Street Diner before heading down to the keys. The food was some of the best we’ve had and it was one of the highlights of our trip to Florida!

4. Experience Key West Nightlife

Key West at Night

It may seem obvious that experiencing Key West at night is essential, but with so much to do during the day it’s easy to wind up worn out by nighttime. To us, Key West was like a tropical New Orleans with busy streets and numerous bars in a very small area.  As a couple, the off season was pretty perfect. No lines to get into any of the bars, no spring break crowds, and an entire strip of activity to explore.  We had a great time walking Duval street, stopping into differently themed bars, small market-like areas and shops as we went. We stayed in a hotel right on Duval, so we were smack dab in the middle of the action and able to immerse ourselves in the island’s nightlife. I can’t begin to imagine what the island must be like at night during high season… we’ll have to find out another time!

A tip: After eating some pretty amazing seafood for two days straight, I decided a little change was in order when I saw a small pizzeria. If you are looking for some absolutely phenomenal pizza, try Angelina’s Pizzeria on Duval.  Their tagline is “The Best Piece in Town”, and they aren’t lying!

3. Have Breakfast with the Roosters

Breakfast with the Roosters

One thing we discovered is that he dining experience in the Keys is impeccable. It seemed as though no matter where or what we ate, the food was delicious.

One of our most memorable meals was at Blue Heaven. Even though it was off-season we still had to wait 30 minutes to be seated, but this popular Key West restaurant was well worth the wait. It was a bit unnerving when we first sat down and found out that, until 2pm, they let their roosters loose to wander the dining area, but they don’t bother you and it was quite a different experience! The food was amazing as well. Between the two of us we had a fried egg breakfast and the special, lobster eggs Benedict. The only words of caution is to ask for the prices of their specials. We didn’t and got quite the shock when the bill came.

2. Go Snorkeling at the Reef

rum and reggae cruise Key West

The Great Florida Reef lies off the coast of Key West and while it doesn’t allow for great sandy beaches, it provides an amazing snorkeling experience. There are many companies that organize snorkeling excursions at pretty reasonable prices.

We ended up taking a “Rum and Reggae” boat ride to the reef. This cruise included snorkeling equipment (if needed) and on the hour ride back, all the rum punch or pina coladas you could enjoy while listening to reggae music. Even though it was a choppy day, the ride was beautiful and we were still able to see plenty of fish. If you have more time to plan your stay, coordinate your snorkeling excursion with the weather to avoid rainy days and I’m sure the underwater view is even more spectacular.

1. Watch the Sunset

Key West Sunset

It always seemed ridiculous hearing about someone crying over a beautiful sunset. Or it was until this trip. The sun began to set over half the way to Key West and we thought we’d pull over and maybe take a few picturesque photos. There are no words to accurately describe the beauty of that sunset or the feeling of complete serenity that falls over you.

We watched the sun set the second night and while not quite the moving experience of the first, it was still a breathtaking sight.

If you can only do one thing while you are in Key West, watching the sunset over the water should be it.

 

Been to the Keys? Comment below and let us know what’s on your “must-do” list!