Hit the Road: Travel tips for the new year and beyond

Hit the Road: Travel tips for the new year and beyond
Encountering this mother polar bear and her teenaged cub was one of the highlights of a July 2017 trip to the Arctic with Adventure Canada. Photos by Jerry Ondash

Looking back and looking forward.

This is the time of year when we do both — examine where we’ve been both physically and metaphorically, and where we might want to go in the coming year.

The past 12 months have taken me to some wonderful and unusual destinations: Scottsdale and Cornville, Arizona; Catalina Island; Redondo Beach; Anza Borrego Desert State Park; Austin and Houston, Texas; Bear Lake, Salt Lake City and Park City, Utah; Lodi Wine Country; St. Louis and Missouri Wine Country; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; northeast Ohio; and the Arctic — Nunavut, Canada, and Greenland.

Living in North County means that we don’t have to go far to enjoy West Coast jewels such as Avalon Harbor on Catalina Island.

Excluding unforeseen events, this year I hope to visit Chile and Argentina (Patagonia, Buenos Aires, Cape Horn); coastal Oregon; Pennsylvania; Ohio; and Southeast Arizona. A big maybe is a road trip through the South, and I’ve left room on the calendar for some as-yet unplanned trips.

Bottom line, though, is that, in addition to the desire and some cash, traveling anywhere depends upon health, fate, luck, timing, finances and whether the sky will fall. (As I write this, friends are cancelling their three-week trip to China and Southeast Asia due to flu, which this season seems to know no bounds.)

So if you are in the planning mode, here are a few bits of information that might peak your interest:

Stretch your travel dollar

Most of us have a budget and want to know how to stretch our travel dollar. Thrillist.com has compiled a list of “18 Unforgettable Countries You Can Roll Big on Less Than $50 a Day.” The list includes Bosnia and Herzegovina; Spain; Laos; Belize; Wales; and Albania.

One country listed that should probably be avoided for the time being because of political turmoil and violence is Turkey. Such a shame. I visited in 2000, and found the country fascinating and beautiful, and the people welcoming.

Visit https://www.thrillist.com/travel/nation/travel-for-50-a-day-the-best-budget-travel-vacation.

Grand Canyon’s secret season

Visit the Grand Canyon during the spring, summer or fall and you’ll likely contend with waits, crowds, traffic and pricey accommodations.

But come to this Natural Wonder of the World between November and February and enjoy a quieter pace and discounts on rooms at the South Rim’s historic El Tovar hotel and the Grand Canyon Lodges — Kachina, Thunderbird and Maswik. Special packages are available.

Visit grandcanyonlodges.com or call (888) 297-2757.

No snow? No problem.

Ski season? Hard to think about it when the weather remains so dry, dry, dry. But San Diego County’s nearest ski area — Mountain High at Wrightwood (http://www.mthigh.com) — claims to have three times the normal amount of water available for snowmaking this year, so skiing, snowboarding and tubing will be offered throughout its three-mountain resort (East, West and North). Daily early-bird prices available. To learn how snow is made, visit http://www.mthigh.com/site/trails-and-conditions/other/snowmaking.html. For non-skiers or a change of pace, try the North Pole Tubing Park (http://www.mthigh.com/site/mountain/events-and-activities/north-pole-tubing-park.html). Southern California’s ski season typically runs through mid-April. 

Checkin’ the list — twice

To put it politely, the Transportation Security Administration is always keeping us on our toes (and off-balance, some might say) by adjusting the list of items that we are allowed or not to take aboard a plane. A recent study by Stratos Jets, a private jet-chartering company, found that the “number-one tip to breeze through airport security is to dress appropriately. Avoid wearing belts, jewelry, accessories or excessive layers.”

One recent change: tighter regulations regarding carry-on electronics. Officials want to see the devices more clearly as they believe that terrorists have figured out more ingenious ways to disguise explosives. If you are willing to spend $85 to get on the TSA Pre-check list, you can avoid having to remove belts and shoes and take out liquids and laptops. Although it seems as if the TSA Pre-check line is getting longer these days, 93 percent of those with pre-check passes made it through security in five minutes or less this past year, according to the TSA. For the latest, visit https://www.tsa.gov/.

E’Louise Ondash is a freelance writer living in North County. Tell her about your travels at eondash@coastnewsgroup.com

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