Where to go next?

We were lucky to get a bump on our last trip which resulted in $2,000 in travel vouchers.  The vouchers have to be used within a year so I’m starting to think about where we want to go next.  We already have a trip to Hawaii planned for February of 2012.  And my husband said he only wants to go on that one vacation next year; he wants to spend more time at home over the summer.  So I’m looking at where to go for 2013.  Yes, I am a planner.

What’s nice about the vouchers is we aren’t fighting for the few frequent flyer seats on a flight.  That means I don’t need to wake up early to be on right when the schedule opens up.  But it does present some new issues.  Now I’m actually looking for best priced flights and how to time “buying” those tickets.  Before I get to answering that question, I need to figure where we’re going to go. 

We love Hawaii, but we’re thinking of going somewhere else.  We’d like to go somewhere where we don’t have to be on planes an entire day to get there.  We’re thinking about the U.S. Virgin Islands.  It’s funny that I lived in Puerto Rico for a year and a half but never made it to them.  I need to do some research on the different Caribbean Islands.  Anyone have a favorite one?

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Chase Freedom and Chase Sapphire Transferring

I wasn’t too keen on the Chase Sapphire card when it first came out.  I know that some people like the flexibility of using their points directly to buy any airline ticket.  In those cases, I just assume get the cash back instead.  I didn’t do much research into if the miles could be transferred to an airline program. 

However, I recently changed my mind and I’m thinking of getting the card for a couple of reasons.  First, you can transfer miles to Continental and British Airways.  Many people say they don’t want British Airways miles because of the fees they charge when traveling to Europe.  I happen to love British Airways miles, not for traveling to Europe, but rather for redeeming them on American Airlines in the US.  And they also allow unlimited stopovers which is a huge bonus.  The second reason I’m thinking of getting the card is you can transfer points between Chase Freedom accounts and Chase Sapphire accounts.  Why is this so good?  Chase Sapphire has more redemption options including the transfer to airlines.  Chase Freedom doesn’t have that.  And I happen to be sitting on quite a bit of points in a Chase Freedom account.  The way I see it that will approximately double their value because each Chase Freedom point is worth about 1 cent and I value airline miles at 2 cents.  So I may be up for getting the 50,000 sign-up bonus with Chase Sapphire after all. 

On another note, many people may be looking at all the economic news and fretting.  As long as your job is secure and you have good credit, this all may be a good thing for the travel hacking game.  I expect to see more big offers from the credit card companies as they try to entice people with good credit to sign up for their cards.

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Wyoming – Kid Friendly Food

 This is the final installment on Wyoming.  Here’s a listing of the others: Paragliding, Grand Tetons, Junior Ranger and Young Scientist programs, Hotel Terra and Teton Village, Yellowstone, Mormon Row, and Boating.

Traveling with young kids can be tough especially when it comes to eating.  My boys are by no means the pickiest eaters in the world, but there are many foods they won’t touch.  That’s why I mentioned in a previous post that we were happy that we were close to a grocery store.  We stocked up on some of their favorite snacks so we’d always have some when we were out.  We also got one of those styrofoam coolers.  So most days we packed our lunch in that and filled it with ice from the hotel vending area. 

We did eat out quite a bit though too.  Our favorite places were Mountain High Pizza Pie, Bubba’s Bar-B-Que and Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream

Mountain High Pizza Pie is located within the town of Jackson.  They don’t have a lot of parking in front of the building, but there’s a free public parking garage about a block or two away.  Their pizza has a crunchy crust.  You order your pizza and drinks at a counter.  They give you cups for the drinks to fill at their soda machine where plates, utensils, and napkins can also be found.  They have seating both inside and at picnic tables outside.  When your pizza is ready, they deliver it to your table.  We liked the pizza so much, we went there twice during the vacation.

Bubba’s Bar-B-Que was another hit with our family.  They obviously serve delicious pulled pork sandwiches.  They also have a salad bar which has more than just garden salad ingredients.  My husband really enjoyed all the sides that they had at the salad bar and said he would have been happy even just getting the salad bar with no entree.  Bubba’s is located just outside of downtown and is well worth the short drive.

I think our kids favorite place to go was Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream.  It was a really interesting place.  They sold ice cream (obviously), but they also sold Nathan’s hot dogs and paint ball equipment.  Most of their ice cream and sherbets are made with organic ingredients.  My husband’s favorite flavor was Buzz Bomb (extreme espresso with chocolate).  The kids and I ate chocolate chip, cookies and cream and chocolate, which were all excellent.  The locals told us we had to try Wild Huckleberry, which my husband said was delicious.  Moo’s is located right in the center of Jackson, next to the town green.  So you can get some ice cream and enjoy it in the park.

Mountain High Pizza Pie

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Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream

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Wyoming – Yellowstone

Yellowstone is an amazing place.  The park is incredibly large, so there’s no way that I could cover everything in one post.  There are entire books written about Yellowstone.  So I’m only going to talk about what we did while in Yellowstone.  Since we had kids with us and it took us about 2 hours to get there everytime we went, we only went twice and we didn’t stay for an extended period of time.  We did however hit the big spots – Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

The kids really enjoyed both spots.  Every night we ask our kids what their favorite part of the day is.  And on the Yellowstone days, it was seeing Old Faithful and the hike to the waterfall in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone (Uncle Tom’s Trail).

We got to Yellowstone about 10 – 15 minutes before the predicted next time Old Faithful was going to erupt.  That made for a nice start of the Yellowstone day.  We also always tried to get on the road early to avoid crowds (we left before 6 AM on the Yellowstone days so we got to the sites around 8 AM).  The Old Faithful day, the kids worked on the Young Scientist program which I discussed in a previous post.  We also went a little north of Old Faithful as the crowds started to pour in.  And we went wading in a stream off the side of the road where there was a picnic area.  We had wanted to go swimming in Firehole River which is a thermal hot spot, but it was closed off.

Our second day, we went up to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  The views on the trip up from the South entrance are beautiful.  You pass by lakes and Lamar Valley (one of my favorite landscapes in Yellowstone – pictures don’t do it justice).  We hiked down Uncle Tom’s Trail (328 steps down into the Canyon).  I was so impressed that my boys did it and loved it.  At the bottom of the trail, you get a great view of Lower Falls.  If you don’t want to do the hike, but you want to see the Falls, head down to Artist View.  A viewing point is only about 200 feet (or less) from the parking area and it’s pretty flat to get there (i.e. you don’t have to hike down the canyon).  We also had a picnic near a field north of the Canyon Visitor Center.  The boys finished up their Yellowstone Junior Ranger program and got sworn in at the Visitor Center.

One suggestion if you have to take kids on long car rides to locations.  Get books on tape for them.  I can download books on tape from our local library onto an MP3 player.  I downloaded several books I knew the kids would like (Cam Jansen, Geronimo Stilton, and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM).  They absolutely loved it and we got a nice quiet ride!  A lot of MP3 players won’t play WMA Protected files, which is what most library downloads are.  If you want to do this, make sure yours does play them.  I actually got an MP3 player specifically for books on tape.  We have the Sandisk Sansa.

Old Faithful

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Lower Falls and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone (taken from Artist’s View)

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Wyoming – Boating

My husband loves boating.  He grew up in Vermont on Lake Champlain.  And both times we went to Wyoming, he wanted to go out on Jackson Lake.  The first time we were in Wyoming, we rented a canoe.  I remember it fondly.  We were on a tight budget (barely out of college), so we went to a grocery store and got Lunchables for our ride.  We had our lunch on the lake and also went over to an island beach.  It was a serene day.

This time, we rented a runabout from Signal Lake Lodge.  We went out twice.  There were hardly any other boats on Jackson Lake when we went.  Both times we brought lunch and had a little picnic on the lake.  The kids absolutely loved it!  It was $55/hour plus gas and well worth it.  You don’t need to be a licensed boater to rent one.  They will show you everything you need and meet you at the dock when you come back in.

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