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Travel planning tips

December 12, 2012 — Leave a comment

As much as I love to travel, half the fun of a trip is planning it. It’s important not to over-plan my trips, however, because I want to leave room for exploration and discoveries. For instance, when my husband and I traveled to England for our honeymoon, I had much of the trip planned, but not every detail. There were specific places and museums on our must-see list, but we only booked the first two nights of our two week trip, because we wanted to be able to make some impromptu decisions.

suyalita mexico with a beer

An impromptu decision led to spending a day on the beach in Sayulita, Mexico. Photo by H.M. Kerr-Schlaefer, all rights reserved.

For instance, what if we discovered an adorable “free house” in Avebury, but we already had a bed and breakfast down the road booked for the night? We always leave a little room in our itinerary for having a wee bit of adventure.

That being said, on a backpacking trip in the Riviera Maya, Mexico our “adventure” was walking miles and miles on an abandoned stretch of road looking for a hotel in sweltering heat. This little mishap makes for an excellent story today, but at the time I was not a happy camper.

backpacking in mexico

Oh yes, that’s me. Backpacking in Mexico. Photo by Ryan Schlaefer.

When planning a trip it’s a good idea to have an outline of what you want to do and accomplish at your destination, but don’t get so attached to your schedule that there isn’t time for unplanned fun along the way (although, getting lost in Mexico isn’t necessarily the kind of fun I’d recommend).

PLAN AHEAD

My number one tip for planning the perfect trip is to plan ahead. It may sound exciting to do a last minute Vegas vacation, and it probably would be, but if you are planning your once-a-year family vacation, doing everything last minute will result in higher prices and more gray hair. Vacation time is precious and by throwing something together in the final hours you’re bound to be disappointed.

GOOGLE IT

It’s important to google your destination, but don’t google the heck out of it. There are so many travel websites out there it can be overwhelming to the point of a breakdown. My go-to site for years has been TripAdvisor.com. Browsing their reviews is very helpful when it comes to making a decision on a hotel or restaurant. Of course, you can’t believe everything you read on Trip Advisor, however, you can get a pretty accurate feeling about a place by sifting through reviews on this site.

cozumel hotel case viento

One of my best finds EVER on Trip Advisor. Casa Viento in Cozumel, Mexico. (www.casaviento.net) Photo by H.M. Kerr-Schlaefer.

ASK A LOCAL

Find someone like me – someone who writes about travel in the area that you are planning to visit. I field questions about Colorado on Twitter from potential tourists on a regular basis. How do you find someone like me? You might run across them while you are googling your destination, or you might ask a local tourism office if there is a regional travel expert they’d recommend following on Twitter or Facebook.

For instance, if you are headed to Santa Fe, New Mexico, I’d hook you up with the bloggers at Sante Fe Travelers.  This couple knows the town backwards and forwards, plus they are super nice.

Speaking of Twitter, it’s full of travel experts in the form of writers, bloggers and people in the tourism industry like hoteliers and restaurateurs. There’s a wealth of travel information on Twitter, if you know how to access it.

back streets of Puerto Vallarta

Exploring the back streets of Puero Vallarta, Mexico led to our discovery of the world’s most delicious guacamole. Photo by H.M. Kerr-Schlaefer.

CALL AHEAD

While I’m a huge advocate of social media and the Internet in general, sometimes it’s a good idea to get on the phone and talk to a real person.  More than once I’ve gotten bad information from a website that hasn’t been updated since it went live in 1996. Museum websites are notorious for this, as are other tourist attraction sites, especially in smaller communities.

If you book through a third party, like a Trip Advisor affiliate, I recommend calling the hotel directly, just to make sure they have your reservation. This can help avoid real disappointment.

So there you have some of my best travel planning tips. If you want to get lost in Mexico please feel free to disregard everything I’ve written.  If you have any questions or suggestions, leave them in the comment section.

This HeidiTown.com radio segment on KRFC 88.9 FM discusses where to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Colorado and takes a look ahead at May, including Mother’s Day Weekend and one of the state’s most unique, and perhaps most gross, festivals.

Read the transcript of this week’s show below, or listen to the audio here.

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Hi, my name is Heidi and I’m the Mayor of HeidiTown.com, a blog about events, festivals and travel around Colorado.

Last week I had the opportunity to visit History Colorado during media day. I am very impressed with what they have done at this new facility and I have blogged about it, so be sure to go to the Museum section on HeidiTown. History Colorado officially opened to the public this past Saturday so be sure to plan a visit to this new Denver landmark.
mexican flagThis weekend, May 4 through May 6 is also Cinco de Mayo. This holiday is often thought to be Mexican Independence day, but that’s not true. It actually commemorates the Battle of Puebla which took place on May 5, 1862.

This year is the 150th anniversary of the battle. So why is this holiday so widely celebrated in the United States? Well, much like St. Patrick’s Day, it has become a commercial boon for liquor companies and restaurants, however, I don’t want to undermine the holiday’s significance as a celebration of Mexican culture, and there’s no better way to see this in action than at the Denver Cinco De Mayo in Civic Center Park.

This is the 25th Denver Cinco De Mayo and the two day festival is the largest of its kind in the United States. Families can immerse themselves in Mexican culture including dance, music, crafts, and of course, lots of deliciously tempting food. Get all the info at CincoDeMayoDenver.com.

Here in Fort Collins, I mentioned last week that there will be a high end Cinco de Mayo artisan show in the Agave Room above the Rio Grande restaurant. The show runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and art lovers and collectors shouldn’t miss it.

The Northern Colorado Cinco de Mayo Festival 2012 runs Friday through Sunday with events happening in various venues, but mostly at the Northside Aztlan Community Center and Heritage Park. For the schedule go to FortCollinsCincoDeMayo.com.

Towns and neighborhoods around Colorado will be celebrating Cinco de Mayo, so there may be an event near you.

As I mentioned last week, this weekend is also the Estes Park Duck Races, more at EPDuckRace.org and the 74th Annual Music and Blossom Festival in Canon City. Details at CCBlossomFestival.com.

Also, don’t forget that it’s First Friday Art Walk in communities from Fort Collins to Pueblo to Steamboat Springs, so use it as an excuse to leave the kids with a sitter, grab some dinner in your downtown with your honey and enjoy some art and culture.

And now for our planning ahead section, which will grow as the festival season starts revving up. I’m going to start telling you about events well ahead of time so that you can plan your summer travel calendar.

Montrose Food & Wine Festival logo 2012Mother’s Day weekend has several events that Mom will love…

First, on May 10 through 12, it’s the 9th Annual Montrose Wine & Food Festival. The festival includes cooking demonstrations, entertainment and of course, lots of wine. Learn more at MontroseWineFestival.com.

Also Mother’s Day weekend, it’s the Downtown Art & Jazz Festival in Grand Junction, which is breathtakingly beautiful at this time of year. Listen to jazz by local and national artists, watch artistic demonstrations and shop artisan booths. Go to DowntownGJ.org for details.

There are two festivals on the 3rd weekend in May that are worth the gas money.

The Wild Wild West Festival in Pueblo is an event with a nationally televised bull riding competition at the center of it all. If you like cowboys, don’t miss this festival – it’s put together with families in mind. More at WildWildWestFestival.com.

Mike the Headless Chicken Festival logo 2012

Click this logo to go to Mike's Facebook page.

And last up, in the planning ahead section, you’ve probably heard of this festival before because it has received national and international attention. Mike was a famous chicken that was said to have lived without his head for 18 months … okay, it’s sort of gross, and today I think it would be considered animal cruelty, but in the mid forties Mike became a celebrity simply by not dying when his head was chopped off.

I’m not sure how long the fine folks of Fruita, Colorado have been celebrating poor Mike, but I’m told that attending Mike the Headless Chicken Festival is a no-brainer… ANYWAAAY… this year’s event is May 18 and 19th and to learn all about this wacky celebration of a poor headless chicken go to MiketheHeadlessChicken.org.

On that note… if you missed anything on today’s show, I post the transcripts every week at HeidiTown.com.

As always I would encourage you to join the town’s block party at Facebook.com/HeidiTown.comOnFB, and follow me on Twitter @HeidiTown. You can also circle the town on Google Plus.

Thank you for listening. Until next week, I will see you online and quite possibly at a festival near you!

Cinco de Mayo Colorado

April 29, 2011 — 4 Comments

cinco de mayo sombreroFor most residents of the United States, Cinco de Mayo means heading to the nearest Mexican restaurant and indulging in multiple margaritas. However, the 5th of May celebration is much more than just tortilla chips and margs.

Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday commemorating the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. It is not, as many people think, Mexican Independence Day – that’s September 16.

In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is a regional celebration with most festivities happening in the state of Puebla.

Of course, that’s all good and dandy, but here in Colorado we like to dance, drink and party it up on Cinco de Mayo, and here’s where to go for all the festivities and to get a taste of Mexican culture.

Cinco de Mayo Celebration, Denver, CO – Civic Park

This two-day event starts on Saturday, May 7 at 10 a.m. and runs through Sunday. With over 300 vendors, music, dancing and lots of food, this is Colorado’s largest 5th of May celebration.

Cinco de Mayo with Fiesta, Broomfield, CO – Broomfield Auditorium

www.broomfield.org

This is the final program in the Culture-Feast free concert series. Come and celebration traditional Cinco de Mayo with the one of the premier dance companies in Colorado. This production is scheduled for Sunday, May 1 at 2 p.m.

Cinco de Mayo Fiesta, Fort Collins, CO – Civic Center Park

www.fortcollinscincodemayo.com

This family event includes food, crafts and lots of music. Bring a lawn chair and settle in to enjoy the fun. This event is from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 7, 2011.

27th Annual Cinco de Mayo, Greeley, CO – Island Grove Regional Park

The Latino Chamber of Northern Colorado is putting on this fiesta that includes everything from a parade to a jalapeño-eating contest, food vendors, 75 shopping booths , a petting zoo and even rapper E.M.P. Greeley is serious about Cinco de Mayo, so this should be a great event.

Cinco de Mayo, Longmont, CO – Roosevelt Park

www.longmontcincodemayo.org

This free, family-friendly festival will be held Saturday, May 7 and features food, shopping, a car show, a Chihuahua contest and entertainment.

Cinco de Mayo, Loveland, CO – Foote Lagoon

www.ci.loveland.co.us

The City of Loveland is putting together this free event scheduled for May 7, from 12 to 5 p.m. This small festival includes music, performers, food and fun for the kiddos.

Cinco de Mayo at the Mile High Marketplace, Henderson, CO

www.milehighmarketplace.com

On Sunday, May 1, the Mile High Marketplace and Estrella TV will host a Cinco de Mayo party from 12:30 to 5 p.m. Admission $3, with free for children under 12.

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Note from the Mayor: There are many, many more Cinco de Mayo festivities across Colorado. I have no doubt that you can find one near you!

While I do not intend to write regular book reviews on HeidiTown, if the mood strikes, I will share a book with my readers. I am currently reading “Blind Descent” by James M. Tabor, a writer and former on-camera host of the PBS series, “The Great Outdoors.”

Tabor’s previous book, “Forever on the Mountain,” is about the 1967 climb of Alaska’s Mt. McKinley, a trip that resulted in 7 lives lost, making it the most tragic climbing accident in American history.  

Tabor’s new book chronicles the adventures of a different sort of explorer, the men and women who seek to find the deepest caves on earth. While we are accustom to hearing about climbers who attempt to summit the highest peaks in the world, these extreme cavers receive little if any publicity for their exploration, even though their feats are just as hazardous, if not more, than scaling K2 or Everest.

I often read books in this genre, but seldom do I find one as well-written as “Blind Descent.” Tabor rappels the reader into the ever-present darkness of these “super caves,” and at times it is a terrifying experience. These extreme cavers spend days upon days underground in the name of science and discovery, but also adventure.

Not only does Tabor take us on these caving explorations, but he also explores the personal lives of these extreme cavers. He gives the reader an inside look at what drives a person to do this type of dangerous activity, and what they are willing to risk, and lose, in order to fulfill their goals.   

As a state full of explorers and adventurers, I believe “Blind Descent” will appeal to many of HeidiTown’s Colorado readers.

I highly recommend this book. To learn more visit www.jamesmtabor.com.