Spending Wisely While Traveling

In this time of high inflation when we can all afford less than we could only a couple years ago it’s more important than ever to maximize the value that you get with everything you spend, particularly on travel and related hobbies.

Over the years I’ve come to realize there are some expenditures that are more worthwhile than others. And rather than be selfish and keep all my advice to myself, I’ll share a bit of my acquired wisdom with all of you. Some of my advice doesn’t directly lead to spending less (at least initially) but it does lead to a mix of savings and a generally better experience (and memories).

  1. Worth the Money
    1. Gear and Equipment
    2. Lodging
    3. Renting a Car
    4. Souvenirs
    5. Adventures, Museums, Historic Sites, Etc
  2. Not Worth the Money
    1. Expensive Meals
    2. All-Inclusive Packages
    3. Travel and Rental Car Insurance
    4. Spa Services
    5. Guided Bus Tours
    6. Disney

Worth the Money

Gear and Equipment

I bought an underwater digital camera to upgrade the one I already had. And now I’m onto my third which is a GoPro. These cameras are completely worth it to me.

I always find that when I buy good gear and equipment it pays for itself over the long run and helps me better enjoy my time traveling and experiencing the outdoors. Gear covers everything from hiking boots, to ski equipment, to cameras, and various electronics.

Be choosy about the equipment and electronics you buy and really learn how to use them well. Practice really does make a difference with cameras, etc. Wear in your gear but take good care of it. Don’t worry about name brands and don’t waste your money on fashionable items that are usually more expensive for no logical reason.

Read the reviews on items you are considering and make sure you filter out the 5 star and 1 star reviews to get the most honest opinions. Understand that nothing is perfect and anything can break if overused or abused. Also check on return and warranty policies. A good product should always be able to be replaced or returned if it fails.

I once paid what I thought was a lot of money (over $100) for a pair of hiking boots from Hi-Tec. I ended up wearing the same boots for 10 years on hundreds of miles of trails covering mountains, deserts, snow fields, and more. When they finally broke down I felt like putting them on a shelf.

Always remember too that if you are willing to travel long distances to see the amazing sites of the world, including it’s wildlife and fleeting moments of beauty, you ought to have the camera equipment to capture it all too.

Lodging

An aft-facing cruise ship balcony cabin is worth the extra cost if you can reserve it

This one comes with a lot of caveats so let me explain. When you have the choice between a reasonably priced hotel and another that it much more expensive, but which offers little value over the more reasonable choice, choose the less expensive option.

But there are many considerations beyond just the immediate cost, starting with location. I usually find that hotels located in the heart of a highly desirable area (in the middle of national park or on a beautiful beach) are often more expensive than options further away. I would still recommend paying the extra money more often than not. Let me explain…

Time is also money. And if you are willing to spend the money to travel to a special place, you should place yourself in the most ideal location to enjoy it. Is it really worth saving some money if you have to drive 50 miles each day, to sit in long lines of traffic, to find parking, just to arrive at the place you could have literally spent the night? For me, no it isn’t.

And often just by paying that extra cost you get to enjoy those extra hours, which tend to be the best hours of the day. Nothing is more rewarding than being able to walk right out the door and see a sunrise over the ocean or wildlife meandering nearby. Those early morning and late afternoon hours are when the crowds disperse and you get to really enjoy the place you came to see.

Another thing to keep in mind beyond location is room size and the number of actual beds. A lot of hotels have really small rooms and bathrooms. If you are staying longer than one or two nights and have more than two in your traveling group, a suite with multiple rooms is usually worth it. Some often come with small kitchens too and that can save you a lot in time and dining costs.

Another thing to keep in mind is that actual beds are a lot more comfortable than pullout beds, even for kids. And sometimes the linens aren’t fresh for these beds either (make sure to ask for clean sheets if you use a pullout bed).

Room consideration also goes for cruise ships. Get a balcony cabin if you can so you have a private space to enjoy the breeze. Especially if you are like me and get overwhelmed by crowds.

And yet another consideration, especially coming out of the Covid era and with inflation sky high is that many lower-end hotels are cutting costs by cutting corners. Quite honestly the maids and other staff are having to do more work with fewer people and rooms at cheaper hotels are just not as clean as they used to be. It was once rare to enter a room and find dusty furniture and dirty sheets. Not so much anymore. Higher cost places do tend to pay their staff better, and they are happier and nicer as well.

On the same topic, I’m finding the free breakfasts at most lower-end hotels/motels are getting cheaper and more sparse. I used to book hotels that specifically mentioned a free breakfast but lately it’s rare to even have hot waffles, eggs, and bacon. It tends to just be toaster waffles and yogurt. The hotels that include breakfast for a reasonable fee in a restaurant setting tend to have much better food.

I’m going to talk more about food and drinks later in this post as it pertains to resort hotels.

Renting a Car

If you are traveling by plane you might have to give consideration as to whether to rent a car or not. There is a bit of overhead in renting a car, which makes this a complicated decision.

The value in renting a car is that it gives you freedom of movement beyond a certain area. You can visit more places and go off the beaten path. You can make quick trips to the grocery store or the drug store or the department store. You aren’t reliant on taxis or driver services and can come and go as you please.

If you are just visiting a city and everything you want to see is in walking distance or easily accessed by public transportation, skip the car. But if you plan to see many places spread over a wide area, you can save money by renting rather than by using driver services and taking tours (see the bus tour section below).

Of course the disadvantages are 1) The cost of the rental 2) Paying to park at a hotel (depending on where you stay) and 3) Insurance and the headache of a claim if something happens.

Generally I can find reasonable rental rates and I would advise no one to ever rent a car that costs more than what you drive at home (for insurance purposes).

Also, have a good credit card that covers the SLI portion of your rental and be sure to actually take the time to verify with your credit card the actual coverage.

If you are driving within your home country also check with your auto insurance to determine if you are covered in the rental.

I’ll be talking more about auto insurance below.

Souvenirs

Only a small part of our souvenir coffee cup collection

Now I don’t mean the cheap crap that your kid begs you to buy that he’ll play with for maybe an hour or two and forget he ever owned. I’m talking about the unique souvenirs that you’ll keep for years and that will be mementos of your journey.

I have a shot glass collection that I’ve been adding to for two decades. We have souvenir shirts from all over. Most of my t-shirts and coffee mugs are souvenirs from places we’ve been.

Sometimes souvenirs serve a higher purpose too. They may help fund conservation or historic preservation or provide important income to the locals. So go ahead and spend a little in the gift shops.

For souvenirs I also include photo packages which tend to be a massive ripoff in terms of the cost of the product versus the cost to produce the images, but hear me out. I’m the primary photographer in my family and either I’m not in a photo, or my wife is taking a photo of my sons and I. Rarely are all four of us all in a picture together, especially when we are doing stuff fun together.

So if it costs $30 for a package of photos of us having fun that we otherwise wouldn’t have, it isn’t the end of the world. We have many of these vacation photos hanging on our walls and sitting on our bookshelves.

Adventures, Museums, Historic Sites, Etc

This should be the number one reason you are traveling. So go ahead and spend the money to see and do all the things you really want to do. Prioritize on what matters most to you (what might be on your bucket list) and on your allotted time, not on the cost of the activities.

Depending on where you go, you can’t always assume you’ll come back any time soon. Thinking you’ll be back within a few years might actually turn out being decades later, or even (gasp) never. So don’t go cut out these activities to save money.

Not Worth the Money

Expensive Meals

Ok, when we travel as a family we tend to dine out. A lot. We aren’t home and we get tired after long days and want a delicious meal and usually alcohol too.

The thing is that most of the time I’ll look back and feel that the expensive meals we’ve had just weren’t that good and the cost would have been better spent on activities, nicer lodging, or even souvenirs.

I like to find the less expensive meals that are real values and that don’t take hours out of your day. Sometimes the best option is just fast food.

If you are staying in a place that has a refrigerator you can keep leftovers and even stock up on some groceries. With the decline in the quality of the free breakfasts, you can instead keep some food in the refrigerator and save quite a lot of time getting out the door in the morning.

Of course, there are restaurants that are truly worth it. And if you love brewpubs, like we do, trying out the local brews is part of the fun. Just don’t let the cost of dining destroy your budget.

All-Inclusive Packages

With rare exceptions all-inclusive packages are a rip-off. Unless you are a complete raging alcoholic I cannot fathom why you would spend $250 per day to eat and drink alcohol all day. And what exactly are you going to remember other than passing out and feeling sick the next day if you did drink enough to make it worthwhile?

And while there are places where staying on the resort is the only safe place to be, there are usually activities you can do instead that are more worthwhile than eating and drinking all day.

Maybe I’m just not relaxed enough to see the point of All-Inclusive resort deals. Stay in a nice place and then explore what’s around you. That’s my motto.

Travel and Rental Car Insurance

This is such a complicated question and rarely can anyone find a straight answer to the myriad questions that come with travel and rental car insurance. But I’ve read quite a bit over the years and better understand it myself (and what a scam most of it is).

I’ve spent many hundreds in the past few decades on useless travel and rental car insurance that I didn’t need and that wouldn’t have helped me if I did need it. Most people simply pay the extra money because they don’t want to have to worry, but more often than not this peace of mind is a facade.

Generally credit cards cover auto rentals and in many cases auto insurance policies that you already have cover rental cars. If you pay extra for the policy offered by the rental car company you cannot use the usually better coverage you already had.

If you are traveling internationally, your credit card probably covers the SLI portion (liability insurance for other vehicles and people), but your car insurance won’t cover the cost of the CDW (Collision Damage Waiver for the vehicle you are driving) so in this case you would want to buy just this portion from the rental agency. Be very careful about scams and rent from reputable agencies.

As for travel insurance, it’s really a waste of money (with a few caveats). Never pay all the costs up front for lodging and activities unless you have no choice. It is always easier to get a refund if you haven’t paid anything first. Sometimes this costs a little more but it saves you headaches if you need to change your plans. There are tons of horror stories online of people never getting refunded after paying thousands up front. If your hotel won’t let you pay in person when you arrive, don’t stay there.

If you do have to pay up front, do so only with well-known reputable companies. Don’t just Venmo someone a lot of money.

Book airline tickets that at least give you flight credits to use later if you have to change plans. We’ve had to cancel flights and used credits later.

Sometimes you can pay a little extra to ensure that you are fully refunded and in that case I would advise that you go ahead and pay the extra. But this should be part of the booking and not third-party insurance.

As far as health and accident insurance, if you are traveling in your home country you are probably fine (check with your insurance agent of course) and do not need to pay for a health policy. If you are traveling internationally you may want to get a basic policy that covers emergency visits and anything worse that can happen.

And finally, don’t bring anything super expensive that you can’t afford to ever replace or that won’t serve a specific purpose while traveling. Leave the jewelry home, the laptop computers home (unless you are working), etc. That way you won’t have to worry so much about theft.

Spa Services

This is kind of like the other luxuries of fine dining and drink packages. It tends to be really expensive and unlike all the other things you could spend your money and time on you won’t have any photos to look back on (hopefully).

My wife and I once got a couples massage on a cruise ship that lasted an hour and costed $300 (or close to that). Not really worth the money.

Guided Bus Tours

This one is a bit of a debate. Sometimes tour guides are really, really worth it. The guides can point out animals that you’d never see on your own or take you to places that are otherwise impossible to visit. In those cases, they are worth it.

But so often I see people herded onto and off of buses as part of a tour to places that they could have visited for a lot less money if they just rented a car and went on their own. They could have taken as much time as they wanted and gone at their own (usually faster) pace.

This is one of the big reasons I like to rent a car. You can explore on your own and don’t need to share your experience with a lot of stinky, grouchy people you won’t ever see again.

If, however, you can get a small private tour, it just might be worth it. We have had some great ones over the years that we really enjoyed and learned a lot from.

If a bus tour is the only way to get to a place you really want to see, by all means go on the tour!

Disney

Yes, the Mouse will get some more of our money this coming year in various ways, but I cannot fathom why people throw so much money at this company’s amusement parks, hotels, and merchandise.

Our last visit to Disney World in 2021 was so bad we complained and we got free voucher tickets for any park within a five year span. Since we will be in Orlando in March 2023 we’ll use them. If we didn’t have them would I spend the $800 to get in for one day for four people? Literally that is the cost for one day.

We went to Disney World in 2015 and stayed at the Orleans resort hotel with a dining package. It was actually reasonably priced at that time and we had a good time. I priced out what we would have had to spend to do the same trip in 2022 and it was literally double the cost.

So yes, I could handle $4000 for a family with two young children with 6 days in the parks and a dining package. But $8000? No. Seriously NO! I could go to Europe or beyond for less than that.

So yes, the Disney Cruise line charges $1000-2000 more for Disney characters to walk around the ship. The Disney resorts like Aulani in Hawaii are much the same. Why? I know there are literally 30-50 year old adults who are obsessed enough with Disney to go even without kids. It’s really weird to me.

Go to Disney World or Disneyland and enjoy it with your little ones and maybe go back if the price is right. But don’t do it more often than that. Take your hard earned cash elsewhere and see more and do more around this great big world.

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Thanksgiving at Crested Butte

We had an overall good time spending Thanksgiving weekend at Crested Butte, CO. This early in the season not all the runs were open but the man-made snow was better than expected (winter is starting late this year). Also a lot of the resort and the town as a whole wasn’t quite up and running as it would be in the middle of ski season.

We saw a surprising amount of wildlife too. Lots of bighorns, a red fox, and some stellar jays in the photos below.

Overall I don’t think we’d go back at Thanksgiving just because it’s not prime skiing time, but the slopes weren’t busy and it was easy to get the kids practice time. Daniel is just starting to learn the snowboard while Evan has a few lessons under his belt on the skis. We’ll be skiing again in the next couple months.

Grand Canyon

I decided to do something a bit different and decided that a lightning storm sky would bring an added dimension to the painting. I had to use multiple photos to piece together the painting from Yaki Point. There are trails visible in the lower left corner.

We’ve been to Grand Canyon several times over the years and sometime I’m going to hike all the way to the river and also to Havasu Falls. Both are on the bucket list.

Survival Stories

I have a number of things on my mind today that I was considering as topics for a blog post, but decided to talk a bit about survival stories. In particular I’ll discuss three that are of interest to me, two factual and one fictional.

I’ve always enjoyed reading survival stories and watching movies based on those who have survived in difficult circumstances. Often when I’ve been in places of extreme climate and terrestrial conditions I hearken back to these stories and think about how the individuals involved survived despite the odds stacked against them. Every time the answer is really simple: smarts and determination.

To survive is not a test of courage, nor a test of strength, or stamina, or even luck, though all of these can make surviving in desperate conditions easier. It is a test of one’s ability to make an accurate assessment of one’s current state and the conditions one has been placed in, and deciding upon the best avenue to extricating one’s self from the calamitous situation.

Most of us assume we will never be put in a survival situation, but there is simply no guarantee that this will be true. One could live their entire life in the comfort of suburbia and work daily in the safety of an office building, but find themselves trapped in a blizzard on a remote stretch of road and faced with a life and death decision, or in any number of other frightening situations. Reading these stories provides us with an understanding of what went right, what went wrong, and what we can learn from the success and mistakes of others.

The first story I’ll discuss is that of Aron Ralston, whose story led to the movie 127 hours. Ralston of course was forced to cut off his own arm when trapped hopelessly in a slot canyon outside Canyonlands National Park. As everyone who has hiked in that area knows, the odds of being found and discovered there are pretty close to zero (although the canyon walls to echo and carry sounds farther than you might imagine).

Ralston has become somewhat of a hero for having the courage to amputate his own arm, but he also made a lot of mistakes before he ever set out, despite his canyoneering experience. Mistakes that we can learn from. He was arrogant and reckless. He assumed nothing could go wrong. He didn’t communicate where he was going or what he was doing.

You have to tell people where you are going. Cell phones make this a tad easier as they provide a reasonable indication of one’s location (always carry one and try to make sure it’s fully charged – better yet get some type of solar charger), but when you are going into the remote wilderness one of the only means of rescue is having a basic understanding of one’s location, something nobody had. While he still would have lost his arm, his ordeal would have been much shorter.

So what did he do right? Well, obviously he correctly assessed the situation and concluded that his survival meant parting with his arm. That is a terribly painful reality (literally), but being willing to make a strategic sacrifice is sometimes necessary. In some stories I’ve read over time, sick and dying members of a party have to be left behind to give the others a better chance. Staying together is not always the answer, though it more often is better and safer for everyone.

Another decision upon cutting away his arm was to drink from any available fresh-water sources. Could they have dangerous bacteria? Yup. Is the need to get any hydration, even from a dirty water source better than none in the moment? Yup. If you survive the hike out you can always get medical attention for the possible giardiasis and gangrenous wounds. But without water, it’s over quickly.

Another thing he did right is know exactly where he was and how to get back, as well as know that the location he was in was not likely to be stumbled upon by another canyoneer. If you can trust that the location you are in is probably trafficked by fellow hikers, drivers, etc at least once a day, staying put might be the better option than risking a journey back.

The next story I want to discuss is a favorite movie of mine from the 1990s called The Edge. It’s a story of a group of wealthy urbanites who take a vacation at a remote wilderness lodge (I assume it’s Alaska but the movie never directly says). After a bush plane crash, a few survivors must trek through the wilderness to safety.

There are a few interesting things about this movie that I enjoy. First, the hero of the story is the billionaire businessman (Anthony Hopkins) who despite being placed in a desperate situation is able to reason his way back to civilization. At the beginning of the movie he is quizzed by his fellow travelers on what would be depicted on the back of an oar, and being well-read he correctly responds that it is a rabbit smoking a pipe.

The allusion to events later in the movie is obvious in that Anthony Hopkin’s character is smart enough to reason his way through all the circumstances that they will encounter and is thus unafraid as they occur, which leads to their salvation. And of course among his party there are those that are also out to get him. But because of his intelligence, willingness to read and educate himself well beyond the confines of his required business knowledge, and determination to meet the challenges, he survives. His habit of reading and acquiring knowledge mattered when it counted most.

One of my favorite parts of the movie are the scenes leading up to the encounter with the bear which has already killed one of the members of the party (I’ll forgive this bit of fiction because grizzlies don’t really stalk and kill humans in this way). He makes Alec Baldwin’s character repeat the line “If one man can do it, any man can do it”. Essentially what they intend to do is use a sharpened spear to make the bear impale itself under its own weight. Native hunters used they method, he knows, but they only need to know that they can do it.

I’ve often reminded myself of that mantra many times when I am faced with a difficult challenge. No, everyone cannot run a 9.6 second 100 meters or multiply two numbers of ten digits accurately in seconds. But for most any task or project or endeavor we can rely on the knowledge that if one person was able to previously accomplish the same task, we can accomplish the same task as well. We just need to understand how they succeeded and why they succeeded.

Sometimes the biggest barrier to our success or survival is our own self-doubt. Once we set aside that invisible internal enemy, we can overcome the odds stacked against us logically and systematically.

Finally, the amazing story of Julianne Koepcke. Julianne Koepcke was a seventeen-year-old girl who miraculously survived a plane crash over the Peruvian rainforest in the 1970s. She fell from the plane without a parachute, but because she was strapped to her seat (which acted a bit like a helicopter to slow her descent), and fell into the canopy of the rainforest, she was slowed just enough to survive.

Once on the ground though she had a broken collarbone, lacerations, and was hopelessly alone in one of the most hostile ecosystems on earth. This situation should have been a death sentence despite surviving the fall. But she had one huge advantage over 99% of the rest of humanity: she had been raised in the rainforest by her scientist parents and was both knowledgeable and unafraid of the rainforest.

She knew about the snakes and understood the dangers they presented. She knew she could acquire water from leaves. She knew that she needed to treat a festering wound or it would lead to her arm being amputated or her own death (she found gasoline along the way and used to kill the maggots). She knew that a king vulture meant that carrion was nearby and assumed it was other plane crash victims. There she found candy that she was able to use to stave off starvation.

Eventually she found a couple Peruvians in the forest who were able to treat her wounds, give her food, and bring her back to civilization. Her story is amazing but again leads back to one common element about all stories of survival: that it is a matter of reasoning and calm decision-making that makes the difference between life and death.

This was a girl that was not placed in a position to trek through the rainforest to survival, but when fate led her to that situation, she was able to meet the challenge. I think it’s important that we always consider what might go wrong, and think about what we can do to prepare ourselves for any situation no matter how unlikely it may seem. Not all of us live in the rainforest, or at high altitude, or in a desert climate, but a little knowledge and experience goes a long way when we are faced by survival situations.

Friendly Places

People and places change over time, sometimes dramatically. Often our own perspectives change as well which affects how we interpret and interact with the world around us.

I’ve certainly read a lot about various places and the people inhabiting these places. Often we hear the stereotypes and arrive with a preconceived notion of what to expect when we explore a new place. Sometimes we fear a bogeyman that doesn’t really exist to the expected degree (crime, rude people, etc) and sometimes were disappointed by what we see and experience, which doesn’t match what we were told and read.

I’ve had the experience of seeing places change over the course of time too. One place I’ll mention below I would have considered one of the three friendliest states in the country 10-15 years ago. Now I would say that is sadly no longer true. There are different reasons why places experience change (growth, interstate migrations, economic conditions, and unfortunately politics), but life and humanity does evolve over time and so might this blog post.

So what states, cities, and countries seem to have the friendliest people? Well, we need some criteria to help answer that.

  • Openness: How likely are people willing to open up and talk to you without knowing you in advance? This covers everything from simple hellos on the sidewalk, to conversations at the table, to advice from a local in a cab.
  • Authenticity: How legitimately nice are people? I think we are all well aware of the types of people that will feign friendliness just to separate you from your money. Genuine people are trustworthy and real and make people feel safer and more welcome.
  • Courtesy: Even generally unfriendly people can have a degree of courtesy and respect, which includes holding open doors, letting you merge in traffic, avoiding certain language that would result in getting sent to the principal’s office in school, etc.
  • Live-and-Let-Live: This is kind of a way of saying how open are people to allowing people to think and act a little different than the herd. You can often feel this one more than hear it, in terms of questioning looks or feelings of isolation.
  • Cliquishness: Friendly places don’t have many socially isolated groups that make it difficult or impossible to integrate or feel welcome.

So keeping this list of criteria in mind, here is my list of the friendliest places I’ve been.

Wyoming

Wyoming is the smallest state in population and many of its town have less people than a single city street in larger states (I’m not exaggerating). Wyoming also has some of the friendliest and most open people I’ve ever met.
With the exception of Jackson (which has slowly become a millionaires and billionaires club), Wyoming-ites are about as genuine as they come. They also have the mountains states Live-and-Let-Live ethos and are as open to talk as they come.
In one small-town restaurant stop the owners almost treated us like family members. It was honestly a bit of an odd feeling for us, coming from a more urban area where such a welcoming attitude is cause for suspicion. No, it’s just a different life in Wyoming.

Santa Fe, NM

I’m not going to speak for the entirety of New Mexico, which is pretty varied depending on what city or region you are in. But Santa Fe just has a friendly, calming vibe that is hard to describe.
I’ve walked through the town and hung out in the tourist areas and I notice that even the visitors begin to pick up a disarming attitude. People are friendly, no one is rushed, people smile. Yes, they smile at you, which in a lot of other places would make people think twice about their intent.
There is no cliquishness here and people are genuinely friendly. This is also a place where Live-and-Let-Live is never in doubt.

South Dakota

It’s important to understand the distinction between the locals and the out-of-town visitors. The Black Hills fill with tourists in the summer, who bring their medley of attitudes. But the actual South Dakotans are a friendly lot of people that could not be any less pretentious.

Rapid City is a big metropolis only in a place like South Dakota (or neighboring Wyoming), but it does have the best brewpub in America (The Firehouse)and really great people who smile and chat. The surrounding towns and cities in the region are worry-free, calm, and really scenic. The last time we were in South Dakota I honestly thought about moving there.

North Carolina

The first of two Carolinas I’ll mention on this blog is a more populated place than the three earlier mentioned locales, but from my brief experience it belongs on this blog. North Carolina had one of the nicest waitresses I’ve ever experienced, who cared a lot that I enjoyed my food and was all too happy to take the item off our bill. We also had a great time eating BBQ in downtown Charlotte, where we could easily have felt out of place if not for the friendly people. People seemed genuine and kind as a whole.

I also encountered a lot of friendly people at Chimney Rock State Park. I do need to visit more of North Carolina to get a fuller picture of this place, but my initial experiences were all positive.

South Carolina

Ok, this place really stood out for friendliness. I was literally taken aback by how friendly, polite, and genuine the people of South Carolina were on our visit in 2020. We traveled across the state from the north near Charlotte, NC to the southern coast of Charleston and Kiawah Island, and back across to the northwest border and we fell a little in love with the state enough to say we might move there someday.

We had multiple conversations with people that we would likely not have elsewhere (or not so frequently or easily). There were literally zero people that we can think of along the way that were rude or unfriendly. It felt good in South Carolina.

The Midwest

I grew up in the American Midwest and traveled to a number of neighboring states. The Midwestern states of Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Missouri deserve a mention of their own here.
These states can be a little cliquey (honestly I hated some of this growing up and found life genuinely boring as a kid with a thirst for adventure), but this region has some of the most polite and authentic people in the country. People have a really strong sense of ethics and you will find that if your car breaks down anywhere in America, you’d be happiest to have it happen in one of these Midwestern states. They’ll take care of you and make sure you’re safely back on the road.

Costa Rica

Yes, I’m including an entire country here. I heard before traveling there that the people are very friendly and nice. For once, the truth is exactly what other people say. I think a lot of this comes down to stress. People there just don’t feel it, or let it get to them. Ticos are just fun-loving and really friendly.

Even the expatriate Americans are friendly there. They live with a lot of inconveniences like unreliable electricity, challenges acquiring things, etc and theft is a real issue (we had no issues and realized our concerns were a bit unfounded), but when you wake up every day with beautiful scenery and monkeys hanging out overhead you tend not to stress much.

The Ticos rate high in all five of my criteria for the list, except maybe courtesy on the roadways. That’s a different story 🙂

Hikers

The friendliest place is not a place at all but a group of people who all share a love of the outdoors. Hikers are the friendliest people in the entire world.

When I go hiking to escape the daily grind I not only get to enjoy the outdoors but enjoy the friendliness of the hiking community as well. When on the trail “hello” and “good morning” are just the standard greeting. Everyone is happy and ready to share their happiness as well.

There are groups of outdoors enthusiast groups that are not friendly. Bicyclists are the worst ones, followed by the often douchey/pretentious/stuck-up skier community. But hikers…they are just great and love being at home in nature.

Make sure to go out early BEFORE the crowds of tourists arrive to understand fully what I mean 🙂

A Few More Thoughts

There are a few places that are unfairly maligned by stereotypes that I think I’ll mention here:

  • California: It is crowded in areas but the people here are friendlier and more fun-loving than they get credit for nationally. They can’t help a lot of things that go on in their state.
  • The South: When I first went to the Southern states I thought as a whole they were some of the friendliest. That seems to be changing somewhat as more people move in and the culture as a whole seems to be changing. Hopefully Southern hospitality isn’t going away.
  • New England: I heard that New England was rather unfriendly and rude before visiting. It didn’t really stand out that way to us on our visit. We even met some nice people (and one or two that were somewhat pretentious). But it is not, as a whole, unfriendly at all.
  • Utah: I have been to Utah many times and for most of that time I would say Utahns are some of the nicest people in the country. The last few visits we’ve run into some rather unfriendly people. Some of those people I believe were out-of-towners, but it resulted in me removing Utah from the friendly list.

Least Friendly Places

I’m hesitant to list the most unfriendly places I’ve been but here goes:

Seattle, WA: Offish, sort of rude, and unhelpful (even giving you wrong directions)
Victoria, BC: Very stuffy, even to children.
Las Vegas, NV: Literally some scary people that might go off on you without warning.
Orlando, FL: We met not a single nice person our last time there.
Washington D.C.: The government employees could use some training on being kinder to the visitors.
Chicago, IL: Really didn’t like it the last time I was there.
Gatlinburg, TN: Crowds were really a problem there – I’m sure the people were nicer individually. Pigeon Forge felt better.
Miami and Fort Lauderdale, FL: There are a lot of transplants there. The genuine Floridians I’ve known are much nicer.
New Orleans: I love the history, food, music, and culture of New Orleans and Lousiana. I would love to take the family back there and explore it more. But I think I’m fully done with Bourbon Street 🙂

Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park

Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is the largest national park in Colorado and one of the most visited in the country. Over the course of many years I’ve hiked dozens of trails in this park, from the short and family-friendly Emerald Lake, to the ultra-challenging Longs Peak trail. Read on…

Travel and the Creative Arts

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