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4 Days Visiting Yellowstone & Jackson – What to Know!

My first visit to Yellowstone was circa 2012 and it was incredible. Having the opportunity to return to Yellowstone is a quick…..ABSOLUTELY! I had some airline miles on Alaska Airlines to use and the flight was completely free!

Left Thursday after work and flew from Columbus, Ohio to Seattle, Washington onward to Bozeman, Montana.

The arrival was scheduled for midnight in Montana, but based on plane troubles arrived around 3 AM. It made for a short night of sleep, but getting to the park is the highest priority. Yellowstone is a large park.

Friday morning around 9 AM left Bozeman, Montana for Yellowstone National Park. There are a couple of ways to enter the park, but drove into West Yellowstone taking the route north to circle the park ending at the Yellowstone Lodge.

As you enter Yellowstone from West Yellowstone, you have a few choices…..the option of going toward Mammoth Springs (North) was the path taken. There are a ton of pull offs to see waterfalls, paint pots, geysirs, and Mammoth Springs is an excellent spot to take a lunch break. During the stop, watched the Elk walk around the city area; these animals are beautiful but you really need to stay back as they are known to be quite aggressive.

The drive continued with stops at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and lookouts.

Several locations have animals that are close to the vehicles. It is important to know that these are wild animals and you need to keep your distance.

The bison walk next to the cars, but will become aggressive if you get too close. The same with bears, elk, deer, etc.

During this trip, I was amazed at the number of people trying to get the right picture of the animal; willing to risk their lives for a picture.

Since I have been home, there are have been two people attacked by bison and one guy ran across the Grand Prasmatic Pool – use your head and do not ruin these opportunities for everyone. If things like this continue, they will put up fencing and limit access.

Finished driving for the day and ended at the Yellowstone Lodge located on Yellowstone Lake. It is absolutely beautiful. Yellowstone is at a high altitude and even when it is summer….it can still be quite chilly. There is a lake and many people end up the hospital because of hypothermia from the lake…keep this in mind. Visiting the park in June, it can be 70 degrees one day…..and can change the next….

Woke up Saturday to snow on the ground! Based on the elevation and driving conditions several roads were closed so we drove from the Yellowstone Lodge north to the bypass and then visited the southern part of the park. Drove to Old Faithful and had lunch right after the eruption. The park service posts the time and the app (when you have cell service) will also let you know the approximate next time.


On Sunday, we drove down to Jackson, Wyoming meeting some friends and exploring the areas. This is where we saw the first bear on the trip! We drove to our hotel and checked in at the Jackson Lake Lodge. This is between Yellowstone National Park and Jackson, Wyoming.

The Jackson Lake Lodge was located pretty close to Jenny Lake (a hidden gem) and Colter Bay (another hidden gem) that are in the Tetons. The hotel was expensive but was at the base of the Tetons and had fantastic views. On Monday mid-day left the Tetons and drove back through Yellowstone on the way back to Bozeman….a few shots on the way back.

If given the opportunity to visit Yellowstone and/or Jackson, Wyoming – definitely take the opportunity. If the weather is decent, I would highly recommend white water rafting in Jackson Hole. This trip did not have time and the weather was a bit cold, but the last time…it was one of the major highlights!

–Heidi

Costs for Yellowstone:

Rental Car: Alamo: $560

Quality Inn Bozeman: $185 per night

Lake Yellowstone Lodge: $390 per night

Alaskan Airlines Flight: $450 (my flight was paid with points)

Jackson Lake Lodge: $400 per night

0 In Airlines/ Bucket List/ Budget/ Couples/ Europe/ Family/ France/ Itinerary/ Travel/ Travel Advice/ Travel Gear/ Travel Tips

50 Tips for Traveling In and Around France


Paris.….is always a good idea…..

When traveling to Europe, there are a lot of things to consider….the time of year, the weather you wish to experience, and whether you are on a budget.

I have been to France around 10 times and have fallen more and more in love each time. This post will cover information on a few areas of France: Paris, Nice, Cannes, and Monaco.

Tip 1: Pack a carry on in case your luggage goes missing.

Thankfully on this trip my first day in Paris; I arrived 6 hours late after missing a connection in Philly due to weather. When I was at the airport; I made a report and my luggage was missing for 2 solid days. On the third day, we were headed down to the South of France and my luggage happened to show up 47 hours later to my hotel. In my shop are the Columbia Convertible Pants that make life a lot easier Similar Columbia Pants

Tip 2: Concorde La Fayette is a great place to stay for 3 reasons: Reason 1: Take Air France Bus 2 directly to this hotel which is Porte Maillot. It stops at Etoile, Porte Maillot, and Rossy CDG Reason 2. This hotel has a subway/metro in the hotel (go down the stairs through the tunnel and you are there) Reason 3: cheap transportation   Paris Metro Map

Tip 3: Prepare to Walk

Staying at the Concorde La Fayette (2 miles south of the Arc de Triomphe) to the Notre Dame Cathedral, Musee D’Orsay, Centre Pompidou, Louvre, and of course the Eiffel Tower and back without the use of a subway.

Tip 4: Stroll down the Champs Elysees and take it all in.
Renault has a wonderful restaurant on the Champs Elysees.

Tip 5: Visit Versailles at least once in your life.
Take the 45 minute RER train ride to see the great palace. It is something to see- gold embossed tips to the palace and the grounds are just gorgeous.

Tip 6: Plan to arrive at Versailles in the morning before 9 AM to queue
Lines develop way before the entry time and the wait can be hours; so get up early and sleep in another day.

Tip 6: Many Museums are closed on Mondays- Weekly Closing Days of Paris Museums
Before you visit make a list of the places you want to visit and check hours, holidays, and days closed.

Tip 7: Hop On, Hop Off Tour Bus is a great deal: 4 bus lines averaging an hour each route approximately 25 euros per person.
Allows you to see everything from a visualization standpoint and the proximity of things when you are in a double decker bus going around the city. Many of these include a boat ride.The hop-on/ hop-off bus is called L’Opentour …50 stops, 4 routes, and 1 ticket (I would suggest the 2 day pass) One day pass is 29 euros; 2 days is 32 euros and kids are 15 euros ages 4-11.
-Boat hop on, hop off- batauxbus Paris

Tip 8: If you use the metro a booklet of 10 tickets is a good deal: you get 10 tickets for the price of 8. (over time this may change)
Great if you want to quickly zip around the city or know where you want to go in a hurry.

Tip 9: Bring water everywhere with you. You will need it.
Prepare for standing and walking a lot. A few snacks would also be good if you think about it (especially with wait times in line for certain places)

Tip 10: Going to the top of the Eiffel Tower at night is the best; especially around 11:30 PM
Again, check on the times of closing and if you can get tickets in advance

Tip 11: A pullstring bag is essential because at times you will have a lot of snacks but you can fold it into your pocket when you have nothing.(Backpacks are too cumbersome)

Tip 12: Know the exchange rate 
Exchange rate was 1.60 US dollars to 1 euro and at times is 1 USD to .85 Euros; fluctuations occur often so know what you are paying.

Tip 13: Use points for hotel stays instead of money if you can

Tip 14: Bring an umbrella or Package of 5 ponchos
This comes to personal preference. I like carrying a poncho (1.99 at Walmart) more than an umbrella, but whatever you have to keep you dry is a must.

Tip 15: Bring Clip on Hand Sanitizers
Many places in France have “ran out of soap” or is just not available. Be prepared.

Tip 16: Remember that Air conditioning is not good anywhere in Paris unless you stay at the Charles V

Tip 17: Build in time to just sit, relax, and have no real plan for at least one day in Paris. A Place to Stroll

Monaco

Tip 18: You must have lots of money to go into the Casino. Everyone can walk on the grounds and go in the doors, but to actually play in the Casino; you must be independently wealthy or have wealthy friends. Regardless, it is fun to walk around the area. You never know who you will see.

Tip 19: You must be in a coat and tie to get into the Automobile Club in Monaco.
We were wandering around the Grand Prix area and found the Automobile Club; shorts will not work.

Tip 20: Treat yourself to ice cream while you people watch in Monaco

Tip 21: Remember that you are a 45 minute train ride from Nice, 30 USD round trip  You can get tickets on the day you travel

Tip 22: Trains to Monaco are every 30 minutes from Nice.

Tip 23: Once you arrive in Monaco, you can walk everywhere (the Casino and the Palace are on different cliffs-40 minute walk uphill both ways) I recommend a taxi based on time and getting to see things. There is quite a distance between these areas; there is also the Monaco Bus Service which was $4USD each way depending if you mind stops every 4 minutes.

Tip 24: Little train ride at Oceanographic Museum: 30 minute ride takes you by the Casino and by the Palace, but you must stay on the train, no stops cost 7 Euros for adults, 4 euros for kids.
– Go to Oceanographic Museum first…………if you exit the train station…..go to the right and follow the signs.
-You can walk the grounds of the Prince’s Palace without paying; 4 euros for an inside tour (not worth your money imo)

Cannes

Tip 25: A 30 minute ride from Nice to Cannes via train. Once you arrive in Cannes from the train station walk 1/4 mile to the beach.

Tip 25: When you are in Cannes, take the little train ride to see the city. 10 euros for the big tour
The narrator does a good job of explaining the town; the little train allows you to enjoy the sights.

Tip 26: When you think of Cannes, many think of the film festival. Check out the Red Carpet.

Tip 27: Nice has rock beaches and Cannes has sand beaches and so does Antibes (sand beach) Know and plan accordingly.

Tip 28: Walk around the harbor- gorgeous yachts

Tip 29: Long promenade to walk

Tip 30: Good for a day trip; no more than a day would be advisable here.

Tip 31: Shopping name brands is good: Chanel, Gucci, Prada; all the good brands!

Tip 32: Likely to see famous people walking around.

Tip 33: Haagan Dazs located across from the red carpet..another 15 USD for 2 sundaes.

Nice, France

C’est la vie……………………

Tip 34: Stay at Le Meredien
Use points to stay here (Starwood) Our room was 425 euros a night with an exchange rate of 1.5-1.6…..you do the math! We were able to stay 3 nights and get the 4th night free using points for the three nights.

Tip 35: The promenade is about 10 miles long and continues toward Monaco. Wonderful shops, hotels, and exercise along the water.

Tip 36: The train station is about a mile from Le Meredien (centrally located on the promenade)

Tip 37: Le Meridian is the only one with a beach pool and a pool on the top of the hotel (uncommon in France)

Tip 38: Wireless is 30 euros a day at the hotel (go downstairs and get it from the McDonalds for free; the lobby area you can access the wi-fi)

Tip 39: Just about all McDonald’s in France have wi-fi

Tip 40: Walking to the waterfall is about 3 miles from Le Meridian hotel.

Tip 41: The airport is about 7 miles away, but will cost you a whopping 40 euros! Consider negotiating with the taxi driver before getting in.

Tip 42: If you fly Easyjet (remember that every bag is 22 euros) one carry-on only and no more than 20kg or 44 pounds

Tip 43: If you miss your flight on Easyjet you have to rebuy another one unless you bought insurance

Tip 44: Bus service is a good option from the airport to your hotel. This is not always possible.
We took a bus from the airport to the hotel, but our return flight was super early and the bus was not running. (Bus fare is 7 euros per person, but you must know what stop to get off at)

Tip 45: People do not speak good English here……….especially at the airport.
In Paris, many people speak English and speak it well. As you go to the South of France, many young people speak English but some store owners, airport employees, bus drivers, taxi drivers may speak French only.

Tip 46: Use credit card for transactions.

Tip 47: There is a ferry that will take you to St. Tropez or Corsica (must view dates and times) (Cannes to St. Tropez and Nice to Corsica)

Tip 48: On the promenade there are music groups, dance groups, and rollerbladers, segways, and bikes all day long. It is approximately 4-5 lanes across and next to the beach so you do not cross roads. Performances all the time.

Tip 49: Make Nice your home base.
We stayed for 5 days and 4 nights on this trip and visited Cannes, Monaco, and Nice.

Tip 50: Should you have extra time, stop off in Eze or Grasse and visit the Fragonard factory.

**Always book travel insurance**

0 In Airlines/ Bucket List/ Budget/ Couples/ Family/ Female Travels/ Itinerary/ Machu Picchu/ Peru/ Random Musings/ South America/ Travel/ Travel Advice/ Travel Gear/ Travel Tips

Machu Picchu: On A Budget: 4 Day Itinerary


 

Before you go; make sure you do these 3 things: 1. Book train tickets 2. Book Hotel Accommodations 3. Have Machu Picchu Tickets in Hand

Itinerary

Day 1: Cusco to Aguas Calientes

Day 2: Machu Picchu

Day 3: Machu Picchu; return to Cusco

Day 4: Fly out of Cusco

Make sure you know:

  1. Altitude Cusco 11,152 feet
  2. Altitude Ollayntambo 9,160 feet
  3. Altitude Aguas Calientes 6,693 feet
  4. Machu Picchu 7,970 feet

Train tickets: make sure you book a late train from Ollanytambo to Aguas Calientes

Flights from Lima into Cusco often get delayed. (mine was delayed 5 hours)

Day to Day Specifics

Day 1: Arrival in Cusco; from here; Plan going straight to Aguas Calientes (below Machu Picchu). When you arrive in Cusco (11,152 feet altitude) and if you are from a lower elevation it can wreck havoc on your body if you stay without acclimating.

Take a taxi from the Cusco Airport to Ollanytambo (get some food in the airport before you leave; the taxi ride is 2.5 hours)

Ollanytambo is in the Sacred Valley so if you flight is on time; you have time to walk around and see the ruins. If not, you will catch it on your way back to Cusco. The cost of a taxi is around 40.00 USD or 100-120 soles; at the airport, taxis will start at 240-440 soles or for a private car 350.00 USD; trust me, negotiate and offer 40 USD or 100 soles.

At the airport, there is a money exchange; the three of us exchanged 200.00 dollars to Soles.

The ride from Cusco to Ollayntambo is winding, on dirt roads, and on bumpy paths with a beautiful landscape the entire drive; with the elevation, fatigue, and car sickness; Coca Cola and Pringles actually made me feel a lot better.

Peru Rail: Ollanyntambo to Aguas Calientes (get some food in the store before leaving). The ride is around 2 hours.

Remember that things in South America do not always go as planned and there is a slower pace; it took over an hour for the bags to get off the plane because there was a festival going on.

I went with Peru Rail and was extremely happy with the experience; booked the Vistadome and on the return, the Expedition. With a 5 hour delay in Lima, we were able to rebook with Peru Rail in the airport with no additional charges. Very thankful that Peru Rail was so awesome.

When arriving in Aguas Calientes, there is no one who carries your bags and most hotels are up the hill. My hotel happened to be at the top of the hill; 15 minute walk and it was challenging with a pack on my back.

Day 2: Get up in the morning (Aguas Calientes) and pick up bus tickets (you will need a passport to purchase a ticket per person) It was around 79 Soles roundtrip or around 20 USD roundtrip. You can buy the tickets at the stand for a couple days so you do not have to visit the bus tickets again. (credit card machines were not working, so make sure you have cash)

Stand in line for the bus to the top. Make sure that while standing in line, someone checks your ticket and stamps it; if you have no stamp, you have to run to the top of the hill and find the person stamping.

You must show your passport and entrance ticket to get in.

Again, take snacks and drinks with you to Machu Picchu.

No tickets for Machu Picchu are sold at the top; so have your tickets with you.

There is a free stamp for Machu Picchu for your passport.

Restrooms are 1 sole per person.

Walking through Machu Picchu and taking pictures on day 1 for us took about 5 hours. We sat and talked and appreciated the amazing views. The weather was spectacular and watching everything was wonderful.

After the visit to Machu Picchu, we had lunch at the Belmond Sanctuary Hotel: lunch was a buffet and 40.00 USD per person. A bit pricey but well worth it. 3 drinks (water and Cokes) about 9 USD.

A few things to remember at the top of Machu Picchu: everyone who came up has to go down, so be strategic with timing. We waited an hour to go down; others were in line over 2 hours. It can be hot while waiting; so stay hydrated.

When returning to Agua Calientes, there are a lot of little shops/ cafes/ market to go shopping and eating.

Day 3: Get up early and see Machu Picchu at 5:30 AM. It is spectacular. On this early morning, we ran into heavy rain, but the structure of Machu Picchu and the architectural design allows for a drainage and no puddled water; within 2 hours, it was clear and beautiful. We went down around 10 AM; went to the hotel and showered; then stopped by a cafe next to the river and then had lunch before leaving; our train from Agua Calientes was to leave around 2 PM arriving in Ollayntambo around 4 PM.

The two hour train ride allowed for a quick nap before the taxi ride back to Cusco. This cost was around 80 soles to Cusco (cheaper than leaving the airport). We walked around the Cusco Plaza del Armas where there are quite a few Catholic Churches, shops, KFC, and McDonalds. Our hotel, the JW Marriott Cusco (top 5 in South American Hotels) was around the corner and worth the money. Oxygen available for altitude sickness, free buffet breakfast, free internet, and walking distance of the shopping.

Day 4: Getting up and heading to the airport. Quick trip!

 

Considerations:

Vaccinations:(talk with your travel physician or check with the CDC)

-Hepatitis A

-Hepatitis B

-Typhoid

-Yellow Fever

-Flu

Medicines:

-Z Pak in case of Traveler’s Diarrhea

-Diamox (Altitude Sickness)

-Tylenol (Altitude Sickness)

-Pepto Bismol (Just in Case)

Few things to know about the area:

-Do not drink the water (or even the tea)

-Do not shave

-Do not eat fresh salsa or vegetables

What I learned:

-Give yourself extra time in case of issues. Book the train after 6 PM (from Ollanytambo to Aguas Calientes)

-Peru Rail was easy to navigate and book (in English)

-Machu Picchu tickets were not as easy to get online (I will post a tutorial in the next few days; the translation is not particularly helpful).

-The Culture of Ministry can change the Machu Picchu visiting times on a day’s notice; I received information from Peru Rail about this so we entered Machu Picchu earlier on the first day than expected since the entrance was closing at 2 PM.

-Book 2 days at Machu Picchu (if you arrive in the morning, you can stay all day, but make sure you can be there before the morning hours end)

Ways to Save Money:

  1. Sign up for ebates: use referral code: https://www.ebates.com/r/HEIDIL357?eeid=28187 and you will get some free money as well.
  2. Go through ebates, now search for hotels.com
  3. This will allow you a % for going through ebates on your hotel stay & 9 nights=1 free on hotels.com
  4. Negotiate and Know the Costs (see below)

Estimated Costs:

  1. Taxi to and from Ollayntambo: 80 USD for 5 hours of driving (2.5 hours each way)
  2. Train (rt) to Aguas Calientes: 80 USD for the cheapest option
  3. Hotel: 4 Star = 100.00 USD per night  5 Star: 450.00 USD-1200.00 USD
  4. Food cost = 8-10.00 USD per person / meal
  5. Bottled Water =2.50 USD per person
  6. Machu Picchu 2 days of tickets: $65.00 USD/ day
  7. Plane tickets run from $400-1550.00 to get to Cusco. (I used flight miles which I will talk about soon)

Questions? Please just ask!