Ready to take on Seattle with Jennifer Miner

Howdy Internet friends,

We rolled into Seattle this afternoon and just made a new friend, co-creator, writer and editor at The Vacation Gals, and luxury travel columnist at Suite101, who also contributes regularly to other sites such as Hybrid Mom…none-other-than, Mrs. Jennifer Miner. (Twitter: @JenniferMiner)

We’ve got a packed schedule this weekend and will be all over town. Keep your eyes peeled for the Truckster and watch my video of the rental to find out about additional sighting opportunities in & around Seattle…

I’ll be nice and recap:

Saturday – Truckster will be at SeaFair FanFest from 12-5 p.m. at the Seattle Center before the Torchlight Parade that evening. This will be a great opportunity to bring the family – and the camera – for your close-up with yours truly… and the Truckster!

Sunday – Come to the Columbia City Cinema for the 11 a.m. FREE showing of National Lampoon’s Vacation! See the Truckster, watch the movie – what could be better?! (If you can’t make the Sunday showing, the movie will also play – FREE – Saturday morning at 11 a.m. at the Columbia City Cinema… but the Truckster won’t be around until Sunday. Plan accordingly.)

After the showing, word has it, the Truckster might be making an appearance at Alki Beach in Seattle. I suggest you follow us on Twitter for more concrete, live updates on the Truckster’s whereabouts! (Twitter: @homeawaytrip) –cough, cough–

Monday – Tune-in to FOX KCPQ Channel 13 at 8:45 a.m. to wake-up with a live interview from our travel experts, Jennifer Miner and the Truckster!

See you at SeaFair tomorrow!
-Steph

Truckster Gets Maintained In Coeur d’Alene

A large part of road trips is keeping your vehicle in tip-top shape. For this reason, we bring Truckster to the shop periodically for a “facelift.” With the help of a mechanic, HomeAway can keep the Truckster on the road and roaming this beautiful country.

When we arrived in Coeur d’Alene, we knew it was time for a scheduled stop. Luckily, I found Elijah who seemed to know his way around a Truckster pretty well. Although we only needed a brief oil change (we’ve got a tight schedule ya know), we were in and out in no time. Here’s a bit of what happened while in the shop…

Check out our vacation condo in Coeur d’Alene!

We all need a break tomorrow before heading to Seattle! Talk to you then.

-John

How to save money on a road trip: a HomeAway Truckie’s words of wisdom

Traveling is fun, but it can also be quite expensive.  The following tips are suggestions for how to make your wallet stop crying when the travel bug bites and you decide to hit the road:

Go the speed limit. It’s safer and a financially responsible decision to travel at the recommended speeds posted on the highway.  Think less police encounters and greater fuel efficiency.

vacation rental

Our Fairmont Chalet in Montana... woodie!

Stay in a vacation rental. By using vacation rental websites, like HomeAway.com, you can often find great deals on any number of housing accommodations in the area you’d like to visit next. You can even RENT A WHOLE HOUSE FOR HALF THE COST OF A HOTEL! And I do mean a ‘ whole house’… John and I ALWAYS have our separate rooms (and often separate bathrooms too!) and there is usually a spacious living room and a kitchen that afford us the extra space we need to spread out after spending 5-9 hours in the Truckster together. Don’t take my word for it though – just peruse the 540,000+ rental listings within the HomeAway network to find the perfect fit for you and your family.

Buy groceries. I’ve already mentioned the perks of having a kitchen just because of the space it provides in contrast to the car-cramped traveler. But there’s not need to be a fastfood-ridden traveler…having a kitchen also allows the money conscious family to make a grocery stop, so eating out all the time won’t be necessary. *Also a good idea for the healthy eater/traveler.

Always know where your next cup is coming from…COFFEE! If you’re a coffee drinker that just can’t go without the taste of caffeine early in the morning, you’ll want to ask your rental owner if they provide a coffee pot and grounds. Many of the rentals I’ve encountered this summer do have the coffee-lover’s basics in the kitchen for guests to enjoy. However, if not, you can still save a few bucks during your travels by purchasing some instant coffee like the Starbuck’s brand Via. It really isn’t that bad and you can always splurge with a gas station $0.99 cup every once in a while.

Do laundry. Save money on baggage fees if your road trip starts or ends with a flight by packing light and doing laundry while on vacation. Many vacation rentals come with an in-house washer and dryer. I know that some might say “why would I want to ruin my vacation by doing laundry” but I can personally attest to the fact that it won’t put a damper on your vacation fun if you throw in a load before dinner or bedtime. Plus, your wallet will thank you since you won’t be throwing away money on needless fees, AND you’ll be able to de-stress without hosting anxiety about having to lug around a gargantuan suitcase.

Happy Chef

Delicious, yet best in moderation

Be smart about eating out. If you are planning to eat out, I recommend the (more affordable) lunch menu, water as a beverage choice. Also, talk to your vacation rental owner, who is often a local expert, about community restaurants. These establishments tend to offer cheaper cuisine than your average chain restaurant. In addition, you’re likely to stumble upon fresh and delicious tastes that are characteristic to the area. Avoid the tourist traps!

Pack a water bottle. John and I save so much money by filling-up our bottles each morning before we head out for the day or hit the road. It’s so tempting to wander into the gas station and buy a drink when you’re stretching your legs or refueling, but if you’ve got plenty of water with you, there’s no need. Stand outside and enjoy the fresh air instead!

Find out what’s happening locally. Pick up the local newspaper and find out what events are going on during the course of your stay. Your homeowner may also have the inside scoop on activities as well. During our Truckster road trip, the Truckies have discovered a number of free attractions, summer concerts, and must-see stops that cost nothing.

Say Cheese. Skip the tacky souvenir in lieu of great photos by bringing a camera on your trip. There are all kinds of things you can do with the memories you capture with a camera or video recorder: make a movie or scrapbook or slide-show or decoupage your next coffee table with photos from your adventures. The possibilities are endless…

Mt. Rushmore Jefferson

Jefferson.

Mt. Rushmore Roosevelt

Teddy.

Mount Rushmore

Some day...John?

How’d I do? How do you save money while on the road? Leave a comment if you have any tips that might be helpful on the Great American Road Trip as we continue our journey West. We’ve already passed through Wyoming today, and tonight we’ll settle into a wooden chalet rental in Fairmont, Montana.

Wish you were here (to see these VIEWS!)

-Steph

Here is a quick home video of our Fairmont, Montana house.

Truckster Travels Through South Dakota

If you need to drive along Route 90 through South Dakota, I have the stops for you!   To some, this quest from east to west across the Dakotas may seem…boring? dull? Not if you do it right!

The first interesting thing I found while driving through 350 miles of grass is all of the grasshoppers! Seriously, it seems somewhat obvious, but it’s amazing if you ever witness it. The herd of them was so thick, at one point a grasshopper went Dracula on me and latched on my neck.  Don’t worry, I fought it off before any real damage was done.

Where...am I?

Where...am I?

Next, we had to stop at 1880s town. This place is no joke! They actually have a real (mechanical) Kevin Costner who sits out front and waves at you as you enter the gift shop. Why would they have this robotic heartthrob gretting guests? Dances With Wolves was filmed nearby and when you come here, you will feel it in the landscape. Kevin and I had a staredown, and you can clearly see who was in control…

After watching billboards for a store called, “Wall Drug” for hours, we decided to check it out (it was either that or say hello to more grasshoppers). The highlights of this “adventureland” were a monkey that sings and plays the piano and a reindeer/rabbit that you can sit on and ride.

Quite a crooner

Quite a crooner

The new Santa!

The new Santa!

Finally, we reached our destination of Mt. Rushmore! Want a grand view. I couldn’t get over that I was staring at actual Rushmore. I’ve always pictured it in my head, seen clips of it blowin up and crumbling in movies, but when you visit in real life, 4 stone heads can make you feel quite inferior. Theydidn’t explode in an awesome spray of cinders nor did they get blasted with lasers like in the movie Richie Rich, but their stillness was exciting.

Mt. Rushmore and Truckster

Mt. Rushmore and Truckster

Tomorrow, we’re continuting west to Montana!
-John

Twin Cities Red Bull Flugtag with Team Griswold and the Flying Truckster

All I can write is “WOW”

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, you’ve GOT to watch this video from Saturday. We met some truly incredible people in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota and guess what… they were HUGE Griswold Fans! Team Griswold, or team 20, at the Saint Paul, Minnesota Red Bull Flugtag Competition built the Family Truckster WITH WINGS! …incredible. Just watch the video, you can thank me later.

CONGRATS on taking home the well-deserved 3rd place trophy, Team Griswold!

PLUS history was made! We saw a world record for a flugtag flight broken when one fearless pilot soared a good 207 feet! You can watch that (amazing) clip here.

We just arrived in Deadwood, SD today and tomorrow, I’m hitting-up Mount Rushmore! YESSSS, I have a feeling everybody – it’s going to be a fun week!

-Steph

PS shout-out to the bdays ‘of the hour’ Sarah, Kyle and Jaime! HAPPY BIRTHDAY from the TRUCKSTER!!!

Truckie Meets An Old Friend

mmmmm...Brats!

mmmmm...Brats!

The last two days have found us in Madison, Wisconsin.  This town knows what it likes so if you’re going to throw a BBQ there, give the people what they want…bratwurst!  For those who don’t know, bratwurst (or “brats” as the locals call them) are a huge deal in Wisconsin—almost as big as cheese.  At our BBQ, we got to relax and enjoy the beautiful vacation rental with the sunset, not to mention all-you-can-eat brats.

Take your pick!

Take your pick!

The next day, we were cruising the city when we came across the grandaddy of mobile marketing—The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile!  I have a special place in my heart for this beautiful piece of Americana because I used to drive it!  It’s always exciting to see The Wienermobile again, never failing to bring a smile to my face (as well as most others).  I had to stop and take a photo of it and say hello to  my friends driving it.

Wisconsin's beautiful capitol building

Wisconsin's beautiful Capitol building

Part of what makes a city interesting is checking out some of its unique restaurants.  Steph and I went to Ella’s Deli and Ice Cream Parlor and entered a world of perpetual motion.  Outside of the popular lunch spot is a carousel but take a look at what the inside looks like!  Even Steph got into the action…

We’ll be back in touch tomorrow when we head to Minneapolis/St. Paul.

-John

You’re invited to a HomeAway BBQ with the Truckster near Madison, WI

From the streets of Chicago to the lunch crowds of Third Ward Milwaukee and coming home to our ‘convenient cottage’ just outside of Madison, Wisconsin, today Mondays are for MEETING… meeting friendly faces and warm welcomes all around.

We ran into the Milwaukee area news crew from CBS-58 while making a lunch stop in the bustling Third Ward. If you happen to see the famous Wagon Queen Family Truckster, or yours truly, tonight on the news – let us know how we look!

Then we headed back to John’s old stomping ground from his weenie days at Oscar Mayer: Madison, Wisconsin. The free spirited parents, Kim and Jason, from kimandjason.com welcomed us with a pitcher of lemonade. We chatted with them about our travels and let them play around in the Truckster. Look for a bit on the Truckster to show up on their blog soon!

John at Kim and Jason's house

John, Kim and Jason in Madison, WI

Steph at Kim and Jason's Home

With Kim and Jason from kimandjason.com

Now, if you’re in the Madison area and interested in making tomorrow a ‘Truckster Tuesday’ =) you are cordially invited to join us for some BBQ at HomeAway Property: 175522. Check out the Facebook event at: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=135931669772316&index=1

Event details:

5:30 – 8:30 p.m.
30977 County Hwy B
Lone Rock, WI 53556

All are welcome!

Please RSVP accordingly on the Facebook event if you’ll be joining us for bratwursts and a photo opportunity to get your picture with the Truckster! And of course, if you can’t make it out on this ‘Travel Tuesday’ you can still celebrate with us by posting a family vacation photo to our Facebook for a chance at the $5000 vacation giveaway.

See you tomorrow!
Steph

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