My Three Best Travel Secrets

113009 - LockI was recently tagged by Nellie Huang over at Wild Junket to share my three best travel secrets. This exercise was initiated by Katie at TripBase, and the goal is to unite travel bloggers from across the globe while creating a massive list of awesome insider tips from those who have been there and made the mistakes.

I’m breaking the rules by not just writing about destinations, but that’s the kind of traveler I can be too …


1. The World According the Ziploc

I never travel without Ziploc bags anymore. I suggest stashing a few in every size—they take up next to no space—and keeping them handy while you’re on the road. I tend to pack smaller clothing items, like socks and bandannas, together in one, then suck out all of the excess air to keep them packed tightly together. I also frequently pack my shirts in a large Ziploc bag, just to reduce the amount of space they take up.

Smaller baggies are helpful for keeping loose items—batteries, chargers, extra pens, jump drives—contained and in one place. I always carry a few extra to separate items that might spill (like all those 3-ounce liquids that are allowed through security in the airport), and they also come in handy to bag items that are wet or particularly stinky (let’s just say I was eternally thankful to have packed a few large bags on the Inca Trail when my t-shirts started to ripen on their own).

113009 - Bellagio2. Low-Cost Las Vegas

Sin City doesn’t have to be for the rich. There are a lot of great places in and around Las Vegas that cater to those on a budget. For the outdoorsy folk, I recommend Red Rock Canyon. For $5 per car (or no cost, if you have a National Parks pass), you have access to a 13-mile scenic drive, miles of hiking trails and some of the best rock climbing in the United States. (One of my favorite trails is the one through Ice Box Canyon.)

In nearby Henderson, the Village at Lake Las Vegas has a full schedule of free concerts and events, and the ambiance is chill and low-key among the cafes and boutiques. It is also free to check out Ethel’s Chocolate Factory and the nearby botanical gardens, which are turned into an awesome lit-up wonderland during the holiday season. In North Las Vegas, stop by the Broadacres Swap Meet for an entire day’s worth of bargaining and shopping.

On the Strip, visitors can check out the Fountains of Bellagio, the flamingos at Flamingo Las Vegas, the Fall of Atlantis Show at Caesars Palace and the new Sirens of TI show at Treasure Island (though, honestly, the Sirens show is not that great anymore).

113009 - Path3. Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Big-time National Park beauty without the crowds? Check.

No entrance fee? Check.

Isolated wilderness all to yourself? Check.

The darkest skies in the lower 48 states with a million stars tipped over the top? Check.

Great Basin National Park, located in central Nevada on the Utah border, is far from everywhere but definitely worth visiting. All the campgrounds are first-come, first-serve, and there is no luxurious lodge in which to spend the night. Dress warmly—at more than 10,000 feet in elevation, the night can be quite chilly. But don’t pack it in too quickly; make sure you stay up long enough to check out the stunning starry sky.

Adventurous types looking for a challenge can climb Nevada’s second highest mountain, Wheeler Peak. Or choose from one of several long hikes that traverse the rolling hills. The alpine lakes and flowers are stunning, and it’s more than possible to hike all day without seeing another person. If you’re interested in visiting Lehman Caves, which does get overrun with visitors (and is, in my opinion, a bit depressing), book a tour as soon as you arrive in the park. It is free of charge to visit the cave, but tours fill quickly and are capped.

12 Responses to “My Three Best Travel Secrets”

  1. maria

    I think this idea about getting together and share travel tips is great!

    I just thought of something right away: Travel off season!
    That’s what we almost always do. Well, we have traveled a lot as a family, often for months, and as our kids have been homeschooled, we have had the possability to travel whenever we wanted to.
    Traveling off season, things are usually a lot cheaper and it’s easier to find places to stay and ways to travel.
    You don’t have to stand in line and you can more easily connect to local people. To name a few of the advantages.
    It does happen that we run into a holiday crowd now and then and everytime we feel sad to realize that so many people think that travel has to be expensive and stressful.
    So, try to plan your trip off season!

  2. Carrie

    Great tips JoAnna, and for the record, I like that you blaze your own path!

    I, too, am a secret ziploc lover. I can’t live without them. My best friend came to visit me last winter while I was home in Canada and she took back three boxes with her. Apparently, you can’t get ziplocs in England. How do they survive?

    I’d also like to add that your tips for Las Vegas are arriving just in time. I am meeting the aforementioned friend for a girls getaway in Las Vegas this summer. This will be my first time to Vegas and I’m really looking forward to seeing all the places that you write so elegantly about.

  3. Mindie Burgoyne

    Love the tip on Great Basin Nat. Park. Nothing like affordable wilderness with starry skies. Will make it a point to visit next time we’re out west.

    I’m also a huge fan of the zip-lock … couldn’t find them when I was in Europe. Luckily I brought enough with last time I was there.

    thanks for the post.

    Mindie b

  4. Candice

    HUGE ziplock fan. I even keep my earrings separated in mini-ziplocks…perfect way to prevent tangling.

  5. Shelley G

    I absolutely second the ziplock bag tip! And good tips about the destinations. =)

  6. Daniel

    Thanks, JoAnna, for the Red Rock Canyon suggestion — Kathryn and I are considering a trip to Nevada in the new year (to get out of cold, wet Toronto). Red Rock Canyon sounds like a great day! Was waffling on renting a car, but the vast number of day trips in the area means we’ll just have to bite the bullet!

  7. Nancy

    Great tips JoAnna!! I’m a huge ziplock fan. I’ll have to check out Great Basin in the future. Love the idea of the post.

  8. Peggy Coonley/Serendipity Traveler

    Great travel tips are always a key to traveling well. I just posted Ten Tips for Stressless Travel to add to the collection .
    Thanks Joanna for getting the sharing of tips going.

  9. Gray

    Thanks for the tag, JoAnna! What a fun game. I can’t wait to see the final collection of everyone’s tips. I am a huge fan of Ziploc bags, too. So many uses…and they’re reusable. Agree with you on Vegas (of course!); one of the reasons I keep going back are the cheap hotel rooms. It’s starting to get embarrassing, though, that I still haven’t visited Red Rock Canyon in all my trips to Vegas. I’m going to have to do it next time.



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