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Travel Excuse #24: Your Fridge Needs Cleaning Out

The day before you leave to go on a trip there's always the question of what to do with stuff in your fridge. Then there's the day you come home and there's nothing in the house to eat, at least not anything you feel like making. Here's a good cleaning-out-the-fridge recipe that you can bake and freeze for your homecoming. It's also a good family reunion covered dish.

Leftover Chicken Broccoli Casserole

  • Start with some leftovers:

1 cup diced or shredded chicken (left overs from the day before the day before you travel, perhaps?)
2-3 cups fresh broccoli (or whatever amount you need to get rid of), cut to bite size, then blanched in boiling water for about a minute
1 cup sliced or shredded carrots (again, use whatever you have)
1 cup of any kind of pasta you have on hand, cooked just until tender Tip: cook the pasta in the water you used for blanching the broccoli.

Leftover spinach or thinly sliced squash if available to use as a center layer.

  • Sauce:

1 can cream of chicken soup
About a cup of cottage cheese (you really don't want that still sitting in the fridge when you come home, do you?
About a half cup of sour cream
2 heaping tablespoons Mayonnaise
About a cup of shredded cheddar cheese (if you only have a cup then set some aside for topping)
About a cup of shredded mozzarella cheese if available
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Whisk together the sauce ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.
Mix the leftovers (except the spinach or squash) together in a large bowl, then stir in the sauce.
Pour half of the combined mixture into a greased 9x13 casserole dish.
Top with a layer of spinach or squash, then cover with the remainder of the mixture.
Top the whole casserole with shredded cheddar cheese then some bread crumbs or crushed croutons if you have them.
Bake for about an hour uncovered at 350 degrees until bubbly.

You can get creative with this dish. Got peas? How about green beans? Consider celery, onion, or bell peppers if you have some you need to clear out. Almost any cheese will work in the combo as well. 

Don’t Make Decisions in the Dark That You’ll Regret in the Morning

Nobody thinks clearly late at night but sometimes our desire to escape everyday life leads us down paths that may seem exciting at first, but have an altogether different feel once the plan is in motion. You can avoid those awkward what-the-heck-was-I-thinking moments if you simply don’t make decisions in the dark.

How to Not Get Kicked Out of Bed at Dawn 
Your hotel may seem less than perfect when you arrive at midnight, but it’s usually best not to storm the front desk until you’ve seen things in the light of day. Often the stress of traveling, coupled with the edginess of stepping out of your comfort zone can make your first impression a lackluster one, especially in the dark.
Worse-case scenario is that they uninvite you on the spot, but at the very least they may cancel the remainder of your reservation, forcing you to follow through on your threat to leave first thing in the morning. Rather than yelling at a tired front desk host, try this travel happy approach.

Step 1 is to secure the premises so that you feel safe.

Step 2 is to do your best to calm the nerves of your traveling companions. Humor works great for that. Make fun of the old- fashioned curtains or the light switch that you have to position just right in       order for it to work. Laughter diffuses anxiety and makes you all feel like you’re in this adventure           together, bad accommodations and all.

Step 3 is to get some sleep and wait for dawn.

When dawn arrives you may have a totally different attitude. What looked shabby in the dark may look shabby-chic in the morning. The darkness that felt threatening the night before may have simply been due to the fact that you left the bright lights of the city in your rearview mirror. And how cool is it that those weird noises you heard in the night were actually resident peacocks that are now standing on your front porch?

And if things really aren’t what you wanted, you’ll at least be addressing them with a slightly cooler disposition than you might have the night before, and most often with a person of higher ranking than the night crew.

With the wealth of information available on the Internet today, there is no excuse for ending up in a regrettable one-night stand with a hotel.

The real goal is to have done enough travel
research BEFORE you booked your getaway that you weren’t in the dark figuratively and knew all about the peacocks, the age of the facility, how far down a dark road it was, etc, etc.

That extra bit of research on your part can keep you from booking something that you really aren’t comfortable with and makes your arrival at any time of the night or day a happier travel experience for everyone involved.

Take Them to the Water!

Even big kids can be entertained with water attractions.
We drove three days getting to Disney World and three days getting back to spend the majority of our time at the water parks. Kids and water are a perfect combination, whether it's the pool at a hotel, a lake, stream, or commercial water park the, you cannot go wrong with water when you travel with kids. The kids burn energy, everyone is refreshed, and it's just plain fun.

At our resort we see it all of the time; families arrive road weary and somewhat unpleasant with one another. One cool dip in the pool and everyone is all smiles again. Our own grand-niece was very shy the first time she came to the resort, right up until we took her out on the boat and Gary did a back flip off the bow. Now she asks her mom "When can we go back to Gary's lake?"

Summer is almost over and there are NO excuses for your child to go back to school without experiencing the fun at Hawaiian Falls Waterparks! We make it easy and affordable – FREE tubes and life jackets, FREE parking,  and coolers ARE allowed! And 5 convenient locations – The Colony, North Garland, Mansfield, Roanoake, and Waco - means there is a Hawaiian Falls Waterpark near you!

Right now you can  Slide After Dark every Friday Night for only $5! Friday Night Slides admission is only $5 from 8 pm – 10 pm and FREE for Season Passholders!  You can also upgrade your daily ticket for only $5 and stay until 10 pm on Fridays.  Ride your favorite slides after dark.  Buy your season pass today and bring a buddy for FREE to Friday Night Slides with the coupon in your Season Pass booklet. All 5 parks will have Friday Night Slides from now thru 8/16/13. Each park determines which attractions will be lit, so it is best to contact your park to be sure which attractions will be open for Friday Night Slides.
Visit hfalls.com for regular park hours and more details! Hawaiian Falls Waterparks. Your park. Your family.

Our Readers Save 50% off Big Kahuna Ticket (Save $13!) at Hawaiian Falls Waterparks this summer  http://www.dfwkidsguide.com/coupon.php?bid=11208&dealid=1265

Camping New Mexico

We officially begin working on a new revision of Camping New Mexico for Falcon Publishing this fall, but thoughts of mountains and pine trees are starting to work their way into our consciousness. The work on this edition will be a sharp contrast to the work on the first edition. The first edition involved black and white film. you know, the kind that had to be developed. Seriously.

This time the research will be considerably more high tech and will provide today's campers with the info they need including GPS coordinates for each campground. We're going to take as much interesting gear along as we can haul for testing purposes. Follow our travels here and at www.facebook.com/betravelhappy. In the mean time, Happy Camping!

12 Steps to Becoming a Travel Addict

1. Admit that you want to travel more. There’s a whole world out there that you haven’t seen. You know you can’t really see it on your iPad or on Discovery Channel. Watching other people travel on TV or reading about it is not going to satisfy your need to see more for yourself. Admitting it is the first step. 

2. Acknowledge that you can get help returning to sanity. The Internet has put travel planning within your reach. You can see almost every detail of hotel rooms, cruise cabins, and campgrounds online. You can research places to visit that you never thought you could. There are deals and bargains just waiting for you. You can get schedules for planes, trains, and buses. And the best part? You can research at your leisure, in your jammies, on your lunch break, and on your phone.

3. Decide that you will travel more. Until you make the decision, you are still just dreaming. You aren’t traveling. Start marking a calendar with the following: at least one week of vacation, two or three quarterly retreats in the non-vacation quarters of the year that involve at least two nights away from home, and a minimum of one night away in all the other months. It may look like quite a lot at first, but refer to step 1 if you start to waiver.

4. Take a travel inventory. Where have you been? Where have you been longing to go? Make the lists. Your commitment to the addiction will not be complete if you don’t keep a list that you can adjust every time you find a destination of interest. Try using technology—a Pinterest board maybe? That way you can share your list with fellow addicts.

5. Admit to someone else that you haven’t been traveling enough. When you say it out loud to another human being you’ll often find a partner in whom you can confide and share ideas.

6. Start surfing the Internet and let your travel dreams go wherever they will. Give in and let the addiction take hold. If you don’t look around, how will you ever know what waits for your next trip?

7. Practice shopping for bargains. Part of the reason you don’t go more is fear and the thing that often scares people most is how to pay for their addiction.

8. Admit to those you have wronged by not traveling, and prepare to make amends. This step may cause you to stumble, but it is through your connections with others that you truly enjoy travel. Here’s a list of possibilities:
  • Your children—broaden their education. They will learn more while traveling than in an average month sitting in a classroom.
  • Your spouse—your other half deserves time away from the world with you.
  • Your parents—you haven’t been home in how long?
  • Everyone who works in the travel industry—there are jobs at stake here.
  • The American people—Travel addicts have the power to turn around the economic crisis.
  • Third World countries—your travel dollars really do have a global impact.
  • Your cousin in Utah that you only talk to on Facebook—she would really love it if you came for a visit.

9. Start living your amends. Make plans to make up lost time traveling.

10. Continue to work on your travel inventory. The easiest way to get addicted here is to travel with a purpose.  Join a car club, start a collection that requires travel to complete, or set a goal to visit all of something—states, countries in South America, wineries in your state. 

11. Digest and learn from what you encounter. Whether you are camping or staying in luxury resorts, travel is more than an exploration of the world around us. It’s about exploring who we really are and what we are capable of. Keep a journal or log while you explore and return to your words often. You’ll often be surprised at the depth of the feelings you expressed while traveling.
12. Spread the word! Your travel addiction is not something to be hidden. Share your stories with the world and you enjoy the bonus of knowing that your insight may help other travelers as they find their addiction.

Making the A List: Get Free Stuff by Being a Great Guest

Insider Secret:
The owners of small lodging facilities keep lists of the guests they like, and we share the lists of guests we don't like with others in the business.

These are the types of notes we keep on guests in our reservation system. 

What we do with the lists of great guests ranges from simple acknowledgement to piling on the free stuff. At our resort we always do little things for our favorites like rushing them through check-in, leaving them cookies or flowers in the room, or allowing late checkouts at no charge. Our best customers get discounts, free night stays, and even free boat rentals. We know of one facility that gives an entire family reunion a free weekend in the offseason because they have been such good customers during the busy season for so many years.

So how do you get on the A-List? 
  • Be respectful. This applies to our property, our rules, and our other guests. This is our home and we love sharing it with you, but leaving messes, playing music so loudly that the whole place is forced to endure it, or allowing your children to terrorize the place will never get you on our Christmas card list.

  • Be friendly, but don't monopolize too much of our time. As much as we love to chat, innkeepers are busy people. We all try to make this job look easy, but it can be grueling during our busy times. Brighten our day with a quick friendly conversation, then go enjoy your stay. Guests frequently invite us to join them for meals, but what we really appreciate most is when someone fixes us a plate and brings it to the office. Those people move right to the top of the list. 

  • Don't be needy. There's a difference between asking for assistance during your stay and calling five times between check-in and midnight for information that is available to you in the guestbook found lying on your dining table, or that you could have asked for at check-in.

    Note the discount. Code x13 means this year's Christmas card list.
  • Use onsite services. Obviously not every place you stay will have services to offer, but if they have a restaurant, equipment rentals, movie rentals, sell ice, or have a gift shop, spending your money with your hosts is a quick way to make a good impression. 

  • Repeat. If you enjoy a place, making it a habit is good for you as well as for the owners of the establishment. Even regulars that aren't the perfect guests get perks that others don't. 

  • Write a good online review, or leave us a personal note. These two things go farther than almost anything you can do to get on our A-list. Public acknowledgement of our place helps us build our business and private acknowledgement keeps us going from week to week.

  • Remind us. As hard as we try to remember names and faces, we simply cannot keep up with everyone. When you call or email start by telling us when you stayed with us last. It keeps us from embarrassing ourselves by not remembering your name and helps us help you to those A-list perks.