Category: mini travel guide

Mini Travel Guide: America’s Pacific Northwest

Looking for a travel guide to the Pacific Northwest? Click through for PNW travel tips from a local - what to do, where to go, and how to travel the Pacific Northwest cheaply, safely, and respectfully!

Looking for a travel guide to the Pacific Northwest? Is there more to this area than fog and coffee? Well …. probably? Luckily for all of us, I brought in a local to share her best PNW travel tips – where to go, what to do, and how to do it all cheaply and safely.

Hi! I’m Sam from The Philosophy of Kindness. Five years ago I flew to Seattle on a whim. It was love at first sight. One month later my bags were packed and I never looked back.

When I think of the Pacific Northwest I think of it’s the green forests, cities that incorporate nature at every turn, mountains, farms, harbors, coffee shops on every corner, thrift shops and half off bookstores everywhere, and the quirkiness of cities that celebrate being offbeat.

Must Go in the Pacific Northwest

Must go in the Pacific Northwest

The Oregon Coast

If breathtaking is what you are looking for the coast is where you need to head. It’s 363 miles of isolated beaches dotted with quaint seaside towns, cliffs, sand dunes, sea stacks jutting out of the ocean, picturesque lighthouses and great spots to view sea lions.

Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C.

Stanley Park is a breath of fresh air if you are looking to escape the city. There is so much to do here! Tour the Rose Garden, visit the First Nation totem poles or stand inside a 700-year-old cedar tree. However, a stroll around the seawall shouldn’t be passed up. If the tide is in enough you can look over the side and see huge purple starfish clinging to the rock below. 

Granite Falls, WA

The quaint town isn’t so much the destination, but it is the main stopping point to get info and park passes for Mountain Loop Highway. The Highway cuts its way through the Cascade Mountain Range where you can find camping sites, lakes, hiking trails, and picnic areas can be can be found throughout the area.
The biggest attraction are the Big Four Ice Caves, which are a short hike from the highway. Further down the road is Monte Cristo, once a booming prospectors city now it’s a ghost town.
Must do in the Pacific Northwest

Must Do in the Pacific Northwest


If you’re looking for a unique event, Seafair is a summer-long festival that takes place throughout Seattle. At any given time you can take part in the Solstice Parade celebrating artists, watch milk carton boat derbies, or check out the Seafair pirates storming the beach. Every town also seems to host their own street fairs where you can check out the local handcrafted scene.

Get out of the city

Hood Canal, Olympic National Park, San Juan Islands, Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, Earth Sanctuary, Mount Baker, Mount Hood – the list goes on! If you’re visiting a city, you can easily find a National or State park within a hour or two drive from where you are staying. The Cascades surround the area and are beautiful to view from the city but are spectacular to hike through.

Take a ferry

They’re inexpensive way to get around and offer some of the best views around. And since they aren’t a traditional tourist attraction, they will drop you off in non­-tourist spots that are fun to explore.

Must eat in the Pacific Northwest

Must eat in the Pacific Northwest


The coffee culture in the Pacific Northwest is unlike anywhere else in the US. Skip Starbucks or anything with a name you recognize and go to any of the local cafes. Many coffee shops roast their own beans and if they don’t, they surely buy from local roasters. Try a pour over to bring out the flavor profiles or a Chemex to share.

Dungeness Crab

It’s sweet, tender, meaty, and best of all it’s a sustainable seafood. There are so many ways to cook it. You can find it in crab cakes, chowder, wontons, but my personal favorite is just to dip it in butter and savor the flavor.

Cultural tips for traveling in the Pacific Northwest

Cultural tips for traveling in the Pacific Northwest

The Pacific Northwest is a really liberal area. We’re very much about environmental causes, sustainability, buying local and organic. You will see trash, recycling, and compost bins everywhere.

People here are really friendly, especially in the the more touristy areas. Bus drivers were one of the best sources I found in regards for help in getting around and information on what to see and do.

cheap travel in the Pacific Northwest

Cheap travel tips for the Pacific Northwest

Outside of the cities transportation can be difficult. However buses and bikes are a great way to get around. There are two options for traveling between Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver.
Amtrak operates between the cities and you can get great views of the ocean from the train. The Bolt Bus also runs between the cities and you can get a seat for as low as $1.
In the summer is when the Pacific Northwest comes alive. There are festivals, an abundance of parks to visit, Shakespeare in the Park, Pow Wows, farmer’s markets (usually there is live music), and parades. All of these things are free or very minimal cost.
Airbnb is cheaper than a hotel and nicer than a hostel. Here’s a whole townhouse in Bend, OR for $33 a night and here’s a cottage in Astoria for $44 a night.  If you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s a $40 credit towards your first booking!
Thanks, Sam!  I’m sure lots of you guys are native P.N.W.-ers. What else do we need to know about or other travel tips for the Pacific Northwest?

Mini Travel Guide: Myanmar

Looking for a travel guide to Myanmar or Burma? Click through for Myanmar travel tips form a local - what to do, where to go, and how to travel Burma cheaply, safely, and respectfully!
Looking for a travel guide to Myanmar or Burma? They’re the same place and though it’s a gorgeous country, it’s not widely traveled. Today, I brought in a local to share her best Myanmar travel tips – where to go, what to do, and how to travel Burma safely, cheaply, and respectfully!

Hi, I’m Laura! I’ve been working with Burmese refugees in Thailand for two  years and will be making the move to Burma soon.
Every time I’ve hopped over the border to neighboring Myanmar, I’m rewarded through encounters with kind-hearted people and a chance to enjoy a slower pace of life.
Yes, things can be a bit haphazard and modern amenities are lacking, but people care for one another and are happy to see tourists.
Looking for a travel guide to Myanmar or Burma? Click through for Myanmar travel tips form a local - what to do, where to go, and how to travel Burma cheaply, safely, and respectfully!

Must go in Myanmar

Shwedagon pagoda

It is said that inside the golden stupor are hairs from Buddha himself! It’s the most famous pagoda in the country.  When you visit it, you’ll see real Burmese life happening all around you – families catching up or couples meeting for a slow walk and lingering conversation (public displays of affection are a no-no)!


Bagan is a stunning array of temples, as far as the eye can see. It’s a magical place that makes you feel as if you have found a forgotten kingdom.
Climb to the top of one of the bigger pagodas at sunrise or take a balloon ride at sunset to truly feel the magic of this place! Top tip: the horse drawn carriage drivers know the best spots to visit, so let them guide you!

Lake Inle

Take a boat out on Lake Inle to see traditional fishermen, floating gardens, and riverside life. You can easily spend a whole day stopping at villages along the banks of this giant lake.
Looking for a travel guide to Myanmar or Burma? Click through for Myanmar travel tips form a local - what to do, where to go, and how to travel Burma cheaply, safely, and respectfully!

Must do in Myanmar

Visit a market

Myanmar’s markets are amazing! You’ll find beautiful antiques, colorful spices, and food you’ve never seen before. Every time I go, I see a new find of vegetable!
Buy spices, tea, traditional longyis (skirts) or wooden umbrellas to take home as souvenirs. The tacky I ‘heart’ country t-shirts and key rings are not yet popular, so you can buy some truly unique gifts here.

Talk to Myanmar locals

Whether wandering around downtown Yangon or sitting in a teashop, in Mandalay you will likely be approached by someone wanting to practice their English. Due to former British occupation you will find many older people with great English (and British accents to match!).
Chatting with people is a great way to discovering what life was like under military rule and how they are affected the recent changes in their country.

Looking for a travel guide to Myanmar or Burma? Click through for Myanmar travel tips form a local - what to do, where to go, and how to travel Burma cheaply, safely, and respectfully!

Must eat in Myanmar

Tea leaf salad 

Myanmar has a surprising array of salads – tomato, pennyworth, ginger, cucumber – but the most famous one is Tea leaf salad (La-phet–toe). This dish is made from pickled tea leaves, roasted peanuts, broad beans and sesame seeds, garlic, tomato and sometimes small dried shrimps.
Eaten as a snack or main meal, it’s delicious and available all day long (but don’t forget tea leaves have caffeine so don’t eat it for dinner if you want to sleep early!)

Breakfast and tea

Myanmar is famous for its teashops with small stools, lighters hanging from the ceiling and over sweetened tasty drink concoctions. Some are open all day, but I have always found the best food to be served in the early morning and the most popular places run out by 10am.
Try a cup of milk tea, naan bread and chickpea curry or opt for the more traditional Mohingha soup, a noodle soup dish that is popular for breakfast. If there is no English menu just take a look at the other customers and point, or order one of everything, tea shops are cheap and delicious!

Looking for a travel guide to Myanmar or Burma? Click through for Myanmar travel tips form a local - what to do, where to go, and how to travel Burma cheaply, safely, and respectfully!

Cultural tips for travel in Myanmar

Be aware that tourism is still new to people so don’t be shocked if they stare, just smile as they will always return an even bigger smile. Conservative and breathable clothing is advised.
Traditionally, Burmese women cover their shoulders and knees so I wouldn’t recommend short skirts or vest tops. Longyis (traditional Burmese skirts) are a great way of staying cool whilst covering up.
On the whole, Burmese people are very welcoming and open people. They rarely try to rip you off and will go out of their way to help you. Haggling in markets is usually done for fun, but remember the average monthly wage is about $50 so haggling over the odd dollar is bad etiquette.

Looking for a travel guide to Myanmar or Burma? Click through for Myanmar travel tips form a local - what to do, where to go, and how to travel Burma cheaply, safely, and respectfully!

Cheap travel tips for Myanmar

Myanmar is a very cheap country (except when it comes to hotels) – I would recommend booking accommodation before you go so you are not left stranded and have to pay for expensive rooms.
Internal flights are expensive and most of the airlines are tainted with ties to the former military government. Buses are fast and cheap but their air conditioning is usually very cold so take a jacket or prepare to freeze!
Thanks so much for sharing, Laura!  Have any of you guys been to Myanmar? Any Myanmar travel tips to share?
Photos by Capturing the human heart. // Julien de Salaberry // Isaiah Rustad // Julian Hanslmaier // Sven Scheuermeier on Unsplash

Mini Travel Guide: The Appalachians

Looking for a travel guide to The Appalachian region? Appalachia is one of the most beautiful, affordable, overlooked areas of the U.S. I brought in a local to share her best Appalachian travel tips - what to do, where to go, and how to do it all cheaply, safely, and respectfully!  
Looking for a travel guide to The Appalachian region? Appalachia is one of the most beautiful, affordable, overlooked areas of the U.S. I brought in a local to share her best Appalachian travel tips – what to do, where to go, and how to do it all cheaply, safely, and respectfully!

Hi! I’m Kelly. I’ve lived in Virginia my whole life, with a yearlong stint in West Virginia for Americorps, and two years in North Carolina for graduate school. The Appalachian Region is, in my opinion, among the most beautiful and friendly our country has to offer. Come check it out!

Looking for a travel guide to The Appalachian region? Appalachia is one of the most beautiful, affordable, overlooked areas of the U.S. I brought in a local to share her best Appalachian travel tips - what to do, where to go, and how to do it all cheaply, safely, and respectfully!  

Must go in the Appalachians

FloydFest, Floyd, VA

This annual summer festival is a must for music lovers or anyone who is bummed they missed Woodstock. Spend a few days near the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway, pitch a tent, and make some new friends by the campfire. You can also float down the Little River or add a mountain-biking excursion while you’re at it.

The Greenbrier Resort, White Sulphur Springs, WV

No reservations are required to drop in on this gorgeous hotel steeped in history. Established in the late 1700s, the hotel was occupied at different times by both sides during the Civil War, and as an internment facility for diplomats during World War 2.

In the 1950s a bomb shelter was constructed under the hotel, to be used to house Congress in case of a nuclear attack. The bunker was exposed and decommissioned in 1992, and can be viewed on tours that are open to the public.

must do in the Appalachians

Must do in the Appalachians

Sinkland Farms Pumpkin Festival, Riner, VA

Have you ever wanted to take a hay ride to pick your own pumpkin? Here’s your chance. Every weekend in October the Pumpkin Festival provides just that opportunity, along with kettle corn, ice cream, a corn maze, and if you’re lucky, “punkin chuckin”

Watching a pumpkin being launched into a field by a giant lever is way more fun than you would think!

State Fairs

The North Carolina State Fair, held every fall in Raleigh, is an impressive display of rides, food, and livestock. Make sure to try a deep fried Oreo, or if that’s not your speed, grilled corn on a stick (delicious!).
The West Virginia State Fair, held in August, is a much smaller version of the same. Grab some homemade donuts and stroll by one of the livestock barns to watch children with exceptional wrangling skills show their prize sheep (and learn a thing or two about animal husbandry in the process).
Must eat in the Appalachians

Must eat in the Appalachians


It’s no secret that North Carolinians love their barbecue. The Lexington Style (tomato or ketchup-based) v. Eastern Style (vinegar-based) feud is older than the Duke-UNC rivalry. Any visit to the state is a good chance to fill-up on barbecue and decide which style works for you.

Vineyards + Breweries

Wineries have been popping up all over Virginia in recent years. You can get your fill of wine, but also try high-quality beer and cider thanks to the Brew Ridge Trail, a group of small craft breweries. Many of the wineries are located on beautiful properties that make for great picnics, and live music is generally offered in the summer months.

From the food trucks

Durham, NC has a wide variety of offerings that are served via food truck. Pizza, popsicles, and Korean are just a few of your choices. Look for them at community events or outside of bars and breweries on weekend evenings.

Cultural tips for traveling in the Appalachians

Cultural tips for traveling in the Appalachians

Basketball is almost a religion in North Carolina. If you’re not a basketball fan but you’re hoping to meet people on your trip, it’s probably a good idea to brush up on some of the state’s teams before you go.

Everyone I met during my year in West Virginia was very conscious of the state’s “redneck” reputation. Some despise it, a few are proud of it, but fewer still actually fit that description and no more so than any other state.

Cheap travel in the Appalachians

Cheap travel tips for the Appalachians

The Appalachian Region is blessed with the perfect land for outdoor activities. In every state you can find hiking trails, rivers, bike paths, and so much more. Even if you don’t feel up for a hike on the Appalachian Trail just yet, there are plenty of free options for being active.
And if you find yourself near Fayetteville, WV, make sure to check out the spectacular New River Gorge Bridge, which you can cross on foot on Bridge Day in October.
Sarah Duke Gardens at Duke University: These stunning gardens are free to the public, and feature displays of native southeastern plants as well as plants of eastern Asia.
If you’re traveling with a group or staying somewhere for more than one night, Airbnb is usually a better use of your travel budget. Here’s a two-bed guest house in downtown Raleigh for $45 a night and here’s a sweet cabin in Floyd for $55 a night. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s a $40 credit towards your first booking!
Thanks so much for sharing, Kelly!  Do you Appalachian readers have any other travel tips to share?

Mini Travel Guide: The Southwestern U.S.

Looking for a travel guide of the Southwestern US? Click through for from-a-local insights on what to do, where to go, what to eat, and how to do it all cheaply in New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California!
Hi friends! I’m Carrie. I’ve lived in the Southwest United States my entire life, and I’m excited to be here today to share some of my favorite places with you from Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada and Texas.
I know that most people still imagine the Southwest to be filled with Cowboys, Indians and tumbleweeds, but we are so much more than that! The Southwestern States are filled with busy cities and gorgeous desert.
Must go in the Southwest US

Must go in the Southwest

Sedona, AZ

The red rocks in Sedona are said to have healing power, and you can definitely believe it after visiting this serene place. There’s an awesome downtown area with shops and restaurants (you must try the fudge from the fudge shop there!), and some breathtaking landscapes. I highly recommend finding Crescent Moon Park for a picnic and a light hike – it’s one of my favorite places in the world.

Las Vegas, NV

If you’re not into drinking and gambling, you will love Las Vegas. If you’re into drinking and gambling, you will LOVE Las Vegas. It’s full of glitz, glamour and money, and boasts tons of awesome shows every night. There’s plenty to do if you’re with your family or on a Bachelorette party weekend. Make sure you check out my favorite hotel on the strip – the new Cosmopolitan Hotel.

Marin County, CA

Located about an hour’s drive north of San Francisco, Marin County is a gorgeous, tree-filled area filled with really awesome Earth-loving people. Tons of celebrities have houses in the area, and George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch is there too. There are some beautiful scenic roads to take and some really fun places to shop for gifts.
Must do in the Southwest US

Must do in the Southwest

Visit a theme park

One word: Disneyland. Hang out with the Mouses and make sure you eat a Disneyland churro. If Disney isn’t your thing, there are tons of other cool theme parks in the Southwest. Six Flags Magic Mountain in California and Six Flags Over Texas are great if you’re a thrill-seeker, because they’re filled with some really awesome roller coasters.

Watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean

The Southwest has some beautiful sunsets, and the best place to watch it is on the beach, obviously. Walk on the boardwalk while enjoying the crash of the surf and the pink and orange sunsets. Flip-flops are not required, but highly recommended.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta takes place every October and is one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced in my life. Make sure you get there early (before the sun rises) to see the “glow” – where balloons are lit up and start taking off. Before you know it, the entire sky will be filled with balloons, and you’ll be in the middle of even more taking off.
Must eat in the Southwest

Must eat in the Southwest

Authentic Mexican food

Oh my yum. You can’t get more authentic Mexican food unless you cross the border to Mexico (which is totally possible for a day trip from most of the Southwest). You have to try a mom-and-pop restaurant (or should I say “madre-and-padre restaurant”) while in town.


The strawberries…oh, the strawberries. The California sun gives life to many delicious plants, and you can find farmers markets on almost every corner during weekends.


There’s a reason why the entire country has Texas brisket on the menu! Finger lickin’ good food is to be found in the Southwest.
Cultural tips for traveling in the Southwest

Cultural tips for traveling in the Southwest

Wear sunscreen

We can often have a nice breeze blowing through (and by “nice breeze,” I really mean it feels like a hairdryer), and sometimes it’s hard to remember how potent the sun rays are. Keep your skin young and pretty and lather up with sunscreen often.

Drink tons of water

This goes along with the previous tip, but it’s even more important. Even when you’re swimming in one of the many pools in town, it’s easy to get dehydrated. Drink more water than you think you need!
Cheap travel in the Southwest

Cheap travel tips for Southwest US

If you’re feeling brave, there are plenty of rideshare options listed on Craigslist. The bus systems in the big cities are usually really great if you can figure out how to navigate them.
Of course, Airbnb is usually cheaper than a hotel and a great way to meet locals! Here’s a $40 tipi in Madrid, New Mexico and here’s a gorgeous studio apartment with a pool in Tucson for $85 a night! If you haven’t used Airbnb before, here’s $40 off your first booking.
Thanks so much for sharing, Carrie!  I’m sure tons of you guys live in the Southwest – what else should we do/eat/be aware of or other Southwest US travel tips?
photo 1 by nicholas_t // photo 2 by joseph depalma // photo 3 by randy pertiet // photo 4 by my visual poetry // photo 5 by joe shlabotnik // photo 6 by abhisawa

Mini Travel Guide: Fiji

Looking for a travel guide to Fiji? Click through for a local's Fiji travel tips - what to do, where to go, what to eat, and how to do it all safely and respectfully!

Looking for a travel guide to Fiji? There is sooooo much more to Fiji beyond those cheesy all-inclusives in the Mamanuca islands! If you stay on the big island, you’ll find friendly people, affordable lodging, and a much more authentic experience! I brought in a local to share her best Fiji travel tips – where to go, what to do, and how to do it safely and respectfully.

Bula! That’s ‘hello’ in Fijian. I’m Stacey, and I write about music, travel, and being non-boring over at The Delight Adventure. My first overseas travel adventure, fresh outta high school, was to Fiji, where my time was split between studying on the main island, Viti Levu, and travelling by boat doing volunteer work in the outer islands.
The highlight of my time there was when I was welcomed into a family that shared a one-room house on the beach, in a tiny village, on a remote island where only one road stretching from north to south accommodated the islands three vehicles.
Although the vistas were stunning, I was far more awestruck by the the warm, welcoming, and guest-honouring culture of the Fiji Islands. Fiji stole my heart, and I’ve since been back to visit the family I acquired there. It’s my pleasure to share a few tips that will help you get the most out of your time in Fiji!
Must travel fiji tips

Must go in Fiji

Off the beaten path…

There is so much more to Fiji than the empty, white-sand beaches you see in travel magazines. The average tourist path is confined to the capital city, Suva, or the insular resort environments, but to truly experience the heart of the nation, you simply must get out and spend time with the people, whose incredible generosity, hospitality and simplicity will stick with you long after you leave the islands.

Yasawa Islands

Situated on the westernmost edge of the country, the Yasawas are a group of islands that are generally less traveled. With perfect beaches, lagoons, and crystal clear water, this slice of paradise is well worth the extra effort it takes to get there.


Aptly referred to as ‘The Garden Island’, Taveuni is extremely lush and green, and straddles the international dateline – you can actually stand in two different days at once! A definite must-do in Taveuni is taking a swim in the base of the Tavoro Waterfalls – a group of three waterfalls, connected by a walking path through rainforest with incredible views of the entire island.
Must do in Fiji

Must do in Fiji

Visit a village

If there is one thing I can urge you to do to get the most out of your time in Fiji – it is to make friends with some locals, and get to experience a day (or week! or month!) in the life of a real Fijian village.
Most Fijians that reside outside towns and cities live off the land. They spend their days cultivating, catching, preparing and thoroughly enjoying food, or working collectively on village projects – like building a shelter or weaving mats.
Fijian villagers would be described as ‘poor’ by many people, and perhaps to a western standard they are, as they don’t earn much money, but there is also little need for it in the self-sustaining village lifestyle. Village life is simple and absolutely beautiful, and not to be missed.
Must eat in Fiji

Must eat in Fiji


Tastes like dirt! Makes your tongue numb! I know I’m not exactly selling it, but kava is the most widely-consumed beverage in Fiji, often enjoyed ceremoniously at any significant event. The mildly sedative beverage is central to Fijian culture, and the circle around the kava bowl is where connections are made and stories are shared.


Ahh, just reminiscing about this doughnut-ey treat makes my mouth water – babakau (pronounced ‘bumba-cow’) are balls of dough, fried in oil and served hot with jam, usually with afternoon tea.

Curry and roti

Curry served with fresh roti (aka chapati), along with plenty of other delicious Indo-Fijian foods is widely-available in towns and cities – and cheap, too!
cultural tips for traveling in Fiji

Cultural tips for traveling in Fiji

Fiji Time

Fiji has its own take on the ‘island time’ lifestyle. While it can be frustrating to wait a long time for food to arrive, or for a bus to depart – Let go of any time-oriented expectations and embrace it! Fiji time is good for the soul, if you let it be.

Indo-Fijian Awesomeness! 

Just under half of the population is made up of Indo-Fijians – Fijians of Indian descent. Fiji’s history has been riddled by tension between the Indo-Fijian and indigenous Fijian populations, leading to political unrest and numerous military coups.
This is another reality that is overlooked when sticking to the main tourist agenda, but I encourage you to take in the Indian culture in all its glory – Indian food and products are widely available, and the Indo-Fijian population has maintained a unique subculture, with a beauty all its own.
cheap travel in Fiji

Cheap travel tips for Fiji

Market shopping

Most towns have a central market, where you can buy nearly everything you need to make a meal. This is where the locals shop, and for a good reason – market finds are usually cheaper and fresher than anywhere else.


Most of the businesses in Fiji (including markets and street vendors) have Indo-Fijian owners, who will fervently haggle a price down for you, even in a shop. Don’t be afraid to ask for a better price!

Local buses

The larger islands in Fiji have many regular buses, which are cheap and easy to navigate, and can often be hailed from the roadside, rather than finding a bus stop. Locals and drivers are so helpful, if in doubt of where you’re headed or what bus to take, just ask! My experience was that nearly anyone I asked was happy to help.


If you stay away from the Mamanuca islands, you’ll save so much money! Here’s a four-bedroom house with a pool for $81 a night and here’s a cute apartment in Suva for $79 a night. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s a $40 credit towards your first booking!
Thanks so much for sharing your Fiji travel tips, Stacey! Do you guys have anything to add? 
photos  by stacey //  kylepost // david huang //  Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Mini Travel Guide: The Mountain West of America

Looking for a travel guide to the Rockies or the mountain west? Click through for Rockies travel tips from a local - what to do, where to go, and how to travel the Rockies cheaply and safely!

Looking for a travel guide to the Rockies – or the ‘American Mountain West’? Want to know where to hike and kayak? Me, too! That’s why I brought in a local to share her best western travel tips. Take it away, Lauren!

Big skies, tall mountains, and snowy peaks into July, the Mountain West is exactly what I read about in the history books. Though I never thought I’d live here, after almost 10 years in New York and DC, I decided that I’d try the Mountain West out for a few months.

Almost a year later, I’ve backpacked in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, and skied Big Sky, Winter Park, and Bridger Bowl. Needless to say, I might be sticking around for a while.

Looking for a travel guide to the Rockies or the mountain west? Click through for Rockies travel tips from a local - what to do, where to go, and how to travel the Rockies cheaply and safely!

Must Go in the Mountain West

Bozeman, Montana

Affectionately known as “Boz-angeles”, this small Montana college town has a mixed personality of wild-and-free adventure types and Ph.D-holding environmentalists. With unparalleled skiing in the winter, and tons of free lectures, outdoor film screenings, and local food festivals in the summer, it’s hard to find a bad time to visit.

McCall, Idaho

McCall is one of those towns you’ve never heard of, which is the reason you should visit. About 90 minutes north of Boise, a McCall winter holds skiing, snowshoeing and Winter Fest, which draws 10,000 people for a weekend of music, food, and ice sculptures. Summer brings aqua enthusiasts for kayaking, fishing, and sitting in a cafe on the shore of the Payette Lake, staring into tree-covered mountains.

Breckenridge, CO

Though Breckenridge is a famed ski town, its high season is actually summer. With long, warm days, and clear, cool nights, Breckenridge has that small-town charm and is nestled in the heart of an outdoor playground. Have breakfast on Main Street, get to the trailhead at 9 am, hike for a few hours and then go fly-fishing on the Colorado River, all before dinner.
Must do in the Mountain West

Must Do in the Mountain West

Get thee to a National Park

Put that RV to use and start driving! Wyoming’s got the Grand Tetons, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming share Yellowstone, Utah’s home to Zion and Bryce Canyon, and Colorado has Rocky Mountain National. And those are just the major ones!

Go floating

Here’s what you do: grab your friends, buy a bunch of inflatable inner tubes, pack a few p-cords and your adult beverage of choice and launch into one of the rivers. In Montana, there are the Gallatin, Madison, and Yellowstone, which flow just leisurely enough for you and your friends to spend a day on the water, cold drink in hand, and still making it to town in time for happy hour. Win!

Relax with a soak

With natural hot springs abounding, outdoor soaking is a popular activity at night after a hard day playing outside. Usually only costing around $5, some hot springs have yummy treats, local beers on tap, and live bluegrass music.

Must eat in the Mountain West

Must Eat in the Mountain West


I’ve been a vegetarian since 2008, but when, within the first week of me landing in Montana, a friend of mine tossed me an elk burger that he had hunted himself the previous fall, I couldn’t say no.

A nice, cold microbrew

The winters are so long and cold here that a local has to get through it somehow. Instead of paying for a mediocre beer in a can, try a local beer or cider on tap. And because it’s local, no shipping is required. Friendly for the environment and friendly for your wallet!

Cultural tips for traveling in the Mountain West

Cultural tips for traveling in the Mountain West

People hunt and own guns, but still believe in social equality.
Being from the east coast, I found that the number of people here who own guns and actually used them to be shocking. But, most of these people also believe in social equality, lessening our overall impact on the environment, and other stereotypically “liberal” ideals.
Expect to be invited on an outdoor adventure rather than to happy hour.

As I was making friends here in the Mountain West, I found that instead of grabbing brunch or 2-for-1 beers, we’d hike after work or cross-country ski on Sunday morning. Better on my waistline for sure.

Looking for a travel guide to the Rockies or the mountain west? Click through for Rockies travel tips from a local - what to do, where to go, and how to travel the Rockies cheaply and safely!

Cheap travel tips for the Mountain West

If you want to get the most bang for your buck, pack a tent and camp. Since so many people camp out here, some campgrounds are equipped with pools and even hot tubs! Sure, you’re sleeping in a tent, but leave the fly off at night, watch the moon rise, and you’ll forget all about that bedbug-ridden mattress from the Super 8 down the road.
Cruise America rents RVs to get around between the National Parks. These puppies will cost you some change in gas, but you have the option of traveling AND sleeping in them.

And! Walmart allows all RV’s and campers to stay in their parking lots for as long as they want for free. Say what you will about Walmart, but after a long night of driving around looking for a campground, sometimes it’s nice to know that mall police won’t be knocking on your door at 2 am telling you to move on.

If neither of those are your speed, Airbnb is usually cheaper than a hotel, expecially if you’re traveling with a group or staying someplace for a few days. Here’s a gorgeous cabin in Montana for $51 a night and here’s a room on a Wyoming ranch for $33. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s $40 towards your first booking!

Thanks so much for sharing, Lauren!  I know tons of you live out west – what other advice can you share or other Mountain West travel tips? 
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