We’ve been planning and taking good trips for over two decades now…. Okay, I’m enough of an old dowager to admit that I would love to pack a heavy steamer trunk when we go anywhere; loading it up with everything that I could possibly need… I’m getting better about traveling lighter- yet the best short vacations consist of 4 tips for what I call a LITE vacation. Almost as light as these almond meringues at Croissant L’ Or in New Orleans! No, really…It’s really a formula –
- L – for Location, location, location!
- I – for Inspiration and Interests.
- T – for taking Tours
- E – for Entertainment and Eating!
When I use this formula of a mere 4 tips, we’ve come back from a fabulous trip! Now, most southerners love a relaxing beach trip and here, we generally don’t consider our life complete unless we’ve gone to the Alabama Beaches at least once a year! Then again, lots of us head for the hills when it’s hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. These two types of trips aren’t the sort of trips I’m talking about! And, of course you can book a cruise or an all inclusive vacation. Still. I’m talking city travel, because y’all know we do love the bright lights of New York City, the Golden Gate of San Francisco and has anyone ever turned down a trip to New Orleans? I don’t think so! We just got back from a 5 day 4 night trip to the Big Easy… and if I do say so myself…it was a perfect example of traveling LITE!
Here’s what I’m talking about!
Location! It really doesn’t pay to try to find the cheapest place to stay – If it’s way out on the outskirts of town, you’ll spend most of your time figuring out how to get to and fro and waste valuable time doing it! If you rent a car, pay for parking or use other means of transportation- by the time you pay the fares, you probably haven’t saved too much! When we go to New York, I try to book a hotel near the Rockefeller Center or Times Square. San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel puts us at the crossroads of the cable cars going in both directions. In New Orleans…drumroll- the big name hotels aren’t as centrally located as the Boutique Hotels! Those quirky small places will save so many steps, it’s crazy to stay anywhere else! Here are the Cornstalk Hotel and Hotel Royal:
Inspiration and Interests Never underestimate these two things when traveling! Better than any trinket or souvenir you can bring home! Buy small, lightweight items only, if you can’t resist- any heavy items should be shipped and many times the shopkeeper or your hotel will make arrangements for you! I personally love to bring home something specific to an area, like a box of pralines or these wonderful masks!
Or… dried herbs, spices and specialty blends, sea salt or pink peppercorns. Even a piece of jewelry or a small work of art.
The best thing of all is to bring back photos taken with your phone! Take lots, yet always ask permission and- if photos are forbidden- postcards or tourist maps will have landmark photos and are easy to save for future reference. Let’s face it- who wants to lug around some huge package or take the time to go back to the hotel to drop off something you may regret buying later….okay, I passed up the masks and jewelry though I do wish I had bought a small piece of art!! The art in New Orleans is wonderful!
Tours Don’t turn your nose up at the hop on hop off tours…if you’re short on time or energy, this is the best way to see a city! I try to plan for this, especially if we haven’t visited the city before or if the weather isn’t going to be ideal. *Tip: Ride one full round to get a feel of the city, then with your tourist map- mark places that you’d like to come back to and explore on foot!
Next on my list of tours has to be specialty tours… for instance in New Orleans- there’s an historic walking tour called the Cocktail Walking Tour. The photos above at the Old Absinthe House on Pirate’s Alley by St. Louis Cathedral seem to be a very popular stop on the Cocktail Walking Tour. Since New Orleans claims to have invented the cocktail, even a teetotaler like me enjoys this one! Now, keep in mind this isn’t a pub crawl! You are given the historic significance of the location, the cocktail invented there and if you do decide to imbibe or share a drink with a few of the other tourists you may do so! I love Antoine’s, the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monte Leon- and at the quiet end of Bourbon Street is Jean La Fitte’s Blacksmith Shop where the fruit juice based – Hurricane is said to have been invented. Most cities offer culinary, history and carriage tours! These tours always seem to be taken in small groups with a knowledgeable guide and lots of fun too! A must have on my LITE formula is always Tours!
Entertainment and Eating! One of my favorite parts of travelling LITE! We generally plan one or two main entertainment options- a Broadway Play, a Museum or specialty tour… perhaps to the Wine Country from San Francisco! Then we plan one or two upscale dining experiences- *Tip- to save money, go early- either at lunchtime or close to Happy Hour when there are usually specials or less expensive entrees. We enjoyed eating Brunch at the Court of Two Sisters with it’s canopy of wisteria that’s over 100 years old!
And the first thing we did- was go to Drago’s for their famous chargrilled oysters! Amazing!
We also choose a food truck or a food cart meal and don’t forget that some delis or grocers have food to go…one of my favorite things is to go to Central Grocery in New Orleans and share a Muffaletta! These folks ought to know how to make them- they invented them! And I do love a food cart with hot dogs, there’s a place in Sausalito making hamburgers on a revolving grill who take orders through the window! Art museums often have small dining areas and the food is generally very good- the Metropolitan Art Museum in NYC comes to mind! We’ve saved money on meals by eating brunch and an early supper instead of trying to eat three meals a day! Let’s face it… not only will it save money, the lure of a praline or a beignet- that big pretzel, or your favorite French pastry won’t seem like such a diet buster if you’ve only eaten two meals a day!
Now, in addition to these 4 tips- I have to add … Free and low cost things to do on almost any trip! The two of us bought a day pass for a total of $3 and rode the street car to the City Park and Museum, the trip and grounds were worth this! Yet, that wasn’t all, the trolley also goes the other direction down to the beautiful Garden District where large homes and quaint restaurants are charming and there’s even a big old mansion which holds an upscale grocery store! It’s fun to talk to other riders, often they will point out areas of interest! And the Garden District Streetcars, like those in San Francisco are moving national historic landmarks! Who could ever forget the Streetcar named Desire?
And, that one day pass was good on any type of public transportation! I do try to find at least one self guided walking tour- this time from the New Orleans Visitor Center- ask for one! It’s Free! There are also numerous art gallery openings, street musicians, and always incredibly interesting religious sites, public parks, specialty art or handmade shops- the cigar factory has experts, the cathedral is gorgeous, the mask makers are incredible too!
And don’t forget! The free samples of local specialty food! Pralines are never safe around me! Walk around New Orleans, Charleston, Savannah and more…you’re sure to enjoy peeking into the public and private gardens most with very historic backgrounds!
You would be amazed how much you are able to learn about a city sitting near a River Park watching big tankers or walking across a famous bridge, taking public transportation ferries or looking at the old and beautiful government buildings! * Hint- often very good local food is close to public buildings – it’s where locals eat! Always get district maps as you walk around a big city! I’m a huge fan of historic parks and architectural elements, it doesn’t cost a cent to gaze upon, take a photograph and there’s plenty of it to amuse me in New Orleans!
So there you have it! 4 Ways to travel LITE! And don’t forget to check out the free or low cost bits of fun! If you truly want to save money or avoid the crowds…travel on the edges of the off season- late spring, early fall are typical. Now, don’t forget, if you’re longing to head South? We’ve basically got two seasons you’ll want to work around… Football Season and Hurricane Season! Have fun and plan those trips the LITE way!
Love y’all, Camellia
*This is not a compensated post!! All photographs are obviously mine! Now, really don’t you love that photo of the trumpet player? yes, I do too- it’s my new favorite thing to do- apply filters! Here he is again- just for fun!