Thursday, October 14, 2010

Please Welcome Meredith Simmons - WWTS Finalist

One of the things I've most enjoyed because of the Writing With the Stars Comtest is all the great, new friends I've made. Meredith is one of the finalists, who also happens to live 45 minutes from me!! Merry is an experienced traveler and she's here to give us a few trips on taking amazing vacations on a budget. Please give her a warm welcome!

Goin’ Places

I was really excited when Alannah asked me to do a guest blog, and then I realized I wasn’t an expert on anything. When it comes to writing, I’m still in learning mode and what I don’t know, I make up as I go along. I didn’t feel competent to give advice there.

The one thing I do enjoy, and do a lot of, is travel. The problem with having an unquenchable desire to see what is on the far side of every hill is that it costs so darned much, so I’ve learned how to go places on the cheap. Now, the use of the word “cheap” is relative, but travel can be much less expensive than you think.

Last year, my husband and I made a cross-country road trip. It was the third such trip in the past 4 years and we’ve now visited or re-visited all 48 contiguous states. We live in such an amazing and gorgeous country, it is not to be missed. We drove about 7,500 miles on this particular journey, which took a month.

Our average cost per night for a room was $67, which I think falls into the cheap category. Now, I will admit we didn’t stay in any 5 star hotels recommended by Conde Nast, but all our accommodations were clean, well-appointed, and had great beds. The secret – research and staying in small towns instead of cities or those motel villages that have grown up around interstate intersections. In small towns, there are still charming mom-and-pop motels, lovingly maintained with the owners frequently living on-site. They take great pride in what they offer. They can also point you to the best local restaurants. Some of these are places you might have driven by looking for a national chain, but both the food and the prices are usually better in recommended restaurants. And there are often additional perks. I’ll never forget the Halloween night we had dinner at a very small restaurant in a very small Texas town and had a fantastic floor show as every child in the county tromped in to show off his costume and get a small pie.

To find these more out-of-the-way motels, you have to spend time on the internet doing research, but not only can you find such places, there are even reviews available. And always, always make reservations. If you just drive in to any motel along the road, I promise you will pay the highest price. This particularly holds true if you do stay in a metropolitan area. For this I recommend Hotwire. There may be other websites that are as good, but I’ve never had any problem with a Hotwire hotel. Yes, it is irritating you don’t know the name of the hotel until you book, but all the amenities are listed and the basic location given, so what’s in a name? In a few weeks, we’re flying in and out of LAX and needed a hotel at the airport. We’re staying at a Radisson Hotel on the way out and at a Sheraton on the way back – and yes, they were both under $70 a night. Thank you Hotwire.

If you’re traveling in the US, you should consider getting an America the Beautiful Pass to all the National Parks and Monuments. This pass, which gives the car and everyone in it access to the parks, costs $80 for a year. If you can mange to be in a car with someone 62 or older, you can get the Senior version of this which is an amazing $10 for life. Okay, I admit we use the $10 version, and have seen some of the most amazing sights in the world. The National Park system is on one the jewels of the US and there’s something to interest everyone. One hint is to visit the parks slightly off season. Yellowstone in the spring is wonderful – lots of animals and no traffic. In the summer, it’s a different story. Plus, the surrounding motel rooms are more expensive “in season.”

A road trip is always filled with adventures. This last one had more adventure than we anticipated. On a winding mountain road in Wyoming, a large deer leaped over a barrier and appeared right in front of our car. We couldn’t avoid hitting him. Unfortunately, the deer lost the encounter, but our car was also very damaged. We pounded on a lot of sheet metal and used a lot of duct tape, but we got the car drivable and proceeded on. You see, there was this other tall hill and I wanted to know what was on the other side.

Bio -

Meredith Simmons is one of the excited finalists in the Brava/RT Writing with the Stars contest. She’s previously published short fiction, primarily science fiction and fantasy. Her eleventh published short story recently appeared in the June Realms of Fantasy.

When she’s not chasing elusive words around on her computer keyboard, she’s off on adventures. Her latest trip will be a month-long cruise to the islands of the South Pacific. Just look for the woman singing “Bali Hai.” You can always find Meredith at her website The theme there is, unsurprisingly, a journey.

Me again....What a great article, Merry!!! Thanks so much for sharing your trip tips! It's been a long time since I drove across the country - '92, to be exact - but you've made me want to get in the car and go!

Thanks for joining me today. Please come back and share the details of your month long trip to the S. Pacific. I'm sure you'll have fabulous stories to tell!

How about you guys, do you have any questions?

Have a great Thursday!
Peace and love,


Lu said...

Great post, Meredith! I love to travel too, but the "champagne taste - beer budget" thing gets in the way. I agree about finding small, non-chain places to stay. As long as the bed is comfy and the room is clean, I can forego the "free" continental breakfast offered by the big boys.

IMO the best meals are found in the places the locals frequent. Why do they always have such delicious pie?

Good luck in the contest, Merry!!

Dale Mayer said...

Hi Merry, how nice to see and hear about some of your interests. Congrats to both you and Alannah for being finalists on Brava's Writing for the Stars contest. That's a huge accomplishment!

I love travelling and always prefer to find the little towns and villages in the tiny nooks of the world. Rarely are there five star hotels around, which is good because I prefer a good home grown B&B any day.


Beth Caudill said...

Great Post Merry.

I think my parents have one of those passes. With the younguns my husband and I haven't been able to travel that far yet.

Good luck to both of you.

meredith simmons said...

Hi Lu -

Glad you stopped by. Travel is helpful for writers since it gives us so many different settings to use. And the "going" is so much fun! :-)


meredith simmons said...

Hi Dale -

I agree. The non-5-star places often have more atmosphere. Which is sometimes a way of saying the bathrooms are small. :-)


meredith simmons said...

Hi Beth -

There are wonderful national parks or national monuments in all parts of the country, so I bet some are close to you. Get your parents to come for a visit and have them go with you to a park - and you can use their pass. That's very cheap travel. :-)


Alannah Lynne said...

You're so right about those little hole-in-the-wall diners, Lu. When I drive through little towns, I look for those places. The ones with the parking lots filled with pickup trucks. LOL

Hey Dale!! Congrats to you, as well! I have to admit that I prefer hotels over B&B's, but there is a fabulous B&B in Cape Carteret, NC that I will take over the hotels any day of the week! It's listed as one of the most romantic B&B's in the country. :)

Yeah, Beth, what Meredith said. LOL You can make it a BIG family vacation with all the generations. If you do this, though, talk to me first. LOL I'll share some tips about MY experience with that kind of vacation. LOL

Meredith - glad you could drop by and check out the comments! ;)