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The Perfect South East Coast Road Trip

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Road trips are the most iconic way to travel and with so much diversity, the east coast is the perfect place to start. This guide focuses on Delaware down to Georgia, but you can do the drive any way you like. So what are you waiting for? Get the keys!

Delaware:

After Rhode Island, Delaware is the smallest state. It was also the first to become a state and there’s a lot of pride in that. In fact, one of the first things you see as you enter is the sign saying “Welcome to Delaware, it’s good to be first.” The state has an active LGBT community and Delaware Pride often holds events throughout the year including an annual festival and pageant.

Delaware has several smaller cities, like Wilmington and Dover, but its iconic beaches are what draw travelers to the state. Rehoboth is a great town which prides itself on being LGBT friendly. There are plenty of bars, hotels, and restaurants that are either operated by people in the LGBT community or advertise themselves as being openly supportive. CAMP Rehoboth is a local resource center that helps guide LGBT travelers and provide in-depth information. With no sales tax, the state is also great for shoppers.

Maryland:

Baltimore and Ocean City are fan favorites for good reason: both cities are thriving and progressive communities with plenty of attractions ranging from the boardwalk to the aquarium.

The state’s capital city, Annapolis, is also a progressive haven. Despite its military roots, Annapolis is less conservative than one might think. With a thriving LGBT community, the city comes to life through a combination of nightlife, restaurants, and places to stay. Annapolis is also just a short drive away from Washington DC. Check out Purple Roofs for a list of LGBT-owned and operated accommodations in the state.

Virginia:

Virginia is for lovers so surely, it’s for all lovers. The state hosts a tourism website on which they feature businesses that are self designated as LGBT owned or friendly. There are several larger cities like Richmond, Roanoke, and Norfolk that have plenty of beautiful sights to enjoy.

Nature and wildlife fans would enjoy a visit to Assateague Island. The island and nature reserve are split by Virginia and Maryland and it features herds of wild ponies that wander unrestricted throughout the marshland. Shenandoah National Park, which features gorgeous views of the layered Blue Ridge Mountain Range, is also located in Virginia.

North Carolina:

By the time you reach North Carolina you’re definitely getting into the south, which means warm weather and great barbeque. North Carolina is still undoubtedly conservative but like many other locations it is moving towards a more liberal mindset. Asheville and Raleigh are both progressive havens, especially the former which thrives as a college town. Unfortunately, the state’s legislation has turned away LGBT travelers but the controversial “Bathroom Law” was repealed in early 2017.

For outdoorsy folk, the Smoky Mountains seep into the state in the west and feature amazing hikes, forested paths, and beautiful vistas. The plentiful beaches along the state’s coast attract plenty of travelers during the summer and a trip to the Biltmore Estate is a year-round favorite.

South Carolina:

If you’re looking for southern hospitality, South Carolina is the place to be. With 47 state parks, numerous vibrant cities, and miles of coastline, the state is definitely worth visiting for more than just the tea. Hilton Head Island is a gay-friendly community which offers golf and beach relaxation.

Columbia, the state’s capital, holds South Carolina’s biggest pride festival. Hosted in September, it brings people of all backgrounds together and out on the streets. Meanwhile, Charleston offers a more laid back and historic vibe where you can visit forts and stroll down cobblestone streets. The city’s rustic appeal comes with a special charm and it attracts visitors from all over the country year-round. 

Georgia:

Georgia might have a bad rap for its conservatism but it’s largest city, Atlanta, is commonly referred to as the “gay capital” of the south. There, a liberal and progressive mentality thrives and its openness has attracted millions of visitors over the years. There’s even an official gay travel guide. The city is also filled with important markers for civil liberties.

Outside of Atlanta, Georgia is full of things to do. Stone Mountain, the state’s most popular destination, promises stellar views and is home to a multitude of festivals throughout the year. If you’re looking for a more rural experience, head to The Rock Ranch where you can partake in zip lining, seasonal activities, and even camp in a wagon.

Florida:

Florida as a whole is a favorite travel location. With plenty of cities like Tampa, Orlando , and Miami, there are tons of things to do and whether you’re looking for a wild night out or a trip with the kids, you’re sure to find it here. Further south, the Everglades constantly intrigue travelers with hiking trails, camping, and the occasional warning to watch out for gators. While in major tourist destinations a liberal mindset definitely prevails, although the LGBT community is unfortunately still looked down upon especially in more rural areas.

Other than the obvious major cities, Florida is also home to less popular destinations that all still have open LGBT communities. For a posh, relaxing vacation, head to the Keys. Key West has been regarded as one of the “gayest” destinations by Lonely Planet and St Augustine is another historical city which boasts a great outdoor market and ritzy views.

 

Do you have an awesome east coast travel story or know of any cool places along the way? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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Travel On A Budget

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It seems to me like people are taking shorter vacations or opting for trips closer to home, for a variety of reasons. Maybe you work a job that doesn’t pay as well as you’d hope, or maybe you’re a millennial (like me) who’s allegedly spent way too much on avocados and can’t afford a vacation (or a house).

Whatever the reason, this new trend of “I want to travel cheaply so I can buy groceries when I get back” is more popular than ever. But how does one manage this? Vacations seem to be expensive no matter what we do or where we go. And it’s true. Vacations always cost money, but there are ways to drastically reduce your expenses while away.

Off season for the win

Why get sucked into the tourist trap every single year when you can hit up the same spots a week before their tourist season begins? This can be tough depending on the area since some tourist seasons are dependent on weather. But you know what places don’t change much from week to week, whether it’s April or August? You guessed it: the beach. Most vacation spots will have dates for their busy season listed online. Once you have the dates, go a week (or two) early. Prices will be lower and hotels will be less packed.

Hostels and B&B’s

Speaking of hotels, don’t go near them. I’m serious. Go anywhere else. They’re expensive and boring, and bed-n-breakfasts are the hip new thing (unlike someone who still says “hip”). Not only are they cozier, they often have decent prices and are more laid back than hotels.

If you’re in Europe, hostels aren’t what the horror movies make them out to be. They’re actually quite comfortable, right in the middle of the city, and way more affordable than a hotel. If you’re in your late teens or early twenties, youth hostels are an even better choice. They’re more youth-friendly and you’ll be surrounded by people closer to your own age. Make friends while you make great financial choices!

ATM vs. traveler’s check

Traveler’s checks were great when ATMs weren’t a thing, and they can still be useful if there’s no ATM in sight and you happen to know where the closest bank is. But more and more, ATMs are the best option on vacation. You don’t want to carry all of your spending money all at once at the start of the trip, so when you get low on cash, find an ATM. Because there might be fees, take out larger amounts at a time, to limit the number of withdrawals while away. To save money, set yourself a spending/withdrawal limit. It’s tempting to treat yo’self while vacationing, but remember that once you get home, bills and food are still a necessity.

Guidebooks!

You are a strong, independent woman/person/man who don’t need no help. If you’re traveling somewhere unfamiliar, skip the travel agency/service. They’re a rip-off. A good guidebook sells for about $20 and will have all the same information you’d get from a travel agent, without the hassle.

Blend in, eat local

If you ignored my hotel advice, then at least listen to this. If the front desk or concierge recommend a great restaurant right down the street, go anywhere else! Chances are they tell literally every guest to go to that one restaurant, and it will be packed (and not that great). You might end up having to go a little farther from your hotel for a bite, but finding local places are a far more interesting experience than the chain places. And are often cheaper, as they’re not targeting visitors and tourists.

Shop big

A couple of months ago I went to Hawaii with my sister and parents. Before leaving, we’d all promised various friends and family that we would return with souvenirs for everyone. A local in Kailua-Kona was kind enough to warn us away from the touristy “ABC Stores” that seem to be taking over the islands. He said that if we wanted good, cheap souvenirs, we should go to Walmart (I know, I was surprised too).

Local shops are nice, too, of course, and it’s good to support small businesses (and not evil Walmart) but for large quantities of souvenirs, going the cheaper route goes a long way in not breaking the bank.

Free activities will free you

This one is easy. Go to the beach and find free parking. Sit in the sand and catch some sun. Splash in the surf to your heart’s content. Go hiking and find hidden waterfalls and creeks to play in. Anything free is your best bet (and gets you some fresh air).

Vacations mean spending some money, but it doesn’t have to empty your wallet. If you follow these tips and stay aware of what you’re spending, you’ll still have money left over for when you get home (and can buy all the avocados you want, maybe).

Originally posted 2017-09-06 11:10:28.


Also published on Medium.

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Collaboration With Travel Bloggers Sarah and Rachel

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Travel bloggers, Sarah and Rachel, share their experience in Aruba:

We sat down on our couch in the middle of December not expecting to purchase plane tickets that evening. Upon scrolling through social media, my girlfriend Sarah found a flight deal from Chicago to Aruba (yes, the Caribbean island of Aruba) for only $250 round trip. If you do any traveling at all (ESPECIALLY to islands) you know that it’s really expensive to fly there and flying for a little more than $100 each way is amazing. We discussed it with our best friend, Callan, and ultimately decided to take the plunge, dip into our travel funds, and go for it. Thus…one of our favorite trips ever happened.

Aruba wasn’t ever a place we specifically sought out to go travel to. Perhaps sometime on a cruise we would stop by it, but we didn’t anticipate starting of 2017 sipping Heineken (Aruba is Dutch, so of course we had to have Heineken) on their beautiful white sand beaches. We had the typical week of touristy attractions, shopping, getting sunburnt, and laughing at us trying to drive in our TINY car (that also broke down in the middle of the national park – that was fun) through the winding streets in Aruba. They don’t have the same traffic laws in America and most of the time it’s a free-for-all. Pro-Tip: Parking is sometimes really picky on this island, so watch out for any signage!

Much of the trip was spent relaxing and if I had to tell you the last time we truly relaxed and didn’t have a worry on our mind, it was that trip. There’s something so peaceful about the ocean and being “stuck” on an island is a good way to ensure you have nothing else on your mind.

As mentioned before we explored Arikok National Park, where we ran over a rattlesnake with our car, saw the caves that have been there for ages, and saw the prettiest beach we’ve ever laid our eyes on. Since the island of Aruba is incredibly close to the coast of Venezuela, there’s a lot of history throughout the parks and beaches. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get the chance to see the flamingos on Flamingo Beach. We had to skip this, since it’s a private beach and you must buy day passes/stay at the local hotel for the chance to see them. There’s always next time, right?

Fort Lauderdale, Florida was the beginning and end of our island getaway. We loved exploring the little beach town and we enjoyed the best Caesars salad we’ve ever had in a small beach hut right by the ocean. Even if you can’t go all the way down to Aruba, Florida is packed with small beach towns that will steal your heart.

After our week long vacation, we finally landed back home in Chicago. Pro tip: don’t forget to put your car keys in a place where you’ll remember after being away. We had to open 3 of our huge suitcases in the middle of baggage claim to find them. *cringe*

Originally posted 2017-09-05 12:28:27.


Also published on Medium.

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Collaboration With Travel Bloggers Button and Bly

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LGBTQ travel bloggers, Button and Bly, share their travel tips and tricks:

Hey friends,

Button and Bly here! We are a couple of travelers that started an LGBTQ+ travel youtube channel a few years back. When we first started traveling, we were novices figuring things out as we went. After traveling a lot we started to pick up tips and tricks to help make our travels a bit more seamless, so we wanted to share some of those with you.

  1. Packing – Most of us overpack, and then along our travels we are burdened with a heavy bag. Plan for the season you are traveling and bring what is absolutely necessary. If you are gone for a week maybe you don’t really have to bring 7 shirts, but could get by with 4 instead. You can always pack a small bottle of laundry soap or pick some up at a local grocery store and wash some clothes in the sink of your hotel/hostel (keep in mind that many AirBnB rentals have washer dryer units). This way you can also save some valuable space in your bag to bring back any souvenirs you find.
  2. Flights – We all know that flying can sometimes get a bit pricey.  A few apps we have found that really have great deals are Skyscanner which scans multiple airlines to get you the best deals as well as Hitlist which has amazing semi last minute deals. Also when you find a great flight make sure you take the time to sign up for a free account with that airline. You can end up racking up a good amount of points that you can then cash in on for future adventures.
  3. Maps – If you are traveling outside of your country a lot of the times getting cell service or internet can be spotty or too expensive. One thing we have found that really helps out is offline maps. Maps.me is one that we have found and love, but you can give any a shot. Button just used google maps and downloads offline sections. There are plenty of easy tutorials to find out how online. With these you can download a map of the neighborhood, city or even country you will be traveling to ahead of time so that way when you get there you can find your way around the without cell service.
  4. Language – Lastly we don’t want to forget about communication. When you travel to a country that speaks a different language than you, it can be hard to find your way around or communicate with locals. We find it helpful to try and learn the basics of the languages of where we will be traveling. Duolingo is an awesome easy free app that helps get your feet wet with a new language, but just search around and find one that works best for you. Also Google Translate has come in very handy when trying to read a sign or maybe looking at a food menu.

We hope that these tips can get your next adventure going with a bit more ease. Check out our travels on YouTube under Button and Bly’s Travel Show as well as our side channels Life of Bly and This Colorful World.

-Button and Bly

Originally posted 2017-09-02 12:48:06.


Also published on Medium.

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