Travel Lifestyle

Historic St. Mary’s County!

St. Mary’s County is only one and a half hours from Washington, D.C. Yet, it is worlds apart. Dotted with farms that have been handed down generation to generation. This southern tip of Maryland has more to offer than first meets the eye. From a nod to the Amish culture to a strong military history, travel to St. Mary’s County may be just the what the doctor ordered.

St. Mary’s County is the southern most point in Maryland off the Eastern Shore. It is located where the Potomac and Patuxent Rivers meet the Chesapeake Bay.

Historic St. Mary’s City

Have you ever put a wool sweater in the dryer? You know what happens, a perfectly formed miniature of what you had comes out at the end. It seems that we all hold our mistake in our hands and brainstorm which kid will now fit in to the sweater that we once adored. On the flip side, if you took the Williamsburg experience and threw it in the dryer, you would wind up with Historic St. Mary’s City. And that, my friends might be the best mistake you’ve ever made.

This living museum tells the history of the first settlers in the area who arrived in the year 1634. This puts its events just after Jamestown in 1607 and Williamsburg in 1632. Visitors can explore the church, state house, a working farm, a native american settlement and more. Check in with the printer and learn to write with a quill or try your hand at swabbing the deck on a replica ship. Other great historical locations include:

  • Sotterley Plantation
  • Point Lookout State Park
  • St. Clement’s Lighthouse
The Plantation at Historic St. Mary’s City
Scenic drives are a must in SMC

Pax River Aviation Museum

A little know fact: Patuxent River Naval Air Station is home to Test Pilot School where most every astronaut cut their teeth on advanced aviation. This huge base at the point where the Patuxent and Potamac Rivers meet is page one in the Space Race story.

The base has a great museum that explains how Pax River played this important role in promoting naval aviation through the years. The small but mighty building is perfect for military junkies who like to peruse the plane park to get up close and personal with aircraft and give one of the simulators a go. Easy to manage and lots of fun, it’s will worth the visit.

The PRNA Museum is full of aviation and space history.

Get Your Shop On!

Southern Maryland is just starting to find its identity in the tourism industry. A big part of that is realizing the local treasures that appeal to visitors. To that, lots of little shops have started popping up that speak to that local charm.

Old Sheppard’s Field Market

For a sampling of tons of local vendors ranging from metalwork to organic meat, step in to this fun gaggle of booths at the old market. Browse and shop away then head toward the back to the Brugarten for a drink and relax in the fun atmosphere.

The Vintage Source

If it’s the third Saturday of the month, locals will tell you that The Vintage Source is the place to find all of those hidden gems serious shoppers look for. From antique dressers to vintage glassware, the stock changes and the finds are innumerable. Other local shops include:

  • The Apple Basket
  • Fenwick Street Used Books and Music
  • Cecil’s Old Mill

Leonardtown Square

Smack dab in the middle of St. Mary’s County is Leonardtown Square. Ringed with restaurants and little shops that truly represent the local character. Over the past few years, the square is experiencing a little bit of a revival. A few standouts are the local speakeasy, a great old school diner, a chocolatier, and for a bit of silly fun, check out the Escape Room. Just off the square, there’s great pizza at the Slice House and an incredible Asian fusion cafe called Jessie’s Kitchen. The bonus? Just a stone’s throw away is the small wharf where you can enjoy the water.

The Square is one of St. Mary’s County’s charming stops and is growing with lovely restaurants and shops.

Patuxent Adventure Center

Grab a kayak or a paddle board down at the wharf and make your way through the reeds and waterways which will wind you to the Port of Leonardtown Winery. Win-win. The Port of Leonardtown is among four wineries in the county and all contribute to the Sotterley Plantation Wine Fest, a local favorite.

For more details on anything we’ve mentioned, including addresses, directions, and hours of operation, check out Visit St. Mary’s County.

Travel Lifestyle

9 Travel Mistakes When You Visit Europe

So, you’ve done it! You’ve made the commitment to travel to Europe and you want to make it a trip you will never forget! You want to do your best to plan and prepare for an epic adventure. Good for you! I am the biggest fan of people who travel! I love everything about it! So, how can you ensure that your booking is the ultimate trip? Read on to learn about the top travel mistakes that Americans make when crossing the pond.

Be a tourist.

Look. There are two kinds of people who go to other places: the tourists and the travelers. It may seem like these two words describe the same thing. They don’t. A tourist is a person who only visits the top three places in the most popular guide book and then hurries off to the local Starbucks for a break. On the other hand, a traveler is a person who settles in to a new location with a zest for learning as much as he or she can. A traveler strives to understand and respect local cultures, customs, and traditions. They are often considered globally literate. Travelers are often in the middle of the action and not a side line spectator. Often, a traveler concerns themselves with doing everything except the things that they can do later at home.

Travelers, I find, are ironically more grateful and happier when they return from a trip as they appreciate what they missed just a little more. They come home with great memories and a spirit to enjoy their own backyard just as much as they enjoyed a trek through the Swiss Alps. Tourists come home tired and not satisfied with the experience they had and complain about uncomfortable moments that had them altering their own habits and expectations. Always, always be the traveler.

Be camera ready.

We all want pics from our trip. I get it. However, sometimes you need to take a break from searching out the perfect Insta-shot. Sometimes, you need to experience the moment. After all, you are in the presence of greatness. Masterful artists, jaw dropping history, awe inspiring architecture and, the vistas of your dreams. Feel all of these things first. Slip in your camera here and there but, please don’t make travel mistakes that have you only viewing your trip through your iPhone screen.

At the same time, don’t spend so much time getting picture perfect each morning that you miss out on time that could be spent exploring your destination. Be sure to have a quick style routine that gets you out the door fast. It’s your experiences that matter the most! You want to be up early to get to the markets or the harbor inlet to see the fishermen come in. Also, you want a chance to catch that morning sunrise on the great rivers of Europe. That sun who seems to always shine just perfectly on the great church domes and castle facades that dot Europe from north to south.

Read the fine print.

There is no greater way to understand a destination better than finding a connection to it. And, the only way to make those connections is to learn about where you plan to travel. There is a fragile balance between traveling by the seat of your pants and educating yourself. I find that having some sort of understanding, whether, historical, familial, linguistic, or culturally, makes travel so much more engaging. So, read, research, explore., become globally literate. Then, you have some frame of reference to use as you read plaques in museums, research which piazza has the best pizza, and explore hidden chapels and nooks in churches and castles. But, books aren’t the only source of connection.

Let me give you an example, I’ve had avoided France for quite some time. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go, it’s just that I wanted to find a better connection to my travel like I have with Italy or Ireland. Then, one Christmas, as I was sitting with my family, I learned about two uncles who had lost their lives in WWI. France, here I come! I’ve got a connection!

Connection isn’t only about person to person but can be found in all other kinds of ways. Do you love Impressionism? Head over to Giverny! Do you have an affinity for beer? Check out Belgium and Germany! Let your interests be your guide so that you dig a little deeper and enjoy a lot more. So, go on that trip! But, go as a well-read traveler instead of an under prepared tourist making yet another one of those travel mistakes.

Bring the whole house.

Instead, pack for your needs in a smart way. You do not need that hair dryer, umbrella, and full makeup bag. Pare down your suitcase by thinking of what you can share with your fellow travelers. Learning about capsule wardrobes gives you more choices and extends the pieces that you have chosen to bring with you. Check out this link to give you even more information on traveling light and right.

You may want to subscribe to the carry-on method of packing ensuring that you are well within the prescribed limits. Conversely, you may be like me and feel that checking your bag is a far easier process than first meets the eye. Either way, pack with the activities and experiences that you have in mind. The biggest travel mistakes that happen when packing are usually the “just in case” items. “Let me bring these shoes, just in case. I should pack that Pepto, just in case.” With very very few exceptions, all of your emergency needs are perhaps more easily available while you are in Europe. Simply look for the bright green plus sign for a pharmacy and, usually, very close to that is an all purpose department store for any of your other needs.

See the major sites

The Eiffel Tower? Check! Buckingham Palace? Check! The Acropolis? Yup! See them all! After all, they are icons for a reason! However, take a moment and understand that Europe offers more than just icons like Neuschwanstein Castle and El Prado. Europe is so much more. It’s the cafe’s on the squares, it’s the football games that locals watch in the local pubs. It’s the romance of daily shopping at the butcher, the baker, and the wine shop. Moreover, it’s people watching and the hustle and bustle of the main squares. It’s the quiet back alleys and the loud chefs in the back kitchens. Turn a corner and find a church that leads you to and underground excavation of past civilizations.

Europe is meant to be experienced! Stroll the markets and discover the nooks and crannies. Smaller sites, no matter where you travel, are often the source of greater memories than the Ivy League stops. In fact, it when you make a discovery, that you feel the most excitement. I was once asked by a church secretary if I wanted to go on a rooftop tour of a church in Rome. After walking up on of Bernini’s spiral staircases and learning about the life sized saints along the roof line, I was asked to peek into a window. It turns out that this particular church had a ceiling that was paved in New World gold leaf that was given to Queen Isabella by Columbus himself. Talk about an amazing moment! There I was face to face with a ceiling full of gold that was part of so much history. Wow!

Travel the whole map

All too often, travelers to Europe fear that they have only one chance to see as much as they can because they will never be able to return. Stop! You are falling for one of those travel mistakes! I solemnly promise you that if you travel smartly to Europe, you will become a travel addict and you will find all kinds of ways to get back! So, plan like you will return! Don’t take three weeks and expect to see 27 countries. You will be exhausted. Not to mention, I can’t imagine that you will remember much! So, slow down. Spend more than one night at each destination you choose.

Better yet, choose a region, like Normandy, or a country, like Poland, and keep to it. Europe is not going anywhere and it will welcome you again and again (and again). It can feel overwhelming to have so many choices to pick from but an experience in one place is worth far more than a marathon- unless you plan on going to Marathon in Greece. This easy dip into the pool of travel mistakes is simple to explain away. Try not to fall down that slippery slope.

Eat at McDonalds

Please. If you only walk away with one tip from me. Please. Do not eat at a restaurant that can be found in your backyard. Please. Instead, be a patron at mom and pop establishments. Restaurants where you find grandma in the back making the best the region has to offer. I like grandmas. They cook good and always know how to make a breaded chicken patty for every picky eater at your table.

While the food at locally run establishments is ALWAYS, infinitely better, the more important thing is that your one meal keeps the traditions and charm of where you are visiting alive. I mean, how important is that?! If we all get Starbucks in Barcelona, that’s the only choice we’ll have. Why bother going? I can get my grande-frappe-cup with fries on the side at home. If we want to preserve everything that makes Europe the charming, old world adventure that it is, we must be responsible and not fall victim to this most tragic of travel mistakes.

Represent!

We all want to be as comfortable as we can when we travel. We want to be able to enjoy ourselves without any hassles. Let me pass a little tip your way. Euro merchants, Euro pick pockets, and Euro scammers L-O-V-E Americans! Oh, yes! They love to find Americans and target them for whatever no good deed they are cooking up that day. You may wonder why. The reason is super simple. We are gadget crazy and stuff heavy as a society. No body on Earth packs more into their purses and pockets than Americans. If ne’er do wellers are data driven, Americans put the odds ever in their favor!

The best way not to be a target is to not show up looking like one. Traveling within public squares, museums, and pretty much everywhere else you plan to visit means leaving the Americanisms at home. You don’t need a huge purse, a baseball hat, or a lot of jewelry. In addition, try not to wear message tee’s or be a walking billboard for any particular brand. Simple and classic is the key to not getting a target painted on your back. And in the end, your pics will turn out better and your capsule wardrobe will be far easier to manage. Win-win-win. Crime and profiling in Europe are moments of opportunity. It’s up to you to not let it happen.

Family Travel Hub, Travel Dreaming, Travel Fun, Travel Lifestyle, Travel Think Tank

So, ummm, what exactly is a travel coach?

A travel coach can be just what you are looking for to help plan your next adventure!

In the age of internet immediacy, today’s travelers can have tickets in hand for anywhere around the world within minutes just by clicking a few times. With Apps like Expedia, Trip Advisor, Hopper, and Booking, it seems like the age of the classic travel agent is coming to a close- or at least finding a new definition. But what was it about a classic travel agent that made them so helpful? Sure, they hard booked ticket after ticket and tour after tour but perhaps that wasn’t the only service that they provided. Perhaps it was was something so much more important.

Perhaps, the local travel agent offered peace of mind. Think about it, a customer happily walked out of a travel agency with paper tickets embossed with their name on them and a clear plan on how their vacation was going to play out. If you think about it, it was kind of win-win. But, time marches on and technology pushes us forward. The question now becomes not so much “what do I do?” but “is what I’m booking worth it?” Enter a travel coach!

Questions that plague the modern traveler range from: Will this be fun? Will my kids like it? Is this really the best activity to spend my time and effort on? Or: Is this website (or top ten list) really the best that this city has to offer?

It can be overwhelming to think that we are getting ready to spend our hard earned money and all too fleeting vacation time on a destination that needs to live up to everyone’s expectations. That overwhelming feeling can make even the most efficient personality feel indecisive! No bueno. So what strikes the right balance between self planning and good, experienced advice? This is where travel coaching can help!

Coaching is a four part process:

1- Intake- this can range from a quick survey to an in depth conversation that allows a traveler to express their likes and dislikes and travel dreams.

2- Research- now it’s time for your coach to put together suggestions and tips to match your intake and perhaps introduce a few new suggestions that you hadn’t thought of. This can be general itinerary suggestions or specific activities depending on where you are in the planning process.

3- Consultation- time to meet and pour over travel dreams and delights

4- Final Revisions- based on step three or the fact that you are moving from the dreaming phase into the planning phase, this step adds in any pertinent revisions and contains more up to date and specific booking information.

More importantly, here are three things that you should not expect from travel coaching:

1- Don’t expect a budget monitor. While any coach will put your budgetary concerns at the top of their list assist a customer (that’s just good business), don’t expect a coach to scour for hours to find the best price on a particular activity. In today’s travel world, look for apps and the web to keep you up to date on that. Do expect that a travel coach will let you know when to buy a city pass or not based on your chosen activities.

2-Don’t expect to just get run of the mill travel ideas. Do expect you likes and interests, diet and lifestyle will be well thought out. Travel coaches LOVE scouring the books and crannies of a city to find all the fun stuff that doesn’t just sit on the surface. (Conversely, it is prudent to remember how important it is that those icons of travel are icons for a reasons).

3- Don’t expect a long, drawn out experience. Instead, travel coaching is a quick, efficient, and inexpensive way to explore travel opportunities and feel out the right trip of a lifetime. Travel coaching can be a great way to choose two or three destinations and sort through their options to choose the best one for you!

Okay, I get it and I’m interested! Can we cut to the bottom line, please? Our services come in three tiers:

Continental Destination Analysis: {$80.00}. This is for the traveler that knows that they want to go to a particular area like Europe or Australia. But don’t know where to begin after that dream. We’ve got you covered! Let’s chat over a hot cup of tea and get started!

Dreaming of Destinations: {$50.00}. This option is for the traveler that has already narrowed down the big trip to two or three places. You want to either sift out the excess or link them together cohesively. If you are a researcher of your dreams, this is a good option for you!

Pre-planning Primers: {325.00}. This for the traveler with tickets in mind and they are ready to start filling in the calendar. Lists with activities, transportation choices, sleeping accommodations and sincere advice on a specific trip are what you’re looking for. You’ve got the vision and you are ready to execute! Let’s do it!

*Travel coaching is one aspect of TGC’s commitment to the global citizen. Please be sure to follow our blog on Facebook and Instagram. Additionally, we have lots of great activities for kids at our Teacher Pay Teachers Store. For great travel inspiration, links to interesting destinations and experiences, as well as other aspects of TGC’s global vision. We appreciate your time and interest in bringing the global experience to life.