How to See a Rocket Launch in Cape Canaveral, FL
There’s a lot of excitement these days about the next frontier - space travel. So far, in 2018, SpaceX launched a car into space with it’s Falcon Heavy rocket - the powerful and reusable rocket that will take us to Mars. The James Webb Space telescope is the long-awaited follow-up to Hubble that will allow us to see the beginning of time itself will launch from French Guiana in 2019. Soon, the first commercial flights to space will launch, giving anyone the chance to be an astronaut (if you have a lot of money to spend, that is).
We don’t have any budget tips for taking a spaceflight (yet), but here’s how you can see a rocket launch without breaking the bank.
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL
The area around Cape Canaveral, known more broadly as the “Space Coast” (how cool is that!) has seen a boom in activity thanks to the increase in space activity, so the area around is worth planning a mini-vacation for. Notably, the beaches are some of the most pristine beaches in the country. In fact, the Space Coast offers such a unique experience that it was named to Lonely Planet’s Best in US list for 2018.
Orlando is only about a 45-minute drive west, and the Spanish colonial town of St. Augustine, Fla., is only about two hours north. Reasonable flights into Orlando can be found roundtrip from most major airports. Hotel rooms can be found nearby for under $100/night. You’ll need to rent a car, which you can do for as little as $23 out of the Orlando airport.
PICK A THREE-DAY LAUNCH WINDOW
There are frequent launches from Cape Canaveral through the summer seasons. You can find the schedule for space-flights around the world is published at spaceflightnow.com. If you choose to go for the launch of a Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy, then you’ll also get to witness the landing of these reusable rockets. Keep in mind that rocket launches are highly dependent on weather, so there is a possibility that the launch you want to see has to be rescheduled. Plan to be around Cape Canaveral, Fla., for at least two days—the scheduled day and the day after. (We suggest you arrive a day ahead of the launch date so that you can take a tour and snap photos up close of the rocket on the launch pad.)
WATCHING THE LAUNCH
Rocket launches are open to public viewing, so there are many ways to watch launches without paying admission, even from a nearby beach! You can find a list of launch locations at the Space Coast information page. Listen for launch details on the radio on AM stations 1240 and 1350, and plan to deal with a lot of car traffic on launch days. You don’t want to pick the wrong place and be downwind of the smoke!
The Kennedy Space Center offers several options for viewing shuttle launches, and tickets can be purchased at kennedyspacecenter.com or by phone at 321/449-4444 about six weeks before a launch. Launch viewing is included in the price of a ticket to the Center, but upgrades for better visibility can be added for an additional $20-$49.
The Kennedy Space Center is also an interactive museum, great for families and space nerds alike. Daily admission is $50 for adults 12+ and $40 for children under 12. The price of admission includes access all of the Center’s exhibits like “Journey to Mars: Explorers Wanted,” as well as entry to the IMAX theater to see incredible space documentaries play out on huge screens.
A WORD OF CAUTION
If your launch is rescheduled up to the day before, your tickets will be valid for the rescheduled launch date. But if you enter the Center and the launch is rescheduled to another date, your launch viewing tickets are considered “used” and you'll have to buy a new ticket for the new launch date. And if a launch is canceled (or "scrubbed," in NASA lingo), you don't get a refund.
The Budget Traveler’s Guide to Cycling the National Parks
America’s national parkland is certainly no secret - more than 330 million people visited National Park Service sites last year, typically entering the park in a car, SUV, or camper, and spending their days driving to marquee attractions like Old Faithful, the giant redwoods, and the Continental Divide, and hiking the glorious trails. But there is another way to navigate a national park: Cycling. The benefits include a healthy workout each time you hit the road, no worries about parking your car at, say, a tourist-packed waterfall or hot spring, and virtually 360 views everywhere you go. Sure, cycling always requires a little prep and know-how, and for that we turned to Grace Heimsness, a bike tour guide for Trek Travel with some important questions. BT: What should cyclists know before traveling to a national park? Grace Heimsness: Definitely study up on the typical weather for the time of year in which you'll be traveling so that you can pack and dress accordingly. Layers are a must in almost all parks, as is good footwear! Keep in mind that many parks close certain areas and trails seasonally. You can look these up on the park website in advance. This will give you an idea of where you'll be hiking ahead of time, and make sure you pack enough food, water, sunscreen, and clothing for the adventure. Don’t forget to study up on park rules! Three important ones are to pack out what you packed in, leave no trace, and keep your Clif bars to yourself (and let the wildlife take care of its own lunch!).READ: 11 Safety Essentials for a National Park Trip BT: When is the best time for cyclists to travel to national parks? GH: It depends on the park, but summer is a great time. Early spring and late fall tend are also great, as the parks tend to be less busy. Keep in mind, however, that some areas of the park might be closed in the colder months. April-May and late October-November are my favorite times to visit. BT: What is a good national park for a cycling beginner? GH: The west side of Zion National Park is a great place for those who are just getting into cycling. While the road on the east side of the park--with tight corners, lots of traffic, and more punchy climbs--might be better for more seasoned cyclists, Zion Canyon Road is ideal for beginners and veterans alike. The road is closed to all traffic except park shuttles, and the gentle climb up to the Narrows is approachable for most fitness levels. Cycling in the shadows of stone giants like the Court of the Patriarchs and Angel's Landing provides an incredible opportunity to connect with the park on a profound level. BT: What is a great national park for a more advanced cyclist? GH: Crater Lake National Park in Oregon is an excellent choice. Going around the rim provides an excellent 360-degree experience of the park, and the frequent climbs and descents make for a challenging and rewarding conquest. Keep in mind that early in the season, half of Rim Road is typically closed due to snow. BT: Any other favorite national parks for cyclists? GH: Grand Tetons National Park has a fantastic bike path system, and the views of the Tetons from the valley are unbeatable. BT: What essentials should cyclists pack with them in order to make the most of their ride through a national park? GH: Make sure to bring your cell phone, layers, snacks, plenty of water, tools and parts for minor repairs, and a map of the park. Bring a pair of walking shoes if you plan to take a hike mid-ride. And always ride with both front and rear lights - the more visible you are to other vehicles, the better. BT: Do you have any tips on how to stay hydrated and fueled for a bike ride through a national park? GH: As a bike tour guide, my mantra is: Eat before you're hungry; drink before you're thirsty. A good rule of thumb is to drink one bottle of water per hour and one snack every 90 minutes or so. BT: Are there any other important tips or advice that you want to share with cyclists? GH: Wear sunscreen, even on cloudy days. Smile, wave, and play nice with other visitors. Lastly, respect your public land! We are fortunate to be surrounded by so much beauty, and it's our responsibility to take care of the planet that provides for us.
This Baby Bison Video Is a Dose of Travel Spring-spiration!
Sometimes just the right image, or moving image, is worth well over the fabled “thousand words.” OUR FAVORITE VIDEO OF THE WEEK When it comes to delivering spring-spiration to travelers weary of the cold weather (and as I’m typing this, a cold rain is falling outside my window here in New York), our contacts at one of America’s favorite parks have come through for us today. This video of the first baby bison born this year at Custer State Park, SD (travelsouthdakota.com), will steal your heart - and possibly inspire you to book a trip this spring or summer to South Dakota. SOUTH DAKOTA MAY BE CALLING YOUR NAME We love Custer State Park’s 1,300 free-roaming bison, and the fact that visitors to the park can see animals in their natural habitat along the park’s 18-mile Wildlife Loop. And we’re not just talking cute little cinnamon-furred baby bison but also herds of fully grown bison, majestic elk, stately bighorn sheep, and lots of deer. Any visit to this region of South Dakota should also include stops in Rapid City, Mount Rushmore, and the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2018. WHAT’S YOUR BEST-EVER WILDLIFE-SPOTTING STORY? Tell us in the comments below what your favorite wildlife-viewing experience has been. Or post your pics to Instagram and tag them #MyBudgetTravel.
14 Scary Places You Should Definitely Visit
Don't get us wrong: You should most definitely visit each and every one of these one-of-a-kind vacation spots. After all, they include some of America's most beautiful national parks, beaches, and mountains. But be aware that your risk of being bitten by a shark, swept out to sea, mauled by a bear, or blown off a winding ridge trail are just a little bit greater here than it is back home. 1. CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK, UT Canyonlands is in the incredibly beautiful but treacherous area where Aron Ralston famously amputated his own right arm when it got pinned under a boulder. Ralston, the subject of the James Franco film 127 Hours, had the right idea: Searches and rescues in this remote desert region—where visitors routinely fall off ledges or are overcome by heat and dehydration—can take days. 2. HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, HI On the Big Island, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is home to Kilauea, which still spews hot ash and lava into the sea. Follow the advice of rangers and signage and you’ll get a scary-but-safe peek at this hothead in action. 3. VOLUSIA COUNTY, FL This coastal community has more recorded shark attacks than anywhere else on earth. Yep. Sounds crazy, no? But this stretch of beach is shark central. The good news: If you do get bitten here, it almost certainly won’t be fatal—no previous shark attack here has ever killed a swimmer. 4. THE MAROON BELLS, CO In the beautiful Elk Mountains, the Maroon Bells have earned the nickname the “deadly bells,” but even expert climbers are slow to perceive the danger here. Deceptively easy climbing can lead people into tight spots and weak rocks that break away unexpectedly. 5. DENALI NATIONAL PARKS, AK Listen up: If you keep your distance from the grizzlies, you’ll be fine. But Denali National Park is crawling with massive bears and you’ve got to keep your food packed up, never hike alone, and stay away from the mama bears and cubs. A fatal mauling in recent years got lots of press because the victim photographed the bear that attacked him. Don’t do that. 6. YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CA Yosemite offers some super-safe tour experiences and also some super-risky adventures. Iconic Half Dome is a popular, and relatively easy, climb—but unfortunately that has led to crowding, carelessness, and visitors falling to their deaths. 7. ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, CO Like Yosemite and other popular climbing destinations, it’s perfectly safe to visit Rocky Mountain National Park, but those who venture up Long’s Peak—with its narrow paths, rock slides, and risk of lightning strikes—risk becoming the annual visitor (on average) who does not descend alive. 8. KALALAU, KAUAI, HAWAII Kalalau, on Kauai in Hawaii, poses multiple dangers, including narrow paths at dizzying heights and beaches so treacherous that more than 100 people have drowned here to date. 9. GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, AZ Even if you don’t get lost like the Brady kids or swept off a whitewater rafting excursion, the spectacular Grand Canyon’s Bright Angel Trail may lure you in. It appears deceptively easy, but temperatures climb to 110 degrees and getting back can be tricky for those who don’t pace themselves and carry water. 10. MOUNT WASHINGTON, NH Mount Washington is a surprisingly hideous experience for those who don shorts and a T-shirt for a quiet stroll. The highest wind speed ever recorded on earth was here: 231 miles per hour. Temperatures at the summit have never been warmer than 72 degrees, and you run risk like getting blown off the ridges, hypothermia, and, yikes, avalanches. 11. HANAKAPIAI, KAUAI, HAWAII Hanakapiai, on Kauai’s Napali Coast, Hawaii, is a gorgeous beach that’s not only famous for lovely photographs of the breakers but also for pix of a hand-carved wooden sign that reads: DO NOT GO NEAR THE WATER. UNSEEN CURRENTS HAVE KILLED VISITORS. 12. OAHU HAWAII Oahu boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world—and it's a safe and beautiful place to visit! But Oahu's scenic waves and rocks make some beaches treacherous places to take a dip. Stick to lifeguarded, well-populated areas (Waikiki is the most obvious, and popular). 13. MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, WA Mount Rainier is home to an active volcano that last erupted only a little over a century ago. The park poses risks of mud flows and “glacial outburst floods,” which can damage roads, campgrounds, and, um, hikers. As with any national park, arm yourself with ranger know-how and obey the signage and you should be fine. 14. YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, WY & MT Don’t worry: If the “supervolcano” under Yellowstone blows its top, the disturbance to hiking trails, campgrounds, and roads may seem minor compared with the fact that the eruptions could cover most of the United States in thick ash. Scientists peg the risk at about 1 in 10,000. We don’t mind those odds.
Wild & Wonderful Leaf-Peeping Destinations You Haven't Seen Yet
Leaf-peeping season is flying by, but there’s still time to catch the colors in all their glory—if you know where to look. Enter: The fall-foliage map from Hipcamp, a website that aims to get people outside and into nature via campsites at national parks and private properties around the country. Input your travel dates, tailor your search by price, group size, amenities, activities, or terrain, and the results will reveal where leaves are still at their peak and what properties are available to book, so you can choose a location and pick your accommodation in one fell swoop. Having a tough time deciding between New England and the Smokies? Let the destination be your guide. From glamping in the Adirondacks to snuggling up in a tipi at an animal sanctuary in the shadow of Mt. Rainier, these are not your average drive-in campsites. Glamping at Wintergreen Lake in the Adirondacks. (Courtesy Mariah Baron) Get away from city life and back to nature with a glamping trip to Wintergreen Lake, a private retreat in the Adirondacks run by the same family for seven generations. Go for a hike and feel the leaves crunch beneath your feet, then spend the afternoon on the water, canoeing or kayaking, before heading back to home base: a platform tent kitted out with soft rugs, cozy linens, and mood lighting, courtesy of string lights at the entryway and lanterns at the bedside. A nearby cabin with full electricity and comfy couches supplies an extra lounge area, while the lakeside firepit—complete with a pair of the region’s namesake Adirondack chairs—provides the perfect position for star-gazing, bird-watching, or canoodling. Butterfly Farm Sanctuary's EarthSeed tent. (Courtesy Bryan Collings) In the Great Smoky Mountains, the Butterfly Farm Sanctuary offers an Instagram-worthy photo op for anyone seeking personal clarity minus the roughing-it part of the outdoor experience—in the spiritual retreat’s EarthSeed tent, you'll find solitude without sacrificing the amenities. With its queen-size bed, carpeted floors, and in-tent furnace allowing for year-round use, nearby bathroom and kitchen facilities (vegetarian cooking only!), and a private deck for morning meditations, you’ll be saying “serenity now” in no time. Beechwood Cabin Tent. (Courtesy Andrew Shepherd) For something similarly civilized but a little more spacious, consider one of the cabin tents at Thus Far Farms in South Carolina—it’s the best of both worlds, with sturdy wood flooring and metal roofing, plus canvas tenting to remind you that you’re out in the elements (but still keep you warm and dry). There’s a kitchen with a camp stove and dish-washing area for easy meal prep, dining tables inside and out, a wood stove, and an indoor toilet; the solar-heated shower is just steps outside the door. Forage for mushrooms at Hawk Meadow Farm. (Courtesy Ezekiel Gonzalez) Fans of fungi will appreciate a stay at a working shiitake farm in the Fingerlakes, set on 60 acres of woods and fields in the middle of wine country, complete with a crystal-clear stream, plenty of leafy colors, easy access to vineyards, and log-grown fresh mushrooms for breakfast. If 'shrooms aren't your thing, try taking in the stunning views of the Blue Ridge mountains from a private perch on a North Carolina farm, just outside of Pisgah National Forest. Pitch your tent at one of the secluded campsites, explore the property’s fields and trails, and revel in seclusion under the stars. But only if you want to be alone—the property is also home to a music and arts retreat, so the vibe is warm and welcoming, with live jam sessions and a community house with a wood-burning stove. Be sure to tour the solar-powered recording studio and tropical subterranean greenhouse before you make tracks. Further north, on the banks of the Winooski River in Vermont, a public campground called Onion River plays host to campers, hikers, and leaf-peepers from May to October. It’s not quite as private as some of the other places mentioned here, but the beautiful surroundings more than make up for it. Go for a dip in the river if it’s not too cold, pick apples from the orchard, and wander the trails before heading back to your site for a quiet evening around the firepit.