2012 Travel Sneak Peek

by Gray Cargill on January 24, 2012


Taking off

Are you sick of reading about other people’s New Year’s resolutions yet? Well, don’t worry, I don’t believe in resolutions. But I do believe in planning out my travel for the year in January, because otherwise, it wouldn’t happen. After all, I’ve got to get the time off from work, coordinate my vacation schedule with those of my coworkers, save the money for my trips, research destinations, etc.

This year, I reviewed my travel bucket list and decided to go to the places at or near the top–the places I most want to visit. Unfortunately, that means I’ve got two very expensive destinations planned this year. Gulp. How do I plan to pay for these very expensive trips? That’s a subject best left for a future blog post. The question of today is: Where am I going?

Honolulu, Hawaii

I had to postpone this trip from 2011, so I decided to make it a priority for 2012. It will never be a cheap trip for me, since I have to fly from Vermont, but it’s much cheaper to go there any week except Christmas. (For example, airfare was almost exactly 50% of what it would have cost to fly there Christmas week.) So at the end of February, I’ll be winging my way to Waikiki. God help me, I’m not looking forward to the long flying days to and from (roughly 20 hours each way, including sitting around in airports), but I think it will be worth it. On my itinerary are things like Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, Waikiki Beach, the North Shore, the Dole Plantation, the Polynesian Cultural Center, and more. I want to sample some local beers from the Kona Brewing Company. I want to try Hawaiian specialty foods like shave ice and the Dole Whip. I want to learn a few words and phrases in Hawaiian, see how leis are made and maybe take a ukelele lesson. Will I have time for all these things? Who knows. But since Hawaii is one of the most culturally unique states in the US, I can’t wait to learn more about its history and culture in person.

Port of Barcelona

The Norwegian Epic in the Port of Barcelona

The Mediterranean

In early May, I’ll be headed to Europe for a Mediterranean cruise aboard my old friend, the Norwegian Epic. Squee! I have already booked my Studio Stateroom. This is the trip I considered taking last year, but one thing held me back: I just didn’t know how I could possibly stand only having one day in Rome (can you imagine trying to see Rome in one day?) and having to choose spending time in Naples, Pompeii, or the Amalfi Coast during my one port day in Naples. Seems unfair, doesn’t it?

Well, this year, the schedule has changed enough to work for me. In addition to the Sunday-Sunday cruises that sail out of Barcelona, Spain, the Epic is now offering the opportunity to sail Wednesday-Wednesday out of Civitavecchia, Italy (near Rome). This means I can fly in early and spend a couple of days exploring Rome before my cruise, and another day after. I’ll still only have the one day in the port of Naples, so I’ve decided I’m going to have to throw Naples under the bus (or the boat, as the case may be) and go on a combination Pompeii/Amalfi Coast shore excursion during that day. And now that I’m getting the days I want in Rome, I’m okay with that. Other ports of call are Livorno, Italy (from which I can get to Florence); Nice, France (from which I could also go to Monte Carlo if I prefer); Provence (Marseilles), France; and my favorite Spanish city, Barcelona.

Would I prefer to travel slowly across Italy? Sure. But I honestly don’t have the time for that right now. And there’s no law that says I can’t go back to any of these places if I find I like them so much I’d like to experience them on a deeper level later on.

Las Vegas Mountains

Mountains around Las Vegas

Las Vegas

I’ll be making my annual sojourn to my favorite city during Labor Day week in the fall, same as always. I’ve already started collecting a list of “new things” to do while I’m there. But I really, really have got to make it a priority this year to get out and see Red Rock Canyon or Valley of Fire—or maybe even take a couple of days to visit the Grand Canyon, which I’ve only seen via helicopter, never on foot. I’ll also be hosting the 2nd Annual Vegas Solo Meetup that week, if anyone is thinking they’d like to come. During the summer, I’ll post details about that meetup at The Vegas Solo.

Road Trips and Miscellaneous Travel Daydreaming

Those are the major trips I’m taking in 2012, and they are plenty expensive enough that from a practical standpoint, I should stop there. But. . .but. . .but I can’t. Because I’m also considering a Thanksgiving weekend trip (if I can identify a place that’s inexpensive at that time!), a possible weekend in New York City (if I can get cheap airfare), and 2-3 weekend road trips as well. I don’t know if I can squeeze it all in, but I’d sure like to.

So in 2012, you’ll have those trips dominating the pages of this blog–along with my backlog of material I still haven’t written about my trips to San Diego and Orlando. I’m also reviewing my old journals for stories of people I’ve met from my travels. I have some I’d love to share, as soon as I can figure out how to write them up so that they’re as meaningful for you as they were to me. As always, I’ll try to insert some posts that address various aspects of solo travel as much as possible. If you have topics you’d be interested in reading more about here at SoloFriendly, please shoot me an email at gray[at]solofriendly[dot]com.

How about you? Do you know where you’re going in 2012 yet? What are your travel plans for the new year? I love living vicariously through others’ travels, so please share your own travel excitement for the year!


Gray February 26, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Yes, yay for Hawaii! So far, I am loving it here.

Christine | Grrrl Traveler February 26, 2012 at 6:36 am

Great plan for 2012 & yay for Hawaii!! Finally. Hope you enjoy your stay. As for the Mediterranean, that’s something I’ll envy because I’ve not been there yet. 😉

Gray Cargill February 5, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Thanks for the kind words, Sere. Gettysburg sounds great for the history lover. As long as you’re over in PA, how about Valley Forge too? Have you visited Amish Country? I agree, Monterey sounds beautiful. I think you’re going to have a great time there. More stamps in your passport is a good goal to have. We should all have that goal!

Sere February 5, 2012 at 5:13 pm

I love to road trip! I like the flexibility of it, not having to be on any kind of tight schedule. I am more of a country person then a city person, not that I am against traveling to cities, but I feel more comfortable in the country. I enjoy outdoor recreation stuff (hiking, rafting, horseback riding, downhill skiing etc.). I am also a bit of a history buff so I was thinking about Gettysburg, PA and then Lancaster County. I would probably break the drive up, just so I am not exhausted upon getting to my destination. I am very excited about Monterey, it looks gorgeous! I am hoping to hit the aquarium and do some whale watching. I also want to see if I can see any redwoods out there or if I have to go further north. Thanks for the advice! I enjoy reading your blog and hope to be inspired to get a few more stamps in my passbook. Right now I only have Canada and Mexico, both before you needed a passport to get there haha!

Gray February 4, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Ooh, Monterey. That sounds lovely, Sere. I think a lot of us have road trips on our minds. There must be something in the water. 🙂 If I were you, I’d ask myself how far I’m comfortable driving, whether I’d break it up into days and stay overnight en route, etc. and then look at what is available in that radius. Obviously, where you decide to go will have a lot to do with what your interests are, whether you’re more of a country person or a city person, that sort of thing.

Sere February 4, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Those sound like some exciting trips! I am hoping to go to Monterey this May with my son and then I am wanting to plan out a solo road trip this summer. My very first solo trip!!! I have to admit that I am nervous and excited. I have been talking about taking a solo trip but just haven’t done it yet. Not sure where I want to go yet so I am going to have to do some research. I want to stay in the US and I am in the midwest. Any advice?

Gray January 27, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Thanks, Sabina! Just DMed you back. 🙂

Sabina January 27, 2012 at 11:08 am

Gray, I love your plans! Please check your Twitter DM’s 🙂

Gray January 26, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Thanks, JoAnna. Yeah, I’m pretty excited about it.

JoAnna January 26, 2012 at 2:07 pm

What a great line up for 2012! The trip to the Mediterranean sounds amazing! Can’t wait to read about it!

Gray January 26, 2012 at 1:55 pm

@JoAnn – If you have tips for Rome, I’d love to hear them. Like….I still need a cheap place to stay for a few nights. Wow, lots of people going to New Orleans this year! I think that’s terrific.

@Delma – I’ve been in your position, Delma, believe me. I did no traveling at all when I first bought my condo. It totally wiped out my savings. You’re in Vegas? Awesome! I’ll keep you in mind for my next trip. Are you following my Vegas website? (http://vegassolo.com)

Delma January 26, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Wow! Great plans. I’m envious. I would love to go to India this year, but I’m also planning on buying a townhome, so I cannot do both. I live in Las Vegas. If your schedule permits, contact me when you are here and we can do something together, if you like. I’ll show you off the Strip.

JoAnn January 25, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Great plans. I love Rome. I’m going to New Orleans in May and Disney in November.

Gray January 25, 2012 at 9:35 am

Did you really, Lisa? Guided tours is probably the best way to squeeze it in if you’ve got limited time, for sure.

Lisa @chickybus January 25, 2012 at 8:36 am

This looks like a great plan, Gray. I’d love to go to Hawaii…lucky you! Everything else looks great, too! Re: Rome…you’ll laugh, but I did it in two days. It was very fast. Took some guided tours to squeeze it all in.

I look forward to reading about your journeys…and perhaps to going to Vegas sometime (after getting advice from you, of course.)

Gray Cargill January 25, 2012 at 7:00 am

Thanks for the advice, Jessica! I think you may have convinced me. 🙂

Jessica Harrison January 24, 2012 at 10:55 pm

Such lovely destinations! I’m looking forward to the blogs after each trip. I went to Vegas for the first time this past October to visit my uncle and aunt that live there. Having been to both Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire, I’d choose to go to Valley of Fire. Red Rock has a lovely visitor’s center, but unless you’re seriously into rock climbing or hiking it’s basically just a 13 mile drive. It’s a really lovely drive, but still a drive. I had so much fun wandering around Valley of Fire. There’s so much to see and it’s just amazing! This is hiking too, but there’s a map that shows all the different spots to see. The hike to Mouse’s hole is spectacular. Seeing all the petroglyphs was just…words can’t even express how cool it was. There’s one rock that has stairs, make sure you go up the stairs, totally worth it. I’d put the name here, but I can’t spell it.

Gray Cargill January 24, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Actually, I’m a little jealous of you now, @Suzanne! Driving the Pacific Coast Highway is a dream of mine. But I’ve got to do it with a travel buddy, because I can’t stand long car rides by myself. 🙂 Wow, you’ve got a busy travel schedule this year! What a great variety of locations, too–every corner of the US! I’m so glad you’re going to New Orleans; everyone should go there.

@Jeff – Yes, the Epic has the solo cabins, over 100 of them. I guess I’ll find out if one day per port works for me or not. Better than not seeing Europe at all, I suppose. I can relate to your indecision; I was in the same boat last year. But it turned out to be a great travel year. You’ll know the right destination when you feel it in your heart.

Jeff B January 24, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Wow. Sounds like a great year of travel for you. I will be interested to hear about the cruise. Is that the ship that has the solo cabins? I have always wondered if I would like a European cruise because of the limited amount of time that you have at the stops.

The Hawaii trip sounds great too. I have never been there but everyone that I know that has been there has loved it.

My travel plans for this year are still up in the air. I can not decide what I want to do. I am think somewhere in Europe in April but have not made a decision.

Suzanne January 24, 2012 at 8:17 pm

I love it! I plan my year out too for the same reasons as you, work coverage and saving up money~ I am dying to go back to hawaii (from VA so know what you mean about the long flight) and want to do the Epic next year but in the Caribbean, may even do a Studio solo if I cant get anyone to commit! Looking forward to hearing how you like it, I am sure you will. And I would love to come to Vegas but already doing the Pacific Coast Hwy Labor Day weekend.
New places this year for me are: New Orleans in march, Montana in June ($158rt to Billings gotta go!) Boston in August, PCH/San Diego Sept, then hopefully Vegas in November (not new).
I really like your blog, thanks for sharing 🙂

Gray January 24, 2012 at 7:00 pm

@Bess – Thanks, I’ll check out your blog. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for your Europe trip!
@Suzanne – Yes, I’ve already started a rollcall thread for this cruise and connected with another traveler. I would love the guide info you have though. Can you email it to me at gray[at]solofriendly[dot]com? Thank you! I’ve heard nothing but good things about Easter Island, it should be a great experience.

Suzanne January 24, 2012 at 3:48 pm

I did the Med cruise solo and had a great time meeting people via cruisecritic boards for private guide tours Amalfi Coast/Pompeii, Nice/Monte Carlo, Split and Lisbon if you want guide info.
So far this year I’ve planned Easter Island and a weekend in Chicago for a travel/points seminar. Have points for Hawaii this year and one other big trip still trying to plan out options

Bess January 24, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Great year of travel planned. I’ve spent a good amount of time on Honolulu because my husband’s family is from there. You can check out some posts on Hawaii on my blog. Coincidentally, I have a trip planned in 2012 to Italy and Southern France, too, and I hope, hope, hope I can make it happen.

Gray January 24, 2012 at 12:39 pm

@Marsha – Thanks, Marsha, I’m excited too! I think I know what your big plans are, and I think it’s great. 🙂
@Tracy – DC is a definite possibility. I haven’t been there in almost 20 years, and even then I just had a day. Would love to explore more. I know you’ll love your Caribbean cruise, but I think you’ll love New Orleans, too. It’s a wonderful city.
@Lee – Thank you so much! I’ll let you know if I need your contacts.
@Abby – Thanks, Abby. I hope you’re around that week!
@Janice – Thank you very much. That would be great if you could go to Vegas that week; it’d be like a little reunion. 🙂

Janice Miller January 24, 2012 at 11:29 am

Sounds like you have some amazing trips planned!!! 🙂 And the Epic in the Mediterranean?? So jealous! Italy is absolutely amazing. There is so much to do and see, and someday I will be back! Though to be quite honest, I didn’t care all too much for Naples. Enjoy all your trips – and who knows, since I loved Vegas so much, I just might end up there again in September as well 😉

lee laurino January 24, 2012 at 8:41 am

if you have not booked a room in Hawaii yet, there was a great listing in Budget Travel for a mini condo within walking distance to the beach.
even fit into my low end budget

Abby January 24, 2012 at 8:36 am

What a great year!! I got through last year by taking spontaneous weekend getaways based on where I could go for cheap… This year I think I’m too cheap to even do that lol. Always happy to see Vegas on the agenda 😉

lee laurino January 24, 2012 at 8:33 am

good for you!
if you want any tips on Italy, let me know.
Have lived in Florence and Sorrento (on the Amalfi coast) for a few months each.

Have contacts in those cities and Rome and a group of expats if you need anything.

buono viaggio!

(if you want some basic italian lessons, there is a great school in sorrento that does lessons by Skype, SorrentoLingue.com Fabulous group of women run the school

Tracy Antonioli January 24, 2012 at 7:35 am

Hooray for Hawaii! And I’m jealous of your Mediterranean cruise–obviously, as I clearly love cruising and would love to see Europe that way (because I think only one day in each port would be a good thing for me…after the Paris debacle…)

I’ve traveled over Thanksgiving break for the last two years. The first time was to DC and this past year to Colonial Williamsburg. Both were reasonably priced–because of the lack of airfare–and I had beautiful weather both times.

I’m leaving on my first trip of the year…tomorrow! New Orleans…and Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel…here I come!

Can’t wait to read all about your adventures. Happy 2012 travels to you!!!

Marsha January 24, 2012 at 7:21 am

Gray – This sounds so exciting! Glad you’re finally making Hawaii a priority because I know you’ve been wanting to go for years. I too am making big plans but I’m taking it a few months at a time. Looking forward to reading your posts as you prepare for these epic journeys.

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