Sep 032018

Cruise destination vacations are one of the most popular ways people choose to spend their off time and for good reasons.


There is no end of entertainment, activities and food options. In one place you can watch a broadway show, try Pina Colada soup, go gambling, get a massage, watch a movie under the stars, learn about a culture,shoot down a waterslide, play mini golf and enjoy wine tasting all in one day! Or lay around and do nothing. Everybody loves choices. This is especially true for families or multi generational travelers. My boys like the dance clubs, waterslides, laser tag, etc. I like the water slides but I want to see art, sip champagne and lay in a lounge chair and have a pool boy bring me food. On a cruise you really can have it all.

Ease Of Travel:

Unpack once and done. Also, if you are going to go on excursions someone picks you up and drops you off (mostly) and one of my favorite things about cruising is that I can see multiple countries without having to deal with the logistics of getting there. If I find a place I love I can plan a vacation to go back there for a longer visit.


Being on vacation is largely about getting away from it all and it’s hard to feel more away from everyday life than being on a cruise! Limited WiFi (although that is changing) the open sea, no cars or interstates, no fast food chains. A cruise becomes a community seperate from the rest of the world; whether you are on river or ocean cruise,  whether the ship is big or small.

Being Out To Sea For Days On End! 

Well, duh! Enough said.

On the other hand, most new cruise ships are HUGE! Giant floating resorts that hold 5,000 people, 20 decks, tiny cabins, looonnng waits for the elevators and almost too much going on at any one time. It can be intimidating. I have been lucky enough to sail on many types of vessels; sightseeing sail boats, ferries, old fashioned  pirate ships, whale watching ships, catamarans, canoes; you get the idea but I still love ocean cruising the most and have learned some things through trial and error (mostly error) that I have jotted down and I hope they help you get the most from your next cruise. If you prefer a more intimate sea faring experience there are still plenty of options for you to get the vacation you want and I believe these tips still hold value.

  1. Be Organized. This will help you from the planning stages all the way through to disembarkation. Being organized will help you be efficient as well. Start with must haves. Documentation is the single most thing you need. Passports, Visas, your boarding pass, id etc. Have a safe and easy to reach place for these things. Call the bank to let them know you are traveling, making sure you have enough medications for the entire trip, have a hard copy of all your shore excursion and/or reservations.  I make a checklist and put reminders on my phone for things I know need to do. Like the online check in. Doing the online check in helps you get through the line faster. You will have your boarding pass, you will know your boarding time, you can alert the ship to any food allergies, special occasions. You can reserve shore excursions, specialty dining and spa packages. The site will let you know any luggage restrictions as well as information about drink packages. For Carnival if you pre-buy your drink packages and wifi you get a discount. You can also find deck plans and a list of what amenities the ship has.
  2. How to pack smarter. This is a hard one for me, and a lot people probably. I have learned how to roll my clothes tight, to put my necklaces through a straw, put my socks and belts in my shoes and the value of ziploc bags and most important, not to overpack. When you travel you know you are going to buy things anyway; so don’t pack half of what you own. It’s another of those checklist things. Am I going hiking? So I need good shoes and bug spray and sunscreen; do I need a cute new hat and a special “hiking shirt”? No, I do not. Shop early for travel size toiletries too. Those can be pre packed. Anti bacterial wipes and air freshener for that tiny bathroom are must haves. Don’t forget that your bags get taken to your room and you don’t go to your room for a while sometimes for better than an hour. We always have a small backpack with our bathing suits and sunscreen because the pools are open. The only things that aren’t open right away is the Casino and the shopping. So keep a easy to carry bag with you while you wait to go to your room, esp. if you have medications you have to take. I also keep a water thermos with me so I can refill up water whenever I want. Bottled water on a cruise ship is not free on most major lines. The last night of your cruise you are required to leave your luggage outside the door so it can be prepped for disembarkation.  Keep things you need with you in the morning in a small bag, just like when you first board the ship.
  3. Shop around for Shore Excursions. I love saving money! Who doesn’t right? For this reason I start shopping around for shore excursions  early. First, go on the cruise lines website and see what they sell and how much it costs then do your own research and see if you can get the same thing for less. There are a few things to keep in mind and the most important one is to make sure the vendor you are booking with is reputable! Get customer reviews, call them if your can, find real pictures not the ones on the website. Make sure the excursion includes all costs and if they will pick you up and take you back to port and how long it is. For the most part we book our own, there are times booking with the ship is a good idea.  If the excursion is far from port, lasts a long time or is in a truly exotic port. Also, if the cruise line specializes in that particular city or if the excursion comes with risks, i.e. helicopter tours, parasailing or float planes. Cruise lines will put your safety above all else and they vet the vendor so you don’t have too. While we were in Cabo we had to tender to port and I booked the excursion with the cruise line because I got to be on one of the 1st tender boats off the ship, it saved me a ton of time. Other than that I book my own especially if I am staying close to port or just hitting the beach or shopping.

    Port Cities offer Traditional Performances.

  4. Know yourself. Being on vacation can be liberating! A chance to unwind and try new things and you absolutely should! But, you are still you at the end of the day. If you can’t walk 3 miles at home don’t plan a 8 mile hike; you won’t have any fun. If you don’t like musicals don’t go to the theater for a 45 minute musical show. Prone to seasickness? Maybe don’t book a cabin on the very front on a high deck, and don’t book a guaranteed cabin if you are picky about where you sleep! You will most likely be disappointed. Not a gambler? No problem, go to the spa. I didn’t book a Mayan Ruins tour because it was going to be 98 degrees that day and I am not into a group tour listening to a guide, I went to the beach came back early and hit the pool. The ship was not crowded and it was great. I do try new foods and new activities but I know my limits. Well, sort of. I did try to hit the party deck on NCL’s Getaway every night, which I am not really cut out for and the last day slept until 11am. Oh well, it was probably worth it.
  5. Watch the upsell. There are things on a cruise line that are not free, such as drinks, spa treatments, specialty dining. There is always someone trying to get you to buy more things.  So you have to know what is free and what isn’t before you go. The ship planner will let you know what food is included and what isn’t. A lot of cruise lines will offer discounts on specialty dining if you book the 1st night or will offer a lunch menu for a reduced rate versus the regular night time fare. Drink specials abound as well; again check the planner for drink coupons, happy hours, go to the art auction for free champagne, listen for what shop offers free mimosas, look for the bartender shows and events you can score free or reduced drinks. Same thing for Captains Dinner. For the spa book treatments on port days because the cost for the same thing is reduced on days the ship is docked.  If you are big drinker or want to book a week at the spa pre buy at your online check in or the 1st day on the ship. Again, check out the package specials on the website first and make sure you read up on what is included in your package and what is not. Departing out of TX? Your drink package does not apply til the next day. You can still buy alcohol but it is limited and must be in compliance with TX state law, New York has similar laws. If you are booked in a suite or are lucky enough to have booked a special fare that includes drinks, or even better, are able to afford a luxury cruise line or a river cruise this would not apply to you. Good job and drink on!
  6. The Ship Planner is your best friend:  It is always in your cabin and you get a new one each day. In it you will find all the activities, when they start, what they are, what deck they are on and a brief description. It will give you schedules for shows, guest lectures, and any drink specials. Basically, anything you need to know not only about the ship but the ports of call. Times you will be in port, some points of interest and what time you need to be back on board. The planner makes a great souvenir.
  7. Maximize your time. Be early, but know that you will board by sections. If you have a suite you will board earlier or if have a certain loyalty status; or for Carnival you can pay for a “Faster to the Fun” pass. Book those early, spaces are limited and they sell out fast. When you first board you can go to the pool, eat and drink and check out the specialty dining and get a good feel for the ship.; but you can’t shop or gamble. If you can book a later flight off the ship I would highly recommend it! The cruise line will assign you a disembarkation time but if you are asking to leave later I have never been turned down for changing time to later. I sleep in and have leisurely breakfast, and walk the promenade one last time. It’s pretty nice, and it makes disembarkation a little less hectic because the people in a hurry have already left.

    Water taxis will take you around Cabo for some great photo opportunities

  8. Ships have personalities. Not all ships nor cruise line are created equal. If you are looking for longer times in port or more authentic experiences? Azamara, Windstar and Regent are among some of the top ones and usually are very inclusive-and extremely expensive! Princess and Oceania are a good mid price option. The reason is simple. The more time they are in port the less money off the guest, but with the higher end cruise lines the client expects more. If you are looking for jam packed itinerary and endless entertainment and food options, try Royal Caribbean and Norwegian and the newer MSC ships. These ships are floating cities. Are you a culinary explorer? Celebrity cruises sweeps accolades from cruise critic. Viking gets top marks in the small ship category. Check out this link from an earlier post I wrote about cruise ship personalities.
  9. Don’t be afraid to ask for more. At the dining room you will get a menu offering a 3 to 4 course meal. Don’t be afraid to be ask for 2nds, or 2 appetizers or desserts. When we were on Carnival the ship was sold out and my boys (teenagers at the time) got 3 servings of lobster and we each got 2 desserts. On NCL my husband couldn’t decide between 2 appetizers so she brought both.  We have even had a waiter go to a different bar to get a drink I really wanted. Remember, this is a courtesy and not normally allowed. The staff will generally do whatever they can do to make you happy, but please, ask, don’t demand and understand if they can’t. For most ships room service is free but some cruise lines charge a  delivery fee. The daily planner will include any charges. The staff work very hard with almost no days off for way less than we would ever be paid; so don’t hesitate to ask for what you want but be always be nice and tip generously or give good reviews or both.

Fun Facts:

  • Your cabin is magnetic. Carry on some magnets and you can stick your cruise planner, coupons, notes, etc to the wall.
  • Some cruise lines offer extended stays that include hotels, sometimes meals, day trips and transfers to the ship. For example, Princess offers many opportunities to extend your Alaska vacation.
  • Set dining times are a thing of the past. While most cruise lines still have the set dining times almost all offer a flexible dining time where you can go to dinner wherever and whenever you want. This is one of my favorite things. If I wanted a schedule set for me I would have stayed at work.
  • You can get married on board. Cruises are romantic and cruise lines offer a fair variety of options and budgets. Some of the most popular ones are Princess and P&O Cruises.
  • Cruise ships have a jail. Okay, so maybe this one isn’t fun, but it is important to know. Security and safety on a cruise ship is very important. So behave or get sent to the brig until you get to the next port or to the home port where you will be handed over to the port authority.
  • Your ship may leave without.  Yes, I know, not fun either. I am really off track now, sorry; but still important. If you are late coming back after the ship schedule says you need to be back be prepared to be stranded. Especially if you didn’t book with the ship. If you booked a tour with the ship and something happens-i.e. the tour bus breaks down the ship will wait for you, but that is about the only reason.
  • Look under the bed. Ship cabins are not very spacious but you can usually find extra storage under the bed.
  • The water is filtered. I love ice cold water but I don’t want to pay for bottle water; I don’t see the point. I pack a stainless steel water bottle and there are water stations all over the ship. The water is filtered under the regulations of America and Europe.

Disney is premium product that is worth the cost. Book early and don’t expect a casino or alcohol packages. Do expect outstanding service and attention to detail.

Cruise Critic is one of my favorite sites for reviews of ships, destinations, ports, excursions and whole array of useful tips. Plus, you can find a page called Roll Call it lets you talk to other passengers on your specific cruise. You just have join and enroll it’s easy and free and very useful. You will have friends before you even start.

You can also click on my travel agent Expedia Website to see some cruise options out there. You can search by date, destination, cruise line etc.

Happy Sailing and as always another insights or tips or stories you have learned the hard way are always welcome.

Jul 232018

The world is an amazing and wonderful place and exploring the globes four corners is a grand adventure! There is so much to see and do and discover. However, there are also many things that we do as Americans that aren’t grand or wonderful in other parts of the world.  So the next time you make that list of necessities add “learn the culture!” to that list. If you can let the locals know how much you appreciate their customs and traditions the more you will get out of your travels.

What Not to do: 

  • Sportswear, exercise wear and baseball caps are no no’s in Japan and most of Europe. It’s too bad, I love my yoga pants. And, please, for the love of all that is Holy don’t EVER wear any type of pj’s out for ANY reason! Just no. In South Korean men even wear t-shirts to the beach; as a visitor you are not expected to keep covered up at the beach, but I would. When in Rome is how the saying goes.
  • Tipping. In America the standard for tipping is at least 15% in Japan and South Korea tipping is in an insult. It insinuates that they are not earning a fair wage. Australia is another country that doesn’t expect a tip but it is becoming more common at high end resorts.  Most Europeans, if they tip, it’s just a few coins. That being said, dining abroad is a much more leisurely endeavor. Don’t rush your server and don’t expect them to come check you often.
  • Forget the condiments. I love to try the local fare! It’s one of the best parts of travel. Many countries take great pride in their food. When sampling the yummy goodness of Spain, Italy, Japan and France(you knew that one was coming) do not expect condiments and please don’t ask for them; is it very rude. This includes adding soy sauce or hot sauce. Which is a staple for most Americans but is bad manners in many countries.  Also, in Portugal asking for salt and pepper is offensive to your host. So please be polite and refrain.

  • No PDA. Not many surprises here.  In China, Thailand, Korea and the Middle East communicate your love and affection for your partner with your eyes, no touching; not even holding hands. In India people of the opposite sex are not allowed to touch each other in public, even if they are married. These rules seem like a bummer but they should absolutely be followed and respected.  Speaking of India and touching; if you touch a product, guess what, you just bought it! They won’t take it back. Same goes for New Delhi.
  • Don’t be late. This is kind of a given. There are some countries where it is a bigger slap in the face than others, Germany is a prime example. Other places to make sure you are prompt in are Japan and South Korea. Asian countries are very big on respect! Showing up late is a way of saying that your time is more valuable than theirs. There are some places that are more laid back about time. Which I appreciate when I am vacation! Greece, Argentina-most of Latin America really, Mexico, Morocco and Malaysia are places where you won’t get dirty looks for not being punctual.
  • Watch those feet! In Asian and Caribbean cultures it is expected to take your shoes off when entering someone’s home. Keep those tootsies clean since you will be showing them off! It’s a good excuse to have a whole heap of fun colored socks. For Middle Eastern countries it is UNACCEPTABLE  to show the soles of your feet.  Feet are the lowest part of your body and are generally considered dirty.

Things that Make You go Hmmm!?!?

  • Watch those gestures. Thumbs up, the okay hand signal, one hand in your pocket; all of these are so incredibly offensive! In Latin America, Western Africa, Middle East, Greece, Russia and Italy the thumbs up signal translates to “up yours” and that just isn’t nice! Visiting Turkey or  South Korea? Don’t put one hand in your pocket. it’s sign of arrogance. The “ok” sign is not okay at all in Latin America, the Middle East, Western Africa, Russia and Greece. While visiting Malaysia, Indonesia or Africa don’t point at things, and never at people. Be classy and cool Roamers!
  • Welcome to Australia: Here, have some insecticide disinfectant. It’s true. You and your belongings can expect to be meet with a thorough coating of insecticide.  Nothing makes a person feel more welcome than a healthy dose of disinfectant. Don’t take it personally, it’s not you, it’s them. If you need to know about it check out this link.
  • Ice cold water? Ice in your drink? Don’t count on it! Europe is an amazing place, the architecture especially; at least in my opinion. It can get really hot and I don’t like the heat and when I walk a lot I get so incredibly thirsty! I love icy cold drinks but in most restaurants you can expect drinks to be room temperature and don’t be surprised if, when you ask for ice to get the death stare. France, especially.  My Mom and Dad lived in the Bahamas for six months after retirement and they both found it odd that milk is not refrigerated. Yeah, ditto here. I find it odd, but again, embrace the new. I found out I like pina colada soup which is also an odd thing.
  • Coffee Italian style:  Italy has very particular ideas about coffee. Milk based coffee in only part of the morning routine and never after a meal. Awww; that one makes me sad! I love coffee after dinner! If you feel you must at least apologize to the bartender. Don’t call it Espresso and understand that most Italians have shots of coffee not a triple vente. My sister said everyone ordered shots, downed it and left. Very different from here.  Depending on the region you are in keep the order simple. Naples and Milan are more agreeable to us complicated coffee connoisseurs.
  • Call shotgun. Cabs are a great resource when getting around in a foreign country, but unlike in the U.S. there are places where if you  are travelling solo or are a male and hop in the back you are just a schmuck. Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, parts of Ireland and the Netherlands are all countries that it expected for you to ride shotgun. I like that idea. It’s better to talk to someone if you are sitting side by side.
  • No one stop shopping. I have a LONG list of vitamin and mineral supplements that I take daily as well as a few medications. Fortunately, I can pick all those up when I buy dinner, buy dog food, etc. That is an American thing however. In England, for example, the pharmacy is a pharmacy, period. Most things we are use to such as large portioned meals, 24 hours restaurants, free refills, being super fans of cheerleaders are considered bizarre by many countries.
  • Let’s hang out at the cemetery. In Denmark it is pretty common to see people throw down a blanket and read a book or just hang with friends in the cemetery. Sure, why not.

Bring on the Color!

Now that Sounds Fun! 

Who doesn’t love  a good festival? It’s a giant party where everyone is invited. Everyone is your friend, yet you don’t have to really know anyone. Some are well known. Flag throwing in Tuscany, Carnival in Rio De Janeiro, the Lantern Festival of  Thailand and the Day of the Dead in Mexico. But there are some that I had never heard of that sound amazing!

    • Holi: India, Pakistan and Nepal. Actually, I have heard of this one, but I had  to bring it up because it is on my bucket list in a BIG way! It marks the beginning of the Hindu spring and it a street party where people throw colored powder on each other! Holi is a nationwide celebration that is observed in all 28 states and symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. It starts at night with a bonfire. This year it began on March 1st. Hint: put on plenty of moisture, it helps to keep the color from staining the skin and is easier to remove. Bright colors are better for the colors to be seen. Also, be a good person and bring your dyed powder.
    • Smigus Dyngus Day: A Polish Easter holiday steeped in history and tradition that ends up as a giant free for all street water fight. And I am definitely on board with that! If you can’t make it to Poland there are States here in the U.S. that partake in this watery festival. Cleveland, Ohio; Buffalo, NY and South Bend, Indiana are the biggest party destinations for day filled of water blaster fights. If those places aren’t on you preferred travel list then jet over to Thailand for the Songkran Festival that is the Thai New Year. Bring a towel and water proof  shoes and embrace the fun!
    • Harbin Snow and Ice Festival: Harbin, China. I have to be really honest and say China is not one of top 10 places to visit. I don’t like crowds, or the heat or the food-not a whole lot, anyway, but this festival seems like a mind blower! I would go there JUST to see this! It officially opens on Jan.  5th but there are some activities that begin on December 17th.
    • White Nights and Scarlet Sails: St. Petersburg, Russia. This is the largest public event in the country and celebrates the season of the Midnight Sun. It is an international arts festival with emphasis on ballet, opera and musical performances that culminates in the Scarlet Sails celebration and an impressive fireworks display. It’s a crush with about 1 million attendees so be prepared to lose your sense of personal space.
    • Lopburi Monkey Buffet: Lopburi, Thailand. Every year on Nov 25th-my birthday- the city sets out a HUGE outdoor buffet for monkeys and they just help themselves. It was created to bring in tourists and it works really well! It was even covered by National Geographic. So kudos. If any of you have ever been please share your thoughts and experience.

Did You Know? 

  • In the UK the Skittles purple candy in black currant not grape.
  • The beautiful handmade ceramics you buy in Mexico should not be used for food and beverage storage because the paint can have a high lead content.

I love the hand painted ceramics in Mexico, just not for food storage

  • In France you should always greet your server or cashier before asking for anything or paying.  It is expected to say goodbye as you leave as well.
  • America is about the only country that cards people who are obviously over 21 before serving them alcohol.
  • Receiving gifts is great but in Asia please remember not to open them in front of the giver.

There is no way to cover everything about this topic in one post. For anyone that has other tips or experiences please share. Maybe it could be a bi weekly post, just for fun.

Now this is my idea of a great party!
Apr 042018

We all work hard-hence, we want to play hard. My vacation dreams take me to the rocky coast of Ireland, the white sand beaches of the Polynesian Islands or the mighty peaks of an Alaskan mountain range. Then reality slaps me right up side the head. The same thing has probably happened to you.

The Fountain at Seattle Armory

The first problem is money, or lack of to frolic your week away in Barbados. Sometimes the problem is time. Not enough time off from work or school, or like with my family, our vacation times never lined up. My kids have spent holidays and vacations with my parents or my sister because I couldn’t get one lousy day off while they were on break. For our anniversary one year, my husband and I weren’t even in the same state-he traveled a lot then. A real bummer.  But, one snowy February weekend when my kids had and 4 day weekend I took 2 extra days off and booked us a nice hotel in Seattle. It had an indoor pool, cool touch games built into the coffee tables. The boys had room service and we were 1 block away from a giant arcade.  They got extra desserts and in room movies. It was only two days and it was about 30 degrees and snowed, but they had a great time.

So, how can you make the best of your “staycation”? Planning and optimism. And some key elements.

Have your house in order: First of all, you can’t relax if your house is a mess, so have everything clean. Next, pick a theme and decorate. Don’t spend a lot. Go to the dollar store, pick up colorful vases, fun flowers, gold serving plates. String a lei, get some tiki torches and beach chairs for the backyard. If you want to spend a little more you could even buy framed pictures of mountains or beaches or wineries, whatever you are in the mood for. A cheaper alternative it to take an old calendar and put them is some frames. It’s a good way to temporarily decorate a space to match your mood. To avoid to many dishes, have paper and plastic for the duration. I like the beach, so I make a centerpiece out of seashells in a glass bowl  and find recipes on line for tropical drinks.  Which leads me to my next tip.

Set up a “Decorate your cupcake” activity

Have a menu: The best thing about vacation is NOT cooking! So, get some quick and easy recipes for your theme. I can make frozen coconut pie in 5 minutes, freeze it and done! Anything you can make ahead and will keep, do that.  Fresh made breads and fresh squeezed juices are great, but try new things. I had Baked Alaska on my first cruise and I loved it! Not the easiest to make so I always practice the recipe first; They don’t always turn out.  Splurge on your favorite treats from your local bakery-you know they’re good and no hassle for you.


Here are few of my favorite links for tropical drinks and quick desserts.

Make it fun: Let your kids make your whole living room a fort and let them sleep there-or set up tents in the back yard. I love this one! Roast marshmallows, name the constellations; no t.v., no phones or i-pads. Makes for great family time. Or throw a big party! A backyard BBQ is always a hit-make it fit with your theme. Have everyone learn a hula, or bring wines from Tuscany or chocolates from Denmark. Have a trivia contest about your region-door prizes for winners.

Go on excursions: Search your local area for free festivals or events or museums. If you can swing it spring for a professional sporting event or a theme park. Great Wolf Lodge is a perfect example. There is one past Olympia, so close; very expensive-bring your own food or drive a short distance into town to eat out. I can not stress this enough! The indoor park it totally worth the price of the room; it is so much for families and I felt like a kid again. The Pacific Science Center is also great. So is the International Fountain-that is free and there is a free playground right by the Mo Pop Museum. What is it you like to do? Start with that then figure out what you want to spend money on and what you can do for free. Check local papers and online sites for free festivals and things in your area.

Dogs love to have adventures too.

Do treat yourself: Get dressed up and go out for a fancy meal. Order dessert and an appetizer! Go to movie and buy popcorn and a drink, go to a wine tasting event or a play! Maybe get a massage. Check on Groupon for these things. We got a great deal on a wine and chocolate pairing event. Stay in your pajamas at least one of the days! No phone, no computer, just chill out with your companion or family all day! No responsibilities.

Travel agents should have a myriad of vacation literature for you.

Plan your next vacation: This year is my 25th wedding anniversary, we will be able to go Red Robin this year. I know, it’s tragic. But, there is always next year! I have a load of travel magazines and have list of my top 3 spots to visit. So, I have a destination board so I can visualize it. So break out your calendar and keep some things in mind.  1) The time of year. Europe is great, but not in the summer. Hawaii is awesome and outrageously expensive in the winter months. So keep the climate and expense in mind. If you can book in off season, do it. 2) What do you love most about these places? Prioritize what you want to see most when you visit somewhere. Is it the food, the culture, the sights? 3)Know your budget. Have a plan for how much it will cost and set goals for how you will save that money. Less coffee? Less shoe shopping? Maybe less dry cleaning? Keep a ledger of how much you save each month.  4)Keep your eye out for price drops and last minute deals. This can be time consuming but worth it. Some places will let you sign up for price alerts.

Sleep!  You know you need more of it. Stay in pj’s , watch movies, clean up your email. Nap, often. It is good for you and you know you want to.

A staycation can be a good thing. No packing, no costly airline tickets, no worrying about trip insurance or lost documents. It can be relaxing and exciting! It’s a great time to pamper your pets! One time we drove our dog around to different parks for 6 hours.  So, time away can be whatever you make it, you just have to make it what you want.