This blog is sponsored by Bionica Footwear. Some photos taken in collaboration with Scott Reichard.
I was a bit worried about my balance when I saw the amount of ice the Canadian Rockies trails greeted me with, but I was honestly able to stomp through trails with no problem and no slippage. The Diablo bootie is made in waterproof leather that kept my feet warm and dry in the snow. The wool detailing makes it perfect for being in the elements. If you want to see more of this bootie, you can check it out here.
Here we go! Below is my one-week Canadian Rockies itinerary.
When To Go
To get the most out of your Canadian Rockies itinerary, I would suggest going to Canada in the summer or fall. I have been to Banff National Park in the summer, which you can read about here, and I loved it! More trails are open and available. The weather usually is sunny and beautiful, so it makes it easy to adventure. The only downside to planning your Canadian Rockies itinerary for the summer is that tourists will surround you. The summer is the most popular time for other tourists to plan similar Canadian Rockies itineraries. Prices will go up, and traffic to trailheads will be insane, but if you want great weather 90% of the time, summer is your go-to.
The fall is my new preferred way to travel to Canada. Alberta is full of Larch trees that turn bright orange as the seasons shift. If you can imagine mountainsides blanketed in orange, that’s what you’ll get by planning your Canadian Rockies itinerary for the fall! The prices for accommodations will be much lower, and there will be fewer tourists around. The weather can be hit or miss, but there is always something to do.
While Calgary is about an hour from Canmore, and an additional hour from the outer edges of Banff, flying into Calgary will give you the most bang for your buck. You can easily rent a car from the YYC airport as well. My round trip tickets from Phoenix, Arizona were about $350 for September.
Arrive in Calgary
The day we arrived at the Calgary airport was a bit of a wash as far as weather goes. It wasn’t the ideal way of starting our Canadian Rockies itinerary, but we still made it work. We used day 1 to pack our bags and get ready for the next day. I always like to hit up a grocery store the day before I begin my adventures, so I made sure to hit up the Canmore Safeway!
The next portion of our Canadian Rockies itinerary took us to the Lake Moraine area. Due to its growing popularity on social media, this lake has gotten significantly more popular. We arrived here at 6:30am, and in a matter of minutes, the parking lot was full. When this happens, park rangers close the road to Lake Moraine. If you would like to go here, you need to go early. Either way, Lake Moraine is a classic Banff spot and needs to be on your Canadian Rockies itinerary!
If you’re looking for fall colors, Larch Valley is the place to be! This is a great hike and is full of life, which is why we wanted to add it to our Canadian Rockies itinerary. The trailhead is to the right of the Lake Moraine parking lot. Be aware that the Lake Moraine area is a know grizzly spot, so you should hike in a group of at least four. As long as you make a ton of noise while you walk, you’ll be fine!
The Larch Valley trail went through the lushest forest scene. The mountain peaks that sit behind Lake Moraine grew ten times bigger as well! Larch Valley was honestly one of my favorite hikes in the entire park. Not to mention, the fact that you can hike to a lake above Lake Moraine is pretty amazing. Minnestimma Lake will most likely leave you speechless!
After the Larch Valley hike, we decided to take it easy and visit Peyto Lake. There isn’t much of a hike here since you can walk a little less than a mile to the viewpoint via a paved walkway. Peyto is another Canada classic that offers a beautiful view!
The weather was looking up, so we decided that sunset might be in our futures. If you’re not looking for a long hike or lake view, go on over to Castle Rock where you can enjoy a relaxing stream instead.
While I love myself a good hike, Pocaterra Ridge handed it to me. My knees did not like it to say the least ;). However, if you’re up for a bit of a challenge then definitely add this ridge to your Canadian Rockies itinerary. Pocaterra is also an excellent larch hike! During the fall the entire area turns into an orange wonderland. While I didn’t enjoy the straight uphill, I loved the view!
During the last parts of our Canadian Rockies itinerary, I was busy backpacking to Assiniboine Provincial Park. Assiniboine was by far my absolute favorite part of the entire trip. Along with a group of 4 friends, I trekked 17mi to our campground where we found ourselves in the most beautiful views you can see in the Canadian Rockies. I loved being surrounded by epic mountain-scapes and nothing but nature. Our helicopter ride out of the park was even better.
While you might be thinking a backpacking trip is a bit much, adding one to your Canadian Rockies itinerary will most likely leave you speechless. Backpacking will bring you to views tucked away deep in the Rockies and will give even better memories! As an alternative to the Assiniboine hike, you can try backpacking to Lake O’Hara, Floe Lake or even Berg Lake.
One week’s worth of adventures is nowhere near enough time to have a jam-packed Canadian Rockies itinerary, but it’s enough to leave you wanting more! I couldn’t believe there were so many amazing places to see in such proximity to one another. Are you busy planning out your Canadian Rockies itinerary? What gems are at the top of your list?
Big thank you to Bionica Shoes for giving me a pair of their Diablos to wear around! You can purchase a pair of your own here.
This blog was written by Mtn Chicks Founder Dani The Explorer
How to Collaborate With Brands on Instagram With 1,000 or Over 100K Followers and Actually Make MoneyRead Now
Some photos were taken in collaboration with Scott Reichard
How to collaborate with brands on Instagram with 1,000 or over 100K followers and actually make money, you ask? Let’s start with what I do and some of the terminology and my story.
Thus far in 2018, I have traveled to Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Peru, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Utah, Alaska, and Canada. Soon I’ll be on the East Coast of the United States as well as Sri Lanka. There will probably be last minute trips I take here and there too. How do I manage to squeeze all of this travel in a year? For starters, I work for myself. I am a freelance photographer, adventure travel blogger, and a social media influencer.
Follow me on Instagram for more of these adventures! @Dani_The_Explorer
Advertising on a social media influencer’s profiles means companies can find the exact audience they want to target. There are no guessing games. If a company wants to get in front of a specific demographic, they can do it in a single social post. Companies can get as niche as they want! Their products also can get exposure in different locations. Companies can work with influencers around the world and have their products featured in marketing material that they may otherwise have to pay a production team to create in small increments. Now let’s add another variable to that and talk about long-term partnerships. If a brand chooses to work with an influencer long term, now they’re able to grow with that influencer. If in the first month of advertising the influencer had 10,000 followers, and two months later the influencer has 30,000, now that brand is getting exposure to 20,000 more followers than they initially thought they were getting.
How you can collaborate with brands on Instagram with 1,000 or over 100K followers and make money.
Again, as companies find more ROI from influencer marketing, they will start to allocate more budget to these sorts of campaigns. That means your chances are better to collaborate brands on Instagram! For my travels, I pitch brands on where I am going and what content pieces I offer. I started by just offering brands exposure on my Instagram page, and now I offer image licensing, commercial photos, blogs and more. Making money from Instagram is what built my portfolio and still funds my travels today. In this blog, I will go over how you can get there too. Since Instagram is where I retain most of my social traffic, that is the social media channel I am going to highlight and speak to the most. However, some of these takeaways can apply to monetize other social media channels as well.
The Must Haves
Okay so before you can even dream about pitching a brand and traveling, I want to make some things very clear.
1) Be ready to work. This industry is a hustle, and everyone wants a piece. Before this was my full-time job, I was working a marketing job for eight hours a day, and then I would come home and work eight additional hours building the Mountain Chicks empire. Being a freelancer is not easy, and brands will not come out of the blue to work with you. You must meet them halfway.
2) Have a personal brand. You must understand your personal brand, who you are and what you want your audience to gain from seeing your content. You must understand what content your audience wants to see and what helps you tell your story. It is one thing to post pretty pictures, and it is a completely different thing to have a personality your followers can follow along. Your followers want to look up to you and to get to know you. Understand your personal brand.
3) You should have at least 1,000 followers. While is it 100% possible to make money on Instagram with 1,000, most brands require you to have at least 5,000 followers, so be aware of this ahead of time. That should not stop you, though! I always think you should try. If you are not yet at 5,000 Instagram followers, I suggest honing in on your personal brand and growth. Curator pages will be your best friend in those growing stages! You can continue to collaborate with brands on Instagram when you have 1,000, but put extra effort into growing! Growing will get you more brand deals and more money.
4) Know your worth. This blog is all about how to collaborate with brands on Instagram with 1,000 or over 100K followers. Getting paid means you need to set a price. As a rule of thumb, you can get paid $5 to $10 per thousand Instagram followers. If you have 10,000 followers, for example, you can get paid about $100 per sponsored Instagram post (10,000/1,000 = 10, 10 x $10 = $100). Since I am also a photographer, I stick to charging on the high end ($10 per thousand followers). Please note that the final number you choose to charge should also take into consideration your engagement. That is just as important. The better your engagement, the closer to the high side of the spectrum you can charge.
5) Have a media kit. A media kit is a 1 to 2-page document that lists out previous brands you have worked with, your rates, your audience demographics, your engagement statistics, your contact information and more. They’re easy to make if you have the time, if you don’t however, I’m happy to report that I am now offering to create personalized media kits! You can learn more about my media kit services by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By the way, I also offer social media influencer mentoring! I would love to help you step by step to reach your goals when it comes to working with brands and growing your account! You can email me at email@example.com to get started.
How to start contacting brands to work with on Instagram.
Now that you’re a brand master, you have your media kit, you know your rates, it’s time to get to work. To better illustrate my workflow, I’m going to use a fake travel scenario. Let’s say I know that in December, I want to travel to Hawaii. Here are the steps I would take to get paid on Instagram.
1) Make a list. What will I need to get me to Hawaii? Making this list will help me determine my budget for the trip and how to get paid on Instagram to fund my travels.
2) Know your brand options. Now that I know what I need, I’m going to make a list of brands I want to work with for my Hawaii trip. It’s best to think out of the box with this. Just because I need a car, a place to stay, etc., that doesn’t mean I can’t work with a shoe company, a granola bar company, or even a protein powder company. Why? Because you want to offer these companies a chance to come along for the ride. You’re giving them the opportunity to have their brand in Hawaii with you, in your Hawaii content, so that when your Instagram followers see that you went to Hawaii, they know what brands made that trip a reality. Whereas if these companies wanted their products showcased in Hawaii, they would have to pay a salaried employee to capture that content for them. Don’t just reach out to the car companies or the hotel companies, reach out to the brands that make you feel passionate. The brands that align with your personal brand and whose content you would be excited to promote. These also make for better long-term relationships that you may be able to use in the future. For the sake of this example, I want to collaborate with brands on Instagram by working with… *Please note these are fake companies listed below*
3) Find the right contact. When I want to collaborate with brands on Instagram, I start by messaging them on Instagram or Facebook. I always briefly introduce myself and ask if there is someone specific I can contact about a partnership. If I don’t get a reply, I resort to the email listed on their social media pages. If that doesn’t work and I REALLY want to work with said brand, I try doing a Google search for an email to their public relations team. Sometimes the search leads to a dead end, and that is okay! Try to look up trade shows in your industry where you can meet brands and network with their marketing/ public relations team.
4) Begin pitching. Now that I know where I’m going, my budget, and who I want to email, it’s time to start pitching. Pitching is by far the scariest part of figuring out how to get paid on Instagram. It’s easy to accept free gear and items, but what about asking for money? My advice is to just go for it. The worse thing a brand can say is “no.” And at that point, oh well. No one ever got anywhere by quivering at “no.” Below is an example pitch email. Should you choose to use this, please tailor it to fit your needs. If brands get the impression that you’re sending them a blanket email, they’re less likely to throw you a bone. Personalize it.
To: Explorer Backpacks
What makes this pitch successful? For starters, I have briefly said who I am, what I do and what I want. I have also noted that I am a customer of this brand. On top of that, I have let Susan know that I have a media kit I would be happy to send over- now this doesn’t sound like my first rodeo. Susan may or may not reply. And you know what, she might not even be the person I need to reach out to in the first place, but you bet I’m going to keep following up! All you need is one “yes.”
5) Close the pitch. I have finished pitching companies, and I finally got a reply! Susan told me she is interested in hopping on a call. What the heck do I do now?
“I would love to take your products with me to Hawaii and create some unique social media content around my adventures.”
What to do when a brand contacts you on Instagram.
I do not always pitch brands on Instagram. It is common for brands to contact me about working with them on Instagram. When you want to collaborate with brands on Instagram with 1,000 or over 100K followers and actually make money, when this happens you should still take a similar approach as if you were contacting them!
1) Start by reading their email carefully. Understand exactly what the brand wants and what the collaboration entails.
2) Ask questions. Do not be afraid to ask questions! If the brand makes no indication of monetary compensation, ask them if they have a budget. Attached your media kit to the email and let the brand know you have attached it for their review.
3) Know your worth and stay true to it. I have run into so many situations where a brand tried to undercut my rates by over 50%. I kindly let them know that my rates are firm and I would love to make it work, but if they do not have the budget to match my rates today, then we can try again later. Do not be afraid to negotiate!
4) Don’t be afraid to say “no”. See above! Also, don’t be afraid to say no to a collaboration you’re truly not passionate about. More jobs will come, I promise.
5) Always sign a contract. Never agree to any job without a contract.
1) I don’t travel much. Is travel the only way I can get paid on Instagram? Definitely not. I used travel as an example because that is the brand I created for myself. How to get paid on Instagram can vary from industry to industry. You can always do a basic pitch to brands and merely state that you would like to promote their products on your pages, asking them how they have worked with influencers in the past and how you think you two would be a great fit together.
2) A brand has offered me a free product instead of payment, should I take it? That’s up to you. However, the next time a brand offers you free product, think about how easy you’re letting them get off. Please do not confuse this as me saying you should never do free work! If this is your first rodeo, yes, do it for free and get some experience under your belt. You should start charging once you've completed at least 5 jobs successfully.
Brands have a huge marketing budget (at least most do) and creating content is hard work. The second you agree to a free product, you’re agreeing to go on your adventure, trip or wherever, and work as a free marketer for a brand, and all you got was a material item that you probably won't have in a year. For the long term, I think you should help set the standards for brands and ask for payment!
3) I’m an ambassador for a brand, and I don’t get paid. What do I do? I think ambassadorships are sometimes the best way to work towards a paid partnership! You can always do work for free for a brand you love, and after a certain amount of time (3-6 months) start the discussion of how you can get paid and what that would look like. Ambassadorships can sometimes make it easier to collaborate with brands on Instagram and actually make money.
4) Exactly how much money should I be asking for? That is entirely up to you and the project at hand. In my experience, ask for the base amount (mentioned earlier in this blog), do the work, and reflect. Was doing 3 Instagram posts for a total of $50 worth your time? Would you charge XYZ again or would you ask for a higher amount of money in the future?
Working with influencer marketing agencies
If you want to collaborate with brands on Instagram with 1,000 or over 100K followers and actually make money, but are too afraid to pitch brands, turn to an influencer agency for easy ways on how to get paid on Instagram. Websites like Aspire IQ (previously Revfluence) and Popular Pays do the work for you. These agencies allow you to create a profile on their online platform where you can upload your social media profiles to pull your statistics, then apply for jobs posted by brands looking for social media influencers! The accounts are free to create, and there are some large brands posting work on there.
There is so much more I could write about on how to collaborate with brands on Instagram, but these are tips I wish someone would have told me! I hope this has given you some more insight on how to get paid on Instagram and what exactly I do for work. I’m lucky to call the Dani The Explorer and Mtn Chicks brands my job. I hope some of you can make a few extra dollars doing this as well!
What other questions do you have around these topics? Let me know in the comments!
This blog was written by Mountain Chicks Founder Dani The Explorer.
Utah is easily one of my favorite adventure spots. Being a 6hr drive from me, Southern Utah is a place I know well. I have explored my fair share of it, but not enough! Did I mention the National Parks? If you haven't added a Utah National Parks road trip to your bucket list, then you need to!
Not only are these shoes extremely comfortable, but they were great for the light trail walking I did on this trip. I drove for about 25hrs total, and it was such a relief to wear shoes that felt like tiny clouds on my feet.
I would also like to note that for this Utah National Parks road trip you will be car camping! That is typically my favorite thing to do during road trips and I have the best of luck with BLM land.
Things To Do In Arches National Park
What is a Utah National Parks road trip without a stop at Arches National Park? My first time visiting Arches National Park was in the winter. If you haven’t seen this desert wonderland turn into a wintery dream yet, I highly recommend checking it out! If you’re deciding what time of day to head there, shoot for sunrise. When the sun rises in arches, it paints all the arch formations in a dreamy orange that you will not see elsewhere.
Delicate Arch is probably the most iconic structure and top things to do in Arches National Park. There is no reason to not include it in your Utah National Parks road trip! The hike itself is relatively easy and has a bit of an elevation gain at the end. You can expect this trail to have a crowd if you visit it in the middle of the day, but it is still worth the visit!
Park Avenue is another one of my favorite things to do in Arches National Park. While it is a trail, the Park Avenue view is something you can quickly stop, see and snap a picture of if you only have time to drive through the park during your Utah National Parks road trip.
While you’re there, you also have the chance to see off-road lovers drive around Swing Arm. Swing Arm is where rock formations have created ramps for the bravest of drivers to run their vehicles around.
Cathedral Valley Road
No Utah National Parks road trip itinerary is complete without a little off-roading! Now that you’re out of Hanksville and on your way to find things to do in Capitol Reef National Park make sure Cathedral Valley Road is high on your list! While Cathedral Valley is an off-roading road that stretches about 50mi, you can opt to hit the Temples of the Sun and Moon instead.
The Sun and Moon temples are about 35mi from Hanksville and 17mi in from Caineville (where the road officially starts). The Cathedral Valley Road will require at least a high-clearance vehicle to get to them. Compared to most off-roading roads I have driven on, this one consists mainly of harsh washboards. You will first pass a series of gypsum mounds, which are incredible in color! Then you’ll find yourself face to face with the Temples of the Sun and Moon. If you are looking for a place to camp for the night, I recommend camping near the temples! It’s a beautiful area, and the starry sky makes it even better. I think Cathedral Valley Road is a great thing to do in Capitol Reef National Park for sunrise and sunset. There are no services on this road so you will need to make sure you get gas beforehand.
False Kiva Hike
False Kiva is one of the lesser known things to do in Canyonlands National Park. It is a short hike to a ruins area where you get a great view of the canyon below. This hike isn't even on a map of the park. I am sad to say that recently this hike was ruined by vandalism, which caused park management to close the trail as of July 2018. At the time I am writing this blog, the path is still closed, but I wanted to include it in this blog to showcase some of the beautiful places available to us and how they can be easily ruined for all to see. Please, if you are going to visit our National Parks, make sure you are following Leave No Trace principles and respecting the land. Only camp in designated camping areas. Leave any rock formations alone. No one wants to visit a place to see your name and "I heart U"'s carved into rocks/ trees. It makes me so sad every time I see someone breaking the simple rules we have when we're enjoying the outdoors. Educate yourself on LNT principles and keep the outdoors wild!
This blog was written by Mountain Chicks Founder Dani The Explorer.
All photos were taken in collaboration with Scott Reichard
Are you wondering how to see some of the most beautiful places in Peru? How does a 6 day Rainbow Mountain trek sound? I didn't know it would be something I wanted to do! I remember scrolling through Instagram and seeing someone’s pictures from Rainbow Mountain Peru. That’s when my obsession with trekking in Peru started. Then there was Machu Picchu, Cusco, and a slew of other Peruvian hot spots that suddenly became the only places I wanted to explore. Somewhere between daydreaming and thinking about how I would get there, I came across the Killa Expeditions page. Killa offers treks and guided tours through Peru. They focus on ethical and sustainable travel, making my decision to reach out to their team that much easier. I love that Killa Expeditions also makes a point to give back to the community as part of their ethical focus. They host numerous charity events and support local businesses quite frequently.
Numerous emails between the Killa Expeditions team and I finally led to a decision on a trek: the Rainbow Mountain Ausangate Package. The Rainbow Mountain Peru Trek includes 6 epic days of trekking in Peru through the Ausangate Mountain range, which brings us to Rainbow Mountain and beyond. 4 of those days will be spent getting to Rainbow Mountain while the last 2 days will include day tours and a stop at Machu Picchu. Scott and I would be photographing the entire trip. I don’t think either one of us was expecting to fall so in love with a place! What trek details do I have? How does one go about planning a similar trip? This blog is going to go over all of it! I know Peru is as much of a dream destination for most adventurers as it was for me. I’m going to make sure I go over every detail of my experience with Killa Expeditions and what to expect when getting ready to do a Rainbow Mountain trek. I’d also like to point out that Killa Expeditions and Mountain Chicks are officially partners! We will be planning treks and other Peruvian adventures together for community members and their friends for the foreseeable future. Stay tuned for those!
I didn’t know this before we met with our Airbnb hosts, but some nights, the city of Cusco turns off the water around 8pm to locals until the next morning. Keep the water in mind when choosing your accommodations and planning your nights out on the town. Water never turns off for hotels! I will say that I was happy our Airbnb was about $60 for this trip- what a steal! It was also nice that our hosts offered to store our luggage we would not be taking on our Rainbow Mountain trek. I highly recommend that you check with your accommodations beforehand to make sure they can store your luggage! You will not be able to bring all of your non-hiking belongings with you on your Rainbow Mountain trek. If you do not have many other options, you can also ask Killa Expeditions ahead of time to do this for you!
Where to Arrive
You can expect that you will have to book 2 flights to get to Cusco in order to be in the right place for your Rainbow Mountain trek! Scott and I flew into Lima and then from Lima to Cusco. Our plane tickets from LAX costed about $700 each (this is the total for our LAX to Lima and Lima to Cusco flights). Should you chose to take your Rainbow Mountain trek in the summer, you can also expect tickets to be more expensive than they might be in other months. I personally think it is worth it to pay the extra money for better weather, but that is your call!
We found a restaurant called Green Point for breakfast, which ended up being our go-to for the duration of our time at Cusco. You better believe we went back to Green Point after trekking in Peru. The rest of the day was spent catching up on sleep.
Explore Plaza De Armas
Our second day at Cusco was somewhat of a repetition of the previous day. This is when I felt like we were really starting to acclimate to the altitude before starting our 6 day Rainbow Mountain trek. We had breakfast at Green Point, grabbed a coffee, and headed to the main square. I decided to take a bunch of pictures, and to my luck, there was a festival of the schools taking place! The Cusco colleges paraded through the square and had groups of students put together dances for bystanders to watch. Their costumes were just as vibrant as their dances. I couldn’t get over how fun and colorful everything was. There are museums and other historical sites you can explore once you get here! If you arrive in Cusco on the 24th of June, you can expect to see the Inti Rami festival taking place. I imagine it is much bigger and even more colorful than the one we caught! This was a great way to build some excitement before we began our Rainbow Mountain trek.
Tipon, Pikillaqta, Andahuaylillas Day Tour
A Tipon trip is a good option for a day tour before beginning our Rainbow Mountain trek and Machu Picchu hike. Throughout the day, you’ll have the opportunity to see beautiful Inca terraces and historical sites.
During the adventure, we were able to tour this church and visit huge terraces! This was when I realized just how rich the Peruvian culture was.
Who knew there was so much to see south of Cusco?
Trekking to Rainbow Mountain Peru
The next four days, you will complete your Rainbow Mountain trek through the Ausangate Mountains. The day before, we had a trek brief with our guides. This is also they day they gave us dry bags so we could go back to our hotel, pack our day bags for the trek, then pack the dry bags for the horses to carry.
To this day, I haven’t seen glacier lakes, and mountain ranges more beautiful than these! The trek left me in awe each day. The Killa Expeditions team spared no expense to make sure we were taken care of throughout the trek. Scott and I are vegans and were somewhat worried about what we would eat during days of non-stop hiking. Their cooks were able to accommodate us with no problems! Some days I ate better than I do at home.
Can we also talk about all the Alpaca on the trail?
I’d also like to point out that you’ll be in a different hemisphere, so make sure you look up at the sky! The stars will be brighter and a little bit different than what you’ll see at home.
We also conquered a 16er and a 17er, which left my legs questioning every decision I’ve ever made. Expect that day 3 of the Rainbow Mountain trek will be the challenge day.
This sunrise portion of our Rainbow Mountain trek was pretty unreal! I couldn’t feel my toes after hiking through snow for an hour, but looking back it was quite the experience. That being said, I would expect it to be cold on your trek. Wear warm layers and prepare for the possibility of their being ice on the trail or maybe some snow!
Aguas Calientes is the town closest to Machu Picchu. It’s is relatively touristy and crowded, so be warned. You'll see plenty more tourists who have probably been trekking in Peru too! I will note, though, that most of them probably didn't just finish the Rainbow Mountain trek, so you have something to brag about.
Then you will need to wait at least another hour for the sun to come up. While I didn’t try it, I have heard of some folks having better luck roaming the ruins at sunset! It might be something to look into for when you decide to visit.
One Last Day in Cusco
Day 10 was a rest day for Scott and me. We went to the Cusco Starbucks (very touristy of us), edited photos, packed our bags, and got ready to leave for home. If you’re up for it, you can also use this day to go on another day trip. If you want plenty of tours to choose from, go trekking in Peru with a company like Killa Expeditions! You can see their selection of treks here.
Peru was nothing short of amazing! I’m already planning my return. I couldn’t be more excited to be partners with Killa and bring some more folks to this beautiful country! What part of this trip would have you feeling the most excited? Let me know in the comments below!
To learn more about Killa Expeditions and their tours, visit their website here. Happy exploring!
This blog was written by Mountain Chicks Founder Dani The Explorer
Before moving to Arizona, I spent my childhood in Illinois. I don’t remember much about the Midwest, so when I recently had the chance to visit Ohio, I was excited to see all the things to do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park and all the other things to do in the Cleveland Metroparks. Ohio is full of lush green forests, prancing deer, and lakeside beaches.
While exploring Ohio, I had the opportunity to try Bionica Footwear’s new Orsola shoe. The Orsola is an incredibly light and comfortable sneaker that I found to be perfect for the short trails and walks I took in the Cuyahoga Valley. The footbed left me feeling like I just finished walking on clouds, which is much more than I can say about most light trail sneakers.
Blue Hen Falls
When I was first looking at things to do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park during my first visit a couple of winters ago, Blue Hen Falls caught my eye because I thought it would make the perfect winter wonderland scene. I was right! This waterfall during the winter is one of the dreamiest sites you will ever see. Can you imagine this area with fall colors? During my most recent visit this summer, this Cuyahoga Valley National Park trail was still just as beautiful. I had forgotten how great it felt to sit down and take in the views with no one else around.
Other Cuyahoga Valley National Park Trails I recommend seeing include:
The Cleveland Metroparks
The Cleveland Metroparks is made up of over 23,000 acres of land and 300 trails. Some parks include epic sunset locations and lakefronts. The Metroparks are the perfect way to escape the city.
Huntington Beach is on the shore of Lake Erie in Bay Village. It’s a great beach to watch the sunrise and go for a swim. You can also visit the lighthouse for a scoop of ice cream or go for a bike ride around the perimeter of the lake. If you’re not a swimmer, there are spots along the beach where you can launch a kayak for a different view of the area.
A few other Metroparks areas include:
-Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
For more information on things to do in the Cleveland Metroparks, you can visit their site here. If you would like to see another list of things to do in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, you can visit their website here.
I would like to thank Bionica Footwear for sponsoring this blog post. To see more of their fall line of shoes, visit their website here.
Up until I graduated college, I had never been out of the country. My family told me one day that they were planning a 2 week vacation to Italy. I knew I had to join. If I didn’t, I probably would have found an excuse to push my wanderlust in the other direction. Fast forward to 2018, and I’m now working a job that allows me to travel full time!
During my first trip to Italy, I mainly stayed along the western coast. I knew that when I went back, I had to see the Dolomites. When the opportunity presented itself for me to tag along on an epic 2 week Central Europe road trip itinerary, including the Dolomites, with four other creatives, I jumped on it!
Where to Arrive
I flew in and out of Zurich. We made our road trip into a loop that would put us back in Switzerland after it was over. This sort of 2 week Central Europe road trip itinerary is what was most convenient for us based on the countries that we wanted to see. Should you plan your own Europe road trip, try to arrive in large International airports to save money. My ticket to Zurich was around $400 because I decided to purchase my ticket during a sale. You can use apps like Hopper to keep track of flights you are thinking about purchasing! They'll let you know when tickets are sitting at a reasonable price.
When to Go
To cut some costs and skip the tourists, we decided to plan our 2 week Central Europe road trip itinerary for late May. May is the end of shoulder season in Europe while the summer months are peak season. Fall can be a great option as well; Europe turns into a beautiful palette of orange and red in autumn! I will admit, however, that a part of me wishes we would have pushed this trip back to early or mid June. Most parts of Switzerland were closed, which was a total bummer. I highly recommend looking into road construction and other happenings in your to plan your best 2 week Central Europe road trip itinerary! Most of the time, Google Maps had no idea there was a closer in place, so we found ourselves turned around.
To get the most out of our 2 week Central Europe road trip itinerary, we opted to rent a car. Since there were 5 people on this trip, we found that a van was our best option. For 2 weeks, the van was about $1,350 total. We didn't find parking to be an issue. I'm sure renting a smaller car makes it even easier to park if you plan on visiting large cities. You can definitely take trains around different parts of Europe, however, we already knew we were going to be on the road quite frequently so we knew a car would be the best option.
I went with four other folks on this road trip, and I never felt like I was in danger. The areas that we visited were mostly in remote mountain towns. Walking around at night was never an issue, and people were friendly, primarily! Remember that you’re the best judge of your safety. While I felt comfortable in my situation, always remain aware of your surroundings!
Where to Go
There are so many places you can easily add to your 2 week Central Europe road trip itinerary that would probably leave you speechless. Below I have linked the map I used to get to most of the spots I am going to discuss. Feel free to use it on your Central Europe road trip itinerary too!
Day 1 – Switzerland
Arrive in Zurich
When you arrive in Central Europe, you’ll most likely experience jet lag. I had a room booked in a hostel in Old Town Zurich, where I was able to leave my luggage, grab a coffee and relax. So this is where our 2 week Central Europe road trip itinerary will start! It was the best decision I ever made. If you’re not looking to drive to the city, you can opt to stay in one of the budget hotels closer to the Zurich airport, which will still put you at a good location for the next destination on our trip.
During our long send to Frankfurt, I was able to charge my devices using the BioLite Charge 20. Their Charge Series features durable, stainless steel chargers with a silicone gasket, making them ready for unexpected weather. It’s perfect for a country like Germany that has unpredictable weather!
Day 3 – Germany
See Eltz Castle for Sunrise
Eltz Castle, otherwise known as Burg Eltz, is one of the more popular attractions in this area, and for a good reason! Eltz ended up being one of the best parts of our 2 week Central Europe road trip itinerary. The castle looks like something straight out of a fairy-tale. I suggest catching Eltz Castle for sunrise. You’ll have the whole place to yourself, and you’ll have some of the best light for photos. Make sure you walk around the enter castle perimeter! Lush meadow and greenery surround it.
Visit Hangeseilbrukcke Geierlay
Hangeseilbrukcke Geierlay is a one of the longest suspension bridges in the mountains of Central Germany. You can visit the bridge and hike along the other trails in the area. If you’re into mountain biking, this is an excellent place for that too. After seeing the bridge, it’s time to head over to Garmisch-Partenkirchen for the next set of adventures!
Visit Neuschwanstein Castle for Sunset
Of all the castles in Germany, this was one of my favorites! Castle really help make this the best 2 week Central Europe road trip Itinerary. This castle sits upon a tall hill, making it hard to miss as you drive past it! I suggest visiting the castle for sunset- that’s when some of the best light is. Multiple trails around the castle will give you a high vantage point of the structure. Some folks like to hike along the bottom of it and drone above Neuschwanstein to get a better view overall.
Day 7 – Austria
Hallstatt is a quaint village off the shore of Lake Hallstatt. 16th-century homes line the town, making it extremely picturesque! If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot some swans swimming in the lake! Since the previous days of our trip were spent along the Germany-Austria border, we decided to use our time in Hallstatt to relax and get ready to see more of Slovenia/ Italy in the coming days. Hallstatt is so small and cute, there is no reason to not ad it to your 2 week Central Europe road trip itinerary. It's a great stopover for what you will be up to next!
Day 8 – Slovenia
Head Down to Soca Valley
Soca Valley is seriously one of the most underrated places! I never imagined a country like Slovenia would have such blue water…everywhere. There is a slew of hidden waterfalls here as well. You can even rent kayaks and paddle down the valley floor. If you haven’t added this area to your list of places to see, do it now! It’s an adventurist's dream. I really wish I would have had more time in this area, but I fell in love with the parts that I did see. You probably will too! I'm happy we decided to add the Soca Valley to this 2 week Central Europe road trip itinerary. I never knew blue water like this would be in Slovenia, and it made me want to go back for more!
Drive to Bled
After a day in the sun at Soca Valley, drive over to Bled. The town is quite cute and best known for Lake Bled, which you can hike above to get a better vantage point of the church in its center! I recommend seeing it for sunset if you can! The hike to the top of Bled is short with a bit of elevation gain. You can also choose to walk around the perimeter of the lake to get a different perspective of what is going on. While I loved the hike to the viewpoint, I think I liked walking the perimeter a bit better.
Drive-By Val Gardena
From here, I headed to the Val Gardena area for sunset. We took this short trail to a view that left us nothing but speechless! It was nice to have the BioLite BaseLantern XL to light up our trip down the trail once we were done!
Drive Gardena Pass
Europe has some of the windiest roads I’ve ever been on in my life. If you’re in the mood for a headache (kidding), then drive through some of them! The views from the tops of the pass are honestly gorgeous! You’ll just be a little car sick when you get there.
Take a Cable Car to Rifugio Lagazuoi
If you want more mountain views, take a tram to Rifugio Lagazuoi! The Rifugio is another mountain spot that offers a ton of hiking to visitors. There is also a cool, cylinder sauna there.
Day 13 – Switzerland
Zermatt is the gateway to the Matterhorn. You can take trams to the base of the mountain where you can hike to various lakes and viewpoints. To do sunrise and sunset here, you need to spend the night! While in Zermatt, the tour desk will be able to provide you with the most up to date information on camping and vistas up there.
Day 14 – Switzerland
Lauterbrunnen is a mountain town in Switzerland. It has “moody” vibes and waterfalls surrounding it. You can take a trail that will bring you underneath the falls! You can also take the train to smaller towns in the area to see different viewpoints of the city. Otherwise, this town is super picturesque and worth roaming around!
Visit Lake Thun
After leaving Lauterbrunnen, you can drive over to Lake Thun. There are scenic roads that go around the area and trails that give you a higher viewpoint of Thun.
Author - Dani The Explorer