Today’s show is all about my summer road trip and how I worked with eight tourism boards to make this trip happen. This road trip included two college tours, stopping in to see one of my best friends, a 30-person family reunion, and eight media trips. Between a Visit California event I attended and the 2017 Travel Media Showcase, I filled my road trip with some big city stops like San Francisco, wine towns like Paso Robles, quirky art towns like Lucas, Kansas, beautiful mountain villages like Ruidoso and we drove part of the famous Route 66.

Join me as I share the perks of getting on the right mailing lists, going to the best travel conferences and how to plan a summer road trip with a 16-year-old! 

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Summer Roadtrip — College Tours, Media Trips and a Family Reunion

Selfie in San Francisco

Click here to listen to the full episode to hear how to get on the right mailing lists for PR invitations and the top conference to attend to land U.S. media trips. This is “BITW 133: How to Work with 8 Tourism Boards to Plan a Summer Road Trip”.

Full episode >> Listen to Episode 133 Now!

What You’ll Learn in this Episode:

  • How to get on the right mailing lists for PR and tourism invites.
  • My favorite travel writer conference for U.S. tourism connections.
  • How to organize & plan a 13-stop road trip (that includes 8 media trips)

Now, let’s dive into my 13-stop road trip that included 8 media trips.

Stop 1: Paso Robles

Paso Robles Road Trip

I ran into Travel Paso at the Visit California 2018 Los Angeles Media Reception. I booked this as my first stop on our summer road trip. small town, with acres upon acres of countryside, a historic downtown, a cool wild west history and lots of wineries. The wine industry is truly at the heart of Paso Robles.

Beyond the world-class wine, you’ll find top-notch breweries, craft distilleries, and elevated eateries. It’s a town where people know their neighbors and business owners. At every stop I made during my visit to Paso Robles, I was surprised to see people greeting each other by name and wandering over to say hello.

I worked with Travel Paso and I told them I wanted to write a story focused on locations that weren’t a what you’d find on a TripAdvisor and they set up a seriously secret insider day! I brought my sister in law along for a day starting with morning coffee, followed by visiting seriously hip wineries, craft distilleries, restaurants and ending our day with after-dinner drinks at a secret club.

Almost every place we visited had just opened — like within the last few weeks or maybe a month. If you want the full low down, you can visit 52Perfect Days and look for my article, An Insider’s Guide To A Perfect Day In Paso Robles.

Stop 2: UC Santa Cruz

This was a stop for a campus tour. Santa Cruz is located on the central coast of California and just a few hours from Paso. In fact, it’s about 1/2 between Paso and San Francisco. It’s a hippy beach town with a really cool wharf and boardwalk with vintage rides.

Our reason for visiting was a campus tour. We are just diving into the world of campus tours and research, but I have to ask could a school mascot be a dealbreaker? It’s a gorgeous campus with a super laid back vibe. In fact, it felt like the campus was in huge campground. So many trees, paths and trails. Truly beautiful. But, could you go to a school with a slug as a mascot?

Stop 3: San Francisco, California

San Francisco Road Trip

I met the tourism director from San Francisco at the Visit California event as well as the PR person for the Lodge at Presidio. The Lodge at Presidio was slated to open right about the time we’d be visiting San Francisco. We stayed there just a few days after it opened, which was awesome. The Presidio is a section of the city that is a National Park and includes a 300-acre forest, a golf course, the Presidio Social Club, and the brand new Lodge at the Presidio. The property is a sister hotel to the Presidio’s only other accommodations, the Inn at the Presidio.

I lived in the Bay Area until I was 10 and have visited many times of the years, and had never visited the Presidio. It’s crazy — you are in a lush forest in the city. There are perfect views of the Golden Gate bridge and Alcatraz. The area used to be a military post and it has been transformed into a super cool public space with great restaurants, several museums including the Walt Disney Family Museum.

As you might have guessed features the life and legacy of Walt Disney. This museum is fascinating. You have a chance to learn how Walt Disney created his legacy, began drawing cartoons and ventured into the feature film world. I loved it. This just scratches the surface of our time in San Francisco and I’m just about to post several articles on 52 Perfect Days about our visit — so check back her in the next few weeks for the links. 

Stop 4: UC Davis

One more campus tour. Davis is a small town. It is the definition of a college town, which I believe is that the campus population is bigger than the town’s population. I think I liked Davis more than Roland. It was originally a satellite campus for UC Berkely, and started out as a very agriculturally based school — but now has a great reputation for engineering and biology. The key I guess is to visit as many schools, so you can get a feel for the schools, the student vibe, and location before you apply!

Stop 5: Grass Valley, California

Grass Valley, CA road trip

We worked in two days in Grass Valley so we could hang out and explore this cute little town and it just so happens one of my best friends from my college years lives close by. Grass Valley is located in the Sierra Nevada Foothills. It’s a Gold Rush-era town with a historic downtown that is a total of two streets. Really great stores — all independently owned– lot’s of art, galleries, stores with crystals and witchy things, a great historic landmark hotel and some good restaurants. It’s a fun town to spend a few days — it’s old-fashioned but at the same time quirky. It’s right next door to Nevada City which is very hippyish and draws a lot of healers and spiritual people.

 Grass Valley Courtyard Suites

I worked with Grass Valley Courtyard Suites. While the hotel sounds like it could be part of a chain, it’s not. It’s located just a few blocks from historic downtown. No two rooms are the same. It feels more like an apartment than a hotel (in a great way). They had a wonderful “Gold Country” breakfast — including made for you omelets and waffles. Beautiful selection of fruit, cereals, hard boiled eggs, meat & cheese, juices, tea and coffee. A definite step up from most complimentary breakfasts. Plus, a Wine & cheese happy hour with a Great spread of meat, cheese, crackers, fruit, cakes, flavored water and wine each afternoon. I highly recommend it if you visit! 

Stop 6: Boulder, Colorado

There is so much to do in Boulder. We visit at least once a year, but just like Paso Robles, we tend to spend most of our time hanging out with family. Mostly because we tend to visit around the holidays. So, it was so much fun to visit in summer. Most of this stop was focused on the family reunion. I think there were about 32 of us, so lot’s of family time, but one of my favorite things we did during the visit — besides our family kickball game —  was tubing on boulder creek! It’s right in the middle of town and there are rapids. If you go in summer this is a must.

Todd flew home from Denver and Roland and I headed out for the remaining I should start by giving a shout out to my son. He is such a great road trip companion. He is my navigator and keeps us going with great choices in music.  Our first stop for this leg of the trip — which was the 7th stop of our trip was…

Stop 7: Lucas, Kansas

lucas, Kansas road trip

While you might not expect to find much in a town of 400 in Kansas, you’d be wrong. Turns out Lucas is the Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas and to get there you drive along the beautiful Post Rock Scenic Byway. Don’t get me wrong, it’s small. Historic Downtown is a total of three blocks that has one stoplight and two restaurants. But, it also has a great collection of public art, murals, galleries, and grassroots art space. It even won second place for the best bathroom in America.

Stop 8: Witchita, Kansas 

Witchita is a Travel Media Showcase connection and this was one of the must visits for me on this road trip. Witchita feels like a city on the verge of becoming a cool place to live. It has a great vibe, lots of great street art, a trolley that operates in downtown, lots of art, museums, and some great restaurants and of course the famous keeper of the Plains statue.

It also has a fascinating history.  The city began as a trading post on the Chisholm Trail in the 1860s and was incorporated in 1870. It then became a key destination for cattle drives traveling north from Texas to access railroads, earning it the nickname “Cowtown.”

It feels like small-town America, but you have all the conveniences of a big city. Two of my favorite things in Wichita were Cowtown Museum — which is a living history museum. It’s basically a town based on what it would be like to live in 1865 in Witchita — stores, farms, houses, printer, saloon, dressmaker. It was so fun to explore! I also loved visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s Allen House. This was the last prairie style house he designed. The detail of the design is incredible! Kind of obsessed with visiting more of his houses now.

Stop 9: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Oklahoma is where we started on Route 66. I plan to do the whole route sometime in the next year or two and doing a small stretch of it, really let me learn a few good lessons and how to do it right! But that is a whole podcast of it’s own! Roland was so excited about visiting Oklahoma — his favorite basketball time is the OKC Thunder — and even though it was summer and they weren’t playing– he was excited to see the town. We stayed in Bricktown which is a section of downtown, with repurposed warehouse spaces that are now restaurants, piano lounges and wine bars.  There is a canal that runs through Bricktown and there are water taxi that are both a tour and a way to move from one place to another. There is a ton of live music.

I can’t talk about our visit to Oklahoma City without talking about the Oklahoma City National Memorial. This memorial and museum honors the victims, survivors, rescuers, and all who were affected by the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995. For obvious reasons, this museum is extremely heart wrenching, moving and sad. But it’s also about how a city came together to help in the rescue effort. This museum is incredibly detailed and walks you through every aspect of the tragedy, but it has a focus on the victims and the first responders and the community. While of course it includes the bombers and these details, it isn’t what the museum is about.  It was overwhelming in many ways to visit because there is so much to take in and so many items on display and of course because the loss of so many innocent people — but the museum is a beautiful memorial.

Stop 10: Amarillo, Texas

Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas

We continued on Route 66 to Amarillo, Texas. Of course, you have to visit Cadillac Ranch, which is located on Route 66 in Amarillo. There is a lot of Route 66 nostalgia in this town and is where I learned about Route 66 and how to do it right!

We had one our absolute favorite experiences from this entire road trip in Amarillo and it was going to Texas! the Musical. The show takes place in Palo Duro Canyon State Park, which is the next biggest canyon after the Grand Canyon. The theater is outside and surrounded by the gorgeous canyon.

Texas the musical

The performers are college students and they were so talented. It was a great story. 3rd — it was a great story and performance. Last, there was an extravaganza of a fireworks show after the play ended. I honestly thought it was going to be a hokey small-town production, and it was truly amazing. Roland and I probably talked about this experience more than any other from this entire trip. If you go to Amarillo you must go to the Texas Musical — but so you know, it’s only in summer and if you can believe it, it is in its 53rd season.


Stop 11: Roswell, New Mexico

Roswell, New Mexico Road trip

Roland at the UFO Museum

I’ve always been curious about Roswell and the whole alien thing. It was on the way to Ruidoso, so we did a quick side trip to visit The International UFO Museum And Research Center. The museum focuses mostly on the 1947 Roswell Crash, which is officially known as “The Roswell Incident.” The Museum is considered to be the leading information source in history, science and research about UFO events worldwide. The amount of information they have on the Roswell Incident alone is enormous and much of it is documents, so while I had only budgeted for a few hours, we could have easily spent a full day. It’s totally worth a visit!

Stop 12: Ruidoso, New Mexico

Ruidoso, New Mexico road trip

Roland and Alexa off- roading

I had met the tourism reps for Ruidoso during the 2018 TMS conference. Known as the Texas Alps, the Village of Ruidoso is home to the 2nd largest ski resort in the State of New Mexico.  It’s actually the southernmost ski resort in the United States.  But we quickly realized you can find a huge range of outdoor fun in summer too.

After mostly city stops on this trip, we were so excited to get some outdoor time. When we pulled into town to check into our house rental, Roland said — can you smell the trees? It felt so grounding and this stop was so needed after this long on the road! We spent a few days here and went fishing, kayaking, off-roading, hiking.

We tried to go horseback riding, but a summer storm rolled in including huge hail, but to be honest, having lived in California most of my life, afternoon summer storms are super cool. Besides a ton of outdoor activities, we also loved walking around the cute downtown which was full of fun shops and restaurants.

If you want the full low down, you can visit 52Perfect Days and look for my article, A Perfect Day Exploring The Outdoor Beauty Of Ruidoso, New Mexico.

Stop 13: Tucson, Arizona for an overnight.

Stop 14: San Diego, California – Home sweet home!

Epidose Resources

Episode 096: Everything You Need to Know About the Travel Media Showcase with Joanne Vero
Episode 118: Travel Media Showcase Post Conference Review with Gary House & Kaila Yu (Gary and Kaila and I discuss our experience at the Travel Media Showcase as well as how to prepare for the conference and tips for follow up.)
Travel Media Showcase
Break Into Travel Writing, Travel Writer’s Academy

Connect with Alexa, Break Into Travel Writing & My Travel Blog
The Aspiring Travel Writer, the Facebook group


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