50 Free or Practically Free Things To Do On Vacation

Funny background story here. I was taking a bath on a Sunday afternoon and decided to put on a face mask. That reminded me of a time when my daughter and I were goofing off while wearing face masks on vacation (we often bring face masks with us when we travel). Then I started thinking about how that’s a fun way to relax on vacation and it doesn’t cost anything (at least not while you’re on vacation although you do have to buy the face mask either before you leave home or while you’re on vacation; still, face masks are generally not that expensive). Then I started thinking about all of the many things I like to do on vacation that are free or cost very little.

So now I’m sitting here at my computer post-face mask and bath beginning my list of 50 free or practically free things to do on vacation. I will also add that at one time or another I’ve done every single one of these things while on vacation. I’m always looking for ways to save money, whether I’m on vacation or not, most likely from my upbringing by a single mother without much money. Anyway, here’s what I’ve come up with for my list. I’m sure some will come as no surprise but maybe some things will surprise you. Some things do depend on where you are so you need to make the appropriate assumptions. Here goes!

Walking this sweet dog from an animal shelter in Hawaii was a great experience (#44)!
  1. Go for a walk along the beach and look for cool shells along the way.
  2. When you’re done with your beach walk, put all of the shells you collected into a pile and decide which one is your favorite. Keep just that one as a souvenir.
  3. Go for a hike up a mountain.
  4. Find a small, local grocery store and pick out one snack to buy that you’ve never seen or heard of before.
  5. Find out where the best place is to watch the sunset and do that one evening.
  6. A couple of days after watching a sunset, watch the sunrise one morning then decide which you enjoyed better, the sunset or sunrise. Did they even look different from one another?
  7. Take a blanket or towel(s) with you and lie in the grass to stargaze one night.
  8. Find an antiques store and browse all of the unique finds.
  9. Have a picnic lunch at a place where there’s a water or mountain view.
  10. Find a state or national park and see how many of the trails you can walk or hike in a day.
  11. Go out your hotel or Airbnb property and walk in one direction with no real plan in mind other than to explore the area (make sure you’re in a safe area first).
  12. Strike up a conversation with a local shop keeper.
  13. Find a small local bookstore and browse their section on local books. Bonus if you’re in another country where English is not the first language!
  14. Get a cup of coffee or tea and people watch from an outside table.
  15. Find one of the most expensive clothing stores you can in the area and be amazed at the $4000 pair of wacky pants and $6000 dress you would never in a million years wear.
  16. Eat breakfast from your hotel or Airbnb patio/balcony.
  17. Go for a run with the intention to learn the area where you’re staying better.
  18. If you’re in another country where they speak another language, watch local TV and try to follow along.
  19. Put on a face mask, either one you brought from home or one you bought at a local drug store.
  20. Do your own manicure and pedicure instead of paying someone else.
  21. Go on a free walking tour; remember to tip your guide.
  22. Buy a pastry from a bakery and find a spot outside with a nice view to enjoy your treat.
  23. If it’s a hot day, find a cool stream to dip your feet in.
  24. Play “Pooh sticks” if you have a child, where you each drop in a stick from a bridge over a fast-moving body of water and see whose stick makes it to the other side of the bridge first. Heck, you could do this with someone else even if they’re not a child. It’s still a fun game!
  25. Swim in the ocean.
  26. Find out what the highest point is where you’re staying and hike to the top.
  27. Go shoe shopping but don’t buy any shoes.
  28. Take a series of photos one day with something from each color of the rainbow represented (indigo is hard).
  29. Read a book.
  30. Have your own mini book club if you’re traveling with someone of the same reading ability as you and discuss a book you both read while on vacation.
  31. Find a playground with swings, slides, etc. and play like a child even if you don’t have children.
  32. See how many bridges you can spot in one 30-minute walk through the city.
  33. Have breakfast in bed.
  34. If you’re staying at an Airbnb, make pancakes for dinner and eat them in your pajamas.
  35. Binge watch a show on Netflix or whatever streaming service you subscribe to.
  36. If it’s winter and snowy, go for a walk through the snow.
  37. Savor a cup of hot chocolate by the fire.
  38. Browse the hair care aisle of the local drug store and see if you can find a product you’ve never seen before. If you’re feeling really brave, buy it and see if you like it.
  39. Visit a small local farm and watch as the chickens come running out when called by the farmer (true story; they came running like puppies when the man called out to them. Apparently it’s a thing with chickens).
  40. Walk through the farmer’s market and buy some local produce.
  41. Go to some local art galleries to check out the art work.
  42. Visit an art/science/history museum.
  43. Visit a small local winery that gives free or low-cost tours.
  44. Walk a puppy or dog at a public adoption place that encourages this, otherwise volunteer there for a couple of hours.
  45. Volunteer at a soup kitchen.
  46. Volunteer at a running/biking/swimming/triathlon race (you’ll probably have to sign up in advance).
  47. Browse a local running store and see how it differs from your own local running store.
  48. Join a local running group for a run (check Facebook or Meetup).
  49. Buy a postcard and mail it from the local post office. See if you make it home before your postcard arrives at your friend or relative’s house.
  50. Practice your drawing skills with some paper and a pencil.
The chickens that came running to greet us when the farmer called them (from #39 above)

I could probably go on, honestly but that seems like a lot so I’ll stop here. Have you done any of these things or do you regularly do any of them on vacation? What is your favorite free or low-cost thing to do on vacation?

Happy travels!


Book Review- Fast After 50. How to Race Strong For the Rest of Your Life by Joe Friel

The author Joe Friel begins this book by stating he was 70 years old when he began writing this book (published in 2015). He is also the author of Cycling Past 50, which he wrote in the mid-1990’s when he was 53 (and many other books since then). He claims there wasn’t much research on aging in the 90’s, which I take to mean there wasn’t much research on the aging athlete. Much of Friel’s writings are based out of research studies and what that research says about older athletes’ performance, training, and lifestyle.

This book is arranged into two parts, with part I describing the rather depressing “challenges” the aging athlete faces and part II proposing some solutions to said challenges. The first chapter of part I begins with the author asking the question, “What is aging?” and expands from there. There are some rather dismal graphs depicting the big drop-off in performance for swimming records, cycling time trials, marathon world records, and Ironman Triathlon World Championship records. For women, the trends for increasing finish times are even more dramatic.

Chapter two dives deep into the science and discusses research on animal models and how they might relate to humans. Acknowledging that aging is complex in humans, the author discusses the role of diet and genetics on aging. The next chapter goes heavily into VO2max , aerobic capacity and the effects of muscle and fat on these two things.

Part II begins with chapter 4 and offers some solutions to the problems brought up in part I. Friel goes into the importance of balancing high intensity training and finding that Goldilocks sweet spot that works for you and strength training. The next chapters cover the different ways to measure your efficiency, aerobic-capacity testing, and lactate-threshold testing. There are specific training details for high-, moderate-, and low-dose workouts. These workouts are part of the seasonal periods for the older athlete.

Friel also emphasizes many older athletes would benefit from a longer than usual training routine. For most people that follow a training plan, a week is 7 days, but Friel suggests athletes 50 and over might benefit from extending that training week to 9 or 10 days. This means your long run wouldn’t always be on a Saturday or Sunday, as it is for most people. One week your long run would be on a weekend but if you’re following a 10-day training week, let’s say that’s a four month half marathon plan, the days of your long runs will vary from week to week. The whole purpose of a longer training week is to incorporate more rest days, which becomes even more important as we age. There are many examples on how these training weeks would look for someone training for a specific event to help you figure out how to incorporate it into your training plan.

To round things out, there are chapters on rest and recovery and body fat. In the final chapter (body fat), Friel goes over hormones, menopause, diet, medications, and the effect of high intensity exercise on body fat. I should say that each chapter also has insets by experts, some of whom are aging athletes themselves like Amby Burfoot, a runner who finished the 2014 Boston Marathon 49 years after his first Boston Marathon in 1965. There’s also an inset written by John Post, MD, a six-time Kona Ironman Triathlon finisher who writes about arthritis and some things athletes with arthritis can do.

In the epilogue, Friel states that not everyone wants to or is able to achieve high performance in sport, regardless of age but this applies perhaps more so in the older athlete. He goes on to say that some people are content to do easy workouts and they are happy with their current regimens. Not everyone wants to lift heavy weights or run fast intervals and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I like that he included this part in the book because no one should feel like they “should” work out harder or what they’re doing isn’t “good enough.” Like he says, as long as they’re eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep, they’re promoting a long and active life. “Keep it up!” he says and I agree.

As someone who recently turned 50, I appreciate this book and will definitely look into some of the workouts he suggests. I already lift heavy weights and make sleep and a healthy diet a priority in my life. With my full-time job and teenage daughter’s schedule, it would be difficult to lengthen my cycle to say a 9-day cycle where my long runs wouldn’t always be on the weekend. I also run with two different running groups on specific days so that mean I would have to stop running with them on some weeks. Obviously a longer cycle would be easier for someone who was retired or worked from home with a flexible schedule.

Here’s a link to Joe Friel’s website: https://joefrieltraining.com/book/fast-after-50/. You can find training plans (for a fee), his many other books, blog posts, and other services.

What about you? Are you 50 or older or approaching 50? Have you begun to see changes in your athletic abilities as you age or are you still going strong? Would you consider making changes (or have you made changes) in your workouts by including aerobic-capacity and lactate-threshold intervals, lifting heavy weights, getting more sleep, and changing your periodization routine to a longer cycle than the typical 7-day cycle in the hopes of getting faster or having more power?

Happy running!


Beyond Planes, Trains, and Automobiles Photo Challenge

I borrowed this idea that began as a photography challenge to post photos that were transportation-related and I expanded on it a bit. For my photo challenge, I wanted to post photos from anything that could be considered a form of transportation, meaning something that gets you from one place to another. These all had to be forms of transportation that I personally took, not just ones I saw other people using.

Since I only have photos in Google Photos that go back to 2001, that’s what I had to work with. It took quite a while to scan through all of my photos, too! What I came up with are photos of forms of transportation that were memorable and/or unique and like I said, ones that I personally took to get from one point to another. For some of these, I realize I may be taking the term transportation a bit generously, but for all of these, they did take me from one place to another.

Although you can’t see the ferry I’m on, this is one of the views from the ferry to San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington. You can faintly see another ferry to the left of the tree line.
This convertible sports car is what I was given at the car rental agency in Las Vegas to drive from there to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. Maybe it would have been great in the summer but not in February when it was snowing in Utah and I was concerned about the condition of the roads (and yes, I know it’s a car but I had to include it here)!
The views from the ferry in Malta from Gozo to the main island were incredible!
I’ve taken an air boat tour in Everglades National Park in Florida a few times but it never gets old!
This hand-driven pulley car in Alaska was so much fun and I wasn’t scared at all even though I’m scared of heights!
Ziplining in Hawaii!
Check out these amazing views from my stand up paddle board in Grand Teton National Park!
I don’t often rent bikes when I travel but Hilton Head Island was the perfect place for a bike ride around the island!

Now I challenge you to do your own version of this transportation-themed photo challenge! Be as creative as you want. I’m interested in seeing what you come up with so please share your post with me if you do take the challenge.

Happy travels!


Running Goals for 2023

Every January I like to figure out my running goals (which I used to call resolutions but from here on I’m going to call goals) for the upcoming year. Let’s take a peek at how my goals from last year went. Running Resolutions and My Word for 2022. My first goal for 2022 was to do more hiking on my off days. How did that go? Not so great.

I only went hiking while I was on vacation in Portugal, Costa Rica, and Asheville, oh and I did go hiking locally once. Even though I originally wanted to go hiking about once a month, that just didn’t happen. I guess I should be happy for the hiking I did do and don’t get me wrong, it was in some beautiful areas around the world so even if it wasn’t frequent, it was pretty fantastic when I did do it (see photos below from hiking in Portugal).

My second running goal for 2022 was to run different distances than the half marathon and just see what I was capable of at that point in my life. I did pretty well on that account, having run a 5k in May (and a night race at that), a 10-miler in April, and another 5k in November. I would have liked to have run a couple more races but shin splints and other things in my life put a halt to that. Still, it had been many years since I had run 5k’s and a 10-mile race so it was fun to push my body at those distances that I wasn’t used to racing.

My final goal for 2022 was to start running the Canadian provinces, with the ultimate goal of running a half marathon in all of them eventually. That didn’t happen for various reasons but I haven’t given up on that goal. When the time is right, it will happen. It may take me another 21 years to achieve that goal like it did to run all 50 states (hopefully not!) but if it does, so be it.

On to my goals for 2023. For some inspiration, I worked on a worksheet sent out by Honey Stinger, in conjunction with pro-runner and coach, Neely Spence Gracey and GRC, which I’m going to attach here if any of you want to fill it out for yourself. https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0498/2374/4162/files/Goal_Setting_Worksheet_1_Editable.pdf?v=1671219861

I’m not going to include the answers from my entire worksheet here but I’ll put a couple of things that stood out to me. One section had the questions “Why do I want to set a new goal? What goals have I already achieved?” My answer was “I’ve already achieved my goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states but I don’t feel the need to “top” that.” In other words, I don’t feel like I need to run the Canadian provinces any more than I felt like I needed to run all 50 states. It was always a goal that I felt like I would someday achieve but I also knew life sometimes has unexpected things pop up and it might take some time to achieve that goal. To me, this is a fun goal that since it includes travel and is thus more complicated since there’s time off work, money, and many other factors involved, I’m in no rush to achieve. It does give me motivation, however.

Another section of the worksheet has the questions “What gives me FOMO? Who or what inspires me? What do I value? What brings me joy?” My answer was simply, “What brings me joy is running in new places or different settings.” I almost never have FOMO; when I see other runners post online about races they ran that I didn’t, I don’t feel left out but I’m genuinely happy for them. I’m constantly inspired by other runners doing big and small things (what’s small to one person may be big to another and vice versa but it’s all important). I value my health and I know running is good for my mental and physical health. One thing that brings me joy in life is to travel to races and not only run the race but also experience that part of the world after the race.

So what are my goals for 2023? I have two goals, one of which I teased out while working on the worksheet, with the first goal being to simply have fun when running and to run races in different places when possible. There’s really no more limitations or specifics set other than that.

More runs in places like this (Hawaii) would be wonderful!

My second goal is to practice yoga more regularly. Before the pandemic, I used to go to a yoga class at my gym once a week and incorporate some of the basic stretches into my post-running stretching a few days throughout the week. When my gym closed and I was doing workouts at home I told myself I would continue doing yoga on my own but that got less and less often until I wasn’t practicing yoga at all. I later joined a different gym but they only offered classes online, which I’ve never been great at following regularly.

Recently my daughter asked me to do a 30-day yoga challenge with her that someone from YouTube was doing, starting on Jan. 2. While I don’t expect to continue practicing yoga every single day, especially after January is over, as long as I can continue doing yoga once a week, I’ll be happy. So far, it’s going well and we both are amazed at how quickly the time flies by during these yoga sessions together.

So that’s it! I’m keeping things simple for 2023 when it comes to running goals. What about you? Do you set running goals or intentions for the new year? If so, care to share one of your goals for 2023?

Happy running and Happy New Year!


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