Tag Archives: vacation

My Top Video Gear for Road Trips and Travel

(Side note: The above photo is just a stock photo, not my actual gear. I thought it looked nice.  But who puts a potted plant in their lineup???)

Many times when people watch my travel videos, they ask “what’d you shoot that on?” or “you must have brought a lot of gear on that trip!”  And what I’ve realized is that many people think gear is everything. They think having the top gear is how you make a great video.  I used to believe this too.  I’ve been guilty of saying “Well, if I had X camera, I could do that too.”  But the truth is I couldn’t.  Good story and execution is what makes a video great.  Everything else are just tools (although I fully admit great gear can elevate your work).  Once I learned this, I stopped focusing so much on having the best gear.  I still buy stuff and I still plan on upgrading from time to time, but the gear I don’t have never stops me from trying to make great videos.

But, when people are just starting out and getting into video as a hobby, sometimes they don’t even know what’s what.  “What do I even need?”  It helps to peek into someone else’s bag and get an idea.  So that’s why I’m making this list.  This is the gear I use to make my videos.  It’s in no way the best, the only way, or even comprehensive, but I hope it serves as a good starting point.

Bag – Almost all my gear can fit in this bag.  It’s great knowing that it’s all in one place. Plenty of space for a few lenses, the front opens for easy access, and there are compartments for batteries, cables, and random things you want to throw in there.

Lowepro Fastpack 250 DSLR Camera Backpack

Day Bag – When you don’t need your full-size backpack and all of the accessories, this one is much easier to take on a hike or go to the beach.  I actually started with this one and bought the bigger 250 once my gear grew.

Lowepro Fastpack 100

Camera – I have the Canon 60d.  It’s old now.  It doesn’t shoot in 4k or capture slow motion footage.  But it’s still capable of shooting great looking video and photos that I’m happy with.  Until I make some serious extra cash, it’s not going anywhere.

Canon 60d

Lens – My Canon 17-55mm lens gives me variety to shoot things both close and far away, portrait style and wide.   I use this lens the most.

Canon EF-S 17-55mm

Wide lens – When I’m shooting landscapes and I really want to show the vastness, I’ll pop on this lens.

Tokina 11-16mm

Circular Polarizer – Improves color and contrast while reducing glare. Really helpful on bright days.  Kinda like sunglasses!

Tiffen Circular Polarizer

Microphone – The microphone on most DSLR cameras is pretty lousy.  I like this one because it’s small, produces good sound, and mounts directly on top of the camera.

Rode VMGO Video Mic GO

GoPro – When I’m going in the water or want to try something creative/risky with the camera, I’ll pull out my GoPro.  I like the accessibility it provides.  You can get shots you normally wouldn’t be able to.

GoPro Hero 4 Black (Previous model)

Cell Phone Battery Packs – If you film with your phone, you’ll want the extra juice to last you through the day.

Anker PowerCore+ mini

External Hard Drive – Having an external hard drive to store all this footage is key.  I like the rugged drives because of their durability.  That’s important when moving around all the time.  A little pricey, but good.

LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 2 TB

Phone Tripod – I’ll shoot time lapses or just set up an establishing shot with my phone.  Being able to place it exactly how I want is key.

Tripod or Bendy Tripod – Useful for your big camera too.  Great for night-lapse, long exposure photography, or interesting angles.

MacBook Pro – This is what I have, but there are plenty of great Windows options for editing too.

 

 

Let me know if you have any questions.  I hope this short list was helpful for anyone interested in video and photography.

-Randy

 

DISCLAIMER

Road Trip Randy is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

MICHIGAN HAS REAL BEACHES

Apparently, if you’re not from the flawless, beautiful, picturesque state of perfection known as California, you don’t have real beaches.

My California friends don’t seem to realize that there are other people around the country (and world) that live quite contently even though they don’t permanently reside in California.  These people go about their day walking the dog, going to work, and hanging out with friends.  They sometimes have to put on a light jacket, but they still find happiness in life! INCREDIBLE!

Some Californians refuse to accept this.  Such arrogance was shown when I told one of my Golden State friends that I was going back to Michigan to celebrate the 4th of July on the beach.

“You know that’s not a real beach right?”

I’ll show you what a real beach is. Cue the video:

 

 

 

The Ultimate Road Trip Planner Internet Resource Guide

roadtripresourceguidev2

The Ultimate Road Trip Planner Internet Resource Guide

Where are all the good road trip planning resources?!

Recently, I was trying to plan a road trip up north and I realized something strange. There weren’t many road trip resources online.  At least not many good ones.  Or ones that have been updated since 1996.  But I felt like something had to be out there.  So I scoured the web, asked around in forums, and tried to find the best road trip planning resources on the web.  After a more thorough search, there were actually quite a few that I would deem “good.” And not just websites, but there were also tools, apps, and people/brands contributing to the road trip and travel lifestyle.

Since I’m weird and can’t just put everything in a bookmark folder (the easy thing to do), I decided to take all the resources I found, and put them together into one neat, easy-to-read, organized list.

I call it:

THE ULTIMATE ROAD TRIP PLANNER INTERNET RESOURCE GUIDE

Below, broken into categories, are the top resources online to help plan your ultimate road trip.  As new ones pop up, I’ll be sure to update this list.  If you know of other resources that provide readers with awesome road trip and travel content, feel free to suggest them in the comments below!

Let’s begin:

road trip planner

THE OBVIOUS: These are the big resources you should already know about.  But if you don’t, start using them now.  They’ll make your travel planning a whole lot easier.

  • Yelp – Crowd-sourced reviews for businesses and attractions.
  • Lonely Planet – Travel guides! Make sure to check out their Thorn Tree travel forum.
  • Expedia – Book hotels, flights, cars, and more.
  • Kayak – Book hotels, flights, cars, and more.
  • SkyScanner – Find the cheapest flight. Can also book hotels and cars.
  • AAA – Roadside assistance and travel services for its members.
  • ZipCar – Rent a car.  Able to pay by the hour.
  • Air BnB – Rent out a room, home, or apartment from local hosts.

road trip planner

WEBSITES: This next section is websites.  I tried to keep it to resources that have the best information on cool places to see, routes to take, and general road tripping tips.

Oh, and most of these resources are for U.S. road trips only.  Sorry, everyone else in the world.

ROADTRIPPERS

http://www.roadtrippers.com

Updated regularly, Roadtrippers features great places to visit from the strange to the beautiful.  They have a fantastic trip planner, but their articles also give readers thorough information and inspiration about the most scenic driving routes to the scariest ghost towns. Roadtrippers is king.

ROADTRIP AMERICA

http://www.roadtripamerica.com/

RoadTrip America is another good all around website.  Full of travel tips, routes, interactive maps, and forums, it has your bases covered for your road trip needs.

ROADSIDE AMERICA

http://www.roadsideamerica.com/

Although it looks like they haven’t updated their website since 1996, don’t be too quick to dismiss them. Roadside America also has some great content.  You’ll find some of the best offbeat attractions here.  I especially like how you can sort your search by state.

PLANNING FUN ROAD TRIPS

http://www.planning-fun-road-trips.com/

Another website that may be going for the pre-Y2k look. Planning Fun Road Trips offers tips, planners, and best ofs.  This site will get you up to speed quickly if you’re planning your first road trip.

NATIONAL PARK SERVICES

http://www.nps.gov/index.htm

If you have national parks in your road trip plans, you’ll want to remember this website.  The NPS has information on every national park in each state with the information you need from park fees and hours to maps and suggested itineraries.

USA.GOV – TRAVEL AND TOURISM SITES FOR ALL 50 STATES

http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Travel-Tourism/State-Tourism.shtml

Just what the title says- a fantastic page that links to all of the tourism websites for each US state and territory.  Pick a state and find things to do right away.

ATLAS OBSCURA

http://www.atlasobscura.com/

When you first open up Atlas Obscura, it’s evident that the people behind it like to explore and like to have a good time.  I like the fun, personal vibe of the website and I like that it’s easy to navigate.  What are you looking for? Ghost towns in California? Atlas Obscura will give you a list of places to visit, a map of where they are, and then a personal article about that location.  Whenever I visit the site I usually stumble across some pretty bizarre and cool places to check out.  Atlas Obscura is a new find I’m very excited about!

REDDIT

Are you looking for trip advice, trying to find a travel partner, or just itching to read a cool road trip story?  Reddit has got you covered. Here are some of my favorite subreddits for road trips and traveling.

   .

road trip with stops

TOOLS: Here’s a list of the online tools that will help make your money-calculating and route-choosing worries go away.

ROAD TRIP CALCULATOR

http://www.shareyourride.net/roadtrip/

Punch in your estimated or actual costs for rental prices, gas, hotels, and daily budget, and the road trip calculator will come up with your total.  It’s a simple way to see where most of your money is going and whether or not you can squeeze in another night of travel.

DISCOVER AMERICA ROAD TRIP PLANNER

http://www.discoveramerica.com/usa/road-trips.aspx

Discover America’s road trip planner is one of my favorites.  Not only does it allow you to plot a point from A to B, but it lets you add and subtract attractions that are on the route.  For example, if you’re taking a trip across the country, you can “turn on” museums and campgrounds and “turn off” shopping centers and airports.  You can even turn on Instagram photos so a person’s travel photos will pop up along your route.  Add any attraction to your itinerary straight from the map.  Discover America’s road trip planner is definitely worth trying out.

THE OPTIMAL ROAD TRIP ACROSS THE US

http://www.randalolson.com/2015/03/08/computing-the-optimal-road-trip-across-the-u-s/

If you’re looking to road trip all 48 states in one go and you want the perfect route, look no further.  Randy (great name!) Olson created the most optimal and efficient route using an algorithm.  The trip makes stops in each state at a national park, historic site, or other interesting landmark.  Check out the link above to read more about the algorithm and chosen attractions.

FREETRIP – TRIP ROUTE PLANNER

http://www.freetrip.com/

There are some people who just want a basic, printable, easy-to-read trip planner.  Although rare in the age of smart phones with maps and travel apps, this is a basic route planning site that lets you choose a few route options (favoring scenic routes, avoiding tolls, estimating fuel costs, etc), press submit, and receive a bare-bones itinerary.  It’s old school, but if that’s your thing, take a look at this resource.

blogs for road trips

BLOGS: Of course this section will naturally be more subjective, I tried to choose blogs that not only inspired and entertained, but also provided some type of informational content.  

Here are some of my favorite blogs to check out:

CALIFORNIA THROUGH MY LENS

http://californiathroughmylens.com/

California Through My Lens gives readers a taste of California through the eyes of Josh, a man “addicted to adventure.”  It’s incredible how many places this one guy has visited in California.  All of his guides and articles are full of detail and include fantastic pictures. If every state had someone as awesome as Josh road tripping and sharing cool places, the states wouldn’t need tourism websites!  If you’re heading to California, check out CaliforniaThroughMyLens.

NOMADIC MATT

http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/great-american-road-trip-part-deux/

Not exactly a “road tripper,” but I’d say he has enough travel under his belt to give you some awesome advice and travel inspiration.  Matt is what I would call a “travel hacker” – someone who finds the cheapest, easiest, and most efficient way travel.  He has a range of articles from Africa travel tips, to best gear, to how to save money for a big trip.  Nomadic Matt is another travel blogging king.

MIDLIFE ROAD TRIP

http://midliferoadtrip.tv/

Instead of having a midlife crisis Rick and Sandi are on a midlife road trip.  They’re traveling the world, checking things off their bucket list, and driving around in a Weinermobile (well, not always. Unfortunately).  Adventurous, fun, and they don’t take themselves too seriously.  Their website is full of good information, but it’s definitely more on the entertainment side!

WANDERING EARL

http://www.wanderingearl.com/

Wandering Earl is one of the most popular travel bloggers on the internet.  He set out on a three-month trip to Asia and hasn’t stopped traveling since.  He blogs about his adventures and struggles, offers tips and information, and even has his own resource books and tours. This guy is making a living off being a permanent nomad and there’s plenty to learn.

WORLD OF WANDERLUST

http://www.worldofwanderlust.com/

Brooke is another blogger who travels the world full time.  And although you may take one look and say “Oh no, just another pretty girl traveling the world,” she’s built a pretty impressive online presence.  Her website is full of quick tips, reviews, and travel stories. And she’s amassed hundreds of thousands of followers on her social media accounts.  Her content is geared more towards girls in their teens and twenties, but even if you don’t fit that demographic, you can still probably find something you relate to.

YOUNG ADVENTURESS

http://youngadventuress.com/

I like Liz.  No, I don’t actually know her.  But it looks like she hustles, and I respect that.  Her website is about her own adventures around the world.  She’s been doing it for years and her articles give her readers tips, advice, and personal anecdotes about travel.  So, no, not exactly road tripping, but I’m confident you’ll be inspired by her drive, her excellent writing style, her travel stories, her photographs, and her rad sense of adventure.

best apps for road trips

APPS: Remember when people used to use real, paper maps? No? Me neither.  I can’t imagine getting around without the map app in my phone. Although some of the apps built in the name of convenience are just plain ridiculous, some of the ones built in the name of travel are just plain awesome.  

Here are some of my favorite travel apps:

  • gas buddyGAS BUDDY – Find the cheapest gas station nearby.
  • iexitiEXIT – Tells you what’s at upcoming exits on your route.
  • troverTROVER – Instagram/Pinterest style photo-travel app.  Great for finding hidden gems in big cities or interesting places along the way.
  • roadtrippersROADTRIPPERS – Find cool places, plan trips, save itineraries.  Great interface and easy to use.
  • field tripFIELD TRIP – Be notified automatically when you get close to something cool.  Find food, drinks, historic spots, and unique attractions just by being nearby.
  • yonderYONDER – Choose an outdoor activity you’re interested in, choose your location, and find places where you can do that activity around you.  Connect with others and share tips and photos.
  • day oneDAY ONE – A nicely designed app for journaling.  Record the cool things you see or do on your road trip. Add pictures too.
  • road trip liteROAD TRIP LITE – Great app to track your car mileage and fuel economy.
  • yelpYELP – Find any type of restaurant, attraction, or even a mechanic based on category and location.  Read reviews and see pictures from other users.
  • tripitTRIPIT – Tripit take all your travel plans and confirmation emails (hotel and car reservations, for example) and creates a neat itinerary saved in one place.
  • RV ParkyRV PARKY – RV PARKS AND MORE – Find RV parks, campgrounds and more with the RV Parky app.  It also shows what amenities are at each site such as electricity, water, picnic tables, price, etc.
  • butuBUTU – Unfortunately the app hasn’t been updated in awhile (I almost didn’t put it on the list), but I like how you just tell it where you are and it will suggest where you should go and what you should see.
  • maps.meMAPS.ME – Offline maps.  Download the map of your destination, and then use it when you don’t have wifi or data access.
online road trippers

PEOPLE ON TWITTER

Do you like knowing where people are and what they’re doing every second of every day? Follow these people on Twitter then. Oh, and there are some brands that give good travel information on this list, too.
Mentioned in the sections above:
@roadtrippers
@nomadicmatt
@RickGriffin
@wanderingearl
@worldofwlust
Food:
@RoadtripsFoodie
@tvfoodmaps
YouTube Travel Vloggers:
@funforlouis
@mrbenbrown
Other:
@MikesRoadTrip
@usatourismboard
@usatodaytravel
@worldnomads
@bourdain
@when_in_roams
@tripoto
@MatadorNetwork

PEOPLE ON INSTAGRAM

Fun Instagram accounts that deal with travel (in no particular order). Get inspired.  These photos are sweeeeeeeet!
 http://instagram.com/
  • philstockbridge
  • chrisburkard
  • jordanherschel
  • kev_alvarez
  • thesamgraves
  • californiathroughmylens
  • funforlouis
  • mrbenbrown
  • when_in_roams
  • worldwanderlust
  • abekislevitz
  • deeque_
  • jodyjohnston
  • mike_pgregory
  • talking_tree
  • matadornetwork
  • youngadventuress
miscellaneous road trip tips

MISCELLANEOUS: This section is for the resources that don’t really fit in the other categories.

TV FOOD MAPS

http://www.tvfoodmaps.com

Do you like watching those food travel shows? Want to visit those same restaurants?  TV Food Maps has put together a website that lists every restaurant organized by show.  You can also explore by state or location and create your own road trip!  A great resource for the serious foodie.

ROAD FOOD

http://www.roadfood.com

Just looking for good places to eat on the road?  Road Food helps you find great local restaurants nearby.  My favorite section is the Self-Guided Eating Tours.

———

And that’s it!

The Ultimate Road Trip Planner Internet Resource Guide.  As I mentioned above, I will continue to edit this list as I find more or better resources.

If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments section below. If you already use some of these resources, I’d love to know which ones. If you hate any of these resources or just want to complain, also feel free to let me know in the comments section below.

Go trip yourself!

-Road Trip Randy

Salton Sea Road Trip: 4 Things you Absolutely, Undoubtedly, No-Question-About-It, Must See at Salton Sea Before You DIE

Salton Sea Road Trip: 4 Things you Absolutely, Undoubtedly, No-Question-About-It, Must See at Salton Sea Before You DIE!!

Wasn’t that such a Buzzfeed-esque/clickbait title? I feel like I could have perhaps pushed it a little further by adding “OMG!” or “…You won’t believe #4!”

Anyway, if you don’t want to read about my Salton Sea road trip, just watch my video of it here.  It’s short, upbeat, and gives you the gist of things:

That’s all.  Thanks for reading.

Just kidding.  I guess since you’re still reading you want to know the four things you absolutely, undoubtedly, no-question-about-it, must see at Salton Sea before you die.

Salton Sea is about three hours southeast of Los Angeles and used to be a top vacation destination for Californians.  Over time, the sea has slowly shrunk, and died, turning the once pristine beach community into a smelly ghost town.

1.  The Big, Smelly, Great Sea

The shrinking sea that smells like rotten eggs is definitely a must.  Different locations have different amenities.  If you go to the Salton Sea Recreation Area ($5) you’ll see a nice-looking beach*, with beautiful picnic tables and a visitor center.  You’ll also see piles of dead fish.  Or a fish on a stick!

*only from afar

Salton Sea Recreation Area

Salton sea palm trees

Salton Sea dead fish

If you go to Bombay Beach (free), however, you’ll first enter a town where you’re unsure if there’s anyone left living there (there are).  It’s tiny, but fascinating.  A few houses and trailers are in okay condition, while others are completely abandoned and falling apart.  The beach itself follows the latter. Rusted machinery, a pier, and random furniture litter the shoreline in each direction.

Salton Sea Bombay Beach

Salton Sea Bombay Beach 1

Salton Sea Bombay Beach 4

Salton Sea Bombay Beach 3

Salton Sea Bombay Beach 5

salton sea history

2.  Niland

If you follow the coast of the sea down to the southern tip, you’ll find the city of Niland.  Niland is a town that also looks like it is abandoned, yet isn’t.  It takes about 30 seconds to pass through, and there’s a gas station, a motel, a restaurant, and a broken pay phone.  We tried to stay at the motel, but there was no answer when we arrived.  Luckily, the restaurant we tried for lunch not only answered, but they were serving lunch until 2pm, and provided edible food.

Salton Sea niland cafe

Salton Sea niland pay phone

3.  Slab City/East Jesus

If you love hippies in the desert making art out of junk, you’ll love this place! The hippies also provide free tours in East Jesus.  Definitely go there.  The art is literally made out of junk.  I wasn’t being rude.  The rest of Slab City is unique too, as I was never quite sure what I was looking at.  Again, you’ll find trailers, “homes,”  art installations, and communal gathering areas for those individuals who enjoy living off the grid.

Salton Sea East Jesus 6

Salton Sea East Jesus 5

Salton Sea East Jesus 4

Salton Sea East Jesus 3

Salton Sea East Jesus 2

Salton Sea East Jesus 1

4.  Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain is probably the most popular stop for people visiting Salton Sea.  It’s, in my opinion, the most impressive piece of work in this area as it was created by one man, Leonard Knight.  Salvation Mountain is a hill that’s been painted in colorful Bible verses and Christian sayings.  There are rooms, passageways, stairs, and painted cars and trucks to explore.  Knight died a few years ago, but many people volunteer to keep the site from turning into the rest of the area.

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Although my Salton Sea road trip was an enjoyable one and I find the abandoned/post-apocalyptic theme of the area fascinating, it was also kind of depressing to see.  Everything is dead or dying, and you’re essentially driving through a barren wasteland.  The remains of what used to be an exuberant and thriving community are found everywhere.  You can find homes that still have food in the pantry as though, one day, everyone rushed out and left for good.

empty road

To end on a less depressing note, I might be getting a new camera lens soon.  And last night, I ate six slices of pizza.

Go trip yourself!

Doing Things in L.A. – Griffith Observatory

When I was living in Seoul, I made a list of 50 things I wanted to do or see in the city before I left.  My students (all adults) always loved looking at that list and asking me why I put certain things on it.  It was a great conversation starter.  Most of those things on that list were just the usual tourist attractions I read about in guide books.  But at the end of my year in Korea, I had checked off almost all of them.  The only things I never accomplished were “Swim across the Han River,” (my students told me I’d die trying) “visit the Blue House,” and “eat Beondegi.”  Beondegi is silkworm larvae.  It had a very distinct smell and was sold everywhere.  I don’t know how I missed out on trying it.

Anyway, the reason I brought up the list is because I was surprised how many of my students had never done many of the things on it either.  Seoul is a giant city, yes, but I couldn’t comprehend how someone could live in a city for most of their life and not go to the most popular attractions.

Then I moved to L.A. and I began turning into the students I criticized.  At first, I went to all the places any tourist would: Hollywood and Sunset Blvd, the Hollywood sign, Santa Monica Pier, Beverly Hills, etc.  As I began to feel more and more like a resident though, I stopped exploring and stayed at the places I was familiar with around my apartment.  Recently, I realized that when you live in a big city, you feel like you have all the time in the world to explore.  You’re not a tourist rushing to see all the sites in a few days.  You can visit them whenever you want, as many times as you want.  So you put them off, and do lazy things like watch TV and go to your usual bars instead.  You’ll get to it later.  Although, like many others, you never do.

So this month, I decided to go to one place I’ve been putting off for over a year- Griffith Observatory.  Considering it’s practically in my backyard, it’s amazing that I’ve never been there until now.  I took these pictures with my new GoPro Hero 4, which I’m very impressed with.  Check this place out!

I have no problem exploring places outside of LA, but maybe it’s time I do some exploring inside the city too.  I practically write “I Hate LA” in all of my posts, but I’m clearly missing out on a few things here.  Perhaps I should make another “50 things to do/see” list.  If I do, swimming across (or down) the L.A. river will be one of them!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  See you next year.