An oasis in the meadow!

Ladies and gentlemen may I please have your attention.  I would like to introduce you to an oasis in the
middle of Indiana meadows; it has been attracting guests since 1845.  Please without any further delay let’s begin to acquaint you with  French Lick Resort located in French Lick Township, Orange County Indiana.

West Baden garden view
The allure began with “miracle waters” from the natural sulphur springs inspiring people to travel over 100 miles back in the 1850’s.   The resort has been visited by hundreds of famous individuals including Tony Bennett, Bing Crosby, Elizabeth Taylor, Bob Hope, Duke Ellington,  Louis Armstrong and several US Presidents.  The Chicago Cubs hosted their spring training here for several years including 1908 which is coincidentally the last time the Cubs won the World Series.  


All aboard the train to French Lick!Unfortunately due to economic hardships the hotels had lost their luster;  however in 2007 a $500 million project restored both hotels to their glory days and beyond.  While the renovation has restored the buildings I think the largest asset the resorts currently have is their staff.  

The staff at French Lick Springs and West Baden Springs Resort possess a rare trait of providing the highest quality customer care imaginable which is the cornerstone to their success.


West Baden Springs Resort

I had the pleasure of staying at the West Baden resort this past weekend.  The resort greets you with a long cobbled stone driveway where the valet service is ready to assist with your luggage.  The valet offers parking services so get ready to say farewell to your beloved car for the duration of your stay.  There are shuttles and trains available continuously throughout the day to both resorts, golf courses, casino, sports & exhibit complex, and the stables.

Upon entrance to the hotel you will probably find yourself speechless in the lavish palatial atrium utilizing European architecture.  In this breathtaking atrium you marvel at the creation built in 1901 showcasing the world’s largest free-span dome which was dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. West Baden lobby


West Baden figurine

West Baden dome at night









The hotel rooms are extremely spacious with a wet bar that included a small fridge that was stocked with complimentary bottled water.   The bathroom was enormous and nearly the same size as the bedroom with a shower, seperate tub, private enclosed toilet and closet areas.

West Baden hotel room


West Baden patioA daily resort bulletin summarizes key events with upcoming 3 day weather forecast and detailed information on the variety of activities including times, prices, etc.   The resorts have over 100 things to do so get ready to have some fun! I would recommend advance reservations for Afternoon Tea with live harp music to relax you during the afternoon.  While there are no reservations required the rocking chairs on the patio are pure childhood joy.  There is also live jazz music in the library every Friday and Saturday evening which was a splendid surprise.

I would make an appointment at the West Baden Spa to partake in some classic luxury indulgence.  The spa offers a variety of services and the hot stone massage will melt away any stress.  The spa has won numerous awards including Top 20 List of Top 100 Resort Spas, Condé Nast Traveler.  Trust me it is divine!



French Lick Springs Resort

French Lick lobbyWhile most of the weekend was spent at West Baden we visited French Lick Springs twice.   Historically the only transport option between the two hotels was a train which still operates today on a regular basis.  The train station has been modernized providing a GPS map including visual update on current location. The French Lick Resort is designated as a National Trust Historical Hotel of America and has actively operated the current building since 1901.

The front door entrance to the hotel has a lovely patio complete with rocking chairs to enjoy.  The hotel lobby is intimate and ornate which encircles you like a warm blanket.  You instantly feel comfy and relaxed.  The Neoclassical paintings on the ceiling provide a view beyond delight.

French Lick has a casino which includes Vegas-style gaming facility including a non-smoking section!   In addition French Lick offers a six-lane bowling alley, game arcade, and a 60,000 sq ft Sports & Exhibit Complex.  This hotel has something for everyone.


Get outdoors

The outdoor recreation options are limitless including 4 golf courses with impressive golf course awards:

  • Pete Dye CourseCarriage ride
  • Donald Ross Course
  • Sultan’s Run Course
  • Valley Links Course
  • Hiking including 5 miles of trails
  • Indoor & Outdoor pools
  • Mountain Biking including 6 miles of trails
  • Horseback riding
  • Bike rentals
  • Carriage rides


Ready to go?

This is a resort where you can achieve ultimate relaxation and I recommend spending a few days.  Simple and pure bliss.   My only regret for the weekend is not leaving Chicago earlier in the day to spend more time at the resort.

Seek your adventure!

How to plan for any trip (Part 2)…final countdown

So last week we started planning for a trip by sketching out an itinerary.   Here are some additional planning steps to consider for your trip and suggested timeline.  Let’s start by setting a countdown clock and get excited about your trip!

Two months before the trip:

  • Check your passport expiration date as most countries require it is valid 6 months from your arrival date.  In addition confirm that you have at least 2-3 blank pages for immigration stamps which is required in most countries. Don’t be that guy who gets put on the first flight home because you don’t have a valid passport; this is sadly a true story.
  • Check for any travel visa requirements or entry/exit taxes.
  • Review the CDC website for any potential vaccinations or immunization requirements.  If you are uncertain of anything call your local travel clinic.
  • Review the exchange rate trends for the last 3 months for any foreign currency needs.   I utilize website or download their app.  Unless the exchange rate is drastically changing daily or weekly I generally never pre-order foreign currency before my trip.  The best exchange rate you will get is to utilize your credit card but first confirm the credit card has no foreign transaction fees.  The second best rate is withdrawing cash from a local ATM once you arrive.  Unless you are desperate never purchase currency at the airport because they give you a crappy rate and usually charge an additional fee.  Don’t even ask me about traveller’s check;  we have moved on from the 1970’s folks.
Directions from Cape of Good Hope

One month before the trip:

  • Review the logistics of your daily sketched out itinerary.  Look at a map.  Are all of these places you want to visit nearby?  Remember to check out the app Tripso.
  • Is there anything you can book in advance?  For example:  Pearl Harbor tickets are free to all visitors but there is a limited quantity and generally should be booked 30+ days in advance.  I waited too late so I ended up on a tour in order to get transport and admission ticket.
  • Review your wardrobe for key essentials travel items: walking shoes, swim suit, etc.  Go shopping to update essential items if necessary or perhaps treat yourself to something new.

Two weeks before the trip:

  • Review your selected assigned seat
  • Review hotel reservations and search to see if prices dropped if necessary make a new reservation/cancel previous.  For example  just before my trip last November my hotel and car rental combination package dropped over $200; that is a lot of pina coladas!
  • Do you know how you are getting from the airport to the hotel?
  • Check the weather forecast before you start pulling out the items pack your suitcase
  • Identify travel reading material, download movies, etc
  • Notify your bank and credit card companies that you are traveling especially international travel
  • Confirm exchange rates on

Two days before:

  • Confirm your summary itinerary  in the Worldmate app has all your details and print a hard copy of your itinerary with all of your confirmation numbers.
  • Confirm your seat assignments.  I know I am obsessed by this but those without seat assignments on an oversold flight are the first to get bumped off.   Besides who wants to sit in the middle seat?
  • Start trimming down your packing items based on weather forecast.  Will you actually wear that dress?
  • Ensure you have your passport in your carryon bag!  Don’t be that guy who puts the passport in checked luggage.

 One day before:

  • Check in online when the 24 hour advance window opens
  • Put all your items into packing cubes and load the suitcase
  • Try to get some sleep
  • For international travel – no caffeine or junk food.  This is step 1 in my jet lag remedy we will cover in another post!

 Just remember regardless of how much planning you do that we have no control over the weather.


Seek your adventure!

How to plan for any trip (Part 1)



So here I am in the final stages of getting ready for my trip in 5-6 weeks to Romania and Bulgaria.  We have already booked our international flights, local flights, all hotels, and several private day tours.  Yet somehow I feel like I am missing something?




How do you plan for a big trip?


  • Book your domestic flights minimum 57 days advance and international flights minimum 171 days advance for the best price; here is my detailed process for booking a flight then immediately after I select a seat.
  • Reserve hotels within 1-2 weeks after flights are booked.  Now keep in mind this may not be the place I end up staying at but I do want to ensure I have a place to sleep that meets most of my hotel requirements for this journey.
  • Confirm my annual travel insurance policy will be active and cover the duration of my trip.

Now for the fun of trying to short list all the amazing places I want to visit on this trip.  I love this part of travel planning when you get down to the details of roughed out daily itinerary.  There will always be more places to visit than time allows.

So let me be clear about my general approach;  I want to get a general idea of major highlights for the trip so that I can appropriately prioritize and arrange necessary transport.    I generally assume one morning event and 1 – 2 afternoon events.  I will never be militant about the schedule planning down to the minute of at 8:00 breakfast and at 8:35 leave to visit the castle.  No way dude we are on vacation after all : )  However I also don’t want to get home and a week later find out that I was 5 miles away from the most amazing historic UNESCO village.  UGH!

So the key word here folks is balance a little organized structure and plenty of time to sit in the cafe to watch the world go by.

  • Get your travel guide book of choice and start reading about where you are going.
  • Check out the country, state or city local website for major attractions or upcoming events
  • Look at tour company travel itineraries to get an idea of what might be possible in your timeline.
  • Get inspired by the UNESCO heritage list.  There are some amazing places on their list!
  • Check out National Geographic or BBC Travel
  • Get an idea of local tours on
  • Ask your friends if they have been there : )
Romania, Moldova and Bulgaria sketched out plans


Hurray you have finished the majority of your trip planning!  You have a sketched out travel itinerary and hopefully identified a place to sleep each night.   Update your calendar and set a countdown to your travel date with any of the free apps available.

In the next post we will review a detailed planning checklist for weekly count down to the travel date!

Seek your adventure!

How do you select a hotel?

I always find that selecting the hotel is the hardest decision for any trip.  It comes along with so many additional questions that need to be answered.  I am not married to any hotel chain loyalty program so the field is wide open.  Finding a hotel is like buying a house; although the commitment for hotel may only be one night the same rules apply…location, location and location!

For me it is a game of 20 questions or more:

  • How big is the city?
  • Where do I plan to spend most of my time?
  • How long will I be there?
  • What are my local transport options?
  • What neighborhood do I want to stay in?
  • Are there any restaurants and/or evening entertainment options within walking distance?
  • Will I be driving? Is there a fee for parking?
  • What are my hotel amenity needs?
  • Do I plan on spending any time in my hotel room other than sleeping and showering?
  • Is there any outdoor space?
  • Do I want a pool?
  • What time is check in / check out?
  • Do I need luggage storage before check in or after check out?
  • Do I need to be concerned about security?
  • Does it include breakfast? Bonus points!
  • Are there additional taxes or resort fees not included in price shown online?
  • Is there free wifi?
  • Is it possible to book non-smoking room?
  • Is there an elevator to carry luggage?
  • Is there air conditioning?


So with all of these questions I start the process by getting a basic understanding of major sights and neighborhoods to get a lay of the land.

Google Maps is an amazing way to get an overview of where things are located and I love the street view!

Lonely Planet will help you identify the top attractions you want to visit in that city.

Google the city or country you are traveling for tour itineraries.  For example: “Mendoza tours” will give you a quick list of top tourism sights to consider.

Wikitravel will give an overview of the city districts and suburbs; following links to each district will have tourism sights. is an excellent source of independent traveller reviews.  However I always take their reviews with a grain of salt as I don’t know what their baseline travel experience and expectations might be.  It is like asking a waiter if a particular dish is spicy; it is all relative.  I generally focus on a blend of the comments but love looking at the traveller photos that were posted.

When it comes to actually looking for availability and prices I personally like Expedia as it allows so many different sort and filter options. It always has a map view with $ so you can easily see the most inexpensive and most expensive areas.  I avoid the pre-paid option unless there is a difference in price.  Similar to my strategy with booking flights I try to book directly with hotels if possible.   However Expedia is my second choice as it has great prices and you can earn points the help you get better rates in the future!

There are a few alternatives to staying in a hotel that I would recommend that you explore.   Be prepared with specific questions if you are in need of any specific amenities.  I do find that with these options I might need to be specific about your arrival time in order to be greeted and receive the keys.  However in many instances the additional planning is well rewarded with local advice!

Airbnb is independent people renting their home, apartment 0r even a room as an option.  This is usually at a reasonable rate lower than hotel prices but limited availability at times.  This also gives you the option to “cook at home” which can be exciting adventure to the grocery store and save money.

Vrbo is again independent people renting their home or apartment usually for a week or weekend timeframe.  I have used this several times for family vacations with great success.  This again is a great option to allow you to “cook at home” and save some money.

TIP:  Change your google browser to the country specific version of google browser then search for bed & breakfast.  This may require a little extra effort in translating pages but I have found some local treasures through this solution.

For example: “Google Argentina browser”  I find that “.ar” is the local country extension so I change my url to “”;  then in the search “bed and breakfast Mendoza”.  I will find local bed & breakfast places that do not appear on the US Google search browser.   I also use this trick to search for hotels, tours, restaurants etc.


Sometimes all the other questions get tossed aside and it simply comes down to the amazing view you can enjoy from your hotel room.  On several instances for me it has been location, location, location with a view please!

Jungle Land
November 2013: Panama Canal –  Jungle Land, Panama   staying on a houseboat on the canal with an amazing view!


November 2012: Iguazu Falls – Sheraton Resort Iguazu, Argentina with Thanksgiving dinner on the balcony enjoying the sunset view!


May 2005: Arenal Volcano –  Lost Iguana, Costa Rica enjoying the view from our patio of the active volcano.