Buckle up as we journey into a world where travel and hands-on scientific discovery intertwine! In this episode, we’re thrilled to welcome Marisa Rodriguez, founder of Ancient Odysseys, a unique travel adventure bridging the gap between science enthusiasts and archaeologists worldwide. Marisa shares her journey from her first dinosaur dig in Wyoming to coordinating global digs and creating unforgettable, meaningful experiences for participants. James, our anthropology aficionado, brings his insights to the table as we discuss the thrill, challenges, and social aspects of these adventures.
But there’s more! Jessica Deverson, our trusted “deals guru,” enlightens us about the emerging trends in adventure travel and expedition cruising. We explore fantastic deals from top-rated companies like G Adventures and Celebrity Cruises, ensuring you get the best bang for your buck on your next escapade. Lastly, we share some of our recent travels, and we also dive into the controversy surrounding the practice of ‘skiplagging’. So, whether you’re an adventurer at heart, a science enthusiast, or just looking for your next vacation idea, this episode has something for you. Press play now to start your adventure and don’t forget to share your thoughts with us on our website and social media platforms.
Mike Putman: Welcome to No Tourists Allowed. This is episode two of Season two. I’m Mike Putman.
James Ferrara: And I’m James Ferrara.
Mike Putman: Well, we’re, we’re really blessed today to have a very special guest with us. And as our listeners know, we like to bring in experts in the travel arena and, and specifically travel experts that know how to travel and know how to travel not like a tourist.
And I think our guest today certainly represents that ethos very well. So, I’d like to, uh, welcome our, our audience to Marisa Rodriguez. She is the founder of ancientodysseys.com. Welcome, Marisa.
Marisa Rodriguez: Thank you.
Mike Putman: Glad to have you. So tell our listeners a little bit about what you do at, uh, Ancient Odysseys.
Marisa Rodriguez: Ancient Odyssey is the name of the business and website and what I do is I actually find and develop paleontology and archeology digs in the US and around the world that people can actually join as a citizen science. They’re working right alongside the scientists.
Mike Putman: Oh, that is really, really cool and something I’ve always wanted to do. I was really excited to bring you on as a guest. Uh, I had a mutual friend of mine, an ex executive at Expedia that recommended, uh, Marissa speak to us and, and come on board the show. And I’m so glad uh, my friend made that introduction.
It, it’s, it is really interesting what you’re doing and I think you bring a, a, a facet to the travel business that has not been served before. So what got you started in this, Marisa?
Marisa Rodriguez: Yeah, well, I, I think I’ve always been a person who likes to travel a little bit differently and really immerse myself in places. And so back in 2012, I wanted to find something a little bit different to do and I ended up finding a dinosaur dig in the United States in Wyoming, and I live in Washington state.
And so I applied and got in my little car and drove about 2000 miles to Wyoming. And, uh, ended up in a field of people who were camped for a few days. And as I got to work, um, we started digging out bones of a 66 million year old triceratops, and I was blown away and I just had so much fun. I mean, I feel like just the thrill of discovery is really upped when you’re actually discovering something new coming out of the ground.
So that’s really what got me started in doing this. And, I got the bug really when I, when I went on that first dig and sort of continued on my journey trying to find more and more of these experiences. So really that’s how everything started.
James Ferrara: Well, guys, I’m sitting here trying to keep my lid on. I can’t tell you how excited I am to meet you, Marisa. We haven’t met before. And for this to be our topic, and once again, I have to excuse myself everyone, I had oral surgery and I’m just still coming out of it, so I sound like I might’ve been drinking. I’m not.
Uh, Marisa, I went to school for anthropology and did of course digs when I was in school and then professionally after school. I happened to have been in the Pacific Northwest for part of that. I was in the San Juan Island off Seattle in Puget Sound, an absolutely incredible and special place to be.
But I also did digs in the American Southwest and in the Yucatan Peninsula, which is an incredible place to be doing archeology. So this is like so close to my heart. And now you’ve married this with travel, which is the other part of my heart, and really I want to hear more about it. It sounds like you’ve created an incredible and sort of unique and authentic way to travel, and that’s what we like to talk about here.
Not the local big brand hotel, but doing something that you keep with you for your whole life. So please tell us more.
Marisa Rodriguez: That is absolutely right. And to be honest, this is, this is how I started to get into it because as I said, I went, I started on digs, and then I started going on more digs and was lucky enough to find a Neanderthal dig in Spain one year. I couldn’t believe that they accepted me to join this. So there I was three weeks in, in a cave in Spain at the site where Neanderthals actually cooked because we were finding cooked bones and tools that they used.
And here I come into this no experience whatsoever. I actually do not have any background at all in these sciences. And what happened over time is I started joining more and more. Paleontology digs in the United States were closer by, they were, I was able to drive to them being again in the western part of the US.
And as time went on, two things happened. First, I met so many people who over time said, I have always dreamt about going on a dig, but I had no idea that you could do it without having any kind of degree or without being a student or researcher. So that’s the first thing that happened. And then the second thing that happened was as I started talking to the researchers themselves, I found that they not only enjoyed having others join the digs, many times they needed the extra hands because you are actually working in the field.
You are right alongside the researchers. Not only that, but paying helps to fund the work that the researchers are doing. And for me, I just thought, I really want a way for these two different groups to find one another because it’s not easy to find the digs I was, even though I knew that it was something I wanted to do.
I was searching and searching and found that a lot of it was word of mouth and it was really hard to find. And then the thing that developed more with the researchers was there are digs that are in existence and do accept travelers. But then I expanded my reach and I started talking to researchers around the world who typically did take students because they do take graduate students out. But I started talking to ’em about developing, you know, in travel speak it would be new product to invite travelers along. And suddenly they, they love this idea. They said, oh, we can actually get more people here. We would love to develop something.
We already teach people how to dig out in the field. And this helps them. It helps them to fund. And also I feel like it brings us enjoyment and this love of what it is that you’re doing. You’re giving back in an actual way to research and science and the world and that specific location where you’re working.
James Ferrara: Incredible. But I have a question for you. And I mean the work that I did in this area was long days, hard work, dirty tents, and no showers. So what is this experience like for travelers? I mean, how hardy a traveler do you have to be?
Marisa Rodriguez: Great question. It really does vary. Different locations you are working and you’re in a, you’re in a tent and that’s kind of hardcore. But there are other locations that are close to civilization, and so you can stay in a motel, you know, it may not be five star, it may only be a couple of stars, but for the enjoyment of the experience being out in the field, it’s something that for a couple of days, and again, if you really want a unique experience that chances are no one, you know has ever done anything like this. It’s worth it to rough it in, in a motel for a couple of days and actually work out in the field. But the truth is, as you are working you are out there literally sitting in the dirt for a couple of days, depending, and, uh, you know, you’ve got the tools that you would see on, you know, tv, TV shows and movies where you’ve got brushes and alls and different things that you’re, that you’re working with.
And yeah, some would say that it’s work and it can be hot and a little miserable. But I have to say that when the time comes where you find something, all of that disappears and suddenly it is this eureka, I cannot believe I am actually looking at a bone of a dinosaur or a, an artifact from Mayan civilization.
Mike Putman: That is amazing. So, uh, Marisa, you, you’ve used a couple of terms, archeology and paleontology. Can you share for our listeners the difference between the two?
Marisa Rodriguez: Yeah, absolutely. And, and I’d say that it is a question a lot of people have and a lot of people actually interchange the usage. And I wanna sort of preface this by giving an example. Right now we’ve got the 30th anniversary of Jurassic Park came out and there is a new Indiana Jones movie coming out in June of 2023.
So if you think of those two, one is about dinosaurs. And paleontology includes dinosaurs and all fossils. So this is anything that was living in the past. So that can be any sort of bones, any kind of fossilized plants, any kind of sea creatures that is paleontology. Something that was living in the past.
Archeology is actually the study of things that humans have created. So you’ve got different artifacts, things that people have built, buildings that they have created, that is actually the study of archeology. So just think, do you wanna be Indiana Jones and finding the Temple of Doom, or do you wanna be finding a dinosaur like in Jurassic Park?
And those are the difference between the two.
Mike Putman: And what would a traveler who wanted to go on one of these digs kind of what would be just a, a little bit of a, just pick a given day and, and what would transpire or happen in that given day?
Marisa Rodriguez: Right. So each day, again, you’re waking up. Usually you are part of, uh, whether you’re staying in a motel or whether you are camping. And keep in mind, I actually work a lot with locations where you’re not camping because I know it can be hard. So you wake up, you gather together, and then you usually drive out to your location in the field.
All the different tools are provided on each of these different excavation experiences. So again, along comes all the brushes and any, you know, alls and different things to work on. And then usually you are assigned a location to work. Again, you don’t need any experience. So day one is probably going to be, you know, an overview of what it is that you need to do and how it is that you need to work.
And then during the course of the day, you sort of learn and you’re open to always ask questions of the researcher and the people working alongside of you. A lot of times some of these digs have returning customers like me. I like to go on different things and learn. So you are working as the day goes on.
It’s a really social atmosphere. I always kind of, liken it to being a classroom in the field. Working out in the field is the term that’s used. But I find people are so interesting. So me, I’m learning about geology because I’ll pick up a rock that’s some different color and then chances are that someone around me knows exactly what it is that that rock is.
And I, you know, I love to learn. So I feel like people who really love to learn, this is also a really great activity for them. So you are working, you take a break for lunch, you’re always, you know, making sure to hydrate and drink water. And then usually there’s a few hours in the afternoon as well where you’re continuing to work and then, you know, then you break for the evening.
So the one thing. That should be noted about both paleontology and archeology. You are not necessarily guaranteed to find something. Many of the different experiences I work with, they are working on something specifically. So the chances are really high that you’re actually going to say in paleontology, find some bones and in archeology you’re working on uncovering artifacts and features.
But sometimes it can be tedious and sometimes it can, you know, it’s a little bit of a bummer cuz you’re like, I’m, I’ve been out here for a couple of hours and I got nothing. But then again, once you find something that all sort of seems to dissipate, and then for me, I could be out there for hours more just continuing, continuing to work.
So no question about it. There definitely is work to be done, so it’s not, you know, you’re sort of traipsing around and just looking, you are, you are part of the actual research.
James Ferrara: We should probably dispel in fact, this kind of treasure hunter idea, right? Because while, while you may not find something monumental or something fashioned of gold, in fact, what you’re always finding is information, right? Even if you’re not finding something physical, it is the relationship of things that you uncover in the ground that actually has meaning and worth.
And it isn’t just about finding treasures. You know, Indiana Jones kind of did that to us. The other thing is, in my experience, it’s very social. So it’s interesting that you mentioned you’re sharing meals together. Usually night times. We always had fun. Maybe a little more than fun. So there’s that experience and meeting people.
I have to tell you on one of the gigs I was on, a very elegant, older woman was on the dig and she turned out to be Linda Marcus, the wife of Stanley Marcus, the founder of Neiman Marcus, and she was a paleo biologist and had gone to a big school and gotten her degree and was working in the field even though she could have been on a private jet.
And she was kind of dripping in jewelry. But even so, she was out there in the field and I had wonderful conversations with her and great cocktails, by way.
Marisa Rodriguez: There we go.
James Ferrara: This is an amazing way to travel.
Marisa Rodriguez: Yeah, I think that a, as you said, it’s, it doesn’t matter, you know? Okay. Let me, let me point this out. The one thing also about different excavations is they don’t necessarily cost a lot, actually. You know, this is something that because what you’re paying is funding the researchers. It is something that’s really, really affordable, number one.
The other thing is, this is something that families can do. There are some locations that actually accept children and you can go along. And so if you happen to have a kid who is a dinosaur lover, guess what? You can go out there with them. So it’s an activity that really is wonderful because it spans generations.
And talk about, again, sort of a travel experience that you’re going to talk about forever as a family or even just with friends and extended family. You’re always gonna talk about it. And again, regardless if you’re a member of Neiman Marcus everybody loves to discover something. Everybody has an innate sense of curiosity and wonder about the world and the largest amount of money.
You cannot necessarily buy that. And this is something that you don’t need a large amount of money to do. And you actually are really right there being a part of the sense and discovery. And as you said, with the sciences, everything that you find does help paint a portion of the bigger picture. So maybe it’s a new species when it comes to paleontology.
Maybe it is something in in Peru or Ireland or wherever it may be, where suddenly this thing that you’ve just helped find, Gives you another piece of information as you said, that explains more and more about that culture that preceded us or the life that preceded us. So there is an actual way that you are helping tell the story.
Mike Putman: I’ve got a couple of quick questions for you. One is what if you find something, do you get to keep it?
Marisa Rodriguez: That’s a really good question. And, um, here is, I, I’m going to get, get up on a little bit of a pedestal here. So the answer is pretty much no, because this is for research and I, ancient Odyssey really only works with reputable researchers. And everything that is found is either, uh, it’s, it’s always studied, it’s always brought back to a museum repository.
Now there are some fossils that you can take home because they’re sort of more insignificant but dinosaur fossils you’d never, ever be able to take home. That said, I did sort of wanna point something out that James had had said, and this is the treasure seekers. And in the United States, there actually are treasure seekers.
And so some folks may have actually seen different TV shows about people digging up dinosaur fossils and then hearing news about things being sold at Christie’s for millions of dollars. Those are people who actually search for fossils on private land and they decide that they want to sell them. Ancient Odysseys doesn’t work with those types of their commercial fossil hunters and um, we really believe that it’s important to keep everything in the public realm.
And so again, what you’re working on is going to be included in science and research, so I think I get a little adamant about that, but I really, really like believe strongly in that.
James Ferrara: Oh, you’re, you’re being polite about it. I mean, removing the physical record can destroy information forever.
Marisa Rodriguez: Correct. And to have one person enjoy it as opposed to having the whole world enjoy it.
James Ferrara: So, no, we don’t want anyone to participate in that. Mike, you had other questions.
Mike Putman: Yeah. My other question, uh is where are the current digs that are available for people to participate in?
Marisa Rodriguez: Right. So Ancient Odysseys right now has a good handful of digs in the United States. Most of them are really in, uh, they are paleontology digs for the most part in the US. So you’ve got Wyoming and Montana, South Dakota. Um, there is a dig in upstate New York as well. We’ve got a good handful in Australia, which if anybody wants to go to Australia and do something like this, this would be the time because it is like the Renaissance of dinosaurs and fossils in Australia. They’ve sort of almost only just realized the amount of fossils they have. So we’re working, um, heavily actually with Australia. They wanna promote paleo tourism, so we’re helping, we’re helping them along. Just came back from a trip to Ireland and so developing some archeology digs in Ireland that have never, ever before been available to, to the public.
And so again, it’s working right with the researchers to develop these digs. There’s things in Israel that are going on uh, South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Columbia, a whole bunch of different places that we’re working with to find these different experiences for people. And they do range in the amount of days that people can participate.
Recognizing that most travelers maybe don’t wanna spend a couple of weeks out working in the fields. So it’s working closely with these different researchers. Sometimes you may be digging for a couple of days and then an itinerary sort of for the remainder of the time so that you can enjoy the rest of the country.
So it’s not like this is something you’re gonna be out there for weeks at a time.
Mike Putman: Great. Well, I, you, you truly are a pioneer. Um, you know, and, and as, uh, one, the, the first time I met you, I think, uh, I shared… the travel industry, depending upon what research you look at, is the largest industry in the world, or the second largest industry in the world. And there’s a lot of people involved that employs a lot of people.
And it seems like we’ve kind of seen everything that there is to see that relates to travel. So it’s really refreshing when you have someone with a, with a new, fresh idea. So exciting too, I might add, uh, in, in a new way for people to experience travel, immerse themselves in other cultures, do good for other people, and, and it being a learning experience.
So I think you may be, um, you may be responsible for creating more additions to bucket lists that are out there.
Marisa Rodriguez: I love the sound of that and that that is the intention. I, I say right now, most people don’t know that you can do something like this. But Ancient Odysseys, our aim is within five years that people know that they can join a dig wherever in the world they may, they may decide to travel to.
Mike Putman: So if somebody, uh, one of our listeners, which I’m sure our listeners are going to, uh, wanna participate, how do they find out more information?
Marisa Rodriguez: Yeah, great. Go to the website and it’s ancientodysseys.com. There are digs that are already on the website, of course. And then as mentioned, we’re continuing to work with researchers around the world. So I guess I would encourage people to subscribe to the newsletter because as soon as new dig experiences are added, we send out a newsletter so that our newsletter subscribers are the first to know about new digs so that they can hop, hop on them.
So again, we’re developing some trips for 2024 right now, and so that would be really the best way for people to find things is to check out the website and to subscribe to the newsletter.
Mike Putman: Well, great. Well, thanks so much for your time, Marisa. I, I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you and learning more about your company and all the good things it’s doing for the travel business. So thank you very
Marisa Rodriguez: Thank you.
James Ferrara: Thanks, Marisa.
Marisa Rodriguez: Take care.
James Ferrara: Well, that was great, Mike. And so interesting and so different, and it’s kind of started us on a theme, I think, for this episode of our podcast, because now we’re gonna bring someone back who is one of our most popular, uh, components of this podcast. I’ve been getting emails. Where is she?
Where is she? So it, it is time to bring back our deals guru, Jessica Deveson, and she’s gonna continue along this path of, uh, sort of adventure and, uh, something very different because she’s got some of the best deals and she’s put a lot of time in this week to, uh, to find these for everyone.
The best deals in the industry related to adventure travel, expedition cruising. I don’t, maybe you don’t even know what expedition cruising is, but here’s Jessica Deverson to tell us.
Jessica Deverson: Hi guys, and I’m glad to be back. It’s been a while, but I’m excited, uh, to be here again with you guys on the call and give you some amazing travel deals.
James Ferrara: Great to have you back, Jessica.
Jessica Deverson: Yeah, so in the vein of adventure travel and expedition cruising, which is really, they’re both very hot right now. Um, this is definitely one type of travel that I recommend leaving to the professionals. Their knowledge, their connections, their expert planning will just make sure that you ensure that you have a fantastic experience.
There’s tons of adventure travel companies operating all over the world, catering to every range of style and preference. Um, so you just have to decide what you wanna do, where you wanna do it, what’s your budget, and how much time you have. And so, you know, there’s everything from bespoke tailored luxury brands like Abercrombie and Kent will hold your hand and literally plan every moment for you if that’s something you’re interested in.
There’s brands who pride themselves in being destination experts, for instance, African Travel in Africa, and Brendan Tours in the uk. And then there’s brands that offer really unique exclusive access. So, um, like a, like a talk tourist think of and they, you know, provide unique, exclusive access. Like authentic immersive experiences, special access to hidden gems that no one else gets to see.
Visiting sites at times, times of day where the crowds have gone or maybe going behind the scenes to places that they just don’t open to the public. Um, and then every sort of special interest is covered too. If you wanna do women’s only, if you wanna do a cycling trip, if you want something age specific, uh, you know, for the youngins we have Contiki.
And uh, for those who are child who are a bit older, there’s brands for you as well. So just really, no matter what you’re interested in, you’re going to find something. I have no doubt. And if you need assistance finding, you know, these trips or booking these special, unique trips, definitely contact your favorite travel advisors, cuz they’ll certainly be able to help you.
So, With that said, I’ll give you, I wanted to highlight three adventure options that are currently on promotion. Um, so first off, top rated overall, and you can do your research, but year after year, G Adventures is just one of the world’s largest and best adventure travel companies. Over 700 trip offerings on all seven continents.
And they’re actually best known for being a small group travel operator. And they have a high focus on things like sustainability, authenticity, and immersion. And so, you know, instead of just getting shuttled around from tourist attraction to tourist attraction, geo adventures, take small groups and they go off the beaten path.
You know, they want you to have those quality interactions with, with local people. They want to give you authentic local cuisine instead of, you know, like western style meals, uh, you know, they want you to stay in the middle of things so you really get fully immersed in the, in the culture or really off the beaten path.
So you’re just like living locally. And they actually do have a a type of trip called local living where they do just that. You can book family trips, private groups, there’s marine trips, trekking trips, there’s all everything. And they even have a Jane Goodall, um, wildlife focused type of travel as well.
So really, really interesting types of travel offered by G Adventures. And right now they have a great offer that is save up to 30% on tours spanning all seven continents. So super easy offer to understand super you know, just wide ranging as far as destinations and types of travel. So, um, definitely take a look at G Adventures.
Mike Putman: They’re, they’re a great provider and, um, a really, really solid partner for a lot of travel companies.
Jessica Deverson: Uh, I’ve actually been on one of their, um, adventure trips. I did backpacking through, uh, Malaysia and Thailand and yeah, so very, very good experience. And then you have uh, so that’s really focused on tours and land-based travel. So then you have expedition cruising, and this is really big right now.
You know, think of some of your favorite travel brands like Viking Cruises. They do Antarctica and, uh, you know, celebrity cruises. They do the Galapagos, and they’ve done Galapagos for 17 years. Award-winning Galapagos Vacations for 17 years. And on these trips, you, you actually get up close with the tortoises, with the rare birds, with the fauna.
The landscapes are just as astounding as the animals. And during your expedition cruise, you’ll get to experience the islands and really small groups, and you’ll be accompanied by certified naturalists. So they don’t just like send you off on your own. You are accompanied with somebody who can really, you know, bring into perspective everything you’re seeing, everything you’re looking at.
And then each evening you come home to one of the three vessels, one of the three luxury vessels that are just as extraordinary as, you know, the, the flora and fauna around you. So everything you want and need is included. Accommodations, food and drink, unlimited wifi, excursions, local flights on 10 night itineraries, all delivered with great service.
And right now for a limited time, when you book your vacation to the Galapagos Islands, you’ll get 20% off your cruise fairs. And when you book a vacation package, they’ll include airfare. So I mean, you, you’re not going to find a better deal than that. 20% off the cruise fair and included airfare, and then everything is included once you’re on board.
So, excellent, excellent option for those who haven’t been to the Galapagos, or you know, those who wanna go again.
James Ferrara: I really like that. That’s my kind of adventure. Right. Come back to the luxury state room on, on your ship. I mean, when Marissa was talking about her digs. I remember when I was doing that, I would’ve given anything for a one star hotel room, you know, something with a bathroom and a bed. We were intense all the time, and it was hot and it was dirty, and it was whatever.
So this, I’m too old for this stuff now. You know, Mike, this. Now my kind of expedition and adventure is to go on, you know, one of these luxury trips that has that component of adventure. Love that.
Jessica Deverson: Get dirty during the day and then have wine in a luxury hotel room at like a luxury hotel, onboard a luxury ship in the evening.
James Ferrara: Amen. Amen.
Jessica Deverson: And then, uh, last but not least, you know, there there are the tried and true experts in science and nature. So think of brands like Smithsonian Journeys and National Geographic.
Obviously, National Geographic is synonymous, uh, with amazing photography, groundbreaking scientific research, and Nat Geo brings that same exact quality that they’re known for to their adventure trips. So, um, really great options here for families, couples, groups, even solo travelers. They include active hiking trips, they have cruises and marine expeditions or special interest trips.
Maybe you have passions in photography or cooking. Basically anything you could want from penguin spotting in Antarctica to taking a private jet in the South Pacific island. Um, so, and what really sets them apart, obviously, is their commitment to hiring experts in the field. So, you know, when you’re on an African safari, you can rest assured that you’re accompany… the researcher that a accompanies you has, you know, dedicated their life to studying everything you’re seeing and learning.
So, yeah, really amazing trips if you’re interested in, you know, nature and adventure and science and photography. And right now in honor of World Ocean Day, World Ocean Day is in June. In honor of that, they’re running a special offer that is 25% off expedition cruises, plus a thousand dollars per person credit for your, towards your airfare.
So obviously airfare kind of stinks right now to someplace, so that’s a very good offer because you’re getting a discount on the cruise and money towards your airfare. So, very, very cool trips they have.
Mike Putman: Actually, uh, one of my best friends John just left, uh, Sunday for a National Geographic hike in, um, Spain. He’s doing a 10 day hike 10 day hike, 110 miles, I believe. But very, very excited about, about that trip and, uh, shared a lot about it. So yeah, what a great brand and a great special.
Jessica Deverson: Definitely
Mike Putman: Well. Excellent. Those are some great deals uh, Jessica, I really appreciate your insight on those and all the work that you did, putting those together.
James Ferrara: Yeah. Thank you. And, uh, get to work on next week. We’re…
Jessica Deverson: I’ll find you
James Ferrara: We’re, we’re back. We’re back. And we’re glad to have you.
Jessica Deverson: Thanks for having me, guys. I hope you have a great day.
Mike Putman: Thanks.
James Ferrara: you. So Mike, uh, we have a couple other things we wanted to talk about quickly and I just returned from New Orleans last night as a matter of fact. And new Orleans is, You know about food and it’s about music. So in the style of No Tourists Allowed, when you travel there, you’ve gotta get out and eat, you’ve gotta try new places, you’ve gotta go hear the music and you gotta do all that.
But, but what maybe gets left behind is where you stay, right? Because there are a lot of big brand hotels in New Orleans and there are a lot of tourist hotels in New Orleans. And so I, I visit my daughter goes to school there, so I have an opportunity to go, to go there quite a bit. And I keep trying out new places looking for that really authentic New Orleans experience.
Of course, you’ve got the French Quarter and, and it’s kind of a no-brainer that you can stay in the French corner out quarter and find lots of atmosphere. But staying in other parts of New Orleans can be really interesting and rewarding too. And this time I stayed in the Garden District. The Garden District may, uh, made famous by Anne Rice and the interview with the vampire stories you know, beautiful old mansions, flickering gas lights.
A little spooky, uh, but really beautiful. And I stayed in a classic 1920s hotel called the Poncho Train, very famous. It has the best rooftop bar in the city of New Orleans. Uh, it’s a crowd to get in there. It has a great restaurant called, uh, Jack Rose. Really creative place, beautiful interiors and great food.
And it has these like 1920s, 1930s elegant, uh, rich looking interior design. And I stayed in a, a beautiful suite with bamboo furniture and gold framed paintings on the walls and chintz fabrics and beautiful draperies and furniture. And it was just, it was like staying in a time warp in a sense, but in a really charming way, really pretty charming way.
And then you walk out the door of the poncho train and you’re in the middle of the garden district. You’re halfway between the French Quarter and uptown where my daughter’s college is. So it was a great real life example for me of how to travel using the ethos that we talk about on this podcast all the time and really feel New Orleans kind of old New Orleans.
Mike Putman: Sounds like a great trip. Was it hot down there?
James Ferrara: It was 96 degrees every day. Uh, so New Orleans in the summertime can be interesting, but it was not really humid. So I, it was not…
Mike Putman: Oh, that’s unusual. That’s really unusual.
James Ferrara: Right. It was not uncomfortable at all. It was sunny and hot. But I happened to like that. So, uh, I thought it was great.
Mike Putman: Well, this past weekend I took my family down to Disney World. My daughter’s just out of school and, uh, wanted to do a quick trip. So we went to Orlando and, and then went on to Disney World. And, uh, I had a great experience. Had, you know, beautiful weather, uh, was very warm. Um, stayed at, uh, Marriott Grand Villas which, uh, were very nice And, and for those traveling with the family, it is, uh, it’s a really nice place to stay.
It’s not own property at Disney, however, their, it is, it is a community with lots of one and two bedroom units that you can rent by the night. Um, and they come fully with a full kitchen, several pools, golf course, activities during the day for the kids and for the adults as well. Um, but just a really nice, safe place, uh, with restaurants and, um, a small grocery store, convenience store, I guess you would call it, but you never have to leave the property.
So it’s a, even if you weren’t going to Disney, it would be a really relaxing place to, to go and get away for a weekend. Highly recommend it. It’s, um, a very nice place to stay, but we did go to Disney for one day, and I have to share this quick story. And, and I have been to Disney my entire life. We went the first year it opened in 71, I believe uh, when I was a child.
And, uh, we would go back as a family very often, but I think this year the cost of Disney… I think Disney has gotten out over their skis. Um, they’ve got a great product, don’t get me wrong. But I will tell you, for the three of us, so my wife, myself, my eight year old daughter, the day was right out a thousand dollars.
So that’s part tickets. Now you have to, uh, well, you don’t have to, but optionally, you, they have what’s called a Genie plus pass, which, uh, in addition to the adult ticket, which is I think $154, $155 plus taxes, you, you add this Genie Plus, which is kind of the reincarnation of the Fast Pass.
if, if you don’t have it, your day’s gonna be miserable. You’re gonna be standing in, you know, hour, hour and a half, two hour lines. With this you, you, you do get to experience several different things, but that included with, uh, we did have a nice lunch. We had a, a, a character lunch, um, which was probably a little bit more expensive than what somebody normally spend a lunch, but with that in parking and a drink here or there, it was right at a thousand dollars, which to me is just, again, I think they’ve, they’ve broken the barrier of what they could reasonably charge for a family for a day. And, and just imagine if you had five kids or four kids.
James Ferrara: So look, it’s been controversial and there have been a series of price hikes over the last number of years. There’s a new chairman at Disney who’s been talking about correcting some of that. There’s no, no arguing that you don’t get a lot for the money that you spend there, but it really has gotten beyond the ability of many people.
And when you… you stayed off property, can you imagine if you had stayed on property? It’s easy to spend, you know, many thousands of dollars, 10, 15, $20,000 there if you have a family staying at one of the top resorts. The good news is that they provide quite a selection of resorts.
I think the count is 30 or 30 something now. And some of them are in a more economy minded category, but still very expensive. So the thing to remember is that there’s, there are a lot of things to do in Orlando, and Disney is an important one, and so is Universal. But there’s so much else also including the fact that as you discovered, there are just lovely places to stay and relax and enjoy the weather.
Mike Putman: Yep, for sure. But I had a great time. I will tell you one other thing that was kind of spooky is the, uh, Saturday afternoon we went to Disney Springs, which is a really cool place for those who haven’t been there. Um, actually James, you and I went uh, earlier this year, but it’s, it’s a place where there are a lot of shopping, a lot of, um, nice restaurants, bars, uh, it’s just a really fun place and there’s no cost to get in, so you don’t have to be staying on property.
You can drive up just like you would to a mall, but it’s a, it’s very nice. Uh, very well done. We had a, a specific task or, or we were looking for something specific to buy. So we didn’t spend a lot of time there this time. But, uh, went, parked, went in four or five shops left, uh, bought what we came to get.
And yesterday I got a email from Disney saying, we, we noticed that you visited Disney Springs on Sunday and we would like to ask you a survey. And so I went back and I was really scratching my head, like, first of all, I was driving a, uh, rental car, so I was thinking maybe they could have looked at my license plate and had some way to figure out. I didn’t give them my email address.
I didn’t, uh, give them a telephone number. I mean, we only bought one thing and that was at a Lululemon store. So, uh, there, there, there was, there was no other transaction. So I have no idea how they know how they knew that I was at Disney Springs, and I still don’t today, but, uh, but a little bit spooky nonetheless. Well, great. Um, a couple other things. I I, I wanted to talk about too before we wrap up our show today, and, and this is just kind of from the weird file, um, but there is, um, this concept of skip lagged, which is, uh, an an idea of buying an airline ticket from point A to point B. And, and maybe you get off at point B, but that that flight or that connection goes on to point C and there’s, and it, and it becomes a less expensive way of traveling.
And there’s controversy, you know, on both sides of it. The, the airlines don’t like it because it buys down the price of their flights. And the consumer advocates say, listen, you’re selling it just like you’re selling, you know, you might be selling a dozen donuts for $10 or donuts, or a dollar a piece.
So are you gonna come after me if I ate 11 donuts rather than, and throw one away? And that’s kind of the concept of the skip lag. But one, one of the things that was really interesting that I saw this week was there was a flight from Charlotte to Los Angeles back to Nashville for $50, right? So it, it, for those of you, uh, who might be a little, uh, geography, uh, challenged geographically challenged.
Then you got Charlotte on the east coast, LA on the far west coast and then Nashville pretty much back on the East coast. But the concept was you could buy a ticket, a non-stop ticket, Charlotte to Los Angeles, back to Nashville for $50, which I don’t know how in the world an airline could afford to, to do that, to sell tickets at that price.
But the concept was you could get off in Los Angeles. Even if you weren’t, cuz it wouldn’t be logical to fly to Los Angeles to come back to Nashville, that would be, you know, uh, 11 hours of travel for what would take an hour and a half, uh, or maybe an hour on a non-stop flight. But, uh, there’d be such a disparity in price because the one way Charlotte to Los Angeles is, you know, 250, 300 bucks.
But, um, that was a really interesting thing that popped up in my airline feed this week of ways you could take advantage of the system.
James Ferrara: But I do caution travelers about that because airlines track that kind of behavior and you can wind up getting caught. You can wind up removed from a plane, you could wind it up losing your frequent flyer status. I mean, I mean, you don’t hear court cases about it, but they do threaten and I would just be careful.
Mike Putman: I don’t think they could remove you from a plane. They can take away your frequent flower points. They do have the right to do that. But, um, anyhow, it’s, it is something that’s out there and some people do utilize it to, to find lower and better, better pricing. Well, I think that’s a wrap for me. James, did you have anything else you wanted to cover today?
James Ferrara: No, that’s a action packed episode with dinosaurs and mummies and everything.
Mike Putman: Adventure Travel.
James Ferrara: So, something unusual for us. We have an incredible schedule coming up for the rest of the season, so please join us every week. Uh, you’re gonna hear from some of the most interesting people in and around travel. You’re going to get exposed to some new ideas for travel. And most important of all, you’re going to learn more about how to travel in a more memorable way, in a more valuable way, in a way that enriches you and, uh, and not just be a tourist.
Mike Putman: Absolutely. So please, uh, visit our website. No tourists allowed like us on social media share the word about the podcast, and we really do appreciate you being part of our No tourist Allow family, and look forward to speaking to you again next week.
James Ferrara: Thank you everyone.
Image via Divaneth-Dias on Canva.