18 Off the Beaten Path Places to Find Great Barbecue

As summer approaches, my mind turns to barbecue. For me, the thought of great barbecue brings to mind a plate of beef or pork that’s been slow cooked all day with a dry rub, then mounded on my plate with a spicy tomato-based sauce on the side. A few side dishes round out the meal, maybe corn on the cob, green beans, cole slaw, or a macaroni salad. Add is some iced tea or a cold beer and I’m in barbecue heaven. But the history and evolution of barbecue is far more complicated and includes techniques like smoking, roasting, baking, braising, and grilling beef, pork, chicken, or lamb. Seasonings may be as simple as salt and pepper or a more complicated blend or herbs and spices to make a dry rub. Sauces further define the type of barbecue, with fans […]

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You’ll Never Want to Leave: Universal Orlando Resort

When I think about traveling in March and April, I immediately think of Spring Break and family travel. For many families in traditional school environments, school breaks are the only time the family can get away. While I generally tend to avoid travel during school breaks and the summer, there are occasions when there simply are no other choices. If you’re braving the crowds for your family vacation, we recommend spending time at Universal Orlando Resort. With two theme parks, one water park, CityWalk entertainment district, and on-site hotels that provide numerous park perks, once you check in you’ll never have to leave. And you’ll never want to leave either. This is another edition or our monthly themed feature talking about places we’ve stayed and never wanted to leave. This post, along with all the others in the series, may […]

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It’s a Whole New World

Welcome – I’m glad you’re here! Last week I celebrated my 12-year anniversary of blogging. Today, I’m excited to roll out the new look here on Traveling with MJ. It’s been a long time since I’ve changed the theme and narrowed in on the focus of the site, and it was long past due. Here are some of the changes, new features you’ll find here, along with some tips to help navigate the site: I deleted close to 1,200 old posts that date back to 2006. It was tough letting go of those old archives, but the reality was that they weren’t serving anyone. My writing style and focus have evolved over the years and many of those posts don’t represent my focus any longer; they don’t represent my best work and don’t serve you – so they’re gone. Some […]

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It’s My Blog Anniversary!

On March 17, 2006, I wrote my first blog post ever on my travel blog then named Flyaway Cafe. You can read that first post here. And for those who don’t know my “why story” you can find that here. I knew nothing about blogging or the technology involved. Social media was practically non-existent – the first tweet was sent four days later and Facebook wouldn’t be available to everyone for another six months. Those colleagues who I started blogging with back then were looking for a way to turn a love of their subject matter into a paying gig, and it wasn’t always clear that it could be done. I look back on those wild west days of blogging and often shake my head and the things we did. Travel blogging has changed a lot. I’ve learned enough about […]

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Visiting the Ruins of Pompeii: From Tragedy to Tourism

  The ruins of Pompeii have become one of Italy’s most visited sites. On August 24th, 79 A.D., erupted in a violent two-day display that destroyed the city of Pompeii, Italy, and the surrounding area. It is one of history’s largest recorded volcanic eruptions, and a tragedy by any measure. The city was buried under ash and pumice for nearly 1700 years and was presumed lost until its accidental rediscovery in the mid-1700s.   The subsequent excavation of the ruins of Pompeii provided a peek at what life was like during the height of the Roman Empire. Rising out of the ash and lava over a thousand years later, the ruins of Pompeii turned a horrible tragedy into a tourism opportunity. Millions of visitors a year now visit this UNESCO World Heritage site located not far from Naples, along with its […]

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You’ll Never Want to Leave: Hilton Union Square, San Francisco

It seems like everyone thinks about romance in February, but once Valentine’s Day passes, romance gets short shrift. One way to celebrate romantic memories all year long is to re-visit places that have a special meaning for you, that have played a starring role in your life together, and that makes you smile when you think about past visits. For us, that destination is San Francisco, California. San Francisco was the first place we vacationed in when we were dating. We spent some time there on our honeymoon. We’ve flown there for baseball games, conferences, getaway weekends, and other special events. We “get” San Francisco because San Francisco “gets” us. For a celebratory getaway, we wanted to stay downtown in the Union Square area – it’s the area of the city where we stayed on our first visit – and […]

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You’ll Never Want to Leave: Pantai Inn, La Jolla

For much of the northern hemisphere, January is winter and with it, the cold – often brutally cold – rain, snow, and ice. January is also the time when, no matter where you live, people make plans for the new year. Whether it’s finding enough motivation to stick to resolutions, making a commitment to new habits, or re-setting your business or personal goals, January is a great time to burrow in. That’s what we did at the Pantai Inn in La Jolla, California, and we didn’t want to leave. This is the first of a year of monthly themed features talking about places we’ve stayed and never wanted to leave. This post, and the ones to follow each month, may contain affiliate links, sponsored travel, or paid product placement. We’ve hand-picked these destinations and products because we like them and we […]

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Join the Travel Reading List Challenge

Today I’m excited to announce the first of a couple of new projects that I’m launching for 2018 – the travel reading list. I’ve always been an avid reader, going back to childhood days where I’d read under the covers at night. My love for reading was fostered by my grandparents, who took me to our local public library when I was barely able to walk, and parents, who bought me books and encouraged my patronage of the library. When I was older and started traveling, I used to pack around two or three books at a time. I’d never want to finish one and not have another one to start. You can imagine how it must have been traveling for three weeks in Europe – I lugged around way too many books, leaving them behind as I finished, and […]

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2017: A Year of Travel in Review

While 2016 was a big year for international travel, 2017 represented a year spent enjoying destinations and activities closer to home. Part of the was because my role as an ambassador for Universal Orlando Resorts gave me lots of opportunities to enjoy the theme parks and resorts in Orlando, and partially in preparation for Tony’s retirement and joining me in blogging and business activities. Another theme this past year has been reorganization. From developing new projects (a new restaurant review site called The Yums that publicly launched in April) to working through a new site design (look for that to launch shortly after the first of the year), to creating some new internal systems to creating some new features that will debut in January 2018, it’s been a good time to take stock of where I am and where I […]

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A Most Wonderful Time of the Year at Universal Orlando Resort

Holiday magic is a real thing. A feeling deep in your soul. A feeling that brightens your smile, lights up your eyes and has you humming along with the Christmas music. At Universal Orlando Resort, there’s a little extra special magic thrown in, thanks to the powers of Harry Potter and his friends along with the imagination of thousands of creative minds. As an ambassador for Universal Orlando Resort (that’s a photo of all of us above in our ugly Christmas sweaters), I was invited to a media preview for their holiday events and, boy, was I impressed. I think you will be as well – and while it’s not too late to make your plans, you’d better get hopping. Holiday festivities run through January 6th, 2018. Here are my five favorite magical holiday experiences at Universal Orlando Resort. Everybody […]

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