Fly Through the Friendliest Airport in the World: Visit Tucson International Airport (TUS)

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Fly Through the Friendliest Airport in the World: Visit Tucson International Airport (TUS)

Which airport has the friendliest staff in the world? Here's our vote!

The Friendliest Airport in the World:

(TUS) Tucson International Airport!

In the last three years of traveling full-time, we've been through over 20 security lines in airports all over the world.

Even though I've been strategic about packing and created minimal packing lists, the experience is the same everywhere: stressful, disruptive, and uncomfortable.

You know-- We're corralled like sheep through snaking security lines, yelled at every two minutes to remove our shoes, belts and to take out our toiletries, and we've accepted uncomfortable pat downs.

The worst moment of it all? With all my strategic planning and packing, I still forgot to wear shoes with socks!

I find myself barefoot feeling the cold, clammy, tiled floor thinking, "How many other millions of stinky feet have been here, too?" Sick! "Come on, Lindsey!"

I still forget stuff and have to continue to create packing lists- even on this trip to Tucson. 

Over our travels I've commented to Adam, "Remember the days when flying used to be fun?" 

Do you remember?

Remember when you could wait for your family and friends at the gate? You could hug them right away when they landed. 

Remember when checking bags was free? We would check our bags and forget about them until we landed. 

Now, the whole thing is stressful. We carry all of our stuff with us through the whole process and we have to unpack it and repack it through the security line. 

Our experience at Tucson International Airport was so different. We still went through the whole unpack, repack thing, but we didn't feel the normal feelings of being disheveled and those "I survived," and "Glad that's over!" kind of feelings. 

We left the security line feeling happy and light. It was an experience with friendliness and smiles. It was weird. It was remarkable. It took me back to the fun days of flying.

Let me tell you the story:

1. They're Friendly Any Hour of the Day

It was 5:09 AM in Tucson International's Airport. We had woken up 30 minutes before at the hotel. We gave ourselves ten minutes to get dressed and out of the hotel, ten minutes to drop off the rental car, and ten minutes to head into the terminal.  

We were waiting in the security line between the black retractable queue stands guiding us up the ramp to give our tickets and IDs to the security staff. 

However, ahead of me to my right, a security staff member was walking down the line greeting and chatting with every passenger ahead of me. 

Still asleep, I wasn't in a cheerful, chatty mood. It was 5:09 AM, I had just woken up, and security lines are supposed to be straight faced, get in and get out situations. 

I knew I was his next greeting and I prepared myself to be short and sweet.

"Good morning ma'am. Can I help you with anything?" he said kindly with a smile. I kept it short and polite with a "No, thank you."

In my head I said, "This is weird. I'm just ready to get through this." 

Then Adam heard someone ahead say, "This is the friendliest airport I've ever been to."

"A friendly airport? How bizarre," I thought. 

Then I realized, he wasn't yelling at us. 

2. Warm, Smiling, Chatty

The first security man wasn't a fluke. It was the culture. 

It was our turn to go through the swinging black stall gate and give our ID's and tickets to the security woman.

You know, this is the security staff that's sitting on a stool behind the black podium. They're always straight faced, looking miserable, they never look you in the eye, and they never crack a smile. They scan your ticket, sign it with a highlighter, look at the long line behind you, sigh, then hand the ticket and your ID back to you. "NEXT!"

Well, this woman in Tucson didn't fit the mold.

She greeted us warmly and started chatting. "Hi! So, are you headed home?"

For us, that question is a bit difficult. We started explaining, but she was confused. We were in Tucson, heading to Atlanta with a Colorado ID. That's not normal. 

So I said, "Well, we're traveling in a camper around the US. This was a quick trip for business. Adam's an accountant and helps people figure out their taxes with this lifestyle."

She beamed! I was confused now. "A smiling security person? What?"

"My husband and I want to do that! That's our dream after we retire. Please give me your card- I'll be needing it one day."

Not expecting to share his card in the security check point line, Adam had packed it deep in his backpack. While he fumbled to grab it, she continued to share her dreams of RVing through retirement. 

When he finally found it, she said, "Oh, this is awesome! I'll be in touch! Safe travels out there."

Then, she motioned us to the security belt area.

As I made my way forward, I turned back to Adam with a "What's happening here?" look. 

Two friendly security folks? This wasn't normal.

My mind was changed mid security line. Their staff was treating us like people not cattle. And, I was no longer seeing them as obstacles to successfully pass through, I was seeing them as humans with emotions and dreams.

3. Even When They Have to Investigate your Bag

Now it was the time to unload computers, toiletries, take off our shoes, and get a pat down.

Along with unloading all of that, I always unload my big bottle of "medical" contact solution. I've learned I can take it, but because it's bigger than 2 oz. it causes an inspection every time. 

As expected, my grey plastic container got dinged and the next security guy pulled the box over to test my contact solution. 

I grabbed my other two bags, shoved my computer into my backpack, and hopped over to him trying to put my shoes on. The stress of it all. 

For the third time that morning in the security line, we had a friendly conversation.

The security guard asked about our travels and we quickly got on the topic of camping and travel trailers.

We learned of his dreams to buy a camper and travel with his family. 

My contact lens solution came back negative, I packed it away and we were all cheerfully wishing each other "good days."

Still dark out at 5:17 AM, Tucson's friendly security staff had transformed me from a sleepy, short-mooded passenger to cheerful and excited for the day. 

Each of them made the airport security experience enjoyable. Now, that's remarkable! 

Congratulations to the Tucson International Airport security staff!

Thank you for flipping the status quo and making the airport security line enjoyable!

Who knew just a bit of friendly conversation while performing the same tasks can transform a passenger's experience.

This is possible for every airport! 

Please share this if you agree! And, share it with folks you know in the airport industry. 

We can make flying fun again even with security lines!


For your next trip to Tucson:

1. Get excited about your airport experience!

2. Here's a packing list of essentials not to forget for the desert!

3. Here's three places you have to go while you're in town. 

4. Learn five shocking facts about Arizona's famous Saguaro Cactus. These are so cool!

5. Five reasons why you have to visit Mission San Xavior del Bac on your trip!


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Which Mission to Visit in Tucson, Arizona? 5 Reasons to Visit Mission San Xavior del Bac

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Which Mission to Visit in Tucson, Arizona? 5 Reasons to Visit Mission San Xavior del Bac

Which mission should you visit in Tucson, Arizona? We had to make the same decision on our quick 48-hour trip.   

We only had a small amount of time to sight-see between Adam's tax talk at the RVer's Escapades and our flights. 

I had done some research and was uncertain which mission to see while we were there. 

I intended to go to San Pedro Chapel from a Pinterest find, but through a series of mis-#nuventures we ended up at Mission San Xavior del Bac. 

I'm so glad we did! The special history, the beauty, and the views around the mission make it an amazing spot to visit. We spontaneously stepped back in time to the 18th Century! 

Here are 5 reasons to fit the Mission San Xavior del Bac into your trip:

1. It's free

You can't get better than free. And, you'll be amongst hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world who come to the Mission to see some of the best Spanish Colonial architecture in the US. 

2. The beauty outside

The Mission was built in 14 years between 1783 and finished in 1797. The architectural details for that time period are amazing!

March is a great time to visit. The cacti on the Mission's grounds will be blooming!

3. The beauty inside

Since the mission was completed in 1797, the interior work is all hand carved and hand painted. It's still in tact and has been maintained very well. The detailed craft work is incredible!

Make sure to admire the details. The door handle to the sanctuary is a serpent (click the left picture above to get a closer look.) And, you can see where the original nails in the doors were hammered in by the masons (click the right picture above to see). 

4. History

Throughout the mission's history, it's remained in the same place but has been a part of three different countries. 

When the Mission was first constructed, it was in the area of New Spain. Then, when Mexico gained it's independence in 1821, it became a part of Mexico. About 30 years later in 1854, after the Gadsden Purchase, the mission found itself in United States Territory. 

These walls have experienced a lot (including an earthquake)! 

5. The Views

To the right of the mission, you can climb a small hill with a cross at the top. Up here, you can light candles, pray and see the amazing view surrounding the mission. Enjoy!

Keep the history going by making a donation at the gift shop at the end of your trip to help maintain the Mission:)


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10 Must Pack Items for the Desert in Tucson, Arizona: Don't Forget these Essentials Like I Did!

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10 Must Pack Items for the Desert in Tucson, Arizona: Don't Forget these Essentials Like I Did!

What to pack for a trip to Tucson, Arizona in March? I have the list for you-- after I learned from all of my mistakes while visiting Tucson's Sabino Canyon.

We pulled into our parking spot at Sabino Canyon's car park at 2:36 PM. 

With the air conditioning blasting, I was eager to run out into the desert on a long hike. I couldn't wait to see the Saguaro cacti and the waterfalls I'd heard about!

Right after I turned off the car, Arizona’s heat didn't hesitate. The temperature started rising in the car. We jumped out to escape the creeping heat. 

I snagged my backpack from the backseat. In the seconds standing at the backdoor, I could already feel the asphalt's heat radiating up my calves.

"Man, the sun is brutal today!" I commented looking up to the sun blinding myself. 

Then, I looked at my backpack.

All I had was a small water bottle. No sunglasses, no hat, no sunscreen, and not enough water. 

The road runner was running to shade, too!

The road runner was running to shade, too!

My senses immediately started responding to what they knew they'd be feeling soon enough in this heat.  A headache started creeping in, my mouth was now thirsty, and I had visions of myself in pain in bed from a scorching sunburn. 

Shoot! We did this all wrong. I was totally unprepared for the desert and we made the terrible decision to romp around in the desert in the heat of the day.

I confessed first-- "Adam, I can only handle 30 minutes out here."

"Me too!" 

Well, at least we were in agreement.

A long hike was off the docket today. We weren't going to see any waterfalls. 

Our visit to Sabino Canyon was going to be a quick in and out.

If I had only packed four essential items, it would have transformed our experience and I would have been able to adventure further into the canyon to see the beautiful waterfalls out there. 

We do suggest going early in the morning or more toward sunset--- not 2:30 PM in the heat of the day!

To see more pictures of our Sabino Canyon experience, click here

Sabino Canyon's 1/2 Mile Nature Trail- no shade here!

Sabino Canyon's 1/2 Mile Nature Trail- no shade here!

To prepare yourself to have fun in Arizona's desert, pack these items.

10 Must Pack Items for Arizona's Desert

Be prepared for the heat of the day and the cool nights with this gear:

IMG_4111-1.jpg
  1. Hat

    1. make it a big hat providing lots of shade!
  2. Sunglasses

  3. Sunscreen

  4. Water- lots of it!

    • How much is enough?
    • Here's a suggestion from the Grand Canyon: Drink one-half to one full quart of water or sports drink each and every hour you are hiking in the heat. 
    • Carry your water bottle in your hand and drink small amounts often. 
    • By the time you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated.
  5. Buff

    1. use this for covering your neck, pulling your hair back, or wiping sweat:)
  6. Short sleeve shirt

  7. Long sleeve shirt

    1. to cover your arms, chest and shoulders during the day and to keep you warm at night
  8. Shorts

  9. Long pants

    1. to cover legs from the sun during the day and to keep you warm at night
  10. Hiking/running shoes

 

Have fun out there!

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5 Shocking Facts about Arizona’s Saguaro Cactus. Did You Know These?

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5 Shocking Facts about Arizona’s Saguaro Cactus. Did You Know These?

What's your favorite state?

For me, Arizona is in my top five. I love Arizona's dry desert! It's probably because the landscape is so different from what I grew up with on the east coast.

So when we got the chance to fly cross-country to Tucson, Arizona two weeks ago for an RVer’s Escapade, I couldn't wait! I was pinning desert photos weeks in advance. 

I was so excited to be beneath AZ's glorious pastel desert sunsets. And, be in the midst of cactus forests!

But, when we raced into the desert in Tucson's Sabino Canyon, I was shocked.

Look how big these cacti are! We're so tiny in comparison!

We hadn't seen these big guys in other parts of Arizona before. So, I did some research. 

Sabino Canyon National Forest, Tucson Arizona, NuventureTravels.com, Saguaro Cactus, Desert
 

Here are five shocking facts I learned about Arizona’s Saguaro Cactus.

Did you know these?


1. It’s the largest cactus in the US and it can grow to 70 feet tall!

That’s taller than a 5 story building! 

Sabino Canyon National Forest, Tucson Arizona, NuventureTravels.com, Saguaro Cactus, Desert

2. They can weigh up to 6 tons!

Okay, let me do some quick calculations. 

1 ton = 2,000 pounds

Our camper (Bernadette) = 2,000 pounds

1 Saguaro cactus = 6 Bernadette's!

That means one of these cactus’ can weigh up to six Bernadette’s! 

Sabino Canyon National Forest, Tucson Arizona, NuventureTravels.com, Saguaro Cactus, Desert
 

Now, that's a heavy load!


3. They only start growing arms or branches when they’re 50 to 70 years old.

In even drier areas, they may not grow arms until they’re 100 years old!

Here are some young bucks in the front right without arms and there's some old geezers in the back left with- let's count them- at least five arms! I wonder how old those old ones are?

Here are some young bucks in the front right without arms and there's some old geezers in the back left with- let's count them- at least five arms! I wonder how old those old ones are?


4. They normally live to be 150-175 years old!

Some are as old as 200 years! That means they’re almost as old as the United States of America (we’re 240 years old!)

More calculations: So, 200 years multiplied by 365 days per year...

That means, the oldest of these cacti have been standing in the same spot for 73,000 days! Can you imagine?

I wonder how old these two are?

I wonder how old these two are?

The left one seems to have extra growths.

The left one seems to have extra growths.

Sabino Canyon National Forest, Tucson Arizona, NuventureTravels.com, Saguaro Cactus, Desert

Side note: Talking about old...

Tucson Arizona San Xavior Mission del Bac Sonoran Desert

When we were in Tucson, we also visited San Xavior Mission del Bac. It's the oldest intact building in Arizona. The mission has been standing in the same spot since 1797 and has been a part of three different countries since then! Now, that's some history.

Okay, back to the final cool cactus fact. 


Sonoran Desert, Tucson Arizona, Saguaro Cactus

5. You can only find Saguaro Cacti in the Sonoran Desert. 

So, get plans going to adventure Tucson. Make sure to visit these three awesome Tucson spots while you're there. 

You can also see the Saguaro Cactus in Southern California or Northern Mexico.

 

These facts are crazy right? I had no idea! I kept telling whoever I could find around me- "Did you know...?" and "Did you know...?" 

Share these facts with your friends and see if they're surprised, too!


Stay updated on other fun findings from our #nuventures. 

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