Day Trip to Gateway Arch National Park

We’re taking you to a very unique national park in America – Gateway Arch National Park! This urban center has historic roots as the gateway to the West during the expansion era in America. This is the perfect day trip from Chicago or stop during a St. Louis trip. You can ride the tram, explore the museum, and take a steamboat cruise to get the full experience here.

Gateway Arch National Park – Episode Transcript

1 (56s):
Welcome to this week’s episode of the Travel Squad Podcast. Today we are taking you to one of America’s newest national parks, Gateway Arch National Park, located in St. Louis, Missouri.

1 (1m 9s):
Missouri. So Gateway Arch National Park just became a national park back in 2018. Jamal and I visited in July of 2021 and we actually made it from a day trip while we were in Chicago. And so I’m gonna say something a little controversial, but I don’t think Gateway Arch deserves to be a national park. I think that it should have remained a national monument, but since it was deemed a national park, we had to add it on our list cuz we have a bucket list to go and visit all of the national parks in the us.

3 (1m 41s):
I don’t disagree with your sentiment, Brittany, that it should remained a national monument because I think one of our newest national parks too, I feel like they’re just giving them out now and I feel like taking away from the prestige of some of the other national parks and they should remain monuments, but in a way I’m kind of glad that they actually did because it gave us an excuse to go and even though we say it shouldn’t be a national park, it is still well worth the visit. And if they hadn’t actually named it one, I don’t think we would’ve ever gone. So I’m glad for it in that sense. Really, really cool spot. St. Louis Arch.

2 (2m 13s):
Okay, I’m gonna go into this episode with an open mind since I wasn’t on this trip with you. But I would really like to talk to the person that deemed this, the national park and know what was it like what is under the earth there or I’m watching this new show Outer Range on, it’s on Amazon Prime, like maybe there’s some kind of like big black hole in this area. There’s something there they’re not telling us

3 (2m 36s):
Maybe, but you know, I, it’s not one person from my understanding to be a national park. Obviously someone has to suggest it then it goes to Congress. They have to deem obviously the, the appropriateness of it. And I think a lot of it nowadays unfortunately is coming down to money and funding, right? It’s gonna get a lot more funding and money if it has that title versus just National Monument or a National Forest or something like that. But who knows, there could be something there. I mean they built a big Arch there. Maybe it’s a Gateway portal. Kim, you might be onto something, you might be onto something.

2 (3m 9s):
I’ve been to St. Louis once a long time ago in the winter and I didn’t for what I was visiting someone that was stationed out there. Okay. So I didn’t really get to like explore St. Louis, but if I ever do make it back there, I would come and visit. I don’t know if I would make a trip just for that, but I would certainly stop in if I was in the area.

3 (3m 25s):
But you saw the Arch, you just didn’t go to it.

2 (3m 28s):
No I didn’t.

3 (3m 29s):
Oh, okay. So you flew in and then just kind of like bypassed downtown and went wherever around in that area

2 (3m 34s):
And maybe I saw it and I just didn’t realize it at the time and definitely wasn’t a national park at that time when I went,

1 (3m 40s):
Well Jamal told me this, that the Gateway Arch is the Gateway to the west. And so the Arch reflects St. Louis’ role in the westward expansion of the United States. So Jamal has taught me a lot about this, which

2 (3m 55s):
Is always something I think is funny when they talk about the West or the Midwest and it’s like east.

3 (4m 1s):
Well if you think about it from that perspective, Kim, I mean that’s a good point. You’re right. I mean it is the east but it is the west because really a lot of United States expansion didn’t really exist past the Mississippi River. So St Louis is on the Mississippi, the St. Louis Arch is right along the Mississippi River. So it runs north to south and it was a main through fair to move goods, but that was really the extent of it. So anything beyond that was the West, right? You know, back in the 18 hundreds and things like that. And so because St Louis was along the river, even though that river, the Mississippi doesn’t go west, that was the Gateway point to the west and where everyone really got supplies and did things.

3 (4m 43s):
So the Arch was created as a memory and monument to the fact of this city’s historical significance in the United States expansion out west to settle it.

2 (4m 53s):
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2 (5m 59s):
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3 (6m 5s):
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1 (6m 27s):
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2 (6m 40s):
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3 (6m 57s):
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1 (7m 5s):
So as always, we’re gonna start with the tips coming in hot with one is to buy your tickets online in advance

2 (7m 13s):
And why would you wanna do that?

1 (7m 14s):
Because you know, some people think it’s just an Arch, what else do you do there? But there are actually other things to do. There’s a museum, there is a documentary, there’s a tram ride that takes you to the top of the Arch, there’s a riverboat cruise and if you wanna buy those things can sell out and so you’re gonna wanna buy them online in advance and not just show up and buy them

2 (7m 33s):
And you have to buy a ticket for each one of those things.

1 (7m 36s):
Or you can buy a combo ticket, which is what we did. We’re like, you know what, we’re probably never gonna come back here to do this so we’re just going to buy a combo ticket and see everything. And it wasn’t that expensive, it was like $40 per person,

3 (7m 48s):
Right? Because basically, and this is one of the things I didn’t even realize it either, I didn’t realize that under the Arch, maybe the portal is there Kim but just a little bit below is actually a museum. And when you’re in there they talk about the history of you know, St Louis, the surrounding area, how the Arch became, what it is, how they designed it, how they built it. There’s like a little movie that you can watch like 15, 20 minutes talking about then building it how it almost didn’t fit when they put in the final piece and things like that. So there is a museum under there, not included with the museum. You can take the tram all the way to the top and you have the windows looking out at from the center all the way out and you know you could see into Illinois if you’re looking to the east over the Mississippi and if you’re looking to the west, you’re obviously looking at downtown St Louis then at that point.

3 (8m 36s):
And then you have the river barge ride on the Mississippi. So lots of cool stuff to do in the area. And you know Britney is right because there’s limited capacity and only so many people can go up the Arch or so many fairies a day on the the river barge. You need to get those tickets. Yeah

1 (8m 52s):
And if you plan them in advance, each thing takes a certain amount of time. So if you go and you don’t reserve those things, the riverboat tour, the only one left is the same time as a tram. So you have to plan it strategically so that you’re doing each thing at different times. So spring and summer are the busiest seasons. So keep that in mind. We did go in July, we did go July and Covid and everything pretty much needed a ticket entry so it didn’t feel super, super busy. But there were definitely people there. And one thing I wasn’t expecting is it’s probably the only national park where I’ve had to go through security to enter,

2 (9m 29s):
Hmm cavity search.

3 (9m 30s):
Not that thorough. I mean some of us could wish right? But no everyone definitely wasn’t that thorough. You gotta go through the metal detectors obviously place your baggage interesting through the x-rays there is something it felt like a, well I mean if you think about it, it’s like a building and it’s a federal building if you go into any federal building in that sense, right? I mean you go through security, even the courthouse here in San Diego you have security but, and

1 (9m 53s):
It’s all underground too. You just from the top you only see the Arch but you’re going down escalators underneath it to go weird into the museum and watch the documentary and all of that and to enter the tram.

3 (10m 6s):
Another good tip to just keep in mind, obviously you only need one day to explore quite honestly only half a day to really do the Arch. Obviously I’m not saying that for all of St Louis as a whole, but the Arch in particular, you know, only need a half day to really go ahead and experience all of it and do it.

1 (10m 22s):
And unlike not other national parks where most of the time you have a free place to park once you buy your ticket and enter, there is no free parking for this national park. So I actually ended up doing some online searching for parking to find the best rates. You just put it in your phone, parking near Gateway, Arch and apps or sites like Spot Hero or Park was will pop up. You can look for hourly parking you’ll put in like the time you think you’ll get there, the time you think you’ll leave and then it’ll pull up different rates. And how far it is of a distance from Gateway Arch

2 (10m 56s):
In order to park near Gateway Arch. Like what was the closest or what was the farthest you can expect?

1 (11m 3s):
I wanna say the closest we found was about a quarter of a mile. So I did see other ones that were like up to a mile away, just walk to the Arch.

3 (11m 12s):
And the final tip to keep in mind about Gateway Arch is that they have a pricing system based off of the season. They have a value standard and peak pricing. So it’s obviously gonna be cheaper on the weekdays but if you go during peak season, you know sometime during the summer where there’s family vacations et cetera, can expect that. So just kind of before you go really do your research online and see where that is. But do keep in mind different prices depending on when it is that you go.

1 (11m 39s):
Yeah and like I mentioned, we went during peak season, we went mid-summer July and we did the see everything combo, which was like the documentary, the museum, the St. Louis River broke cruise and a tram right to the top it was about $40 per person. With that being said, if you are looking forward to going on the riverboat cruise on the Mississippi, I know it does shut down in the winter months because in St Louis the winters are pretty treacherous at times and so they do shut down probably because of the river freezes over. So just keep that in mind as you do your research.

3 (12m 14s):
Yeah, so some of the things to do inside the museum itself, like Britney said is going to be the documentary. I highly recommend it. I mean I’m not gonna sit here and say it’s the most advanced like footage or blockbuster crazy thing Blockbuster you’ve ever seen. You’re right. But it is very, very informative and interesting to talk about how the Gateway Arch one was designed and constructed itself. So it goes talking about who the architect was, who designed it, how they had a nationwide competition in the 1940s to really design it and come up with something. And obviously I, if I’m pronouncing his name right, the architect’s name was like aero surian or something to that effect.

3 (12m 58s):
I’m definitely mispronouncing it. But he came up with the design construction didn’t even start until the 1960s. Took a couple of years to build built for like $15 million, which in hindsight if you think that’s actually kind of cheap for it. But back in the day, you know, pretty expensive. But it really talks about how they had difficulties building it and the challenges and it, it is just crazy to see how they actually did it. And that video goes into the details and actually shows true footage of the construction and the difficulties that they had.

2 (13m 28s):
How long is the video?

1 (13m 30s):
Maybe 20 minutes or so, not super long. Okay. And you know they were looking for a timeless design, something that’s also gonna withstand earthquakes and high winds. And so the foundation of the Arch is actually 60 feet below ground and that’s so that it really anchors it to the ground and it can withstand the earthquakes and the high winds and it actually does sway a little bit in high winds and it’s built to sway up to 18 inches in either direction. Whoa. Yeah. Yeah

3 (13m 58s):
That’s a lot. And I think they even show like some of the gaps between sections because the heat will definitely cause like expansion and the cold contraction or like vice versa. So I mean there’s really a lot of technicality into the design too because then you know, if it can’t expand and shrink then it’s just gonna create one solid block which will be more likely to crack. Right. So really cool information on the, the design of it.

1 (14m 22s):
So how many feet tall do you think it is? Kim?

2 (14m 25s):
I’m gonna say 1300.

1 (14m 28s):
About half of that. It’s like 630 feet high. And how wide do you think it is? Like from one base to the other

2 (14m 35s):

1 (14m 36s):
It’s actually the same length, 650 feet.

2 (14m 40s):

1 (14m 41s):
Yeah, so lots of facts that we learned while we were at Gateway Arch. So I believe the documentary is the first thing that we did. And then after that we went in, we did the one hour ride on the St. Louis River broke cruise.

3 (14m 54s):
Yeah. And this was actually really cool. I mean I’m not gonna lie, you know, once you leave the area in front of the Arch for it, like we said earlier, I mean the Mississippi really is a river highway if you think about it from that perspective. So there’s not a lot of scenic beauty on it once you get past the portion of the cruise that’s in front of the Arch and the downtown. But it’s really cool because it puts you on like one of these old Steamboats and you kind of get to relive the past of like literally the river being the highway in that sense of things. So it’s really cool. And who, when can you say that you’ve taken a cruise along the the Mississippi River? Important

2 (15m 32s):
Question here. Were there drinks on the

3 (15m 34s):
Boat? There were drinks on the boat for purchase as a matter of fact, but there were drinks and the drinks were had Kim I could tell you that.

2 (15m 41s):
I was just gonna say did you get a drink?

1 (15m 43s):
We did, yes. And then after we did the riverboat cruise, that was about an hour, we went back inside the Arch and we took the tram ride to the top. And I really liked this because I just thought, you know, we’re gonna get online and we’re just gonna go to the top. And that was it. But it was actually a really interactive pre-boarding experience. It had a lot of sixties inspired animation and like Gateway Arch trivia and then you finally get to where you’re gonna get into the capsule and when you first get into the Gateway Arch Museum, they actually have like a sample capsule so you can see what it looks like and how many seats it fits pretty tiny. There’s five chairs but I wouldn’t say five people would fit in there comfortably.

1 (16m 25s):
And because of Covid though they weren’t filling them to max capacity, they were only doing your party. So Jamal and I got to write in our own capsule together and so you are then transported 650 feet but it’s not straight because it’s an Arch. So it’s almost like you’re doing steps in this tram as you go up and Jamal when the door closed he was like, oh my god, I’m gonna be super claustrophobic. But there’s actually a window and you can see like the inner mechanics of what it looks like within the Arch.

3 (16m 57s):
Yeah, that was actually a big sigh of relief for me. So I mean obviously I saw the capsule when we had gotten into the museum area cuz they have it like right up front. Britney’s dad’s girlfriend told us about the tram that goes to the top because she’s actually done it before. I literally felt like I was stepping into a space capsule like it’s tiny, you gotta go through this little small door door. Yeah really crunch your way through and you know, I don’t mind heights, I don’t mind a lot of stuff but I feel like I can get claustrophobic. So when it had that window I was so stoked because it took that sense away from me. But beyond that it was really cool to see the inside. I mean everyone knows what the outside looks like, right?

3 (17m 37s):
But to see the inside and the inner mechanics, like Britney said, really, really cool to check that out. And then you could even see the stairs like if there’s an emergency, the part where they have stairs to go down and I mean I can’t even imagine taking the stairs all the way to the top. I think that would actually be kind of cool.

1 (17m 52s):
So when you get out at the very top, you’re at the top of the Arch and you can actually feel that curve at the top. And then there are two windows, well maybe more than they’re like two long windows, one on each side and then you can look out and from one side you can see the St. Louis skyline. And then on the other side you’re gonna see across the Mississippi River

3 (18m 13s):
Right back into Illinois. Like I said, that’s the dividing line right there. So it’s a lot cooler to look into the Missouri and St Louis skyline side, that is for sure. But how many minutes they give us like five at top before they moved us. I

1 (18m 26s):
Feel like it was a little more like maybe 10,

3 (18m 29s):
I feel like 10 might be pushing it but point being they gave you enough time but also not a lot of time if I’m being completely honest. But it was cool to be up there, really see it and then you know you, you take your way down and you really gotta a lot about like 45 to 60 minutes for the whole tram experience to the top and down. Cuz like Britney said, before you even get into little capsules and the trams, there is this interactive experience beforehand that’s even separate from the museum that you go through.

1 (18m 56s):
And so when we were done with writing the tram, we had the whole museum that we explore, the museum like we said is underground and there were six pretty large exhibits that we could go through.

3 (19m 7s):
Yeah, a lot of them obviously pain, homage or homage. How do you even say that? I say homage. Is it homage? I think homage, homage, ho paint, homage to you know, all things really. You know St Louis, I mean you go through an area where it talks about Colonial St Louis and then obviously President Jefferson’s like vision of what the Americas should be then really at that point, because quite honestly he funded the expedition of Louis and Clark to check out the west. Where did they leave from? They left from St. Louis. Again, it all plays into that history and you know those are just a couple of the main exhibit areas. What were the other ones Britney?

1 (19m 46s):
Well there was one called New Frontiers and we got to see how people settled and lived in the west and how St. Louis began as a center of a trade way on waterways like Jamal had mentioned and then transferred into like a manufacturing city. And so they started to set up like railroads to send the goods west and then that started to create more cities and more people being interactive in like the trade culture as well.

3 (20m 12s):
I mean it was really interesting to see, I mean there’s more e exhibits and sections we’re not necessarily gonna go over all of them here. One of them in particular I found interesting because you know I was a history major so I always love this history stuff, you know Kim, how ancient ruins gets you going, history gets me going. Not that ancient ruins aren’t history but like the knowledge itself sometimes. And they had a section of Manifest Destiny and I remember always learning about this term and specifically it is in American history. Do you know what that means? Any one of you ladies manifest destiny,

2 (20m 44s):
Something you think is going to happen happens because you’ve thought it,

3 (20m 47s):
I could see how you think that cause we wanna manifest things, right? No but manifest destiny in terms of like American history means and is the whole thought process and rationale of why we expanded west, it was that it was God’s given, right? That America as a nation will be from the Atlantic to the Pacific and not just like we would do it like it was ordained by God and that was the whole thought process behind it and why we expanded west beyond resources and other stuff. But yeah, so they had a whole section within the museum, you know, talking about that. And again you could see everything really ties into the history that St. Louis as a city has to the westward expansion of the US.

1 (21m 27s):
Yeah, there are other exhibits were called like the riverfront era and building the dream. So all of the exhibits were really awesome to see beyond the museum, it’s a pretty large area underneath the Arch there is a place to get food. You know there are, there’s a gift shop and so there’s definitely a lot to see and do in the area. So you could definitely fill your half day there.

3 (21m 51s):
You know what they didn’t have as a food option down there. And you know how I say when we talk about breakfast buffets that you know, I judge it by if there’s a waffle maker, I’m starting to judge food courts by if there’s something. Do you ladies wanna take a guess on what that is? Corn

2 (22m 4s):

3 (22m 5s):
It’s gonna be a panex express. Ew, what’s up with the negative Adams ladies?

1 (22m 10s):
Like that’s what you’re looking for, you really judging because they don’t have a panex.

2 (22m 13s):
Okay, I have one. Same thing. Food courts, like mall food courts. You mean Sbarro

3 (22m 18s):
Sbarro, that’s what you look for? Yes. Well I don’t think there was a sbarro down here either. So we need to thank Zi. So we need to, we need to write the National Park Service and let them know that they need to step up the food game in there. They had, I mean they had good stuff like in terms of like mom and pop, but

2 (22m 32s):
If it’s better than the Pizza King’s Canyon National Park, well we did,

3 (22m 36s):
We didn’t eat what they had down there, but I could tell you rest assured anything that they had down there was better than the pizza that we had at King’s Canyon National Park. Sorry for that little side tangent. I’m just gonna go out and say it. I’m on a panda kick right now if you guys can’t tell

1 (22m 49s):
Jamal, I can’t fully remember but refresh my memory, someone tried to jump from the Arch like bass jump. Oh

3 (22m 57s):
Yeah. So I don’t really remember what that was. I don’t know if he went to the top and somehow no, I think what happened was somebody had skydived with the attempt to land on the Arch and he landed on the Arch, but a shoot got tangled and he fell and obviously the way it tangled and fell, it didn’t reopen to catch the air to prevent his falls. So that’s the only person, I don’t know how he would’ve gotten on top without originally skydiving first to have that fall from jumping from the top. Somebody landed and fell and perished unfortunately. But I think they were attempting to do a stunt

1 (23m 36s):
And his wife was on the grass area trying to film it. Oh

2 (23m 41s):

1 (23m 41s):
When he fell to his death

2 (23m 43s):

3 (23m 45s):
I know. Well he, he was trying to make a famous video before YouTube or something like that. It, it’s sad. And they were talked about it a couple times. I’m actually glad you brought it back up because it reminded me of that. I forgot. I think they were saying that’s one of like the more, you know, recent deaths and things that people have tried to do because of the St Louis arches stature and so he tried to do something there and you know, it didn’t work out for him unfortunately.

2 (24m 8s):
All right, well it’s ready for questions of the week. Ryan is asking what else is there to do on a trip to St. Louis.

3 (24m 24s):
Any recommendations? Kim, you were the one who said you went out to St. Louis cuz quite honestly, Britney and I came to really just go to the Arch from a trip in Chicago. So we invested the four hour drive to do it. So

2 (24m 35s):
You know, I went there in February like 2009 and it was snowing. So I would say playing the snow would be something,

3 (24m 44s):
You know, quite honestly, you know, you ask a question that I don’t know if any of us know the answer to. I did do a little bit of research cause I didn’t want to just give you an, I don’t know, two things you know really came up. Obviously number one is going to be the St. Louis Arch. That’s why we’re having an episode. It’s famous, it’s now a national park, but one of them is the Lone Elk Park Reserve, which is just outside the city, very, very close to it. So not really far at all, but it is a forested area where they have like an elk and bison preserve and I don’t think they’re natural to the area. They just have them like, you know, within the park and everything. So you can go in there, do strolls, come across that, that’d be really cool.

3 (25m 24s):
And then I did also hear and see that they have an amazing botanical gardens, one of the oldest and first botanical gardens in the United States. The Missouri Botanical Gardens are in St. Louis and definitely worth a checkout based off of other things that I’ve seen. So when I go back to St Louis, I want to do those and also throw in a game at Bush Stadium and go to a Cardinals game. Not that I’m a Cardinals fan, but I love to just go to different city ballparks,

2 (25m 49s):
St. Louis barbecue.

3 (25m 51s):
Oh well yeah, that’s true. That’s true. We didn’t do barbecue. We did do

1 (25m 54s):

3 (25m 55s):
That’s right actually, you know, I thought we didn’t, we did do barbecue but we left it off because at least where we went wasn’t noteworthy I guess if I have forgotten the fact that we went there.

2 (26m 4s):
I think breweries are pretty big out there too. Like good food and drinks. Oh

1 (26m 8s):
Yeah, Budweiser was actually founded in St. Louis. Oh,

2 (26m 11s):
Fun fact. Yeah,

3 (26m 12s):
Well that’s why the stadium’s called Bush Stadium. You know, like Budweiser, like bush beer, you know, it’s all under the same brand. Anheuser Busch.

1 (26m 19s):
Yeah, you can visit the Budweiser Clyde Tales while you’re there and sample some premium brands.

2 (26m 25s):
Next question’s coming from April from Austin and she’s asking, you mentioned you were all hosting weekend trips soon. Can you share the info with us? Good question. We have mentioned this a couple times on our Instagram and on previous episodes and something. We’re in the early stages of planning right now. We’ve been kind of playing with different ideas of doing something different because you know, we love Gate one, we love their international trips. They really hook it up with like great hotels, the transportation, the breakfast buffet, I was gonna say

3 (26m 57s):
Great food all around where they take you for the food and the hotels and around town and the

2 (27m 3s):
Oh yeah, you get to see things that you wouldn’t see if you went to that place already. And you know, in the past we’ve had on here and now travel and they specifically target people under 35 and they do really cool trips like that too. So we’ve been kind of thinking like what could we do that’s a little different that our listeners would really like? And we’ve been playing with the idea of doing weekend trips where there’s some element of nature involved, whether that’s hot springs or really cool hikes that are kind of lesser known and you know, there will be breakfast buffets involved, B

3 (27m 34s):
Breakfast buffets. How can we take you guys to a place and stay the night and not have a breakfast buffet when we talk all about the breakfast buffets? You know, we’re gonna find you a bomb one.

2 (27m 44s):
Oh hell yeah. So we’re still planning these things out right now, but we are gonna start opening up a list of people that are interested so that we can see how many people to start with. They’ll definitely be small groups to start. And two locations we’ve kind of been playing around with. One is Palm Springs where there’s this amazing ladder canyon hike out there that there’s no phone service and I feel like it does not get like any attention and it’s really epic. There’s also Idaho with some really amazing hot springs and playing in the snow and that kind of thing. And there’s a few other places that we have in mind that we’re kind of going back and forth on. So it’s actually a really great question and and we’d love to hear from you all to see if you are interested, if you have like a particular place we’ve talked about that you really wanna go or any recommendation maybe we haven’t talked about, we’d love to hear from you too.

2 (28m 36s):
Anything to add?

3 (28m 37s):
I think you summed it up pretty well. I mean still in the early stages have lots of ideas, but really obviously we would be doing these for you, so we really want your feedback. So just hit us up on our Gmail account, send us an email or DM us on either Instagram or now TikTok. And you know, give us your feedback on that, what you would like and where you would want to go. And if you’d be interested. And maybe we’re gonna pick a couple of you to be on that inauguration trip.

2 (29m 3s):
You know, we’re gonna have a waffle maker for Jamal, we

3 (29m 6s):
Gotta have a waffle maker, we gotta have a waffle maker. We’ll maybe skip the panda for some people on the on the stop later. So no worries on that.

2 (29m 13s):
All right, Scotties, thank you so much for tuning into our episode this week. Keep your adventures going with us by following us on Instagram TikTok YouTube Travel Squad Podcast, and send us any questions of the week.

3 (29m 24s):
If you found the information this episode to be useful or if you thought we were just playing funny, please be sure to share it with a friend that would enjoy it too. And as always, please subscribe, rate and review our podcast and tune in every travel Tuesday for new episodes.

1 (29m 39s):
Stay tuned for next week’s episode. We have some more amazing adventures and tips in store for you. Bye everybody. Bye.

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