i came back from vegas last weekend (trip report to follow soon). surprisingly, i am not suffering from post-trip depression like i usually do. however, i suddenly am experiencing a strong wanderlust and not one for big city traveling. i really want to do a trip involving nature instead of cities (like san francisco, washington d.c., or new orleans). i've grown up going camping and enjoying hiking/biking/walking/swimming in lakes. my fiance grew up in the bronx...so um he is not so comfortable in a tent in nj with bears roaming around (we discovered this a couple of years ago when i finally convinced him to go camping). needless to say, we have not been back in a tent. my fiance has agreed that we should go to a national park like yellowstone or grand teton. i haven't been in the north or northwest (farthest north and northwest i've been is michigan). i actually haven't even been to california. but i digress. i'm trying to determine the best place to go in the u.s. i really can't afford to travel often, and usually the once a year vegas trip is all i can do. but something came over me this week when i realized that i want to travel, and waiting years and years until i feel financially secure is silly since i am a paranoid person and probably never will feel financially secure. i've always wanted to travel, but this feeling was different. i am sick of worrying about saving money to the point where i am not enjoying life. yeah, i have huge student loans to pay back. we're getting married next year, so we have wedding costs. oh and we're looking to buy a house within a year or two as well. so these are some big big expenses. i also don't have benefits at work, which means i don't get paid time off. whenever, i take a vacation, i lose part (or all) of my paycheck. so in addition to the actual cost of taking a break, i lose income too. buuuuuuut i just was notified i would be getting a 20% raise effective july 2. i realized that putting off travel is not necessary. we want to have kids in the next couple of years, and everyone i know that has kids puts off travel until the kids are such and such age. also expenses tighten when you have kids (especially if you'll be going from two incomes to one), so you're less likely to travel. another reason to travel now instead of waiting is i am in good health. who knows what could happen in the future. traveling now is easy on me mentally and physically. same goes for my fiance. i don't really know what our budget would be since i don't know what is realistic for trips like these. my fiance and i are pretty frugal, and i am confident we can do some more traveling on a small budget. we are in nj, so driving to these places would be crazy...however we want to be able to take our dog, so it seems like a road trip would be required. do you think it is a good idea to take our dog on trips like these? or would it be better to leave him with our dog sitter? basically, i am asking for some suggestions from fellow travelers. please only suggest locations you personally have visited. i am considering yellowstone, grand teton, mt. rushmore, badlands/black hills. anyone been to these places? anyone have other favorites? thanks!!