Traveling is more than a hobby. Traveling is destination. Traveling is meeting family, friends, and new acquaintances. Traveling is events. Traveling is transporting oneself from the ordinary routine into an experience which cannot occur in the home place. I heard on the radio that Disney World is canceling “senior night” weekends after this year. Apparently, they started this tradition in the 1970’s when this time of year was a “slow period” between holidays, Spring Break, and the summer. However, now that there are 20,000 hotel rooms and year-round attendance, they no longer have the marketing need to make a lot of graduating high school seniors feel special. Well, my primary opinion of Disney is that it provides 20,000 hotel rooms full of people who are not cluttering up someplace that I want to experience.
I cannot envision that someone who travels to Disney does not do much more planning than booking a hotel room and airplane flight, and identifying which rides should be cool. Maybe they consult with friends about which restaurant or show to attend while there. However, we find that planning for a trip consumes more time than we will actually spend away.
My history of travel began in the late 1960’s with our trip to Japan. I had adventuresome parents. When I moved to the East coast 24 years ago, we began a new era of travel. Though occasionally visiting each other at our homes, it made just as much sense to meet somewhere else in the the country or world. This has given us a number of destinations to pursue. When Linda and I married, we expanded the travel pool, inviting my parents and Linda’s mother to London in 1994. The only limitation of this event was that I was attending a professional conference while the rest of the group spent the day touring places to which I have still not gotten back.
About this time, my parents joined the “time-share” owners. This has become a useful commodity to “bank” and “exchange” for alternative locations, such as Spain, Italy, and Scotland. More recently, our travels have been initiated by high school, and now college graduations. After Drew’s graduation we cruised the Inland Passage of Alaska. Between Christopher’s and Nick’s graduations we drove through the eastern section of Utah and Arizona with Sue and Charlie. Now, between Ben’s (college) and Zack’s (actually his final Jazz Concert, rather than his graduation) we will set out on our first RV trip with Emily. Watch for upcoming “brown sign” blogs…
Once we have approximate dates and region for travel, we still follow some of the pre-internet planning steps: accumulating books and maps. Browsing these familiarizes us with names of places that would interest us. From there, the layers of options build up. This is were marriage provides you the forum for understanding and appreciating that each approaches the options differently. If you traveled with a friend and did not quite have the same style for travel, you could just avoid inviting him or her along the next time. Marriage limits this option, unless your prefer time away from each other. I lean toward the make-the-decision-and-go-with-it. Linda leans toward that-sounds-great-and-what-do-you-think-about (at which point she gives 5 to 16 other options). She has learned to appreciate the detail to which I enjoy exploring. I’m working on recognizing her enthusiasm for each option. However, ultimately our construct of time determines how much we can do, and some events do require reservations.
The internet enhances the planning process by giving us quick data through web-searches, and allowing us to accumulate more planning information. On our last trip in this region, we found that we like a certain tour book, which focused on individual National Parks or points of interest. A simple Google search filled my Christmas stocking with that series of books for each of the major locations which we anticipated visiting. Wow, what quick way to spend a couple hundred dollars and prevent me from collecting and hauling all these books around (as well as home).
For months, our coffee table rotates between layers of travel itinerary books, destination books, novels about the region or written by authors from that area, and maps folded to the section which we are exploring at that time. Colorful Post-It tabs begin to fill the edges of the travel books: those on top first-choice options, those on the side alternative options. Yellow, blue, orange, pink highlighters categorize potential destinations and other information to enhance saturated memories. Ultimately, e-mails or phone calls secure reservations for those activities which will create the general structure and budget for the trip.
By the week before our departure, we have generated lists of items to pack, items to send ahead (this trip includes two weekends of more formal events, with two weeks of hiking in between, so some items we use early and late, and other in the middle), items to purchase (such as groceries for the RV leg of the trip). We have pages photocopied from specific books from which we want limited but important information, but not the other 200 pages of the book. We have the bed piled with clothing essentials and options. With pay-per-bag flying these days, we opt for the larger suitcases, rather than more but smaller luggage. We tally the food and left-overs in the refrigerator to calculate whether we need to cook more meals before we leave. We pay the bills ahead of schedule. We have the mail held. We arrange for friends to take care of the critters and garden, and do routine patrols (yes, he has a concealed weapons permit, you don’t need to ask). Everything in it’s place? Back to planning… for the next trip?