As I’ve said on more than one occasion, I Love To Travel! I love to fly, drive away, see new places, see new faces. I subscribe to the old saying, “A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet!” So is a strange land! For me, part of the excitement of travel is the anticipation of all that we will experience! Dreaming, researching, discovering… brochures, tour books, and maps all hold fascination for me! I love the challenge (and my husband trusts me with the responsibility) of planning a trip which will excite each family member and cause them to light up with joy. I am thrilled to gaze at photos of delightfully decorated rooms in historic homes, now serving as Bed and Breakfasts, and imagine myself staying there! I may never live in a home built a hundred or more years ago, but for a day or two, I can imagine I do! Deciding between an array of alternatives–places to go, people to see, things to do–what fun it is! (Unless there are too many altenatives:) But, normally, for me, planning is pure pleasure! So, I thought I would share with you my planning procedure. Here is part 1 of how I went about planning our trip to Washington, DC.
Beginning to Plan
- Decide where you’re going
- Decide how you’re going (fly or drive)
- Though our destination was Washington, DC, it was a big decision how we would get there! 3 of us wanted to fly, and I had been saving the miles until we had enough to cover the trip, but 1 of us wanted to drive, and that one was very important. Discussion continued.
- Decide approximately when you’re going
- My husband chose fall. I looked at the calendar and wanted as much time to plan as possible, feeling very unready, but not wanting it to get really cold, or to be past the beautiful fall colors. I had a good weather experience going out east in late September/early October on our last trip. I thought there’d be less crowds in October. Leave on a Friday, return on a Saturday or Sunday. Stay 2 weeks. I tentatively chose my dates based on these considerations. This, too, could be changed, if necessary, as long as we hadn’t made any reservations. I was rewarded in my choice when I read that October was one of the three best months to travel to DC.
Both of these decisions may change, but you need to have a foundation to begin.
As I began my planning, and being AAA members, I picked up Tourbooks for the area we’d be sightseeing mostly in, and one of the surrounding areas, which hadn’t been decided on yet. I also happened on some maps of the city of Washington, and the Mall, at Barnes and Noble, which I bought.
I stopped in at my local library and checked out their shelves. I found Fodor’s travel book to the area and another gem called, “Washington with Kids” and checked them out.
There were way too many things to do and see for us to see them all! So, I asked the family members to give me their top 3 “must see or must do” choices, since there appeared to be two or three times what we’d have time to see in the area. (This wasn’t very successful early on, but the priorities have been forthcoming as time has passed.)
I started looking at flights, hotels, and rental vehicles online, and getting an idea of costs.
The Planning had begun!
Step 2 in Planning a Trip
- I started a notebook.
- For me, keeping all the information organized and being able to easily and quickly find the results of my research was extremely important. I am a notebook kind of gal. If you prefer keeping your information on the computer, then a file, files or spreadsheet will work well. I did bookmark many a webpage.
- In my notebook I included a page for Estimating Expenses, Things To Do Before We Go, Attractions To See While We’re There, a makeshift Calendar which covered the days of the vacation, and a page that had contact and other information for each of the places I researched (including the hours a certain museum was open, phone/email, cost to get in, any pertinent information) and where I’d gotten that information (e.g. Tourbook, page 241) so I could find it again.
- So, I had a page in my notebook for “Things To Do Before We Leave” and included on it things like: Buy new walking shoes and break them in; see our lawyer and update our will:); ask someone to check on our house. “Things To Do While We’re There” included places I already knew about, such as Mt. Vernon (George Washington’s Home) but was added to as I discovered new ideas. This was a long list, and not written in stone. Later I would prioritize and rate by most-wanted-to-see. I grouped the items on “Things To Do While We’re There” by location, as much as possible. Doing a number of things in one location would save us time, and save our feet and energy.
- I prioritized the Planning
- As I read, I kept on seeing encouragements to make reservations for tours, and contact your Congressman, 1-6 months in advance! I put it on my list of things to do to contact my congressman as soon as I could.
- I also knew it was important to get flights booked, and hotels reserved.
- I did research online to find out how long it would take to drive to the area. Then, as we still had not decided whether to drive or fly, I made two itineraries, one if we drove and one if we flew. We would have 3-4 less days to sightsee in DC if we drove, but if we drove, we could drive through and possibly see things in areas we had not travelled to before. (I quickly realized we had to make the decision whether to fly or drive! As my husband really wanted to drive, I quickly submitted–I really wanted to fly, so the quickness and completeness with which I submitted was definitely a work of the Holy Spirit, and one of those times when you have to look past your husband and see God leading through him, and say, Ok, Lord, there’s some reason we’re not supposed to fly. I don’t know what it is, but You do, and so, I will accept that.)
So, Where to stay, What to drive, and Contacting my Congressman were my top priorities.
Once having decided to drive, and knowing how long it would take, I began checking car rentals. This was another shocking experience! It was going to cost a lot of money to rent a vehicle to drive that far for that long. I wasn’t finding any good news online about car rental or hotel costs. (It’s really expensive to stay in DC!) If I had found any hotels or car rental information that sounded good, I would have recorded that in my notebook. This was becoming serious, though. I continued to report my findings to my husband, (and my kids) and we discussed the options.
All the way through this process I was praying. Now, I was praying hard! “Lord, I can’t get this all done! There’re too many options! What do You want us to do: fly or drive? Where do You want us to stay? It’s so expensive, Lord. Please help us find exactly where You want us to stay, and do what You want us to do.”
I have found from planning previous trips that I have an objective in taking a particular vacation, but God has an objective, as well. His objective includes people we will meet that we have no idea about, and “chance happenings” which I could not possibly plan: people we are to tell about Him, situations into which He desires us to bring the presence of the Holy Spirit, people He wants us to pray with and for, and experiences which He will use to mold us and direct us in our future. I must lay my plans, goals, desires, and objectives in His Hands if I and my family are to be where He wants us, accomplishing His objectives on this trip.