Why I Plan So Much

I talk a lot about travel planning on this site. I confess that I’m an over-planner, I tell you how to set yourself up for a great road trip or flight with little kids.   I plan and I plan and I plan. I can hear you asking, “Why, my dear, do you do this?”  I’m glad you asked and there are two reasons.

  1. I like to plan.  It is how I’m wired. I think it is fun to work through logistics and enjoy a trip long even before I leave. Heck, I even like planning other people’s trips!
  2. I like to have some idea of what is coming my way, a basic framework upon which I can rely.  It allows to me relax and just enjoy, or at least handle, the experiences when they come.
    • Specifically, when we travel I like to know where I am going to lay my head each night and that I can keep everyone healthy by having decent food choices available. When we travel with our dog, it is a bit more complicated because not every place will take a dog.  I know this limits our flexibility but otherwise I’d worry all day about where we would stay and I wouldn’t enjoy the time away.  Besides, it’s not the end of the world to cancel a reservation if plans change drastically.

Honestly, when we leave on a trip, I stop worrying.  Whatever happens, happens.  I have prepared for most contingencies and I know that we can handle nearly anything that may come our way.

Some examples:

  • My husband was stung by several bees.  I had Benadryl.  It was a non-issue after that and we went on with life.
  • We got stopped at the border because the guards thought we had stolen our own car. I had all of the paperwork proving otherwise so it was a matter of a phone call to verify once the bureau opened in our state.
  • I have my bag searched rather frequently when flying (and sometimes when driving over borders).  I pack well and keep like things together, frequently in see-through containers. This keeps the searches to a minute or two and I am on my way.
  • We’ve faced major road closures in faraway places. I have electronic and paper maps in the car to re-route.
  • We’ve been stuck in traffic for hours on end behind terrible accidents. We stop regularly to fill the gas tank and use facilities. We keep snacks, entertainment, and blankets easily accessible.

We try to drive and fly as safely as we can but things happen. We know that we are prepared and whatever happens, we will roll with it. There is really no other choice. As long as everyone makes it through the trip, the stories usually become funny anecdotes once enough time has passed.

In short, the reason I plan (besides that I enjoy it) is because weird things happen on vacation!  (Seriously, this should be my tagline. Can I copyright that?)

Plan well and move on my friends!

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The Upper Midwest & Pacific Northwest – Part 1

This is the first in the New Adventures series.  In this series, I will be outlining plans for future trips. I expect this series will cover most of 2019 and perhaps spill into 2020.

These posts will contain a variety of information based on location, modes of transportation, budgets, etc.  I plan to have a Stats section at the top of each post to provide a snapshot of what’s to come.  Each trip will come in a set of posts. There will typically be an itinerary post like this one, followed by one or more posts about what to do in each location, and, when needed, a packing post. 

I’m starting with the Upper Midwest and Pacific Northwest for two reasons:
1. It is close by, relatively speaking.
2. There seem to be a few states that I haven’t seen, as in nearly all of them.

Where I've Been

Let’s head out, shall we?

Stats

Mode of transportation: Personal vehicle, road trip!
Miles: roughly 5,100 + 500 for extra excursions further off of the highway.
Hours in the car: roughly 83
Days:  22
States: 11 (I am not counting our home state.)
Travelers: 2 adults, 1 teenager, 1 tiny dog
Visas/paperwork: None. All of the humans are US citizens and our dog is not a restricted breed anywhere.
Overnights: 21
Airbnbs: 6
Hotels: 6
Campgrounds (tent camping): 2
Estimated Cost of Transportation: $560 (5,600 miles at 35 mpg and $3.50 per gallon. We drive a hybrid sedan and usually get 37-40 mpg so this is a conservative estimate,)
Estimated Cost of Lodging
:  $2,700  (I pad the costs a bit to help with budgeting but it comes out to about $130 per night for private, pet-friendly spaces with kitchens, real beds for everyone, wi-fi, usually a washing machine, and parking included.)
Estimated food costs: $1,000 (This assumes that we will mostly buy prepared food.  With included breakfast and cooking for ourselves, we can bring this way down.) 
Running Total Cost: $4,260
Major Points of Interest for Our Family: Chicago, University of Wisconsin- Madison, Minneapolis, Glacier National Park, Seattle, Portland, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore

The Route:

We live near Indianapolis so we will start there.
1. Chicago, IL – 3-hour drive – we’ll leave home early and the time change will work in our favor – overnight – Airbnb ($200).  BTW, options include a Harry Potter themed apartment!

2. Madison, WI – 2-hour drive – stop for lunch and wander around Univ. of Wisconsin campus to stretch our legs. 
This is a point of interest for us since a dear friend attended this school.  Since it is on the way, we want to stop. 

3. Minneapolis, MN – 4-hour drive – 2 overnights – Airbnb ($300)
We have friends who live here now so we’d love to visit with them. Besides, it’s a pretty cool city.

4. Bismarck, ND – 6-hour drive – overnight – Hotel ($100) Country Inn & Suites

5. Minot, ND – 2-hour drive – overnight – Hotel ($80) Microtel by Wyndham

6. Havre, MT – 6.5-hour drive – overnight – Hotel ($120) AmericInn by Wyndham * Time Zone Change to Mountain Time Zone

7. Glacier National Park – 4.5-hour drive – 2 overnights – camp in the park ($46 – $23/night at Many Glacier Campground.  We can make reservations ahead of time and though there are no showers at the campground, it is a short walk to a motel that has coin-operated showers. Not luxury travel by any means but adventures come in many forms!)

8. Spokane, WA – 5-hour drive – overnight – Airbnb ($100)  *Time Zone Change to Pacific Time Zone

9. Seattle, WA –  4-hour drive  – 3 overnights – Airbnb ($500)

10. Portland, OR – 3-hour drive – 2 overnights – Airbnb ($400)

11. Wallace, ID – 6.5-hour drive – overnight – Airbnb ($100)

12. Yellowstone National Park – 5.5-hour drive – 2 overnights – camp in the park  ($47  – $23.50 per night.  Reservations required for Bridge Bay Campground.)  *Time Zone Change to Mountain Time Zone

13. Gillette, WY – 5.5-hour drive – overnight – Airbnb ($150)

14. Mount Rushmore – 2.5-hour drive – overnight – Hotel ($250).  This is a bit high for us for one night. We might actually keep going after our stop at the monument.  This is a gamble though, South Dakota has wide stretches between population centers. 

15. Jackson, MN – 6.5-hour drive – overnight  – Hotel ($160) AmericInn by Wyndham   *Time Zone Change to Central Time Zone

16. Davenport, IA – 5.5-hour drive – overnight – Hotel ($130) My Place.  This is a chain I haven’t heard of and this is a newly built facility but it comes highly rated.  

17. Indianapolis – 4.5-hour drive – home (We already pay the mortgage so it costs us nothing extra.) *Time Zone Change to Eastern Time Zone

Photo by Peter Fazekas on Pexels.com

This is, admittedly, an ambitious trip.  Driving 5,100 miles in 21 days is quite a bit.  This breaks down to about 4 hours of driving per day.  Since we will not be changing location every day, some days will require more driving than just 4 hours.  Luckily, my husband likes to drive, my daughter and I are excellent passengers, and my dog settles down within 30 minutes. 

Why Airbnb vs. Hotels?
(Please note that I did not list individual homes for Airbnbs above. I did extensive research and that is what we would pay but since they are people’s private homes and that seems wrong.)
We like Airbnb for several reasons.
-We get to live like locals so we have a more authentic experience of what life is like there. We do like points of interest now and then but we really just want to get a feel for the place. 
-We’ve always had good luck though we do expect that our luck will eventually run out.
-If we have a whole place there are fewer people to annoy if our dog barks for a few minutes when we need to leave him for a few hours if we are headed somewhere we can’t take him.  He is crated though so we don’t worry that he destroy anything.**
– We can cook for ourselves to keep costs down.
-We can get a washing machine pretty regularly.
**It is very important that when you initially contact hosts you tell them you have a dog with you. I usually describe ours as a “house-trained, crate-trained, 14-pound cutie pie who is in his crate at night and whenever we can’t be with him.” It is best to be upfront with people, so much trouble can ensue if you are not. 
Lest you think we are big meanies, we’ve tried for years to get him to sleep out of his crate or to be able to wander around the house while we are not home but he REALLY likes his crate.  Therefore, we respect his den animal ways. 

Airbnb filters used for this trip:
-Entire Place
-3 adults (Our teenager is over the age of 12 and counts as an adult.)
-Pet-Friendly
-2 actual beds (This is a long trip and our child is taller than me so we do not ask her to sleep on a pull-out, futon, or air mattress  unless it is absolutely necessary.)
-WiFi
-Washing machine at least every 3 or 4 days though most places I found did have one. (We bring 5-7 days of clothes and wash as we go.)
-Superhost
I also scour the reviews looking for the words clean, kind, and awesome as well as dirty, not what I expected, and difficult.  We have excellent guest ratings because we work hard to leave homes in great shape. We are usually able to give excellent ratings to the hosts as well but we have to be honest.  It is best to be prepared for what you may encounter rather than ding someone for something you could/should have known before you booked. 

So why are you staying in hotels instead of Airbnb sometimes?
This is usually for one of two reasons. 
1. There are no viable Airbnbs available in that location. This is almost always the reason on this trip.
2. We will be a bit unpredictable in our arrival making it hard to meet a host.
When booking hotels, I like to Booking.com because I can filter much the same way as on Airbnb. A word of warning though, I had to click “pet-friendly” for each new search in each new city. 

Why do you sometimes camp?
In some of the National Parks, we have little choice but to do so if we want to stay in the park.  Also, our daughter enjoys camping and all family members have a say on what we do and where we go when we plan trips. My husband and I have done lots of camping and don’t mind doing so now and then. Besides, you can get some AMAZING views from campsites in National Parks. The fresh air makes for great sleeping too just be smart about where you book. For tent camping, you will want shade and a generator free zone. No one sleeps well in a hot tent surrounded by exhaust and noise.

Should you rent an RV instead?
Well, let’s see.
I checked that out at a few places around Indianapolis. I found that the cost of renting an RV would be:
$3200 for the smallest vehicle (there are only 3 of us plus a small dog)
$2,000 for the mileage. I eastimate 5,600 miles and they usually charge 35 to 40 cents per mile.
$1,650 for the gas (5,600 miles at 12 mpg and $3.50 per gallon – here’s hoping the gas mileage would be that good)
$735 for campground fees averaging around $35/night (The actual average range for campsites fees is $30 to $50 but there are some ways around that including being able to park at a Cabela’s or a Wal-Mart for free overnight. You have to run climate control/fridge/etc. off your battery though and you have no water or sewer hook ups.  If you plan to stay at either of these stores overnight, you need to ask the manager’s permission.  There are a few that do not allow it for one reason or another.)
$500 for food (we’d be able to cook a lot more)
Comparable RV total: $8,085*

*This does not include transportation into the cities and/or wasted time looking for city parking that would accommodate even a small RV. 

 

Our Airbnb Road Trip Through New England and Canada

From time to time I will be sharing the lost posts of Dream Depart Explore. This is one such post as we took this trip in July and August of 2016. We did then enjoy time away in Scotland as mentioned and it went just as well.  Stay tuned for lost Scotland posts as well. Now, without further ado, our thoughts on a road trip that relied heavily on Airbnb to provide places to lay our heads as we dreamed happy vacation dreams.


We ADORE our immediate family, our extended family, and our friends who live in the Northeast and that is why we travel there so often.  This past summer though we decided to get our munchkin (I need a new nickname, she and I literally see eye-to-eye these days) to the parts of the Northeast she hadn’t seen yet.  Until this year she had been to New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts many times but that was it. So off we went.

This was the longest family vacation we have taken to date and we brought the dog. (Yes, some of my animal issues have subsided, who couldn’t love this face?)

We were gone for 16 days and drove over 3500 miles. My hubby is a champ!!

Our itinerary was a bit strange in that it wasn’t all that efficient. Though one of the main goals of this trip was to give small-fry (nope, that’s not better) a chance to explore the New England states she had yet to visit, we also wanted to be respectful of our family members. We stayed with each of my brothers for 3 nights and wanted those to be mostly on the weekends. We may have been on vacation but they weren’t and still had jobs to get to as did the rest of our friends and family we were hoping to see.

In 15 nights on the road, we stayed in 9 different places.  Two were siblings’ homes, 1 hotel, 1 traditional bed & breakfast, and 5 Airbnbs.  Before this trip we had stayed in just one Airbnb in Wisconsin.  Did I mention I LOVE Door County?  We had such a great experience and saved so much money, we decided to really test our luck on this trip.  It was an excellent decision!

We were able to stay much closer to the action than we could have in traditional hotels so we saved a lot of time. We also saved quite a bit of money even with paying for parking in Boston.  It is tricky to find hotels that will allow dogs, even house trained, crate trained, non-shedding, hypoallergenic, 12 pound cutie pies. When you do find them, there is usually a $35-ish charge per night and there is not much in the way of a safe place to walk the puppy.  By staying in Airbnbs (use that pet filter well my friends) we had lots of options, nearly all of them cheaper than hotels in the same area. We had neighborhoods and parks to explore and we got to meet lots of nice neighbors walking their own dogs.

During this trip we stayed in entire homes or apartments. When we travel with kiddo (yes!) we tend to do this.  It is much easier to have our own space. However, when my husband and I travel by ourselves or as a couple we are just as likely to stay in private rooms within family homes.

So, where did we stay?

Let me open my handy app and check it out!

  • In Boston we stayed in a fun and funky lofted apartment in a brownstone in Beacon Hill not far from Boston Public Gardens and Boston Common.  We parked our car and forgot about it for 3 days as we walked everywhere.  Thanks to our apartment in Back Bay, we were close enough to everything to do so.  This all went so well that my daughter now has her eyes on Boston/Cambridge for college. She’s thinking MIT.  We’ll see!
  • In Portland, Maine we stayed in a house that I’d guess was about 100 years old and had been converted to apartments. It was right down the street from a large park and a donut shop. Apparently they are the best donuts in Maine so we dutifully checked them out. They did NOT disappoint! We also visited the Portland Museum of Art and enjoyed time in the cafe and gift shop. Not far away was the Spring Point Ledge Light.  Before we left the state we did make sure to stop at the LLBean outlets in Freeport.  We spent nearly all day there, actually.  It did my New England heart good!
  • In Vermont we stayed on a farm that came with goats and chickens and my daughter saw more stars than she has ever seen growing up in suburbia. (On our upcoming trip out west she insists that we camp a few nights so she can see more!) We were within a mile of the Ben & Jerry’s Factory.  Bonus: Our host pointed us to The Reservoir restaurant in town.  We enjoyed the wine at dinner so much that the next day we took off for the vineyard.
  • In Montreal we stayed in a converted cigarette factory that had the most gorgeous pool and patio on the roof.  Once again it was walking distance to what we needed.  There is a very eclectic set of restaurants and shops about 2 blocks away. Three blocks or so away and we found the Metro which we used well.  Among other places, we hopped a ride as we headed to the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal. They had the coolest Pompeii exhibit while we were there.  The permanent collection is well worth the trip too.
  • In London, Ontario we stayed in the most spectacular basement apartment I’ve ever seen. It was so clean and modern, and extremely well appointed. This was a stopover point for us but the hosts (who live upstairs) were extremely kind and hospitable. There wasn’t anything we needed that they didn’t provide for us.

The best part? We had our own local guides to ask for activity and restaurant suggestions. We even had people who located dog parks for us and drove us over to them!

We met the nicest people and have memories to last a lifetime. We did so well that when hubby and I head over the pond to Scotland in May we will be staying exclusively in Airbnbs.  Some are entire homes and some are private rooms, one even has a dog.  Wish us luck!  Check back here to see how it went.

If you are interested in trying Airbnb for yourself, feel free to use my link here to get $40 off your first home booking of $75 or more.

**This is not a paid post, I am simply an enthusiastic Airbnb community member who loves to share my experiences with others.

New Adventures

 

Things here have been super crazy these last several years hence the break-neck speed of my posts coming at you about once a year!

This year I plan to, well, plan. We have quite a number of trips on our bucket lists here at my house. We don’t have exact timelines for these trips yet and a lot of the timing will depend on the time and money required to take each trip.  I know, this is quite a startling revelation as we are obviously the only people with those parameters.

Anyway, I will be planning trips that I want to take.  I will be researching flight costs, lodging options, car rentals, travel insurance, visas, attractions, etc. The goal is to have a set of trips ready to go whenever we can fit them into our schedule.  My dear readers, I hope that you enjoy reading through these plans and I welcome information that you would like to share.  Honestly though, whether anyone but me and my family ever reads these plans makes no difference to me.  Our child is getting older and we have a limited number of years left to take her on adventures with us before she is off on her own adventures.  We want to be sure to share as many trips and experiences as possible in the next few years. Time marches on.