Friday, November 20, 2009

Travel Studies: Plan a Trip

"Travel is intensified living---maximum thrills per minute,
and one of the last great sources of adventure.
Travel is freedom. It's recess, and we need it."
Rick Steves

How would you like to get three trips for the price of one? I do it all the time. The first trip is in my imagination as I pore over maps, research cities, locate hotels and plan scenic drives. The second is the trip we actually go on, with all it's wonders, bumps, and wake-up calls. The third is the trip we remember (which is often more fun than the trip we took!)

A freebie is a trip you plan and remember but don't actually take. I've had several of those, too.

Travel is one of our top priorities. Dee and I met on a semester abroad, so we started out traveling together. Over our forty years we've traveled rich and we've traveled poor; we've stayed at the George V in Paris, and a motel in Reno where we had to insert a quarter to get hot water (and both places are memorable.) Expensive can be dowdy, and cheap can be charming: the Daylite Donuts in Idaho Falls are as tasty as the Chocolate Soup at Max Brenner's in New York City—just different.

Here's how we plan a trip.

The TravelinOma Bookshelf

Yellow pad at the ready, we decide how many days we have available, and how much money we can spend. We divide the money into the days and set priorities—Cool hotel? Drive til we drop? Are we taking any kids? (Traveling with Kids is an upcoming class.) What kind of trip do we want?
  1. Got to Get Out of Here: $300 divided by 6 = Ghost towns near Reno.
  2. Have a Little Money: $1000 divided by 5 = drive somewhere far and stay on the outskirts of town, or drive to somewhere close and stay ritzy.
  3. Special Event Long Weekend: $2000 divided by 4 = fly far away, stay in an out-of-the-way romantic inn.
  4. We've Saved For This: $5000 divided by 5 = fly farway, stay posh, shop at Bloomingdale's.
  5. We've Researched This: $5000 divided by 10 = fly faraway, stay charming. (We'll plan Europe on a Budget next week.)
TravelinOma Desk

With a map handy for distances, list some places you'd like to go. Or go online to TripAdvisor and get inspiration. Do you want a leisurely destination vacation? Or an on-the-go journey?

When choosing a hotel I try to imagine how we'll feel after each day. Will we want a hotel in the center of the action, or will we want to be secluded in a lodge by the lake? Will we arrive early enough to explore, or will that be on the next morning's docket? Which hotels offer free parking? Is valet in-and-out parking available in a downtown location? Do they offer breakfast, or is a restaurant within walking distance? Should we stay in one hotel for several nights and make day trips, or do we want to tour a different village every afternoon and try new hotels?

Hotels matter to me. I want air-conditioning and elevators that work, so I research hotels online, and read comments by recent guests. I look up bookstores and restaurants, shopping streets and tourist attractions, and find a hotel that is close to what we like to do. Because I've been stung, I never book online. They take your money immediately, for the whole stay, and sometimes you can't get a refund if your plans change.

Call the hotel directly (google the name of the hotel and look for a local number, not the 1-800 reservation service) and ask for their best rate. Then say, "Do you have anything for less?" They always do! If that price is higher than what you saw online, tell them. They will lower it to the online price.

I've secured my rate, I ask about the room amenities, telling them I want a corner room (they are bigger), a good view, etc. and I usually get what I want for the same price. They hold the reservation with a credit card, but I'm not obligated and I can cancel within 24 hours with no charge.

Last week we went to Sun Valley, Idaho for a writer's conference. I called some hotels and asked for their best rate. (Busy weekend=$189.) Then I asked if that room was available at a discount price for AARP (or AAA, or student rate, or business rate, or whatever category you fit into.) The discount rate was $172. I asked if this was for 2 queens or a king. No matter what their answer was, I said, "Could I have a cheaper rate for the other room?" Suddenly it was available for $161. I said I'd call back after I'd checked around. When I called back I said, "I was told this room was $161. Do you have a cheaper rate?" Three out of five times they lowered it!

So, we were guaranteed a standard room with two queens for $152. When we checked in I noticed they had vacancies. I asked if they could upgrade us to a bigger room. We stayed in a gorgeous suite for $152! It doesn't always work, but I've found it's worth it to ask.

As fun preparation, I haunt the library and bookstores and read everything I can about where we're going. Reading novels and watching movies set in the location gets me in the mood, and I absorb enough history to arouse my interest. For example, Hemingway lived in Sun Valley, so we listened to The Immovable Feast while we drove, and then visited his grave in Ketchum, ate at the inn where he lived, and saw the deer he shot.

I leave time for serendipity, but I like to have a rough itinerary. We have often changed plans in the middle of a trip because of weather, or unexpected diversions, but having a general idea of where we're going and what we want to see eliminates stress. It helps to have a list of things to do if it rains, and the phone numbers of another hotel or two nearby, just in case.

After the planning part of the trip, the real travel begins. With the research propped behind us we are free to be flexible. We always anticipate the unexpected and savor the contrasts. Travel is addicting. Dee and I began our life together traveling, and I hope we never stop. In fact, our favorite activity while we're on a trip is to start planning our next one!

Homework: Do any or all of these assignments or be inspired.

~List ten places you'd like to go someday. Write a paragraph about your ideal type of trip. Prompt: "I don't like to ___when I'm on vacation. I go away so I can____."

~Blog about a trip that was a disaster. Ideas: "Our honeymoon should have been perfect, but" or "I woke up in Disneyland with chickenpox."

~Fantasize about arriving at your dream destination. Prompt: "I looked out the window of the taxi and saw the . . ."

~Write about someone famous you saw while on vacation. How did they look? What did you do? What do you wish you'd done?

~How has travel changed you? Prompt: "After I went to___, I felt differently about___."

*If you do any part of this assignment on your blog, link it back to TravelinOma. And please leave a comment here with a link to your blog as part of our class discussion. I'll be keeping track, and spot checking your work, giving points for participation. You can grade your own work, based on your individual progress. (A for Accomplishment, B for Basic Effort, C for Class Comments, D for thinking this post is Dumb, and F for Failure to Communicate.)

Here's the button for your blog.
I hope I did it right this time.

Several people have asked how to create a link to their homework assignment. I'm not too savvy. When I leave a comment on somebody's blog for the first time, there's a pop-up asking for my name (I say TravelinOma) my email, and my URL ( I check the remember me box and from then on my comments automatically link back to my blog without me doing anything.

The only other way I know is to type in your address and we can cut and paste it into our address bar at the top.

I was able to find everyone that commented about doing assignments today. I'm totally overwhelmed by the participation!! You are awesome, and I'm scared to death that I won't live up to my own hype. I've had comments or emails from 137 people, and I've visited every blog that was open to me so I could meet you all. (Which is why it is now 3:20 am and I'm just finishing up.)

I'm so impressed with your creativity and feel humbled that you're even reading my stuff. You have motivated me to improve. I encourage everyone to check out the comments and visit the links. Some of your writing had me in tears, and others of you had me laughing out loud. It's been a fun day!


Christie said...

You could write books about this topic. You have such good advice!

kenju said...

Christie beat me to it - you REALLY SHOULD write a book!!!

soybeanlover said...

Thanks for the nice background!
Here's my offering

janabananagirl said...

Here's a quick HTML code lesson for the day on how to post a link.

Step 1–type two sets of brackets like this: <>*<>. (It has to be these brackets. Any others won't work.)

Step 2–Inside the first bracket, type the following (I'm using my blog address as an example): a href="http;//"

Step 3–Inside the second set of brackets type /a.

Step 4–Replace the * in between the brackets with the text you want people to see. In my link below, I put the word "here".

If you've done it correctly, all of that text should turn into this here. If this still doesn't make sense, go visit and look at the example under "Links."

Alana said...


I had the same trouble figuring this out, and this way is super easy.

Just go to your OWN blog and act like you're creating a NEW post.

Write everything as you want it to show up here in the comments, like...

This is my link.

Then create the link (to your post) on that sentence as you normally would if you were putting it on your own blog.

After you do that just highlight the whole thing and up at the right-hand side of blogger there is a tab that says "compose" and one that says "Edit HTML". Click on Edit HTML and it will show you the HTML code.

Then copy that whole thing (now shown in HTML), bring it on over to the comments at TravelinOma and paste! Voila!

Great prompts TravelinOma! I'll be back with a post!

crissy // mama boss said...

Done! I got up early so I could do my homework before the kids woke up.
Todays homework just makes me want to hop on a plane and take a vacation! It was fun to imagine trips I'd like to take.


diane said...

This might be my favorite day of school ever.

I am currently planning our 25th anniversary trip. The planning and anticipation really is half the fun.

Jennifer said...

Thanks for your nice comment on my blog, TravelinOma! Here's my assignment:

I Would Rather Have Had a Root Canal

Alyssa said...

I am a travel addict and you described perfectly my philosophy on travel - especially the pre-trip planning/day dreaming stage. Hopefully I'll have a minute to write more about this today. And I thought I would only participate on Mondays . . .
Oh, and I figured out the way to have your post show up at the bottom as linked if you use Blogger. Simply paste the url of the post you are linking to (in this case Oma's Travel Studies: Plan a Trip post) in the box below the subject that is titled "Link".

Amanda said...

this got me really thinking and exploring...

Alana said...

Thanks Oma, this was great fun!

I. Fear. Cruise Ships.

Miranda said...

I'm doing this assignment by hand today but I did want to say that I'm inspired to start turning my "family visits" into vacations. We are in a new place for goodness sake!

~Kristina said...

great prompts today!
thanks so much for doing this.

Rebekah Writes said...

Marissa Marie said...

Here's the link to my "travel study" assignment.

Allison said...

Love this topic! I wrote a blog post and have plenty of ideas to write in journal later tonight.

P.S., Oma, you are wonderful for reading all these assignments and commenting on them! Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

thanks for your comments on my post- it means a lot to me!

and i'm shocked with myself- but i actually did day 2's homework as well!!

today's post

OurSoundHome said...

This was a fun assignment! It was fun getting all my travel ideas and dreams onto one list.

My assignment: here

Melissa said...

Great advice! Can't wait to try it out

Assignment 2

Jessica said...

I love love love to travel and can't wait to post on this assignment. I was so inspired by yesterday's prompt I was up until 2 writing.

dalene said...

Great advice. I hope it will come in handy someday.

Here is my homework.

Heather Scott Partington said...

Wow, I completely posted my comment on the wrong post. Scrolled too far and ended up double-posting yesterday's post. Here is the link for this assignment.


Hannah said...

i am not posting todays assignment on a post, but i did write it in a planner. can't wait for our next family excursion. thank you for the inspiration!!!

Meg said...

Day 2

Dani said...

I did yesterday's and today's assignments in one post today...a little late, but better late than never I guess. Thanks!

~j. said...

list and paragraph. check.

audrey said...

Okay. I don't feel as good about this one as yesterday. Maybe I will make some changes in the next few days based on comments I get.

Here you go.

Beck said...

Thank you for your comments (and compliments) yesterday on my blog! I've always wanted you to see something that I actually wrote (not all my other stuff) and you liked it! That was a HUGE ego boost for me. I really and truly appreciate your feedback.

This assignment was a little harder for me. I worked on it all day long only to scrap everything at 11:30 pm and start on something completely different. Hope it doesn't disappoint!

Yiota said...

I enjoyed this one sooo much! Thanks Oma!
Click on the icon and find the post with the picture of school days.

Mrs. O said...

I'm really enjoying this, thank you. Here's mine: Spontaneous Trip-bustion!

QueenScarlett said...

I just realized this morning I had forgot to link my assignment. So sorry!

Here it is

I am trying out this linky-doo dealio...hope it works.

QueenScarlett said...

Trying this link again

Kiasa said...

Thank you Oma! I loved remembering my trip to Europe. Visit my blog to see the completed assignment.

Casee said...

My assignment for yesterday, sorry I am a little late! Thanks Oma!

sue-donym said...

Great post idea.

Heffalump said...

Traveling is a tough topic for me. We don't do much of it. I have to say that I am most comfortable doing most of my traveling in my head through reading.
There are places I would like to visit someday, but mostly, I love to be at or close to home.
I will be making the list of ten places I'd like to go, but offline rather than on my blog.

Sassy said...

Am I the only one that can't get the button to work? Can someone please help me?

Greek Goddess said...

I'm late, but here is my link.

ailidh briar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ailidh briar said...

only a week late: my homework.

Mickelmonkey Mama said...

2nd assignment done! Link

Mrs. O said...

Here's my travel assignment .

debby said...

after reading your post and doing this assignment, i'm itching to get out of dodge. i may just have to plan a quick trip right now...

all my bags are packed