Surprise, surprise. This is what my dining room table looks like lately. I know it’s only February, but I’m busy plotting out our spring and summer trips. I study maps, calculate driving distances, check airfare prices, and I love every minute of it. Almost.
While it’s true that I’m a bit of travel nerd, I’m also a bit indecisive. I think it’s hereditary (but I’m not pointing my finger in any specific direction). Some trips I decide on quickly and never waiver. Then there is the rest of them. For example, my spring break is five weeks away and I still haven’t set my travel plans in stone. I was actually starting to feel successful today, because I narrowed it down to three trips. And they’re all in the same general region of the United States. I’m making progress, for sure.
So how do I finally narrow down my choices and eventually pick the final destination? While it may be less complicated-but not nearly as much fun-to just throw a dart at the map, there are some other ways I make these important family vacation decisions.
I check my bank accounts.
That automatically eliminates about half of my options. See that was easy. All kidding aside, I do have a travel budget. I plan one big trip a year, and then all the other trips have to stay within a very small budget. Since my travel wishes are generally bigger than my salary, I find that I often need this budgetary reality check. But just in case, I go check my mailbox to make sure that I didn’t get any new checks in the mail from the travel fairy.
I include my child in the process.
I try to include my son in the planning discussion. I sit him down next to me and begin pulling up sites on the internet to show him pictures of the places in the final running. But I’m a little wary of having him help with the decision making. I mean, if I let him make all the choices around here, we would be up ’til midnight watching Spongebob every night. So why would an eight-year-old be helpful in making the choice between the Grand Canyon and Santa Fe? Saguaro National Park and Petrified National Forest? But I show him pictures anyway. He humors his increasingly flustered mami and takes a look at some photos of the Grand Canyon. Then he says, “cool” and “there is nothing else to do there but look at it”. Ahem. Some trip planning sessions with my son are more fruitful than others.
I consult the guidebook gods.
I like to make an informed decision. The problem with this approach is that it can be very time consuming. I spend hours poring over guidebooks and clicking away on my laptop. Then I get mad at myself because, after hours of doing this, I am often not any closer to making a decision. What does often happen, is that I just come away from all of my research with even more trip ideas. Oy.
I throw a dart at the map.
No, not really. I told you earlier that would be very uncomplicated, so therefore very unlike me. What does happen, somewhere between hour seven and eight of a trip planning session, is that I have my moment of clarity. I realize that the answer has been there all along. And also that it’s about the journey not the destination. But mostly, I realize that this will not be the last trip I take (not if I can help it) so I need to just throw that dart on the map and go.