Deciding where to vacation
Because we fly stand-by our trip planning is often done quickly. We tend to change plans according to when and where flights are open, so we try to do a lot of research to be prepared for any number of situations. We plan on leaving on Thursday for a trip. Here is an insight into our planning
#1 Where to go?
We really want to go to Glacier National park. It looks incredible and this is the best time of year to be there. However, It is really difficult to get to! American has one (full) flight a day to Bozeman (which is a 5 hour drive to the park). NO flights to Kalispell (which is technically in the park, but still 3 hours from where we want to go. So we could pay to fly stand-by on another airline. At $33 per person per direction it’s a great deal, but adds nearly $500 to our trip. We could also fly into Calgary which is only 3 hours from the park, but unfortunately, the girls passports haven’t arrived yet, so we can’t do this option this week. We should’ve been prepared with passports!! Also, flying home from Calgary would cost $50 per person so this adds to the trip. (International flights we pay taxes and fees). We decided to wait until we could potentially fly to Calgary once the girls passports get here. Hopefully, we get there someday. Glacier trip is put on hold. I did do a bit of research about the park and what to do with kids, so if last minute we decide to drive or take the flight from Seattle we will be prepared with a few things to do.
We also thought that upstate New York would be a great option. Once again, the girls birth certificates are in the mail to get their passports, so we couldn’t even drive to the good side of Niagara. Plus, the pull of the fall leaves and their colors in New England are inviting us to wait until fall and hope we can take a quick trip over Labor day.
We loved taking Jackson to Yellowstone when he was 2 and really want to recreate that trip. This is so close to our hometowns in Utah that we would love to do this trip when family could join us. So we will save this one for when we can drive from Utah. Maybe next Summer? (Although with a baby it will be much more complicated!)
With our top options down we are looking into other fun places. Because Seattle would be the stopping point if we went to Glacier National park, we looked into things to do in Seattle. Turns out there are 2 national parks close by. It is perfect and cool weather this time of year and there are 12 flights a day from Dallas to Seattle.
The problem with researching this many places to go is you end up finding many MORE places to go. We thought about driving to Portland and flying home from there, but the things we really want to see in Oregon are the coast and that would add significant time to the trip. As of now, I don’t want to add Portland, but Dave is still hoping we could fit it in, so we will see. Dave tends to want to do more and I want to take it a little slower and enjoy where we are and we try to find a middle ground. I’m hoping we put this trip on hold and stick with juts Seattle and surrounding areas (although without passports and birth certificates we can’t see Vancover and Victoria like we would want to.)
And of course, we always check Hawaii and it is actually open this weekend! This makes it a very enticing place to go, but after a ton on research on a NEW place to visit, a long trip to Hawaii which we’ve already seen, probably won’t happen. (Although my sister will be on her honeymoon there that week, so maybe we should…)
Writing this article reminded me that I didn’t check out one of our most desired destination that has only a few flights and a very short travel period… ALASKA! The flights are mostly full and since I don’t have much time to research, we probably won’t do this one (not to mention, we want to go withOUT the kids!)
After disagreeing on how we want this vacation to play out, my husband also suggested, St. Croix in the Virgin islands, Mount Rushmore, the Oregon Coast and Utah (Where our family lives)
Wow. Doesn’t this just make your mouth water with the possibilities of great places to take a bite out of?!? It is so difficult to decide where to go when you don’t have a specific reason to go anywhere. How do you choose where to vacation?
#2 Flight Loads and date/time options
Since we fly stand-by we have to see if there are enough seats to get us places at the times we want to go. MORE importantly, is there a way home and other options if there are cancellations or flights fill up. Going to a remote place means you may have to rent a car and drive to a different airport if you can’t get out. All of these are factors in which trip we take. We don’t get to choose exactly the dates, times and places we want to go like those lucky people who have to pay for their flights.
#3 Hotel prices and options
Next, we look at hotel options. We have a few credit cards with bonus points on them so we look at Marriotts, Starwood and Hiltons. Then we see if there are cheaper options on Hotels.com. We don’t mind a Super 8 or Days Inn if it saves us money (and the kids love the free breakfast). We really try to go cheap on hotels. We usually only sleep there one night and then move on, so it isn’t worth paying for nice amenities we don’t use. We have used points for resorts and nicer places, but the fees, taxes and parking make it so expensive it still feels like we aren’t getting our money’s worth. Everyone travels differently, so I understand those who love the relaxation and peace of a resort. But that isn’t our travel priority, so we stay as cheap as possible.
#4 Car prices
Different places and times of year the rental cars prices can be really high or low. This isn’t really a deal breaker for where we are going, but it is something to consider when thinking about the cost of a trip. Now that we are having a fourth child this will significantly increase the cost of our trip since we will have to either rent 2 cars or get a van for every trip!
#5 What to do
While we are deciding where to go we do some searches and map out different possibilities of things to do in each area. We have taken a few very last minute trips where I’ve done no research and we just look in our hotel room the night before and find somewhere to go. Thank goodness for the internet and so many travel blogs. Hopefully, this blog becomes a good resource for other fellow travelers.
How do you decide where to travel? What are your travel priorities?
Before I traveled a lot, I dreamed of Rome, Paris, New York and the big city travel draws. Now that I’ve done quite a bit of traveling, I’ve discovered I don’t really enjoy city travel. I like slower paced places, fewer tourists, off the beaten path hidden gems and mostly I enjoy the seeing nature and the outdoor sights.
We’ve decided we like nature more than the city life (which is unfortunate since airports are always in big cities and nature is a road trip to get to). We travel as cheaply as possible so we can afford to take more trips. We try to see as much as possible which means we don’t necessarily drink deeply of any one area, but take a sip of as much as possible. Knowing what will make you satisfied and happy will help you get the most out of your vacation and travel. Once you know what you like on a trip, you can find something that works for everyone your family
***UPDATE: We went to Seattle AND Hawaii! We did Seattle City for 1 day, Olympic National park for 2 days, took a day to travel to Maui (through a over-night layover in Phoenix) and spent a day on the beach and resort pool (Yep, we splurged and spend ALL of our hotel points on one night in a resort). We were planning on staying another day in Hawaii but we were burnt and exhausted so we called it a success and headed home on day 5. (Post of the trip coming soon!)