Tag Archive | travel planning

Atlanta 2018: Planning

What does any traveler love?  Trips booked with rewards points!  Last fall, I was poking around and discovered that I had more than enough Delta miles to book a trip to Atlanta with miles – fees would make the round trip ticket a mere $11.  Of course I would book it!

I have been wanting to swim with Whale Sharks for a while – I saw another blogger’s post on it several years ago, and was instantly intrigued.  The Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the world, by the volume of the main tank, and is the home to four whale sharks.  There they do a program where people can swim, or if you are dive certified you can scuba dive, with Whale Sharks.

So, I booked a trip and decided I was going to swim with the Whale Sharks as a late Christmas present for myself!  I booked my trip for late January 2018.

To manage costs, because hotels in downtown Atlanta are expensive, I wasn’t going to rent a car, and instead decided to make my way around walking and on the subway.  I built on the Whale Shark experience, finding lots of other fun things to do within walking or subway distance of where I was staying, since I like to stay busy when I travel!  I was spending 6 days total, and I was so excited!

Georgia Aquarium Jellyfish

Planning for The West 2016

In August 2016, my mom and I decided to do a road trip of the west. There are a number of National Parks in North and South Dakota that I have been interested in seeing for some time, and it was time to knock some off of my bucket list!  I am so glad that my mom was game to do this trip with me!

I looked into flying into Rapid City, South Dakota and was surprised to find that plane tickets from Washington State were going to be almost $1,000 each! Ditto with Bismarck, North Dakota. It was time to change the Plan of Action. Fortunately, I found flights for just over $200 per person to Billings, Montana. A bit more driving, but we were on our way!

The second hurdle was hotel prices. I was kind of surprised by the cost of hotels; I get that it was summer, but they still seemed really high for parts of small town North and South Dakota. Once I discovered that our trip coincided with the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, it all made more sense… I did ultimately find some reasonable prices for hotel rooms, but it took more research – and we didn’t stay at luxury accommodations…  Good thing my mama is flexible…

The car was another matter. For 12 days, our car ended up costing $497; which, with the exception of Colorado, is much higher than I have seen for my other long trips. Peak summer period, plus I think some of the higher price was due to the fact that the Takata airbag recall had taken so many rental cars off the road – car manufacturers were telling people not to drive their cars and were giving owners loaner rentals at no cost.  That would do it…  We booked a car originally at $525, then rebooked when the price went down to the $497 that we ended up with.  Ouch…

With our flight schedule set, I planned a loop that would begin in Montana and go through North and South Dakota, before moving into Wyoming and finally ending up back in Montana to fly home. I had an ambitious itinerary (don’t I always!) – Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Wind Cave National Park, Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park and Devil’s Tower National Monument to start. With the extra loop in Montana for flights, I expanded the itinerary to include Little Bighorn Battlefield, Yellowstone National Park, and Grand Teton National Park. Since we were going to be so close, I also put Jewel Cave National Monument and the Crazy Horse Memorial on the list!

west-trip-map

Our route wasn’t quite what appears in the map above, as Google Maps was not cooperating as I tried to drag its little points around to where I wanted them.  Technology… Sheesh… It is close though, and you get the gist…

I planned a crazy-busy trip, and I was excited to get started!

Moab 2015: A Trip is Born

Jon is a masterful schemer. He always manages to get me to agree to a trip to someplace he wants to go and this time was no exception. How? One strategy is to find a race in the destination he wants to visit. In December 2013, it was the Sacramento marathon. In March 2015, we made a return trip to Moab, Utah, for a high elevation half marathon.

Of course, I wouldn’t be so willing to oblige if the locations were less desirable, but given that Moab is home to both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and I loved our short time there in April 2014, of course you know my reaction to his proposal! I began to plot our course – we would fly into Salt Lake City, then drive down to Moab (just under a 4 hour drive).

The pieces began to fall together. I knew I wanted to visit Antelope Island, just north of Salt Lake City. I have been dreaming about Antelope Island since reading a fellow blogger’s posts about it, and had it on my list when Jon and I were considering driving from Washington on our Southwest adventure during the spring of 2014. When we made the decision to fly instead of drive, going out of our way to Salt Lake City was one of the things we had to cut (so many places, so little time!).

I also have read a couple of books lately about the mainstream Mormon faith and its polygamist offshoots, so checking out the historic Mormon sites in downtown Salt Lake City went on the list.

And Jon had been drooling over the idea of a zip line adventure when we were in Moab a year ago, so I asked him if it was still on his bucket list. Of course it was – what a stupid question! I, being terrified of heights, wasn’t sure I would be brave enough, but after researching the zip line company, watching the videos, and reading all the Trip Advisor reviews, plus conducting a Facebook poll of my friends, decided that I would give it a try. When your aunt, who is in her early 70s, says you should go for it, you can’t very well chicken out, right?

Salt Lake City to Moab

Salt Lake City to Moab

With all that, I vowed to fill our free time with hikes in the parks, trying to fill in the gaps of what we didn’t see a year ago, and cheering Jon on at the finish line of his race. A trip was born!