Logan and I are in Barbados right now visiting his mom who has been living there for more than a year as a missionary. Now before you start thinking that we are world-traveling jetsetters, let me set you straight: We are terrible at planning vacations. Like, the worst.
The only reason we were able to pull off this trip to paradise is because Logan’s brother, Birch, and his wife, Sara, were already planning to go and asked if anyone wanted to join them. Not only are they fun to be with, but Sara is a master vacation planner. We eagerly decided to tag along and bask in her organization and deal-finding skills.
When left to our own devices, Logan and I are just the wrong mix of indecisiveness, perfectionism and logistical cluelessness to make any vacation planning experience like a Laurel and Hardy routine. Case in point: A few years ago, we decided that we were finally going to break free from our vacation lameness and plan a fun family trip for spring break.
Up until that point, spring break had always been spent at home, our kids’ faces pressed to the living room window as they watched all their friends pull out of their driveways and head to the airport or out on a cross-country road trip. We finally decided we were going to become one of those families.
We tossed around ideas for a few weeks. Disneyland: too crowded. A cruise: too expensive. Camping: too likely to make me mad at everyone. Finally, we decided on Yellowstone, which sounded like just the right mix of adventure and familiarity. We searched online for hours and eventually found just the right vacation rental, a cozy little cabin with great reviews and a location right outside Yellowstone.
“Wow, we’re actually doing this!” I exclaimed excitedly to Logan as we entered our credit card number for our rental deposit and shut down the computer for the night. “We actually managed to plan a vacation!” A couple weeks later, I was at a family party and started talking to my cousin about our upcoming spring break plans.
“We rented a house right by Yellowstone,” I told her proudly before forking a big bite of cake into my mouth. “That’s surprising,” she replied. “April is pretty early in the season. Is Yellowstone even open by then?”
I stopped mid-chew, my heart dropping to the floor. My mind raced. Does Yellowstone close? It’s all outside, right? You can just wander in whenever? “Um, I have no idea,” I admitted, making a mental note to hurry home and check if the giant national park had visiting hours.
As soon as I got home from the party, I started researching Yellowstone in-depth. I should not have been surprised when I learned that during the first week of April, Yellowstone is not open for leisurely family amblings through the park.
Regular car passage is impossible due to insane amounts of snow, but if we wanted to strap our six kids (including a 2-year-old!) into a horse-drawn sleigh or onto various snowmobiles, the park was ours to explore! No, thank you.
I literally thought I would throw up as I considered the large, nonrefundable deposit we had just made on our vacation rental. How were we to know that western Wyoming would be blanketed under 5 feet of snow in early spring? (Answer: common sense, history and the internet.) We begged and bargained with the vacation rental owners, pleading stupidity, until they finally agreed to refund our money. We haven’t attempted a Yellowstone trip since.
In a few months, we’re planning on taking the kids to Disneyland for their first – and hopefully only – time. To say I’m very scared is a vast understatement. I’ve already sent a pleading email begging for guidance from yet another cousin, this one a native Californian who has done Disneyland so many times she sent me a six-page, single-spaced document listing all the do’s and don’t’s of the park down to which rides aren’t worth the wait (“Roger Rabbit,” apparently) and where to get the best treats (churros on every corner all day long).
It might sound like overkill, but, for someone like me, there really is no such thing as too much help planning a vacation.
Julia Ditto can be reached at email@example.com.
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