Thursday, July 07, 2011

Summer Vacation Planning

As a travel consultant, you would think that planning my own summer vacation would be easy, that things should just fall into place. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and that’s why I’ve procrastinated until just a few weeks before leaving to really start planning.

Choosing where to go was the easy part. Several months ago my wife and I opted for Niagara Falls with a few days in Cleveland on the way. That was the easy part. Putting all of the details together – that’s the challenge.

As the main planner, most of the stress falls on me. I’ve got to balance everyone’s interests not to mention keeping control of the costs.

I’m a go-go-go type of person when I’m on vacation. This may be my only visit to a certain place so I want to see everything and do everything. If I’m sitting around at the hotel resting, I’m “wasting” my vacation.

My wife has helped me find a new perspective. Taking a vacation can mean relaxing and slowing down – not just going non-stop.

Taking those perspectives into account, not to mention that our kids are 8, 6 and 8 months, I set about to finally pull together the details of our upcoming vacation, trying to weave in flexibility, free time and fun.

Day 1 – We’ll drive to Cleveland. Columbus, Ohio is 3 hours from Indianapolis, so it makes a perfect stop for lunch. The headquarters for Graeter’s Ice Cream is located in Columbus and offers a free 30-minute tour to watch how ice cream is made. Close to Graeter’s are two city parks that each have picnic tables and playgrounds. It should make a nice stop for a couple of hours to break up the drive. Once we get to the Cleveland area, everyone can relax in the hotel pool.

Day 2 – Cuyahoga Valley National Park is just 20 minutes from our hotel. This park offers free admission and features numerous trails and other outdoor activities. Depending on how much we do in the park, we’ll still have plenty of time for more swimming at the hotel.

Day 3 – Our family loves baseball, and we’ve been fortunate to get to at least one major league game each of the last few summers. We’ve never been to Cleveland, so we’ll take in an Indians game.

Day 4 – It’s been a year or two since we’ve been to a zoo, so we’ll use most of the day to visit the Cleveland Zoo. Searching the zoo’s web site, I found that there are discount tickets available at a local drug store. I also learned that the zoo has free parking and allows coolers with picnic lunches.

After our trip to the zoo, we’ll make a trip to the lakeshore to spend some time on the beach.

Day 5 – On our way out of Cleveland, we’ll make a stop at the USS Cod, a World War II submarine. Next we’ll drive a couple of hours to Pesque Isle State Park in Erie, Penn., where there are trails, beaches and two lighthouses. Again, it will make a nice stopping point for lunch.

We’ll continue to Niagara Falls in the afternoon. That evening we’ll walk across the Rainbow Bridge to view the falls from the Canadian side, especially as it’s lit up.

Day 6 – We’ll spend the day at Niagara Falls, doing some of the attractions such as the Maid of the Mist ride.

The final two days of the trip are still a bit unplanned. We’ll be driving back to Indianapolis, but haven’t decided what we’ll do or where we’ll stop. Some of that will probably depend on our sweet 8-month-old; when she sleeps, when she eats and when she can’t stand to be trapped in her car seat any longer.

Planning a vacation is hard work. It’s also a good reminder of the expectations that clients have when they call. I hope you enjoy your summer vacation as much as we’ll enjoy ours.