For us, another spring break trip is history.
Sherry teaches, so she has the week before or after Easter off each year. They used to call it Easter vacation. But now, in this politically correct keep-religion-out-of-school-so-you-don’t-make-atheists-angry age, they call it spring break.
I take five vacation days at the same time and, for the last half-dozen years or so, we’ve chosen a different city or region to visit during each spring break.
In the past we’ve toured places like New Orleans, the Great Northwest, San Antonio, San Diego, Chattanooga and the Colonial Williamsburg area. This year we traveled to the New England states of Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
Though Sherry and I always look forward to arriving home after a week on the road, unpacking is never quite as much fun as preparing for a trip and actually taking it.
When you arrive home, there are suitcases to unpack — we always seem to take more clothes than we need — and dirty clothes to launder. Packing is fun. Unpacking is work.
There are AAA Tour Guides, state road maps and travel brochures to deal with. We have a digital camera full of photos to print.
There is a week’s worth of mail to go through. The junk mail will quickly go into the trash, the credit card offers will get shredded and the bills will go into a stack for eventual payment.
There is a week’s worth of newspapers to read, too. Sure, they’re full of old news now, but we’re curious people; we want to know what we missed.
There’s garbage to put out at the curb. And a refrigerator to restock. And it will take time getting used to the quiet.
We used to have dogs and cats waiting to greet us when we arrived home. But they’re all gone now. Our remaining pets are a rabbit and some goldfish. They’re taken care of by a housesitter in our absence, so they don’t much care when we leave or when we get home.
And, of course, there are jobs to return to on Monday. We’re happy to be employed, but returning to work after a week of vacation is a shock to the system that one doesn’t look forward to.
I find preparing for our annual spring trip, on the other hand, lots of fun.
We could have a travel agent plan our trip, but I do all of that because I get a thrill out of it. First we choose a place to visit. Then in my spare time for weeks in advance of our trip, I use travel books, maps and the Internet to study the destination, sites of interest, lodging possibilities, the highways, the airports, the airline prices and the rental car prices.
Then I carefully develop a daily travel plan, buy the plane tickets and book a rental car to use while there. I’m no Peter Greenberg, but by talking to people smarter than me, doing lots of research and sure, making some mistakes over the years, I’ve learned a lot about travel planning.
To maintain some flexibility in the number of miles we’ll need to travel each day, I book advance lodging only for every other night or so.
The remaining lodging sites are booked via our laptop computer during the trip when I have a better idea where we’ll be on a given night.
This year we stayed in some motels, an 1800s inn and two bed-and-breakfasts.
All of the lodging sites I choose offer a complimentary breakfast. We generally skip lunch, then eat a full dinner at a place of our choice. That saves money and time. It also helps us return home weighing no more than when we left.
But now it’s all over. It’s back at home and back to work. My travel planning skills are on hold until next spring. All we have now are memories, photographs and, of course, the bills to pay.
Copyright March 30, 2008. This “Everyday People” columned appeared in The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.