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Suburban Island

Vacation Disaster Barely Averted
Thursday, Jun. 17, 2004, 11:48 a.m.

QUESTION: How did I become the vacation planner?

WHAT I LEARNED: Planning is good. Advice from your kids is priceless.

I was going on vacation next week but now I’m not. I was heading out to the jungle heat of Florida for some family R&R but waiting until the last moment to buy the airline tickets and the onset of a major asthma flair made for a last minute change of plans. It was as I scoured the Internet for hours looking for that last minute bargain basement airfare to sunny Orlando to no avail, that I realized that there fares were going higher and higher by the hour. I was indulging in regular spurts of you-are-such-a-dummy despair that arrived like clockwork between coughing spells, when my daughter came through the door and dispensed some just-graduated-from-high-school wisdom. She said - Just go to bed, Mom, she said it calmly and with the ultimate authority of youth. Get some sleep and see how things look in the morning. Too tired to continue, I followed her advice. I clicked closed a half dozen or so discount ticket travel sites that had left me a momentarily embittered, shell-shocked, would-be traveler. I turned off the computer and the light and went to bed. It was the middle of the night and I had accomplished nothing. My family vacation was in jeopardy of never getting off the ground – literally – and it was all my fault. Me – the family planner – had planned all wrong. I settled into a fitful sleep but trusted in the wisdom of my daughter; that maybe I would see the whole things differently in the morning.

She was right. As the morning unfolded, a new plan sprung to mind. I was sick and was supposed to be resting. Why wasn’t I following up on taking care of myself? If I could figure out everyone’s schedule for the end of the summer, and if I could re-book the accommodations for a later date, and if my husband could get off the time for the new date – if all these things could converge correctly like the perfectly alignment of planets and stars in the sky – then I could have a whole new, maybe-even-better brand new plan. So I did these things and lo and behold, there was one week at the end of the summer when we could pull off the whole family vacation thing for half the airfare. The icing on the cake was when I discovered that for a little extra money we would be able to upgrade to much better accommodations.

Despair is dispelled. Mom is family planner par excellance again. I have just pulled out of a family planning nosedive that could have been a major crash and burn scenario. I’ve learned a few travel-planning lessons too and here they are:

  • Make a plan, make it early, follow the plan;
  • Don’t assume bargains will be there. You probably won’t really find ultra-cheap tickets for 4 people when you’re just 5 days out from a trip to a vacation destination;
  • Be creative and make your problems work for you – the hotel waived the date switch fee because I could get a doctor’s note documenting that I was ill;
  • Ask – sometimes people do want to help you out;
  • Listen to your kid’s advice – they’re pretty smart about life.

Florida in August? Oh, yeah. I have a date with a mouse, a few roller coasters, and some mango margaritas to down as the stars twinkle in the Florida sky.

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