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Sunday, February 26, 2017

It’s just as well I dismissed the trip planner


Back when I planned my own routes and made reservations, I used a big Rand McNally, and a stack of notes about motels and phone numbers. Then we had the internet, and search engines. Do you remember WebCrawler? Ask Jeeves? Dogpile? I could ask for a list of motels and start calling for price. Expedia, Priceline, Trivago are the Taj Mahal of WebCrawler.

When I began planning a trip to DC for Caroline and Laura over spring break, I thought the train would be wonderful. I priced Amtrack online, and it was $199 for the three of us. I wanted to take them to the National Mall, to Monticello, Mt. Vernon and Montpelier over the course of a week. It boggled my mind, so I asked a trip planner for help.

The planner immediately quoted me over $500 for the train, round trip. I knew better than that. I let her go, and started in myself. Booking the train was job one. I’d waited a few days too long; the trip was now $250 for the available seats. I booked and clicked next. Next was the return trip, for another $250. With mental apologies to the trip planner, I scrapped the train, and looked for a hotel I could afford for five days.

I used to drive to DC for shows several times a year. Why did I think I’d lost my edge? The Best Western has a shuttle for the half mile walk to the subway. The blue and yellow lines go to the mall. I had the girls look over all the attractions and “plan” what we should do.


Separately, I asked a friend who visited with her father recently. It took them two days to walk the mall. So, I plan on two days and the mall will be “by ear”, or whatever my planners decide. I think between the subway, the on and off buses and trolleys, we’ll be fine. I do have my personal must see’s, including cherry blossoms.

Today I set out to buy tickets to see the presidents’ homes. Mt. Vernon and Montpelier one day, Monticello another. I visited Monticello years ago, when my daughters were young. Back then we bought tickets at the gate. Think again.

My order of travel from our Arlington, VA motel was Mt. Vernon, just a stone throw, and Montpelier in the afternoon. Every morning time I selected for Mt. Vernon returned an error, not available. As times are offered in fifteen minute intervals, and my internet is not that high speed, I called Mt. Vernon. I was in the queue about two minutes before a very pleasant woman helped me book an afternoon tour.

Hoping Montpelier had not sold out the morning, I clicked on over and began the ticket process. I opened the March calendar, and found the last half blanked out, with the note, tickets for those days are available beginning two weeks in advance. I have a big note on my calendar.

I still need to buy the push chair and look into 11x15x6 bags, the largest allowed in. Even though those girls will just check the map on their phones, I’ll be using my trusty old Rand McNally. I doubt I’ll update from the 2000 edition, residing in the back of my car.





26 comments:

  1. The times they are a changing. Couldn't plan a trip without the internet. We use Trip Advisor to read reviews, Viator to book things, not hotels, and shuttles are a must for hotels. Loved Mt. Vernon, haven't visited the others. We always plan 2 days for the Mall and it always takes longer. Hope you all have a great trip.

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  2. Travel is not easy anymore, even with the computer. My wife plans Disney trips 6 months or more in advance. I remember showing up at the gate to watch a practice round at The Masters, currently tickets for even a practice round require knowing someone...Sheesh! Enjoy the trip, I'm sure there will be some good stories to report.

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  3. When making reservations, I like to speak to a human being. However, I do that a day after I have made an on-line reservation. I trust neither man or machine. I am grateful for GPS but I also print out a map. I've got issues.

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  4. I'm very impressed by your ambition. I remember one trip when my kids were little (now 40 year olds)and walking the Mall in the heat was like the march to Bataan.
    And I grew up in Arlington!
    Absolutely FABULOUS place to visit, though.

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  5. Washington is on our bucket list though not this year. You'll be busy for those five days, that's for sure. It should be fun though!

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  6. I'm planning a trip to see my mother and go to the house in Spain...and to renew my passport...the whole thing feels like wading through treacle.

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  7. You will all have a wonderful time. I made the mistakwe of going in August. Washington DC is way too hot in the summer. All the concrete and monuments absorb the heat and hold it. There is no place that is cool until you go to Mt Vernon or somewhere like that. I hope you make the time to see the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery. And the National Cathedral will take your breath away.

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  8. I think it's good to have the rand mcnally in case of satellite breakdown, I wonder if some folks even know how to read a map nowadays.

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  9. I miss the days of using a real map to plot my course. Please keep in mind that D.C. and the surrounding environs are usually quite chilly and rainy during spring, or they were before climate change became so extreme. The cleanest public restrooms used to be in the Smithsonian Museum of American History, and the best food is in their ice cream parlor, which used to have great crab soup. I'm sure a lot has changed. I also like the National Archives. They rotate their exhibits frequently, although the Constitution is always on display.

    Love,
    Janie

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  10. I loved our trip to DC. I know each of you will too. So much to see and do. I didn't go to the capital and it is supposed to be incredible. I loved the Smithsonian, I can't remember which one we went to, but it was great. I even enjoyed the bus tour.

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  11. My wife and I want to visit there one day, even if President Cheeto still lives there. That's if he's not on vacation that is.

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  12. Just a note about using handicapped entrances to the subway and the museums. Often times they add a huge amount of extra walking as the accessible entrances are usually around the side or back. If you can do stairs and your girls can carry the push chair you will be able to get around more quickly. We did this trip in fall 2015, one of the best trips ever! Have a terrific time.

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    1. Thank's for the tip. I intend to do the majority of the pushing, but when I can't, they can.

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  13. I do recall Rand McNally. But also recall my parents phone party line
    Coffee is on

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  14. This will be a trip the girls will always remember. And that is a fancy chair - perfect for all scenarios!

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  15. It sounds like such a wonderful adventure you and the girls are going on! One of our best trips as a family was to Washington DC back in May 2005. My sister/family live 7 miles out of it in Virginia and my mom was alive at the time, living with them, so we got to see them all in our travels. We had so much fun riding the Metro (I think that's the name for the train?) We never drove into DC but took the Metro and walked and walked and walked and sight saw here and there but had the best of times. We did Mount Vernon too; such a great place to visit. I hope you'll share your guys' trip with us.

    betty

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  16. I went with a Rand McNally map in 1979. Still have it. Loved it all. Stayed in the YMCA.

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  17. That chair looks quite comfortable. I hope the trip goes well and you get to see the cherry blossoms. Shocking about the train prices.

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  18. I use booking.com for hotels, there are useful reviews of the hotels and you can usually get free cancellation so you can secure your hotel and then cancel if you need to change your travel dates. It's a pity about the train prices. I hope you enjoy the trip.

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  19. I'm trying to get our Hawaii vacation with the twins planned. oh boy. my neighbor who has some really terrible swelling in his legs due to previous profession of a deep water welder and suffering the bends which he says you never reported unless you never wanted to work again bought one of those push chairs and he loves it.

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  20. The push chair you have pictured is what I need for my husband but I can't find that chair when searching. All I find are walkers that don't have the foot rest or back rest.

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    1. If you send me your email to jnoragon@gmail.com, I'll send the link. Here it is, too:
      http://www.spinlife.com/Drive-Medical-Duet-Transport-Chair-and-Rollator-Lightweight-Transport-Wheelchair/spec.cfm?productID=85669&adv=googlepla&utm_medium=CSE&utm_term=%7Bkeyword%7D-%7Bmatchtype%7D&utm_campaign=%7Bcampaign%7D&utm_source=googlepla&default=1

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    2. I think if you just to to spinlife.com, you'll find it, too.

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  21. My granddaughter was my copilot on my last road trip. A total disaster. We got lost twice. I hope yours are better. Wish I still had Richards walker like that. I would send it your way.

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  22. Wow! You're really great at trip planning. We have a trip to DC coming up this summer at the hottest time of year. We're going to a birthday party. Sigh... We went last year and almost got heat stroke. We still had a fabulous time. We wrote to our congressman for a personal tour of the capitol which was great.

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  23. One caveat about using an old paper planner--some of the route numbers may have changed. Interstate 95 goes from Maine to Florida, and 195, 295, 395, and 495 are typically alternates to 95 that historically bypassed cities. Some bright soul decided to switch that so in some places along 95, what was 95 is now 1-, 2-, 3-, or 495. Didn't think much about it until a friend came to visit and got lost. Yup, he had an old atlas, and didn't realize the 95/295 switcheroo, so drove 60 or more miles out of his way before arriving chez moi.

    I like a paper map, too, but you might want to consult Mapquest or googlemaps and compare with your trusty atlas.

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