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.