Sunday, July 26, 2015

Planning My 2015 Trip, Post 1

 Okay, it's Novemeber & it's time to start narrowing down where James & I want to vacation in January 2015.

Since July of this year, I have been getting daily notifications from sent to my inbox, informing me of some trip prices. I picked out a few destinations & signed up to recieve updates on them. Once I get the email from Kayak, I look it over & then save it in a folder so I can keep track of when prices were high & when prices were low. Here's a look at one of my first e-mails from Kayak this year:
 And here's my most recent email from Kayak:
 As you can see, I've added a lot more possible vacation destinations. Now I know that July was cheaper to book then November for some places. I have this saved so I can look back and re-learn that when seriously considering a destination.

---> Key West, Florida <---

As of right now, the destination I've looked into the most is Key West, FL. Why? Because it's in the continental U.S - meaning, it's a cheaper option to fly to. Why cheaper? Because I paid off my car this year. Because I was jobless for a month & a half in between jobs back in May/June. Because our 2014 trip to St. Croix was one of the more expensive trips we've taken (although we got wonderful deals!). Because James did not do as well trapping this year. Because I am cheap. Hello, penny-pincher!!

Key West seems like a good place for James & I to explore. We realize it's probably the most expensive destination in Florida, but we think we can swing it by pretty well. We love to just drive on our trips, and driving from Miami to Key West would be an adventure in itself. We also love beaches, and nice weather, and walking, and good vibes - which we think would be bountiful in KW.

I am not solely interested in JUST staying on Key West. I would prefer to stay in Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine Key, AND Key West. Maybe one night here, one night there... When James & I go on trips, we go like we aren't ever going to go there again. We had 7 days in Puerto Rico once, and I think we seen more than what everyone would figure. We seen the North side, the South side, the West side, the East side, and some in between. We put on A LOT of miles on those rental cars. Thank goodness for unlimited miles! (Which is a must for us when booking a car rental.) Some people advise not to travel like this, but we do. We want to see it all, but not blow all our money in the meantime. We like how we travel, & I don't think we'll change much.

I have been doing a decent amount of research on Key West & surrounding areas. I useTripAdvisor like no tomorrow. I want to delve into the destinations I look at and see what there is there that James & I would want to possibly do.

First things first: start a Google Sheets document. Why Google Sheets? Because you can access it from any computer with internet access. Sometimes I look at it at home, sometimes on my phone, and sometimes at work. I can edit it from anywhere. So here's a look at my Key West Google Sheet:
 I put down activities I find interesting, look at prices, add notes, and save links. This helps me discover how much things might be in KW, what we might want to see, and I can refer back to it. We might book some things in advance this year, because a lot of these items are cheaper when you book online. We might do some of these things, we might not do any of these things. It's just an idea list, not an itinerary.

I also make a list of possible Stays, their costs, any notes I have on them, and links. See here:
 These lists are new lists. I have only recently been putting things down on "paper." I still have tons & tons of research to do. Most of my research actually goes into flights.

My Priorities When Researching

Once I find "the" place we are going to, here is how I begin:

2. Stays
3. Car Rentals
4. Maps
5. Acitivites

But I am not even close to that yet. I need to narrow it down on WHERE we are going.

---> Las Vegas/California <---

When I look at the Kayak emails I get, I make sure to notice the cheapest destination. Usually, it's Vegas. I have been to Vegas once in my life, & I was only there for a few hours, & I was only 20, & I was with a toddler. Not my toddler, but a friend's toddler. We were staying in Kingman, Arizona at her friends place because we were visiting someone at their Basic Training graduation.

Vegas was... busy. There were people everywhere & so much going on. We did not plan to go there, so we really just walked down the strip & left. I did not get to experience it much.

I think Vegas would be a fun stop for James & I because there is so much to do there. We could go there for a couple days, see some shows, see some casinos... then we could hop in a rental car & road trip it to Cali. I know, it seems like a lot to do in one small trip, and it is, but we really just want to experience somewhere. If we get to go back one day & spend more time there, great. If not, we can say we've at least been there.

Our trip would start with flying into Vegas. We would either stay there 2 days now, or stay 2 days at the end of the trip. We would get a rental car there and drive towards Cali.
Once in Cali, we  could stop at anything interesting on the way to the coast: see some big, tall Redwood trees, stay at a hot springs resort, hike in one of the national forests, hop on Route 66, stop at Bottletree Ranch, explore a ghost town, and grab some strawberry shakes at a diner.
We would eventually hit the coast. Maybe we'd aim for Long Beach, or Santa Barbara, or Newport Beach... my goal is to walk in the sand. I don't even care where we do it at. We could stay at the coast for a few days, and make our way back. Or we could fly out of LAX... who knows.

So there you have it. Those are my top 2 desination ideas at this point. I might find something completley different in the meantime, or I might set my sights on one of these places. Getting off American territory is a little far-fetched at this point. We don't have our passports yet, and we could be traveling as soon as January 1st. We are leaning towards doing a U.S. trip this year, and going all out next year & stepping off U.S. soil. We shall see!

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