Tuesday, March 05, 2013


My Dears,

It is a grey day in Seattle today so I am looking through our Kauai pictures and remembering those warm, sunny beaches!

Check out
this article in the NY Times about traveling. A tidbit I found to be particularly interesting:

Planning early brings many people more joy than the actual vacation. A 2010 study by Jeroen Nawijn, a tourism research lecturer at Breda University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, examined the behavior of 1,530 Dutch adults and found that the 974 individuals who took a vacation achieved the greatest amount of happiness leading up to the trip.

And then this as well:

If a leisurely one- or two-week vacation is not possible, you might try taking multiple short trips. In fact, taking several three- or four-day trips — providing multiple opportunities to experience the pleasure of anticipation — may even be more beneficial than one long vacation.

Last year Chris came home from work one day and proposed the following:

Let’s go somewhere for one night, once a month. It could be small: Camping outside of Leavenworth, renting a yurt at the beach, backpacking in Eastern Washington. Or, occasionally, a big trip: two weeks in Peru. 

And with the exception of a few missed months, we’ve mostly managed to stick to the newly-dubbed J Travel Plan. 

There have been some fantastic trips and a few awful ones. Not surprising, given that we have a high maintenance toddler.

But the best part of this idea is that it gets us out, exploring our state, and it is a good excuse to spend time together as a family. 

Here is the list:

April: San Juan Island
May: Montana (My sister-in-law’s college graduation!)
June: Idaho (wedding of a friend)
July: Mt. St. Helens
August: Girls Weekend - Not sure this technically counts as I ditched both Chris & Ben...
 (We also took a camping trip with my parents that was a bust. We drove down the mountain at 3 am with a furious toddler. no blog post about this little adventure)
September: RV Trip around WA Peninsula
October: Peru
November: Trip to Hood River, Oregon (an absolute diaster. I got violently sick and we came home halfway through the trip. No blog post about this one, either.)
December: Hawaii with Chris’ family

January: Orange County, CA to see friends
February: Orcas Island
March: ???!! 

Of course, it’s something we’ve had to budget for and I spend a lot of time scouring the internet for budget hotel rentals (priceline, Costco, etc) and good deals. Frankly, a short weekend trip doesn’t have to be costly. We try to spend less than $120 on a hotel (under $100 if we’re lucky)(also, campsites are a super cheap option), bring a cooler full of breakfast/lunch supplies, eat a moderately-priced dinner, and pick inexpensive activities (hiking, beach combing, picnicking, sightseeing, etc). Our only qualification about the restaurant is that it can’t be a place that we could eat at in Seattle - it has to be local to the area. 

And occasionally, dumb luck helps a lot:

The Orange County adventure only happened because of a business trip Chris had to take to San Diego and cheap-o airline tickets for me and Ben on JetBlue. The Orcas Island trip was thanks to a promotion offered last year on Kenmore Air and I got a discounted lodging fare because I waited until the absolute last minute to book it. There is something to be said for procrastination and my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach. Until it backfires and you find yourself sitting in a cold airport overnight because all the hotels are booked.

We’ve also been exceedingly fortunate in the airline frequent flier mile department. I charge everything to a credit card that gets converted into either airline or hotel points. Peru wouldn’t have happened without three years’ worth of accumulated miles. The trickiest part of the whole equation is actually booking the trips, given blackout dates, fuel surcharges (I’m looking at you British Air!), and a limited number of available seats. [On a side note: Did you know that Alaska Air will shortly have a website up that you can use to search for award tickets on their partner airlines? This is huge for us - I’ve spent literally days of my life on the phone with AA representatives as they’ve scoured their databases for available flights]

I also have started to request “experiences" for my birthday gifts from Chris, instead of physical things. And Chris, whether he wants it or not, is getting the same from me. Our Mt. St. Helens trip was my birthday gift to him last year and Peru was our joint Christmas gift. Orcas Island was my birthday gift this year. 

So there you have it, Peeps. Our approach to travel. And this definitely needs saying: I feel so fortunate to have a husband that shares my love of exploring new places - and, if he’s occasionally a little short on enthusiasm, he’s at least willing to humor his wife as she brainstorms up new trips and adventures. What a guy. 

Here is one more article on vacation and happiness, also from the New York Times.