When holiday planning becomes obsession :-)

Have you ever had a vague holiday thought, only to see it become an all-singing all-dancing vacation extravaganza seemingly on its own?

Some people just ‘wing it’ when they go on holidays – others like to plan everything down to the finest detail.

As for Shirley & I? We’re somewhere in the middle, I guess.

We have three trips planned so far for 2016 – and they require differing levels of planning.

The first is a package tour of Vietnam in January.

Now, most of that trip will be planned by others – but there will be a number of free days (or at the very least free half-days), so we will be grabbing the Lonely Planet guides, and checking TripAdvisor over the next month or so to work out exactly where to go and what to see.

The same holds for the three days we will spend in Singapore on the way over.

The second trip is a cruise, where I am an enrichment speaker.

Since we’ve already been to a couple of the ports on that cruise, we’ve already researched them .. but there will be a couple of new locations, so again, they’ll be checked out before our visit.

But the big trip … to the US late in the year? That’s taken on a life of its own!

It started when we happened to spot a Blog Post about a trip on the California Zephyr – the Amtrak train that goes from San Francisco to Chicago.

It looked like such fun that Shirl and I both went “Kewl!”

Now, we try to get over to the US every year or two – our daughter and son-in-law live in California, so it gives us a great excuse 🙂

And while we normally travel around birthdays or anniversaries, that becomes more difficult when teaching at university, because of the needs of the students.

So we chose October – partly because the face-to-face portion of my teaching is over by then, and partly because the leaves will be changing colour for ‘fall’, as they call it in the US .. and that should be quite pretty.

So, the combination of those two circumstances has kept me busy for most of the last week … booking the airfares (because they were on special at Qantas this week), and planning the actual trip.

Initially, we just thought we’d do the Zephyr – but now we are circumnavigating the US by train.

amtrak mapWe’re going to take  the Zephyr to Chicago (with a two-day stopover in Denver) the Lake Shore Limited to NYC, the Adirondack up to Montreal and back (hopefully in the glass-dome carriage to check the fall leaves as we pass), on to Washington DC on the North East Limited, then down to New Orleans on the Crescent, and then to Tucson on the Sunset Limited, and on to LA where we’ll get off one train and on another (the Coast Starlight) before heading back to SF.

It’s been a week of checking the timetables to make sure that the services run on the days we need them, and don’t deposit us into a city at 3am.

For example, our initial plan  (and it seems more logical) was to go from Chicago to NYC and stay there for three nights, before going up to Montreal, and then taking the Adirondack staraight back to Washington.

But that would have dumped us into Washington DC at 3am. Not a good Idea, I didn’t think.

Now I know what my son (a travel agent) goes through every day 🙂

We’re looking to do this on an Amtrak Rail Pass (30 days max, 12 ‘segments’, for about $900 Australian each.)

But we can’t book yet – because there’s effectively a 6-month time limit on the RailPass – so we’ll have to wait until May to book.

20151129_212632With a $50 ‘family’ membership of the National Association of Rail Passengers, we would get a 10% discount – but as RACQ members, we _should_ be able to get the same discount as reciprocal members of the AAA. I’ll have to check – so that’s more research to do this week.

And I see some travellers advise against the RailPass if you want to go on specific routes on specific days. That’s because the RailPass does not guarantee you a seat – you have to book it specifically (at no extra charge). But if the train is already 80% booked, the RailPass won’t be accepted.

So I’m going to have to check each individual sector’s price, and compare that to a RailPass. More research! Boy am I glad we have the internet 🙂

See what I mean about vague thoughts growing like Topsy?

How about you – have you ever had a vague idea for a holiday that turned into a mammoth undertaking?

Tell us about it .. and in the meantime, happy trails!

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