So I posted last week about the joys of family vacations. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I love planning trips. When it comes to travelling as a family, I don’t believe in too much spontaneity; I think you need an agenda and that when you tumble off the train in a strange city, there should be a hotel reserved in your name so you know where to go. As a result, I plan our trips pretty thoroughly and well in advance. What happens each day may be a lovely surprise but I always know where we’re going to sleep at night.
However, there are drawbacks to too much careful planning.
Five years ago, after the 2009 Pathfinder Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, our family rented an RV and drove west, exploring some of the US. Our plan was to drive all the way to Yellowstone National Park, where we would see Old Faithful and go white-water rafting. I had booked ahead campsites in most of the places we planned to stay, up to and including a short stop near Mount Rushmore and then onward to Yellowstone, where we would stay for a couple of nights.
Driving an RV was much less fun than we had imagined. I know a lot of people love their RVs and have made great vacation memories in them, but my main impression was that just to keep on target with our travel schedule we were spending seven or eight hours a day pushing this giant box along the highway, not spending much time stopping to see interesting things. It drove more slowly and guzzled more gas than we had imagined, and I didn’t dare attempt to drive the thing so Jason was behind the wheel hour after hour. As we approached Mount Rushmore I dared to say to Jason, “What if we didn’t go on to Yellowstone for the weekend? We’d miss out on Yellowstone, sure, but we’d spend a lot less time driving and a lot more time relaxing and doing fun things.”
I’m such a hardcore trip planner that it actually took me a couple of days on the road, in the RV, to think that one through and realize that I could change our plans. And yes, I’m sad we never saw Old Faithful, and didn’t go whitewater rafting (although this past summer we did it right back home in Newfoundland and it was awesome). But some of our kids’ best travel memories are from that KOA Kampground in South Dakota where we spent four lovely, fun, relaxing days. As soon as I called ahead to the campground in Yellowstone to cancel our reservation, I knew it was the right decision. I felt lighter, safer and more relaxed when we made a course correction and scaled back our plans.