Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nitty Gritty on Trip Planning

Consuelo and I have gotten down to the nitty gritty details of our trip-planning. We’ve spent the last 4 or 5 days with our heads together and both notebook computers burning up the internet.  And we really appreciate the suggestions readers have sent us... there is so much to see and do!

I sometimes make fun of Consuelo and her unfathomable (to me, at least) need to be organized, but after our Fall Foliage trip, I’m a true believer in her methods. She’s created a spreadsheet itinerary to outline our trip—from the day we leave home until we meet up with the Alaska Caravan Tour—then from when we finish with the tour, until the day we get home. Her spread sheet reflects where we’ll be spending each night, how many miles we’ll travel each day, how much it will cost us for campground fees, and if we’ve already made reservations. Of course, we’ve agreed that we will depart from this itinerary whenever we want to… we want to enjoy the freedom to change our minds and so the itinerary will provide us an “anchor” but not a ball and chain! And we’ll be giving a copy to friends and family so they will have an idea of our whereabouts.

For popular family vacation spots like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Yellowstone, we’re making our reservations now! We don’t want to be disappointed because we can’t get a site at a popular park. With the exception of one place, we can pretty much get our deposits back with only a couple days notice and so this approach is the best of both worlds – peace of mind and flexibility.

Whoever would have thought all this planning would be so much work? But we believe our efforts will pay off with a truly great RV escape—it certainly was worth all the work on our Fall Foliage trip. Planning the Fall Foliage trip was simple compared to this undertaking… 3000 miles in 3 weeks versus 15,000 miles in 23 weeks!

This trip planning effort has also allowed us time to look into ways to save money here and there, such as…
  • Many military bases and facilities have small campgrounds, called FamCamps, with full hookups and, since they’re located on base, most offer many extra amenities such as laundry, grocery store, fuel station and other things we wouldn’t use (like golf courses, swimming pools, athletic gyms, etc). Since we’re both retired from the Air Force, there’s no problem in staying in these places; they’re usually far more affordable than most private campgrounds. Military FamCamps are typically available to Active Duty members, Guard and Reserve troops, Retired military, and DoD civilians.  Check out this web site for more information:
  • The Army Corps of Engineers operates many low-cost campgrounds with at least basic amenities. You can purchase Camping With the Corps of Engineers: The Complete Guide to Campgrounds Owned and Operated by the U.s. Army Corps of Engineers through Amazon.
  • Boondocking is a not-to-be-overlooked option. See the Resource links posted on the right side of our Blog.
We also realize that traveling back and forth across the Canadian border with two large dogs could present some challenges – of course Alaskan Discovery RV Tours had already advised us about the necessary veterinary paperwork required for each dog. But Consuelo had received an email from a friend who works in the dog agility competition circuit and she warned that Canadian customs would seize any open bags of dog food. So, I started researching to find what I could about visiting Canada with dogs in tow. After looking at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s website, and not really finding answers to my questions, I submitted an inquiry and received a very polite email response within a couple of days. Here’s what it boils down to: We can only bring dog food that will be fed to the animal that accompanies us across the border; the food must be commercially prepared in the United States; it must be in its original package (they said nothing about it having to be sealed); and we are limited to 20kg, which is about 44lbs. That last bit may require some careful thought on our part, these 2 big dogs chow through their food pretty quickly! And I guess we won’t be dumping big bags of dog food into plastic containers to keep it fresh like we usually do…

Meanwhile, we’re continuing with our house cleaning efforts and getting ready for a trip to Key West. Yay… sunshine and warmth! We’ll be in Key West with some friends for about a week… not with the RV, however. Once we get back from Key West, we’ll have about 4 weeks until we leave on Our Great RV Escape!


SimplyForties said...

Sounds like you're making good progress! It makes my head spin to think about everything you have to do. Just closing this place up seems almost overwhelming at times. Good luck with your preparations. As we know, ready or not, it's going to get here soon! After all the snow and cold I'm envious of your Key West getaway - have a great time!

Consuelo said...

Thanks Mary! Yes, we are getting fairly burned out but the Key West trip will be a good break.

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