May 5, 2021 – Travel Planning for Dummies

Just to see the shocked expression on your face, I am tempted to show you a screenshot of my email inbox. Seriously, there have to be dozens of emails relating to reservations (made, modified, and cancelled). I think I’ve got a screw loose! I have never vacillated this much between dates and whether to fly or drive in my entire life. It’s utter madness!! The day before yesterday, I was on the computer until 2:30 in the morning. I started out looking at different routes to take to reach our destination (via car) and it morphed into making multiple reservations for assorted hotels, and later undoing every single one of them. Of course, in addition to looking at possible routes to take and my back-and-forths with the hotel reservations, I managed to ‘chat’ with a representative from Alaska Airlines regarding my options should I choose to cancel my flight. As anticipated, I was informed that I was not eligible for a refund. If I cancelled my flight, the funds would be applied to my mileage account as travel credits (to be used within a year). Dang it.

The representative offered to cancel the flight for me but I wasn’t comfortable ‘pulling the trigger’, not yet anyway. I felt if I did, I’d be making a huge mistake. Once the flight’s cancelled, I am left with the only option I absolutely dread, driving. As much as I’ve talked about flying being out of the question because I’m immunocompromised, I haven’t been able to ’embrace the idea’. Initially, that is what I intended. However, once I allowed the thought to really sink in, I became really depressed. I envisioned a life of solitude, encapsulated in fear. Maybe this new ‘lifestyle’ would permit me more days on this planet, but would it be the kind of life worth living? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to run around with my tail between my legs, scared of all the things that might pose a threat to my mortality. Anyway, before I get ahead of myself, I have to divulge a bit more about what took place and how/why it resulted in my email inbox being flooded with emails relating to made, modified, and cancelled reservations.

If you’re not convinced that I need my head examined, you will be by the time you’re done reading the next few paragraphs. As many of you know, I have already adjusted my trip dates multiple times. I initially planned to leave in mid-May on a Thursday. I then moved it to the following Saturday. I then shifted it to the end of May on a Saturday, with a return date in June (on a Tuesday). Because we initially intended to drive, I had booked a hotel (located midway to/from our destination) for 2 nights (one on the way there, and one on the way back). However, after I convinced my husband that flying would be preferable, I then booked a flight (for the two of us), reserved airport parking as well as a rental car, and reached out to our dog sitter via Rover. The assorted processes involved researching prices on multiple websites to determine how/where I could get the best bang for my buck. The day before yesterday, I adjusted the dates again! Oh, yes. I did. Ack! As much as I want to spare you the details, I find it necessary in order to help you understand the full scope of my neurosis.

The night started out innocently enough. I had only intended on looking at possible ways to reach our destination to determine what would be the most enjoyable and/or least painful. I intended to include Yellowstone in the trip but I quickly discovered that staying inside the park is just a tad on the expensive side. After checking multiple websites for recommendations, I learned that it was much more affordable to stay just outside the park. With that in mind, I divided the trip on the way over into three segments. The first day would have brought us to Butte, not far from the west entrance to the park. The second day consisted of leaving Butte, driving due east through Yellowstone, and coming out on the other side (near Cody). The third day involved departing Cody and after nearly another seven hours on the road, reaching our vacation destination. Because I had adjusted the trip from two segments to three, revisions to the initial hotel reservations had to be made. What does that mean? More money and one more miserable night in a hotel. Sigh.

You know what I ‘love’ just about as much as road trips? Staying in hotels. I don’t care how comfortable the bed is, I can never sleep. Number one, I’m wired from all of the driving. Number two, is it just me or when you stay in a hotel, do you also think about the hundreds of people that occupied the bed before you? I don’t like to think about that part because it gives me the heebie-jeebies. I understand that the linens are changed but I bet that if I took a blacklight and scanned the bed, you and I both know that the comforter and/or mattress would resemble a painting by Jackson Pollock. Let’s be real about this. In addition to that, my husband and I can never agree on the temperature of the room. I like it tropical like Hawaii, whereas, my husband prefers it nice and frigid like Siberia. Of course, on top of all that, there are the sounds that are inescapable. If it isn’t a gaggle of teenagers laughing and shouting as they make their way down the hallway, it’s people chatting it up in the parking lot at all hours of the night, elevator doors opening and closing, or random doors slamming shut.

After going on Priceline and booking two different hotels, neither of which I was thrilled about, I continued my ‘search’. I was convinced that there had to be better deals. Did you know that while you’re looking at Google Maps, there’s an option to view ‘nearby hotels’? I had no idea! Despite how harmless it appeared, this option took me on a very long and painful detour on my quest to find reasonable lodging. I wound up wasting a couple of hours looking up all of the different hotels and their amenities. Ultimately, I realized that if I went to the ‘source’, or directly to each hotel’s corporate site, by using the military discount, I was able to get a better rate (and better cancellation policy) than through Priceline. Who would have thought? It did require a little extra effort, however. In order to get the reduced rates, I had to ‘register’ at each website. Once I registered, I set about booking two more hotels (one in Butte and one in Cody) and subsequently cancelled the ones I had previously made via Priceline. Because I can never leave ‘well enough alone’, I continued on my travel-planning journey.

When you book a hotel, do you ever think about what’s included (i.e.; the amenities)? I always pay particular attention because 1) what’s not included can really add up, and 2) not all amenities are alike. I’ve booked really wonderful hotel rooms, only to discover that the only thing covered was the room itself. I stayed in one place that didn’t include breakfast, parking, wi-fi, or coffee. When I was informed that the parking was $37 per night, I nearly fainted! I know better than to make assumptions at this point in my life. For this reason, I always like to contact the hotels directly to get all of the specifics. What is really fascinating to me is everything that falls under ‘free breakfast’. For the exact same hotel chain, depending on which one you stay at, ‘free breakfast’ is either bagels, bananas, and yogurt, pre-packaged items that can be heated in a microwave, or cooked-to-order items off a menu. If I get to pick, I’d rather have a cooked-to-order breakfast than a bagel and banana but that’s just me. My husband’s more the ‘grab and go’ type.

Did I factor all of that in when I was making reservations? Absolutely! In fact, that’s why I cancelled the first hotel I had reserved in Cody and reserved a different one. That’s also the reason why I cancelled the hotel we had in Bozeman and moved it to Belgrade (for the return trip). We were going to stay in Bozeman (where we stayed last year) but I found a place only 9 miles away for $10 cheaper that had a much better breakfast deal. At the hotel in Bozeman, I kid you not, the guy working at the reception desk handed us a paper bag for breakfast that included a bottle of water, a tiny cup of applesauce (no spoon), a baby mandarin orange, and an itty-bitty granola bar. It was the saddest excuse for a breakfast I’d ever seen! I was a goner after I spoke to the gal at the reception desk in Belgrade. She had me at ‘hot breakfast’. Look, you needn’t tell me I’m neurotic. I already know. The thing is, I’m not even finished telling my story. If you thought things couldn’t get more complicated, think again!

Upon waking yesterday morning, I immediately pulled up about 30 more websites on the computer and continued making comparisons. I became so overwhelmed that I had to eventually walk away. My husband had gone fishing but upon his return, after he’d put everything away, I sat down with him for a ‘heart to heart’. “I don’t want to drive,” I explained/complained, “I’m so conflicted. Help?!” After hashing everything out, my dear, patient husband made a logical suggestion, “Call your doctor and see what he recommends.” What did I do to deserve this guy?! He always seems to know what to do! After a quick call to my doctor’s office, his nurse assured me that flying was ok as long as I took all of the necessary precautions stipulated by the CDC. Say no more! I still don’t feel 100% about the idea because I didn’t develop antibodies and am still just as vulnerable. But you know what? I don’t want to live my life paralyzed by fear!! My husband said it best, “The whole point of having the transplant was to live and you should live it the way you want to.” Yes, I could catch Covid on the plane and possibly die. Or maybe I’ll catch it…and live.

I could also get food poisoning at a local restaurant, or I could get hit by a car while walking my dog down the street that doesn’t have any sidewalks. I could be sitting in my house, enjoying a show on TV, and ‘kick the bucket’ because some guy in the house beside me was cleaning his gun and it accidentally discharged and went through his house and into mine. I could be mopping the floor in my kitchen and slip and fall and bang my head on the ground in the process and ‘buy the farm’ from the resulting injury. Yes, it’s all very possible. The thing is, none of us get out of here ‘alive’. When it’s our time, no matter what we do to stay vibrant and young, that Grim Reaper is coming for us. It’s not a matter of ‘if’, my friends. It’s going to happen, one way or another. I know I said that I wasn’t going to fly again but after a great deal of thought, I chucked that idea right out the window! I still have a lot I want to do with what remains of my life. I intend to make of it what I can and hopefully, when it’s all said and done, I can leave this earth with a smile on my face. Anyway, that’s my two cents! Have the best day ever…and happy ‘Cinco de Mayo’.

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