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By the Time You Plan It, You'll Need It

     First we were going to drive across the United States. Then we weren’t. That saved a lot of planning. Then we decided to fly to Miami and drive up the coast. Less driving, more seeing.

     I usually make our travel plans on the computer - check out airfares and car rental rates and motels and hotels. It’s totally frustrating. Airfares go up the minute you look away; rooms aren’t available the days you need them; and the car you want is twice the cost you budgeted. I decided to leave it to Triple A this time. Sit back in a plush chair and watch someone else do all the work.

     So last Saturday morning I waved good-bye to the guy who’s going with me and set off to the local Triple A office. The Triple A travel agent led me to a chair by her desk. Not plush, but no matter. She was doing the work. I was doing the watching. I told her where we wanted to go, gave her the dates, and sat back.

     She punched in the dates and pulled up a price on airfare so low she couldn’t believe it. Me neither. I whipped out my credit card. The rules – or something - required her to read me every detail of the itinerary three times before she could lock in the rate, but finally it was done. We weren’t.

     Time to choose the seats. She took me through each leg of the flight, asking if I wanted window seats, upfront seats, not-over-the-wing seats. I made eighteen decisions about seats – some of them I changed the second time around. Then she showed me my seat choices on the fake airplane on her computer screen, asked if these were the ones I wanted and then we were done. With the plane.  

     Next the rental car. She punched a few keys on her computer, and a few more and a few more and then she got real quiet. She stayed real quiet. After a long time she looked up. “You’re not gonna like this,” she said. It didn’t sound any better the second time she said it. By now, I was sure she was going to tell me someone died. When she told me, I almost died. The cost for the car was triple the airfare.

     Apparently we chose Rental Car Rush Week for our vacation – the fall color season in New England. She reserved the car and we moved on. Or we would’ve moved on but it was almost closing time by now. I agreed to come back next Saturday.

     Before I left, I waited while she got some travel brochures for us - to help us decide what we wanted to see and where we wanted to stop. She came back with a plastic bag in one hand and a fistful of maps in the other.

     I about fell over when she handed me the bag. It weighed a ton. I hung tight to the bag and staggered out to my car. Inside the bag five thick brochures were stacked on top of each other. The smallest one was five hundred and ten pages; the thickest one was eleven hundred and fifty pages. The five of them - four thousand, two hundred and sixty-two pages.

     The guy who's going with me and I are working on it. Got out the magnifying glass to read the fine print and find the tiny highways. We’re drawing felt tip pen lines on the maps and asking each other - where’s Highway One? How long do you want to stay in North Carolina? How far is Portland from Brunswick? Shall we stay two days or three?

     I'm thinking, we might be gonna need a second vacation before we get to this one.

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