Last January, I read a book about Costa Rica because I wanted to go there for winter vacation. I determined the areas of the most interest to my family. I consulted with my sister's family, our travel companions, to find out their preferences. In February, I shopped on-line for vacation rental homes in our chosen destination with the proper bedroom configuration to accommodate both families. All of the homes were available, so I picked the most beautiful one in my price range and sent in my reservation money. Then, I used my frequent flyer miles to book flights with excellent connections.
Oh, that is so the alternate universe, like the one where Spock had a beard. In that happy place, I also am the sixth member of the United States Women's Olympic Gymnastics Team. Here's how it really went. Last January, I said, "Let's go to Costa Rica". In May, I got a book out of the library. In July, I realized it was July. In August, my sister and I discovered that the only number bigger than the airfare was the hours we would spend waiting for connections in a variety of airports South of the Border.
A girlfriend (and you know who you are) just booked frequent flyer tickets to Hawaii for the summer of 2013. I, on the other hand, have had somewhat less success landing those free flights. Sure, I scored a major coup when I used my frequent flyer miles to go to Minneapolis one wind-chilled January weekend for Cousin Nathan's Bar Mitzvah, but I've never booked a free flight to a place with a temperature above minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. I finally traded my frequent flyer Visa card for one that gives me cold, hard cash now and then—cash that I don't have to plan a year in advance to receive.
Who are these people that plan so far ahead? I bet they know when they last rotated their mattress, and which direction. I bet they mark their calendars for their next oil change. I bet they have a retirement plan, and have booked their world tour to kick it off.
My sister and I have abandoned Costa Rica for now. I have spent every spare moment for three weeks researching other vacation destinations where the airfare won't bankrupt either family and the travel time is less than 80 days—tough for dealing with Detroit and San Jose. I exchanged emails with dozens of vacation rental owners. Miraculously, I found a place in Puerto Vallarta, which by the way, is not on the State Department's Travel Warning list, although luckily for my vacation budget and sadly for Mexican tourism, everyone thinks it is.
Now I need a vacation from planning my vacation. The character Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd sings "Half the fun is to plan the plan". Yeah, but she is planning a grisly murder with a razor blade, not trying to navigate travel web sites ("Act fast! Only four tickets left at this price!").
Obviously, I'm the world's biggest whiner, complaining about planning a tropical vacation. Now that it is all arranged, I'm thrilled to be going, glad I went through the pain, and keep a picture of my vacation rental as the background of my work computer. But I still admit that in that alternative universe with the bearded Spock, my personal secretary makes all the arrangements.