Ordinarily, I absolutely love planning our next adventure. Digging through guide books, looking online at fodors' forums and trip advisor and other fun online sites for the best recommendations... I just eat it up. I absolutely LOVE making schedule after itinerary after alternative ideas after another. Heck, I've planned trips we've never even taken (like our first plans for the summer, which were going to be New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, with maybe a little Rhode Island and New Jersey thrown in so the boys could cross them off their list - now, that was a good itinerary). What can I say... Travel planning puts me in my happy place.
But this summer's travel plans are vexing me like no trip has ever vexed me before. For the first time ever, I'm actually considering using a ... (gasp!) ... travel agent.
Why is this so difficult? Well, my mother-in-law is flying out with the boys to Northern California to spend a week with her brother up in Northern, Northern California (as in, six hours north of San Francisco). One week later, Carl is flying out, and she is flying home. And then one week later, I am flying out so we can begin Our Family Vacation for the summer and head up through Oregon and possibly Washington, and then somewhere between 7-10 days later, the four of us will fly back to Austin. The problem? Which airport for all of us to fly into and out of, and where and when to rent the car.
I've looked at and priced the airports in California: Eureka (which is the closest to Uncle Louie); Redding; Sacramento; San Francisco; Oakland; San Jose; and Medford and Portland, Oregon, as well as Seattle, Washington. I've looked at car rentals in all these places, and I've priced one-way rentals with drop fees; car rentals located away from the airports; car rentals located in the airports. I've priced buses and trains and tried to figure things out. I've even made an excel spreadsheet to try and make sense of it all.
O. M. F. G.
This is so complicated, its almost (almost) taking the enjoyment out of my planning. Rationally, I know that I just need to bite the bullet and commit to one of these options, and then move on to the fun parts. But I just loathe to overpay for traveling, and I pride myself on always making the most fiscally conservative options for a trip (missing from my spreadsheet - the mileage between cities - I love the idea of a one-way car rental and flying out of a city in Oregon or Washington so we don't waste time, mileage, and vacation days backtracking south - but do I love that $500 worth? $1000 worth?). I'm also trying to squeeze in a day or so with my brother in San Francisco, preferably with the kids, but if we fly out of Portland, that doesn't happen. And is it really worth a six hour drive by myself to fly into San Francisco and spend a night with him? It saves me $200, but that six hours seems awfully long. And I did *just* see him. Oh - also missing from the spreadsheet - the fact that Eureka is an itty bitty little airport and we'd be flying into it on those planes that seat, like, ten people. The kinds that seem to crash all the time, especially in fog. Which, you know, northern California is sorta famous for.
Which brings me back to... travel agent? Or not? I've never used one before. The one time I did consult one, I was so annoyed with their options and prices that I've never been back. But could it be time? ohhhh.... decisions, decisions.