As 2014 comes to an end (yes, I know there is still a December), it is time for me to plan the next year of vacation days. This past year we visited Houston for a long weekend in the Spring and took our year-delayed honeymoon in the fall. Air travel was our mode of transportation for each trip so I am really itching to go on another big road trip. Knowing that, there are a number of destinations I have in mind.
First, Beth’s dad, Ken, is interested in driving to Winnipeg, Manitoba in June for the Women’s World Cup. It’s not every day the World Cup is hosted nearby and Winnipeg is less than a day’s drive. There are seven games of the tournament being hosted in Winnipeg but unfortunately they are kind of spread out. Two will be held on June 8th, two on June 12th, two on June 15th, and one more on June 16th. The tournament draw is held on December 6th and then we’ll know exactly which countries play in all seven first round games. If the United States plays in any of the games I’m sure we will plan our trip around them. The same goes for host country Canada. If either country draws Group D (four of the seven games) we could see them play two games on the 8th and 12th. If that happens we’re talking a seven day trip; one travel day up, a soccer day, three off days of exploring and/or additional travel if we go elsewhere in Canada, another soccer day, and one travel day back home. If the US or Canada draw Groups A, B, or C there’s a fifty percent chance they would play one game in Winnipeg on the 15th or 16th. This would allow a shorter trip of four days and would work a lot better with my limited vacation days. I get ten days of vacation a year and no additional personal time. Meanwhile, my wife gets almost five weeks of combined vacation and personal time from Costco. I know, holy hell. I am super jealous. I should also mention that Ken is retired and can make any trip configuration work. He still manages the soccer referees in our suburb of Minneapolis but a World Cup is the best excuse to miss time and put someone else in charge for a week.
Second, Beth and I haven’t been to San Francisco to visit her dad’s side of the family since 2011 and are due for a visit. We haven’t seen them since our wedding in 2013 and the Bay Area provides a lot of fun opportunities I’d like to explore. I planned most of our activities as part of our first giant road trip. We stopped at all the iconic places including the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Pier 39, and the cooky, zigzag Lombard Street. This time, we’d turn a little bit of the planning over to Beth’s family. Her aunt, Elaine, has already expressed an interest in showing us her favorite places in San Francisco. While I am open to suggestions, there are a few things on which I will not budge. We must see the Golden Gate Bridge again (in case it’s sunny this time) and I want to see Coit Tower up close (possibly going to the top). I’m also looking forward to trying more restaurants. There are many great restaurants in the Bay Area including some that have been featured on our favorite Food Network shows. Three and a half years ago we didn’t choose places to eat based on any advanced research. Picking a restaurant based on proximity is alright but I’m going to determine a couple ahead of time. Ken has a spreadsheet of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives locations on his laptop, which will be a great place to start. FlavortownUSA is also a great resource.
If we decide to drive to San Francisco, the schedule is much more wide open. I prefer to take road trips in the Spring and Summer for obvious, weather-related reasons. I also happen to know that my Minnesota Vikings play Beth’s 49ers in Santa Clara next season. We’d like to attend the game but we won’t know on which week of the football season it will occur until the NFL schedule is released in April. If the game happens in September we might be able to plan a long road trip and take advantage of the last bit of the year’s good weather. If the game happens in October, November, or December, however, we’ll probably just fly in for the weekend. We could do a road trip in the Spring and fly out for the game but the costs and vacation days would add up. The thought of waiting until September for a road trip almost makes me hope the football schedule forces our hand. The schedule comes out so late that I will have to plan for the Spring just in case.
The Bay Area is a great destination and if we drive there are many routes we could take involving interesting attractions. I have a number of them in mind already including Yellowstone National Park, Denver, Las Vegas and all of the State and National Parks in the Southwest corner of the country. I looked up Minneapolis to San Francisco on Google Maps to see what routes it recommended. When I picture the fastest way it is I-35 South to Des Moines and West on I-80. Surprisingly, however, Google says going through North or South Dakota is actually faster and a shorter distance. The Northernmost path would bring us through Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota and very near Yellowstone. I have family friends in Cody, Wyoming (East of Yellowstone) which would require deviation from the routes pictured above. The middle route would pass the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore. We’ve both been before but not together. The (now-realized) slow route travels through a boring stretch of highway in Iowa and Nebraska before getting to anything interesting. From I-80 we could cut down to Denver and through Utah which would be a lot of fun. Beth has been to many of the State and National Parks in that part of the country with her family as a kid but I have not. If we head that way I would want to stop A LOT. I don’t need to pull over for six hours to hike each park or anything but I will need enough time to take some pictures and enjoy the experience. Las Vegas is a bit further out of the way and if we go that far I will need a stop at the Grand Canyon. If that’s the case, suddenly our San Francisco trip becomes a National Park excursion with a short stop in Frisco. In the end I will have to find a good balance. We should spend a minimum of four days on the West Coast with her family and no more than three days traveling each direction. We have driven back in two days before with a 2am check-in at a hotel in Rock Springs, WY but those were two very long days.
Third, Houston will always be at the top of the list while Beth’s sister’s family calls it home. Beth actually squeezed in an extra trip to visit them this past year while I was stuck at home (again, I am super jealous). She is planning another trip in February with her mom, Carol. I’d love to go but I already know it won’t work, even if the trip was just three or four days. Houston has a lot to do and visiting in February will provide an awesome escape from Minnesota’s brutal winter. I know they’ll get some excellent baby-time with a soon to be one year-old while I suffer through negative wind-chills and snow piles taller than my car. While she’s gone in February hopefully I will begin looking for a house (after work and on weekends of course).
Fourth, we could visit Australia if I won the lottery and added an extra dream trip to the travel schedule. It is fairly high on my list of international destinations now that we’ve scratched London and Paris off (for at least the first time). Sydney is the most popular travel city in Australia but I’ve recently heard a lot of great things about Perth too. I’d visit both but it would take a lottery win to do so as they are both expensive cities and a five hour flight apart. Italy, Brazil, and Egypt would also be fun. Since I forget to stop at the gas station to buy a Powerball ticket half the time, I won’t hold out for this to happen. Hopefully we can get to these fun international locales before we’re eighty. I’ll start saving up I guess.
What would you do with limited vacation time? I can potentially take a couple extra days off unpaid if my boss gives the go ahead. We’ll see. There’s a lot of cool places and things to see and experience next year. I’ll do what I can to make it all happen.