Making plans for a long vacation, a month in this case, where you are going to several different locations isn’t the same as making those plans when you are going on a one or two week vacation to a single destination. The road trip we have planned will last for 31 days, cover some 5,000 to 6,000 miles and include overnight stops in at least 11 different towns. We are also including a few adventures such as a rafting trip down part of the Colorado River and train ride to the Grand Canyon from Williams Arizona that will require reservations. Needless to say, that can be a bit challenging.

The biggest challenge is trying to balance the vacation between a meticulously planned and scripted trip and one where we just wing it. I have been telling Jean about the Grand Canyon and the American southwest ever since we were married 18 years ago and we have been thinking about it for at least the last 10 years, but we have never gotten around to taking the time to plan it. Finally, about 9 months ago I just said to Jean, “We better make a plan for going out west because come October, we are getting in the truck and heading out there with a plan or not.” We are the relaxed kind of traveler as written about on the What Kind Of Traveler Are You post so making a plan to do a bunch of adventures and keep busy the entire time just doesn’t fit us. We much better fit in with the just wing it crowd.

However, when you want to raft down the Colorado River with Colorado River Discovery and stay at the unique La Posada Hotel in Winslow Arizona, you need to make reservations because these places and adventures fill up fast and don’t really fit in with the let’s just wing it traveler. And the challenge in timing reservations such as needed in these situations is that you are driving 2,300 miles to get there and stopping 5 or 6 places in between. It turns out that when making reservations and planning this trip, even though I looked at our itinerary probably a hundred times, I realized just last evening there was a mistake in our schedule and I miscalculated by a day as to when we needed to be in the town near where our rafting adventure begins. Luckily, the error was on the positive side and we have an extra day to get from Colorado Springs to Marble Canyon, AZ. So we do get to wing it for a day.

Using Google Docs and Google Maps For Vacation Planning

 

To get the whole process started and to plan for the trip, about 2 months ago I created a simple document in Google Docs that was a basic list of where we wanted to go on the vacation, what we needed, some various attractions and cool hotels around where we were going to be, and then I shared it via Google Docs with Jean so she could add her information. At the beginning of the planning stages, I had no idea we would be staying at the La Posada or rafting down the Colorado, I just told Jean we would be heading out west and seeing the Grand Canyon. Once we started to get an idea of the more exact things we wanted to do and places we wanted to stay, I started creating maps in Google Maps. The first major stop we decided to make was in Colorado Springs to see friends, so I created a map from Palm Bay Florida to Colorado Springs and then individual maps for each day of our drive out there.

Once we started to finalize more of what we wanted to do and see, I created an itinerary in Google Docs that included all the information we needed to get from place to place including when our reservations were and other pertinent stuff. The nice thing about doing all of this in a document plus creating these maps at Google Maps in your Google account is that you can access it anywhere in the world. So if you forget a reservation number or lose the route information you have on how to get to Columbia Missouri from Chattanooga Tennessee or wherever, you have everything right there in Google Docs or Maps.

We also got a Garmin Nuvi 1450 GPS for the trip as well and if you’ve never used a GPS, they are pretty amazing little gadgets. The unit lets you store routes addresses, cities and more and with the 5″ screen on the Nuvi 1450 you can easily see your route all laid out before you. The nicest thing that I like about using a GPS is that you see the names of the upcoming roads on the screen before you can actually read the road signs. If you’ve ever tried to find the right street at night when directions were kind of sketchy, a GPS is a huge benefit. To prepare for the trip, I just entered most of the addresses we will be at during various parts of adventure into my Favorites on the GPS and then I can recall them when needed.

Also, when it comes to food, spending $8 to $10 per person 2 to 3 times a day on a month long adventure can add up to a significant amount of money, so if you haven’t seen the previous post on planning snacks for vacation that Jean wrote, it’s a good read for how to cut the cost of meals while on the road for a long time.

One final money saving tip: We bought an annual National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass because of the many parks we will be visiting during vacation. The cost of the annual pass is $80 and can be purchased at almost any National Parks or Federal Lands office and it is well worth the price. The entry into Grand Canyon National Park is $25 alone and there are many more parks we will be visiting on vacation and during the year right here at home in Florida. You can get more information on the America The Beautiful Pass here.

Look for more blogs posts soon as we write about the various adventures along the way of our month long vacation.

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