When retired, you should be able to take off on a whim and travel where you want, when you want – right?! Actually, that frequently isn’t the way it works. It seems there are still responsibilities and expectations that keep you tied down. So we’ve decided that now’s the time to “break the chains” and start the retirement life we expected.
Even though we have taken several trips since I retired, our plan to take at least one trip a month hasn’t quite materialized. As we began planning for our annual trip with Jim’s sister and her husband (part of our traveling companions on last year’s trip to Italy), we decided a Gulf Coast destination would be ideal this year, and though they would fly in from Maryland, we would drive. Taking driving trips, seeing the sights along the way, has been one of our dreams for retirement travel, so this would give us a good taste of that.
Using Google maps to plan our route worked out well and allowed us to determine the best places to stay overnight along the way. I have been the “travel agent” and “navigator” in our previous travels and this was no exception.
I used KAYAK to compare lodging prices, because it makes a comparison of the prices with Priceline, Hotels.com, TravelZoo, and others. I then made reservations on the websites for the specific hotel chains (such hilton.com and choicehotels.com). Making the reservations through KAYAK results in your credit card being charged immediately rather than when you check in. I prefer the latter option in case the reservation has to be canceled at the last minute. KAYAK also has user reviews of the hotels. These can help steer you away from hotels that might not meet your expectations.We also found that comparing the route directions from Google Maps with those provided by the Maps app on the iPhone and by the navigation system on our Ford Fusion gave us some options. Creating a route by selecting the fastest way or by blocking certain features allowed us to see a few sights we would have missed had we relied only on Google.
With all these reservations and decisions made in advance, we were ready to set out on our adventure. First stop: Hot Springs, Arkansas. Our drive was smooth and we made it to our first destination with only a minor change: we decided to alter our route and used the iPhone app to give us a shorter route by taking a minor highway instead of an interstate. That turned out to be an advantage, because Highway 7 in Arkansas is a beautiful drive through the Ouachita National Forest, and we would have missed the forest and winding road if we had stayed on Interstate 40.
So, we make our plans, plot our route, make reservations – and then make changes! Flexibility!