The Perils of Not Planning Relying on Spontaneity Can Mean Missed Opportunities

By James T. Yenckel 1997, The Washington Post | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), June 29, 1997 | Go to article overview

The Perils of Not Planning Relying on Spontaneity Can Mean Missed Opportunities


James T. Yenckel 1997, The Washington Post, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


ADVICE that I often give fellow travelers is "do your homework." But last spring, on a drive through southern Colorado's San Juan Mountains, I didn't follow my own advice. As a result, I sped right past the turnoff to Clear Creek Falls, later learning that they are among Colorado's most spectacular.

Such missed opportunities are bound to happen if you don't put thoughtful planning into a summer drive of America's byways.

Yes, planning can be tedious. And you would rather opt for spontaneity, just hopping into the car and heading out to see what there is to see. But spontaneity these days means a big "no vacancy" sign outside the national park lodge where you longed to spend the night, or missing the pretty lake, the thundering waterfall or the offbeat historical museum you didn't realize was anywhere nearby. By most informed accounts, driving trips are one of America's favorite vacation choices. For proof, just count the recreational vehicles on the road ahead of you this summer. I count my sightseeing vacations behind the wheel as among my most memorable, and often the least expensive. The Oregon and California coasts, southern and northern New Mexico, and Wyoming's Wind River Range are among my favorite itineraries. If I'm renting a car, I generally plot a loop route, because the cost usually is less when you return the car to the site where you picked it up. And I like to explore regions of the country I've not seen before. Years ago, I could claim I had spent at least one night in all 50 states. Now I want to get to know many of those states better. I've put together a list of guidelines for driving vacations. Mostly, they are commonsensical suggestions that just might turn a routine vacation into one you remember as the best. Build the trip around your interests and those of your family or other traveling companions. Is it hiking, golf, wine-tasting, crafts shopping, the Civil War, bird-watching - or all of the above? If so, find out before you leave home where you can enjoy these things, and plan your itinerary accordingly. I favor scenic views, an opportunity to hike and historical sites. Depending on where I'm headed, I try to work all of them into a trip. My wife looks forward to fine dining, and I'm happy to share this interest with her. Buy or borrow a guidebook. Or at the very least, send off for free material from the tourist information office at your destination. Time and again I've talked to people investing big money in a trip who have never bothered to consult a guidebook. "Do I need one?" they ask in all innocence. A good guide costs $15 or $20; look on the money as insurance that your investment won't be wasted. A guide can point you to offbeat attractions you might never discover on your own. …

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