Friday, June 14, 2024

Rookie Mama: Pack it up, pack it in - Let the travel era begin

By Michelle Cote

“What do they call it when everything intersects?”
“The Bermuda Triangle.”
– Sleepless in Seattle

The month of May is a Bermuda-Triangle-sort-of-firehose-to-the-face in the Cote household: A very real intersection of spring sports, opening camp, and planting our garden at the exact same time.

It’s a time of year that makes a mockery of my desire for a predictable, clockwork-like schedule, as well as a reminder that despite best-laid plans and garden beds, there are certain things that unavoidably intersect at the same darn time.

The plates must spin on, but we can give them a soft landing.

Enter the multi-tabbed spreadsheet – Today’s sorting, color-coding, slicing, dicing wonder of an answer to my hand-written lists of yore.

It would be wrong to imply spreadsheets have completely replaced lists written in my wild hand – Let’s be honest; my physician grandfather passed down enough promotional pharmaceutical notepads and pens to last several lifetimes.

I can’t pronounce the product names splashed across the tops, and no one can read my cursive shorthand. It’s like a cute little cuneiform that keeps me accountable.

But back to spreadsheets.

When you can accurately predict the unpredictable is coming for your schedule, try to take moments to plan what you can.

We’ve now entered the summer vacation season era that jumps on the heels of spring sports’ end – When I was a kid, welcoming summer meant new jelly shoes and beach towels, but today it means I’ve got to be kind to my future self and take time to plan out family travels, with the same intensity carried out by Kevin McAllister when smoothing out his Battle Plan in ‘Home Alone.’

It’s June, which means we’ll all collectively blink and welcome Labor Day Weekend.

So, get your spreadsheet planning in order if you haven’t already – Fire up a Google or Excel sheet, add your columns for dates, destination locations, check-in times, ticket confirmation numbers, website links galore.

This virtual itinerary can help you plan your travels down to the minute, and you can edit to your heart’s content as you go.

So when you’re really in go-mode, the brunt’s been done.

I first started going gaga for Google Sheets when I discovered just how fabulous a tool this proved for budgeting, from day-to-day bill pay to holiday fa-la-la-list making. I was late to the spreadsheet game – Remember, promotional pharmaceutical notepads.

But I find that planning ahead today for travels that take place months from now not only helps establish a realistic timeline, but sparks reminders of what we’ll need to pack, from beef jerky road snacks to passports.

Jerky tastes better, but getting all travel docs in order is important, too, I suppose – Updating all six of our passports was a laughably taxing exercise in coordination and preparedness.

I wanted to eat all the beef jerky after that was over.

Planning out our family’s travel and adventure itineraries early has worked well each year because we mindfully include room for flexibility and grace, as nothing goes perfectly according to plan one hundred percent of the time.

And sometimes, it so happens these unscripted memories are that which we hold dearest.

You’ve likely experienced something like this.

Those candid moments brought about because of a wrong turn taken, unexpected weather shift, or needing to improvise because of a packing fail reminds us we all need to be flexible sometimes.

Several years ago, my family and I were wandering newly redesigned streets on the outskirts of Old Quebec and found ourselves innocently – and evidently illegally – crossing a street where we believed to be a designated crosswalk. Not so.

An angry officer appeared from around a corner, chased us away, hurling threats in English as broken as this law we’d misinterpreted, and we were terrified.

It was a rainy, gray day, and we were feeling dreary ourselves, but we found ourselves across that street in another newly renovated area – a gorgeous waterfront park with a newly built public splashpad for children.

The river view, coupled with the famed Chateau Frontenac perched in the distance, was breathtaking.

We had the entire place to ourselves because the rain had kept away crowds, and the sky cleared moments later.

Then, a military marching band celebrating Quebec’s summer festival came from seemingly nowhere and encircled us, playing traditional music beautifully as our boys dashed around the waterspouts in pure joy.

I can’t make this stuff up.

So I certainly could never have planned it.

And this was only one of several Cote family moments gone awry that turned out to be so very memorable in the end – All this time later, we still laugh about that day, the angry officer, and eventual sunshine on a cloudy day.

If you set a solid itinerary that reflects your family’s shared goals, you’re designing a best-intended recipe for success.

As long as you remember to make grace-filled room for the inevitable unscripted takeaways, you’ll have your summer to remember – no jelly shoes needed.

Just don’t forget the road snacks.

Enjoy the era of adventure.

­­– Michelle Cote lives in southern Maine with her husband and four sons, and enjoys camping, distance running, biking, gardening, road trips to new regions, arts and crafts, soccer, and singing to musical showtunes – often several or more at the same time! <

No comments:

Post a Comment