Friday, March 30, 2012

Vincent Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise

Fields in Auvers

 More than 70 paintings in less than 90 days.  It would be an incredible feat for any artist.  Vincent Van Gogh did just that from May to July 1890.  He spent the last three months of his life in a quiet town not far from Paris called Auvers-sur-Oise.  Intrigued by the light, bright colors, and thatched roofs in Auvers, Van Gogh was eager to return to health and painting.  Vincent created some amazing artwork during this brief period, yet, was not able to lay his mental troubles aside.  At the age of 37, Vincent shot himself, and eventually died in Auvers.  It was a tragic end.

Place where Van Gogh lived in Auvers-sur-Oise.

Van Gogh rented a room from the Ravoux family in Auvers.  He even painted the young Adeline Ravoux on more than one occasion.  His room has been preserved, and is open for tourists.  After watching a brief presentation, you are allowed to go upstairs to Vincent's room.  You can look out the small window and imagine him looking out at the view.  He did not paint in this room, but rather painted on site throughout the town.  Out of respect, photography of the room is discouraged.

The town hall building Van Gogh painted in Auvers.

You can take a self-guided walking tour through the town, and see the areas where Vincent Van Gogh painted.  There are plaques at the various sites that contain images of his paintings.  It was actually pretty exciting to visit  these locations after having viewed some of Van Gogh's paintings in the Musee d'Orsay.

Plaque featuring Van Gogh's painting:  "Auvers Town Hall on 14 July 1890"

I visited Auvers in May, and found golden fields, and colorful iris in bloom.  It was warm, and bright, and I could see why this place appealed to artists.  

Iris blooming in Auvers.

One of my favorite stops was the church that Van Gogh painted.  It's angular, gothic construction begs the observer to pick up a pencil and sketch!

Church in Auvers.

Sign featuring Van Gogh's painting of "The Church at Auvers."

While in Auvers, Vincent painted Marguerite Gachet, the daughter of Dr. Gachet.  Dr. Gachet himself was an amateur artist and acquainted with several of Van Gogh's contemporaries. While some say that Van Gogh was under the care of Dr. Gachet in Auvers, others indicate there was not a patient/doctor relationship between the two. While Vincent certainly knew Dr. Gachet, and painted him, it is unknown how much medical advice Dr. Gachet gave Van Gogh.  Gachet did not practice in Auvers, and was possibly more interested in Vincent as an artist.  Van Gogh himself seemed skeptical of Gachet's ability to render him any assistance.  He wrote in a letter to Theo dated May 20, 1890, "I have seen Dr. Gachet, who made the impression on me of being rather eccentric, but his experience as a doctor must keep him balanced while fighting the same nervous trouble from which he certainly seems to me to be suffering at least as seriously as I."  

Marguerite Gachet in her Garden - Musee d'Orsay, Paris

After seeing the sites in Auvers, wander over to the small cemetery.  Vincent Van Gogh is buried here.  Although Theo died shortly after Vincent, he was originally buried in Holland.  Theo's widow, Johanna Van Gogh-Bonger, later had Theo moved to Auvers to be buried next to Vincent.  

Cemetery in Auvers-sur-Oise

Graves of Vincent and Theodore Van Gogh, Auvers-sur-Oise, France

Vincent Van Gogh was born in Holland on March 30, 1853.  He painted in Holland, and eventually moved to France, where he was influenced by Impressionist painters such as Pissarro, Gauguin, and Monet.  After several tumultuous years in Paris, Arles, and Saint Remy (in an asylum), Vincent moved to Auvers.  He arrived in May of 1890, shot himself on July 27, and died on July 29 with his brother Theo at his side. It is reported that Van Gogh sold only one painting during his brief career.  Due in no small part to the commitment of his sister-in-law, Johanna Van Gogh-Bonger, Vincent's paintings and therefore, his artistic legacy, were preserved.  

"Still Life:  Japanese Vase with Roses and Anenomes"
painted at Auvers, now in the Musee d'Orsay in Paris.

After seeing many of Van Gogh's paintings in Paris, I have a new respect for this wonderful artist.  It is one thing to see a photo or reproduction of his paintings, and another experience completely to see the thick paint and those brush strokes in person.  

Texture and color from "Marguerite Gachet in her Garden"

Happy Birthday, Vincent!  I hope you are finally at rest.

Street in Auvers-sur-Oise

If you go:  Today, Auvers is still quiet, and, quite honestly, not the easiest side trip.  If you decide to venture here, be warned that direct trains between Paris and Auvers are limited.  We took a train to Pontoise, and then took a bus to Auvers.  Connecting with the return bus was not as simple, and we ended up with a very expensive cab fare back to the train station in Pontoise.  That being said, you can find plenty of information on the internet about train schedules between Paris and Auvers.  Had we wanted to travel at the hours those trains were available, it may have been simpler.  Also, I traveled to Auvers in 2008, so check for current information!  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt" and J. C. Leyendecker's Art

I recently read "The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt."  This is a quick read-- I think I read it in under two hours.  It is the "scrapbook" of the title character, Frankie, and is a picture of eight years of her life, beginning with her high school graduation in 1920.  Through the years covered in the book, Frankie goes to Vassar, moves to New York, and eventually takes a ship to Paris to pursue her dream of becoming a successful writer. Her adventures and romantic ups and downs are recorded through ticket stubs, notes, post cards, fabric swatches, advertisements, paintings, photos, and more. The story itself is a decent read, but the "scrapbook" items that fill every page are the real star.  Author Caroline Preston is an archivist, and she masterfully decorates the novel with vintage memorabilia.  Each page of this book is a visually entertaining retro-treat. Frankie's type-written entries look as if they were typed on her Corona typewriter.  This book will transport you to another era, and give you plenty of smiles along the way.

"Butterfly Couple" by J.C. Leyendecker

Featured in the pages of the book is the work of Golden Age of Illustration artist, J.C. Leyendecker.  Leyendecker painted over 300 covers for the Saturday Evening Post long before Norman Rockwell.  His distinctive style was also used in many advertisements, including those for Arrow shirts.  He became a household name, and was particularly prominent during the 1920s.  To see more of Leyendecker's work, click here.

I hope you enjoy taking a walk down nostalgia lane through the pages of "The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt!"

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Ides of March - Catch a Favorable Tide

"Beware the Ides of March," is the soothsayer's warning to Julius Caesar in the play written by William Shakespeare.  Since Caesar's assassination, which history tells us occurred on March 15 in 44 BCE,  the day has been marked with a sense of foreboding and tragedy.  However, the "ides" originally was merely the date of the full moon in any given month, and typically happened around the 15th.

Pacific Ocean - Maui

My high school English teacher had us memorize a passage from "Julius Caesar," and I still remember part of it today.  It is in Act IV, Scene III, and Brutus is speaking.  He says:

There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea we are now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

I think in life, tides are a regular thing.  Sometimes I think I have caught the flood of the tide, and other times, I think I am bound in the shallows and miseries.  The thing to remember is, there is always another tide.  So when you are afloat on the full sea, take advantage of the current, and see where it leads.  And when you are stuck in the shallows, be on the lookout for the next tide!

Fish are adept at surviving the changing tides.

May the Ides of March this year bring you good fortune.  I hope you catch a favorable tide!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Celebrate Pi Day!

Clever Pi 

Happy Pi Day everyone!  Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.  It has been used and understood for approximately 4000 years, and in honor of its first few digits (3.14), we can now celebrate Pi Day on March 14 (3/14).

What will you do to commemorate this special day?  At the very least, you should eat pie.  Did you know if you write 3.14, and then reverse it (as in a mirror), it spells PIE?  You can even find t-shirts like this online.  Pretty good, huh?

Speaking of eating pie, think of the possibilities:  pizza pie, chicken pot pie, lemon meringue pie, pumpkin pie....

Here are some other things you can do to celebrate:

Memorize digits of pi.  Universities even host contests to see how many digits people can recite.

Find your birthdate in the digits of pi.  Seriously.  Or, if you don't have time to search for your birthdate in pi yourself, check out this website.  The computer will do it for you, and it only takes a few seconds.

Write a PIEM (pi + poem).  This website shows you how.

Check out the history of pi.  This PC Magazine article gives a brief history of "everyone's favorite irrational constant."  Isn't that a great line?  See if you can work that one into a conversation today.

Need some other ideas?
I found this fun link giving you 10 different ways to celebrate today.  Check it out.

Homemade apple pie.

Hope everyone has a great Pi Day!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Road Trip Planning - Step 3 - Traveling With Children

Spring between Island Park and Yellowstone National Park

Before I give you my road trip tips, let me give you my credentials.  My husband and I once took a two-week, two thousand five hundred mile road trip with 3 children (ages 3 to 12) crammed in the backseat of a Toyota Corolla.  It is still one of my favorite trip memories.  We have also flown to Connecticut and then driven to Niagara Falls in a rental vehicle.  We have driven from Utah to Yellowstone National Park, southern and northern California, Montana, Illinois, and more. I love hitting the road with my children in tow, and they have become veteran travelers. 

Successful road trips with children involve three things:  entertainment, food, and clothes.  If you cover those areas, you will have a great time!  I will also talk about basic car supplies and motion sickness.  If you are prepared, things will go smoothly.

Winkolina explores the museum at Fremont State Park.

1)  Entertainment
I find it is helpful to have a mixture of both familiar, favorite toys and new ones.  Opening a new toy during a long road trip can instantly alleviate boredom and fatigue in a child.  If you are going on a long trip, consider having some inexpensive toys to dole out along the way.

Have a "car bag" for each child, and fill it with age-appropriate activities.  For babies, this will be a variety of toys, soft books, and a pacifier if your child uses one.  Tethers to attach toys to car seats are invaluable and make toy retrieval simple.  For older children, I like coloring books, small puzzles, books, stuffed animals, and simple games like "Rush Hour." Older children should help pack their own bags so they know where everything is.  Keep baby's bag with you so you can give your baby new toys at appropriate intervals.

Tour at the Grandin Print Shop.  Stop at interesting places along the way.

I am not a big fan of dvd players in the car.  Car travel is a great time for family interaction, and also an opportunity for children to learn to entertain themselves. Never underestimate the power of imagination to keep your child entertained!  To read more about technology and trips, or electronics and family interaction, check out my other blog posts.  So, what do you do in the car with your children instead?

Games like Rush Hour are great for the road.
  • Sing.  Simple songs like "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" are fun, and you can teach your family to sing in a round.   Our children once serenaded us with  "Are we lost?  Are we lost?  Yes, we are!  Yes, we are!  Someone get the map out, someone get the map out.  Find the way, find the way" (to the tune of Frere Jacques) when we missed a crucial turn-off and were lost in northern California.
  • Play games involving looking out the window (particularly good if anyone is prone to motion sickness). I like having kids take turns finding the next letter of the alphabet off of road signs, billboards, and license plates.  Speaking of license plates, keep track of how many different states you see on your trip.  Can you find all fifty?  My kids still notice out-of-state plates in parking lots at home.  I also like to play "I Spy."  Can your family guess what you are looking at before you pass it?
  • Play interactive games like 20 Questions.  Or try a memory game by starting a sentence, and then having the next person repeat it and add to it.  For example:  "I went on a trip, and in my suitcase I took a book."  Then the next person says "I went on a trip, and in my suitcase I took a book, and a swimsuit."  See how long you can keep going!
  • Have conversations!  Tell stories about your family, tell about the area you are driving through, and more importantly, LISTEN to your children.  They are pretty interesting people.
  • Listen to music in the car.  My favorite time is when everyone is occupied, and I drive, soak up the scenery, and listen to some great music.  Pack a variety so everyone has something they like.  MP3 players are great for having a mix available, but bringing a bunch of CDs works well, too. Have the person in the passenger seat take care of changing the music.
  • Books on tape.  It is possible to find books that both adults and kids will enjoy.  We took Harry Potter audio books on a few trips and enjoyed them immensely.
  • If you must bring a dvd player, consider having rules about when and how it will be used.  Maybe you pull it out in the evening when everyone is tired, or after lunch if you are hoping kids will nap.

Take a ball or frisbee to use at rest stops.
  • Stop frequently.  For kids, I recommend stopping every 1-1/2 to 2 hours.  I know, it will slow down your drive time, but it will also keep the trip more pleasant.  At stops, EVERYONE goes to the bathroom, no exceptions.  This can prevent unplanned emergency stops by the side of the road.  These breaks are a great opportunity to let kids run around and stretch their legs.  Kicking or tossing a ball, throwing a frisbee, or playing tag is refreshing for everyone.  If you can find a park with a playground, all the better.  Refill water bottles, get snacks, change diapers, switch drivers, and tidy up the car during these stops. 

2)  Food
My mother taught me if I always had something for my kids to eat and something for them to drink, I could save myself many tantrums, and she was right!  If your children are old enough, make sure they have their own water bottle and a couple of snacks with them.  I recommend only having one or two snacks at a time, as you want them to eat regular meals on the road.  Keep in mind the "mess" level when choosing snacks.  It is easier to brush cracker crumbs out of the car than clean up something that melts or soaks into your upholstery.  Save messier food for lunch or for your rest stops where they can eat outside of the car.  Give small children a sippy cup to control spills.  Restock snacks on your breaks.  I will deal with food in more detail in my final road trip post.

Unexpected find at a stop!  We had fun watching this little toad.

3)  Clothes
If you are traveling with small children, keep a change of clothes handy...not buried in a suitcase in the back of the car, but easily accessible.  If someone gets muddy at a rest stop, has an accident, spills juice all over their shirt, or is car sick, it will make dealing with the situation easier.  If you keep a change of clothes in a plastic grocery bag, you have a bag to put soiled clothing in until you can deal with it.  Keeping a rag or some wet-wipes handy is useful as well.  It is helpful to have a sweatshirts or light blankets handy as well. Sometimes it is chilly traveling early in the morning, or in the evening after a long day in the sun.  A blanket or sweatshirt can be used to block the sun coming in a car window in a pinch, although I recommend traveling with window screens.  Once we stopped to view a waterfall, and although it was a sunny day, when we left the car we nearly froze in the cold wind!  I was happy to have a sweatshirt.

Aquarium at Niagara Falls - we hadn't planned on this, but it was a fun stop!

4)  Car Supplies
Keep the following in your car:  first aid kit with bandaids, wipes, and antiseptic.  Rag, or something with which to mop up spills.  Window shades.  A positive attitude.  Some flexibility.

5)  Motion Sickness
If you are fortunate and your kids don't get motion sick you can skip this part.  We have had some motion sickness, so I am including some tips here. On really curvy roads (mountain switchbacks, for example)  motion sickness can set in quickly.  Have everyone look up out of the windows and look forward when possible as a preventative measure on winding roads.  Children's Chewable Dramamine has helped us out on many an occasion.  It must be taken well before your child gets motion sick. I recommend checking with your pediatrician before using medication.  If you have a child who becomes nauseous during the trip, find a place to stop, and spend some time walking around in the fresh air until they feel better.  When you are back in the car, keep them facing forward and looking out in the distance...not directly at the road.  This is a good time to try those "out the window" games I talked about above.  In an emergency, have a bag or something they can use if they need to.

Gift shops provide a few minutes of play!

What are your best tips for traveling with children?  I'd love to see your ideas!

See my other posts for more about road trips:
Road Trip Planning - Step 1 - Routes and Accommodations
Road Trip Planning - Step 2 - Enjoying the Road
Road Trip Planning - Step 4 - Food for the Trip

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Road Trip Planning - Step 2 - Enjoying the Road

Near Fremont State Park, Utah

It is important to recognize that the time you spend on the road is as much a part of your vacation as the destination.  With a little planning, driving can be a wonderful part of your trip.  Here are my tips for a successful road trip.

1)  Plan What to Take.  I am a list maker, and my list is my guide when packing for a road trip.  Consider the amount of space you have in your vehicle when you plan your packing.  Pack as light a possible.  For my road trips, the most difficult part of the planning and packing is the food, which I will address in a future post.  Here are my road trip essentials:
  • Copy of itinerary, including hotel information, confirmation numbers, driving directions, maps, etc.
  • Clothing.  If necessary, a pair of shoes or flip flops or sandals besides the pair you are wearing to drive in.  During short trips, only the shoes you wear may be necessary.  If your trip is long, consider wearing articles of clothing twice, or doing a load or two of laundry mid-way through the trip.  Plan your clothes so that you can wash them in one or two loads (maybe leave the red shirt at home?)  Underwear can be washed out in a hotel sink in a pinch.  Bring swimsuits, but if you are using hotel pools, leave the towels at home.
  • A basic kit of first aid supplies and medications.  We like to bring bandaids, an antiseptic cream for cuts, something for sunburns and/or bug bites if necessary, a painkiller (like ibuprofen), allergy tablets, diarrhea medication, etc.  You don't need huge bottles of these things--a few doses should do.  Of course you should bring any prescription medications.  If you are traveling with children, bring some child-appropriate medication, like a fever-reducer.  If your child is running a fever in the middle of the night, you will be glad you brought something along!
  • Toiletries.  If you can get by with the hotel soaps and shampoos, do.  But contact lens solution and/or glasses, toothpaste and toothbrushes, make-up, deodorant, and sunblock should be on your packing list.
  • A cooler with food  (If you are flying, consider bringing a collapsible cooler for your rental car)
  • A bag with picnic supplies
  • Water bottles for everyone
  • A water jug to refill the water bottles.
  • Some snacks for in the car. (Homemade chocolate chip cookies are our favorite!)
  • Entertainment for the car--I prefer music, the occasional book on tape, and a book or magazine.  I know some people won't venture more than 2 hours from home without a DVD player in the vehicle.  That is entirely up to you.  I am not a huge fan of having movies going in the car, or of having everyone listening to their own headphones.  To read more about technology on family vacations, click here.

Near Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, Utah

2)  Set a target time for departure.  I am always happy if we leave within half an hour of our planned departure time! Be flexible. Here are my tips to help you get out the door.  (I like to use a "divide and conquer" method.  One adult gets kids fed and ready and finishes packing, and the other gets ice, gas, and packs the cooler).
  • Pack as much as you can the night before.
  • Keep a list of things to pack in the morning.  This might include items you couldn't pack early like pajamas, toothbrushes and contact lens cases.  Check them off as you pack them.
  • If you have not already done so, gas up your vehicle and purchase ice for the cooler.
  • Pack your cooler.  Keep a list of your food items, and check them off as you load the cooler.  I'll deal more with packing your food in another post.
  • Fill water bottles and your water cooler.

Loading the vehicle and heading out.

3)  Everybody comfortable?  Hit the road!  
  • Make sure everyone has their items for the car, like small pillows and water bottles. 
  • If your driver has long legs and will be pushing the seat back, put the person with the shortest legs behind the driver.  
  • Consider having window shades.  You can purchase a variety that attach to your car window with suction cups.  Keeping the sun off a passenger can greatly add to their comfort on the trip!  
  • The person in the passenger seat should have access to all itinerary information. They are the navigator.  They will also be the person who deals with finding things for children, entertainment (loading CDs or MP3 files, songs and games for passengers), etc. The shotgun passenger also helps keep the driver alert!

Mill Fork Cemetery - stop for unusual sites along the way.

4)  Enjoy the journey!  You are on your way, and now the fun begins.

  • Plan on stopping every two to three hours if all travelers in the car are adults.  Stop every one and a half to two hours if you are traveling with small children.  During stops, EVERYONE uses the bathroom.  This is also the time to refill water bottles, get snacks, find toys, change diapers, take trash out of the car, re-arrange seating, and switch drivers.  
  • Often rest stops have picnic areas or places to walk around.  Stop and stretch for a few minutes. Since you will have to stop regularly, estimate your drive time and then plan extra time for breaks.
  • Stop at interesting view points or historical sites.  We have stopped at many wonderful places on a whim.  Discovery is part of the journey.

Who knew?  Stop and learn something along the way.
  • Occasionally buy a treat at a convenience store when you stop for gas.  That is part of the fun!
  •  Keep your camera handy.  We often stop to take photos along the way.  Other times, we don't stop, and just take photos out the car window.  Either way, we are always glad to have the camera available.

Photo taken out the window from I-15, northern Utah

Now you are on your way!

See my other posts for more about road trips:
Road Trip Planning - Step 1 - Routes and Accommodations
Road Trip Planning - Step 3 - Traveling With Children
Road Trip Planning - Step 4 - Food for the Trip

Monday, March 5, 2012

Road Trip Planning - Step 1 - Routes and Accommodations

Grand Canyon view

It is almost spring, and time to plan and book your summer road trip!  Whether it is an annual trip to visit relatives, or a trip to explore a different area of the country, there are some road trip basics that will take the stress and worry out of your vacation.  I grew up on family road trips.  My parents took four children to southern California to visit relatives.  They took us to South Dakota, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, the Oregon coast, and all over southern Utah.  I watched my mother send away for information, and meticulously plan our trips.  She mailed deposits to hold reservations, and did almost all the trip planning through mail and a limited number of long distance phone calls. With so much information available on the internet, planning a road trip is a far simpler task today!

1)  Choose a destination.  It may seem obvious, but decide where you want to go, and what style of trip you are taking.
Are you planning to visit relatives or staying in a hotel/motel/condo/cabin?
Are you driving to one location and then spending your vacation there?
Are you going to be on the road the entire time, with occasional stops along the way?
Do you have specific places you wish to visit, or a particular city you wish to explore?
Are you flying to your destination and then taking a rental car on a road trip?
How many days do you have available for your trip?  Adjust your trip to fit the time you have available.  You cannot possibly do everything in one trip, so choose your priorities.

Lower Falls at Yellowstone National Park

2)  Calculate your driving time.  It is a good idea at this point to look at maps, and figure out where you want to stop for the night on your trip.  Many trip calculators are available online.  I find it helpful to be able to  calculate both driving distances and driving timesl.  You might want to try a trip calculator like
Ask yourself the following questions:
Are you driving straight through to your destination?
Will your travel companions tolerate a long day or two in the car?
How many days do you have for your trip?
Could you spread a long drive over two days?
Are there things along the way that are important for you to see?
Make a rough plan of your route, and where you might stop.  Now you are ready to research accommodations and things to do along the way.

3)   Research accommodations along the way and book your trip.
Start by searching the internet for "accommodations" or "lodging" in the places you wish to stop.  Popular locations can fill up fast, so you may want to reserve crucial parts of your trip well in advance.  Also, consider staying near a popular destination rather than right in it  (a hotel outside Disneyland instead of one on the property can save you quite a bit of money, for example.  Likewise, you may find a deal in West Yellowstone that is less expensive than staying at a lodge in the national park).

Internet research is a mixed blessing. While travel sites can help you pinpoint accommodations, reading the reviews from fellow travelers can be confusing!  Some people love the hotel/motel you are looking at, and others would never stay there again!  Sift through the reviews with an eye to what you are looking for in accommodations.  If you just need a place to sleep for the night, it may not matter that someone didn't like the pool.  But if you are staying for a few days, the comfort of the beds and helpfulness of the staff is important.

Early Morning at Capitol Reef National Park

Consider signing up for a membership with a hotel or motel chain.  Usually memberships are free, and if you can stay in lodgings run by the same company throughout your vacation, you can earn points toward a future stay.  Check the actual hotel/motel websites as well as trip sites like Expedia or  Travelocity.  Sometimes you can find a great rate through the hotel website itself.  Internet rates are sometimes lower than rates you get actually phoning the hotel, but not always.  Sometimes a motel will have a special offer available, so it is worth it to call and talk to the front desk.  Also, do you qualify for any discounts (senior discount, AAA membership, etc.)?  These can also add up to savings on your trip.

Most travel sites recommend you actually phone the location before traveling to confirm the details of your reservation and discuss any particular needs.  Not all internet sites will tell you if a motel can accommodate more than four people in a room.  Calling the front desk can help you determine if you can get a rollaway bed or fit a child into the room on an air mattress.  Some states are very strict about how many people can be in a room, while others don't mind if you put three or four kids in your room, so if you are traveling with children, call and ask about accommodations for families.

Niagara Falls - American side

Some questions to consider when booking hotels/motels:
Do they serve breakfast?  You can save a considerable amount of money eating breakfast at the motel, especially if you are traveling with your family.
Do they have a pool or playground?  This is a lifesaver when traveling with children.
If you have a large family, do they have suites available?  Rollaways?  Cribs?  (be aware that these usually have extra charges)
What about smoking/non-smoking rooms?
Do they have a kitchenette?  Refrigerator?  Microwave?
Most motel and hotel rooms have hair dryers and coffee makers.
Can they accommodate a different check-in or check-out time if you need it?
Do they have laundry facilities? (important on a long trip)

4)  Always check the cancellation policy.  If you think you may need to make changes before or even during your trip, read the fine print carefully.  Some places offer a non-refundable rate at a big discount.  If your plans are concrete, this may be the way to go.  However, if you think you may need to alter your plans, look for places with a 24-hour free cancellation.  It could save you money in the long run.

Summer in the Rocky Mountains

5)  Check maps.  Yes, GPS navigation has grown immensely in accessibility and popularity, but a good map can help you out if your GPS system isn't up to date on the recent road construction and you need to make a few detours.  Maps can also show you points of interest along the way.  Knowing which exits you need from the interstate, or having a good city map of your destination can be invaluable.  Besides, you can let your children follow the route and see how far you have gone, and where you will be stopping for the night.  If you are an AAA member, you can utilize their trip planning services  to get driving directions and maps for your journey.

For additional trip planning tips, try RoadTripAmerica or AAA.

Stay tuned for:
Road Trip Planning - Step 2 - Enjoying the Road
Road Trip Planning - Step 3 - Traveling with Children
Road Trip Planning - Step 4 - Food for the Trip

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Wisdom of Dr. Seuss - Happy Birthday

"STOP.  You must not hop on Pop."  --Hop on Pop

Theodor Geisel, or Dr. Seuss, was born on March 2, 1904.  The author and illustrator of 44 children's books left a legacy of wit and wisdom, from the somewhat obvious to the profound.  Thanks, Dr. Seuss, for all you've given us!  Here are some of my favorites to commemorate the anniversary of his birth.

"From near to far, from here to there, funny things are everywhere!"  --Fox in Socks

"Don't ask us why.  Go ask your mother."  --Fox in Socks 

The King's Stilts

"When he worked, he really worked...but when he played, he really PLAYED!"  --The King's Stilts

The North-Going Zax and the South-Going Zax
(Don't be stubborn)

"And I'll prove to you that I won't change my ways if I have to keep standing here fifty-nine days!"  --The Zax

Sylvester McMonkey McBean
(Beware of scams)

"Then, when every last cent of their money was spent, the Fix-It-Up Chappie packed up and he went.  And he laughed as he drove in his car up the beach, 'They will never learn.  No.  You can't teach a Sneetch!'"  --The Sneetches

And, of course, ""Oh, the Places You'll Go!" has become a traditional gift for graduates everywhere because of the life lessons it contains.  Perhaps it should be a gift for us in mid-life, when our idealism is a bit tarnished.  Here are some snippets from this gem of a book.


"I'm sorry to say so but, sadly, it's true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you."


"You'll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump.  And the chances are, then, that you'll be in a Slump.  And when you're in a Slump, you're not in for much fun.  Un-slumping yourself is not easily done."


"All Alone!  Whether you like it or not, alone will be something you'll be quite a lot."

"On and on you will hike.  And I know you'll hike far and face up to your problems whatever they are."

Moving a Mountain

"Today is your day!  Your mountain is waiting.  So...get on your way!"

What is your favorite Dr. Seuss?  Read some today!