I’ve reached the point in life where everything must be written down or lost, which seems a little bit scary and sad, but when I look back at my blog posts, I think that the ones where I plan are my favorites. I get to think, “hmmm, well THAT didn’t happen,” or “this was perfect planning (pats own back)” or “next time, I’ll add this.”

The next big trip, because if I don’t get in one trip out west per year these days, I get mighty antsy, will check off three national parks and monuments and two new states for us: Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

I’ve been planning this one for almost a year, and most of it has been paid for except a little bit of housing, parking, all the meals, car rental, and gasoline. Originally the tax refund was going to cover it, but we decided that the tree removal shouldn’t wait another hurricane season, and the tornado that hit Greensboro three miles away in April put this issue on my mind.

We’re doing AirBNB again for the most part, and I used Southwest points for most of the airfare to Salt Lake City and back to Raleigh/Durham. I was a little surprised at how much the airfare was, but I tweaked it best I could. I probably missed my calling as a travel agent, because planning a vacation is one of those things I really enjoy. I’m already looking at options for the big trip next year.

Because I started early, I found a relatively inexpensive room at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel in Yellowstone for three nights. We have to go outside for the bathroom, but the room is nice. Before that, we found a super cheap AirBNB room in Twin Falls, Idaho for the first night – the nearest affordable place to Craters of the Moon, which is REALLY in the middle of nowhere. Craters of the Moon will be a short stop on our way to Driggs, Idaho, the closest town we could afford to Grand Teton National Park. That AirBNB room is in a former assisted living home, and it has a bathroom but the showers are on the hall. It seems nice from the reviews and the photos. It’s about an hour’s drive from Jackson.

There is a large wildfire near Craters of the Moon, so I might change this plan if the smoke is too bad. There’s no point in going if we can’t see, but it would be rather fitting if we couldn’t breathe the air at Craters of the Moon, eh?

We’ve made a reservation for whitewater rafting on the Snake River in Grand Teton. This time of year it should only be class II and III, and it’s a big raft so I can sit in the middle and ride. I love paddling, but my left elbow does not. We’ll rent wetsuits since it should be chilly but that is not expensive.

We won’t be doing much hiking, given our physical shape. Honestly, I’d be better off hiking than sitting in the car so much – that is what really makes me miserable. But we’ll stop at least every hour or so to let me walk around a bit.

My friend Judy is meeting us at Yellowstone and I am so looking forward to seeing her again. We had hoped that she might visit in North Carolina but it didn’t work out this year. Judy is one of the many friends I have made through attending art retreats, and the closest of those. We met at Journalfest in 2009 and have met up again at Focus on Book Arts a couple of times since then. She is an avid backpacker and one hell of a book artist.

Usually I visit my aunt and cousin near Denver in September, and I couldn’t work out the budget to visit on the way or back because I had to be frugal with the airfare. I’m going to try to go out there for a long weekend sometime in the next six months. I miss my aunt and cousin. They are close to my heart. It’s wonderful that I can get a direct flight to Denver from Greensboro fairly cheap, as long as I plan it for certain days.

Anyway, I’ve managed to figure out a fairly cheap way to travel by practice and the magic of the Internet the last few years. I use my Southwest card for everything to get the points. Southwest is my favorite bargain airline partly because you don’t have to pay extra for a small amount of baggage, and we travel light. There are a lot of things that add up behind the curtain when you shop for cheap airfare. Another is that once you set your schedule, they don’t monkey around with it; at least they haven’t in my case. When I’ve had to cancel, they gave me credit to use for the next year. I volunteered to get bumped once, and I got an $800 voucher! Even the gate agent couldn’t believe it and had to check on it with several people. I am not affiliated with Southwest in any way, by the way. They have earned my business.

After we come back, I’m going to Stamford, Connecticut for a long weekend over fall break to take a workshop from Sharon Payne Bolton, one of my favorite teachers, at the Art-is-You retreat, which is one of my favorite art retreats. I have never been to Connecticut either, so I’ll mark off another state. I found a roommate through the Facebook group and we are taking the same class and seem to be totally compatible. I have made so many friends through art retreats and Facebook. It’s one reason I’ll probably never give up Facebook. Unfortunately I’m flying American on this trip, but it was cheaper to fly to White Plains airport than to take Amtrak or fly to LaGuardia or JFK or Newark and take the train, which surprised me. They have already changed my schedule once, grrrr. I don’t like American Airlines, however, I am on a budget. Honestly, I shouldn’t be doing this at all from a money standpoint.

Then in November we are going back to Topsail Beach for another wonderful book arts workshop with Leslie Marsh and Kim Beller! Another 3 day weekend, this time in off-season in an oceanfront hotel, the Jolly Roger. Susanne, Joseph and I are taking the workshop and Sandy will just hang out like a beach bum while we are there. It will be his birthday present. Often November’s weather is still nice at the beach here.

I’ll add links later. It’s time to go do something else. Expect lots of travel posts this fall.