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  • Writer's pictureMark Stefan Reinoso

The Plan (Definitely)

Updated: Jan 14, 2020

Just kidding. Is anything ever really definite with me? I haven't even really begun to plan this trip in detail, mainly because I have been swamped with work and family life, and I'm still battling a lingering over-fascination with Pinot Noir from Oregon and Chenin Blanc from France, thanks to my friends in PDX. An obsession with wine just doesn't affect you mentally, it affects you physically throughout the day, even more so if you actually drink it. It's not that I don't want to book this trip, I absolutely do. This is the mother of all trips to plan, combining a driving trip through the South for 7-8 weeks, then finding business class tickets with points for 5 people to somewhere in Europe. Then its off to the races for 3 months in Europe, following the weather and finding new and old places that we want to see. How you do pack for such a trip? How do you plan it? Where do you start? This trip is such a hot mess! We've been so busy preparing for the trip that we haven't had time to actually plan it. Every time I think about researching or planning one part of this journey, I find myself distracted with other parts of it. It's weird because I feel overwhelmed, but there are no negative feelings associated with it. It's like being jumped on by a hundred puppies, it's crazy and distracting and so so busy, but it's fantastic. I think part of my reticence is that I want this to be a perfect experience for me....I'm not talking about the vacation itself, I'm referring to the planning of it. It's got to be tantric, it has to take just the right amount of work and preparation and timing for me to be satisfied. String it out too long, my personal and work life suffers, but if I jump the gun and prematurely plan an itinerary, it will be very messy.

I've decided to start planning the trip by cutting it into 2 parts: the European portion and the earlier trip to the South. My plan is to leave from the South, straight to Europe. I am pretty adamant about attempting to fly business class to Europe, with its lay down flat seats, it makes all the difference to me. Going east gives me worse jet lag than coming back west and ruins me for a week. Booking the flights are of upmost importance. Its the first shovel in the ground, the first pawn across the board. Its a line of demarcation which allows me to focus on both fronts. Once I have my flights, I can plan backward with the trip to the south, where I want to stay, how many days I should stay there, and that leads me to the exact day when I should leave Phoenix. Then going forward, I can plan the trip in Europe the same way. I'm a little excited about some people who say they want to come visit. I enjoy Europe, but the most fun I get is taking people who have never been before. We have done it a few times with groups of people and my daughters friends, and I've loved it. Last year I took my brother-in-law and good friend Jesse, and I loved seeing it again through his eyes. This time Jesse wants to come back and so do a few other friends. For this I am truly excited, even the possibility leaves me titillated. (10 days later) After tons of hours searching with multiple point programs, I found 4 business class tickets from Atlanta to Dubrovnik, one way, in late April. It was an incredible score: an 11 hour flight from ATL to Dubrovnik, with a 3 hour stop in Istanbul, Turkey. The cost? 230,000 miles, transferred from my AMEX membership rewards to Aeroplan, where I booked on Turkish airlines, flying the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Even crazier, was only $58 CAD in fees! (I'm going to stop before your eyes glaze over) Since I will be working at my computer at least 4 hours a day, and the kids have to do schoolwork daily, what would be a "normal" amount of time to visit a city or location, suddenly doubles. We don't blitzkrieg travel, not anymore anyway. After some discussion and thought here are our tentative plans: The South: Drive towards Georgia, stopping in San Antonio for 2 days, Baton Rouge for 2 days, New Orleans for 5-7, Birmingham for 2, parts of Florida for 8, St Simmons Island for a week, Savannah for 10 days, then Atlanta for 4. Europe: Croatia and 2 other Balkan countries for 2.5 weeks, ending in Venice, where my eldest daughter leaves us. Train to Piemonte, Italy for some wine tours, then Lyon, France for 7-10 days, Provence, the Dordogne and Gascony for 3 weeks, Basque country and Rioja for another 2 weeks....then we have no idea. Prague? Scotland? Estonia? We have our flights there, but don't have flights back. I've got so much research to do, on everything. The most adult fun of the last 10 years has just begun. It's going to be glorious.

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