My name is Anna, and I’m a total spreadsheet geek. My 2 daughters and I are planning a road trip from Minnesota to California in 2 weeks so I am in planning hyper-drive. I’ll admit that I can be a little too enthusiastic about travel planning but during bitter Minnesota winters sometimes it’s what gets me through. Being a planner has also saved my butt.
There is something to be said for spontaneity and free-form travel. I think of Forrest Gump, “When I was hungry, I ate. When I was tired, I slept.” That kind of wandering is awesome and it’s generally how I operate once I’m out there but planning has its place. Especially with two dependents in tow, I feel the need to be a little more structured. For this trip, in particular, I’m working under budget and time constraints so I can’t just go where the wind takes me. I need to know that I will make it back by a certain time and under a certain dollar amount.
What works for me are spreadsheets. For this particular road trip I started with the list of the landmarks/cities we know we want to hit. Then I scoped out a route that would work for our interests and identified several key towns along the way. I listed each of these places in column A of an Excel spreadsheet. Column B holds the same list but shifted up a row so that it makes a list of Point As and Point Bs. With the help of Google maps I quickly determined the mileage between the As and Bs and entered that in column C. A couple quick formulas later and I have the approximate hours it will take to travel that leg (always erring on the side of slowness to account for extra stops and traffic jams), the amount of gas it will take, and how much that gas will cost. Total those up and I have my fuel budget and miles-per-day budget. I add a column for the days and plunk out a rough idea of which legs will happen on which days. With my total number of days x meals per day x number of people x average meal cost and I have my food budget.
Does all of that just suck the fun right out of the travel for you? To some, a chart of numbers like this is exactly what they’re leaving behind when they hit the road but I take comfort in knowing the figures. Having this portion of the journey mapped out allows me to take the rest in stride and with flexibility knowing I have my guidelines set. I have a feeling that taking a road trip as the only adult with a 9 year old and 12 year old might just put my ability to go with the flow to its test.
California or Bust 2014 – to be continued…