New trip on the horizon!

Exciting news in the Shakeup house — we’re going on a trip!

We were always going to travel from Minnesota to New Jersey, but we had been debating between flying and driving. Now we have pet-sitters lined up and have picked out our travel stops. We’re going to spend one night at the Indiana Dunes and another night in Pittsburgh (or Cleveland…but probably Pittsburgh). Dates are still up in the air as Hubs is looking for great deals.

Once we have it planned, I’ll start researching places to eat, things to do, etc. I’m going to experiment with using the Arc system from Staples to organize our travel plans. Our last few trips have been under-planned, and although we had fun, I’d like to try doing more research beforehand. Hubs likes to go all digital, but I need to see things on paper when there’s a lot of info flowing.

We’ll be taking a lot of luggage, because Hubs is staying in New Jersey at the end of the trip. I’ll be in NJ for two weeks, then have a several-day trip back to Minnesota. I’ll probably pack in our fūl 30″ drop-bottom duffel bag and a carry-on, but I’ll try to keep our road trip stuff in the carry-on.

My goal is to keep all our luggage and bags in the way back of our Honda Fit hatchback, even with a 2-week stay. As always, I’m saving up podcasts for our drive, and I’ll try to pack snacks and drinks so we’re not completely dependent on gas stations.

I’m looking forward to planning (and blogging about) this trip!

Lodging: Location, location, location!

Although I love staying in a nice hotel, what I love most is staying in a central hotel.

The Comfort Inn we stayed at for our August 2011 “honeymoon” in San Diego (which was a combined vacation and conference…as most of our vacations so far have been) was tiny. We had just enough room to scoot around the bed. Most of the finishes were outdated and worn. But we got a great rate, and I would stay there again in a heartbeat.

Although it was small, it still met our basic needs. We didn’t need a work space, just a “home base” and sleeping area. They included a small fridge and microwave, so we picked up some microwavable meals from a local grocery store to save money and time on meals. (One of my biggest disappointments with going vegetarian 5 years ago is the loss of lunch meat sandwiches on trips. I’m a picky eater and haven’t found an equivalently easy/satisfying replacement yet.)

Comfort Inn
From the Comfort Inn website. Never trust a fish-eye lens. (I think our room was actually smaller than this, but it’s a similar set-up.)

There’s a difference between outdated and dirty; the comforter may have been old, but I didn’t feel afraid to have the sheets touch my body. (Unlike our Minneapolis-area Motel 8 experience in May 2013.) And the staff were as friendly and helpful as we could ask for. (Definitely unlike our Minneapolis-area Motel 8 experience.) They may have had a room labeled “Business Center and Laundry Room (Really)” (no exaggeration — wish I could find the picture from my old phone), but they had found a way to offer both services and were able to laugh with guests about the juxtaposition of washing machines with printer-ready computers.

CI business laundry
From the Comfort Inn website. The laundry machines are cleverly hidden behind the photographer. 

They also offered breakfast. We usually stay in places with breakfast, so I hadn’t realized how helpful it was until we stayed at Le Meridien Chambers in Minneapolis. Hunger is a trigger for migraines for me, so when we had to go out and find a good breakfast place, mornings got less pleasant. (Note to self–always bring protein bars, especially if the hotel doesn’t offer breakfast.) Again, the breakfast area was tiny, but it was well-stocked and very functional.

The main reason I would stay there again? They were in the heart of the Gaslamp district! We had a blast on foot, and San Diego’s great train system was just a few blocks away. We literally could have gone to Tijuana on that train.

Screen Shot 2013-07-09 at 10.23.27 AM
From Google Maps. No idea what the blue points are.

The hotel was also a few short blocks from the convention center (I was there for a conference, remember?). And in San Diego, I really enjoyed the quiet, overcast morning walk. (San Diego was where I realized that full sun day after day bothers me. I have issues. And I realize now that bright sun is another migraine trigger. But I’m also a twisted Midwesterner who distrusts continued good weather.)

So although there were many reasons I loved our experience at the tiny, outdated Comfort Inn, the biggest reason was that it was exactly where we wanted to be, at a price that left money for us to do everything we wanted in San Diego. And by the end of our stay, I kind of liked having the sink outside the bathroom.