Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Mall of America Trip Wrap-Up

We've been back a couple of days now and transitioned smoothly into home life again. I've been to rehearsal and to the Art House and to the grocery--not necessarily in that order.

What Worked:
The Weather
Oh my gosh, I worried so much about this! We even had an ice storm the night before we left, but in the morning it was 'nothing but wet'. :-) In fact, the worst weather in which we drove was in getting out of Indiana in the rain. There was so much terrible weather before hand, but it was like a weather window just opened up and let us through.

Our Hotels

So often, I plan these trips and just drag John along for the ride. I worry about the hotels: Will our room be okay? Will it be in an okay part of town? Will we relax and sleep well? We stayed at the same Red Roof Inn going and coming and it was fine--close to a pancake house for breakfast (on the way back when we were out of milk for cereal in the room). Our hotel in Bloomington could NOT have been better. It was within site (walking distance if it was summer) of the Mall. The beds were comfortable. It was great.

Our Traveling Patterns
I really think planning trips is a skill I have. Planning ahead and knowing your family is very important. Some families might have tried to drive all the way there in one day. Not us. I know my husband and kids. They want to stop when it gets dark. Get settled. Eat. Explore their surroundings. On the way home, we did not make a reservation, and we dallied along the way at some tourist stops. But at about 4 o'clock, we stopped at a rest stop and grabbed one of those travel coupon books and selected our hotel. We weren't as far along the road as I'd hoped we be, but I set my goal as the same hotel we stayed at on the way up--which was, at that point, probably another 175 miles ahead. We drove another hour, stopped to eat, and that gave us the energy to go on--that and knowing we had warm beds to crawl into at the end of the evening. I know my family.

Our Eating Habits

Eating out is a most expensive past time. But we take along milk and cold cereal and snacks and pop and we've covered 1/3 of our eating costs. When we stop at a restaurant, we look hard at the menu and try to order 'family style'. John usually orders whatever he wants and Charlie sometimes does, too. But--for example--at Bubba Gump's Shrimp House--here's what we ordered: John ordered fish and chips, I ordered a cup of clam chowder, and the boys and I ordered a large steak with a skewer of shrimp. I was happy with the chowder, and four of the shrimp. Charlie ate two of them. Ben and Charlie ate the steak. I ate a piece of John's fish, and the remainder of Ben's steak. So, with two entrees and a couple sides, we all got enough to eat. The goal is not to leave any food wasted. It's just too expensive for that.

Our Side Trips
On the way home, we stopped in Northfield, MN, which is where the James Gang robbed the Northfield Bank. We also stopped at the Spam Museum. These two stops need their own entry, so stay tuned--maybe... :-)

The Boys in the Car

I'm so proud of my traveler boys. They do so well on long trips. As well they should, they were mostly raised in the car on the highway, we've done so much traveling. We played "Are We There Yet?" which is a fun card game. We also listened to The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, which was pretty good. (We haven't finished it yet.)

Not Having Any Gifts for Myself and John
I didn't miss this at all and I don't think John did either. We got our Christmas delights out of being together as a family, away from home, having an adventure, and watching the boys open theirs. Truly.

What Didn't Work

Drive Time

It seemed to me that it was much farther away, in real time, than I had thought. I had thought we'd do about a day and a half of driving, but it seemed like we spent an AWFUL long time on the highway.

The Plan to 'Skip Christmas'
Okay, I admit, I'm not SURE we spent less money than if we bought Christmas gifts. But I do know this--taking this trip stretched our holiday out some whereas by 3 p.m. on Christmas afternoon, it would have been mostly over...

Also, when John and I started digging through our 'gift trove' in the closet (which we contribute to all year long), we found enough small gifts for each of the boys to open the traditional five gifts each on Christmas morning.

So...was it a success or not?

I asked everyone individually, once we got home, what they thought of travel over Christmas. John said, "Not next year." The boys both said, "Not every year," and Charlie added, "I missed Christmas morning..."

But it was a fun adventure....


  1. It's been fun to read about your travels. Thanks for posting along the road.

    However, Polar Express is really a crummy movie, so you've lost some credibility by saying you liked it. ;)

  2. C'mon now, I get SOME points back for waiting...four years to see it for the first time. :-) Some parts of it were just really captivating. I didn't get the part about the hobo, and I didn't think it was possible for animated characters to upstage each other, but some actually did. :-)

    I also get big points for having NEVER seen the movie that was made from _A Prayer for Owen Meany_--I've forgotten the name of it, thank goodness.

  3. It sounded successful to me. I love the great side trips you always seem to find on your travels - Spam Museum - What fun!

    Having done a similar thing (New Your city for Christmas) I know it is a mixed blessing. I miss the tree and wrapping gifts but loved not having to shop. And for one Christmas out of many, I got to do what I liked - NYC and theatre. Sharon loved it enough that she wants to do it again.

    Thanks for summarizing the trip good,bad, etc.