The 8 Trips in 12 Months Plan


If you followed along in 2017, you saw me plan four trips in five months. It was intense, overwhelming, and took a lot of time. I was concerned that I would have fewer vacation days (than I'm used to) in 2018, so I felt the need to get all of my wanderlust out of me – the idea was to travel until I exploded with happiness and confetti, neither of which happened. (Probably to my benefit, to be fair.) But then 2018 came and I received my new calendar along with a request from my employer: she wanted to give me an extra week of vacation. So, now, instead of having three weeks total for vacation (which is nothing to sneeze at), I now have four. Plus a few extra random days.

Here's why the extra vacation days keep me from blogging:

In 2017 and before, my work days were typically 2-6pm with an hour commute each way. An easy day, really. I loved the area I worked in, the families I worked for, and the hours made it super easy to blog. But this year, my work days consist of waking up at 4:30AM, driving my husband 45 minutes to the metro system, returning home, sleeping a bit extra, then driving an hour to work two hours before my scheduled work time of noon (so I leave home at 10am) to work until 5:30pm. Then, an hour and a half drive home in traffic putting my arrival time at 7pm, dinner at 8pm, and in bed by 10pm.

In the past six months, I've learned how to make my schedule work, but that doesn't prevent it from being a tad bit overwhelming and exhausting at times. As of recently, I've been taking my laptop to work and using it when the kids I watch have screen time. It gives me a few minutes to catch up on comments, emails, and life. (Or work on travel planning, picture editing, and blogging.)

Given that weekends are my main source of free time and that both a vacation and April A-Z are coming up, I've been participating in blog challenges less, joining twitter parties less, scaling back on … well, everything I can scale back on.

But, here's what I've been doing more of:

I've been cleaning my home more. Last week, we threw away cell phone charging cables (among other things) that weren't working, donated books and CDs to Goodwill, and I posted a few clothing items for sale on Poshmark. We need a new mop and vacuum, so we are in the process of getting those things. We also sprayed for bugs. (We've been having a ladybug problem.)

I've made a point of spending more time with friends. We welcomed the year with friends in DC for New Year's Eve, traveled to Boston to see family, had dinner with family 4 out of 5 weekends in January, went to dinner with friends one time, and planned for a "friend trip" to DC (that will take place in April).

And when I haven't been cleaning, organizing, and family-ing, I've been editing Hawai'i images in preparation of April A-Z. I haven't gotten any writing done and I probably need to figure out a schedule so that I can complete it on time, but … I'll get to that. Maybe. Or maybe you'll just have Hawai'i images for April. 🙂

I downloaded the Photoshop Nik collection software which I've been using to edit my HDR images. In some cases, it has taken upwards of an hour to edit one image, but I've been mostly happy with the results. I've got some issues with noise and ghosting (and sharpening, maybe?), but overall I would say the addition of the Nik software to my workflow has been an improvement. I hope you all agree when you see the images.

Now, for the travel bit:

As I mentioned above, I have four weeks vacation in 2018. Two weeks are at my employer's discretion (she's already given me those dates), one week is at mine, and one week is between Christmas and New Year's. Only, I'm not getting paid for three out of my four vacation weeks, so money is definitely a factor. But I have more time to plan (in advance, as opposed to being notified the day before that I would have time off), so I am trying to use it to my advantage, booking as far in advance as possible.

In January, I honed in on the "easy" vacation planning. I researched and booked for my 3-day long holidays, Memorial Day and Labor Day including cars and hotels, planning well in advance where it is we would be going. And, in the next few months, I will be keeping an eye on those hotels and watching to see if the prices go up or down, price adjusting as necessary.

The thing I put off in January? the vacation I have coming up the soonest – the one in April. 😧 We are considering a trip to California, but the more I put off the planning, the higher plane tickets get and then I question my choices. But I have limits on when I can take my vacation time so… complications.

Anyway, I'll go into the planning a bit more next week. If I have my way, we will be gone for 9 days driving up the Pacific Coast Highway with stops all over California along the way. It's really an intense trip that I'm planning so I will need to save that for its own post.

So, recap. The plan for this year is:

April – California & the Pacific Coast Highway. We're driving from San Diego to San Francisco. (Unless I change my mind again.)
April Pt. 2 – Washington DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival with friends (a weekend trip)
May – Clearwater Beach, FL
June – NYC, NY (to see Billy Joel at Madison Square Gardens maybe?, a weekend trip)
July – ? (I have a week off.)
August – Jekyll Island and Savannah, GA
September/October/November – ? (I have another week off.)
December – ? (Christmas break)

I'll go into greater detail about what I've already booked next week, but in the meantime, you can follow along with my Travel Planning here.

What's going on with you?

Do you enjoy when I live-blog my planning? Does it help in any way?

And if you aren't into travel (or even if you are), are you a planner by nature? Do you prefer to have all of your "ducks" in a row? Or are you a fly by the seat of your pants kind of person? Do you have any suggestions or advice for better planning? Or life strategies for getting more done when you feel like you are short on time?

IWSG #2


At the beginning of every month, as part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, I take a look at my successes (not just in writing), share the ways I hope to improve in the next month, answer the IWSG question of the month, and provide inspiration (if I have any).

Finish 2017 review: specifically financial.
Come up with resolutions or ideas on how to achieve my 2018 goals.
Try, try again to figure out how to update my laptop to the newest operating system.
Contact Mazda about car part recall.
Submit my hotel reimbursement claim to Chase.

Other Successes:
Got caught up responding to comments!!
Blogged ahead!
Submitted information to Earny to get cashback for a purchase made in October.
Bought Data Rescue 5 to save my Hawai'i images!
Participated in a twitter chat (or 3!).
Spent time with family and friends.
Watched hotel and car rental prices to get the best possible deals for our trip to Boston.
Recall and car damage fixed.
Figured out when Washington DC cherry blossom plans with friends will happen.
✓ Contacted Chase about hotel reimbursement claim.

February Goals:
• Start preparing for April A-Z.
• Report car repairman to BBB. (Googled and couldn't find him.)
• Plan for SIX trips (March – Washington DC; April – California?; May – Clearwater Beach, FL?; June – NYC; July – ?; December – ?)
• Continue cleaning. Ideally, get rid of at least five things.
• Try to implement some of my 101 in 1001 things into my travel plans.
• Do the goals I didn't complete in January. (Finish 2017 financial review. Come up with resolutions. Update my laptop.)
• Make sure the backup drive is backed up.

IWSG Question: What do you love about the genre you write in most often?

My writing mostly consists of blogging … which, in essence, is a genre.

What do I love most about it? I love the immediate gratification. Well – sometimes immediate. I love that people can respond to what I write and I can read about their response. You don't get that, or at least not as immediately, with other types of writing.

I also love that it incorporates so many other aspects of my life. When I take a picture, I will edit it up and share it with my writing. In essence, a complete story, accompanied by pictures.

And all of this has me aiming to do my best work, to be as creative as I can be both in my photography, in my blog design, and in my writing. It all meshes together to create my genre.

Even though the last few months of 2017 were difficult for me, I feel like I'm really on top of things this January. Will I stay caught up? Who knows? How did things go for you during this first month of 2018? Are you starting the year off strong?

Also, since I will be prepping for April A-Z, my blog posts may be few and far between (every Wednesday at least!) until that point. Maybe not. We will see. I will do my best to stay caught up, though. Just realize that that is where my time is going, and I will get to your comments as soon as possible. :)