An Idiot’s Guide to Booking Vacations

My dad led the way up the elevator to the fourth floor and through a dim hallway.  He pointed at a door and Kevin gave a cheerful knock.  Everyone waited silently.

“Hey Kev,” Mom greeted him with a hug and he walked inside. “What’s goin’ on, Morgs?” Morgan got a similar warm embrace and made her way in. Her next greeting, was different.

“AAAAH!!!” Mom let out a scream and then started to sob. A maid rushed to the door to see what was going on.  Screams are universal no matter your language.


While we don’t actually book things until the last minute, our trips are always theoretically decided on in advance.  As a vacation comes to an end, we often discuss plans for our next one.  But after our trip to India and Nepal no one was sure there would be another.  We were too sick, too exhausted and some of us, too injured.

We eventually recovered.  Luckily for us, the next vacation decision was simple:  Kevin was spending the fall semester of his senior year in Prague.  With Morgan and Tim in school, the only time we could visit was Thanksgiving break.  Boom, done. Book a flight and a hotel and call it a day.

None of us had been to the Czech Republic before, so Prague was new, exciting and for any reasonable family, a perfectly fine trip.  Sure, it’s smaller than Paris or London, but with some free time to play with, you can throw in a side trip to a castle and a former concentration camp and you have yourself a pleasant vacation.

But October rolls around, and there’s no evidence of a trip beyond an email from my Dad.  It had all the forebears of a disaster-in-the-making: overly enthusiastic, sent after midnight, less than five weeks before the “planned-but-not-really” departure.  Dad treads lightly on email these days because he knows they await my relentless mocking.  But to try and skirt the inevitable is just a waste of self-discipline.


On Fri, Oct 12, 2012 at 12:09 AM, Paul Anderson wrote:

Ok guys, plans to visit Kevin are underway.  Thanks to Amanda for all the help with flights, now I just have to watch what I say so it doesn’t end up in the blogosphere.

We will be gone all of Thanksgiving week.  Morgan and Tim will miss school on that Monday and Tuesday.  That gives us a full nine days away from home.  And you know what’s coming next…where else besides Prague?

My informal polling and cartographic analysis leads us to Moscow.  To minimize the disruption of Kevin’s class schedule the best way to coordinate a side trip is enroute to Prague.

Yet to be determined is when we travel from Moscow to Prague.  Moscow to Prague will depend a lot on Kevin.  Kevin, you have to let us know how critical is your Monday/Tuesday class attendance because you will miss classes even on the travel day unless you return Sunday night.

Ok, now for another fun part…the least expensive flights from Moscow to Prague involve stopovers.  We have three choices:

A) LOT Polish Airlines with a seven hour layover in Warsaw, Poland, or

B) Finnair with a four hour layover in Helsinki, Finland, or

C) Turkish Air with an eight hour layover in Istanbul, Turkey (requires a 6:30 am departure from Moscow, arriving Prague 5:45pm)

Let me know what you think and we will firm up these next details.  Then hotels, visas, and daily plans.



There are so many things wrong with this email.  Last I checked, picking a layover doesn’t traditionally require extensive polling.  When people  layover, they select the flight that gets them to their destination the fastest for the least amount of money. Not my father.

A limited supply of options lead me to infer that a Moscow-Prague route is not the most popular.  Yeah, I passed Econ 200.  I also passed geography; yet, I’m unfamiliar with “informal polling and cartographic analysis.”  The polling was most certainly informal though, because none of us recall being asked where else in Europe we would like to visit.

Had anyone else’s opinion really been factored, I would be writing about my family trip to St. Tropez.  Of all the historic and charming cities in Europe, somehow Moscow made it to the top of our list, a list that could have included the likes of Copenhagen, Vienna, Florence, Monaco, Barcelona, Athens and the Alps. The Alps!  Even if my dad rejected the idea of a warm-weather beach trip, I could have been staying at a little snowy chalet and enjoying some après-ski at a local bar with some suave Swiss men.  Instead we were headed to a soviet slum.

The world was our oyster, and we said screw the oyster and its European pearls.  We threw it back into the ocean and decided to go to Moscow.  Take that, Western Europe!  We don’t need you and you’re artisan food, functioning metro systems and botanic gardens.  When we want to get away for the winter, we go to Russia. Remember what happened when Napoleon sent his men to Russia in the winter? How about Hitler? I was certain our fate would be similar–  ridden by disease, food shortages and Russian assault.

And if cartographic analysis had been done, surely we would not be going to  Moscow.  A quick glance at Google Maps would tell any moron that Prague and Moscow are not anywhere near one another.  If anything, we should be embarrassed given how well-traveled we are.  Americans are notoriously ignorant in geography, but we Andersons consider ourselves the enlightened exception.  But I think it’s time for us to jump off the elitist ship and drown ourselves in the Atlantic.  We are clearly as bad as the majority of Americans who have more success identifying members of the Simpsons than first amendment rights.

Prague and Moscow are two time zones apart. The idea of “sidetripping” to Moscow from Prague is like checking out Juarez because you are visiting Chicago.  And let’s be real, most of Russia isn’t really a part of Europe.  Now that I think of it, either is Turkey, one of our layover options. We’re using a rather broad definition that would offend Angela Merkel and the EU.

Apparently no one responded, because the next email was again from my Dad. Aside from a Democrat in the White House and the White Sox losing, nothing hurts my father more than his emails being ignored, made clear by his brevity.


On Sun, Oct 14, 2012 at 9:40 PM, Paul Anderson wrote:

I was hoping for a reply from each of you, if you want to have any input.

Kevin, tell me what you think about missing your classes.

Then we felt bad. With that, a few responses trickled in:

Kevin: I was just going to wait until Tuesday when I had class and could talk to my teachers. I have a project due for Nov 20th but I will try and change it. I will let you know. Other than that, it seems like a great plan.

That’s a typical response from Kevin: “Seems great,” but “I will let you know.”  Like most other men in their twenties, Kevin is always on board until you need an actual commitment.  Morgan is usually pretty proactive and defended herself:

Morgan: Dad i was going to reply but i already gave you my input over the phone!!!! ps i met this exchange student from istanbul. he was following me and it was really creepy and weird….kinda like those indians….uh oh.

I’m not certain my mom knows how to reply to email (She’s still on AOL). As for Tim, I think he only checks it annually.  The two are essentially dead weight on the Anderson thread, and my dad, Morgan and I usually CC everyone else just to clog their inboxes.

Notably absent from the thread was the signature cynicism of yours truly.  Unfortunately, I could not go on the trip because of work.  India and Nepal had eaten up the majority of my vacation, and we were planning this Soviet trip weeks in advance.  I had requested my vacation time in January, and a week off during Thanksgiving week was out of the question.  But fear not, I still have plenty of credibility to tell this story.


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