Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Vamos! (But...not quite yet...)

Each year, sometime in the Dead of Winter (a very unpopular subset of the cold season), I initiate the planning for our WestEnders Summer Vacation. On the upside, this gives me something exciting to do when it's still frigid and dreary outside in our little corner of the world. On the other hand, once all the details of the fun are figured means 5 or 6 months of breathless anticipation as we bide our time until we embark on our adventure. This year we're picking up a notion that was originally supposed to happen in 2014--until it was supplanted by the un-postpone-able Move to NC, which kind of commandeered all of our available resources at the time. (Hey, we got to go somewhere, and explore a new far as vacation parameters, it sort of counts, right? Yeah, the kids didn't think so, either...)

So, where are we thinking of traveling to in the Summer of 2015? The lovely Central American country of: Costa Rica. This has actually loooong been on Husband's and my list of Must-See Locales. We're excited to visit a rainforest--with all of its fascinating creatures and greenery--firsthand, and I'm keen to view a volcano (from a safe recommended by the trusty Tour Guide, of course). Throw in the possibility of a beach, and you have 4 potentially verrrry happy campers. (Metaphorically, that is...without the actual, you know, "camping"...uh-uh, give me a resort, baby....this is my once-a-year escape from my regular life, after all...but I digress...)

Usually my first step is to sit down with my laptop and commence researching. I aim to learn what I can about our destination and get as much information as possible about logistics, before I take all my data in to the local AAA office and consult with one of their experts to pin down the nitty gritty. This worked just fine and dandy for past getaways to Disney World, Mexico, and the Bahamas (via cruise ship)...however, I quickly became aware when delving into Costa Rica...that I have abso-freakin'-lutely NO prior knowledge about this country. For example, I didn't know what region we should focus on...or which airport to fly into...or where to stay in order to best access the sites and activities that most interested us. The depth of my ignorance was, frankly, overwhelming.

At the end of my semi-fruitless Googling session, I at least had a couple of maps to print, and a vague idea of perhaps where I instinctively thought maybe we should steer toward. (How's that for...non-specific?) What to do next? Only the obvious: go see an actual Travel Specialist, throw all of my questions and requirements at him or her, and humbly accept the assistance I so dearly needed. Thus I told Mr. D what we wanted to do and see....and made sure to emphasize that for this particular trip, with 2 adolescent boys in tow, an all-inclusive option was absolutely essential. (Otherwise, we've discovered from past travels, "relax and have fun" has a distressing tendency to translate loosely into "Oh, it's been 2 hours already? Time to feed the ravenous children....AGAIN...")

As it turns out, my gut was not wrong about the area that would be best for our first foray into Costa Rica: the region called Guanacaste. There's much to recommend it, including a rainforest, a river, an active volcano...and a Pacific coastline with a plethora of beaches. (They're speaking my language--in either English OR Spanish, I'll take it!) The burning question (no pun intended...this time...) was whether we preferred to locate our Home Base at the shore, or closer to the volcano--but either one we chose, we could take day trips to the other. Knowing my family as I do, I had a clear idea what the consensus would be, but I put that query on hold until a Family Meeting at dinnertime, when I could present my research, bring everyone up to speed, and make some crucial decisions as a team.

Well, would you look at that, progress has been made! At least I now have some intel on where to fly into (Liberia--just...not the one in Africa with the history of crazy dictators, thank goodness...), the identity and location of the volcano (Arenal...somewhere in the middle-ish of the region, 3 hours or so from the ocean), ideas for several excursions that sound entertaining, and the names of several nice hotels directly on the coast. Armed with all of this--and a shiny, colorful booklet with tons of pictures and descriptions for everyone to peruse--I approached Team WestEnders to share my findings. As expected, everyone voted to center our Costa Rican experience around the surf and sand. As Riley put it, "I don't want to sleep where the gigantic spiders are!" Hmm....point taken. Derek was equally adamant, but for less serious reasons: "The beach is where all the hot chicks will be!" (...he said with an enormous, cheesy grin...sigh...)

So it seems like now "all" we have to do is: select an all-inclusive hotel...reserve our airline tickets...pre-book the Arenal day trip, to make sure we get 4 of the limited spaces...oh, renew the boys' passports!...and then sit back in a holding pattern...until July. Are we there yet?

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