By Ed Perkins, Tribune Content Agency
If you have a special trip in mind, don’t let it get away. Six years ago, this week, I started planning what I call my last “Joan Trip,” named after a member of my wife’s close circle of friends, who waited too long. She was a happily married suburban housewife with great kids and active in all sorts of stuff. She often spoke about places she wanted to visit, always “too busy” to go, promising to do it “sometime” or even “soon.” But, suddenly, in her mid-40s, she was struck down by a catastrophic brain hemorrhage. “Sometime” never came.
Since then, whenever any of that group of friends discussed delaying some adventure or trip because of day-to-day pressures and preoccupations, the others always countered with “Remember Joan” and urged her to go ahead while she could. My wife and I, too, often used this rationale — for which I am very grateful, because we took some great Joan Trips before an unexpected stroke grounded my wife for the remainder of her days.
A Joan Trip isn’t quite the same as a “bucket list” trip. “Bucket list” implies advance warning of some imminent bad news; the idea of a “Joan trip” is to go while you’re still on top of your game.
For what I figured to be my last true Joan Trip, I decided to burn up a chunk of accumulated United miles on a round-the-world (RTW) trip in business class. At the pricing then, business class required less than double the economy-class miles, which was a comparative bargain. The Star Alliance mileage program limits RTW award trips to six stops, which I decided to cover starting with five important places I’d missed over the years and ending at an old favorite.
By most measures, my Joan Trip was a bit of a splurge: a full month of travel, round-the-world, and business class. But Joan Trip targets don’t have to be big deals. They can be as simple as “I always wanted to go to Yellowstone,” or “I’ve always wanted a weekend in New York,” or “I’d really like to see Paris.” Joan Trips can fit almost any budget and any interests.
I’ve taken a bunch of trips since that RTW Joan Trip. But they haven’t been Joan Trips; they’ve been mainly targets of opportunities or press trips. Now that I’m solo, I look mainly for great “flash sale” airfares in business class heading somewhere I want to go — usually somewhere I’ve been before. Using that strategy, I’ve scored trips to Austria, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand, and they were great trips.
My message here is quite simple. Almost all of you have at least one “someplace” that you’ve always wanted to visit — even better if you have several on your list. You can reach much of the world these days for less than $1,000 round-trip, and often for $500 or less — places as far away as Bali and Mykonos or as close as a nearby national park or big city. The pitch is not about touting any individual destination or singing the praises of business class; it’s to focus on the idea of making the time and budgeting the money to take a trip you’ve always wanted while you’re still able to travel easily. Maybe you even have enough frequent flyer miles, and always keep in mind my wife’s conclusion a decade ago: “Neither middle-age guys nor frequent flyer miles improve with age.”
You can never know when, to paraphrase Cole Porter’s lyric, fate will step in on the scene and mop up the floor with you. The best defense: Beat that mop.
(c) 2018 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC. — February 20, 2018