Monday, October 31, 2016

Church History Tour (and So Much More) Logistical Introduction

I had the best intentions.  I even bought a keyboard so I could blog more easily with the tablet.  But, with nine people needing clean clothes, sack lunches and, frequently sack dinners packed, thousands of miles to drive, and so many sights to see I was one exhausted mama.  After getting only one blog post half-way written, I decided to give myself a break and blog after we came home.
Peter Whitmer Farm

Adding to the confusion was the fact that we had four phones (three of which had far superior cameras to mine) and I couldn't blog about the amazing events of the day without a picture I knew was on one of the other phones. One of my first jobs will be to upload pictures from all the devices onto one online file.

Kirtland Temple

It was a remarkable trip, though, and I need to document it for my family first and foremost, but also for my readers, many of whom have asked for details because they are planning a similar trip.  I know I had to do a ton of searching for information and it would have been nice to have the details I will put here in one place for others.

1.  Transportation
Our cars are both too old and too small for our family, so driving our own car was not an option from the start.  I checked into renting or buying an RV, renting or buying a newer van, flying to different places and renting either a van or two cars, and taking the train.  In the end, the best buy for our large family was flying and renting a van.  I checked ticket prices and rental prices every other day for five months.  When Southwest and Budget (through Costco) had sales that converged, I pounced. We ended up flying to Milwaukee and renting a passenger van from there.  If you do this, make sure you don't have mileage restrictions! 

2.  Lodging
Once again, the large family contributed to the tangle.  We would need two regular hotel rooms every night unless I got creative.  The first thing I did was open a Hilton credit card.  Hilton had the most hotels in the places we were going (#1 consideration) and I have had reliably good experiences with the Hilton family, verses other hotel chains.  Our accumulated points got us about 1/3 of our nights.  Another 1/3 were a combination of airbnb houses and random hotels.  The final 1/3 of our nights were spent in camping cabins.  In trying to reduce costs, I wished we could just camp.  But, it was October and we couldn't bring all of our camping gear on the airplane.  Then, in a stroke of inspiration from Heaven, I remembered camping cabins.  For less than half the price of a hotel room, we rented cabins which varied from awesome to crappy.  They all had mattresses and heat, though, so we only had to check sleeping bags.

3. Food
I would say that 75% of our meals were sack lunches and dinners or hotel breakfasts.  I had to be creative in feeding everyone cold foods for that many days.  Sometimes we had a microwave and a few of times I had an oven, but even those days, I didn't have regular kitchen standards--no flour, lemon juice, seasonings, baking powder, oil, etc.  I'll post the menu if you want it.  In addition to food obtained at the grocery store, we did eat out periodically.  Each of the children provided a meal for the family and an generous anonymous donor bought gift cards for us for three meals.  What a gift for ME as the days wore on and I grew more and more wiped out.  Remember, not only did I have to make all of those meals (and pack lunches), but I also had to go grocery shopping.  Who wants to go to the grocery store after a very full day of driving and touring?

4. Sites
After all the logistical planning, what do you want to see???  For us, the number one most important thing was to see the Church History Sites.  As I blog about each day, I'll tell you details about the locations we visited, but go here to get a good overview.  After the church sites, I knew there were a few not-to-miss locations.  Some of those include the Abraham Lincoln sites in Springfield, IL, The Henry Ford in Detroit, and Medieval Times in Chicago.  Depending on the ages and interests of your family, there might be other priorities for you.  Knowing the driving miles, I set up stops to accommodate a break in driving.  We were also visiting in the Autumn, so I built in a few days just to enjoy the beauty of the season.  If we had gone in the summer, there would be different essential stops.

Medieval Times

One more question on the sites is how to pay?  All of the church sites are free, so that makes a world of difference.  Other things to check are for online codes, signing up for birthday clubs, and knowing different place's cheaper days (half-price Wednesday is popular in the museum world).  For my large family, a couple of times it was less expensive to buy the family membership vs paying singly.  I also took the time to jump through hoops to get home school pricing.  Sometimes that meant filling out forms and mailing them ahead of time.  I know.  So many hours of research!

Museum of Science and Industry

5. Schedule
Ah, and there's the rub.  I can help you a bit with this (I'll try to tell you how long to plan on spending at different areas), but this is going to be so personalized based on your family, interests, ages, time of year, hours of operation and how much time you'll have for your trip.  I set up a map in google maps that helped with drive time and keeping track of addresses and web pages.  Knowing the time the sun rises and sets is important because some locations are open "until dusk" and other places you'll want to hit with the sun.  You will be traveling through time zones, so make sure you take that into account as well.  

This might sound sacrilegious, but it is hard to be reverent and respectful all the livelong day.  I would suggest you make sure to plan some time for running and jumping and playing.  Plan things in-between church sites that have nothing whatsoever to do with pioneers or the translation and printing of sacred texts.

Okay.  I hope that's a good enough introduction.  I'll begin blogging about the actual trip now.  :)

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