Preparing My Traveler's Notebook for Vacation

Planning a Vacation

posted in: Personal Essay, Photography, Reading, Travel | 1

Making Plans

Holly and I planned our first vacation in 3 years!

Yes, we took a trip to Solvang, CA this past October. We had a great time, and it was a welcomed break from work. But it was mainly to see some of Holly’s family. We had not instigated the trip so it did not quite feel like “our” vacation. Again, no complaints. It was a great trip. It just wasn’t one we planned.

I have mentioned before that we had canceled 4 trips due to the pandemic. That trip to Solvang was supposed to happen in March 2020 but had been postponed a few times. We also had conference-adjacent trips to Los Angeles and Chicago canceled. 

After 2 wonderful visits to Carmel-by-the-Sea in 2018 and 2019, we had intended to return during the summer of 2020. Although travel is still a bit risky, we decided to go ahead and plan a return trip to Carmel.

Of course, between the time we made our arrangements and the date of our trip, the mask mandate for flight vanished, taking away some sense of safety. We will still wear masks on our flight, but we’re a little disappointed that won’t be the norm on airplanes.

Once we decided to go back to Carmel, we started working on the details.

Prior to committing to this trip, we had also talked about visiting Holly’s dad and one of her brothers in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. Despite living in Las Vegas for 4 years, I never spent much time in Arizona. Went to Mesa once for conference and that’s about it other than waiting for connecting flights in the airport.

Frequently, when we fly to California, we have a connecting flight in Phoenix. We decided that since we would probably get routed through Phoenix, we could just stay in Phoenix for a couple of days to see family.

The 2 times we went to Carmel, we flew into San Jose and then drove the 1.5 hours or so to Carmel. The first time was because we had a wedding to go to in the San Jose area. The second time was because San Jose is the closest big airport.

Monterey, which is just north of Carmel, has a small airport but not a lot of flights go there so getting a flight from Philadelphia to Monterey usually is logistically unlikely. 

However, since we are leaving from Phoenix this time around, we had options for flying directly to Monterey. So no long car ride for us! The Monterey airport is 10 minutes from where we are staying.

For our previous return flights from Carmel, we needed to drive back to San Jose the night before our flight and stay overnight at an airport hotel since we had early flights and didn’t want to have to start driving from Carmel at, like, 4:00 in the morning.

Since we had needed to spend a night near the airport before, we decided to fly from Monterey to Phoenix, stay a night in Phoenix, then catch a direct flight back to Philadelphia.

What all this means is that we’ve scheduled a low(er) stress trip. We don’t have to worry about connecting flights. We don’t have a long car ride.

On our trip to Solvang, our departing flight was late, and we had to literally run through the Phoenix airport to make our connection so it will be nice to not even have to consider such a thing this time around. I’m getting to old to run through airports!

Deciding What to Bring

One of the many reasons I’m excited about this trip is being able to bring my Nikon Z fc. When we traveled to Solvang, I had wanted to bring my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, but it was too cumbersome to pack.

I have traveled with the Mark IV before, but I was unable to conveniently pack it for that trip which led me to explore getting a smaller digital camera that would be easier to travel with. I eventually settled on the Z fc which I bought back in February. This will be my first chance to travel with it so I’m looking forward to trying it out. I’ll be bringing both lenses that I got with it: a NIKKOR Z 28mm f/2.8 and a NIKKOR Z DX 18-140mm f/3.5-6.3.

Of course, I can’t resist also bringing a film camera and am planning on bringing my Olympus XA mainly because of its small size. But I’ve also been generally pleased with the results I’ve gotten with it so it seems like the XA should be a good complement to my digital camera.

I’m probably mostly going to use the Nikon, but I’m thinking I’ll bring 3 rolls of film so that I have options: Kodak Pro Image 100, Lomography Color Negative 800, and Ilford Delta 100. I was originally planning on bringing a roll of Fomapan profi line Classic (as demonstrated in my picture below). When I ordered this, I thought I was getting the Fomapan profi line Creative which I used before and liked. Somehow I ended up ordering the wrong film. I’m sure the Classic is good, but I don’t want to take an unfamiliar film with me on vacation so I switched to the Ilford.

Vacation Planning
Vacation Planning

I don’t normally take black and white film while traveling, but since we’ve been to Carmel a couple times before, and I’ve already taken a lot of pictures there, having some black and white film with me will provide a unique option.

One of the many fun aspects of our Solvang trip was bringing my Traveler’s Notebook in which I journaled about what we did, kept track of our itinerary, made lists of things we wanted to do, and captured some ephemera. I plan on bringing it on this trip as well. I have a lined insert for writing about our adventures, a calendar insert for tracking what we do, a sketchbook for any drawing I may want to do and for any ephemera I may want to collect, and an accordion insert that I plan on using for a daily summary.

In the lined notebook, I created a restaurant graph so we can easily see what restaurants are open on which days for what meals. I also usually use the calendar insert as a hobby tracker so I will continue to do so while away.

I am still deciding on what pens to bring. I bought a pen case from Jet Pens specifically for this trip. In addition to having slots for pens, it also has some other small pockets which I think will be good for my cables, adaptors, and other small things.

Although I prefer print books, I plan on bringing my Kindle for convenience. We anticipate having a lot of downtime during the Carmel portion of our vacation. There will be plenty of opportunities for relaxing with a book.

Initially, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to read but that problem was solved because I had an issue with an order I placed with

I pre-ordered Jennifer Egan’s The Candy House and Emily St. John Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility. I was very excited about these books and eagerly awaited their arrival. However, after nearly 2 weeks, they had still not shown up. The tracking information showed them being stuck in the same place all that time.

I put in a ticket and got an immediate response from their customer services saying they would ship a replacement order right away. They only needed me to confirm my address. What followed was some comedy of errors in which their ticketing system failed to deliver my response after 2 attempts. I did finally get through to them and have since received my shipment.

Sea of Tranquility and The Candy House
Sea of Tranquility and The Candy House

I’ve ordered a lot from and never had a problem like this before. It seems like just a one time thing.

While waiting, I was able to check The Candy House out from the library where I work and started reading it. Thinking I may not get my copy of Sea of Tranquility before we left, I bought the Kindle version.

Amazon had a deal in which I would get $6 back for spending $25 in Kindle books so I decided to buy 2 more books: Joan Is Okay by Weike Wang and Free Love by Tess Hadley. I have read and enjoyed short stories by each of them so I was interested in giving their recent works a try.

I also picked up a free Kindle First Reads book, At the Quiet Edge by Victoria Helen Stone, so I have plenty to read while away!

We’ll be traveling for 13 days which may be the longest trip I’ve ever taken. We also took the day after we return off so we can recover. We’ll need at least a day to transition back to the real world. And I’m sure I will have a lot of photos to edit and post.

But I don’t want to think that far ahead. I just want to focus on a nice, long, relaxing vacation.

  1. Khürt L Williams

    We haven’t had a vacation since 2017. Serious health challenges in 2018 and 2019 kept us grounded (literally). We had big plans for 2020 but then the pandemic. I haven’t seen my family since February 2020.

    The prolonged use of face masks trigger my childhood memories of nearly drowning. COVID-19 will always be around and I have zero interest in living my life behind a mask. We’re vaccinated and boosted. The risk is mitigated. Now that the mask mandates are gone we can finally travel.

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