Planning the trip, Part I

I’ve been asked how I came up with my route for the month.  The short answer, a lot of trial and error.  The long answer, it was complex was actually a lot harder than I thought it would be.

First, I wanted to get a lot of value out of the pass.  With anything unlimited, there is a tendency to eat, drink, or use as much as you can.  It isn’t too hard to exceed the price/value of the pass considering it was about two or three round trip flights and the pass was paid for.  Any additional flights meant you were flying bonus flights.  My goal was to see whatever I could, and go wherever I could in a month.

I went to the route map on JetBlue’s website, found destinations that looked interesting, and wrote them down on a list.  As I’ve been to all of the states on the bottom of the United States, it wasn’t necessary to visit those.  What was left was basically the west and east coast, and Salt Lake City, Denver, and Chicago in the middle.


The next part took the most time.  I looked for flights that accomplished several goals.  First, reduce the amount of time flying during daylight hours, when places were open.  After 5pm, parks and attractions close up, making for less active places.  Second, if there was a redeye flight, it would save on travel time as well.  Flying west to east wastes most if not all of a day.  Either I fly in the morning, which gets me to the east coast late in the day, or a redeye, that uses the overnight to my advantage (there are disadvantages).

A calendar and a list of flights were useful as I literally arranged post-its on the wall.  Each post-it contained a flight or a city.  This allowed me to switch out flights and move multiple segments of the trip to a different part of the month.  If a flight didn’t work, I would find another and substitute that flight in.  If a city didn’t work, I would find another spot to put the city in.

There were places I had to be at specific times.  The Tonight Show, The Price Is Right show, and the World Trade Center on 9/11 were a few of the planned “anchors”.  These planned anchors made larger chunks more difficult to move around as they were fixed in time.

Denver, Chicago, and Salt Lake City were also challenging.  Since they are in the middle of the country, it took more time to fly to those cities, often from only one side of the country and rarely with an overnight flight.  Apparently not a lot of travelers fly between them.

There were cities like Long Beach and Las Vegas (which I never got to) that I included to link some flights and take advantage of the daylight hours on the ground.

It took many hours of planning and searching to get a plan worked out.  One simple change or hiccup often forced chunks to be rearranged.  Eventually I worked out a plan, and had a base to work with.

Read the second part of planning a month long trip