Kenneth Knepper: The common denominators of vacationing

Kenneth Knepper

Now that the first leg of my family’s annual summer travel is complete, I can reflect on a few things we might consider changing before the next trip out of town.

By no means is the following list all inclusive because of the uniqueness of one place compared to another, but, after years of experience, I’ve learned there are several common denominators influencing a vacation to anywhere besides your backyard.

- Fuel allowance: There really is no accurate way to estimate the amount of fuel it will take to reach and return from a destination. 

That’s because wind, detours and hunger pangs play roles in a vehicle’s economy. Our most recent trip included a 25-foot camper, mountains and an average wind speed of 35 mph, which constantly changed according to the direction we drove so it always was a headwind. It resulted in mileage that would have gone a long way in clearing the Gulf of Mexico after the BP oil mess.

- Keepsakes. Anyone with children knows the cost for tokens of remembrance is directly proportionate to the age of the child seeking them. 

This year, my son began wearing adult-sized shirts, meaning the extra couple inches of fabric translated to at least $5 extra at every stop.  However, my wife said my theory actually held true into real adulthood, which explained why my keepsake T-shirt from one tourist site cost as much as combined prices of my son’s and wife’s shirts.

- Tourist stops. No matter where or when you travel, there will be a point when you are forced to reach a decision for particular rides/games/events/ nachos.  

Through the years, I learned any amount of cash set aside for tourism should be doubled. That should leave you with a smaller credit card bill when you wind up short after paying a small fortune to access a mountain highway.

- More on tourist stops: Always have a backup plan for times when a particular event has been canceled.

During our recent trip, we learned the summit of the mountain where we drove was closed because of winds that reached 110 mph. There even was a “small child warning,” according to the woman park ranger, who stopped our ascent. She said the wind was strong enough to “blow a child right off the side of the mountain.” 

Since we didn’t consider the possibility of a mountain being closed and failed to make backup plans for a backup mountain, much distress was evident in my son. 

Besides, I think he was intrigued by the idea of seeing a flying child.

To remedy a potentially catastrophic moment, we purchased a trinket for him that remains inside a box on his dresser.

- A vacation, really?  According to one dictionary definition, vacation is “a time of rest, recreation, etc., usually spent away from home or in traveling.” 

In theory, the premise remains intact until you’ve tried cramming 42 vacation events within a span of 48 hours, leaving you feeling more tired than from all those hours at work you tried to forget. Face it: There will never be enough time to enjoy every feature during a particular vacation.

Always remember, there are only so many hours in a day and only so many days of the week. 

Once you’ve thought of other memorable sayings, begin packing for the next vacation, understanding the cost of fun is relative to the excitement of your family.

The next chance you have for staying within your means, anyway, probably is about the same time children fly …

Ken Knepper is publisher of The Newton Kansan and The McPherson Sentinel. He can be contacted at