Will it be Wuthering Heights or Romeo and Juliet? I hate these difficult decisions. And I'm not talking about movies or old books. I'm talking about rooms—specifically, guest rooms at the Hearthside Bed & Breakfast, a Victorian home in scenic Bar Harbor, Maine. The Wuthering Heights room is tempting, with a fireplace, love seat for two and that cornflower blue, cream and rose color scheme. But then there's the Romeo and Juliet room, the one I'm looking at on my computer screen, which has a fancy brass bed with lace canopy and a whirlpool tub. I know how much my wife loves whirlpools, so which one will it be?
I hear Microsoft asking, "Where do you want to go today?" But it's not today I'm thinking about. I'm looking ahead to October, when I'd like to enjoy a romantic weekend getaway with my wife. I turned to the Internet for some assistance, and I was able to find out everything I needed to know—air fares, car rental fees, accommodations, local restaurants and must-see sights. It's easy to plan a weekend getaway on the Net. Just point, click and go.
The Maine Event
I knew we'd enjoy a weekend in New England, especially when the fall foliage reaches its peak color. I had heard good things about Bar Harbor and the surrounding Acadia National Park, so I figured I'd look into that. And I knew we'd prefer a bed & breakfast.
So I went online, dropped by Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com)—one of my favorite Web search engines—and typed in "bed and breakfast." Among the results was The Bed & Breakfast Channel (sabre.bbchannel.com), which includes listings of more than 20,000 B&Bs worldwide.
On the B&B Channel, I clicked on "Maine," then "Bar Harbor," and got a list of some 50 options—including Hearthside and its nine guest rooms. I clicked the Hearthside link and ended up learning all I needed to know about the place—including complete descriptions and prices ($90 to $135 per night) of all the named guest rooms, which also included Canterbury Court and Emily Dickinson. I couldn't make online reservations at Hearthside (most B&Bs require a phone call for that), but I could make an informed decision as to my room preference. (I decided Romeo's whirlpool beat out the Wuthering Heights love seat any day.)
Then I had to choose a weekend. I went to a Maine tourism site (www.mainesunshine.com), where I clicked "Seasons in Maine" and learned that Bar Harbor's peak foliage time is typically October 7-12, so I'll shoot for the weekend of October 8-10.
Now that I'd found the place and picked the weekend, I had to make flight arrangements. There are a ton of places online where you can book your own flights, but I typically go to Yahoo!'s "Travel Agent" area (travel.yahoo.com). Once there, I clicked the "Book a Flight" button.
I had learned from the Bar Harbor B&B site that Bangor, 45 miles away, was the closest airport, so I keyed in the Chicago airport, the Bangor airport, the dates I'd be traveling and two passengers—and learned that the best deal on a round trip for two that weekend would set me back $825.26. (You can also book a rental car on any of the travel sites listed in the "How to Get Started" sidebar, p. 64.)
I started adding things up and found that we were fast closing in on a $1,500 weekend. Maybe some day, I thought, but it's not in our budget right now. So I turned to Plan B.
Plan B was simple: where could we go for about 300 bucks? We'd be driving somewhere, and we didn't want to drive too far just for a weekend outing. When you live in northern Illinois, that usually means Wisconsin.
I'd heard good things about Door County, which is about a four-hour ride up the Lake Michigan shoreline on a peninsula that sticks out into the Great Lake like a dislocated pinkie. I wanted to know more, so I went to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism site (www.tourism.state.wi.us) and from there to the Door County Tourism site (www.doorcountyvacations.com). That's where I learned that Sturgeon Bay is the place to be, complete with its sailing charters, fishing (for sturgeon, of course), maritime museum, horseback riding, plenty of fine restaurants and a real laid-back lifestyle. Amen to that.
So I went back to the B&B Channel and clicked on "Wisconsin," then "Door County" and then "Sturgeon Bay," where I found some 15 B&Bs. I clicked on the Whitefish Bay Farm B&B, simply because I liked the name.
I learned that this 1908 farmhouse, restored in 1991, rests on 80 serene acres where the owners raise sheep and cherries. I learned that the innkeepers, Dick and Gretchen Regnery, are college graduates and "escapees from city life."
Whitefish Bay Farm's rooms go for $90 a night, so that'd be $180 for lodging and breakfasts. Throw in another $100 for lunches and dinners, another $30 for gift shopping, another $20 for gas, and that's $330—right in the ballpark!
And the kids? Well, since 6- and 8-year-old boys don't exactly enhance the ambience of a romantic getaway, we'd have to make plans for them too.
Guess we'll have to ask our parents. They can stay with the boys in our cozy suburban townhouse. We'll leave the place nice and neat for them, put on the flannel sheets, turn back the covers, and maybe put a nice book on the nightstand.
I think Wuthering Heights will do just fine.
Mark Moring is editor of Christianity Online magazine and senior editor of Campus Life magazine. He and his wife, Nina, occasionally get away from their home in the Chicago suburbs.
Make a Quick Getaway
Feeling spontaneous? As in, "Honey, I know it's 10 o'clock Wednesday night, but let's go somewhere this weekend."
Then you'll want to check out the "Weekend Specials" area on Yahoo! Travel (travel.yahoo.com). Click the "Week end Specials" link on Wednesday, and you'll find some incredible round-trip deals from a handful of major airlines.
Here's the catch (actually a few of 'em): they're all for this weekend. And you usually have to depart on Saturday (not Friday), and return on Monday or Tuesday (not Sunday). And there aren't a plethora of choices. But they are dirt cheap.
Here's how it might work for you. In advance, pick a weekend for your getaway.
Decide how much you're willing to spend for the whole weekend, including air fare, car rental (if any), lodging, meals and miscellaneous expenses. Then, on the Wednesday before that weekend, go to the "Weekend Specials" area. You might just find a gem. The week I checked, I was thinking south, and I found these options:
Round trip from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Nashville
($119, Northwest Airlines)
Round trip from St. Louis to Knoxville, Tennessee ($99, TWA)
Round trip from Newark, New Jersey, to Miami ($160, United)
If you find a city that interests you, book the flights, then go to any of the general travel sites and look for a good hotel/ motel deal. Then sign off and start doing the laundry, because you're gonna be packing your bags the day after tomorrow.
How to Get Started
Wanna use the Net to plan your own weekend getaway? You can get most, if not all, of it planned by clicking on any of the general travel sites below. Plus we've thrown in a few bonuses while you're site-seeing in cyberspace.
General travel sites
- Yahoo! Travel (travel.yahoo.com)
- AltaVista Travel (jump.altavista.com/travel)
- Preview Travel (previewtravel.com)
- Expedia Travel (www.expedia.com)
- Travelocity (www.travelocity.com)
- TravelWeb (www.travelweb.com)
Bed and breakfast sites
- Bed and Breakfast Inns (www.bedandbreakfast.nu)
- The Bed & Breakfast Channel (sabre.bbchannel.com)
- Innsite (www.innsite.com)
Other selected sites
- Wanna take Fido along? TravelDog (www.traveldog.com) lists places that'll welcome your furry family member.
- If your idea of a romantic getaway includes a campground, head straight for Go Camping America! (www.gocampingamerica.com).
- Driving to your destination? Get your maps and directions from MapsOnUs.com (www.mapsonus.com).
- Want a list of hotels, restaurants and tourist traps en route? Check out FreeTrip.com (www.freetrip.com).
- Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel (www.frommers.com) provides just what the name implies: cost-cutting travel tips and matter-of-fact advice.
1999 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.