How to Plan Your Vacation—Firewood-Style


There’s a common misconception about the weather in San Francisco. It’s in California, a land known for heat and beaches and sun. But the summer here is actually a mercurial mix of sun and fog, and fog and wind, and fog, and then some more fog and wind. Which is one reason why San Franciscans (like the British) are very good at taking summer holidays. 

But because there’s an exception to every rule, I don’t actually know how vacations work. I freelanced for too long to remember the luxury of paid time off. And now that I have a generous fifteen days off a year (that’s three whole weeks!), I have no idea how to use them.

So I decided to ask my coworkers for pointers. I whipped up a vacation survey for my fellow Firewoodians and sent it out. They responded with tons of useful (and oddly specific) advice.

So, without further preamble, let’s explore how Firewoodians enjoy their time off:

How do you decide where to go and what to do?

Helpful responses:
“I get inspired from Instagram travel posts, blogs, and Pinterest.”

“Where the deals are at! Scott’s Cheap Flights and The Points Guy are my jam.”

“Before children, I would jump on a plane and go. Now, we pack up the car and go anywhere within a four-hour car radius of our home. We look at the family amenities and often rent a kid-friendly Airbnb. Gotta have a retreat for the kids to be kids and have access to food at all times.”

“I typically couch-surf ( to embrace the local experience.”

Oddly specific responses:
“I typically like to go to a new country every year. I enjoy experiencing other cultures and traveling by motorbike in order to get off the [beaten] path.” 

“I try to mix it up if I can, depending on injuries, finances, and current injuries.” (What exactly does this Firewoodian get up to in their off hours? Thank goodness for health insurance!)

Entirely unspecific responses:

Vanessa Zucker, Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

How do you plan for a vacation?

Tips from crowd sourcers:
“Research, research, research. Reach out to friends via social [media] for tips. Read magazine articles, blog posts, and buy trip guides. Watch travel shows.”

“Mostly my research is done online; however, I also send out social blasts to get information from friends and family who may have visited those parts.”

Tips from non crowd sourcers:
“I find personal recommendations are not helpful, so I’ve stopped soliciting them. Everyone has their own version of vacation, and it’s not always what I’m looking for. Googling a very specific request seems to work for me.”

From the wingin’ its:
“Book a flight and a place to stay, then [find] 1–2 activities and play the rest by ear.”

From the along-for-the-riders:
“For the most part, I depend on the group plan”

“Family [trip]? Perfect. Give my two cents and ride along.”

What do you worry about while away?

The overachievers:

The underachievers:
“Pets only…never work.”

The caretakers:
“Our cats and plants back at home.”

“[I] worry about my parents.”

“Finding a place to park my truck, so I don’t get a ticket.”

The metaphysicians:
“I worry I get too narrow-minded back at home.”

Sal Taj in Phuket, Thailand

Do you have a packing method?

Tips from the helpful:
“I love to use compression bags, as they help to keep things organized within the main luggage/bag. I also follow Marie Kondo’s method of only bringing what gives me joy and then I roll everything up really tight and stuff [it] in the compression bags. I also bring minimal outfits that I can wash when needed.”

“Pack well ahead of time so I can sleep on it (since I always forget something). I’m a fan of the rolling method.”
“Three outfits that are light and dry quickly. Shoes that can get wet and typically all black, so it can cross over into evening wear.”

Tips from the clumsy:
“Pack in case you spill food during breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day.”

Tips from the disgruntled:
“I hate packing. First make a list of ALL the stuff we have to bring (usually a ton due to the kiddos), and then grab a drink of choice and start to put it all together. I hate packing.”

And there you have it. Vacation planning 101:

  1. Feel your mood.
  2. Go to Instagram to see what influential locations influencers are influencing.
  3. Fly cheap. Sleep cheaper.
  4. Pack black clothes in tight, vacuum-sealed bags. Bring sensible shoes.
  5. Abandon your pets, plants, and parents.
  6. Worry about work just enough to feel conscientious, but not so much that you feel guilty.

Sounds doable. 

Bon voyage!