For most of us, and I want you to be brutally honest here, the concept and the planning of a vacation are often better than the actual vacation itself. Oh, the time away from our daily routine, the change of scenery, the freedom of going to bed and/or getting up when you damn well please are all quite satisfying. 

Yet, given the preamble to the event itself, and the stories told ad nauseum upon the return home, the vacation itself is too short and then we kick ourselves over missed opportunities and places discovered too late for inclusion in the itinerary. 

The “vacation planning” idea is a good one, particularly right at the first of the year. Start early, give full consideration to destination possibilities, begin to set aside a few coins and when the time comes….well, okay so it’s never that easy and never that “clean” to leave the daily routine.

I fear that many of us are truly bad at planning vacations. In fact, as a group of people, Americans suck at vacation. We don’t do as much of it as people in the rest of the world and, therefore, we have less practice taking advantage of time allotted and possibilities presented.

My wild guess is that a lot of you are simply passive about vacation. Your friends say something they have always wanted to do, like snorkel in the Bahamas or head for the zip lines of some South American jungle and that’s the entire planning process. Never mind that you are uncomfortable in large bodies of water, breathing through strange apparatus and co-inhabiting the space with creatures not particularly fond of your presence. Or you don’t care much for traveling 80-feet in the air through trees on a single wire that is not OSHA-approved, alongside screeching monkeys with big teeth.  

Which brings us, finally, to our point: Vacation is not about doing what someone else wants to do, it’s about what you want to do. AND think through the vacation project as if it were important to your well-being because that is exactly what it is.

I am reminded of all of this because a common question on the topics I pay attention to is about wine country travel. It can be a great trip to visit areas that are consumed (no pun, really) with making products you absolutely enjoy. 

Wine country vacations are best when you do some advance planning, and here again, that’s part of the fun. But wine country, wherever that part is that is of interest to you, is not DisneyWorld. You don’t just lurch from one winery to another, from one restaurant to another, by following the paved path already laid out. Wine country travel is free-form and offers a lot of room for self-expression.

Using free, no-charge resources that want to help you get the most out of your travels is just plain smart on your part. For instance, every region/destination in the world has a bureau that possesses all the information you could possibly use to make the most of your time while traveling in their area. In Sonoma County, for instance, the gang at The Wine Road are about the best in the business. They can provide all kinds of information, many of which we casual visitors would not even think about.

They know their area from every facet and viewpoint to assure that your travels are complete and logical. Sonoma, again as an instance, is a very big place with lots of possibilities for discovery. You can make the most of your time in the area, or you can waste it because of the distances. The Wine Road organization, which represents more than 200 wineries, can head you in the right direction.

A recent experience of mine was that The Wine Road suggested a hotel in a place I never would have thought about. The Geyserville Inn at Geyserville turned out to be perfect. Not so large, very personal, and right next door was a wonderful restaurant for breakfast. Plus, the hotel offered discount dining cards. The staff could not have been nicer nor more helpful and the rooms tastefully decorated. Quite comfortable. It’s a place I have passed by numerous times and never gave it a second look.  

I especially appreciated staying among the vineyards. Quiet at night by New Orleans standards, but then so is Piccadilly Circus in London. But it was winter time, the vines were resting, and much of the agricultural beauty was not present. Yet the barren vines with a backdrop of hills worked wonderfully to remind me this is wine country.

The point is two-fold: 1) Start your vacation planning now. Don’t wait for the last minute and expect great things. Now is the time for homework; and 2) Find a trusted resource for information and special opportunities.

Everyone wants you to have a great time. Why disappoint them and yourself?



In the interest of disclosure, The Wine Road,, arranged some details for our recent visit and our attendance at Winter Wineland annual celebration. The Geyserville Inn,, provided accommodations for a portion of our stay. With those acknowledgements, relying on knowledgeable local sources who are well familiar with the area is still the path to the best experience. 




Read Happy Hour here on every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed, as well as stored, at Also check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature every month in New Orleans Magazine. Be sure to watch "Appetite for Life" every Thursday evening at 7 p.m., and Sundays at 5 p.m., on WLAE-TV, Channel 32 in New Orleans. Previously broadcasted episodes are available for viewing at