Expedia and Trip Advisor are my friends. Trivago and Kayak are my allies. It’s no wonder people used to rely so heavily on travel agents. Many more either stayed home or bunked with relatives. Heading out on the road was scary. Even with pictures and reviews available on the internet, I’ve ended up in some strange accommodations. What my mom pulled off with Mobil Guides, her letter-writing campaigns and a few phone calls was amazing.
From Investigations to Reservations
Over several months of research, Mom’s itinerary would come together. She and Dad would map out our route and decide where along the way we’d need to spend the night. Then Mom would hit the Mobile Guide.
Back in those days there were not a million hotel chains with a gazillion locations. You basically had three types of places to stay. The top tier was the first class resorts and hotels. Those were a bit beyond our budget. The bottom tier was the mom-and-pop locally owned hotels and they could be a real adventure. Everything else was pretty much Holiday Inn or Best Western.
Mom was all about Holiday Inn, but in those days there was no 1-800-HOLIDAY. I can’t say for sure whether Mom actually made reservations for all our stops or not. I know she didn’t when we made the trek back and forth between Georgia and Texas, because some of dad’s spontaneous choices were the reason she got Mobil Guides in the first place. I do however know for our 1969 vacation she did make some reservations, namely in D.C. and Williamsburg, but it seems they also depended a little bit on luck.
See, you couldn’t check your GPS for traffic or TXDOT for detours. Mom had to build room for ooops into her itinerary. The speed limit on interstates back in those days was in the 80’s, so as long as you could travel on one of those you were golden, but there weren’t as many interstates in those days. You also had to use state roads or farm-to-market routes and no one knew what that would lead to.
Construction was a nightmare. Signage was iffy. Detours were awful. Dad once missed the sign to get back on our route and we traveled at least an hour out of the way. Our travel days always began at the crack of dawn and Dad would call a halt before he had to drive in rush hour traffic. With all these variables, we’d just keep an eye out for the next Holiday Inn.
The Reservation Process
I mentioned a few weeks ago Master Card and Visa were still in the future back in those days. American Express and Diners Club were still in their infancy and middle class folks like my parents didn’t have them. So when Mom did make reservations it was somewhat of a challenge.
To make a guaranteed hotel reservation you had to send a check or money order. One of the benefits of the Mobil Guide was reservation procedures were often listed in the guide. You could always call, but it was a long distance call and your reservation wasn’t guaranteed until they had the money in hand. So, in much the same way that Mom solicited travel information, she utilized snail mail to get her hotel reservations.
Dear Sirs: Please find enclosed a check in the amount of $X to reserve a standard room with two double beds on June 3, 1969. There will be two adults and two children in our party. Also enclosed is a stamped self-addressed envelope for your letter of confirmation. Sincerely, Ruth Cave
I remember the excitement we felt as the letters of confirmation arrived to be a few notches above what we expressed when travel brochures arrived. The brochures just meant we were thinking about visiting. Letters confirming hotel reservations meant we were actually going.
Are you loving your online reservations yet? Let’s start traveling next week.