Mark Pett


The Annual Zip Code Trip

Posted on Mar 11, 2013 | 7 comments

The Pett Family has an annual tradition. Every year, on February 19th, we put the numbers zero through nine into a hat. We draw a number out, write it down, and put it back in the hat. We repeat this until we have five numbers. Whatever zip code that is, we must visit sometime in the next year.

As you can imagine, this has led to some interesting vacation destinations over the years: Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Rural Hall, North Carolina; East L.A.

How did this tradition originate, you might ask? It began many years ago, before my wife and I were married. We were both schoolteachers. If you are a schoolteacher yourself, or if you are closely acquainted with any schoolteachers, then you know that it is about February when you REALLY start looking forward to summer vacation. We were both first year schoolteachers, which added a whole other level of desperation to that REALLY.

As schoolteachers, our jobs revolved around constant planning. Perhaps for this reason, we wanted someone or something else to plan our vacation for us. And since we were schoolteachers, on first-year schoolteacher salaries, we did not have the income to hire a travel planner. Or, really, to buy airline tickets or cruise ship passes. In fact, we just had a decrepit blue VW Bus in which to travel — one that was given to frequent “rests” on the side of the highways.

We decided we wanted to go somewhere completely random. We contemplated the ways one might choose a random location. Flip through atlases blindly. Throw a dart at a map. None of these options seemed quite random enough. But a random zip code. That seemed about as random as we might hope to get!

Our first year, we drew the zip code for Ketchum, Idaho. So we made Ketchum, Idaho, part of a whirlwind cross-country trip (with frequent roadside “rests”). If you’re given to seizures when viewing offensive color juxtapositions, you may want to avert your eyes (yes, I am wearing a burgundy shirt with neon green shorts):ketchum

So what are the rules of the Zip Code Trip? The only rule is that we must visit the post office that has that zip code. Then we mail ourselves a post card from that post office. Aside from that, we can stay there for one hour or one week. It’s up to us.

This year, my daughter Millie did the honors of drawing the first digit.

Zip codes are organized geographically, with low-numbered zip codes falling on the East Coast and high-numbered zip codes falling in the West. So, with Zip Code Trips, the initial digit determines the part of the country to which you’ll be traveling.

Our zip code for this year? 80166! Our Zip Code Trip destination? Littleton, Colorado! You’ve been warned, Littleton… the Petts are coming!



  1. This better mean that you will be at least saying hi to me in Denver, CO!

  2. Oh my! This was for last summer and I am even more sad I didn’t see you and Tiffany and get to meet the girls. :(

  3. What an interesting and fun memory building tradition. As a stay at home mom (who home-schools) this sparked an idea to do a local zip code trip, helping us explore our state. I am from Littleton, CO. The house I grew up is in Littleton, however was renamed to Centennial (but all the same, I am from Littleton). Born and raised and my family still lives here. It is a standard city, with suburban homes and grocery stores, Olive Garden and Targets, etc but with the most spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains. The best suggestion from a native would be to visit in the summer and be sure to visit Red Rocks. ABSOLUTELY BREATH TAKING. I would be very curious to find out when/where you go in Littleton. Have fun and be safe in your travels.

  4. Ok – I just headed over here to this post because Franki Sibberson told us to. ;-) The Girl and the Bicycle is my favorite book of the year, so I’m interested in whatever you have to say. ;-) LOVE THIS tradition!!

  5. Coolest family tradition ever!

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