Thursday, December 19, 2013

WTH?

Good Lord! What happened to us? What happened to all our plans to keep you all informed as we journeyed around the world?

In short, lots of things!

As noted in the last post, Jeff's job took him to San Francisco. For 4 months. Right before our trip. That left Jennifer and the kids home in Idaho, alone, with the job of finalizing everything for our trip. But one very big thing threw a kink into the whole works. Due to the job change, our little family was going to move to San Francisco!

Now, Jennifer was totally up for the change. The kids, notsomuch. But they were troopers, and got in all of their friend time before we left. The problem was, we had to not only gather and pack for our RTW trip (keeping in mind everything we brought was being carried on our backs, so weight was a major concern), we also had to decide what we were moving to SF with us, and what we could live without and put into storage. THIS was a difficult task for Jennifer to accomplish.

It all got done, we dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's. We left our dog with Jennifer's parents, and jumped on the plane. And Jennifer figured once that happened, there was nothing left to do but relax and enjoy all the work that went into making this moment happen.

So, now that we are home, settled, and back to normal, we can talk about our trip. All the stories, the adventures, and the beauty. We can't wait to share it all with you!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Been awhile.

Long story. But Jeff's job has taken him to San Francisco for much of the past several months, leaving Jennifer to all the home duties.

The result? This blog got dropped from anywhere near the top of the priority list.

Still, in just a few weeks we will be on the road. Over the past few months we have squeezed in visits to the travel clinic, getting caught up on all of our vaccinations and getting a few new ones we didn't know existed.

Our itinerary remains virtually the same. The one material change is that we decided to fly from Bangkok to Siem Reap instead of taking the train, bus, taxi combo. This adds approximately $300 to our budget (it's OK, we're still under  budget), but saves about 7 hours — a trade off we thought worth it.

We'll try to post a bit more frequently as we go this "last mile" towards take off.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Visiting the Travel Clinic.

We did it! We survived our trip to the travel clinic.

Actually, it wasn't so bad. It was at least marginally better than your typical visit to a doctor's office. It went like this...

  • Nurse Nancy asked us to recite our itinerary in great detail. Kinda fun.
  • Nurse Nancy told us that half of the locations were perfectly safe and required no special immunizations. Yay!
  • Nurse Nancy told us the other half would almost certainly leave us ending our trip with malaria, dengue fever, rabies and potentially a handful of other killer diseases. Crikey!

Perhaps it wasn't quite that bad, but by the time we were done getting "educated" we were a little concerned. The reality is that precaution is a good idea. We got a couple of shots (Jeff got four because he's not going to be in town for awhile!) and a prescription we must take a couple months before we leave. And those are just for the basics. We opted out of the really rare stuff.

This should leave us pretty well-protected from most semi-common threats (though according to Nurse Nancy, we're at serious risk of getting attacked by rabid man-eating monkeys in Cambodia).

Interestingly, the kids don't have to go to the doc until April. It turns out that the immunizations they already have for living in modern-world America pretty much do the trick for travelling the world. Go figure. They will each have to get a shot or two and participate in the prescription fun, but that's pretty small price to pay.

Total cost? Well Jeff is between insurance plans (long story) and the entire thing cost about $400 out-of-pocket for just him. More painful than the shots.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

RTW accommodations are all booked!

We did it! We booked our final accommodation for the trip...Paris. Paris was the lone holdout for a number of reasons, the big one being we were trying to stick to a low budget (under $125/night for four people). We recognized this would be a challenge, and probably not possible in a hotel. Rentals are tough, too, in this price range if you're staying less than week.

What we didn't expect is that the operators of "lower end" (read: <$150/night) properties on AirBNB and VRBO would be so unresponsive. We reached out to several and rarely did they get back to us.

The result? We upped our budget a bit and went after it. We found a great place right near the Louvre for $164/night, all in, using AirBNB. Over our budget, but a great deal since we will not have to use the Metro much at all.

That brings our total, actual accommodation budget to $3,067, or just under $75 a night over 41 days. Not bad considering there are four of us and we're stopping in NYC, London and Paris, three of the world's most expensive cities.

To achieve this, we used hotel points for discounts or free nights for 11 of 41 our stays. In London, this brought our average night stay to $70. Pretty good.

So here's where our budget stands to date—still under $10k!

BUDGET
Transportation (including airfare+trains): $2,375
Accommodations: $3,067
Food: $3,780*
Total = $9,222

*estimated

The remaining $778 will likely be eaten up by insurance, local public transportation and incidentals. So that means entertainment probably will bust our $10k budget. Oh well. There's always the chance food will come in less than our estimated food budget.

One thing is for certain: we aren't going around the world and not eating well or playing hard!



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tablets for RTW travel.

When you're planning on spending as much time in trains, planes and airports as we are next summer, boredom becomes a major concern. Luckily, modern technology has come to the rescue with the computer tablet revolution. iPads, Nexus' (Nexi?), Kindles and are really amazing for extended travel. 

We're not big shoppers, so last week was actually the first time we were all in a store where we could compare, side by side, all the prospective tablets for a around the world trip. We were impressed. Every single option we looked at seemed to work incredibly well and provide a good value for their price.

Our plan is to get a device for each one of us. We all have different needs. And while we are still evaluating things, and there is a possibility a new, more desirable device will show up before we push off, these are the tablets we're most seriously considering:
  • For Jen: iPad mini. She likes the size and weight and the fact that she is already familiar with Apple products.
  • For Jeff: iPad2. He already owns it. :)
  • For 11 y/o son: iPod Touch. He actually just bought this week after months of saving allowance earning money via extra chores. He likes the smaller size and how well it works for gaming. It's a device he hopes to use for years after our trip.
  • For 8 y/o daughter: Kindle Fire HD. This is probably the one most in the air. She likes that the screen is large enough for drawing/coloring apps as well as the large library of books. The price, while not cheap, is an overall good value. A Nexus is a possible substitute.
We'll see were things end up, but no matter what the options are amazing compared to even a few years ago.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

And now...we wait.

90% of our major trip planning is in the books. Only our three nights in Paris  (if you have suggestions let us know) and some train tickets are left to book. Everything else—airfare and hotels—is booked and confirmed.

So what now?

Planning. We definitely have some on-the-ground planning to do—what, exactly, do we want to do where? We've started picked up some various guidebooks to get the kids familiar with their options. But the fact is, we're hoping to keeping the trip as low-key as possible. That means planning one or two "must do" activities per location and leaving the rest for unscheduled fun. We also have to triple-check the preferred way of handling visas for Turkey and Cambodia.

Supplies. We still are looking for a pack for our daughter, a few key travel clothing pieces and the like. Our strategy is watch for sales and coupons and snag deals slowly and steadily over the next few months.

Health. We've got to get to the traveler's health clinic and get their recommendations. There are certainly a few immunization's they'll recommend, so it's better to get out in front of that.

Wait. So much time was spent trying to maximize our budget for the travel portion of the trip (we're spending $386 per person for an 8-stop RTW trip—$574 including ferries, etc.), that now it just feels like we're waiting. Considering how many airports we'll be travelling through, that's probably a feeling we should get comfortable with.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Starting to hate hotel points.

First off, we're not huge hotel people. We prefer the privacy and flexibility of apartments.

Still, occasionally for the convenience and even more occasionally for the luxury, we find ourselves in hotels. This around-the-world trip will probably include more hotels than we've stayed at on all our previous trips.

This time we're doing it for the budget. We're using a combination of points and cash to save some bucks on our accommodations. And, after booking several rooms via this method, we can confirm, without hesitation that...it's a pain in the butt.

We consistently run into a host of problems:

Lack of availability: There's only one reasonably priced IHG hotel in Barcelona.

Waaaaay overpriced availability: One night at a Paris Hilton goes for nearly100k points via Hilton.

Rooms for (just) 2: Whether it's the hotels or the government regulation is unclear, but what we have not been able to book a room for four people using hotel points.

Now, we were able to get great hotel value using our Hhonors points for a Hampton Inn in NYC. And our Hyatt free night certificates got us two nights in a great Andaz in Manhattan.

Hotel lovers may be able to find great value collecting hotel loyalty points. But for us, we've been able to get much more bang for our buck by collecting air miles.