Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Waiting Game

The  month of February is quickly approaching, and we are seriously lacking in some of our trip preparations. Plane tickets, for example, are yet to be purchased. I've been scouring different airline search engines daily for the last month, waiting for prices to drop, and they've hardly changed at all. I suppose it's a good thing that they haven't gone up, but I keep holding out, thinking the next day they're sure to drop at least a few dollars. So far, the biggest change I've seen has been about $15 one way or the other. The bad news is that the tickets are still just barely out of our price range, so we're having to get creative with routing options. I'm learning so much about how plane tickets work!

Also, passports. I've been dragging my feet on submitting a passport application because we have to submit an official copy of our marriage license in order to change my name. I haven't wanted to let go of our only copy, and I haven't been organized enough to order additional ones, so the process stalled. Today, though, TJ will be mailing both my passport application and the request for additional marriage licenses. Passports are being processed within four to six weeks, so as long as the Christmas mail rush doesn't delay things too badly, we should be ready in plenty of time.

While we wait for plane ticket prices to come down and passport applications to be processed, I'll share a link to one of my favorite websites. A Practical Wedding was kind enough to run an article I submitted about this trip and part of our motivation behind it. You can find the article here.

It's hard to keep updating when nothing too exciting is happening on the planning front. We've been learning more about our destinations, saving every penny we can, and doing a little shopping for clothing and gear to take with us, but none of that seems blog worthy. Soon, though, we will have plane tickets and valid passports. After that, the waiting will be much more fun!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Trial Run!

TJ and I recently returned from a week in Portland, Oregon. Originally we planned the trip to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, but with plans falling into place for our big adventure, we finally realized that this would also make a great practice trip. So, with the exception of the two days right around our actual anniversary, that's what we did - backpacks, hostels, lots of walking, and all.

The obvious place to start was making sure we had backpacks ready to go. This summer, we spent hours researching and trying on the different backpacks we were considering. The trying-on phase was fueled by the opening of a new REI right down the road from us, so a regular date night for us was hiking up and down the aisles of the store with backpacks full of beanbags for a couple hours. Yes, we're those people.

Ultimately, we settled on two backpacks that fit our needs and - more importantly - our bodies. I tried on almost every pack in the store before going back to the very first brand I tried. It was only in stock in a bright red men's pack, so I hunted down a women's pack that came in green and ordered it sight-unseen. Fortunately, it was love at first sight between me and the Deuter ACT Lite 45 + 10 SL.TJ had a much bigger selection and eventually went home with a grey Osprey Atmos 50 pack.

The verdict after traveling with them for a week? Two thumbs up. Traveling with a backpack is very different from traveling with a suitcase, but we survived the initial learning curve and embraced the benefits of this new kind of travel. We were even able to use both packs as carry-on luggage for our flights. The only exception was a small plane, where the attendants gate-checked all the larger-sized carry-on bags. We learned to buckle the waist belts backward across the pack and cinch down the shoulder straps to minimize the chances of a strap getting caught on something. It must have worked because our packs were safely waiting for us when we got off the plane at our destination. Hopefully we won't have to deal with that on the larger planes that usually handle international flights.

We'll definitely do a few things differently next time around. The top of our "lessons learned" list was a big "Bring fewer clothes!!" note. We thought we were packing light, but after a little bit of shopping in Portland, our packs were at capacity (Well, maybe. Our concept of "capacity" changed throughout the week.). While there are probably a few things we'll have trouble buying in Asia (shoes for our relatively large non-Asian feet come to mind), we'll have to remember that we can almost always buy more of something when we get there. We were also reminded that many hostels have men's restrooms and women's restrooms, which means that having a set of toiletries for TJ and a set for me makes more sense than we first thought. It'd be nice to cut back on weight by carrying one tube of toothpaste, for example, but it's not much fun to have to wait for the other person to get back before you can start getting ready.

I imagine our packing/traveling strategies will change drastically over the few months that we're on the move, if the things we learned over one week in a domestic city are any indication. Our goal is to avoid bringing too many things we don't need in order to leave room for the things we are sure to forget. Anything questionable gets put on the buy-when-we-get-there list!

Monday, September 10, 2012

To Do Lists

I am such a list person. I don't go to the store without a shopping list in my hand. If I'm having trouble making a decision, I will list out the pros and cons of each option. It's just how I process the world.

So it should come as no surprise that I've been working on this list of things we need to remember as we prepare for our trip. This is far from comprehensive, but it is my first pass of thinking about things we should accomplish or plan for sooner, rather than later.
  • Update Courtney's passport (it still has had my maiden name on it!)
  • Add TJ to the house deed
  • Finalize our wills
  • Get insurance-covered vaccines
  • Price check for non-insurance covered vaccines
  • Set up mail forwarding
  • Get up to date on physicals and dentist appointments
  • Sell our rapidly-growing "Craigslist" pile
  • Apply for visas to Vietnam and Australia, and research others
  • Purchase travel insurance
  • Schedule resort stay by October 8th (we bought a Groupon to this place!)
  • Finalize our packing list and purchase remaining items
  • Pick up a Southeast Asia guidebook
  • Set up all bills for auto pay
  • Come up with a possible itinerary (and expect it to change!)
Many of these tasks fall decidedly out of the "fun" zone, but if we put the effort in now, we'll have less to worry about when we're on the road. Besides, we've been talking about getting our wills together since we got married, so we really need to get on that anyway.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Initial Plans

For the last month or two, our plans for this trip have been changing rapidly. As much as I appreciate the lesson in flexibility, I'm definitely looking forward to figuring out dates and a general route. My plans don't necessarily have to pan out, but I do enjoy making them!

Here is an outlining of what we're thinking at this stage:

Dates: Middle of February - middle/end of May, 2013

Countries: Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam

  •  Phase 1: Australia (3-4 weeks)
  •  Phase 2: SE Asia (6-8 weeks)
  •  Phase 3: ??? (Up to 2 weeks)
And that's about as far as we've gotten.

Our "Phase 3" is the opportunity we're giving ourselves to discover something new while we're there. What else is on that side of the world that we won't even think about working into our itinerary before we leave? What do we need to make time to see before we head back to our normal lives? The difficulty here is, of course, that we still need a plan for getting home. A one-way plane ticket to Sydney will buy us some time, but we'll need an idea of what city we'll be flying home from before too long. We've considered a lot of options so far: China, Philippines, Indonesia, New Zealand... But I suppose the whole point is to keep it open ended for now.

So, plans are underway. Savings are moving along steadily. Excitement is building. We're within the 6-month countdown!