Posts Tagged With: Trip Prep

Our Map

We recently discovered a great online tool called the Great Circle Mapper that allows travelers to document their flights on any itinerary by creating custom maps. The site also has a bundle of other fun maps to view and play with. Just for shiggles, we plugged in all of our flight info on the mapping program. After entering LAX-CAN-AKL-AKL-CAN-NRT-SIN-CDG-CPH-VIE-OTP-STR-AMS-GLA-LHR-ATL-EZE-ATL (whew!) here is what we found:

Flight of our RTW Trip

Flight Map for Europe Part of our RTW Trip

We booked this itinerary months ago, yet it still makes our jaws drop a little: Fourteen different international flights on five airlines covering 48,500 miles. Many of these stops (Amsterdam, Paris, Vienna and twice in Guangzhou) are just brief layovers on the way to final destinations. And, to be fair, a good chunk of the path includes portions of the journey that we’re taking over land. For example, Bucharest to Stuttgart will all be via car/train/bus over a few weeks. But still… great gravy on a platter, that’s a lot of miles! This map has given us some perspective for the scale of this trip.

Here are our three longest flights:

Los Angeles to Guangzhou= 7231 Miles (coming up Monday night!)

Singapore to Paris = 6,667 Miles

Guangzhou to Auckland (and back!) = 5,769 Miles

Man, that’s a lot of inflight movies and packs of peanuts. Our relatives in Canada surprised us with another type of map. They presented us with this low-tech but incredibly thoughtful travel map when we visited Manitoulin Island earlier this week. Ah, the benefits of marrying of into a family of teachers.

Another Map

Finally, on our last few hours in the Eastern Time Zone, we found this pleasant surprise in our inbox this morning: Silver Medallion upgrades to first class on our Cross Country “Flight 0” out to LAX from MSP tomorrow night. Since this flight was not part of our International Ticket, this is a nice treat. The complimentary upgrades that we get from time to time on domestic flights are, hands down, the best perk of the annual-earned Silver Medallion status on Delta. We rock the upgrade about 40% of the time. Not a shabby way to start a trip.
-Phil

Living the good life. Another Baileys on the rocks, please!

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Categories: Doccuments, Flights, Transportation, Trip Prep | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Choosing Destinations

One of the first questions people ask us when they find out we are traveling around the world is, “How did you ever decide where to go?”  This is a very good question, especially since we have so many options.  The process of choosing where to go involved a lot of research and discussion, but in the end it wasn’t as difficult as we had imagined.

First, you should know that when you buy an Around the World ticket with Delta SkyMiles, there are some limitations.  We are required to go in one contiguous direction with no backtracking.  Next, we can only make six stops.  It is important to note, we can fly into one country and out of another and it only counts as one stop, so it’s more like six “takeoffs and landings”.  Also, you can only stop on a continent twice and the whole trip has to be completed within a one-year time period.

The Chart

Click to enlarge to read the SkyTeam RTW Award Rules…

Now, some people may look at these guidelines as restrictions which prevent free choice and movement.  We found the opposite to be true.  Deciding destinations for an around the world trip is quite daunting and we found these guidelines very helpful in getting us started.  Rather than restricting us, they really helped provide direction and a place to start.

The first thing we had to do is choose which direction we wanted to go.  We decided to go West to East for a couple of reasons.  First, this would have our first stop be in an English speaking country—either Australia or New Zealand.  This would help us ease into our world travels without hitting a major language barrier right away.  Another reason is so we can tackle the Asian countries early on our journey.  We anticipate these countries will provide the most challenging travel experiences due to the vast cultural differences, and we want to explore them while we are still feeling fresh and aren’t so worn down from months of travel.

One of 16 planes we might end up on...

Once we chose a direction, we sat down with a world map and started choosing destinations that the SkyTeam would fly.  We wanted to get the most out of each stop, so not only did we look at the country we would be flying into, but also what other countries we could get to from there.  We knew our first stop would either be New Zealand or Australia—we couldn’t go to both because we only get six  stops.  After asking around, the general consensus was the experience of New Zealand wins over that of Australia any day of the week.

For our European leg, we decided to spend the bulk of our time in Eastern Europe and we are pretty much ignoring western countries like Spain, France and Italy.  The reasons for this are twofold:  the western countries will be fairly easy to get back to in the future and they are so “westernized” that they won’t be as much of a unique experience.  We look forward to trekking through the Balkan states and seeing small villages that seem like they are relics from years past.

Another question we often get is, “Are you going to Africa?”  We spoke to several friends who have traveled extensively and sometimes strangers at parties and they all said the same thing, “Don’t miss Africa.  Go on a safari!”  This is great advice, but you may have noticed Africa is not on our list of destinations.  Here’s why: Africa is far.  Look on the map—to go to Africa and continue in one direction, without missing huge chunks of Europe, would be difficult.  We view Africa and particularly a safari as its own trip.  In addition, we are trying to keep our expenses low and an African safari can be quite pricey.  This is definitely something we’d love to do, we just don’t think this trip is the time.

After going through this thought process together, we then spent about three hours on the phone with a lovely woman at the Delta Rewards Round the World Ticket Desk. (Yes, that actually exists).  We went through each destination, looked for available flights on the SkyTeam, and changed airports when needed.  Luckily, our times are incredibly flexible and so we were able to move things around pretty easily—after all, what do we care if we fly into Buenas Aires, Montevideo or Santiago—they all get us to South America and we can get around from there.

I know everyone has opinions about where we are going and the choices we’ve made, but here’s the thing—we really can’t go wrong.  We chose to avoid areas of the world that we thought might be too dangerous, but otherwise they will all be new and interesting experiences.  Will they all be great?  Probably not.  Will we broaden our understanding of the world and create amazing memories everywhere we go?  Absolutely!

–Brooke

Categories: Destinations, Flights, Transportation, Trip Prep | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Nerves

So, we are less than one week from the start of our RTW trip and I have a confession:  I’m nervous.  It is hard for me to pinpoint exactly why I’m nervous, but I am.  I’ve never traveled in this way before—we will be gone for almost four months and much of that time is unplanned.  Yes, we have hotels booked for each city we fly into, that way we have a place to go from the airport, but after that who knows what we’ll see and do?  That is awesome.  That is exactly how we want it to be.  However, I think that is also what is causing some trepidation.

I think it is inevitable that there will be days when we don’t know where we will be laying our head that night.  What happens when it is 9:00 PM and we still don’t have a place to stay?  Can I handle that lack of predictability?  Will I end up getting upset and will Phil and I end up fighting because of my discomfort with the situation?  I imagine when this happens we will end up having to stay in some real fleabag motels or we will end up shelling out too much money and staying in a far nicer place than we planned.  Ultimately none of this really matters—no matter what, everything will work out fine, and if it isn’t all smooth sailing, well it will make for a great memory.  Intellectually, I know this is true.  However, I think I won’t fully understand it until we actually begin our journey and have these types of experiences.

Don’t get me wrong, I am so excited for our trip.  We have been planning and talking about it for so long and it is finally here!  There is just so much that is unknown—I guess it is natural to be a little nervous.  Hopefully when I’m drinking my first Steinlager beer in New Zealand, I will take a deep breath, toast to my husband, and my nerves will melt away.

–Brooke

Categories: Budget, New Zealand, Random Thoughts, Reflections, Trip Prep | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

International Driver’s License

Among the numerous “important documents” that we’ve amassed for our trip, the easiest to secure was the International Driving Permit. Fancy sounding, yes? The permit sounds more impressive than it actually is. I’d love to weave a fancy tale about how getting the license required me to meet up with a strict driving instructor named Sven who insisted I demonstrate International driving technique inside a 1992 stick shift Yugo. The truth is that it was a simple fifteen minute visit to AAA.

International Driver's Permit 2012

First, some background on what the International Driving Permit is. The permit works in conjunction with a valid US driver’s license but cannot be used for driving in the United States alone. The signed & stamped permit contains a number of pages in a number of languages that basically say the same thing: “The owner of this permit is legally certified to drive in his/her country and therefore should be allowed to drive in yours.” Since a car rental office in Ulaanbaatar likely can’t tell a US license from a library card, this gives us some legitimate street cred. The permit is widely recognized and good in over 150 countries.

The permit is good for a year from a start date of the owner’s choosing. The fee is a mere $15.00 and the application process is simple; all you need is a passport photo and your current license.  The permit is about the size of a passport, so a bit too big for the wallet but it is light and folds easily.

There are a few ways to secure the permit in the states, but a visit to a local AAA office is likely the easiest.  I stopped at the only AAA office in New York City a few weeks back. Although my AAA membership apparently expired last year, they were happy to assist. Oddly enough, almost everyone else in the office was also getting the same permit.  It is also odd that there is just one true AAA office in New York City, but that’s neither here nor there.

We’ve gotten some feedback regarding how much we’ll actually need the permit. Some have said that many places will probably just rent to us with our trusty New York state license.  But we subscribe to the better safe than sorry policy. Plus, this can serve as one more Picture ID as needed. We should be all set. Now we just need to get “Life is a Highway” on our iPhone so we can jam as we steer our Yugo down the Romanian Highway.

-Phil

Categories: Doccuments, Driving, Packing, Permits, Transportation, Trip Prep | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

International Teacher Identification Card

Some of you may remember AIESEC from when you were in college—this was the organization where all of your friends who love to drink would host (party with) the foreign students who were studying at your university.  They also went on a lot of awesome trips abroad—again, mostly as an excuse to drink beer from many different countries.  Lucky for us, not only does being a student garner these benefits, so does being a teacher.

Okay, so it isn’t quite the same as in college.  For our RTW trip, I have procured an International Teacher Identity Card (ITIC).  The ITIC the grown up version of the ISIC and the similar AIESEC .  In order to get this card, I had to go to STA Travel, prove that I am currently a full time teacher (I failed to tell them that I was quitting my job for my travels), and pay a measly $25.00.  After a couple of weeks, voila!  My card was in the mail.

Teacher Discount Card for World Travel!

Of course the important question is:  What is the point of getting the card?  Well, it actually offers a number of benefits:

  1. It is proof that I am a teacher and in many places around the world, they actually respect and revere this profession, therefore offering a wide array of discounts and opportunities.  Many museums and major tourist attractions offer educator discounts and there are even occasional discounts on transportation.  Since we’re traveling on a budget, we’ll take any discounts we can get!
  2. It can be used as a pre-paid MasterCard.  We aren’t planning on using it in this way because we have other ways of accessing our money. But we could load money onto this card and access it easily from any ATM or use it like a credit card.
  3. The ITIC offers a very small amount of travel insurance that comes along with having the card.  It is not our primary source for travel insurance, but it offers some nice supplementary coverage.
  4. It is yet another form of photo identification that could be used in place of something else.  For example, if we rent bikes in Copenhagen and have to leave ID behind to ensure we return the bicycles, we could leave this rather than our driver’s license or passport. The thought of leaving those makes me a bit nervous.

Visiting the classroom in RTWReally though, what I’m hoping this card will help me do is to talk my way into different schools around the world.  It will be proof that I am a teacher and make me seem like less of a weirdo when I go barging into some middle school in New Zealand asking if I can observe a class or talk to some of their teachers (after all, New Zealand is ranked #2 in the world for reading scores…I could learn so much).  I am so excited by the prospect of seeing other schools and meeting other educators.  We will be visiting my cousin Gaye, who has been teaching middle school in Japan for the past 30 years.  Her first day of school is while we are there. Sure, she teaches at an American Air Base, but still: how cool to see their beginning-of-the-year routines.  Hopefully my ITIC card will help me get my foot in the door!

-Brooke

Categories: Budget, Discounts, Doccuments, New Zealand, Packing, Teaching, Trip Prep | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Final Packing

A couple days before we left NYC, we made one last trip back to Paragon Sports at 867 Broadway just north of Union Square to pick up some final gear for the trip. We keep getting sucked back into the store like moths to a flame. Paragon keeps surprising us with an incredibly knowledgeable staff, impressive selection and price matching offers. Miles from Backpacks set me up with a nice Northface daypack to carry around and Zach from shoes helped me select my first pair of Tevas in years. Found out that they are actually pronounced “Tev (as in Bev)-as.” And Teva actually means “nature” in Hebrew. See? Full of knowledge. We can’t recommend Paragon enough. It’s a great place

Both Paragon and Eastern Mountain Sports have set us up with some versatile, good looking shirts, pants and shorts. Staples that are quick drying, wrinkle free and sweat wicking. The other night, we shopped until they closed down the store, checked off some final items on our list and gave the credit card even more action. Still waiting on my bank to give me a call and ask what exactly has been going on lately. We also stocked up on travel essentials: Ear plugs, clothes line and this Sea to Summit Dry Lite crazy towel. And the challenge from this pair of quick drying underwear? You’re on! Now we have jjjjjuuusssttt about everything we need.

6 Weeks and One Pair of Underwear?

Nevertheless, shopping has been a bit hard because we don’t know precisely what we need. We’ve been going on best advice and things we’ve read. Adding to our indecision, we caught European Travel Guru Rick Steves on TV the other night reflecting on his one itty-bitty backpack that he takes on every trip and that it is all anyone should ever need. That did a great job of making us fear that we’re packing too much. But the bottom line: we won’t know till we get halfway around the globe, which is half the fun yet half the stress as well.

Also what has made it a touch difficult is that, in general, I’m not that big on spending money on clothes. In a dream world, I would simply spend five minutes tossing everything I like into a suitcase and go. Including the ridiculous polyester shirt with dice on it that displeases my wife and that I actually do own. But then I would be unprepared and look like an idiot. It’s strange: I can spend $260 for two visas on a country that I’m visiting for five days, but balk at the same costs for some great clothes I’m going to wear for four months. Dumb. But, I’m coming around. Now that the final outfits are set, I’m kinda looking forward to wearing them from Singapore to Santiago. Just be patient when you see a lot of pictures of Brooke and I in similar looking outfits week after week. Hey, for all you know, we’re just standing in front a green screen every few days with a different background.

-Phil

Categories: Clothes, Packing, Trip Prep | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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