Cynthia and I put in our time off requests with our respective employers on Monday. Mine was approved that day, Cynthia’s boss made her wait till today.
I’m burning up all my saved vacation plus one personal day. Cynthia is doing more or less the same thing. That’s in excess of 170 hours of vacation each. 4 work weeks and a few work days plus the weekends.
With approval secured we went online to buy the tickets this evening.
Buying this far in advance and not travelling during the peak season means we are saving about $500 each on airfare which is good. Of course the airfare is only a small portion of the overall cost of spending a month overseas but every little bit counts!
Now comes hammering out the exact itinerary in terms of days per location and proceed time for each destination followed by researching hotels and making the reservations.
Our experience on our European vacation in 2005 was that the hotels with the best overall rates were not easily booked online, but usually had a web page with contact information with pictures and descriptions of the facility.
The process was for us to find the one’s we were interested in and then e-mail them to check on availability. They would respond the next day and then we would make a final decision and arrange to fax or phone in credit card information to secure the rooms. This worked really well from Amsterdam all the way down to Rome.
We’ll also need to sort out which rail pass will be the most efficient.
It’s hard work nailing down all the particulars, but it’s all part of the experience for us. We don’t want to be tied down to a tour group or a scheduled dictated by a third party. We want the freedom of exploring on our terms based on well thought out decisions that we have made.
We’re using a lot of what we learned on our last two trips to ensure the success of this one. The most practical and useful decision we came up with last time was to travel using only what we could carry in a back pack and a camera bag. The back pack measures 9″ x 21″ x 14″ and I had it down to 20lbs last time. Not having any checked luggage and being able to “wear” what you’re bringing with you does wonders for your mental state.
On the European trip we brought older underwear and socks and just disposed of it as we travelled. That was good plan! Our load lightened as we travelled! Plus you’re not stinking up your clean laundry with dirty socks.
Midway through the trip we did have to make a laundry stop in Paris.
Going to the grocery store to buy laundry detergent in a foreign land and a foreign language adds a whole new dimension to any trip. You would think picking a laundry detergent would be simple, but I was never absolutely certain that I wasn’t marching off to the laundromat with a box of dishwashing detergent, all the while being snickered at by an amused clerk who had done their level best to convince me that they spoke no English.
Then there was what could have been an international incident as I crossed the border from Rome into Vatican City to dispose of the last of our dirty undergarments. I could just imagine hearing something like “Arrestar, arrestar! Siete sotto l’arresto per terrorismo biologico!”
Fortunately I was able to utilize the cover of darkness and slipped stealthily to the dumpsters and returned without incident.
We’re starting to feel the excitement!