World Travel Preparation
The decision to travel the world is not one that was made lightly.
Winter wanted to have a gap year and announced his idea in June 2014. Since then, we have worked on many lists, designed excel sheets to capture spending along the way and booked appointments with doctors, dentists, real estate agents and so on. This became our family project and we worked every weekend and during the weeks after work, trying to get the bulk of packing complete before Christmas. We also wanted to plan the first four months as much as possible so that we could get an idea on cost.
Once Winter convinced me that this was a good idea, we had about five months to prepare for a 12 month trip. The first thing both of us did was to research, research and do more research. We read other family world traveller sites, couple world travellers and single, nomadic type, world travellers’ blogs. We poured over the pages as if we were cramming for an exam. We tried to soak up every tip and piece of advice as if our lives depended on it. Essentially, our family depends on Winter and I preparing exceedingly well to ensure we are as safe as possible. My research led me to check each location on Smart Traveller and Trip Advisor. I needed to know, ‘how safe have others found our desired locations?’, ‘what is the safest mode of transport?’, ‘what are the unsafe areas that we should avoid?’. After a month of research, we both felt ready to move to the next stage and that was the itinerary.
If you read other blogs about preparing for world travel, they will tell you to start with an itinerary. We found this to be one of the hardest things to prepare. We started to look at flights and destinations and changed our minds constantly because of the limited land/transfer options to the locations we wanted to go to, at the times we would like to have arrived. As we are travelling with two children we wanted to alleviate night travel across land but were happy with night flights. We also needed to keep in mind the limitations on children to carry bags and walk around public bus, train and airports. They can weary quickly, especially in the Asian heat. We needed to keep the girls in mind and not travel the way adults can and we needed our money to stretch the entire globe.
We eventually decided to tour Asia for four months and secure our accommodation and travel as much as possible. Organising the first four months of 12 also assisted in our applications for distance education and leave without pay, plus with the doctors appointments etc.
We began to make lists, many lists, of preparation tasks, items to take, appointments to make and budgets to keep. Winter always sets the budget, whether it be for saving for a property purchase, a renovation or vehicle purchase, he always places his numbers in a sheet and runs the worst and best case scenarios. Actually, he always runs the worse case scenario and then sets the target date.
As a result we adhere to this strictly and have had successful outcomes each time, for instance, we saved our target expenditure for this trip by January as set by Winter in July.
The initial calculation was based on how much it will cost to keep our Australian existence in tact while not having any income. Once that amount was determined, all savings on top made up our travel expenditure. Our target was to have a set amount of money for each of the three main destinations, Asia, Europe and the Americas with a contingency of 10%. Once determined, we had to tighten the belts a bit, which is extremely hard for a family that loves to eat out and head to the beach, park, city whenever we have no kids activities on the weekends.
Over the next few months we began to tell family and friends but not school, work or Spring. We didn’t tell Spring until October because we knew that telling her too early would have done her head in. We knew that she would not have coped with such a long wait and she would not have been able to keep the information to herself. So we told her at the beginning of the fourth term of school and explained that Mummy was organising distance school. (we recorded her reaction but think it is on a thumb drive in a box somewhere at home.)
In the months leading up to November, it felt as if we lived two lives, normal hard working family by day and obsessed, determined project planning maniacs by night and on weekends. Our evenings were spent researching and booking destinations and our weekends were consumed with packing and throwing out what we didn’t need anymore and shopping for essentials.
The list of tasks also had an order of priority:
- Budget – could we afford to do this?
- By the end of July Winter had determined we could and set our target for 16 January 2015
- Passports – both Summer and Spring needed new passports
- Contingency – get passport photos of entire family for visa’s and in case we need to get new passports overseas (hope not)
- Health requirements – check everything
- Ear nose and throat specialist for Spring – Dr confirmed all was going well since her grommets were removed and that she should have no problem travelling overseas. Now since this appointment was made before telling her, Winter asked her to cover her ears so that he could ask the Dr something and Spring tried to read his lips, this resulted in Spring crying afterward because ‘Daddy asked the doctor if he could cut my nose off?’ We laughed a lot, behind her back mind you.
- Doctor appointments for the entire family – we sent our itinerary to our doctor and she organised our vaccinations and discussed the range of health concerns in many of the destinations – most important, we felt, was the conversation she had with the girls about the dangers of wild and domestic animals overseas. We believe they both took this information very seriously and know that they would have merely rolled their eyes and said ‘yeah yeah’ if it had of come from one of us.
- We all had Yellow Fever injections
- The girls had Hep A and Typhoid injections
- We all had two doses of the Cholera vaccination
- Eczema appointment for Autumn – she has suffered with bad skin her whole life and we were concerned because she was having quite a severe flare up leading to multiple open wounds albeit small ones. Our concern was her inability to swim overseas with these sores on her skin. The Doctor prescribed a new cream which Autumn diligently applied and as a result her skin was ready in time for the trip.
- Optometrist appointment for Spring – it has been two years since her last check up and her head was outgrowing her glasses. Spring now has two new pair of gorgeous specs to which she is over the moon about.
- Dentist check ups for the entire family – with private health cover based on the calendar year and the fact that we had our 2014 appointments in May, I booked us all in first thing January 2015. The dentist assured us that our teeth are all in good condition, no outstanding issues and she would see us all in 2016. One tip was to ensure we purchased fluoride infused toothpaste all over the world.
- Lastly, we suspended our private health cover for 12 months.
- Visas – we purchased some while still in country, online visa’s while travelling and organise others either on arrival or during trip.
- Tax and insurance
- Processed tax return – our accountant discussed the logistics of lodging while overseas or applying for a deferment until we return, to which we still have not decided.
- We changed our house and contents insurance to landlord insurance.
- We purchased travel insurance.
- Notification – school and work
- I notified Autumns school first and applied for an exemption, which was kindly granted by the school principal, in order to secure her spot in 2016.
- Next was Spring’s school, they were fine because it was a simple, non-enrolment for 2015 and as we are in the area, Spring will return in 2016. Her teachers did try to scam an all expenses paid global tutoring gig and asked to come along.
- Winter gave four weeks notice in November and finished work just prior to Christmas
- Summer applied for leave without pay and was successful.
- Distance education
- Autumn is now enrolled in Year 8 with a NSW distance high school.
- Spring is now enrolled in Year 4 with a NSW Distance primary school.
- Applications needed to be submitted with accommodation bookings for the first 12 weeks at a minimum.
- Luggage – this needed its own section because it was really difficult to determine what we would need for an entire year.
- Back packs were purchased for both Winter and myself and we used two existing large bags on wheels for the girls; suffice to say we have swapped the contents of each of these bags many times so now Summer carries Autumns gear, Winter carries Springs gear and we wheel the remaining clothes, medicine, shoes and toiletries, evenly spread amongst them. The girls were loaned a backpack each from their Pop and Grammy and the large backpacks we purchased have detatchable day packs. Lastly, we all have small day shoulder bags for when we don’t want to look entirely like tourists.
- Existing premises – we chose to rent out our apartment so that we have somewhere to come back to.
- Make some minor repairs and clean from top to bottom fit for renting.
- Get a Real Estate agent – this was difficult because there are so many to choose from. We think we picked a good one.
- Clean out garage – have a garage sale – no surprises that I only made $35.
- Remove all furniture and store at Winter’s brother and Sister-in-law’s house.
- Car – we decided to sell the car rather than store it because, one we were outgrowing it and two we didn’t want to pay the registration and insurance while it was idle.
- Camera’s – we handed down two camera’s to the girls, loaned one from Grandad and purchased a waterproof one
- Electronics – we have the obligatory laptop and other devices which we believe were necessities and have a variety of back up options, which we hope we don’t have to use, similarly to the extra passport photos.
- Amenities – turn off or suspend
- T-box – buy outright and keep in storage
- Mobile phones – turn on international roaming on Summer’s and take a spare phone for local sim cards if needed
- Gas and Electricity
- Gym membership – Winter
- Punters club membership – Winter – again
- Mail – redirect to Pop and Grammy to order and take care of for us
- Lastly, the budget
- We had already worked out the expenses but then we needed to decide on what money to take and how we would carry money.
- International cash cards are available at most banks.
- The Australian Post office will allow you to order cash, money orders (old school but still relevant) and American Express cash cards.
- We chose a combination of everything, all options are great
The most expensive thing was the Doctor appointments. We paid dearly during our initial appointment, when we received our vaccinations. The subsequent appointments also cost us but we know they are all worth it.