Posts Tagged With: travel planning

The Best Laid Plans


You would think, after all the travelling we’ve done this year, that I would know better. That I would never assume things will always go smoothly. That I would have a contingency plan.

You would think, for example, that when booking a flight from the UK to Florida, I would realize that it wouldn’t necessarily go on time. And if it did happen to be delayed by an hour or four, that our arrival, which, in Florida time, still sounded reasonable, would actually be midnight British time.

So if we had been up since 4:45am, we might be tired-ish by then. So having to pick up a rental car and drive for 2 1/2 hours to our final destination might not seem like such a good idea.

You would think, that being the seasoned travel-planner that I am, I would have just booked us into an airport hotel, or somewhere nearby. Just in case.

Because arriving at your hotel 23 hours after you begin your day might create a few problems – people might get grumpy, or irritable, or so exhausted that their immune systems succumb to the 12 hours of plane-germs and they spend the first three days of their dream beach vacation in bed.

You would think.

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To Plan or Not to Plan

Yes, I’m still struggling with the dilemma of how much planning is too much, and how much is not enough. I haven’t really reported on the process for a while…I think I’ve been trying to take a break from thinking about it. But with the start of school quickly approaching, I feel once again a little bit of pressure to get some things carved in stone. It’s not as if I’m worrying about it all the time, or really stressed or anything, but things that were quite far back in my mind during this “vacation month” have moved a little closer to the forefront. The trip planning and the “road schooling”…
As far as the kids education, there have yet to be any formal efforts really, but the educational experiences have certainly been plentiful. And school hasn’t even started yet!
And the travelling? This is the plan so far: we head down south to Cornwall this Saturday, and then we leave for somewhere the following Saturday, ending up on the Adriatic Coast the Saturday after that. We have a great place booked in Cornwall on the beach, and another near Venice two weeks later, but there’s still that messy little week in between that has no plan. Then after the Adriatic, there is, once again, a lonely little week or so before the next landing in the Pyrenees on the French/Spanish border in early October. Then we are all set for the next four weeks.
The question is, how much more do we need? I, personally, would like a little more. But some people think that might be enough – a little freedom and spontaneity, some people say. I’m all for a bit of adventure, but I think I might just sneak a couple more definites in there when nobody’s looking. Which won’t be that hard, because “nobody” is currently at the pub.

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The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow…

There will be days, says Dev, where nothing goes right. We’d better get used to that. It really is amazing what can happen in the space of 24 hours though, and we need to trust the fact that it will always be ok. Because it will. Our pediatrician told us the other day that there will never be a problem we can’t handle. I think that has to be a bit of a mantra when things are uncertain, as they undoubtedly will be, over the next several months.

Yesterday, it was looking like we would have to revisit our whole transportation-in-Europe plan. We were going to buy a minivan in England, and use it to travel in Europe, and then sell when we are finished. One of Dev’s siblings was going to insure it for us and then name us as drivers, and all would be well.

So then, we found the vehicle we wanted, and tried to set the wheels in motion, but the wheels kept getting stuck. Things don’t actually work the same way over there, apparently. You can’t just buy a vehicle and drive it off the lot; everything has to be registered and taxed through the mail. Really! The mail! In this age of technology and information, we have to wait for the mailman to deliver our tax and registration. Amazing.

And then there’s the insurance. No, the siblings can’t insure for us because then we’d have to stay in the UK. And apparently being a good driver in one country does not actually make you a good driver anywhere else. So, the 20 years no-claims Dev has may not be at all useful. Even though the world wide web can actually inform the insurance company that Dev has not, indeed, had any claims. And even though he’s British, with a British drivers license, and 5 years British no-claims…don’t even get me started.

Luckily for us, we have great family in England who have spent the last couple of days looking into it for us, and we have been in contact with a very helpful man named Andrew at Evans Halshaw in England, and I think we now actually have a new vehicle:) It will even be ready for someone to come and pick us up at the airport. It’s a Citroen Grand Picasso, a gas (petrol)-guzzling machine that despite it’s appetite, will get us around Europe on our own schedule. With room for kids, bags, and tents. It’s all good.

The moral of the story then, is, when there is a day of frustration or things don’t seem to be going well, the next day will be better. This particular incident is minor really, so when we miss the plane or the boat or the train, we’ll get the next one. And when that amazing place is all booked up and we are disappointed, there will be another, equally amazing place we didn’t see the first time we looked. And we’ll book that one instead.

And as Annie so famously says, the sun will come out tomorrow!

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The Organization of A Nomadic Life (or lack thereof).

I think we need to vastly improve our organizational skills. Anyone having read earlier posts will probably be facetiously scoffing “Hello!” right now, but to be fair, I did do a lot of sorting and organizing in order to pack up our entire house into a tractor trailer, especially since I had to leave out what we needed to take with us on our travels. The problem is, the stuff I left out to take with us could fill a pick-up truck. And I seem to have to look through a minimum of three suitcases and four totes to find any one particular item.

Example: Saturday morning I showered. I used pink princess toddler shampoo to wash my hair, man-scented shower gel to wash my body, and my legs are really hairy because I couldn’t find my razor. Still haven’t found it. Based on the volume of stuff I kept out, this should not be happening. I have my own shampoo (three bottles, I believe), and I have my own body wash. And I have a razor. And none of them are in the tractor trailer. So, where are they?

Last night, we moved into our third location since leaving our house, and just to find the kids pj’s and toiletries, I think I must have made at least 40 trips up and down the stairs rooting through stuff.

Another example: Lost my husband on Saturday. As in, couldn’t find him. He went off to a supposed two or three hour event early in the morning, was to call me when it was over and I was to pick him up  to go visit friends about an hour away from, here. No call. I didn’t exactly know where he was (mistake), and his phone was “out of service area”. So, at 3:30, the kids and I left to go to to our friend’s place without him. Then, when we were ready to leave there later that evening, we find out he’s on his way. So then we had to wait for him so we could come home together. An organizational disaster caused by only one cellphone, only one vehicle, and somebody’s organizational weaknesses. Not saying whose. But I was where I was supposed to be at the time I was supposed to be there.

So, today, I am going to sort, yet again. I need to pare down, and consolidate. Each child needs a bag of their own clothes. The totes need to go. And I need to come up with some kind of system that is more streamlined and seamless. What’s kind of worrying is that we haven’t even gone anywhere yet….it’s going to be an interesting year!

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The Littlest Hobos.

So, that’s it. We are officially nomads. Hobos. Vagrants. The house is gone, and even though I’m very sad about that – we all are – it is strangely freeing at the same time. Yesterday was emotional and we were all grumpy and exhausted. Still exhausted, but much calmer, and marginally less grumpy. It feels like there is room in my head for other things. Like cottages in Provence, and villas in Corsica…it’s like the dream has become fun again. We are getting a bit of a taste of our new nomadic life in very familiar surroundings right now. Easing our way in. We are staying with one sister, then probably moving on to the next one, and then we are spending a week in a neighbours house while they are away camping. This is a really good intro for the girls – our middle daughter had a lot of tears and anxiety over her bed being taken out of the house and having to sleep on a mattress in her sister’s room, and now she’s actually sleeping on the floor in someone else’s house – baby steps, but important ones! It’s good for me too. I am attached to my bed, perhaps a little too much. No matter where I’ve been, even if it’s a four star hotel room, I’m always happy to get back to my own bed. I love it. It is comfort. Familiarity. Home.

I need a new philosophy now – home is wherever we are as long as we are together as a family. I need to be able to find that comfortable, secure feeling regardless of the bed. I feel positive. I think I can do it.

Although, we were supposed to throw the bed away when we moved out, but we snuck it into the back of the trailer at the last minute! Maybe my new philosophy might need a little work…

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How Things Change…

Sometimes, you just have to give in. That’s what I did the other night. Yes, it felt pathetic on some level, but I had to admit to myself and my family that the plan was over-ambitious, and it was doing me in. I think it was a relief for everyone, actually.

So, now we are not heading to Central America in the suffocating humidity of August with the killer mosquitos; we are, instead, heading to flood-drenched England for some mosquito-free “home” time. This makes us feel better.

This whole venture is big, and we knew that going in, but as I think I may have mentioned before, until it is imminent, it all seems quite doable. Then when its all happening at once, it becomes a bit of a problem. Mentally, physically, emotionally, and practically. Of course, as our good Kingston neighbour pointed out, we did know it was all coming…it would seem we’re not the best planners in the world.

So, we turned the plan upside-down, and now all things seem slightly calmer. We are spending August in England, and then heading to the European mainland at the beginning of September. That way, we have August staying with family, and we can get our feet under us and do some less stressful planning for the remainder of our year. We fly out on August 1 (all booked and everything!). And so it begins…

ps. we do still hope to travel to Central America, but on the way back, when we’re a little more “seasoned”!

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Is there an app for that?

So, we’ve been saving since September to buy an ipad. Yes, I know I wrote a previous post about too much technology, and yes, I am still struggling with that. However, an ipad that has 4G connectivity seems to be the best way for us to access the internet wherever in the world we may be.

We finally got it (a “Mother’s Day present” for me), and I have been up late every night trying to figure it all out and find the best apps – mostly the best apps for travel and the best apps for home-schooling and  education. What I have discovered to this point is that I need an app to organize myself and my life (and my apps). So, is there an app for that??

It seems there are millions of apps, and I want to know which are the best one to actually buy (and yes, I have read all the online articles entitled “Top Ten Apps”etc, and I’m still confused). I have downloaded quite a few free ones so far, but they just take up space unless they are actually useful. And I don’t know if they are or not.

So, is there an app that can accommodate several potential travel itineraries side by side so I can compare and see what seems like the best option? Is there an app to replace the scribbler in which we house all our notes on selling the house, building the new house and travelling? Is there an app that tells me how to teach the weird new-age math strategies to my 8 year old so that she doesn’t come back to grade 3 all old-fashioned and behind? Is there an app that will ensure my 13 year old will still know how to play the clarinet when we return so she can be in the grade nine band? Is there an app that tells me if the website that says “only one seat left on this flight” or “last day at this price” “or book now to save $500” is actually for real?  Is there an app that will measure my blood pressure as I try to get my head around all the apps? Is there a yoga app to calm me down if I inadvertently slip into panic mode and end up with high blood pressure?

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Is Florida on the Same Side as England?

Our kids are only just starting to really engage in the process of planning The Big Trip, and there have been some very interesting comments and questions over the last few weeks. It is becoming evident that we need to spend a little more family time looking at maps or globes or something so that they can have some kind of concept of where we are in relation to where everything else is. The idea that we could go to England, then Florida, then England (because they are on the “same side”) prompted our latest “geography” lesson. It’s so much fun to talk about it and listen to their sometimes limited and sometimes inspired ideas about the “Year Off”.

Our littlest girl was reading a picture book the other night called “Hello World” which basically just consists of the word Hello on every page in a different language. She pointed out that it might be good to take with us on our trip, and I agreed. I told her then she’d be able to say hello to people in different countries, to which she replied, “We’re going to different countries!?!”. Hmm.

The middle girl wants to swim with dolphins and see wild animals. She would love to go to Africa (which, after all, is only a short drive from Spain according to the world map, and I already said we’d go to Spain…). No problem! And no perception of the distance a centimetre represents on a map.

The oldest girl, who also loves wildlife documentaries says no way to Africa (too many scary wild animals). She wants to go to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios in Florida, and the Library of Congress in Washington. Seems doable considering we could go to one on the way to the other. Interesting choices and I’m all for interesting.

I would love to go to Egypt, and when I asked our oldest if this was something she would like to do (since she just studied Egypt in school), she said “Nah, not really”. I would also love to go to Africa. And Mexico. And South America. But in reality, I don’t know if we’ll be able to do any of these things. It’s fun to dream and look at maps and plan though. And it’s a lot of fun to do that with the kids. I love to hear their requests and the reasoning behind them.

We have all looked longingly at the pictures online of the Galapagos – the giant tortoises, dinosaur-style lizards,  and  sea lions hogging the sun loungers outside the hotels. We have looked at the crystal clear turquoise waters surrounded by palm trees and ancient ruins in various tropical locations. But we haven’t really got down to the business of making an itinerary yet. In fact, we can’t even make a firm decision on which continent to go to first!

As a good friend and very adventurous family traveller once told me when I asked her advice on where to go; “I would just let the kids plan the trip and they can take you along if you’re good”. Seems like a sound idea!

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Decision #1 = Error #1

So, exciting weekend for us; we finally agreed on at least one place we definitely wanted to go on our year of adventure (besides Harry Potter World!?!) – Cinque Terre. Friends of ours had been a couple of years ago and showed us their pictures, and we were sold. Hiking from one coastal Italian village to another, crazy cliff top views, lemons growing outside your hotel windows, authentic Italian culture. All this fits the bill. We love the fact that the kids could do the hiking, and it is hiking with a purpose – to get to the next place – so we could probably convince even Liah to do it!

The very next day after visiting with our friends, we started researching places to stay. It didn’t take long to realize why Cinque Terre had sounded so familiar to us; the whole place flooded last October from torrential rains! They are in the process of rebuilding the towns and the trails. Put a bit of a damper on the process. Just made me realize how many unexpected hiccups we will probably have as part of this whole process. Better get used to it, I guess!



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Can we school our kids on the road??

Well, it doesn’t seem so long ago that we were first talking about our year off as a distant, and somewhat unlikely, event, but here it is less than one year away and it’s time to start planning! Our daughters will be 13, 11, and 9 when we embark on our journey. So now I’m wondering, can we “roadschool” them? How will this work? What will it look like? Will they be behind when they return to school?


And on top of all that, where will we go?

Time to start planning…

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