Reservations Have Been Made

One of the views from the apartment we’ve reserved in Paris.

Brett and I have been very busy the past couple of days, going over the calendar and through Airbnb listings, and I’m excited to announce that the official itinerary for the Big Adventure has been set, and all lodging reservations for Big Adventure (Part I) have been made!

I was also able to score an amazing deal on Hawaiian this past weekend for our flight back to Portland in August: we will be flying first class for slightly more than the cost of flying economy! Hawaiian had nearly doubled the mileage requirement for a one-way seat in economy to both Seattle or Portland since the last time I checked their site, which meant that I now only had enough miles for one seat and would be left with extra miles in my account that I couldn’t use. But, I saw that the mileage for a first class seat was just 10,000 more miles than coach (it’s usually double the amount or more) and would use up almost all the miles in my account. At the same time the price for first class seats was several hundreds of dollars less than usual. So, I bought one first class seat with my miles, and then paid for two more (I had to buy each ticket individually because when I tried to buy two seats at the same time Hawaiian raised the price of each by $40!). First class passengers aren’t charged for checked bags, which would have been at least $100 for us in economy with YaYu’s extra luggage, so by dividing the cost of the two seats by three and subtracting the luggage savings, our three first class seats were just $81 more per ticket than the economy fare (which is only going to continue to go up). It was just too good of a deal to pass up. We will be flying economy the rest of our travels, so this flight back to the mainland will be a very nice way to start things off. I had originally hoped I would be able to cover all three of our flights back to the mainland using miles, but with Hawaiian increasing the required miles that wasn’t going to be possible no matter what. I am also thanking my mom once again for allowing me this little splurge.

We also got all of our Part I lodging reservations made this past weekend, and have already had several lovely interactions with the Airbnb hosts we’re renting from, including from one who took an around-the-world trip just a few years ago with her husband and children. She wrote that she is excited about sharing notes with us! I think we’ve found some terrific places to stay, and even though a couple of them of them cost more than planned, others cost less and in the end we were just $29.27 over our budget.

Here’s the upcoming itinerary for our Big Adventure so far:

We’re staying in this cute cottage while we’re in Portland.

  1. Portland. Our flight arrives very late at night, so we’ll stay the night in a hotel near the airport and then move over to our Airbnb rental the next day. We’re going to spend two full days in Portland outfitting YaYu for Pennsylvania weather as well as getting together with friends as much as possible. When we leave Portland we’ll head to . . .
  2. Dallas, TX. We’ll fly into Love Field on Southwest Airlines and stay with Brett’s sister and brother-in-law while we’re there, to visit and drop off our important paperwork and documents for safekeeping. Then it’s on to . . .
  3. Philadelphia. We’ll use Southwest Airlines again to get here from Dallas. We’ll pick up a car at the airport and drive out to our hotel near Bryn Mawr. We’ve planned one full day of shopping for dorm supplies, and the next day we’ll get YaYu moved in and say goodbye. Brett and I plan to attend the parents’ cocktail party that Bryn Mawr is hosting that evening, and then we’ll head back alone to our hotel (which I know is going to feel a bit strange). Then it’s on to . . .

    The small but fully equipped Buenos Aires studio apartment – it even has a washing machine!

  4. Miami, and from Miami to Buenos Aires: We’ll take a non-stop flight from Philly to Miami in the morning. Most flights to Buenos Aires leave Miami in the late afternoon, and don’t arrive until the next day, but I’m still researching this. We found a lovely studio apartment in the Recoleta district, and we’ve already been communicating with the host. We’re going to make reservations for the culinary tour the week after we arrive. We’re in Buenos Aires for 10 days, and then will take a three-hour ferry across the Rio de la Plata to . . .
  5. Montevideo, Uruguay. We found another lovely apartment in the central city here, within walking distance of most of the places we want to see. We’re planning to spend one day while we’re here up in Colonia del Sacramento, a World Heritage city, about two hours from Montevideo by bus. From Montevideo we will . . .

    Little kitchen with a view in Montmartre

  6. Fly to Paris. I am still pinching myself because I found (and booked) an absolutely fabulous fare on Air Europa for just a few dollars over what we budgeted and with a not-too-long flight schedule from Montevideo to Paris (there’s a short layover in Madrid). We had assumed we’d have to go back to Buenos Aires to get a decent fare over to Europe but the price from Montevideo saved us more than half of what we could have paid to leave from Buenos Aires. Plus, we won’t have to take the ferry back across the Rio de la Plata (a three-hour trip) and then make our way to the airport. The flight is a red-eye though, and because of the time change we’ll arrive in Paris early the next morning. We have six full days in Paris though, which is probably not going to be enough, and we have reserved a wonderful apartment in the Montmartre district of Paris. From Paris we’ll head to . . .
  7. Normandy. We’re going to take the train from Paris to Caen in the morning, and will pick up a rental car in Caen for the only driving we’ll do during the first half of the Big Adventure. We had originally planned to stay in a B&B in Normandy (in an old château) but instead reserved a sweet little apartment just outside of Bayeux at a considerable savings. Besides the proximity to Bayeux, it’s within easy driving distance to the landing beaches and Mont Saint-Michel. We’ll spend three full days in Normandy, then take the car back to Caen and leave for . . .

    The living/dining area of our Strasbourg apartment

  8. Strasbourg. We had initially planned to travel to Bordeaux from Caen, but apparently something BIG is going on in Bordeaux at the same time we wanted to be there because there were no rentals available, at least not in our price range. It was crazy – we found a few we liked on Airbnb but when we went back to inquire about them a couple of minutes later they were all no longer available and the inventory had dropped to almost nothing. So, we decided to go to Strasbourg first and then Bordeaux. We’ll be doing an overnight stay in Baden-Baden, Germany while we’re in Strasbourg, and also going over to Switzerland for two days, but will make those reservations later. The apartment we rented in Strasbourg is in the historic center of the city. It’s the only one we’ll be staying in though that doesn’t have a washing machine, so one of our first tasks will be to locate a nearby laundromat. When our time in Strasbourg is over we’ll go to . . .
  9. Bordeaux. Thankfully many more Airbnb rentals were available once we changed the dates, and we booked a lovely one bedroom apartment near the public gardens and not far from the historic city center. It’s a fairly new rental, but the owner has another property in Bordeaux and he gets good reviews so we decided to take a chance (communication with him has been great so far though). Access to public transportation is close by the apartment. Bordeaux is our last destination in France, and then we head to . . .

    Kitchen and dining area, looking into the living room in the Florence apartment

  10. Florence. The apartment we found in Florence is amazing. It’s in a fully restored historic home in the heart of the Oltrano district, just a short walk over the Arno River to the center of Florence and all the city has to offer. We initially dismissed the apartment as too expensive, but found ourselves going back to it again and again and finally decided it was where we wanted to stay. We’ll be in Florence for a month and knew we’d kick ourselves later if we didn’t take it when we had the chance because the place is usually always booked. We’ll be visiting the Cinque Terre for three days during our stay in Florence, but otherwise most of our time will be spent visiting museums and churches in Florence and other parts of Tuscany, including a full day in Siena, and eating lots of gelato. After our month in Florence, we’re off to . . .

    It will probably be too cold to take advantage of the terrace when we’re in Rome, but we’ll still get the views!

  11. Rome. For our week in the Eternal City we’ve rented a lovely apartment just a five-minute walk from Vatican City, and with views of St. Peter’s. When we leave Rome we’ll be heading to our last stop in Europe . . .

    The living room of our Lisbon apartment

  12. Lisbon. We rented a “minimalist” apartment in the historic Bairro Alto neighborhood (although fully furnished with a full kitchen and washing machine). After nine days of exploration in and around Lisbon we will . . .
  13. Fly to Portland. Our former hometown will be the segue between Part I of our adventure, and Part II. The girls will be joining us here to celebrate Christmas – their arrivals will be staggered in depending on each of their school’s schedule. We’ve found a great Airbnb property we hope to rent, but can’t reserve it until late May at the earliest. All fingers are crossed that we can get it (although we have backups in case we don’t)! We’ll have a car while we’re here as well, and we’ll be able to drive down and pick up Meiling and take her back to Eugene after New Year’s. Right after that we’ll fly to . . .
  14. New Delhi. We’re leaving Portland a couple of days before our tour begins so we can arrive at least a day early to rest up and hopefully shake off some of our jet lag. Then it’s seven full days of India, including visits to the Taj Majal at daybreak and at sunset. The evening our tour ends we’ll board yet another plane and head to . . .
  15. Hong Kong. We’ll most likely be arriving late at night, but will somehow get ourselves to the Salisbury YMCA in Kowloon. 2019 bookings are not open yet though but we’re guessing we should be able to make reservations starting in May or June. In spite of the hotel belonging to the YMCA, the Salisbury is an absolutely wonderful, and affordable, four-star hotel in an amazing location in the city. Hong Kong is going to be all about the food, and we’re going to check out HK Disneyland one day! After six days in one of our favorite cities we will leave for . . .
  16. Perth. We’re looking forward to doing a bit of sightseeing while we’re here, but we mostly plan to relax and rest following our time in India and Hong Kong. We won’t be booking our Airbnb rental here until probably late July or early August. The last morning in Perth we’ll board the . . .
  17. Indian-Pacific train to cross Australia. This trip has been on Brett’s bucket list for as long as I’ve known him and I am really, really, really looking forward to it. The train stops at least once each day along the way for sightseeing and/or tours, which were included in the price of our tickets. After four days and three nights we arrive in . . .
  18. Sydney. As with Perth, we will be making our Airbnb reservations here later this summer. Thanks to reader suggestions, along with several free activities we’ll be taking ferry rides across the harbor, indulging in a culinary tour, and I’m going to take the backstage tour at the Sydney Opera House while Brett does some solo exploration. Leaving Sydney, we’ll fly to . . .
  19. New Zealand (North Island). Our plan is to pick up a rental car at the Auckland airport and head directly down to Rotorua for three nights. Then it’s on to Napier for one night, three nights in Wellington, one night in New Plymouth, and we’ll finish up with a couple of days in Auckland. We’re just starting to look at lodgings, but reservations for those will come later. We”ll turn in our car at the Auckland airport, and head on to our last stop on the Big Adventure . . .

    We still almost can’t believe we get to live so close to our son for three months in this beautiful Tokyo apartment.

  20. Tokyo! We booked our Tokyo apartment the Setagaya district, just a few minutes away from our son’s condo, several months ago. We’re staying in Tokyo most of the time we’re in Japan but are planning to go for a week to see both Hiroshima and Kyoto, probably sometime before the end of April. We’ll check with our son to see if they want to go with us, and will plan the dates around their decision. And then . . .
  21. ???? We have to be in Oregon for Meiling’s graduation in mid-June, but otherwise don’t know for sure right now where we’ll head to when we leave Japan, although we have a few ideas (which will remain a mystery for now).

Brett has moved on to researching car rentals in France – we’d love any tips you could share if you’ve done this before, especially information about insurance and other things we might need to do before we go. Next week I will begin searching again to set up some more air travel, and will also start booking our Southwest flights inside the U.S. using the gift cards I earned last year doing Swagbucks.

This is really happening!

22 thoughts on “Reservations Have Been Made

  1. Laurel says:

    SO exciting! All of your arrangements look amazing. Make sure to see the Bayeax Tapestry. It sounds kitchy, but we LOVED it. And the beaches. Well, all of Normandy. Such happy memories here. We also took the train to Caen and rented a car for that part of our trip. It was via Avis because we had memberships via our jobs. Easy pick up and drop off as I recall. We considered an international drivers license, but we decided DH didn’t need one after reading up on it. Because it was Avis, we didn’t buy insurance because DH’s Amex card covered him at that time.

    And of course, we were just in Italy. Your trip makes me want to go back. I’m sure your travel posts will give me ideas for future travel. Can’t wait to follow along! And nice score on the airline tickets!

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    • Joy Franks says:

      What an excellent itinerary, complete with pictures!! I know I’ll feel like I am also traveling with you while I read your posts from the various venues. Wow. You both have done a tremendous amount of research, which is part of the fun, isn’t it? So exciting.

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      • Laura says:

        Thanks Joy! We have done a ton of research and yes, it was fun, but there’s still more to do! Then we just have to keep everything all straight, plus get ourselves ready to depart – lots left to do for that, and I am dreading it.

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    • Laura says:

      The Bayeux Tapestry is high on our list! The apartment in Normandy is in a terrific location, and an easy drive to everything we want to see. We’re hoping our credit card will cover our insurance – it does here in the U.S. Since we’re only have the car for less than four days, we’re going to skip the international license.

      I am so excited about Florence I can hardly stand it. The owners of the house lived in it for over 10 years, then had children and needed to find a bigger space. Not sure what the husband does, but the wife is a goldsmith!

      So far we’ve been doing well on air fares. The Hawaiian deal makes us all very happy.

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  2. beautea97 says:

    SO excited to follow your adventure as you post… LOVED Caen/Normandy!!! So much history… we took the train from Paris, but used a tour bus to take us along the journey in Caen… So amazing! You’ll love it!

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    • Laura says:

      There was no way we were going to France and not touring Normandy! We have wanted to visit the landing beaches, the cemeteries and the museums for years. Our son visited France when he was in high school, and got to see Mont Saint Michel, so that’s been on my bucket list for a long time as well.

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  3. Vicky says:

    What a wonderful itinerary. After your stays, are you planning on providing links to the AirBnb accommodations that you consider special? So happy to see you are staying in Montmartre as that’s my favourite area to stay in Paris. I much prefer it to the Marais. I’ve also noticed the inflated prices on some Hawaiian redemption flights. I booked a flight from SFO to HNL recently, most days were 80k for the first class but I did manage to find one day where the seat was only 40k.

    With regards to rental cars, we have always used the trains. I adore riding trains and being able to both look out the window and not have to focus on directions. It’s all very exciting now that decisions have been made and bookings formalised.

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    • Laura says:

      Yes, I will eventually provide links for the places we’re staying, along with a brief review, probably soon after we move on. Fingers are crossed that they’re all as nice as they look, but so far our communication with the hosts has been very friendly and welcoming. From what I can find out, our house in Montmartre is in the “good” part of town, and it’s conveniently located near to a Metro station for getting around.

      Normandy and New Zealand are the only two times we’re renting a car; it just made sense to be able to drive in those two places. Otherwise we’re with you on the trains, although sometimes to save time it makes more sense to fly from place to place. Air fares seem to be very reasonable within Europe.

      I got the first-class seat with just 40,000 miles – usually it’s 80,000 (or more). The fare price for first class was nearly $500 less than what they usually charge (i.e. over $1000 for one-way in first class). It was just too good of a deal to let go.

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  4. lauraj says:

    Aloha Laura!

    I saw your reply to my comment about getting together, and we (my husband Mike and I) would LOVE to meet you and Brett!

    We are heading out for a trip to the mainland to visit family/friends later this week, returning mid-April. We live in Princeville, but would be happy to meet up in Kapa’a. Would you like to set a date toward the end of April to meet?

    It will be such a treat for me to meet you!

    Mahalo,

    Laura James

    >

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    • Laura says:

      It will be a treat for us to meet you too! Our son and family will be here at the end of April, but how about the second week in May? We could meet at Java Kai in Kapaa Old Town and if that would work for you – I’ll send you an email.

      Have a fun and safe trip back to the mainland!

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      • lauraj says:

        The second week of May at Java Kai sounds great. I’ll wait to get an email from you and we can pick a time.

        Enjoy your visit with your son and family!

        Laura

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    • Laura says:

      One of our friends said she was exhausted just reading about it, but I told her we have planned enough time where we can take a day or two off and do nothing if we want or need to relax. I will probably be blogging less when we’re on the road, but posting more to the Occasional Nomads Instagram account.

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  5. Vivian says:

    Wow! So many places to see. I haven’t done any traveling but Root of Good wrote about a car rental (I think in Slovenia, not sure) Problem but all ended well. You might want to take a look.

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    • Laura says:

      Thanks Vivian – I will check it out! I think it’s going to be pretty straight forward though. Lots of Americans and others rent cars there, so hopefully all will go well.

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  6. Moonwaves says:

    Sounds like a great trip. Had written a bit more but my computer ate it so short and sweet.
    https://www.autoeurope.com/ for cheapest car rentals. Have been using it for a few years now.
    For insurance, purchasing an annual insurance to cover the cost of car rental deductibles has meant huge savings for me (I pay about €50/year and never get extra insurance from car rental places anymore). I use http://www.insurance4carhire.com/ but they only provide insurance to people living in certain European countries. But perhaps you can find an equivalent that you can use. I think some credit cards also have insurance built in if you use them to book car rental.

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    • Laura says:

      Thanks for the tip about the agency – they do have terrific rates. Our credit card covers collision insurance, but we may still have to purchase liability insurance – since we’re selling our car here before we go we’re not sure if we’ll get some sort of new policy for occasional drivers or not.

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  7. UnwrittenLifeBlog says:

    I’m just so excited to follow along! I’ve spoken to a couple of friends about heading to Japan next spring, so we’ll see what happens. The rain had better stop, I’ll be there in 11 days! Need – or want – anything from Trader Joes?

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    • Laura says:

      If you and friends decide to come, I’ll send you the link for a great apartment that’s located near us. Has one bed but comes with futon for Japanese-style sleeping on the floor. Having you all close by would be very convenient!

      The only thing I can think of from TJ’s would be a couple of bottles of the Thai Red Curry simmer sauce – I miss that stuff. Thanks for the offer – can’t wait to see you in just a few more days!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Libby says:

    It all sounds so awesome….can’t you pack me in one of your bags 🙂

    When I was in France last spring, I rented a car for 12 days. I asked if there was anything about the license plate that identified the car as a rental. New York back in the 70’s and early 80’s had all rental car plates start with the letter “X”. Anyway the first two digits of a French plate tell you what department the car is from i.e., 06 is Nice. All rental plates start with the least populated department so it is a signal to car thieves. Not trying to be scary – just to be on the alert. Also leave NOTHING visible in the car when you park anywhere day or night – not even a water bottle.

    Even though I can drive standard, I rented an automatic due to my knee replacements. When I made the reservation online, it was extra for a GPS and I didn’t pay it. Turned out that all the automatics that Hertz rents in France come with built-in GPS for no extra charge. I had paper maps and speak French, but in the end I was very glad to have the GPS.

    Finally – there are a lot of tolls on the French highway system. They have their version of “Easy Pass” but also accept credit cards and coins. I ended up paying the tolls with my credit card.

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    • Laura says:

      The rental car advice for France sounds like the same advice for here. We know by the license plate whether it’s a rental or not, and visitors are advised to leave NOTHING visible in the car, ever. We will be using the GPS on our phones and the iPad while we drive around, but may request one in the car as well. Thanks for all the good advice!!

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