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:
- 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 . . .
- 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 . . .
- 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 . . .
- 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 . . .
- 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 . . .
- 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 . . .
- 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 . . .
- 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 . . .
- 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 . . .
- 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 . . .
- 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 . . .
- 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 . . .
- 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 . . .
- 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 . . .
- 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 . . .
- 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 . . .
- 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 . . .
- 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 . . .
- 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 . . .
- 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 . . .
- ???? 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!