A couple of weeks ago I created a month-by-month financial outline for our Big Adventure. Brett maintains a spreadsheet tracking spending, etc. but I realized I needed to see it all laid out on paper, where I could look at each month as a whole. I totaled up all known expenses for each month including our fixed payments, transportation, museum passes, etc., subtracted that amount from our income, and then divided that amount by the number of days between Social Security payments to give us a daily amount for food, transportation, and other miscellaneous expenses. We will have at least $60/day (around $1800/month or more) to cover our meals, tips for tour guides, daily transportation and other miscellaneous expenses, and since we’ll fix and eat the majority of meals in our Airbnb rentals versus eating out, this should be sufficient. We’ve budgeted a bit extra for our time in Hong Kong, where we’ll be staying in a hotel versus an Airbnb rental, but we know how to get around and eat cheaply but well while we there. High tea at the Peninsula Hotel is still on our must do list though!
One of the first things I noticed when I made the outline was how much was going toward “touristy experiences.” While all the wine tastings and cooking experiences and private tours sounded like a lot of fun a couple of months ago, seeing them all on paper made me realize how much we were depending on those kinds things for entertainment, and how much they were eating into our monthly budget. That wasn’t what we envisioned at all when we came up with the idea of the Big Adventure, so all of those types of planned activities have been dropped. We will instead take advantage of the free walking tours in the cities we visit, and will otherwise get out and make our experiences our own. There are still things we will have to pay for along the way, such as museum admissions, but we’ve already figured out many things we can see and do that won’t drain our bank account, and will hopefully provide more interesting and meaningful experiences for us along the way. Plus, the planning for these many activities was starting to get out of hand.
We still plan to visit the Cinque Terre during our stay in Florence, but because part of the hiking path will be closed we’re just going to go for one night and two days – we’ll take the train up to Monterosso al Mare from Florence, hike down to Corniglia, then take the train from there to Manarola to spend the night. The next day we’ll either take the train or boat to Riomaggiore and from there board the train back to Florence. And, instead of visiting the Alps in Switzerland as we originally planned we’re going to rent a car in Strasbourg and instead drive to Lucerne. Trying to work out the train schedule to Interlaken from Strasbourg was proving to be beyond difficult (and expensive as well), but it’s only a 1 1/2 hour drive to Lucerne from Strasbourg on good roads, and the car rental costs less than train tickets. We’ll stay for three nights in Lucerne – one day will be spent visiting the city, and the next we’ll visit the transportation museum (Brett is very excited about this!) – and then we’ll drive back to Strasbourg the third day to return the car.
Here’s where we are with everything else right now:
- We have 12 plane flights booked so far: Hawaii to Portland, Portland to Dallas, and Dallas to Philadelphia with YaYu, then on our own with Philadelphia to Miami, Miami to Buenos Aires, Montevideo to Paris, Lisbon to Madrid, Madrid to Boston (with a long stopover in Gatwick), Boston to Portland, Portland to New Delhi via Taipei, Sydney to Auckland, and Auckland to Tokyo. Other than noted, all of the flights are non-stop.
- I still have to arrange flights from Bordeaux to Bologna, Rome to Lisbon, New Delhi to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Perth, and Tokyo to Portland. Some of those will be made at the end of the summer, but we won’t start thinking about the Tokyo to Portland flight until late fall or December – it has to be in place though before we enter Japan. So far it’s looking like the cost for all these flight will fall within our budget.
- Train transportation also has to be reserved. We will be traveling by train from Paris to Caen, Caen to Strasbourg, Strasbourg to Bordeaux, Bologna to Florence, Florence to the Cinque Terre and back, and Florence to Rome. Most reservations can be made online before we go, which will save us a little and guarantee our seats (unless there’s a strike). Our Australian cross-continent train journey has already been booked and paid for.
- Car rentals for when we’re on the mainland have all been reserved, but we still need to reserve a car for our three days in Normandy, for the drive from Strasbourg to Lucerne and back, and for ten days in New Zealand.
- We’ll book the ferry trip across the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires to Montevideo when we’re in Buenos Aires.
- All of our lodging has been reserved and paid for except for one night in Napier, New Zealand, three nights in Lucerne, and our one night in Manarola. We’ve reserved Airbnb rentals in Portland, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Paris, Balleroy (Normandy), Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Florence, Rome, Lisbon, Perth, Sydney, Rotorua, Wellington, Mangorei, Auckland, and back again in Portland. Other than our tour in India, the only long-ish hotel stay will be six nights in Hong Kong (at the New World Millennium in Kowloon – we got a much better deal there than the Salisbury, where we had originally planned to stay). We have overnight hotel stays reserved in King of Prussia, PA (two nights), Miami, and Madrid. I still have to reserve a hotel for our overnight stay in Boston on our way to Portland.
- With our daughter-in-law and son’s help, we worked out a satisfactory agreement for our three-month Tokyo rental. We will be staying in the same building but in a different but equally nice apartment on the second floor versus the third. The total cost will be divided into three equal monthly payments, with the first payment not due until we arrive.
- We will be pre-purchasing museum tickets for the D’Orsay and L’Orangerie museums in Paris (we’re not planning to visit the Louvre on this trip), the Uffizi and Accademia museums in Florence, and the Vatican for when we’re in Rome. We should be able to get into the other museums we want to visit without having to stand in long lines.
- We will need visas for just two countries: India and Australia. Both can be applied for online a couple of months ahead of time. All other countries we can enter with just our U.S. passport.
- Purchasing travel insurance is on the docket for next month.
So, that’s where things are right now. For the most part we don’t have big plans made for the places we’re visiting. Other than being bound by our museum reservations we want to talk together each evening and decide what to do the next day. There are of course places and sights we want to see in each place, but the goal has never been to do or see everything, but to travel slow, observe and experience daily life in the places we visit, rest when we need to, and create memories.