The Big Adventure: Status Report

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.

18 thoughts on “The Big Adventure: Status Report

  1. It all sounds soooo lovely and wonderful! I was smiling as I read through your list in that we’ve been to many of the places you are going, thus we know you are going to have an absolutely marvelous time! I think it is so incredible that you plotted this out, and actually embarked on such an amazing adventure. ‘If not now, when?’ and ‘Postpone nothing!’ are two retirement philosophies I heard once and try to follow, but you have me beat by a mile and then some!

    My advice at all of the attractions you are purchasing advance tickets to see, is to set your alarms early for each in order to be among the first in line. We’ve toured most of them, and the difference between an early vs late arrival is simply night and day. One is wonderful, the other almost nightmarish. All of your attractions are ‘beloved’ and thus will attract large crowds, so I think you’ll appreciate getting in and out while things are still relatively calm. My husband and I rarely sleep in while traveling, however, those early starts do allow for long leisurely afternoon wine, coffee or ‘whatever’ breaks, an acceptable trade off to us!


    1. “If not now, when?” is what has been guiding us – we hope to be able to continue traveling after this adventure, but we never know, do we, what’s going to come our way? So, we’re going to make the most of our time on this trip.

      Thanks for the tip about going to the museums early (same for getting in line for the Peninsula high tea – it’s first come, first served). We know there will be crowds, but hoping they won’t be quite as bad in France and Italy in October and November. I am normally not an early riser but am when I’m traveling. Not sure why that is, but we’re usually up and out early when we’re on the road, and then like you, enjoy more leisurely afternoons and evenings.


  2. Sounds like it is really coming together! A couple trips – I have used Viator to book tickets and tours in many of the places you are going (all of Europe and Hong Kong) and had great results with them. Plus easy to get a discount code (put things in basket – close out without buying – get an offer.)

    I highly recommend – especially Florence & Rome – get “skip the line” or timed entrance tickets – otherwise it is lots of time wasted in line.

    I really recommend this tour in Hong Kong – bought on Viator: Kowloon Street Food Tour – Danny Fung was the guide. Took us places where we were the only westerners – fantastic food.

    In Napier I highly recommend this Art Deco walking tour – really knowledgable tour guide and learned so much about the history of how it because an art deco town and how it has been preserved. Even though I was the only one they still did the tour just for me – was fantastic. I did the walking one not the drive around.
    NZ is amazing!


    1. Thanks for the tip about the Art Deco tour in Napier – we are stopping there expressly to see the Art Deco buildings (and the sea views). Will definitely be checking out the walking tour!

      I think our Florence/Rome museum tickets are both “skip the lines” and timed.

      Our Hong Kong visit is all about the food! We’ve visited many times, so plan to stop by some old favorites that are still operating and see how they compare (Spring Deer in Kowloon, Peak Cafe up on the Peak) but will be hitting up lots of street stalls and such for other meals. I can’t wait to have a couple of egg tarts and a cup of strong tea for breakfast!


    1. We are going to use Allianz (they offer the best insurance at the most reasonable prices, but the one-year policy only allows trips of up to 90 days at a time, so won’t work for the Big Adventure. We’re just going to go with a regular policy, but need to see if they can take off medical/dental coverage because we are already covered everywhere by our military insurance (and disqualified for their medical coverage because of this).


  3. I’ll second the above comment. Even with tickets to the Uffizi. Good grief! I would say that three days in Normandy is not enough, but I was with someone who had to see every.single.thing from one end to the other and down to St Lo. It’s amazing how all this is coming together and how well you’ve organized it all.!!


    1. I could happily stay far longer in Normandy for all the WWII history – I want to see every.single.thing too having read all the books and watched all the movies/mini series (I’ve recently been thinking it’s time to watch “Band of Brothers” again.) But, we never think of seeing and doing everything on one trip because we always like having a reason to return (if possible).

      It all seems organized, and I’m trying to keep it that way, but honestly some days it all feels very, very overwhelming. I think once we settle in and adjust to “travel mode” it will all be OK.


  4. Ohhhhh, I so would love to travel in your pocket! It sounds amazing! You might check with ITT in Rome for inexpensive tours. The military discount is alive and well there.


    1. I’ve checked out the USO in Rome, and also the army MWR offerings. Their tour prices are very reasonable, but we’re going to try and tour on our own, at least at first. Our Airbnb rental is a 5-minute walk from the Vatican, and not too far from the Forum and Coliseum (the Forum is #1 on my list of things to see). Anyway, if we’re too tired or feeling confused, we’re going to contact either or both of the above.


    1. That’s what I discovered. It was all too much, and too much time with other tourists. Since I’ve dropped all that stuff I’ve found things that are just as interesting that we can do on our own (and save money as well).

      (For some unknown reason your comment went into the spam folder! I honestly have no idea what is going on with WordPress these days.)


  5. Yes to the skip the line tickets. And, like others, I am smiling at my memories of some of your agenda.

    The sheer number of details on our trips pretty much demands spreadsheets and documentation. And we have never undertaken anything near your agenda. It sounds so wonderful.

    And I love this: If not now, when? Time to start planning our next jaunt.


    1. The Notebook keeps getting fuller. And my notes keep getting adjusted as we change things, or find a better deal, etc. Currently I’m waiting for our refund from Airbnb for the Tokyo rental (probably mid-June) so that I can go ahead and book several more things, which will of course mean changes to the spending chart. Sometimes though I wonder, “what the heck were we thinking?” It can get overwhelming trying to keep it organized. But, I’m also really, really excited by it too. The time is getting closer!


  6. When in Sydney, to see the habour get an opal (travel) card the best day is sunday as it is maximum $2.00 per ferry trip. Go to Watsons bay and get fish and chips from 5he Doyles takeaway and also go to Manly via ferry and walk the concourse down to the beach. If you have time go to Bondi and walk the Bondi to Bronte walk. Also recommend going to the opera bar at the opera house and getting a champagne (read Australian sparkling) and getting one of the chairs overlooking the harbour bridge, circular quay ferry terminal and the beautiful harbour. I do this every time i go to Sydney. Shame you aren’t coming to Canberra as admission to most of the museums and galleries is free. Watching your trip to learn the planning for mine.


    1. This is exactly what we plan to do – get the Opal card to see the harbor, and take the walk from Bondi to Bronte! We also plan to cross the harbor and visit the zoo – I want to see koalas and other Australian wildlife. Thanks too for the suggestion for the fish and chips – it’s one of our favorite meals. We also plan to splurge on the Opera House tour which includes lunch/bar. Again, thanks for the great input – everything has been noted!


  7. A couple thoughts based on my travels that might help:
    -You said you weren’t planning on going to the Louvre, but if you do change your mind – if you arrive later in the evening (2 or so hours before they close), I believe they have a somewhat discounted rate and it is MUCH less busy. We made it through a large part of the museum much more quickly just because we didn’t have to fight through crowds or wait to see much of anything.
    -When it comes to the Australia visa, the website you purchase it from tells you that you don’t need to print anything or have anything, that it will be attached to your passport when they scan it. I’d strongly recommend printing your confirmation anyway, as in our experience the visa is not always attached to your password online successfully. We had to prove at the airport that we had the visa!


    1. Thanks for the tip about the Louvre. I just don’t see how we’re going to fit it in, but who knows? We may decide after we arrive that we really should go.

      I have passed the information about the visa over to Brett – he has the visa duty! Thank you!


Comments are closed.