Now that we have our flights booked it’s interesting to look back on what we have achieved over the last few months and how much planning and research we have done (and still continue to do). I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s always great to have something to look forward to and plan towards; whether it’s an upcoming holiday, wedding, new kitchen renovation or a major life change, it really gets you through the slower parts of life; a long cold winter, bad breakup, bad patch at work or just day-to-day life in general…. And planning this massive family adventure was definitely enough to keep our minds fully focused!!
So some of the main things we researched/planned for were –
- Selling the house and all the “stuff” in it – Logistically this is an interesting one as you still need to function as a family and household while this is all happening. We did a MAJOR de-clutter after Christmas and were so surprised at all the things we had that we hadn’t used for a very long time. Our Trade Me online auction account got a lot of use, as well as several trips to donate items and some that just had to go into the recycling or rubbish. Not to sound to hippie-ish, but it was very cleansing and I would recommend a good clean out at least once a year if you don’t already do it. It helps keep your household in order and often puts a little extra cash in your pocket. A few real estate agents had given us appraisals just before Christmas, so we chose one and set a marketing calendar for an auction campaign. A huge house clean ensued before the professional photos were taken and the house went “live” and on the market. Keeping the house super tidy with two boys was a bit of a mission, we held weekend open homes but people could also view by appointment so we had to leave the house each morning in tip-top shape. Now I’m not someone who particularly enjoys cleaning but I do enough to keep things functional and so we don’t live in a filthy home. I did waiver occasionally on the level of cleaning heights that I had got to, but pushed through after recalling our major purpose and what all this extra hard work was really for. Unfortunately the house didn’t sell at auction but we received a conditional offer soon after and had just a few more open homes while we waited out the conditional period. Thankfully the sale went through as expected and the boys (& us) were released of the strict tidiness rules and ALL the extra cleaning!! Now that the house is sold, we have started listing a lot of our larger household items on Trade Me and soon could be sleeping on borrowed air beds and cooking on an open fire!! But it won’t be for too long and again, that end prize of boarding that one way flight is just too good to resist.
- Budgets – Now while I’m pretty good with numbers, Logan is a total whizz and loves to whip up a well designed and functional spreadsheet. So he naturally took this task on board and has done a phenomenal job with multiple tweaks and adjustments along the way to ensure we could actually do what we want to do and for the length of time we were thinking. Which is quite interesting because he hasn’t always been that interested in our normal life’s day-to-day spending or budgeting but this idea to explore the world for a few years really captured the heart of his inner budgeting guru. Again, it’s amazing what you can set your mind to with the right goal!! We read quite a few other travel website/blogs, especially those who have or are doing, longer term travel, to try to get a good idea of what we might spent on a daily basis for a family of four in the countries we had on the itinerary. We wanted to have a really good grasp on the budget to ensure that we didn’t get a year or so into this adventure and suddenly go “where has all the money gone?!?!” We have budgeted at a pretty high-end (plus a contingency fund) to give us the best possible idea of what we would need to make it work, as well as having a decent amount in reserve as we don’t want to travel until the very last cent. We are really invested in making the most out of the first 6-12 months through Asia and trying to get well ahead of the budget so we have good reserves heading into the US and Europe. Only time will tell on this one but Logan is already preparing his next spreadsheet to keep us all on track.
- Money – You might think this should come under budgets but this concept was more around how we would actually pay for things as I doubt there are many Asian hawker market stalls with pay wave. Again, some reading of other traveller’s websites came in very handy and comparing what companies had on offer. Such as possibly using a preloaded travel card for cash withdrawals and also as a credit card, you can get these from the likes of Kiwibank (Loaded for Travel), a cash passport issued by numerous companies or both Air New Zealand and Qantas have them. We found that while locking in a fixed exchange rate when loading these cards with different currencies is good for budgeting, especially for holidays or shorter term travels, they weren’t going to really meet our needs for this long-term adventure especially when we will mostly be using cash, particularly throughout Asia. Some companies also charged quite a few fees just for you to access your own money overseas. In fact, some were down right ludicrous, so just make sure you check out all options even for shorter travel stints. We have decided to use an ANZ online account (and there should be no fees on this account if we don’t step foot inside a branch or want a human’s assistance with handling our own money) with a debit card through Asia to withdraw cash from ATM’s. We shouldn’t incur any withdrawal fees, just the normal currency conversion fee, because ANZ has a large network throughout Asia and will give us the best access to ATM’s. Then we’ll switch to using a Westpac online account for the United States and Europe, as in these countries it’s Westpac that has the major coverage. We’ll use our credit card for major costs like longer term accommodation stays and online purchases/bookings etc. We’ll no doubt continue to keep an eye out for better options if they become available as we are all about reducing costs and spending our funds on fun rather than paying banks more fees!!
- Education – While Logan quickly claimed the task of teaching the boys Maths and declared that I teach or oversee all other subjects of their learning, I was also given the task to look into educational options while on the road. I did quite a bit of research in the beginning as this was one of our main concerns when thinking about extending the time they would be out of formal schooling for. I have relaxed quite a bit about this subject after speaking to lots of people and being reassured about what an awesome experience this will be for the kids and that you could never teach them half the stuff in a classroom that they will learn exploring the world in such a hands on way. There are also so many good apps available now and online educational websites with great options to track the boys learning, plus there is all the other ‘life’ education they will receive over these coming years that will be hard to really quantify. Luckily I also work for an awesome educational consultancy company, and while I’m planning to leave them soon, I’m pretty sure I could pick the brains of the many fabulous consultants (& ex-teachers) in the company if the boys start to slip off track. If anyone has any tips on apps or website programmes they have found useful (or not) please do let us know.
- Accommodation on the road – So many options to explore…. Air BnB, guest houses, cheap motel chains, house sitting and dear I say it…. maybe even a camper van (gasp). That might not be a gasp for some, and really it’s a pretty good economic choice; but those that know us, know that we do not “camp” (we don’t even “glamp”). It’s not that we are precious but it’s never been an activity we really got into and it does seem to take a lot of “stuff” to camp on a semi-humane level. Perhaps we need to try it to unleash Braxton’s inner camper as he has been doing a lot of drawings lately of camping and often talks about us “camping when we are travelling”. Not sure where this actually comes from as he’s only really camped once or twice with his Nana & Poppa in their motorhome. But I guess we should never say never on our awesome world adventure. There are so many options out there and I’m not too sure how people made plans before the internet?? Perhaps they just “winged” it…. which isn’t necessarily a bad thing either as we only plan to book paid accommodation a few months out each time in case our plans change but the poor people at Air BnB must wonder what the heck we are up to!?!? Multiple searches with all sorts of different filters and options and all over the place, from Malaysia to Laos to the US to Belgium and Greece and pretty much everywhere in between. But yet, still no actual bookings?? (Although KL is pretty close, we have narrowed it down to our top choice.) Logan has spent hundreds of hours searching this topic because it’s such a biggie for us; it’s where a large portion of our daily budget will go and we really need a good set up to accommodate the whole family. During weekends and evenings Logan would often produce a selection of some awesome Air BnB offerings for the rest of the family to peruse; many at outstanding (& sometimes a little unbelievable) prices, especially throughout Asia There is A LOT on offer, all over the world, and all accessible with a click (desktop mouse reference) or a swipe (tablet/smart phone) and of course, a credit card. It’s something the whole family can be a part of in choosing where we might stay next, the kids get to see what activities there might be on offer, playgrounds, tennis courts, awesome pool complexes with tunnels, slides and waterfalls (if they’re lucky) and we get to see the bedroom configurations, location in relation to good food, markets & transport options and if we manage to get a balcony or deck (even if it’s a small one) to relax on in the evenings with a refreshing beverage or two. We even found an apartment with a huge water park and pirate ship in Thailand. Stay tuned to see if we actually stay there…. Once we are nearly at the end of our time in Asia we’ll revisit accommodation options for the US and Europe. New options seem to become available all the time so who knows what may lay ahead for us in those countries.
- Vaccinations – Well, this could be a post all by itself but we’ll just share the short version as no doubt Lincoln will re-read this as he gets older and claim it didn’t happen the way the rest of the family recalls it anyway!! A phone call to the travel nurse at our local doctors gave us a lot of great information and prices for the vaccinations that we should get, particularly as we were planning to be in most parts of Asia for quite a while. She also gave us these two sites, Travel Doctor and World Health Organization (WHO), to look at and they have some very good advice and options for possible vaccinations for any countries you may be planning to travel to. The public health vaccination program in New Zealand is pretty good and the boys were fully up-to-date with all their immunisations so they only had to have 5 more injections over 3 visits to cover them further for things we don’t need in NZ. The adults of the family had to have a total of 7, as we needed some booster shots to ensure we were immunised further. This included a tetanus shot and I’m sure some will remember this one and how it really does get right into the muscle for quite a few days after the injection. If the kids happened to mention that their arm was even slightly sore, we were quick to remind them that they didn’t get the tetanus shot and how lucky they were. We spent around $3,500 NZD to give the four of us the best possible coverage against things like rabies, typhoid, all types of hepatitis and Japanese encephalitis (this is only given to those over 18 years though). We will also prepare to be vigilant against mosquito bites in general, as well as taking a pretty good supply of general first aid treatments so we have these common things on hand as soon as needed. We are lucky that the boys (and us) are generally pretty healthy creatures, so that helps a little when thinking about travelling to some of the Asian countries, but you just never know what might happen and where – fingers and toes crossed it’s very minimal.
- Travel insurance – This links nicely with vaccinations and health related topics to round off the main points. It was interesting when looking into travel insurance options that not many New Zealand based companies provide cover for longer than a one year period and you can’t renew the policy if you are still outside New Zealand at the end of that year. I guess most people aren’t travelling for longer than this in one stint but it makes things just a bit harder for us. Normally when we travel, our ANZ Airpoints Visa covers our travel insurance, but as we don’t have a return ticket to New Zealand on this occasion we won’t be covered by this method. So, we still have a bit more research to do on this matter and need to confirm more details with the two main providers we have found that might meet our needs. We’ll definitely need to get that all sorted within the next 7 weeks!! We are also signed up to, and will update as we move countries or locations, the New Zealand Safe Travel website. With the wide availability of social media nowadays and multiple ways to make contact with family and friends, it is still reassuring that we have another source of contact and information if anything does happen to happen around us when we are away from New Zealand exploring the wonders of the world on our awesome family adventure.
– Paula (guest contributions from Logan)