Trip planning

Blog sites, AirBnB, Rome2Rio, oh my!

By Melissa

The first thing I did was hit the travel blogs, hard.  We couldn’t be the first people trying to do this.  How did others with similar dreams pull it off?  I always look for travel blogs when I’m researching countries in my travels because they are authentic and practical.  I feel like I can get the real scoop from real people in a way I can’t get from travel magazines, sites or guides.  It was a great place to start.  Bloggers advised us on how they worked from all over the world, the unique ways they generated income (anywhere from house sitting to teaching English), how they found accommodations and even practical things like what to pack for such a long journey.

Our goal wasn’t to work remotely across the world but we got a lot of useful information from these sites.  The two biggest takeaways were:

  • A blog is an excellent way to communicate your journey with your family and friends and, if well done, may even generate a little income.
  • AirBnb has changed the way people travel and makes it possible to really live in the places you visit. The vast number of choices accommodate many budgets and make it easy to splurge in one place and pinch in another.

I can’t even provide an estimate of how many hours I combed through AirBnb creating our first budget.  As a diligent planner, it wasn’t good enough for me to log in, pull up a city and write down the average rent.  That would be a crazy way to budget for a vacation and it was not going to work here either.  No, if I wanted a real budget, I would need to research every single destination like I was embarking imminently.  I would need to actually find that perfect place to stay in each location and I would set the lodging budget based on what I actually selected.  This was super fun.  As is the case in many of our current travels, I would narrow the selection down to three of four choices and ask David to pick his top choice.  Again, the number of hours we spent doing this would probably horrify any reader so I’m not going to even speculate.  I will just be honest.  It was a lot.

After we had the lodging budget all sewn up, I embarked on the task of estimating the travel costs. How much would our airfare, buses, boats, cars and trains cost?  Should we budget for organized tours?  If so, what tours, where, for how long?  I found a fantastic website called “Rome2Rio” and got to work.  This is when the trouble started.

Rome2Rio is a website that allows you to put in the cities you’re traveling from and to, and it provides all the ways you can get there (plane, car, train, etc.), how long each mode of transport would take, and an estimated cost of each.  It is a fantastic site.  I knew I’d hit solid gold and was starting to smugly think this little exercise was going get whipped out in just a few hours when I plugged in the third city on our trip and was told by Rome2Rio that it was not possible to get there from our departure city.  This was not a fluke and was not a flaw in the website.  Much of our itinerary may have seemed logical on a map but made no sense otherwise.  The train tracks, roads and ferries did not always follow the most direct routes.  Parts of our trip were just impossible, others possible but completely impractical.  It doesn’t make a ton of sense to spend 38 hours on a train trying to get from X to Y when going from A to B to C is efficient, cheaper and more interesting.  We felt stupid not considering this earlier.  Randomly picking countries on a map is fun, but we should have been able to deduce that understanding transportation systems is critical in creating an itinerary, especially if you’re trying to avoid planes when possible.

We started again.  We pulled all the pins from the map and replotted, this time with Rome2Rio on the laptop.  We added some spots and removed some spots, and, when we finished, we knew we had a logical travel plan and a budget.  Luckily much of the work I’d done earlier could be used and I find nothing to be more fun than finding apartments on AirBnb so I went back and researched all the new locations.  We high-fived.  Dumb mistake but lesson learned. We had a great new plan and a solid budget.  There were some details still to be ironed out.  I wanted to be sure we built in things like Visa fees and other additional costs.  This seemed pretty minor and easy.  The trip had now grown to six years but we were close to completing the plan.  (to be continued…)

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