A thousand days of planning and somehow I am left scrambling the day before. We were making good progress but then our youngest got sick the other day and that threw a wrench into things. We are just happy she had wrapped up the last of her play dates and birthday parties this past weekend. So for the last couple of days, she’s been staying at home watching me attempt to fit a ridiculous amount of gear into a finite space. That and watching TV. I think she knows TV will be hard to come by and is getting all the viewing she can right now.
Anyways, we’ve crossed off a bunch of loose ends this last week.
Storage – We rented a small locker to store the items our renters probably don’t need or want to see. It is pretty much full now. One final run to today and then I will padlock it and see it again in a year. I am embarrassed to say it, but I would not be upset if 75% of the stuff were to disappear.
A week ago, we loaded up the vehicle and did a trial run to see how prepared we were for the cross-Canada leg of our trip. We had not had the chance to “field test” some of our gear and wanted to try it out during a three-day camping trip at a nearby provincial park.
I borrowed my dad’s Jeep, installed the roof carrier and attached the bikes onto the back. I struggled with the roof carrier as it took me a while to figure out that I was blocking the locking mechanisms which was preventing it from closing. Once I figured that out, I spent a couple hours loading up the vehicle to determine the best packing configuration. I had two main goals: I wanted to have an unobstructed view out the rear window and the kids needed to have an unencumbered ride (i.e. nothing at their feet or beside them). We managed to achieve both of those goals. In the future, I’m hoping I can do better than two hours.
We have had a couple posts about the fun stuff, now it is time for some money matters Any dollar I can save is something Isabella can spend later at LEGOLAND. For some reason, I showed the kids LEGOLAND clips on YouTube and now we have to fit that into the budget. So here are two ways we plan to stretch our dollar.
Let’s start with credit cards. From the beginning, we wanted two different branded cards on the trip (a Visa and an Amex). If one particular card was not accepted, or one got compromised then we would always have a backup. This never was a necessity in our daily life so we needed to go hunting for a new card. Where to begin? Fortunately, there are amazing sites out there that showed us the pros and cons of the different credit card offers. Type “best credit cards in Canada” into Google, and you’ll have enough reading material for weeks. During our research, we realized we should have cards we used BEFORE we travel (i.e. during the planning) and then cards we should use when we were ACTUALLY TRAVELLING. This was new for us and so far it has saved us a large bucket of money.
Since the itinerary has been discussed recently I thought of giving an update on some of the other progress we have made. The other day Paige and I were remarking that we still have some things to take care of but it feels like a lot of the “heavy-lifting” is done.
Getting the Jeep Ready – We got roof rails installed (my dad actually did it) and we bought a second-hand Thule cargo carrier for the roof. We also have car seat organizers for the kid’s stuff. We just need to put new tires on the vehicle, get it serviced and she is ready to go. We are actually outfitting the Jeep for a trial camping run this weekend with all the gear.
Bikes for the Road Trip – We replaced the stolen adult bikes with second-hand bikes and got them serviced. We purchased bike locks and have confirmed that the children’s helmets fit. Now we just have to get Julie off training wheels.
Back in spring, I started researching vaccine requirements for the trip (the non-Covid ones). This past week we started seeing this research turn into reality as the family got a bunch of shots. The process has been interesting and chock-full of learnings.
For context, I went ahead and started my vaccination progress back in April. We decided I would try and figure out the best way to get it done and then the other family members would follow suit. I went online, found a local travel clinic, did a consultation and then signed up for a bunch of shots. The consult was done over the phone and it felt like a business transaction. A bunch of forms were sent back and forth with details of the trip, my medical history and personal information. It did not really feel like a medical appointment. Regardless, I checked some boxes, got some shots and spent some money. For the rest of the family, we decided to do a “family” consultation with a different travel clinic. It was eye-opening as I thought it would be standard across the clinics. Fortunately, the recommendations were consistent across the two, but the education, cost and service were very different. We decided to get the family’s battery of tests through the second clinic. My personal takeaway is that even though the situation was really a one-and-done type scenario, it makes sense to shop around. Yes, we ended up paying a couple consultation fees but our peace of mind and cost savings justified that expense.
We have started getting some of our ducks in a row for our cross-Canada leg of the trip. The first concrete decision is we’ve made the choice not to bring our electric car. This was a tough one as I was pretty confident we could have made the route work from a charging/mileage standpoint. In the end, it was the cargo space that led us to this decision. It is just too small and will not hold the gear we plan on bringing. Essentially we want the kids to have some comfort and we don’t want stuff piled on the children as we drive a few thousand kilometres. We haven’t yet made a decision as to what we will do with the car but I will either have to sell it, loan it out or take it off the road. That is a decision for another day.
We are under a year to go now. It is far more exciting as there are actually “real” things to do. It is fun to see hotel and flight dates begin to be available for booking. Just to recap, we plan to take off on our round the world trip in July 2022. The first three months will be spent driving across Canada. With that in mind, I am super excited that we took our first steps towards getting organized for that part of the trip. This past weekend we bought ourselves a Parks Canada Pass.
We drove to our closest MEC store and bought a Parks Canada Discovery Pass. It cost us $139.40 for the “family” version. The pass essentially gives us access to the national park system and free access to the national sites here in Canada.
Next week we will be under 400 days to go. Even though we are still planning and dreaming, we have not done a good job writing about it. The good news is that we have checked off a couple more boxes.
This year we bought a bike with training wheels for Julie. She loves it. Isabella also jumps on her bike any chance she gets. Paige fondly remembers the days she used to bike to work. We decided the trip might be more fun for the kids if we brought our bikes on the trip. Bicycles at campsites just seem to go together. So have been on the lookout for a bike rack to mount on the car for the cross Canada segment of our Journey. Finding bike-related gear in Toronto in the current environment is not that simple. Fortunately, we had been scouring online ads for people looking to sell their used ones. A couple of weeks ago we scored a Thule hitch mounted-rack that can accommodate four bicycles. It was practically new and we had it delivered to the house by the seller. It was not cheap but got it for about 10% less than retail with no tax. That price worked for me. Plus we actually got it since buying things in stores in Toronto right now is not seamless. As a final bonus, we get to use it throughout this year and plan to try it out this weekend.
I like to hedge my bets. I hope for the best but plan for the worst. I imagine on our trip we will bring a camera, a phone, an iPad and a small laptop. I do not doubt for a second that we are going to lose one of these things. It will happen. Losing the device itself will be an inconvenience but it will not be that big of a problem. The files and photos on a lost device would probably be more regrettable. For that reason, I cracked and got myself some cloud storage this year.
Vaccinations seem to be top of mind here in Toronto. This is one area that I definitely do not want to rush so I have spent time figuring out what the vaccination process for family travel should look like. The first step has been trying to figure out the current “immunization” of the family. It is embarrassing but a few weeks ago, I was not entirely sure which shots I have had. This is in contrast to my wife who has a fully documented vaccination history in a well-maintained file folder. My children were an easy solve as they share the same doctor since birth. All of their information is on file digitally.