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.
When we started planning, we had a lot of time to get things done. One thing that benefits from a large time horizon is selling “stuff”. It is far easier to maximize your return on any business transaction when you are not at the mercy of an aggressive deadline. Before we take off on our around-the-world journey, we plan to sell some of our possessions. We hope to use the proceeds to fund a portion of the trip but we know it will not be the main contributor. Still, any extra dollar we can squirrel away now is one less dollar we have to worry about when we are on the road. And since we won’t be working, the less stress on that front the better. I wanted to share a quick update on what I have been tackling and some new considerations I have taken into account.
It is time for an update on our trip planning journey. It has been about 300 days since I started this blog and it is time to see how much progress we have or have not made.
Deciding the Route – This continues to evolve but we have definitely moved the needle on this one. The last 6 months of the trip are still relatively wide open as we really only know that Southeast Asia will constitute part of this leg. I believe that Isabella is going to vote Australia into the trip so that she can see a koala bear. Despite the uncertainty with the second half of the trip, we have pretty much aligned on the first six months. The family is looking forward to Canadian Camping and a Mediterranean Europe Fall. PROGRESS = B+
Establish a Budget – This has been a somewhat contentious topic but we have both made compromises. Increasing the original budget by 25% has made things more reasonable on paper. The spending buckets are more realistic now and we have been able to keep that ice cream allocation intact. The budget is for planning purposes and establishing some loose guardrails. We have hedged at the high end so as costs come in cheaper, we’ll have more discretionary spend available. PROGRESS = B
Determine the Transportation – We have decided not to buy “Around the World” plane tickets but instead purchase individual flights as we go. The costs were just too high for the four of us based on our rough itinerary. We are still deciding the vehicle for cross-country camping. The electric car is still in contention but it is looking more and more like a stretch. We have not really looked into any of the other segments of the trip yet. I believe my railroad ambitions in Europe will be replaced with the far more budget-friendly long haul bus. PROGRESS = C-
Align on Accommodation and Style – My wife and I are on the same page here most of the time. Accommodation in Canada will consist of predominantly campsites and roadside motels with the occasional Air BnB. One “rule” has been added to camping. If grizzly bears are in play, then the accommodation needs to have walls! Outside of North America, we will lean heavily on month-long Air BnB rentals. Where it makes sense, the cost savings on a four week plus rental through that platform are significant. We appreciate the kitchen, washing machines and other amenities that you can get through that booking engine. PROGRESS = B
Figure out Home-schooling – Understanding what is required from our school board was pretty straight forward. We will know where to look in a year and a half as we move things along. The last few months have made us aware of what teaching the kids at home or on the road will look like. We think we are up for the challenge. PROGRESS = B-
Save the Money – We have been very fortunate on this front. I got lucky and went back to work and Paige was able to hold onto her employment during the pandemics. We were able to funnel all the daycare savings directly to the trip fund. Currently we have 35% of our expected budget saved. PROGRESS = B+
Manage our Transition out of the Workforce – I think it is too early to start this in earnest. PROGRESS = N/A
Assemble the Gear – We just wrapped up a family camping trip with half the gear we normally bring and it went off well. We used our first new piece of gear bought specifically for our round the world trip. It is a fantastic little kettle for boiling water. It saved us some needed space. PROGRESS = C
Leverage Loyalty Programs – We started signing up for a bunch of travel loyalty programs. One unexpected outcome is we got notified of a flash sale on hotel gift cards. We took advantage and bought a bunch at a discount. PROGRESS = B+
Required Documentation – Isabella got an updated passport so that’s one less thing that has to be done. A lot of the other stuff needs to wait until later. PROGRESS = C+
Determine Medical Requirements – We have not made much progress here other than trying to pull together our individual vaccination histories. Why did I not keep a clear record anywhere! PROGRESS = D
Learn How to Blog – I create infrequent posts but at least I know how to do it. PROGRESS = C-
Get in Better Physical Shape – This has been an unfortunate disaster. The family was making good progress until the pandemic which wiped out six months worth of progress. PROGRESS = D
Improve Photography Capabilities – I knew nothing about my camera before. I thought I was getting better but it turned out to be a false start as last weekend, I could not even remember how to activate the timer. The GoPro has not emerged from its case this year. PROGRESS = D-
Improve Language Skills – I had been focusing on learning Italian through DuoLingo. I also took out some beginner books from the library. Paige and I are going to test out mandarin classes with the kids this winter. PROGRESS = C-
Engage our Network of Friends – We now mention our trip in conversations. Some people are skeptical. Some have started following this blog. Family on the other hand….. PROGRESS = C-
Overall Progress Rating – C+ Some of the fun was always supposed to be the planning. I think that has definitely been the case as the family dreams up destinations and pretends to fret about problems that are months away. The kids have started asking questions about countries to visit and overall we are beginning to get things on track.
I have to come clean. I love finance and budgeting. I “waste” hours a week on personal finance. I thought this part of the trip planning would be easy. It is in my wheelhouse. I have failed. Even with preliminary placeholders I just can’t get the left side to equal the right side.
When I started on this process, I threw out a nice round number that I “budgeted” for the trip. What I was really doing was putting down a number that I would be “comfortable” spending on the trip. Unfortunately, it seems like each week of research unlocks a new expense I had not considered.