Progress Update: Slow and Steady – 637 Days to go

Girl in dress looking at turtle walking down pathway

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.

Ciao for Now

Assembling the Music Play list – 641 days to go

Ipod Shuffle headphones charger on tabletop

I spend a lot of time at my kitchen table streaming music on youtube while working. Occasionally I come upon some gems that remind me of good times from travel long ago. Hearing the first couple of chords make me long for a travel adventure. Whenever I come across these songs, I begin to jot them down in my notebook. I hope when we finally take off we’ll have a great youtube playlist assembled that will keep us motivated. Our children generally drive our youtube viewing, and as a result, an inordinate amount of Disney soundtracks that pop up throughout the day.

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Will Anyone Meet Up with Us? – 682 days to go

Extended Family standing in front of a mountain in Iceland

Things are gradually reopening where we live. Over the last couple of weeks, we have had the opportunity to meet up with friends and family. Like our children, we have missed our friends and relatives. It got me thinking that we are going to miss a bunch of people when we take off on our trip. But why do we need to miss them? Perhaps some will decide to join us at random points around the world. Wouldn’t that be neat?

Last year we managed to convince my extended family to go on a trip to Iceland with us. Being transparent, we had some concerns that it might be difficult for everyone to “get along”. Over the years Paige and I have adjusted our style to not need everyone to do the same thing and have the same experiences. On the Iceland trip, I think we did our best to give everyone lots of room and let each sub-unit sort of go at their own pace.

The good news is that travelling with that extended family had lots of “halo” benefits. On that trip, family members’ input made us participate in experiences that my wife and I would not have considered on our own. On the financial side, our money went a little bit further as we could share accommodation and some transport costs. On the sanity side, “babysitting” by family members allowed me and my wife some free time that we put to good use. Snorkelling in Iceland would not have been possible if my brother’s family were not watching my kids at the time. On the appreciation side, family members remembered unique aspects of the trip so that when we reminisce we seem to get a more complete recounting of the adventure.

I understand the complexities around co-ordinating things and that sometimes things fall through. Not too long ago, my family went to Jamaica for a winter holiday. Just before arrival, we found out one of my good friends was staying at a resort just a couple kilometres up the beach. For some reason, we just did not end up crossing paths.

In a previous post, I made a tongue in cheek comment about my grandmother coming to visit us for Christmas in Italy. I am not sure she has been on a plane and not having a passport might prove problematic for her. I am not writing it off but I am going to give that one a 10% chance of coming to fruition. For the rest of you, do not hesitate to tell us when and where! We could use a bunch of babysitters.

Building our travel budget – 2 years to go

Collage of International Currencies

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.

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Can we use our existing car? 761 days to go

Chevrolet Bolt plugged in at a charging station

Last year we became a ONE car family. The reasons were threefold. First, I was not working. Second, we moved to a house that was within shouting distance of the subway. Finally, our second car had a major malfunction that we decided not to get fixed. Giving up that second car was a blessing in disguise.

We had always thought we would end up getting a new car when I went back to work. It would be that new car that we would drive across Canada in two years time. Now we do not see that happening. The question now is if our current car can handle the task.

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Three goals for the trip – 765 days to go

Two young girls holding a fresh starfish

While working at Walmart I adopted the practice of committing to only three things at any time. I found that spreading myself across many initiatives resulted in little progress against any of them. That practice from my work life has transferred well to our family vacations. For the most part, we try to keep our vacations focused on a couple key objectives. Our recent trips have been centred around escaping the grind, spending time with the kids and reliving our youth.

This brings me to an important part of goal setting for a family trip. It is important to establish the goals of your trip before you depart. It is equally important to share them with your family members AHEAD of time.

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Another source of Funding for the Trip – 832 days to go

Let me call a spade a spade. I have not made any progress on the other elements of the trip planning in the last month. Even my attempts at a blog posts did not make it to fruition. However on the finance side things we have moved things along nicely. We are now about 1/3 of the way towards our goal and we did it just by changing our priorities a little bit. Essentially we decided on another way to allocate money towards the trip.

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Decide the Route Part 1 – 948 days to go

My wife and I have spent countless hours dreaming about our trip. So far the topic we’ve spent the most part talking about is the route we plan on taking. I wanted to go ahead and share what we hope to do in our first 3 months of the trip. I expect much to change over the next 900+ days but this is the current view we are working with.

We would begin our trip just after Canada Day 2022 (which is July 1st for everyone outside of Canada) and would spend the next 3 months driving across Canada and potentially the United States. We live in Toronto and would take a route along the north shore of the great lakes. From there we would cross the Canadian Prairies and then the Rocky Mountains. Paige’s childhood cottage was on the gulf islands in the Pacific off the coast of Vancouver so we would spend some time there. After reaching the Canadian west, we would then drive back but have not made a decision on the route.

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Tips and Tricks Part 2 – 956 days to go

Just wanted to share a couple more tips that we incorporate into our family travels.

Sleeping on the floor is a possibility
Sometimes you just miscalculate and think you have enough room for the family. We have found ourselves in this situation when camping and instead of everyone having an uncomfortable sleep on a twin air mattress, I have just slept on the floor. Same thing in a couple european hotels. To give everyone (myself included) a better sleep, just throw a blanket down and sleep on the floor.

Return from your trip a day early
We used to maximize every day of our vacation. We would come back late Sunday night and be at work first thing Monday morning. Now we always give ourselves a day at home before we begin our normal lives. It gets the kids settled into things and ensures you won’t spend an entire week playing catch up with laundry, school work or adult work

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A different perspective of our trip to Grenada – snapshots from Isabella and Julie – 964 days to go

This is just a quick post. In our tips and tricks section we mentioned that we gave our daughters an old digital camera. It is fun to watch them walking around with the camera dangling mere inches from the ground or ocean. Each night when the kids are asleep we quickly scroll through and see what they took pictures of that day. Most bring a smile to our faces.

Don’t get me wrong, more than half of the photos are blurred shots of tables and hands but sometimes you get a gem. Plus, the excitement they get when they want to show you a picture of something only they have seen is memorable.