10…9…8…7…

Posted: July 9, 2014 in Planning & Preparation

We leave in less than 10 days (whoohoo!) and things are coming together… sort of. 1KD_1569

The trip is pretty much planned out – all the hotels have been booked, all of the plane tickets and most of the train tickets have been purchased and the paperwork (electronic visas for Turkey, international drivers permit, extra insurance for camera gear, etc.) is mostly done. There’s even colour-coded tabs for each city (organization like this is clearly the work of an HR professional par excellence).

We’re still waiting to hear back from the landlord of the apartment we’ve booked for our stay in Bucharest (Studio Monika Victorei) – we’ve sent a bunch of emails and notes directly and through booking.com but have not heard anything back from her. Given that this is one of those “meet us at location A but the apartment is at location B and there’s no check in so we need to meet up so you can get the keys” sort of apartment rental, we kind of need to know where and when to meet her once we get to Bucharest…1KD_1557 so we’ll give her one more day and then I think we’ll have to go ahead and book something else. That’s definitely one of the benefits of using booking.com – most of the properties offer free cancellation so we can keep our reservation with Monica but book something as a backup and as long as we cancel one or the other 2 days before we arrive, there’s no charge.

So the planning is mostly done, but the doing is another matter entirely…

Our clothes and other stuff are still just piled on a table in the spare room. I think I’ve added a pair of pants to the pile in the last 3 days. Most of Caitlin’s travel clothes are still on the floor in her room. Marie is definitely in the lead – she’s found all her travel clothes and has them piled on her pack in the spare room… But that’s as far as we’ve gotten in terms of packing. We could say it’s because we’re such experienced travellers now that we can just wing it… If you’ve ever hiked with me at all, you know that is never going to happen. Caitlin will probably roll a few things up then get distracted by butterflies or Buzzfeed or Sherlock and end up just dumping stuff in and sorting it out over the next 38 days. Marie (who has traveled a ton for work over the years and developed all kinds of bad habits) will fold everything neatly then spend 20 minutes cursing when she can’t fit her hair straightener or that extra pair of shoes in… I will spend hours packing everything into ziplock bags and making sure that every centimetre of available space is effectively used and that everything is in a stuff sack or pouch or ziplock. Marie and Caitlin will laugh at me… But my stuff will be dry and I’ll know exactly where it is. Until Caitlin – otherwise known as the Human Tornado – goes looking for something in my pack and messes up the feng shui of my packing.

We did make some progress yesterday, though. I picked up our foreign currency (some euros and Czech korunas)… It’s supposed to be cheaper to buy foreign currency from your bank than to buy it over there… I don’t know if that’s true or not and most of the currencies we need aren’t available through our bank so we’ll have to buy them over there anyways. I do know that 400 euros cost me $608 Canadian yesterday. I think when we went to Europe in 2012 that would have cost us about $520 Canadian… They say a lower dollar is good for the economy but it sure ain’t that great for our economy! Fortunately there’s only a few places on this trip that use the euro and our dollar is pretty strong against most of the other currencies we’re going to be using so that works in our favour. Of course some of those places are at the very end of the trip and Marie will be tracking our expenses as we go along so we might be eating the Spanish equivalent of Kraft Dinner while we’re in Madrid but it’s all good.

In terms of currencies, we still haven’t worked out the best system. We use our VISA for most of our purchases which means we get reward points towards our next trip but also means we pay a 2.5% foreign exchange fee on top of the exchange rate (this isn’t just us, it’s on all VISA purchases in foreign currency we’ve been told). We usually grab some local currency from an ATM as soon as we arrive so we have some walking around money for places that don’t take VISA, buses, small purchases, etc. but that also means we’re paying a fee for exchange (it’s built into the bank’s exchange rate but it’s still a fee) and we don’t accumulate any rewards points. In the end, I think we’d end up using the VISA anyways (it’s safer than carrying cash, it includes insurance for lost or stolen goods you purchase with it and it’s just more convenient) but would love to know how the really experienced travellers do it.

One thing we have learned about money and traveling is – know how much things cost before you arrive. We stepped off a plane in Serbia and headed for an ATM to get money for the bus. The only problem is we had no idea how much Serbian money we would need because we had no idea what the cost of common items was and there was no WiFi in the airport. We didn’t even know what the bus was going to cost. So we took out what we thought would be enough to get us started only to discover we had taken out just slightly more than the cost of a bottle of water!

While I was running around yesterday, I picked up a nice pair of lightweight Columbia travel pants and some odds and ends (plug adapters, a travel towel, etc.) from our friend Frank’s store – Pacific Trekking. He’s got a good selection of men’s and women’s travel clothing, water bottles, packing supplies, backpacks and travel bags and all kinds of travel stuff and – shameless plug here – his 2nd and 3rd floors are all clearance items!

Okay. That’s it for today. Time to stop writing about the trip and actually spend some time getting ready for the trip.

 

 

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