Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Planning the itinerary

When I've talked to people about this trip, one of the first questions many of them as is, "How did you decide where to go?"

We decided early on in the planning process that we wanted to circumnavigate the globe, because, well -- why not? At that point we had already planned to take a cruise from Buenos Aires to Antarctica in February; that was going to be our big trip of 2013. We talked about canceling the cruise in order to use the money somewhere else (we'd booked a very nice room), but then we realized that this might be the only chance any of us will have to go to Antarctica. How could we not go? After that, the idea of visiting all seven continents came up, and that became the theme of our trip.

It's amazing how short a year really is in the scheme of things. You might think that you could see an awful lot of the world in a year, and perhaps you could if you stayed in a different place every night. But that wasn't what we wanted to do, and we thought it would be easier on Carter if we stayed in most places for a week at a time. In our previous travels with him, a week in a location has been a perfect amount of time. We all get adjusted to the place, figure out where the grocery store is and where the park is, we have a chance to explore the area at a leisurely pace, and then we move on. The excitement of packing up and going to the next place, of continuing the adventure, is something that I've always loved. It's going to be amazing to know that this time, we won't be going home again after 3 weeks!

We decided to spend 6-8 weeks on each continent, and we began by looking at a map and listing the places where we wanted to spend time. Many of them are places we've been before and want to visit again, and others were places we've always wanted to see. We quickly realized that we could only go to about half the places we wanted to visit, so our list got pared down to what we regarded as the essentials -- for us, anyway. Others might disagree, of course!

The timing of the cruise meant we'd start in South America, and we decided to begin the trip with two weeks in Santiago, a city we've spent a fair amount of time in and really love. After the cruise we will head to Asia (trying to visit there before it gets too hot) and then we'll spend a couple of months in the South Pacific, Australia, and New Zealand before heading to southern Africa. We'll be in Europe in the fall and will finish our trip in the Middle East (again trying to avoid too-hot weather).

We thought at first that we might just go to a place with no preconceived ideas about where we'd go and what we'd do, just go exploring. But honestly, that idea lasted for about ten minutes before we rejected it in favor of planning the entire itinerary as thoroughly as possible. I think we both felt more comfortable with the idea of knowing we'll be staying in good hotels that are safe for us and are kid-friendly, and near the places we want to be. We've done the back-packing and winging-it thing when we were younger, and the idea of searching for a hotel in the middle of the night in a seedy part of town by the train station with a whiny and exhausted 5-year-old in tow is just not that appealing. In addition, we didn't want to spend a huge chunk of our trip trying to figure out what we were going to do next and worrying about where to stay and how we'd get there. The more we thought about it, the more stressful that sounded, so we decided that we'd plan it out in advance as much as possible.

So Doug has spent countless hours booking flights (using up the million or so frequent flyer miles he's earned in the last decade) and researching hotels. We're trying to stay in places with kitchens wherever we can so that we can save money by cooking for ourselves, but in some places that just isn't possible. Whenever possible we're staying in places with kid-friendly amenities like swimming pools, or close to parks with playgrounds. Reviews on travel sites like Expedia have been invaluable in this process. There's nothing like looking at what people who've actually stayed in these places with kids have to say about the experience!

The last part of the trip (Europe and the Middle East) is still being planned, and it's likely that part won't be fixed until we're well on our way. We have some ideas about what we want to do, but it's far enough away that we're not all that concerned about getting it done now.

I'll post more in the next few days about other aspects of the planning process. If you have any questions, please let us know!

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