Since getting back, one of the things I get asked about almost as much as anything else is how in the hell did I plan all of this. The answer – to put it simply – was a lot of time, effort, and organization.
At the very beginning of the trip, the only constraints in my planning were money and time (Alyce’s limit of being gone from home). I also knew that we’d be traveling mainly in our winter months, so I’d prefer the southern hemisphere. And, if we were going to be gone for a long time, it made sense to go somewhere far away that we may not get the opportunity to visit again.
All these factors considered, I narrowed in on Australia and New Zealand. And my original plan to minimize the long flights was to stop at the Cook Islands on the way to AU/NZ and to stop in French Polynesia on the way back…making the flights much more bearable and getting some quality beach/Scuba time in.
I figured our maximum budget and the maximum time away from home I could get away with from Alyce was around 6 to 7 weeks. This would allow for 2 weeks in Australia, 2 weeks in New Zealand, and a week or so in the islands each way.
Now, it was time for the hard part – getting Alyce on board. I still remember plain as day first mentioning this idea to Alyce. We were walking Moose, and I brought up taking a big trip when she finished with school to someplace like Australia and New Zealand.
Her response – “I don’t know….What are we talking about? Something like two weeks? I don’t know. There is NO WAY we will be gone for anything longer than two weeks. I don’t know….” I knew I could work the length up from two weeks; there was still about two years of planning to go at this point. I just did not know exactly how much I’d be able to get away with…So I went ahead with planning the trip I’d plan without worrying about time.
From this point, I spent several months planning the AU/NZ portions of the trip and working up Alyce’s maximum time away number. My technique on that was just to plan all the cool things to do, present them to her, and then tell her to pick what she wanted to cut out if it was too long…There wasn’t much to cut out.
About a year and a half before we were scheduled to leave, I started to get in to the whole credit cards/miles/points game. This opened two doors.
I was no longer hesitant to fly long distances, several times. And, it freed up a significant portion of the budget.
With this, the islands were out as flying a long way didn’t bother me, and we could go to those later.
The downside to frequent flyer miles can be actually being able to use them. About 11 months prior to leaving, it was time to book the first flight; there was nothing available to Australia or New Zealand (which are notoriously one of the most difficult award tickets to book)……and I was looking for a reason to add some stops anyway.
Alyce was up to 5 weeks of trip duration at this point, so I started working it further. Another thing I’ll add is that while Alyce knew we would be flying using frequent flyer miles, she had no idea that we would be flying in business/first class. I’d even take it as far as arguing with her about how business class was a waste of miles the time or two that she mentioned it. When I commit to something, I go all in…
Anyway, back to the flights. There was plenty availability to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific in business and first class, so Hong Kong became a compulsory addition to use miles…Which ended up being a 5 night stop.
Then we were so close to Japan, that we had to spend some time there. Alyce eventually got on board due to the promise of sushi.
And Thailand was on the way back down to Australia and New Zealand, so we might as well stop there….Look Alyce, did you see you can own an elephant for a day? Sold.
Singapore was a natural stop from Koh Lanta to Australia.
Now we finally had made it to the original planed destinations, and we’d spend 18 days in each. What next? I pushed for adding Africa and Europe. Alyce finally put her foot down and said enough…It was probably for the best.
But I had one last backup plan – how about we stop in Bali for a couple days on our way to the Maldives. An initial no. But the pictures of the Maldives eventually won her over. We also added a couple nights in the UAE since we’d be flying through there.
So that is how the big picture of planning the trip went. The details are a whole other issue. I’ll write a separate post on the resources I used and tips for planning travel. Like I said in the opening paragraph of this post…It was a lot of researching/reading, time, and organization.