A Warning to Trekkers

Initially, I wasn’t going to write about our trekking experience in Nepal. I wasn’t happy about many aspects of our porter, but I was willing to chalk it up to the luck of the draw when hiring a someone without references upon landing in Lukla. That is until our porter, Karma Sherpa, sent Sheri a particularly nasty message on Facebook. It was difficult to understand because his English is atrocious, but we managed to get the gist of it. In it he makes some reference to the Japanese trekker who died just days after we started our trek, further saying that the Japanese and Chinese are not strong and that Sherpas in the mountains are strong. He goes on to say he doesn’t like Chinese or Japanese and he didn’t think we were good tourists because he says we didn’t tip him. He also included a graphic of a person with a fish head which is a derogatory depiction for Japanese, because they eat a lot of fish. In response to his rather racist message to us, I’m posting his Facebook page and photo here so that others don’t make the mistake of hiring him upon arrival to Lukla. Continue reading

Quick Tip: Clean Your Cookies

I spend a lot of time searching airline sites for the lowest fare. I often use Google Flights to get an idea of which locations offer the best savings and go directly to the airline web site. However, I started to notice that I would run a search at an airline site, find a great deal, and later, come back to show my wife and the deal would be gone. At first, I thought the low priced seats had sold out. This happened so many times that I was starting to think I was losing my mind, until I decided to go into my browser and clear all the cookies that the browser stores. Voila, those fares showed up again, and this time I didn’t take a chance and bought it. It would appear that the airlines want to encourage you to buy right away, so they offer the lowest price only on your first visit to their web site. They store a cookie in your browser that says you’re a repeat visitor so you won’t get the first-time deal on subsequent visits. Lesson learned: clear your cache and cookies in your browser to get the best deals.

Top dozen RTW travel planning resources

We have been planning our trip since 2003, and actively saving for it since 2006. Travel planning is equal parts fun and frustration. It’s exciting to make plans and to see a trip coming together, but it’s also a lot of work researching your destination, arranging transportation and lodging, and determining how long you’ll need in order to do everything you planned. You become a project manager, event coordinator, location scout, travel agent, and financial planner all at once. The last time I went on an extended trip overseas, I didn’t have a lot of the tools and web sites available today. Travel planning is a bit easier these days now that the Internet can provide so much information. Here are the 12 tools that I use extensively for our RTW trip planning.

Google Sheets

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 9.30.03 PMSpreadsheets may be a bit antiquated, but there’s no quicker way for me to determine travel dates and keep all those destinations straight. If you have a lot of destinations, it can become tedious to keep track of where and when you’ll be somewhere. I originally set up an Excel spreadsheet with destinations, dates, approximate costs, and visa requirements back in 2003 and have updated it frequently. It became the basis of our savings goal. I recently transferred the spreadsheet to Google Docs and keep it updated online now. The format hasn’t changed much since I first created it. The dates are automatically calculated from the initial starting date. I enter the number of nights we plan to stay at a destination and the spreadsheet calculates the arrival dates for all the following destinations. It becomes a dynamic, ever-changing master document that is invaluable for advanced planning. Unlike other online tools, you can add or remove columns for whatever you want to track. Continue reading

Quick Tip: Don’t settle for the first answer you get.

When you call to talk to the airlines, don’t settle for the first answer you get, especially if it isn’t the answer you’re looking for. Some agents on the phone just aren’t as skilled as others in finding what you need, so call back and speak to someone different. If necessary, keep doing this until you get what you need. This is especially true for airlines, but this can work with hotels and car rental agencies too.

For example, we tried to book our flight to Sydney through United, but were told that no award seats were available because we were booking them so late. After two more phone calls, we got someone who looked at all the partner airlines and found two seats leaving from Vancouver on Air Canada, a partner airline. It cost the same award miles and wasn’t as convenient as flying out of Seattle, but the benefit was that we now have a direct flight with no layovers.


The Art of Packing for the Long Journey

It has taken me a month and a half to write this post. That’s because packing is one of the most difficult aspects of traveling around the world. It’s takes a lot of research, a lot of trial and error, and a bit of luck to determine what goes with us on our journey and what stays at home. We have both traveled extensively and we have, early on, overpacked many times thinking we would need some item.  The last time I went to Asia, you’d have thought that I was going to climb the Himalayas with all the gear I had…oh, wait, I was.

Nowadays, we try to keep our luggage to just carry-on. A smaller bag is easier to carry and more maneuverable on crowded buses and trains. Besides, the less you have, the less you have to worry about. While this limitation makes it easier for us to move about quickly and saves on checked bag fees for some of our air travel, it’s nearly impossible to do without making some compromises. Continue reading