Outback Adventure: State Route 19

When we left the coast of Queensland, I had no idea that we would be going on the most memorable part of our road trip in Australia. You might want to read about the driving challenges we faced, as that would be a good preface to this story. Our road trip was fairly uneventful until we left Townsville after returning from Magnetic Island. Google maps had been taking us on scenic routes, often taking us on circuitous secondary or residential streets when a more direct route existed. More often than not, this resulted in more traffic congestion and longer travel times. Sometimes, it would be costly when Google would direct me onto a tollway. Continue reading

Choose Your Camper Van Rental Carefully

Traveling around the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand by camper van is becoming increasingly popular. We just spent three weeks driving 8,164 kilometers around Australia by camper van. I found that the company you select for your vehicle can really make or break your self-driving adventure. There are lots of companies in Australia that rent camper vans and what I failed to do was read some reviews on the company I selected. If I had, I probably wouldn’t have used the place we did. We rented from Hippie and received an Apollo camper van. Apollo is just one of several brands from the same company, including, Star, Cheapa Cheapa, Hippie and their manufacturing and sales brand Talvor. All of these companies have received more complaints than good reviews on web various sites except their own. It began with the whole process of picking up the camper. Continue reading

Join Us to Explore Tibet, Bhutan & Nepal

If you’ve ever wanted to visit Tibet, Bhutan or Nepal, here’s your chance. We are organizing a trip of a lifetime and we’re inviting you to join us as we explore this fascinating area. The tour is 16 days from April 5, 2016 to April 20, 2016 and is timed to coincide with the Rhododendron Festival in Thimphu, Bhutan from April 18 to 20.

Monks headed to morning rituals in Lhasa.

Monks headed to morning rituals in Lhasa.

You can join us for the entire tour, just Tibet, or just Bhutan. You can also extend your trip on either end with a tour of Beijing, extra days in Shanghai, or a tour of other areas of Nepal. Our plan is to arrive in Shanghai a couple of days prior to the train departure to see the city. Flights are available from Shanghai or Beijing to Lhasa, but we recommend the train to see some of the spectacular scenery along the way and for additional time to gradually acclimate to the altitude. The train is also about half the cost of a flight.

We are using a very reputable Nepal-based tour company that I have used before. I’ve been negotiating with them and have managed to get the cost down substantially from my first estimate. The current estimated cost of this entire tour is about US$159/day/person or US$2,550 per person for the entire land portion only based on double occupancy. Your final cost will depend on how many people we will have, how much of the itinerary you include, and any extensions you might make. You’ll also need to arrange the follow transportation:

  • Shanghai to Lhasa train trip, about US$250/person
  • Roundtrip air to Paro, Bhutan, about US$450/person
  • Open-jawed airfare from your U.S. city to Shanghai or Beijing and from Kathmandu back to the U.S., about US$1,500/person.

Our tour company may be able to help with the train and flight to Paro. If you can use award travel for the airfare, now would be a good time to use it. The entire trip paid without using award mileage, will be about US$4930/person, including your Chinese and Nepali visa, not including incidentals and tips. If you’re interested in joining us, check out our itinerary and get in touch with us soon, as we need to finalize our arrangements. Continue reading

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