7 Week Countdown

It is now 7 weeks until our first flight.

It is important at this stage to have confirmed the major items, like flights, accommodation (at least when you are staying for several nights, or in high demand areas) and car rental or other transport.

You should also think about practical things and plan to purchase any items that you may need. For example, I have never seen snow or really had a big coat (I’m Australian), so I have ordered a new coat and some good hiking boots. Pre-planning has allowed me to buy at discounted rates on the web.

I am also ensuring that I have pre-paid as much as possible. This will help to overcome any volatility with the dollar and ensure that we are not struggling too much for cash while we are there.

Avoiding extra baggage charges

I live in Australia and while it is an awesome country, the USA has great deals available online that only ship to American addresses. Freight forwarding services provide a great option and have the added benefit of receiving and holding shipments while you are travelling.

The service I use is called MyUs.com. For a low annual fee they will provide you an address in the USA and hold parcels until you are ready to have them shipped to your home address.

This is a great service for travellers as you do not need to ensure someone is home to collect deliveries and if you are overseas allows you to collate packages and save on postage.

I used Visaprint and created some very cheap address labels to make it easier to post packages while travelling and can have items sent home after the trip.

Detailed Route

This is the detail of where we will be and when …

Start Date State Location
1 19/03/2013 Hawaii Honolulu
2 21/03/2013 Alaska Anchorage
3 24/03/2013 Maine Portland
4 26/03/2013 New Hampshire Manchester
5 26/03/2013 Vermont Brattleboro
6 26/03/2013 Massachussetts Boston
7 29/03/2013 Rhode Island Providence
8 29/03/2013 Connecticut Hartford
9 29/03/2013 New York New York
10 2/04/2013 Pennsylvania Philadelphia
11 4/04/2013 New Jersey Atlantic City
12 4/04/2013 Delaware Wilmington
13 4/04/2013 Baltimore Maryland
14 6/04/2013 North Virginia Harpers Ferry
6/04/2013 DC Washington
15 11/04/2013 Virginia Williamsburg
16 13/04/2013 North Carolina Cherokee
17 14/04/2013 South Carolina Clemson
18 14/04/2013 Georgia Atlanta
19 15/04/2013 Florida Orlando
20 22/04/2013 Alabama Mobile
21 22/04/2013 Mississippi Gulfport
22 22/04/2013 Louisiana New Orleans
23 25/04/2013 Texas Fort Worth
24 29/04/2013 Oklahoma Sulphur / Tahlequah
25 30/04/2013 Arkansas Murfreesboro
26 30/04/2013 Tennessee Memphis
27 2/05/2013 Kentucky Mammoth Cave / Petersburg
28 2/05/2013 Ohio Cincinnati
29 3/05/2013 Indiana Indianapolis
30 4/05/2013 Michigan Kalamazoo
31 4/05/2013 Illinois Chicago
32 9/05/2013 Wisconsin Milwaukee
33 9/05/2013 Minnesota Minneapolis
34 10/05/2013 North Dakota Fargo
35 11/05/2013 South Dakota Sioux Falls
36 11/05/2013 Iowa Sioux City
37 12/05/2013 Nebraska Omaha
38 13/05/2013 Missouri Kansas City
39 14/05/2013 Kansas Wichita
40 14/05/2013 Colorado Colorado Springs
41 15/05/2013 New Mexico Albuquerque
42 16/05/2013 Arizona Winslow / Grand Canyon
43 21/05/2013 Utah Moab
44 22/05/2013 Wyoming Jackson / Yellowstone
45 24/05/2013 Montana Little Big Horn
46 25/05/2013 Idaho Kingston
47 26/05/2013 Washington Seattle
48 28/05/2013 Oregon Portland / Ashland
49 30/05/2013 Nevada Las Vegas
50 2/06/2013 California Anaheim / Los Angeles

Priceline

Priceline is a travel website which offers great deals on hotels, cars, flights etc.  The big difference with priceline is that it allows you to “bid” on hotels and rental cars.  You can offer to pay $30 per night in particular areas for a specified star level property.  You can then see whether any of the hotels take you up on it. You will not know the name of the hotel until your bid is accepted.

There are also lists of hotels at discounted rates which provide full details of the hotel and allow you to reserve the hotel.

Priceline has just introduced”express deals” which give you an idea about the services a hotel may offer at a set price, but doe snot specify the name of the hotel.  These deals are often excellent and a great alternative to bidding.

Benefits
You can save a heap on hotels
You can get hotels at a higher star level than you can otherwise afford
It is fun to see what hotel you end up with

Risks
If your bid is successful your account will be charged immediately
You may not like the hotel you get
You cannot cancel once you have bid

Groupon

Lots of people have lots to say about Groupon, which is a daily deals website.  I have purchased quite a lot in Australia from Groupon and now, a number of things in America.

Benefits
Groupon can be a great way to save money on entertainment or food in the places you visit.
You can sign up for daily emails which have deals from a range of locations.
Great way to find out about hidden treasures in the places you visit. 

Risks
Ensure that you read the conditions very carefully.  Often the time you can use the coupon is very limited and may not meet your travel requirements.

Planning Template

I’m a project manager and there are three major components to delivering a good project.  Scope – what you do.  Schedule – when you do it.  And budget – how much it costs.  I have developed planning template which assists in managing all of these components.

It is important to record as much detail as possible and having a spreadsheet like the one attached will assist you to keep track of your time, costs and what you are doing.

I have attached a link to the excel file at the bottom of the post, however I will also provide a summary of the columns here, in case you want to design it yourself.

Category – categories of costs to assist you in sorting out the costs at a later time.
Start Date – when will you start your stay in a location?
End date – when will you finish the stay? Can be calculated from the total number of nights in the accommodation row for that location.
Starting & ending location – to indicate where you are travelling from and to.
Kms or Miles – How far will the drive be?  Can also be used to estimate costs of petrol.  You can estimate how much the petrol will cost per km or mile for your particular car.
Time – how long will the drive or activity take?  Good to estimate how much time you need in each location.
Full Description – a full description of the activity.
Cost per item – how much does each item cost?  (May be night rate for accommodation or ticket price for entertainment)
# of items –  How many items do you need? (May be nights of accommodation or ticket).  Used as a multiplier for cost per item.
Total cost – How much is the total cost of the item.  Calculated on previous two items.
Paid – Include how much you have already paid.  (Could be full amounts or deposits)
Purchase details – Details of the reservation number, coupon, etc.

130127 Budget Planning Template