Packing Update: Eric

We were happy to spend some time at home during the holidays in part because it gave us a chance to reevaluate what was in our packs and change some things up.

This post will focus on Eric’s pack. See our previous posts about packing to learn what he brought before. You can also see Della’s packing update here!

On the first half off the trip, Eric didn’t have any major issues with how his packing list worked out. There were a few things he decided that he hadn’t used much, so he took advantage of being home and dropped some items off. The main things he left out this time were a merino wool sweater (which had shrunk in a laundry and hadn’t really been used since Africa), a wide-brimmed hat that had only been used on safari and a belt which he never used.

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Eric’s pack, a Go-Lite 65 Liter pack, has one big section and a small detachable top section.

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In the main section:

  • A cotton sleeping sheet. This was hardly used in Europe, but Eric thinks it may come in more handy in potentially seedier Asian accommodations. The fabric was originally off-white, but after washing with other fabrics is no more of an off-blue.

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  • Two swimsuits and two miniature microfiber towels, stored in a Ziploc bag
  • Two fleece tops (a thinner gray one and thicker brown one), two long underwear tops, one long underwear bottoms and a workout shirt. Stored in a soft-sided packing cube.

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  • A large toiletry kit containing overflow items from the daily one that Della carries. Items include extra floss, extra soap and shampoo, extra razor heads, extra anti-malarial drugs, other extra drugs such as probiotics, and a pair of small scissors.
  • Utility items – rope for a clothesline, an over-the-door hook, duct tape, gorilla tape, wine/bottle opener (bought in Greece), super glue, tape measure (also bought in Greece), extra dirty clothes bags – stored in a Ziploc bag

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  • Extra computer items, stored in one of the bags the travel underwear came in:
    • Flash drives
    • Camera charger
    • Old camera and its charger to be used as backup
    • SD card
    • Cord to connect camera to computer
  • Everyday tops and bottoms, stored in a packing cube:
    • two long-sleeved collared shirts -one Ex-Officio travel shirt as a gift, another a generic polyester shirt from the thrift store
    • three short-sleeve collared shirts – all found at the thirft store
    • one t-shirt – poly-cotton blend, a gift from our friends at The Real Dill
    • one pair zip-off pants from the thrift store
    • two pair of polyester slacks, one khaki and the other gray, both from the thrift store
  • Underwear and socks, stored in a small packing cube:
    • Five pair of travel underwear, all received as gifts
    • Two pair of SmartWool ultralight socks bought on Sierra Trading Post
    • Two pair of SmartWool medium socks received as gifts
    • One pair thick merino wool socks
    • Two pair polyester socks from the dollar store

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  • Pajamas, stored in a random stuff sack that a promotional blanket came in:
    • Poly-cotton blend shirt from kickball league
    • Workout shorts
    • One pair thick merino wool socks
  • Extra books
  • Pair of strap sandals from the thrift store
  • Black flip-flops for the shower

In the top section:

  • Two bandanas
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  • Swiss Army knife
  • Flashlight and headlamp, stored in an underwear bag

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  • Cover for bag, which Della’s family created out of a gate check cover for strollers
  • Extra water bottles

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In his day pack (a Go-Lite pack as well):

  • Raincoat borrowed from Eric’s dad, plus a dollar store poncho
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  • Rice University hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen and bug spray

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  • Primary reading material
  • Primary water bottles
  • Steripen (UV-based water purification tool)

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  • Computer (ASUS Transformer Book T100TA)
  • Computer accessories – power cord, USB connection cord, small mouse, stylus – in a Ziploc bag
  • Cell phone charger plus car charger
  • Zipper bag with a deck of playing cards and a notepad and pen

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  • Headphones
  • Tupperware (usually filled with granola bars)
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In his pockets:

  • Unlocked GSM cellphone with T-Mobile Simple Choice International plan (the included texting and data in most countries is awesome)
  • Wallet
  • Camera (Canon Powershot ELPH 115 IS) in case

Eric’s large backpack weighs only 27 lbs! However, like Della, he also carries a day bag. His day bag is slightly heavier due to its bigger size and the computer. The weight of the day bag depends on how much water he is carrying!

Packing Update: Della

We were happy to spend some time at home during the holidays in part because it gave us a chance to reevaluate what was in our packs and change some things up.

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This post will focus on Della’s pack. See our previous posts about packing to learn what she brought before.

Della’s bag was significantly heavier than Eric’s which always irked her. She realized that she was carrying more clothing than he was. She ultimately decided to drop several of her long sleeved items with the assumption that it would be warmer in Asia on the second part of the trip. She also dropped one of her underwear (turns out it is easy to wash in the sink as you go), but added a pair of socks (expecting sweaty feet with her new waterproof shoes), dropped one of her tank tops thinking that it was unnecessary even though it will be hot (many places in Asia require covered shoulders anyway). She also had to go on a quest for new shoes, which was not fun… But she ultimately decided on a pair of waterproof New Balance.

Della carries an Osprey Ariel 65 L pack with three sections.

Without further ado, this is what is now in Della’s pack!

In the bottom section:

  1. Our first aid kit which includes: a variety of pills for gas, diarrhea, allergy, stuffy noses, and pain. We also have special antibiotics for really bad food poisoning or diarrhea prescribed from a travel clinic before we left. We have Band-Aids, moleskin, and other bandages. We have a thermometer, and various creams and ointments: antifungal, antibacterial, etc. We also carry several pills for relief of the common cold. This all fits in a bag which we found at the thrift store!
  2. Della carries extra batteries and a charger for her camera. In addition, she has an extra memory card and a screen cleaner.
  3. Campsuds and a drain plug for doing laundry in sinks on the road.
  4. Medication for malaria

    Della's portion of Malaria pills - Doxycycline

    Della’s portion of Malaria pills – Doxycycline

  5. Extra spices for any cooking we do on the road. These were mostly purchased while abroad in Africa during the self-drive safari.
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  6. Water sandals
  7. Some extra books for pleasure reading (much fewer than were carried on the first half of the trip!)

    Everything that goes in the bottom of the pack!

    Everything that goes in the bottom of the pack!

In the middle section:

  1. 6 pairs of socks (1 smartwool hiking, 2 lightweight, 3 ankle from the dollar store), 5 pairs of underwear (2 special Ex-Officio travel underwear, 1 cotton, 2 polyester blend), 4 bras (only 3 pictured) (1 normal, 1 sports bra that can double as a swim suit top, 2 stretchy comfortable bras that are relatively quick dry). All stored in a medium Eagle Creek packing cube.
  2. Sarong, towel, turbi-twist – stored in a zipper bag from Target
  3. Swimsuits – one bikini bottom, one athletic top, one swimsuit shorts – stored in a zip lock
  4. Sleeping sheet, extra laundry bags (from dollar store), extra straps/belts – stored in a zip lock
  5. Pajamas – one tank, one shorts, one pair of socks (all lightweight) – stored in a small Eagle Creek packing cube
  6. Cold Weather Gear – one Marmot rain jacket, one Mountain Hardwear jacket, leggings and long sleeve midlayer from target, a lightweight fleece from Sam’s Club. Hat, gloves, heavy socks (in a stuff sack) – stored in a large Eagle Creek packing cube
  7. General Clothing – 2 long pants, 1 zip off (Sierra Trading Post), both quick dry. Two shorts, one longer, one shorter (thrift store). 3 merino wool t-shirts (all from online). 3 tank tops, 2 with built in bras, one cotton, one Ex-Officio, one polyester. One Ex-Officio travel dress. All stored in a large Eagle Creek packing cube.
  8. Zip bag with important documents.
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  9. Plugs: 1 all-purpose plug adaptor, 2 mini power strips (one with 2 USB connections), extra USB charging cable. All stored in a random old zipper bag that was packaging for a set of sheets.
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  10. Toiletry kit for everyday use: Comb, foldable brush, 2 toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss (not pictured), soap bar, shampoo bar, extra conditioner, chapsticks, tweezers, nail clippers, small swiss army knife, nail polish, extra hair tie, deodorant (not pictured) – All stored in a toiletry kit from Sierra Trading Post
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  11. On the outside of the bag – new purple shower shoes/slippers
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    Everything for the middle part of the pack!

    Everything for the middle part of the pack!

In the top section:

  1. Bag covers: 1 for rain, 1 for checking on the airplane
  2. Extra wet wipes
  3. Extra tea
  4. Extra poncho
  5. Sun hat (until it gets into the day bag)
  6. Extra rubber bands and zip lock bags- always useful on the road!
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  7. 1 of the 2 tupperware containers (until it moves to the day bag)
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    Everything that goes in the top

    Everything that goes in the top

In the day bag:

  1. General Use: Poncho, sun hat, extra toilet paper, sunglasses, extra feminine products, headphones, extra water bottle bag, extra rags, tissues, eye cover, pain medicine, wet wipes, 1 of three bandanas.
  2. Electronic bag: Nexus 7 Tablet, Tablet keyboard, USB connector, extra mini hard drives, power plug, carrying bag for tablet, stylus, and travel sim card for phone – Stored in a wet bag from Target
  3. Notebook and pencil – Stored in a bag found at thrift store
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  4. Water bottles – 1 Nalgene, 1 foldable (dollar store)
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  5. Extra zip lock bags

Purse:

  1. Wallet
  2. Camera/mini tripod
  3. Phone
  4. Chapstick
  5. Extra tissues, wet wipes, pain meds, feminine products
  6. Compass
  7. pen

There you have it! Everything that goes in Della’s pack! In all, the large pack weighs 29 lbs… So, not light, but lighter than it was before and much more manageable! She has the day bag in addition which adds a couple of pounds, though this varies depending on the books she is carrying as well as how many full water bottles she has!

How We Got to Bangkok for $264

After taking our break in the US around the holidays, we needed to book a new ticket to get back out on the road. We decided to fly to Bangkok as our next stop. This ticket turned out to be the most complicated one that we’ve booked so far, and the flight experience the most grueling.

Booking the Ticket

We have miles in a variety of places, so we started off by just seeing what the easiest way to get to Bangkok from Denver would be. It became pretty clear early on that flying on Star Alliance would be easier because Thai Airways is a member.

United Airlines is a member of Star Alliance, so our first idea was to book the flight using United miles. However, Eric then realized that he was only 1,000 miles short of what he needed to book his ticket. He could have gotten the miles from someone else, but the fee associated irked him.

We then had a flash of insight and looked into using American Express Membership Rewards points. These are points that we earned from each having one of the American Express Gold cards. The key idea to understand with these points is that they can be transferred to a number of different airlines where they become miles in that airline’s frequent flier program.

However, we had an issue… Eric couldn’t transfer his points. He had downgraded his Gold card to a Blue card before we left for the trip last summer. This allowed him to keep the points, but he didn’t realize that it also meant that they were no longer transferrable. Apparently American Express has a Membership Rewards Express program that uses the same points but just with less benefits – and the Blue cards fall into this category. He was perplexed at what to do.

Della on the other hand had downgraded to the American Express Everyday card, and she was still able to transfer points. So, Eric decided to also apply for the Everyday card and see what happened. Amazingly, after he got the card he was immediately again able to transfer points!

So, with transferrable points in hand, we had to figure out what to do with them. United Airlines is not a Membership Rewards transfer option, so we had to get more creative. We remembered that Air Canada is a Star Alliance member and a transfer partner, so we looked into their Aeroplan program.

The search tool on the Aeroplan site is easy to use, and we were able to find a series of flights on United and Thai Airlines that could be booked with Aeroplan miles (since they are in Star Alliance with Air Canada). So, we transferred the required amount of points to Aeroplan and booked the ticket!

BKKFlight

The main downsides of the ticket were that it left Denver so early, and the tight connection in Beijing. But we figured that would be fine….

Flying to Bangkok

We got up at 3 AM in Denver on January 6, and Della’s parents graciously drove us to the Stapleton Park and Ride to catch the bus to the airport. The first flight to Chicago was uneventful and on time.

Given that we were worried about our Beijing connection, we crossed our fingers that the flight from Chicago to Beijing would run smoothly. It was listed as an on time departure and we boarded on time, but as we kept sitting at the gate we worried that something was wrong. Finally the pilot got on and explained that the loading of cargo had been delayed, but was about to wrap up. But then we still sat at the gate… Then the pilot came back on and said that we were waiting for a new ground crew to push us back. It was so cold in Chicago that they had special rules in place to limit the time people spent outside, and the first crew had exceeded that limit.

We ended up leaving almost an hour and a half later than the scheduled time. It seemed like we might make up a little time, but we spent the whole 13 hour flight worrying about what would happen when we land.

We arrived in Beijing at 4:30, meaning we had just half an hour to catch our flight. People on the plane were not very understanding about helping those of us with tight connections, so we had to fight our way through them to get off the plane. Even though our bodies were pretty stiff from sitting for so long, we ran through the terminal to get to the gate.

We were slowed down a bit by having to do an immigration check for international transfers (not sure why they needed to give our passport a China stamp…) and an additional security check, although luckily in both places fellow travelers let us through when they heard our situation. We made it to the gate with only a few minutes to spare, but plenty of people were still in line to board so we were finally able to relax! We heard that five other people missed the flight, so we were pretty proud of ourselves for making it.

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We made it!

 

Our 4.5 hour flight to Bangkok was thankfully stress-free. After the bare bones service on United, the service on Thai Airways was very impressive (free hard liquor on the drink cart and personal in-seat entertainment consoles).

We were happy to have made it to Bangkok as originally scheduled, but not surprised to hear that our bags did not make the tight connection. The Thai Airways luggage staff made arrangements for our bags to make the first flight from Beijing the next day and then be delivered to us. We headed to our guesthouse, where we crashed after over 24 hours of travel!

How We Returned Home From Istanbul For $352.60

Once we decided to shake up our itinerary and head home for the holidays, we had to figure out how to actually get there. Luckily we hadn’t yet booked any onward flights from Europe, so we switched our focus from finding tickets from Turkey to Asia to finding tickets from Turkey to the U.S.

We had more miles in the American Airlines AAdvantage program, so we were focusing on awards using the Oneworld Alliance. There was nothing direct back to the US, so we started searching what our layover options in Europe would be. The easiest options routed us through London, but these seemed to have higher fees.

We then saw that one place were you could get a direct flight to the US with not too bad fees was from Dublin, Ireland. We were intrigued about the possibility of seeing a little bit of Ireland, so we arranged our flights to have a three-day layover in Dublin.

This meant that we actually booked two different award flights. The first flight used British Airways Avios to get us from Istanbul to Dublin (with a layover in London). These flights cost us a total of $110 in fees.

Enjoying a flavorful beer in the London airport... exciting after a few months of uninspiring brews!

Enjoying a flavorful beer in the London airport… exciting after a few months of uninspiring brews!

Flying British Airways into Dublin

Flying British Airways into Dublin

The second flight was then to get from Dublin to Dallas, with a layover in Philadelphia. We used AAdvantage miles to book this, but it was actually a combination of a US Airways flight from Ireland and then and American Airlines flight from Philadephia. These flights cost us a total of $242.60 in fees.

Enjoying a Yuengling beer and a cheesesteak in the Philly airport. Brought back good memories of the years we lived in Delaware!

Enjoying a Yuengling beer and a cheesesteak in the Philly airport. Brought back good memories of the years we lived in Delaware!

In the end, the fees to fly directly from Istanbul back to Dallas would have been less, but we thought it was worth it to have a chance to spend a few days in a new country!

Packing List: The Rest

This post was pre-scheduled to publish while we are off on our self-drive safari

There are some items that we share in our packing that didn’t really fit onto Eric or Della’s personal list.

Packing Items Shared

1 first aid kit

  1. creams (anti-fungal, antibacterial, anti-itch)

  2. pills (anti-diarrheal, laxative, allergy, motion sickness, ibuprofen, sudafed, gas relief, some general cold relief [to be augmented as needed on the road], higher strength pain killer, vitamins)

  3. prescriptions (malaria pills, two different antibiotics for diarrhea, 1 prescription anti-diarrheal)

  4. band-aids and other bandages, ace bandage

clothes line and hook

clothes washing soap and drain plug

Plugs

  1. international plug set

  2. 2 small power strips

  3. car charger

duct and monkey tape

sunscreen and bug spray

water bottles

Steripen for water purification

books

toiletry kit

extra toiletries

Swiss army knives

Tupperware

two fork/spoon combination

wine opener

4 fold-able water bottles (3 small, 1 big)

Packing List for Him: Eric’s List

This post was pre-scheduled to publish while we are off on our self-drive safari

Tops

5 short sleeve shirts

  • 1 Columbia OmniWick
  • 1 collared sueded microfiber
  • 1 cotton/polypro blend tshirt (The Real Dill logo)
  • 1 workout shirt
  • 1 hi-performance tshirt

3 long sleeve shirts

  • 1 merino wool sweater
  • 1 ExOfficio
  • 1 Dockers polyester

Bottoms

3 pants

  • 1 convertible zipoff to shorts
  • 1 polyester khakis
  • 1 darker polyester dress pants

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Underwear

  • 6 socks (1 smart wool ultralight, 1 smartwool lightweight, 2 lightweight polyester ankle socks, 2 heavier OmniWool)
  • 5 pairs of underwear (all polyester quick dry, 4 ExOfficio travel underwear)

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Swim Wear

  • 2 swim trunks

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Sleep Wear

  • 1 cotton/poly blend
  • 1 lightweight athletic shorts

Shoes

  • 1 pair La Sportiva trail runners (waterproof)
  • 1 pair open-toed sandals
  • 1 pair flip-flops

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Cold Weather

  • 2 fleece layers
  • 1 rain jacket
  • 1 warm hat
  • 1 pair of gloves

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Electronics, etc

  • smartphone unlocked (Tmobile international plan) and cord
  • Asus small laptopand cord
  • Point and Shoot camera
  • Extra batteries and charger

Other

  • 2 travel towels
  • notebooks and pens
  • playing cards
  • small handheld flashlight
  • headlamp
  • sleeping sheet
  • Rice baseball hat
  • Wide-brimmed hat
  • nalgene water bottle

Packing List for Her: Della’s List

This post was pre-scheduled to publish while we are off on our self-drive safari

Tops

3 short sleeve shirts

  • two merino wool
  • one SPF 50 Columbia

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4 tank tops

  • 1 quick dry Columbia
  • 1 quick dry ExOfficio
  • 1 sports tank with built in bra – polyester
  • 1 sports tank with built in bra – cotton

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4 long sleeve shirts

  • 1 black cotton button up sweater
  • 1 Champion Power Core mid layer
  • 1 thin fleece like polyester
  • 1 lightweight pullover

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1 dress – ExOfficio knee length

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Bottoms

2 shorts

  • 1 Columbia hiking shorts
  • 1 lightweight quick dry knee length shorts

4 pants

  • 1 convertible zipoff to shorts
  • 1 power core running/biking tights
  • 1 nylon running pants
  • 1 hiking pant with insect repellent convertible to caprisIMG_9013

Underwear

  • 6 socks (1 smart wool warm, 1 smartwool hiking, 1 smartwool ankle sock, 2 lightweight polyester ankle socks, 1 lightweight underlayer hiking sock)
  • 5 pairs of underwear (all polyester quick dry, 2 ExOfficio travel underwear)
  • 4 bras (1 sports bra [will double as swimsuit top], 1 ExOfficio travel bra, 1 thin underwire, 1 polyester)

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Swim Wear

  • 1 bikini
  • 1 active wear swim shorts and top

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Sleep Wear

  • 1 lightweight shorts
  • 1 GoLite underlayer shirt
  • 1 pair socks

Cold Weather

  • 1 Columbia polyester jacket
  • 1 rain jacket
  • 1 warm hat
  • 1 pair of gloves
  • 1 extra pair of warm socks

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Shoes

  • Mountain Running Shoes
  • Keen Sandals
  • Flip Flops

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Electronics, etc

  • smartphone unlocked (Tmobile international plan) and cord
  • OneSimCard
  • Tablet and cord
  • Point and Shoot camera
  • Extra batteries and recharger

Other

  • sarong
  • travel towel and turbi-twist
  • journal with pen
  • rain cover for pack
  • travel cover for pack
  • small handheld flashlight
  • headlamp
  • sleeping sheet
  • hat with brim
  • nalgene water bottle

Departure Date Update

So, the countdown on the side of this blog is counting down till the day we leave the country. But we feel like we should update it a bit. We now (finally) have our ticket from Denver to NYC. The departure date from Denver is 6/29 – a mere 5 days away. We are equal parts excited and nervous. I’m sure it will seem more real as we actually get on the plane.

We have a few days planned for NYC – and then off to Africa… and adventure!

One Week: To Do

So, we know the blog has been pretty quiet the last few weeks. When you take a look at our to-do list you’ll understand why! We have both been out of work since June 6th. We thought we would have a leisurely time packing up and knocking items off the checklist. Little did we know that we would be working all day every day to get everything done! If you look close at the list, you’ll notice a lot more things are marked DONE, but there are a lot more things on it too… things we didn’t know we had to do until now. ACK! But luckily, we are on schedule for our June 29th departure to NYC.

PLANNING

  • Contact and plan our safari – DONE
  • Make lodging arrangements for Johannesburg – DONE
  • Explore Travel Insurance Options & select/purchase policy – DONE
  • Add pages to both passports  – NOT NEEDED TILL ASIA
  • check visa/passport requirements for all countries – DONE
  • Get passport photos taken for visas (have several printed) – DONE
  • Scan all documents into digital format and save to both emails
  • Gather all CC contact numbers, embassy numbers, etc. – download app? – DONE
  • Get new international drivers licenses – DONE
  • Get family and friends setup with Skype/Viber – HALF DONE
  • set temporary change of address with post office
  • Finalize packing lists
  • Put together med kit – HALF DONE
  • figure out how to unlock Eric’s phone – DONE
  • Figure out what to do with Della’s phone – DONE
  • decide on final packs – DONE
  • decide on final plug options (give dad others to return) – DONE
  • purchase plane ticket to NYC – DONE
  • decide where to stay while in NYC – DONE
  • purchase plane ticket to South Africa – DONE
  • purchase plane ticket to Prague – DONE
  • purchase train ticket Johannesburg to Capetown – DONE
  • Collect travel planning documents (scanned/packed) – HALF DONE
  • Contact insurance company related to cars – DONE
  • fill out power of attorney documents (general and medical)
  • Copies of Safari Info to parents
  • Finalize Safari – DONE
  • Book Air BnB Prague

HOUSE/STUFF

  • Rent our house – DONE
  • write a lease for our house rental – DONE
  • Donate stuff not worth selling – HALF DONE
  • Make arrangements for storage of the amount we plan to keep – DONE
  • Pack up the house
    • Study – DONE
    • Master Bedroom – HALF Done
    • Guest Bedroom 1 – HALF DONE
    • Guest Bedroom 2 – DONE
    • Kitchen – HALF DONE
    • Living Room – HALF Done
    • Basement big room – Mostly Done
    • Basement sound room – DONE
    • bathroom 1 – DONE
    • bathroom 2 – DONE
    • master bathroom – HALF DONE
    • garage
    • utility room – HALF DONE
  • Sell extra clothes on ebay – HALF DONE
  • discontinue utility services – DONE

PETS

  • Texi to vet – DONE
  • Texi to TX – DONE

MEDICAL

  • Make a visit to our travel doc for meds/vaccines – DONE
  • Dentist appointments – DONE
  • Final doctors appointment – DONE
  • Eye exams – new glasses (della) – DONE
  • figure out when insurance ends – DONE July 1
  • Della – get new orthodics – DONE
  • Fill prescriptions – DONE

MONEY$

  • Finish up credit card minimum spends – DONE
  • Cancel unnecessary credit cards – HALF DONE
  • decide which cards to continue gaining miles on – DONE
  • notify all cards of international travel – HALF DONE
  • set up venmo – DONE
  • Get updated credit/debit cards – HALF DONE

TO BUY

  • External Hard drives – DONE
  • wire padlocks (TSA) – DONE
  • space on the cloud for storage (decide what spaces we will use: dropbox, google drive, other??) – DONE
  • rain covers/travel covers for packs – DONE
  • drain plugs – DONE
  • extra camera batteries (della) – DONE
  • buy more camera memory cards – DONE
  • Good walking/hiking/zumba shoes – DONE
  • good sandals – DONE
  • travel clothing – DONE
  • New phone for Della – DONE
  • VPN – DONE

EVERYTHING ELSE

  • Get website up and running – DONE
  • Photo website up and linked into our Blog – DONE
  • Della – figure out how to pack/transition classroom – DONE
  • Buy new washer – DONE
  • Buy new dryer – DONE
  • Install washer/dryer – DONE
  • Have going away party – DONE
  • Eric – learn/practice driving stick shift
  • Eric – transition to shaving with bladed razor – DONE
  • Eric- get LASIK – DONE
  • Della – new driver’s license – DONE?
  • Eric- New driver’s license – DONE?
  • Della – renew license plates – DONE?
  • Modify Netflix Subscription
  • Clean house
  • Clean cars