Friday, January 23, 2009

Staying in Touch in a Small Way

This morning, I ordered three netbooks, one for myself and one for each son. The husband is going to order his own through the university. For those who don't follow the world of computing, a netbook is a very small laptop designed primarily for writing and web work while on the road. The sons want to continue with their writing on the trip, and I want to be able to maintain this blog in addition to do some writing. Also, since we're not taking a cell phone, e-mail will be our principal means of communicating with folks back here.

In the case of the netbooks I ordered, "very small" means that the screen is 8.9 inches measured diagonally, the whole unit measures 6.7 x 9.8 x 1.1 inches, and it weighs a mere 2.2 pounds (1 kilo). The cost is comparably small. The ones I ordered cost $379 each. I could have gotten them cheaper, but we decided to go for 160 gb hard drives for photo storage; some netbooks have solid state drives as small as 4 gb. There are actually more brands of netbook than one might imagine, and it took a while for us to decide which one(s) to get. Acer? ASUS? HP? Samsung? Another brand? In the end, we all went for the Acer Aspire One. Younger son chose a black model, while older son went for sapphire blue so as to be able to tell his netbook from his brother's. Keeping that thought in mind but not wanting a white model, I opted for the (drum roll) pink one shown here. Yeah, it's gonna add to the fun of this trip.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

She's Got a Ticket to Ride ...

Well, to fly anyway! But first, Debi commented on the number of details, all those list items. Yeah, there are a lot, and there are even more now, which I will try to note below.

We have purchased tickets and have an itinerary! Interestingly enough, the air travel costs significantly less if purchased as two separate air tickets: here to Europe and back to here, and Europe to Vietnam and back to Europe. Don't ask me why. Even the travel agent couldn't say for sure. There are still plenty of details to be worked out on the ground parts of the trip, but the air parts are now set with non-refundable, non-changeable tickets. [THING TO DO: Book travel insurance.]

We will fly out of Washington-Dulles on Wednesday, March 4, at 6:50 p.m. on British Air. [THINGS TO DO: Fill out all the British Air info online, including making sure younger son can get vegetarian meals. Find a grad student who'd like to score some dough driving us to the airport.] This first plane lands at London-Heathrow on Thursday, March 5, at 6:45 a.m. local time. We then get to navigate through Heathrow for a 10:35 a.m. British Air flight to Frankfurt, Germany, where we land at 1:20 p.m. and reclaim our luggage so as to switch to our second ticket, on Qatar Air. [THING TO DO: Check with Blaine's friend Horst as to whether he and his wife Yoko can come see us at the airport since they won't be in town when we come back through in April.] We leave Frankfurt on Qatar Air at 10:20 p.m. local time, arriving at Qatar-Doha at 6:15 a.m. local time on Friday, March 6. An hour later, we jump on another Qatar Air flight to Ho Chi Minh City, arriving at 6:40 p.m. local time. In other words, we leave here on Wednesday night and arrive in Ho Chi Minh City Friday night, which given the 12-hour time difference corresponds to early Friday morning here. Jet lag? Yeah, maybe, but maybe not given how big a change it is. The one other time I traveled to Asia (to Hong Kong), I had much less of a problem with jet lag than on any trip to Europe.

[THINGS TO DO: Arrange travel from Ho Chi Minh City to Hue, and from Hue to Hanoi on the flip side. Get adult PADI cards for the sons so that we can go scuba diving during the Hue stay. Figure out April 8-13 activities possibly including a junk sail in Halong Bay and visit to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Get back to Ho Chi Minh City by morning of Tuesday, April 14.] On the return side, we leave Ho Chi Minh City at 8:30 p.m. local time on Tuesday, April 14, arriving at Qatar-Doha at 11:59 p.m. local time. Another quick layover, since we'll be back in the air at 1:15 a.m., to arrive in Frankfurt at 6:50 a.m. It will now be Wednesday, April 15. [THING TO DO: Make sure the husband has done the taxes before we leave on this little adventure; otherwise, he'll be looking for a photocopy machine in Frankfurt and wanting to mail them from there after we land.]

MORE THINGS TO DO: Figure out the Europe stay. We'll be landing in Frankfurt, but want to go to the Netherlands first. The train ride along the Rhine is well worth it, so we should figure out if all the separate train trips can be covered under some form of Eurail pass. We'll likely want to rent a car in the Netherlands since Apenheul especially is much easier to reach with a car than by train and bus. When will we head to Norway? Nineteen years ago, we did a night train from Amsterdam to Copenhagen, spent a day there, then did another night train to Oslo. Do we want to take the train from Oslo to Trondheim (when we did this 19 years ago, the route we took had scenery to die for, though when we got to Trondheim the relatives said it was too bad we hadn't taken the later train that went by the more scenic route), or do we want to rent a car and drive? We will likely do the Oslo touring at the end of the trip, since that's where the husband and I will be flying home from on Monday, May 4. We'll need to have another or the same grad student pick us up at Washington-Dulles that evening. The sons will be flying home from Frankfurt three weeks later, on Monday, May 25, but we won't need to arrange their airport transportation since we'll just be meeting them ourselves.

MORE THINGS TO DO ON THE HOME FRONT: Figure out how to get the dog walked several times a week while we're gone. My mom will take care of him, but she isn't able to walk him, and we don't want him to go two months with no exercise. Younger son's girlfriend was going to walk him, but since he broke up with her, well, that might not work out so well. And asking his new girlfriend could also be touchy. We can look into the one local dog-walking service or start canvassing neighborhood kids, most of whom we never really see since our kids are older.

So, it's now very real, and will be even more real when the credit card bill arrives (we charged it on a card that gives us frequent flyer miles on another airline). And I really must start to look for luggage (I so do not want to use a wheeled bag because of the weight of the wheels) and a safety line for the lens cap on my new (to me; I got it off Craigslist) digital SLR; figure out what travel overrides I will need on various prescriptions; get backup glasses for three of us (my eye doc appointment is Monday, and older son's is the following Monday; the husband has just been reminded about making his own appointment); get the husband and sons to the dentist; notify all the credit card companies and the bank that we will be using our cards internationally; make sure that the sons' bank cards will work internationally. Finally, there's finding some time to head south to Florida to see my dad and stepmother before we leave. I know there's more, but all the above seem like quite enough for now.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tickets to Fly and Visas, Too

This morning's e-mail included one forwarded by the dear husband relaying the approval number for our visas to Vietnam. He's checking whether this means we can now head up to Washington, DC, to the Vietnamese embassy, to get our passports stamped. The visas are supposed to be for multiple entries, to allow us to leave Vietnam for Cambodia, to visit Angkor Wat, and then re-enter Vietnam for our flight out. The dear husband was also going to try to make it to the travel agent today to get reservations in place for the going and coming. I've been tackling my own continuing list. I have one more account to set up with online payment and then I think we'll be good to go on paying utility bills from afar. The mortgage is already on a pay-ahead schedule that will mean we won't need to write checks for the two months we're away. The sons have their Eurail passes, though they still need hostel cards and international student ID cards. It's all becoming a bit more real each and every day.