06.27.2016 - 07.13.2016
Wow! What an amazing trip! Everything aligned just right so that we were able to make the most of this opportunity as a family. I don't know that we will have the same opportunity for such an adventure in the future simply due to school schedules, future college plans, vacation bids, etc. so we were very blessed to have been able to see so many wonderful sites and enjoy this adventure as a family.
- We travelled 22,379 miles by airplane which worked out to about 45 hours inside of airplanes (not counting time in the airport).
- We drove over 600 miles in our rental car, followed by approximately 200 miles by train and unknown miles by foot.
Tips or takeaways:
Our style of travel is not for everyone and we fully recognize that. We don't make a lot of plans outside of accommodations and even then those plans might be made on the fly, i.e. Toyko. However that allows us to see what we want to see on a timetable more to our liking compared to doing an organized tour type of deal. Each way has its own pros and cons so travel in the style that you like!
Regardless of how you travel I would suggest the following:
Be flexible in your travel plans. Something always pops up that might conflict with previous plans. When that happens just roll with it and do something else. Have a plan A, B, C and sometimes D.
Be patient. We saw quite a few folks become really upset at the airport due to late flights, overbooked flights, etc., which is understandable. But...It does not help to get upset with the gate agents or other airline employees, they are doing their job to the best of their ability with the resources they have at hand. Be patient and be kind to others, you will get to where you need to be although it may not be exactly as you had originally planned. In which case remember the part about being flexible.
Everything will cost more than you planned! We knew this going into it and just accepted it when prices were higher than we had estimated. Food, scuba, car rentals, etc. It's vacation so enjoy your time! You don't want to get worked up over something that you can't control.
Car rentals. If you are driving on the opposite side of the road or the steering wheel is on the opposite side of the car take out the extra insurance. In Australia ANY damage will be billed to you and you can work it out later with your credit card company or insurance company. Most of the time you will be billed 5,500 or the actual cost of repair which is a lot to have to work out. With the extra rental insurance you are covered. And it does give help with peace of mind.
If you are in Japan get cash (Yen) as soon as possible. Credit card acceptance is pretty sporadic especially at restaurants. If you are only in Tokyo for a few days pay as you go on the trains. If you are going to be in Japan for longer than a week you will probably save money by purchasing one of the multi-day passes. There are local trains and express trains. Local trains stop at every stop = long trip. Express trains stop at every 4th or 5th stop which makes for much faster travel.
Use a neck pillow for long flights. Trust me it helps.
Buy a burner phone / international sim card or whatever it is that will allow you to have cellular service. It would have been worth it for us. There are also pocket wifi which is helpful but do not provide cellular phone service.
In Australia, if you are able, fly Qantas. Great airline!
Jet lag! Heading west jet lag was not that big of a deal. It was there, just not something that made a huge difference. Returning eastbound was another matter. Australia and Japan have a 15 hour time difference from CST (just forget about the dateline thing it will mess up your head). Making up 15 hours on an eastbound leg was really really tough. In hindsight we are all very glad we opted to skip Hawaii since we would have been wiped out while we were there. It has taken a full week to get back to almost normal from the jet lag. Imagine being fine one minute and then taking a 3 hour nap the next minute. Only you didn't think you were tired until you woke up from your nap. Said nap occurring at 10am.
VRBO, Air BnB and other sites that help with accommodations are great to use. However, when using the "book it now" feature be aware that it is not really booking it now. It may take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours before you find out if you secured the apartment/condo. You have to read the fine print to see if there is another 3rd party vendor acting as a go between which often times is the issue. If it is a hotel then the book it now feature is pretty instantaneous.
The size of a drink cup in the US is vastly different from those in Australia and Japan. A large drink cup in Australia/Japan would be the equivalent of a medium or even a small in the US. Knowing that helps to avoid the, "but I ordered a large drink....".
Unlike the US, tipping at restaurants is not expected in Australia or Japan. It actually caused confusion in Australia when I left a tip with my bill. The waiter thought I didn't know how to count even though I tried to explain that I was leaving a tip.
Use noise cancelling headphone or soft ear plugs on the airplane. It helps to reduce the noise and makes the flight more comfortable.
Enjoy every minute with your family, time goes by too quickly!