As I begin this blog we have reached the countdown and today signifies we have just 117 days to ‘lift-off’ from King Shaka Airport to Lisbon, Portugal. 117 days may seem like plenty of time but, according to my Planning Page, there is still so much to be done.

As I wrote in my previous blog there are 8 visas that we need to obtain. We have 3 of 8 already viz. Australia, New Zealand (NZ) and the USA. The one for Canada is in process with my excellent agent. Interestingly, neither Australia nor NZ places a physical visa in your passport anymore. It is an electronic visa which has been connected to the barcode of the passport. A copy of the visa is sent to the applicant via e-mail which I have chosen to print out and keep with our passports.

This has actually turned out to be a great help in that each country wants from 1-3 blank pages in a passport to issue a visa. We had already prepared applications for the USA & Canada on his passport number we realised that Trevor’s passport had just enough pages for those 2 countries. He has since applied for another one (took only 4 hours in the queue as he is over 70) which we shall use for the other 4 visas, Schengen, UK, Greenland and New Caledonia. So glad we started the process early.

Note to Senior Citizens in South Africa, when you have to go to a government department to make application for anything, do check as most often you may go to the front of the queue. This is not always the case but if you don’t ask or check you definitely won’t get preferential treatment.

What is really fun is to Google places we shall be visiting and looking to see what there is to see and explore. From this we can work out what to visit in the amount of time we will have in that particular place. For example, when on a cruise, each stop is usually 8 hours as shown on the itinerary but this is frequently reduced to 6 hours allowing time for disembarking and going through immigration and doing it the other way around when re-boarding.

Excursions are offered by the ship’s agents and we have already booked a cruise up a fjord in Stavangar, Norway. Looking at the possibilities for activities in a particular place before going to the ship’s list of excursions I have found to be very helpful as there is usually more information in the Google listing. Once I have one or two sites which seem to have interesting places to see or things to do, I add the URL to my Favourites Bar. I have quite a few now and Trevor and I shall now sit down and make some decisions, especially for those linked to the cruises as, if booked in advance, one can save 10% on the full price.

Through all of this and this being a long and varied trip, I have my 3 planning spreadsheets.

  1. The first is very detailed with each date, accommodation, form of transport, costs in both the local and SA currency, any reference numbers there may be or any other relevant information.
  2. The 2nd spreadsheet is much simpler – it is a list of everything which needs to be done such as purchasing air tickets, booking accommodation, obtaining visas as well as things which need to be done to ensure that our regular home accounts are paid, newspapers cancelled, international drivers’ licences to be obtained and even a reminder to prepare a First Aid pack.
  3. The 3rd one is 2 calendar preparation sheets. One is for the months prior to our travel and reminders are written on this as they come to mind or are requested. The other is a full layout of the 97 days that we will be away, where we will be and the main activity for that day.

Yes, any trip needs careful planning but with this one being so long there is significantly more to plan and organise but I am trying to make it fun.