Preparing for a Long Trip

Tom and I are now away on our long trip.  I write the blog a week ahead of when I publish it, so we are in Florida, only a couple of days away from getting on the ship.  We used the month of March to get ready, so I thought I would let you know some of what we had to do in preparing for a long trip.

In some ways we have been preparing for this long trip for six years.  We had planned to go on a very similar trip in 2020.  We booked it in 2019 and spent the next year paying it off.  Then, when Covid happened and the trip got canceled, we used the refunded money to buy our house.  Finally, last year, we felt the time was right to try the trip again.  We booked the trip in January of 2023 and have spent the last year paying it off.  Again.

We got our passports in 2019 in preparation for the first trip so we didn’t have to worry about renewing them. But there were plenty of other things to do during March, when the real preparation took place.

Our long trip has six parts.  1.  Getting to the ship in Fort Lauderdale.  2.  First cruise.  3.  Second Cruise.  4.  Land tour of Great Britain.  5.  Third cruise.  6.  Getting home from the ship which lands at Boston.  We will be cruising with Holland America.  One of the things that we really like about cruising is not worrying about logistics.  How we get from place to place and where we sleep is already decided.  Considering that we are going to be gone about 120 days, there aren’t a lot of blanks that we have to fill in.

Part of the preparation for the long trip was booking shore excursions.  Tom and I like to take the shore excursions offered by the ship.  They might be a little more expensive, but we feel we see more, get better guides, and are assured of making it back to the ship on time.  We had a good time reading all the shore excursion offerings and then deciding which to take.  Out of 68 ports of call, we currently has 23 shore excursions booked.  We can cancel them up to 48 hours before the excursion, so we might not take that many.

In the places we don’t have shore excursions, we will be exploring on our own.  These are mostly the larger cities where we wanted to visit specific museums or see certain sights.  I have worn out my Rick Steves’ Scandinavian and Northern Europe Cruise Ports book.  But I want to be able to hit the ground running when we get on shore.  So much to see!  I want to take time to enjoy the cities and consequently want to be precise about where we are headed.

We have about a week in between the land tour and the last cruise so part of our preparation was making reservations in London and booking train tickets from Newcastle upon Tyne to London and from London to Amsterdam.  Getting a hotel in London felt overwhelming – it felt like there were thousands of choices with a huge range of prices.

Getting to Fort Lauderdale and back home from Boston required more reservations.  We didn’t want to leave our car in Fort Lauderdale, so we are renting a car to get us from Columbus to Fort Lauderdale.  We have another car rental reservation from Boston back to Ohio.  Enterprise Rental Cal was our rental agency of choice.  They have locations close to the cruise ports and don’t charge exorbitant fees for leaving a car in a different location than where you picked it up.

In addition to all the reservations, we needed to be ready to pack.  Tom needed a suitcase.  We needed a few clothing replacements.  The most challenging thing was getting our prescription medications.  Both of us get our medications in 90 day supplies.  Getting enough for our 120 day trip, and getting them early required several telephone calls to our insurance and to the pharmacy.  My insurance was more flexible than Tom’s, and we finally just paid for his.  The pharmacist helped us out by giving us a coupon which reduced the price of Tom’s medication.  We also had to get enough allergy medication.  After spending $400 at the drug store, we reminded ourselves that we won’t be buying any more medication for the next four months.

We got another credit card.  Discover is our card of choice in the US, but is not accepted most places in Europe.  We did a little research and got an international card that doesn’t have any fees for international transactions.  In addition to the credit card, we also got some money from our bank.  We are going to be in 22 different countries with 10 different kinds of currency.  Our bank charged a minimal fee for us to order some Euros and British pounds.  Although we plan to use the credit card for most purchases, it will be handy to have some currency for tips and market square shops.

At this point I am feeling confident that we have thought about all the things we need to do.  And, if there is something I forgot – well, they probably sell it in Europe.

Tom and I are very excited about our trip and all the new places we will see.  My plan is to write blog posts throughout our long trip, whenever Wi-Fi and hot spot cell signal allow.  Although we will not be making many phone calls, we will be able to get texts and emails, so be sure to stay in touch.