How the hell does one plan for an epic three-year nomadic journey?
With many cuss words, tears, stresses and giant doses of fear!!
Planning for our USA road trip has been super intense and the last month has caused me to literally lose my marbles. I’ve quit on the US adventure almost daily.
It’s only my childhood dreams to follow in the footsteps of Gidget and the Brady Bunch on the shores of Hawaii that have kept me from reneging.
Despite it being an original travel bucket list entry, I’ve not yet visited Hawaii. The calling is strong, and I think the timing is right. Let’s see what these magical islands are made of!
How we’ve been planning for our USA road trip.
Organising our US visas
The biggest task of all, which everything else was reliant on, was getting our US visas. It took us nearly nine months.
Minimising and decluttering for long-term travel
We did this twice. When we moved out of our apartment in Burleigh in October, thinking we’d be heading to the US soon after, and just now at Craig’s parent’s house where we’ve been staying as we wait for our visas.
It’s amazing how much stuff you accumulate in a short space of time. Plus, we had old boxes stored in the garage to finally sort through and organise.
Quite simply, it sucks – but has a cleansing purpose.
Researching our US road trip
We’ve been researching as much as we can to uncover what we want to do in the US, how to get around the US, and where to stay. There’s so much involved in putting together a three-year trip. We’re basically working on one segment at a time.
We’ve only put together the first part, which is Hawaii. We knew it was a no brainer to visit Hawaii first. We’ve earned a relaxing, dream island holiday (although we’re more the adventurous type then relax by the pool) I think Hawaii is the stuff family travellers dream about for bonding.
We’re still working out what will happen when we get to the mainland. We’re pretty confident we’ll be heading to Raleigh, in North Carolina. It’s our US home base so will be easier for us to get a few things set up once we arrive.
The beauty of long-term travel is you can be flexible.
Though at times it can feel a bit like a dandelion floating in the breeze hoping you won’t land on a cactus.
We trust the right scenario will unfold.
These resources have been of tremendous help
- Lonely Planet guide on USA travel
- Road trips and National Park Lonely Planet Guide
- Friends and family
- You fabulous readers with all your tips on our USA bucket list posts like this one.
- This guest post on our site: Planning a USA road trip
- Other US posts I’m gathering in this Flipboard on USA travel tips and hidden secrets
How we plan to get around the USA
We get asked how we will travel around the US all the time, so here goes. We have no idea!! LOL
Originally we intended to get a motorhome, but after recently experiencing motorhome travel in Australia, we’re having second thoughts. We want a separate car and home. So our best scenario at the moment is a car and a caravan. We’d like an SUV so we can go off-road exploring.
So our best scenario at the moment is a car and towing some type of RV. We’d like an SUV so we can go off-road exploring.
At this stage, we are in no rush to get into an RV. I’d like the stability of a mobile home, but I’m not sure I’m ready to go into that cramped space. We’re still getting over life in the Jayco camper trailer around Australia.
The first few months will involve us settling in and jumping between destinations. We’ll do flights, apartment and hotel stays until we find a more road trip flow and then we’ll decide. We are very very open to the journey unfolding without limitations or restrictions.
We are very open to the journey unfolding without limitations or restrictions.
With the jump traveling, it might even be best to just hire cars when needed to start with. We’ll see.
To prepare, I’m getting myself all learned up about frequent flyer and hotel reward cards and travel hacking, which is really exciting, as travel hacking is not as easy or possible in Australia.
I am also very excited to be able to share those travel hacking strategies with you!
Where are we going to stay?
Who knows? To start with friend’s couches, Airbnb, apartments and hotels.
We usually use Booking.com to find hotels and apartments, and also Trip Advisor. Accommodation is not my greatest concern yet as I know we can easily find something good using these resources and the options in the US are endless.
We will be attending TBEX in Huntsville, Alabama in May. We’ll be speaking about how brands and travel bloggers can collaborate. Let us know if you plan on coming, it would be great to meet some readers.
Homeschooling for the US
Mrs Makepeace’s students have been working hard for the past few months. We’ve been doing as much as we can so we won’t have to do so much while we’re travelling. We’ll still be learning each day, but we’ll be easing off of the bookwork while we go live and learn from life.
I’m stoked Savannah has almost mastered all of her Kindergarten math. This puts us 8 months ahead. Although I will keep progressing to Year 1 work. She’s doing pretty well with her reading as well, although this will be a lot of my focus from now on. I really do not want her to have any reading gaps.
Reading Eggs has been my ultimate time and lifesaver when it comes to teaching Reading and Math. Seriously the bomb.
With Kalyra, I have her excelling with reading, but needs a lot more one-on-one and assistance with the maths, so this will be our focus.
By the way, it’s challenging to teach your child to read. I’ve never experienced it before having taught the older grades. I do not know how our teachers do it with so many kids in the class.
I think it’s testament to our extraordinary ability to learn.
That’s no offense to teachers as they do a magnificent job, but there’s only so much retention that can happen in a crowded room. I see this through the one-on-one I have with Savannah. Some weeks it’s one step forward, five steps back. The retention downhill slide.
How do they cope in the schools?
One day it will just all click. It’s been a fascinating experience for me nevertheless!
We are all excited that it will not be this intense in Hawaii and we’ll be swimming with manta rays instead. That’s school work, right?
Organise how to access money in the USA
Another huge headache is working out the best way to access our money while traveling the USA. I’ve created a spreadsheet with the details for all of our card options, outlining the fees they charge on transactions and withdrawing money.
It’s hard to work out the best scenario, especially since we’ll be using two different money buckets – personal spending and business spending.
The spreadsheet has really helped. Still, there is no perfect scenario, and even though I feel the banks are always going to win, I’m doing everything I can to reduce that margin.
Here’s what I’ve discovered
- ING Direct – ING are by far my favourite bank to use. They don’t charge me any fees on my accounts, including withdrawing money from other bank’s ATM. (They reimburse you any fees you are charged!!) Love it. If they had a business transaction account, I’d move from Commonwealth Bank to them for sure. We have personal accounts with ING and a business saver account. They only charge $2.50 per withdrawal from ATM, which is lower than the other banks, who charge around $5. They also only charge 2.5% transaction fee.
- Commonwealth Bank – we have our business credit cards with them. They charge 3% per transaction. Plus, their currency conversion rates seem to be favour themselves too much.
- AMEX- we have a personal AMEX credit card. They also charge 3% per transaction. They have good membership reward points, but I am very cautious to be racking up fees.
- Qantas Cash – they’ll have lower currency exchange rates, which is common with travel money cards, although how much different to the bank’s credit cards I’m not sure. But, they have no fees on transactions, and it costs $1.95 to withdraw money. And the bonus is, you earn frequent flyer points for every dollar you spend.
- US bank account – we do have a US bank account, which we can transfer money into and avoid any fees. I’m just figuring out how to use this from an accounting perspective!!
I researched how much US dollars I would get for $1,000. Here’s what I found
- Westpac: $715.3
- Qantas Cash: $725.1
- Commbank online: $721
- Commbank over counter: $731 – $8 fee = $723
Qantas came out best, and with the points, you can collect with each purchase you make on the card, this is a no-brainer. If you exchanged a large amount over the counter in the bank you’d get more, but do you really want to walk around with $1000+ in cash?
As we are going for some time, our ideal will be to set up a US business bank account and US credit cards. This will help us save on fees in the long run.
In the short-term, we’ll transfer money onto the Qantas Cash Card and use that, and then only use the credit cards sparingly.
New travel blog site design
Thank goodness for the visa delays.
We wouldn’t have started the US road trip with a fresh and vibrant new website otherwise, which is soooooooooo much better and easier for you to find things.
We’ll have a post soon sharing the special features of it. For now click around and see what you can find. If you do see any issues, please let us know as we’re still searching for and fixing any bugs, which always happens with new sites.
As you can see on the front page, we have a section for our America Unplugged road trip which will be updated with fresh US road trip tips and US destination highlights as we travel across the US, or zigzag it.
Organise Travel Insurance for the US
Thankfully this can be a last minute decision – but don’t leave it too late. Do not travel to the US without travel insurance.
We’re researching our best options for travel insurance in the US.
I’ve only just discovered that our business credit card offers free travel insurance for 6 months in partnership with Allianz insurance. The coverage is pretty good and what we need. We can extend for another six months for $630 which I think is pretty good considering other options are nearly $2000 for a year. I think we’ll go with that option and save us a ton of money.
The next best option would be World Nomads, coming in slightly cheaper than World2Cover, which suprised me.
Getting health in order
I’m definitely not where I wanted to be health wise, but I’ve made improvements. I know how intense the travel experience can be. Combined with homeschooling and work, it doesn’t leave much room for looking after yourself.
I’ve been working hard to get into a routine of morning meditation, morning run and afternoon yoga. I want it to be a habit so I’d find it easier to continue.
Creating habits on the road is far harder than keeping them. Maintaining your fitness is also much easier than getting fit.
We’re generally active travellers, but I do hope to be up early each morning doing my 15-minute run and meditation, and if I don’t squeeze at least 15 minutes of yoga in each day, I just might fall apart.
I have an annual paid membership with Grokker to help me do yoga from wherever I am. I love it. Classes are really enjoyable, and they make it easy to schedule in your routine via their calendar and notification system. Plus, they have different weekly yoga series and challenges that I like to do to set and keep my intentions.
Packing for our US trip
It’s very hard to pack for a three-year road trip for the US – a country with hugely diverse climate, scenery and activities.
I want to pack light, especially for Hawaii, but there is a chance we may go skiing as soon as we hit the mainland, which means we’ll have to pack heavy warm clothes. But, we’ve only got Australian winter clothes that won’t cut it in the snow.
Thankfully, we get 2 x 32kg of luggage each. We won’t be granted that much once we hit LAX and switch to domestic, so we’ll possibly be shipping stuff from there to Raleigh. Much cheaper than doing it from Oz. We don’t plan on using all of that weight allowance anyway. We want to unplug from our stuff as much as we can.
We’re taking our old suitcases with us, and when we get to the States, we’re going to buy these new suitcases.
Sadly they don’t ship to Australia, so we decided to just wait until we arrived in the US.
Last minute things to do before our USA trip
- Change addresses
- Cancel accounts – yay goodbye Telstra!!
- Doctor/dentist check ups – got my pearly whites for our videos now!
- Get new credit cards with longer expiry (don’t want to do that from the US #headache)
- Notify banks so they’re aware transactions overseas are not suspicious activity and block our cards.
- Eyelashes tinted (saving mascara time each day!)
- Catch up with loved ones
Still to do when we get to the US
- Renew our US driver’s licence. We can drive for up to a year with our Aussie ones, but we’d rather just jump straight into getting one. Solidify the dream. Plus it will lower our car insurance premium having a US driver’s licence.
- Buy a car
- Register the girl’s for homeschooling (still figuring out the best scenario here)
- Organize US credit cards, if we can. Fingers crossed. We do have social security numbers and credit scores. We want to do this to take advantage of the frequent flyer miles strategy AND so we don’t have to use our Australian business credit card and be slammed with fees!!
Stuck with making sure you check off all the trip preparation tasks?
We’ve taking the headache away for you by creating a series of free pre-departure checklists for the following:
- 12 months before departure
- 6 months before departure
- 3 months before departure
- 2 months before departure
- 1 month before departure
- 2 weeks before departure
- the day before departure
Pop your name in the form below. Make sure you tell us when your next trip is (or when you think it will be). If you’re not sure, put one year from now so that you’ll receive the first checklist. It might help you get started with your travel planning.
No more fluffing around figuring what to do, researching for hours, hunting down reminder notes scribbled on random bits of paper, and turning up to your travels ill-prepared and ready for disaster.
This is a free service we offer our VIP travel tribe members (which is also free to join). We give extra tips, insights and exclusive deals to our Veeps. If you are already a member of our VIP email travel tribe, make sure you check the email I sent out on Wednesday, there was a special gift in it for you!
The Lifesaving Tools and Resources
It has been my intention since we stopped our Aussie road trip to automate and systemize a vast majority of our business and personal life. There was no way I was travelling full-time again and having to manage an exploding business.
I truly think that is why our departure has been delayed for so long. It was a gift from the Universe because I think I have managed to get 90% of it done.
OH.MY.GOD. Why did I never use Asana before? I did but just not well. Then I did a course on using Asana for bloggers, and it has changed my life.
I can’t believe how organised I am now and how efficient we are with, not just our blogging business, but our US travel preparation and planning. So even if business is not your thing, Asana can help you organize your life.
And the best thing is it’s FREE!!!
I’m going to write a separate post going into detail on how you can use this tool, but here is a screenshot of how we’re using it to plan and prepare our USA road trip.
US trip preparation and US blog content planning
Look at how prepared we are with planning our USA road trip and tasks to be done before we leave and when we arrive as well as content ideas for our videos and blog. I’m excited!!
For each task, we assign either Craig or myself to be responsible and a due date. It pops up in my notification letting me know it’s time to get it done and I do. I never would without it. I would have forgotten and not have been able to find the epic of paper I scribbled that thing down that I had to do.
I will never live without asana again. EVER.
I’m madly in love with Ontraport. This is for the online business people. It has helped me automate so much of our business, including managing our inbox.
I discovered a way to automate our responses when people contact us via the contact form. I just have to now do something about those who find our email address and contact us that way as I can’t automate a personal response to that one yet.
Plus, a whole lot of other behind the scenes stuff that usually consumes loads of my time.
I’ve been working like a machine to get this automated, so I can actually enjoy stand up paddle boarding around Maui.
I want to enjoy this trip. We’ve worked hard for it.
It’s also how I can very cleverly send you the right checklist to help you prepare for travel, as mentioned above. I hope you signed up for it!
Planoly and OneNote
Typing on the phone is my least favourite thing to do. It’s why people should never contact me via Facebook messenger. I struggle to reply. I usually read it when I’m mobile and think I’ll reply later when I get to my computer and then forget.
So I bloody hated Instagram – writing the updates, replying to comments, putting in hashtags, it was so time-consuming and draining.
A life lived well is not one that is consumed by hashtags.
I’ve now created a system using OneNote and Planoly. I plan out my Instagram updates on my computer through the Planoly app and schedule them out. I get a notification when it’s time to publish. I hit post and it goes in my feed. I quickly go into OneNote copy the relevant hashtags I’ve organized into lists, then paste them in the first comment.
It saves me oodles of time and will help us nail the social media without distracting us from the moment. I hate how Instagram is a platform that typically does this.
I can also reply to comments using Planoly, which is so much faster for me. I have a recurring task in Asana to remind me each day to reply and like comments. Boom!
Tailwind app now has a function where you can upload your hashtags to the system. I’m dying to use that, but they only have the app for Apple at the moment. Blow raspberries. Apple is so 2012.
Don’t forget Australia
We may be leaving Australia, but Australia is not leaving us or our community.
We’ve immersed ourselves deeply in Australian travel experiences for the past four years, including an 18-month lap. I’m happy and feel safe, to call ourselves one of the biggest experts in Australian travel. Our site is an epic resource on all things related to Australian travel, with plenty of tips and guides.
So when it’s time for you to explore Australia (you’d be mad not to) go straight to our site. On this page, you’ll find all our best tips.
We plan to continue to add to this resource with the help of some content writers!
That’s the beauty of what we do in yTravel, it’s not always just about us, but you too!
Plus, you can guarantee, we’ll be talking about Australia a lot with the people we meet in the US.
What did we miss? Quick, we’ve only a few hours left before we leave to get it done!!
P.S. We’re not crazy are we?