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I’m currently writing to the tunes of Sugarland. We’ve one week to go before we fly to the USA and I’m getting in the groove.
Sugarland was a favourite of mine driving to work when I taught Elementary School in North Carolina. Country music takes me right back.
I’m not sure if I’m more excited about the White House event or going back to Raleigh. There is just far too much excitement to take in all at once. We feel this trip is going to have far more surprises and answers in store for us then just a trip to the White House.
Although that is pretty darn special on its own.
We know we’re going to miss our kids like crazy – especially because we’ve been together 24/7 for the past 14 months so you think we’d be cheering for the break. It’s going to be so strange to not have them by our side for two weeks. We know they will have a ball with their extended family, so we feel a lot better about leaving them.
Saying goodbye at Sydney airport was hard:
Although it will be nice for Craig and I to have some time together on this incredible adventure and back to a place that holds a lot of memories for us – good and bad.
We left here in 2010 when our life was at its lowest point. Our dreams were completely shattered and our finances destroyed. Now we return much stronger and in complete control of our dreams. It’s bittersweet and I’m feeling a lot of full-circle moments coming up. I think Craig and I need to move through this on our own.
There’s definitely a bouncing spring in our step and a level of excitement we’ve not felt in a long time. We thought we’d share with you how we’re preparing for our White House travel expereince and give you some insight into how we prepare for travel, especially at short notice.
It was quite the challenge to find the best value flights at such short notice right near Christmas. Considering we were flying from Perth in Western Australia all the way to east coast USA, via Sydney to drop the kids off. One epic journey.
But using points + pay with Qantas for the international flight and using points with Virgin on the domestic leg, and by using our favourite search engines for the other domestic flights we saved big time.
We had a fun time applying for our visa. Australians can enter the US for three months without a visa on the Visa Waiver Program, but you still have to apply for it online. It’s super easy and costs $14.
We had to put a contact address and laughed at whether we should write, President Obama, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington D.C! We opted for our friend’s info instead who we’ll be staying with in Raleigh before and after the event in DC.
We will be taking the White House invitation with us; should there be a problem we can whip it out!
Car Rental booked
Once we had our flights booked, we had to organize for car rental, and since we were flying into Raleigh, North Carolina and then driving up and back to DC we needed a car for two weeks.
BIG thanks to our Facebook community for helping us out on finding a good deal on car rental. One of the confusing parts about hiring a car in the US is all the added on taxes and insurances. You think you’ve found a good price online, but then it doubles when the extras are added on.
So our Facebook community stepped in with some great websites to search and many thanks to Kate Voyage who recommended Worldwide Thrifty who include all the taxes and insurances in the initial price, and were also the cheapest – we paid $451 for a two week rental for a compact car.
Other good sites suggested by our Facebook community were:
You can read that Facebook thread here.
We’ve been so lucky to have our accommodation costs reduced to zero on this trip. We timed our flights so we would not have to pay for accommodation in Sydney. Our very good friend, Hitesh has a spare room for us in his home in Raleigh, and the Hilton Garden Inn Washington DC / Georgetown are providing us with accommodation in DC.
We were going to use our Hilton Honors points and then a friend reached out to us on behalf of Hilton, who we have partnered with before.
After spending many nights in our camper trailer around Oz with the girls we wanted something a little nicer for the both of us. A bit of luxury, comfort and privacy.
Travel Insurance covered
Definitely don’t travel to the US without travel insurance! Southern Cross Travel Insurance are providing our coverage for our two-week stay. This is the first time we’ve used them and their sign up process was effortless online. They offer international travel insurance to Aussies and Kiwis traveling abroad.
We want to meet with a few people on our trip to discuss our plans to travel the US (or perhaps move) next year!
There are a few people in DC we’ll enjoy a coffee and a chat with. I’m excited to be going to visit the headquarters of VIF in Chapel Hill.
VIF is the teaching program that brought me over to North Carolina to teach for four years, and considering their program is based around cross-cultural education they’re interested in learning about the summit.
We reached out to various media publications with our story to see if they were interested in sharing our trip.
Publicity Alchemy, which is a course I did on rocking your own PR, was a lifesaver for helping me create the pitch letter. The founder of that course, and my friend, Kellie O’Brien, helped me to tweak it and then sent it to her contacts. It was a great learning process for me and has given me confidence to do this more.
I did get a chance to talk about the White House trip in my radio interview with 2GB Sydney.
List of things we want to do created:
- Catch up with all our friends (See below)
- Walk around Lake Johnson. It was our daily afternoon exercise to unwind after a long day of work.
Tick. We walked it yesterday:
- Have lunch with my friend Mary at Whole Foods Market in Raleigh (plus many wines and Bill Maher episodes with her)
- Have an old well white at the Top of the Hill bar in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
- Hang out at our old local, Sammy’s Bar & Grill with jugs of beer and buffalo wings.
We made it to Sammy’s yesterday. JOY
- Campfire drinks at our mate Hitesh’s with friends where we will be roasting smores and probably laughing a LOT
- Since we do not have to worry about the kids, we have to go bar hopping in downtown Raleigh.
- Shop at Trader Joes
- Go shopping at the Outlets
- And of course explore the sites of Washington DC!
Party preparation started
Of course preparing for some partying is essential. It’s not often we are kid free. Our friends in Raleigh have been put on notice.
A very good Aussie mate is on school break when we get over so we’ve all agreed wings, college football and beer is on the cards, where we always participated in shenanigans (oh the stories) and we’re in town the weekend of Leanne’s Christmas party which was an annual event for a few of us to go to and drink cocktails all night – it’s just going to be so awesome. (And I have an oh wow full circle story about this to share later!)
And of course, there is all our new friends to meet in D.C. Several travel bloggers we’ve spoken to over internet land for four years – we’re now going to be meeting in the flesh. I’m excited. And we’re all going to be in strict business clothes. It will be all so weird.
Clothes and styling preparation
So we’ve gone from the red dusty Top End of Australia, to snorkels and swimsuits and flip flops in Ningaloo Reef Western Australia, to strict business attire at the White House.
You can’t get any more formal or professional. I even had to Google what strict business attire is. Does that mean pants/skirt suit or is a dress okay?
Very stressful times. I’m not stylish and I freak out when I have to wear anything that is not beach gear. The next conundrum is we’re not allowed to take any bags into the White House. I’ve been traveling with the kids too long as this stressed me out totally. I need something for all my things! It’s an all day event from 8:30am – 9pm. How can I not have a bag for that long?
I’ve got amazing friends and connections online who jumped out to help me. My beautiful friend Kim sent me express post a red dress of hers. My old friend Lisa, who I met twenty years ago invited us around for a BBQ at her home in Perth. Not only did we catch up after all these years, she coloured and styled my hair for me in the latest ombre fashion. You say what? I just said, I trust you!
It’s a gorgeous vibrant green colour and I’m so happy to be wearing an Aussie designer to the White House:
She introduced me to her friend, Heidi from Jet Empire who sent me a beautiful pearl necklace and bracelets that go so well with the dress:
My friend Ang, who’s in my B-School mentoring group opened up her cupboard for me to grab a couple of warm winter coats.
And of course we have no other winter gear and neither does Perth so we headed straight to the shops to get some and a business suit for Craig in Raleigh. He never wears suits, and so we went to Macy’s which is a department store with affordable, good quality suits and he picked up a charcoal slim fit suit + belt for $280.
Here he is trying on the jacket:
One thing I did bring with me from Oz is my UGG boots! Booyah. The Aussie bogan is here.
Of course, this was all done last minute and a complete grab and throw in the suitcase. We’ve done this for so long that I don’t really need a list anymore. We just had to make sure we had the dresses, jewellery, passports, and credit cards.
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- This trip has fallen together so well for us and it’s shown me two very important things. We’re definitely on the right path and I just know it’s leading us somewhere awesome. The magic is clearly speaking.
- AND we have the most amazing network of family, friends and blogging contacts who have reached out with such support, excitement, and assistance for us. I’m so very grateful and feel so blessed.