Monday, October 3, 2011

Where Does The Urge To Travel Come From - How Do You Plan The Trips ?

The Wander Lust Urge

I suppose my "wander lust comes from my “Army Brat” childhood. From about the age of six years old until late college age, my father was in the US Army.  I and my family were all Army Dependents, traveling with Dad whenever he was ordered to a new base or Army assignment.  We moved at least every three years – even moving from rental house to rental house during the stays at each assignment.  

It was a gypsy like existence that I loved.  Every three years or so, I would move on to a new place, new schools, new friends.  If a teacher was being difficult or a mean kid was being a bully, picking on me – soon, I would leave them behind. 

I suppose in a lot of ways I became – and still am a “travel snob!”  It was and has been immensely satisfying to have said things like this as a child: “We attended an educational association instead of a school when we lived in Ankara, Turkey”; or “In Rome the only cool place in August is inside St. Peter’s Basilica !”  

..... And, no matter the place or state mentioned – most of the time we had visited or lived there! 

I finished my last two years of high school at my Dad’s Alma Mater in Des Moines, Iowa.

I felt sorry for one of my school friends who had never been outside the city limits!  I cannot imagine having that limited a world.  As soon as I graduated, I was off travelling to return to my family in New Orleans and soon after that my family was reassigned to Orleans, France.

Getting the “Itch” or – “It’s time to travel again!”

I subscribe to many travel newsletters.  I receive from 15 to 30 e-mail airfare and other travel notifications daily. These are about special low air fares, special deals at hotels all over the world and last minute fare reductions on cruise ships.  I always have these tantalizing, tempting bits of information dangling in front of me that start my fantasies of where my next journey will take me. 

I also have what I call my “travel dreams.”  I dream that I have forgotten some vital item when I packed my luggage, or that I am on an airliner with no seats, or I am spending time with friends at an outdoor café under a beautiful leafy arbor at a Mediterranean seaside.  

All of this tells me that it is time to plan and make another trip.

There are many airfare bargains out there.  But, frankly, air travel has become no fun even at its very best. 

I cannot afford First or Business class, so I always travel Economy or Economy Plus (for the 8 hour or longer flights).  This is definitely the modern equivalent of steerage or “packed like anchovies in a can” class of travel.  Now that the added insults of a pat down search and being x-rayed has been added to the air travel check-in procedure – flying should be avoided if possible.

Finally, I have a bucket list of places to see and activities I want to do before I "kick the bucket."  All of the above factor into my travels and planning for my wanderings.

The Evolution Of My Next Journey's Plans

I have long wanted to make a complete trip around the globe*.  My current planning started off with that goal in mind.  I was planning to fly from Honolulu, Hawaii to Hong Kong* for several days to see the sights, then onward to Bangkok*, Thailand for a week or so.  From Bangkok I wanted to fly to India*, take a train to Agra to see the Taj Mahal* and then fly to Istanbul, Turkey, into Europe and then perhaps a repositioning transatlantic cruise and a Panama Canal Transit cruise* to the West Coast of America and then a flight home to Hawaii.  

* Indicates an item from my Bucket List of things to see and places to go before I kick the bucket.

That was a lot of flying and a myriad of hotels here, there and everywhere to make reservations for.  Nevertheless, I started to lay out the timeline or calendar and a budget for this itinerary.

But, there were some definite drawbacks to this preliminary itinerary!  It was both expensive and uncomfortable!

I really enjoy cruising on a ship.  In cruising, you have transport, lodging and meals as part of your cruise fare. You have a comfortable cabin, entertainment provided, amazing food and a great deal of leisure to read, swim and so forth while you are traveling. The only flying involved is that needed to get to the embarkation port and back from the final port of the cruise.  How can I work that goal into the itinerary?

One necessity I have every 6 months is to return to Southern California for medical check-ups to keep my Health Maintenance Coverage intact (Med-I-Care regulations). So, I have to fly back to the Mainland periodically.  How can I use this required trip I had to make sometime no later than October of 2011 as part of my itinerary for my next big journey?

In February and March of 2011 I began to look carefully at transatlantic repositioning cruises in November to get back from Europe to the United States rather than flying back.

Transatlantic repositioning cruises are often great bargains that cost just over $110 per day even with included taxes, tips and single supplement fees that I must pay because I travel alone.

The lack of frequent stops in ports on a transatlantic cruise is not a problem for me. The greatest appeal of being on a ship, to me, is the fact that it is moving along through the sea. It is a great, grand boat ride!

Several Celebrity cruise ships were leaving Barcelona, Spain or Rome, Italy back to Florida starting in mid-November.  Shortly thereafter, I booked a transatlantic repositioning cruise with Celebrity.  This was the first hard booking I made for my big journey.

I kept working and working with air fares and schedules to fit to go to Hong Kong, Bangkok and India and could not come up with reasonable fares or times to make it all work.  I started to drop the idea of making this my trip around the world. 

Oh well!  There is always next year!

In researching cruises I noticed there was a very nice fare sale on a 14 day cruise to the Holy Land that departed Istanbul, Turkey on November 6, 2011 on Celebrity Constellation.  This was very tempting and I could tie it into the transatlantic cruise.  Several days later, one of my newsletters reported that Turkish Airlines was posting a round trip fare from Los Angeles to Istanbul – round trip for $525 plus taxes!  

Bingo!  This is an extremely low fare!   I booked a flight from Los Angeles to Instanbul for November 3, 2011.  On this particular flight, I may abandon the included return flight back to LAX - Unless I can put the return segment on hold for a year to use on my next big journey.

I booked the Holy Land Cruise that became the same ship's transatlantic repositioning on the next segment of its voyage! I would disembark and re-embark in Barcelona, Spain on the Constellation on the same day, November 17th to get to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on December 3rd, 2011.

It’s Getting Very Complicated!

The itinerary was starting to get complicated, so I started an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the segments of my itinerary starting with flying from Honolulu to Las Vegas with my friends that started the first 4 days of my big journey. I also used it to track flight numbers, lodgings while visiting with family and friends and hotels in Las Vegas and the Riverside area.  I also needed to keep track of the times and dates of doctor visits, car rentals and my costs.

Page One of My Planning Spreadsheet

Page Two of My Planning SpreadsheetAdd caption

I noticed that Carnival Cruises had a Panama Canal Transit Cruise leaving from Tampa, Florida the afternoon of the day that the transatlantic cruise arrived, December 3, 2011.  Would it be possible to drive or fly across Florida in time to catch the Panama Canal Cruise?  Taking that additional cruise from Florida and arriving in Long Beach California would save me the air fare from Florida to California – which would be about half the cost of the cruise fare and be one of my item to check off my Bucket List!  I went ahead and booked that cruise as well!

You may notice on the spreadsheets that I always purchase a "soda card" for the cruise.  I don't like coffee - I get my caffeine by drinking lots of cola drinks every day.  The bars on cruise ships charge at least $2 for each soda I drink, so with the amount of daily soda I drink (at least 6 to 8 diet sodas per day) it makes the soda card a must for me.

I now had three back to back cruises lined up – Starting in Istanbul, Turkey, with stops in Turkey, Greece, 2 stops in Israel, Malta and Spain then onward to another two stops in Spain, then to Island of Madera and the Canary Islands arriving at Florida then immediately departing Florida for Grand Cayman Islands, Cartagena Columbia, a transit of the Panama Canal, Puntarenas, Costa Rica, 2 stops in Mexico finally arriving in Southern California – all without flying!

I asked a friend from Texas whose wife recently passed away if he might like to join me on the Panama Canal Cruise.  He decided to join the cruise and share the cabin.  By having someone to share the fare the cabin with, it effectively cut the cost in half for both of us – keeping the cost near the $110 per each day limit that I like to stay within when I take a cruise.

That leaves me with a few hotel reservations yet to make. I will stay at the same hotel I stayed at on my last trip to Turkey back in 2009, the Hotel Ilkay.  The Ilkay is not fancy but the breakfast is included and edible (no bacon or pork served!) and they have a free internet computer and internet connection to use at a cost of about 51 Euros per day (about $70 per day).

My daughter in law’s father, Walt,  has an guest bedroom with a private entrance at his home that I will use when in the Riverside area. I will stay with my brother at his home in Pahrump, Nevada to save on hotel costs.

I will be leaving Hawaii the second week in October, but not starting the cruising until early November.  I will be taking many photos in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Haifa, Acre, Athens, Malta, Barcelona and other stops as I go. 

It may take awhile to get my all of the decent photos posted in late December and January, but I promise that I shall do so.

Counting my pills and the spreadsheet I list them on  (Seasick pills I use daily for vertigo shown above.)

I am including a photo the spreadsheet I use to keep track of my medications and how I count out my medications so that I will have sufficient pills to see me through the entire journey.

I will report as I can – as my “Almost a Last Hurrah” journey unfolds. 

Next – Traveler Al’s Packing Method and Travel Tips.


  1. Very interesting, SK. Lots of 'behind the scenes' information on what it took to put together your upcoming trip. Keep them coming!

  2. Wow that is a long trip. Good to know you enjoy being a gypsy. I would miss home to be gone that long, but it would be a great trip broke up into three separate trips. Have fun Uncle Al.

  3. Skeet, hope you are having fun on your cruises! Happy Holidays. Aunt Margie and Jim