I've had a lot of questions the past few weeks about why there haven't been any entries since we were in Virginia Wine Country, and the truth is, there hasn't been a whole lot to write about. We've been spending the past month in Charlotte, North Carolina living with my mother, preparing for our trip, which is officially starting on April 25th when we fly from Boston to Reykjavik, but truthfully, our travels will begin in earnest next Saturday morning when I fly to Chicago for three nights to visit two of my buddies from college, then on to Denver to spend a few days with Renee's family, and on to Boston for two nights because we are new at this traveling thing and didn't realize when our flight was to Reykjavik. Whoops!
How have we been preparing, you ask?
Well. We've been doing a whole lot of nothing, except for having some quality family time, since we probably won't see our family for about a year, and Mama misses me already. As you can tell by the picture up top, we rented an AirBnB in Emerald Isle, NC, where we ate our weight in shrimp (Swansboro Yacht Club and Yana's were absolutely fantastic places for dinner/drinks and brunch, respectively) and enjoyed each other's company with no agenda, as starting this weekend we'll be nonstop traveling with 15 kilos of backpacks on our back. As far as the rest of the month? Not much. A lot of gardening, seeing movies, and helping Mom around the house, as we mentally, physically, and financially prepared for being outside of our element for the next calendar year.
OH SHIT WAIT WE DID GO TO A DRIVE THROUGH ZOO!
Yes, it was as awesome as you think it was.
When the highlights of the past month are two days of fifty degree weather (don't think that didn't stop us from having Dairy Queen twice) at the beach and a cow sticking it's face in Renee's car window, it's not exactly "blog-worthy". So I've been biding my time, and trying to think of some things to write about while we're still stateside.
With those thoughts in mind, let's look at the first step that each and every one of the thousands of travel blogs out there recommend you do when you're preparing for a long trip, and now we do too:
Apply For A Shitload Of Credit Cards
Both Renee and I already had a Delta SkyMiles Amex, which had netted us about 80,000 miles each, and over the past four months, we've applied for and received the following cards/signup bonuses:
- Starwood Preferred Guest Amex - 35,000 Starwood Points
- American Express Premieir Rewards - 50,000 Membership Rewards Points
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card x 2 (One For Each Of Us!) - 130,000 Ultimate Rewards Points (50k each for the cards, 5k each for adding each other as an authorized user, and 10k each for a referral bonus; very exciting, I'm sure you came here to read about how POINTS RICH we are)
Basically, whenever we had large expenses coming up (**moving/car rental/home renovations**), we would apply for a new card so that we could hit the minimum spend for a bonus. When we needed to book our overland trip through Africa for about $2500, instead of writing a check or using a credit card we already had, we applied for a new Chase Sapphire Preferred card for Renee and took the points and ran.
Long story short, we did a bunch of reading online, used apps like this one and dove in head first to the credit card game. Renee was not too happy about this, but once I explained to her that we could book nights at hotels like the ION in Reykjavik for NOTHING, she was a little less hesitant.
So now, we have all kinds of points we can use for when we are sick of sleeping in our rental car (stay tuned for the Iceland post for that one!), or when we want to pamper ourselves, or two beds at a shitty hostel in Paris cost over $100 a night and we can use points to stay at an AirBnB, or when we have to fly 17 hours from Johannesburg to Sarasota, maybe we'll do it in business class instead of in steerage. Or maybe, just maybe, we'll screw it up and be out of points by the time we hit Belgium. Oh well, it sure was fun spending that money with a purpose.
In addition to doing this, we also opened a checking account with Charles Schwab, as they have no foreign ATM fees, and those can add up SUPER QUICKLY when you're traveling outside the states for an extended period of time. Surprisingly enough, Schwab is THE ONLY bank that offers this service, and it's going to feel good pulling 20,000 Kwacha from an ATM in Lillongwe, Malawi and not get dinged for $4.50. If you're reading this in preparation for an actual trip around the world, make sure you start the Schwab process early, as I applied for a checking account February 20th, and just received my ATM card in the mail yesterday. It's hooked electronically to my Chase account, where the majority of our money is, and we will move the money over as necessary. I didn't want a situation where my ATM card gets stolen, and they have access to the entirety of our savings, it's the banking equivalent of keeping a small amount of money in a fake wallet, while the actual cash I have is in a secret pocket in my jeans.
OH DID I NOT TELL YOU RENEE ALSO SEWED SECRET POCKETS INTO ALL OF MY PANTS??? This trip is going to be awesome. Tune in tomorrow when I fill you in on the other super fun thing about preparing for a trip around the world: BUYING A SHITLOAD OF STUFF FROM AMAZON PRIME.