Itinerary Planning Update

We’ve spent the last 24 hours updating our itinerary page for our two upcoming visits to the USA!! Much excitement has ensued – even Kate has thrown off the travel Malais now that she can see the end of Asia!!  We fly into Los Angeles from Vietnam on 14 April!!

Please visit the page and see how we’ve split the two visits up and tried to list the states in order that we will visit.  We’ve put beside each state a rough number of days that we will spend there.  This includes travelling time (though we don’t know Continue reading

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The trials and tribulations of gaining a U.S. Tourist Visa!

It’s been a hectic couple of days with a few major changes happening to our life changing year plans.  I say TO instead of with or in, since it feels just like that.

First, my work have not approved my 12 months leave without pay.  Not an unexpected result and I’ve known for a few days so I’m now over my initial internal panic.  The butterflies have now settled!!  It’s not like I was asking for permission or anything which means nothing has really changed, it was just a little nugget of security knowing I could go back to work and have a pay cheque in a couple of weeks once we returned to Australia.  Anyway, no biggie!!  We shall move on!!

More importantly, I’ve had a nasty little surprise from the U.S. consulate.  To obtain a longer than 90 day tourist visa we have to go through the following:

Apply online and you must have passports for all to do this (we don’t have the kids passports yet).  Once you have your passports and apply online there is about 4 weeks to wait for your appointment.  Get this – the appointment is in Sydney, and only Sydney.  And all 5 of us have to attend!!  So that’s 5 return airfares to Sydney plus probably a night’s accommodation and transport and feeding us all and whatever wages Gert will lose since we won’t get to choose when the appointment is.  PLUS….we need to have fingerprint police checks done.  At a cost of $145 each.  (Bargain huh?).  THEN we have to pay $700 for the actual Visas if they are approved and the approval process can take up to 60 days as long as there are no dramas.  So we are talking 4 months to get visas and then they are only 6 month visas and THEN there’s no guarantee that the customs man/woman at the gate in the U.S. will give us 6 months entry.  And 1/2 way through our year we would need to reapply for another 6 month visa (and have to leave the U.S. to do so).

Total Cost?  Somewhere heading towards $4000 and a 4 month wait!  Anyone ever heard the term “BITE ME!?!?!”

We just want to come for a little holiday.  Spend a year travelling around, spend our 100K and go home poor!  Is that too much to ask?  Surely the U.S. economy would benefit from this money – AND we’re going to spread it around to all the little towns too. C’mon what’s a pesky little Visa between friends?!?!?!?!

So then I hit upon the bloody awesome plan that we would split our life changing year up!!!  90 days in the U.S. then a trip to Canada for a week, then 90 days back in the U.S. then a nice 4 day cruise to Bermuda, then 90 days back in the U.S. then a week at a Mexican resort (yes, I was about to have my way and get to go to Mexico!), then back to the U.S. for whatever was left of our year.  I know.  I’m a genius!

EXCEPT for the fact that Canada, Mexico and all surrounding Islands have apparently become part of the U.S. while none of us was looking!!!  Goddamnit!!!!  Any time spent in these countries counts as part of your 90 days.  I’m pretty sure Obama planned this after my last post!!  I knew moving Las Vegas to Washington was asking too much!!!

So.  I’m. On. Plan. D.

I have tweeted to my fellow travellers to find out the number of times we can enter the U.S. on the 90 day waiver visa (easily obtained online in about 4 minutes!).  Once I get some info back I will decide how it’s all going to work.  I’m expecting to hear only 2 entries each year = 180 days total.  (How do we all like the sound of 50 states in 26 weeks?)

If that’s the case I will investigate 90 days in the U.S. followed by 90 days in Europe, followed by 90 days in the U.S. with 30 days in Asia thrown in and 60 days somewhere else!!  I am nothing if not resourceful and I’m thinking time spent in (very cheap) Asia will make time in the U.S. even more fun.

If anyone has any other ideas, please feel free to leave me a comment so I can include it in my planning for our life changing year!

Image: Grant Cochrane /

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Dear Mr Obama! We need your help!!

Dear Mr Obama.

I know you’re a really busy man and have a lot going on at the moment.  I know that you need to spend your time making sure your country is safe and your economy is heading in the right direction.  I realise you just had a BIG birthday and it’s hard to fit in everything you have on your plate.

Unfortunately (for you) I am the main itinerary planner of an upcoming 52 week, life changing year in the U.S.A and I need some help.  Specifically YOUR help.

The problem is this.  No matter how I look at the map and no matter what different ways I plan this trip I just can’t make us be in the right place at the right time.  Christmas in New York is a dream for us with New Years Eve in Times Square.  This does not, however fit into my plan to give us 6 weeks in Las Vegas starting in June.  And the Vegas part of my plan really doesn’t allow us to be in Alaska in June also.  How can we choose between the two – the bright lights of Sin City or the Alaskan Wilderness and the chance to see a wild grizzly bear?

If we start in Los Angeles as we would like, we can’t possibly make it to Pennsylvania to see Punxsutawney Phil on the 2nd of February without a lot of backtracking.  And it would be really upsetting to miss Phil!!  And if we manage to see Phil predict a long or short winter in February, what of my plan to attempt to avoid the super cold bits in the USA?  No can do, Sir.      No.  Can.  Do.

It really is a dilemma that I’ve thought long and hard about with few satisfying outcomes.

However……..I think I have a solution.  And I think you are the key to making it happen!!

So.  Here is what I’m proposing.


Not permanently.  Just for a short life changing year in 2012.

The benefits to all parties as I see them are listed below:

  1. Las Vegas residents get to experience the sights and sounds of Washington D.C.
  2. D.C. residents can gamble their little hearts out for 52 weeks without needing to travel to the desert.
  3. Imagine the fun 2012 election rallies you could have in Vegas – and so much closer to home!
  4. All that gaming revenue currently going to pesky Nevada can go into getting those debts under control!!  Baker, over at Man vs. Debt will be so proud!
  5. You may have a casino built in your honour – or at the very least your picture projected onto a building (just like Donny & Marie!)
  6. You will be hailed as a god for achieving such a feat!
  7. Most importantly, my itinerary will work!!!

If you could arrange this for me I would be most appreciative.  I’d even be willing to overlook the recent damage to the exchange rate for the Australian dollar.

Just drop me a comment to confirm when these changes will be happening.  I’ll get ready to book my flights as soon as you give the word.

Best Regards

Life Changing Year chief planner (and next canditate for an organisational heart attack)

Image: Maggie Smith /


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