We're getting ready for our first experimental slow travel experience this summer. Unlike a typical 1-2 week vacation, this travel method requires additional preparation. I've spent the past few weeks preparing the Max Your Freedom household. The list of things has grown longer than I expected.
Since we hope to do this type of travel for the next few summers, I figured this article would be a good reference for both myself and readers who may be thinking of doing the same.
Home Related Preparation
We live in a 1-story 3-bedroom ranch style home that was built in the 50s, with a newer addition. In my effort to anticipate what might be vulnerable during our absence, I've tried to proactively address some home related items.
Probably one of the most critical preparation items for any trip. I wrote about how we keep our house secure while away in another post. We use the Canary System, which I've been very happy with so far. Cost ~200
As some of you know, I opted to repair my A/C unit recently as opposed to replacing it. I did the maintenance check with this summer in mind. Had I not checked it out, the small motor bearing leak, or the low freon, could have led to a failure while we are away. A failure is of course still a possibility, but this action hopefully helped increase the odds in my favor. Cost ~$400
Also related to the A/C Unit. I made sure to replace the filters inside my home with fresh ones. This will help the A/C operate better, and help slightly with energy costs. Cost ~$40
I intend on leaving some lights on while away, both indoors and outdoors. I made sure to replace all those lights with new LED bulbs. This reduces the chance of them going out while I'm gone, and since they'll be on 24hrs/day during the entire summer switching to LED will help keep costs down. Cost ~$50
I also replaced the batteries in all the smoke detectors with fresh ones, and made sure that my thermostat battery was still good. This should avoid any issues with smoke alarms going off, or the A/C shutting down while away. Cost ~$10
I had a few dead branches on my tree, and some hedges that needed to be trimmed. We get some pretty rough summer storms here, with high winds. I didn't want any of the dead branches to break off and damage the roof. Cost ~$125
I purchased a lockbox similar to ones used in Real Estate. I placed it outside the home with a key in it. This will allow me to provide access to the home to anyone that may need it if there's an unexpected event. Of course I also left a key with a friend who will occasionally check-in on the house. Cost ~$30
I made sure to spray both the outside perimeter and indoor areas of the home with an insect spray. I've had pretty good luck over the years with the Ortho Home Defense spray, and it lasts at least 6 months. Cost ~$15
I checked all the toilets in the house for any leaks or issues. Unfortunately, I did find a leak in our master bathroom a few weeks ago. I fixed one of the leaks myself by tightening the bolts down to the ground. Unfortunately I discovered it was also leaking from the tank itself which had a hair line crack. After trying to seal with no luck, I called a plumber to replace the entire toilet. It was already 10 years old, and there were more efficient ones on the market. Cost ~$350
I opted to keep the water main on for the house during our trip. I didn't want any issues with the water heater gaskets. I plan on shutting off the water at various valves throughout the house. I did purchase a water main shut-off wrench. It will be kept out in the house in case there are any issues and someone needs to be able to shut it off from the curb. I recommend you have one of these in your house regardless of travel. Cost ~$50
Getting the house in order is important during longer trips. There's no way to anticipate all the issues that could go wrong during your absence. All you can do is hope it works out, and take some preemptive steps to minimize the risk.
Slow Travel Items
Beyond getting the house itself ready, there were a number of items we either purchased or already owned to help prepare for the trip.
Although I'll be taking some pictures with my phone, the majority will be with my compact Sony RX-100 m2 camera. I used to carry around a bulky SLR for years, and got tired of the hassle. There's no substitute for a good SLR and lens, but the convenience and quality of the Sony bridges the gap quite a bit. If you recall my post on capturing memories, this is a critical component of our trip. Cost ~$800
By far the best travel purchase I've made is the Osprey Meridian luggage. This version is a carry-on size that comes with a detachable backpack. The whole set-up converts into a backpack as well, which makes it really convenient when moving between cities. We've owned our pair for over 5 years and they still look and work like the day we got them. They'll come in handy on this trip since I'll need to carry my daughter's carry-on, and can just throw mine unto my back. Cost ~$300 Each
You may be wondering how we're going to pull off 2 months of travel with just carry-on luggage. One of the tricks is using compression bags along with the straps embedded in our luggage. It's easier to pull this off in the summer, and since we have a washer/dryer in the apartment, we won't need our entire closet. Cost ~$30
Can't forget the travel plug adapters for all the electronics that tag along. We purchased a couple for our trip. You can use this guide if traveling internationally to figure out which ones you may need. Cost ~$30
We've learned the hard way that our daughter gets motion sickness on trips. Especially during landings on planes. She has me to blame for that particular gene. We'll be testing out some motion sickness wristbands on this trip. If they work, we'll consider that a huge win. Cost ~$15
Dry Pak Cases
Since most summers will mean pool and beach time, packing some Dry Pak cases is a must. These have come in handy on past trips for protecting phones, and other valuables at a low cost. Cost ~$20
This is by no means a comprehensive list of items for travel. It just gives everyone an idea of the types of items we took with us, with some specifics on things that people might be wondering about.
Additional Slow Travel Preparation
There were also some actions we needed to take to prepare for the trip.
Since we'll be using our credit cards overseas, we made sure to notify our bank and put a notice on the account. This will prevent any issues with credit or debit card rejections while traveling.
Understand Bank Fees
I also spent some time talking to the bank about their international ATM and banking fees. These fees can add up if you don't pay attention. Many of the big banks have relationships with their International peers, and will waive the fees. We'll also need to make sure we charge our cards in the local currency, to ensure we get the best exchange rates.
Add International Plan on Phone
We added an international plan on our phone for emergencies. We wanted to make sure our phones worked so we can communicate when apart. Read the fine print carefully, since these plans don't cover everything. You can easily exceed the limits of talk/text/data if you don't set-up the phone properly.
Although we didn't do this, since we have a mail slot in our door, this is an important action to remember. There's no bigger red flag for a vacant home than a pile of mail at the door or mail box. You can put a hold on your mail online pretty easily.
We made sure to notify our neighbors of our absence. They'll be keeping an eye on the house, and will contact us if anything looks out of place.
We're clearing the house of all valuables, and keeping them with family while gone. In case anyone breaches our security, there'll be very little of value to take.
We recently drafted a will, which we had procrastinated on for far too long. Make sure you have a will drafted, especially if you have kids. Keep it updated, and in a secure location and notify the executor of that location before the trip.
I've backed up our computer on a separate hard drive which we'll leave behind. In case our laptop gets stolen while traveling, at least we'll have a back-up of all our data.
Copy/Scan Important Papers
We always scan all our important documents and put them on a service like Dropbox or another cloud based platform. This is good to do for passports especially, since you can pull up a copy if needed in an emergency.
Prep the Cars
Both cars will remain parked in our garage during the trip. Tires will need to be fully inflated, and the gas tank on one of the cars will need to be full. I'll also be disconnecting the battery on Mrs. Max's car to avoid it getting drained. Luckily, my electric car is much easier to store. I'll just leave it plugged in the entire time.
International Driving Permit
If you plan on renting a car while on your trip, it's a good idea to get an International Driving Permit. You can pick one up for a small fee at any AAA location in the US. Most rental agencies will accept your standard driver's license, but if you get pulled over in a remote area, the police may insist on an International permit. I'm hoping to do the Ferrari experience while in Italy, so it should come in handy.
These are just some of the important actions that come to mind. I'm sure there are others I may have missed, but I think this list is a good start.
It takes a bit more leg work to prepare for a 2 month trip vs. a typical 1-2 week vacation. We spent close to $3,000 on the items and the actions needed to prepare. Although in fairness, some of these costs were sunk costs from past trips, and some of the home related ones could technically be categorized as general home maintenance.
The point is, there are other factors that go into a travel budget beyond the direct costs. Taking a proactive approach to minimizing some of the risks and stress of being away from home for a longer period of time should help turn the adventure into a smoother experience overall.
Here's a picture of our packed bags for the 2 month adventure, no checked bags needed!
Readers, have I missed anything critical from this list? Have you taken any slow travel trips, how did you prepare? Any experience with some of the items I mentioned? Share your thoughts and comments below!