Thursday, 24 March 2016

Globetrotting gets complicated

I have been doing a lot of planning for our upcoming north east USA trip. It can be very busy on the east coast and we will have to book RV sites in advance, something I really don't like doing. It locks you into a set itinerary, so you can't add on days when you want to or leave when you are bored or the weather is awful.

The amount of time we have for this trip depends on what date the USA border control put in our passports. We got our five year US tourist visas six months before our first trip so that we could book our plane tickets early, which means they run out this coming September. With this in mind I have planned our trip with a 19 September exit date but I have read that as our visa will be current when we enter the US they could give us six months instead of five, which we would prefer. So I am working on two itineraries one for five months and one for six.

When we crossed from Canada into the USA last October, we asked if they could put an exit date of 28th December. He said no, and gave us six months. The date in our passports ends two days prior to us going back in, so they are not going to be happy when we ask for another six months. To make it worse we didn't hand in the paper i94 visa slip that is stapled in our passports as we left because we didn't realise we were going through immigration; the guy was just standing at a portable desk, who knew? This is a big no no and they have a whole page on their website of what to do if you didn't.

We made sure we spent less than six months in the US last year, but it just doesn't look that way in our passports. So I really hope we don't have another discussion saying they don't believe we just spent the last 3.5 months out of the country like they did this time last year. As you have to pay cash for most things down here, there is no credit card trail. All I have are our boarding tickets, our accommodation receipts and a lot of photos. I will also make sure I have a copy of our upcoming itinerary and bank statements on my iPad to show what we are doing and that we can support ourselves as we have been told this will greatly support our case. Such is the life of the nomadic traveller.

I have also been planning where to go at the end of the year but I can't make any bookings or even finalise the itinerary until we find out when we will be leaving the US. We have already booked to come back to PV next winter as Lindsay feels more comfortable knowing how everything works and where everything is down here. We have talked to many people who have been coming down here for years and years; so it seems once you discover it, you keep coming back.

Lindsay is working on a six week self drive camping trip in Namibia for July 2017 which he is really excited about. Not only will we both be shooting wildlife but there will be a lot of landscape opportunities for me too. Lindsay is also looking forward to trying some star trails and milky way shots. I wonder if he realises these are actually landscape photos - something he vehemently says he does not take! I will need to process them for him as they are a little tricky and have to be done in photoshop, which he doesn't want to learn. I don't know how to do them yet either and have downloaded a few You Tube clips to help teach me.

Google's my best friend

He never realised how much work goes into researching and planning a trip. Deciding where to go, where to stay, how long to stay, and what we will see. What kind of car do we hire and what do they include. We have to prebook all the camps and he has tried to make sure we are in the Dead Vlei and Sossusvlei region when there is a new moon so that the sky is dark for the night shots.

I have also been gathering information for our south east USA trip, which will probably be in late 2017. We will be on a 90 days ESTA visa by then which means we will also have to spend 90 days out of the country at the end of each visit. Europe's Schengen agreement means you are limited to total of 90 days in any of the countries within the agreement - which just happen to be all the ones we want to go to. This will be fine just as long as we don't need to add in extra time so that everything ties in. It's also not always practical or convenient to leave on a particular day either, so you will end up with less than 90 days and no, accruals are not allowed! 

Visa constraints aren't the only issue we have to consider when trip planning. The weather, season or even month may be vitally important to where we are travelling to. You can't camp in Yellowstone before May; there aren't any bears in Bella Coola before the salmon run; we can't take our RV through snow (yes there was that one time, but we aren't doing that again!); some national parks only have a short season when they are open for camping such as Glacier, Mt Rainier and Crater Lake and I don't want to go unless I am right there in amongst it all otherwise it's too far to travel each day; we want to avoid hurricane season when going across the middle of the US, it's too humid and there are too many insects in Florida before December; we like to go to Kenya when the migration is on; it's too hot; it's too cold, the list goes on. I would love to travel through New England during autumn, but unfortunately that isn't going to happen, even if we do get the extension, as we will be too far west. The Galapagos are really nice in May and June but that is when I now have the US scheduled.

After spending three months in Africa, we should come back into the US early October but I've just found out it will be too humid and buggy when we get to Florida in November. I'd also forgotten about the hurricane season, which runs from June to the end of November in all the states we will be travelling in. How would you hide with a 35' trailer if one started brewing? I've looked up each state we will be travelling through and there are very few hurricanes in November so I'm hoping it will be safe to travel then.

Then it depends on what camera gear we have with us. Filling in three or more months out of the US at a time is not going to be easy. If we go to Africa with a few cameras and lenses including the 600mm, we then don't want to be lugging them around Europe to fill in a few extra weeks.

I am now trying to plan our flights so that we don't need a hire car on a weekend as the depots are not open in Yucca Valley where we leave from. When we came down to PV in December we nearly had to pay for four days hire for our three hour trip to the LA because of the Christmas break, but thankfully Dale and Shelly drove Lindsay down to Palm Springs to pick up a car there. :)

I'm also checking fare prices on different days as there can sometimes be a huge difference depending on the day of the week or from one week to the next.

I don't know about you, but after all that, I'm exhausted.


  1. Ah you poor folks. Life sounds tough. I sailed on the Endeavour (square rigger as you know) from Geelong to Adelaide from 9th to 19th Feb and then from Sydney to Geelong on a 42 foot yacht the week after, so I have had my fill of sailing for a while. Mags is off to England tomorrow for three weeks leaving me to fend for myself.
    Love your blogs and hope you keep safe and well.
    Love, Derek and Maggie.

    1. Wow, I don't know which one sounds more exciting the Endeavour or an ocean racer. Though I'm sure you worked pretty hard on both, being on the water must have been wonderful. Does you good to look after yourself for a while, you will appreciate Maggie more when she gets home! Thanks for the feedback, good to know I'm not boring you all.