Yahoo! Just three weeks until we fly to Europe!
Quote of the Day: â€śEurope? Havenâ€™t you heard there is an economic meltdown going on in this country?â€ť (Miss Janie, next-door neighbor)
Of course! Who hasnâ€™t been affected by this bad economy? But if thereâ€™s a will, thereâ€™s a way and we have a will!
Hereâ€™s our â€śAL Alternativeâ€ť plan, thanks to my NW Lazy Daze friend AL Kurkoski, who suggested:
An RV Exchange!
Thatâ€™s right! Weâ€™re doing a motorhome exchange with a wonderful family in Ireland! They are coming over here from mid-June to mid-August to use Ciao Baby - and we are going over there March 20 to July 28 to use their motorhome. Weâ€™ve added each other to the RV insurance policies, developed a contract, and spent months scheming about things we can offer to make each otherâ€™s trip more fun.
Kieran and Orla and their two children, Iarlaith (â€śEar-laâ€ť),age 9 like Lia, and Siobhra (â€śSheef-raâ€ť), age 5, are delightful, resourceful, smart, and kind new friends. They are even more wonderful than we could have hoped when we'd emailed them on an RV exchange website in late October!
And smart too! Thereâ€™d be no exchange without resourceful Orla convincing their insurance company to add me. Theyâ€™re also very generous since our time using their motorhome is double their time in Ciao Baby. We are just so excited to meet them in a few weeks!
Iâ€™ll detail RV Exchanges in a later blog for those considering doing the same. Several websites facilitate exchanges. We think RV exchanging is just a terrific idea! (Thanks, AL!) RVâ€™ers are universally nice people anyway, international RV travelers are a unique subset, and it is a clear win-win for both families. The exchange needn't be simultaneous either- very flexible.
My Lazy Daze friends will be happy that Ciao is not being shipped to Europe, since they think sheâ€™s a bit large for the roads. After Central America, I admit that smaller rigs are easier for international travel. Iâ€™m sure a towed vehicle would make adventuring by motorhome easier. Iâ€™m not knocking the idea of shipping overseas. I may do it when we retire. But this exchange plan is really simplifying.
Besides, now we can save the $4,000 shipping and Amsterdam storage costs. And there's no pressure to return that direction next summer. Added bonus: We can use Ciao for the 2009 Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in October! J
In the meantime, Iâ€™ve been furiously getting Ciao Baby ready for them. Suddenly I noticed all the things that seemed okay to deal with for us (a funny switch here, little things there), but just wonâ€™t do when our nice exchange family will use the rig! I want Ciao to be in perfect shape for them so they have a fabulous vacation without any problems.
Ned would suggest that any money saved from not shipping Ciao to Europe is now going into fixing her up. But weâ€™ll benefit from the improvements too after we return home. Iâ€™m sure I would have spent less money if Iâ€™d just bought a new rig a mere 20 months and 40,000 miles ago. But weâ€™re learning a lot too. Hindsight is always 20/20 and who knew how much weâ€™d LOVE to travel in our RV?!
Today Ciaoâ€™s suspension parts are getting redone (u-joints, ball joints, and motor mounts). I guess the Dempster Highwayâ€™s 10 million potholes and 10,000 topes in Mexico have taken their toll. Ha!
â€śSugarâ€ť is what weâ€™re affectionately nicknaming our Irish friendâ€™s rig - Well, they donâ€™t have her named quite yet and Kieranâ€™s Mom said it reminded her of a bag of Irish sugar, so with our Southern upbringing and allâ€¦
Anyway, Sugar is a 2006 German Hymer Classic, 7 meters long (about 23â€™) and 7â€™ wide (a foot skinnier than Ciao) - just a perfect size and gorgeous! They bought her with left-hand drive (like we have in the States) for their use on the European continent, which theyâ€™ve done for the last few summers. So you can see why, with that nice rig in the exchange, Ciao wants to be a little spiffy!
We are planning to make our rigs so comfortable for each other that we only have to fly over with some clothes and toiletries to be ready to tour! Weâ€™re exchanging bikes, a GPS, camping books, tour guides, maps, DVD movies, fun reading books, linens and towels, all the cooking needs, tables, chairs, hammock, fishing poles, the Weber Baby Q grill- whatever we can think of that will make their trip special for them. I just wish weâ€™d be here when they arrive. Ned gets all the fun!
Kieran and Orla will pick us up at the Dublin Airport. We get to stay with them a few days and visit their kidsâ€™ schools, meet their families, etc. I get chillbumps of excitement just typing this! We cannot wait! How great is it that we have an instant contact with a lovely international family?! You can go many days attempting to meet locals- this is so great!
We will get to see them again in the U.S. at the end of their trip, as weâ€™ll be home a few weeks before they leave the U.S.
We also have helped each other with the planning. Theyâ€™re probably headed through New Orleans, up to Nashville (and can meet my sister's family), then out west to many of the National Parks that we visited last summer! Iâ€™m excited to share with them all my tips and they have been terrific in offering routes, ferries, and all the info that we need. Terrific!
To prep for Europe, Jazy, Charles and Lia do "travel study" for an hour a day. Lia is in the kitchen playing a computer game to learn the European countries. Charles is most thrilled that weâ€™ll be in Harry Potter territory and heâ€™s currently reading to me about a â€śwand replicaâ€ť costing 25 Pounds in England. Heâ€™s angling to be in London for the opening day of Harry Potter's Movie 6 on his birthday July 17th. Jazy is learning the Top 10 words for each language: Italian, French, Greek, Spanish, German, â€¦ We just got some language CDâ€™s from the library last night. Everyone is really excited!
Flights! We booked our flights for FREE using 200k frequent flier miles and AmEx points! Okay, we did pay total taxes of $550, but with the flights running well over $1,000 each if weâ€™d had to buy them, Iâ€™m not complaining. The spring flight would be inexpensive, but the July summer flight home would not. So $550 for 4 round-trip flights to Europe seems very frugal and responsible. Donâ€™t you think?
Also, we bought Ned a flight to Paris for late April for just $465 total! It was an Spring-season, slow economy, Continental steal-of-a-deal on a non-stop Houston to Paris flight! Maybe after that flight, heâ€™ll have enough frequent flier miles for a later summer free flight. Flight prices escalate for high summer season.
Since weâ€™re doing the European RV exchange, weâ€™ve decided to put China off until next summer. It seemed smart to take advantage of the Europe opportunity and we only have so much energy. We'll be returning home just 2 weeks before school starts again.
Plus, flights to China were steep. I'll try to rack up some more AmEx points- for free miles, of course. We need some time to research China and mature just a bit more (no, *I* donâ€™t need any more maturing!) before we go.
Besides, maybe next summer after China, while already on that side of the world, weâ€™ll happen to swing through Australia for another motorhome exchange. And of course, New Zealand is then so close, and Fiji is just *right there*! Shoot, Hawaii is a mere easy stop on the way home. Ahh, the world just *opens up!* when you have a motorhome!
And back to the economy and costs... we have to eat anyway no matter where we are. So for our Europe trip segment, the RV is free, our flights were just $550, and we have 4 months to roam Europe to our heartâ€™s content! Weâ€™ve met wonderful new friends - life is grand!