Christy and Aaron Tracker

Follow Christy and Aaron on their backpacking trip around the world

Eurail

Posted by Aaron in Planning on 09 25th, 2009

I cannot wait to explore Europe by train. A EuRail pass will allow Christy and I to travel all over Europe without having to buy train tickets along the way. As seen in the following picture, almost all of the European countries are well covered by the EuRail passes. A more detailed map is available on EuRail’s website www.eurail.com.

eurail-map-2009

It seems strange to me that Great Britain is not covered by the pass. Since England is high on our list of countries to visit, we will have to find out if there is a Great Britain train pass. Maybe we will fly into London first so we do not need to waste EuRail pass time while exploring England.

I really like the extensive train coverage of the countries. The passenger railroads cover so much more of the European countries than they do in the United States.  Christy and I will be able to visit just about any city we want to. I remember riding on Amtrak from Chicago to Denver  when I overheard a European student talking about the pathetic train coverage in the United States. At the time I wondered why anyone would travel by train, other than for novelty as I was doing. After seeing the train coverage in Europe I can see how it would be a common form of transportation.

I think Christy and I will be getting the 3 month youth global pass for $1359 each. That seems like a lot of money to me, but it will give us the ultimate in flexibility. Fortunately, I will barely meet the requirement for a youth pass. You must be 25 or younger on the first day of travel to get a youth pass. I will be turning 26 about 1 month after I begin riding the train. The 3 month pass will also work out perfectly. I am concerned about staying in expensive Europe for too long. The 3 month pass will put a definite end date on our time in Europe so we can move on and see different parts of the world.

Finding the EuRail pass and looking at the maps is beginning to make this trip seem real. I wanted to buy the passes immediately, but you can only purchase them 6 months before the first travel day. I guess I have to patiently wait until December 1st.



Vaccinations

Posted by Aaron in Planning on 09 22nd, 2009

I finally got around to looking up which vaccinations we will need. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) seems to be the official source of information.

The CDC’s traveler’s health page contains a lot of useful information for traveling abroad. It looks like I will not need to get any vaccinations until 6 weeks before travelling. They also have a list of required and recommended vaccinations based on the destination country. Since Christy and I do not know which countries we will be visiting yet, we should probably figure that out first.



Skype

Posted by Aaron in Planning, Posts on 09 20th, 2009

It looks like Skype is going to be the way to go for our phone needs.

The price is great, $2.95 a month for unlimited computer to phone calling to the United States, or $12.95 a month for unlimited computer to phone calling to over 40 countries. Other benefits include:

  • Unlimited computer to computer calling
  • Unlimited computer to computer video calls
  • Free voicemail
  • For $30 a year we can get a phone number that will allow people to call our Skype account.
  • In some countries we can get a free Skype access number that will allow us to call people internationally on our skype plan using a phone at local rates. This could be a big money saver when we are in the countries that support this. Unfortunately, it does not look like the list of countries is very extensive.

It looks like the final billing possibilities for for a year of using Skype are:

International Unlimited United States Unlimited
With online number $185.40 $65.40
Without online number $155.40 $35.40

Not so bad! I would think the international plan would be better since we could call local places, such as hostels and new friends anywhere we have wi-fi without worrying about the cost.

My only concern is the call quality might not be great internationally. I am also concerned about the availability of wi-fi internationally. We do not plan on being in Western Europe for very long. However, $185.40 for the entire year with no contract commitments makes Skype look like a great way for budget minded backpackers to stay connected to friends and family while they are travelling abroad.



Cell Phone Plans

Posted by Aaron in Planning, Posts on 09 19th, 2009

I started looking into international cell phone plans today. I did not realize how expensive they were. In my mind I had envisioned signing up for an international plan that would let me call, text message, email, and get internet for a flat rate. I was surprised to find making calls outside of the country is all considered roaming with per minute charges. Talk about expensive.

To make things worse, the data rates are expensive too. We would like to be able to upload pictures and videos to this blog as frequently as possible. There is no way we will be able to update as frequently and stay as connected to our followers as we would like if we have to pay per kilobyte.

What do we do now? I do not think I am going to want to pay a large monthly fee for an international phone plan if I am reluctant to use it based on roaming charges. Maybe I can just get away with using Skype or some other instant messanger for voice chat. How often are we going to be able to get reliable wifi? How much is that going to cost us? Hopefully wifi will be good enough to satisfy our needs and we can just carry a cell phone with us for emergencies.

I think I need to think some more about the ways I want to communicate on this trip. Ideally, I wanted our friends and family to feel like they are travelling on the trip with us, but we may have to scale back on the vision. Good thing I like solving problems, or I would be very frustrated right now.

If you have any suggestions for international voice and data plans please let me know.



Time to Start Planning

Posted by Aaron in Planning, Posts on 09 19th, 2009

Our big trip is just 7 months away. It is time for Christy and I to start our serious planning. So far we have done nothing but talk about the trip in a high level fantasy. Since neither of us has had any experience planning a trip this large, it is difficult to decide where to start. Here are some things I think we should begin begin by deciding so we can start working on finer details.

  • When are we going to leave?
  • How long are we going to be gone?
  • How much are we going to spend?
  • Where are our must see locations?

It looks like we have a lot to think about. We have heard we need to start getting vaccinations months before the trip so that gives us 1 month to decide which counties we will be visiting, and subsequently which vaccines we will need.

It is very exciting, and overwhelming to begin the planning process. It would be a lot easier if we were more of the pack up and go type of people.