December 9, 2015

Contemplating international travel with a baby

At some point, we’ll likely take LB back to Asia to meet relatives. That sounds all yay family and fancy-like but every single time I say it, and I test it on myself every so often for desensitization purposes, alarm bells of Preparation, Will Robinson, Preparation! go off in my head.

Dalek

We haven’t even flown domestically with hir yet, I’m not at all prepared to wrassle a child this active and interested in everything on a flight for double digit hours.

It finally sank in why my friend said Travel as much as you can in the first year. It’s all much harder after that. Oh. Some of them, when they can move, they MOVE. This one does. Holy mopeds, this one does.

Logistics

Passports: US passports for any minor child under 16 costs $105 and is good for five years. I don’t know in what world a child looks even remotely similar five years on but I’m not volunteering to pay that price more frequently.

Among other things, they require both parents to apply in person (or one parent goes, the other parent sends a signed, notarized form), proof of US citizenship, and evidence of the parental relationship.

Flights: Ze is a lap child until the age of two but since the last time I received sage travel advice, ze has become even squirmier. Even if we manage to squeeze in a flight before hir second birthday, I think our sanity demands a separate seat. This means an extra cost whether we manage to swing award flights or pay out of pocket.

Packing: Holy CATS I’m not looking forward to this. Bright side? Ze isn’t going through 11-20 diapers a day anymore. Less bright side: hir diapers are huge now, in comparison, and we still have to carry a supply of them. Also the stroller since it would be lovely not to be incapacitated by hefting this most-healthy, not-yet-walking, heavy child for miles. And of course, there’s the car seat thing. Traveling with a kid still in a car seat is most definitely anti-minimalist but I will do my best. It feels like Stroller City around here so I’m totally against buying an umbrella stroller to add to the mix, but I’m open to any other suggestions to keep the mess down.

Health check up: Ze was an absolute trooper for hir flu shot, after being given something to bite down on like any good ole Wild West character, but the battery of injections needed to go to Asia makes me cringe. Still, better a jab than a multi-week illness. *For the record, I got all the jabs and still got sick when we traveled to Asia as a youngun. If I wasn’t so sick, I would have been extremely bitter.

On the plus side

I suspect this will make for a good story, no matter how well or badly it goes. So as long as we survive, I’ll be excited.

There’s really no economic payoff on this choice, but I don’t think we expected there to be one. (Though, can you blame me for checking?) Oh but naturally it’s going to set off all my travel planning / deal hunting neurons and I’ll be obsessed with that for a good long while. You always need a good obsession to chew on.

Meeting family should be good. Right?

July 29, 2015

SDCC 2015 recap

SDCC6

Preparation for this year was brutal

Badge purchasing was organized by lottery system.
Hotel booking was a lottery system.
Parking passes were sold on a lottery system.

It’s a flipping miracle that we got passes, secured a hotel room through the lottery system for friends, and secured a parking pass.

Our rental vehicle was booked for the week and I let out a sigh of relief on June 28th.  All was set, I thought. Then I quickly sucked it back in because with my luck….

Sure enough, I’d booked the wrong dates for the rental and rebooking was estimated to be $1800. A panicked call to Enterprise + a reasonable service rep = corrected booking. Whew.

Oh wait.

At the last minute, our lodging plans changed and we needed to book a hotel for ourselves. Two weeks before Comic-Con. Now THAT was a hoot. 99% of the hotels in our desired region were booked out and the hotels that were available were the Embassy Suites for $800/night, the Doubletree for $900/night and the Indigo for $1800/night. Awesome.

We needed both a baby and pet friendly hotel and I was not paying over $500 a night for four nights of an average hotel that would then charge for parking and a pet fee for Seamus, no way, no how!

Ten hours of searching, and 6 bookings later, we booked an average hotel somewhat near downtown that didn’t have recent reports of bedbugs. (Ugh!) Clearly, our standards had changed. And it was going to cost nearly $1700 for the whole stay. *clutch throat* I’ve never spent that much on an entire trip to SDCC, forget just on hotel! But it was a last minute change, it couldn’t be helped, and I refused to let it ruin our plans. One side effect of having been a extra frugal Con goer, and spending next to nothing on hobbies, is that our savings are absolutely solid and our cash flow can bear a hiccup or two even in the four digit range.

Packing was a bummer this year because I still don’t fit most of my clothes and that includes my standard Con wardrobe of geeky shirts.

Comic-Con commenced…

Left: BADGED! Right: a fantastic cosplay.

Left: BADGED! Right: a fantastic cosplay (I didn’t know the character, unfortunately).

We didn’t get Preview Night for Wednesday which, in retrospect, was for the best. Logistics were already well nigh incomprehensible, trying to make it to town and ready to hit the floor on Wednesday would have been excruciating stress.

Thursday was our first day on the floor and it was yet another bust: Seamus hurt his paws before we left. While one paw was responding to home treatment, the other significantly deteriorated in just the two days since we left San Francisco. I made the call to give up an afternoon at Con and take him to a San Diego vet to head off a major infection. I was grouchy about the loss of floor time but it was the right call. He responded to the medications overnight, allowing his paw to actually start healing. Hallelujah! And it was “only” $110.

With Seamus all set, we headed out Friday for our full day on site with a lighter step and clear conscience. Despite all the missteps and mishaps leading up to this day, it was wonderful.

SDCC photos courtesy of @ashleyserena

Left: I’m really not sure what’s happening here. A unicorn/centaur Colonel (KFC)? Right, top: Ashley on the Iron Throne (Game of Thrones Experience) Right, bottom: Tribbles! All photos courtesy of @ashleyserena

The Kelly Sue headed panel on writing, and then on their company Milkfed Criminal Masterminds, were both fantastic.

We browsed a discount TPBs booth where I impulse bought $45 worth of comics for myself and a friend. Browsing wasn’t even on the list of things I thought we’d have the freedom to do but LB was so incredibly cooperative. Ze was just hanging out, enjoying the sights and sounds, and it was awesome. I picked up gifts for three people and got myself a new t-shirt. We took a dozen pictures of LB and PiC hanging out and having a good old time, and had silly pictures taken at promo booths.

I was sad to miss the panel with Congressman John Lewis, the last surviving member of the “Big 6” from the civil rights movement, who marched in Selma on Bloody Sunday. Even typing that makes me tear up at what people had to go through to be treated like humans. But I’m really happy that it happened.

There were many other fun and wonderful things this year, and we missed many of our regular visits (Marian Call’s concerts, for one) but this trip renewed our enjoyment of the event. Every year we’re aware it might be our last, but as long as we can go, we will.

July 17, 2015

Getting antsy: must travel

For a hermit/homebody, I’ve sure been doing a lot of travel deals scouting.

It’s a restless, bargain hunting soul that’s trying to rev up the trip planning machine. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as nailing a deal combination that gets you to a Must See Destination for way less than expected. Add to that the desire to travel before the Wiggle Worm doesn’t fly free anymore and you get a particular sense of urgency. So I figure why the hell not? I’ll figure out how to juggle travel and work and an increasingly active baby.

Destinations we’re stalking bargains for now through 2016: San Diego, Hawaii, Seattle, Asia, Chicago.

***

All my flights of fancy trips are big time-consuming things, requiring lots of time off and probably a lot of patience, possibly more than either of us have.  No reason not to dream, though, right?

Someday trips:

Take the whole family on a road trip across the States. Take a few months to do it properly and go through: the Eastern Seaboard (visit friends, eat seafood), Louisiana (visit friends, eat seafood), Tennessee (visit friends, eat BBQ), Montana (just because), Iowa (visit friends, food?), Utah (I’m told the drive is spectacular, but what food is there?), Colorado (visit friends, food suggestions?). I think other states were suggested on Twitter: Massachusetts, Kentucky, Washington. Am I missing any?

Australia for a month. Maybe Australia + New Zealand for 6 weeks? I’m hearing that food is expensive in at least Australia, though, which isn’t awesome because travel is all about food for me.

Japan for a month for all the Japanese food I can think of, particularly sushi. Katherine at Feather Factor has blogged about some really neat ryokan I’d love to try.

Iceland. Peru. Thailand (again). Italy (again). Galapagos. 

***

Then again, I get the yearning for home after two weeks abroad, almost like clockwork, so maybe these month(s)-long journeys aren’t truly my cup of tea.  The trek across the States could happen if we got truly brave and did an RV, maybe, so Seamus could come with us. Missing home is much worse when missing the dog is part of the mix. Being away is much better when your whole chosen family’s with you. 

June 17, 2015

A taste of San Francisco

Thanks in large part to PiC, our reputation as hosts for the SF Bay Area remains untarnished. If there was a Great Hosts Club, I think we’d be eligible to join. A dear friend spent a weekend with us and with a bit of planning, a lot of flexibility, and a soupcon of adventurousness it couldn’t have been more perfect.

It could have been actual perfection if we had miraculous recoveries from our various health issues but other than that, it was perfect.

Most of the time was spent catching up, talking about life and money and kids and travel and just, oh, everything under the sun. We tend to fail miserably at exploring our own city but having guests is an excellent way to kick us out and discover.

When we ventured beyond the front door….

Remember the Nopalito fail? We redeemed ourselves with take out.

The painted tiles are gorgeous. Who knew?

SF1

16th Street painted tiles

My suggestion of NOT trying to cross the bridge and get an excellent view of it: great!
Our first visit to Crissy Field

SF3

Crissy Field, view of a foggy Golden Gate Bridge

I had forgotten what delectations can be had from Arizmendi Bakery (a co-op).

SF2

Cheese bread, peach strawberry scone, oat scone

We actively practiced respecting our limits, not being fools or pushing ourselves too much. One of the stupidest mistakes I make when traveling or hosting is failing to recognize when my body’s about to bow out. Another is failing to flock to the birds of my feather: those who are considerate of all physical limitations and find ways to have fun without catastrophic regrets.

So this weekend? Mutual respect, good memories, happy plans to make more.

May 28, 2015

A taste of Italy: Part 3

eemusings called me out for not having more pasta in my last posts, and she was right, I just forgot where I’d stashed the pasta pictures!

Ravioli

Am I the only one who is always disappointed when ordering ravioli? Not because it’s not tasty as all get out but because everyone thinks that six-seven ravioli is a meal!  Don’t look surprised when I then consume 3 loaves of bread to fill up because six ravioli, no matter the size, is hardly a snack. Seriously, what adult is satiated with 6 bites of delectable filled pasta?

Spaghetti with fresh seafood

 

Italia: The less frugal adventure
Food and fun in Italy: Part 2

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