Man, the summer went by really quickly. The walnut tree outside our place is already beginning its annual dump on our porch. I’ve started to wear light sweaters at night, and the local driving range where I hit golf balls has moved up its closing time by about an hour in the last month. We’re doing our best to enjoy the tail end of summer. We took a short trip over Labor Day and had a great time exploring, eating, napping, etc.
In the last four months of 2015, we really have to ramp up planning for our trip next year. We’ve familiarized ourselves with the weather patterns in Asia and plotted a 9-month itinerary starting in Australia, then New Zealand, going up to Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia/Singapore, down to Bali, up to Tokyo and Hokkaido/Sapporo, then hopping down through Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, and finally back home.
We have a good number of frequent flyer miles so we booked two long-haul segments using miles in economy plus and business class. We booked one one-haul from New Zealand to Bangkok (12 hour flight) in business class since the redemption value was so good. We have two more long-haul flights to be booked shortly — already have the miles earmarked. My premier status on United runs out in January, so we want to book while we still get free upgrades to economy plus on United metal. There are a number of shorter 1-3 hour flights that we started to look at. We did a survey of the shorter flights to see how much they generally cost in cash and miles in order to figure out how to book to maximize value. We determined there are another two legs we would book using miles, then we would pay for the rest in cash. That will probably amount to $3,000 for two people.
There are still a lot of odds and ends too. We are still in the process of figuring out visas and vaccinations. We have to renew our drivers licenses early, then apply for international driving permits. I have to get pages added to my passport. I also have $500 in dining certificates at a fancy pants hotel chain, which expire at the end of the year. I can redeem at specific hotels and they are good for six months. So we will have to plan out a redemption strategy there too. Finally, there’s the matter of travel insurance, which I haven’t tried to figure out yet.
On the financial side, we’ve adjusted our automatic investment amounts so that we’ll have about a year’s worth of expenses in cash by the time we leave. We’ll have to adjust our 401(k) contributions to the maximum at the end of the year. We might also change our tax withholding level to almost zero, but that might be a red flag to our employers if we haven’t given notice yet. We have to update all of our addresses to my parent’s address to make sure our non-electronic tax documents get sent to us. This includes a former employer who owes us a very important tax document, and who often sends it very close to tax day (after we’ll already have left). We’ll also have to figure out our health insurance strategy for next year. I don’t think we’ll be exempt from the penalty for not carrying health insurance. While the penalty won’t be much, it’s probably worth the peace of mind to have insurance, especially since we’ll likely be eligible for ACA subsidies next year.
That’s kind of a peek into where we are on our planning for next year. The departure date is certainly drawing closer!