Thursday, January 26, 2012

Getting Ready for South America

Wow it is hard to believe that the trip is only a few weeks away.  We booked this trip a year and a half ago and back then it seemed like it would never happen, but all of sudden we are pulling out suitcases, getting different currencies and printing out boarding passes.

Since this is going to be a 30 days cruise, with six days in Rio de Janeiro prior, and two days in San Francisco prior it was an organizing nightmare.  But thanks to my friend Anita who showed me her technique for keeping everything organized it all came together. 

Right from the beginning when we booked I got a binder out and created a blank page for every port that we were visiting, and a few pages for Rio.   At the top of each page I wrote the port, date we were there, and the times we were in port.  As I came across information that I thought might be helpful I wrote it on the page.  Once I had booked something I wrote the details down here as well.  I also created different favorite folders on my computer for each of the countries to help keep even the websites organized.

Even this organization wasn't enough, I ended up creating a table in Word that stated the date, city, doing, and contact/information with a very detailed itinerary.  With all the paperwork this was necessary and now at a glance I can see where/when/and info quickly. 

Packing is another issue.  We don't really want to bring a ton of stuff, even though the International flight to Rio allows for two free bags, we do have to fly Vancouver to San Francisco and they will charge for bags.  Plus in the end we don't need that much but what do we need?

Temperatures are going to vary from hot, to cool, to windy, to cool and then hot again.  Living in Vancouver we know how to dress in layers and we are use to wind and rain.  Since the very southern part of the continent will be experiencing fall like weather we don't feel it necessary to bring winter type clothes.  Our decision in the end is to bring one hoodie type sweatshirt, and a rainproof jacket that also keeps the wind at bay.  We will also bring a fleece jacket too.  This way we will be able to wear items in layers and nothing weighs to much and can be used in numerous ports, including San Francisco that can be cool in February.  Of course summer type clothes are also a must but we have learned that we can manage with just a few pairs of shorts and t-shirts and get them washed on board when necessary (thankfully with elite status we get this as a perk).

Currency... this is really Bernie's department but I can say that we are bringing US travellers cheques that we will cash on board the ship - this saves us bringing large amounts of currency.  We are bringing British Pounds for our tour in the Falklands.  And of course we are bringing Brazilian Reais as we will be there for six nights.  For the other countries we weighed on what to do, but after doing some research we decided we would either pay for items with our credit card or if necessary (like in Montevideo, Uruguay we will use an ATM).

Research for this trip.... right away we started reading, right when we booked.  We bought two travel books - South America by Frommers, and South American Handbook by Lonely Planet, both books were very good, but have to say I preferred the Lonely Planet book more.  We then picked up a great book about just Rio de Janeiro - Lonely Planet again, that outlines each neighbourhood with great walking tours, and sites and how to get there by transit.

We also started checking out website, and I start by doing a search for each port and the word tours.  Tons of options came up and this is how I found many of the guides we booked.  Also checking and the message boards there to see what was recommended.

Things we are bringing on this trip:  a new packsafe bag which we will use in ports, which we really should of bought a long time ago for security.  A neck pillow for the long flight, sleeping pills also for the flight as I normally can never sleep on a plane.  A new lens for my camera to capture more.  Lots of books loaded onto my kindle.  A small translation book on the Portuguese and also one on Spanish languages.  Carnival masks so we can get into the spirit in Rio.  And I am sure there are other things but just can't remember.

I will be blogging about our experience every day when I can get an Internet signal, so stay tuned.