Nov 21, 2018
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Today is finally here. I swear I am so excited. Over the last couple years we have grown to be more and more comfortable with our travels but this last 12 months, 2017 – 2018 will go down in history as the year of amazing adventures for sure.
We started out last February with a trip to Venice for Carnival. We made our costumes and got to travel there and spend a couple weeks enjoying the most amazing city.
Then we took Mikey with us and took a trip to London where we got to see Stonehenge and many other awesome sites. We went on to a cruise of the Mediterranean with stops in Croatia, Greece, Montenegro and Dubrovnik and Olympia Greece.
Bill and I then took a trip in February to Paris where we got to spend the most amazing time in the city that we love so much.
We visited Egypt and saw the pyramids and now we are headed to the number one thing on our life bucket list. THE GREAT WALL of China !!!
No year can ever top that. But we sure are gonna try !!!
My aunt is staying with Mikey at our house so we are excited by the fact that he will be at home and safe and we wont have to worry about the house or him.
People keep asking me if I used a travel agent to plan the adventure. I did not. I love the planning. I love sitting down at my computer with the map and google and searching the world over for the next location. Once I get that down, I start looking for things that are in the same general area that we might not plan an entire trip around that we want to grab seeing while we are in the area. In this case, the next thing on the bucket list was Angkor Wat, Cambodia so we added it to this trip. There are not a lot of things in China that we think we will want to go on a return visit for so we were trying to make sure that we saw all the major things in the country on this trip. That made it grow in size to something that boggles my mind, LOL. When we started it was a week and a half. Now its 20 days. That is the longest time I have ever spent away from my child so that part sucks but the things we will see will be amazing and I swear I begged him to go with us.
The flights over to China will take us about 24 hours to complete. We leave Charleston WV on Nov 21 at 2:00am (the night of the 21st and morning of the 22nd) and we land in China the next day, Thursday at 5pm. Once we get on our last flight in the US we fly from Detroit to China directly and are in the air for something like 12 hours on that leg. Heck, Maybe even more. The time changes a lot while we fly on this one so it’s a bit confusing.
We have decided that someday, maybe we will go back to China and stay in a hotel for 6 months or a year. Maybe, someday. We are getting a little old so maybe is a big word 🙂
A funny story about us, when we were dating we went to Florida on our first trip together and we traveled so badly together that we broke up on the plane headed home. We just didn’t enjoy each other at all on the trip. I remember thinking that I would never travel anyplace else with this man. LOL
Now, He is my very best friend on earth and my travel buddy for life. I say all the time that I am the luckiest girl in the world and I promise you I am. We travel so well together now, it is so smooth that we plan the trips ourselves because we enjoy the planning part almost as much as we enjoy actually going.
I’m not saying that everything always goes perfect. It doesn’t. Every trip has things that goes wrong and we find that we missed something because of the thing that we didn’t know. But we have learnt to deal with those things really well together and those things usually become such fun stories to tell that it becomes worth the madness at the time.
Anyway, we are excited and cant wait to get on the plane. On this trip we are planning to take more video than we usually do on trips. We keep promising ourselves that we will do more filming. Fingers crossed that we keep our promise on this trip. Either way, we will take lots of photos and post them here each day of the adventures in China.
Thanks for reading about our trip and sharing in our excitement.
Bill & Wendy Richardson
As promised to a dozen people I am putting the cost of the trip at the bottom of each days posts so we can tally up what it would cost to do the trip for those of you who want to copy our trip itinerary to build your own trip.
The flights over to China and from Beijing to Changsha and the flight to Shanghai and the hotel in Beijing and Gillin we figured out and then booked all together at the same time with a company online that I love. I have used them to book some part of every trip I have taken out of the US. I love them because they have the easiest website and no matter how many times I use cheap airlines it always ends up being close enough to the same price that I like to use them for the convenience of knowing my flights will all end up booked so that I can catch the connections.
They are www.tripmasters.com and they offer great package deals on trips if you like to just book a trip that they have put together.
You can use their website to build a trip to as many destinations as you want and change them around so that you figure out what you can afford and when the best time to go is.
I do all the other things by using Google earth and the internet to determine where we will go within a particular location.
I create a map of our trip using Google maps and make a location pin for each place we want to see. Then I can look at that and determine what needs to go on a day together with the other things that are close together. This let’s me plan to see as much as possible each day.
I am exceptionally driven when planning. I literally have more hours in planning this trip than the trip is long.
I research every detail of where we will go. I use the internet and YouTube and I study TripAdvisor and find people that have previously gone where I want to go and build my plans from their mistakes.
I am over prepared in every way when I leave my house. And things always go wrong at some point during the trip. But because I always have a backup plan figured out, we get thru it.
If we are flying someplace, I always know the other possible ways to get there. If we are taking a train, I always know the buses that will get us there.
In this case, I have cards that I wrote in Chinese the things I may need to ask a person at every single step of the way. Is this the train to Guillin or is this the stop for Fenghuang, etc etc.
You can’t trust the phone when out of the country. You may not have service. Sometimes we are ok. Those times we use it happily. But I sleep better knowing I have everything printed and ready if I need it.
Ok back to the money….
The flights over and back and three hotel stays with insurance cost $2860.00. That doesnt sound horrible yet, right. Well it got way worse fast.
The Cambodian Visa was about $36.00.
The Visa for China was exceptionally stressful because you had to either go to Washington DC to get it or pay a company to go on your behalf. We opted for the company. Travisa is the company we used and I did a full post on that. The Visa ended up costing us about $771.52
We pre booked as much as possible and each day I will put the cost of everything we do that day on the post so you can get an idea of what it costs to travel to China.
Now, let’s get some sleep because tomorrow we are going to China !!!!
My husband and I have a bucket list. We pretty much sit around on our day jobs and do the things that are required of us, but secretly in our minds we are always thinking about where we will go next.
Once we decided that we were going to just go straight to the top of the bucket list and clear off China (the number one must do thing on our list) it became a rush to the airport for us. That’s pretty much how most of our trips happen. One minute we are dreaming and the next we are booking tickets.
I admit that this one has taken me a little by surprise in the budgeting. At this moment, I am about $1500.00 over budget on what I thought it was going to cost.
One of the things I most tell people when they ask me about trip planning is to allow a markup for the things you don’t know. Something like 20-25% usually will cover it for us. This trip has, however, exceeded that for sure.
I suppose, it probably speaks to my inexperience that I didn’t budget in for the cost of a visa to either China or Cambodia. Within a week of our purchasing our tickets we realized we needed to get our butts in gear fast to round those up.
We used a company called Travisa for getting the Visa in China. We live in West Virginia so the nearest offices for the visa would be Washington, DC. I considered driving there myself, 6 hours one way, but in the end, did the math and determined that my lack of experience with the process could result in my having to drive there, do it wrong, drive home and then pay the company to do it. So I bucked up and ordered the kit and sent our passports to them the next day.
The way it works is fairly simple. Pay them the fees, print and fill out all the papers that they send you, sign everything and put all the required documents with the forms and your passports (good for at least six months past the date of travel) and drop it into the Fed-ex box and wait.
The wait was only 24 hours before our first communications came back. The company does a fantastic job keeping you updated on where you are in the process. Today the lady informed me that our bill was ready and the visa should be ready by next week and once payment was cleared they would ship our visa and passport back to us by overnight delivery and we should be ready to go. (Did I mention the wait part?)
In stark contrast to that, the Cambodian visas were a much simpler process. I used this website and filled out the paperwork online and provided everything, including a digital version of our passport photo for the visa and paid the fees associated. Within an hour, I had both mine and my husbands visas applied for and within 10 hours I had both of them printed and in my hand ready to go. You can apply for a Cambodian Visa at the airport when you land in the country but because neither my husband or I understand the language we try to take care of everything that we can in advance of a trip to a country that will be hard to communicate in.
The visa for China has not been approved yet but hopefully we will have it in hand this time next week and I can go back to sleeping at night instead of refreshing the page just in case they send me an email for any more information that I haven’t already provided.
When you apply for a visa for China you need to provide quite a bit of information. I was actually pretty impressed with their system and how much information they required for a tourist to visit the country.
- A US Passport that is good for at least 6 months longer than your trip dates. I imagine always that is because if heaven forbid something happens and you get sick and stuck in their country or some other unforeseen set of circumstances should happen that you didn’t get home on time you would still have a passport that was valid when it was time to come home. Yikes, lets don’t think about that.
- A list of every single place that you will go, sleep and be during the trip. You provide these and they literally register you with the US Embassy in the places you will visit so that you are accounted for while in the other country with both the other country and with the American government. This makes me feel safe in several ways.
- A copy of your flights, tickets and hotel reservations, etc.
- A letter of invitation from the person who has asked you to stay with them or visit them and all sorts of information on that person are visiting them, if that is the case. I didn’t have to do this because of course, I don’t know anyone in China.
- They ask about your history, family to contact in emergencies and all the normal stuff that you would expect as well. Several questions asked what your plans were and why you wanted to visit China. That was not hard to answer since there are so many things that are amazing in China.
- You had to provide a passport photo. We got those made at our local CVS store. You had to send that in with the packet and I assume they use that to put your photo on the visa that goes with your passport for the trip.
FEES FOR THE TOURIST VISA TO CHINA
- 140.00 China Tourist Visa Consular Fee
- 140.00 China Tourist Visa Consular Fee for my husband
- 25.00 to register with the US Embassy in all the places that we will visit
- 164.00 China Tourist Standard Travisa Fee
- 164.00 China Tourist Standard Travisa Fee for my husband
- 44.00 UPS Next day Air returning the passports and visas to us
- 16.52 Consular Processing Fee for speeding up the process
- 38.00 Shipping label from us to Travisa
- 40.00 Passport replacement fees for in case they are ever lost while traveling
Bringing the total for the Visa for visiting China to a whopping $771.52 ! That is as much as a cruise to the Bahamas on a sale weeekend ! Wow, right.
First, I would say, I love a country that makes it as hard as possible for people to just wander into it and cause chaos. So, I applaud China for that part. I sometimes wish it were far harder for people to just stroll into America without having to tell the government where they are going and who they will talk to every second. I think if we had more of that, maybe there would be less terrorism. However, it really was a huge cost that I wasn’t planning for so yikes on that part.
Fees for the Cambodia Visa
- 36.00 Visa fees for each of us total & pretty much instant approval & printing
Hopefully, all will go well and I will update this post in a week to say how the whole process plays out and if we will be leaving for our trip to China next month with a Visa in hand. Fingers crossed….
Less than a week later…
We got our passports and China Visa back today. They put a visa into the inside of our passports and sent them secure back by fedex. We are all good to go and have our paperwork in order for both the Chinese and Cambodian legs of the trip. Exciting.
I will post more of every stage of the actual trip at a later date, once I have all the details lined out and figure out what we are doing each day.
Over the last couple years we have been blessed to get to travel. I have seen so many amazing things, I can’t even count. But the list of things that we still want to see is far longer than the list of ones we have already enjoyed.
The Great Wall of China is always at the top of a bucket list. So we have decided to take one last trip this year to mark that one off while we are still able. I know, it sounds like I think I wont have enough time to see everything. My 13 year old son said “Mom, are you sure that you don’t have cancer or something that you are not telling me” when I told him that we were going to China.
I don’t feel like I am in a hurry. But I do feel like when I leave this world I am going to not have gotten to see all the amazing things that I want to see.
The truth is, so many of my friends and family say to me, YOU ARE CRAZY FOR GOING THERE when I am planning trips. Or, I AM NEVER GOING THERE, is pretty common as well.
I was around 45 when I started traveling with my husband and I cant tell you how much the experiences have changed my every day life. When I eat, I have a new found appreciation for all the many choices that I have in America. When I drive my car, I find myself praying while driving, thanking God for the opportunities that I have had and the freedom to go where I wish, when I wish.
Every aspect of my life has been altered by the time and sights I have seen while traveling.
And Bill likes to say that good travel makes you want good travel. I have a sign in my bedroom that says, Travel is the only thing you can spend money on that makes you richer. That’s so true.
We can hardly wait for our November trip to China. I have been hard at the planning stage and almost have it entirely figured out. When I first started traveling I remember how scared I was. I still have moments that I have fears. But the rewards always out weight the stress or worry. Sometimes, we get lost. Sometimes, we can’t understand what people are saying. Sometimes, I even cry. But it is ALWAYS worth it for the experience.
Our Bucket List Life
Our list of thing to see in China:
- The Great Wall
- Beijing City
- The Forbidden City
- The Temple of Heaven
- Tiananmen Square
- The Avatar Mountains
- Tianzi Mountain Cable Car
- Fenghuang City
- Hauihua & Changsha
- Guilin and the Li River
- Angkor Wat in Cambodia
The current bucket list items is as follows:
- The Great Wall of China
- Angkor Wat, Cambodia
- Machu Picchu in Peru
- The Taj Mahal in Agra, India
- Petra in Jordan
- The Red Sea
- The Leaning Tower of Pisa
- The old city of Jerusalem & places where Jesus lived
- Berlin and the Berlin Wall
- Run with the Bulls in Spain
- Go to the Cannes Film Festival in France
- See the city of Naples and visit Mt Vesuvius
- The City of Pompeii
- Visit the Amalfi Coast in Italy
- Cinque Terre Point
- Go to Ireland
- See Edinburgh
- Visit the Krampus Parade in Austria
- La Biennale di Venezia Arsenale in Venice, Italy
- Visit Seville Spain and Semana Santa: Bellavista
- Visit the Day of the Dead in Mexico City
- Galapagos Islands
- Hermitage Museum
- The Haag Museum
- Stay in an Ice Hotel
- Go on Safari in Africa
- Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro (And a visit during the time of the Carnival Festival)
A few things we hope to see eventually:
- Channel Tunnel, Strait of Dover
- CN Tower in Toronto, Ontario Canada
- Golden Gate Bridge in California
- Panama Canal
- Washington State & Mount Rushmore
- Victoria Falls
- Mount Everest
- The Great Barrier Reef in Austrailia
- The South Pole
- The Amazon Rainforest
Some of the other amazing things we have already seen:
- The Roman Colosseum
- The location of the Statue of Zeus at Olympia
- The Pyramids of Giza & The Great Sphinx
- The Belize Barrier Reef
- Hoover Dam
- The Grand Canyon
- Milan & The Last Supper
- Split in Croatia
- Olympia and the first Olympic Stadium
- Athens, The Acropolis
- Carnevale Venice
- Bath, England
- Cayman Islands
- Dominican Republic
- Turks and Caicos
- San Juan Puerto Rico
- St Croix
- St John
- Cockburn Town
- Key West Florida
- The Bahamas
- Cancun Mexico
A few things out west we want to visit:
- Yellowstone National Park
- Mount Rushmore
- Redwood National Park
- Antelope Canyon
- Burning Man Festival
- Petrified Forest
- South Rim of the Grand Canyon
- Hoover Dam (Again)
- Lower Antelope Canyon
- Bryce Canyon
I think everyone has a bucket list, right ? Ours keeps growing. We see new things in books and movies and before you know it the list needs revisions. I hope when my life is over there will be many more things that I clear from this list. But if I have to leave this life sooner than expected, I am so grateful for each and every single thing that I have already gotten to see.