Path Guide - I started preparing for our Thames Path walk last April. Once the decision to do the walk was made, I wasted no time in researching how long the walk would take and the best times to go. A September timeframe was appealing because the weather was fairly settled, British schools were back in session after summer holidays, less tourists visit in September and it worked with our schedule. I researched Thames Path guides extensively, ordered one, then read it like a page-burner novel. It’s a well-marked, well-used path and usually takes about 18 days to walk … averaging about 10 miles/day. In addition to the guide, I downloaded a memory stick with several points of interest, sidetrips, self-guided city walks and anything else I could find for later/on-site review. I added a week onto the itinerary so we could sightsee and to accommodate a day off or a slower pace than anticipated.
I also found a nifty phone app, Thames Path Map Lite that displays an offline map indicating our position on the path as we walk. For $5, I thought it might be a handy addition to my guide.
All that said, you don’t know what you don’t know. I subsequently discovered that Totally Thames 2018 takes place for the month of September and the Thames Path Challenge will take place September 8-9, right after we arrive. We’ll deal with it. You never know ... it might be fun!
Flights - After much research, I found a FinnAir (yes, FinnAir) roundtrip flight from Las Vegas to London for ~$600/pp. We’ll actually be flying American Airlines from Las Vegas via Dallas to London Heathrow and British Air non-stop from London Gatwick back to Las Vegas. Not sure where FinnAir comes in, but the price was good.
Gear - We’d made the decision from the git-go that we wouldn’t use a tour company. Part of the adventure for us is figuring stuff out on our own and being spontaneous. Since we’ll be walking 10-15 miles each day, backpacks seemed to be the best solution for moving our stuff from one hotel to the next. There are companies that provide a luggage-toting service, but we gave that idea a pass. We’ll just carry everything with us which, of course, posed other issues. First, we didn’t have good backpacks and second, that meant we’d be carrying a month’s supply of clothes and gear on our backs for 184 miles.
The backpack issue fell under ‘gear’ research/purchase which, as we all know, is David’s baliwick and he was all over it. Remember, he’s keen on doing a ‘long’ walk and this ‘trial run’ fits in perfectly with his plan. Check out his upcoming gear selection BV blog in a couple days. The second issue posed a challenge … more for me than David. I pride myself in being a reasonably light-packer, but a month’s clothes, gear and supplies in a backpack? David solved this … lightweight, versatile, layered clothing combined with hand-washing or laundromats en route and limited ‘stuff’. I'm still trying to get my arms around this, but I think I'll manage.
Financial – We wanted a credit card without the currency conversion fee which adds ~ 3% to the cost of purchases. Our Capital One credit card is perfect for this; no conversion fee, plus it provides a cash back bonus to boot. Our Bank of America ATM card has reciprocal rights with Barclays in the UK which eliminates ATM fees for our local cash needs, another significant savings, not to mention that ATM withdrawals of local currency usually offer the best exchange rate.
Phone – Would we need a phone? First we thought no, but then reality kicked in. Making hotel reservations? Canceling reservations? Garmin daily step count? Apps we like to use? We concluded that we needed a phone. David researched possibilities for cheap international-use options on our existing phone. Skype or Facetime, of course, can be used for calls back home as long as we have internet, but what about local calls? What about using our apps or if we want to use internet en route? For a mere $10/day, we could use our AT&T phone … that’s as much as $270 US if we used the phone every day … yikes! Instead, David resurrected an old iPhone 5S (a hand-me-down from Lin), unlocked it (free) and bought a ‘3’ SIM card on-line for $30 which provides 3000 talk minutes and 3000 texts within the EU and 12Gb of data good for one month from activation.
Portable Laptop – I fully intend to write and post the blog when I’m in England, but my current laptop is bulky and heavy and, of late, has been somewhat flaky. What I needed was something tiny and lightweight, but powerful enough for editing photos and loaded with all the programs I use. After much research, I narrowed it down to the Dell Inspiron 11. It's tiny ... 11.3"x0.8"x7.8". We bought it on sale while we were in Oregon … no sales tax … and I've been using it regularly to make sure it’s got everything I need. It’s an awesome little machine AND with waterproof skin and power adapter, it weighs a little over 3 lbs.
Now … what to pack, how much and why? Where will we stay? How will we get around ... other than foot power? I’ll discuss all this in the next blog and by that time, we’ll be in England and will have started on our walk. Gotta live it before you can write it. Stay tuned … it’s going to be a great month.