Handling excess baggage fees…Unable to prepay…Packing remains time consuming and tricky…Four days until departure!

A sunny day makes all the difference in taking good photos.

With the complicated upcoming five flights necessary over the next many months and the slower Internet connection, a few months ago we decided to book all five flights with a local travel agency after we’d verified pricing online.

Travel agencies generally charge the same prices for their services that we’d receive on our own other than the voracious online searches, we may perform from time to time for the best possible fares. 

In the case of these upcoming flights, we could search day and night and the prices remained within a few dollars either way. Rather than using $100 in data searching online, a trip to the travel agency made sense, especially when it’s located in the same mall where we’ve shopped each week.

Visitors spending time at the beach in the shade.  We did the same sitting on beach towels we placed on the grass.

When we booked the five flights, we didn’t prepay baggage fees at the time. Knowing we had to further lighten our load to stay within the 23 kilo, 50 pounds, maximum weight for checked baggage, we had some work to do. 

We’d purchased a few items of clothing while here, received in a shipment from the US and had to reduce the weight to compensate for the new items, easily done with many items becoming old and worn from frequent wearing and washing.

With one checked bag allowed per person at or under this weight, our only excess baggage is our third bag which also now weighs within the 23 kilo range. 

People, young and old, walk along the esplanade.

For those who may have missed why we need five flights, here they are:

1.  Cairns to Sydney, Australia:  stay overnight in hotel
2.  Sydney to Nadi, Fiji:  two hour layover
3.  Nadi, Fiji to Savusavu, Fiji  (first smaller island we’ll live on for almost three months):  landlord picking us up at the airport, to take us to our new home
4.  Savusavu, Fiji to Suva, Fiji (main island we’ll live on for one month): on our own, rental car from airport to house. 
5.  Suva back to Sydney, Australia: to stay overnight for one night, board a cruise on January 5, 2016 which will disembark 14 days later in Auckland, New Zealand, where we’ll rent a car to drive to our new home near New Plymouth, New Zealand for the next 89 days.

With the confusion of booking all of these flights individually online it certainly made sense to see a travel agent to book all of these flights on one ticket, all the way through to Sydney in January.

Unfortunately, it appears prepaying for our extra bag for all five flights is trickier than one would think. We’d planned to return to the agency a few days before departure and have the agent set up the prepayment of the extra bag.

There are numerous resorts, hotels and vacation rentals overlooking the sea in Trinity Beach.

With all of our bags filled, we weighed them on the our portable travel scale, happily discovering they all were within the weight restrictions for individual bags. 

The only issue is the third checked bag, one we cannot live without no matter how we’ve tried to trim its contents: all of our shoes (six pairs each), a few small boxes of our business cards, a portable scanner, bottles of vitamins a few sandwich sized ziplock bags of cosmetics, teeth care supplies (fluoride free toothpaste), emergency medical/first aid supplies, insect repellent, power adapters and cords including HDMI and a small stash of other toiletries, such as organic antiperspirant and shaving supplies. All of these items are included in the lowest amounts possible. 

Walking along the beach is enjoyed by visitors to the many beaches.  Of course, keeping an eye out for crocs, sharks and stingers is vital at most beaches in Australia.

Having checked for stores available in each location, we determine the necessity of bringing more or less toiletries. Fiji is not going to carry fluoride free toothpaste or organic antiperspirant. We’re bringing enough to last 89 days. We’re always monitoring the amounts of products we use in order to avoid packing any more than the minimum.

In that bag, I only have one small plastic jar of face cream with no other lotions, potions, perfumes or sunscreens. We use coconut oil as a lotion if needed, purchased new in each location and left behind when we move on. We purchase hair products as needed at each new location.

The top level of this condo complex has great ocean views.

On Tuesday, when we stopped in at the travel agency to hopefully pay for the extra bag, the rep explained that once she entered our confirmation numbers, a message appeared stating the excess bags can only be paid at the airport at the time of checking in.

This is odd to us. But, we too saw this notation online. Since we preferred to pay the excess all the way through, it appears the flight with Fiji Airways are tripping up the process. Smaller planes may dictate actual allowable weight once other passengers check in.  his is the only reason we can determine as to why we can’t do this in advance. The excess bag may have to be shipped on a different flight.

The shaded walkway, the esplanade, is an ideal path for walking.

As a result, we have no choice but to wait until we’re at the airport in Cairns on Monday, arriving in plenty of time to handle this and pay for the excess. Of course, we’d have preferred to have it handled up front but undert these circumstances, have no other option.

We’re expecting to pay no less than AUD $800, USD $562. Anything less will be a pleasant surprise. 

Tomorrow, we’ll head to the post office to ship the box of food supplies in Vanua Levu, most of which is only purchased in the health food sections of a large grocery store or in a health food shop. None of these types of stores exist  in Vanua Levu. 

With the intense sun in Australia, many former sunbathers spend only short stints in the sun, as we do on occasion.  On the date we took these photos, we spent all of the time in the shade except during the walk in the sand along the beach.

None of this planning is easy. Those who may believe that living a life of traveling the world is free of responsibilities with little planning are kidding themselves, especially if they have any types of special needs that requires certain products, foods and equipment.

As time marches on, we’ve accepted the reality of shipping certain products to ourselves in advance and paying for excess baggage fees. If we were 25 years old without any medical or health needs driving us to purchase and use specific products and, we were able to carry an even a smaller amount of clothing in  backpack, it could be an entirely different scenario.

A palm tree casting a shadow in the sand, a perfect spot for a beach chair.  We wished we had the two chairs we’d purchased at Costco in Kauai which we gave to Elaine and Richard before departing.

But, we’re not 25 years old. We’re grateful that we’ve figured out a way that makes this life work for us ultimately reducing stress of feverishly scrambling to find the items we need once we arrive in a new location.  

Once we unpack our bags and the shipped box we can sit back and relax as we settle into a new life in a new country knowing we have the supplies we’ll need for the best possible experience.

We’ll be back soon as we fast approach our departure from Trinity Beach, Australia to head to a new and different country where we’ll live for the next four months.

                                           Photo from one year ago today, September 3, 2014:
No photo was posted one year ago today when we had a very early morning departure from the ship to visit Stonehenge, although we posted a short blurb. Please click here for details.

Two weeks and counting…Preparations have begun…Another unusual item in photos…Pandan aka Fragrant Screw Pine…

Pandan leaves from the Pandan Plant are used to make these beautiful fragrant bouquets. As quoted from the owner’s written material: “The leaves are used in Southeast Asian cooking as well in making the “flowers” which act a repellent to roaches. In addition, Pandan leaves are said to possess medicinal benefits containing tannin, glycosides, and alkaloids. The scents emitting from the flowers last a week and may be used as a freshener in cars, homes, or washrooms.”

Next week, we’ll return to the travel agency, Flight Centre, at the Smithfield Mall where we’ve booked several upcoming flights with rep Helen in and out of Australia and Fiji. At that point, we’ll prepay for our baggage for these flights with both Qantas Airlines and Fiji Airways.

In order to prepay our baggage fees with tougher restrictions with Fiji Airways than Qantas, it’s important we don’t overestimate the weight of our bags. With our handy travel scale that also doubles for weighing ourselves, Tom first weighs himself while I note the readout and then he weighs himself again, holding the bag.

These handmade Pandan Plant bouquets were being made as we watched the gifted crafts woman, proud of her handiwork. The smell was exquisite.

Generally, each of our checked bags weighs under 23 kilograms, 50.7 pounds, we weren’t charged an additional fee. However, we’ll have to pay for our third bag carrying our shoes, my boots, and a wide variety of supplies which often weighs another 23 kilos.  For that extra bag, we’re often charged an outrageous fee, varies by the airline.

An instruction sheet at the Pandan table.  Interesting.

In reviewing the items in that third bag, we don’t see how we can reduce its weight. If we’d be able to replace the items elsewhere, we would. But, many can’t be found on tropical islands or at remote locations. 

What a gorgeous orchid, one amongst many offered for sale at Rusty’s Markets.

This third bag contains various power cords, power adapters suitable for many countries, power strips, a portable scanner, emergency medical and dental supplies, a few month’s supply of toiletries, a few bottles of vitamins, probiotics, business cards, and shoes, all of our shoes, with five pairs for each of us. 

We stopped to sniff the wide array of organic soaps scented with essential oils.  The smells were intoxicating and I was tempted to buy a few.  Tom reminded me that we’ll easily spot items such as this in the open markets in Fiji.  I agreed.

Recently, I rummaged through that bag, removing every last unnecessary items, any we may be able to find at a local store. While here in abundant Australia we’ve been able to restock a few items we won’t be able to find until we return to Australia next year.

A diner made from an older caravan/travel trailer selling Thai foods. Tom scoured the menus wondering what-the-heck he’s going to eat when we get to Thailand in about a year.

Feeling concerned about the weight of my one large bag, especially when I’d purchased a few items both here and which arrived in a shipped box from the US a few weeks, it was time to pack and weigh my bag.

Hot food must be popular when these bunches of chilies (note spelling above) are offered for sale.

Last week, I took all my clothes out of the cupboard, neatly folding them, tossing no less than 3.6 kilos, 8 pounds of old and worn items none of which are in good enough condition to donate. This pile easily compensates for the new items. 

Yesterday, I did a “trial run” on the weight of my bag, packing every single item except what I was wearing, later removing what I’d need over the next few weeks. Tom weighed my bag and it came in at almost 20 kilos, 44 pounds. When the time comes, I won’t have any trouble rounding it out up to the allowance.

A refrigerator case of vegetarian-only baked goods and meal.

Tom has yet to do his bag, but he will before we head back to the travel agency at the end of next week to prepay the baggage fees.  Sure, we could do this ourselves online, but Helen, the rep, has a better wifi connection and can do it more quickly. We expect the fees to run at least AUD $800, USD $584, an amount we’re prepared to pay for the five upcoming flights.

Many readers still prefer to read a “real book.”

We always recall the excess weight baggage fees we paid when we had zillions of bags at the airports in Dubai, Venice and Istanbul. Having since greatly reduced the load, we’ve been able to get by with only paying for the third checked bag, usually running at about AUD $343, USD $250.

Screen printed tee shirts or night shirts in longer lengths.

As we often say, “It’s the nature of the beast,” a reality we faced long ago. From time to time, we hear stories of world travelers managing with carry-on bags only. We admire their ability to do so. But, most of those travelers are eventually return to a home base where they can repack in order to continue on.

After we’d toured the main area of the under-cover market, we wandered the perimeters finding more products for sale.

Our needs aren’t quite as sparse as those of most travelers. When checking out my relatively small amount of clothing, all that I own, I’m pleased for having reduced it to this level. Tom has an equal amount of clothing in his bag.

The shops continued on the street side of Rusty’s Markets.

We have less clothing and bags than the average traveler on a two week holiday/vacation from what we’ve seen of other travelers on cruises, at hotels and at airports. We willingly pay the extra fees understanding that it’s our choice to remain well equipped, spending little time shopping in each locale for items we’d have difficulty finding.

Gerbera Daisies, a favorite from the old life.  We don’t purchase flowers these days.

In the next few days we’ll head to the mall to grocery shop for the second to last time and to search for a cardboard box to use for the food items we’re accumulating to ship a few days before departing for Fiji. In many cases, as we travel the world we don’t need to ship food items with health food grocers readily available in most countries. 

Although we don’t eat fruit, we’d never seen this champagne honeydew melon in our travels.

In contacting Mario, the manager of the property we’re renting, he explained that there are no health food stores in Savusavu, Vanua Levu which we further confirmed researching online. We sent him a list of the items we use and he explained what is available and what is not. 

Mario explained that organic unrefined coconut oil is available at every shop, but ground flax meal is not. We’ll be lucky to be able to replace a bottle of vitamin C while on this remote island.

We could smell the sweet scent of these tangelos as we walked by this display.

My health club membership expired yesterday making no sense to sign up for another month. I’ll do some resistance exercises at home in the interim also planning a few walks in local parks and reserves. Walking down and back up the long and steep driveway to the trash bins is a high intensity interval training (HIIT) exercise in itself which we do every few days.

There are tons of bananas and other fruit available at Rusty’s Markets in Cairns.

Today, we’re sharing another batch of some of the remaining photos from Rusty’s Markets. We’re still reeling over the fulfilling experience while I continue to savor appetizer plates of the products we purchased from Fetish for Food. Tom? Not so much with his picky taste buds.

We plan to do a little more exploring this week as we wind down our time in Trinity Beach, sharing more photos over the next few weeks. As always, on the day of our departure on September 7th, we’ll be posting the total expenses for our three-month stay in the Cairns area.

                                             Photo from one year ago today, August 24, 2014:

Our last shot of Oxford, England as we prepared to leave the area. For more Oxford photos, please click here.