8 Weeks until we go ‘down under’! Down under what? I have to look that up. Eight weeks before we go to Australia! The count down has begun in earnest!
And so have the tasks.
Julia had the day off on Friday, so we went to the post officer and sent in the documents for her new passport. This time it is an adult passport (her first) and valid for 10 years. Her current passport, a kid’s edition which is good for only 5 years (and yet costs the same), expires a week after we return from Australia. I asked the postal clerk why a passport must be valid for six months after a planned trip out of the country. She responded directly and cheerfully, “Just in case of a terrorist attack. You could need to stay somewhere for awhile.” I may have lost just a bit of color in my cheeks. And that’s what you get for asking questions!
I filled out the online forms for Global Entry, part of the Trust Traveler Program last week. According to the website:
Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. . . . At airports, program members proceed to Global Entry kiosks, present their machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingerprints on the scanner for fingerprint verification and complete a customs declaration. The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit.
Julia has gotten to be pretty chill about lines and waiting in crowds; however, arrival after a long flight, or any long travel day, can be a challenge. Anything to speed us on our way on or off transportation is welcomed. Julia has T.S.A. PreCheck that allows her, and sometimes me, to use the expedited security screening at airports. Lately, airport security has been only allowing her to use the expedited line which doesn’t do us any good. We need to be together and so we use the regular security lines. I was going to apply for my own TSA PreCheck clearance for our upcoming travel when friends told me about Global Entry. The program includes the TSA PreCheck and doesn’t cost much more. I applied for both of us, HOWEVER, it is not clear from the website how long the multi-part clearance/interview/finger printing will take, so we may not have it in 8 weeks. We will be no worse off than we are now if it doesn’t come through and I’m sure we’ll appreciate the status next time.
There is a hint of chaos and frenzy in my Australian planning right now. I returned the travel books about ALL of Australia to the library and took out two more limited guides, one only about Sydney and the other about the east coast of Australia. This part of planning is always frustrating because there are always so many more places I want to see than we can possibly manage. And being a tourist in Australia is much more like seeing the United States than seeing Italy. I knew that when I begang but somewhere in my head I still wanted to see ALL of Australia in 5 weeks. I am trying to pare down expectations and pick four destinations. Oy, so hard!!
I expect we will only be able to take one inland jaunt. The places vying for the exploration right now are the Australian Age of Dinosaurs in and around Winton Qld and Ulura. Both are multi-day travel destinations; both get high ratings on Tripadvisor.com. I’m not sure but I may be comparing the Grand Canyon with Disney World. Hands down what Julia would choose. I’m leaning the other way. So, next task is to decide between Uluru and the AofD, and then find another dinosaur-related experience in and around other places we might go.