First I need to pay off my student loans, but I looked at my finances today, and I realized that I can do that right now. I have one loan with roughly $2,500 to go, and another with $1,566. That's $4,066. I have $3,270 sitting in my savings account, and about $1,100-$1,200 in paychecks that I need to deposit sitting in my living room (I'm terrible about this kind of stuff). That's at least $4,370 that I could use to pay them off with. I'm going to do this this week. I'll call and ask for current payoff figures during lunch, then stop by the credit union after work and either transfer/deposit the money to checking or get cashier's checks, depending on what the loan company wants.
Then, I need to figure out how much money I need for my trip, and how long it will take me to get it. I kind of want to go for 2 months, and the rail pass I want is $699/month peak, or $495 if I travel before the end of May or after halfway through October. I'll probably end up going at least one of the months during peak times, though, and I'm going to calculate it with both of them being during such times, just to be on the safe side. That's $1,398 I need for just the train tickets.
The plan for the trip is basically to leave Portland on the train, head north, get to Canada, and then east to Toronto for the first 30 days, with as many stops as I can manage. Then, somehow get to Orillia, which will probably involve a car rental (it's about 80 miles away), and spend at least a day being a stupid Gordon Lightfoot fangirl and seeing the town he's from, as well as seeing some of the things that he's sung about that are in that general area (such as Georgian Bay). I will probably also spend some time playing tourist in Toronto. I think that's where Younge street is, and Gordon Lightfoot wrote a song about that, too. I am sure that there are many non-Gordon-Lightfoot-related things to do there as well. Then I'll start the 2nd 30-day rail pass, finish going as far across Canada as I can, then head south and start seeing the east coast of the USA. I know I want to spend some time in Washington D.C and New York City, but other than that am pretty open to suggestion. Then I will somehow train back across the country to Portland again. The second half of the trip is pretty flexible, since I think there are several east-west Amtrak lines at different north-south points, and I haven't really decided which to go for yet. This will probably be dictated by a combination of people I want to see along the way, how often they run, and whether there are any cool landmarks or such that I could see along the way. Any suggestions on this point (or offers of meeting for coffee or crash space) are welcome. I'm not sure how many stops I'm really going to be making on the way back, though, since I do want to spend some of the 30 days seeing the east coast.
Calling one car rental place (Budget 800/268-8900), they won't rent me a car in Toronto because I'll only be 23 (bastards!), but they will in London, which is still close enough to drive from Orillia from, and it would come out to about $300 Canadian for a week, and that includes enough mileage to get to Orillia and back. That seems pretty promising. I'll call around to other companies and try to get the best deal (and try to find one actually in Toronto) when I get a firmer idea when I'm going (I just told them the first week in August, on the theory that that's when the highest prices of any time I might travel would be). The guy on the phone had actually been to Orillia many times and said it's really beautiful there, which is a good sign. Looks like I can get a a decent hotel room for less than $100 Canadian a night in Orillia (even in August) with my AAA card, too. Thus, it looks like transportation and lodging for that little jaunt will be about $1000 Canadian. Yahoo's telling me that's about $750 US right now, but I'll play it safe and assume $800.
So far, that's up to $1400 + $800 = $2200 for the basic transportation costs and staying in a decent hotel in Orillia for a week. I still need to figure out how many other stops I can make and figure out hotel or hostel costs for those parts, and then figure out a food budget, a souvenir budget, and an admission-to-attractions budget. However, I'm guessing I can do this whole trip for around $5,000 - $6,000 if I'm careful and don't splurge too much on staying in nice hotels the rest of the time. I also don't really plan on renting cars any place else, it's just that the train doesn't seem to go to Orillia.
Now, to figure out how long it'll take me to save up that kind of money, so I get an idea when I could go. In a week where I work the 25 hours I'm supposed to, I make about $200 take-home pay (stop laughing). 6,000/200 = 30, so it would take me 30 weeks to make $6,000 for my trip. Assuming 4 week months, that's 7 or 8 months from now, meaning fuck all, this would be next winter. In recent times, however, I've been working around 40 hours a week, and my take-home's been like $300. 6,000/300 = 20, so assuming 4 week months it'll only take me 5 months, which puts this in roughly the fall or very late summer. (I don't use the money from my job for daily expenses, since I still get an allowance from my mom. There's a whole 'nother post in that.) So, with luck, I can do this trip in September and October, which seems pretty nice. I need to be sure to be able to somehow vote in the November election, so I guess I need to be home or at someplace I can predictably receive mail before then. I have no idea if it would be possible for me to vote before I go, but I'm guessing it would be too early. I already know who I'm voting for (not Bush, whoever that may be), so I'm not concerned about last-minute things changing my mind.
Anyway, this is seeming more and more do-able. I'm very pleased. I just need to get as many hours at work as I can, which hasn't been a problem lately. I already have a stack waiting for me that will probably take me until at least Wednesday even if I stay all day, and I know it'll get interrupted by at least a few priority things during that time, so I'm guessing I can work overtime this coming week without much trouble. I think I'll try to squeeze in 9 hours or so each day but Monday, when I have choir and really should leave by 1700 or so. They don't seem to have a problem with giving me more than 40 hours in a week, and I make $15 a hour for my overtime hours, so I can make a fair amount of extra that way. The real question is if my job will last that long since it's temp work, but several of the other temps have been there more than 9 months, and that'd be around when I'm planning to quit to go on this train trip, so it seems likely. The idea of taking this trip in November and December also seems appealing, since then I'd get to duck out on the election coverage zoo and on Christmas (I can vote absentee before I leave if it's late October), but I bet it'd be damn cold to be sightseeing in Canada and on the US east coast then.
Any suggestions or comments are quite welcome. I've never planned a trip of this magnitude before, so I'd like all the help I can get.