Eric Stoen lets each of his kids choose anywhere in the world every year for a one-on-one trip with him, but twice now his kids have splurged and opted to travel around the world instead, returning to favorite destinations and crossing new places off of their travel wish lists. We asked him for tips on planning an around the world trip.
Around the World!
Two years ago I went around the world (RTW) with my 10-year-old daughter in two weeks, and then I did it again with my son this year, in two and a half weeks. Crazy? Yes! But it was a great way to show my kids how small the world is, and simultaneously how diverse it is. And it’s really cool to be able to say that you went around the world during your summer vacation!
My route with my daughter: LA-Orlando-Paris-Dubai-Oman-Borobudur-Bali-Sydney-LA. My son and I traveled LA-Copenhagen-Greenland-Copenhagen-Seychelles-Abu Dhabi-Mumbai-Singapore-LA. The kids created our itineraries and did virtually all of the planning. I added in one stop to each trip simply based on what made sense from a flight perspective.
So let’s say you want to do something similar; to take a break from traveling deeper and see a lot of amazing places in one quick trip. How do you do it? This is my advice based on my first two trips.
Where Do You Want to Go?
This is your chance to go (practically) anywhere you want. What’s on your wish list? Rome? Buenos Aires? Cairo? The Great Wall? The Taj Mahal? Depending on how long you have to travel, you’ll have to limit your choices a little—we found that at least two nights in each destination is optimal, since our first trip we had one night in Paris followed by one night in Dubai and it felt like a little too much time in airports and not enough on the ground. At two nights there’s enough time to see a lot and not feel like you’re having to rush to catch your next flight. Again, it’s not traveling deeper, but having two-night stays followed by 4-5 hour flights wasn’t exhausting.
When Do You Want to Go?
While you may need to plan your trip around when you have vacation time, if you’re flexible you can choose a shoulder season for the majority of your destinations—when visitor numbers are lower, prices are lower, and the weather is still good. April-May and September-October are generally good months to travel in most of the world. But also look at festivals or events. If you can visit a lot of amazing places and also attend an event that you’ve always wanted to see, so much the better.
Which Direction Makes Sense?
Our first trip we traveled west to east, simply because it made sense to me to go the direction of the wind and have shorter flights. The problem was that we lost a couple hours to time zone changes with every stop, only to gain all of the time back when we crossed the international date line between Sydney and Los Angeles. I was planning on reversing direction the second trip, but our Greenland and Seychelles dates wouldn’t allow for it, so we traveled west to east again. My next around-the-world trip, with my youngest daughter in two years, will go east to west. She’s already indicated that she wants to start in Brisbane. Figure out if one direction makes more sense than the other based on your destinations or dates, but otherwise I’d recommend flying west to have a little more time in each location.
Which Flights are Best?
So now that you know where you want to go, when you want to go, and which direction you’re traveling, start looking at flights. This is fairly complicated, but it can also be fun, since you may find easy layover destinations that you want to add to your itinerary.
The best place to start is with your longest stretches. In our case this year, we needed to get from LA to Copenhagen, and then back to LA from Singapore. Those two stretches represented almost half of all of our total flying, so it made sense to try to combine them onto one ticket. Bringing up Travelocity’s Flight Search, and clicking Multi-city, we could see that United and its partners flew both routes, and typically combining flights like that (called open jaw ticketing) results in lower prices. This is also a good point to look at redeeming frequent flier miles if you have them. If you can book half your journey for free, you’re not looking at an expensive overall trip. But even then this doesn’t have to break the bank. I’ve found LA-Copenhagen/Singapore-LA recently for as little as $533/ticket.
Once you’ve found good options for your long stretches, start looking at one-way flights between your other points. Given all of the low-cost carriers now in Europe and Asia especially, there are bargains to be had. And also look at combining legs. Our first trip I booked Paris-Dubai-Yogyakarta on Emirates. The most recent trip I booked Seychelles-Abu Dhabi-Mumbai on Etihad. The combined ticketing resulted in lower prices than several one-way tickets would have been.
I should note that none of this is fast! It’s not unusual for me to spend a dozen hours playing with different flight options. But it’s worth it, and we’ve had two amazing adventures now.
Once you have flights booked, everything else is easy. Travelocity’s hotel search is great for everywhere in the world, and of course you can search these Gnomad blog posts to see where all of us have stayed and what we recommend. And do some advance research into each of your destinations. Figure out how you’re going to get from the airport to your hotel. Some amazing options are here! And plan some activities so that you hit the ground running. If you’re going to Beijing just to visit the Great Wall, you may want to book the transfer in advance. If you’re only in Istanbul one full day and you don’t have a plan, maybe hire a guide for the day so you don’t miss anything.
And be sure to look into visas! My first RTW trip I completely forgot that we needed electronic visas to enter Australia until we were heading to the airport in Bali to fly to Sydney. Luckily the online visa system is fast! But others took a little more time, like my son’s e-visa for India, and some countries still require you to mail your passport and application to a consulate well in advance.
Create a Theme
Even though both of our trips included an eclectic mix of places, we found ways to tie the trips together. Our first trip we took photos of the Travelocity Roaming Gnome at most of our destinations. And our second trip, my son and I brought along a portable table tennis (ping pong) net, paddles and balls, and set up games as many places as possible.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention trip insurance. I didn’t purchase insurance for our first RTW trip, and didn’t have issues, but that was just luck. With so many flights booked with different airlines, and with only a day in some destinations, one flight delay could have had major implications for the rest of the trip. And then because the first trip went so well I was boldly optimistic with the second trip and also skipped insurance, but it occurred to me how short-sighted that was. Flying to Narsarsuaq, Greenland from Copenhagen, we were unable to land due to weather and we diverted to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland for 24 hours. All of those people waiting in Narsarsuaq for their flight to Copenhagen? They were out of luck, since we had their plane up north. So our entire week in Greenland I was nervous about our return flight to Copenhagen from Narsarsuaq. We only had a 17-hour layover in Copenhagen before we were flying out on another airline to the Seychelles. A 24-hour delay could have cost us hundreds or even thousands of dollars in flight and hotel bookings. It worked out fine, but next time I’m purchasing insurance!
This is easy. Pack light! Don’t let any of the “what if” voices into your head. Pack one pair of walking shoes and maybe a pair of flip-flops if you’re heading to beach destinations. Take minimal toiletries—especially if you’re going to travel with carry-ons only, which I highly recommend. Plan on doing laundry periodically in the sink in your hotel room.
Pack for the weather and wear clothes until they’re visibly dirty. And think through shipping options if you’ll only need specific things for one of your destinations. This summer my son and I needed cold-weather clothes for Greenland, but warm-weather clothes for everywhere else. So we left our summer clothes at our hotel in Copenhagen, only taking our warmer clothes to Greenland. Then when we returned to Copenhagen, we shipped our Greenland clothes back to California and continued around the world with much lighter suitcases.
Are you now thinking about a crazy, once-in-a-lifetime around-the-world trip? Where do you want to go? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below. Yes, it’s a lot of flying, but that’s just a good chance to see all the movies you missed when they were in theaters! I’ve loved both of our trips, and am looking forward to the next one, in the summer of 2020. The trips honestly haven’t been exhausting, and we’ve seen some amazing places and had very cool experiences. And a trip like this doesn’t have to be expensive. The flights are the biggest cost item. If you can travel during less-busy months and get lower-priced flights, the rest of the trip can fit into virtually any budget, since there’s a wide range of hotels everywhere.
Eric Stoen of Travel Babbo is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity.
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