When you want to go around the world
First off, listening to this song is a requirement while reading this post:
(You may have to click over if you’re reading this via email.)
In other news, we bought tickets for the first quarter of our round-the-world trip! Actually, that’s not other news—that is the news of the week for this household.
It’s a done deal. We’re going. And as Kyle says, with as far as we’ve bought our westbound tickets (to South Africa), if for some reason we had to cut our trip short, we’d still return home transatlantically, thereby guaranteeing us we will go around the world sometime in the next twelve months.
It’s exciting! And nerve-wracking, a little. I mean—we’re really going to do this.
Here are a few tips we learned while purchasing partial round-the-world tickets for a family.
Leave plenty of time for research.
There are so many moving parts to a trip this size, you don’t want to wait till the last minute. One airline shows this for that date, another ticket website shows that for another date, if you go at this time you need to move dates to this other place… it’s a machine.
I’m all for spontaneity, but seeing as the flights are the biggest purchase for a round-the-world journey, you don’t want to grab the first thing that spits out on Google. Take lots of time.
It’s also a good idea not to purchase your tickets too early, to ensure the most competitive prices—I’ve heard anywhere from 30 to 90 days out being ideal.
Use a variety of resources.
I did basic single-flight research on my go-to ticket aggregator, Kayak. But then I also spent hours (and hours and hours) creating itineraries on Indie’s round-the-world ticket finder. (It’s actually a lot of fun if you’re a planning nerd like me.) I also checked out routes and prices on airline alliance sites, like OneWorld and Star Alliance, but these tend to be very limiting.
Ultimately, we went with what was quoted to us at AirTreks, which came highly recommended by friends who used them last year. I never thought we’d use a travel agent, nor would we even buy round-the-world tickets—after all, you can piecemeal your own itinerary with individual tickets just fine.
But we loved AirTreks because it actually was really nice to talk to a human—someone who knows RTW travel inside and out and who can provide plenty of feedback and advice (everything from best times of year to preferred airlines to going overland when it makes better sense than a plane). They also provide basic travel insurance, and they were able to take care of our Australian visas—they don’t cost a ton of money anyway, but every little bit helps.
If you go with AirTreks, ask for Sarah Gamber, and tell her I sent you. She’s good people.
BootsnAll also has a fairly comprehensive review of a variety of round-the-world trip planning tools (though they do own Indie).
At some point, be good with good enough.
You can price-point and research and move your little moving parts around till the cows come home. At some point, you just need to say, “This is it—this is our trip,” and move forward. It’s tempting to evaluate every single possible scenario in the name of saving a few bucks, but eventually, you just need to hand over your money and call it done.
If I were going as a single, or even if it were just Kyle and me, we’d probably be more open-ended and wait for ideal everythings. But we’re a family with young kids. We want a few pegs nailed into the map before we go.
Know what’s included in your ticket purchase.
Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples when you do your research. Look into flight change penalties, luggage allowances, flight times and airports (just because your arrival and departure flights are in the same city doesn’t mean they’re from the same airport), and child fare possibilities.
Like I said—many moving parts.
Talk to your bank in advance.
Round-the-world tickets are a major purchase, and most banks have a daily spending limit. Ask a bank rep for a temporary limit lift while you make the purchase, otherwise, you’re in for a few days of frustration.
(This is another reason I’m so thankful for AirTreks—Sarah spent hours on the phone with our bank to get needed authorization codes that ensured the purchase was completed.)
It’s physically impossible to be at every location during every ideal season. You might also have to be okay with waiting for another trip to see something nearby, even though it feels like you’re close to Ayers Rock just because you’re in Australia. Kyle and I have already said to each other on more than one occasion, “It’s okay—this won’t be our last trip. We can always go there another time.”
Yes, this is a trip of a lifetime. But it doesn’t mean crossing off every single thing we’d ever want to see. In fact, that’s a recipe for travel burnout if I ever saw one—we’re huge advocates of slow travel, and with a few exceptions, our itinerary reflects this. We’d rather enjoy a few places and do them well than See All The Things.
Our trip itinerary:
Out of the starting gate: September 15, 2014
- September to early October: China
- Early October to early December: Southeast Asia
- December to mid-January: Australia and New Zealand
- Mid-January to early February: Sri Lanka and a little Africa
These are the tickets we’ve purchased. Then from South Africa, our plan is:
- February: South America
- March: Middle East
- April to June: Europe
This may seem like a strange route, particularly the Africa – South America – Middle East bit, but we’ve strategized and planned, researched and experimented, and yep—this is the cheapest, best-weather route. We’re doing our best to chase warm weather, both for packing reasons and because well, warm weather.
It’s getting close!
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