A Practical Guide to Planning a Short RTW
Our first RTW trip lasted a year. This was a year of sunshine, travel, and an incredibly memorable honeymoon that was also our first year of marriage. Our adventure was more than a journey of passport stamps and kilometers, and returning to normal life wasn’t easy. We knew we wanted to do this again, but the sacrifices it takes to jet off for multiple months or a year of travel takes time.
But maybe it didn’t have to be for a year?
Many long-term travelers dream of creating a location independent existence so they can travel as much as they want. We didn’t really want that, though. We liked having a home base. We also (gasp!) liked having stuff. So we wanted to try to satisfy our travel itch by taking a shorter around the world adventure while not completely uprooting our lives.
Together, we made a list of places we’d like to visit and discussed if we’d want to include any places we’d already been. We talked about visiting friends, where we’d do a tour to help manage transport and distance, where we were happy to go it on our own, and how we could use some miles to help cover costs.
The list started to develop and a fuzzy itinerary was born. One leave of absence taken and one job left got us to this point. Two and a half years after returning home, we were off again.
What we wanted to see
- Taj Mahal (India)
- Angkor Wat (Cambodia)
- Cliffs of Moher (Ireland)
- Blue Mosque (Turkey)
- Margaret River (Australia)
Tip: Plan your itinerary around your pillars, the sights you most want to see, and your itinerary will start to take shape.
The details: Where we went
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- Australia: Perth/Melbourne: about 3 weeks
- Hong Kong: 4 days with friends
- Cambodia: Intrepid Travel Tour: 9 days + 1 day ahead
- Thailand: 4 days
- India: gAdventures Tour: 11 days + 1 day ahead
- Dubai: 3 days
- Turkey: 3 days
- Belgium: 3 days
- Ireland: 3 days
- London: 5 days (split between friends & accommodations)
Sights we used to research/book
(outside of BootsnAll)
- gAdventures.com: Highly recommend. Guides were more knowledgeable, personable and worked really well with a diverse group of travelers.
- Travelex Travel Insurance
- US State Department/Australian State Department
- Center for Disease Control
- World Health Organization
- Lonely Planet (sites and books)
What we budgeted for
- At Home Expenses
- Travel Insurance
- Just in case fund
At home costs
- Apartment: We rent and are not supposed to sublet due to condo restrictions. Since this was a short trip, we chose to continue to pay our rent knowing we’d have a home to return to. We informed our building super of our plans and provided names/numbers of contacts in the event of an emergency.
- Healthcare: Since the certainty of getting insurance upon return to the US if we stopped it for a while was unknown, we COBRA’d our insurance during our travels. Separately, we paid for travel insurance that would give us international coverage if necessary.
- Automobile: We own one car and left it with relatives so it wouldn’t sit idle. We checked with our insurance company to be sure to pay bills when they came due.
- Banking: We made sure that our banking establishments knew of our travel plans and that we had a method to pay our bills and move money if necessary.
Tip: Provide travel notifications to all banks and credit cards prior to travel to lessen trouble while out of town
Travel costs to consider
Medications: As an asthmatic with many allergies, I travel with medications. We filled our prescriptions for anti-malaria pills and paid for a few extra (to either try in advance and check out reactions, or just in case our travel was extended in an infected area we would have for necessary precautions). We travel with medications/first aid kit in carry-ons and keep emergency meds in both our luggage in case of loss.
Tip: Contact the insurance companies and they often allow for extras purchased due to travel overseas)
Tip: Hard to find items: depending on location, bring your own tampons and contact solution
Vaccinations: Due to our extensive travel in the 2009-2010 year, we got a lot of shots. We only needed a booster for one or two of them this time. We got these and our anti-malaria prescriptions from an infectious disease doctor specializing in travel. (You can always check the CDC, WHO or your state department website for suggested vaccinations and check with your local GP; leave enough time prior to entering an infected location-some shots take at least 10 days to take effect and others need more time for a series) Carry your yellow fever card with list of vaccinations, medicines and allergies at all times (we pop ours in our passport case).
Visas: Based on our travel destinations, we needed two visas in advance and one at the airport. Each time we travel we must check the visa requirements for both an American and Australian passport. (Most of the time if there is a cost, the US visa is more expensive). As always, I purchase an electronic visa ($25 done online) for entrance into Australia that must be done ahead of time. The visas for India had to be done in advance, and we chose to do the same with the Cambodian one to lessen any difficulties. We could purchase on arrival in Turkey and didn’t need them for any place else.
Tip: If you choose this method leave enough time for processing and be sure to bring multiple copies of your computer print outs for borders on both entrance and exit.
Tip: Carry both local currency and American/ UK/Euro currency – many airports only take major international currencies for visa purchases.
Travel Insurance: Travel insurance only covers inside the home country’s borders. We tend to purchase international travel insurance through Travelex Travel Insurance when traveling overseas. There are a variety of options and they cover more medical coverage than solely taking the insurance through the credit card on which you purchase your trip. Choose your level of insurance based on your destination and needs. For a destination with limited/no medical facilities you may want the highest package allowing for evacuation to the nearest medical facility necessary for your situation.
How we planned our flights
On our year-long RTW trip, we purchased an around the world ticket using Oneworld Alliance and booked some side trips (on smaller airlines) from central locations. When you purchase a round the world ticket from an alliance, there are rules to adhere to, like having to continue in one direction the entire way. We both have frequent flyer accounts on Oneworld airlines (American and Qantas) and when possible try to use and/or earn miles.
For this shorter trip we were both leaving from NY and hoped to use our miles on Oneworld again. We sought the assistance of STA Travel in NY who handles RTW airfare (we were somewhat surprised that many other travel agencies had never heard of official RTW tickets). We thought having someone in the industry might get us better fares or at least access to flights unavailable online. We ultimately found out it didn’t make sense to use Oneworld due to the expense (it was three times the price of using other airlines).
We chose to use point to point tickets instead of an all encompassing one. These were mostly these one-way flights on discounted fares (unavailable to non-agents) of various airlines. A few airlines turned out to be Oneworld (some giving us miles), but in this situation, we gave up the greater miles for the difference in price
Tip: Check the booking class on partner airlines – only certain ones will give you points.
Also, on this occasion, we were secure in our dates and would only have to change them in an event of the unexpected. We chose not to pay the upcharge to have that type of ticket and risked having to pay the airline’s change fees if necessary.
Where we stayed and how we booked
- Oaks on Collins Street (paid for outright – cheaper to book direct with hotel than on hotels.com since this is where we lived when we were in Australia for many months and got a small discount as a repeat guest; took the lower price in lieu of the free nights we’d get on hotels.com – at this time the cash was more significant)
- Stayed with friends (no fee for accommodation)
- 1 night pre-tour in Frangipani Royal Palace Hotel (paid for and booked on Hotels.com); the rest tour accommodations (Intrepid Travel)
- The Oakwood (paid for and booked on Hotels.com) – furnished apartment; we have stayed at other locations in Bangkok prior to this visit
- 1 night pre tour in Ashtan Sarovar Portico (local chains less expensive than western chains; chain recommended by husband’s colleague who grew up in Delhi – paid for and booked on Hotels.com; location based on advice from a childhood friend who lives in Delhi); rest tour accommodations (gAdventures)
- Rose Rayhaan Rotana (recommendation from cousin who lives in Qatar and frequently travels to Dubai – local chains are less expensive than western chains); all nights covered by American Airlines miles
- Hagia Sofia Old City Hotel; found on Hotels.com; booked/paid for by American Airlines miles
- Hilton Brussels; found on Hotels.com; booked/paid for by American Airlines miles
- Hilton Dublin Hilton; found on Hotels.com; booked/paid for by American Airlines miles
- 1 night: Studios 2 Let Serviced Apartments, exceptionally tiny furnished apartment – perfect for our late arrival/early departure. Located walking distance of St Pancras station where we caught the Eurostar to Belgium; found/booked on Hotels.com
- 3 nights with friends (no fees for accommodations)
- 1 night free accommodation from 10 nights booked on Hotels.com; Melia White House Hotel (found/booked on Hotels.com)
- 2 nights: Park Plaza Westminster: found/booked/paid on Hotels.com (was one of the only hotels we weren’t happy with-super crowded, club style, odd décor and not exceptionally helpful-yet, in a great location)
Round the world travel is attainable. Make the decision, choose wisely, save, and do the research. The world is out there…go!
Check out the following articles and resources to help you plan your next big trip:
- Become a BootsnAll Member to unlock a variety of planning resources
- Sign up for our free e-course: Plan Your RTW Trip in 30 Days
- Check out our RTW section with over 15 years of articles, tips, and advice on long-term travel
- Be inspired by browsing 3 years’ worth of articles from our RTW Wednesday column
Photo credits: chattanongzen