Recently I shared five planning tips for creating your ideal round-the-world travel itinerary. A reader suggested that a few sample itineraries might make useful reading, and the opportunity to play around with RTW routes for a better reason than purely my own amusement was too good to pass up.
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For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to start every route in New York. I don’t live there, but I bet more readers do than in my current hometown in Western Australia, and wherever you are, you’re more likely to be able to adapt a route going through the US to suit your own situation. I’m using my favorite RTW site TripPlanner for the price estimates.
So to start off, and following my own advice, let’s look at some routes that include what I would call “sensible” destinations.
A Varied Route: Not Just Beaches, But Not Too Much Cash
New York — Barcelona — Athens — Cairo — Dubai — Bangkok — Sydney — Auckland — San Francisco — New York
For just over $3,000, it’s possible to get a RTW ticket stopping at places as varied as Gaudi-haven Barcelona, historically soaked Cairo (I hadn’t thought of Athens, but it got thrown in by TripPlanner as a free stopover), the modern architectural marvel of Dubai, and a stop in Bangkok which you could turn into a beach sojourn in a quiet part of Thailand. Getting home again could see you explore parts of east coast Australia and New Zealand before soaking up the San Francisco Bay atmosphere.
If you’re looking for variety, think big. Nobody says you have to stop at the biggest or most well-known cities. Many standard routes would head to London or Frankfurt rather than Barcelona, but why not head straight to the cities that really interest you most?
A Not-Overdoing-It Route: Don’t Squeeze the Whole World In
New York — Moscow — Singapore — Tokyo — Honolulu — Vancouver — Seattle — New York
Too much variety can be too much of a good thing. This route’s cheapest variant comes out at around $2,500, and I picked it using a handful of cities that have really interested me of late. Singapore and Seattle were free extras thrown in by the system — places where these routes would make stopovers anyway — but Moscow, Tokyo, Honolulu and Vancouver make to me a fascinating and relaxing vacation which also doesn’t need to last more than a few weeks.
A Cheap Route: Cheap Fare, Cheap Living Costs
New York — Shanghai — Bangkok — Delhi — Amsterdam — New York
For just over $2,000, you can get around the world with a few stops in the cheaper parts of Asia and one of the slightly less expensive cities of Europe. If you spend most of your trip in China, Thailand and India, or other areas of south-east Asia where living and traveling expenses are relatively low, you’ll have enough cash to enjoy a European stopover like Amsterdam on your way home.
A Summer Route: Don’t Pack A Coat
New York — London — Vienna — Hong Kong — Bangkok — Singapore — Perth — Melbourne — Christchurch (NZ) — Auckland (NZ) — Los Angeles — New York
This gets trickier, and we’re talking about a longer trip, nine months or a year. Say we start in New York in April — that’s spring in the northern hemisphere. Head to Europe for the northern summer. As the seasons change, enjoy the eternal warmth of tropical Asia, then when the southern hemisphere summer begins in December, head to Australia and New Zealand for a few months. Summer all the way, and you’ll have really cut back on your clothes packing by avoiding cold weather. But for a relatively reasonable $3,500, you’ve really seen a lot of the world in your shorts and T-shirt.
A Quick Route: Around the World in Much Less Than 80 Days
New York — Paris — Dubai — Hong Kong — Los Angeles — New York
While this is not really my style of traveling, I still think that giving someone the chance to see some very different corners of the globe, even if it’s only for a short time, is better than staying at home. You get the romance of Europe typified in Paris, a stopover in Dubai and an easy Asian thrill in Hong Kong, starting from around $2,200. This is the kind of route you could fit into a two-week vacation. I’m not recommending it, but if you can’t get any more time off, then it’s a viable alternative.
An Eccentric Route: Writer’s Choice
New York — Miami — Lima — Mexico City — Los Angeles — Tahiti — Auckland — Sydney — Ho Chi Minh City — Singapore — Mumbai — Delhi — Moscow — Frankfurt — Madrid — Casablanca — London — New York
Like I said: go wild. This is the ultimate RTW route I’d take if money was no object (it comes in at around $5,000). I’ve still chosen it with relative care about which connections are sensible, so that I don’t spend half of a year away sitting at airports.
Lessons From Itinerary Planning
If you sit down to plan your own round the world itinerary, be prepared to spend a reasonable amount of time at it. Over the years, I’ve looked at so many different routes — and thank goodness that the marvels of the internet makes this easy to do without the help of travel agents, who would never be patient with all my questions and ideas — that I have a good idea of the various routes that exist the world over. As you practice, you’ll get the hang of it too, and soon work out that getting in and out of South America is tricky and usually expensive, whereas hopping around Asia is usually relatively cheap.
Of all the possible travel planning you can do, designing a round-the-world itinerary of flights is probably one of the most enjoyable. Open yourself up to the millions of possibilities that exist. Take your time to play and adjust your route to see what else you can squeeze out of it — a few dollars saved, or an exciting stopover added. Enjoy your RTW planning, and then make sure you tell us about it so we can share the excitement a bit too.