6 Sensible (and Not-So-Sensible) Round-the-World Travel Itineraries

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.

Vagabondish is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Read our disclosure.

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?

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon © LaserGuided

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.

Sunset Balloon Flight, Germany
Sunset Balloon Flight, Germany © Axel-D

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.

  1. cool article. Because of the nature of RTW flights you can also fit in some really great destination that would otherwise cost a lot of money on single trips, like Svalbard and Easter Island.

  2. Definitely agree with you there, Mark. And hopefully now and again we can turn some of those daydreams into reality. Which of course leads to a whole host of other places we want to visit and more dream itineraries and …

  3. After visiting Southeast Asia, I would definitely recommend replacing Singapore with Bangkok for anyone looking for a cultural experience. Not to mention it is way cheaper.
    Also, you briefly mentioned that South America can be expensive. How much more should you plan on spending to get there? Technically you are going AROUND the world in those scenarios, but you’re skipping an entire continent. I’ve never been there, but it seems worth seeing. Was there any more motive behind skipping SA, or is it simply just the cost?

  4. Hi Dave, That’s true, I only headed to South America in that very last itinerary (the “dream” one at around $5,000) and the only reason it didn’t feature in other itineraries is the cost. For me it’s more practical as a destination where you head there and back, rather than try to include it on a RTW, unless it’s a really long trip and time/money aren’t so much of an object. Don’t get me wrong, there are a million reasons to get to South America!

  5. I have enjoyed reading your articles and postings about RTW travel. My wife and I, cafe owners on the east coast of the US are in our 40’s-50’s are are hoping to take a long (2-3 year) trip around the world which would take us to a large number of destinations. What we are trying to understand and figure out is this: if, for instance you wanted to go to Europe and see England, Ireland, Scotland and then Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Croatia, Greece and on to Turkey what do you do regarding flights? Do you fly from country to country and use trains/buses/cars to get around to places within the country? Do you fly into one place, rent a car or use trains, and travel to many spots before flying out of another country? How do you think of those issues? Do you establish a base or travel from place to place?

    1. HI Jerry,

      You best and cheapest travel method in Europe is over land, via train. I’d recommend flying into a major city and branching out from there…Ireland and England can be visited via boat. It’s really a matter of time vs money. Perhaps you have both?

  6. I like the “eclectic” itenerary with a few exceptions/additions. Can you give me some advice regarding adding Tanzania/Serengeti, Bhutan, Turkey? How much time would you allow for the trip as a whole, or for your trip? What would be a reasonable expectation of total cost?

  7. Great ideas! How does this route sound:

    Boston – Rio de Janeiro – Marrakesh – Paris – London – Edinburgh – Amalfi Coast (or Cinque Terre) – Dubai – Varanasi – Hong Kong – Los Angeles – Boston

    It comes in at around $4000, so I’d be saving up for a while. I’m planning on doing this sort of thing my whole life, where I save 15% of my salary each year for travel. So, is there anything on this list that I should save for later, rather than stay for 2-3 weeks (which I plan to do for the RTW)?

  8. Changed:
    (Parentheses are for the number of days I’d spend there.) This one isn’t definite, yet.

    Boston – Edinburgh(5) – London(3) – Paris(5) – Malta(10) – Marrakesh(7) – Dubai(10) – Hong Kong(10) – Los Angeles(5) – Rio de Janeiro(12) – Boston

    This route comes in at $3796 to $5200 an it’ll take a little over 2 months to travel. It might be just me, but I don’t think there’s enough variety, since Marrakesh and Dubai are together; LA and Rio are together; and so are Edinburgh and London. Anything I should add/subtract? I travel for any purpose. It can be exciting and adventurous or relaxing.

    I’m not really definite on Malta, because I wanna add some Italy, but Malta is the cheapest for travel and a lot of people say they prefer it to the Amalfi Coast and Capri.
    And then for Edinburgh, I’m not really into haunted castles, but it seems like a cool place other than that.

  9. i don’t know about this – but i for one wanted to do – SA (5) – Brazil (4) – lima (6) – Rio (5) – and after that i get lost because i want to fit in Spain (5) – Greece (6) – Turkey (6) – Jordan (4) – Russia (8) – trans siberian train (5) – and then even worse is i want to do cambodia (5) and vietnam (5) about 65 days – you think its too far fetched or is it possible within these many days – i am also wondering how these RTW flights be possible.

  10. About to retire at age 72, still workout every day, am planning on a one year vacation as follows: September -mid December: NYC-Panama City-Guayaquil- Galapagos-Lima-(Have already spent two years in South Pacific-Aus-NZ) South Africa (3 weeks including Safari)- Morrocco-Brussels. THEN RT Brussels-Florida for the winter and to see family. Mid- March back to Brussels- 2 months rail Europe- Turkey-Dubai-Mumbai-Chiang Mai-Myanmar- Seoul- Tokyo- Vancouver and home in July for rest of summer (Have already visited China 4 times and Indian Golden Triangle, Thailand, and Vietnam/Cambodia) Would appreciate thoughts from anyone who has bothered to read thru all this.

    1. Peter, I noticed in reading your post that you wrote December, 2013, yet mentioned getting ready to travel September so my thoughts are that should be preparing to go in the next couple of months or so. Is that right.

      Then you mention stopping in Florida for family. I was interested because I too am just sort of retiring (run a small sole agent travel business) and would like to keep my hand in travel through a web blog while moving around the world.

      Will you be traveling alone and have you researched that or have you done much of solo traveling before. If you are expecting to stop by Florida sometime in the future, and will have started a RTW, I would love to chat with you more.

      Possibly you could return and email to me at [email protected] and we could chat. Thanks, Saundra

  11. Thanks for a comprehensive list of itineraries, my wife and I did a RTW trip 10 years ago with Russia and Egypt NYC Canada and so much more. We need do it again but with 2 little ladies from Perth WA!
    Need to include NZ, Disney land, LA? London, ooh maybe India and China? Better still we could pop over for a cuppa and discuss?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Let's Make Sure You're Human ... * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

Subscribe to Our 'Under the Radar' Newsletter
If you love travel, you're gonna love this!