Last year on January 1st, Bob and I departed on a 3-week RTW trip. In true Short Attention Span Travel spirit, we didn’t spend a lot of time planning it. We came to the realization in a brief conversation that he had never been technically “around the world” despite having traveled extensively. I had been on one for my first overseas project for work (Chicago-Brussels-Singapore-Chicago) in 2001, and a few more times since.
But don’t people spend oodles of time and money planning extravagant and long-term RTW trips? Aren’t these trips of a lifetime? Yes, yes they are. You can do them in a short timeframe, realizing you’re going to be moving a lot, things will go wrong, and you’ll see some great things.
We had 21 days of vacation to spend, and so we set out with that guideline and a few other parameters. We wanted to see some friends in Europe. We wanted to visit some new places. We also decided we needed to travel both above AND below the equator. We also wanted to be flexible, which is the name of the game in airline employee standby travel (which helped us on some of the trip). Our loose “going in” plan was to spend a few days in Europe, get to South Africa if we could (maybe hit Namibia, which sadly didn’t happen because you need 6 EMPTY visa pages in your passport, which I didn’t have), go somewhere new in Asia, and end in Hawaii if we could.
Start: San Francisco
Amsterdam (1 night)
Hamburg (1 night)
Copenhagen (1 night)
Stockholm (1 night)
Kruger NP (4 nights)
Bali (3 nights)
Singapore (1 night)
Tokyo (2 nights)
Honolulu (2 nights)
End: San Francisco
5 Quick Tips for your Short Attention Span RTW trip:
- Know your limits: it’s tempting to want to do EVERYTHING on a RTW trip. I know I did, but then scaling back and pinpointing places that would be interesting for a day or two (but maybe not worth a week of vacation time) were key. We also included some places we’d been before as transit hubs (London, Singapore, Tokyo) and finished in a favorite spot, Hawaii.
- Pack smartly: Remember, you can buy pretty much anything you need anywhere in the world, so packing less helps you be flexible. We ended up doing laundry twice (Kruger and Bali) and used some good layering techniques with the right materials for the temperature range (Stockholm was -9F, Kruger was in the 90’sF).
- Stay a day or two ahead on bookings: A spontaneous trip like this allowed us to grab some great deals on hotels and flights. We booked things maybe a day or two prior. In one instance, we didn’t realize we needed proof of onward journey, which is a challenge for standby travel. We ended up buying tickets to Bali from Johannesburg for $390 (that’s a 12 hour flight) at London Heathrow because they wouldn’t let us standby on the flight without them. Luckily we had researched some potential options the night prior and had the Bali tickets in mind when we were scrambling.
- Plan to relax: A 21-day RTW is fast paced and super fun, but it’s also nice to have a day or two for chill time in there. We traveled by train in Europe, which gave us a few hours to chill and recover from jetlag. We had some quality chill time in Kruger meandering around with the animals, in Bali at our pool, and on Hawaii’s beaches to finish the trip rested and relaxed.
- Stay connected, but disconnect: We usually had an hour or two before bedtime to connect with friends and family and share a picture or two (letting them know where, since our itinerary was very flexible). Hotel wifi worked well, and we did end up brining a mini wifi device and purchasing a data plan in South Africa (which was crazy cheap) to stay connected there.