A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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Into The Wide Wide World

More than a year ago, when we began dreaming about and then planning our trip we made a very long list of destinations and once-in-a-lifetime experiences we thought we could cram into a year off.

I mapped out an itinerary that had us hop-scotching around the globe, taking in every world wonder we’d ever seen in National Geographic and all 1,000 Places To See Before You Die.

But as we progressed with the planning we confronted reality in the form of time, cost and distance. We began to realize: It really is a Wide Wide World. There’s only so much you can see and do in a year.

We’ve tried hard to study and learn from the many families who have gone before us. Through each family’s account of their travels, we’ve come to appreciate the value of taking your time in a place.

About a month ago, as we began to focus on our air tickets and our itinerary, we started to let go of places. I’m quite sure we’ll have to let go of more. It hasn’t been easy, but ultimately, we believe it will be worth it.

After much consideration, we purchased four OneWorld round the world tickets. We considered other options, but decided the OneWorld alliance and product worked best for us.

One important note for others who may be considering a OneWorld ticket: The fare rules are changing, effective June 1, 2008. Travelers will be limited to sixteen segments instead of twenty. There may be other changes, so be sure to do your homework.

In going with OneWorld, we have given up some flexibility in exchange for some certainty, particularly in the quality of the airlines we’ll be flying.

Under our fare rules, we have 365 days to complete our travel. We can change the date and time of our flights for no charge. We can change our itinerary (i.e., the cities we fly to) for $125 per ticket, per change. Overall, I think it’s quite reasonable.

We haven’t done a detailed plan for each country we plan to visit, but here’s a basic outline, subject to change.

(I’ll say in advance, any advice, recommendations or travel tips will be greatly appreciated).

First Stop: South America

Our first destination is Quito, Ecuador. We have about a week before we depart for our ten-day GAP Adventure tour of the Galapagos.

Next we return to Quito and have another week or so to explore Ecuador. We’re considering doing the Quilotoa Loop, but are open to other possibilities.

After Ecuador, we’re off to Cuzco, Peru, gateway to Machu Picchu. We’ll have about two weeks to explore the Sacred Valley and Lake Titicaca. Maybe we’ll briefly slip into Boliva or head down to Arequipa. All to be decided.

From Cuzco we’ll fly to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The plan for now is to spend about three weeks in Buenos Aires before making our way to Santiago, Chile.

We’re thinking about taking the southern route to Chile, heading into Patagonia, then to San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina. We would cross back over the Andes near Puerto Montt, Chile and head north towards Santiago.

By the time we reach Santiago, we will have spent about three months in South America

Exploring NZ and Oz

At the end of October, we plan to fly from Santiago to Auckland, New Zealand, via Los Angeles. (You read that right). It’s the most brutal set of flights we’ll have to take: Twelve hours to Los Angeles, a twelve hour layover, then about twelve more hours to Auckland.

We plan to spend about three and a half weeks in New Zealand, with most of the time spent on the South Island.

Around the first of December, we’ll fly from Auckland to Sydney, Australia. We expect to spend five to six weeks in Oz. We have friends in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide and Alice Springs. Our goal is to see them all.

Into Asia

We plan to leave Australia for Asia in early 2009. We don’t have a specific Asia itinerary yet, but we’ve got two months to see parts of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

We’re interested in visiting Chiang Mai, Thailand, Luang Prabang, Laos, Siem Reap, Cambodia (Angkor Wat), and spending about two to three weeks exploring Vietnam. There’s a well-worn tourist trail in South East Asia, and we’re likely to follow it.

In early to mid-March we hope to tour China, ending our travels in Beijing. We’re thinking about doing an organized tour because our time there is so short.

From Beijing, it’s off to Tokyo for about ten days in Japan (can’t afford more than that!) Both Caroline and Conor picked Japan as one place they did not want to miss. By the time we finish with Japan, it should be mid-April.

The Challenge of India

From Tokyo we’re planning to fly to Delhi for two to three weeks in India. Others have told me that India is the major leagues of travel, meaning you’d better be on your game.

I have no idea how to make the best of two to three weeks there. One option is to head towards Varanasi, perhaps into Nepal. Another option is to head south, through Mumbai and perhaps on to Goa. Another item for the TBD list.

One thing for sure: We’re not missing the Taj Mahal.

The Middle East

From Delhi we will fly to Amman, Jordan. I am looking forward to seeing Petra, a place I’ve wanted to see since I first read about it as a teenager (a long time ago).

We’ll cross over into Israel to visit friends and possibly dip into Egypt.

Then it’s back to Amman to fly to Istanbul, Turkey, for two to three weeks of exploration. We hope to travel to Ephesus and Cappadocia in the time we have there.

A Few Weeks in Europe

At the end of June 2009 we’re booked to fly from Istanbul to Budapest, Hungary, to spend a few weeks (and too many Euros) in Europe. After Budapest, we intend to focus on Italy and Spain.

On or before July 23, 2009, we’ll make our way to Madrid for a flight back to Washington, DC.

Open to Change

That’s our thinking at the start of the trip.

I’ve talked to enough people to know we’re going to need to be flexible on the road and be aware of the toll the travel may take on us.

In the last week, I’ve communicated with Rick James and Shawn Coomer, who both noted a kind of road-weariness that can overcome you. Rick, in particular, talked about hitting the wall at ten months and recognizing he was ready for home.

Even with the places we eliminated, we still have a very ambitious itinerary. We are mindful of the importance of breaking up periods of travel with periods of staying put. We intend to lean heavily on our networks of friends (and friends of friends) around the world.

The kindness of friends (and strangers) can carry you a long way.

Soon enough we’ll move past the reality imposed by ticketing to the reality imposed by life on the road. I have no idea what awaits us, but that’s part of the adventure.

In the end, regardless of all our planning, this trip will take on a life of its own, and our final itinerary will write itself.


1 range { 05.09.08 at 5:02 am }

Pretty cool itinerary. You can spend months exploring South-East Asia. You’ll need at least a few weeks for Vietnam. Laos is also a definite must. I’d stick to Angkhor Wat and Siem Reap in Cambodia. I’ve heard bad reports about Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville.

Thailand is incredible. I’d suggest visits to Ayutthaya, Nathon Pathon, Chiang Mai. I’d stay away from Phuket, unless you’re planning on going island hopping.

Phuket is very touristy and expensive. It’s kind of like a big resort.

2 Rich { 05.09.08 at 10:52 am }

Exciting itinerary!

(1) My brother will be in DC for most of the month of June. We’ll connect you guys so you can discuss contacts in peru.

(2) We did the Bariloche to Puerto Monnt crossing…it was spectatcular (a long day but well worth it).

(3) If you do go to Arequippa and are looking for soem exercise, check out Colca Canyon….it’s deeper than Grand Canyon and you can do a range of foot/donkey treks through areas of it.

(4) Petra is awe inspring as well…think you all will love it.

3 vida { 05.09.08 at 12:50 pm }

Rob & I took our honeymoon in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia (with a short stop in Tokyo). Our trip was WAY too short, but I can pass on some tips… We also both spent a bit of time in northern India (when Rob was studying sitar with his guruji), so I’ll try to write a few thoughts on that as well as you get closer to deciding which part of the country you want to explore.

4 Jerry Spiegel { 05.11.08 at 7:51 am }

I am Jerry cuzin of Lisa and Donna Blacker I live most of the year in Pattaya Thailand I have a small guest house one block from the beach and far from the Pattaya bar scene I have lived and taught in Thailand and Cambodia for the last7 years. I will return to the USA May 29 and will return to Thailand Sept 15 I could accomodate you comfortable in a family like environment for an in expensive price. Pattaya has many advantages as abase of opporationin SE Asia not as exspensive as Bangkok but as close as the airport , many resturants, hospitals, markets, etc. and a short ( not Ching Mai), cheap, bus , train, or in your case with 4 people a mini van or car & driver

5 Nomadic Matt { 05.11.08 at 9:48 pm }

Head to Kep in southern cambodia. Its beautiful, cheap, and off the tourist trail.

6 Daniel Bairstow { 06.08.08 at 4:11 am }

I agree, in the beginning of our trip we also had an itinerary that was a little too ambitious. When we actually got to these places, and particularly the parts travelled by land, no end of unforeseen circumstances arrise which force you to become much more lucid with your travels. That becomes part of the fun though!!


7 Rick James { 06.10.08 at 11:21 pm }

Well Craig, my two cents (like ya didn’t already know from reading our posts) is that a week doing the “Golden Triangle” (Delhi, Jaipur, Agra) is perfect. The North would be great for another week. Mumbai was cool just because of it’s history, nbut there weren’t abunndant activities. I was especially disappointed there not to be able to take any sort of Bollywood tour. They just don’t do that apparently. We were often told not to waste our time in crowded and expensive Goa by many fellow travelers. And after a couple days at Lighthouse Beach in Kerala for $50/night (large room with a nice big balcony) 20m from the lapping Ocean, we were in heaven! The only other cool time waster in the South that we’d suggest is a houseboat tour in the backwaters of Allipe (sp?) Tour the boat before handing over any cash of course!

Other than those little tidbits for India, you guys simply have an awesome itinerary, and everything will align itself to work out wonderfully I’m sure!

8 Soma Das { 07.23.08 at 1:49 pm }

Caroline is freind of my daughter Sagarika(Takoma Park) and I got to know about your travel through my daughter. I am originally from India. To give you some tips about staying in India – April is really hot, so careful about the heat. Use umbrella to cover from sun. Don’t drink cold food or drinks, you will have achance of getting diahrrea is very with it.
If you can – then visit Jaipur and Udaypur. There are air conditioned bus trip from New Delhi. The main bus station is the Inter State Bus Terminal at Kashmiri Gate, north of the ‘Old’ Delhi Railway Station. Popular bus routes head into Rajasthan via Jaipur, and to the hill stations of Himachal Pradesh.
Dehradun, Nainital Chahel some of the good place to see in the north.
Wish you a very good journey.

9 LL { 07.24.08 at 6:29 pm }

Hi Craig & Fam-
Your route looks great and is very similar to the route i took for my trip 06-08. You will be amazed at the interesting opportunities that come up for lodging. Have you looked at http://www.couchsurfing.com? It’s not just for backpackers! I think it’s great you are spending a fair bit of time in each locale. That helps keep ‘burn out’ at bay. For me–I made a rule not to stay anywhere less than 3 nights, but usually stayed weeks to months. It was mostly nice not to pack/unpack my bag, plus gave me a sense of place and allowed me to really meet locals, etc. I plan to possibly start going ‘around’ again…starting in Europe this time. Might as well now, while all my stuff is still in storage! Oh, keep in mind: transitions. Everytime I went to a new country/city…I got used to the day or two of transition time that maybe I was missing the last place and friends I’d made and getting used to the new place. But I learned it only took a day or so and I was ready to take on my new ‘home.’
Happy and safe travels!!

10 Amanda Arnell-Smith { 11.12.08 at 12:57 am }

Hi, We came across your website after reading 6 in the World and the VonZweck Trek. We are in Perth, Aust – a family of 6 and leaving to go on our RTW trip in Dec 09. We are also looking at OneWorld and our proposed itinerary is very similar thru Asia, China, Japan & India.
We’re looking forward to reading abt your experiences as you progress thru there so we can take notes!
Best of luck. Looking forward to your next post popping into my inbox!

11 Nikki K Garibaldi { 01.06.09 at 2:25 am }

Switzerland is a must! It’s so fabulous. And the people are so friendly.

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