There are a number of websites I find useful when I’m planning my round the world trips, here are a few of my favorites:
Round the World Flights
RTW tickets are complex so you’ll want to book with an expert. You basically have two options: one of the three major airline alliances (if you’re booking with miles or want to earn miles) or a specialized RTW ticket service like AirTreks or BootsnAll. Here’s the breakdown:
Skyteam – Since I book my RTW tickets with Delta’s Skyteam, this is my go-to site for planning out flight routings. How can you get from Chile to Cyprus on Skyteam? This site can give you all the options for Skyteam’s 19 member airlines serving 187 countries. Essential for figuring out what your preferred flights are before you make your first call to the RTW desk. (Note: Sadly, as of January 1, 2015, you can no longer use Delta miles to book a RTW ticket with Skyteam, but you can still purchase a RTW ticket and earn tons of miles!)
StarAlliance – Search flight routings for the 27 Star Alliance member airlines serving 193 countries with their downloadable timetable. The excellent Book and Fly Tool will price your RTW ticket and book it instantly. It’s the place to go for anyone looking to earn miles on their RTW ticket with a Star Alliance member airline. If you fly with United or US Air, this is where you’ll want to start.
oneworld – Search flight routings for 12 member airlines serving 150 countries. Plan, customize and book your (paid) oneworld Explorer RTW ticket using the Interactive Planner. One-stop shopping for those looking to earn or redeem miles with oneworld member airlines like America. To book using miles, you’ll need to contact your member airline, but this site is terrific for researching your options.
Airtreks – If you’re not booking your RTW ticket with miles from your preferred airline, a visit to the Airtreks website is a must. Their interactive “TripPlanner” borders on addictive and is a fantastic tool for planning out your route. One benefit of not booking a RTW through an airline alliance? You’ll save a lot of travel time with more direct routings (versus connections through hub cities). Though I have never used Airtreks myself, I have heard nothing but glowing reviews from fellow travelers who have. And I do love their website!
BootsnAll – No matter how you plan to book your ticket, if you’re going around the world, BootsnAll is the ultimate planning resource for the independent traveler. BootsnAll also now features the newest entry to the RTW ticket specialist market, the Indie Global Trip Planner. I tested this with various itineraries when it launched and always found extremely competitive fares. I especially liked the ability to book immediately online.
Where to Sleep?
You have a lot of options when it comes to where to stay on your RTW trip. I do a combination of hotels and apartment rentals. If you’re on a budget, there are also hostels but I’m no expert in that arena so I’ll leave those recommendations to the many budget travel bloggers of the world.
What I do know is that you should sign up for the frequent guest program for every major hotel chain. I pay for more than half of my hotel nights on my trip each year with hotel points. Some of them are accumulated with actual stays, some with credit cards, but they all get me free nights around the world.
Take advantage of this and make these programs work for you. Obviously, I have a favorite, but there are lots of options. Pick your favorite and start earning those points.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts – (Starwood Preferred Guest) Okay, I might be a little biased here but Starwood hotels and resorts are my absolute favorite and I spend a lot of time on their site while planning my trips. With 9 exclusive brands like St. Regis, W, Westin and Sheraton, you always know you’ll be in good hands no matter where you are in the world. And now that they are one with Marriott Hotel & Resorts, I have even more options! In some cases, I have even been inspired to visit certain countries by a fabulous Starwood property that caught my eye. Yes, I have been known to “rough it” every now and then, but sometimes a girl just needs her Westin Heavenly Bed.
Kayak – This site is great for all things travel and I search hotel fares regularly. I also use Kayak often for finding short-haul flights outside my Skyteam RTW ticket. For example, when I needed to go from Bangkok to Laos, Kayak gave me the best options. The also have a very useful feature that allows you to search by airline alliance. This is especially helpful if you’re planning to use miles for your ticket or if you’re just hoping to maximize the miles you earn for your trip with a particular airline.
Booking.com – Whenever I can’t find a Starwood location, Booking.com is my go-to site for hotels. I’ve booked a lot of hotels through their site over the years and never had any issues. No matter where else I search, I always seem to find the best rate here. You’ll notice I have links throughout this site to hotels I’ve booked around the world through Booking.com. If you click on one of these links and book a hotel (even if it’s not the one I linked to), I do earn a small commission – enough to buy an extra glass of wine here and there. So if you choose to book something through one of my links, cheers to you!
Airbnb – Sometimes, a hotel just won’t do. I’m a big fan of apartment rentals, especially if you plan to be in one destination for 5 days or longer. In fact, as I write this section, I am sitting in a lovely Parisian one-bedroom apartment just a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower. I rented it through Airbnb for an astonishingly reasonable $130 a night with a minimum stay of just 3 nights. This site is an excellent resource for peer-to-peer apartment rentals. The inventory grows by the day and they are especially strong in European cities where hotel rates are often prohibitively expensive. Simple Disclaimer: I have always done the “entire apartment” rental option (which is fabulous) so I can’t speak to the other alternatives like renting a room in someone’s home.
Trip Advisor – The go-to site for all things travel. I find Trip Advisor’s reviews especially helpful when searching for hotels in markets I know very little about. For example, I’ve found great small properties in Cusco, Peru and the Kingdom of Tonga using reviews from the site. The reviews on Trip Advisor are often very thorough and have provided me with tons of important information not found on the property’s own website. I have never been disappointed with a hotel I selected based on Trip Advisor reviews.
Other Useful Sites
FlyerTalk – Trying to unravel the ins and outs of your favorite hotel, airline or car rental program on a more advanced level? The forums on FlyerTalk are frequented by top tier members of every program imaginable. This is the place to ask your questions about which Starwood hotels are most likely to upgrade Platinum members in Thailand or which KLM lounge in Amsterdam has showers.
My Trip Journal – I used this site to chronicle my first 4 RTW trips before transitioning to my own site. My Trip Journal is a wonderful tool for telling the story of your own RTW. It’s simple to use and has great interactive maps to track your journey. TravelPod is another great option for aspiring travel bloggers.
The Ultimate Guide to Travel Insurance – Many travelers (especially younger travelers) think “nothing could possibly go wrong while I’m overseas!” Unfortunately, things do happen. A flight cancels, luggage goes missing or you come down with a bug and find yourself in a foreign hospital. In any of those scenarios, good travel insurance can be a life saver. And for a 30-day trip around the world, it’s a must! Thankfully, I’ve never had to use my travel insurance but I don’t leave home without it.
Oanda – This foreign exchange site is a great currency converter tool and also has a fabulously easy to use app. The app works whether you have a data connection or not so it’s great for international travel. I use it religiously while on my trips.
These are just a few of the sites that I use regularly when planning my trips but you’ll find a complete resource guide and a list of my favorite travel apps in – you guessed it! – The Grown-Up’s Guide to Globetrotting.