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RTW How-To

See the World, Keep your Job…I’m doing it and so can you!

You may be thinking that you could not possibly find enough time in your busy schedule to take a trip around the world. To this I say, you are probably wrong. While most people who take Round-the-World (RTW) trips do quit their jobs, sell their possessions and hit the road for a year or more, I’m living proof that there are other options. In fact, the only true qualification for a RTW trip is that you circumnavigate the globe. How long that takes is totally up to you. So if you’re ready to start your round the world travel planning – this will get you going in the right direction!

What’s on your Bucket List?

So where do you want to go? Maybe you already have a dozen dream destinations in mind or maybe there are places in the world you haven’t even considered. Here are some of my favorite travel experiences around the world. Who knows, you may find some new destinations to add to your own list:

Around the World in 30 Extraordinary Travel Experiences

But how will you squeeze so many destinations into a single trip and still stay within your annual vacation time? Rethink how long you actually need to see each place on your wish list. No, it’s not going to be an in-depth experience everywhere you go but you will get a nice overview of a number of places to help you decide which ones you really want to return to someday.

After all, not everyone needs a week to see the Pyramids, I did it in an afternoon and it was magnificent. My advice? First decide how much time you can take, anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months will do, then make the most of it!

But if you’re still not convinced that tackling your Bucket List with a RTW trip is for you, here’s a little inspiration. If this doesn’t do it, nothing will:

8 Reasons to Stop Dreaming & Start Planning a Trip “Around the World in 30 Days”

Step 1 – The Flights

All of the major airline alliances offer RTW options and a few, like Star Alliance, still offer the option to purchase a RTW ticket with miles. If you’re paying for a ticket, you are usually going to be better off using a service like Airtreks or BootsnAll versus one of the major alliances. This is especially true if time is short as they can get you more direct routings through the use of many more airlines.

However, if you do have the frequent flyer miles to burn, there is often no better redemption option than the RTW ticket. Having booked 10 of these tickets with my Delta miles over the years, I was heartbroken when Delta quietly eliminated RTW awards in late 2014. American did the same earlier that year leaving United as the only major US carrier offering a RTW award option. However, there are still are a few international airlines that offer RTW tickets using miles on the following global alliances:

Skyteam: Korean Air, AeroMexico

Star Alliance: Lufthansa, Singapore

Here are a few tips for you “Up in the Air” business travelers out there with miles & points to burn:

How to Use Points & Miles to Redeem Your RTW Dream

Step 2 – The Hotels

After years of learning the ins and outs of the various hotel loyalty programs, I have become a huge fan of Starwood Hotels and Resorts (Westin, Sheraton, Le Meridien, St. Regis, W and others). Though Hilton and Marriott have equally wonderful properties all over the world, in my opinion Starwood’s Preferred Guest (SPG) program far exceeds those offered by other chains.

This is especially true once you reach an elite level. For example, as a Starwood Platinum Preferred guest, I receive 500 points as an amenity for every stay, in addition to points earned for dollars spent. This is a great perk and really adds up during the year. But the best benefit of SPG is the Cash & Points redemption option. This allows you to use a combination of cash and points to stretch your reward nights much further than traditional programs. For my most recent trip, I used my accumulated points and an average of $50/night to book 18 room nights. By comparison, with a year’s worth of Hilton and Marriott points, I was only able to redeem one free night each.

With Marriott’s recent purchase of Starwood, Platinum status with one program now means Platinum status on both! So, as a newly-minted Marriott Rewards Platinum member, I am looking forward to exploring more Marriott properties in the future. It will be interesting to see how the Marriott Rewards program and the SPG program ultimately become one.

If you’re not a fan of hotels or if you’re going to be in one spot for more than 4 or 5 days, I’d highly recommend an apartment rental.  This is easier in major cities (I’ve done it in Paris, Rome, Auckland and Greece) but options abound worldwide. An apartment rental can be considerably cheaper than even the most economical hotel and having a kitchen can be a tremendous cost-saver as well. Not to mention staying in an apartment allows you to live more like a local and really immerse yourself in the local culture. One of my favorite apartment rental sites is Airbnb.

Step 3 – Everything Else

Who should you travel with? Well, I’m a firm believer that a solo trip around the world is perhaps the best gift you can ever give yourself, especially for women. Here’s why:

Why Every Woman Should Travel the World Solo (at Least Once) & How to Stay Safe Doing It

Planning a trip of this sort is immeasurably easier thanks to the wonders of the Internet. Access to information about any destination is only a mouse-click away. I make use of online currency converters, web travel journals, countless hotel and airline booking sites and any number of other websites. Visa applications for many countries can also now be arranged online.

Keeping a web journal while you travel is a great way to make friends and family at home feel like a part of your trip. The “My Trip Journal” site is an excellent tool and couldn’t be easier to use during your travels but you can also set up your very own blog – it’s easier than you think! A good universal power adapter & converter is a must. I bought one at Brookstone years ago that has never let me down. Check with your doctor for any immunizations you may need depending on your destinations. I got the works before my first trip and haven’t had to worry about it since (other than the occasional prescription for malaria pills).

Traveling light is traveling happy! You don’t need all the “stuff” you think you do. With so many flights involved in a RTW trip, your best strategy is to travel with just a carry-on. Sound impossible? It’s not! I have traveled for as long as 7 weeks out of just a carry-on (and in case I forgot to mention it, I’m a girl!). Here’s an excerpt from my book “The Grown-Up’s Guide to Globetrotting” that will help you overcome your RTW packing challenges (especially all you ladies out there!):

How to Travel Around the World with Just a Carry-On: A Girl’s Guide to Traveling Light

Here are a few more Round the World Planning Links that I find useful.

Check and double-check entry requirements for each country you plan to visit. Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after your planned date of return because all countries have different requirements on this. Leave a photocopy of your passport and a detailed copy of your itinerary at home with someone who can be easily reached in case of emergency. Suspend your mail and newspaper, pay your bills online (if you don’t already).

And finally…

Get the Book!

For more comprehensive advice on planning your route, booking RTW tickets and everything else you ever wanted to know about traveling around the world, get the ultimate resource guide to planning a RTW trip (without quitting your job!):

Round the World in 30 Days: The Grown-Up’s Guide to Globetrotting

Now get out there and start planning the trip of your dreams! As Phil Keoghan says at the start of every season of the Amazing Race, “The world is waiting for you!”