The ancient ruins of Petra. The sunwashed beaches of Bali. The white villages of Santorini. The fabled chateaux of Provence.
If you have a long list of destinations on your travel bucket list, have you ever thought about seeing them all in one go? Doing an around-the-world trip may not be as daunting, or as expensive, as you think. Here are five ways to do it, from the classic “just wing it” approach to luxury cruises and jet tours.
Is it possible to plan your own trip around the world? Sure! If you’re the type of person who likes everything to be perfectly planned ahead of time, you can book your flights leg by leg, just as you would a shorter trip. This may be the best option for anyone who has a ton of airline miles or travel vouchers to use. “To save money, consider flying into hub cities such as Frankfurt, Germany; London; Istanbul, Doha, Qatar; Seoul, Tokyo, etc., and rely on overland modes of transportation to explore more remote or less touristed areas,” The Washington Post suggests.1
More spontaneous travelers may prefer to book a round-the-world ticket through one of the world’s three airline consortiums: SkyTeam, Star Alliance or Oneworld. Just pick a direction — east or west — and you can travel the world for a single fare. Rules apply to each consortium’s program, of course. Oneworld, for instance, offers both continent-based fares and distance-based fares.2
Pros of booking a trip around the world yourself: You have the freedom to design your perfect trip, whether that means visiting gleaming megalopolises or remote islands — or both.
Cons of booking a trip around the world yourself: If you’re not a hyper-organized planner, the logistics can get tangled.
In our digital age, we sometimes forget how valuable the expertise of a travel agent can be — especially when you’re planning an enormously complex journey. Travel agents can do things that online booking engines can’t, like get you room upgrades at far-flung resorts, or recommend the best times to visit Romania. They can also advise you on the all-important issue of timing, so you can try to avoid wretched weather and tourist crowds. (Here are five reasons travel agents are great for international trips.) You can call a local agent, or use an agency that specializes in around-the-world trips, such as AirTreks, which has 30 years’ experience planning complex routes with up to 25 stops. Play around with AirTreks’ trip planner here.
Pros of using a travel agent: Their guidance can reduce the stress of trip planning, and they may be able to score you upgrades or freebies too.
Cons of using a travel agent: You may want to feel the accomplishment of working out the whole trip yourself.
Some companies organize group tours around the world, which may be the best option for solo or budget-conscious travelers. One company, GEC Travel, offers a 21-day trip for less than $8,000 per person that goes to popular destinations including the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, Dubai, London and Paris.3 But if you’re an intrepid traveler who enjoys striking out on your own or seeing less touristy destinations, a group tour’s probably not for you.
Pros of an around-the-world group tour: Anxious or planning-averse travelers will benefit from the safety and security of a group.
Cons of an around-the-world group tour: Some travelers may not like the rigidity of days spent with the group. And if you get stuck with an unpleasant roommate, that could ruin the whole trip.
If you have time and money to spare, taking a cruise around the world can be a delightful and luxurious way to travel. Princess Cruises’ 2018 World Cruise visits 44 ports in 111 days, beginning in Los Angeles and stopping at places like Fiji, New Zealand, Singapore, Crete, Croatia, Italy and Portugal before docking again in L.A.4 Fares start at $20,000, excluding taxes, fees and port expenses. Viking Cruises offers a 141-day world cruise from Miami to London, through 35 countries. “Immerse yourself in the world’s rich cultures — from Havana to Sydney, from Hong Kong to London — during included excursions that provide unmatched insight into daily life and Privileged Access visits to cultural institutions,” Viking promises.5 Fares begin around $50,000.
And finally, Oceania Cruises takes the full 180 days for its around-the world cruise, which hits a dazzling array of destinations: Tahiti, Sydney, Bali, Hong Kong, Luxor, Jerusalem, Barcelona, Dublin and so many more.6 2017 fares started at $39,000 per person.
Pros of an around-the-world cruise: No flights. No packing and unpacking. No travel hassles. Just the smooth rhythms of shipboard life.
Cons of an around-the-world cruise: Destinations are pre-arranged, so there’s not much room for spontaneity. And after day 50 or so, you may grow weary of your tiny cabin and start longing for home.
National Geographic Expeditions offers around-the-world tours in which you join a small group of travelers on board a luxurious private jet. Ideal for people who are fascinated by history and archaeology, the tour visits 12 UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, the Taj Mahal, and the lost city of Petra.7 Fares start at around $80,000.
Pros of jetting around the world: You can see untold wonders in just 24 days, making this one of the speediest options for a round-the-world trip.
Cons of jetting around the world: The steep price and fast pace means that if you’re looking for meaningful immersion in local cultures, you won’t find it here.
Experienced travelers know that the longer the trip, the more likely it is that something will go wrong. That’s why it’s absolutely essential to protect your around-the-world trip with travel insurance.
If you’re going the spontaneous route, with flexible dates and itineraries, the Travelers Protection Plan may be your best option. This low-cost travel insurance plan covers only post-departure benefits, such as emergency medical care, emergency medical transportation, travel delay, missed connections and lost/stolen baggage. The Travelers Protection Plan can be adjusted for varying trip lengths, up to 180 days.
If you opt instead for a tour or a cruise, you need a travel insurance plan that covers pre-paid expenses in case you have to cancel or interrupt your trip for a covered reason. The Classic Plan with Trip+ is our most popular plan for ambitious vacations, with up to $50,000 in emergency medical benefits, up to $1 million in emergency medical transportation, and other robust benefits.
Richmond-based travel writer Muriel Barrett has a terrible sense of direction, and has spent many happy hours getting lost in Barcelona, Venice and Jerusalem. Her favorite travel memories all involve wildlife: watching sea turtles nest in Costa Rica, kayaking with seals in Vancouver and meeting a pink tarantula in Martinique.