Round the World: Dry Run to Rome

I’m going around the world in March (and parts of February and April) and I’m trying to detail the whole ordeal. Here’s what I’ve got thus far:

Who, Where, When…and Why?
How?
Eye of the Storm
Choosing what to do (Part 1)
Immunizations
Dry Run to Rome

I’m not sure a trip to Rome has ever been referred to as a “dry run”, but there’s no reason it can’t be.

On Wednesday, the Flight Deal announced $640 roundtrip tickets from Washington DC to Rome good for next weekend. This deal also came up about a month ago, but because of the Iranians need to keep your passport for an indeterminate amount of time, I didn’t want to risk booking the trip and not having my passport back in time.

I’ve mentioned that one of the most important factors for me in traveling is getting a good deal on the flight. Since the amount of Citi ThankYou points needed to book a flight is directly related to the cost, I usually use Citi ThankYou points for a good fare deal. Most award tickets are tied to a fixed-point amount (e.g. the 9,000 Avios roundtrip flight I take from DC to Nashville), but flights booked through Citi are revenue tickets, which means that not only do I get the ticket for free, but I also earn miles on the actual flight.

So despite the fact that I had to travel to South Carolina last weekend and will travel to south Florida next weekend, I’m wedging a trip to one of the greatest cities in the world in between. As much as I travel, this will actually be my first trip to mainland Europe. That makes this perfect opportunity to test out some of the gear, communication strategies, and applications that I want to use on the longer round-the-world trip.

I’m a firm believer that the best way to get good at something is to do it and fail at it. Preparation is important, but it can only take you so far. Sometimes it’s necessary to test out what you do and see where the holes are. While calling a trip to Rome a dry run is ridiculous on almost any level, it does afford me the opportunity to test out some of my round-the-world strategies in a relatively safe and easy-to-navigate environment. Man, this hobby is the best.

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Round the World: Immunizations

I’m going around the world in March (and parts of February and April) and I’m trying to detail the whole ordeal. Here’s what I’ve got thus far:

Who, Where, When…and Why?
How?
Eye of the Storm
Choosing what to do (Part 1)
Immunizations
Dry Run to Rome

I’m not the biggest fan of going to the doctor. It’s not that I’m particularly afraid of something being wrong; I honestly want to know if something is. It’s more that I don’t really like to be told what I’m doing wrong when I already know I’m doing things wrong. One more step on the ladder to self-actualization, I guess.

Because of that, immunizations are one of the things that was really easy to put off. Here we are a month out from the trip and I still hadn’t gotten any of the medicines I needed for the trip.

This may seem like an easy step that could be skipped: don’t have sex with locals, don’t eat suspicious food, and don’t drink the water and you should be covered, right? While honestly, those are good ways to mitigate something going wrong, there’s actual codified reasons for going. Namely that you simply can’t get a visa to certain countries without proving immunization.

My group of doctors luckily had specific travel appointments. It wasn’t covered by insurance, but they could write prescriptions for everything I needed and make suggestions on how to find the rest. Plus, since this doctor specialized in travel immunizations, she could better suggest cheaper generics that would work just as well and would be covered by my insurance. Your doctor may not have something like this, but if you’re going on any trip, it’s definitely worth asking.

For the stops on our trip, I was pretty well covered with getting five things: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B1, Typhoid, Malaria2, and Yellow Fever. While all are suggested for traveling to the places I’m going, the only actual requirement was Yellow Fever to get into/out of Madagascar. There were a couple that were also suggested, especially if you plan on coming in contact with livestock, but I’ve learned my lesson in that arena.3

Immunizations may seem like something you can put off, but it’s kind of important to do this at least a month before you trip. The CDC has a great resource for determining what you need. Some of the medicines require you to take it before you go, in addition to while you’re there. So you want to make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get all of that sorted out. Don’t be like me, be proactive in this. It didn’t end up hurting my trip, but it really could have derailed the whole thing.

  1. Hep A and B are good for life and I had those when I spent a couple of weeks going through Mayan ruins in the Mexican jungle in 2006
  2. I’m sure that Malaria medicine has come a long way since the last time I took it, but man, it gave me the most insane dreams. Can’t wait.
  3. On the Inca Trail a couple of years ago, there was a llama that looked like it needed to be hugged, so I obliged. When coming back through customs, the agent asked if I’d come in contact with any livestock and like an idiot, I said yes. They put me in customs jail until they could get everything sorted out. Moral of the story: don’t tell customs agents you hugged a llama.

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Round the World: Choosing what to do (Part 1)

I’m going around the world in March (and parts of February and April) and I’m trying to detail the whole ordeal. Here’s what I’ve got thus far:

Who, Where, When…and Why?
How?
Eye of the Storm
Choosing what to do (Part 1)
Immunizations
Dry Run to Rome

One of the most overwhelming things about a trip like this is when you get into actually planning the day-to-day activities. For short trips, it’s one of my favorite parts. But for something as big as this, I’ve found my self really slacking off.

For now, Mike and I decided to focus on the first half our trip (New Zealand, Australia, Seoul, Kathmandu, and Bhutan). When you break it down into distinct pieces like that, making decisions becomes quite a bit easier. Fortunately, I’ve found with most first-time visits to places, there’s such a wealth of great information out there that some of these plan themselves.1

We have a bit of an open-ended swing in New Zealand and Australia. We booked our Skyteam flights into Auckland, New Zealand and out of Sydney, Australia with intentions of getting from New Zealand to Australia on our own. This gave us a bit more leeway into deciding how much time to spend in each place.2

We knew we wanted to road trip around New Zealand. A Google search confirmed that this was not an original plan. Far from it. Hundreds of people have done the same thing and posted guides to doing so. These guides are invaluable tools. Not because we couldn’t find these things to do on our own, but because it gives us a template to work on putting things together. A road trip grants you the freedom to go anywhere at any time, but to continue on with our larger trip, we need to start in Auckland and end in Wellington. Fortunately for us, the New Zealand Travel Bureau already anticpated our need. Those guys are the best.


From top to bottom
The amount of time we’re spending in New Zealand, puts a weird crunch on the next week of our trip. Because of the way the schedule works out, the other four places on the list are going to be done in just over a week (two days in Sydney, one day in Seoul, one in Kathmandu and three in Bhutan). That means planning takes a much more rigid structure. We’re planning on having a pretty rigid schedule in Sydney, Seoul and Kathmandu, just to be able to see anything. And, as I’ll talk about in a future update, Bhutan is pre-planned for us.

Choosing what to do for any trip can be a daunting task, but when you’ve got one with as many stops as we do, it can seem impossible to plan. My suggestion is to think about these parts of the trip as their own separate entity. Don’t let the things you decide to do in New Zealand affect the things you want to do in Sydney. You may find overlapping activities on your trip, but trust me, you’ll be much more likely to maintain your sanity.

  1. Seriously. Just Google “XX Days in YY”, you’ll probably get a hit. It’s when you start getting into second and third time visits that things get a bit more difficult. I’ve found that for some of the deeper cuts, it’s good to know someone who’s lived there and can give you a fuller view of things.
  2. As I mentioned before, with this specific award ticket, you’re only allowed six stops in total. But you can book into one city and out of another and have it only count as one stop. So instead of blowing two of our six stops on New Zealand and Australia, we’re flying into Auckland and out of Sydney and booked a flight from Wellington to Sydney on our own (using Citi ThankYou Points). This allows us to spend time in both New Zealand and Australia, while only counting as one stop.

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Trip Report: New Year’s in Times Square

Oh man, I said I’d never do it again. And I meant it.

Times Square for New Year’s is just as you imagine it: decadent, depraved, and dependent on a buzz that quickly degrades to a hangover shortly after midnight. There’s something about being there, something about the skyscrapers on either side of you and the throngs of people pushing you in every direction. I’ve been a lot of places and seen a lot of things, but at its pinnacle, the energy and anticipation of a new year in that venue has never been topped.

What may surprise you is that it’s a fairly orderly affair. (Almost) anyone who wants to be in Times Square for the ball drop needs to be there by about 4pm. NYPD sets up cattle corrals (no, really) and seals off entrances around that time. Everyone has to go through a metal detector and no one is allowed to leave until after midnight. That means if you want to see the ball drop, you’re going to go over eight hours without being able to go to the bathroom or get any food.

As you can imagine, that’s not the most pleasant of experiences.

Both times I’ve been lucky enough to have atypical experiences, ones that I can’t really complain about (but that doesn’t mean I won’t!). The first time (in 2011), I met this guy, Mike Turner, (yes, the same one who’s going round the world with me) at a party about two weeks before New Year’s. He asked if I wanted to tag along with a group of about 15 people he’d put together. They had two rooms at the DoubleTree Suites right in Times Square.

This time was a bit more of an ordeal. With Hilton’s recent devaluation of its Hhonors program, the price of rooms ballooned to 95,000 points per night. (before the devaluation, you could have stayed four nights at the DoubleTree Suites in Times Square for 140,000 points) Mike and our friend Jason Burrows had already committed to going, so they’d picked up two rooms fairly early in 2013. But as December 31st grew closer and the peer pressure to go grew stronger, Julie and I got sucked into the gravitational pull of the force of nature known as a Mike Turner (and Jason Burrows) trip. I had 95,000 Hilton points, they had about 30 people who wanted to go, so between the three of us, we booked five rooms at the DoubleTree Suites right in Times Square.

That may sound like a lot of people for just five rooms, but honestly it’s not as bad as it sounds. Every room is a two-room suite with a pull-out sofa in the living room and we were lucky that our Hilton status could get us (mostly) on the same floor and (mostly) two-bed suites. We ended up being able to put six people in each of the five rooms and (mostly) everyone had some type of bed to sleep on.

If you’re over the age of 25, employed, have friends that are employed, and want to experience New Year’s in Times Square, you’re probably going to want to copy our model. One of the rooms that Jason and Mike sprung for was facing Times Square, so most everyone congregated in that room. We could open the windows, see what was going on, and listen to all the performances without going outside. We could have stayed in that room for the ball drop, but if you’ve made it that far, you’re going to want to try and make it outside.

Going outside sounds easy. It is not. Mainly, there’s the aforementioned NYPD-shutting-down-all-entrances-at–4pm issue. Needless to say, New York police officers are not pushovers. Luckily, neither is Mike Turner. Don’t ask me how he does it, but Mike greased enough wheels to not only gain us entrance into supposedly closed off areas, but also get us in only about 15 minutes before the ball drops. Instead of standing in puddles of urine among swarms of hungover people for eight hours, we pulled right into our ball-watching spots with only a few minutes until midnight.

I’ve posted some pictures below (and you can click through to see the whole set). That’s probably the best way to get a sense of what it’s like. There’s a kind of joyous pandemonium that becomes more palpable with every second that’s counted down.

Is it worth going? I think so, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever done.

Will I be going back?

Never again (until the next time).

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Round the World: Eye of the Storm

I’m going around the world in March (and parts of February and April) and I’m trying to detail the whole ordeal. Here’s what I’ve got thus far:

Who, Where, When…and Why?
How?
Eye of the Storm
Choosing what to do (Part 1)
Immunizations
Dry Run to Rome

Traveling is a lot like a hurricane. There’s a flurry of activity in the beginning when you’re trying to plan the thing. Then there’s a flurry of activity in the end when you actually take the trip. But in the middle, there’s this calm of anticipation. You’re riding high from booking the trip, but there’s not much you can do at the moment. Nothing, in fact. Only waiting.

That’s where I am right now. I’ve got the major flights booked, I’ve got hotels in Seoul (at least the second of three times we’re there) and Paris secured, but besides those things, there’s not much to be done. Except wait.

This trip is decidedly different due to its scale. Because of the many moving pieces, I’m trying to avoid locking myself into things that don’t have to be locked in (i.e. everything but the Bhutan and Iran swings). There’s just too much that can change; an outbound flight delay from Seoul could change the train departure in Iguazu Falls, Brazil. There will come a point where I will have to make semi-permanent decisions, but this far out the old Yiddish proverb comes to mind: “man plans, God laughs”; and I’m doing my best to not get laughed at by God.

That means I’m stuck planning in generalities. Honestly, it’s kind of an interesting way to go about things. Take New Zealand for example. The general plan is to rent a car in Auckland, road trip to Wellington, and then catch a flight to Sydney from there. Normally I would work from the outside inwards: I’d book the Wellington to Sydney flight, figure out how many days I can spend on the road, reserve the rental car in Auckland and then plan the in between parts. But because I’m getting to Auckland a day before Mike and because we’re actively trying to get on the same flight, we can’t book the flights to Sydney because we don’t know how long both of us will be in New Zealand and thus can’t estimate the drive time between Auckland and Wellington.

Instead, I’m finding interesting things I want to do between the two places, regardless of how long it takes or where it’s located. I don’t know what day I’ll be where, so I can literally look at everything New Zealand has to offer and pick my favorites. It’s fun to do that now– much more fun than picking things to do based on what day you’re at a particular place– but I also imagine it’ll be a lot more disappointing when we do solidify the schedule and I can’t do everything I want to do.

I don’t consider myself inflexible, but I do like a solid plan to be in place. I’ve always known that the best plan is one that can fit to circumstance, but I’m quickly learning that sometimes the only plan is to be flexible. A couple of years ago when I was visiting my friend Jeff in Dublin, we missed our flight to Edinburgh due to a calendar mix up. At the airport, we made the decision to hop on a bus to Galway, a cross country drive to the west coast. It ended up being my favorite thing about the trip.

With so many moving pieces to this round-the-world trip, the goal shouldn’t be to prevent missed flights to Scotland, the goal should be to find the Galways in the mistakes.

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Trip Report: Snowshoe Mountain in December

I’ve said time and time again that the vast majority of my travel is subsidized by points and miles. Unfortunately, I can sometimes get caught up in only spending points/miles (and not cash); this can lead to missing some pretty great deals. I’ve tried to make a concentrated effort to be better about these things. I still firmly believe that a good deal is not the reason to buy something (one thing the love-him-or-hate-him Dave Ramsey and I have in common), rather it can be the impetus to buy something that you were already planning to.

I’m not sure I would call myself a skier, but I do enjoy going. My friend Josh and I would take annual trips to Snowshoe Mountain while we were in high school. From western Kentucky, that’s quite a drive. Fortunately, from DC, it’s much closer.

That’s why when Snowshoe Mountain introduced its Ridiculous Pass towards the end of last season, I didn’t even hesitate, I purchased one immediately. $200 got you not only the remainder of the 2012/2013 season, but also the entirety of the 2013/2014 season. When lift tickets run close to $80 per day, three days at the best ski slopes in the southeast more than pays for it.

In hindsight, I may should have been a little more skeptical. Not because the deal was bad, but because skiing is an expensive hobby and a lift ticket is only one piece of that puzzle. $200 assured my ticket back to the top of the mountain, but in order to use it, I’d have to find a way to the bottom. Most of the time this involves purchasing or renting ski equipment. My parents had given me equipment one Christmas in high school, but at this point, I probably needed to get that checked out.

My friend, John, recommended the Baltimore Ski Warehouse. They were able to check out the equipment, recommend that I should purchase some new skis (big surprise, I know) and confirm that the rest of my equipment was in good condition. Most ski stores can sell you previously used skis, boots and poles for around $200, which I’m assured are perfectly fine.

I tend to like to know a lot about something I’m getting, but sometimes you have to pay the stupid tax.1 Did I overpay for my skis? Probably. But if I wanted my own pair, I was forced to use the knowledge of someone who can make a good recommendation. As much as I hate it, sometimes that’s worth the money.

So with a season pass and new skis in hand, the only thing left to get was a place to stay. Unfortunately, this can be the most difficult part of the process. Especially at Snowshoe. The slopes are in such a remote area that unless you’re willing to pay to stay at the resort, you’re going to have at least an hour drive every morning and evening you’re there. This isn’t quite a “stupid tax”, but it’s in the same vein. Often you have to be willing to pay to make your experience more enjoyable.

As much as I know how to wring the best deals out of hotel chains, sometimes the best and only thing to do is to type “Snowshoe lodging rentals” into Google and be done with it. This led us to a private owner on Vacation Rentals By Owner. Since it’s still early in the season, the rates were only $140 per night for a condo that you could ski in/out of.

The trip itself was great. The crowds were small, but not all of the trails were open. Julie and I spent Saturday getting back in the hang of strapping two boards to our feet and pointing them down a mile-high hill. We could then spend Sunday trying to actually get better. There was no reason to push ourselves too hard; we’ll be back, that’s why we bought the season passes.

The amount of money you’re willing to spend will definitely vary, but if it’s in the ballpark of being affordable for you, I can’t recommend getting a ski in/out condo enough. For $140 per night, we could pretty easily go inside and warm up, or rest in a private space that had a place to cook and store food. That may not sound like you get a lot for paying significantly more for a place to stay (and if you’re going in January or February, the cheapest you’ll probably find is $300 per night), but trust me, it’s worth it. I never realized this, but a lot of my annoyances with skiing were more closely related to those ancillary things rather than skiing itself.

So was it worth it? I think so. But a good deal on a season pass turned into new skis and a fairly expensive place to stay. That’s one thing you’ve got to a remember when you find a good deal: look for the incidental costs. There’s always incidental costs.

  1. Essentially, you just can’t know everything about everything and if you want to do something you don’t know a lot about, you sometimes have to pay someone more knowledgable to help you with it.

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Round the World: How?

I’m going around the world in March (and parts of February and April) and I’m trying to detail the whole ordeal. Here’s what I’ve got thus far:

Who, Where, When…and Why?
How?
Eye of the Storm
Choosing what to do (Part 1)
Immunizations
Dry Run to Rome

When it comes down to it, the easiest part of traveling is…traveling. Like any hobby or lifestyle choice, the goal is to form positive habits that develop skills that make you better at what you’re choosing to do. Traveling is an especially difficult hobby. Not because the actual act of going on a trip is difficult (though, it can be), but because being able to regularly travel requires several different circumstances and skills that don’t necessarily overlap and even worse, are often at odds with each other.

It’s not the perfect comparison, but I’ve always envisioned travel as a pick two triangle1. In this case, the three sides of the triangle are cost, long trips and quality of trip.2 Like everything in life, the key is to find the combination of things that work best for you. For this Round the World trip, we chose to sacrifice length of trip to ease some of the non-monetary costs. (i.e. if I went on a six-month Round the World trip, I doubt I’d be coming back to a job or a girlfriend)

With those tradeoffs in mind, the only other thing I need to preface is monetary cost. I tend to only mention it when it directly relates to a trip, but the vast majority of my travel is subsidized by points and miles.3 Collecting these points and miles entail a ton of other costs (monetary and otherwise), but it’s opened up a world that I was unsure I would ever get to experience. As I detail this trip, it’ll be evident how much of a role these points and miles play in this trip, but I want to make two things clear: a lot of work and time went into collection and this trip is nowhere near free; I have (and will) spend a lot of money doing this.

With that out of the way, the how of booking this trip can break down into two parts: first is what I did to book the trip and second will be how we chose where to go.

If you’re looking to do a lot of travel at one time, a Round-the-World ticket is the way to go. Most airline alliances offer them and they allow you to pay a flat price to go to any set amount of stops in the world. We chose Delta and Sky Team because they offer an award option for the ticket (180,000 Skymiles in coach or 280,000 for Business/First Class), because collecting SkyMiles is relatively easy, and because they’re are basically worthless otherwise4. It’s going to cost you more in time to collect the points and money, but I can’t recommend anyone doing this type of trip in coach. The initial flight alone (14 hour flight to Seoul, 40 minute layover, 10 hour flight to Auckland) justifies the purchase. Collecting these miles took the better part of two years. About 75% were credit card sign up bonuses, 20% spending, and 5% flying.

Here’s the deal with the ticket: you get any six stops in the world as long as you continually move in one direction. You’re free to fly into one airport and then fly out of another one (for example, we’re flying into Auckland and flying out of Sydney) and you’re allowed to stay up to 24 hours anywhere you have a layover without it counting as one of your six stops.

When you’re actually scheduling a trip like this, you really can only work in broad strokes. We knew we wanted to go west, we knew we wanted it to take about a month and we had three places we absolutely wanted to go (New Zealand/Australia, Iran, and Bhutan). The rest of the stops came about just to get us to those three places. That’s the lamest way to pick a trip, but unless you’re willing to fork over $15,000+ for a paid ticket, then you’re stuck dealing with award availability. We knew we wanted to go somewhere in Africa and somewhere in South America. Cape Town and the Galapagos were our first two choices, but Madagascar and Buenos Aires were almost as good. Paris just kind of got thrown in there because it made the flights to Madagascar and Buenos Aires work. If keeping the trip short isn’t a concern, the booking agents (you literally call someone on the phone who sits there with you for 4+ hours trying to get all the flights to work) usually can make almost anything work.

Traveling is about being flexible where you should be and steady where you shouldn’t. We have the things that are important to us and the way to travel well is sticking to those things. It’s not about picking the right destinations– there’s no such thing– it’s about making good choices based on what’s available to you.

  1. Essentially, when you’re doing something, you can have two of three things. The one you most often see is cheap, good and fast. (i.e. something can be good and fast, but it won’t be cheap; it can be fast and cheap, but it won’t be good; or it can be good and cheap, but it won’t be fast
  2. It’s not a perfect comparison because long trips are not inherently good. They’re more logarithmic (or even parabolic) than linear or exponential in nature. (i.e. there comes a point where added time on a trip gives you no additional enjoyment and may even take away enjoyment because you’re ready to get back home)
  3. I don’t ever talk about it in depth because I don’t really have anything to add to the discussion of how to cheaply earn points and miles; there are quite a few blogs out there that have already detailed most of what you need to know and do. Some of my favorite are the Points Guy, the Frequent Miler, Mommy Points and Million Miles Secrets. If you every want to discuss it, feel free to contact me.
  4. Delta’s award chart is notoriously difficult to find saver-level award availability.

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Mistakes

Every once in a while, airlines or third-party booking companies will mispost flight prices creating what the travel community calls a “mistake fare”. In September, United accidentally posted all its fares for free, charging customers just $10 in taxes. On Saturday, Norwegian travel-booking site, wideroe.no, posted trans-atlantic flights without the fuel surcharges , resulting in fares from $150 to $300 for most cities in Europe between January and March.

Normally, these are the fares that you hit hard to book as many as you can. But with four weddings in January and February and a Round the World trip taking up all of March, I was able to book only on weekend to Milan in February for $150 roundtrip.

Needless to say wideroe.no was being hit ridiculously hard. I received my confirmation almost immediately after booking around 4:30pm, but when I went to bed around 2am, the flight still hadn’t been ticketed. I was hoping to wake up to a ticketed flight, instead I woke up to a cancellation. For foreign credit cards, wideroe.no needed to confirm the charges. They tried to confirm at 3:08am; at 5:20am, they cancelled the flights.

I was (and still am) pissed, not because I felt like I was wronged (I wasn’t), but because what went wrong was totally in my control to prevent. I obviously had to sleep and there’s no way I could have known they would cancel the flights so quickly, but knowing that if I’d simply responded to an email I’d be going to Milan for $150 is a pretty terrible feeling. The fact that I’d also booked it for three friends added up to a full on Sunday morning pity party.

With the knowledge I had before going to bed on Saturday, I’m not sure how I could have prevented this from happening, but one step I will take next time is calling my credit card company before purchasing something like this from a foreign site. I would probably have still received the fraud email and I would have probably still had the flight cancelled, but at least I know I could have done everything in my power to prevent it from happening.

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Round the World: Who, Where, When…and Why?

I’m going around the world in March (and parts of February and April) and I’m trying to detail the whole ordeal. Here’s what I’ve got thus far:

Who, Where, When…and Why?
How?
Eye of the Storm
Choosing what to do (Part 1)
Immunizations
Dry Run to Rome

For those of you who don’t know, my friend, Mike Turner, and I are heading around the world February 28 through April 3. Here’s our full schedule:

New Zealand and Australia: February 28 – March 9
Seoul, South Korea: March 9–10
Kathmandu, Nepal and Bhutan: March 10–14
Tehran, Iran: March 16–19
Madagascar: March 20–25
Paris: March 25–27
Buenos Aires, Argentina: March 28 – April 2

I really want to take the time to detail the ins and outs of this trip; not only the actual traveling, but also the planning. I’m doing this mainly because I really enjoy writing about this kind of stuff, but secondarily I hope it helps people think with more specificity about these things. I’ve scoured blogs and Twitter feeds for broad information to help me specifically plan my trip. Similarly, I hope that you can take these broad strokes and plan your trip. It doesn’t have to be around the world, it doesn’t even have to be outside the country, but do something somewhere that you’re not used to.

So why this trip, why this itinerary and why right now? To be honest, why we chose this itinerary is intrinsically linked to the how, so I’ll get into that in later posts. Right now I want to focus on the other two.

Choosing to do the trip right now is more circumstance than actual planning. The original plan was to do it during November 2013 (so I’d be on it right now), but with work/life schedules, the amount of time it takes to earn points, and getting award availability for flights to each stop , March 2014 made more sense. I know “circumstances said so” is rarely a good answer, but for traveling, I found sometimes it’s the only answer.

When planning a trip, there’s always reasons as to when you’re planning it. Trips in college/high school were planned during summer months because that’s when you were free. Honeymoons are planned after weddings; Spring Break trips are planned during Spring Break; long weekend trips are planned on long weekends. Because of the way society works and the way the vast majority of us have structured our lives, we’ll always be planning trips, not when we want to, but because circumstances say so. I don’t mean that as depressing; it’s the tradeoff we make to have other things in our lives. I mean, what’s the alternative? Never get married because your wedding may be the same weekend as a good flight to the Maldives?

I want to wrap up with why we’re doing a Round-the-World trip. I’ve explained my ideology for travel and this kind of trip fits in perfectly with those ideas. Why this trip? Cost. Cost in money, cost in points, cost in time. It’s less costly to spend four days in Bhutan via an eight-hour flight from Seoul than two days there and two days back from the U.S.  It’s not possible to book a flight from the United States to Iran, but when you’re coming from Russia, it’s just another stopover. Why spend thousands of dollars (or hundreds of thousands of points) to fly to Madagascar from DC when you can go direct from Paris? Cost isn’t the most profound answer, but profundity doesn’t get you into first class.

It’s funny, but the who, where, when, and why may be the least interesting aspects of this whole thing. Taking the trip will obviously be the best part, but I’m really excited to share about the hows and the preparation. Stay tuned. There’s quite a bit more to come.

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