Friday, April 29, 2011

Where Are We Going?

See a Map of our planned route.

So now everyone wants to know where we are going.  Well, that is what I've been working on full time since I finished school.  Figuring out where we are going is actually a very challenging job!  We want to go everywhere, but obviously with only 9 months and a limited budget, we can't.  Even our list of the places we can't miss is too long.  Everyone has someplace they really don't want to give up.  Wilder has long wanted to go to Australia.  Mark has a very good friend in Germany he really wants to visit.  I want to spend a lot of time in southeast asia where everything is sure to be super affordable, and Peyton insists we cannot give up South Africa, even though it is a very long way from everything else!  We also want to see the Galapagos, something in the South Pacific and maybe Easter Island.  Our original plan was all the southern hemisphere to avoid expensive Europe, but I've figured out there is pretty much no way to get into and out of Africa (or anywhere else for that matter) without going through London and Hong Kong.  Then there are other places we wanted to avoid, like Japan (for expense even before the earthquake), China 'cause Wilder and I have already been, India because we feel like the trip will be challenging enough without it, and sailing past Somalia due to pirates (and also most of North Africa and the Middle east as well).  Actually all of Europe was also originally on our no-go list due to expense and our belief the kids will be able to go there later.  Still, when you start to look at routing it can switch up all your plans.

Then even after you've settled on desired destinations and laid out a logical route, there are lots more decisions.  Do we want to buy an RTW ticket from one of the airline alliances, buy a series of one-way tickets from a travel agency that specializes in these routes, or do what lots of independent travelers recommend and wait and buy tickets as we go?  Each option has pluses and minuses.  Buy as you go gives you complete flexibility but is made more difficult with four people and can leave you stuck sometimes waiting for an economical option to be available.   An RTW ticket restricts you by miles (max 39,000) and segments (max 16) but allows some otherwise too expensive options (Chile to Easter Island to Tahiti to Auckland), and while they require you to fix your destinations you can change your dates as you go with no penalties.  The travel agency provided a lower total cost and more flexibility in selecting a route but then you are committed to all your tickets and will incur fees when trying to change anything as you go.

So anyway, you begin to see the challenge.  Here is our route as of right now.  It changes daily, but I think we are getting close.  The current plan is to buy a One World Global Explorer ticket in and out of Quito Ecuador.  This both makes the ticket $2000 cheaper than originating in the US and also gets us further and more stops.  Of course we have to pay to get to and from Quito but it will cost closer to $1000 and maybe even less if we include a cruise (lots of cheap ones out there) one way.

Quito, Ecuador (gateway to the Galapagos)
Barcelona, Spain (also Portugal)
Budapest, Hungary (over land to Istanbul, Turkey)
Frankfurt, Germany
London, England
Capetown, South Africa
Johannesberg, South Africa (camping safari)
Hong Kong
Bangkok, Thailand (from here also Vietnam, Cambodia and possibly Malaysia)
Sydney, Australia (maybe Melbourne)
Christchurch, New Zealand overland to
Auckland, New Zealand
Tahiti (hope to take fabulous 14 day freighter cruise)
Easter Island
Santiago, Chile
Lima, Peru
Back to Quito (then perhaps cruise thru Panama canal to Miami then home)

So what do you think?  Many of the choices (like London which is crazy expensive) were just because we have to go through there anyway and so of course we will have to stay and see, but not for too long.  We currently have contacts regarding volunteering in both Quito and Thailand and are hoping to establish more.

The other question I hear is are we excited?  Well, some days I'm excited and some days I'm scared to death.  More on that later!