6 Steps for planning an around-the-world family adventure
“Wouldn’t it be great if we could take a few months off and just travel the world?” Has your family had this conversation around the dinner table? Is your wanderlust real? Well, I’m here to encourage you to make your around-the-world dream into a reality.
While I could write a book about our experiences and the invaluable time together, my purpose here is to give you some practical advice on how to get started.
Here are 6 steps to planning an around-the-world adventure of a lifetime.
1/Negotiate time off
Negotiating time off from your full-time job is probably the most difficult obstacle… and a deal breaker, if the boss says “no.” But you’ll never know until you ask. I was able to negotiate a three-month sabbatical; other employers have set sabbaticals after a certain number of years worked.
2/Choose your destinations
As a family, sit down with a map of the world. There’s an overwhelming number of choices, aren’t there? My children and I put together a short list based on the following criteria: 1) where were our bucket list destinations, 2) where did our family have personal connections, 3) where did we have family and friends living abroad, and 4) where were those faraway locations that using a round-the-world ticket made sense (more on that to come).
We started with a bucket list item. We wanted to go on an African safari. While many countries offer the experience, I had a friend from Tanzania, whose family still lived there. So on our trip, we spent a few days bunking with my friend’s parents in Dar es Salaam before leaving on safari.
Next, my family ancestors are from the Netherlands, and while I have been to the country several times, I wanted by children to connect with their heritage. So, in addition to visiting Amsterdam, we spent time in Groningen where our family has roots.
We were fortunate to have friends living in London and Dubai. Staying with them saved us a tremendous amount of money on lodging expenses in cities that are notoriously expensive.
Finally,Nepal and French Polynesia were faraway destinations that required very costly flights, if we were to travel there on separate trips. By maximizing our round-the-world tickets, we could save money.
It was the beginning of a plan.
To put together a trip of this magnitude, you do need to be highly organized, especially when building the itinerary and arranging flights.
The vast majority of our flights were purchased with United Airlines frequent flyer miles. We took advantage of a product called the Round-the-World Fare with the Star Alliance (180,000/miles per ticket). The Star Alliance is made up of United Airlines plus its international airline partners.
In order to purchase a Round-the-World Fare, you have to meet certain requirements, and if you are using frequent flyer miles, you have to adhere to additional rules. The requirements change, but in general:
You have a maximum number of stops and legs (connecting flights).
Travel must be completed in the same global direction. You can fly east to west or west to east. There's some allowance for backtracking through a connecting city, as long as the city is in the same geographic zone.
Flights can be booked 11 months from your end date.
There’s a maximum number of miles that you can fly based on the seat class. By going to Nepal and French Polynesia, we maxed out our miles, getting the most for our money.
Children (ages 2 to 11) are charged 75% of the adult fare.
We did pay for some regional flights in Africa and Southeast Asia. In Thailand and Cambodia, we took advantage of Bangkok Airways’ Discovery Airpass which discounts fares, if you have a minimum of three regional flights.
Yes, a trip like this is expensive. We saved for several years, skipping other vacations. We also involved the kids in the finances. They contributed birthday money and profits from garage sales; I wanted them to be invested.
We found traveling in Southeast Asia to be particularly economical. In fact, the hotel with the very best service and amenities - Golden Temple Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia - was only $70/night! Read more here.
KidTripster Tip: Avoid chain hotels. They’re typically more expensive and not nearly as interesting. In 72 days of travel, we only stayed at one chain resort, and that was on points.
KidTripster Tip: When booking lodging in advance, ask for an early bird rate or family discount. Or if you’re booking in the calendar year prior to your trip, try to lock in that year’s rates. Again, keep all of your emails documenting agreed upon prices.
5/Develop a day-by-day itinerary
Developing a detailed itinerary is laborious and time-consuming; however, I never wanted to be wondering where we’d be staying when traveling with my children. Also, some of the best attractions and excursions need to be booked months in advance.
Start by researching each of your destinations thoroughly to find the best family-friendly options. Fortunately, you’ve found KidTripster for that! Then book your activities and hotels. Make sure to keep records of all your email correspondences. A month before you leave, confirm all your reservations.
Ideally, you’d start your itinerary planning at least 18 months in advance. Once you’re able to nail down your flights, typically 11 to 12 months in advance, proceed with the remainder of your reservations.
Needless to say, our around-the-world trip was the most memorable experience that our family has ever shared. If it’s at all possible, I’d highly recommend it for your family, too.
Editor Shellie Bailey-Shah travels with her husband and two sons. Her favorite destination on the around-the-world trip: Cambodia. Her sons' favorite: Moorea in French Polynesia.