Getting ready for a long-term trip, whether it be around the world or just a month abroad, requires quite a lot of advanced planning. Most people don’t realize how much advance planning is required to bring everything together at the right time. Heck, I didn’t know until I started.
As I look back on the last month before our departure, I realize that things didn’t go exactly as planned. Some things took much longer than anticipated and other things just didn’t get done and will have to be dealt with on the road. I think it would have been wonderful to have had some sort of timeline to help with my time management, but until I actually started working on the tasks, I didn’t know how long things would take. And I couldn’t find that sort of information on the Internet since everyone’s situation is different.
Here’s the timeline based on our hindsight that I wish I would have had, outlining what we needed to do and when. It might be helpful in planning your own journey. Continue reading
Remote, out-of-way, and hard to reach, Madagascar is quite a challenge for travel planning.
It’s Sheri’s desire to visit this unique home to lemurs and other exotic creatures, so I did a lot of research to find a way to make it happen. In the process, I came upon some interesting hurdles while trying to make flight arrangements for our trip to this large island in the Indian Ocean. Just like the characters in the animated film with the same name found out, it may be harder to get off the island than it is to get there.
Antananarivo (TNR) is the destination airport for international flights to Madagascar. Most flights connect through Paris (CDG), Nairobi (NBO), Johannesburg (JNB), or Seychelles (SEZ). Surprisingly, it’s easier to get a flight to one of the small islands surrounding Madagascar, such as Seychelles, Comoros, Mauritius, and Réunion. And sometimes, it’s even cheaper.
This is a really long post, so if you just want the summary, jump directly to TL; DR.
I spent nearly two weeks planning our route, figuring out dates and determining how long we plan to stay abroad, but one call to United Airlines and everything changed. The call to United Airline deserves a post all to itself, but the short story is: we called three times, and by our third call, we finally knew the questions to ask and got someone on the line who knew what she was doing. After just a few minutes, it was obvious that we needed to do more planning after hearing the restrictions on the RTW fare. Restrictions that are not clearly posted on their website.
RTW Rules and Regs
There are a myriad of rules for the RTW airfare. One of the rules is that our direction of travel must remain in one general direction, east or west. The airline divides the world into three regions for the RTW fare: Americas, Europe/Africa/Middle East, and Asia/Oceania. We must start and end in the same country. We can cross into each region only once. The crossing between regions cannot be via a surface route, i.e., we must travel between regions by air. We can travel in any direction within the regions. We cannot go through our starting country on the way to another one. We are limited to 16 segments, 15 stopovers, and 39,000 total miles. Segments using surface transport count as one segment even though we’re not flying, which seems unfair. Separate legs of a flight—connecting flights—count as multiple segments. Stopovers are any place we stay more than 24 hours. We are limited to 5 legs that use surface transportation. All travel must be completed in one year.
This all sounds fairly straightforward until you get on the phone with someone from United. Then you find out the rules are a bit different for award travel and all your best laid plans turn to, well, you know what. With over 430,000 airline award miles saved in preparation for this trip, what we didn’t count on was that the RTW award fare was damn near impossible to use for a long trip. Continue reading
It’s been nearly 14 years in the planning, but we’ve finally decided we are going on our around-the-world trip. We have set a date, but I don’t want to reveal the exact date just yet. No need to alarm our employers and clients. Some may ask: why now? All the signs seem to point in the same direction: the road. Here are a few of the reasons:
1. Airline Policies Change
Originally, we were going to purchase two around-the-world (RTW) tickets, but since my wife traveled so much for work, we decided to start saving up her airline miles for those tickets. Using reward miles would save us over $10,000. That was over 10 years ago, and since then we’ve used some of those miles for trips to Africa, Italy, and the Middle East. I had some miles also and we used some of those for our trip to the U.K. and France last year. Even after all those other trips, we still have enough airline miles for two RTW tickets.
Last month, my wife received an email with some policy changes from one of the larger airlines where she has accumulated some miles. It indicated that they would no longer be offering an RTW ticket. Since it wasn’t the airline with which we had the majority of our miles, it didn’t affect us directly. However, airlines tend to follow the lead of other airlines, especially the larger ones. In the past, we saw that when a couple of the airlines started to charge extra for checked baggage, it wasn’t long before all the other airlines charged for checked baggage. So if one of the major airlines discontinued their RTW offering, we figure it won’t be long before the other two airlines also stop offering it. Time to use those accumulated miles. Continue reading